Disclaimer – Don't own 'em just borrowing 'em to show the parts they don't show on the show.
AN – Again many many thanks for everyone who reviewed "Hearth and Home" I know I'm being rubbish at replying and I apologise for that but your support is certainly feeding my plot bunnies again. I'm almost tempted to mark it as AU as I doubt we would ever really see this on the show. But a girl can draw her own conclusions and the renewed sense of family feeling between Tony and Gibbs was just too good to resist. Grins.
Gibbs nodded at the security guard as he weaved through the security gate, balancing two coffees on top on the pizza box with the ease of long practice. Travelling up in the elevator he sighed softly to himself. The case was closed, their killer was dead, courtesy of a bullet from DiNozzo's gun and his team had come through another week unscathed. Everything should have been right with his world. Except, Gibbs couldn't quite shake his gut feeling that there was something going on with DiNozzo.
It wasn't anything he could put his finger on. His senior field Agent's performance at work was as good as ever. The impromptu physical he had persuaded Ducky to perform hadn't flagged up any health issues. Gibbs doubted it was anything to do with a woman, DiNozzo hadn't been dating like he used to since that fiasco with Jeanne Benoit had put him off his stride. And whatever the problem was, DiNozzo hadn't said a damned word about it to anyone. Not even Abby. Which meant it was something pretty big.
Exiting the elevator car into the bullpen, a glance at Ziva and McGee's areas told him that they had finally left for the weekend, their after action reports waiting for him on his desk. Ignoring those for a moment, Gibbs came to a halt in front of his senior field Agent's desk.
"You almost done?"
"Almost," Tony didn't look up from what he was writing as he bit his lip in concentration. "Just as soon as I fill these three forms out in triplicate, I swear I'm never shooting anyone ever again."
"The paperwork'll bury you," Gibbs agreed with feeling, as he grabbed the nearest chair and pulled it up to DiNozzo's desk, before sitting down. "But it'll go by the book. You did want you had to."
DiNozzo stilled, as his nostrils suddenly flared. Catching the scent of pizza and coffee his head came up sharply, his eyes slightly questioning, as he took in the familiar cardboard box and the coffee with hazelnut creamer which was Gibbs for cosseting.
"I'm okay, Boss," He sought to reassure. "Its not like it was my first kill and Baxter got more of a chance than any of his victims."
"Abby said she'd asked you to dinner, you blew her off," Gibbs cracked the top of his coffee and took a long swallow, before placing the other cup squarely in front of DiNozzo, so he could flip the lid of the pizza box open, letting the warm scents of pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese fill the room. "Again."
"I've been busy," Tony excused his treatment of Abby. "I'll find a way to make it up to her."
Gibbs helped himself to a slice of pizza, chewing slowly as he watched DiNozzo pick up a slice for each hand, and lean back in his chair with a contented look on his face.
"God, I've missed this."
Gibbs raised a brow at that but held his peace and simply watched as Tony worked his way through the rest of the large pizza with obvious relish, even to eating every scrap of the crust and licking his fingers when he was done, like a man long starved of his heart's desire.
"You just cost me, twenty bucks." Gibbs groused, when he was done.
"Sorry, Boss," Tony flushed slightly and reached for his billfold, as he realised that he had eaten his share and more. "I'll pay you back."
Gibbs slapped at his hand, before he could even begin to open his billfold and left him staring at the former Marine with his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide with surprise. Gibbs simply scowled because if Ducky had been right about this he was probably right about all the other things he had said too.
"Ducky tried to tell me you'd been cutting out junk food," Gibbs eyed his senior field Agent closely, watching for his reaction. "I bet him $20 that he was wrong."
"You should know better than to make a bet with the Duckster, that man never bets unless he knows he's going to collect," Tony evaded, feeling Gibbs eyes boring into him, he shrugged slightly. "It's not like I can't stand to drop a few pounds."
"That why you really asked to borrow McGee's camping gear?" Gibbs asked mildly. "You planning on hiking some trails?"
"Ha, no," Tony barked. "You know, I like my slice of natural beauty to come with an en-suite bathroom and five star dining. What I told McGee was true. A fraternity buddy of mine really is going on one of those corporation team bonding things. You know, the kind of thing, man and his cubical companions trying to get in tune with nature, whilst trying not to get eaten, stung, poisoned, frozen, or roasted."
"McGee's busy this weekend, taking his scout troop camping," Gibbs observed. "He's going to be using his gear."
"Yeah, he told me, I was really counting on being able to borrow his stuff," For a second, Tony's expression turned bleak, causing Gibbs to shift slightly in his chair in his concern. There was more going on here than just not being able to do an old friend a favour. Then Tony pasted on a hopeful smile. "Hey, Boss, I don't suppose I could borrow your sleeping bag?"
"Sure." Gibbs agreed easily.
