Not as young as we used to be
Jack had no idea how he ended up at a museum exhibit opening event, except that Daniel was his best friend, and had turned the puppy dog eyes on him. He was staring at a case with some household items like pottery and other things including a spoon frowning. He was trying to be jazzed about this spoon, mostly because he knew Daniel would be, but it wasn’t working.
“I’m all for historically significant items and the need to understand how other people lived. Seriously though, isn’t a spoon just a spoon? I mean, I suppose if you’re really into utensils it’s really awesome, but honestly, I can’t work myself up for a whole lot of excitement for a spoon.”
Jack found himself laughing as he turned to look at the person the voice belonged to and found himself looking at a younger man in a very nice suit. He guessed that at one time the man had been gorgeous, but like all of them, time had left its mark on him. Now he was a mere classically handsome thanks to a couple extra pounds around his waist and wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. Both of which Jack could sympathize with as he saw them every time he looked in the mirror himself.
“My friend Daniel, who dragged me here, would lecture you right now on how historically significant that spoon is. I am sure he’d go all archeologist geek over what an amazing find it was. To be honest, though, I can’t say as I got very worked up by it myself. I liked the sword in one of the earlier displays much better.”
“Now that was cool!” The man gushed before sticking out his hand. “Tony DiNozzo, unfortunate plus one thanks to a lost bet.”
Jack laughed again as he held out his own hand. “Jack O’Neill, unfortunate plus one because I am a sucker for said friend Daniels’ puppy dog eyes.”
“Damned things will get you every time,” Tony bemoaned with sympathy. “You’re that new guy over at the Pentagon that took over for Hammond, right?”
“The new guy, huh?” Jack repeated amused as he turned away from the exhibit to study his new friend. “And who would you be Tony DiNozzo?”
“I’m the almost old guy on the Major Crime Response Team at NCIS under the for sure old guy Agent in Charge Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”
“Almost old guy?” Jack quipped, and the guy grinned shrugging a shoulder.
“Well, I’m not as young as I used to be,” Tony pointed out, “or as svelte but Gibbs is older than me.
“So, bonus points for me. Hence the almost old thing. How’s about I’ve been on his team longer than anyone ever? It’s like a record.”
“Real bastard huh?” Jack asked laughing and Tony smirked.
“They say that’s what the second B in Gibbs is for. Although, from what I’ve heard you can tear ‘em apart yourself when the mood hits you, General O’Neill.”
Jack just arched an eyebrow as his lips twitched. “My reputation proceeds me, huh?”
“I like to know who any new bigwig is that I could come into contact with at work,” Tony admitted. “Your people talk highly about you. Probably better than a lot of Gibbs’ ex-team members do.”
“Oh?” Jack inquired shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He loved Daniel like a brother, but he wasn’t about to put on his Blues for this shindig. “And would you be one of those people?”
When the teasing flirty sparkle left the younger man’s eye and he turned his head away for a moment, Jack immediately regretted it. He didn’t get a lot of people willing to flirt with him these days. Certainly not if they knew who he was. He liked that this man had moxie enough to flirt even though he knew about Jack’s day job.
“It’s recently come to my attention that possibly I’ve stayed too long where I am,” Tony admitted carefully before turning his gaze back toward Jack. “Gibbs recently came back from an injury and I’m not sure I’m up for the take all your anger out on Tony routine anymore. It seems like after 15 years I’d deserve more respect, but apparently not in the old bastard’s book. But, you didn’t come here to listen to me whine. I apologize, General.”
Jack waved a hand in the air. “I asked the question. You just answered. Seems like maybe you need to get a change of scenery. You any good?”
“Depends on who you ask. You single, General?”
Jack’s eyes widened a little in surprise. Moxie wasn’t half of it. He couldn’t help but admit to himself that he was incredibly attracted to this guy. He wasn’t kidding about how tiring it was with the way people treated him so stiffly all the time. Like he’d forgotten how to laugh and joke or something when he got the promotion, shit! “I am.”
“What if I say I’m more interested in dating you than whatever job offer you’re working yourself up to?”
Jack couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed and even more turned on. Taking a couple steps forward, he put himself directly into Tony’s space. “Why would you wanna date an old, out of shape fart like me?”
