Length: 3,603 words
Summary: Tony and Gibbs are in a new relationship and live together. Things are not going well between them, living in close quarters, and in the middle of it all, Jackson Gibbs comes to visit.
A/N: Thanks to the lovely Rose_Malmaison for the beta, but especially for being the artist that inspired this story with this wonderful piece of art:
Story: On AO3
“Dad.” Jethro looked up in surprise as the front door opened.
“Well, don’t look so happy.” Jackson sat his battered suitcase down and closed the door behind him.
“I’m just surprised to see you.”
“Don’t know why. I told you I’d be down for your birthday.”
“Jethro…” Tony froze at the top of the staircase.
Jackson looked at Tony standing there in his boxers, then at his son, who was looking like a deer in the headlights. “Something you want to tell me, Son?”
“I’ve asked you not to run around the house like that.” Jethro hissed. He had carried his father’s case up to the guest room and took a moment to step into the bedroom where Tony was dressing.
“If you had a lock on the door like normal people,” Tony hissed back. “You are allowed to walk around like this in your own home. At least, some people are.”
“We’re not getting into this again. Not with Dad downstairs.”
“We never get into anything. You just quote a stupid rule.”
“Leroy…” Jackson called up the stairs.
“Your father’s calling.” Tony turned away and a frustrated Gibbs slammed the door as he made his way downstairs to where his father was waiting.
“Started some coffee,” Jackson said. “Pot was empty.”
Jethro bristled at what he perceived as an accusation. “It’s been a long morning.”
“I can imagine,” Jackson said drolly.
“I’ve been in the basement working,” Gibbs snarled, getting himself a mug. “I don’t have to explain myself to you or anyone. Who I see or what I do is my business. Tony and I are together now. That’s all you need to know.” Slamming the mug onto the counter, he said abruptly, “I’ve got some errands to run.” Gibbs grabbed his keys from the hook and stormed out, slamming the front door.
“Leroy…” Jackson started after him but came to a stop in the door of the kitchen.
Tony called out, "Jethro…" from halfway down the stairs but Jethro didn’t even look in his direction as he stalked out. He looked to his left and saw Jackson in the doorway. Taking a deep breath to ease his nerves, Tony slipped into his work façade before descending the rest of the stairs. “I guess it’s just the two of us. However should we pass the time?” he asked flippantly.
Jackson studied the man in front of him. Years of experience with Leroy helped him look past the projection. “Guess we could have a cup of coffee and get to know one another. Never had a son-in-law before.”
Jackson turned back into the kitchen, leaving a shaken Tony to follow. Tony said, under his breath, "Son-In-Law?" By the time Tony had wrapped the remnants of his façade around him and followed Jackson in to the kitchen, the older man had coffee on the table.
The older man looked at him and said, “So you and Leroy?”
Tony went to the refrigerator for his hazelnut creamer, and took his time adding the creamer and sugar to his coffee. “Yeah.”
Jackson noticed sun beams moving in the hallway while Tony was walking to the refrigerator. “How long have you and Leroy been together?” Jackson saw the sunbeams stop and then a shadow on the wall. It appeared to him that Leroy had second thoughts about leaving him and Tony alone.
“Almost six months.”
“Thought it was much longer.”
Tony almost spit his coffee out. “What?”
“I knew there was something between you and Leroy when you were in Stillwater. Gave you a sweater didn’t I? Wasn’t sure what though.” Jackson took a drink of coffee. “Noticed in the last few years, that every time I called, it was DiNozzo this and DiNozzo that. At first I thought he was looking to adopt you.” Jackson saw the shadow move as if Jethro had jerked his head.
Tony blanched at the thought. He hadn’t been sure of his feelings regarding Gibbs for a while, but never had he considered him as a father. “I never…” He struggled with the idea. The thought of any family connection felt incestuous and made Tony queasy.
“No, I don’t suspect you did. I’m sure it took Leroy a lot longer. I swear Leroy could go toe to toe with a mule; probably out-stubborn him, too.” Jackson saw the wry smile Tony tried to suppress. “So, did you have to hit him over the head?”
“No.” Tony smiled and sat down his coffee. "Though there have been plenty of times I'd loved to have given him a head slap."
“I know my son isn’t an easy man,” Jackson said. “Only person who was ever able to get through to him was Shannon. The other three were just his attempt to fill an empty space. Don’t see that with you, though. You’ve known him a long time.”
“I’ve known Gibbs a long time,” Tony corrected. “Jethro, I…I’m still trying to figure out.”
“Gibbs is my boss. Second “b” for bastard.” Tony laughed. “He can be a real bastard.”
