After The Pain
After the pain Tony knows things will go back to what passes for normal for them. His lover will drop down beside him and pull him into his arms and say he’s sorry over and over again. He’ll rub Tony’s back soothingly and kiss the soft sweet spot beneath his ear lobe and ask Tony why he has to make him so angry all the time.
Tony will apologize and brush away his lover’s concerns over the bruises, tell him that they’re nothing, and that he’s a tough NCIS special agent after all and he’s had worse than this on the job. Then Tony will let himself be pulled to his feet and ushered into the bedroom where his lover will push him down onto the bed and tell him he knows just the way to apologize. Once his lover is asleep, Tony will drag himself into the bathroom and stand under water as hot as he can bear it and scrub himself down over and over and over. He’ll never feel completely clean but he hasn’t felt completely clean, completely himself since the first day his lover raised a hand to him, since the first day his lover refused to listen to his pleas of no and raped him.
It’s just his life now and there’s no way out , no one who’d believe him if he told them. So he dries himself off, wincing as the towel rubs over bruised flesh then he gets dressed and heads off to work. It’s the middle of the night but no one will question him being there. He’s heard Gibbs say, “Tony does his best work at night.” He snorts a laugh at that then wipes away the blood that trickles from his split lip.
By the time he’s in his car and heading for work, he’s already formulating an explanation for his injuries, relieved he has a few hours for the bruises to fade, for the cuts to scab over. He leaves his car in the parking garage and rides the elevator up to the bullpen, feeling nothing so much as numb.
The bell signals his arrival at his floor and he steps out, already feeling his overstretched nerves beginning to relax now he’s left his lover miles behind.
He tosses his backpack onto the floor next to his desk then sits down, pillowing his head on his crossed arms atop the desk. He’s just beginning to drift off to sleep when a hand smacks the back of his head none too gently and he jerks awake, jolting upright in his chair. A firm hand grasps his jaw, angling his head up till he’s looking into the steely gaze of Jethro Gibbs, his boss.
“What the hell happened to you this time, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asks, his voice an angry counterpoint to the worry in his eyes.
“Got mugged,” Tony tells him.
Gibbs just shakes his head then walks away, back to his own desk. He doesn’t ask Tony any more questions and when Tony finally can’t keep his eyes open and his head droops back down to rest on his arms, the last thing he’s aware of is Gibbs, just watching him.
There was a moment of absolute clarity when Tony DiNozzo met Jason McNeil, an absolute moment of surety that told both of them they were going to be together. Tony had often scoffed at the idea of love at first sight and he didn’t really think that’s what this was. But Jason was attractive and charming and it was obvious he could barely take his eyes off Tony from the first time they were introduced at an NCIS interdepartment Christmas party mixer. So Tony had responded. After all, his love life had been pretty much a barren desert of late, a fact Ziva and McGee seem to take an inordinate amount of scornful interest in, and one that Abby, bless her heart, sympathised over with him. Tony had been commitment-shy ever since his romantic fiasco with Jeanne Benoit and he didn’t think that was going to change any time soon but he was lonely and it had become painfully apparent that the one person he really wanted to give his heart to was completely and utterly straight and, in fact had four broken marriages to prove it. So he gave up on the idea of Leroy Jethro Gibbs ever asking Tony into his bed, let alone his heart, walked across the crowded room and took the drink Jason was holding out to him. When Jason asked him out on a date for the next night, Tony said yes. Within a month Jason had asked him to move in and Tony, casting a half-longing look back at the might have been he was leaving behind, said yes to that too.
It had been smooth sailing for over three months. When Tony came in late from an assignment, it was to find dinner still waiting for him on a candle-bedecked table, Jason lounging on the sofa with a drink and a smile of welcome. The first time Tony got injured after they started living together, Jason was at the hospital when he woke up from the concussion he’d suffered. He took Tony home, hovered around him like a mother hen on speed, kissed and caressed every aching part of Tony’s body that night in bed. Jason worked in Cybercrimes so they rarely crossed paths at work, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as Tony hadn’t actually told any of his team that he and Jason were living together. In fact, he’d kept the lease on his old apartment and still had his mail delivered there. That was what had led to their first argument.
Nine months earlier:
“Hey, you’re home earlier than I thought you would be,” Tony said with a grin, leaning over the back of the couch to plant a sloppy kiss on Jason’s mouth.
Jason turned his head away and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“What’s wrong?’ Tony asked, unease building up a slow churning in his gut as Jason stood up and walked over to the drinks cabinet where he poured himself anther drink. “Jase?” he said when Jason simply sipped at his drink then turned and put it down on the table.
“You haven’t even told them,” Jason said finally, crossing the room to standing front of Tony, just out of touching range.
“What?” Tony asked though the answer was fairly obvious.
“I’ve told everyone I work with about the wonderful guy I’m living with, the gorgeous man I let move into my apartment because I’m so crazy about him I can’t bear not to see him every day. Then today I had go see the little Goth freak lab girl and she and that Mossad agent were talking about poor Tony’s lovelife, how maybe they should try to set him up with the Director’s new secretary.” Jason stepped closer. “I said I thought you were seeing someone and they laughed, said you hadn’t even had a date in months.” He stared into Tony’s eyes.
“Did you… did you tell them about us?” Tony asked, his mouth dry. Something about the way Jason was reacting had his nerves twanging.
