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Whose Life Is It Anyway?

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As Tony still hadn’t replaced his car, Gibbs offered him the use of the sedan for as long as he wanted. Since Gibbs’ sedan was a practical family vehicle, Tony had his eyes on buying another sports car, but he hadn’t yet decided which model. After he completed his FLETC training, the pair would carpool together on most days.

Tony fit in well at NCIS and made a few friends there. It was a running joke that he wasn’t anything like the spoiled frat boy Gibbs has initially told people about. Before long, he became well known at NCIS for his acting skills and was often called on to perform undercover ops. Abby, Ducky and Stan continued to spend time with Tony and Gibbs outside of work.

About six months after Tony joined NCIS, Stan requested a transfer to an agent afloat assignment, stating it was about time, and that he was really interested in traveling and seeing more of the world.

As he packed up his things, he said, “Besides, Tony’s got your six, Boss. He’s a seasoned cop and is up for the job. I wouldn’t leave you if I wasn’t sure the two of you could handle anything that comes your way.”

During the holidays, Tony went with Gibbs and Kelly to visit Jackson in Stillwater. Gibbs explained his father didn’t have any other family, so they always planned to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with him.

They spent New Year’s Eve back at their house. Gibbs had offered to drive them all to the cabin, which had both Kelly and Tony rolling their eyes. Kelly had been invited to Becca’s for a slumber party with several other friends, which left Tony and Gibbs alone in the house.

Gibbs opted to grill a fine steak in the fireplace, with his usual side of beans. Tony whipped up a quick salad, just to add some balance to the meal. They spent the evening watching old westerns on the television set and drinking beer.

As the evening wore on, Tony set his beer bottle on the table and leaned his head onto Gibbs’ shoulder like he used to. With a smile, Gibbs wrapped his arm around Tony’s shoulder and held him close.

They watched the New Year’s ball countdown on television, then Tony kissed Gibbs square on the mouth at midnight. When he pulled back, he wished Gibbs a happy new year.

Reaching out, Gibbs ran his fingers through Tony’s hair. “Happy new year to you, too. I’m really glad you accepted the job with NCIS. We’re a great team.”

“Is the door still open?” Tony asked.

Craning his neck around, Gibbs eyed the front door to the house. It appeared closed to him. “Are you feeling a draft?”

Tony physically turned Gibbs’ face back to where they were looking at each other, eye to eye. “In the summer, you said you were leaving the door open. Now that I feel established at work, I think maybe I need to reconsider my relationship status.”

“Oh, that door. Yeah, of course. Is that something you’d like to explore?”

