A Love out of this World
Tony was sitting at his desk trying to get his paperwork done so that he could leave on time. The problem was that Abby was standing in front of his desk trying to get him to come out with her and Ellie, even though he'd told her that he had plans. Bishop had plans as well, plans that included Tony, but he was letting her deal with that. He was having enough trouble managing his own relationship with Abby let alone to try and manage someone else's.
"Abby, I love you, but no means no," Tony said calmly but firmly as he backtracked on his form to fill in a required field that her distraction made him skip accidentally. "Just because you don't agree with my plans doesn't mean they're not valid or important to me. The fact that you don't even know what they are, and still insist that this supposed she is some… how did you put it? Oh right, clueless floozy and therefore not as important as you says a lot about our friendship I think."
"Fine! Just pick your hootchie of the moment over a family member who needs you," She threw back frowning and twirled around to look at Bishop who was frowning at her. "It's a good thing that Ellie knows what it means to be a family. She and I will just go out without you. I don't need you anyway. I'll remember this the next time you need me because of one of your freak outs, DiNozzo!"
"I don't remember making plans with you, Abby," Bishop said carefully as she chewed on her lip nervously. "If I did, I'm sorry, but I have plans. Even if I didn't, I don't think I would want to go out with you the way you're acting. Tony's right. You're not being a very good friend right now. I know that you're upset that you and whatshisface broke up, but Tony and I have had plans for a few weeks now. I'm not breaking them for you. I'm really excited about them."
The bullpen fell into silence, and Tony saw Bishop's eyes widen as she realized what she said. Sighing, he turned his attention momentarily to Gibbs, who just smirked and shrugged one shoulder. He knew the man would leave the decision up to him, but he needed at least to know that the Team Leader would have his back.
"You and Tony are going out together? As into the same place? As in at the same time? As in a date?" Abby screeched turning to look at Tony. Her pigtails hitting her in the face she turned so fast. "You're dating Bishop, Tony? And you didn't tell me? What kind of secret keeping jerk are you? I should have known I couldn't trust you. Ziva always told me that I couldn't, but I defended you every time! Now, I know better. I'm gonna have to email her and apologize, and it's all your fault, you no good secret keeper!"
Tony sighed as he studied the woman in front of him. Things had been changing for him slowly but surely since Ziva left. Despite what people believed, they didn't have some great romance. They'd talked online while she was gone, even going so far as Skyping a few times. While he had been and still was in some ways concerned with where her head was, it wasn't more concern than he would feel for anyone else he'd worked with for almost a decade. It was true that they'd had their rough moments, and they'd also had moments where Tony legitimately debated if there was something to what everyone believed. There'd even been that one dark night when he'd been at his lowest that he thought maybe things would have ended up differently had she picked up her phone.
None of that though meant that he'd been madly in love with her. When she disappeared that evening after they'd turned in their badges to save Gibbs, and he'd later found out she'd gone home to Israel, it was true that he was momentarily at a loss as to what he was supposed to do next. Mostly though, it was because he didn't know what he wanted to do next. On one side, he had Tim who had just bided his time until he could go back to NCIS and Team Gibbs. On the other side, there was Ziva who had turned her back on them all after having shoved her way into their lives for so long. Looking back, he could see just how incredibly unhealthy and fucked up her time with them had been.
He wasn't proud of the man that he'd allowed himself to be manipulated into becoming, but he was proud to say that he'd made huge strides in finding the way back to his true path again. One of the things that he'd done in the process of finding his way again was to examine the people in his life and determine if it was a healthy or unhealthy relationship. He'd been ashamed to find out that there had been way too many unhealthy relationships in his life. Surprisingly, some of those had changed. Like his relationships with both Gibbs and McGee for instance.
Once Gibbs came back from whatever mission he'd been on, Tony had sought him out in his basement and had a real heart to heart with the man. It had been touch and go for a while, and at one point, Tony was pretty sure that things between them weren't gonna work out either personally or in the workplace. One of the things that he'd insisted upon if he were to remain on the team was that Gibbs seek counseling and get his life in order. Tony was in no way willing to allow himself to be treated like he was something other than the SFA on the top team at NCIS. The head slaps the insults, the chain of command not being followed all needed to change. Frustrated one day when Gibbs had gone off on his own without telling anyone, Tony had taken a page out of the older man's book and given him the mother of all head slaps in the middle of the bullpen.
While even he'd been surprised by his action, he hadn't backed down and continued to head slap the man every time Tony thought he was acting up. He then began asking just what the hell the man was doing to help their cases when the former sniper fell into one of his tantrums during a case. None of it had been received well. When Gibbs tried to his usual tactics to reign him in, he was surprised to find himself with very few allies. People like Director Vance, Ducky, and even McGee had backed Tony and at different times told him that it was about time someone did something.