“I’ve had more fun with you in the last five minutes than I’ve had in the last six months, at least,” Tony replied honestly. “What do I care what shape you’re in? Does your dick still work? If not, I hear they have little blue pills for that. I’m not exactly a Men’s Health cover model myself. I have a bad knee from a college football injury and scarred lungs. I work crazy hours and don’t have time to do things like eat decently and work out. I don’t see either of those things changing anytime soon. So, while I try my best I’ll never be in the shape I was when I was playing two sports in college. Normally I wouldn’t hit on a Major General, but you’re in the Air Force so I’m hoping that will help me some if I have completely misread this.”
Jack snorted as he forced himself to resist the urge to hook his thumbs in the younger man’s belt loops and pull him closer. “The equipment works just fine, Junior. So, no need for pulls blue or otherwise. I doubt it would save you much, but fortunately, you haven’t misread anything. And, what if I say you can ask me out and still accept the job offer?”
Tony flinched and made a face at the nickname. “If we’re really going to try this, you might not ever wanna use that Junior thing again.”
“Bad memories?” Jack asked tilting his head to one side curiously.
“Well for starters, I am one,” Tony admitted huffing, “and my father loves to call me, Junior.”
“When he meets my friends or really anyone in my world, co-workers, neighbors, you name it, he loves to introduce himself as the “real Tony DiNozzo”. As if I’m some fake carbon copy. As if, I’d ever want to be anything like him. He’s morally repugnant and disgusting. He likes to pretty up the things he does by saying he believes in his dreams. Even though in the end he’s never the one who pays the price. He’s not really anything more than an old conman that’s sponged off other people’s savings his entire adulthood. So, yeah…. And, shit. Sorry, I am pretty sure you didn’t come here for my emotional bloodletting.”
Jack made a face as the picture of this man slowly became clearer. Maybe it was fucked up, but he liked layers, and it sounded like this guy had plenty of them. “Like I said before, I came here because Daniel guilted me into it with his damned puppy dog eyes. Then once we were here he promptly disappeared. So, I don’t really feel sorry about not paying attention to historically significant spoons.”
Tony let out a soft chuckle as his eyes flicked to said spoon and back. “I mean, I suppose it could happen. I stand by my earlier statement though and say I just can’t see it.”
“So, does this mean you’re going to go out with me, Major General Jonathan “Jack” O’Neill?”
“Should I be worried?” Jack quipped, happy that things were on a much lighter tone again. “Maybe this is some kind of elaborate setup.”
“If I were you, I’d be more worried about the yappy woman in the secretary pool who doesn’t seem to understand confidentiality.”
“You always burn your informants?” Jack asked making a mental note to check into his staff ASAP.
“Only when I am genuinely worried that they’re a real threat to national security,” Tony conceded, “and trust me when I say that chick was offering up way too much information for way too little reward.”
“I don’t know how she got the position, but I’d say it wasn’t the same way the other ladies did.”
“You gotta name?” Jack asked taking out his phone, only to have it plucked out of his hands the second it was unlocked.
Crossing his arms over his chest, he watched amused as his companion tapped away. Eventually, it was returned to him with a smile. “Name’s in your memos, and my number is in your contacts under ADD. Call me when you’re ready for that date.”
“Please tell me that’s some weird code and not your initials?” Jack asked as he looked to make sure that was all he could see changed. He’d have to get Paul or someone to make sure. They could do it while they were doing his background check. Because he’d heard whispers of what a prick that Gibbs guy at NCIS was, and something was screaming at Jack that this guy was perfect for the investigator role he wanted. Of course, now they’d have to move things around, But, he had a feeling that SecDef would be happy to oversee the position for him. If he got lucky, Chegwidden was familiar with DiNozzo from his time at JAG. Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone.
“I’m afraid it’s no code,” Tony said smiling, “thought it would at least make it easier to remember who I am without outing you to someone who might get into your phone.”
“Jack! There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you!”
“Apparently not, Daniel,” Jack grouched turning to frown at his friend. “I’ve been here for a while. Dr. Daniel Jackson meet NCIS Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Tony, meet Daniel.”
