Hello all! This is a short story I wrote almost two years ago. I don't know why I didn't post it sooner, but finally its time has come. I hope you'll enjoy it.
Conversation in the Backyard
By Gunnery Sergeant
A/N: This story is set in the future. Gibbs has been retired from NCIS for three years, while Tony is still working there.
Thanks to Finlaure for the beta reading!
Anthony DiNozzo pulled up his car near a familiar house in the suburbs and smiled. He hadn't been sleeping well for the past three nights, and he had been irritable since then, but the mere idea of spending a few hours in Gibbs' company made him already feel better.
When the older man had retired from NCIS three years ago, due to an accident that had made him unfit to work as a field agent, Tony had been afraid that Gibbs would have sailed off on his boat or move back in Mexico with Franks and all but disappeared from his life. Blessedly things had not gone as he had feared: Gibbs had accepted a position as instructor at the FLETC facility in Cheltenham, Maryland and he and his former senior agent had become closer, as their friendship had evolved and strengthened.
Tony had always known Gibbs cared for him and for the rest of his team. However, the older man had never allowed himself to show him anything more than gruff affection while he had been his boss at work. Now, however, things had changed. The older man was no longer Gibbs, his boss, but Jethro, his friend—and Tony couldn't be happier about it.
Since the moment he had started working for NCIS, he had done everything he could to win Gibbs' approval, respect and affection. It felt damn good to know he had those and no longer needed to try so hard, even if he still did, now and then.
He stepped out of the car, locked it and walked toward the house. He was about to open the door when he heard a noise come from the backyard. So he retraced his steps, circled the building and walked into the well-kept garden.
Gibbs was standing by the fence, and was hammering a nail into one of the posts. There were spare wood boards piled nearby and two cans of paint. It was clear there was a major operation of repairs and repainting underway.
Tony watched as his friend moved along the fence, examining each board with his eyes and his hands. His touches were expert, confident, and strong as he tested the wood for breaks or other faults.
Expert, confident, strong: Gibbs was like that in everything he did. Tony had sometimes wondered if he was the same with women too. However he had always interrupted that line of thought quickly, because he knew it would led him to wonder how it would feel like to have that focus turned on him in that very personal way. He felt his cheeks redden and mentally head-slapped himself. What would Gibbs do if he knew the younger man sometimes thought of him in a way no one should ever think of a friend? If he knew Tony wasn't the straight-as-an-arrow guy everyone believed him to be?
He didn't want the older man to ever know it. He couldn't risk losing or ruining the most important relationship in his life.
"Are you gonna keep staring or do you plan on helping me?" Gibbs asked, his back still turned toward him.
Tony bit off his instinctive, "How did you know I was here?" and answered, "I'm not good at wood working. You know it."
"Yeah," his friend answered, looking at him over his shoulder, "but you know how to paint. The brushes are on the table."
Tony walked to the massive wood table and benches – one of Gibbs' first works as carpenter – picked up the brushes, and carried them to where the paint cans were.
"Where do I start?" he asked as he opened one of the cans. It contained a transparent, glossy kind of paint, probably a protective finish against rain, snow and sun.
"Start from the centre and move toward left. I'll do the other side."
"On it, Boss."
Tony liked to call Gibbs "boss", even if the older man was no longer his superior at work. To him that title had always been a way to express his respect and care for Gibbs—and it hadn't changed even now when he was the boss of his own team.
He dipped his brush in the can, coated it, shook off the excess of paint and brought it to the fence, moving it up and down along the board.
They worked in silence for several minutes, the quiet of the morning interrupted only by an occasional car driving by.
There had been a time, not too long ago, when he would have felt uneasy with the silence and broken it with movie references, talks about women or cars, or jokes—but it was in the past. Now he felt comfortable with silence, at ease with the fact he didn't have to wear his happy-go-lucky mask when he was with his friend.
After a while the older man put down hammer and nails, picked up the other paint can and brush and began painting the boards by Tony's right.
"So, how was work?" Gibbs asked as they worked side by side.
"Nothing interesting this week. Just two geniuses of petty officers who thought to make some extra bucks by selling ships' spare parts stolen from Norfolk."
"How did the team perform?"
