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Tony Rewound

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Art by KliqzAngel

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Spring 1982

 

Tony wasn’t going to cry. DiNozzo’s don’t cry . Instead, he was going to screw with his father as much as a ten-year-old could. What were they going to do, arrest a little kid? Tony found the room service menu and ordered whatever he wanted. Then he was going to see if they had one of those new gaming systems available and play to his heart's content. Maybe swim in the pool, and order dinner. If his father wanted to abandon him in Hawaii, Tony was going to make him pay.

Three days later there was a knock on his hotel room door. Tony had a feeling that his fun was coming to an end. He approached the door and before he opened it he called out.

“Who is it?”

“Hotel security.”

Tony sighed as he opened the door just enough till the door lock caught hold.

“Let me see ID.”

The man standing there smiled and pulled out his identification and showed it to Tony. There was another man standing behind the security person who also took out his ID and showed it to Tony.

“You need to let us in kiddo.” The other man had spoken as he smiled at Tony.

“Fine.” Tony sighed as he closed the door. Standing on his tiptoes he flipped the security bar and opened the door. Turning around he stomped off towards the living room and flopped down on the couch.

“What’s your name, kid?” The other man asked as he pulled a chair over and sat down in front of Tony.

“Tony.”

“Do you know where your father is?”

Tony looked up and shook his head.

“Tony, I’m going to need you to pack your things and you are going to come with me. You can’t stay here by yourself with your father missing.”

“But he’ll be back! He always comes back.” Tony snapped his mouth shut while his eyes grew huge. He had not meant to let that slip, but he was truly scared this time.

“Son, has he done this before?”

Tony looked away from the policeman not wanting to answer him.

“Okay, you don’t have to talk to me. But, I’m sorry you really can’t stay here. We will leave information with hotel security in case he shows up. Right now, you need to pack up your things and we are going to find you a more appropriate place to stay.”

“You didn’t tell me your name. You’re supposed to do that.” Tony knew he sounded a little petulant, but he felt he had the right to be. His father had left him alone yet again. Tony could admit that this time he was truly scared. Usually, Senior was only gone for a day or two, but it was now nearing four days later and no sign of him coming back.

“You’re right. I should have given you some identification. I’m Detective John McGarrett. The hotel called me instead of someone else because they knew I would take care of you.”

Tony sighed as he slid off the couch and went to his temporary room and threw his things into his suitcase. He remembered all his bathroom things, as well as his books and comic books. He didn’t know what to do with his father’s things, but the Security man said he would take care of them. Tony nodded then grabbed the handle of his bag and wheeled it out to where the Detective was waiting for him.

“That’s all my stuff.”

McGarrett smiled and led Tony out of the hotel and down to his car.

“I’m sorry, but we have to go to the station to talk to you, but I will see if they will let you come home with me till we get this all straightened out. How does that sound?”

Tony shrugged and looked out the passenger window of the car. DiNozzo’s don’t cry was on repeat in his head. Tony tried to push down the fact that he was scared. More scared than he ever had been before in his life. Even more scared than when his father would get drunk and yell at him, or worse.

Tony kept his gaze out the window not wanting to look at the compassion and understanding in McGarrett’s eyes. When he finally spoke, even he could tell his voice sounded sad and broken.

“Whatever.”

Thankfully McGarrett didn’t say anything more till they got to the station. Tony knew what his father was, he had figured out the man was con man when he was eight. Tony was conflicted, he was told to always tell the truth no matter what. A part of him still cared about his father, even after all the crappy things he had done to Tony, but Tony also knew he couldn’t lie. Not when it was important. When the Detective and the nice lady from the Child Welfare office sat with him and asked him questions, Tony decided only the truth would help.

Ms. Palakiko was all right with Tony going with the Detective. Tony didn’t care where he went as long as it was someplace safe. When they arrived at McGarrett’s house, Tony was emotionally exhausted from the whole ordeal and he just wanted to lie down and rest. McGarrett kept smiling that smile that felt like the Detective felt sorry for Tony. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to feel mad about that or not. For the time being, all he wanted was to lie down for a while to try to processes everything that was happening so fast.

“Come on kiddo, let’s get you inside.”

Tony nodded as he pushed open his door and slid out of the seat. McGarrett helped him inside where Tony was led to a spare bedroom he would be using for a little while. As soon as his head hit the pillow, McGarrett left closing the door behind him. Tony for the first time since his mother had died cried himself to sleep.

_________________________

“I tell you, Doris, this whole situation is really strange. Who the hell forgets about their kid? Especially in another state?”

Doris was helping McGarrett work in the kitchen. Tony had woken up from his nap, rolled out of the bed and went looking for the bathroom. He found it and washed his face before using the toilet. Washing his hands Tony heard some murmuring and went looking for his host. When he heard the voices much clearer he decided to stay back and listen.

“I don’t know,  John. Have you checked into this man’s background?”

“Talkin’ to the kid made me dig a little more. This man is a total con man and he leaves his kid in a hotel room?”

“What are doing about it?”

“I got the kids DNA. I don’t know why I did it, but something was telling me this whole situation is way off. I know it’s not a perfect science, but maybe they can figure somethin’ out. It’s gonna take some time because it’s so new. I had to send it to an FBI lab on the mainland since no one is doing it here yet.”

“Hopefully you get some answers.”

“Yeah, I hope so too. That kid’s been through a lot. I don’t like the thought of him going back to this man, Doris.”

Tony didn’t really understand what was going on but he knew it was big. Walking away from his hiding place, because he didn’t want to hear anymore he started to explore the house. When he got to the living room he saw a kid there a little younger than Tony was. The kid was playing that new video game, the Nintendo, which Tony had begged and begged his father for, but Senior didn’t like Tony playing “those kinds of games”. Tony never knew what his old man had meant and frankly he no longer cared.

“You that kid Dad brought home, Tony right?”

“Yeah.”

“Wanna play?”

Tony hesitated a moment and the boy held out the controller for Tony who then walked over and sat down.

“I just learned to play. What games you got?”

“This is Mario Brothers. It’s hard, but so much fun. Try it.”

Tony smiled as he took the controller and started playing the game. It was fun, and funny. The kid laughed when Tony made a mistake, but it wasn’t mean because when the kid started to play he was making those same kinds of mistakes. The two spent a fun hour playing till the kid’s Dad called them in for dinner.

“So, what’s your name?”

“I’m Steve. Nice ‘ta meet ‘ya.”

Tony took Steve’s hand and shook it.

“Come on you guys, since it’s a nice evening we are going to go have dinner out on the lanai.”

“What’s a lanai?”

“Its kinda like a deck. Come on.”

Tony followed Steve outside and the four of them sat down at the table. There was a little girl in a booster seat who smiled shyly at Tony.

“That’s my sister. She’s mostly cool. Except when she’s being a brat.”

“Steven!”

“What Mom?”

“Be nice.”

“Fine.”

Steve huffed as he tucked into his food and Tony chuckled. He didn’t have any siblings, he always wished he had a little brother or sister, but something about his Mom not being able to have anymore kids. Tony’s thoughts about his Mother had him going quiet. No one tried to make him talk, which he was grateful for. He ate mostly to not be rude, he barely tasted the food being at his emotional limit.

After dinner, Tony asked if he could go read till he fell asleep, McGarrett smiled and said of course. Tony didn’t know what was going to happen to him, he just wanted to go home.

__________________

Five days living with the McGarrett’s had Tony wishing for things he knew he could never have. Mainly a family who cared about each other. As much as Steve liked to tease his little sister he could see that Steve loved her. And his parents acted like they loved both of their kids. Tony wished so hard for that but knew it just wasn’t in the cards for him. He became more sullen and even quieter around the McGarrett household. He was never rude and always was polite, but he kept himself separate trying not to want those things he couldn’t have.

When he woke up earlier that morning there was some commotion. McGarrett was on the phone at breakfast talking fast, but Tony didn’t know what he was talking about other than it had something to do with Tony himself.

After breakfast, McGarrett had Tony get dressed in the nicest clothes he had and that Tony was coming to the station with him. Tony looked through his things and pulled out the pair of dress trousers his father had made him bring along as well as a short-sleeved button down. He pulled those on quickly, then his nicer tennis shoes. After brushing his hair out and taking care of his basic morning needs, Tony found himself once more in McGarrett’s work vehicle.

“Tony, when we get to the station there is going to be someone there who wants to meet you. Now, I know you are a very smart young man and I am not going to talk down to you, but there is going to be a lot going on and whenever you feel overwhelmed just come to me and ask whatever questions you need to. Okay?”

“Okay?” Tony didn’t even hide the apprehension in his voice. McGarrett kept talking but Tony couldn’t tell you what the man said, he was so anxious about what he would find at the police station that his palms started to sweat and his heart began racing. He stared straight ahead trying to calm himself down. He was scared, even more scared than what he had been when McGarrett took him from that hotel room five days prior.

The rest of the drive to the police station was done in silence, Tony was grateful that McGarrett let him have his quiet, he wasn’t in the mood to have small talk. After parking, Tony hesitated a moment, but at McGarrett’s encouragement, he left the car and followed the Detective inside. McGarrett settled Tony in a small meeting room and said he would be back in a few minutes. Tony tried so hard to not be afraid, but he was. He was terrified because he didn’t really know what was going on.

Trying not to watch the clock, Tony tried to concentrate on the book he had brought with him. He had stuck it in his back pocket just in case. Taking a few deep breaths Tony tried his hardest to concentrate on the book and not the clock or what was possibly going on outside in the main part of the station. When he had finally settled himself, the door opened. Tony looked up to see who it was and following the Detective was a man and a woman. Tony’s worries just got worse, but he tried to stay calm on the outside. McGarrett smiled at him before moving to sit down in one chair and the couple on the other side of the table.

“Tony, I need you to listen and pay attention for the next few minutes, okay?” McGarrett waited as Tony put the book down on the table and sat up straight.

“Okay.” Tony’s eyes darted to the couple and back to McGarrett.

“First off, this is David Rossi and his ex-wife Carolyn Rossi. Tony, these are your real parents.”

Tony turned his head towards the man as his eyes widened in disbelief. He was feeling anxious again but was trying his hardest not to show it on the outside.

“I don’t understand.”

“I know kiddo. I will tell you what we’ve found out. When I took that DNA sample? The one you asked a bunch of questions about?”

“Yes?”

“See, that’s fairly new technology and most police departments don’t have the means to do the test, but I knew that the FBI was experimenting with DNA and how it can help in criminal investigations, or for finding people that are lost. You understand?”

Tony’s eyes kept darting over towards the couple, who were silent, but looked just as anxious as Tony felt.

“Yeah.”

“Good. You’re a smart kid, Tony so I know you’ll understand. The FBI ran your DNA through a database, it’s not a big database right now, but they have a lot of people on file. Mr Rossi here is one of those people in that file. He works for the FBI. Your DNA, Tony, matched Mr Rossi’s here.

“Now, they want to be absolutely sure because like I said, this is new technology. But, there is a test that a hospital can do that will be more widely accepted.”

“A paternity test?” Tony asked as he swung his feet back and forth.

“Yeah, kiddo a paternity test.”

“Senior had to do one of those. A woman came to our house claiming her kid was his. Senior was mad. I only saw him that mad when my mom...” Tony closed his mouth, his heart raced and tears gathered in his eyes.

“Tony?” McGarrett knew there was a story there, but Tony had deflected him every time.

“It doesn’t matter. So,” Tony looked back at Rossi and took a moment to gather himself. “You wanna take this test?”

Rossi leaned forward a little towards Tony.

“I do. You see, we thought our little boy was gone. But you look just like Carolyn’s father, your Grandfather.”

Tony narrowed his eyes and got lost in his own thoughts for a moment. He chuckled, but there was no humor behind it. Even to his own ears it sounded cynical, even for a ten year old boy.

“Senior did something bad, didn’t he?”

McGarrett bowed his head and shook it before he looked back at Tony.

“Yes. We think he did something very bad. But, for us to prove it the paternity test is the most effective way. All they would do is draw some of your blood, then some from Mr and Mrs Rossi and in a couple of days they will be able to tell us if our suspicions are right.”

“Does the Child Welfare lady need to give consent?”

“No. Only I do because I have temporary custody of you. I can sign the papers, but Tony we won’t do this if you don’t want to.”

“Yes.” Tony didn’t even have to think about. If Senior really wasn’t his father and these people were really his parents, Tony was willing to risk it.

“You don’t want some time to think about it?”

“No. Anything is better than going back home.”

______________________________

The test results took three days to come back. It was positive. Tony wasn’t really related to DiNozzo senior. Tony felt alternating senses of relief and sadness. He had hated Senior for so long, but he also remembers a time when he had loved him. When the three of them had been happy, even if it was short-lived. Tony was grieving for a relationship that had once been, but could never be again.

He didn’t quite understand everything, all he knew was Senior had bribed a pretty nurse to switch the babies at the hospital Tony had been born at. McGarrett had been on the phone to the hospital, and then the police department in Virginia where the Rossi’s had come from. There was a lot to work out, but Tony had been spending time with the Rossi’s. He really liked them, but he tried not get his hopes up. There was more than once when his hopes had been torn apart, sometimes it was right to his face.

Just as everything was going so well, Senior showed back up in Hawaii. Tony was shocked to hear that the moment Senior stepped into the hotel, he was arrested and thrown in jail. Tony didn’t expect that. He had expected Senior to con his way out of this and somehow take Tony and leave. Sitting in the Rossi’s hotel room after hearing the news, Tony still wasn’t comprehending where he was going to go.

“He kiddo.” David Rossi, Tony was still trying to process that David Rossi was his real father.

“Hey.”

“I know this is a lot to take in, but kid I never want you to think that we don’t want you. We have always wanted you. From the moment Caro found out you were growing inside her, we have loved you. We want you to come live with us. I know it will be an adjustment, but I never want you to think you aren’t wanted.”

Tony’s eyes filled as he flung himself at Rossi, who just wrapped him up in his arms and held him close.

“Oh, David. What did that man do to our baby?” Carolyn sat next to David and laid her hand against Tony’s back, they let him cry it out knowing how emotionally strung out the boy was.

“I don’t know, Mi Amore, but all we can do from now on is show him how much we love him.”

Tony held on even tighter. He had rarely heard words of love directed at him and to find out that his real parents had wanted him and loved him from the beginning was a lot for him to take in. Tony, though, would go with them, not because he had nowhere else to go, but because he had a gut feeling his life was going to change for the better.

Chapter Text

 

 

Fall 1984

 

Tony woke early, he was excited to be going to a new school. He wasn’t too sure about all the rules, but he had hated his old school, but he understood why Babbo wanted him to go. When he first came home with his Mama and Babbo, Tony was a little overwhelmed and it took the three of them to work through a lot of their issues on becoming a family.

When Tony finally told Babbo about how Senior had treated him, there was no recriminations, no yelling and Tony almost cried when Babbo said he believed Tony. He was made to go to counseling, which his parents went as well to work on their own issues. Now, a little over two years later Tony could finally admit he was happy.

Carefully dressing in the school uniform, with tie and everything, Tony smiled at himself in the mirror. He styled his hair that had bleached out from the sun, and he still had his tan from spending time at the beach. The Italian in him had come out more and Tony could admit he liked the effect.

“Figlio, better hurry up you don’t want to be late for your first day. Your Mama has your favorite ricotta pancakes.”

Tony grabbed his backpack and shoes and ran down the stairs towards the kitchen, which was his favorite place in the house. The family spent many hours together cooking and teaching Tony some of his Nonna’s recipes. Tony was also learning more about his Italian heritage. He had spent time the year before in an Italian immersion study during the summer. He had loved it and Babbo helped him with keeping it up.

“Mama, you really made ricotta pancakes?” Tony couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he set his backpack down and tried to slip his feet into his school loafers.

“Yes, figlio. Come, come, sit and eat. I want my boy ready for his first day.” Carolyn Rossi had been a beam of sunshine in Tony’s life. He never knew that a mother could be as beautiful and affectionate as she was. He even enjoyed playing piano again, the two could sometimes be found in the music room playing together. Tony found his love of music once more with his Mama.

Sitting at the table, he pulled his plate to him. The warm milk with a little coffee in it was one of Tony’s favorite things ever, and there was always a biscotti or two for him to dip into his warm drink.

With the pancakes was some fresh fruit. Tony tucked into his food with gusto. He just knew that things were going to be different at his new school.

“You have all of your things packed in your backpack, Tony?”

Tony looked up from his plate as Babbo sat down at the head of the table. A smile wide on his face as he too had a stack of pancakes as well as the fruit. His cup was a cappuccino. Tony was only allowed one every Sunday at breakfast. Sometimes he couldn’t wait till he was bigger where he could have coffee whenever he wanted, but he knew he had to wait.

“Yes, Babbo. I doubled checked the list and everything.”

“Good. Your Mama is going into work today, so I will pick you up after school and maybe we will go to Scarpetto’s for dinner.”

“Pizza?” Tony asked excitedly. There was nothing better to him than a good slice from Scarpetto’s.

“Whatever you want on it. And maybe some antipasti.”

Tony didn’t know if the day could get any better, but he would hold out on that opinion until his first day of classes were over.

___________________

Tony couldn’t decide if music class or social sciences were his favorites, but all his teacher’s were very nice. Everything was so different than even the schools he went to when he was with Senior. Sure, he knew there were bullies, and bad kids, but for the most part most of his classmates were really nice to him. Some of the girls even smiled at him which made him feel a little funny inside. But, the prettier boys smiled at him too, and that just made him a little confused. Tony, though, wasn’t interested in anything with anyone. He was barely getting to know his classmates. Time for fooling around would come later, when he was more comfortable.

“Hey, Rossi.”

A kid that was in a couple of Tony’s classes called him over to his lunch table. Tony, clutching is lunch box, carefully made his way over.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t look so scared, how about you have lunch with us?” Thomas, Tony remembered the name as he slid onto the bench.

“Sure!”

“So, you really David Rossi’s kid?” Thomas’ eyes grew huge as he leaned in a little.

“Tommy, come on leave him alone. It’s his first day.” The other kid turned towards Tony and held out his hand. “We don’t have any classes together, but you’ll see me with tall, annoying, and inquisitive over there. I’m Jaspar. Yeah, I know blame my parents.”

Tony took Jaspar’s hand and laughed as he shook it.

“Hey, Jazz. I can’t help it. You know how much I want to be a writer, and Mr. Rossi is the best. I don’t wanna do nuthin’ like him though, but his books are amazing.”

“You know your Mom doesn’t like you reading those true crime books, Tommy.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s why I get the librarian at the city library to hold them for me. She sneaks ‘em to me when I want to read them.”

Jaspar shook his head and sighed.

“You are hopeless.”

“Well, it’s better than wanting to dig around in the dirt.”

“Tommy has an aversion to getting dirty. It’s almost pathological.” Jaspar turned to Tony and chuckled when a napkin hit him square in the face.

“I didn’t think you could use such big words.”

“You ain’t the only person who’s smart, dumbass.”

Tony didn’t even try to hold back his laugh at watching the two obvious best friends banter back and forth. He never had a best friend, and his old school the kids just mostly ignored him, which was fine with Tony because he knew he wasn’t staying there. He applied his time to his schoolwork, striving for the best grades possible. He had really wanted to get into Hampton Roads Academy, and his parents were proud of him for making it in.

“So, Rossi, what do you want to do when you grow up?”

Tony had to think hard about this one. At one time he thought football or basketball was his ticket away from Senior, but now he was wondering what else he wanted to do. He still loved playing basketball and football, and he couldn’t wait till tryouts came around.

“I dunno. I thought maybe a ball player, but,” Tony shrugged a shoulder as he looked down at his lunch. “Well, things kinda changed for me so maybe I’ll figure it out later.”

“Hell, we got plenty of time to think about grown up stuff.”

Tony ate his sandwich, his Mama had made him a prosciutto and mozzarella panini with a side of pasta and some vegetables. Tony listened more as the two friends bickered, but there was no heat behind it. After a few minutes more kids joined them and a lively discussion took place about the summer movies that had come out. Tony became even more animated, movies were most definitely his thing. All summer while Babbo worked on his new book, or out on cases, Tony and his mother could be found going out to the local cinema and catching whatever was age appropriate for Tony, and maybe sneaking in one or two that might have been a little old for Tony to see, but they would laugh about it while eating lunch together.

The other kids, a mix of boys and girls, seemed to be part of a group. Tony had never really had many friends, with Senior moving around so much and dragging Tony along he had been afraid to make friends.

After lunch was over, Tony made his way to the gym where his gym class was going to start. He contemplated about Jaspar and Tommy. He wondered if they were the first friends he had made.

By the end of the day, Tony was almost sure he had made friends. There was something incredibly precious about it that Tony didn’t want to explore until he was alone and could let his mind really contemplate the situation. For now he was leaning in the door to the car asking Babbo if it would be alright to have Tommy and Jaspar over that afternoon. The two boys were waiting behind Tony to see what his father would say.

“Of course, Figlio. You guys can hang out in the den.”

Tony’s happiness was almost too big for him to contain as he piled in the front seat with his two new friends behind him. If the rest of the year was like this first day, Tony knew school just might be the best thing ever.

____________________

Winter 1986

Tony once more looked out at the full auditorium and felt the nerves in the pit of his stomach. He knew his piece inside and out, but there was still that fear that he would blow it.

“Il mio piccolino, come come.” Carolyn held her arms out for Tony, who, despite being 14 now, let himself be hugged close. “You will be brillante . Stop worrying so much.”

“I can’t help it Mama. I feel all these butterflies in my stomach.”

“Sembri bello, Tonio.” Carolyn cupped his cheeks and placed a quick kiss just above her fingers on each side. “We are so proud of you, Piccolino. No matter what happens. And tonight, your Papa and I will leave you and your friends alone. But, remember we will still be close.”

Tony softly chuckled and looked forward to the early holiday party his parents were letting him have. The pool had been covered and there were decorations all around. The pool house was opened up to let them use for the food and drinks. Tony knew a couple of his Papa’s friends from the FBI were going to be chaperone’s, but they promised to be inconspicuous.

Tony was just excited for the party. He had gotten a bit a reputation around Hampton Roads for the parties his parents let him throw. Tony didn’t exclude anyone from his grade year, everyone usually was invited. Besides Thomas and Jaspar, Tony had also made friends on the basketball and football teams as well as music class.

Tony still had to contend with bullies and other kids who thought they were better than him, but he had talked a lot of that out with his Papa and knew that people like that were everywhere.

“Well don’t you look sharp.” A voice said from just behind his mother.

“Uncle Jason! Papa said you wouldn’t be able to come.”

“Wouldn’t miss this for anything, kiddo.”

Tony smiled wide as his father’s best friend gave him a quick hug. The canned music to alert everyone to find their seats sounded and Tony’s piano teacher started to walk through around the backstage and quietly started to escort parents away from the stage.

“Remember, you know this, Tonio.”

“Thanks, Mama.”

