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Warnings: angst, language
Summary: Tony finds out something about Gibbs' past that really is "need to know."
Tony woke to the ringing of the phone and groaned, not wanting to move. He was very comfortable, ensconced in Jethro's arms, and they'd only gone to bed what seemed like a short while ago. He didn't want to open his eyes to confirm the time.
"Tony, you have to move so I can reach the phone."
Jethro's voice was warm and amused, but firm. Tony sighed and released him, rolling over to bury his face in the pillow.
"Gibbs. When? How bad is he? Yeah, if that's what you think will save him, do it. I'll be there in thirty."
Tony woke more fully at "how bad" and sat up, rubbing his eyes. A quick glance at the clock showed he was right; it was only five in the morning and they'd gone to bed a scant four hours ago thanks to finishing up paperwork on a murder case. From Jethro's tone, the 'he' could only be McGee or Ducky and unless there'd been a car accident, it was more likely to be Ducky. As hearty as the older man was, he was still in his seventies.
Catching a real look at Jethro's stony face confirmed his guess. Jethro only looked like that when someone he loved was hurt. Tony asked, "How bad is Ducky?"
"Ducky?" Jethro looked confused for a second and then shook his head. "Fornell was shot. He's in surgery and it's touch and go."
Now Tony was confused. Jethro and Fornell had mellowed over the last couple of years into an odd almost-friendship that didn't really merit this kind of reaction. He stood to get dressed, matching Jethro's movements, and asked, "Why'd they call you? Did navy personnel or a marine shoot him?"
Jethro didn't answer at first, pulling on pants and then grabbing a shirt from the closet. When he came back, he finally said, "I'm Fornell's DPOA."
And that made no sense at all, so Tony asked, "Why? You two can barely stand each other."
Pausing, Jethro scrubbed a hand through his hair and said shortly, "It's complicated," and pulled out a pair of socks.
They were dressed in a little over three minutes even with the chatter and Tony's mind worried at the bizarreness that Jethro was Fornell's Durable Power of Attorney. Not just that, but that the hospital had it on record and knew to call Jethro in case of emergency. They actually reached the hospital in twenty-five minutes, thanks to Jethro using the lights and his insane driving. Tony had time to be glad he hadn't eaten anything recently at least twice when they nearly hit other cars.
Tony dutifully parked the car after Jethro screeched to a halt at the curb and got out to jog inside and find out what was going on in detail. Just like Tony wanted to do, only not about Fornell specifically. About Jethro and Fornell. Because now he had a pretty concrete suspicion as to why Jethro would be Fornell's DPOA, even if it made no sense whatsoever.
Walking into the hospital lobby, he found Jethro talking to a doctor around his own age, though it couldn't be the one operating on Fornell. Well, unless the man was dead already. Tony winced mentally at how callous that sounded, even to himself. There was just too much between him and Fornell for him to be anywhere near as comfortable with the FBI Agent as Jethro was. The man had arrested him twice and both times been clearly convinced that he was evil enough to put away.
Tony sat in one of the chair by the wall and waited for Jethro to come to him. The conversation took a few more minutes and then they shook hands before Jethro spotted him and walked over. He didn't sit, though, so Tony asked neutrally, "How's he doing?"
"Surgery's going as well as can be expected," Jethro answered. "Bullets went through his right shoulder and his left side, just below the ribs. A ricochet caught the rib, which broke and punctured the lung."
Grimacing at the extent of the injuries, Tony observed, "He's tough, I'm sure he'll pull through to arrest me a third time."
The ghost of a smile crossed Jethro's face at that and he nodded. "Probably. We were lovers, a long time ago."
The non sequitur confirmation actually winded Tony. Jethro hadn't looked at him when he'd said it, just continued to watch the activity at the reception area as if discussing the weather. And even though Tony had already guessed as much on his own, knowing it cut deep. A lot of things made sense now, of course. The venom with which Fornell had gone after Tony; the private conferences in the elevator; the easy, if cutting, banter between the two men from the first time the agent had shown up in NCIS...it all spoke of a previous relationship.
The first thing Tony managed to ask was, "How long?"
Jethro answered, "Four years."
