A/N: Hiya folks! Long time no see. Okay so I've had a major case of writer's block which might or might not have something to do with being kinda busy with all the stuff here in Hungary (I've been here on my exchange for the past two months). This little fic is what is hopefully going to help me get past it once and for all. There is a lot of angst involved and kinda gen type relationship between Tony and Gibbs, so no slashiness expect the last line is kinda see it as you want kinda thing XD
This fic started as me just wanting to write something and then evolving into something more meaningful for me but I think writing this fic and sharing it with all of you will be beneficial for me in the long run. This is not betaed because it's something I wanted and needed to work out myself. If you still dare to read the fic after all this, I hope you'll enjoy the fic :)
He couldn't sleep.
It wasn't because he wasn't tired because he was, more than that he was exhausted and he was sure his tired limbs couldn't have been convinced to move even if there had been an bomb explosion or an alien invasion.
His mind just wouldn't shut down so that he could fall asleep. Every time his eyes so much as closed and he was close to falling asleep his treacherous mind would conjure up a thought or an image that would force his eyes to pop back open just to erase the gruesome scenery.
And so it would go.
Minutes would turn into hours, the deep darkness of the night would move from his surroundings to settle as bruise like patterns beneath his eyes as the morning rays erases the signs of the night from everywhere else. Only the telltale signs of one more sleepless night would remain as the misery will turn into a demon plagued memory until the darkness will fall the next evening and his bedtime will be followed with the same struggle as the night before, and the one before that.
An endless circle resulting in sleep deprivation and a mood worse that that of a coffeeless Gibbs that hasn't had his fix of his tar-like drug of choice in more than a week.
The knock at his door interrupts the pattern on sleepless night number four, but he ignores it. It's not like he has the energy to get up for something as trivial as answering the door anyways.
As the knocking stops he lets his eye drift closed for a second before they snap open, this time not because of the haunting imaginary supplied by his mind, but because of the distinctive sound of a key scraping the insides of his lock and the loud click of the mechanism letting whoever has inserted the key to have a free access to the dark hallway leading to the bedroom and other rooms.
He listens for the footsteps that signal the nearing of his unwanted guest but he doesn't move, knowing exactly who the person is now standing behind the closed door of his bedroom.
The knock is expected and so is the fact that it goes unanswered. Equally predictable is the fact that the person doesn't heed the message sent by the man on the bed by not letting him in first to the apartment and then not inviting him into the bedroom.
He closes his eyes so he can pretend for a few more seconds that maybe it's all a dream and that the man really isn't standing in his bedroom and isn't seeing the evidence of his weakness. A second is all he gets and it proves to be far too little.
"I know you're awake DiNozzo."
The gruff voice has a note of something in it that Tony can't quite decipher and reluctantly he opens his bloodshot eyes to peer at the man standing beside the bed, his features easily seen in the bright light coming from the bedside lamp.
"How long do you think you can keep this up?"
Tony sighs as he contemplates playing the ignorance game, but one look at the face of the older man is enough to make him rethink that strategy, beside there is nothing to be gained by that since there's no way Gibbs will buy it.
The quirk of the eyebrow and the tightening of Gibbs' jaw is the only warning he gets before the man delivers the facts in a way that there's no deflection he can possibly hide behind.
"Yeah? So tell me why did you leave Abby in tears today when she tried to make you take a nap in her office? Or why you look as fine as one of the cadavers on Ducky's slab and if you're so fine then why the hell do you sleep with the light on like a scared little kid?"
By the end of the short tirade Gibbs is breathing harshly and clenching his fists, aggravated that the man would still insist on being fine when it was obvious just by looking at him that he was anything but. Anyone who'd seen Tony the past week could tell that he wasn't sleeping nor was he eating properly and everyone was worried about him. There were cases that left all the people reeling from the elements of the case, but the one the team had worked on the previous week had held none of the components that usually caused everyone to teeter on the edge. So it came as a surprise to everyone when they saw how much something on the case had affected Tony to a degree where he wasn't functioning as usual and didn't seem able to move on.