"I can?" The way Tony's face lit up as if all his Christmases had come at once only conformed Gibbs' suspicions that all was not what it seemed, as the younger man carried on happily. "And that hat with the furry ear flaps, you know the one you bought back from Russia? I've always loved that hat."
"Alright," Gibbs agreed, wondering if Tony realised that in his enthusiasm he had dropped all pretence at needing the equipment for his old college buddy. Still, he knew better than to think he was going to get the whole story simply by asking. He still didn't know why Tony wouldn't have dinner with Abby or why he had given up his favourite foods. "I'll look them out and drop them around at 0800 tomorrow morning."
"You don't have to bring them around," Tony actually looked slightly panicked "I mean, you're already doing me a favour. For which, I for one am truly grateful, I don't want to spoil your weekend as well. I can just follow you home."
"You got some sort of hot date tomorrow, DiNozzo?"
For an impossible second he thought Tony was actually on the brink of lying to him. The moment of silence stretched out between them before the younger man sagged slightly, as if in defeat or resignation, before he spoke.
"No, Boss, no hot date." Tony assured him.
"Alright," Gibbs met his gaze. "I'll be there at 0800 sharp. Make sure there's coffee."
"The concept of sleeping in at the weekend means nothing to you, does it?" Tony sighed. At Gibbs look he smiled slightly. "I know, to you 0800 is sleeping in."
Gibbs took a moment to really study his senior field Agent. To all outwards appearances, DiNozzo looked exactly the same. Although, now Gibbs was looking his hair was perhaps a little longer than the Italian usually wore it. And whilst his shirt was clean on Gibbs was pretty sure he had been wearing the same suit all week. He tipped his head on one side as memory and personal experience combined to raise a dreadful possibility.
He hoped, really hoped, for DiNozzo's sake, that he was wrong.
"I'll bring breakfast."
At 07.59 Gibbs parked the Charger in front of DiNozzo's apartment building and popped the trunk, tucking the sleeping bag under one arm and letting the furry hat dangle from his right hand, using his elbow to slam the trunk as he carried the brown bag of promised breakfast items in his left hand. As usual the elevator in DiNozzo's building was out, so Gibbs took the stairs, remembering the one and only time he had tried to have this out with the younger man.
"I really do appreciate you helping me out like this, Boss," Tony panted slightly, as they paused halfway up the stairs, taking a breather as they balanced the newly purchased leather recliner between them. "I ought to sue that delivery company."
"What you ought to do is read the small print." Gibbs pointed out.
"Ok so they don't deliver more than one floor up in building without an elevator," Tony agreed. "But like I tried to tell the guy, my building has got an elevator."
"Think they generally like it to be working."
"It works," Tony made a face. "Sometimes."
"You know," Gibbs continued the conversation as they picked up the chair and moved up the next flight of stairs "If you spent a little less money getting your hair cut and your pores cleansed, you could afford a better place."
"I thought we'd settled this?" Tony grimaced, but whether from the exertion of moving the chair or his irritation that they were revisiting this topic Gibbs wasn't sure. "I don't need a better apartment."
"Tony, McGee lives in a nicer building than you do."
"That's because our little Timmy is a home bird who likes to spend all his time with his pipe in front of his typewriter or playing his video games. Its not like I spend anywhere near that much time in my place."
Gibbs wasn't so sure he bought into that image. Tony might not bring his dates home, claiming that women always preferred to sleep in their own beds. And it was true a good part of his downtime was spent running or playing sport. But his DVD collection, home cinema system and this high end leather chair said that he spend at least a good part of his evenings and weekends at home.
"Told you when you rented this place that this neighbourhood was going downhill," Gibbs reminded him."Hasn't got any better."
"I have secure parking and I carry a gun, I've never had any problems." Tony retorted.
"Damn it, DiNozzo," Gibbs almost caused him to drop the chair on his foot as he stopped suddenly to glare at the younger man across the unwieldy leather furniture. "When are you going to grow up and stop acting like you're still some kid living off campus in College?"
He had known as soon as he had said the words that they had been a mistake. Tony's expression had quickly morphed from shock and hurt into defensiveness. They had carried the chair the rest of the way in stony silence. Unable to find the words to explain the unexpected depth of paternal feelings that had fuelled his anger, Gibbs had already taken his leave when he glimpsed through the open kitchen the bottle of Jack and bags of chips on the side which Tony had obviously bought to share in thanks for his help.
He'd felt bad about that but his pride hadn't let him find a way to make it right.
As emerged into the hallway leading to DiNozzo's apartment he reflected, on how far he and DiNozzo had come. Under his wing Tony had grown up to be the best young Agent Gibbs had ever worked with and one of the most honourable men he had ever known. And in his company Gibbs had felt something long frozen inside of him gradually melt as he had let DiNozzo into his home and his heart until the feeling friendship and family was so intrinsically interwoven that he didn't think either of them could say where one ended and the other began.
One thing was for sure, DiNozzo was in some kind of trouble and Gibbs was going to get to the bottom of it.