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December 22nd: Romance in the Cereal Aisle

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Tony rounded the end of the aisle heading to find a cereal that both he and TJ and maybe more importantly Rossi could agree on for breakfast. They’d agreed to something healthier for during the week, and Saturday morning would be something more fun, which for a child meant sugarier. They’d decided on Holiday Rice Krispies for during the week and the Cap’n Crunch Sprinkled Doughnut cereal for Saturday. Nabbing the Rice Krispies and a box of the Strawberry Honey Bunches of Oats for himself, Tony headed toward the Cap’n Crunch for TJ and a box of Fruity Pebbles for his own Saturday AM treat when he realized someone was standing in front of the Cap’n Crunch that looked familiar. Pausing, he let his basket that already held some berries, bananas and some sirloin steak for the stroganoff he was making for dinner that evening.

The man was roughly Tony’s height with dark hair that had begun to grey. From his haircut style and the way the man held himself, Tony guessed that he had some kind of former military background. The gentleman was picking a box of Cap’n Crunch Berries off the shelf and tossing it in his own basket next to the Fruit Loops when Tony realized who it was. He couldn’t help the surge of attraction that flooded his body or the smile that crossed his face.

“I see your taste in cereal hasn’t changed over the years, Captain O’Neill,” Tony offered as he headed toward the cereal that he’d promised TJ.

“That’s Lt. Colonel O’Neill,” the other man corrected as he straightened and frowned at Tony, and seemed to be studying him. Tony figured it was only fair since he’d done his share of it already himself. Grinning, Tony reached around the former Captain Jack O’Neill, apparently now Lt. Colonel Jack O’Neill, and was just putting TJ’s cereal and his own in his basket when he saw the spark of recognition flash across Jack’s face.

“Looks like you’re not one to talk, Tony,” Jack said smirking as he looked to the boxes with a raised eyebrow.

“Some of these are for my son,” Tony offered in reply as he settled his basket more comfortably in his grip. “Doing the single dad thing these days.”

“You too, huh?” Jack asked, and Tony noticed that his smile had a melancholy hint to it.

“You and that girl of yours got back together then I take it?” Tony asked, never forgetting one of the reasons why their long weekend fling hadn’t shifted into something more substantial.

“For a while,” Jack threw out quietly as he seemed to make a decision. “In the end, it might have been better if we’d just let things die, except then I wouldn’t have Charlie. So, while it might not have been the best decision I ever made, I can’t regret it. I’ll be honest though and say that aside from Charlie I wish sometimes that I’d made another choice that day.”

“You weren’t the only one with hard choices to make, Jack,” Tony reminded his former lover. “I might have been in a different place in my life, but I wasn’t any more prepared for what a relationship between us would have meant. No matter what I wanted to believe at the time. There’s not a lot of things that I regret in my life. It’s just too short for most of that crap but calling you a coward is at the top of the list. Not just because I ended up spending more than a decade at NCIS. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue had just gone into effect, and neither the college locker rooms that I spent so much time in or the PD’s I ended up in were ready for an openly gay man amongst their ranks. So, I’m sorry. I know it’s overdue, but…”

Jack waved a hand in the air. “You were in that weird, not a kid anymore, but not completely a man either period on your life, and it was an emotional moment. I’d already been in the Marines for almost a decade by that time. Trust me when I say they don’t leave much room for immaturity.”

“I’m aware,” Tony offered smiling big, “maybe the fates had plans of their own.”

“Oh?” Jack asked shifting, and Tony noticed that the older man was closer than he’d started out but didn’t know which of them had moved.

“My direct supervisor at NCIS was a retired Gunnery Sergent,” Tony informed trying not to think too much about Gibbs. “Marine sniper. So, needless to say, I understand military life and a Marine’s mindset much better now than I did then.”

“Wait? Gibbs?” Jack asked thinking of the old buddy that he had plans to meet up with soon.

Tony lifted an eyebrow and gave a hesitant nod. “Yeah, you know him?”