“Oh don’t worry, I didn’t out you, closet boy,” Jason said cuttingly. “I played along, played dumb, told them I’d set you up with my sister.” He stepped forward again and raised his hand and Tony moved back but Jason simply cupped his cheek and pulled him in for a soft kiss. “I was hurt,” he whispered against Tony’s mouth. “Hurt you’re ashamed of being with me, that’s all.”
“I’m not,” Tony whispered guiltily. “I just… I haven’t actually come out to anyone yet, not even my family.”
Jason pulled away and sauntered across the room, back to the drinks cabinet where he poured himself another shot of Scotch. “Considering what I’ve heard of your family, that doesn’t surprise me but you’re always saying these people are your friends, more family than your real family.” He held an empty glass up to Tony then shrugged when Tony shook his head at the offer of a drink. “I’d’ve thought they’d just be glad you’re finally happy.”
And wasn’t that a snag, Tony wondered as he watched Jason gulp down his drink, because he wasn’t all that sure that he was happy after all. He thought he loved Jason but there was still that small hole in his heart whenever he knew Jethro Gibbs was dating someone, or he saw a woman eye his boss over with lascivious eyes. It was jealousy, he knew that, but it was misplaced. Gibbs didn’t want Tony in love with him and maybe it was time Tony did what his grandmother had always told him that people sometimes had to do. Settle for what he could have instead of pining after what he couldn’t. “I’ll tell them if you want me to,” he said finally, steeling himself to do it while hoping deep down inside that Jason would say it didn’t matter, that Tony didn’t have to do that to prove his love.
But Jason smiled broadly, the first real smile Tony had seen on his face since he’d got home. “You know those dinner parties David gives after you guys finish up a case? Invite me along to the next one as your date.”
“Um, nobody takes anyone with them,” Tony said hesitantly. “It’s kind of just a team night.”
“Fine!” The word snapped out as quickly as the glass that flew past Tony’s ear and smashed against the wall, causing tiny slivers of glass to fly into his cheek.
Tony reached up a hand to touch his face then looked a little dazedly at the blood on his fingertips.
Jason was at his side in seconds, dabbing at his face with the handkerchief that was ever present in his jacket pocket. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. Damn my temper. God, Tony, honey, I’m sorry. Forgive me?”
“It’s fine,” Tony replied automatically. And it was. It was just a bit of flying glass after all. He’d been injured much worse on the job. “I want to tell them,” he said as Jason led him over to the couch and then rushed off to the kitchen to bring back the first aid kit. He waited till Jason had fussed over the tiny cuts, making sure there was no glass left behind.
Jason taped the last butterfly into place then kissed each small laceration gently and sweetly. “Are you sure?” he asked, holding Tony’s gaze with his own.
“Yeah, I think it’s time I stopped pretending to be something I’m not.”
“Okay, if that’s what you really want.” Jason pulled him to his feet and towed him over to the bedroom. “Let me show you how sorry I really am for hurting you.”
The next morning at work, Tony pulled Ziva and McGee aside and blurted out his news about Jason. Ziva had arched her elegant eyebrows but then just gave a small smile, nodded, and went back to her desk. McGee shook his hand as if Tony had just told him he gotten engaged instead telling him he was gay then wished him all the best and walked away over to the elevator. Tony figured that meant he probably didn’t need to tell Abby personally though he’d make a token announcement to her, and Ducky and Jimmy when he got them alone. He took a deep breath and peered out into the office area where Gibbs had just arrived at his desk. Mentally going over the 101 ways he could phrase something like this to his boss, Tony walked slowly over to him and stood in front of the desk, waiting till Gibbs looked up and arched an interrogatory eyebrow at him.
“Well?” Gibbs asked as Tony mentally rehearsed way number 102 of how to tell the man you’re secretly in love with and who just happens to be your straight as a ruler boss that you’re not only gay but sleeping with the head of another department. “This got something to do with what happened to your face, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked.
Tony fingered the small butterfly bandages and lied as facilely as he’d ever had to do when he was undercover. “Nah, cut myself shaving.”
“Mmmhmm.” It was patently obvious Gibbs didn’t believe him for a minute so Tony ploughed ahead anyway. “Um, see, I met someone and now I’m living with them and I probably should have told you before because we’re kind of co workers… Well, not really, he works for Cybercrimes but-“
“Um, yeah. Mind if I ask how you knew?” Tony wondered if he’d be better off not knowing but curiosity won out.
Gibbs shrugged and turned to his computer. “It’s my job to know stuff like that.” He flicked a glance back up at Tony. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work for this team, I don’t care who you sleep with.”
That stung even though Tony had realistically told himself months ago that it was true. After all, Gibbs hadn’t cared that Tony had slept with Jeanne Benoit; he was just pissed off that Tony had been working hand in glove with the Director on a job Gibbs hadn’t been able to give permission for. Realizing Gibbs was waiting for him to say something, Tony said belatedly, “It won’t, Boss.”
“Good. Maybe you should go back to using your electric razor while you’re at it.”
“Yeah, probably be a good idea.” Tony walked back to his desk and sat down, turning on his own computer and calling up the file of their latest case. Gibbs was watching him contemplatively and that made Tony nervous so he turned his chair so he was side-on to Gibbs’ desk and got to work.
