Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Gibbs leaned into the movement of sanding the curved skeleton of his boat in front of him. The roughness of the paper brushed against his calloused fingers, though he hardly felt it. The motion was one that often calmed him, especially when it came to distraction with thoughts of the holidays. Try as he did to project an ‘I don’t care’ attitude when it came to holidays, it sometimes got to him more than he cared to admit. Doing something that was somewhat enjoyable and repetitive in nature kept his hands and mind busy enough to drown out the emotional pain he too often felt.
Suddenly, the front door slammed closed and Gibbs lifted his head slightly. He was momentarily on edge since he wasn’t quite sure who would come over at nearly midnight on Christmas Eve.
His team had already had their holiday festivities the day before and wouldn’t see each other for at least a day unless something drastic happened. They were off rotation, and unless specifically asked to come in, Gibbs had allowed everyone to take time off to spend some of the holidays with family. However, the more that Gibbs thought about it, the more he realized that a couple members of his team didn’t really have family they could go and see for the day.
Gibbs listened for the footsteps above him, hearing the ceiling creak ever so slightly. His 9mm pistol was rested on one of his tool benches for easier access since he kept his doors unlocked. It was always a last resort, however, as most people wouldn’t dream of breaking into his house since he had almost nothing of value to steal.
The footsteps grew harsher as they drew near to the basement door. Whoever it was wasn’t even attempting to be quiet nor careful. Gibbs visibly relaxed, eyes trained on the door to wait for the figure to emerge and start down the stairs toward the basement.
Gibbs was hardly surprised to see a rather ruffled looking Tony DiNozzo clambering forward, grasping the rail and heading down the stairs. He was muttering under his breath, head shaking back and forth. If Gibbs didn’t know any better he may have thought that Tony was drunk thanks to his sporadic and sluggish movements. It only took one hard look at him to realize that it wasn’t drunkenness that was on his face; it was anger.
“Tony,” Gibbs questioned surprisingly softly.
Tony glanced up, fury shinning deep within his soulful eyes. “You working on your boat?”
Gibbs swallowed a sarcastic comment and glanced from the boat to the sandpaper he had clutched in his hands, before turning back to Tony. A meager look of confusion shown on his face as his mouth slightly gaped open. “Uh...yeah.”
Tony ignored the obvious look his boss was giving him and continued to the bottom step where he promptly sat down. His hands were rested on his knees, fingers working fiercely against the fabric of the jeans that he was wearing. It was certainly a contrast to what he usually wore when at work, but Gibbs hardly thought now was the time to focus on that.
It was silent for a couple minutes with Gibbs shifting from one foot to the other. Knowing that Tony would talk when he was ready, Gibbs turned back to sanding his boat. The repetitive motions soothed his thoughts as he continued to work, feeling the wood soften under the gentle pressure he was applying in conjunction with the movements. He had almost forgotten that Tony was there until the younger man stood from the step and slowly walked over.
“Do you have any whisky? Rum? Scotch? Anything?”
The last thing that Gibbs thought Tony needed was someone to supply him with alcohol. Then again, Tony was an adult and could make that decision for himself. Besides, if he was drinking here at least Gibbs could keep an eye on him and make sure that he didn’t end up harming himself or others.
Gibbs nodded to a half filled glass that he hadn’t touched yet on the far tool bench.
Tony wasted no time in crossing the small distance and pick up the glass. He drowned the golden brown liquid in two quick gulps, face screwed up in distain to the taste. He thrust it back down and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Got any more?”
“You know where I keep it,” Gibbs replied shortly without looking back over his shoulder from his sanding. “Help yourself.”
Tony glanced up the stairs and imagined the liquor cabinet, or at least the cabinet Gibbs kept most of his drinks. It wasn’t that far and had easy access. Yet, Tony stayed where he was, staring off into space.
Gibbs kept sanding until Tony’s anger filled voice filled the space.
“What a way to spend a fucking holiday.”
While it wasn’t exactly uncommon for Gibbs to hear Tony swear as the entire team could put sailors to shame at times, he wasn’t quite expecting that sort of release right away.
“No one dragged ya here, I’m guessing. You’re free to leave at anytime,” Gibbs reminded. Although Gibbs knew damn well that being in his basement wasn’t what he was talking about, he felt it would be better to lead with that to give Tony the added push he may need to talk.
Tony spun on Gibbs, accidentally knocking over a box of screws and nails in the process. They landed on the ground with a clatter, spilling throughout the floor. Neither Tony nor Gibbs reacted to it besides Gibbs turning around to look at his agent patiently.
“Do you know what that asshole did?”
Gibbs tipped his head slightly to the side. “No, I don’t. I also don’t know who you’re talking about.”