Rising to his feet, Tony reached his hand out. When Gibbs took his hand, Tony led the way upstairs to the bedroom.

~~~***~~~***~~~

In the beginning, they agreed to keep their relationship quiet. They were at a precarious point where they both lived and worked together. Neither wanted things to get blown out of proportion if the relationship didn’t work out. At least once a week, they had a romantic date night out on the town. Either they told Kelly they were working late and arranged for her to stay with a friend, or they planned their date around Kelly’s visits to her friends or grandparents.

One day in the early spring, Kelly was off visiting Becca at her grandparents’ farm, and Gibbs took Tony out to the cabin.

Tony hauled his luggage onto the porch and waited for Gibbs to unlock the door. “I do love the fresh air, even though the electricity is lacking.”

Gibbs smiled as he opened the cabin door. “To make everyone happy, I’d have to add electricity for you and plumbing for Kelly. And we have that all back at the house. I like unwinding out here when we don’t have an open case to tackle.”

After setting down their things, they returned outside to bring in the cooler and the bag of food they’d bought for the weekend adventure.

Taking in a deep breath of air, Tony stood on a spot and surveyed the property. “You know, we could put up a barn over there, and a pasture and riding ring over there. We could break out some trails for riding or hiking. Then Kelly would be happy to come out here and spend time with us, and the horses, of course.”

“Let me guess. The barn would also have a little house standing nearby, complete with plumbing and electricity.”

Tony grinned. “You can stay in your minimalist cabin if you want. I’ll even stay in the cabin with you as long as I can plug my phone in at the house or barn. And it doesn’t have to be a full house, maybe just a small cabin with a couple bedrooms and a bathroom or two. Perhaps the bathroom could be its own building, with a couple of toilets and a couple of showers, so no one has to go into the house full of trail dust. Then Kelly could bring her friends out to ride.”

Glancing down at his hands, Gibbs said, “I’d be retired before I could build all that.”

“We could hire someone else to do the work. Not knocking your cabin at all. It’s sturdy and does its job, but someone else could get a barn, cabin and bathhouse put up in a month or two, ready in time for a summer full of horseback rides and bonding with your daughter. She’s going to be grown and off to college before you know it, Jethro.”

Gibbs stood at Tony’s side and surveyed the land. “You know, when Shannon and I bought this place, we made sure it had a fishing pond for me, and enough level land for a barn and riding ring. When Kelly was younger, I promised to build her a barn out here and said she could have a horse. She and her best friend back then, Maddie Tyler, were both crazy about horses when they were little girls.”

Tony wrapped an arm around Jethro’s waist. “News flash. Kelly is still horse-crazy. She just doesn’t want to stress you out about money because she thinks you can’t afford to build a barn and have horses.”

“News alert for you. I can’t afford it.”

“Maybe not you alone, but together we can,” suggested Tony.

“Maybe we can start building a little barn over there, but just working on weekends, it will likely take all summer.”

“Let’s grab a couple of beers and sit by the fire pit. I have a story to tell you and it’s starting to get cool out.”

Gibbs tossed a couple of logs on the outside fire pit and grilled hamburgers for dinner. After they ate, it was starting to get dark, but the evening was still pleasant and the sky soon filled with stars.

“Okay, DiNozzo, tell me a story.”

Tony took a long swig from his beer, and then settled back in the wooden chair Gibbs had built years ago. “When I first went back to Philly, my partner, Dean Webster, filled me in on our cases. I remembered the names of Carlos and Manuel Ortiz.”

“The two guys in the yellow Mustang. I remember you guys made the bust.”

“Yeah, we reviewed the case and Dean told me I had gone down to spend some time on my Dad’s yacht to surveil them after I’d learned they had a yacht in the same marina. Jethro, they were a couple of two-bit hustlers who owned a run-down garage in a shady part of town. It didn’t make any sense that they could afford to have a yacht at a marina unless they were running drugs.”

“Seems reasonable.”

“I convinced Dean to go back to the marina with me. I’d grown my hair out and had gotten rid of the blond tips by then. I didn’t think the Ortiz brothers would recognize me. So we went out on the yacht and my dad handed me a stack of papers to sign. He insisted it was all routine stuff and that he’d played around with hiding some assets, put things under my name, both assets and shell companies.”

Leaning back, Gibbs settled his feet on a stump. “But you didn’t buy it?”

“I went missing from his yacht and he never reported it! I was pretty sure my best interests were not his concern. I took the papers down to my suite to read. We called Dean’s brother-in-law, who is an attorney, to get his take.”

“Let me guess. Your father is a bit shady?”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg!” said Tony. “The guy is pretty much a conman even though he calls himself an entrepreneur. The thing is, he gets hooked up with these high-risk deals and cons people into investing. He says he believes in the products, but it seems most of them bring little or no return. He gets his finder fees and walks away.”

“He seems to be doing okay. And no one has taken him out yet.”

“Here’s the thing. Dad’s been married at least six times. He charms wealthy women, marries them, and by the time they figure out he’s only in it for their money, they file for divorce.”

“And I’ll bet most find out when their money has been significantly drained.”

“He says he loved my mother. She was English. Did I ever tell you that?”

“No.”

“She’s from a wealthy British family named Paddington. She came to America to study, met my father, married him, and stayed here. I vaguely remember her taking me to England once a year. I’ve met my Uncle Clive a few times. Anyway, she was the wealthiest of all of my dad’s wives. And she set aside some trust fund money for me. Dad was trying to get me to sign papers making him my power of attorney with full access to those trust funds.”

