“Promise me one thing: don't take me home until I'm drunk – very drunk indeed.”
January 25, 2008. Washington DC
Tony finished his report at exactly seven thirteen PM, but pretended to keep working until well after eight. Wasn’t much to update since the last draft he’d typed up on Monday anyway.
They’d spent four more days looking for Wan in vain. It hadn’t been easy going through every piece of security footage from every airport in and around the District for the past week. But it was like the guy had disappeared without a trace.
It was Friday night, and everyone else had left an hour ago. McGee got roped in (and happily so) by Abby to go to a Goth poetry recital somewhere in Georgetown. They’d asked Tony too, no, thank you, and the report excuse came in handy as a polite way to get out of it. Ziva had a date, Jimbo had a date, not with Ziva, obviously, and Ducky had a lovely night planned with his mother and her nurses along with their gazillion pet Corgis.
Gibbs was up in MTAC with the Director, working on another one of Agent Dunham’s covert ops in the Horn of Africa. From everything he’d gathered (snooping outside of MTAC pretending to be waiting for the boss to get his signatures on a new Kevlar jacket requisition form) Gibbs was going to be busy for another hour at least. Long enough for Tony to make a quick pit-stop at Gibbs’ place and have a little tête-à-tête with ex-Corporal Werth – the bane of this stupid, pathetic existence Tony called life.
But what was he going to say? Tony pondered and rehearsed all the way to Gibbs’ house. By the time he parked, he still had no idea what he was supposed to say to Damon. Get out of my life? Stop replacing me? Stop… stop confusing me?
Sitting inside his car, he figured it might actually be easier to do it over the phone. The idea of facing the guy, being anywhere near the guy, had a way of making Tony throw all his priorities out the window.
He didn’t have Damon’s cell-phone number, so he tried Gibbs’ landline instead. Damon picked up after five rings. “Gibbs’ residence?”
Tony cleared his throat. “Hi, this is, uh…” he ran out of words.
“Tony!” Damon’s voice was loud and excited as he recognized Tony right away.
“Uh, Damon, hi.”
“How’re you doing, man?”
“Um, good! And, you?”
“Gibbs isn’t back yet, did you want to speak to him?”
“Uh, yeah, actually… I wanted to speak to you too.”
“Well, why don’t you come on inside then?”
Tony blinked, looked at his cell phone then back up at the house. Damon was standing at a window waving at him, grinning from ear to ear.
Inside, Damon explained that he’d heard Tony pull up without being prompted. Tony smiled as politely as he could and stood there with his hands in his pockets, trying not to notice the way Damon looked. The taller man was not dressed in his usual black tee and camouflage pants. Instead he had on a pair of nice blue jeans and a crisp white shirt hanging loose but still doing a great job of flattering his broad, muscled chest. It looked like Damon had just shaved, and stepped out of the shower because his cropped hair was glistening with moisture. And he smelled so...
Nope, Tony wasn’t noticing any of those things at all.
“So what did you wanna talk to me about?”
“Uhh,” now was his chance, and yet… “I was wondering h-how… your interview went, with my cousin?”
“Oh right,” Damon briefly looked down at his shoes. “I think it went well but… I decided to stick around in DC for awhile.”
Of course you did. Tony nodded curtly.
“I really am grateful, Tony, to you and George, and Annaleigh is a really sweet girl, but… you know how it is. Going from protecting your country to babysitting a teenager isn’t the most appealing transition to make. I’ll do it if I’m desperate but… you know.”
“Sure! But, something tells me that’s not the only reason.”
Gibbs’ approval wasn’t just Tony’s drug of choice, apparently.
Damon threw him a strangely contemplative look. “No, it’s not.”
Tony fidgeted. He came here with a clear agenda, to test out McGee’s theory that Werth was deep enough in the closet that he wouldn’t want himself exposed to the world, least of all to Gibbs. But standing here, with Damon’s eyes so keenly trained on him it made his face burn, Tony couldn’t for the life of him think of anything to say. So much for his mad people skills.
“You look different. In a good way, of course…”
Tony was startled out of his thoughts, and caught Damon’s eyes surreptitiously moving down his body and back up. It was a Friday, and after having spent practically three days and three nights in the bull-pen trying to locate Wan (trying and failing), Tony had wanted a break from his designer formal wear. Sure, he’d happily go back to them come Monday, but this morning he couldn’t imagine sitting at his desk all day long in anything but his oldest, most comfortable pair of Levis, and a black button-down shirt with the sleeves folded up. He also had a maroon pashmina scarf wrapped around his neck, and carried his black overcoat in the crook of one arm.