It was Jack’s turn to offer a smile and a nod as he answered. “We’re meeting this weekend for a drink to catch up. Small world.”

“You might not want to mention you know me,” Tony warned quietly, “Or you can, I guess.”

“Selfishly, I guess I’d rather you not because I am sure you won’t hear anything positive from him about me. He’s not my biggest fan at the moment.”

“The Gibbs I knew was a good man,” Jack threw out somewhat stiffly, and Tony just barely held in a sigh.

“The Gibbs I first met was a good man, too,” Tony shot back a tad too much defensively, and he forced himself to calm down before continuing. “I suppose most would say he still is. He’s just not happy I got fed up with some things and left. There was a time that his happiness and opinion of me meant a lot, but I guess I’ve moved beyond that.

If I continue to be selfish, I’ll say that you’ve been the one who got away for the last 20 years, Jack. I kinda feel like there’s some sign to this meeting of ours. Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing matchmaker lately and wouldn’t argue to someone for myself. Perhaps the Fates knew that it wasn’t time for us 20 years ago, and maybe everything between then and now was to prepare us to become well… us. Hell, maybe the early fall outside is making me melancholy. Ignore me. I’m being too sentimental for the cereal aisle.”

“The cereal aisle is all about sentimentality,” Jack shot back quickly and huffed. “For what it’s worth, you’re not the only one who has been longing. Look, this weekend is pretty full for me. I’d like… Yeah, I’d like to see if your theory about the Fates is true. Next weekend?”

“I’d like that a lot,” Tony said taking a deep breath and went through the process of exchanging numbers with his old lover. Once done, he couldn’t help but reach out and after a last second pause, put a hand on Jack’s upper arm. “It was nice to see you again, Jack. I’m in the office mostly these days. So, if you get bored between now and then shoot me a text. We can chat.

“I’ll do that,” Jack promised before giving Tony a nod and headed off the way Tony had come from. The younger man couldn’t help but watch the Marine walk away and wonder what was to come. He only hoped that it would have a much better ending than the first go around.


~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~


Tony was in his Godfather David Rossi’s kitchen making dinner. Dave was with him helping to make the meal. It was something that the two of them enjoyed doing together. TJ, Tony’s son, had been with them for about six months and there had been many changes since that day. In the end, he’d accepted a position within the FBI as part of the Criminal, Cyber, and Services Branch or CCRSB. Tobias Fornell had received a promotion and was named an Executive Assistant Director and appointed the head of the branch. This put his previous position up for grabs. While it had taken some mental gymnastics to get his head to a place where he could imagine working for the Agency who tried to arrest him for murder twice, in the end, it was the offer that made the most sense.

Tony would basically be heading up the Special Operations Liaison Team that Fornell has previously led. Ron Sacks had long ago moved on, and according to Tobias was currently on the west coast somewhere with one of their PDs. When Tony advised that he would be interested in bringing in his longtime friend Brian O’Connor as his second in command, Tobias had been thrilled and immediately approved the request. From there, things moved pretty quickly. A couple other of the former team members chose to move on, leaving Tony with the need for a new computer expert and someone who had a better relationship with the CIA then he did.

The latter was quickly solved when Tony poached Ned Dorneget from NCIS. While the man was quirky and sometimes awkward, Tony knew the younger man had a mind like a steel trap and was quite fond of him. Dorny had been something of a side project for Tony, and he was quite proud of how far the other man had come from when the two of them first met. Not only was Dorny’s mother a CIA agent, which gave Dorny several contacts within the agency, but he was a cyber wizard, which helped bring in their second new agent.

Raven Ramirez had been with the FBI’s Cyber division until they terminated the program that allowed the former black hat hacker to work with them. After talking with her, Tony went to Tobias and managed to get her reinstated on his team as an FBI agent on an agreement similar to the one that Penelope Garcia first agreed to when she joined the BAU. Raven’s former boss Avery Ryan hadn’t been happy that Tony stole away her agent.

