This is the end. ((sigh)) I had no intentions of this becoming so big when I started, but 40 chapters and 15 months later, I'm finally at a stopping (breaking) point. It's funny- when I started this, I hadn't posted anything because I could never wrap a story up, but I'd finally put together a one-shot. Chapter One went up, and being a newbie, I didn't know to hit complete, so the one story in my arsenal that I thought I'd be able to post and walk away from turned into this monster, because you awesome, amazing people asked for more and supported me. Thank you all so much! You have absolutely no idea what it has meant to me, but believe, it has been everything! Kesterpan and JosGotGlock- this is for you- the people that know who I really am.
Tony's alarm went off at 0630 on Sunday morning. Jethro snuggled into him, and he reached for the phone to make the offending noise stop. They had worked on unpacking as much of Tony's stuff as possible the night before, delicately tiptoeing around the topic of Kelly's room completely, and talked about getting someone to move the piano. Jethro had made the steaks that Tony had picked up over the fire, and the three men sat around telling stories about Jethro's youth and the funnier moments of cases past.
Now, it was time to get up and get ready to have a big family dinner. Jethro watched Tony intently as they woke up together, and they laid there through the entire snooze in silence. After resetting the alarm for another ten minutes, Tony laid back down and looked at Jethro, taking his hand and interlocking it. He cleared his throat and tried to think about what he wanted to say. When he began, his voice came out quietly and cautiously.
"I've been wanting to ask you why we're having the dinner today. We could've had it yesterday, and neither of us are really the celebrate Easter types. Not to mention I don't think anybody on either team is either. Is there something special about today?"
Jethro smiled at Tony. He'd wondered when Tony would ask. He was right, neither of them were really the Easter types. Abby usually celebrated with the nuns, but other than that, he couldn't remember anyone on their teams ever mentioning Easter plans. The closest thing was that Ziva had made plans to do something for Passover two nights prior, but she certainly wasn't celebrating Easter.
"My mom liked Easter," Jethro said quietly, but still with a small smile on his face. "It wasn't so much the actual holiday, but to her, that's when Spring really began. She liked watching the kids do the Easter egg hunt, and we dyed eggs together every year. Winters are always tough in small towns, but by Easter, things were usually looking up, and people were in better moods, work was steady again, and everyone got together for big dinners with family." He trailed off, and Tony nodded at him, a smile on his face and this look in his eyes that Jethro noticed he had whenever he'd confide in him. "After she died, Dad would get really depressed around Easter, and well, he wasn't the only one. Since we've been working on… our issues… or whatever you'd call it, I thought maybe it would be nice to have him come visit this weekend. Having the family together, our family together, seems appropriate. They've come through for us in a pretty big way this past month, and I figured it would be a nice way to say thanks."
Tony stared into his eyes for a long moment then leaned forward and kissed him. Jethro kissed him back and wrapped his arms around him. The phone started chirping behind his head, and Tony reached for it, resetting the snooze. They held each other for the next ten minutes without saying a word until the snooze went off again.
Tony was yawning as he poured a cup of coffee and felt a firm hand on the small of his back. He handed the mug to Jethro, then poured another for himself. They shared a smile, and Tony opened the fridge to find the ingredients he'd gotten to make them omelets. Jethro began slipping pieces of bread into the toaster, and got out three plates and forks.
Jackson joined them in the kitchen, and they all exchanged "good mornings" as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"The Doc always hates when I come down to see Leroy," he said, leaning in towards Tony. "He's got the good coffee. Doc's got me drinking the unleaded version back home, and he always knows when I've been cheating- the ticker tells on me." He and Tony chuckled.
"I was joking with Abby yesterday that I'm pretty sure Jethro's blood type is "Dark Roast"," he said with a chuckle.
"I heard that!" Jethro hollered from the dining room.
"I don't care!" Tony hollered back, making Jack laugh and pat him on the shoulder.
"Good for you! Don't take any of his crap!" He leaned closer to Tony and added softly, "Because sometimes he sure gets to slinging it!"
"I couldn't hear that, which means it couldn't have been good!" Jethro called back at them.
Tony and Jack both laughed again as Jack headed into the dining room with his coffee. Jethro came in with playfully squinted eyes.
"Bonding, huh?" he said.
"Let's call it that!" Tony said with a chuckle. He scooped the last omelet onto a plate, and Jethro grabbed the plate with the toast and a stick of butter from the fridge, giving Tony's ass a squeeze on the way past. Tony looked at him with a surprised smile, and Jethro winked at him. Tony shook his head and followed Jethro into the dining room while trying not to smile too brightly.
They ate quickly in their excitement to have everyone coming over, and cleaned up just as fast. All three men found things to do. Jack helped Tony with a few things in the kitchen, and Jethro retrieved the leaves for the dining room table from the basement. He knew they still wouldn't all fit around it, but the extra table space would be needed.
Jackson and Jethro began opening windows around the house to let the warm breeze flow through the downstairs, bringing the scent of someone mowing grass across the street through each room. Jethro smiled and took a deep breath, enjoying the smell. Tony opened the back door and slid the top glass window pane down in the storm door to allow air to come in through the screen behind it. It was getting hot in the kitchen as the oven preheated for the ham. He tried to plan what would go into the oven when, and lined each dish up on the counter accordingly. Jethro came in and poured another cup of coffee as Tony slipped the ham in the oven.
"Ham going in already?" he asked.
"Well, everyone will start to be here about two, and I think Abby wanted some time with the oven. It's a ten pound ham, so we're looking at three to three and a half hours. I can slide one casserole dish at a time in on the top shelf with it for the other stuff. Mac 'n cheese and mashed potatoes won't have to be done until about one thirty, and there's a bunch of cold stuff in the fridge to just open up. I cheated and got veggie trays. I love everyone, but I was not going to spend all morning cutting up veggies and cheese for them."
Jethro smiled as Tony rambled on. He'd never heard of Tony throwing a get together for anybody at his place, and he wondered how often he'd had done this. He seemed to be somewhat frazzled, but he had everything in check. Jethro put his coffee down, and slid his arms around Tony's waist from behind as he was reading over the instructions to one of the dishes. Tony sighed and fell back against him immediately.
"You don't need to impress them. Relax." Jethro's words were spoken softly next to Tony's ear. "It's just the gang. Our little family, remember? They're lucky to get a normal dinner during the week, so anything that isn't served from a sack, wrapped in foil, or in a carton will make them happy."
Tony chuckled, and Jethro loved the feel of it reverberating through his chest. He closed his eyes with a content smile on his lips and held Tony tighter. They stood there for a long few minutes just letting one another's presence sink in.
