I've been watching him for half an hour now as he stands there by the bar, a lite beer in his hand. Damn but the man looks hot! I had to suffer through all his complaints and protests when he found out it was a black tie event, and the even worse griping and snarling when we when to get him fitted for a new tux, but it was so worth it. Sean Connery eat your heart out: Jethro Gibbs in a tuxedo is awesome.
Okay, so I'm biased. So sue me. I get one night a year to see my man dressed up to the nines and trust me, I ain't gonna pass on that.
My man. Still makes me go all weak-kneed when I think of him in those terms, but it's true. He's been my boss and my best friend for eleven years and my lover for all but one of them. Not many people know it in the job we do we have to be careful but those who do don't really care. Except for Jen Shepherd, of course. Poor Jen. Over the years she's done just about everything a jealous woman could do to split us up, short of boiling the bunny and she'd probably do that too, if either one of us owned one. She just can't accept that Gibbs chose to marry me and not her.
I watch as he raises the glass to his lips and the flash of gold around his ring finger makes my heart turn somersaults. We made this agreement, right at the start, that we don't wear our rings at work because it leads to too many questions that we shouldn't have to answer. It's enough for us that we exchanged rings and made the promises to each other, we don't need to flaunt the symbols. Except, that's exactly what he's doing tonight.
And so, thanks to him, am I, although as I glance at the wedding band on my own hand I can't help thinking we both must be mad. He may be close to retirement but it's still far enough away to cost him his pension if anyone decides to push it that far and while neither of us really need the money we both enjoy what we do too much to bring it to premature end.
God, he looks gorgeous. It's the black suit; makes his silver hair shine and his eyes turn at least two shades deeper blue. He's been turning heads all night male as well as female and who can blame them: but at the end of the night it's me he'll be going home with; my body he'll take his pleasure from; my arms he'll curl into when we've exhausted ourselves.
He throws one of those secret smiles my way as he starts to move away from the bar and I'm almost salivating as I watch him walk towards me. Correction, as he prowls towards me, like he's the cat and I'm the mouse he's stalking. Reminds me of the way he crawls up the bed, between my legs, smirking, right before he swallows my dick.
Okay, maybe that's TMI for you and a big mistake for me, because now my nuts are aching to feel those rough hands wrapped around them, all warm and firm, tugging on them just enough to stop me shooting my load down his throat. God, but that man knows how to play me, keep me on the edge until he's good and ready to let me loose.
Shitfuckdamn! Wish I'd opted for looser pants.
Have I mentioned he's the hottest number in the room tonight? And he's mine, all mine. I don't know what I did to ever get so lucky, but I sure as hell hope I keep on doing it.
'Hey, Gibbs. Can I buy you a drink?'
He has this way of shaking his head, like one turn to the left, one to the right, and he's done. Doesn't need to say anything, just one turn left and one right, and you know exactly what he's telling you. He doesn't need an excess of words, which is a good thing when we're in bed because I do enough verbalising for the both of us.
When I'm not screaming, of course.
I wait. And I watch. And I read his eyes. Beautiful, beautiful blue eyes that can see right down into my soul. I don't have any secrets from him anymore. I used to try, but what's the point when he can read me like a kindergarten primer. I know what he's seeing now, can tell by the tiny little smile right there, at the corner of his mouth. He knows how much I want him, and he knows that I'd drop my pants and bend myself over the table right now if he asked me to. He never will, of course, but he knows I'd do it if he asked, just as he would do it for me. It's been all or nothing between us for years.
I know when he's decided what it is he wants to do a moment before he acts: it's there, deep in the blue, a sudden determination that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and my brain shout a silent 'Ohhhhshiiiit.'
'Gibbs?' I prompt.
He squares his shoulders and straightens his back and then, with slow confidence, extends his hand towards me, palm up, and I know he's not offering to shake mine.
'Dance with me, Tony.'
