Ship Shape

Tony DiNozzo likes watching people. He likes watching them just living. Sometimes, he goes to the park and watches the people playing, walking, running, just living. He's worked too closely with death not to appreciate life. Still, he has to admit that he is quickly becoming addicted to watching Gibbs - Leroy Jethro Gibbs, second "b" for "bastard", hard-nosed, former Marine, boss, shipwright.

After the hard cases, the ones that haunt him, Tony slips into Gibbs' home and settles on the landing of the basement stairs. He doesn't speak. Doesn't dare, to be honest. He just settles there, listening to the drone of the news and the rasp of wood tools. She's a beautiful thing, graceful, honest, real, though it seems bizarre to see her in a basement, her ribs proud, unfinished. He watches and listens. Gibbs' muscles move smoothly as he works. His body ripples, like water as he settles into the motions that soothe him.

Tony's never worked with wood. He plays bodies, sports. He's addicted to motion. He studies it, lives it, breathes it. The bodies at work are usually still and he hates to see them that way. It was a bad one today, a child. Just a tragic accident. A child who rode her bike in front of a car, but it was a bad one. There was a custody battle and enough recriminations that Tony could believe that it was murder. His own parents wouldn't do that. Wouldn't kill to have him, although sometimes he wonders if maybe they wouldn't kill him so no one else could have him.

Those are bad thoughts though, so he banishes them, stares as the muscles of Gibbs' forearm, studying how they contract and relax. He watches the stretch and pull. Move your legs apart and bend your knees, he wants to counsel. You'll get more power and be more solid. But this is Gibbs, and could Gibbs be more solid? Even now when Tony doesn't feel like anything more than a cheap watercolor of himself. Does he still see his daughter when he sees a dead child? Tony wants to ask, but that's beyond the rules. He's only allowed to stay here if he doesn't talk. Doesn't break the pretend world they've created where he's not watching and Gibbs isn't putting on a show. Because he is showing off. He's working, not sitting and drinking or watching the television; the only noise allowed in this room that isn't the phone.

Gibbs stops for a moment, running a hand over the smoothed wood. He's content, not smiling, but calmer than he was at the scene or in the office. Tony knows these things. He can read Gibbs like a book when he pays attention. He knows the instant he goes over the line at any given time. He knows when he can push. He knows when he can seek the attention that keeps him focused, real, because sometimes he doesn't know who or where he belongs until Gibbs smacks him down. Because that's real, normal, as normal as they ever get.

Gibbs is moving again, this time to pour some burning alcohol into the battered mug he keeps here. Just a splash to wet his mouth, Tony assesses. He's used to assessing this, keeping track of how much someone's drinking. He knows when to leave because the drinks are getting heavy. He doesn't like watching Gibbs drink. It worries him. "Tony," Gibbs' voice is soft. "Go to bed."

Tony shakes his head. "Not yet, boss." Meaning really, not alone. He won't leave unless Gibbs orders him out or comes up the stairs. Then, Gibbs is half-way up the stairs, reaching for him and Tony shies away, cursing as he does so. Gibbs slows his approach, reaching out once more, slowly this time, like Tony's a stay dog and Gibbs doesn't want him to bolt. Tony tries not to move, to stay there, to be petted. The calloused hand strokes his cheek, then through his hair.

Those blue eyes are watching him, judging something that must be on his face or in his eyes because Tony can almost feel them on him, but it's not a bad thing because this is Gibbs and Gibbs can do whatever he wants. "You're tired, Tony," he says softly and Tony wants to protest, but he can't because he's right. Gibbs always is.

"Yes," he says softly. "But not sleepy."

"Ah." Full of something, like he's just answered the question of the meaning of life, but that can't be it because how could he answer anything. He's not real, not like Gibbs, or the boat, or the news that drones on and on. He's a shadow. No shape, no form, no reality until someone tells him what to do, or who to be. His women are legion because he does what they need and is warmed by their pleasures. His men are fewer because it's harder to find a one or two nighter who'll give up for him and let him make them arch and beg and release. The ones that want him, want him to roll over, and he can't do that. He can't be what they want.

Gibbs is petting him, stroking his cheek, his hair, his throat, things that he wouldn't do in the office, but aren't out of bounds here. He's checking for cracks or splits, or just judging how much work he has to do. Something like that. His eyes are gentle tonight, the storm gone out of them. Tony closes his eyes, stops watching for a moment. He's still unsettled, feels wrong.

"Come on, Tony, up. Did you eat dinner?" A gentle voice, not the sharp command voice, or the teasing snaps. Tony shakes his head. The hand is resting on his neck now, firm, real. He needs this connection, but can't ask for it. He pulls himself up, feeling old, stiff. Gibbs is taking him to the kitchen now and he opens his eyes to watch. Gibbs cooking is almost as interesting as Gibbs working on his boat. He wonders if he'll be able to sleep without seeing a broken little body on the ground. Then, there's food in front of him and he doesn't know how it got there. He eats it without thinking about it and the silence lays between them, comfortable. Gibbs is still. Tony can't understand that, how someone so alive can be so still. The plate disappears as soon as he's done with it. "Come on."


"I'm putting you to bed, Tony." There's humor in the tone now and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe he won't have to be alone tonight. There's no where for him to go because McGee is with Abby and even though he's not adverse to it, he doesn't think Probie wants him, even if just for one night. He undresses when Gibbs tells him to, and tries not to be disappointed when he's handed sweats. They're his sweats anyway, left behind when he'd crashed here before. Only the pants though, so there's still a chance. He curls up on Gibbs' bed, knowing the older man barely uses it and won't be upset to have him there. He wonders sometimes what Gibbs thinks about these nights, but it doesn't matter enough to ask. The bed dips and Gibbs is there. He snuggles close to the older man's warmth and Gibbs strokes his back. Those gentle fingers define him. Here, now, he's Gibbs' and he'll do as much or as little as he wants. "Go to sleep." The order is gentle and Tony can't disobey it. He sleeps, knowing in the morning he'll be himself again and the weird thoughts will have been sanded out of his brain. He'll be safe and sane and the world will be shipshape again, because that's how Gibbs wants it.


NCIS Index