Tony hadn't realized he had been getting so wound up over it all. He had all of these sudden memories of dinner parties at his house as a kid. The first ones he could remember were fun to prepare for. He would help his mom and the staff in the kitchen. After his mom died though, preparations were anxious for everybody with his father's demands running the show. Tony tried to help still, but the ladies found him more of an inconvenience.
As he got older, if he happened to be home while there was a party, he was either schooled by his father on how to behave during it, or per a step-mother's request, not there at all. He'd be pawned off on a "friend" of Senior's with kids his age. Tony saw it for what it was from the beginning; his dad thought if he made friends with their kids, they would be more likely to go into business deals with him.
Tony had hated those parties after his mom wasn't there anymore. They were full of pretentious people with fake laughter, and he promised himself early on that he wasn't going to be one of them, and that he wouldn't surround himself with people like them.
As he breathed in the comforting scent of the man behind him, he was suddenly very aware that he had succeeded. He had an incredible group of people in his life, and not one of them would be caught dead at one of those parties unless undercover. The people coming over that day were family, and Jethro was right, he didn't have to impress them or worry about what they would think about the meal. The best part was just all of them being brought together for something that didn't have a case number and the words "attempted murder" attached to it.
Tony turned around in Jethro's arms and saw that his fiancé looked just as happy as he felt. "Thanks."
"Any time. No need to get stressed about this stuff."
"I know. They deserve something nice though. I just want to make sure there's enough for everybody, and that we can all kick back and enjoy each other's company when they start getting here. Knowing my luck, my team will get called out, and you will have to recruit those left for clean-up detail anyway."
Jethro's head fell back with a groan. "Don't say that. I want you here."
Tony leaned in and whispered in Jethro's ear. "You want me everywhere."
"True," Jethro said with a quick leer down Tony's body as he pulled him even closer, squeezing his ass, a hand on each cheek, kneading them.
"Jethro!" Tony whispered fervently. "Don't get me hard with your father in the next room!"
"He's not in the next room," Jethro whispered back. "He went for a walk. His doctor has him doing half an hour every day, which I reminded him of after his coffee comment. So he's taking in the scenery." He started nipping at Tony's neck. "And there's something I want to take in." He took Tony's hand, and pulled him across the room as Tony moaned. They slipped through the basement door, closing it behind them, and headed down the stairs.
Jethro pushed Tony up against the wall, and kissed him fiercely. Tony's fingers wrapped in Jethro's short hair, and kissed him back, suddenly on fire from head to toe. Jethro's mouth felt like flames licking his skin as he kissed his neck, then lifted his t-shirt to tease his nipples. His mouth left a moist trail all the way down Tony's stomach until he was on his knees, looking up at Tony as Tony's head fell back, exposing his flushed neck.
Jethro worked Tony's belt and jeans open, and pulled out his hard cock. He wasted none of their precious little time together, immediately wrapping his mouth around the head and sucking, letting his tongue swirl around the slit, licking up the little bit being already offered there. Tony groaned low and deep, and Jethro's own cock twitched hard as he took Tony as far into his mouth as he could, stopping before starting down his throat. He pulled back, letting his tongue press against the throbbing vein on the underside, and then swirl around the head again.
"Fuck!" Tony hissed.
Jethro repeated the action over and over again, loving the way he could hear Tony panting harder and harder as he bobbed. He kept going like that for a couple of minutes and then took Tony deeper into this throat, fighting back his gag reflex. Tony's hand went back to Jethro's hair in ecstasy, grabbing it and pulling. Jethro slid back and then impaled himself again. Tony half-groaned, half-whimpered, as Jethro started a rhythm.
Jethro could tell that Tony was getting close. He ran a hand up Tony's leg, and then rolled his balls in his palm. Tony suddenly convulsed, shoved over the edge, freefalling like being pushed off a cliff. Jethro swallowed everything Tony gave him, and then sucked hard a few times to make sure he'd gotten it all, causing aftershocks to run through Tony's body. Once he finally pulled off, Tony slid down the wall, catching his breath.
"You," gasp. "Definitely have," gasp. "A thing for almost getting caught." Gasp.
Jethro grinned and shrugged. "Once you can stand, you should help me get the bench upstairs for Dad."
Tony looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. He reached out and grabbed Jethro's shirt so that he fell forward from his position on his knees. Jethro's hands reached out to catch himself on the wall, a hand on each side of Tony's head. Tony's hand palmed Jethro's hard cock through his pants.
"Mmm… Tony, we don't have time."
"Yeah, we do. Just come for me- fast and hard." Tony was already unbuttoning Jethro's pants and taking his dick in his hand. His fingers stroked it firmly from base to tip with just the right amount of pressure to make Jethro's eyes roll up into the back of his head. Tony watched, fascinated by the way Jethro's face, neck, and the small bit of chest he could see turned red.
Jethro thrust into Tony's hand, suddenly needing the release as quickly as Tony was demanding it. Tony was right- the thrill of being caught was a huge turn on for him. He felt the adrenaline rush pushing him forward as he thought that his dad was going to be back any minute while he was down stairs getting a hand job. He thrust and jerked in Tony's grasp as the tingle started travelling down his spine and exploded out of him. At the same time, Tony's hand reached up to cover his mouth to keep any sound from coming out.
"Front door just closed!" Tony whispered fervently as Jethro was still convulsing through his orgasm. Tony jumped to his feet, putting his own cock away and trying to figure out what to do with the fistful of cum he had. Jethro got to his feet, stumbling and chuckling as he tried to put himself back together, leaning against the work table for support. Tony looked around frantically for something to do with the sticky strings of cum, and Jethro looked at him curiously, trying to figure out in his daze what was happening. Tony held up his hand to show him, and then smirked, as an idea hit him. He watched Jethro closely as he took a big lick of the liquid.
Jethro, still not totally recovered from his orgasm to the point that he was still twitching, looked at Tony in awe, his mouth dropping open. Tony loved the reaction enough that he decided to just lick his hand clean. Jack hadn't made any attempt to find them yet, so Tony took his time, making sure to suck on each finger and watch Jethro stare at him, paralyzed.
Tony moved to stand in front of Jethro, as he sucked on his fingers erotically. Once he was sure he had gotten it all, he smiled and locked eyes with Jethro's blue ones. A moment later, his lips were engulfed in a fiery kiss, Jethro's tongue ravishing his mouth as he tried to taste himself there. They pulled away panting.
"I love when you do that," Jethro said between breaths.
"What? Jerk you off with Jack upstairs?" Tony asked with a mischievous smirk.
"That, too, but I was referring to licking my mess off of you. I don't know what it is about you, but ever since our first night together, I've loved seeing you covered in my cum." Jethro's hands went around Tony's waist, pulling him close. His mouth went to Tony's ear to speak roughly and quietly into it. "Tonight, I'm going to fuck you so hard, and when I finally let go, I'm going to roll you over and cover you with everything in me, paint your body with every drop, and then I'll let you come."
