Knowing that he’s dreaming doesn’t make the situation any easier because it still feels real. The way his heart beat is elevated, the adrenaline rush that makes everything sharper and slows down around him as he squeezes the trigger of his SIG; the noise the bodies made as they collapsed onto the cold cement. All of it feels just as real as the first time when it really happened, more so maybe, due to the dreams startling clarity.
Then he’s running, Not like his life depends on it but something even more precious, like Gibbs’ life depends on it. His feet are flying, the slight ache in his bad knee just spurs him on to run faster, push himself harder, be better. Gibbs needs him.
His swan dive is text book perfect but the murky, dirty water is freezing. An instant shock to his entire system that’s so cold it’s almost debilitating. His lungs ache immediately, his eyes burn as he forces them to stay open – and there, maybe 50 feet away is Gibbs submerged in the old four beater sedan. Forcing himself to swim forward is one of the hardest physical tasks he’s demanded of himself but he does it, somehow. Propelling himself forward through the icy water that burns his eyes and getting closer, closer to Gibbs. Except this time, no matter how many times he forces his arms forward, to swipe back, his legs to kick again, he doesn’t get any closer. His lungs are beginning to burn, demanding air, and he keeps swimming forward but the car never comes any closer. He can just see Gibbs’ face in the distance, through the cracked glass, as a rush of bubbles escapes his lips and his hands stop slamming frantically against the window. He’s still. Gibbs is so unnaturally still and Tony’s soul is screaming out in denial and –
Tony slammed himself up in bed with a half-muffled yell. One minute he’s sleeping and the next he’s wide awake, no in between moments of sleepy confusion. The room is dark, heavy black-out curtains blocking the yellow orange of the street lights from a few floors below. The dim blue light from his alarm clock reads 3:42 am and Tony knows he won’t be getting any more sleep tonight, no matter how badly he needs it. Pushing himself up, he sits on the side of the bed and automatically begins to gingerly massage his knee where the ache is deepest while blinking sleep from his eyes.
Then he’s up, slipping into a thick cotton robe that was hanging from the back of door and lightly limping towards the kitchen, headed towards the coffee pot. It’s too early for the auto brew to have started so he presses the button manually before leaning against the nearest granite counter and stretching his arms above his head, limbering his body up slowly as the scent of warm, slightly bitter French Roast begins to permeate the area.
A few minutes of gentle stretches later and the coffee is finished, poured into his favorite OSU mug and liberally doused with Hazelnut creamer and heaping scoops of sugar. Tony carries the mug gently between both hands as he walks a few feet over to his dining nook and carefully settles himself down in one of the table’s bar stool style seats, resting his right leg carefully on the seat across from him. The world is the type of middle of the night quiet right now that his body needs but his mind doesn’t, even the constant noise of DC traffic blocked out by thick, double pane kitchen windows.
He’s wide awake in the head due to his dream, caffeine more a stimulant for his body today, but already he feels worn down and strangely fragile. His heart hurts, he realizes, an emotional ache so deep and wide that it’s almost a physical pain. He needs to emotionally process what happens, he knows that, but it hurts to try. Gibbs was technically, medically, dead less than 24 hours ago, and every time Tony closes his eyes it’s like he’s there again. He can feel Gibbs’ sternum creaking and pushing back underneath the palm of his hands, can still taste the briny cold water on his lips as he pushes air into the other man’s lungs.
Taking a deep, fortifying breath Tony closes his eyes and starts to deliberately pick through all of his emotions. Examining each one carefully to discover how strong it is and figure out what exactly is making him feel that way. It’s better, if more painful, to do this now while he has the privacy than to have an unexpectedly strong emotion rear its head and possibly dictate his actions while he’s at work.
The overriding and most all-consuming feeling is shock, coming from the actual events of the day before. That’ll disperse on its own, he knows, over the next day or so as everything settles and begins to feel more real. Beneath the blanket of that though bubbles hurt, and sorrow, and anger. Bitter, shaky anger that has his fingers clenching tight around coffee mug the second he identifies the feeling.
The sum of it boils down to this, Tony knows; Gibbs doesn’t trust him.
Not only did Gibbs not trust Tony with the personal things but professionally, he didn’t trust him. The Team Lead of the Major Crimes Response Team of NCIS didn’t trust his own Second enough to come to help for help. And now everyone knew it. From their own team, to The Director, to every single agent they work with at NCIS. The rumor mill works overtime in a fed building and Leroy Jethro “Second B for Bastard” Gibbs ending up in the hospital due to an off the clock situation was not something they were going to be able to keep quiet and under wraps. And knowing this, where the hell was he supposed to go from there?
Gibbs doesn’t trust him. Accepting the truth feels like he’s swallowed a ball of lead, slowly forcing itself down his throat and resting deep in his belly for him to carry for life. The knowledge hurts. With everything they’ve been through, seven years practically living out of each other’s pockets for days on end as they merge every ounce of their knowledge, creativity and driving, seemingly limitless tenacity into an unstoppable force of justice for innocent victims. Seven years of having each other’s sixes in situations both small and large, mundane and extraordinary. Hundreds of rooms cleared, life threatening situations survived, cases solved together – all coming down to this. As if every shared glass of bourbon, every time their eyes held the others and nothing was spoke aloud, every thousand and one little different things that was beyond what normal friends, normal partners shared had all been adding up to this – nothing.
A half held back sob forces its way past Tony’s lips as he sits alone in the dimly lit kitchen nook, his knee sore and his shoulder slumped under the weight of it all. He almost lost Gibbs yesterday. Lost him to Gibb’s secrets and his stubborn nature and his lack of trust in his partner. The stupid, secretive, fucking bastard had run off and almost killed himself. Almost killed an innocent girl. And what had Tony done so wrong that Gibbs didn’t feel he could come to him? Didn’t Gibbs know he could come to him, just say the word, and Tony’d have his back no matter what?
Another half sob escapes, quieter but more broken sounding this time. He’s crying with no tears, he knows. Tears have eluded him for a long time now but this type of sorrow needs some sort of physical outlet. And as it pours out of him through shaky little gasps and quiet sobs over a cup of coffee in the dark, the anger at Gibbs, the anger at himself, remains.