Two months later:
Things had been going smoothly both professionally and personally for Tony since that first time Jason had hurt him. So much so that Tony had relaxed, had begun to think it really was just an aberration on Jason’s part. Tony had finally admitted to himself as well as to Jason, he’d kind of asked for it anyway. Now that the news about him and Jason was more or less public knowledge and life just went on at work, Tony thought that he should have just told everyone right from the start. Then it wouldn’t have happened at all. He was almost glad they knew now. Almost. He still got a twinge in the region of his heart when word filtered through from the grapevine that Gibbs was seeing someone. It was stupid, he told himself every time. After all, he was seeing someone too. So he packed the jealousy away deep in the recesses of his mind, along with memories of his childhood and regrets for all the things he should have done or said and renewed his commitment to Jason, vowing his lover would never know how much he still loved Jethro Gibbs.
He should have known the minute he opened the door and saw Jason standing in front of the drinks cabinet, looking more than a little well lubricated and a face like thunder that it wasn’t going to be that easy. “Hey, babe,” Tony called cheerily, tamping the nervousness already churning up his gut. “How was your day?” He hung his jacket over the back of the chair and then, steeling himself for whatever was to come, walked cross the room to kiss Jason on the mouth.
“Not great,” Jason said flatly. He turned and poured a drink then held the glass out to Tony. “I feel like getting drunk.”
Tony took the drink and sipped at it. He was no teetotaller but seeing his mother in an alcoholic stupor almost every night of his formative years had made him determined he’d never drink to excess. He watched, frowning a little as Jason topped his glass up and gulped half of it down in one swallow. “What’s wrong?” Tony asked. “Did something happen at work?”
“Drink up.” Jason held Tony’s glass to his lips and tipped it up, laughing when Tony spluttered as the fiery liquid burnt his throat. “Aw, poor baby. I think Daddy’s going to have to teach you how to drink.”
“What happened?” Tony asked again as soon as he was able to regain his breath.
“The bastards fired me.” Jason tossed down the last of his drink and refilled his glass then walked across to sit on the couch, putting the seat next to him in invitation.
Tony placed his own drink carefully on the cabinet then slowly walked over and sat down. “Why?” he asked, dread roiling in his gut.
“They said I screwed up on a job but we know the real reason, don’t we?” Jason grabbed Tony behind the neck and pulled him in close so he could whisper in his ear. “Papa Gibbs doesn’t want me around his favourite boy.”
“What? That’s impossible!” Tony almost bit his tongue the minute the words were out of his mouth but his innate loyalty to Gibbs made him continue. “Gibbs wouldn’t do that. That’s not how he operates. Besides…” Tony fought back the regret that would have tinged his words if he hadn’t trained himself not to show it, “Gibbs isn’t interested in me like that.”
“Like what?” Jason released him and leaned back, his eyes narrowing to suspicious slit as he searched Tony’s face. “Like what, Tony? Did I say it had anything to do with Gibbs wanting you?” He snorted out a sneering laugh. “Everyone knows the man’s straight as they come. How many ex wives is it? Four?”
“Three,” Tony replied automatically. “His first wife died. I’ve told you about it.”
“Well, you can’t get more ex than being dead, can you?” Jason stood up and headed back to the drinks cabinet and Tony fought not to waylay him, knowing already, with a sinking feeling in his gut just how tonight was going to go. “Why don’t we go out for dinner?” he suggested as Jason downed another slug of whisky.
Jason shook his head. “I don’t feel like it.” He walked back across to Tony, almost tripping over the corner of the couch as he knelt at Tony’s feet. “Why did you think I meant Gibbs has the hots for you, baby?” he asked, the suspicion in his voice already a dangerous precursor of what Tony knew was to come. “You know better than anyone how straight he is. Was that wishful thinking I heard in your voice, sweetheart? A little lilt of hope that if I was out of the picture at NCIS he might actually look at you the way I do?”
“No.” Tony stood up and extricated himself from the hold Jason had on his legs, moving over to stand in the entrance to the living room. “I just meant I didn’t think Gibbs would try to get you sacked because of me. What happened with the job anyway? Why did they think you screwed up? I… I mean, everyone knows how good you are at what you do. Maybe someone else screwed up and it just looked like it was your fault…” Tony stumbled to a halt, knowing already how pitiful he sounded, even to his own ears, trying to justify what happened and keep Jason from spiralling into one of his rages.
“I already told you the reason.” Jason stood up and stalked towards him, grinning as Tony stepped back till his back was against the wall. When he reached him, he pinned him there, pressing his body hard against Tony’s, moving up and down, letting Tony feel the hardness of his erection as he rubbed it against Tony’s thigh. “Let’s go to bed,” Jason said, grabbing hold of Tony’s wrist.
“Not right now. I’m starving. Can we at least order a pizza or some Chinese first. Don’t want me passing out on you, do we?” Tony said, trying desperately to lighten the mood, to avert what he knew was going to happen next. He hated sex when Jason was drunk. It took so long and by the time Jason finally was able to achieve an orgasm, if indeed he even could, Tony would be sore and bleeding as Jason continued to pound away inside of him in search of the elusive climax. He tried to move away and Jason twisted his wrist painfully.
Tony gritted his teeth against the pain. “Please, not tonight, Jason. Not like this. You’ve been drinking-“ He flinched back against the wall as Jason’s fist flew toward his face, but it stopped an inch away and Jason smiled coldly then grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him in for a bruising kiss on the mouth.
“Bedroom,” Jason murmured against his lips, his whisky-sour breath turning Tony’ stomach. “Bottoms up, Tony.”
