AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote a story called Gentlemen of Last Resort, which starts a Victorian AU in which Gibbs, Anthony, and Timothy investigate unusual problems, aided by Dr. Mallard, his ward Abigail, the mysterious Lady David, and (occasionally) the frustrated Inspector Fornell. A sequel story is in the works (and Richefic is also writing something in the same universe, which is the cause of much celebration). This is not the sequel, it's just a series of one-shots set in the same universe addressing little questions people have asked about the 'verse or its characters, and filling in little gaps. Some of the stories are pretty short, so I don't want to start a new story for each of them, so they'll all go in as chapters in this companion collection of miscellany. Characters will vary.
First up—how Gibbs and Anthony set up house together!
Gibbs prided himself on always having the advantage. He was a man not easily surprised.
Which was, of course, why Anthony was so damnably frustrating—no one, no matter how astute in the ordinary way of things, could thoroughly anticipate coming down the stairs in the morning and finding Anthony asleep on the parlor floor. At least Anthony was asleep, and so would not have the satisfaction of seeing Gibbs momentarily startled—and Gibbs could have the satisfaction of frowning over the wayward young man without having to hide it.
There were bruises on Anthony's face. Bruises, and he had slept on the floor instead of the sofa—slept through the night with his head pillowed on his arm.
Gibbs scowled. He went and made a pot of Anthony's loathsome tea, the kind thick with sweetness—a courtesy he most usually refused to offer whenever Anthony came to visit. He would make the exception; surprise Anthony as Anthony had surprised him. When he returned with the tea tray, Anthony was awake and upright, red in the face. He stood still in the center of the room with his hands clasped behind his back and the marks on his face darker than ever.
"Sit down," Gibbs said.
Anthony hesitated. "I'm all over filth, I'll be a dreadful inconvenience."
The dust and street-grit on his clothes was very far from unusual—Gibbs had seen far wealthier men track in far more mud with far less anxiety. And in any case, his most common visitors were Ducky, Abby, and Anthony himself, all of whom would scarcely object to brushing off the sofa before they sat down. "Sit."
Anthony sat. Gibbs handed him the tea.
"Your hospitality leaves something to be desired," Anthony said, but he obediently drank, and a smile broke over his face as he tasted the tooth-aching sweetness of the tea. "I suppose, though, that any hospitality offered to an intruder is something in the way of being extraordinary, though in my defense, you really oughtn't to leave your doors unlocked. Anyone could stroll in from the street."
"No one else would dare," Gibbs said dryly.
"I shall put the word that you offer tea to those courageous enough to attempt it," Anthony said, "and perhaps you will be flooded with housebreakers. I should not doubt it." He drained his teacup. "Well, sir, I thank you for the unlocked door, but I really ought—"
"Who gave you the bruises?"
Anthony touched them lightly with his fingertips. "You've seen me with worse, sir." And so he had—the first time he had met Anthony, if at no other time. But that had not been his question, and so he still sat and awaited his answer. Anthony shrugged. "It matters very little, and in any case, they were not kind enough to give their names before the incident occurred. It was merely their way of letting me know I was—somewhat unwelcome. And they are not, today, without bruises themselves."
That did not particularly surprise him—anyone who made a habit of underestimating Anthony would decidedly pay the price. Still—"They?"
"There is no need for such interrogation," Anthony said. "I might have slept on the floor of someone more reticent about questions."
"But you did not," Gibbs said.
"No. I suppose I did not. Three men, sir, and really, that is all I know, and so all you can pry from me." He poured himself another cup of tea. "I do apologize for any inconvenience, I simply—could not think of anywhere else to go."
Gibbs had no idea where Anthony made a habit of sleeping each night—though he was convinced it was not his own floor, it may well have been someone else's, and that thought rested uncomfortably against the thought of Anthony's bruises, obtained in a fight that sounded as unfair as it had been vicious. He reluctantly took up a cup of tea of his own and sipped at it, his mouth curling at the taste.
"Anthony," he said, as Anthony stood again to go. "Next time, choose one of the bedrooms."
Anthony looked at him as if all this surpassed his understanding entirely, touched the brim of his hat, and left Gibbs with a sludgy pot of oversweet tea and a few misgivings about what he had just done.