It seems that she had been working on getting Raven picked up as a contractor for her team. That would have limited the information that the young hacker could access though, and therefore possibly limit her usefulness. Tony didn’t want anything to handicap the young woman’s potential though and didn’t feel bad about stealing her from under the Special Agent in Charge’s nose.

Not only had his work life settled, but romance possibilities aside, the rest of Tony’s personal life was coming along nicely as well. Aaron Hotchner and Spencer Reid had become close friends, and along with his renewed friendships with Brian O’Connor and Seeley Booth, Tony had that close-knit group of friends that he missed from his college years. Some matchmaking mixed in with some surprising revelations had helped cement things, but Tony didn’t regret any of it. Dave liked to joke that Tony’s habit of matchmaking came from his Italian side, given that the veteran profiler had the same practices. When Aaron heard the remark, he joked that Tony’s Italian roots must be stronger than Dave’s because the younger Italian was much better at the matchmaking than Rossi was. Tony smirked but stayed quiet otherwise knowing his Godfather was still miffed at finding out a Tony and Aaron romance was not possible.

Aside from the new romance that Aaron had entered into with Brian, after a long night of sharing stories and wine, Tony and Aaron discovered that they were cousins. It seemed that Tony’s mother and Aaron’s mother were sisters. George Paddington provided a little background once he found that Elizabeth’s sons had been located, and the British Paddington clan had immediately planned a Christmas vacation to the states.

Both Elizabeth, the older sister, and Clair, Tony’s mother, had left Britain to go to school at Sweet Briar College where they’d met their future husbands. Aaron’s father had been in law school nearby, and Claire met Senior on a trip the sisters took to New York City for a weekend. After a whirlwind weekend romance, Claire had been convinced that Anthony Senior was “the one” and hated Michael Hotchner and his temper. Elizabeth hated Anthony because she thought he was sleazy and couldn’t be trusted and thought that Michael was a sensible choice and would give her the stability that she craved. The brothers back in England hated both men, which led to a three-way split in the family.

Not only was there a reunion planned with the British side of the family, but at Tony’s urgings, Aaron had begun to work on his relationship with his younger brother Sean. Recently the youngest of the three had moved to DC with his girlfriend Linda and started work at a restaurant run by one of Tony and Brian O’Connor’s OSU frat brothers. The promise was that if Sean and Linda kept themselves clean and got their lives back on track, both Tony and Aaron would down the money for them to open their own restaurant. Unknown to Aaron, Sean had gone to Culinary School while he was in New York, and that fry cook position had been a little more than that.

He’d actually had a beginning position in a kitchen of one of the more reputable chefs in NYC. While things had gone south after the chef moved on, Sean still had his dream of owning his own place, which was something both Tony and Aaron encouraged. The whole family atmosphere that was enveloping Tony was new and a little scary, but highly addictive. The more of the close family vibe that he got, the more Tony found himself wanting. In fact, it had gotten to the point where he finally gave in to what he thought of as one of his wilder ideass.

One weekend over the summer, the group of them, including Tony, TJ, Emmett Honeycutt TJ’s nanny, Dave, Aaron, his son Jack, Brian O’Connor whom Aaron was dating, Spencer Reid, Seeley Booth whom Spencer was dating, and Seeley’s son Parker had taken a trip to North Carolina to see the Biltmore Estate. Tony had wanted a big family vacation like he’d seen people on TV and in the movies take. Spencer had tried to point out that he wasn’t related to Tony, but the older man wasn’t interested in genetics. As far as Tony was concerned Spencer Reid was as much family to him as Aaron was, and the same went for both Brian and Seeley. The idea of having a family like that was enough of a dream of Spencer’s that the younger FBI agent hadn’t really wanted to argue any further.

Tony hadn’t been able to get over the idea of having a house with all the people closest to him living in it. He’d visited Paddington Castle enough to understand the pull a home like that had for a large family, but he never imagined having a place like it of his own. So, one night after the kids had been put to bed, and the adults were hanging out sharing some beers Tony threw out how much he’d enjoy having a huge place like the Biltmore where the people he considered family could live. Dave had been the first to point out that it wouldn’t exactly be out of the question with the money Tony had been left from both his mother and his Uncle Clive when he died.

