Rather Be With You Three:
In The Cold Waters
Chapter One: Jump In The Cold Water
Five years. Five years since Gibbs had first laid eyes on that lanky young boy in the darkened street. Five years since his name had been legally changed. Five years of happy bliss. It had been two years since Gibbs had been released from the hold of the hospital, a month later his son following, even happier than he was to escape the white washed square block of boredom. Boredom and his son really didn't mix well, but the staff along his ward had gotten to know him and every time Gibbs had slid by, actually he was there most of the time unless Roy or Peter called in with a case, there was already a nurse or a doctor in his room engaged in conversation. Doctor Runyon had turned into a first name basis acquaintance and would usually drop by after his shift for a quick hello. He'd made good friends with Peter as well, so it all seemed to have worked out.
Except, the house felt strangely empty without his active son tearing the place apart. No, at nineteen, Tony had started his years at Ohio University, leaving the house for months at a time. Almost like it had been all those years ago, but…not quite.
Gibbs slid pushed the door open with a shoulder, carrying the box in from his car. As per usual he was greeted by the excited snuffle of a familiar dog.
"Out the way, Dief." He gave the quick command, emphasising it with a foot, pushing the dog out the way, claws clattering on the wooden floor.
"Jethro, is that you?" A lilting voice urgently called from the direction of the stairs. Gibbs frowned; his wife wasn't usually home this early. Was that a good sign or a bad one?
"Yeah, Stephanie." He called back; depositing the box he'd been carrying on the kitchen table and finally giving a bit of attention to the pining canine. Stephanie had never liked the energetic animal, which caused somewhat of a problem at first since Gibbs wasn't getting rid of the dog; he was Tony's dog first and foremost. After a rather heated "discussion" Stephanie had backed down. But, their marriage wasn't exactly…working very well. To put it lightly.
Gibbs didn't turn as he heard footsteps on the stairs. "What you doin' home so early?" He asked, straightening up from mussing with Dief's furry head. The dog gave himself a shake, tail wagging back and forth in a gormless manner. Gibbs turned. And it wasn't just Stephanie there.
She was there, in a floral dressing gown held tight around her, but there was also someone else. He couldn't have been more than thirty with his hair sticking up in directions unknown to most men. He'd obviously been attempting to sneak out without being noticed, only to fail abysmally. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at the youth, the sheepish expression on Stephanie's slightly flustered face. The fact there was pretty obviously nothing underneath that dressing gown.
Gibbs headed down towards the boat, hauling his box of case files with him.
There are many ways to get from Ohio University to Washington, DC. Many ones. One can walk the distance, it'll take you a while, but you can do it: About six days if you didn't sleep. You can take a bicycle: about two days if you never stopped. You can take a bus, a car: seven hours constantly on the road - or as Tony did that evening, a plane. He hadn't yet driven his Mustang over to Ohio, but had either left it in the parking space of his home or, as that time, in the long-stay car park. The plane landed a few minutes after ten thirty, clearing the runway quickly for the next descending airline. Taxi-ing towards its parking slot, the plane let its cargo of passengers stretch their stiff limbs as they walked down the metal stairs towards their new destination.
Baggage claim can be someone's worst nightmare or their best friend. If you bag is the first to arrive you'll thank the heavens that you have to spend no longer in an airport. If it's last you'll be cursing the floor. This time, the nineteen year old with the bright grin and the travel mussed hair was jumping joy to the clouds. His long stride carried him out towards the shuttle which shepherded weary travellers towards the next stage of their travels: their vehicles. This traveller was far from weary.
His green eyes shone brightly as he jogged towards the loved car, still in as pristine condition now as it had ever been. Humming tunelessly to himself, the young man dumped his bags into the passenger seat and pulled out with the same vigour for driving as his father had always shown. The smart, slick-black car wound through the traffic, the radio blasting out the familiar sounds from the speakers. There was nothing quite like coming back to the home state and turning on the radio to a familiar radio presenter. Well, maybe going actually home.
Especially when home wasn't expecting you.
The drive down from the airport wasn't hindered a great deal by transport and the black Stallion slid into its place beside the slick sedan. He couldn't help the goofy grin spreading across his face as his bright eyes looked up at the house with it's welcoming ivy vines twisting up the wall and its bush of…something or other that had never flowered. Cutting the engine, Tony took a moment to step out, pulling his bags slowly behind him.
As usual the door wasn't locked. Even with a father in law enforcement he didn't bother doing anything as simple as flicking on a lock. Odd. Brave? Cocky? Naw, odd.