It was two weeks before he saw Anthony again. This was not wholly unusual—Anthony tended to simply present himself at the oddest of intervals, bearing information about an heiress-turned-actress (with whom he'd had quite the acquaintance, or so the constant implication went) or a street rumor turned truth. There had once been a month where he had heard not even a rumor of Anthony only to come outside of a morning and find the young man eating breakfast on his steps. So he had whiled away the fortnight thinking that he was not concerned about the matter of Anthony at all, only to have Anthony turn up on his doorstep dripping rainwater from his clothes and know, by his rush of relief, that he had been quite mistaken about himself.
"Come on inside before you drown," he said.
Anthony coughed. "It may be a trifle late to prevent that," he said, but he came inside and shed the wettest of his clothes next to the fireplace. "Good God. I actually saw animals being gathered up by twos." He collapsed into a chair and coughed again, bent almost in two this time, but waved a hand at Gibbs as Gibbs stepped forward to look him over. No bruises this time, but he was most unnaturally pale. "Not consumption, I assure you, despite the sound of it. I've only been too much in the damp, I suspect."
Gibbs gave him tea. "It isn't your usual."
"I doubt I could stomach my usual at the moment," Anthony said, with a very weak smile, and swallowed it down as if it were medicine rather than drink. "Sir, I hate to impose upon you, but—"
"The invitation was sincerely meant."
"I might have called it more of an instruction," Anthony said. He closed his eyes.
Gibbs thought that there might be a way to tell Anthony that the house had too many empty rooms where only memories lived; he had thought that Anthony would crowd them out, but he had been wrong; had thought that he was better alone, accustomed to his solitude, but he had been wrong about that, as well. Though what he said at last was, "Consider it both," and he realized then that Anthony was asleep, his head thrown back against the cushion.
At least this time, Gibbs thought, he was not on the floor.
In the morning, though, he was gone again, and his teacup was stored safely away in the kitchen.
And the house again was silent.
The next time he saw Anthony was when he came out to his stables a week later and found Anthony feeding apples to the horses.
"Do not say that you have been sleeping here," Gibbs said.
"They would not mind the company," Anthony said, petting the nose of one of the horses. He named them; Gibbs had not, and furthermore he could never remember the names Anthony had given them, all heroines from melodramas, all brave and beautiful young women. "But no, I have not slipped myself into your household with you all unknowing." He relinquished his last sliver of apple, wiped his hands off on his trousers, and turned around. His smile might have been painted onto him for all the truth of it. He was still pallid from his illness, though God only knew where he had waited out the rest of that, since he had fled Gibbs's house the second the rain had stopped lashing against the windows.
"You're fond of the horses," Gibbs said. "Do they remind you of home?"
Anthony scoffed at this: "If I had a home, sir, I would hardly need to break into yours."
Even granting that Anthony only took advantage of Gibbs's unlocked door when he was sick or injured, Gibbs still saw him quite often—Anthony's life did not readily lend itself to keeping him whole.
The one day, he appeared on Gibbs's doorstep not ill, not bloodied, not bruised, only dirty, and looking very tired, and as Gibbs opened the door, he said in a rush, "You'll find yourself regretting it, you know. I've been assured that I am not at all what is wanted, in anyone's house, for whatever reason. Nevertheless, if you intend to make such foolish invitations, I might—accept. There are things I could do to pay for my room—you live almost unattended, I could provide help, I could—"
"Anthony," Gibbs said. "You aren't a servant."
Anthony stood very still and said, finally, "I had far rather serve you, sir, than be a son to my father."
If that were true, then his father had wasted a very great loyalty: what Anthony was offering to him was not something that he could take at all lightly. To mix up his life with a young man prone to such intensity, such folly, such a naked offering of his allegiance—it was perhaps a mistake, and best considered a little longer—
Or, hell, he supposed he could do as he liked—if Anthony could run away from the life Gibbs knew he'd had before, he could take that foolishness onto himself like a contagion, and make an impulsive decision all his own. And in any case, he was growing very tired with finding Anthony on his parlor floor.
"An assistant is of more worth to me than a servant," Gibbs said. He nodded at Anthony and turned back into the house, walking up the stairs and trusting Anthony to follow him. There was silence, but then there came a flurry of footsteps, and he trusted that his smile was not visible from the back.
"Is that a job offer?" Anthony called, still a little behind him on the stairs.
He supposed it was. And, heaven help him, he would have to buy more sugar for the tea.
Though that was, perhaps, a job best given to his assistant.