Deeper Than Blood
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Three and a half hours had passed since he’d last seen Tony, and Gibbs knew the younger man had a lot to work out. A part of him had been convinced he wouldn’t see Tony tonight, that DiNozzo would crawl deeper into himself after meeting with his father. Gibbs had already decided that he wouldn’t follow him, that he would be patient and wait for Tony to come to him. He had utter faith that Tony would show up at his door now or later, whenever he was ready to talk through it. Maybe they’d watch a game, maybe Tony’d talk and he’d listen. Maybe Tony would come in stinking of alcohol, still dressed in his work clothes. Maybe he’d come by in a T-shirt and sweats, freshly showered, face still flushed after a hard workout. Maybe he’d come in falsely enthusiastic about the latest movie. Or maybe he’d come in with the odors of bar and woman clinging to him.

Gibbs knew every way Tony coped; he knew Tony better than anyone. Definitely better than Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. Meeting him had been…interesting. Gibbs had wondered about the man, sure. But he’d never invaded Tony’s privacy. To do so just seemed wrong. Tony’s father had been a mystery Gibbs mused on sometimes, but he’d never had a burning need to learn more. There was too much Tony had let slip about his childhood, and Gibbs had sometimes wondered if he would be able to control his temper if he ever met Tony’s father.

That hadn’t happened, but Tony’s father had given Gibbs a lot to think about.

Gibbs realized he’d timed things perfectly when he heard Tony’s car pull up just as he was walking over to the steak. It was perfectly done and he knew from experience Tony would be bringing the beer.

A little of the tension inside him unclenched when he saw the set of Tony’s shoulders and how composed he was. DiNozzo was rattled, sure, but he would be okay. Gibbs made sure to hide his outward reaction, not so much as twitching a muscle as he took in Tony’s body language with barely a glance.

Tony had brought beer"some microbrew he liked. Gibbs would drink a couple and then switch off to the more familiar stuff. This was all about making Tony relaxed and at ease. The whole situation had shaken DiNozzo up.

He patiently led Tony through the discussion, knowing immediately that Tony had paid for the ticket and cruise out of his own funds. He had to hide a little ironic smile when Tony asked how he did it, how he knew. Even after all their years working together, Tony hadn’t figured out just how easy it was for Gibbs to slip past the masks and see the man inside.

When Tony got out what he had to say, they finished the steak in silence, the crackling of the fire the only sound in the room. Tony was so damned different, the frenetic energy gone while he mellowed, the body language confident and secure. Despite what he’d learned, his father’s visit had been good for him. Hopefully, it had been good for them both.

Gibbs leaned back on the couch while Tony took the plates and knives into the kitchen. He washed the blades, drying them off carefully, a ritual that was becoming as comforting to Tony as it was to Gibbs. It was a ritual very much like cleaning a service weapon.

Tony strode back into the living room, handing Gibbs his knife and hovering over the couch.

“Ya waiting for an invitation? Sit, Tony. Grab the remote. Gotta be a game on tonight.”

“I…yeah. Sure.” Gibbs didn’t miss the softening of the eyes, the flash of teeth, the quick smile that made Tony look years younger.

“Grab a sweatshirt if ya want,” Gibbs deliberately kept his tone casual. He caught the remote as Tony tossed it to him and turned the TV on, glad that his father had insisted on the basic cable package that McGee had set up for them over Christmas. It’d been one of his father’s presents to him. Gibbs couldn’t deny that having ZNN playing while he drank his morning coffee was kinda nice.

Gibbs flipped a few channels before he found a basketball game and settled in, arm across the back of the couch. Tony disappeared, only to come back with his suit jacket in his hand. He was wearing Gibbs’ favorite USMC red sweatshirt, the one worn to softness by years of use. It looked good on him.

“What’ve we got? Lakers and Spurs? Good one.”

“Yeah,” Gibbs replied, reaching for another beer. Tony glanced at the chair for a second before he settled beside Gibbs on the couch, stretching his long limbs and tilting his head from side to side, making his neck crack. When his hair brushed over Gibbs’ hand, they both smiled reflexively and Gibbs took another long gulp of beer.

There had been tension between him and Tony for a while now. Gibbs had wondered"hell, he’d hoped"that on of them would act on it years ago. But there’d never seemed to be the right time to let it happen, to take the reins and see what came of it. There was always a complication, and if Gibbs was honest with himself, he’d admit that he didn’t want to lose Tony.

It wasn’t as if Gibbs was good with relationships"or people. He’d been honest when he’d told Tony’s father that Tony was the best young agent he’d ever worked with. And there was no way he was gonna screw that up, no matter how attracted to Tony he was. Or how much Tony reciprocated. There had always been an edge to their flirting, and a part of Gibbs had wondered if it was Tony’s father issues that drove DiNozzo.