The door swung back with a silent squeak a moment before a gruff bark and his vision was filled with fur. Tony dropped his bags in the middle of the hallway, patting his chest with a hand. He didn't care how big the dog was, Dief would still leap up and if you were quick enough you could catch him. Tony had had years of practise tightly holding the hyperactive fuzz ball. "I supposed I missed you too, Dief," He rolled his eyes, pushing his bag along with a foot, leaving the other for people to trip over.
"Hello?" Called a voice from the kitchen.
"Hey there, Stephanie." Tony replied, plastering a grin across his face. He'd never said a great deal, but Stephanie and he didn't get on all that well. Hmn. But, she was his step-mother and he could act civil when the time called for it. Actually, it was more Tony didn't get on with her as much as she tried to get on with him, strange occurrences.
"Anthony, what are you doing here?"
"Kinda living. Thought I'd be a surprise."
"You're definitely that." Stephanie exited the kitchen she'd been in, looking the young man up and down.
"So…how you been?" Tony asked, attempting to strike up some sort of conversation.
"Just fine." The words hung in the air
"Right, well…that's nice?" They really didn't get on well. Stephanie sighed, turning her back on the boy, who had just dumped the dog back on the floor. "Jethro's down in the basement." The word finishing that sentence was not said with any indication that Stephanie liked that room. The statement didn't surprise Tony in the least, even when he'd been around; the basement was the first port of call when trying to find someone in the house. Even Tony liked to sit down there when he was alone in the house; Gibbs had come back a few times to see Tony lying against the ribs of the boat with a book propped up on his knees.
Pulling the door down to the basement open gently, the nineteen year old ducked his head in, the dim light casting shadows of the skeleton of a boat across the far wall. The usual figure had his back to the staircase, running a hand across the ribs of wood which curved up over his head towards the dark ceiling.
"Woah, looks like you've done a lot since I last dropped by." He announced his presence with a comment, proceeding to the fifth step from the bottom, where he usually sat. Gibbs head snapped around at the voice, confusion colouring his pale blue eyes.
"Hi, Dad!" Tony jumped down the last few steps, landing with a soft thump at the bottom.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Gibbs voice held confused amusement as he dropped his hand-sander onto the bench and strode across the floor to pull his tall son into an embrace. Tony's bright goofy smile was still in place by the time he was released, held at arms length to be observed by the father.
"Well, I was in the neighbourhood and thought I'd pop by."
"At quarter to midnight?" Gibbs draped an arm around his son's shoulders, seating the two men on the fifth step from the top. Tony had grown in the two years since their last incredibly dramatic episode. His shoulders were broader, his whole body longer. He was rivalling Gibbs in the height department and was definitely looking into his football player status. But, he still had the unruly hair and the sparkling green eyes that Gibbs doubted would ever leave the young man. "So, back for the wedding?"
Tony turned his head towards his father, surprised. "How did you know that, the wedding's not until next week."
"Neither is the start of your break, and yet you're still home. Either you got kicked out, which you wouldn't be smirking about, or you sweet talked your way out with an excuse."
"And you surmised the excuse was the wedding, well I've always been told I have a silver tongue." More like platinum.
Gibbs ruffled the boy's hair affectionately. The soft murmur from the television in the basement was the only sound which filled the dim room for a moment as the two Gibbs men sat in silence. Tony's green eyes surveyed the slow progress of the boat, the known curves of the wooden ribs and the creeping shadow on the far wall.
"You gunna paint it when it's done?" Tony asked thoughtfully.
"The boat? Maybe, she's got a long way to go 'till then."
"Yeah, but it never hurts to think ahead, now does it?" His son countered, turning a genuine, wide smile his way.
"You accusing me of something?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
"Me?" The young man exclaimed in mocked horror. "I would never do anything of the sort!"
Gibbs merely rolled his eyes, ruffling the soft hair on the back of Tony's head.
The television filled the silence once again before the unmistakable sound of the floorboards above joined in. Two pairs of eyes, one green, one blue, were raised to the ceiling.
"How is my step-mother doing, she wasn't all that vocal with me." Tony asked, attempting to keep the sharp edge of sarcasm out of his voice.
"And ya think she's vocal with me? Don't call her that."
"Well…no, I think you're not vocal with her, there's a difference." Tony decided after a moment. "And why not? It wasn't like she was all that happy when I started calling her Steph." He grinned at the memory. There was another stream of comfortable silence, the morning agriculture report bumbling in the background.