It's not a game I know that, because he doesn't play those kinds of games. It's a genuine, heartfelt request, and I have never, ever been able to refuse one of those. Even if I had, the moment he licks his lips and adds 'Please', so softly I almost miss it, I'm lost. He wants this and I made it my mission, a long time ago, to give him everything that he wants if it is within my power to give it. If Jethro wants me to dance with him in front of all these people, who am I to refuse?
So I slide my hand into his and let him lift me to my feet. Anyone watching would think I'm going willingly and, don't get me wrong, I am but only I can see the concern in his eyes as he braces his arm to take the strain, giving me time to adjust my weight to my 'good' leg after sitting still for so long. He never fusses, never loses patience with me (in other things, yes, but not in this), but he never makes allowances either, unless I let him know I need it, and that's usually only when I've pushed myself too hard and gotten over-tired.
The 'good leg, bad leg' thing? That's a whole other story. Enough to say that was the third Mustang I totalled and I'm not going for a fourth. As Gibbs likes to remind me from time to time, I'm was damn lucky to have escaped with my life and a new hip joint and a steel pin in my femur were a small price to pay for the chance to grow old with him.
Once I'm on my feet and ready to party I ask him one more time 'You sure about this?'. The shy smile he gives me is all the answer I need.
I am aware of the heads turning our way as he leads me onto the dance floor and guides me into his arms. Some look shocked but most, surprisingly, show acceptance. Abby, of course, is bouncing up and down and waving her arms to cheer us on and Ducky is grinning like Alice's cat and nodding his approval. Sadly, Jenny runs true to form and looks like she's been sucking lemons. I can't decide if that look means she wants to disembowel us or castrate us or both! - right here on the dance floor. I do know it won't end here and it's probably going to get ugly, but I'm past caring about her opinions. And when all is said and done, I'm pretty sure Jethro wouldn't get us into this if he didn't have a backup plan.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Just when I think I got him all worked out, he throws me yet another curveball. He must know what the probable consequences of our actions will be, but still he goes ahead with it. He should look worried, but when I meet his eyes they are as clear and untroubled as I've ever seen them, and suddenly his confidence is seeping into me and I'm losing myself in the dance. This middle-aged former Marine, with an arthritic knee and more pain in his past than any man should have to endure, is one of the bravest men I know.
'You okay, love?' he asks and I almost trip over my feet. He never uses endearments in public, even when we dare to venture into one of the city's more discrete gentlemen's clubs.
I have to be honest, so I tell him I'm getting there; next minute I feel him shift his grip and hold me just that little bit closer. Part of me wants to ask what he's done with the real Jethro Gibbs, but humour like that just wouldn't feel right in the moment, so I let it slide.
I can't tell what the band is playing but it sounds like a medley of stuff that belongs to another age, the sort of thing you hear on classic stations playing fifties stuff. Not that I care much. It's slow and smooth and romantic, and I'm in Jethro's arms, and it really doesn't get any better than this. Not in public anyway.
When he starts to hum along with the music I find myself smiling. I doubt anyone realises he's actually got a pretty good voice. I've caught him a few times, singing along with the radio when he's down in the basement. He usually stops when I go down there, so I usually hang around in the hallway, near the door, so I can listen to him. Of course, he senses I'm there eventually and calls me down, but once in a very long while he'll be so absorbed in the work that he forgets I'm there and lets his guard down.
Ducky swirls by with Abby and she leans in to murmur 'Way to go, Bossman', which makes him laugh softly against my shoulder and when he pulls back to look at her his smile is off the scale. It's a perfect moment, and I can feel myself getting all teary because the last time I saw him this happy was the day we made our promises to each other. It's been a tough year for us, thanks to the games Jen has been playing with our heads since she found out about us, so it's good to see him finally able to relax.
The music segues into something I recognise and I feel him loosen his grip enough that he can lean back in my arms to look at me, like I'm the only other person in that room. It's so intense I can feel myself start to tremble, even though I know I'm safe with him. One word from me and he would stop this except, I don't want it to stop. I don't want to hide what we are anymore, what we have.
There's no job on Earth worth the price we've been paying.
My memory supplies the words to fit the song, and it's then that I get the message he's sending me: nothing outside of this moment is important. He is giving me our future, to shape as I see fit, and whatever I decide he will go along with it. Nobody, not one person in my life before, has ever trusted me the way Jethro does. It's humbling.
