Disclaimer: Don't own NCIS or the characters. Only own the AU idea.
Thanks as always to my fantastic beta, Gotgoats. She's awesome y'all—she's been helping me even though she's been feeling really yucky. Shout out to her!
Spoilers: AU for Season 8's "Baltimore" Episode
Warning: AU, OOC, Violence. Rated T.
Betrayal In Baltimore
"Alright people, head out. I'll see you back here on Monday at oh-eight-hundred," Gibbs said, closing the case file. He watched, hiding his amusement, as Ziva and Tim began excitedly packing up their things and shutting down their computers. The two junior agents left quickly after murmuring their hurried goodbyes. They rushed onto the elevator without a backward glance.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow and looked at his second in command. Tony was sitting at his desk, and it appeared he was lost in thought about something. It had been a long day—the investigation had done a number on Tony. He wasn't sure what exactly had happened while his three agents were out in the field, but when they'd returned the mood among them was different and Tony had been quiet ever since.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs said softly. "You goin' home?"
Tony blinked and seemed to shake himself out of whatever memory he'd caught himself in. He looked up at Gibbs, his fingers playing nervously over the file sitting on his desk. "I'm sorry Boss, did you say something?"
"It's time to go home," Gibbs said. "We're done here. Even I'm leaving." As if to demonstrate, Gibbs picked up his car keys. He hoped Tony would leave with him, hoped the younger man would speak to him about whatever was bothering him.
"Oh well I um…I'm almost done here…I'll be right behind you," Tony said. "I have these requisition forms I need to finish. Won't take me long."
Gibbs' gut tingled. "Want me to help you with them?" Gibbs offered. "Could have them done in half the time that way?"
Tony blinked. "Oh no Boss…that's not necessary. I mean…they're my responsibility. You don't have to stay. It'll only take me…I dunno, half an hour, tops. I won't stay long."
Gibbs looked at Tony for a long moment. "Half an hour DiNozzo. Not a minute more."
Tony nodded. "Half an hour," he said softly.
Gibbs didn't like the feeling in his gut, but he trusted Tony to keep his word. Nodding at his agent, he clicked off his lamp and headed for the elevator.
Tony watched his boss leave and as the elevator doors slid shut he let out a long breath. He figured Gibbs had caught on that Tony had something on his mind. Gibbs was no idiot. The truth was, the case today had reminded Tony a little too much of his roots—reminded him a little too acutely of just exactly how it was he'd ended up joining NCIS in the first place. And while he loved his job, loved his team, and looked forward to work (most days), there was always the dark looming cloud of why it was he'd joined the federal agency in the first place.
He shook his head to clear it and took another sip of cold coffee. Glancing at the pile of requisition forms, Tony could only hope that he was correct in his half an hour estimate. Deciding that he didn't want to face the wrath of his boss, Tony got to work. Maybe once he was done he could hit the gym. He opened the file before him and began to read.
Gibbs pulled into the lot next to the tall, red brick apartment building and frowned. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was nearly two hours after he'd left Tony at the office. He'd figured—obviously incorrectly—that as soon as the young man was finished at work he'd head home. Obviously that hadn't happened—Tony's car was not in the lot. Gibbs' gut was still tingling though, and something told him he needed to go back to NCIS. Letting out a sigh and making a silent threat to headslap his friend into the middle of next week, Gibbs turned the car around and pointed it back towards the office.
Gibbs' ever present poker face darkened into a frown as he pulled into the parking deck at NCIS. "Dammit DiNozzo," he muttered. The Senior Agent pulled into the space next to his Second In Command's car and slammed his own car into park. He got out and headed for the elevator, deciding at the last minute to take the stairs—he could rely on the element of surprise that way. The elevator dinged and would alert Tony to Gibbs' presence. Gibbs wanted to see what Tony was doing before Tony realized he had an audience.
Most of the lights in the bullpen had been dimmed. There were a few desk lamps still on—a couple that had obviously been left on when agents left for the evening. And there, right in the middle of the bullpen sat Tony. He was at his desk, lamp on, computer on, papers spread across the surface in front of him. Tony's elbows were on the desktop and were supporting his head.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes. What was going on with Tony? He paused at the edge of their zone, near his own desk, and considered how best to approach his partner. He decided direct would be best. Gibbs stepped closer to Tony's desk and saw that his agent's eyes were closed.
This caused the older man to draw pause—was Tony asleep at his desk? Gibbs sighed. This wouldn't do at all.
"DiNozzo wake up," Gibbs said, standing in front of Tony's desk.
Tony's head remained in his hands, forehead neatly supported by open splayed palms. He didn't move when Gibbs spoke.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes and leaned over Tony's desk a bit, his palms resting on the desk near Tony's elbows. "Wake up DiNozzo," he said again, more firmness in his tone.