“So, Jethro is…”
“My everything.” Tony swirled the coffee in his cup. “I fought for four years to make him let me in. It’s been so hard…”
“You wondering if it’s worth it?” Jackson smirked when Tony looked up with a worried look. “Like I said my son isn’t perfect. I know that better than anyone; except maybe you. You think I couldn’t guess what you were thinking? I raised Leroy. So, what’s wrong, Son?”
Tony shook his head. “I… uh…”
“You need to talk to someone,” Jackson said. “I’m guessing the way that Leroy took off out of here, you and he had a disagreement before I ever stuck my head in the door.”
“It was more of a full-out fight. I slept under the boat last night.” Tony laughed as Jackson fought not to spit out his coffee.
“You slept under Leroy’s boat,” Jackson repeated, as if to convince himself he had heard Tony right.
“I wasn’t going to sleep with him.” Tony said defiantly.
“And you couldn’t sleep in the guest room.” Jackson eyed Tony suspiciously and Tony flushed. “You slept under the boat so Leroy couldn’t spend the night working on it.” Jackson laughed. “Well, I’d say you know how to show him you’re not happy. Don’t know if any of his wives would have had the gumption to pull that one. So what did he do to deserve that?”
“Jackson, I don’t think…”
“What happened?” Jackson pressed.
It felt strange talking to Jackson about Jethro, but who else could he talk to? Jethro was vehement that no one at work know about their relationship. He refused to let Tony change his work address, so Tony was still renting his apartment. He had to drive over to pick up mail every day. Tony wasn’t even fully moved into Jethro’s house and Jethro claimed they had “no room” for Tony’s movie collection or his piano. Some days Jethro didn’t even seem to have room for Tony.
Jackson waited patiently for Tony to speak.
“Sometimes I feel like a mistress,” Tony said quietly.
“Not following you there, Son. You are living together, right?”
Tony couldn’t help himself. It was as if once the cork was removed, the truth just bubbled out. He told Jackson about the isolation he was feeling, the situation with his apartment, about how he couldn’t even have his things around him. He talked about having to constantly be on guard at work, which was far more difficult than he’d ever expected with Ducky and Abby being so observant and the times when he need to touch Jethro or just have a supportive word from Jethro when Gibbs was exercising his second “B.”
“So what happened last night, Tony?”
“I broke one of the rules.”
“Those idiotic rules my son uses at work?”
Tony shook his head. “No, not Gibbs’ rules; Jethro’s rules.”
“Leroy has a set of rules for home?” Jackson frowned. “What kind of rules?”
“Well, Rule #1 is No answering the phone or door. Not that anyone knocks. I broke a rule when you got here.” Tony smirked. “Rule #2 No walking around without being fully dressed.”
“What rule did you break last night?” Jackson hated to ask.
“Rule #1, mostly. We got home from work later than usual so we ordered Chinese. I kicked off my shoes, suit coat and tie then I unbuttoned my shirt. I was just making myself more comgy when I heard someone outside and thought it was the food. When I opened the door, there stood Fornell.”
“Fornell?” Jackson rubbed his chin. “That the fellow from the FBI? The one that married Leroy’s ex?”
“The one and the same.”
“Why was he here?”
“He and Jethro are friends. I usually go out to a movie on the nights he comes over.”
“He doesn’t know?”
“No. Jethro sent me upstairs…”
“He what? You’re not his child, you’re his partner.” Jackson shook his head. No wonder his son was single. Jethro’s shadow moved restlessly as Jackson watched. It must be killing his son not being able to give his side of the conflict. Jackson figured it served him right for not admitting he was home.
“He wanted to talk to Fornell alone.” Tony explained. "They’re really good friends, and Fornell comes over for dinner sometimes,” he said, not sure why he was making excuses for Jethro.
“And afterwards, let me guess, Leroy gave you a lecture?” Jackson hoped that he was wrong.
“He tried,” Tony admitted. “I was exhausted. This week has been… just unbelievable at work. We solved the case and then lost it to the FBI over jurisdiction. I figure that’s why Fornell stopped by. I just wasn’t in the mood to be reminded about the rules. We both yelled a bit and I finally went to the basement and slammed the door.”
Jackson got up and poured them both more coffee while he thought about the situation. “It must be really hard for both of you, with having to be the same old Gibbs and DiNozzo at work and trying to become Jethro and Tony at home. I love my son, Tony, but I know he isn’t perfect. That being said, I’m here for you, too. You’re my son-in-law, piece of paper or not. I know Leroy wouldn’t have moved you in to this house, if he wasn’t serious and committed. Now, after all I’ve heard from Leroy over the years, I know you aren’t perfect either. The way I see it, Leroy has made sure you have a place to go if it doesn’t work out. I guess the question is, are you going to leave him, or are you going to see it through?”