When his hand lifts to touch my face I rub my cheek against it. We've stopped dancing and I can feel every pair of eyes in that room watching us, waiting to see how this will play out. I know, and Jethro knows, and that knowledge has the pair of us grinning like idiots.
I tell him I love him right out loud, in front of everyone and he tells me he knows, and when his hand tugs on the back of my neck, reeling me in, I don't need to be asked twice.
It's more than just a kiss, it's a statement of who and what we are, and it's a challenge to those who disapprove and want to sweep this under the carpet. As our kisses go this one is brief and almost what my maiden aunt would have called 'chaste', but it's enough to get the point across. Abby seems to approve anyhow, if the squeal of delight she lets out is anything to go by, and McGee has got this big dopey grin spread over his face. A handful of the people have turned their backs on us, but that's their problem, not ours. The rest don't seem to have a problem, or at least don't seem to care much, and that's good enough for us. We can build on that, if they let us.
'Still want to buy me that drink?' he asks as he takes my hand and we walk off the dance floor to a smattering of applause. I wonder if we should stop and take a bow, but maybe that would be a bit too over the top, even for us.
Instead I ask 'Can we have champagne?' Well, after the show we just put on, I think we deserve a celebration.
As we lean against the bar, him with his bourbon and me with my wine, I ask him why he had done what he just did. He tells me it was an impulse, but I don't believe him. Jethro Gibbs does not do impulsive, not with relationships any way. He may give that impression, but every move he makes is carefully calculated to achieve the desired result.
I feel the sudden change in him, the tension that was not there a moment ago, and when I look round I see Jen Shepherd weaving her way through the tables towards us, wearing her hatred like bad perfume.
'Did you have to do that?' she demands hotly, and I almost expect her to stamp her foot.
Jethro's smile never makes it to his eyes. 'Hello, Jen. Enjoying the party?'
'I was,' she spits. 'What the hell did you think you were doing?'
I have to bite my cheek at his little snort of feigned amusement and the casual way he answers, 'Dancing?'
'Exactly. If you had to dan... do that, couldn't you at least have taken him somewhere more private?'
'Why?' he asks. 'Things have changed, Jen. If people don't like it...' He shrugs and takes another sip of his drink, and I find myself looking across the room, throwing Abby a silent appeal for help.
Jen, naturally, can't let it go. 'Do you realise what you're doing? Do you even care what people think? Either of you? ' she adds, glaring at me.
I wonder if Ducky will be able to get the knife out of my back.
Jethro starts to tell her to leave me out of it, but I'm an equal partner in this relationship, so I tell her, 'We know, Jenny. But it's not that we don't care what people think--.'
'-- We're just tired of hiding,' Jethro adds. 'You must remember what that's like.'
'You're actually comparing this to what we had in Paris?' She laughs, but it's an ugly, bitter sound that sends a chill down my spine. 'You really are a bastard, Jethro,' she tells him.
'I don't want to get into this again, Jen.'
'I'm sure you don't. Unfortunately you're the one who chose to drag this into a public arena.'
'All I did was ask my partner to dance...'
'Partner...' she sneers.
'Would you prefer I referred to him as my lover? Or better still my husband?'
Trust Jethro: he's too busy baiting her that he doesn't see her raise her arm to slap him but I do. She shrieks as I catch it and twist it up behind her back, and she tries to stamp down on my instep with her spiked heel.
'Getting a little sloppy there, lover,' I chastise him. He shrugs and favours me with one of those lopsided grins that always gets my pulse racing.
Suddenly there are two Marines heading towards us from one direction, and the SecNav approaching from the other, with his aide in tow. Ziva and McGee have closed in behind us and I'm thinking that if Ziva has come armed this could turn very nasty.
The SecNav looks from Jethro, to me, to Jen, and asks 'Is everything alright, Director?'
