Note: Written for the LiveJournal Tibbs_Yuletide 2010 Advent Calendar, Day 23.
Warning: This story contains explicit male/male sex. If this kind of thing isn't to your liking, if you're underage, or if m/m sex is illegal where you are, please don't read this story. Life is far too short to be upset by things you read on the internet.
Disclaimer: Not my sandbox, I'm just playing in it. Thanks to all involved in making NCIS such a fantastic show.
Edit: I had a request to break this up a bit to make it easier to read, so I've divided it up into chapters. There's no new content, alas; thanks for reading and reviewing!
Tony eyed the envelope with suspicion. It was heavy cream rag stock: expensive, classy. And it was sitting on his desk.
From behind his desk, Gibbs couldn't make out in any detail the discreet logo printed on the back flap, but he used his covert observation skills to take note of Tony gingerly placing it in his backpack. Then the phone rang and they were off to their next case, their next crime scene.
Hours later, over steaks grilled cowboy-style on the grill over the fire and a couple of cold beers, Gibbs fixed Tony with his best interrogative stare.
'You open that letter yet?'
'What letter?' Tony asked innocently. 'Mostly I just get emails and text messages.'
Gibbs raised an eyebrow and waited.
After a minute, Tony looked down and gave a tired sigh. 'No.'
'You going to?'
Tony shook his head. 'I already know what it says.'
'Going to tell me?'
With a deep sigh, Tony slumped back against the couch. 'Dear Mister DiNozzo, blah blah blah, trust fund, blah blah blah, close to turning forty, blah blah, forfeit, blah blah, married. Yours sincerely, your grandmother's lawyers.'
Gibbs raised the other eyebrow. 'This time with the rest of the words.'
Tony rolled his eyes. 'My maternal grandmother left me a trust fund. It isn't huge, but it's conditional on me getting married before I'm forty.'
With a shrug, Gibbs said, 'There's always the time-honored tradition of a quickie marriage in Las Vegas.'
'No can do, boss. If I get married, I have to stay married for at least a year, or the fund's forfeit anyway.'
'So what's the problem?'
'Come on, Gibbs! I'm not exactly prime husband material,' Tony said, running a hand through his hair, leaving it standing on end. 'It isn't as though I have a whole lot to offer someone. I work insanely long hours, and when I'm not at work, I live in my boss's spare room. Yeah, I can see why women are falling over themselves to marry me.'
'Don't sell yourself short,' Gibbs said. 'You've got a while left.'
'I haven't been out on a date since I moved in here,' Tony said softly. 'I should just write back and tell them to give it all to my cousin Pete.'
'The one with the button collection?'
'Hell, no, DiNozzo! Let me think about it.'
'Okay, fine,' Tony said. 'I'll leave it up to you to come up with a brilliant plan. Just remember, knowing my luck, any mail-order bride will be wanted for murder and extortion in her country of origin. If you don't mind, I'm going to bed. Been a long week, boss.'
'You mind if I take a look at that letter?'
Tony shrugged. 'Be my guest.' He nodded towards his backpack. 'It's in there. Night, Gibbs.'
'Good night, Tony.' Gibbs waited until the agent had left the room and headed upstairs before he retrieved the letter. He pulled out a knife and slit the envelope, then removed the single sheet of heavy cream paper. Gibbs held it at arm's length, then frowned and grabbed his reading glasses from the case on the coffee table, sat down on the couch and began to read.
The next morning, Tony found the letter back in his backpack. He and Gibbs moved around each other in the kitchen in their usual silent morning routine. When they were both fully caffeinated and Tony had a bowl of sweet, sugary Cap'n Crunch cereal inside him, they gathered up everything they needed and drove into work. As they pulled into the Yard, Tony turned to look at Gibbs.
'Still thinking,' Gibbs said.
'You won't tell anyone, will you?' Tony asked.
'Nope. Nobody's business but yours,' Gibbs said. Later, though, while the rest of his team busied themselves with paperwork and reports, he took a fresh sheet of paper and laid out the facts as if it were a case.