It didn’t take long for Aaron to remind them of the money he’d gotten from both his mother and father’s deaths. His father had been the only son left in a long line of Hotchner’s that went back to the beginnings of America. When his mother died just after Sean moved to New York City, both the Hotchner family estate and Elizabeth’s money had been split between the two brothers.

Intrigued by the idea of having a place to come home to where he wouldn’t be alone, and held all the people he lived, Spencer admitted that he had more money than he’d shared. He had quite a few patents for a variety of things, along with a few side projects and inventions that made him fairly wealthy. Once Reid confided that he’d love to have a place like that to come home to, the conversation turned less musing and more real. The next morning, both Aaron and Spencer had come to breakfast and announced that they’d talked to Brian and Seeley respectively about moving in with them once the new home was built. A house the size of what the three men had planned would be large enough that it would take at least a year to make, and both couples felt that was sufficient time to determine if their relationships were forever or just for now.

Over the last few months since that trip, Tony had been mostly ignoring his own absent live life wanting to focus his attention on his son. Recently though, he’d gotten to the point where he missed having that kind of connection in his life. He’d just been talking relationships or the lack thereof with Raven at work the other day, and now Jack had reappeared in his life. While Tony wasn’t a religious man, there was a timing there that even he couldn’t ignore. It seemed the Fates had finally stepped in and offered him a second chance.

“So, I ran into someone at the grocery store today,” Tony offered casually as he cut up the meat needed for dinner that evening. He paused from continuing when TJ ran in with Emmett following closely behind. Taking a brief break from his work, Tony kissed TJ on the top of his head and explained what he was making for supper before sending his son off with his juice box to watch Sponge Bob with Auntie Em.

Emmett Honeycutt was a flamboyant gay man who came to them from Hazlehurst Mississippi by way of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He’d had a variety of jobs in his adult life, but after he and some of his Pittsburg friends moved to DC, the nanny decided to put his college degree to good use. Emmett had his own little self-made family including his best friend Ted Schmidt and their friends Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor, who was a well-known interior designer and artist in the DC area.

They’d decided to break away from the dysfunctional family unit that they’d been a part of in Pittsburg, and when an opportunity for Brian’s advertising agency Kinnetik came up in DC, the group eagerly moved. Within a year of them moving, Melanie Marcus showed up with her daughter JR and Brian’s son Gus in tow expanding their little family unit. Emmett admitted once or twice that things still weren’t always perfect but pointed out that family rarely was. It was his admission that he’d fight to the death for the family he’d made himself there in DC, that prompted Tony into believing that maybe he could really have that some kind of relationship for himself.

Once the pair left, with a warning that dinner would most likely only be one episode of Sponge Bob away, Tony turned back to his conversation. “I was hoping that you could watch TJ next Saturday night if you’re in town. I know it’s Emmett’s night off, but I kinda hopefully have a date. If you’re busy, it’s all good. I can probably get Seeley to watch him or something I just thought maybe you’d like a night alone with your grandson.”

“Of course,” Rossi quickly agreed, “I would love to have a night alone with my Nipote. Who is this man you’re going out with? Do I know him?”

“You assume that it’s a man?” Tony asked with a smirk, and Dave just offered a huff.

“Your careful avoidance of pronouns was my first clue, kiddo,” Dave said drolly, “now quit avoiding my questions.”

“OK, alright,” Tony laughed before throwing the strips of meat into a pan to brown and turned to look at his Godfather. “His name is Jack O’Neill. He was a Captain in the Marines when we met. Apparently, he’s gotten a couple promotions since he’s now a Lieutenant Colonel. He had plans already made for this weekend with Gibbs of all people. So, hopefully, we’ll be able to get together next Saturday.”

“Gibbs huh?” Rossi remarked with a raised eyebrow and Tony just shrugged.