Tony took a deep breath and stood waiting for his que. He was the fourth musical act after the Acapella Choir, the ballet class, and the string quartet. Every piece was winter themed and Tony was doing Chopin’s Etude op.25 No 11. He had fallen in love with it the first time he had heard Carolyn playing it just a little while after Tony came to live with them. It reminded him a little of where he had come from and how he found a better place.

Taking a deep breath, it was almost time for him to go on. He walked over to the piano and sat, the tails of his tux hung down behind him. He remembered the day he went shopping with Papa and the two of them shared in their love of a good suit. Though Papa didn’t wear one that much these days, he still liked to look good.

The quartet finished, the curtains opened and the spotlight shone on him. Taking a few deep breaths Tony placed his hands on the piano keys and let himself get lost in the music. Before he even realized it he was finishing his piece. Standing up, he took a bow and tried not to feel too embarrassed over the applause. Looking out he saw his Mama, Papa, and Uncle Jason with smiles on their faces. The night was only beginning, but Tony was already feeling the magic of the season in the air.

________________

Tony was trying to remember just how he had ended up on a bench in the gardens with the fairy lights on and music trickling out just to the edges of where he was sitting with Brian MacDillon’s tongue down his throat. Not that Tony was complaining, he had been wanting to kiss the third baseman since Tony had joined the Varsity team the year before. The two of them had been making eyes at each other for the better part of a year and a half. Now, at Tony’s party they were making out like the two horny teenagers they were.

“Fuck, Bri.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to go that far, but yeah I know what you mean.”

Tony bit his lip as he leaned in a little closer to Brian, the two intertwined their fingers, breathing hard from their epic make-out session.

“Tony...” Brian sounded serious as Tony turned his head towards his friend? Boyfriend? Tony wasn’t really sure, yet.

“Yeah?”

“Look, I know at school that we can’t....” Brian let out a long sigh as he slumped back against the back of the bench.

“I get it. Two jocks, both popular, perception at school is everything.”

“It fucking shouldn’t be,” Brian pushed off the bench and started pacing the pathway in front of where they were sitting. “We should be able to do what we want. If I want to hold your hand, or kiss you we should be able to do that, dammit.”

“Brian, are you...are you saying you want to be with me?” Tony felt a little flutter in his stomach as he watched Brian having his freak out. He had sort of dated a couple of girls, going to movies and such, but neither of them lasted. Tony had liked them, but he hadn’t liked liked them. He hated the breaking-up part, but after talking a lot with his parents he knew it was never good to be with someone you didn’t want to be with, no matter if the breaking-up hurt one or both of you. Tony knew his worth as a person, his parents always made him understand that, as well as respect for the person you were with. He had learned it was more respectful to let someone go that didn’t fit just right, than to keep being with them just because.

“Of course, dummy. I didn’t drag you out here and kiss the hell out of you just for shits and giggles.”

Tony laughed as he stood up to stop Brian’s pacing. Resting his hands on Brian’s shoulders, Tony leaned in and gave Brian a kiss.

“I want to be with you too.”

“But, how do we do this?”

“Secret boyfriends?” Tony quirked the side of his mouth up in a wicked grin. “When we are at school, we act like we always do. But, we hang out here, Papa said I could use the poolhouse, unsupervised, or at your place...”

“Noooo, no way. My parents would kill me.” Brian started breathing hard and, his eyes shining with unshed tears.

“Okay, okay. Then here. We can hang out at the movies and stuff. Look, we’ll figure it out, okay?”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah, I really think so. Now, let’s get back to the party in case someone comes looking for us.”

Brian smiled and wrapped his pinky around Tony’s as they walked back towards the pool house and the party still going on. Tony knew his parents were going to come out soon and tell everyone the party was over. Some of the kids were staying the night, all the pull out beds had been scattered around. His Mama was going to make a big Italian breakfast for everyone. Tony was torn between staying with his friends and going to his own room, maybe even sneaking Brian up with him. His parents had a no girls in his room rule, but they never said anything about no boys, especially since Jaspar or Thomas often fell asleep studying with him.

When they got to the edge of the walkway that led to the pool and pool house Tony felt Brian slip away. He was sad, but excited at the same time. Tony knew Brian was someone that could possibly break Tony’s heart.

_____________________

Early Summer 1987 before school end

Tony was breathing hard as he hovered just above Brian. He couldn’t believe what they had just done, but it had felt amazing. He was almost fifteen, well, a few months away anyway, but he felt all grown-up.

Tony and Brian had found creative ways to spend time together, even though they both hated hiding that they were in a relationship. But at the moment that didn’t matter, especially as they were half naked, pants around their hips and needing to clean up.

“Wow, that was...”

“Yeah...”

“I mean, I’ve never....”

“Neither have I...”

“I...” Brian’s words caught in his throat, but Tony felt the same. He wasn’t sure if it was love, but he felt something for Brian that was more than friends, and more than just two kids ‘going out’ together.

“Me too...”

“Look at us. We can’t even say what it is we really feel.”

“But, I think we know. Do we have ‘ta say it?” Tony rolled away and held his pants at his hips and walked towards his en suite bathroom. He quickly cleaned himself up, then Brian followed after and did the same.

“No, we don’t.” Brian locked eyes with Tony in the mirror as Tony wrapped his arms around Brian’s chest holding him close.

“What do you want to do now? I mean, I think we should actually study.” Tony’s wicked smile came out as he gently teased Brian.

“After that, I’m hungry.”

“Hey, I think there’s some of Dad’s homemade pizza left. Come on, let’s go raid the fridge.”

Tony let Brian go as he turned back to his bedroom to grab his tshirt. Brian found his and the two raced down the stairs to indulge their hunger. Carolyn was at her desk that sat near a large picture window on the other side of the open kitchen. Tony smiled towards his mother as he pulled open the refrigerator door.

“I’ll grab our backpacks, go set up in the den.” Tony noticed Brian fidgeting a little and a deep blush creeping up on his face as he backed out of the room.

“Tonio, is your boyfriend all right?”

Tony had his head stuck in the fridge when his Mama asked him that question. He felt all the moisture in his mouth dry up as he grabbed the leftover pizza, some pasta salad, and a tupperware of the antipasti they had the night before. He was giving himself a moment to try to gather his thoughts.

Setting everything on the Island counter, Tony shut the door and faced his mother.

“Mama, I..l  don’t know what you mean.” Tony took his time to walk towards the cabinet to grab a couple of plates to plate up the food.

Carolyn rose from her chair and came over to stand near her son.

“Piccolino, your Mother is not blind. You don’t have to be afraid to tell me. He is a good boy and I see how much he cares for you.”

Tony slowly plated a couple of slices of the pizza, he was trying to decide if they should eat it cold or stick it in the microwave. Tony looked at the appliance his father hated, but had given in and bought one anyway.

“You don’t care...you know ‘cause Brian’s parents, they aren’t so cool about it.”

“Tonio, you should know by now your father and I only want you to be happy. You’re young and exploring, that is a good thing. Nothing can make us disappointed in you, even your choice of paramours. You love who you love.”

Tony bit his lip trying to process the rush of emotions. He had never expressly told his parents that Brian was his boyfriend, he had been afraid to say anything because of how Senior had always acted towards anyone different from them. Senior hated homosexuals and always made it known that if Tony ever leaned that way he would be thrown out and cut-off from him.

“Sweetheart?”

“It’s just...Senior...”

“Oh, baby.” Carolyn took the last few steps towards Tony and pulled him into her arms. “That man,” Here Carolyn went into a rather long tirade in Italian, even throwing in a few curse words. Tony tried not to laugh, but his mother in a snit was one of the funniest things Tony had ever seen. “He cannot hurt you, Tony. Not now, not ever. We love you just exactly as you are.”

Tony took a long deep breath and wrapped around his Mother letting himself settle his emotions.

“Now, tonight you have Brian stay for dinner, and you introduce him properly, compredere mio il piccolino?”

“Si, Mama.” Tony pulled away but not before his mother left a kiss on his cheek.

“Now, use the good tray, and don’t forget something to drink.”

Tony smiled and shook his head as he walked towards the cabinet that held the serving trays. Tony put everything on it and after one last smile towards his mother carried everything to the den. When Brian looked up at him, a blush still on his cheeks, Tony knew what it was to be in love.

___________________

Late Summer 1987 before school starts

Tony stood outside of Brian’s house staring at the letter taped to the door addressed to him. The cars were gone, everything inside the house from what Tony could see was gone as well. Tony had tried calling and when Brian hadn’t showed up at the park where they had been meeting everyday since school had let out for the last three months, Tony was worried. That was when he decided to find out what was going on.

With his hand shaking as he lifted it to pluck the letter from the door, Tony’s heart was pounding hard in his chest. He knew something had happened and Brian had not been able to tell him. Not wanting to read the letter standing on Brian’s porch, Tony ran all the way home, not even stopping to go inside he ran around to the back garden to the bench he and Brian had their first kiss on.

Collapsing down, Tony with no little trepidation opened up the letter.

Tony,

I hate my parents so fucking much right now. They never told me we were moving till they were packing up my room when I came home last Friday from your place. Dad said he planned it that way, less chance of me trying to run away.

Somehow he found out about us. I think Mom called him and he followed me to the park. I don’t know, but he knew and he took it like I thought he would. They’re sending me to some stupid camp, like taking me there. I tried to run, but they had someone from Dad’s work there keeping me from leaving. They were oh so fucking considerate in letting me write this letter.

I don’t want to go. I don’t want to move, and I don’t want to leave you. I’m going to say now what we could never say before. I love you Tony and I’m going to miss you so much. Please don’t hate me, this wasn’t my choice.

I’m sorry this is so short, Dad is telling me to wrap it up and get in the car. I don’t care what I have to do, but the first chance I get I’m leaving and never looking back. Fuck my asshole parents.

I love you, Tony, I wish now I had been able to say the words.

Goodbye, Tony. Have the best life you know how to have and don’t take your parents for granted, they are special.

The letter ended and Tony’s heart shattered into a million pieces. He sat there shaking so hard with emotions too big for him to understand. For the first time in his life he hated someone other than Senior. Tony didn’t know how long he had been sitting there as the sun started to dim more and more.

“Figlio, your mother is worried about you. She said you’ve been out here all day.”

Tony slowly lifted his head, his fingers still clutched the letter in his hands.

“I...Babbo...” Tony stumbled over his words, but they just wouldn’t come. He lifted the letter and let his father take it from him. Tony felt more than saw his father sit next to him, then an arm came around him and pulled him close. That small act was all it took for Tony to let the tears he had been fighting go. He didn’t know or care how long he cried being held close against his father. The sun had dipped even lower behind the horizon, but still Father and son sat on that bench in silence as Tony grieved for someone he had loved.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Summer 1991

 

Tony looked at the stuff in his packed 1970 Dodge Charger that he had spent the last year restoring himself. His Dad indulged him, but Tony paid for most of it with money he had saved from various jobs over the last three years. He smiled as he gently ran his fingers over the new paint job which he had used a certified body paint specialist for. The candy apple red with the two thin black stripes running on either side of the car was striking. He was proud of it and couldn’t wait to get it out on the open highway.

The next morning Tony was taking off for Ohio State, Jaspar was going with him, while Tommy was going to New York to go to Cornell for writing. Tony had laughed as he vacillated between journalism and creative writing. Jaspar talked him into a double major because Tommy wouldn’t settle. He had also gotten in the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, but Tommy wasn’t sure if he wanted to do screenwriting or not. Tony had teased him that he just wanted to write and didn’t really care what he did. Tommy practically agreed. Though, he was interested in writing biographies. Tony just hugged him and told him whatever he wanted to do they would support him.

Tony locked up his car and went back inside the house. He made his way to the kitchen where Uncle Jason and his father still had their heads together and a stack of files. Tony almost instinctively knew what was going on.

“Was there another one?” Tony asked as he grabbed a pop from the fridge and leaned against the counter.

“Tonio?” His Dad looked up at him with a frown on his face.

“Oh, come on Dad. Like I don’t know that this case has been chasing you for years. I just pretended not to know when you would go away for a few weeks at a time. Where this time?”

“Southern California, but you don’t need to worry about this, Figlio.”

“Dad, you know I’m interested in this kind of stuff, and I watch the news.”

David closed up the file he was reviewing with Jason and leaned back.

“I know, son, but you don’t have to grow up so fast. I want you to have fun in college and not worry about all the ugly stuff out there in the world. That will come too soon, and yes I know you’ll be ready, but for now play basketball and football. Have a love affair, drink too much, smoke a joint, miss a deadline, but keep up your grades. Do all the things a college student should and don’t rush it all.”

Tony looked down at the can of soda in his hand and sighed. He was going to miss this. He and his Dad just talking. Tony had learned over the years that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t talk to his parents about, even if he sometimes had a hard time expressing himself. They taught him respect by giving it to him. Oh, sure there was a time or two where Tony had screwed up, but even when he did, his parents still loved him and encouraged him.

“Dad....”

David stood and moved over close to Tony, and gently gripped his son’s shoulder.

“You will always make me proud, kiddo. Whatever you want to do in life.”

“Thanks Dad.”

“I promise I won’t go anywhere till I can see you off for school. Your Mama has a feast planned for breakfast. I assume Jaspar is coming over tonight?”

“Yeah, he’ll be here in about an hour. His Dad is dropping him off. We already said goodbye to Tommy.”

“Good, then we are going out to Scarpetto’s.”

Tony smiled wide, it was their go to place for celebrations and whenever they needed something a little extra special.

Tony gave his Dad a one armed hug, then went to his room. He wasn’t sure where his mother was, but he figured she was off shopping and planning for the morning. Tony couldn’t wait to start college, but it also made him a little sad at the same time. He had never spent more than two weeks at any given time away from home, but Tony felt it deep down that it was time. Time to grow up and learn to be on his own. His parents had given him all the tools, it was now up to him to show them he could do this.

When Jaspar arrived, the two of them sequestered themselves in the den and decided on a marathon of Super Nintendo games until it was time to go to dinner.

Later that night as he crawled into bed, Tony thought back on his life after Hawaii and wondered what would have happened to him if Detective McGarrett had not done his due diligence. He often thought about writing the Detective and asking what it was that made him think Tony wasn’t related to Senior, but just like all the other times over the last eight years, it didn’t really matter in the end. He had his real parents, they had even gotten remarried eighteen months after Tony came to live with them. All in all, Tony knew he had a better life than how it had started.

Once again he took the letter from his Nonno and Nonna DiMarco, his Mother’s parents who still lived in Tuscany, and Tony had gotten to visit during the summer over the years, and read it. They, like his parents, were proud of the man he had become. They had given him money, almost too much, but his Mother said they would be insulted if Tony tried to give it back. He would deposit it once he got to Ohio and opened up his own checking account.

Tony tucked the letter and the wire transfer back into his drawer and took out the one from his Nonno Rossi. Nonna Rossi had passed away a few years prior, the second death young Tony had ever experienced. She had been an amazing woman and Tony missed her every single day. Tony’s parents had plans to move his Nonno into the house soon, he was getting up there in years and they were all worried about him being on his own. There had been a card and money as well from Tony’s graduation. He laughed once again at Nonno Rossi’s rather salty joke, but it was par for the course for the Rossi family. He was looking forward to coming home and seeing his Nonno there at the house.

“Tonio, why are you not asleep my darling?” Carolyn walked in and sat down next to Tony on his bed.

Tony shrugged his shoulders as he fiddled with the card, slipping it back in the envelope.

“Just reading Nonno DiMarco’s letter and the card Nonno Rossi gave me at graduation.”

“Missing them already?”

Tony slowly took a deep breath and just as slowly let it out.

“Missing you guys already, I guess.”

“Oh, Piccolino. We are always here for you. No matter what.”

“I know, Mama. This is just such a big change. I mean, I’m ready, or at least I think I am.”

“Well, I think you are too, Tonio. And, you are already ahead of you classmates. Taking the time for Junior College was smart. You always downplay what it is in your head. Be proud of who you are, Tonio. We are. We only want what is best for our bambino.”

Tony rolled his eyes, but laughed as his mother smiled wide and gently tapped her shoulder against Tony. The two always had a special connection right from day one and Tony was going to miss her like crazy.

“Just be you, Piccolino. Be the best Tony that you know how to be.”

“I will, Mama. I promise.”

“Good, now go to bed, you and Jaspar have a big day tomorrow.”

“Si, Mama. voglio benne alla tua mamma.”

“Ti amo, figlio.” Carolyn kissed Tony’s cheek before he slipped under the covers. He didn’t think he would ever get tired of his mother giving him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. Even in his pre-teen years, he still needed the closeness. Losing Claire when he was so young, then finding his real mother had made him not so afraid to keep that closeness. He never cared if his friends gently teased him.

Carolyn turned off his light as she walked out, he knew she was just as affected as he was, but would still send him off with a smile. Tony sometimes wondered how he had gotten so lucky in his life, he never wanted to take it for granted. Closing his eyes, Tony made plans in his head for the future and part of that future was being close to his parents. He always wanted them in his life. It wasn’t long before Tony’s eyes closed in sleepiness, the next day was the beginning of a world of possibilities.

The next morning after breakfast with backpack slung over his shoulder, his parents watching from the doorway, Tony didn’t turn around, he didn’t think he could. If he did he knew he was going to cry. No, it was best to walk away knowing he always had a home to come back to.

___________________

Spring 1992

Tony was settling back in dorm after the winter break. The holidays had been fun. His Grandparents from Italy had come for a visit, and Nonno Rossi had been moved into the house. His Great-Uncles and Aunt had come to visit, as did other friends and family. It was fun, but Tony could admit that so much family was exhausting.

“Hey Rossi, we snuck in some beers and have pizza downstairs. The hens haven’t come back to roost yet so we are doing a bit of celebrating. Some of the girls from next door are here too. Come on.”

One of Tony’s dorm mates, Chester Whitaker, had come up to find him. The kid was one of the linebackers for the football team and he and Tony had become friends. Tony was one of few on the team that actually did work at keeping their grades up. He knew of some of the guys who either cheated or the Coach was helping them cheat. He hated it, but he didn’t want to rat them out. He knew he should, but for the time being he kept his counsel and documented as much as he could and would find when the time was right to say something. Right now, though was not the time. Chester, however, was one of the good guys.

“Be there in a sec, Ches.” Tony was finishing up a letter to Tommy. His friend was doing well at Cornell and had even won a coveted spot in the schools yearly published collection of short stories, poems, and drabbles. Tony was just finishing up when Chester had come to find him. Putting the letter in an envelope he set it on his desk then made his way downstairs.

The ‘hens’ were the dorm mother and father, and the floor supervisors. Tony never really had many problems with them, he tried hard not run afoul of any of them. They weren’t due back till the week before classes started, which was the second week of February.

“Wow, some spread.” Tony was all smiles as he came into the common room where Highlander was showing on the big screen down there. Last year everyone in the dorm had pitched in to buy a new TV when their's went on the fritz and they all decided they needed one of the new 50 inch TV’s. It was well worth it and with everyone giving a few bucks each they could afford it. Tony loved the show, he loved the movie even more.

“Where’d the pizza come from?”

“Came from Frazetta’s.”

“Good, they have the best.”

“Yeah, yeah we know all about you and your pizza snobbery.” Joe, another of Tony’s teammates, but he was on the basketball team.

“Joey, it isn’t snobbery, just I know what’s good. Can’t help it my Papa taught me what good Italian food is.”

“Right. Well, the rest of us in the real world think Joe’s is just as good.”

“Taylor, you’re smoking crack if you think that joint is good.” Tony teased back. Some of the girls were mingling around talking, flirting, and enjoying the pizza. There was one girl in particular that Tony had kinda sorta been dating. She was sitting on a stool drinking beer from a bottle. The condensation running down the side told Tony how cold it was. He walked to the kitchen and found the cooler, grabbing his own bottle he went back out and hopped up on the stool next to Maggie.

“Hey, how was your holiday?”

“You know very well, Tony Rossi. You called me enough times over the break.” Maggie smiled wide as she swung her leg towards Tony and gently tapped him on the ankle.

“I missed you, Mags. Is that so bad?”

“No. And I missed you too. I especially missed something else...” Maggie wiggled her eyebrows suggestively which made Tony blush and take a long pull on his beer. He hopped off his stool to stand in front of Maggie and kissed her till she was completely out of breath.

“Fucking hell, Rossi. I missed you kissing me like that. My roommate doesn’t believe that you kiss like that. Or that you let me cum first.”

Tony tried not to choke on the swallow of beer he had taken after he broke off the kiss.

“Jesus, Mags, you can’t talk like that.”

“You mean like a guy?”

“No. LIke a trucker, or a sailor.”

“Well, my Daddy is a foreman on the docks in Boston. Believe me, if you spend time around him and my Uncles and Brothers, you’d have a salty vocabulary too.”

Tony laughed and leaned in to kiss her again, this time she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him in closer. There was no way to hide his erection and when he pressed up against her barely covered sex, she moaned the filthiest moan Tony had ever heard.

“What do you say we blow this pizza party and spend some quality time together.”

“Now, that, Tony, is the best idea you’ve ever had.”

Tony wrapped his hands around Maggie’s waist and turned towards the stairs. The two ignored the whoops and hollers as they stumbled up the stairs towards Tony’s dorm room.

They wasted no time in getting naked after Tony threw her on the bed and locked the door making sure to put a sock on the handle. They weren’t going to last long, it had been weeks since they had seen each other and they both were revved up like the randy teenagers they still were.

Maggie was so wet by the time Tony was sliding inside her there was hardly any resistance.

“Jesus fucking christ, Rossi..” Maggie cried out as she wrapped her legs around Tony’s waist. The sex was fast and dirty with both of them letting out expletives they normally wouldn’t. Tony couldn’t hold on for Maggie to cum first when he stilled and came in the condom. Pulling out, Tony didn’t pause long as he went down on his girlfriend helping her to find her own release.

“Oh my god!” Maggied breathed out as she laid there boneless on the bed. Tony stood and pulled the condom off his now soft cock, knotted it and threw it in his trash can.

“I’ll be right back.” Tony grabbed his robe and a washcloth and ran down to the communal bathroom to wet the cloth with warm water after he quickly cleaned himself up. Getting back to the room he cleaned Maggie who was smiling down at him.

“You don’t have to take care of me, Tony.”

“I know I don’t have to, but it is the gentlemanly thing to do.”

Maggie laughed as she threw a pillow at him.

“You are so corny for someone so smart.”

Tony put on a too serious face as he crawled up the standard sized bed.

“Okay, from now on, only serious Tony James Rossi. No jokes from here on out.”

Maggie tried to keep a straight face, but she couldn’t, it didn’t take much for her to start laughing as Tony hovered above her ready to kiss her again.

“I will only make love, and not dirty, dirty sex. No sex talk either. Missionary position all the way.”

“You are a nut.” Maggie’s smile took Tony’s breath away as he leaned down and kissed her. He couldn’t help it, he put far more emotions in that kiss than he had meant to and it made him pull away to fall to the side of Maggie.

“Tone....” Maggie, for once, was rendered speechless.

“I...”

“It’s okay. I um, I kinda feel the same way. I really like you Tony. Like more than friends who fuck like you.”

“Me too Mags.”

