“I'm like cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don't even belong to each other.”
January 26, 2008. Washington DC
Damon wanted the night to never end. He wished he could reach out and grab hold of those damn clock hands ticking away and stop time forever. He had Tony DiNozzo in his arms, at last. And he never wanted to let go.
The night had started out pretty innocently. Damon had honestly not expected this; he hadn’t even dared to hope. But the opportunities kept presenting themselves, and he took them. More than anything, it was Tony who surprised him. He’d feared the inexperienced agent would be easily spooked and bolt at the first sign of intimacy. But Tony had been just as willing to give Damon a chance, several in fact. Even in moments where he didn’t seem too sure, Tony hadn’t pushed Damon away, and that’s how one thing led to another until here they were – wrapped in each other’s arms, naked.
In Sarah and Michael’s guest bedroom.
Damon bit a yawn back as he stirred himself fully awake. As a marine, he’d conditioned his body clock to keep track of time internally. That’s how he knew they’d been sleeping for about three hours. It was o-five hundred, and everything was quiet downstairs. The party must have wrapped up sometime by four; that was usually the norm at the Mannings.
Damon also had the unique ability to wake up whenever he chose to. No boot-up time required, all senses a-go, raring to face another day of combat with grit and dignity. But this was the first time in years that Damon found himself wishing to go right back to sleep. He was warm and comfortable, and he was trapped under the deadweight of a very special agent sprawled all over him.
Limbs were askew and in several different stages of paresthesia, fingers digging into strange unmentionable places, and a head full of spiked golden hair was tickling his neck and chin without mercy. Damon woke up smiling and stayed that way, happy to be his lover’s pillow for a little while longer. But the call of the bladder could not be ignored forever. Damon gently gathered Tony’s sleep-warmed body to himself and turned over, flipping Tony onto his back on the bed. It took another couple of minutes to untangle the arms from around him. Tony was a cuddler, hell, more like a naughty little vine hell-bent on growing himself all over Damon’s body. He found that utterly adorable. But then he found pretty much everything about Tony adorable.
He studied the gorgeous face, features relaxed in sleep, and tried to decipher why Tony looked so different when he was awake. Guess awake, Tony DiNozzo was always on his guard, much like Damon, except Damon was trained to be on high alert even in his sleep.
After returning from the bathroom, Damon got dressed quietly, wanting to give Tony as much uninterrupted sleep as he could. It was a Saturday, and far as he knew, Gibbs’ team was not on call. He stepped out of the room to find the house deserted with the exception of a couple of guys downstairs, one stretched out on a couch and another on the dining table. Michael and Sarah had retired to the nursery for the night, while another couple seemed to have passed out in the master bedroom. Damon shook his head – the Mannings sure loved their house parties.
But the mornings after were not so pretty – first there’d be all the cleaning up Sarah would make him help with, then all the questions that he wasn’t quite ready to answer. Determined to get out of here stat, Damon headed to the kitchen and found the number of a local cab service tacked to the fridge. After making the call, he went back upstairs and shook Tony awake.
“Hey, rise and shine sleepy-head. Let’s get you home, okay?”
Tony was in no mood to cooperate. He did make a valiant effort though, sitting up groggily and striving to blink his eyes open. But he didn’t quite make it and started to topple to one side, already asleep on his way down.
“Damn,” Damon smiled even as he caught Tony before he could hit the bed or slip to the floor. “You’re a spoilt one, aren’t you, baby. Gonna make me do all the work, huh?”
Damon couldn’t help but enjoy himself as he took his time to re-dress the practically passed-out agent. He pulled on Tony’s knee-length black overcoat last and absently stuffed the scarf in his own pocket, choosing not to bother with it. Scarves were such a safety hazard anyway. He stole another soft kiss from Tony’s lips, and decided gold was officially his favorite color.
The cab arrived and Damon half carried, half dragged Tony down to it. Finding a driver’s license in Tony’s wallet, he gave the address to Tony’s apartment. His car was still parked somewhere on U-street, but they’d just have to worry about it later.
“No elevator?!?” Damon groaned, standing in the staircase lobby of Tony’s seedy old apartment building with the unconscious man stuck to one side. But he didn’t keep them there long. It was cold, colder than Januarys in DC typically should be, and he remembered what Gibbs had once said about Tony.
“He gets colder than usual ever since the damn plague…”
Someday he was going to get the complete back-story of what really happened, but that would have to wait. Bending down and heaving Tony up on one shoulder, Damon carried his precious cargo up three flights of stairs to the agent’s apartment. Unlocking the door, he went straight to the bedroom and gently situated Tony on what looked like the favored side of an unmade bed. Then pulling his coat and shoes off, he guided the man to lie down. Tony didn’t resist, he seemed to have never woken up at all. But just as Damon started to get up, the Italian’s hand caught him by the sleeve.