Anthony DiNozzo, 38, single, no romantic interests, mother deceased, father estranged. Grandmother, deceased, left trust fund, value c.$50,000. Conditions: must be married by 40 and stay married for a year.
He stared at the paper, then glanced up at the man it represented. 'DiNozzo!'
Tony's head shot up. 'Boss?'
'Get me the exact wording.'
After a moment of incomprehension, Tony nodded. 'On it, boss.'
Tim and Ziva looked from one to the other, confused. 'Boss?' Tim asked.
'You finish your reports?' Gibbs asked mildly.
'Er… Half an hour,' Tim stammered, flushing.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
'On it, boss,' Tim said hastily, echoing Tony's words. He turned his attention back to his monitor and the sound of his rapid typing filled their corner of the bullpen.
Gibbs turned his eyebrow on Ziva, who was far less easily intimidated. She raised her eyebrows in silent query, but Gibbs' glare sent her back to her own pile of paperwork. As Gibbs stared at his sheet of paper, he knew most of her attention was still on Tony and himself.
Tony left the bullpen and found a quiet corner in the stairwell. He placed a quick call to the lawyers managing what was left of his grandmother's estate, then returned to his desk via the men's restroom. An hour later an email arrived, which he printed out and dropped on Gibbs' desk.
'What you asked for,' Tony said quietly.
Gibbs nodded and picked up the printout. Twenty minutes later, with the outline of a plan in mind, he folded up the printout and his notes, stuck them in his jacket pocket, and stood. 'Going for coffee. DiNozzo, you're with me.'
'What about us?' Ziva asked.
'I want your desks clear by the end of the day,' Gibbs said. 'Vance has been riding my ass about the team's paperwork backlog. We'll pick up something for lunch.'
Ziva sighed. 'Yes, Gibbs.'
He could feel her watching them right up until the elevator doors closed. Tony was uncharacteristically silent on the way down and the walk to the coffee shop. Gibbs ordered two coffees and led them to a small table in the corner.
'Not going to ask?' Gibbs said, leaning back.
'Not sure I want to hear you say I'm screwed,' Tony admitted, staring down at his coffee.
'Hey! What did I tell you last night?' Gibbs said, tapping a knuckle under Tony's chin. 'You have time.'
Tony looked up, a little of the tension leaving his shoulders at the warmth in the other man's voice. 'Yeah, I guess. So, what do you think?'
Gibbs pulled the papers out of his pocket and smoothed them out on the table. 'The terms are actually that you get married and stay married for at least a year before you turn forty.'
'So I need to get married some time in the next three months?' Tony asked. 'I'll just run out and pick up a bride now, then. Think Wal Mart will have some in stock?'
'Seems to me you have a few problems with that,' Gibbs said. 'For one, you aren't in love with anyone, are you?'
Tony shook his head. 'No.'
'You don't have your own place, you aren't seeing anyone, and there's no real reason for anyone to give you a marriage of convenience if they aren't getting a cut of your trust fund,' Gibbs pressed on.
'Yeah, making me feel a lot better, boss,' Tony said sourly. 'Don't you think I haven't gone over all this?'
'I think you're missing the fine print,' Gibbs said, tapping the printout.
'What? I had my own lawyer look it over. There's no way to get around the marriage clause,' Tony said, frustrated. 'Don't tell me you've found a way.'
'Not around it entirely, no,' Gibbs admitted, taking a sip of his coffee. 'But you've got to pay attention to the words. It says spouse, not bride or wife.'
Tony eyed him with suspicion. 'So what are you trying to say, Gibbs?'
Gibbs took a deep breath. 'Same sex marriage is legal in DC. You already live with me, neither of us is dating anyone, and I won't sue you for half your trust fund when you get it.'
Tony's jaw dropped and he blinked comically at Gibbs for a few seconds. 'Wait, what?'
'I'm saying marry me, Tony. It doesn't have to change anything between us. When you turn forty and get your trust fund, you can get your own place if you want it, or put it towards that Ferrari you've been lusting after your whole life,' Gibbs said.