Tony flashed a brilliant smile and held out his hand, which Daniel accepted after a moment of obvious confusion. “It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Jackson.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” Daniel offered absently. “Jack, you didn’t tell me that you knew someone here.”
“That’s because I didn’t, Danny,” Jack offered with a slight sigh. “Did you need something?”
“OH! Yes!” Daniel said enthusiastically remembering his quest. “You have to come see this! It’s an amazing find.”
“It’s not a spoon, is it?” Jack asked, and almost didn’t hold his serious expression when DiNozzo cracked up. Daniel, of course not being in on the joke, just looked at him partly perplexed and partly annoyed in that way he got when he thought Jack wasn’t taking him seriously.
“No Jack, it’s not a spoon,” Daniel assured frowning. “The spoon is right there. It was itself actually a pretty cool find though.”
Jack couldn’t help but laugh as Tony snickered, and when Daniel glared Jack held up a hand. “Daniel, before you get mad, there’s a whole backstory you don’t know. That’s why we’re laughing. Take me to your whateveritis. Tony, I will call you in a few days to set up that date. I have to check my schedule with Paul. If he calls you, don’t be shocked. It’s probably something you’ll have to get used to.”
“I look forward to it,” Tony relayed. “Dr. Jackson, it was nice meeting you. I hope there are no hard feelings about the spoon. It really is just an inside joke. I didn’t intend to insult you and your work.”
“Oh, well,” Daniel started and trailed off before shrugging. “No harm then. It was nice to meet you. Jack? We should get going. Professor Normand can’t keep this document out for long.” Nodding once more to Tony, Jack turned and followed Daniel. If he looked back to see the NCIS agent watching him, well, hopefully, no one else noticed, and he wondered who the elderly man with the bow tie was that had appeared at Tony’s side.
It was a full week and a half later before Jack had a chance to sit down with Chegwidden to talk about DiNozzo. The background check that he’d ordered took longer than expected because there was a lot more to it than he expected. Then once a certain picture began forming, he ordered a check on DiNozzo’s team and Director Vance to see if NCIS was really as screwed up as it seemed.
There was a lot about Tony that reminded him of himself. However, there were a few things that were drastically different. Like the way that DiNozzo had stayed so long after going through so many questionable situations at the hands of his so-called teammates. Jack would have told them off and scorched the whole fucking agency years ago. Tony though had stayed for some reason. His contacts suggested that it was his incredible loyalty to Gibbs who for quite a while had served as something of a father figure or older brother.
There was a suggestion that something had happened to change that because for the last several years Gibbs had treated his SFA with anything but affection. He really hoped that DiNozzo just had some really strong sense of loyalty, which from what he’d heard was the most likely case. Although, there were suggestions that he wasn’t as good as looking out for himself and his own wellbeing as he should. Mostly, it had been theorized, because of the situation, he’d grown up in.
Now, if there was anyone that Jack wanted to ship to John in Atlantis to use as Wraith food it was Anthony DiNozzo, Senior. That man was a horrible person in general but had been an even worse father. The things that he’d found on record had angered him enough, but the things that had been hinted at were even worse. While Jack would never forgive himself for his part in Charlie’s death, he had adored his son while he was alive. He couldn’t fathom how any parent could live with having dished out the kind of abuse and neglect that Tony had inflicted on him as a child.
Hopefully, this meeting with the Admiral would offer the results that he’d hoped for, and things could move forward between himself and the Italian. The date had been put on hold until the work shit was resolved. He was fucked if he was going to let anyone suggest that Tony had gotten the position because he was fucking the new Director of Homeworld. And, there would be fucking.
While they were both as Tony said older and not so svelte as they used to be, at least in Jack’s case, his libido was working just fine. The next morning, Daniel had grilled him about the encounter like he was a piece of red meat, and Jack had been surprised at how short the encounter really was. It seemed like it had been much longer than it was, but there was something about the other man that just pulled him in.
Maybe it was the personality traits they shared. Maybe it was the hints of what a beautiful man Tony must have once been before life interfered. Maybe it was just the right moment for them both. Jack admitted to Daniel that he’d been feeling lonely lately, and wishing that there was someone in his life to spend his nights with and long lazy weekends. Someone less casual and more committed to something permanent. Obviously, he didn’t know if Tony was that man, but he had hope, and Jack had made a career out of the things he could accomplish as long as he had hope.