Tony's brow creased a bit, but he remained asleep. Gibbs raised back up and ran a hand over his mouth. He took a moment to consider the younger man. Tony did look tired, and there were lines of stress around his eyes and mouth.
Gibbs took a chance and stepped around Tony's desk, moving to the other man's right side. Tony needed to get some good sleep, some sound rest, and Gibbs was going to take it upon himself to make sure that happened. He quietly shut down Tony's computer.
He put a firm, yet gentle hand on Tony's shoulder, his other hand gently capturing and stopping the sleepy hand that immediately went for the gun in the holster under his arm. "Easy Tony," Gibbs said softly, maintaining the gentle, but firm hold on his partner's hand until the younger man blinked blearily up at him and recognized him.
Gibbs let go of Tony's hand and patted him on the shoulder. "Alright Tony?"
Tony visibly relaxed and ran a hand over his eyes. "Time is it?"
"It's two hours after I sent you home," Gibbs said pointedly. "What the hell were ya doing Tony?"
"I'm just um…finishing the requisition forms up," Tony said awkwardly.
Gibbs hooked a hand under Tony's elbow. "Nope, we're going home. Now. No arguments."
It seemed to be a testament to how tired Tony really was that he didn't argue with Gibbs…until they reached the parking lot.
"With me," Gibbs said, indicating the passenger seat.
"Boss if it's all the same to you I'm just gonna head home and crash," Tony said.
"Get in the car DiNozzo. You're coming with me." It had occurred to Gibbs in the elevator on the way down, the way Tony was standing so close to Gibbs…he thought he might have an idea of what was going on inside his agent's head.
"Gibbs," Tony's voice took on a surprisingly whiny tone, "I really just wanna—" he broke off when he saw the expression on Gibbs' face, "—really…just…wanna…get in the car and let you take me…wherever it is you're taking me," Tony muttered despondently.
Gibbs smirked and nodded, watching with satisfaction as Tony slid into the passenger seat. Gibbs got behind the wheel.
Tony sniffed deeply. "Boss do I smell pizza?"
Gibbs nodded. "Probably cold now," he said with a shrug. "I had to spend some time looking for someone."
Tony yawned. "Who ya lookin' for Boss?" he asked.
Gibbs just looked at him. Tony dropped his gaze to his lap. "Oh," he said softly.
"Yeah OH," Gibbs said, pulling out in traffic. This time of night there were fewer people on the road and Gibbs drove slightly slower than normal. "So. You ok?"
Tony didn't look at him; in fact, he looked out the passenger window. "I'm fine Gibbs," he said simply.
Gibbs kept his eyes on the road. He could play this game too. "I know the case today must have bothered you."
"Why do you think that?" Tony still didn't look at him.
"Well if it reminded me of what happened with you and Danny…it had to have reminded you of it," Gibbs said softly.
In all fairness, the similarities between Tony and his former partner, and the case today were uncanny. Almost as though the universe was insisting that Tony relive that harrowing experience. A young sailor and his CO were being investigated for money laundering.
"I'm fine Gibbs," Tony said again, still looking out the window.
Gibbs sighed and continued driving.
Tony sighed when Gibbs pointed the car towards his house instead of Tony's apartment. He really just wanted some space and some time to get this case out of his head. He didn't want to think about what had happened with Danny all those years ago. He didn't even realize it when his hand moved unconsciously to his chest.
Gibbs parked the car in his driveway and looked over at his friend. The younger man had a hand pressed against the upper right side of his chest, a look of distant horror on his face. The older man felt his heart tug with sympathy for his agent. Tony was more affected by this case than the younger man was willing to admit.
Gibbs just needed to find a way to get the other man to talk.
"Tony," he said softly. When his passenger didn't respond, Gibbs sighed. He got out of the car and walked around to Tony's side of the car and opened the door. Tony's eyes were wide, his gaze far away—probably on the alley a decade earlier. Gibbs put a hand on Tony's shoulder. "Tony," he said again, a bit louder this time. This time Tony blinked and looked at him. Gibbs smiled grimly. "Let's go inside, son," he said softly.
Tony nodded and stood up. He looked around at his surroundings miserably before casting his gaze on Gibbs. He didn't speak, but his eyes had plenty to say. Gibbs collected the pizza from the backseat and clapped a gentle hand onto Tony's shoulder. "C'mon DiNozzo," he said softly. "Let's go inside. We'll make it right. I've got your six."
Gibbs looked sadly at Tony as he walked back into the living room. The younger man was sitting on the couch, reclined against the back, sound asleep, a half eaten slice of pizza still in his hand. Gibbs had walked to the kitchen to get two more beers and was surprised to see the younger man asleep when he came back.
Throughout dinner, Tony had been quiet and morose, caught in his thoughts and barely responding to Gibbs' gentle questions and comments. He'd yawned several times, obviously exhausted by the events of the day. Now it seemed he had given himself over to peaceful rest, knowing he was safe with Gibbs.