Tony groaned, dropping his head back and shaking with the chills. He took a deep breath, and couldn't believe it as he felt his cock twitch, trying to come back to life again so quickly.
"I want that. I want that right now, so bad," Tony said, looking back down at Jethro with dilated eyes.
Jethro reached forward and squeezed Tony's cock. He smirked when he realized it was trying to stiffen again. "Yeah, you really do." He leaned back in to Tony's ear to whisperer again. "Good. I plan on doing it often."
Tony shivered again.
"Let's get this bench upstairs for dad. We can put it on the back deck for now to get it out of the way, and if folks want to wander outside, they have something to sit on since I haven't gotten the table and chairs out of the shed yet." Tony was suddenly left standing alone in the middle of the basement as he tried to process the sudden change of topic.
"You're such an evil bastard!" Tony groaned, but the smile on his face let Jethro know he wasn't really upset. They were halfway up the steps with the bench when Tony sought his revenge. "We should have done that on the bench. I mean, my hands are all over it now anyway."
Jethro suddenly froze, locked in a vision of Tony sitting on the bench with his pants around his feet, while he sucked him off. His arms were stretched across the back of the bench, his head tossed back, and occasionally, he'd grab Jethro's head and look at him as he guided his movements.
Tony decided to keep up the assault. "And I forgot that you have a shed. We definitely need to spend some time alone in there together. Can't promise the neighbors won't hear me of course- or you."
"Which one of us is the evil bastard?" Jethro asked.
"I've been an evil-bastard-in-training for twelve years! Congratulations! You've done a great job!" Tony winked, and they continued up the stairs as both men laughed.
They got the bench out on the back porch, and Jethro called for Jack.
"There you boys are! I was starting to wonder where you went." Jack came out on the deck, and suddenly all of their attentions were stolen by Tony's phone blaring to life in his pocket.
"Excuse me," he said, heading into the house and reaching into his pocket for his phone. He was already going for his lockbox when he realized it was Abby calling. He smiled in relief. "Abby! You had me thinking I was being called out. I'd much rather be talking to you! What's up?"
"Hey, Tony! I was going through my groceries from last night looking for the can of onion crunchies for the green bean casserole. Did they get mixed up with your stuff?"
"Yes, I have them right here waiting for you. You're making that when you get here, right?" he asked.
"Yes! Just wanted to make sure they were there. You so can't do green bean casserole without them!" Tony heard Tim's shout of agreement behind her.
"Tell McGee I said hey!" Tony said.
"Tony says hey Timmy," Abby said with a bounce to her voice.
"Hey, Tony," Tim said from the background.
"You're sounding chipper," Tony told Abby with a smirk.
"I am! I'm super excited about today! Okay, now that I know that you have my onions and they aren't being held hostage by some super evil intergalactic being that also does things like steal my socks from the dryer and my hair scrunchies when I'm not looking, I'll be going. I should be there a little before two since I need to put this in the oven. Is that okay?"
"Sounds great, Abs. Can't wait to see you guys!" They hung up the phone as the Gibbs men came back in. "It was just Abby! False alarm!"
"That's great!" Jethro said, leaning in to give Tony a quick kiss before reaching past him for the half emptied cup of coffee from earlier. He turned to top it off with some hot stuff, and Tony saw that Jack was once again staring at them as if though he was trying to figure something out. Tony felt himself starting to blush, and busied himself with putting together the pan of baked beans to stick in the oven.
At a quarter to two, Abby and Tim opened the door to the house. Tim was carrying a brown bag full of stuff that Abby and he were contributing to the party. They stopped to say hi to Jack in the living room, Abby getting a hug and Tim a handshake, but everyone was smiling. Jack led them into the kitchen where Abby bounded into Tony's arms for a quick hug, and then Jethro's. Tim and Tony started going through the bag of stuff that Tim had, and discussed what there was to drink. Jethro clasped Tim's shoulder for a second to say hello, and they smiled at each other briefly. Jethro took one of the beers that Tim had brought and read the label.
"You should try it so I can taste it," Tony said as he started stirring the mac 'n cheese. Jethro shrugged and opened it. Tim took the rest of the six-pack and put it in the fridge. There were suddenly more voices from the living room as the front door opened again.
"No, that is just how it is. You do not knock on Gibbs' door. I think if you did, he would probably shoot you. You just go in. Anyone welcome in his home knows that, so unless you are delivering food, you do not knock." Ziva's voice filtered through the house, and Dion could be heard laughing.
"Hey you two! We're all in here!" Tony shouted. "And for the record, we're putting a lock on the door. There's just some things you don't want to walk in on!"
Everyone laughed, including Jack. Ziva handed Jethro a bottle of wine, and he smiled and thanked her. She was then greeted by Jack who gave her with a earnest hug. She hugged him back, greeting him as if though she were seeing her own grandfather. She turned and introduced Dion, and Dion shook Jack's hand with both of his. Jack leaned in and whispered in Ziva's ear.
"If he doesn't treat you right, let me know. I'm just far enough removed that they'd never suspect!" Ziva burst out in a laugh that made everyone turn to look.
"Jack, you are too kind."
A knock at the door led to multiple voices encouraging whoever it was to come in, and Critten found the crew that was crammed into the kitchen.
"Okay people! Mingle elsewhere unless you're cooking!" Tony announced. He opened the fridge and took the veggie and cheese trays out, and handed them to Tim to take with him when he left. He grabbed two boxes of crackers from on top of the fridge, handed them to Jethro, and pointed for him to go and to take Jack with him. Jethro laughed, kissed Tony quickly again, and then followed the train of people heading for the living room.
Abby bumped Tony's hip with hers as she smiled about their smooch, and Tony shook his head with a huge grin. Elly made his way into the kitchen with a container of dip and a round loaf of bread.
"Hey, Boss!" he greeted.
"Hey, Elly! I'm glad you came!" he smiled up at him from where he was stirring more cheese into the noodles. "What's that?" he asked, gesturing with his head towards the container.
"Spinach dip and rye bread. Do you have like, a really big plate or something?"
"Sure, in the cabinet above my head. I need two hands, or I'd get it for you. The one on the right I think." Tony ducked while Elly reached up to grab a large platter sized plate.
"That'll work!" Elly set about ripping the middle out of the bread round, and putting the dip in its place. "I'm really glad we didn't get called out this weekend," he said smiling up at Tony. "I kept waiting for the call. I finally got some serious sleep in! I think I was awake six hours of the whole day yesterday. It was amazing!" Both Abby and Tony laughed.
"Definitely been there," Tony said.