Tony shrugged his shoulders, "McGenius was his usual wizard with the computer. Jardine is improving her interrogation skills -even if it's not easy to intimidate a suspect when you don't want to step in his personal space in order not to catch some bugs- and the probie is learning.
Gibbs grunted in approval. "Vance?"
"I haven't seen him for the whole week. He was in London, attending some security meeting."
"So he had no chances to piss you off?"
"Then you can tell me what the hell are you doing here at 0830 on a Saturday morning?" Gibbs asked, glaring at him.
He looked down at his shoes and mumbled, "I needed company."
The older man's face softened. "What is it, Tony?" he asked gently.
"Elizabeth…" Tony cleared his throat and continued, "We broke up."
His friend tilted his head and as he lowered the brush, "When?"
"Three days ago."
"I see," Gibbs turned to face the fence and resumed his painting as Tony looked at him, confused.
"Aren't you gonna to even squeeze my shoulder and say 'I'm sorry, Tony'? 'Cause, you know, that's what a friend usually does when his buddy is dumped by his girlfriend of two years…." He asked, his tone a mix of levity and disappointment.
"No. It would be a lie. I'm not sorry," Gibbs answered, matter-of-factly.
Tony frowned, surprised. "Why?"
"Because I've seen you with her, and I don't think you were really happy with her." His friend turned to look at him, then bent down, closed the paint can, put the brush atop of it and tilted his head toward the table. "Come."
Tony did as asked and followed him to the table, where they both sat down on one of the benches.
"I've watched you with Elizabeth," Gibbs resumed as he leant back with his elbows on the table top. "I've observed you smile at her, talk with her, kiss her and I could never shake off the feeling there was something off between you two. Was I wrong?" he asked, his eyes fixed on Tony.
The younger man was shocked. He had no idea someone had ever noticed everything was not as perfect as he had wanted Elizabeth to be. All of their friends, McGee and Abby included, had always commented what a great couple they made and how happy they looked together. And yet…yet Jethro had seen the truth even he had tried not to see.
"No, you weren't. But how did you know it?"
"I know you, Tony," Gibbs said simply. "I see when you're trying too hard to please—and you've been doing it with Elizabeth, right from the start. I hoped for a while your efforts would give you what you were looking for. But when I realized it wasn't gonna happen, I began to wish this charade would end soon."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
His friend turned to face him with a smirk. "Given my track record, I'm not exactly in the position to give you advice about women…"
Tony crossed his arms over his chest. "Boss, your track record with women is far better than mine. You may have three divorces under your belt, but you also had a happy marriage that would have lasted for life if tragedy hadn't struck. I never had a relationship like the one you had with Shannon…" He ran his hand in his short hair, making it stand at the end. "Hell, the closest thing to a committed relationship I ever had, is the one I have with you. Before meeting you I never stayed in a place and a job for more than two years. I began to feel suffocated, and looked for a new town, a new job, and new people. Then I started working for you and everything changed. In October it will be twelve years since I moved to Washington—and it's all because of you. You forced me to make a commitment, to the job—and to you. I hope you know how much I treasure our friendship."
Gibbs nodded slowly, eyes intense. "Yeah, I know, Tony. And I trust you're aware it's the same for me."
He smiled and nodded. They fell silent for a while, and then he sobered and said, "Boss, you told me I was trying too hard to please Elizabeth, but was I wrong to do it? I don't want to get old alone. I want to share my life with someone. Is it wrong to try and get it?"
"Nope. There is nothing wrong with it—but you've been trying to have it with the wrong persons. You've been doing it since…hell, since I met you."
"Are you gonna tell me I have been making the same mistake too? 'Cause I would deserve it," Gibbs flashed him an ironic smile, but Tony shook his head.
"No. I'm gonna say your observations are right, but the conclusion is wrong. They weren't wrong for me—I was wrong for them. All of them."
"Or maybe, quite simply, women aren't right for you," Gibbs threw in evenly, as if he was talking about the weather.
Tony's mouth opened in shock. Was the older man really meaning what he thought he did?