Jackson shook his head when Tony made to speak. “Don’t answer yet, Son. You need to think about this. You say you and Leroy have been together about six months. I don’t believe his marriages lasted that much longer. After he lost Shannon, Leroy’s lost three wives to divorce. If I had my guess, Leroy’s waiting for you to bail, too. I think that’s why he’s trying to keep your two lives separate. If it doesn’t work, I don’t think he could stand losing you altogether.”
“I couldn’t stay not if…”
“Leroy knows that, too.”
“I’ve loved Jethro a long time,” Tony admitted. “It was only four years ago that I let myself admit it. I’ve fought tooth and nail, trying to be a part of his life outside NCIS. I came out to my fraternity buddies and told them all about Jethro. They can’t wait to meet him. I also told my dad.” Tony put both hands around his mug. “I’m disinherited again. Until I get through this ‘crisis’ that I’m going through.”
“You in for the long haul, then?” Jackson pressured him.
“Yes, Jackson, I won’t give up on Jethro. I can’t. I’m here to stay until he forces me to leave,” Tony said adamantly.
“I’ll camp out on his lawn.” Tony smirked. “He doesn’t know how stubborn I can be.”
“You love him that much?”
“I do.” Tony smiled to himself.
“Welcome to the family.” Jackson watched the sunlight in the hallway move as the front door shut soundlessly. Well, they said eavesdroppers never heard anything good about themselves. Served Leroy right for sneaking back. Jackson could only hope that his son was smart enough to take what he heard and put it to good use. After their talk, Jackson pleaded tiredness and went upstairs to lay down. Left to his own devices, Tony threw some laundry in the wash and tidied up the living room. Looking at the clock, he noticed it was late afternoon so he decided he might as well start dinner. As he pulled out ingredients for Jethro’s favorite dinner of meatloaf, mashed cheese potatoes and corn pudding, he worried. Jethro had been gone for hours without a call or a text. Maybe he had decided that Tony wasn’t worth it. Maybe Jethro wanted out.
They’d been quarreling all week about Jethro’s birthday. The team, plus Abby and Ducky, all wanted to go out together to celebrate, but Jethro had declined. Tony had wanted to throw a party here at the house. It was his first year to really be able to celebrate Jethro’s birthday with his lover. He wanted to be able to share this with Jethro. Jethro had flatly refused. Tony couldn’t host the party in their house, in the event someone found out they were living together. In the end, they had decided that they would celebrate quietly; steaks on the grill and baked potatoes. Of course, Jethro had forgotten to tell him Jackson was coming.
Jackson…Tony pondered their conversation. It seemed somewhat disrespectful to Jethro to talk to Jackson about their problems, but it had helped. Maybe Jethro was trying to hold him at a distance to keep from getting hurt; not wanting to tell Tony it was all a mistake. Six months really wasn’t that long; he just needed to try to be patient, Tony decided, and try to remember the rules.
Putting the meatloaf into the oven, Tony began working on the corn pudding. Ducky probably wouldn’t have approved of it as a vegetable but it had corn in it, so as far as Tony was concerned, it counted. Finally sliding it into the oven with the meatloaf, Tony cleaned up the kitchen. His mind was focused on the next day. He could get another steak in the morning when he picked up the cake he had ordered. As Tony began setting the table, he heard Jethro’s car in the drive.
Crossing the kitchen to the sink, he looked out and saw Jethro coming in the back gate. He moved quickly to the back door and stepped out on the deck. “Jethro, I’m sorry I…”
“Don’t, Tony.” Jethro took Tony by the hand and pulled him over to the covered swing Jethro had added to the deck for them to watch the sunset. “I’ve been thinking…”
Tony’s heart froze. Jackson was wrong. This was it, Jethro was done with him.
“Tony, it’s going to be okay. ” Jethro cupped the side of Tony’s face. “We’re going to be okay.”
“Yes, we are.” Jethro looked down for a second. “I… uh… came back earlier. You and Dad were talking.”
“You heard us…? Oh, shit. I’m sorry, Jethro. I didn’t mean to get your dad involved but he’s so easy to talk to and I just...”
“Don’t apologize, Tony. I needed to hear it. I also needed to think.” Jethro tightened his grip on Tony’s hand. “I love you, Tony. I have loved you for a long time. I just wasn’t ready to admit it. The truth is I was afraid you’d come to your senses. You’re young and could have your choice of anyone, so why an old broken down marine? Second “b” for bastard and all.”