Tony had actually been asking how long ago the affair had been. Knowing that it had lasted for four years did more than take away his breath, he actually hurt in his gut. Just like not knowing about Jethro's first wife and daughter, this was information that a real lover should have been told. And while he could forgive the first omission, this second one felt much, much worse. There was no trauma to excuse it. No emotional repression or devastation other than a run of the mill broken heart, at worst.
Was his heart broken? Tony wondered, but couldn't ask. Did Fornell break it off or was it the other way around?
"It was a long time ago," Jethro repeated, sitting at last. "I...didn't know how to tell you."
Tony nodded slowly. He felt strangely wooden, disconnected from everything going on around him. He still saw everything, like the quietly arguing couple by the elevators and the nurse drinking coffee just beyond the admin desk, but he couldn't really feel anything.
"Tony? You okay?"
Tony stood as he nodded and said, "I'm going home. You don't need me here. Really, you don't seem to need me at all. Oh, and to honor this new display of openness and honesty, I should tell you that Ziva and I almost slept together in
. She's a great kisser, I'll give her that. I'll see you at work, Boss." Paris
He left without another word and, though it shouldn't have hurt more that Jethro didn't call after him, let alone try to stop him, it really did.
* * * *
Jethro flinched at Tony's declaration about Ziva and watched him go, unable to stop him. He didn't blame the younger man for lashing out, even though he knew it was true and not just a lie to hurt him.
He knew that he should have told Tony about Tobias years ago, but had truly not been able to figure out how. Tony had already been so emotionally fragile. Getting together shortly after his breakup with Jeanne, Jethro had always figured that he'd been the rebound relationship. Watching Tony and Ziva flirting around their attraction hadn't helped his confidence any, either. The depth of Tony's reaction to Rivkin and his one-track mind on avenging Ziva's supposed death had just about convinced Jethro it was only a matter of time before he was left behind.
Jethro sighed as he wondered if he'd just fucked up another important relationship beyond repair. Would he find a resignation on his desk when he got into the office the next day or would Tony just freeze him out by acting like there'd never been anything between them in the first place? Either possibility was equally as likely.
Time passed slowly as he waited for news of Tobias while his mind turned over the conversation with Tony a thousand different ways. It was three hours later, only just nine in the morning, that his name was finally called by Dr. Pete Barker, the man he'd spoken to on first arriving. They knew each other from way back, the amount of times Jethro had landed at the hospital with various injuries.
Walking over to meet the other man, Jethro asked, "How is he?"
"In stable condition," Pete answered, green eyes meeting his. "They expect a full recovery. You can go up to see him in a couple of hours, if you want. It'll be at least that long before the anesthesia wears off."
Jethro let out a long, slow sigh of relief, even as he shook his head. "No, as long as I know he's going to be all right, I'll come back later. I need to call his ex and have her bring his daughter over. That'll be the best thing for him."
Pete nodded, smiling. "Kids always are. I'll see you, Jethro."
They shook hands and Jethro took out his phone to call his and Tobias' mutual ex-wife. The conversation was, thankfully, short. She agreed to take Emily out of school and to bring her to the hospital, which would coincide with about the time Fornell woke from the anesthesia. Jethro knew that it would help Tobias recover a hell of a lot more than any visit from him.
Jethro drove home and his expectation that Tony wouldn't be there when he arrived was confirmed. They were off-duty for forty-eight hours, given the last four days of around the clock work, so that meant Tony would be at his apartment. The other reason that Jethro had always assumed they wouldn't last; Tony refused to give up that last escape venue, even though Jethro had twice asked him to move in.
It was only ten when he got home, but he went straight to the basement and poured a bourbon into his coffee cup. Sitting with it under the skeleton of his new boat, Jethro stared into the dark, shadowed liquor and wondered if he would ever get it right. Sighing, he downed the slug and coughed a little before setting aside the mug and lying back on the bench.
He must have drifted off despite the chaos of his mind, because something woke him; some small noise, maybe, or the sense of someone else nearby. Jethro opened his eyes and turned his head to find Tony leaning against his workbench, staring at him, inscrutable. It wasn't a look he saw often from Tony and Jethro hated it now as much as he had the other times.
Sitting upright, he greeted cautiously, "Hi."