“Don’t go,” he murmured, it made Damon smile.
“Okay, be right back. Sleep, baby.” Damon brushed the hair off Tony’s forehead before dashing back down to pay the cabbie and thanked him for waiting, then ran back upstairs.
Taking his coat off in the living room, Damon got his first good look at Tony’s place. It was a simple one-bedroom, minimally furnished but cluttered with lots of knick-knacks that gave the place a homey look. An entire wall comprised of nothing but shelves, filled with basketball and football collectibles, DVDs, music CDs, a whole stack of airplane magazines and another stack of Playboy and GSM behind it, an XBOX and most of its game CDs, a big bunch of books of the crime and spy thriller genre… but no pictures. No photos of family or friends anywhere. Damon was no shrink but even he could tell this was a bachelor pad designed for the sole purpose of escapism – packed with all sorts of ways to drown oneself in fantasy, run away from one’s memories.
Damon had no intention of trying to change the man that he, hopefully, would see a lot of in the days to come. But a part of him wished that someday there’d be a modest little photo frame somewhere on that wall of shelves of just the two of them – Tony and Damon.
He walked back into the bedroom and kicking his boots off, got under the covers behind Tony, watching him as he slept. Damon held Tony’s elegant fingers in his own, gently stroking the skin between the knuckles over and over again. Fuck, he could do this forever.
This time last week, he’d been moping about an identity crisis, unsure of his place in the world. Now all he wanted to be was this man’s partner. And as to his place, Damon’s place was right here, beside Tony.
He let his eyes droop, drifting off despite himself. It was a lazy Saturday morning, and they had nowhere to be.
Wait, that wasn’t right.
His eyes shot open and looked at the time. It was seven-thirty already. How the hell did he manage to forget? Damon did have somewhere to be.
“I got a gig,” Damon announced happily as he hung up his phone and turned back to Gibbs.
It was Thursday evening. They were having dinner in the kitchen, sitting across each other on the granite counter. Gibbs kept digging into his rib eye as he nodded.
“What is it?”
“I’m coaching a self-defense class at a school for autistic people.”
“Sounds good. When do you start?”
“This Saturday. It’s just weekends – a half-day thing. And it’s voluntary, so not a paying job.”
Gibbs nodded. “It’s a good use of your time. Just be gentle, don’t forget your strength with civilians.”
Damon laughed. “That’s good advice. Hey they’re looking for two more volunteers if you’re interested? It’s not a permanent thing, just for as long you can manage it?”
Gibbs looked up at him and smiled. “Count me in.”
Damon ran out but not before scribbling a short note and dropping a quick kiss on Tony’s forehead. He had to change and be there in an hour. Praying he hadn’t missed Gibbs, he gave him a call.
“Hey … yeah, I’m sorry! … You haven’t left, have you? … Great! I’ll be there in fifteen…. Alright, bye.”
Tony came to three hours later, still groggy and his head felt like it was full of lead. And yet for some reason he woke up with a smile. Took him a few seconds to remember how he got home.
The name brought another shy smile to his face. He got out of bed, and was starting to wonder when Damon left when he saw the note.
Ivymount School, Rockville MD. Come if you’re up before noon, sleepyhead, need more volunteers!
Tony smiled even as he shook his head. He had almost expected a love note, something mushy and romantic and… ridiculous. But really, this one was so much better. It sounded like a note an old couple in a relationship would leave one another. It was… nice. Aw hell, Tony kicked himself for going from hesitant bi-curiosity to full-on domestication in one night.
A nice long shower was usually his cure for a brutal hangover, so Tony did just that. Standing under the warm deluge, he imagined what it’d be like to have Damon here with him, those magic fingers of his scratching his scalp as they shampooed his hair. He couldn’t believe how easily he’d given in to this man, how naturally he’d allowed himself to be led into a whole new world of feelings and sensations.
Tony had known for awhile that he was attracted to men, but all his past attempts at exploring that attraction had ended disastrously. Mostly he’d freak out at something the other guy would say or do (or touch) and Tony would run, burying his urges until the time he’d gathered enough courage to try again. In fact, he hadn’t even bothered to try in a very, very long time. Not since… wow, not in three years.
He almost giggled at the thought of Damon carrying Tony up three flights of stairs this morning (he sure didn’t remember climbing) like George Peppard carried Audrey Hepburn in – goddamnit, Probie was right: Tony was really obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
After the shower, Tony wrapped a towel around his waist and came out to make himself some coffee. He flipped open his laptop and looked up the school Damon had mentioned in his note. He told himself it was just out of curiosity, that he wasn’t actually going to follow the man around like some love-struck puppy so soon after their first date! Of course he’d also claimed he didn’t put out on the first date but look how that panned out.
“Admit it, you fool,” Tony chided himself as he pulled up Google maps for directions. “You can’t wait to see that big damn lug again, and you know it.”
