A WAKE UP CALL
Fornell gives Gibbs some news that not only astounds and troubles him, but makes him think about his true feelings for Fornell.
A first time story.
Written: October 2014. Word count: 3,635.
"All right, all right, I'm coming," Gibbs called, as he took the stairs leading from the basement two at a time. Why had he decided to start locking his front door? All it meant was that he was disturbed every time someone decided to come and visit him. He had been so engrossed in the table he had been working on, he hadn't heard the doorbell the first twice. Well, he had heard it; it just hadn't really registered with him until it rang for a third time and whoever was outside decided to knock on the door as well as ring the bell.
He unlocked the door, pulled back the bolt (when he decided to do something he didn't do it in half measures) and flung the door open. "Tobias!" he exclaimed in surprise as he stared down at his old friend. "Thought you were out of town?"
"I came back," Fornell said. "Well, can I come in?"
"What? Oh, yeah. Course you can." Gibbs moved away from the door.
"You'll see I didn't come empty handed." Fornell said, as he pushed the pizza box into Gibbs's hands and took his overcoat off and hung it up. "Well?" he said, stop staring at me as if you're wondering if I'm going to grow a second head and get some plates and whiskey - the decent stuff!"
"You want whiskey with pizza?" Gibbs led the way into the sitting room, put the box down onto the table and went into the kitchen to grab plates and paper napkins.
"Yeah. I don't feel like beer. You have got some decent whiskey, haven't you?"
"Should have. Help yourself," Gibbs called, grabbing a beer from the ice-box for himself and taking it along with the plates and napkins back into the sitting room. Fornell was already sitting on the couch with a glass of whiskey. "I see you have."
Fornell shrugged. "Well?"
"Are you going to bring the pizza over here or what?"
Gibbs frowned. "You all right, Fornell?" he said, the words coming before he really thought about it. He couldn't put his finger on it, but for some reason his gut was beginning to trouble him. Fornell seemed as he always was, but there was something (and not just the fact that Fornell was back in town a week earlier than planned, or that fact he was drinking whiskey with pizza) that seemed not quite right.
"Why shouldn't I be?"
Gibbs frowned again, but decided against calling Fornell on his lack of reply - at least for now. Instead he plonked the plates and napkins down and brought the pizza box over from the dining table and put it on the coffee table. "Smells good, he said, opening the box. "Looks good too."
"It should do. I got your favorite - from your favorite place."
Gibbs glanced sharply at Fornell, but Fornell wasn't looking at him. Instead he was helping himself to a slice of the bubbling hot pizza, transferring it from the box to his plate before picking his plate up and taking a bite of the pizza. "Tastes good," he said. "You do have good taste in something."
"Gee, thanks, Fornell," Gibbs said, grabbing a piece of pizza himself and taking a large bite out of it. "You're right; it does taste good." He swallowed the pizza and took a long swig of beer.
For the next ten minutes they simply sat and ate and drank without actually speaking to one another. Fornell swallowed his last mouthful, washed it down with a gulp of whiskey, wiped his mouth and hands on the napkin, balled it up and tossed it onto the plate and settled back onto the couch.
A few seconds later, Gibbs echoed Fornell, finishing his pizza, washing it down with beer, wiping his hands and mouth and with the bottle of beer in his hand settling back into the opposite corner of the couch and tucking one leg beneath him. "Case go all right?" he asked.
"Yeah. We got the bastard to rights. He'll do time - plenty of it."
"Bet there's a lot of paperwork."
Fornell groaned. "Don't mention the damned paperwork; I'll be doing that for the rest of the month. When did we become so paper driven, Jethro?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Don't know - just seemed to happen."
"You know I keep expecting them," he didn't need to expand, Gibbs knew just who he meant, "to insist we start logging visits to the bathroom. You know how long we spent; what we did."
Gibbs laughed. "Yeah, well I wouldn't put it past them. Want another?" he nodded at Fornell's glass.
"Yeah, okay. Thanks. Just a small one. I've still got to drive home. I'll tell you this, Jethro, the day they bring that in is the day I quit. Thanks," he said, taking the glass from Gibbs's hand. "So how's the navy?"
"Still afloat - well it was when I left the office. Mind you, I left DiNozzo in charge, so who knows what I could find when I get back." Fornell laughed.
"Is Ducky enjoying being back in Scotland?"
Gibbs drained his bottle of beer and stood up. "He seems to be," he said, turning and going back into the kitchen to get himself another beer.
