For all those reading 'How Does it All Go Wrong?' , I have not given up on the story. I am simply stuck on how to put my ideas into words. Also, things are really, really crazy for me right now, so I don't have much time to work it out. The main reason I am able to post this story is because there was very little work left to be done, save for the editing.
He glared in disgust at the 'out of order' sign taped to the elevator doors before making a u-turn and heading for the stairway instead.
He told DiNozzo to find a better apartment. What kind of building didn't even have a working elevator most of the time?
But, as par usual with his Senior Field Agent, he had given him a bright smile followed by a slightly cocky smirk, and a smart-mouthed comment about having a hot young waitress with well-toned legs, for a next-door neighbor who was sweet on him.
Gibbs knew better.
She was a woman, and she was a waitress. But she was also sixty-eight, with grayed hair and wrinkles.
Gibbs didn't doubt for a moment that she was sweet on him, though not in the way Tony had led them to believe, if the glowing judgments he had received from the woman about the young Italian were anything to go by. Apparently, 'the fine young man' had been kind enough to give up a few Saturdays to fix the leaky pipes of her kitchen sink or repair the stuck window when the building's manager refused to show up.
Gibbs hadn't been able to hide his amused his smirk as he hefted the heavy-paper bag from one arm to the other as she fiddled with the lock, all-the-while keeping up her commentary.
Apparently DiNozzo had offered up his next weekend to fix the lock too.
He had never mentioned his encounter with her to DiNozzo, knowing that even if he did, he would still never get a straight answer. He wasn't quite sure why Tony stayed in the failing building, but he did none-the-less.
He let out an annoyed huff as he traipsed up the fourth flight off steps, hefting the bags he was carrying up in his arms, getting a better hold of them.
This had better work or he'd do more than give DiNozzo a smack for making him carrying the bags of food all the way up to the eight level for him not to eat any of it.
He didn't realize just how many chinese containers they had put in the bags. At the time of ordering, he hadn't really cared; he was just hoping to find something that would appeal to DiNozzo's appetite.
Even his favorites these days didn't seem to do the trick.
It had been nearly a two weeks since he'd seen Tony eat an actual meal at work. And Gibbs was guessing that counted for home, too, if his too-pale complexion, and the way his suits hung a little looser than they should were anything to go by.
Nearly two weeks since Tony had eaten a decent meal.
And nearly two weeks since Kate had been killed.
It was no coincidence, Gibbs knew.
It had been hard since Kate died and everyone and it had been hitting everyone in different ways.
McGee couldn't sleep, Abby was even more emotional than usual, and Tony refused to eat.
He did his best to watch out for them.
Looking the other way when McGee would fall asleep at his desk or in Abby's lab,
knowing he desperately needed the sleep. Giving Abby extra kisses and holding her in a tight hug when she cried. And making sure Tony ate a decent meal. That one so far had proven to be the hardest. Abby had no problem coming to him for emotional support and McGee's exhaustion took over on its own.
But Tony simply could not, would not, eat.
Gibbs had tried first, keeping an eye on him at work. Trying to make sure he ate at lunch times, but that had proved to be more difficult than one would think. Not to mention that was only one meal.
Then he tried a different tactic. Inviting Tony to his house for a bite. Tony was always eager at the chance for one of Gibbs 'cowboy style' steak dinners and the chance to kick back and enjoy a a beer or two while relaxing on the couch or watching, sometimes helping even, Gibbs work on the boat.
But even that had failed. Tony always managed some excuse or flimsy fib to get himself off the hook.
So it was time for plan 'C'. Taking the food directly into Tony's home, not giving him the chance of escape and staying until Tony had eaten at least enough to keep him going another day.
If that didn't work there was always plan 'D'. He could just as easily admit him to the hospital for malnutrition and let him become the doctor's problem until he was well enough to leave.
Tony wouldn't be too thrilled with that idea he was sure, but desperate times called for desperate measures. He'd do whatever it took, whether any of them liked it or not, if it meant keeping them alive. He wasn't going to lose another one of them, not again.
He didn't think he could handle it.
He stopped, setting one of the bags on the floor as he dug for a key. He wasn't going to give Tony a chance to deny him access when he spotted the food.
Unlocking the door, he pushed it open before picking the bag back up and walking in, using his foot to shut the door behind himself.
The door had barely shut, the lock clicking back into place, when a small brown and white missile bombarded him.
Out of instinct he lifted his arms, keeping the bags out of reach.
Said missile continued to bounce around his feet, letting off a peal of sharp barks.
Looking down, Gibbs spotted the small terrier dog as it bounded higher, letting off another stream of high-pitched yelps.
Blinking once, Gibbs stared. What the heck? That was Kate's dog. What was-
"Heel! Heel!" Tony's voice cut through his thoughts abruptly.
Tony was standing in the doorway, dressed in sweats and socks, gun hanging loosely in his hand.
Raising his eyebrow, Gibbs shifted his eyes from the gun to back to Tony.
Following Gibbs eyes, Tony shrugged. "Didn't know who it was."
Gibbs nodded once in recognition, wincing slightly as the pup let off a particularly sharp yip.
"Heel!" Tony insisted, going over and patting the dog on the head, "Calm down." He instructed calmly.
Gibbs was slightly surprised when the dog obeyed immediately by plopping down on the floor, only looking up to lick at Tony's hand.
Tony patted her head affectionately, smiling.
"Sorry about that, Boss." he said, a pink tinge creeping over his cheeks, "She's still a little hyper active."
"Toni?" he asked curiously.
"Yeah, Boss?" he asked, looking up from the pooch.