Every weekend the school held a bunch of fun camps over the weekend like self-defense, cooking and belly dancing, to name a few. Tony guessed Damon must have volunteered his services as a self-defense instructor; the other two didn’t exactly seem his style. A visual of Damon belly-dancing made him chortle as he walked into his closet to find something suitable to wear. The workshop would probably be over by the time he got there so maybe he’d volunteer for another time. He could get there just in time to drag Damon out for a nice lunch.
He collected his car from U-street, and at exactly noon by his watch he parked it at the school in Maryland. Drumming his fingers a little nervously, he fixed his hair in his rear-view mirror. Maybe Damon was just being polite, and leaving that note was just his way to explain why he left so abruptly, not an actual invitation to meet again. Maybe Tony should have called ahead to check if he was still welcome?
“Man up, DiNozzo!” Tony murmured to himself. “If you want that boy, go get him.”
Exhaling purposely, Tony put on his brown Aviator shades and stepped out of the car. He wore dark blue jeans and a steel gray pullover along with the same black coat from last night. His hair was slicked back, and he carried his cup of Starbucks triple espresso in one hand, cell phone in the other. He’d tried his best not to look conspicuous. So unless everyone inside was like dressed in red and yellow Gi’s or something, he should be fine.
The gymnasium was where the self-defense workshop was being held, so he headed in there. The place was abuzz with activity. There were some information stalls with a bunch of chairs set out for people to sit in and listen to theoretical talks on safety and the art of self-defense. There were also several make-shift boxing rings for practical training constructed across the indoor basketball arena.
He spotted Damon standing in the middle of one of those dojos, flanked on one side by a small group of students. Tony smiled, and an unexplainable giddiness fluttered in his empty stomach. He took off his shades and stopped a short distance away, content to watch this gorgeous perfection of a man. The marine was dressed in black sweatpants and a gray hooded sweatshirt that was maybe one size small because it kept riding up, exposing a titillating strip of skin around his navel. Tony licked his lips and watched as Damon moved gracefully through a set of kicks for demonstration to the group beside him.
“Okay, people! Now for the real show, a practical demonstration. I’d like to call my friend up here to show you how it’s really done!”
The kids clapped and so did Tony, until he saw who’d just climbed up into the dojo to join Damon.
Tony froze. Something clenched inside his gut with vehemence, reminding him of everything he thought he’d forgotten, everything he’d managed to let go of last night in Damon’s arms. Gibbs stood next to Damon, completely relaxed and at ease. Somehow the sight reminded Tony of all the times he’d been ignored, abandoned, sidelined. And it didn’t matter if the incidents he was recalling were with his biological father or his surrogate one. They all left him feeling exactly one thing – unwanted.
He took one step back, then another, and another until he was right back at the gym door where the two men wouldn’t notice him. But masochist that he was, Tony kept watching. Gibbs was smiling, an expression he didn’t see too often on his boss’ face in the workplace. It was the kind of smile that could brighten up a room, bolster sagging team spirit, and make everything okay in the face of everything going to hell. The veteran did seem a little embarrassed to be in the spotlight, as always. But he wasn’t scowling, nor was he standing there against his will. No. Gibbs wanted to be there, beside Damon.
Once Damon was done talking, he turned to his partner, and then he and Gibbs started sparring like Tony and Gibbs used to. Damon made a big show and dance about how he was going to kick Gibbs’ ass (much like Tony used to do to try and make his grumpy boss laugh). Then with much fanfare and cheering, Damon mock-lunged at Gibbs and let the older man easily knock him down on his back. The kids laughed and clapped and Damon groaned overdramatically, very much like Tony would do, or would have done in his place. Humor was his style, it was, as he considered it, his unique forte. Apparently, it was Damon’s too.
Gibbs was laughing too, carefree and genuinely, in a way he hadn’t with Tony in a very long time.
Why couldn’t he just get past this jealousy? Why couldn’t he let Damon find the same solace in Gibbs that Tony once did? Why was he acting like a spoilt little only child? Especially considering he never got any attention even when he was an only child.
Tony leaned heavily against the door frame, suddenly too tired to bear his own weight. His forehead broke out in cold sweat and the hand clasped around his coffee shook. He watched as Gibbs offered Damon a hand and pulled him up and off the floor. He watched as together the duo bowed at their audience. He watched as his boss then turned towards Damon and they shook hands, warmly. And suddenly they were opening their arms to each other and Gibbs was pulling Damon into a giant embrace.
He’d never done that with Tony. Never.
Tony had seen enough. He turned, put his sunglasses back on and walked back out to the parking lot. Lunch was clearly out of the question, least of all with Werth. Images of the night before flashed before his eyes, trying to force their way back into the forefront of his mind but Tony was having none of it.
He sat in his car for the longest time, blank and numb. He had no clue where to go.
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