I look over at Jethro: he's smiling and shaking his head. The last thing either of us wanted was to cause any embarrassment to this man since he's gone out of his way to make things easy for us. I release Jenny and at once the Marines step in to flank her. It's a warning even she is not stupid enough to ignore.
'Everything's fine, sir,' I tell him. 'I'm sorry for the disturbance. Just a little misunderstanding.'
'Jennifer?' The look on his face leaves me in no doubt as to just who he thinks caused the misunderstanding. The look on Jenny's face says she knows better than to get on his wrong side. There's an election coming up and she doesn't need a scandal. As Gibbs reputedly once told her, ass kissing on the Hill is a skill and she still struggles to make the grade.
'As Ton... As Director DiNozzo said a misunderstanding.' She spits out the title like sour milk. It's been six months; you'd think she would have gotten used to it by now, but no. She seems to have made it her mission in life to cause us trouble.
'In that case, perhaps you'll allow me to buy you a drink. I know it's meant to be a party but I have a couple of things I need to discuss with you.'
Her eyes are still firing daggers at me, and at Jethro, but she allows the SecNav to lead her away to his table. If I didn't know the man better I might be worried, but since he was one of the guests at our commitment I can guess what the 'couple of things' that he wants to discuss with her might be.
But there is something else on my mind right now and it involves the man standing next to me.
'Husband?' I have to ask.
'You got a problem with that?'
'No...' I say, and actually I don't, if that's how he wants to see this thing between us. It's better than 'partner; at least it implies the commitment we made. 'But Jen certainly does.'
He grins back at me. 'Can you blame me? She's such fun to bait...'
'Yeah? Well I'm just thankful it's your ass she'll be going after.'
'Not for long...' he says, looking past me to where Jenny and the Mike are deep in conversation. As I turn around she pauses mid-sentence to meet Jethro's gaze and suddenly all the colour is draining from her face. 'Right now I think our dear former director has other things on her mind.'
'Such as?' Jethro has been acting odd all day, like he's keeping something from me. It's a long time since he's done that. 'What's going on, Jethro? What aren't you telling me?' He doesn't answer, just looks at me and... smiles and... waits. Waits for me to catch up. Not so long ago I would have missed it by a mile, but the longer we're together the better I know him. I'm looking into his eyes and I remember the conversation like it was yesterday: him trying to reason with me, me not wanting to hear it. That was one of our more spectacular uhm - confrontations.
'You're going ahead with it,' I say, and see something flash behind his eyes. 'Jethro?'
'You knew I've been thinking about it...'
'Thinking, yes. Didn't think you'd act on it till we'd talked some more.' There's a little uncomfortable knot growing just under my ribcage and the bitterness of something that tastes rather like betrayal in my mouth.
'Ah Tony...' He offers me a contrite smile. 'We could talk around this forever and never agree. One of us had to make the first move.'
He takes my hand and I can feel him rubbing his thumb over my wedding band, like he's trying to remind me of something. Then I get it. The words are engraved in the gold we both wear: Love. Honour. Trust. Respect. Fidelity. They are the strands of the cord that binds us together and they are the foundation on which he has made his choice.
'When do you leave?' I ask, turning my hand so our fingers mesh together. I need him to know that I understand and, more important, that I accept and respect his choice.
'End of the month. Cynthia will have the papers ready for you to sign in the morning - Boss.'
He tries to keep the grin hidden but, like always, it escapes. We've switched work roles but, outside of a case, neither of us can take it seriously. I yelled at him last week because Admin was riding my ass over his paperwork. His response to my request to have it on my desk by the end of the day? A shrug and a 'Yes, dear'. If that's what lies in store, maybe it's not such a bad thing he is retiring, because I don't think my nerves could stand it long-term.
'Gonna be strange without you around the office.' I tell him.
When Gibbs smirks I always always get the urge to duck and cover. 'What?'
'Do you really think you're getting rid of me that easy, DiNozzo?'
'But ... I thought... You are retiring, right?'
'Kind of...' He gives that little head-roll that says so much more than words alone can. Kind of? Kind of? How the hell can you 'kind of' retire?