"Yeah," Abby agreed. "Sometimes you just need those re-coup days. They help screw your head back on straight when it's been all wonky for too long."
Elly took the dip and sat it on the dining room table, but then came back into the kitchen for a beer and stayed to chat some more. Tony looked at the beer in his hand, and Elly put his hands up in defense. "Don't worry, it'll be my only one! McGee was telling me he was going to bring it, and I wanted to try it."
"That reminds me! Jethro? Where's that beer I wanted to taste?" Tony turned the burner off, finally done with melting the cheese into the noodles for the mac 'n cheese, and put the lid on it.
Tony heard Abby starting to chat Elly up about something techie that Tim had mentioned as he left the room in search of Jethro and the beer. He found Ziva, Dion, Tim, Jethro, and Jack sitting in the living room talking. He went up to Jethro, took the beer out of his hand, and then took a drink. Jethro looked up at him with a grin.
"Kinda fruity," Tony said.
"Blueberry and coriander," Tim said as Tony took a second drink and handed the bottle back to Jethro. Tony nodded and Jethro shrugged.
The front door opened, and Palmer and Breena came in, followed by Parke, Tiffany and Shane.
"Hey!" Tony greeted. "Glad you guys could make it! Food that needs to be cooked can go in the kitchen, snacks in the dining room." Greetings were exchanged all around, and Tony introduced the group. He stopped when he got to Shane, making the connection. He rested a hand on Shane's shoulder, and got Jack's attention. "Hey, Jack! Shane here lives up in your parts. You two should talk."
Shane went to sit near Jack immediately, and Tony could tell by the sudden excitement on his face that the kid was homesick for the park.
"Which part are you from?" Shane asked.
"I know exactly where you're at! I work and live in Loyalsock State Park!"
Jack chuckled and sat up. "Well, how about that! I used to take Leroy up there when he was a kid to camp!"
When Shane looked confused, Tony intervened. "Gibbs' full name is Leroy Jethro Gibbs. I'm pretty sure Jack is the only one that calls him Leroy though," Tony said smiling at Jack.
"Well, I named him, so I get to call him whatever I want!" Everyone laughed. The two went back to talking, and soon Ducky arrived.
"Look who I found outside!" he announced, and Dorney poked his head around the door.
"Hey! Come on in! I swear we don't bite! A lot of other things, but biting isn't one of them." Tony took a bag from Ducky, and headed towards the kitchen with the older man on his heels giving instructions on what to do with the food he'd brought. Tony could hear Parke talking to Dorneget. By their conversation, it was pretty clear that Elly had told him about Dorney joining the team. Tony had planned on sitting down with him to go over what he was going to ask for his help with on Monday, but as for now, he was more focused on the shoulder in the sling healing than anything.
Tony began gathering the cold stuff to put on the table. He listened to the sounds of his family talking around him, cracking jokes, laughing, telling stories, and he realized that this was all he had ever wanted. He hadn't know it really, but this, a sincere, welcoming family, and a home with the man of his dreams, was his definition of happiness. He stopped what he was doing, and looked around him.
Abby, Ducky and now Jethro were chatting in the kitchen. Jack was talking with Shane still. Jimmy and Breena were talking with Ziva and Dion, and making Tiffany and Parke feel welcome to join their conversations. Elly and Dorney were talking with Tim, and Tony could tell that Tim was telling them a work story, because he was laughing so hard he was almost crying, and the other two were getting a kick out of it as well. Everyone was happy around him for the first time in his life, and he wanted it to stay that way. He couldn't ever remember having that. He knew that he could go join any of their conversations and he would feel right at home, completely comfortable and happy to be included. No one was pompous or judgmental, and every one of them were intelligent and open-minded people.
I think I may actually be happy, he said to himself. I didn't think happiness really existed, but here I am, with these great people, in my warm, safe home, with my fiancé and the sound of laughter everywhere. I think I'm actually happy.
A timer went off in the kitchen, and Tony stuck his head around the doorway and told Jethro that it was time to take the ham out. Jethro's eyebrows went up and he stopped leaning against the counter, turning instead to find the oven mitts.
"Is this thing going in there, or in here?" Jethro asked loud enough that Tony could hear.
"In here," Tony half-shouted back.
"Incoming," Jethro said, as he came in, sitting the roaster pan where Tony had potholders waiting. "Hell of a spread," he said with a smile as he saw everything sitting on the table. He came to Tony's side and wrapped his arms around him, his mouth at Tony's ear. "Thank you."
Tony smiled contently, letting his eyes close as he held Jethro's arms in place. "You are very welcome," he said, thinking about their conversation about Easter dinners that morning.
There was a shuffle as Abby and Ducky brought their dishes into the dining room to sit on the table as well, and people started wandering in to see all that the feast entailed. Tony announced for everyone to come eat, and they all took turns circling the table, and filling up their plates with food. All of the chairs were taken from the dining room and moved into the living room, and everyone found places to sit.
Tony was on the floor by Jethro's feet with his plate on the coffee table as Jethro sat in one of the kitchen chairs. Elly sat next to him at the small table. and Dorney sat at the other corner.
"Oh, look!" Abby joked. "They're at the kids' table!"
Tim turned to her with an evil grin. "You're right! It's Probie, Ultra-Probie, and Tony!" Half of the group heard them, and chuckled. Tony gave Tim a sarcastic smile and nodded.
"Oh, just wait young grasshopper until the next time you have to fill out the NC-72, because you'll be doing it by yourself!"
Tim froze mid-bite.
"Yeah!" Tony said with a Cheshire grin. "Now who's at the kiddie table?"
The group laughed again.
Dion looked at Tony from the chair across from him and Jethro, and laughed. "I will gladly sit at this kiddie table if it means that I don't have to cook for once! This is really great of you guys! It's so nice to have someone else in charge of the kitchen."
"Here, here!" Ducky said with a smile, raising his glass.
"No thanks necessary! I think we all deserved this," Tony said with a smile, looking over his shoulder at Jethro. He looked back around the room at the smiling faces. "We've had a hell of a journey getting to where we are now, but now that we're here, I for one, believe we can take on anything thrown at us."Spirited agreements rang up around them, and Tony chuckled. "And I pity the dumbass that tries to mess with this family!" More cheers, laughter, a catcall from Abby, and the sound of clanking beer bottles and wine glasses filled the room.
The meal continued, everyone clearing their plates, tapping into the deserts, and coming back to sit around and chat in small groups. Tony was standing in the archway between the dining room and living room talking with Jack. He'd taken a liking to the kid, and he'd offered to take Shane back to Pennsylvania with him so that he could get back to work at the park. They were interrupted when Tony's phone rang.
