Author's note: I've never written for this fandom before, and I'm fairly new to it, so apologies in advance if some things seem a little off. It's really just me rambling! But I hope you enjoy it. Could be set pretty much anywhere, time wise.
I don't own anything except the order of the words.
It's been a hard day, and Gibbs feels he's earned the drink. And because the hard day was preceded by a hard week, the hard day's drink is preceded by a hard week's three. Its not really that much; he was a marine, and no self respecting marine lets himself get tipsy on four shots, but Gibbs has been feeling generous when pouring and he's mildly concussed and so he cuts himself some slack when the screw he's been so carefully placing into the wood ends up squiffy.
Gibbs feels a little squiffy himself, but he's not done for the night. The task he's been putting off since he got home, that he's been building – drinking – up to, is still waiting, in the form of his senior field agent, currently sleeping in what has got to be the most uncomfortable position Gibbs has ever seen. Tony DiNozzo has always prided himself on the ability to sleep anywhere, at the drop of a hat. Doesn't matter who's hat, Gibbs grins to himself, worrying when he realises the younger man's sense of humour is rubbing off on him. Pushing that uncomfortable thought well away, Gibbs allows that for once Tony hasn't been exaggerating, considering he's managed to curl up on the wooden stairs that lead up from Gibb's basement, seemingly content despite those rough steps that must be digging into his ribs with unrepentant stubbornness. Or maybe that's Tony, digging into the stairs.
Tony is concussed too, more so than Gibbs, which is why they're together this cold and wet night and why Gibbs can't put it off any longer. Not only does he need to check on Tony, order him to the spare bedroom and take some meds, but he needs to work out how they ended up in this mess in the first place. Gibbs is pretty sure there were screwups abound, but he's not sure in what order or who made the worst one. Tony's competitiveness can be a little misplaced, sometimes. It's as if they've gone through rounds of one-upmanship, where the prize was an all expenses paid trip to the ER and the winner was who managed to get hurt worse. Naturally, you can only score points if you get hurt protecting the man by your side, just to make the game more interesting.
Physically, it looks as if Tony might have won, the concussion is far worse, but then, Gibbs took a bullet graze to the thigh and needed stitches. Then again, he's hardly limping, while DiNozzo's out cold, pretty much, since they left the hospital and the only way they got out was a joint glare at the attending doctor, who got really opinionated over the fact he wanted Tony to stay overnight. Tony got opinionated himself at that point, to the level that Gibbs had to hold him back before he inflicted bodily harm on the doctor. So, that makes Tony the winner, right?
Gibbs knows that pain can go past the physical though, and this is where he thinks he might have sneaked ahead. He doesn't like it when one of his team is injured, he likes it even less when he's with them and it just grinds his gears when it's because of him. When Tony took the bat to the head for Gibbs, Gibbs wasn't sure who he'd been angrier at. His temper hadn't improved when Tony, under the influence of painkillers, had admitted he wanted to protect Gibbs from further injury.
They need to get a handle on this. Gibbs stands, reaching out to shake Tony's shoulder, to tell him it's been two hours and there's some pressing questions Gibbs has to ask him. Like what year it is, where Tony lives and if he can remember his full name. Standard knock on the head crap they always give you, but Gibbs isn't willing to take any risks. This isn't DiNozzo's first rodeo and the more times you get knocked out, the harder it is to bounce back.
Still, his hand hovers above Tony's shoulder. It seems a shame to wake him. He looks peaceful, more or less, the way he always does when he's still for a change. He looks vulnerable too, the daily mask gone and the lines of worry and fear and hurt and fun and laughter and everything else that makes up Tony's past, that's normally written across his skin in illegible handwriting, have faded to nothing and he looks young. A little boy, dreaming of the games he's played that day.
Kate calls him Peter Pan, Gibbs remembers. The boy who never grows up. Tony laughs, telling her he's really a Lost Boy, and Kate's softer, compassionate side tells her to drop the subject, just as Tony suspected it might.
And that's when Gibbs realises.
