Tony used the first beer to wash down most of the steak and I'm pretty sure that by the time he started on his fifth beer he was on his way to washing Senior's recent visit from his mind.
"I don't think the guest is supposed to finish most of the " Tony glanced sheepishly at the four empties in front of him as he put down the fifth.
"Don't apologize." I used the beer I was nursing to point towards the kitchen. "There are cold ones in the fridge."
The coffee table was littered with beer bottles, the ratio in Tony's favor. My obviously not so hidden stash of bourbon under the kitchen sink had shoved DiNizzo over the edge into the realm of drunkenness.
Tony was a silent drunk and for the majority of the evening, I've been a silent enabler. Until now.
"Enough, Tony." I plucked the half empty bottle of bourbon from his right hand and placed it on the coffee table out of his reach. The glass was not so easily surrendered and I practically had to pry it from his fingers.
"Hey." Separated by a drunken hiccup the one syllable word became two.
I sat at the edge of the coffee table, placing my body between Tony and his view of the bourbon. The glass. And the empty beer bottles. "Think you've had enough."
"Got the hint." Angrily, he pushed himself to an upright position, swaying like a cartoon drunk. "Overstayed my welcome."
I stood and we were nose to nose, close enough that a sheet of paper would've had problems slipping between us. "Don't be an ass," I hissed, angry at his anger. "You're drunk."
I ignored the start of a two year old temper tantrum. "Any more drunk and the odds of you making it to the head to puke will be slim and none. I don't like anyone enough to clean up their puke."
"I'll go home."
And I repeated, "Don't be an ass."
Tony snorted. "Whatchya gonna do? Handcuff me to the chair?"
"Don't tempt me." Angry at the wrong DiNozzo, I head slapped him, but my action didn't have the desired effect of knocking some sense into that stubborn, drunken head of his. Nope, not at all.
I wrapped the vomit-covered clothes, mine and Tony's in the towels from the shower, holding them at arm's length, not out of vanity and the fear that I'd be covered again, but because the smell was enough to make even me swallow convulsively.
Unceremoniously, I dumped them in the washer, poured in more than the required detergent and not caring whatever the hell the cleaning instructions on Tony's clothes were, I set the dial for a hot water wash.
His vomit-christened shoes were outside on the back steps, so he was barefoot, tucked into the corner of the couch, wearing an old tee shirt, the saying faded with time, the sweatpants just as threadbare as the shirt. Tony was trying too hard, pretending that he was not as drunk as he was and failing miserably. Neither the green tinge to his skin nor the bloodshot eyes were helping his cause. "Guess you were right." The admission was made without eye contact.
"Always am." I deserved the right to be smug considering I hadn t killed him for upchucking all over the both of us with what looked and smelled like an entire week's worth of food.
With his head bent, studying the minute hole in the thigh of the sweatpants, I saw his lips move but the words were mumbled.
"Got something to say, DiNozzo?"
Slowly, he lifted his head but instead of words, I was answered with a lopsided grin and a one shouldered shrug.
I glared, sort of surprised when his grin blossomed into a full fledged smile. "Feeling like you wanna share?"
"You like me."
"You said," Tony made little air quotes, "'I don't like anyone enough to clean up their puke' "
"And I cleaned up your puke." I finished the sentence for him.
"So you like me."
I sighed. Gotta love DiNozzo logic. "Yes, Tony, I like you, but," I warned, holding up one finger, "don't push your luck. Only once. Remember that."
"Gotcha, Boss. Won't happen again." He started to nod emphatically, then thought better of it as the smile faded, his eyes closed and his fingers moved to massage, what I'm sure, were aching temples. "Promise."
After an adamant, unrealistic argument, I relented and dragged the pillow, blanket, and a set of sheets down from the spare bedroom, grumbling the entire time. It was unfathomable why in God's name Tony chose the lumpy couch over the less lumpy spare bedroom mattress.
And to add insult to injury, when I tossed the sheets at Tony, they bounced off his body and slid to the floor.
