“How could I say no? It was so wildly romantic!”
January 26, 2008. Washington DC
“Tony, come on, we’re heading out. Tony!”
Tony felt that voice, that familiar gravelly voice break through his pleasantly intoxicated stupor. It came from right behind him, from the big pillar of muscle he’d been comfortably leaning against all night. He opened his eyes and suspected he might have been grinning stupidly for awhile. Turning towards Damon, he couldn’t help but smile again and was met by a bright flash of teeth in return.
“Lightweight,” Damon teased, whispering right into his ear, before getting behind Tony once more and gently ushering him out of the club that was noisier and more crowded than he remembered. Tony felt himself swaying dangerously and was grateful for Damon’s arms that kept him upright and walking a reasonably straight line.
“What time is it?” He asked, his speech slurred.
“Just after midnight.”
“Dude, the night’s still young! Why are we leaving… you Marines can’t function without a bedtime curfew, or what?”
Damon chuckled. “Don’t worry – we’re not calling it a night yet. Some friends of mine are having a house party and I haven’t seen them in a while so, we’re gonna go get ourselves some free booze and nourishment, you and me.”
“Olga’s not coming?” Tony craned to look around, and realized they’d broken away from the pack.
“Aww, now you’re just breaking my heart, Tonio. Come on, I promise it’ll be fun.”
Tony didn’t admit it, but he kind of liked the nickname Damon had picked up sometime during the night. Maybe it was right after Tony told him that’s what his mom used to call him. Maybe it was after Damon had leaned close, kissed his cheek and whispered, “I love the way you move… Tonio.”
It had been his way to ask for permission to use the endearment, but Tony had been too busy shuddering with glee to either confirm or deny.
Tony laughed as he watched Damon struggle to hail a cab down. Damon scowled. “What? It’s a busy night.”
Tony licked his lips, then raised two fingers to his mouth and whistled – sharp and screechingly loud. A cab immediately swerved towards them and came to a halt.
Damon smirked. “Alright, Holly Golightly, let’s go.”
Tony giggled and stumbled his way into the cab and Damon followed right after. He was high, that much was obvious, and it was a happy high. Not an ‘I’ve had too much to drink and don’t feel so good’ high, just a ‘Life’s good and one more tequila would be just golden’ high. He’d not felt so relaxed in a really long time. And he sure didn’t remember ever feeling like someone had his back and he could drink and party as much as he wanted to, all night. Usually he’d be the one looking out for the girl, or even for his frat brothers. For the first time in his life, Tony was the one being looked out for, and he liked it, even as he found himself mildly disturbed by it.
“Everything’s upside down,” he mumbled as he stared out of his window at the scenery flying past.
“What do you mean?” Damon asked. He was sitting beside him, practically glued to Tony’s side from shoulders all the way down to their feet.
When Tony turned towards him, he realized his lips were barely inches away from Damon’s. And all he had to do was lean in… lick those luscious red lips that’d been teasing him with their breathy whispering all damn night.
“What’s upside down again?”
Tony blinked, remembering what he’d been thinking of before. “Oh, you know. You start with house parties then move it to the club, not the other way round. And I usually carry the drunken deadweight out of a club not the other way round.”
He chuckled and Damon joined in, with that magical heartwarming laugh of his.
“And I’m supposed to hate you, not…” Even through his drunkenness, Tony realized he mustn’t finish that thought. He bit his lip, as Damon frowned.
“What was that?”
“Nothing!” Tony looked away and spotted a random movie billboard on the street. Before Damon could prod, he started waxing philosophical about the evolution of Hollywood movie posters over the years. Damon seemed to let it slide and go with the flow of Tony’s chaotic rambling.
“And so, in summation –” Tony continued after pausing for breath, but was interrupted.
“In summation, you missed your calling, DiNozzo. You really should have been a professor at the Film School, not a federal agent.”
Damon chuckled again, but Tony couldn’t find it in himself to join in. Memories of Jeanne and all the lies he’d told her flooded his mind, threatening to undo all the good work Damon had done to help him forget. He needed a distraction, now.
Before he knew it, he was leaning in, craving desperately to recapture the happiness he’d felt all night. He was not disappointed when Damon met him half-way. And then they were kissing, clinging to each other, breathing in the scent of the other and letting it ride all the way up to their brains, tasting each other for the very first time…
The cab swerved rather violently towards the curb and stopped, throwing the two men apart.