Tony moved then, letting Jason pull him along by his shirtfront, his right arm throbbing as he cradled it against his belly. He wanted nothing more than to fight back, or to run but instead he allowed his mind to go blank. He’d wait till Jason passed out and then he’d deal with it,. This time he’d go for good.
“Hey, where you going?” Jason snaked out a lazy hand and grabbed for Tony’s arm.
“Just for a shower,” Tony said casually, grabbing his bathrobe from the foot of the bed and managing to get it on one-handed. He held his breath till Jason yawned and let go of his arm then rolled over the other way.
“I’d join you but I’m too exhausted to get up yet,” Jason murmured, closing his eyes.
“That’s okay. You get some rest.” Tony quickly gathered up his clothes from the floor where Jason had tossed them the night before then picked up his shoes and socks as well and headed out into the living room where he dressed as quickly and quietly as he could. Taking a final look around the apartment he decided against taking anything else with him for now. He’d come back later once he’d found the nerve to tell Jason it was over.
Out in his car, he thought about where to go. It was only 5 AM and he didn’t feel comfortable turning up on anyone else’s doorstep at that hour. He considered his own apartment, but worried that might be the first place Jason would look if he woke up and went searching for him. Finally, the answer came. If Jason had been fired from NCIS he wouldn’t have access to the building. Sighing with no small measure of relief, Tony started the car and headed toward the Navy Yard.
Once at his desk he took a couple of Tylenol 3 from the drawer in his desk then went out to the break room and pulled an icepack from the freezer. He wrapped a dish towel around it to hold it in place then awkwardly made himself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. His wrist throbbed distantly and he winced at the purple bruising he could see inching out from under the ice pack. Maybe he should get Ducky to check it out… Quashing that thought as soon as it was born, he finished his coffee, put the icepack back in the freezer then went back out to his desk. He was doing a good job of pretending to read reports when the rest of the team came in at 8-30.
“You’re early,” Ziva observed tartly as she walked past his desk on her way to her own.
“You okay?” McGee asked, sweeping him with a keen eye then stopping in front of Tony’s desk. “You look like crap,” he added.
“Gee, thanks, McGee,” Tony replied shortly, too tired to engage in their usual repartee. He turned back to his computer as Gibbs walked past his desk, hoping his boss’ keen eye hadn’t picked up anything.
“DiNozzo, a word,” Gibbs said, dumping his bag on the desk chair and putting paid to Tony’s hopes.
Tony sighed inaudibly then stood up and followed Gibbs out of the bullpen and into the break room where Gibbs waited till he was in then closed the door behind him.
“You all right?” Gibbs asked.
“Yep, I’m fine.” Tony kept his hands crossed behind his back, trying not to wince at the pain the movement caused his injured arm.
“I heard what happened to McNeil,” Gibbs said flatly. “Sorry.”
Tony shrugged. “I don’t know the whole story yet,” he said. “Jason said someone claimed he was drunk on the job-“
“He was,” Gibbs interrupted. “We nearly lost a suspect because of it.”
“That’s not like him,” Tony lied smoothly. “He’s been under a lot of pressure lately. He wouldn’t normally come into work if he’d been drinking.”
“He was drinking on the job, Tony,” Gibbs said. “McGee caught him in the men’s room swigging from a flask. Nearly got his head knocked off when he called the guy on it.”
“What happened?” Tony slumped into a chair at the table and tilted his head to look up at Gibbs. “You said you nearly lost a suspect…”
“He deleted an entire folder of evidence Jeff Martin’s team had been building on a guy running weapons out of Norfolk,” Gibbs said grimly. “Luckily McGee was able to retrieve it for them. The guy was due to go to court today. Without the evidence…” He left the rest of it unsaid.
“I’m sorry. Like I said, he’s been under a lot of pressure.” Tony pushed himself wearily to his feet. “I better get back to work.”
“Did he take it out on you?” Gibbs asked, grabbing Tony by the arm as he walked past.
Tony bit back the yelp of pain that wanted to burst out and shook his head quickly. “No.”
Gibbs gave him a penetrating look then let him go. “Your friend needs to get some help,” he said, opening the door and leading the way back to the bullpen.
“I know. I’ll talk to him about it.”
“Um, Boss,” McGee stood up behind his desk, “we got a tip on the Portsmouth Medical Center drug ring.”
“What’s the tip?” Gibbs asked as he walked past over to his own desk.
“There’s a buy going down in about two hours,” McGee replied.
“Is the tip trustworthy?” Tony asked. “Where’d it come from?”
“I can’t be sure but the guy said he’s a nurse at the hospital and he’s been in on stealing the drugs and handing them over to be sold. Said he they’re he wants to make a deal and get out,” McGee said.
“Why does he want to get out now?” Ziva asked, walking over to lean against McGee’s desk.
McGee shrugged. “Maybe he’s worried he’s gonna get caught eventually so he might as well make a deal with us while he can.”
“Gear up,” Gibbs called, getting his own weapon out of the drawer of his desk and leading the way to the elevator. “Where we meeting him?” he asked McGee as they entered the elevator.
“Warehouse near the hospital. They use it for storing sterilized equipment, linen, stuff like that,” McGee replied, squeezing into the elevator next to Tony, jostling him against the wall.