Tony wasn’t quite sure just what his feelings for her were, but with his track record he was afraid of getting his heart broken again. Even if that was part of college, Tony didn’t like the prospect, but his fear wasn’t enough to break things off with Maggie. He liked her, a lot, he thought he might even be falling in love with her.

____________________

January 1994

Tony was maneuvering slowly around his apartment on crutches. Jaspar was fixing them something to eat.

“Hey, Tone, how you doin’ on those things?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“You’re gonna be okay, you know that, right?”

“I’m not gonna be able to play football, and I’ve already missed the draft picks. And basketball is out for this season as well.”

“Yeah, well I know you, and I know for a fact you weren’t gonna go pro. You let the coaches talk you into those tryouts, but I know you would have turned them down. You wanna follow in your old man’s footsteps.”

Tony snorted as he knew Jaspar was correct. He was just getting the hang of the crutches when there was a knock on his door. He told Jaspar he would get it.

“Tommy! What are you doing here man?”

“I’m not alone, look who I picked up on my way here.” Tommy smiled as he stepped aside.

“Mom! Dad!, what are you doing here?” Tony hopped back and let everyone in.

“When I see my little piccolino getting hurt on the television I make your father get us out here. Tommy just happened to stop by.”

“Mama, you didn’t have to come. I’m fine.”

Carolyn Rossi narrowed her eyes and started on one of her infamous tirades, basically telling Tony that there was no way she was not coming, even if she had to fly out by herself.

“Okay, okay.” Tony raised his hands before awkwardly backing up.

“And I came so that she wouldn’t detour to Michigan and look for the player that hurt you.”

“It was an accident Dad.”

“Doesn’t matter, you know she worries.” David placed his hands on Carolyn’s shoulders and leaned in to give his wife a kiss.

“Sto bene, Mama, risanero. I promise.”

Carolyn side-eyed him and pressed her lips together for a moment then let out a sigh before hugging Tony.

“Okay. I will stop fussing.”

“Yeah, that will never happen.” Tony teased while he leaned in and gave his mother a kiss.

“What have the doctors said?”

“Not much so far, Papa. They want to wait until the swelling goes down, hence the soft cast. They’ll know more in a few days when I go back for more x-rays.”

“And you should be sitting down with your leg up.” Jaspar waved the spatula towards the couch that was set-up for Tony.

“You do know how to get yourself into trouble, don’t you Rossi.” Tommy teased as he flopped down in a chair after Tony got settled.

“Yeah, well I was just minding my own business running down the field ready to pass the ball when I get tackled.”

Jaspar and Tommy laughed, but Tony’s parents looked too serious.

“Mama, Papa, I’ll be fine. I promise. I won’t be able to finish out the year, but I’m strangely okay with it. I promise.”

“We just worry about you, Figlio.”

“I know you do, Dad.”

“I’m glad I am cooking extra, so dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

“It smells delicioso, Jaspar.”

“I hope you like it, Mrs. R.” Jaspar didn’t say anything else just went back to cooking. Tony had been the guinea pig to Jaspars new found love of cooking. Tony wondered if he was going to switch majors, or finish out the last semester and enter culinary school. Jaspar’s new obsession was scouring the local used bookstores for all kinds of old or out of print recipe books.

Tony was more tired than he let on and was content to just listen to his friends and family talk around him. The acceptance letter he had in his desk drawer could wait till later. He knew his parents would be proud of him, that he had no doubt about.

Tony thought about Maggie and part of him wished they had lasted, but she slowly over the two years they had dated had become more radical in her political beliefs. She was a political science major, but Tony couldn’t get over her rhetoric about cops and the ‘establishment’. While he knew there were bad cops and corrupt agents, there were far more people like his father, and even Detective McGarrett. Good men doing good things even if people found cops and Government agents to be a necessary evil.

Tony and Maggie had started to argue almost all the time over this and Tony had just about all he could take and broke it off. It didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt, because it messed him up for a while. He even needed a break from his Fraternity and that was when he and Jaspar found the apartment near campus.  He still did things with his Frat brothers, but he had needed the solitude the apartment gave him.

After the initial injury, they had all come over offering Tony support. He knew he had a few lifelong friends, but Tony was also pulling away. He wanted to leave on his terms. He was getting his diploma before the Spring Semester started, but not marching because he needed to be on the road and heading back to the East Coast as soon as he was healed up enough to drive. Pittsburgh was at least closer to home and Tony was very much looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Fall 1995

 

Tony’s first year at Carnegie Mellon was all about learning to be inconspicuous. His first semester there too many people had asked about his injury and if he was going to play anywhere again. He chose not to explain himself, but if they pushed he would just say that playing ball was not in the cards for him and he would rather concentrate on his studies. Tony was thankful that it didn’t take long for people to stop asking, or to stop questioning why he was at the school in the first place. He was all of twenty two years old and already three-quarters of the way through his master's program. He would be twenty three in just a couple of months.

Tony was looking around at the people attending the party Jaspar and Thomas had talked him into. Thomas had finished school and was writing a compilation of short stories while working at a small publishing house in DC. Jaspar, as Tony predicted, had enrolled in culinary school. The three of them decided to share an apartment that was easily accessible to all three of their various schools and jobs. Tony was surprised by the number of people that had actually showed up. There was an interesting mix from the arts college Jaspar was going to, friends Thomas had made at the publishing house, and a few acquaintances Tony had made at school. There were a few people he didn’t know, ones who tagged along with other friends, but there was enough room, the apartment was quite spacious, but any new people would have to be turned away and deal with the disappointment.

Sitting on one of the couches, beer in hand, and feet up on the coffee table Tony was taking a few moments to himself. He had been socializing for some time, but he needed a bit of a break. Tony was often content to people watch. Though he had many acquaintances,Tony truly had few close friends. He was content to put his feet up and take it all in. Jaspar even deposited a plate of some of the party food he had made on Tony’s lap, his friends knew when he needed the space. Letting himself get lost in the noise around him, Tony felt himself drifting a little on the ebb and flow of the quiet and not so quiet conversations around him.

That was till a very good looking man flopped down next to him, a joint between his fingers.

“I have been watching you off and on all night and there is one thing I figured out fairly quickly.”

Tony popped some pastry wrapped something in his mouth and chewed trying to calm the flutter in his stomach. After he swallowed he took a long pull on his beer then turned to his couch companion.

“Yeah? And what is that?”

“That you are hot and I very much want to fuck you senseless.” The smoke from the pot drifted towards Tony, who just took a quick whiff then went back to nibbling.

“You’re rather forward.”

“I learned a long time ago that if there was something I wanted I should just go for it and be honest. You, Rossi, are someone I very much want.”

Tony softly chuckled as he set his plate aside and smiled at the man next to him with the most ridiculous spiky hair.

“So, you know my name, can you elaborate on what yours is?”

“Jackson. Jackson Grimes.”

Tony’s eyes went wide. Jackson Grimes was a bit of a legend at Carnegie Mellon. He already had several patents before he was handed his Master’s degrees. He was currently enrolled in a Mechanical Engineering Doctorate program as well as a Computer Science Doctorate.

“I see you’ve heard of me.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Good. Makes me flirting with you go a lot easier.”

“Okay, how much have you smoked?”

“Oh, this?” Jackson reached over like he was handing it to Tony who took it with no little amount of apprehension. “The trick is not to fully inhale.”

Tony took a hit but didn’t feel anything. Or so he thought.

“Just wait for it.” Jackson smiled this ridiculous crooked smile that just went with his ridiculous spiky hair. Tony had the urge to crawl into the man’s lap and never leave. Tony and Jackson shared the joint, passing it back and forth when Tony realised he was giggling and actually was trying to crawl into Jackson’s lap.

“Hey there, cowboy. Slow down.”

“Don’t want to.”

“Then why don’t we take this somewhere more private?”

Tony stood and felt his world spin a little before warm hands steadied him.

“Wow, you’ve never had a joint before, have you?”

Tony closed his eyes and let the free floating feeling move through him. He kind of liked it. His mind was calm for the first time in years, but there at the back he knew he should be careful, he could get very used to this feeling.

“No,” Tony felt his mouth contort into what he hoped was a grin. “But, I think I like it.”

“I have never seen someone get so buzzed on half a joint. Come on, where’s your room?”

Tony’s grin turned wicked as grabbed Jackson’s hand and pulled him right along towards his room.

“Jax, where you going?”

“To get laid, I hope. Go back to the party Aaron and don’t wait for me.”

“Who’s that?”

Jackson chuckled as he looked behind him.

“Aaron Hotchner. He’s a lawyer, but don’t hold that against him. He came up to visit me, then he starts his new job at the prosecutors office in DC. I brought him to try to get him laid.”

Tony laughed, finding it funnier that it really was.

“Boy, you are funny.”

“You think so?” Tony’s smile stretched across his face slowly as he pushed Jackson against his bedroom door. He didn’t even try to be smooth as he kissed the man stupid. “This is my room.”

“Is it now?”

“Oh, yes it is.” Tony reached around Jackson to fumble for the door.Grasping the handle he opened and the two stumbled inside. Tony quickly checked to make sure none of the party goers had wandered into his room, he pulled Jackson along and pushed him down on the bed.

“By the way, I think you’re fucking hot yourself.”

That was the last spoken word as Tony was desperate to get out of his clothes. He lifted off of Jackson just enough that he too could quickly strip off his clothes. Tony leaned back down and took Jackson’s mouth in a heated, erotic kiss. Swiping his tongue over soft, dark pink lips Tony was asking permission to be let inside. The filthy moan he got in return for his efforts was well worth it.

Jackson thrust up against Tony, their cocks rubbed together making Tony hiss, then moan as Jackson took control of the kiss then rolled them over so he was on top.

“I think I’m going to fuck you now,” Jackson sat back on his heels and pulled Tony to where he was practically on Jackson’s lap. “I do hope you have supplies because I didn’t think I would find anyone to peak my interest.”

Tony laughed as he twisted around towards his nightstand and fumbling with the top drawer he pulled it so hard it was half hanging down. Jackson laughed as he watched the eager way Tony grabbed for the strip of condoms and the bottle of lube. Tony realised they were making a lot of noise, but he knew before the night was over they would be making a lot more.

Twisting back towards Jackson, Tony threw the bottle of lube at him, then stretched out, planting his feet on the bed, he grabbed for a pillow and shoved it under his ass, raising himself up.

“That enough for you?” Tony’s smile widened as Jackson picked up the strip and ripped one off.

“It’ll do, for now.”

Tony couldn’t help laughing. He had never had so much fun in bed with any of his past lovers. He had the distinct feeling that Jackson just might be good for him.

_________________________________

Tony woke slowly with Jackson wrapped around him and a part of him liked the feeling. He needed to get up to use the bathroom, but he also wanted coffee, desperately. Slipping out of bed, Tony grabbed a pair of sweats and slipped them on, went to the bathroom, then padded out to the kitchen where the smell of bacon cooking had him opening his eyes a little bit.

“Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of my roomates evening’s companions cook before.”

The man turned around and smiled, which made Tony’s breath catch in his throat.

“Damn, that smile is deadly.”

“Yes it is, but keep your hands off, Hotch. He’s mine.” Jackson grumbled as he wrapped an arm around Tony’s naked torso.

Hotch turned back to the stove and flipped the bacon before grabbing a carafe and setting it down on the counter.

“Coffee. I know you aren’t capable of human speak without it, Jax.”

“Fuck you, Hotchner.” Jackson hooked his chin over Tony’s shoulder, kissing the side of his neck.

“We tried that, I think we’re better friends.”

“There’s a story there. Do tell?” Tony’s eyes sparkled with humor as he pulled out of Jackson’s hold and grabbed the carafe to pour a cup of coffee.

“Hotch, don’t you dare.” Jackson moved fast across the room and slapped his hand over Aaron’s mouth. At that exact moment, Tommy decided to wander into the kitchen and blinked rapidly at the scene.

“Don’t wanna know. Where’s coffee?”

“Here.” Tony pushed the carafe towards the end of the counter. Jackson glared at Aaron which earned him a deep throaty chuckle. Aaron took the bacon off before it burned then turned to the bowl that had been sitting there on the counter.

Jaspar was the last to wander into the kitchen. He didn’t say a thing as he walked up to Aaron and kissed him stupid, turned and got a cup of coffee. Still not talking he refilled the carafe, grabbed his coffee and downed it in one go. Finally, smiling, he took in the faces of everyone there.

“Morning.” The cheeky tone earned him a smack on the ass.

“I feel very left out.” Thomas huffed as he plopped down on a stool at the kitchen counter.

“Awww, did Tommy not find someone for a little bouncy bounce?” Jaspar leaned a hip on the counter and grinned.

“Fuck you, Jazz.”

“Not my type, Tommy boy.”

“That’s right, you go for the dark, brooding, Alpha males.”

“You think I’m dark and brooding?” Aaron smirked as he pulled Jaspar to him after flipping a pancake.

“Well, you have those dark sexy good looks. I’ve seen you brood more than once, and you, Aaron Hotchner are very Alpha Male.” Jaspar had no problem pushing his narrow hips against Aaron’s side as he continued to make pancakes. “It’s what I like about you. All that hot Alpha male intensity makes me just...so...”

“JASPAR!” Tony and Tommy shouted at their friend.

“What?”

“You’re making Aaron blush. That is priceless.”

The men all laughed and enjoyed the morning together. Breakfast was simple, but delicious. Jaspar practically dragged Aaron back to the bedroom, but Jackson’s friend didn’t seem to be protesting.

“It’s good to see him let loose.”

“What’s the story?” Tony asked as he draped himself over Jackson’s lap after Jackson collapsed in one of the overstuffed reading chairs.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids. Lived on the same gilded street in a high-priced neighborhood in good ‘ole Virginia. I was lucky. My parents gave a shit and adored the hell out of me. Neither batted an eye when I told them one day that I was gay. I was seven. They never tried to change me. They took me at my word and loved me. Sure, they were scared for me, but they were great.

“Aaron’s parents...that’s his story to tell, but I’ve never met a set of people that I would have no remorse if one day they ended up dead. To bad the Dad died from heart complications from the cancer that had spread fast. Watching Aaron fall apart because the bastard dared to die before Aaron was mature enough to kick that man’s ass was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through with him. He’s my platonic soulmate. He, more than anyone I know, deserves to be happy.”

“I will never understand the cruelty of parents.” Tony felt empathy towards Aaron Hotchner. Claire had been a drunk and though she would try her best when she remembered she was a parent, neglect had been the order of the day most days. Senior was just an abusive asshole that Tony was glad was in jail. “It makes the good ones all that much more wonderful.”

“Yeah, it does. My parents at one time tried to get custody of Aaron, but his father was a lawyer and knew all the loopholes. So, they did what they could. He had room at our house and was welcomed at anytime. It was the best we could offer. But, enough talk about the past, I have a better idea on how to spend our morning.”

Tony wasn’t sure, but he thought that Jackson Grimes, with his ridiculous hair, and crooked smile just might have been the best decision Tony had ever made.

_____________________________

Fall 1996

The restaurant was beautiful and the couple sitting at one of the coveted tables were dressed for the occasion. Jackson had been awarded his Computer Engineering doctorate, and Tony was almost a year past getting his two masters degrees. The dinner had been elegant and romantic. It was also their one year anniversary.

Coffee and dessert was served. Tony watched as Jackson pushed them aside and smiled at Tony.

“You, Tony James Rossi, have been the best thing to happen to me in too long to remember. Before you, I had too many heartbreaks. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Tony. I can’t believe that you put up with me this past year while I had my head in research, starting my company, and working. I know I drove you crazy and there were times we didn’t see each other for days at a time, but your patience and understanding helped get me through.”

“Jax.” Tony’s emotions caught in his throat as he curled his fingers with Jackson’s.

“I have something for you.” Jackson pulled out something from his inner jacket pocket. “In a perfect world, there would be a question to go with this box. But, it’s not a perfect world and couples like us have a long way to go. But, what I feel for you Tony can’t be defined by a piece of paper and an elaborate party. It’s more than that.”

Tony took the box that Jackson had slid over to him. He opened it, his hands shaking. Inside was an exquisite platinum ring with two thin bands of gold that met and intertwined into an infinity symbol. It was simple, but beautiful.

Tony took the ring out and didn’t hesitate as he slipped it onto his left hand.

“If you had asked the question, I would have said yes. I will proudly wear this, Jax.”

Tony was so choked up he could barely drink his coffee or share the tantalizing chocolate dessert that now sat between them. He looked down at his hand and smiled. He made plans to see his jeweler the next day to find something for Jackson.

“Hey, where did you go?”

“Just making plans.” Tony’s smile was broad as he leaned towards his partner and kissed him. “I love you Jackson. I never thought I would find someone like you. Someone who sees past those walls I sometimes put up. You listen when I can’t settle and hold me when I can’t sleep. There isn’t anyone I would rather be with than you.”

Tony wanted desperately to pull Jackson to him and give him more than a chaste kiss right there in the restaurant, but he knew that society was still far from accepting. They were content to hold hands as they finished their coffee’s and headed home.

____________________

Jackson had peeled Tony out of his suit after he had had taken off his own. Tony was gripping the headboard tight as Jackson took him apart, slowly. The man’s hands were a treasure and Tony could never get enough of being touched by them. When Jackson took his cock in his mouth, Tony’s eyes rolled back in his head, he tried very hard not to thrust up. Jackson knew every single place on Tony’s body that made him moan in pleasure, and shiver with need. Jackson was taking more time than normal, the touches with hands and mouth were undoing Tony little by little. He thought that if Jackson took anymore time, he would shatter completely.

No words were spoken, there was no need. They told each other with their bodies, their hands, and their kisses what it was sometimes overwhelming to say with their words. When Tony was rolled to his side and Jackson was breaching him, Tony thought that his heart would explode into a million pieces over what he was feeling. This was more than sex. This was being worshipped in a thousand little ways. Butterfly kisses on his shoulders, an arm around his waist, and a gentle slide of cock in and out had Tony fisting his pillow and shaking with the emotions that were sometimes too big for him to voice.

His climax was finally what did it, what broke him into a million little pieces at the same time that gentle words of love and firmer kisses to his neck and shoulders were putting him back together.

“I think I will love you forever, Tony James Rossi.”

Tony didn’t want Jackson to move, he wanted him to stay right where he was.

“Jax...” Tony choked on the emotion that welled up inside of him. None of his past lovers had ever treated him as special as Jackson Grimes did. “I will love you, Jax till the end of our days.”

Jackson buried his face against Tony’s neck. The two men were hopeless romantics, but they loved each other so much that sometimes it hurt. Tony laid his arm over the one Jackson had around his waist and pulled it up till he was settled against Tony’s chest. Their fingers intertwined. Tony slowly drifted off to sleep, content and blissfully happy.

_______________

Tony had been working with Jackson on some software coding, helping to build up Jackson’s business while trying to decide what it was he really wanted to do. He had gotten accepted to the Psychology department's doctoral path. But, there was that part of him that had always wanted to go into law enforcement. Tony had been conflicted for the last year. For the first time since he was ten his confidence had sunk low and he was trying to figure out how to balance his wants with that of his partner’s.

Grabbing a notebook, Tony wrote down the pros and cons of each of the decisions he was trying to make. After he was done, the answer was staring him right in the face, he just didn’t want to acknowledge it. He knew the conversation he would have to have with Jackson wouldn't be an easy one, but Tony knew he had to make the decision that was right for him .

Setting the notebook aside, Tony went to go pick up the mail that had piled up over the last couple of days. Curling up on the couch he looked through the various bills, letters, junk mail, and correspondence for Jackson regarding Grimes Tech.  Tony sorted them out and when he picked up the letters he saw one addressed to him from New York State Penitentiary.

Tony gripped the letter in his hand, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to open it or not. He had not had any contact with Senior in over ten years. As a kid when he got the first bit of letters sent to him he threw them away without even opening them. He had his real father, what did he need Senior for. Letters would show up sporadically but he would have his Mom or Dad just throw them out, which they were both happy to do so.

This letter, however, looked different. Looked more official somehow. Suddenly there was a lead weight in his stomach as dread filled him up. Tony always had a odd sense about things. Especially bad things. Swallowing hard he stood up and walked over to the shelf where he and Jax kept a small amount of alcohol, poured some scotch and took it and the letter into the kitchen where he could sit in his favorite place which hopefully would be a balm to whatever it was the letter was going to reveal to him.

Slowly, with shaking fingers, Tony opened it up and pulled out not one, but two letters. The first was from the Warden, the second was from Senior.

Tony slowly unfolded the letter from the Warden and read the words on the page, comprehension slowly coming over him. He threw the letter down as he shoved out of the chair and ran out the back door into the small backyard. Tony looked up at the sky, something hard and heavy had knotted itself in his chest, his stomach rolled and he pitched forward slightly, landing on his knees. His breathing was shallow and Tony was trying to figure out where these emotions were coming from. He had hated the man, hadn’t he?

Dusk slowly fell and Tony was still on his knees in that little patch of backyard. Arms came around his shoulders and pulled him close to a strong, warm chest. Tony gripped that arm with his hands and held on, emotions finally breaking through as he purged them in the arms of the person he loved.

“I’m here babe, I’m here. Whatever it is you can tell me. I love you so much Tone.” Jackson’s words soothed Tony’s very soul as he tried to understand where these feelings were coming from. “You can tell me anything, Tone, when you’re ready.”

Tony stayed in Jackson’s protective, comforting embrace a few more minutes.

“I need to go home, Jax.”

Jackson didn’t need to be told what Tony meant. Standing up, he pulled Tony to his feet and wrapping an arm around his waist led him back into the house. Depositing Tony on the couch, Jackson left him only for a few moments. He was back with one of their travel bags packed, as well as his briefcase. Tony stood, he felt empty and didn’t know why.

“I’ll just...”

“You do what you need. I’ll drive.”

“Thank you, Jax.”

“Tone, whatever you need.”

The five hour drive was done in silence. Tony gripped the letters, both of them, in his hand and stared straight out the window. He didn’t know why this was affecting him so much. Tony was grateful that Jackson didn’t try to break the silence, that Tony needed the space. Jackson kept touching him on his thigh, or the back of his neck, or even holding hands. It was what Tony needed more than anything. The reassurance that someone was there and they loved him was all he needed.

Jackson had at one point stopped at a drive-thru coffee shop and got them both some coffee and something to eat. The sandwiches and chips were easy enough to eat in the car. Jackson pulled into the driveway so he could have his sandwich, then it wasn’t long before they were on the road once more.

Tony had eaten his slower, his stomach still churned, but he knew he needed to eat. The rest of the drive didn’t take long as there were hardly any cars out on the highway at that time of night. It was almost one in the morning by the time Jackson pulled up to the Rossi house. Tony got out of the car and walked up to the door. He quickly disarmed the alarm and walked inside the house.

He knew his parents were asleep, he wasn’t going to wake them, but just being home, being in the place that had made him feel so safe as a kid did more for him than anything. It was a reminder that his life had only gotten better.

“Come on, Tony, lets go lie down.” Jackson laid a hand on Tony’s back and led him upstairs after Tony reset the alarm. Once inside his old room he stripped and slipped into bed, Jackson behind him curled around him and held him close.