Tony's mouth slid sideways in a bitter kind of smile before he echoed, "Hi. You sober?"
Jethro nodded. "I only had one cup."
"Good. Because I'm here to give you one last chance. Is there anything, and I mean anything, about your history that you haven't yet told me that I need to know?"
There was so much in his screwed up life that Jethro didn't know what Tony considered 'need to know.' There were only three things that came to mind, though. Taking a breath and wishing he'd had more than the one cup of bourbon, Jethro confessed quietly, "Ziva killed Ari to save my life. Jenny and I were involved. And I murdered the man who killed Kelly and Shannon."
Tony stared at him for a long moment and Jethro couldn't tell if what he'd said had been what Tony was looking for or had driven the other man away for good.
"Tell me about Fornell."
Still not sure what Tony was looking for, and not finding any help on his lover's usually expressive face, Jethro thought back to that time in his life and sighed. "We met on a case and hit it off. Took a few months for us to get through to the attraction, but we did. It was...really good between us. We moved in together, well, he moved in here, and we were together for two more years, four altogether.
"It might have even lasted if he hadn't decided his career was more important. Someone from his office saw us and even though officially there couldn't be repercussions, Tobias was positive there would be. Hell, he was probably right. I don't know how he got the other person to keep quiet, but he did and we were just...over. Life went on. He married my ex, had a daughter, got divorced, and by the time he figured out that I was who he wanted, it was too late. I was already in love with you," Jethro finished.
Tony's face scrunched up earnestly and he asked, "Are you really? Because you don't act like it. I mean, we work together, we sleep together, and we definitely fuck, but love doesn't seem to enter into it for you. I feel like...like I'm convenient, most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I love how not-complicated you can be, but it's...it can be disconcerting, not knowing where we really stand.
Taking a breath, Tony looked away and then continued in a small voice, "You never tell me anything about yourself, but you know everything about me. I found out about Shannon and Kelly the same way everyone else did. I met your dad the same way everyone else did. I guessed about you and Jenny, just like everyone else, and I only found out about Fornell because I happened to be here when you got the call. Ten to one that if I hadn't been, you wouldn't have told me."
Put that way, it was easy to see why Tony would have kept his apartment and not moved in. All this time, Jethro had been waiting to be left behind when he'd been the one keeping Tony at a distance. Standing, he walked over to Tony and cupped his face, saying firmly, "I love you. I don't mean to shut you out, I just...it's hard for me to talk about things."
Tony nodded, but Jethro saw that he was unconvinced. The good news was that he could see it; the mask hiding his emotions had disappeared at last. Tony was letting him in again, probably against his better judgment.
"I'm sorry," Jethro said softly. "I do love you."
Letting out a shaky breath, Tony offered a weak smile and told him, "You better, because I just broke my lease. I need to move in like now, or I'm homeless day after tomorrow."
Stunned, Jethro just stared at him for a few seconds and then pulled him in tight, holding him and feeling more relief and happiness than he deserved. Tony's arms wrapped around his waist, hugging back, and they stood there for several minutes. When he pulled back, Jethro smiled and said, "We better call the team and get you packed up, then."
Tony nodded and said, "I'm sorry too. About
, I mean." Paris
Jethro's good mood dimmed a little at the reminder, something he could have done without. "What happened?"
"Well...there was wine and music and dancing and I was missing you and she was there and...no, that's not entirely true. I did miss you, but she's more than just..."
Tony sighed, grimacing, obviously frustrated with himself. Jethro was tempted to tell him to never mind, but knew himself; it would fester and grow in his imagination if he didn't get the details.
Finally Tony said, sounding a little helpless, "She's my partner, you know? And beautiful. And she sees through my bullshit, like you do, which is a powerful thing for me. Truthfully, after Jeanne, if Ziva had pushed her way into my bed before you did, I don't know how things would have turned out."
It was more honesty than Jethro wanted, the words twisting in his gut. He did know. That was exactly how he and Jenny had wound up together. Partnerships could get very intense, especially when dealing with danger on a regular basis.