"You do keep in touch with him, don't you?" Fornell called.
Gibbs came back. "Of course I do, Fornell."
"You mean he keeps in touch with you," Fornell spoke flatly and held Gibbs's gaze daring him to argue.
Gibbs sat back down. "We," he said, "keep in touch."
"Do you think we would?"
"We would what?"
"Keep in touch. If I left DC," Fornell added, sipping his whiskey.
Gibbs stared at him as his gut, which has stopped churning began to nudge him again. "You thinking of leaving DC?"
Fornell didn't reply immediately, instead he glanced away from Gibbs, fiddled with his shirt cuffs, then his tie, he turned his glass around several times, before taking another deep swallow. He sighed softly and finally looked back at Gibbs. "I might be," he said.
"The agency moving you?"
Fornell hesitated. "No," he said quietly, shaking his head.
"You moving agency? You haven't been offered promotion, have you?" Gibbs sounded aghast.
Fornell shook his head and made a noise which sounded like a bit off laugh. "No. It's," he paused, emptied his glass and without waiting for Gibbs to offer, he stood up and grabbed the bottle of whiskey and poured himself another smallish measure. Rather than return to the couch, he went over to the window where, to Gibbs's surprise, he pulled the curtains.
Gibbs just sat and watched him as his gut went into overtime. He decided that whatever it was Fornell had to tell him, it needed more than beer. He pushed himself to his feet, went over to the cupboard, ignored the whiskey Fornell was drinking and poured himself a pretty friendly glass of strong bourbon.
"How's your dad's store doing?" Fornell still had his back to him.
"Fine." Gibbs said. "It's . . . ? It's what, Tobias?"
Fornell turned around slowly. "Huh?" he said.
"Cut the innocent act, it doesn't suit you. You were about to tell me why you might be leaving DC."
Gibbs growled and moved towards Fornell, getting closer and closer until he was able to use his height to intimidate him. Except after all the years they'd known one another for, Fornell wasn't intimidated. He just shrugged and moved away, returning to the couch and sitting back down.
Gibbs stood and stared at him for a moment before rejoining him on the couch and glaring at him. "Well?" he demanded.
Fornell swallowed some more whiskey and sighed; he appeared to make a decision. After letting his gaze wander around the room he finally looked at Gibbs, took a deep breath and said, "Diane and I might be getting remarried."
"What?" Gibbs said. "What the . . . ? What the fuck do you mean, Fornell?"
Fornell sighed. "I thought it was pretty clear. Diane and I might remarry."
"Why? Why would you remarry that bitch from hell?"
"Stop calling her that. She is the mother of my child."
"Yeah and the bitch who walked out on you, emptied your bank account, took you for just about every penny she could get, bad-mouthed you and then expected you to drop anything whenever she wanted your help - and mine," he added. He stared at Fornell. "You have to be joking," he said. "You really have to be joking. Tell me you're joking."
Fornell glanced at his lap and then slowly raised his head and met Gibbs's stare. "I'm not," he said quietly. "I'm not joking, Jethro," he paused, sighed, glanced away from Gibbs and then back at him. "Diane and I are getting remarried."
Gibbs stared at him. "Thought you said you were only thinking about it."
Fornell sighed. "I didn't want to - Damn it, Jethro, I knew what you'd say so I thought I'd . . . I thought I'd lead up to it. Emily . . . She's . . . She misses me. She told me so last month when she visited. She . . . She wants us to get back together."
"So it's just for Emily? She'll be grown up and left home soon. What then?"
Fornell was silent for a moment. "No, it's not just for Emily. It's . . . Look, Jethro, I'm not you. I don't want to build a blasted boat in my basement or make furniture or go on -" He fell silent and glanced away.
"Go on," Gibbs growled. But Fornell just shook his head. "You might as well say it."
"It's nothing. I'm just not you. Okay? I'm tired of going home to an empty house; of grabbing take-outs or eating cereal every night because it's too much effort to cook for just me."
"And you reckon Diane will suddenly turn into the perfect wife, do you, and cook for you every evening?" Gibbs sneered.
"You know what, Gibbs? Yeah, she will. We talked; we agreed. She's tired too; tired of working so many hours. She's ready to be a wife and mom again."
"Wonder how long that'll last for? I know, just long enough for you to forget what she did the last time and let her have access to your bank accounts. Just long enough to -" Gibbs fell silent as Fornell slammed his glass down with so much force the remaining whiskey slopped over the sides onto the table.