Tony hissed sub vocally as his hand hit the wall next to him and saw McGee look at him with a raised eyebrow. Tony ignored him and stepped out behind Gibbs as they landed on the garage floor. “Shotgun!” he said quickly before Ziva could and he couldn’t help but grin as he saw her poke her tongue out at him as she opened the rear door of the car and climb in. If he kept up his usual behaviour nobody would think anything was wrong, nobody would ask any awkward questions.
“We know anything else about this tipster, McGee?” Tony asked over his shoulder as he tried to settle his throbbing hand inside his jacket pocket more comfortably. “His name, his age, whether he likes ketchup on his fries,” he rattled on, doing anything he could to keep his mind off the sullen, unrelenting pain.
“Refused to give a name,” McGee said. “He said he’d meet us there and then he’d fill us in.”
At the warehouse, all was quiet. Gibbs shook his head as he prowled the perimeter. “Looks like your info was wrong, McGee,” he called across the vast echoing space.
“Maybe,” McGee replied. “He seemed pretty genuine though. Sorry, Boss.”
“Give it one last check and then we’ll move out for now, set up surveillance in case your guy got the time wrong,” Gibbs said. “Tony, you and McGee take a look around outside. Ziva, with me.”
Ziva shot a smug grin across at Tony that he ignored as he walked outside the warehouse, McGee at his heels.
“Listen, Tony,” McGee grabbed at his arm and pulled him to a halt, “I’m sorry about what happened with Jason. I didn’t want to turn him in but-“
“Forget it,” Tony replied easily, trying for casual and hoping he succeeded. He shrugged a shoulder. “Jason knew the rules. He broke them. He’ll get some help and sort it out. It’s fine.” He frowned at a small red mark on McGee’s jacket then suddenly realization set in as it moved and he hauled McGee to the ground, behind the car. “It’s a set up!” he yelled, just as gunfire rang out and a bullet clipped the concrete a few inches away.
McGee had his gun up and firing while Tony struggled to pull his free of the holster. He finally succeeded, cursing aloud as his injured hand spasmed in agony and the weapon dropped to the ground in front of him.
He was vaguely aware of Gibbs and Ziva firing from the shelter of the warehouse. “He’s on the roof,” Gibbs called, pointing across to the neighboring warehouse where Tony could just make out a man sprawled full length, his rifle poking out over the abutment. “Can you get a shot at him, DiNozzo?” Gibbs yelled.
Tony knew he had a clearer line of sight than Gibbs or Ziva. He managed to get his weapon into his hand and bit down on his lip at the pain that screamed through it as he clenched his fingers around it and brought it shakily to bear on the sniper. A shot rang out right next to him and he flinched as the sound echoed through his head. By the time he looked up, Ziva and McGee were heading for the other warehouse and Gibbs was standing in front of Tony, a deep frown etching his forehead.
“What the hell was that about?” Gibbs asked, hunkering down so his eyes were level with Tony’s. He reached out and took the gun from Tony’s hand then grasped his wrist gently, holding it still. “You didn’t tell me you were injured.”
“Sorry,” Tony murmured, sweat beading on his forehead and trickling coldly down his neck as his hand began to throb doubletime. “I thought it’d be okay.”
Gibbs leaned into his space then released his hand. “It’s not okay,” he said flatly. “Hospital now. I’ll drive you. Wait here while I talk to McGee and David.”
Tony was sitting in the passenger seat when Gibbs came back. “Sniper dead?” he asked.
“No thanks to you. They found the informant’s body, shot through the head. Hit must have gone down just before we got there,” Gibbs replied tersely, getting into the car and starting it up.
“So it wasn’t a set up for us. They found out he’d informed on them,” Tony replied, trying to focus past the pain that was gradually becoming all consuming. He glanced down at his hand, surprised to see how swollen and bruised it was now.
Gibbs turned and followed his gaze then fixed him with a firm look, one that brooked no argument. “This stops now or you find yourself another job,” he said.
“I left him,” Tony said. “Too little, too late, I know but-“
“Good. Make sure you don’t go back because if you do I’ll headslap you from here to Australia,” Gibbs replied. He pulled the car out of the yard and onto the street.
Tony closed his eyes against the censure in Gibbs’ voice and this time let the pain take control. It was better concentrating on that than on feeling the disappointment in Gibbs’s voice. By the time they reached the hospital he felt sick, both from the pain and the reaction to what had happened at the warehouse and he stumbled getting out of the car.
Gibbs grabbed him around the waist before he could fall. “Hang onto me, Tony. I’ll get you there.”
Tony nodded, closing his eyes momentarily as the ground undulated beneath his unsteady feet. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Gibbs didn’t reply, just hauled him along and into the ER.
Tony winced as the doctor wrapped another layer of gauze around his hand.
“You’re lucky you only have fractures of a couple of the small bones in your hand,” the doctor said.
Tony smiled wanly up at him. Truth be told, he didn’t feel lucky at all. What he did feel was sore and tired and scared shitless about what Jason was going to do when he found out Tony had left and wasn’t going back. “Thanks, Doc,” he said as the doctor patted him on the arm and let him sit up.
“Let’s go, DiNozzo.” Gibbs poked his head around the curtain and Tony swore in his head. He’d been kind of hoping Gibbs had gone back to the office and left him here to make his own way home.
“Take the painkillers,” the doctor said, handing him a prescription for Percocet. “Believe me, you’ll need them.”