Walking into SecDef’s outer office, Jack was waved through by his assistance and headed right to the desk where he settled into a chair, tossing Tony’s file on the desktop. “Well, hello to you too, Jack.”
Jack rolled his eyes, but the annoyance was an act and they both knew it. He and Chegwidden had so far gotten along fabulously. He liked the man’s frankness and appreciated the help he’d given him since Jack had come to DC. The political waters had never been his aspiration, and it helped to have someone he could trust to confide in or get advice from.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jack shot back. “Hello, AJ. How are you? Is that pleasant enough? Can we get on with it now? I think I have a solution to our investigative problem, but there’s been a change of plans. I am hoping you’ll agree to take him under your purview.”
AJ lifted an eyebrow but opened the folder without speaking. The silence didn’t last long once he saw the name on the file. “DiNozzo? How’d he come onto your radar?”
“You disagree with the choice?” Jack asked frowning and wondering if he missed something at the incredulous tone in the man’s voice.
“Hell no!” Chegwidden immediately corrected. “It’s an inspired choice. Hell, I couldn’t have picked better myself. I’m just surprised is all. How did Tony come to your attention?”
“Met him at this exhibit thingy Daniel dragged me to. He made an immediate impression.”
AJ laughed as he flipped through the file. “Tony has that habit. It’s when he doesn’t make an impression that people should be worried. It means he’s trying to blend and that’s when he’s at his most dangerous. He was the best undercover NCIS had until Sheppard fucked it up with the damned Benoit fiasco. After that, DiNozzo pretty much puts the kibosh on any more major undercover work, and I can’t say as I blame him. He used age as an excuse, but I think he lost his love for it. Which is sad, because he was seriously one of the best in any agency. Stupid fuckers. Why the change though?”
Jack fidgeted at this bit because while DADT hadn’t been a thing for a while, some still held onto it in their hearts. He knew AJ wasn’t one of those people. He’d have sniffed it out earlier if he was, but that didn’t mean there weren’t others in the Pentagon who weren’t. He’d decided though in the days since he’d seen Tony and throughout their text conversations that if he was going to do this thing with the younger man it was going to be an honest effort. There would be no hiding in closets for him. He’d never done it before now, and he wasn’t about to start at his age.
“I’m not an expert at DC politics, but I’m pretty positive that it’s frowned upon to have an open relationship with a subordinate.”
When the totality of AJ’s response was a lifted eyebrow, Jack huffed and explained further. “There may have been some flirting going on at this exhibit and possibly a date was agreed to pending this other crap getting resolved. I was flat out told that if he had to choose between a date and a job that he’d take the date.”
The chuckle he got from the Admiral was less humor and more affection as was the smile on his face. “Now that IS truly DiNozzo. The man has always known his own mind. I’m glad to hear that he’s going to be stepping out from Gibbs long shadow, finally. How he’s survived all this time with his morals and sense of justice intact I will never know.”
Jack nodded understanding what the former JAG leader meant. “I was a little surprised at a number of whispers of rules being broken I found associated with the team. I’m a little concerned that Tony isn’t as clean as I’d hoped.”
“Don’t be,” AJ assured flipping through the pages some more. “I think DiNozzo’s sense of right and wrong was forged by steel. He’s left one partner behind because he was dirty. I’m pretty sure there is the occasional funny business going on with Team Gibbs though. The DOJ’s investigation proved that they at least skirt the line too much, but not by Tony. Everyone else, yes.
“Tony is an expert at sliding right up to that line and bending it when needed, but never once crossing it or breaking it. If it was someone else on the team I’d say hell no, but frankly, Tony is a perfect choice. I would love to work with that mind of his. I might even ask to borrow him for non-SGC investigations from time to time. I could use someone like that for myself.”
Jack shrugged not carrying much about sharing. “As long as he’s available when we need him, and you don’t run him into the ground. It sounds like his current boss doesn’t much care about his health or well-being.”
AJ settled back into his chair and studied Jack calmly. “Can I give you a bit of advice about DiNozzo?”
Jack nodded carefully, not willing to bite the hand that he was asking a favor of. He could always ignore whatever was about to come if needed, but given that AJ was one of his only real friends in this backstabbing city he owed it to him to at least hear what he had to say.