Tony’s first reaction to Damon’s words was bewilderment, followed by a strong surge of warmth that rose to his face and neck. It almost made him smile even as his heart slightly sank: Damon had just checked him out, pretty obviously at that. Maybe he wasn’t so deep in the closet after all?
“Hey, I was about to go meet some friends at this club on U-street for drinks. Why don’t you come with?”
Crap, that answered Tony’s question. Werth’s lack of fear or hesitation meant Tony had no Hail Mary left to play anymore. He felt disappointed, with, weirdly enough, a side of delight.
“I-I don’t know, I should…”
“You have other plans?”
“I was really looking forward to a Magnum Season Five marathon, actually.”
Damon laughed; he probably assumed Tony was being sarcastic.
“Come on, let me thank you properly for getting me my first job interview. Gibbs says you’re too young to be turning into a hermit anyway.”
Tony crossed his arms defensively, “I’m not turning into a hermit.” And definitely not if Gibbs said it.
“Alright then!” Damon grinned and picked up his coat. Before Tony could protest, the man strode over and spun him around by one arm. Damon’s hands rested on both his shoulders as he firmly propelled Tony towards the door. It was a friendly move and yet, the touch felt more intimate than Tony had experienced in a long time.
“Let’s go buddy, you’re driving.”
Tony should have protested, really he should have. He was in no mood to go drinking and clubbing with complete strangers, even though that’d been the norm before he met Jeanne. But the damn hands and the deep gravelly voice tickling the back of his hair were very insistent and doggedly persuasive.
Maybe he should just chill the hell out. Damon wasn’t a bad guy; Tony knew that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Not to mention real easy on the eyes too. Maybe he could put the whole Gibbs thing aside just for tonight and see what this thing with Damon really was? Had to admit, the dude was kind of… intriguing.
Or maybe he was reading too much into Werth’s gestures, influenced by McGee’s theories and alleged back-stories. Maybe Werth really just wanted to hang out like two straight guys, be his wingman, pick up girls or something…
Maybe he could even strike a friendship with Werth, and then politely explain to him the whole situation, and maybe Werth would understand and just leave on his own?
Yeah right. Tony rolled his eyes, careful to keep his back to Damon as he did so.
Damon was not a clubbing guy. Hell, for all his machismo and marine bravado, he actually had a rabid fear of large unruly crowds. And he especially hated standing in line like a chump waiting to be allowed into a club. But none of that seemed to matter tonight. He had Tony by his side.
It took a few minutes but eventually they were shown in and met up with Damon’s friends. Everyone knew everyone except Tony, so they did a quick lightning round of introductions for the agent’s benefit. When his friends started to throw him knowing looks Damon blushed, grabbed Tony by the arm and tugged him towards the bar. He needed some liquid courage, now.
He wondered if Tony understood that Damon had actually asked him out, like out, out. He’d spotted a flicker of surprise in the sea-green eyes, maybe a fleeting smile on the gorgeous face, but he couldn’t be sure. Didn’t matter though, so long as he got to spend this time with Tony, he’d make do with whatever he got.
It was nine-thirty at night and they’d been drinking and chatting for about an hour. Damon’s friends, three men from his unit, were delighted to finally be able to drag him out of his self-imposed social exile. But they were perceptive enough to see that Damon favored Tony’s company tonight and gave the two men their space.
Damon was so grateful to these guys. They were the best friends he’d ever made – they knew he was gay and didn’t care. They also knew (now) that he’d been a steroid junkie and did not judge him for what’d had to do. Which could not be said for a lot of other people, but Damon had expected that and made his peace with it.
“So I screamed ‘freeze dirtbag!’ which – if you think about it, were the first words I ever said to the great Leroy Jethro Gibbs,” Tony found that funny and sniggered, and Damon laughed along.
They sat next to each other on a couple of bar stools, leaning close to talk over the loud techno-trance music, shoulders bumping each other. They were both on their fourth beers but it showed more evidently on Tony than it did on Damon. The marine was acutely conscious of the way Tony’s thigh brushed against his now and then, depending on his level of animation as he yakked non-stop, regaling Damon with stories of how he came to be with NCIS seven years ago.