“Senior’s dead.” Tony finally voiced what had been so hard to say in the last few hours. “He was killed by another inmate. They ah...I...”

“Shhh, I’m right here babe. I’m not going anywhere. You should sleep we’ll deal with this when we get up.”

Jackson’s hand over Tony’s heart had him sighing and pushing back as much as he could in Jackson’s arms. It took a little while, but eventually Tony fell asleep.

________________________

Tony was cold when he woke-up. Jackson wasn’t in bed and when Tony saw the time, he knew why. There had been a video conference with one of Jackson’s tech guys over some hardware he was developing.

Getting out of bed Tony went to his bathroom and quickly showered and got through his morning routine. Rummaging through the bag of clothes, Tony pulled out a pair of soft, worn jeans and his Ohio State t-shirt. He almost smiled at that, Jackson really did know him well. Tony slipped on a pair of socks then straightened out the bed. He looked at the two letters on the nightstand and grabbed them before heading downstairs.

His parents were in the kitchen sipping coffee, Jax was in the dining room taking care of some business.

“Tonio,” Tony’s mother stood and pulled him into her arms. “What are you doing here, Piccolino?”

Tony handed the letter from the Warden over to his father, who had also stood and gave Tony a hug.

“Senior...he’s dead.” Tony rubbed at his stomach as he said it. He felt his knees start to shake and took the two steps to the table to sit down. “They ah...they need me to make some decisions. Even though he really wasn’t my father, I’m still considered his closest relative. His own parents are dead and I know he had a brother, but I’ve never heard from him.”

Tony looked down at his coffee and took a deep breath before looking back up at his parents. He felt the tears once more prick at the corners of his eyes.

“I don’t know why I’m feeling this way Mama, Babbo. I’m all mixed-up about this.”

David set the letter down on the table and leaned forward.

“I know this will sound strange, but I think a part of you still had feelings for the man who called himself your father. You once told us before Claire died, you were actually fairly happy.”

Tony laughed, but even to his own ears it was bitter and cynical.

“It wasn’t real. Oh, there were moments that he acted like he actually cared about me, but does that negate what he did after Claire died? I hate him for so many things, but why does this hurt ?”

“Because you never got the chance to say to him what you needed to say. You tried to ignore him, and we supported your decision to not have any contact, and that was right for you, Figlio. I think in the back of your mind you knew you had time. At least you thought you did, and now that has been taken away from you. That closure you would have one day sought out has been taken from you.”

Tony sat up and let his head fall back on his shoulders as he closed his eyes. He knew his father was right. Tony had assumed he had all the time in the world to go see Senior at least once and tell him as an adult what he couldn’t say as a child. Now that has been taken from him and it hurt worse than he had expected.

Strong hands on his shoulders had Tony looking up and smiling.

“I will go make breakfast.”

“You don’t have to do that, Mama.”

“Yes I do. You take your time to figure out what it is you want to do. You know your Papa and I will support whatever decision you make.” Carolyn gently placed a kiss on Tony’s forehead, sweeping back the hair that had fallen over his forehead. The gentle cupping of his cheek had Tony leaning into that touch. His mother’s touch had come to mean so much to him that it settled him like nothing ever could before his parents had found him.

“Your Mother speaks for both of us, Figlio. We will support you with whatever you need.”

Tony felt that knot that had been twisting him up since he had received the letter loosen. His family loved him and that meant everything.

___________________

The cold of New York seeped deep into Tony’s bones as the snow fell lightly on the fresh gravesite. Tony had Senior buried in the plot next to Claire. The ceremony had been quick. Not many people were there and for some reason that made Tony sad. His parents had come with him as did Jackson, and even Jason with his adopted daughter Tara and son Stephen. The kids had been restless but respectful.

Everyone had already gone to the small reception at the funeral home, but Tony stayed there at the gravesite. He pulled the last letter Senior had written to Tony and decided it was finally time to read it.

Anthony,

I know I’ve been a shitty father to you and what I did can never be made-up for. I understand why you’ve not wanted any contact with me over the years, you have no reason to.

I did what I did for Claire. There was a time I loved her desperately and she loved me, but our relationship was volatile and manic. We started both to drink and it made things worse. You were caught in the middle.

It’s not that I didn’t want you Tony, it’s that I didn’t know how to want you, how to take care of you. Frankly I didn’t want children, but Claire, sweet Claire, she did and I gave that to her. I know I’m supposed to regret what I did, but I am self-aware enough to know that I don’t.

You’re wanting me to apologize for how I’ve hurt you, how I took you from two people who would have given you the love you actually deserved, but I honestly don’t feel anything. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

I know now that leaving you in Hawaii was a conscious choice on my part that maybe, somehow you would get back to the people that would want you. I know I wasn’t ever going to change. I liked being who I was and I should feel some kind of remorse, but honestly, I don’t. I am who I am and nothing and no one was going to change me.

When the Rossi’s gave me the papers to sever all ties with you I signed, not for me, kiddo. No, that was the first and last selfless act I had done. I hope you’ve had a better life, Tony. I promise you this will be the last letter I will ever write to you. I just needed you to know these things.

Goodbye,

Anthony DiNozzo Senior.

Tony read the letter over twice then folded it up and pushed it into the soft, wet soil that covered Senior’s grave. Tony knew he had needed to read that letter to know that the man who had tried to call himself father had not truly loved him. It wasn’t the closure Tony had wanted, it was cold and bittersweet, but Tony could say that it was the first honest thing he had ever read from Senior.

Standing up, Tony knew he had done the right thing in taking responsibility for Senior’s burial and funeral, but he also knew he was never coming back here. Claire and Senior were finally settled in Tony’s past. He wasn’t naive enough to believe he would never think of them, he would, from time to time. But, he knew the feelings would no longer be there, he was finally done with that part of his life. Walking away from the grave was easier than Tony had ever thought it would be and every step away was a step towards the family that truly mattered.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

January 1997

 

“I’m sorry, you want to what? Because if I heard you correctly you said you want to join the police academy.” Jackson stood with his arms crossed as he glared at Tony.

“That’s what I said.” Tony stood with his back straight and tried to stay calm. He didn’t want to fight about this, but he knew there was no way he was going to back down.

“And what about getting your doctorate?”

Tony steeled himself as he held Jackson’s gaze.

“I withdrew.”

“You what?!” Jackson looked like he was going to go ballistic. Tony watched him start to pace behind his desk, his face didn’t hide any of the emotions he was feeling. Tony could only try to make him understand.

“I withdrew from the program. I want this Jax. I’ve always wanted this. I went through college and got my degrees so that I could reassure myself of what I wanted my career to be. I thought I’d be happy helping you, and while yeah it helps occupy my mind, it isn’t what I want.”

“You went behind my back and did something so important without talking to me first?”

“This isn’t about you!” Tony shouted, he never shouted at Jackson and it hurt. This was their first real fight and Tony felt his heart breaking over it. “This is about me and what I want, no what I need . I’m just asking you to understand.”

“You still should have come to me and talked to me about this. It doesn’t affect just you, Tony James.” Jackson was breathing hard as his glare hardened even more.

“I know that. But I still have to make the decisions that are right for me.

Jackson moved from behind the desk and grabbed Tony’s left hand with his own. He held them up, their rings ring in front of Tony’s face.

“Doesn’t this mean anything to you, Tony?”

“It means everything! I love you, Jax. I love you more than I could ever really show you in a single lifetime. I wish, this,” Tony shook their hands, tears pricked the corners of his eyes, “Was official so you would know.”

“I do know, Tony. I just don’t know why you want to risk your goddamned life!” Jackson was breathing hard as he held Tony’s hand in his.

“Jax...” Tony took a moment to see it from Jackson’s perspective. The job could potentially be dangerous, but he knew cops who never fired a shot, or never used excessive force. Was there corruption? Tony was certain of it, but he held to the belief that the majority of the police were good people doing a difficult job. “I know the potential danger, I do. But, it’s not about that. It’s about helping people. Doing what’s right and at least trying to make this world a better place. If it wasn’t for a good cop, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the family I have, my life would have been very different. I would have been different. If I could help one person, just one like someone helped me, then I will have made something good out of my life.”

Jackson pulled Tony closer and laid his forehead against Tony’s. There was a moment of silence as Jackson tried to calm his emotions.

“First Aaron, now you. I can’t lose either of you, Tony. I can’t lose you.

“Jax, you aren’t going to lose me. I promise I will come home to you every single night.”

“Don’t make that promise, Tony. Just don’t. Just tell me that you will make every effort to come home to me.”

Tony cupped Jackson’s face in his hands and looked him right in the eye.

“I will make every effort to make sure I come home to you every night in one piece.” Tony pulled away and let a small smile grace his lips. “There is one thing I can persuade you with.” The crooked smile stayed in place as he leaned in closer to Jackson.

“And just what is that?” Jackson didn’t even try to hide his annoyance and anger.

“Uniforms.”

“Uniforms?” Jackson quirked up a brow and tilted his head to the side. His hair was sticking up in his ridiculous spikes and Tony poured on even more charm.

“Oh yes. And dress blues. Fitted, sexy, dress blues.” Tony emphasized each word as he held tight to Jackson’s hand.

“Fine, but this does not give you permission to get yourself hurt. Trouble follows you, Tony James.” Jackson’s glare turned to a pout. Tony understood his fear, he really did. Even though his parents had never really talked about it he knew that there were times his mother was afraid that his father wasn’t going to come home one day. The BAU being one of the more dangerous units at the FBI.

“I will always come home to you, Jax.”

The men stood together, emotions still running high and neither of them knowing what to do about it. Jackson leaned in and kissed Tony. It was soft and tender and filled with everything that Jackson didn’t know how to say. Tony would do his damndest to keep his unspoken promise.

“I ah, I have work to do.” Jackson broke the hold and turned away towards his desk. Tony let him have his distance, he knew it was a lot to take in. Aaron had recently entered the FBI academy and was in SWAT. He knew how Jackson had taken that. Their fight was epic, and Tony had to deal with the fallout when Jaspar got angry and broke things off with Aaron. It was a mess and Tony knew Jackson’s emotions were high.

Tony left the small office and went to the kitchen where he got lost in cooking. It was how he had always worked through some of the harder emotions he dealt with over the years. A couple of hours later he had several pizza doughs he was packaging to put in the freezer and several batches of fresh pasta set aside to dry.

There was a bolognese slowly simmering on the stove, and some pesto he was putting away in the fridge. He was just cleaning up the majority of the mess when arms came around him and held him close.

“I love you, Tony.”

Tony turned around and let himself be wrapped up in Jackson’s arms.

“I love you too, Jax.”

This wasn’t the time to talk more about Tony’s decision, that would come later when emotions weren’t running so high. The night called for homemade pizza, movies and beer, snuggling on the couch, and making love before falling asleep. Tony would be forever grateful that Jackson was trying to understand and respect his own choices, even if he didn’t agree with them. Compromise was always hard, but Tony knew if they just kept talking they would come through any situation, together.

___________________________

Summer 1999

Two years Tony had worked himself up in the ranks of the Philadelphia police department. The move had been easy, neither he nor Jackson had any roots in Pittsburgh, it was always just a stepping stone for them.

A little over a year after Tony had joined as a rookie, some of the higher ups had taken notice of him, especially as someone with a psychology and criminal justice degree. They tried him out on a few short undercover jobs and Tony proved to be brilliant at it. There was just one problem. Grimes Tech was also taking off. Jackson wasn’t just a good engineer, he was a genius businessman. Jackson was often photographed as his star in both the tech world and business world was rising. Jackson always conscious of Tony’s career never let Tony be photographed with him. They knew it wouldn’t always be this way, but they were careful.

While it was no secret that Jackson was gay, he was out and proud so to speak. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for him. There were potential investors that would withdraw their support when they found out Jackson was gay. Jackson would get disheartened, but he would just find someone better that didn’t care who Jackson slept with.

It was a far different world for Tony. Cops, especially Uniforms, weren’t supposed to be gay or even bi. Tony hated it, he hated he couldn’t be as open about his relationship with Jackson. Other cops had asked about the ring and who the ‘lucky lady’ was, Tony just smiled, made the expected crude joke, and went back to whatever he was doing at the time.

He had told his training officer, they were partners after all, and it had gone okay. The officer didn’t out him, but there was enough tension in the car that it made Tony nervous. When the undercover assignment came up, Tony jumped at the chance. Now, as he sat in his car thinking about the last twenty-four hours he wondered if he could have done things differently.

Tony started up his vehicle and made his way to the station where he would give his final report. And maybe some parting words for his fellow officers that had their heads up their asses.

“I think I can get you reassigned. Got a buddy in Baltimore, if you’re willing to take it. You would need to pass the Detective’s exam first, but I don’t see that as being a problem. Especially after your work on this case.” Tony’s Lieutenant sat back and waited for him to make a decision.

“Since I gotta get out of here, sure why not.”

“Rossi, we can get this guy, we can keep you and your partner safe.”

Tony stood and paced.

“Yeah? And how long will that take? We only got part of his operation. He has allies. I have a free pass to get out of here with my life in tact. I promised Jax I would always come home to him and I am keeping that promise. Even if it means we have to leave.”

Tony was surprised by the fact that his Lieutenant didn’t bat an eye at the confession he had just made. Maybe, just maybe there was some small hope for the department.

“So, that’s why we were never introduced to your partner.”

“Yes. I’m not hiding Lieutenant, I just chose to be prudent. It’s also why my TO wanted a different partner. Plus, I was being groomed for the UC stint and I didn’t want Jax’s name anywhere on any paperwork in case things went tits up.”

“Fair enough. All right, I’ll call my buddy and find out if he’ll take you. You got a number I can reach you at?”

Tony had turned in the burner he had been given for his undercover job, and he had gotten rid of his personal cell just in case. Jackson had a new phone for him at home that he had not activated yet. It was a prototype that his fledgling company was working on.

“I have a new number, but it’s at home. I’ll send it to you as soon as I am safe.”

“Fair enough. You did good work Tony. If things were different, I would keep you on.”

“Even knowing...”

“I don’t really care who you fuck on your own personal time. You’re a good cop, that’s all I care about.”

The Lieutenant stood and shook Tony’s hand.

“Take care of yourself, Rossi.”

“I will. Thank you.”

Tony left with a few choice parting words for the rest of the officers in the department. Some were rather scathing and Tony knew he was burning some bridges, but he didn’t care. Philadelphia was going to have to be behind him.

Driving home after cleaning out his locker and filing the last of his reports Tony was nervous. This was going to be the hard part. Jax was not going to be happy. The last couple of years had been rocky as Tony went into the police academy. They fought, but they also made-up and talked out what had made them fight. Jackson was doing his best to understand, but Tony wasn’t sure if he would ever completely get it. This, though, had the potential to be the last straw for Jackson and Tony could admit he was scared.

Tony parked and made his way into the house where he saw Jackson pacing back and forth on the phone with someone. Tony lowered himself on the arm of the couch and waited till Jackson was done.

“Hey.” Jackson smiled as he walked over to Tony and leaned down to kiss him. When he stood back up Tony could tell that Jackson could tell that something was wrong. “All right, what is it?”

“I have twenty-four hours to leave Philadelphia or the Don that I was undercover investigating is going to send his people after me.” Tony decided to just rip the band-aid right off.

Jackson stopped and straightened up and looked at Tony with narrowed eyes.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

“The Mob family I went undercover to investigate, the Don really liked me, Jax. He was trying to get me to marry his daughter.” Jackson growled low under his breath, but Tony just laid a hand over his heart. “I wouldn’t have gone through with it. Anyway, I guess he saw me like another son. He found out I was a cop and instead of doing their usual with cops he gave me 24 hours to get out of the city.”

Jackson started to pace again and Tony could tell he was upset. It was a long time before Jackson turned back to Tony, who stayed quiet and patiently waited for his lover to say something, anything. The quieter Jackson was, the more he paced.

“All right. You go somewhere safe and I’ll get everything moved. I can get a storage place till we find out where we are going.”

“We?” Tony swallowed as he stood up and walked over to Jackson.

“Yeah, Tone. We. Look, I know we’ve had our ups and downs the last couple of years and I know...” Jackson ran his fingers through his already messy hair, “I know I could have been more supportive, but I know how smart you are, Tone and it hurts to see you not being able to be fully yourself. And I worry. I can’t help it.”

“I know. I know you worry and I also know this doesn’t help. But, I might have something lined up. I’ll know in couple of days.” Jackson took Tony in his arms and held him for a moment.

“You do get into the weirdest damn situations, and trouble follows you like a magnet, but no matter what we are going through, I’m still going to be here, Tony.”

Tony wasn’t sure if he could speak at that moment.

“You get to your parents and I’ll take care of things here. Pack what you need and get going. Don’t worry about our things, or the house. You just worry about getting safe.”

Tony was going to argue, but one raised brow from Jax had him sighing and nodding. He tried not to feel guilty that he was upending their lives so drastically, and he knew at some point the emotions for both men were going to come to a head, but Jackson being supportive went a long way to soothing what Tony was feeling.

After packing what he could and hauling it out to the car, Jackson stood on the porch watching as Tony got in his car, the same one he had kept from college, keeping it in good running condition, Tony tried not to look back as he drove away. He hated that he had a little nugget of doubt that Jackson would follow. At the first stoplight he came to, Tony looked at the ring on his finger and pushed those doubts and fears away as he drove home and away from the danger that he was almost positive was following him.

__________________

Summer 2001

Tony couldn’t believe this was happening again. This time it wasn’t outside forces, it was his own damn partner. The mounting evidence had Tony livid. He was contemplating asking Gibbs, the Agent from NCIS that had come up to Baltimore on a case he was investigating, for his help. He was pacing the living room of the house he and Jackson were renting. Jackson had not wanted to purchase anything till they were sure this was where Tony was going to land.

Jackson had been on the phone doing some business, another patent or two had been sold and Grimes Tech was poised to set down roots somewhere and Tony felt guilty for continually putting Jackson through so many uncertainties.

“Babe, what are you doing?”

“Gibbs said he was coming by and I don’t know. I don’t know if what I’m seeing is really happening or not.”

“You know if he comes here he’ll know.”

Tony stopped and turned to Jackson. He had not considered that possibility, but it didn’t matter now. He wasn’t doing as much deep undercover. It was short stints for the good of the investigation. Tony thumbed his Detectives shield and then looked up at Jackson. He wondered if hiding was really worth it anymore.

“I think I’m ready for that.”

Jackson stood and walked over to Tony, pulling him into a hug.

“Even if things could get difficult for you at work?”

Tony scoffed as started to pace again after pulling out of the hug.

“Aren’t they already difficult? I mean, my partner is on the take and who knows what the hell else and trying to cast suspicion on me.”

Jackson was going to say more when there was a knock on the door. Tony answered and saw Gibbs standing there, a quirk to his lips as he tried to not so subtly look inside the house.

“Gonna invite me in?”

“Oh, right. Come on in to our humble abode.” Tony dramatically swept his arm and smiled wide as he held the door open for Gibbs to enter.

Gibbs stepped inside and locked eyes with Jackson who only quirked up a brow in a challenge.

“Not roommates I assume.”

“No. We’ve been together since college. You have a problem with that?” Jackson spoke before Tony could, who just shook his head at his partners very straightforward attitude.

“Nope. I got no problem.”

“Okay, so that this dick measuring contest doesn’t go on too long, would you like something to drink? We got beer, water, pop...”

“Take a beer.” The tension between Jackson and Gibbs was thick as Jackson stood there narrowing his eyes at Gibbs.

“Stop being territorial, babe. He’s here to talk me through this, okay?” Tony passed Gibbs and Jackson a beer and held onto one for himself.

“Just don’t jerk him around. He’s had too much of that already. I’ll be in the den.” Jackson grabbed his phone and laptop then disappeared.

“So, you and Jackson Grimes.”

“Yeah. Long story. I didn’t take you for following the tech world.”

“Don’t really care about tech, but I keep up with who’s who. Never know when it comes in handy.”

Tony knew Jackson was making more of a name for himself as he diversified the fields he was going into. Tony was proud of what Jax was building. He took a few sips of his beer before finally finding his voice.

“Here’s my notes, here’s what I’ve found. I don’t want to believe it, Gibbs. I know if I pursue this I’ll be a pariah, even if my partner was doing something illegal.”

“Got any plans if things go south?”

Tony looked up to the ceiling a moment before running his fingers through his hair. A trait he picked up from Jax over the years.

“I have absolutely no idea.”

Gibbs didn’t say anything as he sat down and pulled the file Tony had started to put together. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence, but it was pretty damning. Tony didn’t say much, he drank his beer and waited for Gibbs to finish reading everything.

“This is a good case, Tony. I could help you get the warrants you need, know a few people.”

Tony chuckled because that was a particular skill Tony had honed over the years. Connections, acquaintances, people in all the right places, Tony collected names and favors like others collected comic books. But, he considered that maybe his requests would have more weight coming from someone who was not Tony.

“I’d appreciate that. Any help you can give me.” Tony watched Gibbs for a few moments and saw the microexpressions the man might not even realize he was doing. There was something about this man, something about this Agent that Tony felt drawn to. There was a wolf at the door kind of vibe coming form him, made him think of a modern cop movie, “ To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.” Tony muttered and almost laughed to him.

“Sorry?” Gibbs looked up at Tony a mildly confused expression on his face.

“Just a quote form a movie about bad cops. Training Day, just came out this year, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn. Denzel is a bad cop training a rookie and the rookie gets himself in deep. He’s a good kid that gets himself into some shit because of Denzel. That was a quote Denzel says to Hawke, but watching you read through my notes, I felt it fit the situation.”

Gibbs knitted his eyebrows together and quirked the side of his mouth in a crooked smile. Intelligence and something else shined in the Agent’s eyes as he watched Tony. The soft chuckle and shake of the head had Tony smiling for the first time in days.

“Movie fan?”

“You don’t know the half of it. Drives Jax crazy, he puts up with my obsession. That’s okay, I put up with his obsession with diecast classic car models. We somehow make it work.” When Gibbs smiled a full smile and let out a quiet laugh, somehow it made Tony like the man a little more.

“Match made in heaven.” Gibbs got back to the file in front of him then pulled his phone out and made a few calls. Warrants were secured, they just had to wait for them to arrive.

“Hungry? I got some leftover lasagna was going to heat up for Jax and I. More than welcome to join us.”

Gibbs sat back and took a few sips of his beer before looking around then settling his gaze back on Tony.

“I could eat.”

“You are a man of few words, Agent Gibbs, but I think I like you.” Tony stood and went to find Jackson telling him that he was going to get something together for dinner. Jackson came out of the office and sat down in a reading chair across form Gibbs.

“I take it you’re going to help him?”

“Dirty cop, don’t see how I couldn’t help. Tony did good on my case, only returning the favor.”

Jackson leaned forward and bowed his head a moment before looking Gibbs in the eye.

“Tony collects people and favors like he collects his movies, but he doesn’t let many people too close. He has a few close friends but they aren’t many and they are like brother’s to him. For him to trust you this quickly means he likes you. It takes him a while to trust, don’t fuck with him.”

