Chapter 6 - Heart to heart
Tony blinked, momentarily lost in a stupor. There he had bared his everything to Gibbs; his darkest mother of all secrets, and the man's only answer to it was philosophy?
He didn't think so... if he knew Gibbs, the marine would find some way to turn things to make perfect sense if this was his answer. He was pretty sure he wouldn't like to hear any of that sense, though. No matter how Gibbs twisted it, this was not something he could turn into anything good or justifiable. Still, he couldn't help himself. "Huh?"
"Don't ask, don't tell is pretty much the worst thing you can do. It doesn't concern just gay people in the military. In which part of life is it the right thing to do to not ask? Not tell?" Gibbs asked, his eyes intent on Tony.
He had the feeling he was supposed to be able to find some connection between this rule and what he'd just told Gibbs, but he just couldn't see it. Unless ... "You think I didn't try to tell?" he blurted out, hurt and incredulous. "I did. Three times I tried to tell how things were at home. It was no use. We had a private physician, who'd confirm that I was just trying to get attention and imagining things. Or, considering my mom's mental health problems, I had just inherited them from her. People were bought, blackmailed or discredited. Ask and tell is a nice concept, but utterly utopian."
"Maybe. Can't hurt to try though. All I know is that many crimes could be prevented if witnesses who suspected something'd act instead of ignoring things, and if victims would speak up - and be listened to." Gibbs moved to crouch in front of Tony. "If Simmons had just asked his son if he had a relationship with Carr, the boy wouldn't have lost his only friend and confidant, not to mention now his only remaining parent's in jail. If Georgia had left her husband right after the first time he raised his hand against her, she'd never have feared for her son and Len wouldn't have had to kill to protect her. If I'd taken the time to talk with all of you, the team wouldn't be in the bad place it is right now." His eyes gentled and slowly, Gibbs stretched out his hand to place it on the back of Tony's neck. He tensed but allowed the contact. "If just one person not easily intimidated had listened to you, or asked the right questions, you could have been spared a lot of pain. And if I had ever bothered to ask you about your childhood, I could have avoided some things I put you through. Not to mention that I probably would have killed that good-for-nothing sperm donor that claims to be your father."
While the sentiment didn't surprise Tony much, the suddenness of it was - sudden. It was one of the reasons he had always avoided revealing too much of his childhood, even before his father had showed up unexpectedly last year. It would have been easy for Gibbs to find and execute Daddy dearest. He had already one parent's death on his conscience, he didn't need to be responsible for the other! No matter how much some days, he was all for it. Most of the time though, he was glad that there was still the chance of at least some reconciliation with his father. He didn't need it as badly as he once did and the gruff, deadly man in front of him was the main reason for that. Still, no matter how much he wished things to be different, he could neither change his past nor his DNA. And even Gibbs, for all the miracles he could make happen, was powerless in that regard. He had already soothed a lot of his scars as it was. So he shook his head. "No."
"Why not?" Gibbs asked.
"Because it doesn't matter." Seeing the flash of anger, he hurriedly continued. "Not any more. And I don't want to be responsible for his death too."
"No way are you responsible for your mother's death," Gibbs lost no time in insisting.
Tony sighed. He knew that. Theoretically. In his heart, no matter what everyone told him, he would always feel some guilt over it. And no one could tell him that it wasn't sick to wish death on his own mother. It wasn't important what she did or didn't do. A good son, even an eight year old boy, did not contemplate his mother's demise.
"Hey! You hearing me?"
Snapping his eyes back to his boss, seeing the steely, furious, glare, he shrugged. "Can't change how I feel, Boss."
Gibbs didn't look as if he appreciated his answer. Didn't think so. "Well then it has to be enough that I know there's nothing you have to feel guilty for. Or sorry for. What your parents did to you was not your fault. Never. Tony, the cop in you knows that. Heard you telling the exact same thing to enough kids – and adults. And if it helps, if your mother wasn't dead already, I sure as hell would want to kill her even more badly than your father."
At that Tony had to smile. It was a bitter, humourless, sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.
Gibbs nodded back to his workbench. "Boat's still yours. That is, if you want it."
Did he want it? "Hell yeah." Not that sailing was really his thing. Nor was it not his thing. Just hadn't been on his radar much so far. That could change easily. If it meant Gibbs was willing to dedicate all this work and time and money into something for him, pouring his heart into every stroke of the sander he made, then that would be the most precious thing anyone ever did for him. Hell yeah he wanted it, regardless of him deserving it or not.
"Good." Gibbs got up, stretched. "Won't do it alone though. I expect you to be here regularly to help. And you pick out everything."
"Whatever you pick is fine," he replied quickly. Gibbs glared at him. "Or not. I'll pick out the - stuff. That'll be fun! We can go through the stores, look at things, compare them, argue over them ..." Another glare. "Or I'll go get the things by myself, bring them home ..." He stopped, realizing what he had said. Feeling his cheeks redden, he looked down at his feet.