Tony's not a Lost Boy; a Lost Boy indicates that there's someone out there to return to, that he has the choice to leave Never Never Land and a choice to stay. Tony doesn't choose; there is no someone waiting, no home suspended in animation, remaining just as he left it and ready for when he's willing to play there again. There is no leaving Never Never Land for Tony, because Never Never Land is pretend, is illusion and illusion, Gibbs has come to recognise, is what Tony knows best. Outside of the illusion, Tony ages and withers and fights to breathe, outside of illusion is the real world, ready to suck the life force out of him, to beat him down and kick him when he's nearly out anyway. Outside of the illusion are dead mothers and absent fathers and a big bad world that Tony isn't ready to face. Not quite.
Kate and McGee could be Lost Boys, Gibbs muses. When they've had enough of fighting pirates, when they've had one scraped knee too many and come down off the sugar high, when they've crashed and are tired and ill tempered and are furiously rubbing their eyes with their fists, they can call the mother's they left and fly back in the open window. They'll be welcomed, fussed over, hurts kissed away and led to bed, told to sleep and everything will be better in the morning. Doesn't happen often, but the Lost Boys all return home at some point or another, leaving Peter Pan to face the pirates himself, alone aside from Tinkerbell because no one thought to invite him home too.
Abby's Tony's Tinkerbell, Gibbs decides. Fluttering, twinkling, taking care of him to the best of her fickle ability, always on the edges of vision. Admittedly, she's a macabre fairy, black instead of green, a sprite instead, maybe, but she truly holds Tony's hand and teaches him to fly, even if in reality she's really just letting him lay down in her lab, Bert the farting Hippo beneath his head. Doesn't matter, Gibbs knows, because while to the rest of the world it looks as if Tony's sinking to the ground, to them she's sprinkling him with fairy dust and lifting him above the earth when she lays down beside him, entwines her fingers with his and lets him tell her with his silence what he needs to say. Tony and Abby don't need words and that makes perfect sense to no one but Gibbs because who ever heard Peter Pan and Tinkerbell hashing out the pain of their lives anyway? They acknowledge it with touch and fight it with the deafening silence of a dragon's rage, and when they're sure it's banished to the darkest corners of the shadows the world throws out, then they begin to play again.
And naturally, when Abby's taking Gibb's temper, drinking the poison meant for Tony, metaphorically speaking, Tony's applauding her, letting her know that he believes. He believes her tests and formulas and her scientific mind, he brings her to life again and takes what she's given them right to the bad guys, shoves it in the pirate's faces and frees Never Never Land. Until tomorrow.
Gibbs can't help himself. He imagines himself into J.M. Barrie's world, because he's in Tony's world and to understand Tony, he's had to return to a favourite childhood story. For a brief moment, he thought he might be a Lost Boy too, but it strikes him that there's no one really waiting beside an open window for Gibbs either and there can't be more than one Peter Pan and Gibbs can only think of one other character who couldn't leave Never Never Land. Aside Tiger-Lily and that's a thought Gibbs isn't going to chase down tonight. Not without a good few shots of hard liquor and a giggly frame of mind. He's not that concussed.
Gibbs is no Indian, blending into the land or bursting out of the foliage with a wild war whoop. Hardly his style. No, Gibbs, he recognises with sober self examination, is a Pirate. And not just any Pirate, either. He's Captain James fucking Hook.
He's a little startled by the revelation, but again, it makes sense to him.
Hook doesn't belong in Never Never Land but he can't leave either. There's no choice for the Pirate captain. He followed Peter Pan, because, Gibbs once read, he was actually Peter's father and he couldn't leave his son to live alone in a strange world. Peter resented the continued presence of a man he thought had forgotten all about him and so he forgot about his father too. By the time Wendy appears, the fight is all they know and their old lives are too faint to even be memories and they're locked in a furious struggle. Never knew a good thing when he had it, Gibbs thinks. He doesn't know if that last sentence is for Tony or the character from the book, but either way, it fits. Peter doesn't want to face the outside world, and nor does Tony, and neither one of them can see a protective presence beside them without wondering what they have to give up in return. For Peter, its Hook, ready to tear through his belly with his metal appendage, while for Tony, it's Gibbs, ready to push him to his best.
