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Angel of Death

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Gibbs woke slowly, stretching. He frowned, somewhat surprised to find he'd dozed off at all. The last thing he remembered was watching Tony sleep.

Tony! Gibbs sat up with a stab of irrational panic when he realized the younger man wasn't in bed with him. He scrambled out from under the comforter, grabbing a pair of sweats he found lying over the arm of a wingback chair. They were a bit long but they would do. He snatched a t-shirt as well, slipping into it as he barely registered the message on the front that read 'Whatever'.

His bare feet made no sound on the carpet as he padded quickly down the hall. Gibbs hesitated at the entrance to the kitchen, cautious, back against the wall. He wished he had his gun. He mentally cursed as he tried to remember where he'd left it.

Gibbs cocked his head, listening closely. The TV was on and what sounded like the news carried easily to where he stood. Glancing down he noticed the clothing that had been scattered the length of the hallway was gone. From nearby he could make out the rhythmic thumping of a washer on the spin cycle.

He shook his head, straightening up from the defensive crouch he'd instinctively slipped into. He really shouldn't be so paranoid but it was a hard habit to break, especially when people really were out to get him. Gibbs sighed silently, relieved that no one had been around to witness his moment of habit induced, illogical stupidity.

Gibbs scrubbed his face, trying not to feel sheepish. He looked at his watch, surprised to find he'd been asleep for less than an hour. It felt like a lot longer than that.

Stepping into the living room, he saw Tony lounging on the couch wearing a pair of faded jeans and an old, stretched out, gray t-shirt. He must have made some sound that announced his presence because the younger man immediately tilted his head back, green eyes meeting blue. He smiled.

"Hey." The greeting was as warm and welcoming as Tony's smile. It made Gibbs heart beat a little faster. "You're up."

"Seems that way." Gibbs rubbed his eyes still feeling more out of it than he cared to admit. It was disconcerting to realize he'd been sleeping so soundly he hadn't heard or felt Tony leave the bed. When Tony said he wanted a nap before dinner, Gibbs had fully expected Tony would be the one sleeping deeply for some time, not him.

"Always said you had good timing."

"Hunh?" Gibbs frowned.

"I ordered dinner." Tony grinned, before glancing down at his watch. "Should be here in a few minutes."

"What did you order?" Gibbs moved, joining Tony on the couch, settling in so he could lean into the younger man. It was comfortable, reassuring, and he could get used to this very easily.

"Got meatloaf, a baked potato and green beans for you." Tony massaged his shoulder lightly. "Ordered chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy and baked corn for me."

His stomach growled, reminding him what little he'd eaten for lunch hadn't been enough and it was a long time ago. Gibbs raised both eyebrows, considering the menu Tony had rattled off. "You can have that delivered?"

"Ordinarily, no." Tony chuckled, one arm wrapping around Gibbs, pulling him in closer. "But Joe likes me."

Gibbs pursed his lips, trying not to sound suspicious. "Joe?"

"Joe owns the restaurant about four blocks from here." Tony sighed, rubbing his cheek against Gibbs hair. "He thinks he owes me one."

"Owes you for what?"

"Lots of stuff if you ask Joe." Tony laughed softly. "But I think lately it's because I talked to his oldest boy, Jake, about going to the police academy. Joe is real proud of Jake for wanting to be a cop."

Tony placed a soft kiss on Gibbs' temple. "Never would have thought any one would accuse me of being a positive influence."

Gibbs smiled. Tony had definitely been a positive influence on his life. Before he could say so, the doorbell rang. Tony wiggled away from him and loped to the door.

Already feeling a sense of loss at the lack of contact with Tony, Gibbs wondered if it was possible to develop an addiction in just one day. He suddenly realized just how frequently he touched Tony at the office---those little head slaps, pokes to the chest, standing closer than necessary. No, his addiction hadn't happened in just one day. He shook his head, bemused. It had snuck up on him without him even noticing.

He got up and trailed after Tony, standing where he could see the door without being seen. The kid at the door looked like he might be about fifteen, and had probably just started a growth spurt. He was all knees and elbows, and Gibbs wondered if Tony had looked that way at the same age.

"Hey, Zeke." Tony leaned easily against the open door. "I was expecting Jake."

Zeke returned the greeting with a quick smile, blue eyes bright beneath the brim of his ball cap. "Jake's studying tonight. Got his entrance exams next week."

Tony nodded. "Forgot about that."

Gibbs could almost see guilt in Tony's posture. He'd learned to look for clues to what Tony was thinking from more than just his expression.

