Title: Just Your Imagination
Pairing: Tony DiNozzo/Jethro Gibbs
Warnings: Slash (hopefully the above clued you into that) but no naughty bits (sorry). Also some supernatural themes –but that's a surprise.
Spoilers: Probably just for Twilight.
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. I do own the poem so let me know if you want to use it.
Summary: In a world where the line between imagination and reality blur, Tony finds himself struggling with the fallout.
Authors Note: Plot bunnies should be shot on sight. I seriously don't know where this came from. Still, let me know what you think.
I am a prisoner
Trying to break free
I am a pirate
Sailing the vast sea
I am a fish
I swim far below
I am a race car
Just watch me go!
I am a tiger
I'm a prince on a throne
I am an explorer
I'm a dog with a bone
I am a boy
I fail but I try
Trying to separate
The truth from the lie.
Just Your Imagination
"Nicely done, Tony."
Tony absolutely beamed, displaying his A+ history report as though it were made of gold.
"Thanks Dan. I couldn't have done it without you."
"Naturally," Dan agreed humorously, buffing his nails.
"Dad will be so proud," Tony asserted a touch too firmly, "I usually suck at history."
A flash of sorrow flashed through Dan's eyes but was gone before the seven year old could catch it.
"I'm proud of you," Dan managed.
"I know," Tony returned automatically, attention still mostly wrapped up in his marked assignment. "Do you think he'll be calling for me soon?"
"Maybe," Dan sighed, reluctant to let the subject drop but equally so to push it.
"'An excellent report'" Tony quoted, "That's what it says. Not good, not great, excellent."
"MS Thorpe must have been very pleased with you," Dan observed.
"Yeah, she says she's really proud with how much I've improved. My next report card should be pretty good, I think. I can't wait to see the look on my dad's face when it comes!"
Dan wisely remained silent.
Tony turned, grinning happily at Maria as she bustled in. "Dinner?"
"Yep," Maria agreed, smiling back, "I made your favourite."
Tony leapt to his feet at once, trotting happily after Maria as she walked and managing a half-wave in reply to Dan's.
Maria laughed lightly, reaching down to ruffle Tony's hair before gracing him with a slightly puzzled look.
"I swore I heard voices. Who were you talking to? Was... was it Dan again?"
"Yeah," Tony replied, innocently "I was showing him my assignment. Did you see? I got an A+!"
"Well done!" Maria affirmed, pleased, "I'm sure your father will be very proud."
"Do you remember anything else?"
"It was pretty dark," the woman admitted apologetically, "I didn't see much."
"That's alright," Tony assured her gently, "Just tell me what you know."
"Well... it was male. Definitely white, though I wouldn't commit to a nationality apart from that. Five foot... seven maybe? Six? Strong. Really strong."
"Yeah..." the woman agreed slowly, "I remember a smell. Like... cigars and... peppermint."
"Someone you know with that smell?"
"I can't remember," the woman huffed, clearly frustrated, "I don't pay that much attention to how people smell, really. It was something I only took note of in a sense of panic."
"Odd," Tony muttered, distracted.
Tony jumped a mile, swivelling in his chair and pasting a bright smile in place.
"You're in early, captain."
"Did you ever leave?" the man wondered wryly, "Try not to burn yourself out, alright? Is that... what are you going with that necklace? I thought it was in the lab?"
"Trish said she was done with it," Tony defended, "I was trying to get into the victim's mind. I like to imagine what happened."
"By handling the murder weapon and talking out loud?" he parried sceptically, half amused.
"Uh... yes?" Tony said, all large eyes and even larger smile.
"Whatever works for you."
Katherine got a point where her life consisted of nothing but crying.
She knew that Ryan wouldn't have wanted that for her, but she couldn't help it. The fact that Ryan was gone forever, and would never want anything at all ever again, didn't help her rationalise her coping mechanisms very well.