“Yeah, I know. If the bastard ruins this for me, I’m gonna be pissed. I really liked Jack. Still, like Jack, if I’m honest. I didn’t realize how much I missed him until he was there in front of me in the cereal aisle. We met when I was at OSU during one of those Service recognition events. He was home for a bit recovering from an injury so that he could get back with his guys and was in an off again moment with his girl. Things got serious pretty fast, and I didn’t handle things well when Jack was adult enough to point out that they couldn’t continue. Fortunately, he’s a forgiving man, and I’m getting a second chance. He is a single father also. So, it seems that maybe something bigger has plans for us.”

“Be careful that was almost religious there, kid,” Rossi joked, and Tony just rolled his eyes. His Godfather had been good over the years about respecting Tony’s lack of belief but liked to jokingly nudge him every now and then. It helped things that Rossi didn’t go to Sunday Mass regularly anymore and instead held his thoughts mostly to himself. Tony knew that Dave had a friend who was a priest that his Godfather sought out when he needed, but he had enough differences of opinion with the church that he didn’t consider him to be a true Catholic any longer. Rossi observed the things he agreed with and ignored the parts he considered antiquated.

“The name doesn’t sound familiar,” Dave confessed with a shrug, “but if you’re happy, then that’s all I really care about. Hopefully, Gibbs has pulled his head out of his ass a little bit by now and won’t mess things up. If he does, I’m gonna have words with him.”

“Yes, Papa,” Tony said teasingly before he went back to his meal preparations. It really felt like the last piece of his life’s puzzle was fitting into place. His Godfather wasn’t the only one who would be upset if Gibbs fucked things up with him and Jack.


~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~


Saturday evening, Jack pulled up to a house in the suburbs, and as he turned off his car took in his surroundings. The neighborhood was one that felt like it was fairly close-knit, and Jack was sure that someone was peeking at him through their window blinds. He was surprised when the Gunny invited him to his home, but he wasn’t opposed to it, especially once he ran into Tony. The former Ohio State Quarterback had been something that Jack tried not to think about too much over the years with varying success. When he found out that Tony knew his old Marine buddy, Jack was thrilled. It was an opportunity to get an outside view of the man his old flame had become.

However, when he found out that his old friend and his old flame didn’t have the best relationship currently, Jack found himself thrown for a loop. He could only hope that Gibbs’ view of Tony wasn’t as bad as what was hinted at. Otherwise, it would be hard to know who to believe. Did Jack side with the man he’d gone to war with? Or, did he side with the man he’d fallen in love with long before it was smart for either one of them?

Taking a deep breath, Jack picked up the six-pack of beer he’d brought along with him and got out of the car to see if he could get some answers.

Later that evening, after eating a damned good fire cooked steak, and shooting the shit, Jack found himself on Jethro’s back porch staring up at the sky thinking about Tony and his cryptic words. “So, I found out that we have a mutual acquaintance. Although, I was warned not to mention this person’s name because I was advised you would have nothing good to say.”

“And this person is?” Jethro drawled as he took a sip of his beer and Jack initially just remained quiet as he debated one last time if he really wanted to do this. Once he decided that he did, he got more comfortable and set his beer bottle on his knee.

“Potential rekindling of an affair that would probably have led to something special. Tony DiNozzo. He says you were his boss.”

Jack watched Jethro snort and roll his eyes. He wanted to push but knew it wouldn’t do any good. So, instead, he took another sip from his own bottle as he waited to find out what the response would be.

“I was,” Gibbs finally acknowledged still looking up at the sky. “Found him in Baltimore wasting his talent. Fortunately, his partner was crooked, and Tony was torn between head and heart. Worked out well for a while, but eventually, it seems all good things come to a close.”

“That doesn’t tell me anything,” Jack complained with a scowl and Gibbs finally turned his attention away from the sky and back to his dinner guest.

“What is it that you want me to tell you?” Jethro sorta asked, but mostly demanded.

“What kind of man is he?” Jack asked outright knowing he’d get nowhere unless he was upfront with the former Gunnery Sergeant. “Why does he think you hate him? Why doesn’t he work for you anymore?”