Immediately, Jethro, Elly, Parke and Dorneget's heads snapped up to look at him from their places around the room. Tiffany turned to see what was going on when Parke stopped mid-sentence, and a chain reaction caused the room to go silent. Tony pulled the phone out of his pocket, fully expecting that he was going to see dispatch's number there. Instead, he saw the name "Fornell" and his stomach dropped.
He answered, looking at Jethro. "DiNozzo."
"Hey, DiNozzo. It's Fornell."
"Yeah, what's up?" he asked cautiously, suddenly feeling his gut twist at the way Fornell sounded hollow and numb.
"I, um." He cleared his throat. "I know you guys are having a big thing right now, and I'm sorry, but I thought you'd want to know. They tried to pull Agent Malcom out of his coma this morning, and his body wouldn't hold up on its own. He passed away just now."
Tony's eyes shut tightly, knowing everyone was looking at him to see if they were being called out. He turned around, needing to get out of their line of sight. He instinctively headed towards the basement, closing the door behind him, and made his way down the stairs.
"I'm really sorry, Tobias," he said quietly.
"I know, Tony." It wasn't lost on Tony that they suddenly found themselves on a first name basis.
"How's Galto?" he asked.
"He's what you'd expect. He's violently angry and blaming the world. If the bastards weren't already dead, they would be soon. I think he's going to have to see the shrink. They were extremely close, and-" Fornell's voice cracked. "He hasn't left his side since he got here the other night." Tony swallowed hard knowing what that kind of dedication felt like. Even if they weren't in a relationship, he wouldn't have left Jethro's side if he was in limbo like that for any other reason than to catch the jackasses that caused it.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked.
"I don't know. He doesn't have any family outside of the bureau. I'll let you know when the funeral arrangements are."
"Let me know if I can help in anyway. I'll do whatever I can."
"Thanks. Tell Jethro I'd come drink all his bourbon tonight, but I can't drive to his house with this damn cast, and I know there's no vacancy at the inn. The two of you can expect me Friday night though. Tell him I'll expect the good stuff, not the cheap shit."
Tony nodded to himself in the basement. "Three jars and a bottle of the good stuff. Got it."
"Will do." With that, they disconnected the call. Ten minutes later, the basement door creaked open, and Tony didn't need to look to know whose footsteps he heard coming down the steps.
"You've got everyone worried about you," Jethro said quietly as he leaned against the workbench next to Tony.
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but this is where I've always gone when…" Tony trailed off as he shook his head slightly, staring off into space with his arms crossed. Jethro leaned over and kissed Tony on the head, and Tony closed his eyes, sighing heavily when Jethro's arm came around him and pulled him towards him into an embrace.
Tony nodded, and let his hands slip around Jethro's waist. "I know you do. Always have, always will."
Jethro nodded in agreement as Tony rested his head on his shoulder.
"So what happened?" Jethro asked quietly.
"Do you want to stay down here a while?" he asked softly. "I can make sure everyone leaves you alone."
"No," Tony said standing up straight, though not letting go of Jethro. "I'll come back up. Otherwise, Abby will guilt everyone into leaving, and then try to corner me herself." Jethro nodded, and brushed a bit of hair out of Tony's forehead with a little smile.
"I love you, Tony."
Tony looked into Jethro's light blue eyes, suddenly heavy with sadness and concern, and Tony felt the fear he had felt the night of the shooting all over again. He had the responsibility to keep his team safe and protected, and he had to keep himself protected so that Jethro wouldn't lose yet another person he cared so much about.
"I love you, too, Jethro," he whispered, unable to find his full voice as his eyes began to burn. Jethro's arms tightened around him, pulling him close in a fiercely protective embrace. Tony hugged him back just as tightly. They stood like that for a long time until finally Tony's eyes weren't burning anymore, and they pulled away, both feeling kind of shaky and clingy. Jethro took Tony's hand in his. He looked at the band that was over Tony's finger, and brought it to his lips.
"I want forever to be a long time," he said quietly.
"Me, too." Tony swallowed hard. "We can do this, right? We can have a nice long forever and both still do the job we love, right?"
"There are never any guarantees, Tony. We could both retire as soon as you can take early retirement, and we could die in a car wreck or house fire the next day. Or we can both do this job until they kick us out and never get shot again. I guess if there's one thing I've learned, it's that tomorrow is never promised. Today is what we've got, and we need to make sure that we're not doing a half-ass job of living. I've spent enough of my life doing that, and I'm going to make sure every day from here on out is as full of the good as possible."
Tony gave Jethro the faintest smile, and that encouraged him to continue.
"I am going to love you every second, of every day, and in the morning, or sometimes in the middle of the night, we're going to get up, and go into a job that we both love together. We'll worry, and we'll try not to be a pain in the ass about it, but at the end of the day, we'll be happy damn it, because we deserve to be happy."
Tony leaned in and kissed Jethro's lips softly. "And that is why I want to marry you."
Jethro smiled back at Tony, then tossed his head towards the steps. Tony nodded, but he wouldn't let go of Jethro's hand. It made Jethro roll his eyes, but he smiled broadly just the same.
"What?" Tony asked. "I'm happier holding your hand."
Gibbs stopped on the steps, and kissed Tony again. "Me, too," he said quietly when they pulled away.
They stopped at the top of the stairs, and Tony looked at the door.
"I have to tell my team. Neither of them had ever been in a raid like that, and neither has ever lost someone this close to a case. I know Abby and Tim where just playing around, but they really are like kids that way."
"They can handle it."
Tony looked up at Jethro, meeting his eyes.
"You can handle it too, Tony. I'm right there with you, and so is everybody in that room. Our whole family is out there. If there is anywhere you want to break bad news, it's with the entire family present. There's no shortage of love and support there to back you up, and your men." Jethro squeezed Tony's hand, and it gave Tony the strength he needed. He took a deep breath, and they walked back into the kitchen and through the dining room to stand in the archway, hands still clutched.
Everyone stopped what they were doing to look up at them. Tony cleared his throat.
"That was Fornell." His eyes met Parke's, then Shane's, then Elly's. "FBI Agent Malcom was taken out of his coma this morning, and he didn't make it."
The room was silent, heads falling all around. Even Dion and Breena, who had no idea who they were talking about, had that sudden horrible feeling that one of their own had fallen.
Tim finally cleared his throat. "You know, if you guys wanted to head over there, I'm sure we could take the rest of your call tonight." Jethro and Ziva both nodded emphatically.
"The FBI is claiming his body. He's… the bureau was Malcom's family." Tony looked around at the group of people, and he felt his eyes burning again. "Just like you guys are mine." Tony swallowed hard, and Jethro squeezed his hand again. "I don't know how often I'm ever going to get you all in the same place, but while you're here, I think I just need to say that you guys mean more to me than you'll ever know. You have been so awesome and supportive. We Italians are supposed to grow up with a deep sense of family pride and love, but you all know mine didn't give me that. You have though. I'm proud to call you la mia famiglia, and I'm grateful for the love you've shared."