Her friends pestered her constantly. Some tried taking her out to 'forget about her troubles'. Others turned up unannounced at her house and tried to shove sympathetic lies down her throat. The only one that seemed to understand her was Chloe, who would spend nights curled up on her lap purring, a constant source of warmth and disinterest in anything but being petted.
The rest of her time was spent shopping for groceries, checking the mail for the expected condolence letters, and trying (in vain) not to break down in tears every time she spotted a photograph of Ryan... or an item of clothing... or pretty much anything, really.
There were moments in a row where she hated the world, hated her friends, hated her life –hated Ryan for leaving her behind. It seemed everything was spiralling out of control and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
A rev of an engine sounded and, recognising the sound by now, Katherine made her way outside to check the mail. There was a pay check for Ryan, the last one he'd ever received, and the sight sent Katherine back into tears. It was odd –she'd become so used to crying that she continued to sort through her mail even despite the fact her eyes were blurring. It was becoming almost the norm, being forced to continue with daily actives while her heart was being systematically ripped from her chest.
There were three bills, and three more condolences. The first two were pretty standard –empty empathy that just left her hollow. The third, however, turned out not to be a condolence at all.
It's torture to see you cry. You cannot continue on like this. Here's what you need to do:
Get those sapphire earrings of yours (the ones I gave you after we had that horrible miscarriage), put on your favourite red dress (I don't care about the stain on the cuff), comb your hair and pin it back with the butterfly clip you got from Egypt, and go to the willow. You know the one.
Say what you need to say. I'll be there –I'll hear you. Say it and leave. Go home, take out the clip, take off the dress, put the earrings away and move on.
I won't be content until I know you have. And go easy on your friends, will you? Jemima, especially, is only trying to help.
When you can't run you walk and when you can't do that –well, you know the rest.
I'll live forever in your heart. As you'll be forever in mine.'
It wasn't signed.
Katherine stared at the letter, uncomprehendingly. It wasn't her husband's writing but it read as though he'd written it just yesterday. The clip –no one remembered that clip anymore. Or about the willow or the nickname only Ryan had used. And the earrings –no one had even known she was pregnant, let alone that she had miscarried.
Without thinking, Katherine folded the letter up, made her way upstairs and began rummaging through her wardrobe for her favourite red dress.
"I don't need a babysitter."
"I haven't been working here long, Gibbs, but I did manage to pick that up."
"It's not like I was shot." Gibbs argued fiercely.
"No," Tony agreed, "Just stabbed. No biggie. Hey do you really have a boat in your basement?"
"Cool! Can I see?"
"You're leaving," Gibbs returned firmly, gesturing to the still-open door.
"And you're on pain killers. Which is obviously making you delusional. Have you taken your medication? I bet you haven't. Where is it?"
Tony barrelled past Gibbs before the other man could get a word in edgewise.
"Boss!" an outraged call came, "Why are your pills in the trash?"
Gibbs grimaced, reluctantly making his way to the kitchen where his new (and possibly ex) senior agent was busy pouring a glass of water.
"Down the hatch." Tony instructed briskly, "You got anything to eat?"
"Pills taken," Gibbs informed him bluntly, tossing them back, "Go away."
"How do you live here?" Tony bemoaned, ignoring him happily, "Your cupboards are empty! Are you pulling an Old Mother Hubbard?"
"There isn't even any bread. Who doesn't have bread?"
"Well at least there's pasta. That's something. You got any mince?"
Tony turned and raised a brow.
"Wasn't there a boat you wanted to see?"
"Oh yeah!" Tony grinned, abandoning the cupboard for the promise of a half-constructed boat. "In the basement, right? This way? I'll go see!"
Gibbs was, of course, left standing there alone. Wondering what the hell he'd done to warrant Tony DiNozzo as an agent.
Stupid Stan Burley and his stupid Agent Afloat promotion.
Sighing, Gibbs reluctantly made his way towards the basement. To his confusion, he could make out Tony speaking.
"I can tell."
"Tell what?" Gibbs asked. Tony was, strangely enough looking off at the far end of the basement... which was empty. Hearing the question, though, he turned and smiled at Gibbs.