Jethro huffed, and for quite a while Jack didn’t think that he’d answer, but fortunately, he did after a bit. “Tony was the best young agent I have ever worked with, and for a long time, I thought that he’d eventually take my place like I took Mike’s. He has a way of pulling out that one thing we need to solve a case out of thin air. He had more contacts than even I did. Most of them were from women that he’s slept with or wants to sleep with or is trying to sleep with. His use of movie knowledge to solve a case is both irritating and unexplainable. He can be hyper-focused on something and then five minutes later acting like a ten-year-old. He left because according to him he got burned out on me.

“I’ve been told that I’m hard to work for. Maybe that’s so, but my way gets results. Some say that I never treated him appropriately as a Senior Field Agent deserves. They say that I pit my people against each other and because of that the Junior Agents never thought they had to give him the respect he deserved. I say that if he deserved their respect, they would give it to him, and pitting them against each other keeps them on their toes. Maybe my way isn’t the best way. Perhaps I could have treated him differently. Maybe I could have done a lot of things, but I didn’t, and I’m not going to in the future either.

“Tony was probably right. He got burned out on me. I hear he’s got an important position with the FBI. Good for him. I’m glad he found his feet. I thought he was burned out. So, we’ll see how things go. Either way, I agree with him that his time on my team needed to be over. I miss him when I need that way of his of pulling information together to get insight into a case that I need closed. I don’t have that anymore, and it isn’t something I can teach even if I had the patience for teaching. Maybe I am a bastard. I’ve never known him to chase anything but skirts, but if you say he goes both ways that doesn’t have anything to do with me. He moved on. So, have I. There’s no room for him on my team anymore, and that’s really all I care about.”

“Huh,” Jack uttered, and when Gibbs stood up to go back inside, he shook the man’s hand saying his goodbye. Then, he walked around the side of the house back to his car. He didn’t know what to think of what he just heard. It was both disappointing and at the same time the man he remembered Gibbs to be. The problem was people evolve, but it seems as if the Gunny mostly stayed the same.

By the time he was crawling into his bed, Jack had decided that Gibbs was right in that the relationship Jack was staring with Tony had nothing to do with the NCIS Senior Field Agent. He also thought Tony probably made the right decision in moving on. The last thing that crossed his mind as Jack drifted off to sleep was that he and Tony would be working for the same agency.


~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~


Tony headed into the shooting range to try and work off some of his frustration before going home. One thing that he tried hard not to do now that he had a small, vulnerable child waiting for him at home was to not take his bad days home with him. If today was anything, it was certainly a bad day. Not only did he have to work with the CIA, and there were very few things he hated in the world more than those asshats, but it was the first time that he felt like he had to be the angry boss.

Maybe it was the shine wearing off, but for the first time since he’d taken over the team from Tobias, the members that had stuck around seemed determined to push and peck and test to see how far they could go. He wanted to believe that it was just a coincidence that two of them had only recently returned from a collaboration with Team Gibbs, but Gibbs’ Rule #39 was one of his former boss’ rules that he agreed with. He was trying to be fair though and had found himself reminding himself of DiNozzo Rule #25. Don’t let your past cloud your future. He wished that the BAU was in town because he had found that Aaron was his best sounding board in times like this. Unfortunately, the team was somewhere chasing a serial something. So, he had to work through this on his own.

Or he thought that he did until he realized that the only other person on the range was Jack O’Neill.

Startled, he stared for a moment at the gorgeous sight in front of him before making his way to the older man’s side. Pausing to lean on the wall next to where Jack was shooting, Tony watched with a smirk as Jack missed his next immediate shot. However, when he nailed the rest of them, he couldn’t help but let loose a happy laugh. When Jack took off his ear protection and turned his way, Tony gave him a big smile.

“Fancy meeting you here, gorgeous,” Tony flirted shamelessly and was happy to see Jack return his smile.