"Ooops." He glanced downward at the puddled sheets covering his bare feet. "Was I supposed to " he floundered.
"Never mind," I growled, bending down. "I got this."
He was at the edge of the sheet covered couch, and I was looming over him, blanket in hand.
"Sometime tonight would be nice, DiNozzo."
"My dad didn't like me enough to clean up my puke."
"Doesn't surprise me." After today, nothing about the man surprised me. Not after meeting him face to face. Senior's best quality was his son; the problem was everyone in Tony's life knew that, except his father. And Tony.
"I was sick. Stomach virus." Tony scowled as if trying to remember details. "Not too long after my mom died. He was going out," Tony glanced at me, "my dad, not me. I was sick "
"I know, Tony," I said softly, shifting the blanket in my arms, "you mentioned that."
"Oh, sorry fancy dressed. In a tux. Shiny new shoes. Dad was annoyed when I walked into the room." Tony placed his hand over his stomach and grimaced. "My stomach hurt. Bad. And my head. Told me to go back to bed. I'd feel better in the morning. He strode across the room and put his hands on my shoulders to turn me around towards the door." Tony waved his right hand. "And I puked all over him and his shiny new shoes."
"Good for you, Tony," I said under my breath.
Tony tugged the blanket from my arms, but he didn't stretch out on the couch, he continued sitting there, hugging the blanket. "He hit me," Tony said softly.
Selling my soul for two minutes with Senior was looking like a great bargain. "You were a kid. You were sick. You didn't deserve " I swallowed back words for Tony's sake, nearly choking in the process.
He smiled that damn self-deprecating smile, the one that had been a permanent fixture the past few days. "My father probably doesn't even remember "
"But you do."
"I'm a big boy now." He shrugged, then stretched out on the couch pulling the blanket up around his body. "Water under the bridge." Tony dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, leaving in their wake, eyes that were even redder than before. "Sorry about tonight."
"Water under the bridge, DiNozzo, don't even worry about it," I said softly.
I had been wrong. Imagining Senior's face was the block of wood I was using the dowel on wasn't therapeutic. Shooting the wood. Stomping on it. Ripping it apart with my bare hands might have helped release the knot in my chest.
Coffee. I peered at the sludge in what passed as a mug and grimaced. Fresh coffee.
While the coffee was brewing, I tossed the clothes in the dryer which was a not so gentle reminder that maybe it would be in my couch's best interest to place a bucket within arm's reach of DiNozzo.
Bucket in place, I adjusted the blanket, paused, soaking in the rise and fall of Tony s chest then lost my sanity. Since I've lost my sanity on a number of occasions, I was quite familiar with the feeling. The loss of control. The act first and deal with the consequences later.
So I did what any insane man would've done in my situation, I kissed him.
First on his temple and then on his lips.
And what did Gunnery Sergeant hard-assed Leroy Jethro Gibbs do next? I fled the scene of the crime. Yup, didn't even wait for the damn pot of coffee to finish brewing. I high-tailed it down the basement steps and pretended not to notice how much my hand was shaking when I picked up the dowel.
I had wanted to do that for years. More years than I wanted to admit. Truthfully, I would've preferred Tony to be conscious but what was sad was that I obviously was desperate enough not to care.
The dowel was exchanged for the sanding block and I began to breath in sync with the strokes. The movement was calming. Up. Down. In. Out.
"Did you kiss me?"
I'm able to count on one hand the number of people who've snuck up on me and didn't get shot in the process. "Shit, DiNozzo." I slammed the sanding block on the work bench.
Tony still wore a layer of drunkenness. "You know if you're going to kiss me, don't you think DiNozzo is a bit formal " He broke out into a cat swallowed the canary shit eating grin which flashed off as he shuddered slightly. "And weird. I mean me calling you Boss while we're "
"While we're what?"
"You know " His drunken confidence slipped. "You never answered me."
"Did you kiss me?"
And it all comes down to one simple answer and I can't say the word but neither can I lie. So I did what I do best, shut down and remained silent and Tony did what he does best whether drunk or sober, he started to talk the subject to death.