'You got the Task Force?' I can't stop the grin. The 'task force' as he calls it is a pet project he, Tom Morrow and a handful of others have been working on for the past year, involving the elite from the whole alphabet soup of agencies, and Jethro my Jethro, is going to be head honcho. It means he can go on doing the thing he loves without being in the firing line. Not only that, we'll get to work alongside each other from time to time, but on an equal basis at last. That'll be a new experience for both of us.
I'm still trying to take it in when he turns and beckons our friends to join us. They're all here: Ducky even though he retired himself a couple of years ago Ziva, Abby, Palmer our new ME and McGee, who is so not the Probie anymore. If Jethro runs true to form, I'll be getting his retirement papers on my desk, along with his recommendation for McGee to join him in the new unit. Eight years in the fold: our little McGeek is all grown up.
Champagne corks are popping and then he is handing out glasses, and I'm starting to get that fluttery feeling in my stomach as apprehension mixes with excitement. There are changes coming good ones - and we're all still here to see them take shape. Can't ask for more than that.
I watch him as he looks around what Abby still refers to as 'Team Gibbs'. There's a smile on his face, one that speaks of contentment, but also of the fierce drive that still burns inside him, and I don't think I've ever loved him more than I do at this moment.
'This isn't an ending,' he says, and my practiced ears pick out the underlying tremor in his voice, and I take his free hand in mine, squeezing it.
'You're leaving?' Abby looks stricken and I know she's remembering the time, years ago now, when Gibbs 'retired' to Mexico.
'Retiring', he tells her. 'But only from NCIS. I'll still be living and working in DC. Tony can fill you in on the details later.'
'So young Anthony is..?' I have to smile at Ducky's words. I'll always be 'young' Anthony to him.
'Staying,' Gibbs tells them and there's no room for argument in his voice.
Damn! That was something else we never got around to talking about. I'm hoping if he got the task force up and running he'd take me with him, but it sounds like it's not to be. I guess my disappointment must show in my face because he turns to me and says 'Still playing catch-up, Tony?'
I feel myself blush. I try to shrug it off because I don't trust myself to speak right now but, like most things with Gibbs, he's not about to let it go.
'I'd like you with me you know that - but you can be more useful to me at NCIS. Hell, you know what the other agencies are like! I want to know there's at least one that's on my side.' The others laugh, and it kind of makes sense. He knows I'll always have his 'six'.
'But it's more than that.' He drops his voice and the look in hs eyes is so intense I feel burned by it. 'It's what that ' he jerks his head towards the dance floor '- was all about. I meant what I said, I am tired of hiding our relationship, so I told them if they wanted me to take the job, this us is part of the package. Take it or leave it.'
'And?' I ask. I need to be sure, before I get it wrong and make fools of us both.
He doesn't say a word, just leans in and seals his mouth to mine, and if the kiss on the dance floor was chaste, this is anything but. When he lets me go I know nobody, from the SecNav to the kid collecting glasses, is any doubt about how things are with us. By Monday morning the word will be out. Take it or leave it.
'Got it now, Tony?' he teases.
Like how could I miss that?
It's been a long night and I'm ready to go home and get up close and personal with my soon-to-be semi-retired lover. I guess his thoughts are running on similar lines because he suddenly tips his glass towards our friends and repeats the words he said on that night six years ago: 'Semper Fi'. Back then it was an ending; now it's a whole new start for all of us.
'Semper Fi,' I repeat, and I smile as I hear the others echo the same. The members of 'Team Gibbs' may be going their separate ways, but the team remains. I don't think either of us could ask for more.
I merit a car and a driver now, which means I get to sit in back and hold hands with Jethro all the way home. It's been an odd sort of night, full of highs and lows, but it's one I know I'll remember for a long time to come. Jethro turns to look at me and asks: 'Happy?'
'Happy,' I say. Before I realise what I'm doing, I've pulled his hand to my lips and kissed it. My driver Joe can see us in the mirror and for a moment I freeze...until I remember: it doesn't matter anymore.
'Feels good, doesn't it?' Jethro smirks, and I have to agree. No more hiding. No more secrets.
What will we find to do with our time?