McGee had been the real surprise in his new list of allies. About a month after the three of them quit, Tony found the younger man on his doorstep with an irate looking Delilah sitting behind him. While he hadn't been sure what to expect initially, it had turned out to be the best talk he'd ever had with the younger man. It seemed that McGee had whined once too much about the wrong thing and found himself on the wrong end of an ass chewing from his girlfriend. Once delivered, it had been effective enough to jar some bit of common sense loose and got Tim to start really thinking about himself and the team.
The result was that Gibbs started seeing the sister of one of Tony's frat brothers, who had a successful practice in town, to deal with the grief that he'd never resolved. McGee promised to be a better friend and asked for a chance to earn Tony's trust back. While things were going slowly, Tony was happy that they were actually making real progress. As for Tony himself, there had been some changes he'd made to himself, and when he finally was able to go back to NCIS, it was a different Tony DiNozzo that walked into the bullpen. He honestly believed that it wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't met one Jonathan "call me Jack" O'Neill in Tony's favorite jazz bar. The man was everything Tony loved in his male partners, and their romance started fast and so far, hadn't slowed down.
One of the things that Tony loved most about Jack was that he really understood Tony. They had enough personality traits in common that the Air Force General understood where Tony was coming from and understood where he'd gone wrong. With Jack's help, he'd gotten rid of the frat boy mask except when it was needed to disarm a witness or suspect. At work, he no longer hid his intelligence and demanded that the respect he'd earned be given. He didn't waste his time with people who couldn't be bothered to be at least as good to him as he was to them. Even Vance had noticed and commented on the change.
Had he known that Tony was dating the head of one of the handful of secret government agencies, he'd think the change in the man's attitude was to earn favor with Jack. However, all the Director knew was that Tony was in a serious relationship with a man and would, in the spring, be moving into a home the two of them were building. Both Tony and Jack knew that at some point their relationship would be revealed to the world. It was only a matter of time before the President decided that everyone needed to know aliens were real. That was ok though because the two men had faith that as long as they were together, they'd get through the madness.
One of the people who hadn't taken the new Tony well was Abby. It hurt more than Tony could label that the woman he'd thought of as something close to a sister for over 13 years seemed to have lost herself. It had taken several nights of long talks, and a trip away for just the two of them for Jack to convince Tony that he wasn't responsible for the change. Could he maybe have done something differently along the way? Sure, he could have. There were certainly times that Tony's actions contributed to the current problem with Abby, and he owned the things he'd done wrong. What Jack was insistent upon, and Tony finally came to believe, was that those mistakes didn't make him solely responsible.
The bottom line was that Abby was a grown woman who was actually older than Tony. She'd been at NCIS longer than he had and had numerous relationships in her life outside of NCIS and the friendship the two of them used to have. The only person responsible for Abby's faults was Abby herself, and unfortunately, the goth didn't see any problem with her actions. What she also couldn't see was that she'd all but lost the respect of the people she claimed were her family.
The fact was, Abby was the only one who didn't know about Jack. The two of them went over to Gibbs' for cowboy steaks a couple of times a month. Tony and Jack had a monthly couples' outing with Tim and Delilah and Jimmy and Breena. Ducky had been signed on as a consultant of sorts with Stargate Command after Tony introduced him to Jack. After a night of stories, Jack had seen the potential of having someone like Ducky aligned with the program, and last Tony heard the ME was even considering a permanent posting with the agency.
Abby didn't know because she hadn't even been able to handle the professional changes in Tony's life. So, he knew that there was no way she'd accept the changes in Tony's personal life. However, Jack had long ago told him that when he felt the moment was right that he was fine with Tony speaking his mind. So far, they'd kept their relationship low key, but Jack had done what he needed to, to make sure the correct people were aware of his place in the General's life. While there were some that weren't completely thrilled, there wasn't anyone who could do a damned thing about it, and they all knew it.
Tony had been holding off, trying to make it until they could move into their new home in the Spring, but it looked like the news wasn't going last that long. Which, really, it was fine. Tony was more than willing at that point, and Jack would be over the moon to have him move into his partner's current home. Abby would never get in there. Nor would anyone else with less than positive intentions.
Turning his attention to McGee for a moment, he locked eyes with the younger man, and after a few moments received a nod of encouragement. Taking a deep calming breath, he turned his eyes back to Abby, who had her arms crossed angrily over her chest. "I'm not dating Bishop, Abby," Tony said finally as he submitted his last report and sent Ellie a message that he was finished. As he started shutting things down, he continued to explain. "Neither she or I said anything of the sorts. That's just what you decided to hear."