“This is as far as I go,” the cab driver grunted.
It took a few seconds to realize what was happening. And when he did, Tony threw his head back and snorted while Damon furiously rammed a hand against the glass panel that protected the cabbie from him.
“Sonofabitch!” Damon shouted, but before he could do anything else, Tony reached for his shoulder and squeezed. He felt the younger man instantly still under his touch.
“It’s quite alright, darling,” Tony drawled, channeling the first diva that sprang to mind. “The poor man’s just upset he married the three-hundred pound cow waiting for him at home instead of eloping with the sexy transvestite he fell in love with years ago.”
“Get out, both of you!” The cabbie practically shrieked.
Laughing, Damon and Tony got out and nearly doubled over as the sedan pulled away as fast as it possibly could. A minute later, Damon composed himself but Tony was still laughing and simultaneously groaning for the ache in his belly.
“You done?” Damon asked him, one eyebrow hiked up in amusement.
Tony bit his lip and exhaled deeply, no longer feeling as drunk as he’d been before. He straightened up and dug his hands in his coat pockets. “You were going to deck the guy, weren’t you?”
Damon shrugged noncommittally. “Come on, the house isn’t that far from here. We can walk.”
Tony was hit by a strong sense of déjà vu – how very Gibbs-like Damon was when he tried to change the subject. The same sharp squinting of the eyes, the same bossy dismissive way of turning his back on Tony to signal an end to the discussion. And just like that, he was reminded of why he’d come looking for Damon that night.
“Just like you broke Corporal Miles’ nose, last year?”
Damon stopped, and slowly turned towards Tony, his face a picture of surprise and suspicion.
“What’d he do? Call you a fag?”
“How do you –? It’s in my file, of course.” Damon shook his head, and looked down at his boots momentarily. “When I was on the… the drugs, I wasn’t exactly myself. I’d have these fits of rage, like black-outs. Couldn’t remember anything afterwards.”
Tony watched as Damon tentatively stepped closer to him. “I haven’t felt that way since they flushed my system. And I’m not going back there again, Tony. So to answer your question… no, I wouldn’t have hit him, even though the asshole totally deserved it.”
Tony nodded briefly and started walking. Damon jogged to catch up and walk beside him.
A minute later, Tony prodded again. He just couldn’t help himself. “Are you out?”
Tony shrugged. “Do people know?”
“Close friends do. I don’t think it’s anybody else’s business. Don’t ask don’t tell and shit.” Damon’s tone seemed clipped, like he wasn’t digging this line of questioning Tony had subjected him to.
And then he flipped it back at Tony. “What about you? Are you out?”
Tony’s heart raced. “I’m… I’m not sure if… I don’t know what I am, yet. I-I mean I’ve never actually done anything… nothing beyond w-what we’ve done tonight.”
He felt his face burn. When he gathered the courage to look back at Damon, he spotted the marine’s smile lines deepening even as his gaze stayed glued to the sidewalk. Tony rolled his eyes. “That’s right, I am a virgin. I said it! Happy now?”
Damon whispered back heavily. “You say it like it’s a bad thing, Tony.”
The gentle but blatantly salacious tone of voice sent all the blood in his body rushing up to Tony’s face and he looked away. Whatever the hell possessed him to lay himself bare open like that, to Damon of all people?
But now that he’d confessed his own novice status, Tony was curious to know about Damon too. “So, what about you, Marine?”
Damon smirked. “Let’s just say I’m not a virgin.”
A stab of jealousy went through Tony and he didn’t even quite understand it. “So all the way?”
“Yes, Tony, all the way.”
“With Michael Manning?”
For a second time that night, he felt Damon tense up, no longer amused. “Funny you should ask me that, tonight, of all nights. Exactly how far back do you go digging for dirt on your suspects?”
Tony steeled himself. His brain seemed muddled, and hazy, and he was no longer sure what his agenda was, or should be. This man, this… disgraced marine… was confusing the big Jesus out of him. Sure there was attraction – an insane amount of attraction. But Damon was also the reason why Tony was so damn miserable. The job he’d professed to love so much – was making him miserable and there was only one thing left to do.
The guy was in Tony’s spot, and he wanted it back. As much as he liked Damon, Tony didn’t know what he was supposed to do, where his place was, without that spot.