Jethro raised his eyebrows, amused, and glanced down at the dog.
"Oh, right." he responded, blushing deeper. "Its a long story." he mumbled.
"Mmm-hmm." Jethro answered in a dry tone. "You hungry?" he asked suddenly, holding up the bags of food.
"Uh...sure." Tony agreed warily, a slight grimace on his face.
Gibbs nodded once, careful to hide the his smirk of satisfaction, and led the way over to the younger man's sofa.
Depositing the bags on the coffee table, he plopped down on the three-seat sofa and waited for Tony to follow suit before starting to rummage through the bags.
Finding a box of Lo Mien, Tony's favorite, Gibbs purposely plunked the container in front of his agent.
Reaching back into the bag, he found utensils. Remembering Tony's hatred for chopsticks, he grabbed a fork, silently holding it out for the man to take.
He watched Tony's almost wary expression as he gingerly accepted the utensil and picked up the container.
Still sensing Tony's unease, Gibbs snatched a container of Lemon Chicken and a pair of chopsticks before easing back, all but forcing himself to relax into the over-stuffed sofa cushions. Maybe if DiNozzo saw him relaxing, he'd do the same.
Stiffly easing back into the sofa, Tony gingerly opened the container's flaps, an obvious look of distaste on his face.
Time to be a bit more direct.
Raising a deliberate, challenging brow, Gibbs stared him down.
Never one to back down from a challenge, the Senior Field Agent deliberately stabbed a piece of chicken and forced the bite to his mouth.
Thankfully, for both Gibbs and Tony, the younger man's hunger seemed to out-weight his mind in this case and after taking the first bite, he dug into the food with a renewed vigor, devouring half the carton in matter of minutes.
With a satisfied smile, Gibbs dug into his own meal, this time relaxing for real.
"So?" He spoke after a few moments, breaking the comfortable silence.
"So?" Tony repeated questioningly, glancing at his boss.
He gave DiNozzo a look. "The story."
"Oh. Right." Tony paused, fishing around for another bite before continuing. "Most of family was too busy I guess. Jobs, families, things like that." He said with a shrug, "Her sister, Clarie, wanted to take her, but her apartment wouldn't allow pets. Mine will."
"Parents?" he asked quietly, voice softening at the thought of the grieving relatives.
"Moms' allergic." he explained, with a one shoulder-shrug, "Nobody else would even consider taking her." he added, looking pitifully at the pup that how now curled up in the pink pet bed over by the armchair,"Sides," he added, "always wanted a dog."
Gibbs looked over at him, lips quirking into a smile. That wasn't why he had taken the pup and they both knew it.
"Thought the dog didn't like you." he commented lightly, teasingly.
Tony tossed Gibbs and amused glance at the obvious attempt for their normal banter. "Doesn't seem to mind me now." he said, "Don't know why, but she seems to have changed her mind."
"Dogs sense things." was Gibbs simple answer.
Tony gave him an odd look before nodding slowly in reply, not all too sure what Gibbs had meant by the comment, but unwilling to push Gibbs for a better answer tonight.
Gibbs watched as the small Jack Russel got up, stretched, and sauntered her way over to Tony's side, plopping down by his feet. Tony reached down, absentmindedly scratching behind her ears.
Gibbs smiled lightly to himself.
Tony didn't realize how accurate his answer had been. Dogs did sense things. They sensed emotions and feelings better than any human being could; and she could easily sense the care Tony had for her and the love he had had for her former owner.
"You sure you got time for a dog?" Gibbs queried curiously.
Tony shrugged again. "If we catch a case, I know someone in the building who'll be happy to keep her company for a couple hours during the day... Besides," Tony continued, picking at his food, "it'll be nice...having somebody to come home to. Place is a little empty sometimes."
He glanced over at Tony, surprised, but he kept his expression neutral.
To be honest, it was nothing new to Gibbs. He knew what it must be like for Tony. He knew what it was like, having to come home to an empty place. Usually, the solitude didn't bother him, his basement and a few shots of bourbon provided enough company. Sometimes. But there were those days, when it was impossible to not wish for a little companionship. Another soul to fill the empty building. And some-days it was harder than others.
No, what surprised him was that Tony had actually admitted to it.
It was unusual for Tony to admit any sort of weakness, to open up like that. Tony was a bit too much like him in that aspect for Gibbs' liking.
It wasn't like Tony to let down his guards, and let someone, anyone, catch a glimpse of what was behind his mask.
Gibbs prided in the fact that he had gained the younger man's trust enough for him to do so on occasion.
And maybe, if he didn't know the reason behind it, he would have smiled this time, knowing that DiNozzo trusted him enough to bear his soul. But this time, he couldn't help but frown because he knew the why. Kate's death.
Her loss had sent them all into a spiral of emotions. He was surprised DiNozzo had held on to his mask this well and for so long.
"Yeah, well," He huffed out, hoping his tone sounded dismissive, "Don't have much place for a dog myself. Always liked to keep my door open. Wouldn't want it running off."
He said this almost nonchalantly, hoping Tony would recognize it for what it was. An invitation. Someplace to come when he was he feeling lost or a little lonely. Someplace to come when he was feeling a little overwhelmed and needed to vent his frustrations. Someplace he could come to, instead of feeling the need to run away to get a little peace. A place to belong.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the corner of Tony's mouth lift in a small smile, recognizing the tactic.
"Thanks, boss." He mumbled quietly, averting his eyes to the container in his hands and jabbing listlessly at the mass of noodles and sauce.
"Anytime, DiNozzo." He reached over, affectionately ruffling Tony's hair, "Anytime."
Reviews, please! :) They always brighten my day!