When the irate woman started to interrupt him, Tony just held up a hand for her to stop and kept speaking. "The fact is that I've been in a serious relationship since before I came back to NCIS after McGee, Ziva and I quit. His name is General Jonathan O'Neill, and we're in the process of building a home together that we're moving into in the spring. Jack has a good friend named Daniel Jackson who has recently taken a position in DC, and I think he would be a perfect match for ProBish. So, she and Daniel are joining Jack and me tonight for our Valentine's Day dinner. I know you're about to stomp your foot and spew some nonsense about how dare I not tell you. That will be followed by some drivel about us being a family, and I have no right keeping secrets from you."
After shutting off his computer, Tony picked up his backpack and the suit bag that he had hanging on his back wall. He'd change into the suit he had for that night's dinner in the locker room and meet Bishop at his car. As he did this, he continued on speaking to the goth who had moved onto her alligator tears routine.
"The fact is, Abs, that I don't owe you jack shit. I don't owe anyone private information about my personal life unless it would affect my job in some way. Gibbs not only knows about Jack, but he's met him. The Director is aware that I'm in a committed relationship, and per a previous agreement, Gibbs will fill him in on his identity before he leaves tonight. I am not saying this to hurt your feelings. I'm simply telling you truths that you've needed to hear for a while.
"We've all tried our best to get through to you politely, and it isn't working. So, maybe you just need some hard facts thrown in your face. You're a crappy friend. You are the only person on Team Gibbs who didn't know about Jack, and that includes Palmer, his wife, and Ducky. The reason you don't know is because you've been acting like a spoiled brat for far longer than I care to think about. It's come to the point, Abby, where I no longer consider us friends and am not inclined to change that at any time in the future. You need therapy.
"I don't know where the loving woman that I met years ago went to. I loved her. That woman was like a sister to me. You're just… well, you're a brat. You need to act your age. Now, I have somewhere to be. I am sorry that you're going to be alone, but you brought it on yourself. James was a really good guy, but you chased him away by acting like a child. I hope for your sake that something tonight has gotten through to you. If it hasn't though, it just isn't my problem any longer."
Without waiting for her to reply, Tony headed past Gibbs and McGee wishing them each a good evening and Happy Valentine's Day as he headed to the gym locker rooms. Behind him, Abby stood rooted in place as if she was waiting for reality to change. Unfortunately for her, there was no one who could or would even if it were possible to alter the situation that she now found herself in.
Later that evening, Tony found himself strolling through West Potomac Park with Jack holding hands as his security detail trailed both behind them and through the park next to them. Despite it being February, it was actually fairly nice, and Jack had wanted some time outside. Tony had just gotten done telling Jack about the confrontation with Abby and was waiting on his partner's response.
"I'd say I'm sorry, but you would know I'm lying," Jack offered, and Tony flashed him a weak smile before nodding his understanding. Fortunately, Jack didn't seem to need more of a response than that and kept going. "It sucks when our friends turn into people that we don't recognize. I am sorry that she's hurt you. I never wanted that, and frankly, you're the last person on earth who deserves more pain. I will say that you have a hell of a lot of people already on your side. Even though it may be hard, try to hold onto that and not the one person you lost in all this."
"I love you forever; you know that right, Jack?" Tony asked as Jack paused and moved so that he could lean against the railing with Tony copying his stance as he looked at him.
"I do," Jack promised as he seemed to be absently running his thumb over the back of Tony's as he spoke. "I know that you always focus on how much your life changed after we met. When you tell people about us, you always tell them how I helped you find your way, again. What I don't think you understand though is how much you affected my life as well. Before you, I was pretty fucking miserable. I mean, I had my career, but that was just about it."
Tony opened his mouth to argue, but Jack reached out and put two fingers over his lips. "Let me finish, please?" When Tony finally nodded his agreement, Jack continued.
"I had this weird crush on Carter because it was safe. I knew that nothing would come of it, so it was easy to indulge in it. If Daniel hadn't spent so much of our friendship either dying or trying to run off with women from other planets, then I probably would have given into a similar situation with him. The thing is though it would have been as pointless and safe as the thing with Carter. I'd never start something with a member of my team. They're just too important to me. So, before I met you, I'd accepted that I was just going to die alone and lonely. Then, I met you."