"Well fuck you, Gibbs. You know I thought, just for a crazy minute I thought you just might have enough - whatever it is we have between us - to be happy for me. To if not understand or even like it, then to have the courtesy to behave like a normal human being. But I guess I was expecting too much, wasn't I?" he stood swiftly up.
Gibbs stood up as well. "Damn right you were! At least," he added, "you are as long as it's that bitch you're marrying. She'll do it to you again, Fornell, mark my words, she'll screw you again. You know it and I know it and -" He fell silent as after shooting him a look which contained as much pain as hatred, Fornell turned on his heel and strode across the room.
A few seconds later Gibbs heard his front door slam so hard he swore he heard the glass panes shudder. "Fuck it!" he swore, and threw his glass into the fireplace, actually enjoying the sound it made as it shattered.
A MONTH LATER
None of the kids were talking to him, beyond 'yes, Gibbs,' 'on it, boss,' and anything else work related. They didn't chat when he was in the squad room, they barely breathed; they certainly didn't look up from their work.
Even DiNozzo behaved like he was in line for class prefect. He hadn't cracked a single joke or made any kind of inappropriate remark; he hadn't flirted with anyone; he hadn't once called McGee 'Probie' or teased Ziva about her mangling of American idioms; he hadn't related anything to a movie; he hadn't once declared himself 'the senior agent'; he just got his head down and did his job.
McGee wouldn't even look him in the eye, and while he still delivered any information Gibbs wanted in his competent tone and still over-explained what he had done to get the information, he also not only double and triple checked everything - he quadruple checked it before giving anything to Gibbs. He was already in the office when Gibbs arrived and was still there when he left for the evening - no matter how late it was.
He had reduced Abby to tears on at least three occasions he knew of. She no longer bounced; no longer expected him to bring her Caf-Pow; no longer called him to give him results - she called DiNozzo or McGee. She spoke in a flat tone; no longer played music in her lab and never wore her hair in pigtails.
Ziva was probably the least affected because although she too was subdued, got her head down and went on with her work and didn't initiate a conversation with Gibbs, she was still very much Ziva. More than once he thought he had seen her flash him a compassionate look, a look which almost invited him to tell her what was wrong.
The person who suffered most had been Palmer, who by now clearly regretted accepting the role of Medical Examiner upon Ducky's retirement. He couldn't escape Gibbs's scrutiny and his demands for answers far more quickly than he had ever demanded Ducky provide them. Palmer had lost his assistant during the month, and Gibbs knew it was his fault the young guy had quit - but he didn't care.
He didn't care about anything. Not even when Ducky had called him and demanded to know what the hell was going on and why Gibbs was behaving like the bastard he had always called himself. He'd told Ducky to go to hell; told him it had been none of his business; told him he'd been the one to quit NCIS and leave America, so he had no right to interfere. How he treated the team was up to him; it had nothing to do with Ducky.
Nor with Vance who had called him into his office on two occasions and all but read him the riot act. Still Gibbs hadn't changed.
And then one night when Gibbs was half-way to being so drunk he doubted he'd be able to stagger up stairs, out of the blue, Ducky called him again.
"What do you want, Ducky?" Gibbs growled, sitting down swiftly as he realized he was swaying. "Thought I told you not to -"
"Yes, Jethro, you did. However, like it or not, I am still your friend. I still care about you -"
"Oh, great, you've called me to give me another lecture, have you? Well you know what, Ducky, you can just -"
"No. I've called you to tell you to stop being such an idiot and tell Tobias how you feel."
Gibbs held the phone away from him and stared at it for a moment before returning it to his ear. "What? What the fuck are you talking about, Ducky?" he growled the words, as he fumbled to pour himself some more bourbon.
"Tobias called me, Jethro, and told me about his plan to remarry Diane. He also told me he hasn't heard from you since the evening he told you."
"What's it to do with you?"
Ducky sighed. "Because, Jethro, it is quite possible you will alienate everyone who cares about you if you carry on like this. You may actually like to keep one friend, even if he lives in another country."
"Don't need friends."
"Everyone needs friends, Jethro. Even you."
Gibbs made a noise in his throat and gripped the phone more tightly as he seriously considered just hanging up. Then to his horror he heard himself say, "I love him, Duck."
Ducky sighed softly. "Yes, Jethro. I know; I've always known," he added softly. "I just wondered how long it would take you - both of you - to admit it."