Because he was always safe with Gibbs. Of all the rules Gibbs had taught Tony, that one was the most important—and was the one that Tony had never doubted.
With a gentleness that only a parent possesses, Gibbs carefully plucked the pizza from Tony's limp fingers and set it back on the box lid. He stepped quietly to the guest room and came back with a pillow that he placed at one end of the couch, and a blanket that he covered Tony with after he helped the younger man lie down and take his shoes off. Tony blinked his eyes open for a brief moment and looked curiously up at Gibbs, confusion marring his features.
"Shhhh just go to sleep," Gibbs said softly. "We'll talk later. Get some rest." He smoothed his hand over Tony's hair and smiled sadly as the younger man nodded once and promptly fell asleep again.
Tony raced after their suspect, leaving his partner half a block behind, and plowed full speed ahead after the man. With a flying tackle that would have made his college coach proud, DiNozzo tackled the perp to the ground and slammed his face into the dirt.
The man recoiled with a calculated swing that looked much more careless than it actually was, and Tony dodged it—but just barely. "I said freeze, dirtbag," Tony sneered at the guy—who was older than Tony had first thought.
It wasn't long before they had taken the guy back to the station, and there they learned—much to Tony's doubt and surprise—that the guy was working undercover—he was a Fed. This Leroy Jethro Gibbs was operating in their turf—and he had his own agenda.
"I let you arrest me," Gibbs said smugly.
"Are you kidding? I chased you half a block and I had you like a gazelle on the Serengeti," Tony laughed in disbelief. A closer glance at the federal agent though, showed that he was not joking at all. "You wanted to get arrested," Tony accused softly, eyes rounding at the sheer brilliance of the man's cover. "It makes you more believable."
"Well yeah DiNozzo," Gibbs had told him.
In his sleep, Tony smiled at the memory. God they'd been so young then. It wasn't until later that Tony realized how clever and quick thinking Gibbs was—and how young and wet behind the ears he'd been. Tony just might have been exaggerating when he said he caught the older man in half a block. Tony was not one to freely give his respect without consideration to the recipient. It hadn't taken Leroy Jethro Gibbs long to prove that he deserved Tony's respect. He also didn't take long to earn his trust.
Gibbs headed down to the basement after changing out of his work clothes, but he decided to leave the door open so he could hear if Tony woke up. He figured it'd be very likely that some heavy memories would rise to the surface tonight—unbidden by Tony.
He picked up the sanding block and chose a beam close to the stairs, working with the thought in mind to stay as close as he could while still giving his boy the space he needed. Gibbs drew pause for only a moment as he thought about the last ten years with Tony. The boy had wormed his way under his skin—hadn't taken long—he'd belonged to Gibbs long before he offered him the job. In fact…if Gibbs were to select a moment when he'd truly begun to bond with Tony, it was in the squadroom in the Baltimore PD…Tony had admitted some grudging respect for Gibbs' tactics then, and then later when he'd stood up to his boss in the face of doubts from nearly every angle because he knew he was right.
Yes Gibbs was proud of Tony before he even knew him well.
As he continued to sand, Gibbs' thoughts began to wash over how it was Tony came to NCIS. Gibbs frowned a bit when he thought of how betrayed and low Tony had felt when he left Baltimore PD…he sanded a bit harder when he thought about what had happened leading up to that resignation.
Upstairs, Tony's peaceful sleep was quickly disintegrating into an exhausting spiral of emotional upheaval…images and memories Tony had spent the last decade trying to forget were now forcing their way to the surface. He tossed his head back and forth on the pillow, and his forehead wrinkled in anguish. His hand raised to his right collarbone and a soft groan escaped his lips as the nightmarish memory forced him to relive that night again…
Tony bounced off the hood of the sedan as he chased after their suspect. Thankfully though, the perp had run into an alley that was fenced off—he had no way out. Tony stopped short when he saw the guy pull a gun and turn it on him. Tony pulled his own gun, unafraid of this man and his gun. He'd shot suspects before—if his life was threatened he was not afraid to shoot again.
He just wished he knew where Danny was.
Danny stepped out of the shadows of the alley, his own gun pointed on the suspect. "Freeze. You are under arrest," Danny said evenly.
The man turned to Danny, a look of scornful disdain on his face, his gun still pointed at Tony. "So that's how it's going to be then?"
Danny didn't say a word, but Tony easily picked up on the silent conversation between his partner and their suspect. Tony's eyes widened in disbelief. No no no no no no no…
The scene in Tony's mind's eye flashed and twisted into Danny's apartment later that night and he groaned with dread…
Tony raised his hand and knocked on the door to the townhouse. How had it come to this? How had this happened? One thing was certain—Tony needed answers. And he would have them tonight. He had to know…he needed to figure out what his next move was.
Danny opened the door and turned around, walking to the microwave while Tony came inside. He made weak attempts at small talk, but Tony quickly shut him down.