“I would go easy on the bashing of Gibbs around Tony if I were you,” the Admiral warned folding his arms on top of his desk. “I know right now Gibbs is being a jackass, and from what I hear Tony’s pretty fed up. Rightly so, by the way. However, I have known the kid and the Gunny a lot longer than you, and trust me when I say there is history there, and some of it is pretty complicated.
“The kid wasn’t in a good headspace when the two of them met, and Gibbs has stood in as substitute father, best friend, confidant and mentor along the way. Their relationship more resembles close brother than anything else, in my opinion, and while Tony may be happy to bitch about the bastard when needed, he won’t take kindly to anything he sees as unfair from someone else. Whatever is going on between then will be worked out. This affection isn’t one-sided. Tony means as much to Gibbs as Gibbs does to Tony, and when he really figures out that he’s pushed the kid away, reality is gonna hit him harder than a punch from Ali. One of them will go check on the other and at some point, they’ll do their own version of kissing and making up.”
Jack frowned considering what he was told as AJ continued. “So, while I know right now with the info you have maybe from Tony and definitely from your background checks and such it seems like Gibbs should be kicked to the curb. I don’ t know maybe that’s the case. It isn’t gonna happen though. So, if you really want something with this kid, then you better figure out how to live with one very grumpy Gunnery Sargent in your life. And, Jack, you better fucking be serious about this. Because if I find out you aren’t, Gibbs isn’t the only one you’re gonna have to worry about. There are some people who just don’t deserve more crap, but keep on having it thrown in their faces anyway. That kid’s gone through more than anyone deserves. So, make sure you’re onboard with where ever this train could take you before you take this forward. Even if it’s a ride with no stops. Capisce?”
Deciding it was best to agree and let things play out before he decided to tell Chegwidden he was full of crap, Jack nodded and stood to leave. After shaking hands with the SecDef, he turned and headed out with his attention mostly focused on a certain Italian NCIS agent and what Jack could really want from a future with him.
Between Jack’s work commitments, which included a trip to the mountain and an off-world visit, and Tony’s work commitments, which included a cold case that heated up followed immediately by the kidnapping of a Marine’s twins, it took another week and a half before the date. While Jack was impatient for the event, he thought that maybe things had worked out for the best. Jack had invited him to his house for dinner, which the younger man would be cooking, with an option for a weekend stay. The weekend together had actually been Tony’s idea, but he’d admitted that his master bedroom wasn’t really suited for an overnight guest.
Jack had then quickly offered up his own home knowing his security would feel better about it anyway, and he guessed they were less likely to get interrupted. Chegwidden had contacted Tony about the position the very next day and had actually gone to NCIS so the interview/discussion combination meeting couldn’t be put off by either Gibbs or Vance. By the end of the day, the Admiral was on his phone advising the offer had been accepted, and NCIS was being pretty quiet about it.
Jack wasn’t surprised that Vance didn’t have much to say. During his background checks, he found out that the Director’s opinion of the SFA had risen only slightly from when he’d taken over after Sheppard’s death. Something that made Jack question the man’s intelligence and suitability for the position. Word was that Vance was slightly confused how DiNozzo had come onto the radar of people as powerful as SecDef and an Airforce Major General whose position details within the Pentagon was above his pay grade. The one that surprised him was Gibbs.
He’d expected the Gunny to either storm into his office and demand that he leave his people alone, or receive a scathing call from the man for the same reason. When neither had happened after 3 days of waiting, he’d called up AJ, who just laughed and said the wakeup call had been delivered by him personally. It seemed that the Team Leader was on the receiving end of an ass kicking by an Admiral who knew him well and wasn’t offering much sympathy. He hadn’t been able to get anything more than that out of the man, and he hoped that Tony would be more forthcoming.
Hearing the doorbell, Jack headed toward the front door expecting it to be Tony. When he opened it up and it was indeed the man in question, he couldn’t help but smile. Reaching up, he curled his hand over the top of the door and leaned his weight on it as he studied the man who was smirking at him quietly from the other side of the doorway. He noted the duffle bag slung over one shoulder and didn’t even bother to try and prevent his smile from growing. “Decided to pick up the weekend option, huh?”