“Tony, are you alright?” Damon was coming closer, and closer. Tony knew what would happen next – he’d succumb to the sensual scent of Damon Werth, his resolve would crumble under the weight of Damon’s hands on his body and… no, he couldn’t let it happen. Not this time.
Tony stepped back, just out of reach. “We found pictures. You and Manning. We also found email correspondence – love letters you wrote to Manning that might have even ruined your chances with the Corps, steroids or not.”
Damon’s jaw hardened. “And what of them? What are you getting at?”
Tony shrugged. “Nothing, just curious I guess. I’m wondering what you’d do if those things came out.”
Damon looked away, and it seemed he was giving it some serious thought. “I guess, I wouldn’t want them to come out, Tony.”
Damn. McGee was right.
A rational part of his brain still remembered that this was the original plan – this was supposed to be good news. This was the ammo he needed to drive Werth out of their lives, his and Gibbs’ forever! And yet, the thought brought Tony no elation, no relief, nothing. Just a strange sense of… disappointment.
Damon stopped walking at some point, forcing Tony to stop too. For the first time in his life, Tony had paid absolutely no attention to where they were going or where they were at. Until now.
Damon tilted his head slightly towards the right. “Shall we?”
Tony followed his signal and turned to see that they’d halted outside a grand townhouse. He was still looking at it, taking in the gorgeous colonial architecture that may as well have qualified it as a Renaissance property, when Damon took his hand. Tony started, not realizing the other man had sneaked in so close to him. The proximity started to mess with his head again and he forgot why he was thinking of begging off, jumping into a cab and running away as far from Damon as possible.
“Come on, Tony, you’re getting cold.”
Tony felt obliged to protest on behalf of his manhood. But Damon hooked his arm with Tony’s and was already leading him through the gates and inside into the welcoming warmth of a magnificent high-ceilinged foyer.
“Oh wow, that does feel good,” Tony exhaled in relief. He let Damon take his coat and continued to look around.
Inside, the party was in full swing and had clearly been swinging for awhile. There were at least fifty people spread across the ballroom-sized living area, the second floor landing and the lawns outside. Lounge music played on a superb quality surround-sound system that was not too loud nor too low – just perfect. And as Damon promised, there was free food and booze and lots of it, especially champagne.
Before he knew it, Tony was drunk again. He never did do well with champagne, and tried to explain as much to Damon. But he suspected the marine only pretended to understand, and was trying really hard not to laugh to Tony’s face.
“Damon!!!” Someone yelled from across the hall, making them both turn to the source.
Damon grinned widely as the man who’d called out to him rushed over. He was tall but not as tall as Damon, slender but nicely built. He had longish dark blond hair that curled at the base of his neck, light green eyes, and a big wide smile that stretched from ear to ear. Tony squinted, wondering why the stranger seemed familiar.
“Mikey!!” Damon called out, solving the mystery for Tony.
The agent watched, a little stunned, a little petrified, at the thought of coming face to face with the man he’d threatened to expose just minutes ago. Manning and Werth hugged each other like old friends (not lovers), joking and laughing and hugging again. Then Manning turned to his side and let in a third person into the embrace – a young woman, blond, attractive, and obviously pregnant.
“Sarah!!! Wow, look at you! How far along are you?”
“Six months! You’ve been gone a long time, Marine.” She responded with such familiarity, Tony was left in no doubts that her friendship with Damon was just as long as his friendship with Manning.
He felt like an outsider. Tony turned away, wondering what in hell he was doing. He didn’t know a single person here, except Damon, and he hardly even knew him either.
Someone grabbed him just as he started to tilt towards the buffet table for much-needed support. His head spun but Damon steadied him, keeping one arm around Tony’s waist and leading him towards the circle of his friends. Tony thought for a moment to dig his heels, but he knew it’d be useless.
“Michael, I want you to meet Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Tony – this is my best friend, Michael Manning.”
Michael and Sarah exchanged another knowing look, the same one Damon’s friends had been throwing each other all night, before turning to Tony with bright smiles on their faces. It occurred to Tony that none of Damon’s friends had seemed surprised that Damon’s date was, well, a guy. Sarah even hugged him like she’d known him all her life, before quickly returning him to be ensconced back in Damon’s arms.
“So glad you could come! Tony, you look like you haven’t eaten anything all night.” Sarah chided, and Tony immediately decided he liked her.