Gibbs raised his eyebrows. “Wow!”

“Again, it’s certainly not in my best interest. Apparently, he’s hurting for money and hasn’t found another rich woman to latch onto. He thought with my memory loss that I’d sign anything he put in front of me. Some of the documents had to do with his shell companies, but he’d slipped those power of attorney papers right in there and hoped I wouldn’t notice.”

“I’m glad you took the time to read them through. And I’m glad he didn’t get whatever is coming to you.”

“There are five trust funds altogether. I’m thinking Mom was onto him and figured she’d spread the money out so in case he got access to one account, maybe he wouldn’t get them all. Anyway, the first account was a college fund. The money could only be used for education, or there were penalties. The second trust, I had access to when I turned twenty-five.”

“So you had access to that one before we ever met.”

“True. The day I had access, I bought my red Corvette, then I upgraded my apartment.”

“Bought the baby grand?”

“No, that was my mother’s. She was a very talented pianist. There’s still enough left from that fund to build a small cabin and a barn. The third account, I’ll have access when I’m thirty.”

Gibbs smiled and nodded. “Your mother was a very smart lady. If your Dad glommed onto the trust when you turned twenty-five, then hopefully you’d wise up and keep him from getting the next trust.”

“Exactly. And each trust fund has a little more money in it. The college fund had about fifty thousand dollars. The age twenty-five fund had two hundred and fifty thousand. The trust that becomes available when I’m thirty has five hundred thousand.”

“Not bad. And there are two more trusts?” Gibbs asked as he stoked the fire.

“Yeah. There is another that I can access when I turn fifty-five. That one has two and a half million dollars. The last one has a million dollars that I can access when I get married, or when I turn sixty-five if I remain single.”

“Sounds like you’re all set. For life. Why work?”

Tipping his head back slightly, Tony laughed. “Well, if we build a new cabin and barn here, the cost will drain that account.”

“You’d rather build a cabin and barn than retire early?”

“Yes, Jethro. My dream car was the Corvette. I was looking for another dream, and I’d like to make Kelly’s dream of having a cabin with running water and electricity, along with a barn for a horse or two, come true for her before she goes away to college. Not to mention, I like taking the bad guys off the street as much as you do.”

“What are you going to do with the five hundred thousand when you’re thirty?”

“I thought we could take a few really cool vacations, wherever you want to go. Maybe we can go to Italy and visit Rome. I speak fluent Italian. Maybe I’ll retire when I’m fifty-four.”

“A year before your two million dollar account is available?”

“You’ll be sixty-seven then. Mandatory retirement. Unless you want to retire earlier. I think we can make it on our savings and your social security for a little while.”

“You see us together that long?”

Sitting up straight, Tony stared into Gibbs’ eyes. “Don’t you?” Reaching out, he placed his hand over Jethro’s. “We’re good together. I’ve never been happier. This feels right. Don’t you feel the same way?”

Placing a hand behind Tony’s neck, Gibbs pulled him close and kissed him. “Yes, this definitely feels right.”

Back in DC, they contracted an architect to design a cabin, a barn, and a shower house with sinks and toilets. Gibbs had some ideas about the barn and wanted to build that himself, so they were able to build a large storage building for boats, cars and other projects.

“I promised to build the barn for Kelly myself, so I’d really like to honor that.”

“And with that large storage building and workshop, you can build your boats out there instead of in the basement,” teased Tony.

Gibbs asked Kelly to join them at the cabin for Father’s Day and she agreed. Her eyes grew wide as they pulled up to the original cabin, and she saw the new cabin, the new storage building, along with the pasture and riding ring.

“Oh my God! When did you guys do all this? This is fantastic,” she said as she ran over to the pasture, eyeing the three horses happily munching on hay. “Whose horses are these? Are they ours?”

Gibbs called after her. “Almost. They’re here on a trial basis. If you like them we can buy them. And I promise to build you a barn. We’ll winter the horses with Phil next door so he can keep an eye on them.” Racing back, she gave him a firm hug. “It was all Tony’s idea,” he said.

After hugging her father, she gave Tony a huge hug and a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you. Really. I wish I could say more, but honestly, this is my dream come true. I can’t thank you enough. Now I can host Becca and other friends for the weekend sometimes!”

Over the next couple of months, Gibbs and Tony worked on purchasing all the lumber they needed for the barn and started putting sections of the walls together inside the large storage building. By early August, they recruited some of the neighbors to come over and assist in the barn raising. Together, the crew got the walls put in place, and got the roof on all in one day. Gibbs and Tony then worked on finishing out the inside of the barn.

They took off a few days around Kelly’s birthday in August and surprised her, not only with the finished barn, but a horse trailer, two more horses, and enough saddles and bridles that all the horses could be ridden at the same time. Tony and Gibbs had also built several jumps and had them set up in the riding ring.

“It is perfect!” she exclaimed.

The cabin was built with a large bedroom in the loft, and two additional bedrooms with bunk beds in the lower level, along with two sofa-beds in the living room downstairs. The cabin had a kitchenette with running water and was only a few feet from the facilities in the shower house. There was plenty of room for Kelly to host slumber parties, and they even invited Fornell and Emily out to visit now and then.