Having met Tony’s father, he had a much bigger picture, and seeing Tony beside him, a man who had matured so much in so little time, Gibbs started to seriously consider making a move.

“I don’t think of you as a replacement for him,” Tony said during a commercial break. Gibbs cocked his head, regarding Tony seriously, wondering if he was getting transparent as he got older.

“I don’t, Gibbs. There’s no comparison. You’re too different.”

Gibbs nodded, sipping the beer, waiting for Tony to continue.

“I was raised in boarding schools, summer camps, military academies. Even though I didn’t have him, I wasn’t all…” Tony trailed off, biting his lip and shaking his head.

“What?” Gibbs asked quietly.

“I do that too much. I put myself in movies too much.”

“Everyone needs an outlet,” Gibbs pointed out. Tony stretched, resting his head against the back of the couch, the soft skin at the back of his neck brushing over Gibbs’ hand again.

“Outlet, that’s one thing. Escape, that’s one thing. This goes deeper, Gibbs. At some point, movies became my family.”

“And so you went into sports and then law enforcement looking for brotherhood.” Gibbs understood that more than anyone. It was why he’d been so drawn to the Marines, before he’d known what being a Marine was.

Tony blinked a couple of times, clearly startled by the way Gibbs laid things out like that.

“I guess so,” he said, the game forgotten, his eyes focused on the bottle of beer.

“Never thought of it that way?” Gibbs asked quietly. “You were running to something.”

Tony looked up at that, nodding.

“And the team is your family too.”

Tony pressed his lips together, shaking his head. “Not so much any more, Boss.”

“Gibbs,” he corrected quietly. There was no room for “boss” in this conversation.

“Gibbs,” Tony replied. “ McGee and me, we were getting closer over the summer, but we’re not any more. And Ziva and I, it’s…difficult. I don’t know if she’ll ever trust me again after…”

“Trust you,” Gibbs asked, emphasizing the last word. “Your trust has never been in question.” He sighed, putting his bottle of beer down, very aware that he hadn’t done right by keeping Tony in the dark. Tony was his second in command and Gibbs needed to remember that. He trusted Tony implicitly, and he needed to start showing that.

“Yeah…Rivkin… And then her staying back.”

Was Tony somehow blaming himself for this? Gibbs mentally headslapped himself. The blame for this lay completely and directly with him.

“Tony,” Gibbs said, speaking every word deliberately. “She gave me an ultimatum there on the tarmac. She asked me to choose. You or her on my team.”

Tony winced and tried to look away, but Gibbs placed a gentle hand on his chin, guiding his face back into position. Gibbs only resumed speaking when Tony met his eyes again.

“No hesitation. I chose the best damned agent I’ve ever had the pleasure to train.” Handing out compliments had never been this easy before, but Gibbs knew that there hadn’t been anyone who had deserved the compliment as much as Tony.

Gibbs watched as Tony’s eyes widened, a small smile touching his lips before fading. It was as if Tony couldn’t allow himself to believe he meant that much to Gibbs and the team.

“She asked me to choose and I made the right choice. The only choice. What happened from there is not your fault.”

“But I"”

“Did your job,” Gibbs insisted. “More concerned with you trusting Ziva after everything that happened. Know she accused you of being jealous, know what happened between you two in Israel.”

“You do?” Tony asked, his voice and body language hesitant all of a sudden.

“Yeah. She was in the wrong. Not you. She was in the wrong for a hell of a lot.” But that was a story for another time; he needed to focus on Tony now. “Told your father how good you are.”

“Why?”

“Wanted him to know. Even if he didn’t deserve it.” Gibbs paused, pulling in a deep breath. “You’re a hell of a man, Tony. Not many sons would have helped their old man out like you did.”

Tony shrugged, trying to look away again and Gibbs tightened his hand fractionally. “Don’t hand out compliments much. But you deserve it.”

Gibbs brought his thumb up, stroking Tony’s cheek in gentle motions, Tony’s eyes locking on his. The air suddenly seemed to be sucked out of the room and Tony’s lips parted, his eyes searching Gibbs’.

“Gibbs?” he asked, resting a hand on Gibbs’ forearm, breath streaming over Gibbs’ cheek.

“Yeah?”

“Are we…?”

Gibbs smirked, bringing his hand off the couch to headslap Tony. He thought the better of it and cupped Tony’s neck, squeezing gently as he moved closer. “Oh yeah, we’re gonna.”

“Finally,” Tony said with a tiny smile. When Gibbs dragged the moment out, Tony arched an eyebrow. “What are you waiting for?”

“Nothing at all,” Gibbs shot back, his mouth covering Tony’s for the very first time.