"We love you, too, Tony," Abby said, and Tony saw the tears streaming down her face. She suddenly lost all of the childlike innocence she normally exuded, and for the first time ever, as their eyes met across the room, he saw her as the adult sharing his shoes. They'd been through a hell of a lot together, and he knew that Abby was still trying to accept all of the changes to their family and herself, but he knew as she said the words, she meant them, and they weren't just a child's innocent offering to make him feel better. He nodded at her, and without looking away, she reached down and made direct contact with Tim's hand, taking it tightly, letting a shuddering sob exhale silently from her. He nodded at her again, and she nodded back.
He turned to Jethro. "If you guys could take the rest of the night, that would be nice. I think my guys and I need to go drink to Malcom on the back deck for a while." Jethro nodded and leaned in to kiss Tony on the forehead. Tony finally let go of his hand, and gestured towards the back door. "Come on guys."
Tony grabbed a bunch of glasses from the cabinet and grabbed the bottle of scotch.. He led the group out onto the deck, and closed the door behind him. He handed a glass to Elly, one to Greg, one to Dorney, and one to Shane. He poured them each a drink half-full, and they stood silently in a huddle. Elly's voice was the one that finally broke the silence.
"Tony told me the other night in the waiting room that a team protects one another. He also told me that in this line of work, not all of the cases we close will have a nice warm fuzzy feeling, but that it doesn't make them any less important. I've always wanted to feel like I was a part of something… something important, something that was worthwhile, something that meant enough that I would risk my life for it. I have been doubting my decision to leave the safe back rooms of the finance division to come to NCIS as an agent for months- until a few weeks ago. Now, I know that there is nothing I'd rather do, no place I'd rather be, and no one I'd rather be doing it with. Malcom's family was the bureau? Well, mine is right here. I make the choice to do this, as dangerous as it is, because it means something to me- means everything to me." His eyes met Tony's. "You told me that this job has risks, and that if it means enough to you, you take them, otherwise, you shouldn't be doing it. It obviously meant enough to Malcom, and it means enough to me. So this one, is for all of those that have given their lives because it meant enough to them."
"Amen," Shane said quietly as they all tapped their glasses together and knocked them back. As Tony's head tilted back, his eyes caught how clear the cool spring sky was, and how bright the stars seemed to be.
"Wow," he whispered, still staring. The rest of the group looked up too, and they stood in silence, lost in their thoughts.
Jethro stood in the kitchen with a cup of coffee on standby as he started cleaning things up. The rest of the group was starting to talk again in the other room, though much more subdued than before. He felt all sorts of emotions welling up inside of him that he kept forcing back down. One minute he wanted to go hide in the basement and find something to work on to get his mind off of things, and the next, he wanted to be out on the porch with Tony and his team, and then the next, he wanted everyone gone so he could be alone with Tony, curled up in bed, hiding way from the world safely. There was another part of him though that kept listening to the conversations in the next room. Tony had said it well- these people were his family, and they were both very lucky to have them in their lives.
He put a lot of stuff away, but eventually he shook his head, growled quietly, and picked up his mug of coffee as he headed towards the living room. He sat back down, though this time in the seat between Abby and Ducky, and sighed heavily as he accepted that he needed to be around them. He understood where Abby was coming from. He wasn't used to needing people like this either, and though he was grateful for them and loved them dearly, he was fighting it internally.
Abby leaned over and linked her arm through his, laying her head on his shoulder. He turned his head with a smile, and kissed her forehead. He sat with the group, laughing quietly as they told stories and kept reassuring Tiffany that her husband would be okay outside with his team. She and Breena ended up talking quietly together while the rest of the group went on, and Jethro found himself eavesdropping a bit as Breena explained how she got through long nights when Palmer was called in. He winced the slightest bit when he heard Tiffany talk about how hard it was going to be with Parke's hours and her travelling a lot for work. That was a really hard combination on a marriage, and he knew it well from both sides. They'd have to be really committed to making it work.
At about 2030, Ducky was the first one to bow out gracefully. He was able to see the signs of exhaustion on Jethro that no one else saw with his trained eye and years of friendship, and he decided he would initiate the procession. The group took the hint, and soon, Ziva and Dion were leaving, and Breena and Palmer were as well. Breena gave Tiffany her number in case she needed to chat, and Tiffany seemed honestly thankful to have someone in her corner. That made Jethro smile a little to himself as he showed them to the door.
Abby and Tim began cleaning up the dining room and soon, Abby, Tim, Tiffany, Jack, and Jethro had the whole place cleaned up. Jack said good night to everyone and told them he was turning in early. Jethro knew that Jack was just trying to give them space without appearing to be rude, and he appreciated it. Abby and Tim said their goodbyes finally. Jethro walked them to the door, leaving Tiffany pouring herself some coffee. Once they were past the threshold, Jethro stepped out with them and closed the door behind him.
"Good call tonight, Tim."
Tim turned around in surprise as he looked at Jethro. He nodded with a small smile. "Let's hope it doesn't come back to bite us," he said.
"Ah, nothing we can't handle," Jethro said with a shrug and a kind smile. He wasn't necessarily looking forward to being called out, but the fact that Tony and his team was still out on the deck drinking just went to show how much they needed it.
Abby leaned in, and kissed Jethro's cheek. "Night Gibbs."
"Night kids." Both Tim and Abby smiled at his affection, and they clasped hands as they headed to the car. Jethro watched them until they got in and pulled away. He went back into the house to find Tiffany staring out the back window up at the sky with the coffee in her hands and an anxious expression on her face.
"Let's go see how they are," he said with a small smile. She smiled back with relief, and Jethro cracked the door, sticking his head out. He tried not to laugh as he saw all of them lying out in the back yard, looking up at the stars. Tiffany covered her mouth when she saw it too, and together, they went to join their men.
Jethro laid down next to Tony in the grass. Tony turned his head and smiled at him, reaching to take his hand silently. Tiffany couldn't see them in the dark, but she had done the same thing next to Parke. They all laid in one big circle quietly as they stared up at the sky and processed their past few weeks.
Twenty minutes or so later, there was suddenly a low, loud noise from someone in the circle, and they realized that Dorney had fallen asleep. His snore made them all start chuckling quietly, but within a few seconds, they were all a chortling mess of laughter. Tony rolled over, and laid his head on Jethro's chest as he laughed so hard that he finally shed the tears he'd been holding back all night. After a few minutes, Shane reached out and shook the sleeping man.
"Dude. Dorney. Dorney!"
Dorneget sat upright in a startled panic, which induced another fit of laughter.