They both knew why he was there, and the conversation quickly grew icy. They'd been partners since Tony arrived in Baltimore. Danny was his best friend, his partner, his brother in arms…Tony was devastated. Gibbs was right. Dammit, the bastard was right about all of it.
"You're a dirty cop Danny. Be careful, be very careful, I'm not feeling the love right now." Please don't make me turn you in, Tony silently begged.
"Did he look like a killer to you?" Danny's voice had an odd tone to it. Almost threatening…almost. "He didn't look like a killer to me." He sounded so surly. Almost like he was daring Tony to contradict him.
"You saw what you wanted to see," Tony said grimly. It was going to end tonight. He knew it. There was no way he could trust Danny and work with him after this.
There was an awkward pause and Danny looked around his living room, uncomfortable with the situation. "So that's it then. You gonna turn me in?"
"Don't you think I should? What the hell were you thinking?"
Danny didn't appear to have a good answer for him. "It wasn't like that," he said lamely. "C'mon man—" he grabbed Tony's arm and Tony stared at his arm as though it was being burned. Danny let go. "Can't we talk about this?"
Tony remained stonily silent, anger and hurt and betrayal marring his features. He couldn't believe this. Not Danny. Please God. Please not Danny.
"So…I'm gonna take a walk," Danny said. "I guess if you're still here when I get back I'll have my answer." He brushed past Tony without another word and Tony refused to turn around and watch him leave.
Tony pulled his phone out of his pocket. He debated calling Gibbs…he'd spoken to him earlier, and Gibbs had told him to listen to his gut. What the hell kind of advice was that? The only thing Tony's gut ever told him was what he wanted on his pizza. He sighed. That wasn't true. Tony's gut told him lots of things—and right now it was telling him that he couldn't trust Danny anymore, and that he needed to get away from him as quickly as possible.
He'd leave Baltimore. He'd find somewhere else to go…maybe someone would give him a decent reference. Or worst case scenario he'd open a private investigator firm wherever he landed.
Decision made, Tony turned and walked out of the apartment, closing the door behind him. He'd parked his car a couple of doors down. He walked to the end of the row of townhouses and just as he passed the opening of the alley between the two buildings, someone grabbed his arm suddenly and jerked him into the alley.
"Really?" Danny hissed. "You're really gonna leave? Just like that? Gonna go turn me in? ME? I'm your partner DiNozzo!" Danny slammed Tony against the wall and stood close enough that Tony could smell the shot of whiskey still on his breath.
"You're leaving me no choice," Tony said through gritted teeth. His hands were balled into fists, and he was angrier than he could remember feeling in a long time.
Gibbs had moved to a different beam on the boat, this one a little further down, a little deeper in the basement. He picked up the planer and began to shape and carefully sculpt the wooden rib beneath his fingers. His mind didn't focus so much on his work; he relied on muscle memory to do the work for him. As he listened to the peaceful, reassuring sound of the planer on the wood, he recalled a night, ten years ago, when the sounds in his ear were anything but peaceful…
"Screw you Gibbs," Tony snapped. "You think you can just march in here and tell me that my partner's a dirty cop and that I'll just believe you because you're the big bad fed who marched into my jurisdiction one day and told me so? Well screw you! I'm happy here and my partner is not a dirty cop!"
But Gibbs knew he was right. There was more to Danny than was meeting DiNozzo's eye. And what Tony wasn't seeing was going to cause him problems—it was either going to get him into trouble or it was going to get him killed.
The young detective had impressed Gibbs tremendously, and he couldn't help but feel protective of the kid, and he hoped like hell that when this was all said and done that Tony would be open minded to the offer that Gibbs was going to make him.
Gibbs was pulled out of his thoughts when he heard the strangled, muffled groan wafting down the stairs. He had a bad feeling that he knew what was coming next, so Gibbs immediately abandoned the boat and headed up the stairs. With any luck he'd get there before the nightmare struck.
As he headed back up the stairs he thought about the case today. When the time came to make the arrest, the lower ranked sailor had come clean, admitting both his involvement and the involvement of the other sailor before they even made it back to NCIS. The CO had pulled a hidden knife and stabbed his partner viciously. The kid was dead before he hit the ground.
Gibbs rushed to the living room and saw that Tony had rolled over so he was facing the back of the couch. He'd drawn his legs up towards his chest, and one hand still clutched wildly at his collarbone. His breaths were coming in staccato puffs of air, clipped by whimpers and muffled groans.
Tony shoved Danny hard, moving the other man out of his way. He was going to go straight to the precinct and report Danny. He had no choice! Danny had been drinking, there were times Tony wondered if he'd been using drugs, and now…oh and now to top it all off, he'd been working with a money launderer! Oh it was just too much and Tony knew he needed out and he needed out now.
"Get out of my way," Tony said softly. He turned and started back towards his car.