“Looks like your wife’s starting to practice her mothering skills already, Mike,” Damon quipped.
“You have no idea, man,” Michael complained and got an elbow to his ribs in return. They chatted for a while about things Tony knew nothing about but still Damon wouldn’t let him go, holding him close as if he knew that if he let go, Tony would pitch face first into the carpet.
Sometime during the conversation, Tony thought he heard Damon asking Michael if he could use the guest bedroom. And then without needing any directions, which probably meant Damon had been there before, he started leading Tony upstairs.
Tony panicked for a moment. “Wh-where…?”
“Shh, it’s okay. You need to lie down. Come on…”
At the door, Damon reached inside the room and flicked on a floor lamp just bright enough to illuminate the lay of the room. Then he waited for Tony to step inside. Tony snorted sharply and threw his head back towards Damon. “You better not be getting any ideas, Werth. I don’t put out on the first date.”
Damon bit back a smirk again; that annoying expression that Tony found so very… annoying. “No ideas. Just let me show you something…”
“A-ha! Nice try, bucko!”
Damon laughed. “Shut up and get over here.”
He went in first and started walking towards a far wall of the bedroom. He lightly tugged at Tony’s hand before letting it go, willing the agent to come on his own. He did stay at arm’s length though, afraid Tony would stumble or keel over, and at the moment either seemed a likely possibility. Tony went where he was led, until he was standing inches away from Damon, facing the handsome man. At this distance, in this glamorously dim, yellow light, Damon looked absolutely irresistible.
“So, what did you want to show me?” Tony asked, lasciviously letting his eyes trail down and back up Damon’s perfect body.
Damon put a hand on Tony’s cheek and made him turn his neck until his eyes fell on a section of wall above the dresser. It was adorned with photos, of family and friends – the Manning album.
“This is why I wouldn’t want those high school pictures to come out,” Damon said, his voice calm and all-business. “It was a very, very long time ago. We’ve both moved on. Michael’s found Sarah and they have this perfect life together. Sara’s always been a little insecure about Mike’s bisexuality. But I know him, and he will never cheat on her. Even so, I don’t want her to be reminded of his past, that’s all.”
Tony’s smile faltered and he started to sway. Damon caught him about his waist again, holding him close as they continued to look at the pictures. Michael and Sarah’s wedding, Michael and Sarah skiing in the Alps, Michael and Sarah with a set of parents, the Mannings probably, seeing the resemblance. Michael and Damon and Sarah at Thanksgiving…
“I get it. Military men do tend to be way deep in the closet, because that’s just how they’re expected to act. You’re worried I might still be like that, that I might treat you like some dirty little secret. But you’ve got nothing to worry about, Tony. Hell, I’ve been flaunting you all over town all night, doesn’t that tell you something?”
Tony felt his throat clog up again. He felt wretched, guilty, conflicted. He felt sick.
“That the bathroom?” He managed to ask, spotting a door not too far from where they stood and hoping like hell he was right.
“What? Oh!” It was a second before Damon realized what was happening.
Tony ran, slammed through the door and straight to the porcelain bowl, Damon tailing right after him. A decade passed, maybe more, before Tony reached the dry-retching stage. And all that time, Damon sat behind him, rubbing his back, not leaving his side.
“Dude, leave me alone…” he grumbled, trying to shrug off the hands on his hair and back. Damon immediately backed off, only for Tony to wheeze tiredly and lean back against the warm presence that he knew was there. Still there.
“I’m sorry,” Tony whispered. All he got in response was a soft shushing sound, and a soaked washcloth to the side of his sweat-soaked temple.
Before long, Tony relaxed and let Damon run the washcloth dipped in warm water all over his face and neck. He brought Tony a glass of water and mouthwash, then left Tony to freshen up and pull himself together as best as he could.
Alone in the bathroom, alone for the first time that night, Tony looked at his reflection in the mirror and hated himself. He closed his eyes and thought back to earlier that night, how it felt so right to be held by Damon, the very brief but electrifying first kiss in the back of a homophobe’s cab. The way Damon seemed utterly bemused by Tony’s long nonsensical rants but not once had he told Tony to shut up. Not once.
“Damn you, Gibbs,” he hissed quietly. “I’m not letting you ruin this for me.”
Next Chapter >