Up. Down. In. Out. The sander and my breathing rose and fell with flow of Tony's voice until I reached my saturation level. "Go to sleep," I ordered. "We'll talk about this in the morning." Up. Down. In. Out.
~oo~ The bastard was in my bed. Under my blanket, his head resting on the pillow and to make it worse, he was hogging the entire blanket. "My bed. My blanket. My pillow." I growled through gritted teeth feeling stupidly exposed in my boxers and white tee shirt.
Slowly, and with a groan thrown in for good measure, DiNozzo flopped onto his back.
"I'm waiting, DiNozzo," I said when he appeared to take an unnecessarily inordinate amount of time to come up with an answer.
"Waiting for what?" He scowled without opening his eyes. "Did you ask a question?"
Frustrated, I scrubbed my face and count to ten. "What happened to the couch?" I tried to keep my voice on that even got-to-get-the-suspect-to-crack keel.
Tony opened on eye. "Something happened to your couch?"
"No. Tony. Nothing. Happened. To. The. Couch. As a matter of fact, it's all made up with a pillow and blanket "
Both eyes opened wide and he blinked at me a few times. "You don't wanna sleep on the couch, Boss, it's all lumpy and stuff." Tony squirmed to the right. Then to the left working my blanket from underneath his ass. "Plenty room here."
Sure. Why not. I had already kissed him so why not just crawl into bed with my senior agent because as he'd stated there was plenty of room. As I crawled into bed it became obvious that three divorces had proved that I am a glutton for punishment, a masochist and a damned slow learner.
The problem was once my ass was on the bed, and my body under those covers, the mattress got a hell of a lot smaller. The shrinking dimensions had nothing to do with me. No siree. I rigidly glued my back to right side of the bed, the side closest to the door and anchored the blanket to my body with my ramrod straight arms.
It was Tony. All Tony. With every creak of the bed springs as he moved into my personal space the bed shrunk in size.
"Tony," I warned, giving myself one more creak before I'd tuck my hard on between my legs in defeat, run from my bedroom and settle for the lumpy couch.
Movement stopped but before I could crow in victory, a low, guttural groan broke the silence.
"Don't you dare, DiNozzo." I ripped the blanket off my body and shot out of bed, grabbing the bedside garbage pail.
He was sitting up in bed, legs splayed, hugging the pail to his chest, sleeping with his cheek pressed into the pail's rim.
Gently, I disengaged his arms from their death grip and while his groan had been a false alarm, it certainly wouldn't hurt to keep the pail by the side of the bed. Without the pail for support, before I could stop him, DiNozzo flopped sideways and captured my pillows and blanket.
"What the hell am I going to do with you, DiNozzo?" There was no bark to my bite and with a resigned huff, I positioned the pail on the floor by the side DiNozzo had claimed for his own.
I crawled into bed, an arm's length from Tony who was down for the count, snoring, a tear drop of drool suspended from the corner of his mouth mere micrometers from the pillow. My pillow.
"I suck at relationships," I warned Tony. "My last wife took a baseball bat to my head, you have a gun at your disposal," I paused and added for good measure, "and a knife." Using my forefinger, I gently traced the imprint the edge of the garbage pail had embedded in his cheek.
Tony snorted then rubbed his face along the pillow case spreading a thin layer of drool across the pillow.
I sighed, it was going to be a long night.
He snored even louder, grumbled, grabbed the corner of the blanket and pulled, exposing my boxer covered ass to the cool bedroom air.
Part of me, the NCIS veteran sharp shooting marine, was pissed but the other part of me, the human part of me, the part that Tony had wormed his way into had an epiphany.
This was all Senior's fault.
All of it.
From a drunk Tony, to me kissing him, to us ending up in bed together when there was a perfectly good bed in the spare room or a fully made up couch downstairs.
Right now, at this moment in time, I wasn't sure if DiNozzo Senior warranted a thank you card or a bullet with his name on it, but as I fought to regain control of the blanket and maybe a sliver of bed, maybe, just maybe, I was leaning in favor of the thank you card.