'You make it sound like the easiest thing in the world,' Tony marveled.
'Doesn't have to be complicated,' Gibbs said. 'Think about it, let me know.' He drained the last of his coffee, then left Tony seated at the table while he picked up a tray of drinks and a selection of sandwiches. Together, they walked in silence back to the office, shared out lunch, then got back down to work.
Tony was uncharacteristically quiet as he worked his way through the last of his backlog of forms, reports, requisition requests, assessments, and all the other mountain of paperwork that fell to him to do as senior field agent. Towards the end of the afternoon, though, the concerned looks from either side began to make his skin crawl. He waited until Gibbs had gone up to MTAC before pushing back from his desk.
'What?' He cocked his head, looking first at Ziva, then Tim. 'Do I have something on my face? Has my hair spontaneously changed color? C'mon, what's bugging you?'
'Uh…' Tim blinked. 'You've been really quiet all day.'
'You have not attempted to play practical jokes on either of us,' Ziva chimed in. 'And you have not thrown anything at us, or threatened us, or made us the ass of one of your jokes.'
'Butt, Ziva,' Tony corrected automatically. 'The butt of a joke, not the ass. And?'
'And, well, it's a little concerning,' Tim admitted. 'Is there something wrong?'
Tony shrugged. 'Not that I'm aware of.' Then he grinned. 'Aw, how sweet! You do care! Probie! Probette! Come on, group hug!' He tugged Tim out of his chair and dragged him over to Ziva's desk. 'Come on, Ziva! You know you want to.'
'What's up?' a familiar voice asked.
'Abby!' Tony beamed. 'You're just in time for a group hug.'
'We do group hugs now?' Abby bounced over and flung her arms around Tim and Tony. 'How cool! Why didn't you call me? Come on, Ziva!'
'For god's sake, come and hug before I freak out,' Tim urged.
Reluctantly, Ziva got up and joined in the hug. A few seconds later, it broke apart as the three agents rubbed the back of their heads.
'Ow! What was that for?' Tony protested.
'Hug on your own time,' Gibbs said, sitting back at his desk. The corners of his mouth twitched as the three scowling agents retook their seats. 'Anything I can do for you, Abby?'
'Nope, just came up to make sure you were all okay,' Abby said, perching on the corner of Gibbs' desk. 'It's hinky when everything's so quiet! It's as though everyone decided to behave themselves.'
'Bored, huh?' Tony smiled.
'Like you wouldn't believe,' Abby said. 'I've checked over every piece of equipment in the lab, taken inventory and put in next month's requisition forms. I've even made a start on the Christmas bowling league spreadsheet. You guys will come along, right?' she asked anxiously, looking round the group.
'As long as we aren't in the middle of a hot case,' Gibbs said.
'When's the first match?' Tim asked.
'December first. Twenty-four days of bowling for charity,' Abby said. 'The first day is for Martha's Table, the shelter over on 14th Street Northwest.'
'That's a lot of fundraising,' Tim said. 'How does that work? Pay to bowl, pay to watch, sponsored bowling?'
'Any and all of the above,' Abby said. 'So if you have any good ideas, let me know. The nuns are putting the word out over the next couple of weeks.'
Gibbs turned his attention to Tony as the agents got sucked into the discussion on bowling. Thanks to Abby's distraction, Tony was looking and acting like his normal self. Not at all like a man considering a marriage proposal.
Abruptly, Gibbs felt the blood drain from his face and hastily got to his feet. 'Going for coffee,' he muttered, escaping the bullpen as rapidly as possible. Shit, he'd gone and proposed marriage to his senior field agent. After swearing off marriage after divorce number three, he'd blithely gone and set himself up for divorce number four. That is, if Tony said yes. At least he wouldn't have to worry about Tony trying to take his house in the settlement. One thing he could count on was no screwing over of any kind.
As he poured himself some of the sludge from the break room, Gibbs carefully ignored the twinge he felt at the idea that Tony might say no.