Damon couldn’t help but notice how Tony’s eyes sparkled when he talked of his job and his team, and especially Gibbs. He shook his head slightly and chuckled.
Tony squinted at him, “What?”
“Nothin’ – it’s just cool that you’re so passionate about your work.”
“Well, you don’t exactly become a federal agent for the money.”
Damon laughed again. “Of course not. Besides, money isn’t exactly a problem for you, right?”
“And why would you go assuming that of me, Corporal? Just ‘cause I have filthy rich cousins living in Long Island doesn’t mean I’m filthy rich too.” Tony’s smile dimmed a little and he leaned over his beer. “My dad cut me off when I chose Ohio State over Yale.”
“Yale? Why did you do that?”
Tony shrugged. “Yale was his doing, not mine. He pulled some strings to get me there and wanted me to major in business, which I wasn’t interested in. I cracked Ohio State and Dukes on my own, fair and square, and all I had to do was play!”
He grinned like the spunky freewheeling teenager he must have been, and Damon squashed a sudden urge to reach out and kiss the man’s upturned lips.
“Couldn’t afford Dukes, being disowned and all, but the Buckeyes gave me a full ride. Been on my own ever since. What about you? You come from money too. How come you’re living in Gibbs’ house and can’t afford a car?”
Damon laughed. “My father and I – let’s just say I wasn’t the son he wanted until I got into the Corps. But it was too late by then. I guess I disowned him, in a manner of speaking. And now with this new… scandal, the feeling’s finally mutual.”
“Good on ya,” Tony clinked his beer bottle against Damon’s clumsily and winked at him. It amused Damon to no end that Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was such a lightweight.
“Can I ask you something?” Tony squinted at him. Damon nodded eagerly.
“Is… is this a date? Are we on a date?”
Damon couldn’t help but smile. There was no sarcasm, no humor in the question, just plain wide-eyed innocence. He leaned in cautiously, afraid he might spook his beautiful companion away.
“Do you want it to be, Tony?”
Tony gulped visibly. His face went through a hundred different shades of emotions until it seemed to settle on amazement, pure and simple. Damon wondered if it was now or never… if he could lean in a few more inches and touch Tony’s beer-wet lips with his…
The music changed, got louder and well, bouncier. Olga, one of the girlfriends showed up just then, and the moment was lost.
“Come on you guys, on the dance floor, now!”
Tony grinned at her, looking almost relieved as she pulled him up by the hand and led him to the dance floor. He turned to look at Damon and the marine sighed, left with no choice but to follow them into the big, scary swarm of people.
Soft alcohol buzz rushed up to his head as Damon stood up and he felt mildly woozy. Eyes on Tony. Eyes on Tony. He kept repeating the mantra as he followed the agent into the crowd. In the darkness, Tony seemed to glow, like Damon’s very own personal beacon made of champagne gold and pearly whites and more gold… and soon the chanting in his head changed.
Tony. Tony. Tony.
Sometime later, Olga let Tony go and turned to her own boyfriend to dance with. Tony continued to groove softly, digging his hands into his jeans pockets. Damon plucked up the courage to move closer, and closer, until his front was lightly pressed up against Tony’s back.
Maybe it was his imagination, maybe not. Tony stiffened one moment, and in the next, he leaned back into Damon’s broad frame, letting the man behind him bear some of his weight. Eventually everyone around them melted into the background. Together they moved, side to side, Tony’s eyes gazing away into nothingness, Damon’s transfixed at Tony.
McGee paced back and forth in Abby’s living room.
“Abby! We’re not gonna get good seats if we don’t leave right now!”
The forensic scientist had been held back at work and now they were running late. They’d planned to have a nice sit-down dinner for two before the Gothic poetry recital (those things started usually around midnight) but seeing how it was already after ten, take-away would just have to do.
“Patience, Timmy!” Abby called from her bedroom. “Call Tony, see if he’d like to come with.”
“I asked him. He laughed in my face,” Tim might have pouted, not like anyone saw it.
“He better not be sitting alone at home, moping. Can you see what he’s up to?”
Tim texted his partner, not expecting a response back because that’s what Tony did – pretended he didn’t get any messages when he was alone, watching one of his old DVDs. This time though, he got a response right away.