Danny grabbed his arm again and spun him around. Tony rounded with a punch, but he wasn't fast enough to ward off the final blow that Danny struck…
Gibbs knelt beside Tony, his knees popping in protest. He put a careful hand on Tony's shoulder, and another one lightly on Tony's hip. "It's alright DiNozzo," he said softly. "Wake up Tony, it's Gibbs. You're at my house, you're safe, you're not there anymore…come on Tony snap out of it." He shook the younger man lightly, knowing what the nightmare was, and remembering it all too well.
Gibbs slapped his hand hard on his steering wheel. DiNozzo hadn't believed what he'd told him about his partner. He knew after the events of the day that Tony would likely head to Danny's after their shift was over to see what his partner had to say about Gibbs' accusations. At least that's what Gibbs would have done.
It hadn't taken him too long to get Danny's address. Gibbs told himself he wasn't hovering, he wasn't stalking anybody, he was just…staying close by…in case DiNozzo needed him. If the truth came out tonight, and Gibbs was afraid it truly might, then he figured DiNozzo would need someone to help him find his way and help keep him on a level playing field.
He was about a mile away from Danny's apartment—not heading towards it, merely driving around…in the neighborhood, if you will—when his cell phone rang. Groaning at it, he reached into his pocket. He didn't need to have to drop everything right this minute to pick up a new case. Right now he needed to focus on DiNozzo. He couldn't shake the feeling in his gut that he needed to be close by.
Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket, he saw that it was Detective DiNozzo calling. He flipped the phone open. "Yeah, Gibbs."
What he heard had him flooring the gas, and heading straight towards Danny's apartment.
Gibbs shook Tony's shoulder a little harder. He remembered the phone call he'd received from the young detective that night. It still gave him chills up his spine. He wanted Tony to wake up, he didn't want him to remember this again. Not like this, not in such a way that Gibbs couldn't protect him. He hadn't protected him then, and he couldn't protect him from it now.
Tony whimpered on the couch, and burrowed into the cushions deeper, trying to get away from the images in his head. He couldn't hear Gibbs calling him, couldn't feel the gentle hands trying to urge him awake. He was in the alley behind Danny's house, and he was all alone.
Tony didn't know where Danny had stuffed the large knife, or when he'd done it. All he knew was that he was heading for his car, and Danny grabbed his arm. Before Tony could retaliate in any way there had been a flash of glinting silver, and then the worst pain Tony had ever felt in his life.
Danny's partner started to dig the knife straight into his heart, but at the last second, Tony managed to dive enough out of the way that the stab caught him in the upper right part of his chest. Because he was moving, the knife then sliced, ripping and tearing until it stopped when it rammed into his collar bone. Tony remembered crying out in pain when the knife stopped suddenly, lodged into the bone.
Tony started to slide down the brick wall, his legs felt like jelly and he was unable to hold himself up anymore. He stared up at Danny, a lost and confused expression on his face. "W—" he stopped, coughing up blood and realizing dimly that Danny must have gotten his lung, "Whyyy," he croaked.
"Because everything was perfect," Danny snapped. "You weren't ever supposed to know. It didn't involve you."
Tony gasped, looking a bit like a fish out of water, and he let out a long, low groan when Danny pulled the knife slowly out of his chest. Tony could feel the blade sawing against his collarbone and he thought this might be the worst pain he'd ever experienced. Once the knife was out, Danny looked down at him with a brokenhearted expression on his face.
"Ah Tony I'm sorry," he said softly. "I just couldn't let you…Chief said no one can find out. Sorry man."
He turned and left Tony alone without a glance back.
Tony groaned in pain as he moved his arm to get his cell phone. He needed help, he needed help…he couldn't call Baltimore PD…he couldn't call 911 for help because they all knew him. That only left…but he was on his way back to DC. Tony sighed, resigned that he would die tonight. He flipped his phone open…at the very least, he wanted Gibbs to know the truth. Wanted him to know that the older man had been right, and Tony had been wrong.
Dialing the number, Tony thought maybe he'd been wrong about a lot of things. He slid down so he was lying on the ground, one hand on the open wound in his chest, the phone lying on the ground next to his face. He was so tired…he just didn't think he could hold it for that long.
"Yeah, Gibbs," came the short, clipped answer.
"DiNozzo? Tony where are you? What happened?"
"St—stab…stabbed," Tony whispered. He was so sleepy. He needed to stay awake. He wasn't going down without a fight.
"Where are you?"
"A…Alley…D—" he coughed again, more blood coming up, "Danny's…'part…ment…"
"I'm coming Tony. You hang on. I'll get you the help you need and I'll keep you safe alright?"
Tony didn't answer. He was so sleepy. He felt so heavy. He didn't think he could move, didn't think he could think anymore. He heard footsteps running towards him and whimpered in fear. He couldn't handle any more pain. He hoped like hell that whoever was coming towards him was going to help him.