“I’ll make sure he takes them,” Gibbs said and Tony sighed inwardly, knowing he would too. He hated taking anything stronger than aspirin, hated the feeling that he was out of control.
“So,” Gibbs said as he fastened Tony’s seatbelt for him in the car, “where to?”
“My old place,” Tony replied. “Jason won’t think to look for me there. It’s too obvious.”
“So he did do this?” Gibbs gaze encompassed Tony’s hand and Tony simply nodded. “You should have come to me before, Tony.”
“I know. I just… I just couldn’t. I thought I could handle things-“
Gibbs placed a gentle hand across his mouth. “Don’t worry about it now. Now you go back to your place, you take the meds, you get some sleep and tonight I’ll come see you and you can tell me the real story of what’s been going on. Okay?”
“Okay, Boss.” Tony closed his eyes as Gibbs started up the car. He drifted into a light doze and didn’t wake up till Gibbs shook him awake outside his apartment.
“You going to be okay here tonight?” Gibbs asked, handing over the package with the Percocet that they’d had filled at the hospital pharmacy.
Tony gave him a weary smile. “I’ll be fine. Like I said this’ll be the last place Jason will think I’d be.”
“You are going to press charges against this asshole, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked though Tony got the impression it was more a statement of fact than a question.
He shrugged as he climbed out of the car. “I’ll think about it. I’m just glad to have him out of my life for now. Can we just leave it at that?”
Gibbs gave him a brief nod in response. “Take a few days off then we’ll talk about you coming back to work.”
Tony ducked his head back into the car. “I’ll be fine by tomorrow, Boss-“
“Good, get a doctor’s clearance by tomorrow and you can come back to work,” Gibbs said blandly, revving the engine.
Tony got the hint, backed out of the door and closed it then watched Gibbs speed away. He was upstairs at the door of his apartment before he realized he had no food there. “Shit!” he muttered as he keyed the lock and stepped inside. He’d just have to go do some shopping later.
An arm around his throat made him drop his keys. He yelped in surprise as he was pulled back against the man behind him.
“Oh Tony,” Jason whispered into his ear. “You are so damn obvious. Did you really think I wouldn’t come looking for you here? I thought your precious Gibbs had taught you better than that.”
Tony froze, sucking in as much of a breath as he could past the arm clamping his throat, feeling his heart trip-hammering in panicked double time. “What do you want, Jason?” he managed to get out past teeth that seemed clamped together.
“What I’ve always wanted,” Jason hissed against his ear. “You, you wanting me, you being there for me.” He punctuated the last word with a vicious contraction of his arm against Tony’s throat.
Tony gagged and tried to move away but Jason just held him more tightly. “You’re going to pay for this, Tony. You really think you had the guts to walk away from me. All your life you’ve been a victim, all your life you’ve let people stronger than you take control. You really think you can change that now?”
“If he can’t, I can.”
Tony bit down on his lip at the sound of Jethro’s voice.
“It’d be a good idea to let him go, McNeil,” Jethro continued. “That way you could walk out of here free and clear. You don’t, you end up dead and I’ll find a way to write it up as a good shoot.”
“See, Tony, it’s true what everyone said about you all these years.” Jason’s voice spat bitterness into Tony’s ear. “Your father, remember what you told me about him? How he said you were no good, that he wished you’d never been born. You never tried to stop him, never stood up to him. What does that tell you about yourself, Tony? It tells me that you wanted it, just like all the times you wanted me to be in control-″
“No!” The word burst out of Tony. “No,” he said again, softly this time, shaking his head. Rage suddenly blossomed within him, anger at the past he couldn’t change, at the memories that burned within him, the wounds he’d hidden far too well. He took a small step forward then lifted his leg and managed a backward kick. There wasn’t a lot of power in it, Jason was holding him too tightly for that but it connected right where Tony wanted it to and Jason yelped, the knife slicing a fiery trail across Tony’s throat then falling to the ground as Jason dropped to the floor and rolled onto his side, his hands cupping his injured genitals.
Tony instinctively slapped a hand over the wound in his throat, feeling the warm blood trickling through his fingers.
Jethro had Jason on his stomach now, cuffing his hands. He spared a quick glance up at Tony and his eyes widened. “Tony!” he snapped, the edge of command in his voice cutting through Tony’s own shock. “Go to the kitchen and get an icepack from the freezer and hold it on your throat. Do it now!” he ordered.
Tony pulled his hand away and looked at it, at the crimson blood wet against his palm. Swallowing thickly against the nausea that rose unbidden at the sight, he turned and ran into the kitchen, hoping he’d left the fridge on. He pulled open the door and grabbed for the icepack, relieved to find it solid and icy still. Slumping down onto a kitchen chair, he watched dazedly as Jethro appeared in front of him, kneeling down next to the chair and taking the icepack from his hand.
“Here,” Jethro said, “this’ll sting a little.” He pressed the pack against the wound and held it there firmly.
Tony’s gaze flitted over to the door into the living room and Jethro patted his shoulder with his free hand. “He’s not going anywhere. “You got him pretty good. I don’t think he’ll be walking comfortably for a day or two.”
Tony managed a snuffle of almost hysterical laughter at that then stopped as Jethro removed the icepack and leaned in to look at the wound in his throat. “How bad?” Tony whispered, almost afraid that saying the words too loud would cause the slash to widen.