"That this boat took some expert craftsmanship, of course!" he answered promptly, caressing the boat with clear admiration, "She's beautiful."
Gibbs got the sense Tony was talking about more than just the boat, but had no idea what else he could mean. "She is," he settled for agreeing, "You can leave now."
"Very nice," Tony continued, apparently not needing Gibbs in order to carry on a conversation, "Now, I believe there was some pasta I was about to make?"
Gibbs was a stubborn SOB, but even he knew when he was beat. He rolled his eyes and let the typhoon that was Tony take over his kitchen.
"Why didn't you ever say?"
"Why do you think, Katie?"
"Don't call me that!" Kate protested furiously, "And I know your reasons –you should have trusted me despite them."
"I've never trusted anyone." Tony scowled back, "How long, exactly, will you be hanging around?"
"Until Ari is dead."
"Give Gibbs time." Tony parried, "I've never seen him this mad."
"Speaking of Gibbs."
"I can't help but notice..."
"If you can't trust Gibbs,"
"Oh fine, be that way." Kate pouted, leaning back on her desk and frowning, "But you can't escape it forever."
"Sure I can," Tony disagreed, "I've been doing it so far haven't I?"
"You'll never be happy this way. You should be happy."
"Are you?" Tony retorted.
"I wish I was," Kate returned frankly, "There's so much left to do."
"Not anymore," Tony managed, quietly.
"No," Kate agreed, smiling sadly, "Not anymore. Do you really want to make the same mistake I did?"
"I did love you, Kate," Tony hastened to assure, "If you'd said anything..."
"Which is kind of my point."
"I hate when you do that."
"Who are you talking to?"
Tony turned to smile at the new Israeli woman who, though Tony was sure was very capable, could never replace Kate.
The woman hesitated at that.
"Is she not the one that died?"
"Yes," Tony admitted easily, "You never speak to the dead? Imagine what they'd say?"
"You shouldn't bait her," he could hear Kate scolded, half-heartedly, "I'm sure she's really very nice."
Tony merely smiled and watched in barely suppressed amusement as Ziva struggled to formulate a reply.
"Please, you have to help her. Oh please!"
"Calm down!" Tony ordered firmly, "Take a breath or... whatever. And tell me where she is."
"Her father took her. Oh good, there was so much noise! And screaming. My daughter –my child –you have to help her!"
"I need a name," Tony told her, wishing he could reach out and shake her, "Give me a name."
"Justin Cottingham," the woman managed, looking half-mad with worry.
"You got an address?"
"14 Burns Road."
"I know it," Tony assured, "I'll take care of it."
The woman cradled her face in her hands, sobbing with fear, anguish and hope. Tony left her in that room, sitting in a pool of blood, and made his way outside where the rest of his team were just realizing he'd vanished.
"Where did you go?" Tim asked in a fevered whisper, "Gibbs wants us back at the office yesterday. Apparently the vic had a daughter and no one knows where she is."
"You ever leave me waiting at a scene again and I'll leave without you."
Tony was rather surprised he hadn't actually done so.
"14 Burns road."
"What is that?" Ziva wondered.
"An address?" Tim put in, though he sounded too unsure to be credited.
"Where we'll find our missing girl."
"And you know this how?" Gibbs demanded, getting right in his face.
It wasn't much of an answer, and Gibbs studied him sceptically for a long moment before nodding abruptly.
Three hours later they had a blood soaked three year old in their custody and Tony was studiously ignoring the odd looks his team were giving him, while knowing he could not.
Not for long, anyway.
Tony was sitting on Gibbs' couch when he finally made his way home.
Gibbs wasn't surprised. He walked to the fridge, got them both a beer, and made himself comfortable next to Tony without a word. Tony shot him a grin and took the beer with a nod, leaning back against the cushions and visibly building up walls.
"You ever seen the Sixth Sense?"
Trust Tony to open with a movie reference. Gibbs shook his head and let the derision in his eyes speak for him.