“Jethro, you are my choice.” Tony’s heart was open and he hoped that Jethro could read the truth in his eyes.
“Maybe it’s time we made it official, then.”
“Offical? You proposing, Leroy?” Jackson said from the kitchen door where he stood smiling.
Jethro laughed. “Not to you, Dad. And not to Tony, at least, not yet.”
Tony looked at Jethro. He seemed relaxed; content. They’d never talked about anything formal; just being together was what was important. “Then what, Jethro?”
“After I left earlier, I did a lot of thinking. I know I was a bit of an ass over my birthday. I really haven’t celebrated my birthday in years. I know the team would go out for a couple beers but it wasn’t special; it wasn’t …”
“Family?” Jackson said.
“Yeah.” Jethro looked from his father to Tony. “That’s what we are now. I guess I’ve been afraid to let others in; afraid it would … what we have would… Anyway, I guess that I needed to hear you and Dad to realize how afraid I was, and how I was treating you.”
“I’m sorry about sleeping under the boat last night, I was just being petty.”
“And I was taking my frustration over the case out on you.”
“Jethro, it’s okay. I’m going to try to follow the rules…”
“Tony, stop. This is your home, our home. You shouldn’t have to follow rules in your home.” Jethro dug in his shirt pocket and handed something to Tony.
It was a key to the house. Tony searched Jethro’s face. “I don’t understand.”
Jethro handed another key to his father. “It’s the key to our front door. It’s about time we put a lock on it. Don’t want anyone just walking in at the wrong time. I picked up a lock while I was out and I had some keys made.”
Tony felt tears in his eyes. “Jethro, I don’t know what to say.”
“You’re giving me a key?” Jackson was stunned.
“You are family, DAD. Though you might want to spend more time with us.”
“I think I just might.”
“Good. Any chance you can hang around another couple of days?”
“I’m sure Widow Shaw wouldn’t mind. What’s up?”
“I stopped by NCIS and put Tony and myself in for leave for the next couple days. I stopped by the lumberyard on the way back and picked up some cherry boards. Thought you and I could put some nice bookcases on the wall in the living room while Tony packs up his movies and books and brings them over. If we have time, we could clean out that small room off the living room. I’ve been using it for storage, but with a little elbow grease, I think we could make a nice music room. Plenty of natural light.”
“Count me in, Son,” Jackson said, beaming.
“Jethro, you don’t have to do this.”
“I want to, Tony. I want to fix up a little and make this our home. That is, if that’s what you want?”
“More than anything. I love you. I’m not going anywhere. ” Tony felt like his heart would burst with happiness.
“Hope you feel that way after what else I have to tell you.”
“What’s wrong?” Tony searched Jethro’s face and body for damage.
“I decided you were right about the birthday party. So, while I was out, I stopped by Abby’s. She knows.”
“Jethro, I swear I didn’t say a word.”
“I did.” Jethro calmed Tony, saying “Or rather, our forensic genius had already figured it out. I stopped to ask her over for tomorrow. I figured we could tell the team together. Instead, she gave me a lecture about how I was treating you. Warned me that you wouldn’t hit me with a golf club that you’d just shoot me and if I didn’t treat you better, she’d help you hide my body. When I left, she was calling the others to invite them and to tell them what to bring. She also said if we didn’t tell the others tomorrow she was going to. By the way, we’re responsible for the beer, steaks and potatoes. I stopped and picked up a couple cases and then went to the store and had them slice a whole loin. I also picked up the cake you ordered while I was there.”
“So we’re hosting?” Tony beamed. He wondered if he was dreaming.
“Yup. Oh, and Abs is looking forward to seeing you again, Dad.”
Jackson smiled. Seems the eavesdropping had done its trick. “Sounds fine, Son. Sounds just fine.”
“How about we freshen up and go down to Savory for dinner?” Jethro asked.
Tony didn’t think his smile could get any bigger. He knew Jethro hated going to fancy restaurants but here he was offering to take Tony and his father. “That sounds nice, but I made a meatloaf with that pudding you like. They’re in the oven now.”
“The pudding with corn?” Jethro smiled happily.
“Yes. And I have potatoes to make those cheese mashed potatoes.”
“That sounds wonderful.” Jackson said. “So, boys, we eating at home tonight?”
Jethro looked at Tony who nodded and then at his dad. “We’re eating at home.”
“At home.” Tony echoed. Home. It was such a short word but carried such meaning. Jackson settled into a lounge chair and he and Jethro starting talking about the shelving project. Tony wondered if it was possible to burst from happiness. He was sitting with tucked closely against Jethro listening to his lover and his father-in-law talk. He felt like he finally belonged here, at home, with Jethro.