"Tony?" A gentle hand rested on his hip and his shoulder. Tony flinched slightly and coughed again. "Oh Christ," the voice breathed. There was some fumbling and then an urgent voice speaking. "I have an officer down! Repeat, officer down!" The voice rattled off their location and then a phone snapped shut. "Gonna roll you over Tony," the voice spoke softly and…gently?
There was more pain as he was rolled to his back and even more pain when something suddenly pressed on his chest. Didn't they realize he'd been stabbed? Didn't they know how bad it hurt? Tony blinked his eyes open and stared at the figure looming over him. Gibbs. Thank God.
"Gih…" It hurt to speak, so he stopped mid-word. He stared hard at the man over him. Gibbs was there! He'd come for him! A brief flicker of hope filled him and he thought maybe he wouldn't die tonight.
"Right here Tony…I'm right here…Who did this to you?"
Tony gasped softly then coughed, harder this time, and more blood spilled from his lips. "D-Dan…ny," he gasped softly.
His eyes slid shut and Gibbs shook him gently. "Ok…ok alright stay with me, just take it easy…help's coming and I'm not leaving you. You're in Protection now. I'll keep you safe."
Safe. The assurance of the older man answered every prayer Tony didn't have the strength to utter. Safe. It was all Tony had ever wanted.
Gibbs ran a hand over his forehead when Tony stilled slightly. It occurred to him that they were in almost the exact position they'd been in that night in the alley, except Tony was on the ground instead of a soft, welcoming couch, and Gibbs was on his knees on the cold concrete pavement instead of his cherry-wood floors, and blood was soaking into the knees of his pants.
The soft beeping sound was comforting to Gibbs as he sat in the hospital room. In the bed next to his chair, Detective DiNozzo lay quietly, shoulder heavily bound and sleeping soundly thanks to the heavy doses of painkillers he was being dosed with.
The doctors had been required to perform surgery to fix Tony's collapsed lung and repair some of the nerves and muscles that were damaged by Danny's knife. There had been some initial question regarding Gibbs' presence. Turned out Danny was listed as Tony's next of kin, and the doctors were ready to call him until Gibbs told them that Danny was the one who'd done this. Gibbs told the doctors that he was Tony's armed guard, and that Tony was in federal protection because he was due to testify in a big federal case. That meant that the doctors needed to keep him alive—by whatever means necessary—until Tony was able to do it on his own. And then Gibbs would make him sign the damn power of attorney form that would put someone other than his attempted murderer in charge of his medical decisions.
Gibbs stood up and stretched. He walked over to the bedside and put a very gentle hand on the younger man's forehead, massaging just slightly, trying to ease the lines of tension he could see there, despite the painkillers. He was breathing on a ventilator, there to keep his body from having to work so hard to breathe. The doctor was fairly certain that tomorrow he'd be reduced down to a nasal canula.
"Rest easy kid," Gibbs said softly. "I need you alive. I need some backup, and you're exactly what I'm looking for. Just take it easy and get better. Let me do the worrying."
To his surprise, over the next few minutes the heart monitor slowed to a slightly more regular beat, the blood pressure numbers leveled off to a very even level (if still slightly low) and Tony's blood-oxygen levels improved. The lines of stress eased from his face and eventually it sounded like Tony let out a long breath—almost a sigh—around the vent and seemed to relax into sleep.
Gibbs watched these changes happen with a small amount of amazement. Tony had heard him, had heard his directions, and had responded. He squeezed the younger man's hand gently and smirked.
Tony could feel someone touching his shoulder and his hip. They were shaking him slightly. He opened his eyes slowly and frowned. Where the hell was he? He slowly pushed himself up and looked around. Gibbs' house. He was at Gibbs' house. He let out a pitiful groan as the last of the memory washed over him.
There was something heavy on his hand. He could feel it. It wasn't pushing on his hand or hurting him, but was resting on top of it and was heavy. Tony groaned softly. That took nearly all the energy he had. He decided to drift for a while, letting the peaceful darkness sweep him away again.
The next time he became aware, there was still something heavy on his hand, but it also felt like there was something—a hand maybe?—on his forehead. He could hear a voice, someone was speaking—to him maybe?—in hushed, gentle tones. He could almosssst make out what the speaker was saying, but not quite. There was something comforting about the voice though, something familiar.
Did he know the person?
Tony tried to open his eyes, but they were so heavy. They felt like weights were attached to them. God he was tired. Deciding to press on, he forced his eyes open.
The lights in the room were dim, and a rush of smells and lights and sounds told him he was in the hospital. And the pain. Mustn't forget the godawful aching throbbing pain in his shoulder. He puffed out a short breath and fought the urge to cry out.
It was a hand that was on his, and now it was rubbing lightly up and down his uninjured arm. "Easy," the voice said. "Just relax son, I know it hurts. Just rest. Nurse is bringing ya something for the pain, just relax."