“You’ll be okay. You’ll need a few stitches but it looks worse than it is,” Jethro replied. “You want me to call an ambulance for you? Or we can wait till the local LEOs get here then I’ll drive you back to the hospital to get it looked at.”
“I can wait,” Tony said.
Jethro placed the icepack in Tony’s unbandaged hand, lifting it to his neck. “Keep it on while I go make a couple of calls.”
Tony shivered against the renewed chill of the pack. He looked down at his injured hand. It was trembling, each minute tremor sending tiny shards of pain up his wrist. He clenched his teeth against it and concentrated on holding the icepack firmly against his neck.
“You’ll make it,” Jethro said.
“I’m not sure I know how to anymore,” Tony said as Jethro walked away.
Jethro stopped at the doorway and turned. “You won’t be doing it alone, Tony,” he said.
Tony nodded and looked down again at his hand. It didn’t seem to be shaking quite as much now.
“How’s he doing, Doc?” Jethro asked, poking his head around the cubicle curtain.
“Ten stitches but he’ll be fine.” The doctor stood up. “You know, Tony, seeing you twice in one day is more than enough. No offence.”
“None taken,” Tony said, accepting the leaflet about wound care the doctor handed him. He sat up and slid his legs over the side of the gurney. “I promise to stay away for a while.”
“I’ll make sure he keeps that promise,” Jethro interjected, taking the leaflet from Tony’s hand then helping him off the gurney with a hand under his elbow. “Let’s go, DiNozzo.” He waited till they were outside in the parking lot then turned and pulled Tony in for a hug. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he said. “I was going to say your place or mine but I’m thinking mine’s the better option at this stage, don’t you?”
Tony nodded and followed Jethro to the car, warmth at the unexpected embrace curling around his heart.
“So,” Jethro said, seating himself at the kitchen table across from Tony, “you feel up to talking?”
Tony couldn’t help the way his stomach seemed to drop down into his feet at the words. Could he do it? Could he bring himself to tell Jethro, the man he’d loved ever since the day he’d met him, why he was so weak, such a screw up, why he couldn’t seem to get his life in order? “It’s a pretty long story,” he said finally, rubbing his good hand nervously over his injured one. He looked up as Jethro’s hand covered his, stilling the motion.
“If you’re too tired, we’ll wait till the morning but we are going to talk about it, Tony, sooner rather than later,” Jethro said, fixing him with a stern but not unkind look. “I need to understand,” he added more gently. “If you’re going to stay on the team, I need to know how this happened and you need to find a way to be sure it never does again.”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. I know. I want to tell you. I probably should have told you long ago when it first got bad but—“
“Water under the bridge,” Jethro interjected.
“Okay.” Tony rubbed a hand through his hair then firmed his shoulders and looked Jethro squarely in the eyes. “I don’t talk much about my family though I’ve mentioned a couple of things…” He trailed off, and then when Jethro nodded in confirmation, he went on. “All those stories I told the team about being the poo-boy for my dad’s re-enactment team, about him leaving me in a hotel room were true. I just left out some of the more salient details.” He sighed. “This’d go better if I had a drink,” he said.
“No problem,” Jethro said, getting up and walking into the kitchen then returning with two glasses of orange juice a few minutes later.
“I was kinda thinking of alcohol, Boss,” Tony replied with a rueful grin.
“Meds. No booze,” Jethro said succinctly. He sipped at his own drink and motioned for Tony to continue.
“Probably just as well,” Tony said morosely, “considering most of what I’m about to tell you about was brought on by alcoholism.”
“Your mom?” Jethro asked. “She died when you were around 10, didn’t she?”
“Yeah.” Tony gulped down the juice then set the glass to one side. “Mom was the alcoholic of the family but oddly enough she really did love me, I think. She stood up for me as much as an alcoholic who’s barely able to stand up straight could when my father had it in for me. Dear old Dad, on the other hand, was more discerning. He was a binge drinker. He’d go months sometimes with nothing more than that one evening tipple I used to pour for him when I made my daily reports then something would tip him over the edge…” Tony flashed a wry grin at Jethro. “Usually me or something he thought I’d done, sometimes business problems or arguments with Mom about her boozing and then he’d down a bottle in an hour.”
“Did he hit you?” Jethro asked quietly.
Tony shook his head. “He’d be too uncoordinated to connect but it didn’t stop him trying. Didn’t stop him telling me how useless I was though, how much he’d wished I’d never been born. I had an older brother, you know?” He shrugged at the surprised expression on Jethro’s face. “He was stillborn. Dad used to love to tell me how if he’d lived I wouldn’t have been born and how much better their lives would have been then.” He gave another shrug. “I guess by the time I hit high school I was pretty used to the fact that I was considered a waste of space by the people who should have cared about me. That’s why it didn’t bother me too much when Dad disinherited me. The only thing I would have wanted his money for was to get my mom some real help but by then she was beyond anything like that so I cut ties with my family pretty much and thought I’d made it out with my head intact.”
“But you didn’t, not really, did you?” Jethro reached for Tony’s hand again, holding loosely in his own, his thumb smoothing the top gently. “You didn’t go to counselling?”
“Why would I have? As far as I could tell I was the sane one in my family.”
“And then you met Jason McNeil, and he repeated the cycle,” Jethro said.
“I guess, when he started treating me badly, I just reverted to what I knew, to the way I been programmed to respond to that sort of abuse. I just took it because deep down I honestly believed I deserved it. If I could just prove to Jason that I loved him, he’d stop. Problem was, he never really believed I did. He’d seen through me from day one. He knew my little secret and he knew he could hold it over me.” Tony sighed.