When Tony immediately stepped forward putting himself into Jack’s space, the General took the opportunity he hadn’t been able to take advantage of and hooked his fingers into the man’s belt loops pulling him forward. At that point, anyone looking on would have no question of Jack’s intentions, and he hoped that the security around his home was as discrete as they should be.
While he knew it was going to get around DC, he didn’t want to find himself on the front pages of a trash magazine and wanted to be able to enjoy this beginning between them.
“I think that we’re both old enough to know what we want out of life,” Tony said softly as he carefully angled his body toward Jack’s. The older man felt his breathing quicken slightly and hoped that they both were on the same page. While three weeks of nothing but text messages had given them the chance to get to know each other, it hadn’t been great for the actual contact that he craved. There certainly hadn’t been any kissing or sweaty tangled sheets. All things that Jack was hoping this weekend would provide.
Unable to resist touching skin to skin any longer, Jack reached up and ran a finger along the man’s cheek before moving his hand to wrap around the back of his head and pull it down ever so slightly. They was only an inch different in height, with DiNozzo being the taller of the pair. It made for an almost perfect kissing position. Just before their lips could touch, Jack felt some resistance and found himself looking into sparkling hazel eyes.
“I’ve been thinking about this for weeks,” Tony whispered, and amusement was easily heard in his tone. “You sure you’re up for this? First kisses are big you know.”
Narrowing his eyes, Jack growled slightly before lunging the tiny distance remaining between them to lock their lips together. He may not be in the prime of his life. He may be older than he once was, and he may be a little rounder than he used to be. He was still one hell of a kisser though. He liked kissing. Hell, he loved kissing. Kissing was one of his favorite things in the world. There were so many things you could say with a kiss if you just knew how.
Being this close, he couldn’t help but notice how incredibly attractive Tony’s eyelashes were. They might be the only thing feminine about the man, and it worried him a little that he was admiring the other man’s freaking eyelashes, but really he was incredibly handsome. While he didn’t really give two shits what people thought of him and how he looked, he knew that he wasn’t anyone’s choice for cover model material anymore. He figured though that he’d earned the right, and well, damnit, Tony’s body wasn’t the only one that just wasn’t physically up to certain things anymore.
When Tony’s hands grabbed his waist and pulled him forward, Jack let out a soft happy moan as the kiss deepened as their tongues tangoed. Everything else dimmed except the man in front of him. The sounds of the insects outside faded away. The smell of the cinnamon broom that he had hanging near the door because he loved the scent disappeared. When they pulled apart, Jack couldn’t help but move his mouth to kiss the skin at the nape of the man’s neck because he needed to know what he tasted like. His fingers plunged inside the jeans, and one slipped inside the top of his crack. The sound of the moan the other man let out was almost as much of a turn on as the shifter he felt.
“Fuck, Jack,” Tony said pushing away slightly as he gasped for breath, and in the dim lights of the entrance way, Jack could see how blown his pupils were. All he wanted to do was tug the man upstairs and make love to him. “I’m pretty sure we need to move this upstairs, or we’re going to give your security guards more to see than either of us want.
Happy they were on the same page, Jack tugged Tony inside, and after a brief detour to the kitchen to throw some things in the fridge, the quickly headed upstairs to the master bedroom to spend a couple hours learning each other in their favorite way.
Just under two hours later, Jack found himself sitting on a stool in his kitchen drinking out of a bottle of beer as he watched Tony moving around his massive kitchen. The house, in general, was much bigger than he needed, and way bigger than any one person needed. However, Daniel and Paul had pointed out that security would feel better with privacy, and really it wasn’t the acreage he had objected to. In fact, that had been a selling point. He may live further from DC than he liked, but one of the perks of the new job was that most people now had to work on his schedule. So, if he was running late in the morning because of traffic, unless he was meeting with the President or the other Joint Chief’s it wasn’t his problem.
Despite having been a bachelor so long, Jack still wasn’t much of a cook. Sure, he had some simple things he could do, and he could make a mean crockpot meal or fry the hell out of some eggs, but that was about it. Tony, though, it seemed not only knew how to cook but loved it. Currently, he was chopping things up on the island in front of him dancing as he sang along to his phone that was playing Sinatra’s The Best Is Yet to Come. He was pretty sure adorable wasn’t the word most people would use for Tony DiNozzo, but at that moment, it was the only one that fit.