God, why couldn't he just stop his stupid mouth? First he blurted out the one secret he had guarded closely, having no intention to ever tell anyone what his true feelings regarding his mom were and now there he went and spilled one of his deepest longings out into the open. It was a guilty pleasure he had indulged in for a few years now, ever since Gibbs had started taking him home whenever he needed someone watching him for a while. Especially after his prolonged stay in this house after his bout with the plague he had started to think of Gibbs' house as home. Not the home you went home to every night but the childhood home happy people with happy childhoods had. The home you knew was always there, ready to take you back in, where you were always welcomed, wanted. Where there was always a bed or even a room ready for you, without there ever be the need of asking. The one that was full of precious memories and bore the marks of the people that were privileged to call it home.
It was the only such home he knew, despite it not being real, only borrowed and that without invitation. He had been careful to never mention these thoughts to Gibbs, not wanting the illusion to shatter. After all, why should Gibbs want to share the home he had once build for his wife and little girl and open it to someone who was just work related to him? But with all the revelations so far and the surprise of the boat, coupled with the damn alcohol and painkillers it had just come out. Damn it!
His head was brought up by a firm slap to the back of it. "Hell, DiNozzo, you listened to one word I said? Door's always open. House will be yours one day anyway. Better get used to calling it home."
He'd never been one to gape but hell if his disbelieving look and open mouth wasn't just that. His house?
"What'd you think? That I'd give the house to McGee or some other agent? House goes to family," Gibbs said nonchalantly, turning back towards the workbench. "Come here, I'll show you the plans and what we've got to do first."
Still not able to find any words, Tony rose slowly to join his boss at the workbench, his body automatically following the order while his mind was busy freaking out.
Gibbs really thought of him as family? It seemed impossible. No one had ever wanted him. Hell, he had been disowned with twelve! But his boss never said anything he didn't mean. Never.
The plans laid out on it told him little or nothing. Or maybe, that was just his head still trying to stop reeling. This morning he had been in a world of pain and self-disgust, loathing himself and pretty much everything around him, fed-up with victims, perps and his team likewise. Now he stood in the basement of a house that he no longer had to think of as home secretively, was going to be his even, looking at plans that were going to be his boat one day, his stomach full of home cooked steak and looking forward to the next day of work. And with his conscience a tad lighter than it had been a few hours ago.
All thanks to the man beside him. His boss, his partner, his friend and by heart his father. Who wanted him. Trusted him. Thought he was worth fighting for. Who made him want to never give up. Compelled him to stay around, just to be close to the man.
And maybe even could help him to finally leave the past behind him and try to be happy, looking forward to the future.
He didn't delude himself that it was going to be easy. It never was that easy. There were still issues. With Vance, with the team, with his father, with his past, even with Gibbs himself, if he wanted to be honest. But for the first time in a long time, hell, maybe for the first time ever, he was confident that eventually, everything could actually work out in the end. That this was a start into a better and more happier time for him.
Taking a deep breath, he swallowed. And casually shifted his weight so his body touched Gibbs' lightly here and there. Gibbs didn't move, didn't even seem to notice the contact. But if the pills and booze didn't get the better of him, there was just the slightest smile ghosting over the boss' face and he too shifted oh so casually, closing even more gaps between their bodies.
Not able to stop the smile any longer, he blinked, focusing on the plans laid out in front of him.
Yeah. It was a start. A damn good start.
Author's Note: Sorry for the slight delay! When reading through it in order to post the last chapter I saw some things I wanted to add. Plus RL getting into the way and already it's two days later. But here it is now, the final chapter and I really, really hope you liked the conclusion as much as you seemed to have loved the chapters so far. I know there are some things still open. But for this story, all that needed to be said, was said. Before you tar and feather me for not showing how Gibbs talks with McGee and Ziva or how Gibbs and Tony deal with everything that has been said - there most likely will be a sequel. Now, I won't make any promises here. But know that after having some half cooked ideas for a continuation here and there, I recently watched the rest of season 8 (sigh what wonderful Tony-episodes we got there ...) and had kind of a giant bunny hoping out at me that could work that all in and connect what we've see in canon to this story here. And it's nagging at me constantly so the chances are big that I'll succumb to it and write it. Still, first I have to finish Stepping In and there are other bunnies that are also pretty insistent. So no promises.
Now, before I come to the final end, once again thank you all so very much for the many, many wonderful and breathtaking reviews! I truly didn't expect quite such a positive and big resonance to this little fic. Not that I'm complaining. Never! But really, thank you!
The biggest thanks goes to my beta though. Not only did she straighten out my sometimes a bit scrambled English, but she had many helpful suggestions and still takes the time to also review every chapter, which isn't necessarily a given. So thank you, scousemuz1k!
Okay, that's it. Again, thank you all - and if you liked it, watch out for updates on my other stories or that sequel that may come up one of these days.