"Tell Jake I'm sorry I wasn't around more. I meant toâ€""

"S'okay." Zeke waved a hand in a dismissive gesture. "He said you'd had a rough couple o' weeks." The teenager assessed Tony looking concerned. "Said you'd been sick. Real sick. You feeling okay now?"

"Yeah." Tony smiled. "I'm good."

"Sweet." Zeke grinned. "Think Pop was a little worried 'cause you haven't been ordering anything lately. It's a good thing you called. He was getting ready to send one of us up here on a food run just to make sure you were eating."

Gibbs couldn't see Tony roll his eyes, but he knew he had. "Tell your old man I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself."

"You tell him." Zeke laughed, lightly punching Tony in the arm. "I think Pop wants to adopt you...and I know Momma does."

Tony chuckled and handed the teenager a few bills. "Keep the change."

Zeke pocketed the money with barely a glance, handing Tony a paper bag in return. He turned to go, spinning to a stop to face Tony again as if he'd just remembered something. "Jake said to tell you thanks for that recommendation letter."

"Tell him it wasn't a big deal. Anyone could have done that. Was his hard work."

He could hear the self-effacement in Tony's tone, downplaying his effort on Jake's behalf. From the sound of it Tony's far more involved with this family than he'd made it seem. His familiarity with them and the neighborhood was probably another reason why Tony kept his apartment in spite of the troubles he'd had with the building.

"Not a big deal?" Zeke snorted in response to Tony's comments. "Man, that letter is the reason he's even getting a shot and you know it." The teenager pointed a finger at Tony. His expression and voice altered, making it clear he was imitating someone else. "So you just suck it up and take your gratitude like a man, mister."

Tony threw his head back and laughed. It was a rich, carefree laugh. Gibbs had never heard him laugh like that before, and he'd give his eye teeth to have a chance to hear him do it again. He told himself he wasn't going to be jealous or resentful of a teenager. It wasn't right to feel that way simply because the kid knew how to make Tony laugh that way and had probably gotten to hear that wonderful sound more than once.

Tony made a shooing motion with one hand. "Better get back before Joe sends out reinforcements looking for you. And give your Momma my love."

"Yes, sir." Zeke tossed off a careless salute and jogged down the steps.

Tony shook his head, grinning. He closed the door, deadbolt sliding into place with a quiet snick. He looked up to make eye contact with Gibbs.

"Dinner is served." Tony made a sweeping bow.

Gibbs expected Tony to walk back into the living room. He thought they'd be eating in front of the TV, but the younger man headed for the kitchen. He set the bag down on the table and turned to riffle through a drawer, pulling out eating utensils.

"Joe doesn't bother with plastic." Tony said, answering the question Gibbs hadn't asked. "No reason to since I think I'm pretty much the only one he delivers for."

Tony placed the forks, spoons and knives on the table before he opened the bag to reveal Styrofoam boxes. "What do you want to drink?"

"I'll have a beer."

Tony nodded and pointed to the fridge, moving on to sort out the food for each of them. "Should be a six pack of San Miguel on the top shelf of the door. Got one or two Yuengling Lagers left in there too if you'd rather have that."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. San Miguel was a dark beer he'd sampled once or twice back when he was in the Marines. He'd never thought Tony would be the type to care for a dark beer, but the younger man had a way of surprising him time and again. The lager he'd never tried, so Gibbs pulled one from the fridge, looking over his shoulder to ask what Tony wanted.

"One of those is fine" Tony nodded to the beer Gibbs held. "I'll have to get more one of these days."

Gibbs twisted the tops off and tossed them easily into the garbage before setting one on the table for Tony and sipping from the other. He smiled to himself. This easy domesticity should have felt odd, but it didn't.

The food smelled wonderful and Gibbs stomach rumbled. Tony grinned as he sat down. "Dig in."

The food tasted as good as it smelled. He wasn't sure how Tony even knew he liked meatloaf, but he definitely wasn't going to complain about it. There was nothing better than a 'home cooked meal' even if it wasn't really his home where it was cooked.

Gibbs found himself reaching for something to talk about, regretting the fact they weren't sitting in front of the TV. At least then he could have found a topic or let the noise fill the silence between them. Not that conversation was really required, Gibbs thought with a small sigh. The silence between them was comfortable, natural. But Gibbs had this unexpected desire to fill the void, to find a way to stay as connected to Tony as possible.

He didn't want to talk about work. He didn't want the only thing they had in common to be the goddamn job. Although, it would be a switch from just about any other relationship Gibbs had ever had. In those, the job had been the one thing none of his wives had ever quite understood or even wanted any part of.

Gibbs sighed softly when Tony's hand covered his. Green eyes held a wealth of warmth and amusement as they met blue. "It's okay."

"What is?" Gibbs blinked.