"Oh, sorry. Guess I fell asleep. I was having the weirdest dream. You know that part in the Lion King, where he looks up at the sky, and he sees the outline of his dad in the stars, then the monkey hits him with a stick? I kept imaging Tony hitting me with the stick over, and over, and over again."
Jethro had never seen the movie so he was lost, but Tony was laughing again, and that was good enough for him.
"Wait, was I hitting you in the back of the head, or just going at it in any direction?"
"Hey!" Jethro said. "I've never hit you with a stick! I almost always use my hand. If anything, it's a folder or something."
"Yeah, you wouldn't have gotten away with a stick."
"I'm going to keep my thoughts to myself on that one," Dorneget mumbled through a dozy yawn, but everyone heard and laughed anyway.
"Wow! Newbie has some balls!" Parke joked.
"Hmm?" Dorney said, looking at him funny until he realized he'd just said that aloud. He clasped his hand over his mouth. "Oh, shit. That came out, didn't it?" The laughter started all over again, and Shane, who was a surprisingly lightweight drunk, ended up in such a fit of giggles he couldn't breathe, which of course meant everyone else started laughing again. Tiffany finally stood up, and dusted herself off.
"I think it's time I got my guys home. You okay to drive Dorney, or do you need a ride?" she asked.
"He's closer to me. I'll take him," Elly said, getting to his feet and helping Dorney up. After their first drink, Elly had only sipped on a second, unlike the rest of them which had taken another two or three back each. Tony was definitely feeling warm and fuzzy as he continued lying on Jethro's chest in the grass.
"Thanks for coming guys," he said loudly while making no attempt to get up.
Tiffany shouted her thanks as Parke and Shane made their way to the door with an arm around each other's shoulders for support. Dorney and Elly said their goodnights as well, and slowly made their way to the house, stretching out the kinks from lying on the cool ground.
As they were coming in the back door, the rest of the group was going out the front. Elly poured a half cup of coffee, dumped some cream and sugar into it, and then chugged it down. Dorney was looking out the back door at Tony and Jethro.
"I'd like to have that someday," Dorney said with a smile. Elly came to stand behind him with his coffee as he looked out at them, a smile coming to his own face at the sight. "They're so cute together," Dorney cooed. Elly chuckled as he suddenly realized that Dorney wasn't straight either. He shrugged, took another deep drink of his coffee, and then pulled Dorney way from the back door.
"Time to go home, and leave the lovebirds alone," he said with a smile. Dorney nodded, and followed Elly out to his car.
Jethro loved the feeling of Tony sleeping on his chest, and the cool Earth beneath them. He looked up at the sky and felt mesmerized by what he was feeling and seeing. The sensations of the warm breath on his chest, feeling that connection with the life in his arms, the life in the world around him as the light breeze blew across them, and the heavens above him shining down on them, made him feel invincibly happy. They stayed like that a long time until he realized it was after midnight.
He slowly woke Tony up by running his fingers through his hair, then rubbed his back slowly. Tony woke and propped his chin on Jethro's chest to look into his eyes. They smiled at one another, and Jethro whispered, "Let's get inside." Tony simply nodded and got up, stretching. Jethro watched, taking in the view, and then Tony looked back with a shy smile and a shake of his head. He reached a hand out to Jethro, and Jethro took it. Once they were both on their feet, they headed hand in hand into the house, and up to their room, turning lights off as they went.
Behind closed doors, Tony looked at Jethro. "That thing you said you were going to do to me earlier? Can I raincheck that for tomorrow night?"
"Definitely, I'm exhausted," Jethro said as he yawned through the shirt he was stripping off.
"Thank, God!" Tony groaned and pulled his own clothes off. They crawled into bed, assumed the position they were in on the lawn, and settled in to go to sleep.
Tony couldn't sleep though. Long after Jethro's breathing had evened out, his head was still swimming with all of the things that had happened to lead up to the point of Malcom's death, and about how his team was involved. He re-thought every single detail, and tried to figure out what they could have missed. He asked himself if there was something they should have done differently, some action they could have taken to prevent such a dramatic ending, but he couldn't think of anything.
He felt the heartbeat of the man beneath his ear, and he thought about what Jethro had said to him in the basement. They had a long future together, and the words "'til death do us part" echoed through him over and over again. He imagined the worst case scenario for both of them.
For him, he saw Vance coming down the stairs slowly, their eyes locking as he interrupted a discussion he was having with his team about what their weekend plans were. He'd be more like the "second cousin" he'd become than the Director, and the words that Tony imagined coming out of his mouth caused tears to slide down his face in both the vision and reality.
They only fell harder as he imagine Jethro getting the call in the middle of the night that there was a problem on the case, and that he had ended up in the hospital again. The vision changed to Jethro getting the news from Ducky in the hallway and breaking down.
He then tried to imagine the happy ending. Them spending time sailing a boat they'd make together up and down the coast, stopping here and there as they went for a few days on the beach. He imagined their wedding, their entire family present and a few people they hadn't told but they hoped would be happy for them. He dreamed of being twenty years older and sitting with Jethro on the sofa, hand in hand, feet propped up on the table, a fire in the fireplace, and It's A Wonderful Life playing in front of them on Christmas Eve.
After looking at the clock for the tenth time in three minutes, he carefully got up, threw his sweats and hoodie on, and snuck out of the room. He didn't realize where he was going until his bare feet took him to the kitchen for the scotch. He held up the bottle and nodded once.
"Basement," he said quietly to himself.
He carefully creaked down the stairs, making sure not to step on anything sharp. He looked around, breathing in the perma-scent of sawdust, and then grabbed one of the empty jars on the table. He blew the dust out of the bottom, filled it halfway with the golden liquor, and settled down to think.
Half an hour later, footsteps began creaking down the steps. He looked up to see Jack coming down to join him.
"I'm used to finding Leroy sitting down here, drinking all alone, brooding. Don't tell me he's worn off on you." He came and sat down at the worktable, and Tony's feet moved from the tabletop where they were propped, to the sawhorse next to it. He saw the half-empty bottle of scotch and smiled. "Ah, at least you're drinking better swill. Got another jar for your future father-in-law?"
Tony smiled, and blew the dust out of the empty jar sitting nearby that Jethro usually drank out of.
"I don't really know when it became normal for me to seek solace down here, but it was never because of the, uh, jars," he said, pouring Jack a jar of scotch. "Somewhere along the way though, this became my thinking spot. I'd come over, sometimes with beer, sometimes grab a jar, and just sit on the steps and watch Jethro work. Over the years, some days were so rough that I'd come over and find the bourbon already poured." Tony smirked as he looked at the lighter colored liquor in his glass, and he took a sip.