This was what Jack wanted. Even more than the sex which, if the first round was any indication, was going to be smoking hot despite their advanced age and diminished physiques. No, what he wanted was goofy and adorable moments in the kitchen. Late nights in front of the TV watching that important hockey, college football, or college basketball game. Weekends bickering about what to throw out as they cleaned out a garage or attic. Maybe short trips somewhere because that’s all they had time for, but needed to get away.
He wanted someone to just be with. He wanted someone whose security clearance was high enough that he could bitch about the morons he worked with or the even bigger morons who worked under him. He wanted to hear about dumbasses that thought they could commit crime X and get away with it with stupid plan J. He wanted to be sitting at his desk bored out of his skull and get a call in the middle of the day for no reason that made it all better. He wanted to get a frustrated text and send back an innocent response that sparked something in the other man’s brain to blow open the case. He just wanted to be with someone, and maybe Tony was right. Maybe they were both old enough at this point in their lives to know what they wanted and not really need to wait for each little box to be checked.
“I’m glad you took the job,” Jack commented drawing his lover’s eyes, and damned was it nice to be able to use that word in his head again.
“Hopefully, I’ll be glad that I good the job, too,” Tony quipped as he threw everything in a bowl “Although with AJ running things it’s pretty much guaranteed to be better than it has been. No matter how intimidating he thinks he is, he’ll never out bastard Gibbs. So, even the worst days will be better. Although, they are as bad now as they used to be. Even with Gibbs on the warpath.”
“That sounds ominous,” Jack commented dryly, and Tony just huffed at him with the corner of his lip twitching as if he was holding in a smile or laugh.
“I was told Gibbs isn’t your favorite person,” Tony commented as he put his dressing ingredients into a bowl and then began mixing them up. “AJ’s pretty on the money, I am very much a hypocrite when it comes to Gibbs. I’ll try to be rational if you really need to complain, but I can’t guarantee it will work. As frustrated as I am with him right now, it isn’t like I’m not used to it. Gibbs doesn’t do weak, sick, or injured well. I guess the problem is this time I’m too tired to tolerate it, and I’ve been ready for something more for a while, but hunting down that little prick Daniel Budd definitely opened my eyes. I really liked that process, and while I’ve enjoyed being on a team, I think I’d like it to be just me and a partner again.”
Jack arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t know that we were hiring two people.”
“You weren’t,” Tony said and for the first time, Jack got a hint of the steel within the man. Because there was no way the change of tone and stature didn’t indicate his dinner companion meant every word he was about to speak.
“The thing is that if you want me then you’re going to hire someone else. One of the things I learned about myself while I was at NCIS and during the last mission I was on was what I want and don’t want, what I am willing to give up and what is a hard no. I don’t like working alone. Can I do it? Yes. I don’t enjoy it, and more than that I don’t feel comfortable doing it. So, I’m not. I will tell you the same thing I told Admiral Chegwidden. And, so we’re clear, I am speaking with Major General Jonathan O’Neill right now. Not the guy that I spent two hours in bed with.”
Nodding shortly, Jack sat up straight, the beer bottle and any teasing he’d felt forgotten for the moment. It seemed that Tony must have understood the change because after a pause he simply went on. “This job is awesome right now but has the potential to suck ass if I don’t have the right people around me. I don’t tolerate isolation well, and no matter who I go home to there’s going to be long hours and days and weeks and maybe sometimes months where I am at the ass end of the world or galaxy and don’t have anything familiar around me. If I have to be by myself it won’t be pretty. Oh sure, the case will get solved, but I’ll be a mental mess. I didn’t leave NCIS to get stuck in the universe’s biggest agent afloat position. So, you want me then you hire a partner.”
“I hate it you made a recommendation?” Jack asked and Tony nodded before pouring the dressing over the salad, and then after putting some plastic wrap over the top put it in the fridge. When he came back, the former NCIS agent leaned his lip against the island top and took a sip of his wine before he answered. “My cousin Edward Paddington, the future Marquess of Montagu. He has military background and currently works for SIS in their 00 program. In fact, my younger cousin Ashcroft is the Quartermaster there and my Uncle George is the former Head of the MI5 Division. I’m telling you all of this because these people are my family, and I trust you understand how fucking incredibly confidential this all is.”