"Conversation, or lack thereof." Tony smiled. "Think I'd rather have silence than be reduced to talking about the weather."

Gibbs chuckled, trust Tony to understand when no one else would. He sipped his beer. "This is good."

"I know." Tony's smile broadened. "It's why I drive up to Pennsylvania special just to get it."

"You drive toâ€""

"They don't carry it around here." Tony shrugged. "And it's a good excuse to go visit Pete."

"Pete?"

"My cousin." Tony neatly cut his chicken, taking a quick bite and swallowing before he continued speaking. "He lives just outside Phillie."

"The one who collects buttons?"

"One and only." Tony nodded.

Pete was one of the few relatives Tony had mentioned by name. He usually only made passing reference to the rest of his family, if he talked about them at all. Gibbs had always assumed it was because Tony wasn't on good terms with them, now he wasn't so sure.

"I talk to my father about once a month." Tony stated quietly, his uncanny ability to understand what Gibbs was thinking coming to the fore again. "We don't always see eye to eye but we don't really hate each other."

Tony shifted restlessly for a moment. "He'd rather I had a job working as an accountant or brokering business deals. Something were my biggest worry might be a paper cut or losing a deal to the competition."

The younger man's tone shifted to adopt a carefree note that didn't sound as forced or false as Gibbs knew it had to be. "He thinks my being a cop means I spend my time with low lives, dead beats and the worst humanity has to offer."

"That where his comment about you dieing in the sewers came from?" Gibbs grip on his knife tightened. He hadn't been sure Tony was joking when that comment was made. He now suspected it hadn't been said to the younger man in jest. And it made Gibbs want to smack Tony's father upside the head. What sort of father says that to his son?

"Yeah." Tony shrugged, his _expression turning wistful. "Weird how Joe sees Jake being a cop as a good thing, and my father sees it as a step down."

"Your father is a fool."

Tony chuckled dryly. "The man runs a fortune five hundred company....he's no fool."

"What he does for a living doesn't preclude him from being an idiot." Gibbs argued firmly.

Tony grinned, shaking his head. "Rather glad you two have never met." His smile faded. "Don't think he's much like Kate's dad."

"You did really well with them today." Gibbs reached across the table to capture one of Tony's hands. "I was impressed."

"Don't be." Tony snorted. "Told you when you hired me I was good with people."

Gibbs hated it when Tony downplayed a skill. It was like he had some sort of list of what abilities mattered and what ones didn't. And what mattered always seemed to be things Tony wasn't good at. He suspected Tony's father might have something to do with that.

Gibbs winced internally thinking he probably re-enforced that thought process. He squeezed Tony's hand. "Well, I suck at dealing with people....outside of an interrogation. So, I'll be impressed if I want to be."

"Eat your dinner." Tony laughed softly, and squeezed his hand before pulling away. "It's going to get cold."

Gibbs let it go, but made a mental note to address the issue of Tony's worth and talents again in the future. He had a feeling it wasn't the sort of thing that would be handled. He chewed thoughtfully on his green beans. A change of topic was in order.

"How did you meet Joe?" That seemed a safe enough topic and one he was genuinely interested in.

"Like I said...his restaurant is just down the street. And I can't cook worth a damn." Tony shrugged, evidently not bothered by that particular short coming. "We were mostly just nodding acquaintances, regular good paying customer you make sure to say hello to sort of thing. Think what really made him take a shine to me was when he came down with the pneumonia and I started walking Mrs. D home."

Gibbs' fork paused half way to his mouth. "Mrs. D?"

"Joe's wife. Mrs. DelMarco." Tony supplied. He took a small bite of his potatoes before continuing. "Usually Joe closes up, but with him down for the count, she was taking care of the restaurant. They don't close until midnight. They only live a few blocks away, but the neighborhood isn't that safe and I didn't think she should be walking home by herself." There was just a hint of defensiveness in Tony's tone.

Gibbs smiled. Tony really was a gentleman in a lot of ways. Tony blushed when Gibbs said as much.

"Ten bucks says you can't get Kate to agreeâ€"" Tony stopped abruptly and looked away. "Damn." Tony sighed, his expression tight. He muttered, almost to himself, "Forgot for a second that she was gone."

Gibbs swallowed hard; he had forgotten too. He wasn't sure if he felt guilty or relieved. If he had to pick one, Gibbs would opt for pissed. It was familiar, productive even....well, most of the time. Right now it was just about as useful as tits on a boar, as his grandmother was used to say.

Gibbs shook his head. He pushed his food away; he wasn't hungry anymore. Tony played with his for a bit before also pushing it away.

"Might as well put this in the fridge." Tony shook his head.