Gibbs sipped his beer and took a while to answer.

“Not gonna fuck with him. Just want to help.”

“I’m not stupid, and neither is Tony. You want something and you aren’t saying what it is you want. I don’t take kindly to people manipulating him. Just come out and ask it.”

Gibbs was quiet and Jackson leaned back in his chair, the two men once again locked in a staring contest.

“Wow, the testosterone went up by like a gazillion in here. It’s like the worst kind of locker room shenanigans I’d expect from twelve year olds, not two grown adults.”

Jax let out a long sigh and looked up at Tony.

“Yeah well he wants something. He wants something form you, Tony.”

“Yeah, I got that Jax, but I, unlike you, was being patient for the proverbial shoe to drop.”

Jax stood and cupped Tony’s face not caring there was a virtual stranger in their house, he tipped Tony’s head up so they were looking eye to eye. Jax leaned in and kissed Tony.

“I just don’t want to see you hurt again.”

“I know, I do but I gotta see this through and I suspect Gibbs was waiting till this whole thing was over and done with to hit me with whatever bullshit it is. Now, dinner is ready.”

Tony walked back towards the kitchen and set out the food on the table waiting for Jackson and Gibbs. He had already suspected that Gibbs had an ulterior motive for helping, but he would be patient to find out what it was. For now, they had dinner to eat then a dirty cop to take down.

_________________

In the end the whole thing was less dramatic than what Tony had expected. After the clean up and telling his Captain to go fuck himself, Tony resigned and walked out of the station with his head held high and his morals fully intact.

The other shoe was actually a good thing. A job offer. Gibbs wanted Tony to come work for him at NCIS. Tony had heard of the agency because his Father would often grouse about how NCIS tried to horn in on cases that the BAU was already investigating.

Tony talked it over with Jax and the prospect of basically going back home appealed to them. The two men felt like this was the right move and Jackson had a feeling they could finally land somewhere and put down roots.

Getting packed up was easier this time. There was no threat of death and they could take their time. Jackson talked over plans, like finding a real space to truly set up his company at. Tony agreed that it was time. It was time to go home.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Spring 2003

 

Sunday dinners had become a tradition once again at the Rossi household. This time it was Tony cooking for the family. Cooking had become something he loved, something he used to relax after difficult cases or stressful weeks. This particular Sunday, Jason was over with Tara and Stephen, his kids. Max Ryan had once been a fixture along with Jason, but something had happened between Tony’s dad and Ryan that the two men were not talking, but Tony wasn’t going to push. He was just happy that his family was all together.

He was finished cutting the noodles for his Papparedella Bolognese. It was a favorite around the Rossi household and perfect to go with the roasted vegetables, panzanella salad, homemade burrata, and the Italian style brick chicken Tony had roasting in the oven. Arms wrapped around him from behind and a kiss was laid on Tony’s cheek. Tony laughed as Jackson hooked his chin over Tony’s shoulder.

“Missed you.”

Tony smiled as he looked down at the long pieces of pasta dough he had just rolled out and was getting ready to cut.

“You are hopeless. You know that?” Tony teased as he laid one hand on Jackson’s and the other held the pasta wheel.

“I just love you like crazy. And I have not seen you this happy in a long time. I admit, I was skeptical about Gibbs and his offer, but I think you finally found your place.”

Tony took a deep sigh and leaned back into Jax.

“Hey, when is food gonna happen around here?” Tara ran into the kitchen and stopped. She took out her phone and took a picture with much protesting from Jackson and Tony. “Blackmail material.”

“Tara Lynn Gideon, you are terrible.”

Tara laughed as she leaned on the counter. Tony sighed as Jackson slipped away and stood next to Tara slinging an arm around her shoulders.

“Yeah, but you still love me, Tony. I’m charming and adorable.”

“Oh, you think so, do you?”

“Un huh.”

Tony watched Jackson and Tara tease each other for a little while, then he finished making the noodles and checked on the sauce. The knock on the front door didn’t really surprise anyone. The Rossi household often had many people in their circle coming around for Sunday dinner. There was always another chair at the table and more food than any of them knew what to do with. Familiar voices were heard, but Tony just kept working on dinner. He was making a couple of focaccias that could be roughly torn and used to sop up any leftover sauce.

“Aaron!” “Uncle Aaron!” Two voice exclaimed at the same time. That was the other reason Tony was glad they came back home, Aaron had come back a few years prior to join Tony’s dad at the BAU. Jackson had been missing his best friend like crazy and Tony would never deny his partner his friends.

“Tara. You ready for the academy?”

“I’m sorry, what?” Tony turned to look at the startled young woman.

“Uncle Aaron, you promised you wouldn’t say anything yet.”

Aaron blushed hard as he stood on the other side of Tara.

“I’m sorry, kiddo. I thought you would have said something by now.”

“Yeah, the brat wanted to wait.”

“Stephen. I didn’t know you were home from school.”

“Just for a couple of weeks, then I go back. Dad looks good.”

“He does. We try to push him out of the office, but...”

“Oh, yeah I know.” The bitterness in Stephen’s voice wasn’t lost on anyone there. They all knew that Jason worked way too hard and way too much. Tony knew that was why his marriage had broken up.

“Well, he’s here today, dickhead. So, let’s just enjoy it while we can, all right?”

“Yeah, sure. ‘Till the next case takes him away.”

“Stephen, please?” Tara looked at her brother, pleading and all Stephen did was roll his eyes and hug his sister.

“Okay, okay. For you, short stuff, I will be good.”

“I think there is a Mario Kart competition starting if anyone is interested. I think we should let Tonio finish up or we are never going to eat.”

“Oh, hell yeah. I get the Princess,” Tara yelled as she ran off.

“That’s ‘cause you think you are one,” Stephen yelled after her.

“Because it’s true.”

“You are such a brat.”

The others in the kitchen were laughing at the good natured bickering of the siblings.

“That smells delicious, Tonio.” David beamed proudly at Tony.

“Thanks, Papa. It’ll be ready soon. You go sit with Mama and Nonno. Relax, okay?”

David patted his son’s shoulder and started to leave the kitchen.

“Come on Aaron. Let’s go have that scotch I promised you.”

“You are a very bad influence.”

“Yes, I am.”

Aaron laughed and started to follow David out of the kitchen, but not before planting a kiss on Jackson’s cheek.

“He’s doing better. I’m glad to see him more settled.” Tony indicated with his head the general direction Aaron had gone.

“I’m glad he finally realised Haley’s motives and moved on.”

“Yeah, I never got the story on that one. You’ve only hinted at his relationship with her.” Tony pulled the chicken out of the oven and put the focaccias in. He was going to let the meat rest, but pulled the bricks off of it and set them aside.

“It’s because I hate the fucking bitch. She was trying to ‘mold’ Aaron to what she thought he should be. But, she didn’t start out like that. Of course when you have money, and grow up in money people will try to use you, or try to get into your pants and get at your ‘trust fund’. While there are many that we grew up with that don’t mind the gold digging trophy wives, many of us are not like that. Some of the best men and women I know grew up where Aaron and I did. And others are disgusting, horrible human beings.

“Haley, though her family didn’t hurt for money, they worked hard for it. They were middle class and Aaron’s Mom didn’t think little miss sunshine was good enough for Aaron. That backfired real quick and he dated her anyway. Thank god they broke up before college. I highly encouraged Aaron to explore more than just being out of the house on his own. When they reconnected I just knew it was going to turn out bad. She wanted marriage, a huge house, the most expensive cars and Aaron to stay in the prosecutors office so he could eventually run for office.”

Tony shook his head. He had his own fair share of women trying to ‘snare’ him before he met Jackson. Especially if they found out he was the esteemed David Rossi’s son.

“I remember when they got back together, but you were so tight lipped about it.”

“Yeah, well Aaron was being an idiot. Thank god he got his head outta his ass or he would have been three kids in and a miserable job.”

Tony snorted as he checked to see if the pasta water was ready.

“What?”

“I have a feeling that Aaron Hotchner, though considerate southern gentlemen like you, does whatever the hell he wants and would not be led around by his dick just to please his wife.”

Jackson laughed as he sat on a stool, Tony slid a wine glass over to him and picked up his own.

“I love you.” Jackson grabbed Tony’s hand and held it for a moment.

“I love you too, Jax..”

“I think if I had not found you when I did, i would have gone through a string of boyfriends, then just settled on a string of escorts. You are my everything, Tony Rossi. You saved me from a life of loneliness, decadence, and obsession. And, you have supported me through building my company, making it something I can be proud of.”

“Jax. I am so proud of what you’ve accomplished. I take it you haven’t told Aaron the good news yet?”

Jackson smiled devilishly and sat up letting go of Tony.

“I was waiting to tell everyone at once. I just wish my parents could be here.”

“I think the three week tour of Italy, France, and Germany you sent them on for their anniversary trumps our Sunday dinner.”

Jackson leaned over the counter and kissed Tony before he turned around and to grab the pasta and dropped it into the boiling water. The fresh pasta would only take a few moments.

“Yeah. I’m glad we could send them.”

“Me too. They deserve it.”

“I’m going to go see what everyone is up to.”

“Good, you’re distracting me.”

Jackson left and Tony pulled the pasta from the water and cooked the second batch. He put it in a large serving bowl and ladled some of the homemade sauce over it. He did this two more times then tossed everything together.

He took the pasta out to the table, then called everyone into dinner. Tony’s mother helped him get the rest of the food from the kitchen to the dining room where everyone was sitting around already. Exclamations on how everything looked made something swell in Tony’s chest. His family meant everything to him, which included those that may not have been blood, but were still loved and cherished.

“Before we all dig into this feast that my partner has made for all of us, I have an announcement to make. Grimes Technology has now, as of this weekend, surpassed the ten million dollar mark.” There were whoops and hollers, along with clapping and smiles. “This would not have been possible without Tony’s help in those early days. The codes that he wrote, we still use in many of our critical systems. We have launched many new projects and I am as of this coming Monday looking for a bigger place for us to move to. We need space to expand, experiment, and explore.

“Everyone here has had a big hand in helping me get where I am and I am more than grateful. Our clean water projects in South America and many countries in Africa are doing very well, as is the school lunch programs and other charities that Grimes Tech is sponsoring. I don’t want my company to be known as just another greedy corporation. I want us to mean something and to that end, our beautiful hostess, Carolyn Rossi has agreed to head up a medical research team for developing nations around the world looking for solutions to medical care and overall health.”

“Mom! Why didn’t you tell me?” Tony jumped up and went over to his mother and kissed her temple. “I am so proud of you.”

“Oh, Piccolino, It is I who am proud of the both of you. Now, I think it is time to eat, don’t you?” Carolyn blushed and started to plate up food as Tony sat back down. His family was doing good work all around and Tony couldn’t be prouder.

____________________

“Tell me, Son, how do you really like what you’re doing?”

Tony was in his father’s study sipping some scotch. Jackson was off with Aaron for a couple of hours, Jason and the kids were bunking down for the night and his mother was working on proposals for her new job with Jackson’s company. Tony was happy to be alone with his dad for a little while, they had not had much of a chance to talk lately and Tony missed it.

“I can honestly say that I like what I’m doing. I wasn’t sure at first. To say that Gibbs is a dinosaur is an understatement, but we work well together. The cases are sometimes hard, but the people I’m working with make it worthwhile.”

“Tom is a good man.”

“He’s a great boss. I really love what I’m doing, Papa. This really feels like the place I can be more myself than anywhere else. Gibbs knows about my relationship with Jax and so far, the last two years hasn’t said or done anything to make me think he has a problem with it.” Tony took a sip of his scotch and relaxed back in his chair.

“Good. You deserve it, Tonio.”

Tony looked at his father and smiled.

“How’s the new book coming along?”

“A lot of research, but it’s coming along.”

“Do you miss it, Papa?”

David took a moment and closed his eyes. He tapped his fingers against the glass and Tony knew, he knew his father missed the chase, missed the cases, missed helping people.

“Yeah, kiddo I do.”

“So, why did you retire?”

“I wanted time to write. Time to focus on a single perpetrator, to try to understand.”

“And have you? Understood anything? Why they do what they do?”

David took a sip of his drink then leaned forward and looked Tony in the eye.

“No kiddo, I don’t. I am no closer to understanding why monsters exist than I was the first day I met Jason and we began something extraordinary.”

Tony sipped at his own drink and wondered if he would get any closer than his father had to understanding the minds of the Unsubs.

___________________

Fall 2003

“So, Rossi, who’s the unlucky lady?” Caitlin Todd. Tony still had no idea what to make of her, especially the fact that she had pigeon-holed him immediately as a party frat boy. Gibbs had done that under the breath laugh of his and Kate had no idea what he had been laughing about. Tony decided from day one he was going to totally fuck with Kate. He knew it was perverse on his part and maybe a bit petty, but if she wanted to play the ‘it’s the old boys club’ victim, Tony was going to play the frat boy, and he was going to have fun with it.

“Oh, just a pretty little sorority girl I met in college. She’s a good wife, stays home and cooks my food and keeps my house.” Tony smirked when he said it and turned back to his computer to delve into some research on their latest victim.

Kate snorted and Tony could feel the sarcasm coming from across the way. Gibbs looked at Tony and just shook his head. Tony knew Gibbs wasn’t going to interfere, he was going to let Tony handle Kate how he saw fit. Tony wondered just how obtuse Caitlin Todd was. For someone who trolled the society pages like she did he wondered how she missed the many pictures with Jackson and himself.

Their last charity endeavor was opening an art collective run by Aaron and Jackson’s other friend, Victor Marks. He was a rather well known flamboyant artist who owned several galleries around Virginia, DC and New York.

Grimes Tech had become a mover and shaker in Virginia and Tony and Jackson gave several interviews at the gala about the social responsibility they felt and how everyone at Grimes made a living wage, had unusual work schedules that worked with them, and Jackson was working on a subsidiary of Grimes that would be solely employee owned. He was interested in clean energy for his company and Tony fully supported that.

Gibbs looked down at his desk and Tony just caught him laughing, but didn’t say anything to Tony.

“Sure. Somehow I think you just wear that ring to attract more women to you. I bet,” Caitlin stood and walked over to Tony’s desk and leaned against it. “I bet you have several women on the side with you just waiting for them to fawn all over you.”

“Oh, Kitty Kat Kate, you’re claws are showing. Did someone get up on the wrong side of the good ole’ boys club?” Tony’s smirk got larger as he sat back in his chair.

“I went to school with plenty of pretty boys like you and they are all the same. Wasn’t much different at the Secret Service.”

“Hmm. Well I am having so much fun with this fascinating insight into your very fucked-up psyche, but I think I’d like to find out who killed Petty Office Dominguez. Now, why don’t you go back to your desk and get those phone records.”

Kate looked like she was going to say something else but Tony just raised a brow and went back to his own searches. He sighed and wondered how long their little sparring match was going to last. On the outset, he liked Kate, but they had a long way to go to being true partners.

“Got somethin’ boss. Looks like a string of texts between Dominguez and another petty officer, Jamison. There is mention of a private website.” Tony stood after he had pulled up the website and accessed the database for it. It paid to have a tech genius for a boyfriend. Tony stood and grabbed the remote for the big screen television that was hooked up to their intranet server. Make accessing and sharing data easier. Tony always smiled a little when the Grimes Tech logo came on the screen.

Jackson gave big discounts to the military and civilian outlets that worked with the military. He also gave discounts to schools and had several fundraisers over the years to support a charity that gave technology to schools in desperate need of it, but didn’t have the funds.

“Here is their latest correspondence.”

“How did you get in there?” Kate frowned in confusion as Tony clicked through the information.

“I may know a thing or two about computers, if you hadn’t noticed, KateyKate.”

“Someone had to have helped you.”

“Get back to the case, Todd.” Gibbs growled and did a quick eyeroll with Tony.

“Essentially this is a conversation between two male lovers.” Tony say Kate’s face and wondered about that. He had not pegged her for being prejudice, or homophobic, but they had not really come across a case like this.

“Whew, some steamy correspondence, huh Boss?”

“Obviously somethin’ was goin’ on. It could be an affair, but it could be something entirely different.”

“From these, I think they were doing the nighttime boogie.” Tony smirked as he read through the letters on the private website. “Ooo, how do you even do that?” Tony highlighted a section and read through it. “Man, he musta’ been one flexible Petty Officer.”

Gibbs was standing next to Tony and looked like he was going to head slap him. That was something Tony had put a stop to immediately. When he talked to his father about it, David was livid and wanted Tony to go to HR for workplace abuse and harassment. Tony decided to give Gibbs a chance and went to see him at his house where he could be more open. He told Gibbs that if he ever laid a hand on Tony again, he would have no choice but to go to HR. Tony wasn’t going to tolerate physical abuse from anyone anymore.

Gibbs didn’t exactly apologize, but he did promist to keep his hands to himself. Tony found out that Jax had called Gibbs and after that call Gibbs didn’t so much as flinch towards Tony. He had no idea what his boyfriend had said, but it stopped the harassment which Tony was grateful for.

“But, he was married.” Kate frowned at the information on the screen.

“Doesn’t stop people from cheating. Get Petty Officer Jamison in here and let’s talk to him.” Gibbs turned away and went back to his desk and started to work on his computer. Tony moved around is desk and grabbed his phone, wallet and badge. He clipped the badge to his belt and looked down at his phone, again the latest from Grimes Tech. Tony was always the guinea pig when Jackson worked on a new design. There was a message that Aaron and Victor wanted to meet up for dinner.

Tony quickly texted back that he thought it was a good idea and that he didn’t think the case would interfere.

“Rossi!”

“Yes, Boss?” Tony noticed Gibbs was in a mood that day, but he was going to ignore it. The man groused a lot, but Tony had learned how to cope with him and leaned when he could push back and when he couldn’t.

“What the hell are you waiting for?”

“Oh, just letting wifey know that dinner is on for tonight.”

“You call her wifey? Isn’t that a little derogatory?”

“Not if I say it to her face.” Tony was laughing on the inside. If he ever called Jackson Wifey Tony wouldn’t get any sex for weeks. He liked sex, he loved sex with Jax, so he tried not to do something too drastic that would make the man upset at him. Though the teasing was often fun and sometimes Tony would do it just to get Jackson playfully bickering with him.

Gibbs once more shook his head. Tony knew they would be having a conversation later about Tony’s teasing. Tony started to walk towards the elevator, Kate was following quickly behind him.

“I hope you really don’t treat your wife like that.”

Tony really wondered about Kate. She was supposed to be a profiler and a secret service agent. Tony knew from growing up with his father, and being friends with Aaron what a profiler was supposed to be like. Tony had also picked up a lot of techniques from his father. It made him wonder how Kate was considered one herself. She was really bad at it.

“Oh, my wife is treated very well. You could say I indulge her every whim.”

“Somehow I think you’re mocking me.”

“Oh, KateyKate, what gives you that idea?”

Tony knew he was being mean, but Kate was being obtuse. He wasn’t sure if that was deliberate on her part, or if she really was that unaware of who Tony was outside of NCIS.

“You are mocking me!”

“So, those profiling skills finally kicked in. Maybe you’d like to concentrate them on the case and stop trying to figure out my personal life.” Tony was serious at this point. Teasing Kate, though fun, was getting boring and Jackson would probably yell at him for being kind of dickish.

Kate studied him as they made it to the ground floor of the parking garage, Tony made his way towards his vehicle. Kate whistled appreciatively. The Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk was the latest car that Tony had lovingly restored. It wasn’t the rarest care he had ever worked on, but it was one of the easiest to find parts that worked for it. Some parts he had to clean and restore, but it had been worth it. When he had it appraised for final value, he had gotten a #1 Concurs rating. The insurance was high, but between Jackson’s love of supercars and Tony’s love of the classics they got a good volume discount.

“Nice car. What’d you have to do to afford it?”

“Oh, Kate, wouldn’t you like to know.” Tony got in and waited for Kate to get in before he took off.

They didn’t talk much on the way to find their Petty Officer and Tony was fine with that. Until she grew up and treated him like an adult, Tony was okay with just not talking to her.

They found the Petty Officer quickly and easily and took him in for questioning.

“I guess my career is over. If I say anything I’m out, so I guess there is no reason for me to lie. Dev and I were having an affair. We tried to keep it as quiet as we could. Both of us loved being in the Navy, but we knew if it became public our careers would be over.”

“And Dominguez's wife?”

Jamison sighed and leaned on the table, head in his hands.

“He loved her just as much. It was killing him that he had to decide. I...I wanted to make it easier for him and I broke it off, though it killed me to do so. I loved him.” Jamison’s head fell in his hands and he cried.

“Is that why you killed him?”

“What!? No. No, I would never hurt Dev. He was one of the best men I’ve ever known. I left him and it took everything I had to do it. I had to let him go, but I would never hurt him like that.”

Tony watched Jamison for a moment then stood up and left the room. He found Gibbs and Kate in the observation room and walked up behind them.

“I believe him, Boss. It’s a bit Torn Between Two Lovers, TV movie 1979 by Delbert Mann. George Peppard, Joseph Bologna and Lee Remick. Don’t ask how I know that one. But, love triangle between two men and a woman. The woman has to decide to end her affair with the married man, but she always had this regret.”

“You think he regrets breaking it off?” Gibbs was eyeing the Petty Officer as he listened to Tony.

“I do, Boss. I really believe he loved Dominguez. And, because of DADT, neither of them could be themselves.”

“Tony,” Gibbs sighed and shook his head.

“Nothing either of them could do. But, I don’t believe he killed his lover. That’s genuine sorrow.”

“Are you two really buying this?” Kate crossed her arms and glared through the window. “I mean come on, why would a married man go out and have an affair with another....man.” The look of disgust on Kate’s face took Tony aback.

“Wow, I didn’t think you were homophobic, KateyKate.”

“I’m not.. I just....”

“What?” Tony didn’t even try to stop the hard edge to his voice and he glared at Kate. “To be an effective investigator you need to put those prejudices behind you. If you can’t be objective, then you can’t do this job. Gibbs, I’ll be at my desk.” Tony turned and stormed out of the room. He didn’t think he could be around her at the moment.

An hour later, Tony had more information on both Petty Officers. He tamped down on his anger as he worked away on his computer compiling as much data as possible. Tony was leaning towards someone in Dominguez’s unit. It felt like a hate crime. Standing up, Tony needed to go see Ducky. He wanted more information about the wounds on Dominguez’s body.

“Hey, Duck, what’cha got on Petty Officer Dominguez.”

“Anthony, I was just finishing up doing a secondary look at our victim. Come here.” Tony moved to where the body of Dominguez was laid out and Ducky had his penlight with him. “See this bruising around his throat?”

“Strangled.”

“Yes, and with a rather large hand, I might add. There is no way this could have been done by a woman, or by the Petty Officer you brought in to interview. That young man’s hands are much too small. You know this reminds me of the time I was working in an exchange program in France. There was this young man who had been accused of his lover’s death. But, it turned out there was a fourth person in the equation and he felt gilted. Was quite the scandalous affair.”

“So, you think it was someone outside of the relationship.”