Tony closes his eyes as the words hit him and he sighs heavily. He's so tired, so sick of pretending that it's all fine when nothing really is.
He's just so damn tired.
"I hoped it would keep the images at bay so I could finally sleep. So I could forget."
The anguish in the softly spoken confession makes all the anger and irritation bleed out from Gibbs' body and he moves to sit on the edge of the bed, settling a hand on the other man's head, ignoring the slight flinch and the hurt it evokes deep inside of him.
"Why did it hit you so hard?"
He wants to help the younger man, wants to make it better for him, but he can't do that before he understands.
"Help me understand Tony."
He's worried to see tears gather in the seams of the closed eyelids and one lone drop travel its way down to disappear into the younger man's ear before he can brush it off.
The Italian shakes his head as he tries to keep the rest of the tears at bay, but the sleepless nights and the exhaustion is making the battle an hopeless one and as the tears start to flow Gibbs watches helplessly for a second before he does the only thing he can think of and gathers the man into his arms and holds him tightly as Tony tries to struggle free from the grip that feels suffocating to him, but in the end he gives into it and the suffocation turns into something aching to comfort, security.
"I should have seen it, should have known. Should have saved him."
The pained words make Gibbs frown as he tries to see why his second in command would be beating himself over the suicide of one of the persons of interest from their previous case. Gibbs didn't quite understand why the suicide of a bullied young cadet who couldn't handle his commander being killed by a prank gone wrong that was supposed to be directed at him, would haunt Tony to this degree.
No it made no sense.
"DiNozzo, there was nothing you could have done to save cadet-"
But Tony shakes his head vigorously before Gibbs has a chance to finish the sentence and raises haunted green eyes to meet the pale blue ones.
"Not just him. Should have saved Mike too."
Now Gibbs feels even more confused and sensing the emotion Tony bites his lip and for the first time contemplates telling someone about what continues to haunt him all these years later. Taking a deep breath he pulls away from the older man, knowing that he needs the distance to be able to get through the story. He feel the tears dry on his cheeks as a sense of hollowness envelopes him as he recalls the man he had failed in the worst way you can fail someone.
"In high school there was this guy, he was a geek through and through and everyone had fun taking a pick at him for it, hell I remember saying somethings I shouldn't have when he wasn't around, no one really liked him but I was his friend. We hit the town together a few times and he taught me self defense that he was learning at the martial arts classes. Heck the guy was involved in everything all the school projects, martial arts, boy scouts, you name it he was into it."
Not wanting to interrupt but not really understanding what any of this had to do with anything, Gibbs listens as Tony haltingly continues the story, his face betraying his calm facade by forming a half smile as a good memory makes its way to the surface as he talks about all the activities the guy was into but then changing into a frown when Tony takes a deep breath before continuing.
"I always though he would make something big of himself, you know? For some reason always pictured him as becoming a politician and making a change in the world." Shaking his head sadly Tony pinches the bridge of his nose as the memories tries their best to overwhelm him. The hand Gibbs places on his shoulder is quickly shaken off in fear that the kind contact designed to comfort would be his undoing when he knows he needs to finish the story.
"There was a rumor going round that the guy had hit his girlfriend, but I didn't believe that, Mike just wasn't the type. I ignored the rumors but what I didn't know was that something wasn't right with him. One night he wanted to train with me again, I of course agreed. Well the whole thing went well until I made a joke about not trusting him enough to go close enough to shake hands after he'd surprised me by dropping me the last time I tried that. He went crazy, I've never seen him so angry, the look in his eyes..." A shudder runs through him as he recalls the moment. "It was as if he was possessed, I really thought he might kill me."
Tony takes a deep breath and rubs absentmindedly his throat as he relives the terrifying moment when he thought his friend might actually end up killing him with his bare hands.