Gibbs wanted to argue, to insist he eat more, but he had a feeling Tony would tell him to just shut up. He already knew he wouldn't get away with 'do as I say, not as I do'. He felt like a schmuck for ruining the easy camaraderie between them, for making Tony remember Kate was gone.

Tony stood up, and reached across the table to lightly cup Gibbs' face. "Not your fault." His thumb brushed Gibbs' cheekbone in a feather light caress. "It's going to be like that for awhile."

"Sucks." Gibbs said tersely, mimicking the same tone and inflection Tony had when he summed up the situation earlier before they'd gotten out of the car at the office.

"Like a Hoover." Tony grimaced, moving away to take their barely eaten meal to the fridge. "But it gets better."

Gibbs knew it would get better, eventually. "It only hurts until it doesn't."

Tony gave him a look he didn't quite now how to read. Gibbs resisted the urge to fidget. "What?"

"That's....well, profound." Tony shook his head, a quicksilver grin appearing. "In addition to being blatantly obvious."

Gibbs shrugged, pleased to see Tony's good humor at least partially restored. "Was something my father used to say."

"Ah." Tony nodded. "Must have been wiser than mine."

Gibbs resisted the urge to agree. It didn't seem appropriate to insult Tony's father any more than he already had, no matter how much he wanted to. One of these days he fully intended to have a conversation with the senior DiNozzo. There was quite a bit he'd like to say to the man.

"I'm going to go throw the clothes in the dryer." Tony pointed toward the living room. "Go see if you can find something worth watching."

"Didn't even know you knew how to do laundry." Gibbs commented with a grin.

"I know how to dust too. But I suck at windows."

Gibbs chuckled and wandered into the living room taking his beer with him. He glanced at the plasma screen TV and the rack containing what looked like every DVD ever made. He shook his head. The remote on the coffee table would have been right at home in the space shuttle in Gibbs opinion. So he left it alone.

He eyed the stereo system. Gibbs knew nothing about them, but he was fairly certain it was top of the line, best money could buy. He frowned. He knew exactly what Tony made working for NCIS and what he'd made as a cop. There was no way he could afford these things and his fancy suits if his family had really cut him off.

"Trust fund." Tony said succinctly as he walked back in.

"What?" Gibbs blinked, once more caught off guard by Tony's ability to follow thoughts he hadn't voiced.

"Trust fund." Tony repeated. "My grandfather set it up."

"Same one who got you dot com stocks?"

"Same." Tony sipped his own beer, carelessly dropping onto the couch. "He was pretty savvy back in the day, but toward the end, Poppy slipped a bit."

Gibbs joined Tony on the couch. He found it so incredibly easy to lounge between Tony's legs, his back rested against the younger man's chest. He sighed, settling in. "You don't really need to work do you?"

Tony draped his arms around Gibbs, resting his chin on the older man's shoulder. "I have enough I can do anything. Not so much I could do nothing."

"Fine distinction that."

"Very."

Tony made an easy reach for the coffee table and the remote. It confirmed Gibbs suspicion that the furniture had been position the way it was for easy access rather than style. "You couldn't find anything?"

Gibbs snorted. "I wasn't even sure how to use that thing."

"I can teach you." Tony chuckled, placing a quick kiss in Gibbs' hair. "It's easy."

Gibbs had little doubt Tony could teach him. He'd already learned a lot from him. He was looking forward to learning a lot more.

The image on the screen flickered as Tony switched the channel. Gibbs grimaced, giving the commercial a dirty look. It wasn't like they really needed to hear about life insurance and how to provide for loved ones after death.

Tony sighed softly. "Funeral is day after tomorrow."

"I know." Gibbs took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It wasn't exactly something either of them were going to forget.

"I hate funerals." Tony stated with quiet conviction.

"Me too." Gibbs captured one of Tony's hands, entwining their fingers.. He especially hated burying friends and family

He didn't even want to think about what it would be to have been like to have missed out on moments like this. Gibbs wondered how much damage it would do to his pride to say thank you to Sam if he saw him again. When he saw him again, Gibbs amended that thought.

He was confident the angel would show up again. Gibbs just wished he knew 'when' and 'where' and 'why' beforehand. The 'how' wasn't really an issue any more, not that it ever really was....Some things were better off being left as mysteries, and Gibbs suspected that was one he'd never really get a straight answer to. 'Who' Sam was there for was decidedly unimportant as long as it wasn't Tony.

Gibbs tightened his grip, reflexively needing to make sure he had a firm hold on Tony. He got a reassuring squeeze in return. God help him if he ever had to bury Tony. That...he promised himself, was simply not an option. And it never would be.

TBC