“It would most certainly have to be, unless the wife has very large hands. That’s not unheard of, I remember this one time...”

“It’s okay, Duck.”

Tony looked down at the body and took note of the bruises. They were pretty bad, the man had been beaten to death and it broke Tony’s heart a little.

“Tony, are you all right my boy?”

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to work with Kate. She already assumed a lot of things about me and I just...” Tony kept his eyes on Petty Officer Dominguez as he tried to sort out his  conflicted feelings.

“You assumed you would find a partner that could respect you and understand you.”

“Yeah. When did you get so smart?”

“I have been in this game a long time my boy.”

“She assumed that I have a barefoot and pregnant wife back home.”

Ducky snorted and looked wide-eyed at Tony.

“I can assume that she does not have a clue who’s ring you are actually wearing?”

Tony slowly shook his head.

“Well, that is interesting indeed.”

Ducky didn’t elaborate and Tony left autopsy before the man went off on another tangent.

Tony got to his desk almost at the same time as Gibbs and Kate came back. He looked at the time and saw that if he didn’t get going he was going to be late.

“I gotta go, Boss. I’ll see you in the morning.”

That was another thing Gibbs had to get used to. Tony had a life outside work and if the case was political or there was something to it that he absolutely had to be there he would. But, as sad as this case was, it could wait until the morning. Tony decided to ignore Kate as he gathered his things together.

“Be here early, Rossi.”

“I will, Boss.”

Tony was out the door in just a few moments. He was looking forward to a nice dinner out with his friends, and Jackson. It would help settle him down and maybe he was reading Kate wrong, but deep down, he didn’t think so. It was going to make their working relationship really difficult to bear. But, Tony would try to find some kind of common ground between them, he hoped.

_________________

“I love you,” Jackson whispered in Tony’s ear as he moved inside Tony. The last week had been a bitch of a week and Tony just wanted to spend some time at home with his boyfriend. Saturday morning lazy sex was definitely first on the agenda.

“I love you too, Jax. Fuck, you feel good.” Tony gripped Jackson’s shoulder’s as Tony wrapped his legs around Jackson’s waist. He was all loose and lazy from an actual good nights sleep after Jackson wore him out the night before.

“I want to keep you in bed all day and do filthy, filthy things to you.”

“I think I can get behind that plan, but there better be food and coffee available.”

Jackson laughed as he lazily thrust in and out of Tony. The two murmured words of affection and love as they both chased after a gentle cresting. Tony stretched out on the bed after Jax pulled out and padded into the bathroom. The shower turned on and Tony had a wicked grin on his face as he stood up and gave Jax a few moments while he changed the sheets to the crisp, cool cotton ones they liked to use for lazy weekends.

Tony made his way to the bathroom and stepped into the shower where he pushed Jackson against the cool tile making him hiss before Tony pressed his lips against Jackson’s. The kissing went on for several minutes, neither of them got overly hard, but Tony knew that they would probably have a vigorous bout of sex later in the morning. Right now, he still wanted lazy and kissing Jackson was about the best thing in the world to Tony.

Pulling back, Tony let his forehead fall against Jackson’s and sighed.

“I think my life would be very different if I had not taken that chance with you in college. I love you, Jax. I can’t believe we’ve been together eight years. You’re the second best thing that’s ever happened in my life.”

“Second, huh?” Jax smiled that crooked smile of his before he reached for the soap and a cloth. He started to clean Tony, and Tony let him.

“My Mom and Dad, finding my real Mom and Dad was the first best thing. You’re the second, Jaspar and Thomas the third.”

“Well, at least I rate higher than Jaspar and Thomas. And you, Tony Rossi, rate higher than Aaron and Victor.” Jackson laughed which made Tony laugh. He knew he was being sentimental, but the case had been difficult and hit a little close to home. Not the lover’s triangle angle, but that two men who loved each other had to hide. While he and Jackson certainly didn’t hide, there was still a bit of Don’t Tell around the office even if Tony and Jax were the worst kept secret out there. Morrow didn’t care. He liked Tony, and the MCRTs success rate had only increased with Tony coming on board.

“Why don’t you go pick out a stack of movies from that ridiculous collection of yours, I’ll make breakfast and coffee, place an order with Jazz for lunch to be delivered and we will be lazy today.” Jackson kissed Tony once more before grabbing for the shower head and pulling so that he could rinse Tony off.

“That sounds amazing.”

Tony kissed Jackson once more before getting out of the shower and drying off. He pulled on some sweatpants and an old OSU sweatshirt, leaving his feet bare. He padded out to the living room and perused his collection of movies and picked a few of his favorites. He took them to the bedroom and threw all of their pillows on the bed and made a sort of nest for them.

Jackson, thankfully, enjoyed cooking and would share in the duties with Tony. His favorite meal to fix was breakfast and Jackson had quite the imagination when it came to food. Jaspar had been instrumental in helping Jackson learn as many recipes as he could.

Tony preferred to cook dinner, and the two of them often tackled lunches together. They would make up a bunch of things that could be frozen and eaten though the week. They both liked fairly healthy meals, and they both worked out to stay in shape. Tony still wondered from time to time how he got so lucky.

Jackson came into the bedroom a little while later and set out a tray for them.

“Coffee.” Tony was handed his cup, then Jax crawled in next to Tony. “Fresh fruit, soft cooked eggs with toast, and some crispy potatoes.”

“Looks good.” Tony leaned over and kissed Jackson. The two ate while the movie, Roman Holiday , played on the big screen TV in their bedroom.

“I went with a theme. All Gregory Peck movies. Roman Holiday, To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentlemen’s Agreement, Guns of Navarone, Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.”

“That’s quite the eclectic selection.”

“He was a fantastic actor that had a wide repertoire. He could literally play anything and he was good.”

“I look forward to it.”

Tony relaxed back against the bed and sipped his coffee and ate his breakfast. These were the kinds of days he lived for with Jackson. The two of them just being together letting the world outside stay away for a few hours. Tony never wanted to know a day without him.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Spring 2005

 

Tony’s breathing was getting worse and Kate actually looked worried for him. Her first year on the team had been rocky. She had a major chip on her shoulder that Tony slowly worked past. He didn’t give an inch though, because he didn’t need to. He knew who he was and with most people he didn’t play games with them. Kate, though, had pushed all of the wrong buttons.

However, with her in quarantine with him, Tony reflected on how they had actually become friends. The banter slowly turned from a mean-spirited edge on both of their parts, to more sister-brother bantering. She still had not gotten a clue on who Tony’s significant other was, and he wasn’t going to reveal that. The charity dinners, movie premieres, and other high-profile parties they were invited to and seen at should have given Kate a clue.

Tony was trying everything in his power not to think of Jax. His heart clenched and his stomach turned with what was happening to him.

“Let me the fuck in there!” Tony heard the shouting and he sat up more in the bed.

“What is going on out there?” Kate asked as she moved to the bed next to Tony.

“Sir, I can’t let you in there. You aren’t family.”

“To hell I’m not. That man in there is my partner. If you don’t let me in I swear...”

“Jax...” Tony whispered as his eyes teared up.

“Just calm down, Sir.”

“I won’t fucking calm down until you let me in to see Tony.”

There was more talking which became muffled and Tony hoped that Dr Pitt came to talk to Jackson. Tony wasn’t sure if he could handle seeing him right now.

“Tony?” Kate asked as she turned her body to where she was sitting on the edge of her bed, her feet dangling over. “Tony, you don’t have a wife, do you?” Kate was serious for once, which Tony was immensely grateful for. He dropped the act and turned to face her.

“No. There’s no wife.” Tony looked away and wiped his eyes, but trying to make it look like he was just rubbing them.

“Why did you let me believe all those things about you?”

“Because, Caitlyn, you had made up your mind about me the first day you met me and I wasn’t feeling very generous at the time. There is no wife, there are no girlfriends. I’ve been in a steady relationship for the past almost nine years.”

Tony started to cough, his chest was getting tighter and it was getting harder to breath. He knew if Dr Pitt couldn’t figure this out, he was going to end up on oxygen and worse. Tony was quiet as he closed his eyes and laid his head back on the pillow.

Tony heard a few voices and then the sound of the plastic being pulled back. He opened his eyes to see Jackson standing there, his ridiculous hair sticking out all over the place, wearing scrubs from top to bottom. Jax ripped off the mask and Tony was about to protest when Jax finally spoke..

“Hey.” Jax looked wrecked and Tony couldn’t blame him.

“Hey yourself.”

“Tony...” Jackson took the few steps to his side and sat on the bed. He laid his forehead against Tony’s and touched his face with his fingers.

“Hey, I’m still here, okay? I have every confidence...” The coughing fit his hard, Tony grabbed for one of the dry washcloths that was beside him and coughed into that. “I have faith that Dr Brad will figure out the cure.”

“He better, because you do not have permission to leave me. You hear me, Anthony James Rossi?”

Tony nodded, his voice failing him as he looked down at the hands that were holding tightly to his.

“I won’t leave you, Jax. Not of my own free will.”

Jackson just held Tony’s face in his hands for a moment, the two men letting their emotions speak for them. Tony was feeling tired, but he didn’t want to let Jax go.

“Your Dad’s here as well. He forbade your Mom from coming, so you know how well that went.”

Tony chuckled as he wiped at his eyes.

“I’m sure she cursed at him in Italian for about a half an hour.”

Jackson laughed, but it didn’t reach his eyes. Tony cupped his cheek and let his thumb wipe away the tears that fell.

“I’m tired and you shouldn’t be here. I don’t want you to take chances.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“You have to. You have to because I can’t be worried about you right now.”

“Tone...”

“Please, Jax.” Tony pleaded with his eyes as well as with his words.

“I’m not going far.”

“You have a company to run. Go, do that.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the company, Tony!” Jax yelled, then ran a hand down his face and took a few deep breaths. “I’m not leaving this hospital.”

“Okay, okay. I ah, I really do need some sleep.”

Jackson kissed Tony on his temple then reluctantly left the quarantine area. He stood on the other side of the plastic and laid his hand on it giving up all pretense of trying to hold in his emotions. Tony knew Jackson would not be in a good place if this thing with the Plague couldn’t be cured. Tony gripped the sheets under his hands and nodded that he would be fine. Jackson reluctantly left.

The room was silent as Tony struggled to keep calm. He was grateful that Kate had been silent through the whole thing. Tony was about a hair's breadth away from breaking.

“I’m sorry, Tony.”

“For what? You didn’t have anything to do with this.”

“No, but you’re right. I assumed a lot about you and I never gave you a real chance.”

“No you didn’t. But, let’s not worry about the past, okay?”

Kate had come back over and sat on the bed next to Tony once more.

“Was that really Jackson Grimes?” Kate smiled as she kicked her feet against her bed.

“Yeah. Seriously, you never really looked at the society pages?”

“I admit I didn’t really notice. How did you two get together?”

Tony was tired, but talking kept him from going insane. He told Kate how they had met, and how they had fallen hard for each other. The beginning of their relationship they had to keep quiet and the struggles they went through, and sometimes still had. It wasn’t easy being upwardly mobile and a gay couple in Virginia, or D.C., but they made it work.

“He was on an important trip to Japan. He was setting up some new contracts that would have some major benefits for both here and the company there. I didn’t want to worry him until we knew more.

“Kate...I need to ask you to do something for me.”

“What is it?”

“I have some personal documents in my desk and a letter to Jax. Can you...” Tony swallowed hard as he looked up and calmed his emotions. “Can you make sure he gets them?”

“You’re going to be okay, Tony.”

“Please. It’s important.”

Kate looked like she was going to protest, but Tony pleaded with her with just his eyes.

“Okay, but you’re going to get through this.”

Tony just nodded and laid back. He lowered his bed and soon his eyes were closing. He hoped Dr Pitt found a cure, as he was closing his eyes he looked over and saw his father standing there looking through the plastic. Tony wondered what was going through his head as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

_________________

Tony slowly woke and looked around. He wasn’t sure how long he had been out, but from the worried face of Dr Pitt who was standing over him it must have been a while.

“Welcome back, Buckeye.” Dr Pitt smiled as he checked the oxygen mask over Tony’s face.

“How long?” Tony asked as he pulled the mask away from his mouth.

“You’ve been in a coma, Tony. It’s been four days.”

“Fuck.” Tony barely let out the expletive as he coughed.

“You’re lungs are going to need some time to heal, Tony. But, we have been able to figure out the cure. Now, you just need time. You have one very worried man who hasn’t left this hospital unless your father bullied him to going home for a shower and some food.”

Tony felt his throat close a little on the emotions he was feeling. He hated that he worried Jackson, even though none of this was his fault.

Later Gibbs came by and they talked. Tony was told all about the investigation and the woman who had accused someone of rape. This was petty revenge against NCIS not investigating like they should. But, the punchline was that the young woman had lied. It was all a case of a series of bad things happening and the woman didn’t want her mother to know about her sex life.

Tony would process it all later, he wanted to be with Jax to talk it out, to let out his anger that someone had attacked him over sex games gone wrong. He was angry, confused, and in pain. He didn’t want to be at the hospital anymore and luckily Brad was going to be releasing him the next day.

“I have a feeling you’re pretty tired of hospital food.”

Tony opened his eyes and smiled wide. He used the remote to raise his bed up into a seated position. His breathing wasn’t great, but seeing his father there with bags of food was worth the discomfort.

“Babbo.”

“Thought you might like this as well.” David pulled a quilt out of one of the bags as well as one of Tony’s favorite robes.

“I’m only going to be here another day or so, Babbo.”

“This was the first they let me in here. Let me spoil you, Figlio.”

Tony smiled, emotion swam in his eyes but he wasn’t going to cry.

“Here you go.” Dave pulled out a tupperware and set it in front of Tony. It was full of his favorites, lasagna, grilled vegetables with homemade pesto, and lemon chicken with pasta.

“Dad. This looks amazing.”

“Anything for you, kiddo.”

Tony took a deep breath and tucked into his food. He was able to get down about half before he was worn out. Dave took the plates and packed them up, then he covered Tony up with the quilt.

Tony watched his father and knew he was feeling too much. He normally wasn’t this quiet.

“Dad...”

“Don’t, Figlio. I can’t...” Dave sat in the chair next to Tony’s bed and took his son’s hand. “The image of you not breathing, your lips turning blue was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to see. I tried to keep your Mother away. I assured her you would be all right, but I knew a part of me was lying. I was so scared that I would be losing you again.”

Dave stopped talking and leaned back in his chair. His eyes shined and Tony was shaken that is his normally incredibly strong father was showing his vulnerability.

“Dad, I’m still here. I have some healing to do, but I’m fine.”

“Don’t lie to me, Tonio. I know physically you’ll be okay, but I know you aren’t fine.”

Tony grabbed his water cup and downed the water that was inside of it to calm himself down.

“I’ll deal with it, Dad. I promise, but I can’t think about the why’s of what happened until I’m physically better. Please, Dad, don’t push this.” Tony let out a shaky breath that made him cough. Dave pressed his lips together and Tony knew he was fighting what he wanted to say.

“Give me time, Papa. I promise when I’m ready we’ll talk.”

Dave nodded his acceptance as he stood and placed a kiss on Tony’s forehead.

“You rest. When you get home be prepared to have your Mother invade.”

Tony laughed even though the action stressed his lungs he knew his father was right and that he needed to accept that his mother was going to hover. There was no arguing with Carolyn Rossi, but frankly Tony didn’t want to.

His father stayed for a little longer, the two talked about his latest book, which sounded interesting to Tony. Cold cases were a hobby of his, and Dave was delving into an intriguing cold case from his days on the BAU. Tony offered his help when he was feeling a little better and Dave said he would be happy to have Tony’s help.

Tony was yawning and the drugs running through his system was making him sleepy. It took awhile to figure out which pain medication wouldn’t react strangely with Tony’s physiology, but finally they hit on the right combination.

“Sleep, Figlio.” Dave gently patted Tony’s cheek then left to let Tony get some sleep.

___________________

Getting back to work felt amazing. Tony spoke with the counselor he had gone to after Senior’s death. He had some residual emotions from his passing that he needed to work out. He worked through his anger and depression. Armed with a daily medication, a rescue inhaler, and instructions on what not to do for the next few months, Tony felt ready.

Jackson was reluctant to let Tony go. He had tried to talk Tony into taking a job at Grimes, Tony still did coding and he was playing around with some video game creation as something to do when he needed a mental break.

Tony stayed in the office and worked support for the team.

“Hey Abbs.”

“Tony! You’re back!” The lab tech bounced towards him on her platform heels, ponytails bouncing as she flew at him grabbing him in a hug. Tony let the hug go for a couple of minutes. Then he pulled back. When he did Abby punched him in the shoulder.

“What the hell, Abbs?”

“That was for not telling me about your sexy, sexy boyfriend who is like the ultimate tech geek!”

“Do you people seriously not pay attention to the gossip columns? I thought you followed those religiously, Abby.”

“Well, I like follow everything Grimes Tech.” Abby stuck out her lip in a pout and Tony just sighed. He walked over to her computer and started to type.

“What are you doing! Hey there was important...”

Tony just shook his head, rolled his eyes and showed her that all of her work was still there. He pulled up several newsworthy events and showed Abby.

“You seriously missed this.”

“I...I guess I did. I mean you don’t really seem like the type that Grimes would go for.”

Tony sighed again. This was why he had not made a big deal of who his partner was. Assumptions had been made about him with everyone on his team except for Gibbs.

“And what kind of man do you think Jackson is supposed to be attracted to?”

“Well, you know, someone more intellectual.”

Tony couldn’t stop the laugh that came out even if he wanted to.

“You should spend some time around Jackson and our friends. He maybe one of the smartest men I know, but he is as much of a sports nut as I am. Don’t let that pretty face fool you.”

“So, where’d you meet?”

“College.”

Abby frowned and bounced a little on her feet so she was face to face with Tony.

“But he didn’t go to Ohio.”

“I never said we met at Ohio.”

Abbey frowned as she tried to process what it was that Tony wasn’t saying, but was in Jackson’s bio on the Grimes Tech website.

“Wait, you went to Carnegie Mellon?”

“Yes I did.”

“What did you major in?” Abby looked shocked and it hurt Tony to think that people only saw his as the ‘dumb’ jock.

“Psychology and Computer Science.”

Abby cocked her head a little as she tried to process what Tony was telling her.

“Somethin’ you having trouble with, Abbs?”

“I just...Really?”

“You know Genii Mark V?”

“Any self-respecting computer nerd knows one of the best programming languages to come out in the last few years.”

“Why thank you. I’ve worked really hard on it. It’s the foundation of most of what Grimes Tech does.”

You!” Abby poked Tony’s chest a few times before he stopped her.

“I wouldn’t poke at me, Abbs. My lungs are still healing and I don’t like it when you do that.”

“It all makes sense now! Why you never ask a million questions when McGee and I talk computers. You’ve known what we’ve been talking about all this time!”

“I didn’t think I had to advertise it. But, can we get back on track here?” Tony was getting frustrated and frankly pretty angry with this conversation. While he thought of Abby as a friend, he was realistic about her manipulative and childish ways.

“Oh, right.

“I’m going to be office bound for a while so expect to see me down here a lot. In fact, I’m here to see if you have anything on the Petersen case. Gibbs is out interviewing and wanted me to check.”

“You, my friend, have perfect timing. Mr. Mass Spec finally gave me his report on the fibres you found.” Tony was thankful that he could easily get Abby back on track. The woman’s hyperactivity was sometimes a little much for him.

Tony got lost in the science speak and the routine of a case. He was glad, the hovering of his mother and Jackson were making him crazy. He knew they cared, but it had gotten to be too much for him towards the end.

_________________

Tony leaned against Jackson as he stared down into the grave in front of him. Warm strong hands gripped his shoulders offering their comfort. Jaspar and Thomas were there as well. Tony and Kate had gotten closer after Tony’s infection of Y. Pesteris. They had a long conversation over dinner one night with Jackson.

“I still can’t believe this happened. I keep going over that day and trying to think if there was something different I could have done. But, there’s nothing.”

“Tone, you need to stop beating yourself up over this. I know you two were becoming real partners, but you have to not feel so guilty over this.”

“I know. I just...”

“Tony, this was not your fault. Ari targeted us.” Gibbs had walked over towards Tony who trying to let what happened go, but it was difficult. He felt like Kate was his responsibility, like Probie was.

“I know here.” Tony tapped his temple. “But, I’m having a hard time with it, here.” Tony laid a hand over his heart. “She didn’t deserve this.”

“No one deserves this, Rossi. But get your head together. Kate wouldn’t want you to take on this guilt.”

“I know, I know, Gibbs. But, you gotta give me time here.”

Kate’s death at the hands of the terrorist Ari Haswari shook the team to its core. Tony had always felt some remorse when he had to kill someone, but with Ari, he felt nothing at all.

“No problem, Tony.” Gibbes gripped Tony’s shoulder and walked away.

“Come on, let’s go home.”

Tony let Jax pull him close as they walked towards their car. Tony was numb and he wasn’t sure how to come back. He knew eventually he would be okay, but he also knew he was changed. His friend was gone too soon and it hurt. He had not gotten to the point of grieving yet, he was still to numb and a lot angry.

Jackson didn’t drive to their home and Tony was wondering where he was going. When they pulled up to his parents house, Tony felt the weight that had settled in his stomach loosen.

“I love you.” Tony turned to look at Jackson as they pulled up in the driveway.

“I love you too, Tone.”

“You always know what it is I need even when I sometimes don’t even know what I need.”

“That’s because I pay attention to you Tony. I always have.” Jackson reached over and gently wrapped a hand around Tony’s neck, then pulled him close and kissed him. “You are the most important thing in my life Tony. And, when I thought I was going to lose you nothing in my life mattered. Not my company, not all the money in the world, nothing. I don’t know what would happen if I ever lost you.

“Aaron actually came to the hospital everyday to make sure I was okay. I admit I wasn’t. I wasn’t okay, Tony. I’ve tried to keep that from you, but I can’t anymore. I know you’re having a hard time processing what happened with Kate, but don’t get lost in your anger and your numbness because as much as you need me, I need you. I need you Tony.”

Tony took a shuddering breath as he felt his eyes fill with long held in emotions. He had not grieved over what happened to him and how he was now forever altered by the Plague. He had not processed his emotions over Kate and killing Ari. He had not processed a lot of things and he knew he had to. Yes, he talked some of it out with a counselor, but that didn’t mean that he did the work he was supposed to do. Grabbing Jackson’s face in his hands he pressed his forehead against Jackson’s, emotions too big for him sat between them as he breathed in deep staving off the pain and grief he was feeling.

Closing his eyes, Tony let the tears fall, he let himself feel vulnerable in that moment and when fingers wiped them away he settled a little more and let Jax begin to truly take care of him.

“Come on, lets go inside.”

Tony pulled away and exited the car. Jackson was right there with him a moment later, holding him close as they walked inside where Carolyn was right there pulling her son into her arms letting her comfort him. Tony was never more grateful at how much Jackson knew him and what he needed than he was right at that moment.