Tony blinked and forced his gaze a little higher. Gibbs. It was Gibbs with him. But no, if Gibbs was with him, then that meant that the horrible nightmare he'd had about Danny stabbing him in the alley…wasn't a nightmare at all…it was a memory…it really happened. His own partner had stabbed him, and Tony had called Gibbs for help.
Christ the man must think he's completely incompetent.
Not wanting to face this man that he'd come to respect so much, Tony closed his eyes and rolled his head away from the reassuring smile and gentle concern that was being bestowed upon him. Maybe when he woke up things would be different.
"Tony? Son you with me? You alright?"
Tony looked up into Gibbs' face and saw the same gentle concern there that he'd seen in the hospital all those years ago—and many times since. He forced himself to sit up straighter, and realized he was clutching at his shoulder and quickly dropped his hand. A quick glance around told him it was very dark outside, must be quite late.
"Did…Did I wake you up," Tony asked sullenly.
"Nope, I was working on the boat," Gibbs said softly. "You ok?"
"I'm fine," Tony answered quickly. Too quickly.
"Try again," Gibbs said with a gentle tap to the back of Tony's head for effect.
Tony flinched slightly and his shoulders drooped. "Just…was thinking," he said softly. They hadn't ever talked about this. Hadn't ever gone there.
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really," Tony said. "But I need to."
Gibbs moved to sit on the couch beside the young man. Over the years the bond between them had grown, and they were as close to family as either of them had now. Gibbs looked at his boy searchingly. "You can tell me," he said softly.
Tony started talking then, told him about how he'd doubted Gibbs' statement that Danny was corrupt, that he didn't want to believe him, but something nagged at his gut and made him feel like he needed to find out for himself. He told Gibbs about the fear he felt when Danny stabbed him, how he was sure he'd die that night, how afraid he was of being alone when that happened. He talked and talked and shared all of it with Gibbs. Gibbs interjected his own memories here and there, clarifying details for the younger man, and answering questions.
Finally Tony looked at him, more relaxed than he had been, but still far from sleepy. "I have one more question," he said softly.
"Shoot," Gibbs said.
Tony was quiet for a long moment, and Gibbs couldn't help but feel that Tony was working up the nerve to ask. "Um…" he finally spoke, "That night…Gibbs why'd you come? And how'd you get there so fast?"
Gibbs smiled. "I hoped you would have figured out the answer about why I came in the ten years since all this happened," he said evasively. He looked at Tony, who looked more confused than anything. "Ah Tony," he said softly. "I came because you needed me. You were mine long before you joined NCIS. I was on your six."
Tony blinked, looking like the thought had honestly never occurred to him. "But you were on your way back to DC that night," he said. "We were finished with the case—it was over!"
Gibbs looked at him for a long moment, and then let out a long breath. "I hadn't left yet," he said softly. "I figured you were going to go confront Danny. I had Abby get me his address…something in my gut told me to hang around. When you called me I was less than a mile away."
Tony's eyes rounded. "You really did have my six. And you really believed that Danny was corrupt—even when I told you to shove it because you were wrong."
"Sometimes people can't see the forest for the trees," Gibbs said gently. "You were too close to it. And you wanted to believe you were right."
"So you let me do things my way," Tony said softly and Gibbs nodded. "I almost got myself killed because I didn't listen to you."
"Yes you did," Gibbs said matter-of-factly. "But you needed to do it."
Tony knew that Gibbs had gotten NCIS to prosecute Danny right along with their sailor and both of them were still serving time for their crimes. Danny had a pretty long time to go until he was freed because of the assault and attempted murder of Tony he'd committed.
"Why'd you care so much?" Tony wondered. "I was just some dumbass kid…some green, wet behind the ears detective who obviously didn't know his ass from his elbow." He looked at Gibbs curiously. "Why'd you care about me so much?" He was quiet for a moment. "Rule number five," he finally said softly.
Gibbs smirked. "More than that," he said. "You reminded me of someone."
"I did?" Tony said reverently. His eyes were impossibly wide now, and he could only hope that it was a good memory. "Boss…Gibbs who did I remind you of?"
Gibbs stood up and headed for the basement. He stopped in the doorway and glanced back. He saw Tony looking after him. "Me," he said softly. "You reminded me of me."
Tony's chest filled with pride. That was probably the greatest compliment Gibbs had ever given him, even if he didn't intend it that way. He smiled and nodded, and Gibbs nodded and headed downstairs. Tony looked around the familiar house that hadn't changed any in the ten years he'd been visiting it and he smiled. He laid down on the couch again, and as sleep swept back over him, he smiled at the memories he had.
Tony's arm was in a sling because of the crack in his collarbone and the damage to his muscles. It'd be at least a month, maybe six weeks before he was able to lose the sling. Throughout his week and a half long stay in the hospital, Gibbs hadn't really left his side, and there had been two NCIS agents posted outside his door 24 hours a day. Tony didn't think he deserved such treatment, but was grateful for it nonetheless.