“Whoa,” he blurted, just as Abby walked out. She looked ravishing, dressed in a flattering little black dress, backless with a halter neck, and four-inch platform boots that came to her knees. Her hair was bunched up on top of her head, accentuating the long lines of her neck.
“Thank you, Tim,” she smiled. To which Tim looked up at her, eyes dropping all the way down and back up, and he grinned. She squinted. “I take it the ‘whoa’ was not for me?”
“Uh, this one is – WHOA.”
Abby chuckled. “And what was the first one for?”
Tim looked down at his phone. “Tony’s out with Damon Werth and his friends.”
“Whoa!” Abby echoed. “Finally!!”
Tim narrowed his eyes. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Abby just strutted away, looking extremely pleased with herself.
The first thing that went through Tim’s mind after reading the message was concern. He figured Tony went to talk to Damon and see if he could subtly pursue, okay, blackmail the guy into beating a swift retreat from their lives. Now while he had the utmost faith in Tony’s people skills, it wasn’t exactly going to be easy (or even right) threatening to out someone if they didn’t do exactly as they were told. But mostly he was worried that Werth might go ballistic, like ‘steroid haze’ ballistic, and end up hurting Tony somehow.
Right then though, looking at Abby’s Cheshire cat-like smile, he started to think he was missing something very crucial. “Abby? Do you know something I don’t?”
Abby bit her lip as if in deliberation. Then she shrugged, putting her hands on his hips. “If you haven’t seen the way the two of them look at each other, Timmy, you don’t deserve to know,” she said teasingly.
What the – Tim frowned hard. She couldn’t mean… well, he knew Werth was gay but Tony? Their Tony? His best friend Tony?
“No way! Abby… please tell me you don’t mean what I think you mean.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“No, no-no-no, you’ve got it all wrong! Tony hates Damon. He hates the fact that Damon exists! But if you think Damon is into him then, then… what Tony is about to do tonight can seriously blow up in his face.”
Abby frowned. “Why? What is he about to do?”
There was no choice left. This was way too confusing and there was too much at stake, including Tony’s safety and Werth’s feelings. To be honest, Tim had nothing against the man, aside from the fact that he made his best friend uncomfortable and more insecure than he already was. Tim decided to tell her.
And she decided to explode and punch him in the arm.
“How can Tony try to blackmail him for being gay? That is so stupid and so wrong! Not to mention so very hypocritical!”
“But Tony is not gay! Is he??”
“Bi-curious would be more accurate.”
Tim was shocked into speechlessness which lasted all of… twenty seconds give or take, before he squinted. “Actually that explains a lot. Like the perfectly coiffed hair and the designer label obsession and his neat manicured fingers…”
Abby smiled, “I just hope Tony forgives me, now that I’ve told two people without his permission.”
“Me and Ziva?”
“Yep,” she sighed. “As good an investigator that Tony is, sometimes he needs a GPS to find his way through his own emotions. I’ve been that GPS for him for years. But it looks like he’s found a new confidant in you now, Timmy.”
Tim bit his lip. He could understand the hint of sadness in Abby’s words, but also knew her enough to know she wasn’t all that broken up about it. His thoughts turned to Tony, and he sighed regretfully. “I don’t think I did a very good job, Abby. I thought Tony was just feeling insecure, you know, with the way Gibbs has been acting lately.”
“And Damon just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
He shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“You knew this and you didn’t say anything?” She punched his arm again.
“Oww! I tried, I swear. He’s just… he’s miserable, Abby! Besides, doesn’t that tell you Tony has no interest in him? It’s probably for the best if Damon leaves, save himself a lot of heartbreak.”
Abby grabbed her coat and keys. “We need to stop him. Call him, Tim, tell him not to do it.”
Tim grimaced, not ready to have that conversation, especially since it’d been his brilliant idea to begin with. “God, didn’t you hear a word I said, Abby? Why? Why should we stop him?”
“Because Tony likes Damon back, Tim, didn’t you hear a word of what I said?”
“How can you tell?”
“You’re an idiot. Give me the phone!”
Abby tried calling Tony but he didn’t pick up. “Did he say where he was?”
“What about the recital?”
She didn’t bother to reply and rushed out of her apartment, leaving him no choice but to follow. He could already tell this was going to be a long night.
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