Chapter Text

“No.” Tony stalked towards the stairs where the Director’s office was and would make his displeasure known. Gibbs followed quickly after him and Tony knew the man was upset that Tony wasn’t bowing to the fact that Ziva David was placed on the team.

“Tony, be reasonable.” Gibbs growled as he followed Tony trying to stop him.

“I am being reasonable, you and the new Director are not. There is no way that Ziva David belongs on this team. Not only is it unethical, but a foreign agent should not be privy to the kinds of classified information that comes through this office.”

“She’s a good agent.”

Tony turned and stared at Gibbs and wondered where his boss’ common sense had disappeared to.

“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, Gibbs, but this is not right. If it’s so important to have her as an agent she’d best be suited to Homeland or CIA. Not here. She hasn’t even gone through FLETC, which is a requirement of all incoming agents for this agency. She isn’t an investigator, she’s a spy and don’t think she won’t use the position to send information back to dear old Dad.”

“Tony, you are treading insubordination.”

“No. I am doing what’s right. What the hell is wrong with you Gibbs?” Tony took a couple of steps back down till he was only one step up from Gibbs. “What really happened in that basement? Because I’ll be honest, there is no way in hell you took the shot to kill Haswari. I mean, I thought I had killed him so it was a surprise that he ended up in your basement.”

“You hit his shoulder. He had a fake tooth that was filled with a fast acting agent that made him appear to be dead.”

Tony shook his head and wondered just how fucked up the whole situation really was.

“Ziva took the shot, didn’t she.”

“I killed Haswari when he tried to kill me.”

“I see. So, what is this? Some kind of fatherly thing? Or damsel in distress and you have to be the hero?”

Gibbs glared at Tony and looked like he was going to hit him.

“You lay one finger on me Gibbs and I will go to HR. I tolerated that shit for all of five seconds the first time you thought to slap me. I still won’t tolerate it. You know, your bastard routine is getting old. If you are siding with David, well I just might have to rethink my life choices. You see, I don’t need you, I don’t need NCIS. I have a family, and I have more money than I know what to do with. I have patents that make me more in a day than you will ever see in a year, so go on keep pissing me off.”

Gibbs didn’t say anything, the two men stared at each other until Tony turned around and went up to the Director’s office. He breezed past Cynthia and walked into the office over the assistants protests.

“You must be the new Director. We haven’t been introduced. Special Agent Tony Rossi. Now that we have that out of the way, what the hell is Ziva David doing on this team?”

“Agent Rossi. I’ve heard many things about you. I see some of them are true.” The Director smiled a smile that set Tony on edge. “Director Jennifer Shepard. And, Ziva is here because I want her here. She is a friend and I think NCIS would be good for her.”

“She’s a foreign agent that has no business having access to our secure information. There are times that we deal with National secrets and you or Gibbs cannot tell me that she won’t use that to her advantage.”

Tony wasn’t going to back down. He was not going to work on a team with a woman that could potentially use those secrets against them. Not to mention the dozens of Government rules that they were breaking even considering having her on the team.

“I trust Ziva with my life.”

“That doesn’t mean that it makes her a good agent. She is a trained Mossad assassin, she is not an investigator and is also not worthy to sit in Kate’s chair.”

“You are treading insubordination, Agent Rossi.” Director Shepard glared at Tony, who only stared back at her not letting her intimidate him.

“Do not underestimate me, Director Shepard. You obviously do not know who I am and what I’m capable of.” Tony dropped all pretenses. He was done with this whole situation and keeping any masks up would undermine his own strength. He had been through too much to let himself kowtow to Director Shepard.

“I think you need to leave my office before you say or do something that will get you thrown off your team.”

Tony stood tall and smiled at her before he turned around and marched right back down to his desk. As he was leaving he heard Shepard talking to Gibbs.

“Get your boy under control, Jethro. He’s no use to us if he throws these little temper tantrums....” Tony kept his cool as he continued down the stairs. Getting to his desk he grabbed his pack and some of this other belongings and set them on the top.

“Tony?” McGee looked toward him and frowned.

“I think I need to step away for a couple of days. Get my head together.”

“You do not want me here do you.” Ziva was sitting in Kate’s chair with her feet up on the desk and leaning back looking smug.

“Honestly? No I don’t. You’re not an investigator, you gave Ari the information on our team to break us down and look what happened. Gerald is hurt bad enough he may never be able to do his job again, Kate is dead, and you killed your own brother. There is no way that I would ever trust you. Not to mention the fact that you are a foreign agent. There is nothing that is okay about this situation.”

“Gibbs killed Ari.”

“Don’t bullshit me, David. I have a degree in Forensic science. I am far from stupid and can figure out bullet trajectory. You killed Ari after he went off the rez, which I think this whole thing was orchestrated by your own father. You don’t belong here and you will never fill Kate’s position.”

Tony grabbed his things and started for the elevator. His first stop was HR to put in a short leave of absence, then he was going to see if his father was home, or in his office at the BAU. He needed help and he was going to go as far up the food chain as he could get. This was intolerable to him.

“Rossi! Where the hell are you going?” Gibbs yelled as Tony started to step through the doors ot the elevator.

“HR, then to see my father.”

Gibbs ran over and into the elevator before the doors shut. When it stated to go down, Gibbs hit the stop button and turned on Tony.

“What the hell was that?”

“That was me speaking my mind and reminding the Director that we have fucking rules that we are supposed to follow. Or do the rules not apply to your fuck buddy up there.”

Gibbs’ eyes were comically wide as he stared at Tony.

“Didn’t take a genius to figure out there was something between you two. Are you going to go along with this, Gibbs?”

“I think Ziva would be good for this team.”

Tony’s laugh held no mirth as he leaned against the wall of the elevator.

“You know, I think you actually believe that bullshit. I had a feeling that this partnership was too good to last. It seems while my personal life I have stability, friends, family, my professional life I just keep getting shit kicked in my face. I thought maybe that this time I had found my place, but maybe I was wrong again. At least this time it was longer than two years.”

“Well, when you’re done with your temper tantrum, then maybe we can talk like partners.”

“Not as long as that woman is here.”

Tony hit the button to make the elevator move once more. He didn’t look back to see if Gibbs was following as he made his way to HR. He filed an indefinite leave of absence, as well as a formal complaint about Ziva being on the team, then made his way to his car. After peeling out of the parking garage, he dialed his father’s number.

“Hey, Kiddo. What’s going on?”

“Are you home? Because I really need to speak with you.”

“No, I’m at the office, but you’re welcome to come up. We are just doing paperwork.”

Tony laughed because there was nothing his father hated more than paperwork. Tony’s father being at the training base made things that much easier. He only had to drive across the base to get to his destination. He got a visitors pass easily, being on the same base often had its advantages.

Tony made it up to the sixth floor and went straight to his father’s office. Tony had met the team a handful of times when his father had several get togethers after his disastrous first few days. It had been hard for him to go back, but he had unfinished business he had wanted to complete. Tony could understand, but it made for some awkward days as Aaron was now his boss.

Spencer and Morgan had been surprises to Tony. He often hung out with them when they didn’t have cases. Tony and Morgan would often have a pick-up game here and there. Spencer liked movies, and he and Tony often went to film festivals together dragging Jackson and Spencer’s girlfriend Tara along with them.

Thankfully no one said anything to him as he made his way to his father’s office and shut the door behind him as he sat down.

“Okay, kiddo, spill.”

Tony sighed low and long as he took his time to find the words to tell his father what the hell was going on.

“The new Director of NCIS, a Jennifer Shepard and Gibbs have put Mossad Agent Ziva David on the MCRT team and I am uncomfortable with that.”

“Are they fucking stupid?”

“I put in for a leave of absence because I am not working in the same office as that woman. She has no business on the team. Homeland or CIA, sure I could see it, but not the MCRT. We have a lot of classified information that funnels through us when we are on cases. Come to find out she is some kind of friend of the Director’s.”

“What do you need, Son?” David stood up from his desk and walked around until he was leaning on the desktop in front of Tony.

“I don’t even know. I could call Morrow, but....”

“You don’t want to seem like you are ratting out your bosses.”

“It’s more than that, Dad.”

“You thought you had found your place, and for the last few years, you’ve been happy there. Now this person comes along after her brother begins to terrorize your team. I can understand that you might not want to continue working for a place that has screwed it’s own ethics. I don’t know what Morrow was thinking putting Shepard in charge.”

“You know her?”

“I know of her. I’ve kept some of my Military contacts and Gibbs and her have quite the reputation. Let me do some digging, why don’t you head on home, spend some time with Jackson and I’ll let you know what I’ve found.

“If you’re okay with it, I want to get Aaron involved. The man’s political contacts and inter agency ones rival even yours.”

Tony stood and started to pace. He had wanted to keep it low key, but if Aaron could help, he wasn’t above accepting.

“Sure, but keep it lowkey, Dad. I don’t want this to blow up into something huge before we know more.”

“Kid, you should know me by now.”

Tony laughed and hugged his Dad before he started to head out. As he left he talked to Aaron for a few minutes and he made tentative plans for dinner with him and his partner of the last few months, Tony’s own doctor, Doctor Brad Pitt. Tony was enjoying watching his friend open up since Jaspar and Aaron had broken up. Tony knew Jaspar didn’t truly understand just how badly he had hurt Aaron. It had taken a long time for the man to get over that relationship, to see him now working through and opening up again was good to see.

Instead of going to the house, Tony made his way to Grimes Tech. He thought maybe working in his office at the tech company might take his mind off of what was going on at NCIS.

_______________________________

“I’m sorry sir, that elevator is only for Mr. Grimes.” The security guard was new so Tony would cut him some slack, even though Tony was sporting his Grimes Tech badge and had an elevator key in his hand, it should have been obvious.

“Actually...” Tony looked at the guards badge to find his name, “Williams, it’s for any high level employee of Grimes Tech. Now, I don’t know how long you’ve been here..”

“A week. But I don’t see how that is your business.”

Tony was not having a good day and the guard was pissing him off.

“Did you actually read the handbook that was given to you upon your employment, Williams?”

The guard frowned as he crossed his arms.

“I skimmed it.”

Tony made a noise in the back of his throat and he wondered just where Security got this person.

“Okay, I’m going to make this really simple for you, if you don’t move out of my way, I will be calling your supervisor and telling them you need to go back to training. I’m not going to outright fire you, but with this attitude and the fact that you don’t know who the hell owns this company you’re certainly close to it. My badge is clearly visible to you, as is my elevator key. Now move.”

“Stephen! What the hell are you doing? Let Mr Rossi go. Now!”

“Trina, it’s good to see a friendly face.” Tony turned to the Grimes Tech head of security, Trina Nakagawa, and smiled. The woman had come highly recommended from Aaron when she wanted to switch careers from SWAT to the private sector. She loved law enforcement, but with a growing family it had been difficult to balance finances and wanting to provide for her children. Her husband had been hired on later in the R&D department and was doing exceptional work.

“Ma’am...”

“Don’t Ma’am me, Williams. I suggest you get your ass to the desk and read your handbook thoroughly, and don’t think I won’t question you on it later. This is Anthony Rossi, he owns 49 percent of Grimes Tech, you idiot.”

Williams’ face had turned ten shades of red and his head looked like it was going to explode from embarrassment.

“Thanks Tina. I’ll be up in my office for a few hours.”

“Have a good afternoon, Mr. Rossi.”

Tony had tried to get the woman to call him Tony, but her traditional Japanese upbringing, and her years in SWAT wouldn’t let her be anything but formal with her bosses. Tony had had to learn to deal with it.

He said his goodbyes to the woman who was full on reprimanding the new guard who looked completely cowed by the time the elevator doors were closing. It was another nail in the coffin of the epically bad day he was having.

Some time in his office working on some of his side projects sounded like the best thing in the world for him right now. When he had his head clearer, he would see what Jackson was doing, and maybe talking him into a night out somewhere.

Tony smiled at Jackson’s assistant, Mrs Murphy, who was technically Tony’s as well when he was there, but he rarely took advantage.

“Good Morning, Mr. Rossi. We didn’t expect to see you today.”

“Morning, Mrs. Murphy. I didn’t plan on it, but some things happened that I just need to clear my head.”

“I’ll have Bridget bring you some coffee and something to snack on. Would you like me to tell Mr. Grimes that you’re here?”

“Not quite yet. I need a couple of hours to settle.”

“Very good, Sir. You do have some messages regarding the Stylos project, and some suggestions form R&D on the next iteration of Genii.”

“Thank you. Just have Bridget leave the tray on the table in my office.”

Tony walked in, threw his things on the couch, shed his overcoat, and jacket then sat behind his desk. Looking around for a moment he shook his head and thought back to the day that Jackson showed the space to him. It had been important to Jackson that Tony had space in the company for all of his side projects, and anything that he and Jackson were developing together. Sometimes if he couldn’t sleep, he came in and would work on things to help settle his mind when he didn’t want to work on a cold case. He never felt overly stressed splitting his time between the company and NCIS. They were both important, and Tony had found a good balance between them.

Turning on his computer and pulling up the files he wanted to go over, Tony got lost in a different kind of puzzle and let the events at NCIS go for the time being. He could get lost in code, just as easily as he could get lost in a cold case, or his music.

Bridget had come in and set a tray down, then quickly left. Tony saw it was a sandwich, chips, a few raw vegetables, and some fruit. The coffee was a carafe and Tony fixed himself a cup and munched on some of the fruits and vegetables.

Back at his desk, Tony started to play around with a new video game he was tinkering with. As soon as he got the basic code laid out, he would give it to the entertainment division to do all of the finishing touches. It would come back to him to go over and approve. No game left Grimes Entertainment unpolished, or unfinished. That was Tony’s baby, which Jax indulged him on. It didn’t hurt that the video game sales accounted for almost thirty-five percent of the profit share of the company, and was only growing.

“Mrs M mentioned you were holed up in here. She said you looked liked hell and unfortunately, I have to agee. What happened, Tone?” Jackson stepped in the office and shut the door behind him before walking over to Tony and sitting on the edge of his desk. He reached out and gently cupped Tony’s cheek. Tony laid a hand over Jackson’s and took a deep sigh.

“You know, finding my parents was the first best thing that ever happened to me, then you came along and changed my whole world. I have amazing friends that have stood by me, and I’ve made more over the years. My personal life is better than I had ever hoped it could be.

“My professional life just keeps kicking me in the face and stomping all over me, and I am so fucking tired of it. I thought NCIS was going to be it for me. This was going to be the place I spent making an actual career out of. But, I guess this one wasn’t meant to be either.”

Jackson slid off the desk and straddled Tony’s lap. Cupping his cheeks, Jackson leaned forward and kissed Tony.

“Tell me, Tony.”

“New Director came in today and her first act was to place Ziva David on the team. Gibbs seems to be all in on this and I just can’t. Not when this woman is partially responsible for Kate’s death. Plus, a Mossad agent has absolutely no business on this team. I just don’t know my place anymore, Jax.”

“What are you doing about it?”

“Dad is looking into things for me. I took a leave of absence. I just can’t be there right now.”

“Why don’t we take a trip. I want to take you to somewhere warm and tropical. Somewhere I can keep you naked and have my way with you. We can look at some properties, maybe think of a nice vacation spot.”

“Oh, really?”

“Jamaica, Antigua Bay, maybe something on the Amalfi coast, something like that.”

“Italy would be wonderful to have something to vacation at. You put it together, and I’m there.”

“We can leave Friday, and I don’t have anything urgent. Cicely is more than capable of running the company, and if something comes up, I can video conference.”

Tony wrapped around Jackson and laid his head against his chest.

“I love you, Jax.”

“Oh, Tone. I love you more than I can ever put into words.” Jax kissed Tony’s head. “Aaron called and said he wanted dinner with us. I can cancel if you want to.”

“No. No I think it would be fun. We had made tentative plans when I went to see my Father. It sounds just like just the thing I need.”

___________________

The small villa Jackson had found off the Amalfi coast was understated old world elegance. There were things that needed fixing, but they could do that over time. What Tony loved was the privacy and how close they were to the beach without being right up against it.

Tony stretched out on the bed, a warm breeze blew in through the open windows and made him moan in pleasure. The hand on his back caressing him had him turning to look at Jackson who was now awake.

“You look better. Frankly I was getting worried there for a while and I didn’t know how to help you. You know I’ll support whatever it is you want to do, Tony.”

Tony turned over on his side and reached out to skim his hand down Jackson’s side.

“I don’t want to talk about NCIS or Grimes Tech, or any of that. I want us to take this time for us. I want to fuck, eat too much, spend too much money, and not think about anything.” Tony crawled over and pushed Jackson onto his back, Tony then straddled his hips. “Let’s have fun. We haven’t had a real vacation in a while and I think we deserve it.”

Jackson’s hands were wrapped around Tony’s waist and held him right where he wanted him.

“I can get behind all of that. Especially the fucking. We need to do lots of that.”

Tony smiled and shook his head slowly at his lover.

“You’re terrible.”

“I would be terrible if I did this,” Jackson used his strength from his workouts with Aaron to flip them over with Tony under him and had him bent in half. Tony was still loose from the night before that with just some lube, Jackson slipped inside of him.

“Fuck, Jax. I never get tired of you doing that, you know?”

“Oh, I know. You love my cock in that gorgeous ass of yours.” Jackson looked smug as he thrust in slowly letting Tony feel every inch. They made love, slow and lazy as the the morning breeze flowed through the windows, kissing Tony’s skin with it’s warmth. The orgasm was almost inconsequential, it was the intimacy, the love that Jackson gave Tony when they had sex. Sometimes they would just lie in bed touching, kissing, and enjoying the intimacy they gave each other, the sex was an afterthought.

Other times they both enjoyed a good hard fucking, or sex that was slow and took time to build. They loved each other and Tony never wanted to know a day without Jackson by his side. He knew if he ever lost Jax, who was the very heart of him, that Tony wouldn’t survive.

“You are the very heart of me, Jackson.” Tony reached up to cup Jackson’s cheek as he bent over Tony, kissing him keeping up that slow slide of his cock in and out of Tony.

“Tone...and you are the heart and soul of me. I wouldn’t make it in this world without you. You’re my reason to go on.”

Tony surged up feeling the swell of his cock as Jackson stimulated his prostate, bringing the both of them closer to release. Tony never wanted to know a day without Jackson’s touch, or taste. Tony shuddered as the orgasm gently rolled through him. He held on knowing Jackson would soon follow.

The kisses they shared told each other what it was sometimes difficult to say with words what they felt for each other. Jackson pulled out and rolled onto his back, pulling Tony close so his head lay on the crook of Jackson’s shoulder. They wrapped around each other, gently touching, trading lazy kisses.

“I think we should go take a shower and get something to eat.”

“Mmm, what if I just want to laze in bed.”

“It sounds nice, Jax, but I’m hungry, and I need coffee.”

Jackson laughed as he finally let Tony up off the bed. They took a quick shower and Tony pulled on some soft linen pants and a loose cotton button up that was well suited for the area. Tony made his way to the kitchen to pull things from the refrigerator to cook breakfast after getting a pot of stovetop espresso started. By the time Tony had his second cup of coffee and they were done eating he felt invigorated and not as tired as he had been feeling since Kate’s death. He looked over at Jackson and felt that swell of love in his heart for the man that stood by all of his ups and downs in his adult life.

“I’m sorry I’ve worried you, Jax.”

“Tony, babe, there is nothing you need to apologize for. I know you’ve been grieving. You cared a lot for Kate after the hospital. We’ve both had a time of it.” Jackson reached over and gently brushed a thumb under Tony’s eye. “Those shadows you’ve been carrying aren’t as deep. I will always give you what you need, you know that.”

“I do, Jax. I know I’ve worried you, but I promise, I’m fine.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here and you show me your Italy.”

Tony smiled because he wanted nothing more than to share this part of his life with Jackson. Italy was a part of who Tony was. Summer spent here with his Grandparents and parents were some of Tony’s best memories. To finally be able to share it with Jackson was a dream finally come true for Tony. Taking Jackson’s hand they left the villa ready to explore together.

___________________

Three weeks in Italy had been the ticket. Tony felt better than he had in months. Getting home, the first thing he wanted to do was go see his parents. They purposefully came back on a Saturday so that Tony didn’t have to miss another Sunday dinner. Walking in the door Tony smiled when he saw Aaron and Dr. Brad kissing as he and Jax stepped through the door.

“So, I take it you two are official.” Tony smiled wickedly as he watched Aaron blush as Brad pulled away.

“Yes, and as my patient I think it is in your best interest to not say one word.”

Tony laughed as he walked over and gripped the shoulders of both men.

“I’m happy for you both. You each deserve it. Now, where’s my Mom and Dad?”

“In the kitchen.”

Tony left Jackson with Aaron and Brad and made his way to the kitchen.

“Hey Mom, Dad, how’s it going?”

Dave looked up from the pot he was in the middle of stirring and smiled.

“Son, glad you’re home. Come here.” Tony walked over and gave his Dad a hug, then turned and gave his Mom one as well as a kiss on the cheek.

“Baby, you look so much better. The trip did you a world of good.”

“Yes, it did. I feel better than I have for a long time.”

“Good. Now, why don’t you go wait for lunch. We’ll catch up later.”

“Okay.” Tony left the kitchen and wandered the house until he found his partner who was in the front living room with some of the others who had arrived just after Tony and Jax, most notably Spencer and Tara.

“Hey, I didn’t know you guys were coming.”

“We just got here. Dad isn’t coming though, he said he was going to the Audubon Museum. They had some new bird paintings come in and Dad was getting his usual private viewing.” Tara leaned into Spencer who had his arm around her, pulling her close. Tony knew they had been dating for a few months now, and it looked like it was going well.

“Youe Dad and birds.”

“I know, right? Why can’t he like something cool, like basketball or trains or even movies.” Tara rolled her eyes as she laid her head against Spencer’s shoulder.

Tony laughed a genuine laugh and it felt so good. He felt more settled than he had in too long a time. Thomas showed up with someone new and Jaspar for once came alone. Tony loved his family, and had lost sight of what was truly important in his life. What he told Gibbs was true. He didn’t need NCIS. He had loved his job. He had even loved working with Gibbs, but things had taken a turn and after spending time alone with Jax for the last three weeks, Tony was centered again. He looked around the table as food was being served and smiled. If he quit, it wouldn’t break him like he thought it would. He could actually walk away from NCIS, do something else, maybe delve into his Grimes projects on a more permanent basis. Officially run the games division. Tony had options and knew he could be happy with any of them.

Tony was deep in thought and didn’t notice when his lover stood, but he heard the clinking of a glass and looked up. He frowned at Jax not knowing what the man was going to do.

“For the last ten years of my life the man next to me has been more than my boyfriend, more than a lover, he has been my rock and my biggest supporter. He helped me build my company to what it is today. He is generous, kind, and gives me the kind of love I never thought I would find. I figured, back when I was in college after getting my first Doctorate, that I would become a workaholic and have a string of lovers that satisfied me just enough.

“But, the day that I met Tony at a random college party was the day my life changed. We have been partners in everything that we are and everything we do. We support each other, and I try my hardest to give him back everything he gives to me.