"After he was like nothing happened. Just like that, like a switch had been flipped. But I couldn't forget the look in his eyes and so I avoided him as much as I could. Next month I heard that he'd offed himself. Jumped off a damn bridge, didn't have a chance after he hit the icy water below."
The pain filled green eyes turn to Gibbs and the older man is struck by the intensity of the guilt and pain welling in their depth.
"Can't you see? I killed him, I should have done something said something to someone about hm not doing okay, but I just ignored him. I killed Mike by not doing a damn thing when he needed me to save him. I made a mistake and he paid for it with his fucking life!"
Gibbs moves closer and once again wraps his arms around the other man and holds him while Tony cries for the friend he lost and the guilt he has carried around with him for so many years.
The silver haired man just sits there and holds him tightly as he realizes the connections between their dead cadet and this Mike, which had brought all the memories back to the front for his young agent. The bullying, geekyness but most of all, the cause of death, both had ended their life by jumping from a bridge into their icy death. Speaking directly into his agent's and friend's ear he speaks with conviction to try and settle the turmoil raging inside his agent.
"Listen to me DiNozzo." He starts, knowing that he needs to make his agent see that he wasn't at fault that he did nothing wrong. "You did not kill Mike, there was nothing you could have done, neither was there anything to indicate that the cadet would end his life. There. Was. Nothing. You. Could. Have. Done. You understand?"
As Tony shakes his head making Gibbs sigh and grip the other man's neck and give him a gentle shake.
"Even if you would have told someone what could they have done? If Mike wanted to end it, he would have found a way regardless of anything you would have done, and you ignoring him didn't kill him either. You aren't a psychic so you didn't know what would happen to either of them. You can't save them all DiNozzo and you have to know that you're not responsible for what happened. You reacted how any sane person would if someone they're close to would attack them like that, being afraid isn't a sin it's normal, it's what makes you human."
Tony considers the words for a long moment and remembers what he'd been told about it not being the first time Mike tried to off himself and somewhere in his mind he starts to believe the sense in Gibbs' words.
Tony gives a nod of understanding and feels his eyelids slip closed of their own volition and he relaxes against the other man who is still holding him close, his heart feeling lighter than it has in over a decade.
"Thank you boss."
The words are slightly slurred as the tired agent is on the verge of letting the exhaustion he's been feeling take over. Telling someone about Mike has helped him come to terms with what had happened and Gibbs has helped to put his actions into perspective. Now that the story is out, his mind can stop magnifying his part in Mike's demise and maybe he can finally begin to forgive himself and move on.
"Get some sleep Tony" Gibbs says in acknowledgment of the words as he helps Tony settle down and drapes the blanket over the now sleeping form of the man.
He combs a hand through the messy hair of his companion and smiles sadly as the younger man sighs softly in apparent contentment. He shakes his head at the pain the younger man had carried around with him for so long that it almost destroyed him. They all had their ghosts and things they regret, omissions that have robbed them of things and people they will never get back. Everyone makes mistakes but Gibbs can only hope that Tony finally realized that Mike's death was not one omission he should carry around with him for the rest of his life and let it weigh him down.
Gibbs knows it's not that easy that now Tony can leave the past behind, but it's a start. Just like he himself had his start to recover after his own failed attempt at keeping his wife and child safe. The wound was still there but most of the time laid forgotten unless something poked straight into it. He only hopes that the younger man's wound heals more fully than his own ever will.
But the two men will be there for each other and that's what will make all the difference for both of them.
Settling on top of the covers on the other side of the bed Gibbs decides to stay for a while to make sure Tony will actually get some sleep and soon he too feels himself slip into slumber, both men resting peacefully for the rest of the night.
And for the first time in a while there are no signs of dead eyes, blue lips screaming accusations or bloodstained ice in Tony's dreams. Instead he has a soft smile on his face for most of the night as he dreams of his very own knight in a shining armor.
Reviews are love and my new muse just loooves love :D That sounded weird even to me...