Title: Aftershocks

Author: Nicol Leoraine

Character(s): Tony DiNozzo, L.

Episode(s): 5.1 Bury Your Dead

Beta-reader: pennythepants

It was almost three in the morning when Tony opened the door to Gibbs' house. He stood in the foyer for a long moment before he found the courage to continue, but once he did he headed determinedly towards the stairs to the basement. He was fairly sure the boss would be there, working on his boat. Stumbling, Tony cursed and caught himself on the railing at the top of the stairs, earning a glare from the man below.

"Hey Gibbs," Tony waved drunkenly and Gibbs' glare turned into a frown upon seeing his agent's condition. Tony's clothes were ruffled as if he had been in a scuffle, or had slept in them somewhere. His hair was standing to attention, showing he ran his hand through it quite often. What was most telling though was the smell of beer and the glazed eyes.

"You better have come here in a cab or I swear DiNozzo, you'll spend the next month behind a desk."

"Don't worry boss, my ride got kinda blown up," Tony giggled, and made it down the stairs without tripping. Gibbs cursed to himself. How could he have forgotten that Tony's car had exploded when all he could see when he closed his eyes was the charred body he thought belonged to his friend? Pushing back the sick feeling he had been trying to sand away on his boat all night, Gibbs put the sandpaper down and walked toward Tony, pushing him to sit down on the stairs, taking a proper look at him and trying to figure out how drunk he really was.

"Should've come here right away, DiNozzo. My beer's free and there was steak." Gibbs' voice was low, but all Tony caught was the reprimand in it and he bristled, jumping up.

"Do you think I don't fucking know that Gibbs?" Running his hand through his hair once again, Tony started pacing nervously. "I should've come to you and maybe none of this would've happened. Maybe the mighty Gibbs would've head-slapped me out of the idea that I can handle a little undercover action without getting my heart involved. Oh, but wait-" Tony stopped and turned to look straight at Gibbs. "You weren't there!" Tony shouted and Gibbs couldn't stop the flinch. He wasn't prepared for this conversation, had been dreading it, but it looked like Tony was ready.

"I came back," Gibbs spoke softly and Tony let out a harsh laugh.

"No Gibbs, what came back was a fucking shell that called Ziva 'Kate'. What came back was a man that took my desk and months of my work without a single 'Good job Tony'."

Gibbs stood by the stairs, his head slightly inclined to the right as if asking Tony to go on, to let it all out. Tony didn't want that. He wanted to fight; he wanted to shout, to have a reason to hate Gibbs for one night, instead of hating himself. He let out a frustrated growl and smashed his hand against the wall, opening his fist at the last second so that it was his palm that landed on it. The sound that came was loud and the stinging in his hand brought little relief, but the anger was gone, along with his energy.

"I couldn't tell you then, and later, when you were‚ really back, it was too late. The Director didn't want you to be involved and I should've seen there was more to it than just the op. She knew you would've pegged her involvement, that you wouldn't have allowed me to fall so deep. I was... I was such an idiot for not seeing that." He looked at Gibbs and his eyes were filled with so much self-incrimination that Gibbs had to move. He closed the distance between them and grabbed Tony's chin.

"You are right DiNozzo. If you'd told me, it wouldn't have gotten so out of hand. I would've stopped you, stopped Jenny." Tony blinked, flinching as if the words hurt him. He tried to pull away, to hide from Gibbs eyes but the older man didn't ease his grip, his other hand falling gently on Tony's shoulder.

"It happened. You were undercover and by the time I could've done anything about your involvement in the case, I wasn't fit to do it. Jenny shouldn't have picked you..." There Gibbs grit his teeth and Tony frowned, opening his mouth as if to say something, but then clamped it shut.

"There's no changing what happened now, only dealing with the consequences. You did what any agent would've done... you listened to orders. Next time though..."

"There won't be a next time Boss," Tony said heatedly and Gibbs nodded his head approvingly.

"Good. Because if you get involved in something this dangerous and don't tell me, you do not want to know what I will do with you Dinozzo. You really don't." There was a dangerous glint in Gibbs eyes and Tony swallowed, giving a tiny nod. Gibbs patted his cheek and let go.

"How's your head?" He asked suddenly, and Tony's eyebrows went up in confusion.

"Huh?"

"Eloquent as ever, DiNozzo," Gibbs chuckled and then turned serious again. "I read the report about the shooting in the hospital. There was something about a Film Theory teacher getting pistol whipped?"

"Oh," Tony blushed, touching the back of his head. "It's mostly okay now, boss. The beer helped with the pain, and at least now I have a reason to be dizzy." He grimaced as his hand connected with the bump, and the memories of the previous night came back. There was a sudden realization and Tony leaned heavily against the wall, his face blanching.

"Tony?" Gibbs grabbed his arm and directed him to the ground where they sat side by side. "If you're gonna hurl, there's a bin to your right," he said, trying to hide his concern. Tony closed his eyes and gave a rueful chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Gibbs asked after a moment, and Tony opened his eyes.

"I just realized that the bastard who tried to kill me might've just saved my life."

"How so?"

"I was about to leave the hospital... I would've gone to my car. I don't know when the bomb was planted-"

"We don't know either," Gibbs admitted, and there was a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach. Tony was so lucky to be alive right now. "You should probably buy a lottery ticket," Gibbs said and Tony threw Gibbs a disbelieving look.

"I don't feel so lucky right now Boss."

"You're alive. That's more than we thought twelve hours earlier, Tony. Hell, maybe I should be the one buying the ticket."

"Let me know if you win something," Tony said with a grin that turned into a yawn.

"I think the bed in the guest room is calling your name DiNozzo. Come on, up you go," Gibbs stood and pulled Tony up, half pushing him up the stairs. The younger man tried to protest, but the world was spinning too much and maybe the sleep could bring him some relief from the pain in his heart. He let himself be manhandled into the room, and after Gibbs threw a pair of sweats and his old navy t-shirt at him, he slipped into bed without much protest.

Gibbs was half tempted to tuck him in like a child but shook his head and just pulled the covers over him, cursing himself for being a sentimental idiot. But he couldn't stop his hand from ruffling Tony's hair, as if making sure he was really there, alive. Finally he turned off the bedside lamp and headed for the door.

"I've lost her, haven't I?" Tony muttered from under the covers and Gibbs froze, thinking about his reply.

"Maybe. But you still got your family. You have us. Don't you ever forget that Dinozzo."

"I won't," Tony mumbled as Gibbs slowly closed the door.