“It’s been announced that Canada in the coming weeks is legalizing same-sex marriage. I know that it won’t be the same here, but..” Jax smiled at Tony as he got down on one knee and pulled out a small box. He opened it and Tony looked to see that it was a companion ring to the one he already wore. “I would still like to ask you, Anthony James Rossi, will you marry me?”

Tony looked at Jackson shocked as his heart raced and his eyes filled with tears. He didn’t even hesitate with his answer.

“Yes. Yes, Jax I will marry you.”

Jax put the ring on Tony’s finger, it nestled perfectly against his older one, then Jax kissed him with all of the love he had for Tony. The table broke out in cheers and congratulations, but Tony only had eyes for Jackson. He would finally marry the love of his life.

Chapter Text

The investigation into Director Shepard, Ziva David, and the things going on behind the back of SecNav and SecDef had made shock waves through the lettered agencies. Aaron and David had found out that Ziva had planned on funneling information to her lover, Michael Rivken. Director Shepard was going to let her as long as Eli David supplied her with information that led back to someone Shepard assumed had killed her father, Colonel Jaspar Shepard. She had believed a man going by the name Le Grenouille had killed him because he refused a bribe. In truth, Jaspar Shepard killed himself when he found out he had a terminal illness. The same terminal illness that Director Shepard had been diagnosed with and was keeping it quiet. She had been in remission, but there was no telling when or if the disease would come back.

The investigation took six months, and Tony was told to stay out of it. He spent most of that time at Grimes working on the games division and the new iteration of Genii. He itched to be in on everything, but SecNav made it very clear to him that he needed to stay out.

By the time the investigation was complete, there were more than a few heads that were rolling. Major General Jack O’Neill came in and took over the role of SecDef. He fired Shepard and had David moved to another agency where her skills would be more useful and she would be watched more carefully. Since she had not actually committed any acts of espionage, yet, she was given some leeway. All though there were consequences for her killing a foreign agent on American soil, but Tony didn’t want to think about what those were.

Gibbs was given a choice, counselling with a leave of absence or semi-retirement where he would teach classes at FLETC. Grudgingly Gibbs took counselling, which if SecDef felt comfortable letting him back into NCIS, would be given a new team.

With Gibbs on leave, Tony was given the MCRT and carte blanche to make the team as good as they had always been. He hired Tara to take Kate’s spot. She had the investigation background, went through FLETC, and had degrees in Psychology, Criminology, and Forensics. She even knew her way around a computer because Tony and Jax had taught her everything they knew.

McGee chafed at first knowing he wasn’t quite as special as he thought he was. Finding out that Tony was responsible not only for his favorite OS, but a few of his favorite video games had rocked McGee’s world a little. But, in time he came around and things smoothed out. Tony was grooming him for SFA one day.

A new director had been chosen and at first it was going to be offered to Assistant Director Leon Vance, but his connection to Eli David made that choice void. SecDef did not want someone with such strong ties to Israel in the seat of a sensitive investigative arm of the Military. When the Director of JAG had been appointed the job, Tony was actually ecstatic. He liked Rear Admiral Chegwidden, and Tony felt comfortable with him as his boss. In other words, Tony was beginning to like his job again.

“Tell me, probie, why do you think you would make a good investigator on my team.”

Tony was eyeing the interviewee up and down and tried not to smile too much. Dorney, as Tony called him, looked as awkward as ever, but Tony wanted him to find some confidence in himself.

“Tony, do we really have to do this?” Dorney almost whined while his hands twisted together.

Tony thought about teasing the man a little more, but even he could feel the anxiety coming from Dorney. Tony already knew the man was a good investigator, and smarter than he typically projected.

“Nah. I’m just teasing. I want you for this team. Tara took Kate’s place, McGee is in training for SFA, so I need his spot filled. You’ve impressed me, Dorney. I like you. But, we gotta work on your confidence, man. If you’re gonna be in the field, you’ve gotta act like you have the authority to be there.”

Dorney looked at Tony like he had just given him the world. Tony chuckled and leaned forward towards the younger man.

“You’re better than you believe you are, and by God man, I will make sure you know it.”

Dorney smiled and appeared to relax against the chair he was in.

“Thanks, Tony. For believing in me.”

“Believing in you is easy. The hard part is you believing in yourself.”

Tony stood and gripped Dorney’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before smiling at him and leaving the conference room knowing the younger man was going to follow him.

“That’s your desk.” Tony pointed out McGee’s old desk and Dorney sat down still looking a little stunned. Tony would give him a few moments to settle. Pushing him at the moment could break him and Tony didn’t want a broken Dorney.

“Hey, Boss.” Tara looked up and smiled at Tony as he came towards his desk.

“Keep working the files I gave you. Give me your conclusions when I get back. Then hand those files to McGee. Dorney, you’ll get it after McGee.”

“What am I looking for, Tony?” McGee asked as frowned.

“This is an exercise, McGee. I’m not going to tell you what you need to look for. You’re going to tell me, in detail what you would do, who you would talk to and what your conclusions are. These four files have the same bare bones information that Gibbs and I had when we got the cases.”

McGee still looked perplexed, but Tony wasn’t going to give him more explanations. He had already been with the team long enough he should be able to figure this out. Grabbing his coffee, Tony went down to see Abby. This was going to be the hardest part of being the boss.

Chegwidden had been appalled at the lax conditions in the lab and how much leeway Gibbs had given the forensic scientist. Tony was going to have to be boss and bad guy and speak with her. She was also going to have to learn to prioritize cases in terms of when she got the evidence and urgency. The other teams kept grumbling that they weren’t getting their results as fast as the MCRT and how Abby played favorites.Tony knew that had to stop, and it had to stop now.

Walking off the elevator, Tony was tempted to side-step and go see Ducky first. He knew the ME could give him advice on how to handle Abby, but Tony stopped and took a deep breath. He could do this, He could be the one in charge. He did it at Grimes Tech all of the time and he was more than chummy with many of the guys in the Games division as well as those working on the main OS that was in almost all Grimes Tech devices. He pulled that Tony around him, stood tall, squared his shoulders and walked into the lab.

First thing he did was turn down Abby’s music. Second thing he did was pull on a pair of gloves and double checked to make sure the items Abby had laid out on the evidence table were still properly bagged and tagged, and that they were all for one single case, and not multiple cases like she was sometimes wont to do.

“Hey!” Abby whirled around and frowned when she saw what Tony was doing. “What are you doing?”

“Making sure all of this evidence is still properly bagged and tagged, and that you are working on one case at a time, and you don’t have items from multiple cases strewn about.”

Abby walked over, no gloves on her hands, and crossed her arms over her chest.

“I am always careful, Tony.” The indignant tone in Abby’s voice had Tony sighing. He knew she was still grieving Kate’s death, the two of them had become rather close, but he was going to nip this attitude in the bud.

“No, Abby. You are not always careful. You don’t wear your hair in a proper covering, you don’t always wear proper gloves. We are constantly having to rule your finger prints out. You keep drinks near sensitive equipment, and you blast music so loud that if someone were to come down and tamper with evidence, you’d never realize it.

“I’ve been ordered by Chegwidden, and I agree, that this has got to change. You can have your music, but it needs to be turned down so you are more aware of what is going on around you. Also, proper hair covering, appropriate gloves, and professional attire. Your goth look is okay for when you are off duty, but on duty, you need to wear clothes, and shoes that are more suited for a professional forensic lab.

“Jeans and t-shirts are fine, as are skirts and dresses. Shoes that are more appropriate, tennis shoes, close toed flat boots, close toed flats are all acceptable. You’re six to eight inch Doc Martin boots are not. You could get hurt in those. I know you haven’t, but they are a possible hazard in a lab with as much running around as you do.

“There are times your dress has bordered on too casual. While, I do care about you Abbs, these are things that have always concerned me.”

Abby pushed her bottom lip out and looked like she was going to protest. Tony held up a hand indicating he wasn’t finished.

“Also, as far as bribing you with Caf-Pow, that is going to stop. You are going to start prioritizing cases properly. Unless myself, Chegwidden, or one of the other Team Leads indicate an urgency, or a matter of national security, you will adopt a first in/first out rule. I’m tired of hearing the other leads bitch about how you play favorites with the MCRT and ignore their requests.

“You will get an assistant. This office produces too much for you to handle it by yourself. Chegwidden has already put in a request for more equipment and another lab will be set-up in the empty space that’s on the other side of your lab.”

Abby’s eyes almost popped out of her head, and Tony could see her visibly breathing heavy.

“But, Tony! I”m the best and you know it. I can do it by myself.”

“No, Abby. You really can’t. And you forget, I’m a Forensic Scientist myself, and even I couldn’t keep up with this case load. Two labs, four techs. That is what I recommended based on information I’ve gathered from the other Team Leads.

“Also, food and drinks will need to be contained to your office, and your office will be restructured to accomodate a second technician. If you want drinks out here, they need to be in a heavy spill proof container, and set up away from equipment and evidence.”

“Why are you doing this, Tony? You know when Gibbs gets back....”

“He will have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Chegwidden has made that abundantly clear. While Morrow was a hands off kind of leader unless things got messy, Chegwidden is far from that. He runs a tight ship, Abbs. If you have any problems with this you can file a formal complaint, but I can guarantee it will get you nowhere. These rules are in place for a reason and we’ve been incredibly lucky that a stray hair, stray skin cells, foreign food, or spilled drinks haven’t gotten into the evidence. As careful as you are, no one is perfect and it takes just one mistake to question all of our work.”

Abby looked livid and Tony had to not react. He knew she was going to push boundaries to see how much she could get away with.

“And what if I don’t comply?”

Tony slid his hands in the pockets of his pants and tilted his head to the side. He waited a few beats before he spoke once more.

“For every violation you will receive a formal reprimand. After three reprimands, you will be put on probation with a 20% pay penalty, and your closure bonus will be suspended. If you continue to violate these rules, you will either be transferred out of NCIS, or fired.”

The shock on Abby’s face and the sudden tears that sprang in her eyes had Tony deep down inside wanting to go to her to hug her and tell her everything was going to be all right, but the boss part of him had to stay strong. He has had this talk with some of the R&D techs at Grimes when they became slack in the rules, but Jackson and himself had those rules in place for a reason.

“But, Tony! You can’t let them do that!”

“Abby, if A2LA came in today to recertify this lab, we would fail . We cannot afford to fail our accreditation. You have been told previously to read the ISO 17025 and ISO 17020 regulations and agree and adhere to them. We were lucky the first time to get five year certification. Do you understand the seriousness of the possible violations in this lab? Our review comes up in six months. These changes will happen whether you agree or not. So, I’m warning you to get yourself together.

“In fact, I am going to put together a test. I will give you 1 week to read the regulations of the accreditations. If, and only if, you can pass my test will I not write up an informal review of the current status of this lab.”

Abby stood there open mouthed and looked like she was, again, going to start crying. Tony knew he couldn’t be affected. He had to be the boss here, not her friend. It broke Tony’s heart a little that Abby was being stubborn and didn’t understand why he was being so hard on her, but he knew she was incredibly smart and needed to get her act together.

“Also, Chegwidden is bringing in a separate computer and electronics expert to handle all of the computer, internet, and electronics issues we get. Hold on,” Tony held up his hand and waited for the protest to die before he spoke again. “Your time is valuable. You spend too much time on the computer and electronics stuff and not enough on the physical evidence, which is your specialty. I get you like it, but we need to seperate the duties. That will be part of the second lab that we set up, and all electronics and computers will be handled in a more controlled environment with proper accreditation as well. Now, this is all I’m going to say about this. Read up on your regulations and be prepared. I am only going to give you one chance, Abbs. If you really love this job as much as you claim you do, you will comply.”

Tony turned on his heel and walked out of Abby’s lab. A part of him knew this was no different than how R&D and other parts of Grimes tech was handled, but this was Abby. She had become a good friend, but Tony was now having to be the boss he is at Grimes and it hurt just a little. But, the blame for most of Abby’s issues could be laid at Gibbs feet. Tony knew he was going to have to shake off the small bit of guilt he was feeling, but if it makes Abby a better forensic scientist, and her lab was impeccable, there would be no future issues with questionably handled evidence.

The quick talk he had with Ducky went much better. Ducky’s boss was directly Chegwidden, but he had wanted Tony to convey a few things to the ME. Which wasn’t much. When he got back to his desk there was at least one write up and when he looked at McGee the man was head down and going over the case files with a pad for notes at his side. Tony smiled to himself then sat at his desk and got to work with some cold cases. They would get back in the field when Tony felt comfortable that everyone knew exactly what they were doing and not a moment before.

__________________________________

 

“Hey babe, why don’t I cook for you tonight? You look wrecked.” Jackson was lying on the couch with Tony sprawled over him like an octopus. He needed the grounding Jackson gave him after his more difficult days. Talking with Abby, getting McGee in line, and having Tara replace Kate, while all these were good things, they were stressful as hell. He was nervous about the next day and the talk with Chegwidden on how his team was shaping up.

“You don’t have to. We could order in, be indulgent.” Frankly, Tony didn’t want to move and Jackson made the best bed.

Jackson softly chuckled and Tony felt fingers in his hair, nails scratched over his scalp and Tony let out another sigh. It felt amazing and slowly Tony was letting the stress of the day go.

“I want to, Tony. Besides, I have a recipe Jaspar gave me and I want to make if for you. But, it’s a surprise.”

Tony lifted his head to look at his partner. Smiling he leaned up and kissed Jackson before rolling off him and letting him sit up.

“All right. I think I’ll go work on some code. I have an idea for a new game and I want to get started on the outline.”

“I’ll call you to dinner once I’m done.”

Tony was suspicious, but he would let Jax have his surprise. Tony usually didn’t give Jax a chance to cook as much and this felt like a good night to let him. Tony sometimes forgot that Jackson liked to pamper him as much as he liked to pamper Jackson. He looked at the rings on his hand and smiled, the reminder of how much they loved each other. They planned to go to Canada in the summer with family and friends to get married. Tony was looking forward to it, and NCIS wasn’t bound by DADT. They served the men and women of the Military, but they were not part of the military. NCIS was considered a civilian organization. Tony had already looked into all of the regulations and talked it over with Chegwidden. He didn’t really care one way or another. He just told Tony that he wanted a good investigator, he didn’t care who Tony slept with.

Settling down at his desk in his office he got lost in the new game he wanted to develop. This was a different kind of fun for him. Just like Jackson’s wacky inventions were a way for him to relieve the stress of running a multi-million dollar tech company.

“Hey, dinner’s ready.”

Tony looked up and the look of love on Jax’s face had Tony’s heart tumbling in his chest. That look never ceased to amaze him. They may fight and disagree, but they always ended up talking about what was wrong. Tony stood and before Jax could walk away, he pulled the man into his arms and held him.

“I love you.”

Jackson smiled and cupped Tony’s face with his hands. A soft sigh escaped as he kissed Tony.

“I love you so much, Tony.” Jackson let Tony’s face go, then he took Tony’s hand and pulled him towards the kitchen.

There in the middle of the table was a gorgeous dish of muscles, a bowl of homemade tagliatelle, a fresh spring salad, and some of the homemade garlic bread Tony would make up and freeze.

“Oh my god, this looks amazing.” Tony felt the biggest grin on his face. His lover had been paying attention in the kitchen.

“The muscles are in a Tomato and garlic sauce. I added some chili flakes to make it a little spicy.”

“Babe, I am impressed.” Tony sat and began to plate up some of the food. The mussles over the pasta was so good that Tony was making little noises as the flavors burst onto his tongue. The salad was a good refreshing salad and the chilled chardonnay went perfectly with the whole meal. “This is absolutely delicious.”

The two of them talked about their day while they ate their dinner. After they were done, Jackson had more surprises in store for Tony that night. First was an indulgent bubble bath, then a massage, and finally cuddling up in their bed watching some cheesy b movies that made Tony laugh. The stress of the day fell away from him slowly and when he slipped easily into sleep, Tony promised himself he was going to plan something special for Jax. The man had been more than patient during the whole craziness of the investigation and the upheaval at NCIS. It made Tony fall in love that much more.

_____________

A couple of days passed and Tony was angsting a little over Gibbs and what was happening with his former boss.

“Why don’t you just go talk to him, Tony? I’ve never not wanted you to have a friendship with him.”

“I know. I just...I don’t know if he’ll see me, Jax.”

“You won’t know until you try. Here, some porterhouse steaks, eggplant for grilling, and some of those red potatoes you like.” Jackson handed Tony the bag he had been holding. “And this is some beers. Go have dinner with him and air this all out. I know you, if you don’t you are going to keep feeling this guilt and it’s going to eat away at you.”

Tony took both bags and shook his head.

“You know me too well, Jackson Grimes.”

“That’s because I pay attention. Now go.” Jax practically pushed Tony out the door. Getting in his car Tony drove to Gibbs’ house almost by rote. He had spent many a night at the man’s house over the years. Sometimes alone, sometimes with Jackson. Tony was grateful that Jax knew he needed to do this on his own. Gibbs had been important to him and Tony assumed it was reciprocal, but with what had happened in the last few months there was the possibility that their relationship was now fractured beyond repair.

Tony parked just outside of Gibbs house then gathered the bags of food and beer after climbing out. Standing there for a moment, Tony had to take the time to settle his emotions before he stepped forward and moved towards the front door that was unlocked as usual. Stepping in Tony knew Gibbs was down in the basement, the front of the house was empty, but there was evidence that Gibbs was home.

Tony went to the kitchen and set everything down on the counter, pulling the steaks out he laid them out and seasoned them, then he set the eggplant out on a long baking sheet, salted them and let them hang out. He wanted to draw out as much of the acid from them as possible. The dessert he had stopped for he put in the mostly empty fridge, as well as the beers. Tony sighed and knew Gibbs was back to his mostly liquid diet. Tony had no idea what kind of mood he was going to be in, so he grabbed two beer bottles, popped off the caps and made his way downstairs.

There wasn’t anything said at first on either man’s part as Tony set a beer on the workspace where a bottle of cheap whiskey sat.

“Heard ‘ya upstairs.”

“Brought food. I see you’re back to a liquid diet.” Tony glared. He wasn’t going to sugarcoat the fact that Gibbs had not only hurt him by choosing Ziva, but that he had let him down as well.

“Don’t see that as any of your business.” Gibbs stopped sanding the newest boat he was working on and stood up. Tony watched as he eyed the beer and went right for it.

“It is my business when I see someone I care about spiralling. I take it you aren’t going to those counselling sessions.”

The hard set to Gibbs’ jaw broke something in Tony. He never imagined that they would be at odds with each other like they currently were.

“I’m going. Got no choice if I want back. Chegwidden made that abundantly clear.” Gibbs’ tone of voice matched his physical demeanor.

“Gibbs, you have to know that I only wanted what was best for the team.” Gibbs started to say something, but the look on his face had Tony’s back up and he held his hand up gesturing for Gibbs to just wait a damn minute. “Don’t. There is nothing you can say that will make what you were going to do right. David had you so twisted around that you could not see what she was doing. And, your former lover as head of NCIS was just a whole lot of conflict of interest. Her connection to David should have made Shepard immediately suspect, but you chose, Gibbs. You chose her and you chose David.”

Tony knew he had been angry and his feelings had been simmering, but he had not understood until now just how angry he was. The hurt and pain he felt came out in every word he spoke and by the look on Gibbs face when he was done, his former boss appeared to understand.

“Rossi,” Gibbs growled as he slammed the beer bottle on the work space counter. “Jenny had her reasons and you condemned David before even working with her.”

“Because she’s a fucking spy!” Tony almost but not quite yelled. He was frustrated already and knew he needed to take a deep breath to keep his rising temper in check. “You don’t put a goddamned foreign spy in an Agency that deals with the American military! It goes against all protocols. NCIS deals with too many national secrets. Can you imagine if that information got into the hands of another international spy agency? Gibbs, get your head out of your ass and look at this objectively.”

Gibbs marched towards Tony and had him backed against a wall. The look on Gibbs face didn’t have Tony afraid for himself, he was afraid of Gibbs own mental stability.

“I was looking at this objectively, maybe you are the one that was seeing something that wasn’t there.”

“Jesus fucking christ Gibbs. Did you even read the report? David was going to pass information to dear old Daddy, and Shepard was going to let her. Shepard was on a personal mission that had nothing to do with NCIS and everything to do with her own ego and revenge.”

Gibbs stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest glaring at Tony. The two of them had never come near blows before. There was more going on here than just Gibbs over inflated ego and need to always be right.

“Why are you so invested in this?”

Gibbs backed away and started to pace. When he said nothing Tony knew this was a lost cause. He lost his friend, partner, and boss all at once and it hurt more than he was willing to admit. He refused to let the tears that gathered in his eyes fall as the silence stretched on.

“Fine. This was a mistake. There’s food upstairs if you care to eat. Or, if you just want to get drunk and act like a miserable asshole then that is you prerogative. I’m not here to try to fix you. I came to see if there was anything left of the friendship I thought we had. Guess I was wrong once more.” Tony turned away and started up the stairs. Gibbs was silent and every step Tony took hurt. He was at the doorway at the top of the stairs when Gibbs finally spoke.

“Did you always want the team?” The bitter tone in Gibbs voice had Tony’s shoulder slumping. He took a moment, rolled his shoulders before standing back up and turning to look down the stairs at his former boss.

“No, Gibbs. I was happy with the team. Kate was becoming a better investigator, McGee started to do well in the field and we were gelling. Kate dying...” Tony choked a moment before he sucked in a breath and started again. “Kate dying broke something in all of us. You don’t want to accept that Ziva was partially responsible for her death. You also don’t want to admit that she killed her own brother, all to please her father. She isn’t an asset, Gibbs. She played us, but you most of all.

“Did I want the team? No. No I was happy being your SFA. I would have continued being happy to be your SFA, but I could not in all conscious do it with David on the team. Frankly, I don’t need NCIS. I have projects at Grimes that keep me intellectually stimulated. But it isn’t this. NCIS fulfills a need. A need to walk in my father’s footsteps, as well as being able to help people and give them some justice.

“I would have been happy, but I have to step up now and be the team leader. It isn’t what I wanted, but it's what’s needed. And I always put the needs of the team above myself. Which is something you lost along the way. Your need to be this father figure to surrogate daughters has clouded your judgement. Get you head out of you ass, Gibbs. Go to counseling to figure out why you can’t let this go and what you are really angry at. Until you do, until you see that what was happening on the team was wrong, I can’t be around you.”

Tony said nothing else as he walked through the door and out to his car. He almost collapsed in the driver’s seat and hung his head for a moment. He wanted to go home and drown his sorrows in a good bottle of bourbon, but he knew that wouldn’t solve anything. He also couldn’t take this anger and sadness home to Jackson. While his lover would understand, it wasn’t what Tony needed at the moment. What he needed was his father. Taking his phone out of his pocket, he dialed his father hoping that he was home. Tony almost let out a sob of relief when his father answered.

“Hey Dad. I need...I need to come over.”

“Anytime, Son. Anytime.”

Tony choked up and couldn’t speak, but his father understood, he always had and as Tony started the car he wondered if he and Gibbs would ever be able to be friends again.