"Probably a good thing," Tony admitted, "Makes saying this far less of a cliché."
Gibbs was a master at working silence. A single shift and he made the current one convey the message 'get to the bloody point'. He used that one a lot.
"I see dead people."
There was a long pause.
"I assume you mean places other than crime scenes and autopsy?"
"Knew you were a lead agent for something," Tony quipped, eyeing Gibbs as though he were an object likely to explode. Which, actually, wasn't too far from the truth.
It was the use of the first name, rather than the tone, that had Tony looking down and away.
"They're everywhere Boss," he managed, almost reluctantly, "Walking around like regular people. The only difference between us and them is that they're not in colour. Like they just stepped out of some cheesy 50's film."
Gibbs didn't know enough to ask the right questions but it didn't matter. Tony would consider every question when he processed Gibbs' demand and he'd cover them all.
"I've seen them all my life," he began, eyes unfocused –as though he could see that past before him still, large as life. "It's nothing like the movies you know. They don't just wander around –they have an anchor."
"Sometimes it's a loved broche or a favourite toy or the murder weapon. A spirit can't be tied to a house or a boat or a park you see –but they might be held in place by a room, a plank or a tree. It can be big or small and, most of the time, a real hassle to figure out."
Tony grinned wryly just thinking about it. When he'd been younger it had taken ages to figure out if a spirit was tied to the fountain pen or the paper weight. Since a spirit couldn't be separated from their anchor, it was kinda important he figure out which.
"To nick the Sixth Sense in the bud, all spirits also know they're dead. In fact, pretty much the only thing that movie got right is the unfinished business. Spirits, universally, are hanging around for a reason."
"Like what?" Gibbs asked and Tony, to his irritation, found he couldn't tell if Gibbs was humouring him or honestly believed what he said. He answered him regardless.
"Protecting their daughter. Giving a loved one a message. Having their murder avenged. Some are easy and some aren't. I had a little girl once who just wanted her favourite toy looked after. And a handful who just wanted me to deliver a letter to the spouse they'd left behind. Some are only here days, others years. In one of the houses I lived in growing up, before my mother died, there was a man tied to the patch of floor he'd died on that had been there for over thirty years."
"Is everyone a spirit?" Gibbs wondered.
"No," Tony replied, "Quite the opposite. There's not as many of them as you'd think. There has to be a sense of desperation and fear of leaving something unfinished. Children are rarely spirits –I find they're usually too accepting to be that concerned with such intangible concepts. You get a lot of spirits who've been murdered or died in action."
"Kate." Tony agreed, "She waited until she knew Ari was dead and then she left."
"I remember you seemed distracted."
"I thought I hid that," Tony breathed, annoyed, "Still, I was the only one that could see her and she knew it. Spirits can always tell –from what I can gather, I'm like a beacon to them. Which makes a twisted kinda sense, since a lot of the time they need a set of hands to finish what's keeping them earth-bound. She was annoying as hell."
"Are there many people like you?"
"Not many," Tony admitted, "I've met one other. It was... an odd experience. I shook her hand and knew, without knowing how, that she was just like me. Luckily, she'd met several others with the... Gift, if you'll allow... so she was able to cover for my freaking out."
"How helpful is it really?" Gibbs couldn't help but ask, "If not everyone stays behind?"
"And not everyone sees their killer," Tony added, cynically, "You've hit upon a major point because, frankly, not very. It's useful, in our profession, perhaps only thirty percent of the time or thereabouts. If I wasn't in law enforcement, it'd be pretty worthless. Except for what I learned."
Tony knew he had to tell it all –everything there was –so he dove into that question head first.
"Shannon was deaf when she was young. She's the one who taught you sign language. And the rules. 'Everyone needs a code to live by' was what she said. Which I suppose is true, though I suspect you tweaked them. I can't see Shannon carrying a knife around."
Gibbs said nothing and nor did the silence. His expression, carefully blank, gave away nothing.
"You see Shannon?"
"She's in your basement."
Oddly, to Gibbs that explained a hell of a lot.