And while the lines blurred between Hook and Peter, until they couldn't remember what had brought them to this place or why they had arrived in the first instance, Gibbs feels confident he won't forget his true role. He's there to bring Tony to his full potential and if that means kicking his ass, he'll do it. Gibbs idly wonders if that's how Hook started life; tough love and the inability to say what he really meant. In a way, it's really Peter's fault he now has Hook as a nemesis. He perceived the man as his enemy and Hook, unable to fight him and love him at the same time, cut the father in him in order to concentrate on shaping Peter into the man he wanted him to become. Worked, too, even if it destroyed any relationship they might have had and Gibbs is resolved to achieve the same results without have to hold Tony at arms length.
The voice is groggy, leaden with sleep, accompanied by two slivers of confused green as Tony pries his eyes open.
Gibbs' back stiffens instinctively, he clamps down on any emotion he might be wearing on his face and a muscle in his jaw twitches. A concussed man just got the jump on him and that pisses him off. It's brief, however, because the last few minutes contemplation has brought a little wisdom, alcohol soaked and slightly off tangent though it may be and Gibbs allows himself to soften, calm down and gently cup his agents face.
"Time for twenty questions," he says softly, reaching down to help DiNozzo stand. Tony sways, standing awkwardly, but his physical discomfort is nothing to the distress that plays openly on his features, too injured and off his game to properly control it. Gibbs' old wooden heart twinges.
"Those questions can wait until morning," he growls, partly because he's too accustomed to growling, partly because Tony's expecting it and he doesn't want his agent to think he's woken up in the Twilight Zone. "For now, DiNozzo, you can stick with telling me what year it is."
Tony squints at him. "Did you hit your head, Boss?" he asks. "I think you might have a little concussion going there."
Gibbs smiles as he helps Tony up the stairs. "Funny. Where do you live?"
"Not here," Tony responds automatically, glancing around at Gibbs' kitchen. A growled 'DiNozzo' is enough to bring him in line and Tony answers the questions properly as they make their way to the spare bedroom. Tony does little more than kick off his shoes, and Gibbs supposes he should be happy he did that, before climbing into the bed with a sigh, ready to go back to sleep. Gibbs sits beside him, feeling a little silly, especially when Tony opens his eyes again, silently asking what he thinks he's doing.
"You shouldn't have done it," Gibbs tells him and he hears Tony groan, but won't look at him. "I don't need you to protect me, DiNozzo."
"I thought we were waiting until the morning," Tony mutters, slurred and sleepy.
"We are," Gibbs snaps and feels Tony shrinking away from him. Sighing, he runs a hand through his silver hair. This isn't going according to plan. Tony's hurting, no doubt confused, and probably finding it hard to follow what's going on, and this really isn't that fair on him, but Gibbs has to get it done tonight, or it'll be another missed opportunity, slipping between his fingers like the sands of time, trickling away like that damned clock within that damned crocodile. Tick Tock Tick.
Lowering his voice and softening his smile, Gibbs regards Tony. "You did good. Thank you."
Tony's staring at him from eyes beset by dark rings in a pale face, looking not quite human in the soft glow of the bedside lamp, but he's staring at Gibbs as if he's waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"I appreciate the thought, and I admire your … tenacity," Gibbs continues, pretending he's not sending his agent into shock, "and yes, I'm thanking you, but this in no way means you get to do it again. I will have you flying a desk for the next six months if you pull this stunt again, you understand?"
Tony is silent for slightly longer than a heartbeat.
"No heroics, gotcha, Boss," he agrees. "If it means I can have the real Gibbs back, I'll never save your life again."
Gibbs allows himself a smile, he does appreciate Tony's humour at times. Mostly, he can understand it. "Go to sleep," he says, standing, feeling as if he got the message through. That pause, that momentary little boy pride, that was what he was looking for. Tony understood. Gibbs is grateful he doesn't have to hammer the point home, but then, that's one of the reasons he hired DiNozzo. Good at reading people.
"I'll be back to check on you," he warns, as Tony's heavy eyelids slide close. Tony makes a noise in the back of his throat, which Gibbs interprets as acceptance. Could be annoyance, but Gibbs prefers acceptance. He turns at the door to watch Tony sleep, only half surprised when one eye creeps open in irritation and a hand flops, presumably meant to shoo him away. With another full fledged grin, Gibbs heads for his own room, not bothering to set an alarm. He's trained his body to wake up when he orders it to and he knows, when he opens his eyes, it'll be two hours from now.
Control, as Peter Pan probably knows, is the name of the game.