Jack would have made a face and a smart remark if he didn’t actually understand how serious this conversation was and just what it meant. This was more than Special Investigator DiNozzo informing Major General of Homeworld of his prospective partner’s background. This was also Tony telling Jack important family secrets and hoping like hell he wasn’t making a really bad decision considering they were on their first date.
“I do,” he replied instead and didn’t think he imagined how Tony’s shoulders relaxed slightly.
“I know for a fact that Edward has been wanting to get away from the 00 program, but isn’t ready to retire. I had a hypothetical conversation with both him and my Uncle George to see if it was both something Edward was interested in and something SIS would go for. I got affirmative responses to both questions. George was going to start smoothing the way for SecDef, and it’s my understanding that Admiral Chegwidden has already made the call to begin discussions. He’s also discussed it with the President who from what I understand will be bringing it up to the Joint Chiefs on Monday. I am sure you’ll hear about it in more detail then.
“I am a fucking good investigator, but this role needs someone that has more of an intelligence gathering type background that I don’t have. I need someone that I can trust to watch my six without question and that’s Edward. Do you have to hire Edward? No. If you can offer me a reasonable alternative I wouldn’t be opposed. I understand the ramifications of putting an American Agent and a British Agent as partners for a Special Investigations team. Would I feel more comfortable if it was Edward? Yes, I would. But, Jack, the only deal breaker here is you telling me I can’t have a partner at all, or forcing one on me that’s I can’t tolerate. So, I guess the ball’s back in your corner again.”
The oven beeped saving Jack from replying. Fortunately, it seemed that the conversation was over because Tony came over and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “Go wash up. Dinner will be ready in about 20 minutes. I just have to put the garlic bread in the oven.” Nodding, Jack headed off to do as ordered, and hopefully, put the conversation he’d just had in a box so that it wouldn’t interfere with his weekend.
The speed which both the relationship and the approval for the second Special Investigator position moved from there was surprising. Jack, it seems, hadn’t truly appreciated how long the Paddington family had served the British Government and hadn’t been aware that Tony held a dual citizenship. When Edward agreed to take up a second citizenship himself with the US when probed, things went even smoother. Quicker than he could have ever imagined, Tony had a new partner, and Jack’s life was… well, it was turning out pretty fucking great.
Six months later, a group of people that included his old SG-1 team members, a few of the Paddington siblings and cousins who came into town. This included cousin Ashcroft who wanted to upgrade the home’s security system, his mates James and Alec, who it seems loved Tony and took great pleasure in threatening Jack quietly, and Uncle George, who Jack was pretty sure just wanted to grill him about his intentions. At some point, he’d seen Special Agents McGee and Bishop, Forensics Analyst Sciuto, Ducky, Palmer, and Gibbs, whom AJ was right in that he had wormed his way back into Tony’s good graces.
His way too big home suddenly was the perfect size, because Jack had no doubt that they would be getting frequent guests from across the pond. Edward was taking up Tony’s former apartment but had his own furniture. So, they still had to move all of his partner’s things including that stupid too small bed. The piano though was an addition that Jack came to love, simply because of the enjoyment he got in sitting after a long tiring day and listening to his lover play.
At one point, he found himself sitting off to one side watching and listening to his friends mix with Tony’s friends, Tony’s friends mix with his family and British friends, and he realized that after all this time he was finally home. There would never again be a time where he was alone in the world. No more future filled with only himself. He suddenly had everything he’d always wanted, except Charlie. That would always be a loss that would hurt, but Tony had slowly but surely helped him to ease some of his guilt after all these years. Even Sarah approved of Tony and wasn’t that a weird conversation followed by an even weirder meeting.
For maybe the first time since Charlie died, Jack was looking forward to family holidays and long vacations. He was thinking maybe retiring someday wasn’t as bad as it had always sounded because it wouldn’t be spent alone. No, Jack might not be as young as he used to be, but he had more now than he maybe ever had. And, that was pretty damned ok.