"What's her unfinished business?" Gibbs demanded, looking ready to provide whatever Tony named, as though he could pluck such things out of the sky. Despite himself, Tony found himself fighting a smile.
"She wants you to be happy," Tony explained, "I asked her once what you needed to do to convince her you were and she told me you needed to –and I quote –step out of denial and admit your feelings."
"She said that."
"Wouldn't tell me what she meant either," Tony muttered darkly, almost pouting, "Though she did ask me to tell you, should you ever learn the truth, that she didn't mind. That she approved wholeheartedly."
Tony could count the times he'd seen Gibbs emotional on one hand –hell on one finger. Thus, he felt an odd mixture of awkward and honoured when Gibbs raised a hand and wiped at his eyes, keeping it together by the grace of god alone.
"You mean all this time," he managed, voice dark, "She's been there –in my basement?"
"Afraid so," Tony admitted, "But... you do believe me right?"
"Never doubted you."
Tony felt something inside him loosen at that and he nodded sharply, feeling dangerously close to losing it himself. It felt almost surreal. He'd spent all his life with this burden –it was odd to think he'd given it up in an hour.
"Thank you," Tony managed at last.
"You've never told anyone." Gibbs said, and it should have been a question but came off sounding like the realization it was.
"Never trusted anyone enough." Tony returned, almost shy and feeling clumsy for being so, "Wouldn't have given you the address point blank if I haven't. I usually try to explain my knowledge or, barring that, make anonymous tips."
Gibbs shook his head, as though pieces were finally falling into place together.
"While we're on the subject of spilling secrets..."
"You're really a vampire?" Tony hazarded, "Some form of mythological creature with super senses and keen intellect that can explain your freakish talents? You're not going to go all sparkly on me, are you?"
In case it hasn't been adequately scripted, Gibbs was never much with the words. He settled for pulling Tony into a kiss as a substitute.
Tony didn't mind.
"Oh," he articulated once they pulled apart, not at all articulate but still tasting Gibbs on his lips and, thus, understandably brain scattered. "Your secret wins."
Smugly, Gibbs pulled Tony into another kiss. Quick on the uptake, Tony quickly responded and kissed back just as fiercely.
"I've wanted to do that a while," Gibbs admitted uncharacteristically.
"And you chose now?" Tony wondered, befuddled, "After I admit I see dead people? Was it Shannon? The message?"
"In part," Gibbs conceded, "But mostly... it was because you seemed to need it. And because I wanted it. Plus, seemed like a good a time as any. You've just showed me your soul –I thought it only fair you saw mine."
Which implied that Tony was Gibbs' soul. The message that conveyed was too large and overwhelming to be translated just then.
Gibbs didn't fall in love often but when he did, he loved with everything he was, every fibre of his being. He'd live for them, kill for them and die for them. Tony was crap at relationships but even he knew something precious when it stuck its tongue down his throat. And he wasn't even freaking out yet.
"I guess we're even then," Tony said, voice shaky at best.
Gibbs gave him a look, slung an arm around his shoulder and pulled Tony in until he was using Gibbs as a pillow. Tony breathed deeply, relaxing further as a hand penetrated his hair and began to stroke.
"I'm not very good at this," Gibbs warned.
"I'm worse," Tony pointed out. Gibbs huffed a laugh.
"This'll be fun then."
Tony tried to imagine it. Gibbs would be possessive and irritable and a bastard while Tony would be insecure, troublesome and clingy. Gibbs would shout, keep silent and continue to boss Tony around even outside of the office. The both of them would probably struggle with Tony's ability to see spirits and try and use it to their advantage while keeping it as secret as possible. The sex would likely make up for a lot of their problems but knowing Gibbs they wouldn't get there for a while. He'd want to woo Tony properly or some such nonsense.
Gibbs looked down at him and smiled –an actual honest smile that set his eyes alight and made Tony's insides flutter. He wasn't much with the words, letting his eyes, his hand, his lips speak for him. But that was alright.
Tony got the message.