Tony shot Gibbs a ‘are you kidding me’ look before grinding his teeth together so harshly that Gibbs feared they may chip and break off.
“That douche of kin I’m forced to realize is my father. He called just to let me know that he’s sold it. He fucking sold it,” Tony bellowed at the top of his lungs.
Gibbs didn’t match Tony’s anger with his own for disturbing the peaceful atmosphere. Instead, he kept his composure when speaking to him. “Sold what, Tony?”
“The engagement ring he proposed to my mother with. H-He sold it! He fucking sold it! That wasn’t his to fucking sell, nor was it his to say what could be done with it. He knew damn well that was for me!”
Tony’s voice was only rising in intensity and volume the more that he spoke. Gibbs had seen Tony frustrated and even furious before, but it was never like this. What Tony was experience now seemed like pure rage that not even the coolest of conversations could soothe. No, Tony had to get this out before he ended up doing something he would end up regretting.
Gibbs’s mind fought to compose what little information that Tony was telling him. Contrary to popular belief, Tony could be quite cagey about details from his childhood that had hurt him. It had taken almost a year for Tony to first even mention his mother, and that had only been once. Gibbs knew enough to know how much she had meant to Tony and had impacted his life. Tony’s father, on the other hand, was a constant source of hostility and frustration in Tony’s life, even if Tony didn’t verbally say it often.
Now, however, was definitely not one of those times Tony would stay silent on it.
“He thinks he can just erase her from his life and apparently that starts by getting rid of stuff she left for me. I was going to give that ring to the woman that I propose to. I was going to give that to.....” Tony’s mouth grew dry and he trailed off, shaking his head lightly. “Nevermind who I was going to give that to. The point is that I can’t!”
“Can you try and buy it back,” Gibbs suggested.
Tony shook his head. “Sold it to someone overseas. Apparently it was worth some money and he got ‘more than he invested in’ or some shit like that. Like, how can you marry someone and not want any reminders of them!”
Suddenly, Tony realized his mistake and shot a fearful glance at the former Marine. A look of despair momentarily crossed Gibbs’s features before retreating back to the facade that he so often hid behind. Two could play the game about hiding one’s past as far as Gibbs was concerned.
“Sorry, Boss. I didn’t mean you.”
Gibbs didn’t bother to bring up his rules about apologizes. Sometimes it was best to throw Tony a bone.
“And this is what has got you upset?”
Tony curled his lip, wrinkles protruding from his forehead as he scrunched up his nose. “Yes! No. I don’t know!”
Gibbs set the square of sandpaper aside. He didn’t say anything, just kept his presence close and waited for Tony to speak. Listening was a skill that Gibbs could call upon when he needed to; following up on what he was told was a completely separate issue altogether.
Tony stormed back wordlessly over to the bottom step and sat down with a grumble. His legs tucked up almost under him while his right leg bounced and jiggled. A shadow of pain shown in Tony’s eyes that was quickly replaced by more anger that Gibbs wasn’t exactly surprised to see.
Gibbs headed over to the edge of the stairs and looked down at his agent, reluctant to have to force himself to sit down only to have to jump back up to his feet. He preferred a higher vantage point anyway.
“He never called back.”
“He didn’t call you back?”
“No.” Tony stretched back, feeling his muscles lightly ache. “One night when I was at the hospital after contracting the plague, Ducky sent you home and I was there by myself....I got really bad and stopped breathing for a little bit, or so they tell me. I don’t remember much of that night.”
An uncomfortable churning clenched Gibbs’s gut. “I don’t remember that.” He had made sure to keep his phone with him every moment that he was at home and even slept with it right beside his head in case anything happened to Tony. The hospital had been under clear instruction to call him if anything changed, and he was certain that he hadn’t missed any phone call from the hospital or he would’ve raced right over there.
Tony’s mouth curled up in an almost sad grin. “There was a new doctor on rotation that night and didn’t read the note Dr. Pitt left about calling you and called my father instead to let him know that I took a turn. The doctor called three times, left a message, and my father never called back nor ever mentioned it to me. I could’ve died right then and there and he wouldn’t have known, or cared.”
“Why haven’t you told me this before?” Although Gibbs would’ve liked to think that Tony told him about the important parts of his life, he couldn’t quite be sure. Tony liked to use his humor as a defense mechanism, and it was one that Gibbs found difficult to break through.
Tony shrugged. “Didn’t think that you’d care to know that there’s so much inherently wrong with your senior field agent that even his father didn’t give a damn whether he lived, or died, or anything in between. I bet you really looked forward to hearing that,” Tony muttered sarcastically.