~~~***~~~***~~~

Despite the occasional squabbles that develop in any long-term relationship, Tony and Gibbs felt their relationship was solid, both at work and at home. As a team, they had the highest solve rate in all of NCIS. They often had a probie, although most of them didn’t last long with Gibbs.

Eventually, Kate Todd came to work with them and fit in well with the team. A few months later, they took on a rookie named Timothy McGee, and Tony was officially promoted to senior field agent. As Tony had purchased another Corvette by then, the pair drove to work separately and kept their relationship private.

~~~***~~~***~~~

One Friday evening in the spring of 2004, when Kelly was away at college, Gibbs cooked up a steak in the fireplace and they sat down to watch a movie. After the movie ended, Gibbs took Tony’s hand into his own and led him outside under the stars.

“I want to ask you something.”

“And you have to ask me outside?” Wrapping his arms around his body, Tony did his best to keep warm on the chilly night. Gibbs had thought ahead and reached for the jackets he had set outside.

“I was thinking maybe we could take a trip up to Massachusetts and stay in a nice bed and breakfast some weekend in June.”

“Kelly should be home then.”

“We’ll get her a hotel room of her own and maybe a connecting room for Jackson so he can spend some time with her.”

“Sure. Sounds like a great family weekend.”

Getting down on one knee, Gibbs took Tony’s hand into his own. “Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts now. Tony, I’d like for us to get married. If that’s something you’re interested in.”

“You’re asking me to…”

“Marry me. Will you marry me, Tony?”

“But it’s not legal here in DC.”

When Tony sat down in one of the patio chairs, Gibbs sat in the adjoining chair and sighed. “It will be, one day. I like being married. Kelly would love to see us married. If it’s not your thing, I guess I’ll understand, but I would truly like to commit to you. And one day, when it’s legal in DC, we can renew our vows.”

Tony looked Gibbs in the eye. “This isn’t about that million-dollar trust fund I have access to when I get married, is it?”

Gibbs was affronted by the remark and insisted, “No, not at all. I want to marry you, not your damned money!”

“Okay. Just checking. Because I’m not sure what legal hoops we would have to go through…”

“It’s not about the fucking money. Leave the fucking money where it is until you’re sixty-five or whenever you need it. I loved you long before I knew anything about your trust funds. And I would still want to marry you even if you gave away every single penny.”

A smile flashed across Tony’s face, causing his eyes to twinkle. “Okay. I mean, yeah, I want to commit to you too, but Massachusetts? I need to think about that.” Standing up, he added, “I love you, too, Jethro, so it isn’t at all about that. But we don’t live in Massachusetts. If it’s okay, I think I’ll take the weekend on my own to think this over? Maybe I’ll go up to Philly and visit Dean for a couple of days.”

“Yeah, sure. That’s fine.” Gibbs sounded deflated as he began walking toward the house.

Tony grabbed his arm and pulled him back, kissing him. “Seriously. I do love you, Jethro. And I love the idea that maybe we can be married one day. But this, being married in Massachusetts, won’t be recognized here.”

“One day it will be. I know it will be.”