"Not goin' great, then?" Tony's tone was soft, not quite soft enough to be sympathetic yet, but still soft. The ability for son and father to read each other was one that confused and surprised many others. Gibbs let out a soft sigh as the creaking floorboards faded away, leading to the idea that Stephanie had headed upstairs, probably to bed.
"That's one way of putting it."
"Yeah? How long've you been sleeping down here?" Tony gestured to the familiar throw blanket that he'd noticed hadn't been on the couch but was now trying to hide under the work bench.
"That's more like it…Did she-."
"Yeah." Gibbs knew what the end of that sentence was going to be and didn't feel the need to be asked specifically if his wife had cheated on him with the next door neighbour's friend. It was the talk of the street already. With a soft click of his tongue, Tony rested his head partly on Gibbs' shoulder, trying to cover up a yawn. Gibbs smiled gently.
"C'mon, up to bed."
"Naw, 'm good." Tony complained, raising his head, but his slightly bleary green eyes gave him away. "I slept on the plane, sorta."
"Yeah, like hell you did." Gibbs shook his head, a fond look in his eyes. He'd never known Tony to fall asleep, or even doze in or anywhere around any sort of plane. Just wasn't going to happen, and he'd never needed to ask why.
"Fine, but it's not like I've had a stressful day. Maybe I should take Dief for a walk, tire myself out properly."
"At this hour? Not likely, young man."
"I'm nineteen Dad, not nine!"
"Not to me, kid."
Tony huffed, but conceded, standing up on the step and stretching, making his way up the wooden steps, reassured by his father's following footsteps.
The follow morning was an early one as per usual. Tony had stayed in the habit of getting up early enough for a morning run ever since he'd joined the high school football team. This morning was no different. Well, except Stephanie appeared to be up before him, wearing a thin silk dressing gown and probably very little else.
He'd pulled on his running slacks before heading downstairs with his shirt hanging over his shoulder rather than actually being pulled over his head. Humming tunelessly as before he paused to fuss over his dog, as he always did.
"Good morning, Anthony." Stephanie's voice appeared in the doorway followed by the woman herself.
"Morning. You know, you can call me Tony…seriously." Tony replied, straightening up.
"I suppose I can; but I prefer Anthony."
"Oh…kay." Tony drew out the word, he really wasn't in the mood for an altercation that morning, so instead he made for the door into the kitchen towards the gently steaming coffee machine his back turned towards his step-mother. It was probably quite a good thing that his back was turned, or he'd have caught the appraising look Stephanie cast over the well toned nineteen year old. It was a little…creepy.
Grabbing a mug from the draining board beside the sink, Tony poured himself a cup full, ignoring the sugar and cream and downed the entire mug in two huge gulps. Jeez! Stephanie made weak coffee, hardly coffee at all.
"I'm just, ah…gunna head out for a run." Tony decided it was only polite to inform the woman as he pulled the shirt over his head and slid his feet into the shoes he'd left under the coat rack by the door.
"I'll still be here when you get back."
Yeah…I'm sure you will, Tony thought despondently to himself as he gave a bright fake smile.
"Hell, Dief." The command was short and to the point, but still had the mutt bounding up, almost head-butting the door. Not the sharpest tool in the box. Not bothering to take his keys, or a lead for that matter, Tony headed out into the cold winter weather, breaking into a light jog with Diefenbaker loping easily beside him. It was a well known route he'd taken many times before towards the area of greenery some called a park, but what was really just a patch of random wildlife in the centre of the city. But, it was a favourite running spot, much better than some of the road spaghettied ones crossing Ohio.
The window of a blacked out car was wound down with a soft squeak, a long lensed, high definition camera snaked out, directed across the street. The shutters clicked softly, capturing minute moments in time with deadly accuracy. The camera followed the young man and his faithful dog until they rounded a corner, disappearing from sight with a long strided jog. The camera was brought back inside the car and the window wound up with the same soft whining noise. A phone buzzed on the passenger seat, announcing the arrival of a new message. It read plainly: Got them? The driver replied with a single word 'Yes' before pulling out into the quiet suburban street and vanishing into the morning.
Hey look! It's a triquel, or a sequel to a sequel, or a triad. I don't know, it's the third story here. Who knows what's gunna happen. Few thank-yous, even if it is the first chapter. First, Annika, followed from day one, love it. WCUGirl, love the chats, it's like a new stage of motivation. BnBfanatic, you know why, eternally grateful for that. And that's my thank-you speech. I'll keep updating quickly, don't hesitate to give your opinion, any feedback is more than welcome. And we'll see how it goes. And yes, the title's from a Joshua Radin lyric, not mine.