“What secret?” Jethro asked.
Tony pulled his hand out of Jethro’s grasp and stood hurriedly. “I’m really tired. Can we do this in the morning?”
Jethro rose as well and hurried around the table to grasp Tony by the shoulders, holding him still so he could look into his eyes. Tony took a step back but Jethro hauled him in again. “What secret, Tony?” Jethro asked again. “What did McNeil know about you that made him so angry he had to hurt you over and over again?”
Tony swallowed hard then blurted out in a rush of words, “That I’ve always been in love with you.”
Jethro’s eyes widened and he released Tony’s shoulders and stepped back. “I never knew,” he said softly.
“I know,” Tony whispered. “I’m tired,” he said again, turning for the door and heading up the hallway to the guest bedroom. This time Jethro didn’t try to stop him.
Jethro ended up downstairs in the basement for the rest of the night, bourbon close at hand as he worked on the boat. He gave thought to looking in on Tony to see if he was having as restless a night as he was but then decided they both needed time alone to think.
He hadn’t wanted Tony to think he didn’t care for him, or that he was disgusted by the idea of Tony loving him. He’d admitted to himself some time ago that he found Tony attractive. But Tony had always seemed intent on pursuing the next pretty girl he encountered and so Jethro had tucked those feelings away. Once he’d found out Tony was gay, it had been too late. Tony had been with McNeil by then and Jethro had actually believed for a time that he was happy. He cursed himself inwardly for letting the abuse Tony was enduring go on for so long without intervening but he knew as well that he’d held back because he hadn’t really wanted to believe it was happening. Tony had always had an excuse for the bruises, the cuts and scrapes, and he’d proven on the job he could take care of himself. He didn’t wear the persona of a victim at work.
Finally he heard Tony in the kitchen, making coffee and he headed upstairs. He lounged in the kitchen doorway for a moment, just watching. Tony looked dishevelled, the bandage at his throat showing a small seepage of blood. His sweatpants hung low on his hips and his feet were bare. Jethro wanted nothing more than to walk across the room and pull him into his arms and tell him it would all work out.
“You sleep okay?” he said instead and Tony jumped a little then turned around.
“As well as you did by the looks of things,” Tony replied, waving his hand towards Jethro in acknowledgment of him still wearing the clothes he had the day before.
Jethro walked across and poured them both a mug of coffee then handed Tony his. “We need to talk,” he said, steering Tony over to the table and taking a seat next to him.
The roll of Tony’s eyes told him what Tony thought of the idea. “We talked last night,” Tony said, and Jethro could hear the unspoken ‘it didn’t get us anywhere’ tagged on.
“That was before I had time to do some thinking of my own,” Jethro replied. He sipped at his coffee thoughtfully then put the mug down. “I’m glad you told me you loved me,” he began. He held up a hand as Tony opened his mouth to speak. “Let me finish, all right? Then you can say what you want to say or you can get up and walk out that door and never speak to me again, okay?”
Tony nodded in mute agreement but he watched Jethro warily.
“I’d never really thought about being in love with another man,” Jethro went on, hoping desperately he could word this perfectly. “I’ve always been attracted to women. I guess being married four times kind of proves that point,” hegrinned wryly, “or maybe three divorces should have told me different. I’ve been attracted to you for a while… a long while. Maybe I fought it as long as I did because I wanted to believe it was just friendship, concern—“
“You Boss, Me DiNozzo,” Tony put in softly with a wry smile of his own.
“Yeah, something like that. Besides,” Jethro added a little defensively, “you were out there chasing skirt even more than me.”
“Protective coloring,” Tony said.
“Yeah, I get that now.” Jethro sighed, sipped at his coffee and grimaced at the coldness of it then put the mug down. “By the time I knew you might be open to a relationship with a guy, you were with McNeil. You seemed happy with him…”
“I was for a while…”
“Till he started beating you up.”
“Yeah.” Tony looked into Jethro’s eyes. “Where are you going with this?”
Jethro heard the hope beneath the simple question and reached over and pulled Tony into his arms, nuzzling at the sweet soft spot behind his ear then pulling away to whisper, “Guess I’m not as straight as I thought I was. I want to be with you, Tony, if you still want me.”
Tony pulled away then leaned over and brushed a kiss across Jethro’s mouth. “I do. I just need a little time…”
“I can wait.”
“He was right, you know,” Tony murmured. “All my life I’ve let people tell me I’m not good enough, that I deserved what I was getting. My father, Jason… I let myself become a victim.”
“I haven’t done much of a job letting you know that you’re worth something either, have I?” Jethro grasped Tony’s chin gently and looked steadily into his eyes. “You’re a damn good cop, Tony, one of the best I’ve ever known. You really think you’d still be on my team if I didn’t think that?”
“So what happens now?” Tony asked. His good hand was clenched into a tight fist on his knee and he sighed as Jethro took it into his own and rubbed his fingers over the knuckles, gentling it.
“That’s up to you,” Jethro said, pulling Tony in close against his side, resting his chin on Tony’s head. “You have to step out of that place you made for yourself with Jason and do what’s right for you. I’ll still be here when you decide if you want to take that next step with me.”
“I know I want to,” Tony said.
“Then we will… when you’re ready.”