Jack chuckled softly, and Tony couldn't resist the urge to step closer into his partner's space. When the older man just smiled and pulled him even closer so that their bodies touched, Tony grinned happily as his love continued. "It seemed like from the very second that I met you everything was just better. The lonely nights were fewer and the dark days didn't come as often. When either of them did though, I always knew that you were never more than a phone call or computer screen away.
"You've never been anything but open and honest about your feelings for me, not even when it was so new that we counted the days on our fingers and you were scared to death. You'd tell me that you were scared out of your mind, you didn't know if you had it in you to believe in forever anymore, but despite both you really fucking wanted to try. It's been a long time since I felt like I was worthy of such a thing."
Jack took a deep breath and briefly looked out over the river before turning his attention back to Tony. "When I told you about Charlie, you were nothing but sympathetic. You've not once tried to shame me for mourning him on certain days, and every single time, you make sure that you're right there when I come out of my head. When Sarah tried to thrust herself back into my life, you didn't treat her like the irrational harpy she was imitating. Instead, you offered her compassion and reminded her that she'd already moved on with her own forever. If she hadn't called me later and confessed what she'd done, I would never even have known. I literally cannot fathom what I would do if I ever lost you, and I hate every night that I go to sleep, and you aren't beside me."
When Jack took a step back, Tony frowned. When he got down on one knee, he was pretty sure all the air in his lungs disappeared. "How about we make sure that neither of us sleeps alone again, huh? Marry me?"
Tony never imagined that he'd be one of those people to cry in such a moment. When he asked Wendy to marry him, he was nervous but dry-eyed. There was a time in his past where he would have scoffed at a man who wept in such a moment. It was people like Jack that showed him it was ok to feel what he was feeling. There were no more "DiNozzo's Don't…" moments in his life. As he felt the tears fall down his cheeks, he nodded before smiling bright enough to light up the whole park. "Yes."
When Jack stood, and his knees popped, Tony winced. Quickly, that was forgotten as his now fiancé's arms wrapped around him and the other man pressed their lips together. When he heard someone shout, "he said yes right?" He pulled back with a startle as Jack groaned.
"She couldn't wait till my kiss was over?" He grumbled good-naturedly, but the twinkle in his eyes made a liar of his grouching.
"You said yes, right?" Bishop repeated as she ran toward them stopping just in time and Tony barely had a moment to see that she wasn't alone before she was throwing her arms around him. Then he was laughing again and crying as she cried with him. When he finally untangled himself, Gibbs was there with a grin bigger than Tony had seen and a hug of congratulations.
Eventually, they moved to a nearby area, and he found himself accepting congratulations from both his friends and Jack's. Not only were Gibbs and Jack there, but also Ducky, Jimmy and Breena, and Tim and Delilah. Jack's team from his days in the field were there as well as Tony's local frat brothers, and a couple of guys Jack had served with pre-Stargate Command.
Occasionally, they'd get separated, but never for long. As soon as one realized the other wasn't by his side excuses would be made and the other half would be sought out. If it wasn't Jack's presence by his side, and that knowing grin he kept getting from Gibbs, he'd wonder if he wasn't hallucinating from one concussion too many. By the time the newly engaged couple found themselves at Jack's townhome, the day had slipped into the next. Valentine's day was gone, and February 15th was just another day.
Only, it wasn't.
February 15th was the second day of his engagement, and it was the first night of an almost miraculous streak that he'd be able to say he hadn't slept alone. Plans would be made. Vance would eventually be not only introduced to Jack but read into the fact that aliens existed. Tony's career would chance slightly. There'd never be another undercover assignment, and Jack would never again go off world without Tony at his side. Bishop would eventually leave NCIS for Stargate Command to work with Daniel. Tony though would remain where he was. Sooner than he'd like, Gibbs would be retired thanks to a group called The Calling and a scumbag called Daniel Budd whom Tony would ensure was hunted down and killed.
His time as the MCRT Leader though would be shorter than he'd expect. Quicker than he'd imagine a team lead spot would lead to an Executive Assistant Director spot, which would lead to an Assistant Director spot. That would one day lead to the big chair, and by then, Jack would himself be retired with Daniel having taken his spot. The biggest surprise though would be the little boy that came into their life named Tristan Jordan. The child was a happy accident from Tony's past that needed love and would find himself with two dads, a ton of Aunts and Uncles, and one very proud Grampa Ducky. It would be hard at first. The blond-haired boy would sometimes remind Jack too much of Charlie, but he'd never ever love him as if he was anyone but himself.
As he drifted off to sleep on his first night as an engaged man though, none of that was on Tony's mind. All he could think of was how good it felt to have Jack next to him in bed and know that forever really was possible.