His friend smirked again. "Don't be so shocked, Tony. I realized long ago, just after the end of my relationship with Hollis Mann, that there will never be another woman able to give me what I had with Shannon. So, well, I started looking for other options…and you want to hear it? I was right, I found the person I would like to spend the rest of my life with," he completed softly.
Tony stared at him, wide-eyed. Gibbs was bi? He liked men too? He was in love with one?
"Are you…" he hated how his voice betrayed him by almost breaking. He paused, took a deep breath and tried again, pleased when his tone sounded more confident, "Are you seeing a man?"
"Yeah…" Gibbs twisted on the bench to face him and said intently, "I'm seeing him a lot. I'm seeing him right now." And before Tony could realize what was going to happen, the older man leant forward and kissed him on the lips.
It was just a light contact, with no pressure behind it, but it left him shaking.
When Gibbs pulled back, Tony raised his fingers to touch his still tingling lips. His best friend had just kissed him! He couldn't believe it, it was too much!
"You love me?" he asked with a mix of hesitation and…was it hope? That was when he was again able to form a coherent thought.
"Yes. I love you, and I'm in love with you, Anthony."
The use of his full name made Gibbs' declaration even more poignant and solemn.
"For how long?"
Gibbs pursed his lips, "Long enough."
"You never said anything…" Tony replied, and he was ready to bet there was a hint of accusation in his tone.
"What was there to say? You aren't attracted to men. I didn't plan to ever tell you, but this conversation kinda prompted it."
"Don't worry," Gibbs interrupted him raising a hand. "Just forget what happened today. Nothing will change between us." He made to stand up and walk away, but Tony grabbed him by a wrist.
"No, Jethro, you don't understand."
As hoped, the use of his name stopped the older man. Gibbs sat back and asked, "What don't I understand?"
"I like men too," Tony blurted, wanting to put everything in the open, "and I confess I've often thought of you in ways that, well, you wouldn't have found appropriate from a friend and a co-worker…"
"But? 'Cause my gut tells me there is one coming," Gibbs prodded him when Tony fell silent.
"I don't think I could make you happy."
His friend's eyebrow arched, surprised. He clearly hadn't expected such an answer.
"You've made me happy for a long time, Tony. I always look forward to the time we spend together, no matter what we do."
"Even when I make you watch old romantic comedies?" he teased, to lighten the mood.
"No one had ever made me do anything I didn't want to since I turned eighteen, and yes, I like those movies too. I like being with you." Gibbs slid closer to him, and raised a hand to caress his hair, a gentle, affectionate, not sexual gesture—the kind Tony liked most.
He enjoyed the caress with his eyes closed, and then he opened them and stared straight at the older man.
"Boss, do you remember when I said there was something wrong with me?"
"Well, I'm about to reveal what Abby would call a MOAS- the mother of all secrets. Anthony DiNozzo is a fake."
Gibbs frowned, "How?"
"You all think I'm a Latin Lover, the Italian hot stud interested in getting in every breathing woman's pants or skirts. But, as the Italians say, è solo fumo e niente arrosto*. It means it's all appearance and no substance. Oh, I do like women and the occasional guy all right. I like to flirt and tease and make sexual innuendos—but it ends there. The truth is I'm a very poor lover and that I would rather spend the night watching movies than in bed having sex."
"Do you have…problems?" Gibbs asked quietly after a few moments of silence.
"No—at least not of the kind that can be resolved with a little blue pill. It's just that to me sex me is more a chore than a pleasure. I don't like it, I don't understand it, I don't care for it– never have and, I guess, never will."
There, he had said it—and now that the truth was finally out, Tony felt better.
"Or maybe you've just been doing it with the wrong…persons," Gibbs suggested, and Tony felt relieved there was no pity on his friend's face, just need to know, to understand, to help.
Tony shook his head. "It's even worse with men, Boss, trust me. Been there, done that. I'm gonna be blunt here, so you'll understand why I could never be a good match for you. To put it simply, I don't like anal sex. I don't like receiving it –which might not be that surprising – but I don't like giving it either. To me, it feels like a violation—and I don't want to have anything to do with it."
He squared his shoulders, readying himself for the disappointment and mocking that always came after this declaration of his. Thus he was very surprised when he saw Gibbs smile slightly and then nod.