When Gibbs informed him that he'd be coming back to his house once he was released from the hospital, he'd been too intrigued to put up much of a fight, and that was how he'd gotten to this moment, riding in the car, praying for his life, heading for Gibbs' house. Gibbs was driving, and Tony's stomach was feeling decidedly sloshy from the jerks and turns as the man wove in and out of traffic.
Finally, finally, Gibbs pulled onto a quiet side street. It was a nice neighborhood, not too fancy, not very wealthy—but comfortable—the epitome of suburbia. A large two story house sat towards the far end of the street and Gibbs bounced the car into the driveway, pulling an involuntary grunt from the young man seated beside him. An open garage showed Tony a white pickup truck, and he wondered briefly why Gibbs didn't park in the other side.
Once inside the house, Tony was struck by how homey the place felt. It was the opposite of his sterile apartment. Years of "stuff" was placed in this home—weaving a wonderful tapestry of history for the newly arrived visitor to take in. Gibbs helped him up to the guest bedroom and steadfastly ignored all of the questions that the younger man fired off at him—most specifically the question about why the guest room was actually the master bedroom, and why Gibbs wouldn't want to sleep in the master bedroom himself.
Little did he know that it would be years—five of them—before he had an answer to that question.
Gibbs explained that he'd like for Tony to come and work at NCIS with him. He'd like him to be his second in command and he'd like for him to start as soon as he was better. Tony had managed to slowly type out a resignation letter to the Baltimore Police Department soon afterwards. He'd use up vacation time to cover his time off for his injury, and the rest of his pent up time (he had over a month's time acquired) could be sent to him in the form of a paycheck.
He ended up testifying in court against Danny. Danny tried to argue that Tony was in on it too, but none of the evidence backed that claim. It wasn't long before Danny went to jail. Gibbs took Tony out to look for apartments, helping him to carefully select a place that would be close enough to work, but also in a location that was leisurely enough to insure there would be take out restaurants available, movie theaters, and nightclubs to unwind in.
Gibbs, Ducky, and Abby helped him move into his new place, and he found he was excited to start the new position. He didn't recall being especially excited before, but this time was different. This time he was actually working with people who cared about him—they'd already proven that—even before he moved in.
He occasionally thought back over his stint in the hospital, thought about how reassuring it'd been to wake up and have Gibbs there, watching his six. It felt good to know he wasn't a lone wolf, that he wasn't on his own anymore. He had people in his life who cared about him, who wouldn't ever betray him, and who he could trust.
Down in the basement, Gibbs picked up his planer and started working again. He figured after all the talking that Tony had done, that the younger man would likely go back to sleep. If he didn't, Gibbs knew he'd find his way to the basement, and they'd share some bourbon, talk some more, and Tony would likely help him with the boat.
As he worked his mind drifted again, and he smiled, thinking over Tony's arrival at NCIS.
Gibbs watched Tony look around the dark bullpen. It was later one evening, not too long after he'd come to stay with Gibbs, and he'd be starting at FLET-C soon. His shoulder and collarbone were nearly healed. Gibbs could tell something was bothering the younger man, but he didn't know what it was. What he did know, was that Tony would mention it when he felt ready.
The younger man looked wistfully around the room, and sighed, fear tinting his features slightly. "Maybe bein' a cop isn't for me?" he said quietly, rhetorically.
Gibbs wasn't even thinking when he reached out and whacked the kid right over the back of his head. He blinked in surprise at himself, but quickly schooled his features as Tony whirled around on him.
"Did you just physically assault me?" Tony asked incredulously.
"I don't have a lot of rules," Gibbs said softly, "but rule number five is 'don't waste good' and you're good."
Tony looked at him for a long moment. "Thanks," he finally said softly, his good hand rising to ruefully rub the back of his head. "Don't make a habit of that."
A couple of days later, Gibbs led Tony down to the HR office so he could complete his paperwork. "You will list me as your next of kin," Gibbs told him plainly. "We aren't going to have that problem again."
Tony nodded his head and looked shyly up at Gibbs. "So you really think I'm worth it?"
Gibbs smirked. "Boy I got vision and the rest of the world is wearin' bifocals." Yes. You're worth it.
Tony smiled. "Butch Cassidy, nice." Thanks Boss.
"Hurry up DiNozzo, time's a wastin'!" He turned and left the younger man standing at the door of HR, knowing that soon Tony would be following him. He'd have Tony's six and Tony would have his. Of that, there were no doubts.
Gibbs walked back up the stairs, needing to say one more thing to Tony, and knowing that it couldn't wait. He saw the younger man asleep on the couch and stepped close to it. "No regrets Tony," Gibbs murmured softly in the younger man's ear. "You've always been worth it. Always."
He stood up and walked back to the basement. In the living room, still sleeping soundly, Tony smiled.