Gibbs again stared at the phone. "He doesn't," he couldn't say 'love' so instead said, "care about me. How can he?" he added, before Ducky could speak. "He's remarrying the bitch from hell."
Ducky sighed again. "Maybe Tobias hasn't quite got around to admitting his feelings for you. Or maybe - He's not you, Jethro. I'm surprised he stayed unmarried for as long as he did after he and Diane split up. Tobias needs someone, Jethro."
"He doesn't need Diane. She'll just screw him over again."
"No, I agree. And for what it's worth, I agree with you that she will indeed," Ducky paused and then said in a light voice, "screw him over again. She will almost certainly revert to form, and then Tobias will be once again left without a wife and daughter and a home and limited funds in his bank. Well he will unless you do something."
"What can I do, Duck? He's not even talking to me."
"Have you tried calling him?"
"So how, if you don't mind me asking, do you know he's not talking to you?"
"Ah, Duck, I miss you."
"I miss you too, Jethro. In fact - But that can wait for now. The situation with Tobias and Diane cannot. I believe the wedding is due to happen in two days time."
"Is it?" That soon? He hadn't realized; he hadn't known. Two days? That was all. Two days and he'd lose -
"Yes, Jethro. So I suggest you sober up; take a shower and go and talk to Tobias and do something you find very difficult to do: be honest about your feelings."
Gibbs sighed. "Can't do that, Duck."
"Why not?" Ducky sounded slightly irritated, but also resigned.
"Not who I am. Not what I do."
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs you are the most stubborn, most obstinate, most frustrating, most irritating, most self-destructive man I have ever known - and believe me I have known plenty of such people. Do you really want Tobias to remarry Diane?"
"Well then. Do something about. Because, Jethro?"
"You - you, Jethro - are the only person who can do so. You have two days, Jethro, and bastard as you are, I really do not believe you want to wait until their actual wedding day, do you?"
Gibbs sighed. "Ducky, I'm not going to -"
"Then kindly do not ring me again and complain about the situation. Goodnight, Jethro."
"Duck! Ducky? Ducky?" Gibbs swiftly pressed the button on his phone he had assigned to Ducky. However, the phone at the other end just went on ringing and ringing and ringing until Gibbs decided Ducky just might have taken it off of the hook. He called another number: Ducky's cell; that went straight to voice-mail.
A MONTH LATER
The couple stood waiting for the flight to arrive. To the outside observer they would look nothing more than casual friends. However, if you took the trouble to look just a little more carefully, you would see they stood just a just a little more closely to one another than they needed to; that they glanced at one another slightly more often than most people looked at someone else. If you were close enough to hear their voices, you would hear a tone that spoke of more than just casual friendship. And if you got really, really close, you would notice they both wore matching watches.
"What time is Ducky's flight due?"
"Twenty minutes, assuming there are no hold-ups."
"Did he tell you why he was coming to DC?"
"All he said was that he wanted to give us our wedding present in person. Says it's his right, as without him you'd now be married to Diane and I would be -" Gibbs fell silent and just stared at Fornell, saying things with his gaze he couldn't say aloud. Neither of them could.
Beyond his: "All right, Tobias, I'll say it. I love you. So will you call this damned marriage to Diane off and marry me instead."
And Fornell's: "I thought you'd never ask."
Nothing had been said. Indeed, other than Gibbs explaining to Fornell why he had ended up on his doorstep at three o'clock in the morning (Ducky had told him to sober up first), they hadn't really said anything else about their feelings, what they meant to one another or about their relationship. Even their marriage had been just to two of them - although they had taken Gibbs's beleaguered team out to dinner, and Gibbs knew once Ducky arrived, he would insist on some kind of celebration.
For now they split their time between Gibbs's and Fornell's homes, but both were on the market and they had found a new house for them to share. It had been Gibbs's decision to finally leave the house he had shared with Shannon and Kelly. He had decided it was finally time to let go of his girls; to let them and the past rest in peace.
Suddenly they heard the announcement that Ducky's flight hadn't been delayed, in fact it had landed some twenty minutes ago. They turned towards the relevant terminal when Gibbs caught Fornell's arm. "Hey, Tobias?" he said.
Fornell raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, Jethro?" They locked gazes; after a moment Fornell, smiled. "Me too," he said, and briefly touched Gibbs's arm before they headed to meet Ducky.
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