"We had dinner and then we went dancing. It was
Parisand I love , you know that. Ziva was being particularly non-Ziva-like and we ended up back in the hotel room, making out. It was stupid and I stopped it as soon as we got horizontal. She was pissed at first, thought I was leading her on, and then I told her about you. You and me, I mean. Then she was pissed because I let it go that far, but I was pissed at myself for the same reason. I don't know why I did it, but I did and there's no excuse. We talked all night and got through a lot of, of leftover stuff so I can't be sorry it happened. I am sorry that it hurts you, though, and I love you, more than you can know." Paris
There was no doubting the words, any of them. Jethro squeezed Tony's shoulder, which he was still holding, and said, "I understand."
"So, you forgive me?" Tony asked in that small voice.
Considering everything that Jethro had done to Tony over the last few years, one slip was a drop in the bucket. He nodded and said firmly, "You're forgiven."
Relief spread over Tony's face and he smiled brilliantly, taking Jethro's breath away. He knew he would do anything to see it again. Leaning in, he kissed Tony then, trying to convey all the love that he felt for him. Tony groaned into it, opening right away, and they made out like teenagers against the counter.
By the time Jethro pulled back, he was breathing hard and saw a similarly flushed look on Tony's face. Grinning a bit wickedly, Jethro told him, "Looks like you should've waited on breaking your lease, because we don't have time for anything else. We need to call Abby and have her marshal the troops to your apartment."
Tony groaned again, this time the sound one of pure frustration, and he adjusted himself. "Great. I finally take the plunge and this is my reward."
But he didn't sound too disappointed, so Jethro just tweaked his nose and then took his hand. A look at his watch showed that it was only one in the afternoon and he climbed the steps with a strange sense of disorientation. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. It felt like at least a couple of years had gone by.
When they got to the living room, Jethro took a chance and, instead of calling Abby, called his dad.
"Leroy? What's wrong?"
Jethro grimaced and said, "Nothing's wrong, Dad. I just wanted to see if you were doing anything today and tomorrow."
Tony's eyes went big at that, and Jethro smiled faintly. He knew how much Tony liked his father, and how much he wanted the older man's approval.
sounded relieved as he replied, "No, nothing outside of the store. Why?" Jackson
"Well, Tony's finally agreed to move in and we could use someone to organize things," Jethro told him.
There was a brief pause and then
exclaimed, "Well it's about time, son! Of course. I'll be down in a couple of hours." Jackson
"Great. Abby'll be here to meet you," Jethro said, not wanting to have his father driving into the city to Tony's apartment.
surprised him by demanding, "Not so fast, young man. Let me talk to Tony." Jackson
A little wary, Jethro held the phone out to Tony and said, "He wants to talk to you."
Tony looked just as cautious as he took it and greeted, "Hi,
The short, one-sided conversation told Jethro nothing, but the pleased, almost shy expression on his lover's face said it all.
was welcoming Tony to the family. Jethro hoped yet another sweater wasn't going to find its way into Tony's wardrobe, but kept his mouth shut about it. Tony loved those sweaters and wore them at work whenever he could get away with it. Having finally met Tony's father, Jethro didn't begrudge him the stable father-figure he found in Jackson . Jackson
"Sure. See you this afternoon. We'll probably be at my place packing when you get here. Bye," Tony finished. He beamed at Jethro and all but pounced on him, kissing him soundly and then saying breathlessly, "Thanks, Jethro."
Jethro grinned. "Any time, baby."
"Ah boys? You haven't actually hung up yet," his father's faint, tinny voice called from the voice.
Jethro laughed at Tony's mortified expression, taking the phone back and saying, "Bye, Dad," before disconnecting. Then he lightly swatted Tony on the behind and said, "C'mon. We've got work to do."
Tony gamely shook off the embarrassment; at least until he saw
later, Jethro was sure. "You call Abby and Ducky, I'll call McGee and Ziva. Oh, and have Ducky get Palmer, too. We'll need the extra body." Jackson
As they walked to their cars, Jethro knew he'd dodged a real bullet this morning. If Tony hadn't trusted him, things would have turned out a lot different. There would be more repercussions from his revelations, and more conversations about his history, he knew, but that was how it should be. Tony had the right to know just as much about Jethro's past as Jethro did about Tony's. They wouldn't be pleasant conversations, but necessary ones if this was going to work.
And it would work. They would work. Jethro had too much to lose now to let them fail.
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