~~~***~~~***~~~

Tony packed a bag the next day and called Dean, asking if he was up for a weekend visit. Dean said the sofa was still available if he wanted it. Tony laughed and said since he had his own car now, he’d be happy to stay at a nearby hotel. After all, he really needed some time alone to think.

He had dinner with Dean’s family, then asked to speak with Dean privately on the patio. The pair stepped outside, taking a six-pack of beer with them, and had a long talk.

“Do you love him?” Dean asked.

“Yeah. And no, I can’t even see myself with anyone else. The point is, the marriage would only be recognized in Massachusetts. And we don’t live in Massachusetts!”

“I think Jethro is right,” said Dean. “Maybe not this year, or next year, but Massachusetts is only the beginning. One day gay marriage will be legal and recognized in every state.”

Focusing on his beer bottle, Tony picked at the label. “But then why not wait until it’s legal in DC?”

“Because you love Jethro and he asked you to do this. Maybe you guys can take a trip to Massachusetts each year on your anniversary until it’s legalized in DC.”

“He did say, whenever it is legal in DC, we can renew our vows there in front of our friends. For now, he only wants his dad and his daughter to come up.”

“If you love him, and he wants to do this, I think that is a good enough reason.”

“Thanks, Dean. That’s what I needed to hear.”

After returning to his hotel, Tony went for a walk to a neighborhood bar and did some more thinking. The next day, he had breakfast with Dean and his wife, then took a spin around Philly alone, seeing the sights, visiting some shops and doing some more thinking.

It was dark on Sunday night by the time he returned home to DC. He’d stopped off for pizza and had the rest of it in a box as he walked into the house. Gibbs was on the sofa reading case files with the television on.

Setting his glasses aside, he asked, “Did you decide anything?”

Tony smiled broadly. “Yes! And the answer is yes. I would love to marry you any time and any place. You set the date, and I will be there.”

Gibbs stood up so quickly that the case files fell to the floor. Ignoring them, he raced over to Tony, embracing him and kissing him. “That is exactly what I wanted to hear! I love you, Skippy. I’d be willing to wait if it wasn’t right for you, but I’m glad something changed your mind this weekend.”

“I had a good talk with Dean. He helped me to see things clearly. And I did a little something for you, too.”

“You brought me leftover pizza. I can see that, DiNozzo.”

Tony set the box down on the table and grinned. “Not that. It’s still a little sore,” he said as he unfastened his jeans and turned around.

Gibbs watched as Tony lowered his boxers to reveal a bandage on his right butt cheek. “What the hell did you do now?”

As Gibbs looked on, Tony carefully peeled away the bandage, to reveal his coffee cup tattoo. Only now, the word ‘Gibbs’’ in darker gray ink and a small gray heart had been added. “Gibbs’ heart. Get it?”

“Only you, DiNozzo. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve, but only you would have one tattooed on your ass.”

“It’s to show you how much I truly love you.”

As he gave Tony a hug, Gibbs said, “Just so long as you don’t go showing it to anyone else. We’re going to keep this between you and me for now. Okay?”

“That was the plan.”

“Make sure to cover up with a towel at the NCIS gym showers.”

“Wouldn’t you just love to see Tim’s reaction if he ever found out?”

“Better Tim than Kate. And we can invite them whenever it’s legal in DC and we renew our vows. I love you too much to keep our marriage a secret forever.”

 

~ The End ~
06/13/2020

© 2020 by Jacie

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