"I've always known that you cared a great deal about my son, but I had no idea it would come to this. Took me by surprise, to say the least. Honestly, I'm kinda surprised that the old ticker held out through that one." Jack chuckled lightly, and Tony joined in with a smile.
"Here's to your ticker," Tony said, raising his glass. Jack raised his back, and they both drank to the toast.
"I haven't seen him this happy in twenty, maybe twenty-five years, and even then, we didn't speak much. I saw him and the girls at Christmas each year that he was home, but that wasn't enough to really get a feel for what he was like. Not to mention, we spent most of the time bickering and carrying on, wasting precious time. A couple 'a goddamned fools." He took a drink of his jar, downing half of it.
Tony looked across the table at him for a moment, curious eyes trying to read the older man.
"Are you really okay with this?" he asked frankly.
"Aww hell, son. If it would've been anybody else I wouldn't've understood, but it just makes a lot of sense knowing the history the two of you have. He talks about you on the phone when he updates me on how things are going. You and Abby, sometimes Ducky. I make sure to ask about the rest of you kids, but he's always had a soft spot for you. Don't tell him I said that though."
Tony chuckled. "I already know he's got a soft spot for me. That's okay though, I've got a serious soft spot for him."
Jack chuckled. "Is that so?"
"Yeah, I've always felt like I was just bouncing through life, not able to settle anywhere, walking on hot coals almost. He makes me feel grounded in all the best ways. He lets me be a big goofball and loves me for it, but he also brings out the best in me. He has made me such a better agent, a better investigator, a better friend…" Tony started feeling his serious side even more strongly as he talked. "He's made me a better man all the way around." He looked back up at Jack. "I honestly don't know where I'd be if I hadn't tackled him to the ground, and arrested him twelve years ago. If my partner on the force hadn't been a dirty cop, if someone else had been assigned the case instead of Jethro… there are so many things that came together to put us in that moment, and so many more that have led to where we are now…" Tony shook his head, and finished his scotch.
"It's funny how that works out. Everything fell into place to get the two of you to this point, and I have to say, I'm glad you both stepped up to the plate and took fate up on its offer. From what I've seen, and from what I'm hearing, it took you two a while, but maybe that was part of the plan all along."
Tony smirked as he thought about Kathy and his team. "Definitely, without a doubt. I think I'm going to head back up to bed. Got a long day tomorrow. Thanks for the chat."
"Thanks for the drink. Sleep well."
Tony slipped into the bedroom, out of his clothes and into bed. As soon as he was back under the covers, Jethro wrapped himself around him in his sleep, and Tony smiled. It wasn't long before he finally slept as well.
The next couple of days were a blur. Both Tony and Jethro's teams caught cases right off the bat Monday morning. Tony started "handling", as he had dubbed it, Dorneget's fine-tuning and training before they had even left the building, mainly because of his overexcitement to be going out on a real case.
Both teams worked well into the night, came back in the next morning, and did it again. Tony got the call from Fornell about the funeral arrangements being for Wednesday afternoon, and his entire team and Shane went. Jackson had stayed with them a few extra days just so that Shane could go, and when he left for home that evening, Shane would be going with him. Tony couldn't help but think that Shane looked a bit older now, and he realized that Parke and Elly did too.
He had stopped to talk to Fornell after the funeral about the case, and saw that Elly was talking with Galto again. He saw them shake hands, and he wondering if Elly would make a good liason of sorts, if he decided he wanted to go that route.
Tony had driven separately from the rest of the guys because he had to make a stop to pick up some paperwork for the case they had just tied up. He was exhausted inside and out. As he turned to leave, he pulled out his phone and dialed Jethro.
"Hey," Jethro said softly as he got up from his desk, turning off the lamp.
"Hey," Tony said back, walking alone to where his car was parked on the other side of the cemetery from everyone else.
"How was it?"
"How is any funeral?" he said with an anxious chuckle, desperate to be out from amongst the headstones.
Tony sighed. "I love you, Jethro."
"Love you, too." There was a long silence as Jethro waited for the elevator doors to close. "Hey, Tony?"
"What do you think about Labor Day weekend?" Jethro asked nervously.
"For what?" Tony asked, a bit confused.
A huge smile suddenly split Tony's face in two. "Really?" he asked happily.
"Yeah, really. I don't want to wait much longer." Jethro hesitated just a moment. "Life's too short."
Tony swallowed hard, trying to fight back the sudden tears that stung his eyes, and failed. He wiped them away, and took a deep breath.
"I think that sounds perfect," he said with a sniffle.
"Are you crying?" Jethro asked.
"Liar," Jethro said with a slight chuckle.
"Yup!" Tony said with a laugh, causing Jethro to laugh outright on the other end of the line. Tony loved the way the sound of his fiance's laughter echoed through him, lighting him up as it bounced around inside.
"Hey," Jethro said, the tone changing in his voice to something that caused Tony's loins to stir.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Wanna cash in that raincheck tonight?"
Tony groaned. "Yes! Not just yes, but hell yes!"
Jethro laughed again, and Tony chuckled.
"Good, see you tonight. I'm going home to see Dad off."
"Okay. Love you, Jethro."
"Love you, Tony."
Once Tony was in the car, he took a few minutes to breathe. His phone chimed, and he looked down at it to find a picture text from Abby. He opened the file to find that she had actually sent him five pictures from St. Paddy's day at the bar. The text that accompanied them read:
I was so wasted that night that I don't even remember taking these with my phone, but I found them today and thought I'd share them!
There was a picture of the group together as they recovered from their tequila shots, and then of her and Tim squished together making goofy faces at the camera, and a candid shot of Ziva and Dion laughing together. The fourth picture took him off guard though. He had leaned forward to listen to something that Ziva had said, then laughed, looking up at Jethro who chuckled as well, but in the picture, they both looked incredibly happy, Tony leaning towards Jethro, and both of their eyes shining as they looked at one another. Tony wasn't aware that Abby had been taking photos, but he and Jethro had both had a lot to drink that night, and the place was packed. He probably completely ignored the flashes. The fifth photo was of Jethro, watching something with a mesmerized and happy look on his face.
Tony smiled as he stared at his phone, then set the photo of the two of them together as his background. He got into his contact list, and set Jethro's picture as his icon for when he called. He then set the picture of Abby and Tim as the icon for both of their phone numbers, and set Ziva's as the picture of her and Dion.
That night did a lot for all of them. He wondered if anyone else realized that, and decided that his new St. Paddy's day tradition would be to get the team together with their loved ones at the bar and drink, laugh, and spend some serious time together. He turned over the key in the ignition, and headed home as he dreamed of everyone being in a bar ten years down the road, laughing together happily, still loving their jobs, and closer than ever.
That's the way life should be spent, Tony thought. With people who know who you really are, and love you for it.