Gibbs said nothing, unsure exactly how to proceed with that. He didn’t want to risk saying the wrong thing and scaring Tony off, but he would be lying if he said he wasn’t way out of his comfort zone. He too wasn’t the closest with his father either, but he liked to think that their relationship wasn’t quite this sour.
Without warning, Tony jumped to his feet and readjusted the oversized sweatshirt he was wearing. “Shit...uh I don’t know why I told you all of that and just barged in on Christmas Eve. I’ll leave you in peace with your boat, Boss. H-Have a great holiday.” Tony spun on his heels and tried to rush up the stairs and away from the suddenly uncomfortable conversation he had started.
Tony stop in the middle of the steps and turned around slowly to see Gibbs now standing at the first step. Tony could see more of him thanks to the light pooling from the first floor. It illuminated his silver hair and NIS sweatshirt that he so often wore when in his basement. It was almost comforting for Tony to know that even when the rest of society may be celebrating a holiday, decorating, and spending lavish time with family, Gibbs would be doing the same thing that he always did when they were off rotation no matter the day.
“You don’t have to go,” Gibbs explained with a glance back over his shoulder and toward his boat.
“I don’t want to impose anymore than I already have.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing, DiNozzo. I’d much rather have you here than on the road.” Gibbs took a step back from the stairs to give Tony room to make the choice on his own. He could make it an order, try to persuade him with a few quick comments, but that wouldn’t mean that it was Tony’s choice. If Gibbs knew any better, he was almost certain that his agent hadn’t always had that many choices in his life, and this was one situation that he thought Tony deserved to have a say in.
Gibbs walked back to his boat and picked back up the piece of sandpaper and picked up right where he left off. His senses were in touch with his movements, listening to the wood begin to curve under his fingers.
It wasn’t much longer when Tony crept back down the stairs and eyed the sandpaper that Gibbs was using on his boat. It was certainly a process that Tony had seen Gibbs use before. He had always been just a little interested as to how Gibbs went about constructing his boat, but there never seemed to be a right time or a reason to ask. Tony didn’t want to make a habit of stopping by his boss’s house unannounced considering he knew how private Gibbs tended to be.
It only took a couple more moments of Tony watching for Gibbs to pass back a section of the sandpaper and flick his head to the side. “If you’re going to stand there you might as well help.”
Tony fought a smile of gratitude from showing on his face as he took his place beside Gibbs with the sandpaper in his hands. “I’m not sure if I’ll be any good at this, Boss. I don’t want to mess up your boat.”
“Can’t mess this up so long as you go with the grain of the wood,” Gibbs reassured.
‘I’m not sure that’s true,’ Tony thought. It wasn’t something he wanted to say out loud for fear that Gibbs may respond with a swift hit to the back of the head. He had been waiting for once since he arrived and Gibbs hadn’t given him one. He wasn’t concerned or complaining quite yet, though it did seem a bit odd that he hadn’t.
Gibbs took Tony’s hands in his own and began to instruct him on how far to go and how much pressure to apply. It wasn’t long before Tony was able to do it without much thought and Gibbs was able to take another section of the boat not far from Tony. He kept an eye on Tony just in case he needed help or wanted to talk, but for now it seemed that silence was both of their best companions.
There would be plenty of time for Gibbs to attempt to get to the root of what was going on with his senior field agent. There was clearly a lot of things Tony had to work through, and truth be told Gibbs wasn’t sure he would ever make an exceedingly amount of progress. He would be there if Tony ever sought him out even if he often didn’t see himself as the best conversationalist. Until then, this would be all that he could offer him.
The two continued throughout the night into the earliest hours of the morning without talking. Neither one seemed too keen to interrupt it, just deciding that it was best to keep working in silence and enjoy each other’s company.
“What,” Gibbs questioned, too caught up in his own mind to realize that Tony had said.
Tony looked at the clock that read 3:41. “It’s the 25th. It’s Christmas,” Tony stated plainly.
Gibbs turned back to his work. “So it is,” he replied with a small smile that Tony couldn’t see.
“I could probably head out if you wanted me too. It’s late, er, early and I’m sure you want to get some sleep,” Tony pointed out, passing the sandpaper back and forth between his hands.
If Gibbs didn’t know any better, he would think that Tony was stalling.
“Wasn’t planning on going to bed quite yet when I have more work to do. It may go quicker with both of us working,” Gibbs suggested.
Tony immediately brightened and took back to sanding. “Sure, Boss. I think I can handle that.”
Gibbs couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the cheerfulness in Tony’s voice, which was night and day from what how Tony had been when he first came in. It was sure not to last forever, but he would try to stretch it out as long as possible.
“Merry Christmas, Tony,” Gibbs murmured after a while, still sanding the boat. The two may not be able to sort out everything going on in their lives, but at least Gibbs felt like they had made progress, no matter how little.