"You aren't the only one thinking like that, Tony. I don't either."
"You too, Boss? But you're so assertive, so virile …"
"I'm- but what it has to do with anal sex? I can be as assertive and virile as I want without wishing to fuck men in the ass. Is that so strange?"
"Yes. No…I don't know," Tony tried to wrap his mind about this last bit of information, and the more he thought of it, the more his excitement rose.
He had always known that, deep inside himself, he was a follower not a leader. Even now that he was the head of his team, he often asked for Gibbs' advice or opinions. But this trait of his personality was present in his romantic relationships too. He liked his partner to be the one in charge while he took the backseat. But the problem was that women, even those as assertive and emancipated as Ziva or Elizabeth, wanted a man able to stand up to them—and Tony was not. He had tried to please them, and he had thought he had managed to do it with Elizabeth, but he had failed.
As for the men he had been with, they had been more than happy to be in charge, but they had equalled it to have him bend over every time they wanted, and he couldn't accept it.
And now…now Jethro was sitting there, calmly telling him he could have everything he wanted, everything he had looked for so long…
"Are you still with me?" Gibbs asked.
"Yes, yes I am. It's just this is a lot to take in," Tony looked at his friend, observing the way the sun made his light grey hair and blue eyes shine.
Retiring from NCIS had done Jethro well. He was tanned, fit and looked even younger now that lines on his brow – lines caused by worry, stress and all the brutality he had had to witness almost on a daily basis – had somehow smoothed, because his teaching job at FLETC wasn't as emotionally hard. The lines around his eyes were instead deeper, for Gibbs smiled and laughed more frequently now, and Tony suddenly realized most of the older man's smiles were directed at him.
He loved to make Gibbs smile and laugh…no, he loved Gibbs, pure and simple—and he had for a long time, even if he hadn't realized it until that very moment.
Tony stared straight at the older man and said with his voice full of emotion yet firm, "I love you, Jethro. You're the reason I remained for so long and refused the posts in Spain and California I have been offered along the years. Although I had never considered the possibility before, I think I could be happy with you…but, Boss, I want to give you the same happiness, and I'm not sure I can…"
"Tony, you already make me happy," Gibbs said softly. "I told you before."
"I mean in the bedroom…" he replied, blushing, but couldn't continue because the older man leaned closer and kissed him again.
This time it was a real kiss, which started sweet and gentle, but soon escalated in ardour.
Tony felt the other's tongue press against his lips and opened them, allowing him entry.
Gibbs turned more demanding as he explored his mouth and Tony responded to him with everything he received. He might not like sex, but he loved to kiss, and he was quite good at it. Even Elizabeth had said so.
They kissed for a long time, finger buried in each other's hair as they tried to get closer and closer.
Gibbs pulled back for a moment; eyes darkened by desire, then attacked Tony's neck with his lips. Tony could feel the older man's passion and let its tide sweep him away. A thrill coursed along his spine when he heard his soon-to-be-lover moan. It was nice to know he could cause that reaction in the other man, even if he wasn't doing anything.
That thought was like a bucket of cold water thrown over his head. He wasn't doing anything. He was just sitting there, taking the kisses and caresses bestowed on him without giving anything back. What kind of lover was he?
Tony tensed, as his previous happiness disappeared.
Gibbs, of course, felt the change and pulled his head away.
"Am I going too fast?" he murmured. "I didn't mean to overwhelm you, Tony. I'm sor-"
He raised his hand, covering the older man's mouth before Leroy Jethro 'never-apologize-it's-a-sign-of-weakness' Gibbs could complete the line.
"Don't. It's not your fault, it's mine. I'm not doing anything here. I'm just taking, giving nothing back. I…," Tony closed his eyes. "I don't want to disappoint you."
"You never disappointed me, and you won't start now. If you just trust me, I'll show you there is nothing wrong in you. I'll show you that you just have been doing it with the wrong people," Gibbs said, earnestly.
'All those many women and men, were they all wrong?' Tony wanted to ask, but he decided to trust Gibbs. He wanted to believe him, wanted to believe it would be different in his arms.
So he nodded and murmured, "Yes, show me. Show me now."
*It litterally says: "There is only smoke and no roasted meat".
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