“I could say the same to you,” Jack returned as he took the magazine out of his gun and put the safety on, “You just visiting, or do you work in the building?”

“This is my home away from home,” Tony confirmed easily, “well not the shooting range, but you know...”

Jack laughed and offered a nod. “Well, it’s a nice surprise. While I am looking forward to our date this weekend, I’m happy I get to see you before then. I have to say that you look kind of stressed though.”

Tony made a face and looked down at the floor letting a long sigh loose. “The members of my team who were here before me chose today to be assholes, and I am pretty sure it has something to do with a couple of them just coming back from a case with my old team. I’m trying to decide if it’s just my imagination, coincidence, or if it’s real.”

“You know people too well, T,” Jack said softly, and Tony found himself looking up quickly. There was a tone there that he’d never thought he’d hear again, and something inside of him seemed to relax at having it back.

“Don’t let whatever happened on Gibbs’ team make you doubt your ability. If they’re being assholes, then they’re being assholes. Sit ‘em down and get things straightened out. You’ve always been a good leader. Leading a team of FBI agents is not that much different than driving an offense down the field. Leading is leading no matter the situation or the people involved. Totally unrelated to that I feel the need to say that I really fucking missed you, T.”

“I missed you, too,” Tony admitted and found himself leaning toward the other man. “It’s crazy how much. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t make sense, but it feels right.”

“I keep telling myself that we only had a month of random days before, and there’s so much that we don’t know about each other,” Jack admitted honestly, “the problem though is that I mostly don’t care because it feels like I’ve been waiting a lifetime for a second chance.”

“I’m building a house because I have a shitload of money,” Tony said in reply and found himself smirking at the startled look on Jack’s face. He would never admit how cute he found the head tilt that the other man offered.

“The home is going to be fucking huge with wings and shit. My long-lost cousin, who happens to be Aaron Hotchner the BAU Unit Chief, and the FBI’s resident genius, Dr. Spencer Reid, are moving in with me. They’re bringing kids and boyfriend, and it’s going to be crazy. I say this for a few reasons. One, it’s the biggest dark secret I have other than stuff from when I kid that I need more alcohol to share with you. Two, it’s really only fair that you know ahead of time because I really want this thing with us to go somewhere and I don’t want my money or my huge fucking mansion to get in the way. Thirdly, I really would love for you and Charlie to be there. Since it’s gonna take at least a year to build, I feel pretty ok with telling you I want you to live with me now and it not be rushing anything.

“I mean, you and I are different people than we were back then, but I think that’s to be expected. I spent years at NCIS trying to fit into boxes and hiding behind masks and feeling like I had to fit everyone’s low expectations of who I am. I don’t want to do any of that anymore. Well, the masks will probably still be around, but that’s mostly because I don’t know how to do anything else, and honestly, I find them useful. I don’t want to have them with you though. Just, you know, with everyone else. I’m rambly. I’m sorry. I just… you make my brain mush ‘cause you’re sexy and shit.”

When Jack offered a startled laugh, Tony wished that he could pull him into his arms and kiss him. That wouldn’t be a good career move for either of them though. While they didn’t work together directly thus weren’t breaking fraternization rules, the FBI did expect relationships to be kept a little lower key than making out on the shooting range.

“You’re sexy and shit too, T,” Jack said finally drawing Tony’s attention away from the other man’s mouth. “Obviously we’ll have to talk more about the really big mansion that Charlie and I may or may not be moving into a year or more from now, but… I think it’s safe to say we have plenty of time to work out details.

“I’m not a huge believer of anything remotely religious, but this thing between us screams meant to be. To be completely honest, in part you were right when you called me a coward. Some of my reasons may have been valid, but some were really as simple as I was scared shitless to be who I really was back then. I’ve regretted it almost every day since then. I don’t want to do that anymore. So, I’m in. Whatever it means. Whatever it takes. I’m in.”

Tony took a deep breath and reached out to touch Jack’s shoulder. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was what he could have right at that second. It was easier to wait knowing that he and Jack would have the rest of their lives together to make up for it.


The End!