KEEPING IT IN HOUSE
Fornell needs Gibbs's help with something, but he also needs him to keep quiet about it.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2010. Word count: 2,700.
Gibbs's cell phone rang. "Gibbs, yeah?"
"It's me. We need to talk. Now."
Gibbs stood up and pushed his Sig into his pocket. "Where?"
"Remember the bench with the wet dog?"
"On my way." Gibbs grabbed his overcoat and pulled it on. He glanced at his three agents; as he expected they were all alert, poised for action. He shook his head and strode across the squad room towards the elevators.
"What the hell's going on, Gibbs?" Fornell, who Gibbs had seen pacing, turned and glared up at him.
"Nice to see you too, Fornell." Gibbs plonked himself down on the bench. "Smells better this time." When Fornell didn't answer Gibbs crossed one leg over the other and said, "You going to sit down, Tobias? Going to get a crick in my neck looking up at you."
"Now you know how I feel all the time," Fornell replied with a growl, nonetheless he sat down. "Well?" he demanded.
"Well what?" Gibbs half snarled. Seeing Fornell's collar was slightly crooked, Gibbs reached out and straightened it, letting the tips of his fingers brush against Fornell's chin. "What's up, Tobias?" he asked, his tone softer.
Fornell sighed and slumped back against the back of the bench. "This is just between you and me, right, Jethro?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Usually is."
Fornell sighed again. "Yeah, but this is different. My director can't know that you know and your director can't know that my director knows. In fact your director can't know anything."
"You been spending time with Ducky I don't know about?"
Fornell looked at him. "Huh?"
"He's the one who rambles and talks in riddles."
Fornell gave a half-smile. "If my director finds out I've told you, I might need Ducky to tell me how to talk myself out of an instant firing."
Gibbs sat up straight and looked at Fornell hard. "You serious?" his tone was a lot softer and laced with concern. He touched Fornell's shoulder, letting his hand linger for a moment or two longer than was necessary.
Fornell nodded and put his head in his hands. "Yes," he said his tone grim. "Yes, Jethro, I am." Now he looked at Gibbs.
Gibbs had been about to make a quip that if his director did fire him, Fornell could stay at home and cook for them. However, as stared at Fornell, taking in the even darker than usual dark circles that surrounded Fornell's eyes, it froze on his lips. This wasn't a joking matter; his lover was serious; more serious than Gibbs had ever seen him. He looked older than he usually did and somehow shrunken. "You okay?" Again he touched Fornell's shoulder.
Fornell sighed. "Health wise, I'm fine. Otherwise . . ." he trailed off. "We've got a problem, Jethro. A serious problem."
Gibbs was immediately all business again. "How serious?"
"The SecNav," Fornell said, his steady gaze never once leaving Gibbs's face.
Gibbs frowned as he found his body automatically becoming more alert. "What's he done?"
"Employed a man the FBI have," Fornell paused, swallowed hard and looked away for a moment. Then he looked back at Gibbs and gave a partial shrug, "Under surveillance."
"Espionage, terrorism." Gibbs was about to leap to his feet, but Fornell caught his arm. "Sit down, Jethro. The SecNav is safe."
Gibbs glared at Fornell. "You sure of that, Fornell?"
Fornell nodded. "Yes, I am. I know this guy. I spent the last six years getting to know him. I sometimes think I know him better than I know you; I certainly know him better than I knew our ex-wife."
"Wasn't much to know about her, other than she's a money-grabbing bitch. What? Donít look at me like that, Fornell, you know what she's like."
Fornell shrugged and said flatly, "She's also the mother of my daughter."
For a moment they were silent as they stared at one another. Gibbs had nothing he could say with words so he simply stared at Fornell and said things he couldn't voice. "What do you mean the SecNav has employed him?" he asked, breaking the silence.
"Apparently the SecNav's redecorating."
Gibbs stared at him. "Your spy's a painter and decorator?"
Fornell flashed him a half-smile. "Not exactly. He's a limner."
"A limner. It's someone who paints portraits; but it's more than that. Ask Ducky, he'll know."
"You mean you don't?"
"I mean, Ducky's used to explaining things to you."
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Gee, thanks, Tobias. So what do you want from me?"
Fornell swallowed. "I need you to get the SecNav to find another limner, without telling him why."
Gibbs stared at Fornell unblinkingly. "And I thought it'd be something difficult. Hell, Fornell, how am I supposed to do that?"
Fornell shrugged. "He's your Secretary," he said. "Invite him to your basement again, give him a drink. You'll think of something."
Gibbs shook his head. "There's something you're not telling me, isn't there, Fornell?"
Fornell met Gibbs's gaze. He was silent for a long time. Then he shrugged and said softly, "Are you asking me as your lover or your equal in the FBI?"
Gibbs stared into Fornell's eyes. "What aren't you telling me, Fornell? Why can't the SecNav know about this terrorist spy and why can't Vance?"
"You mean other than me losing my job?" Gibbs nodded. Fornell sighed, pushed his hands into the pockets of his overcoat and stood up. "Because I think both our agencies have more important things to do than get involved in turf wars. I'll see you later." He began to walk away.
Instantly Gibbs was on his feet. In one stride he caught up with Fornell and grabbed his arm. "What the -" He broke off and glared down at Fornell staring into his eyes, eyes that offered what Fornell couldn't say. "You've got to be kidding me," he spat the words, but even as he did, he knew Fornell wasn't. "But - You swear to me this guy's not going to harm the SecNav."
Fornell looked grim. "Yes."
Gibbs was still holding Fornell's arm. He let go. "I should - Damn you, Fornell. You know I should."
"Yeah, I do. Are you going to?"
Gibbs scowled. "What do you think?" he said after a long stretch of silence. It wouldn't be the first time they'd kept things from their directors - it was just probably the biggest thing. But he trusted Fornell. "If something goes wrong."
"It won't. Just get the SecNav to fire him. That's all you have to do."
"Yeah, I hadn't forgotten." Gibbs sighed. He had no idea how he was going to do that. The first thing he'd do was talk to Ducky, as Fornell had suggested, find out exactly what a limner was. Then he'd take it from there. "You coming round tonight?" he asked, already pushing the matter to one side until he had all the facts.
"You sure I'm still welcome?"
Gibbs gave Fornell a partial smile. "Yeah, as long as you don't bring anything from the Punjab Express for dinner."
Fornell matched the smile. "I won't. Guess I'll see you later then."
"Guess you will." And with a nod, Gibbs turned and stalked away.
"Hey, Duck," he called, as the automatic doors opened for him. "Palmer here?"
"Hello, Jethro. No, he isn't, it's a Medical School day." Ducky beamed up at him.
Gibbs nodded briefly. "Good," he said. "Need to ask you something, Duck."
Ducky smiled at him. "And what might that be?"
"You know what a limner is?" Ducky just stared at him, a look of mild amusement on his face. "Okay, stupid question. Want to tell me exactly what one is? I know he's a paints portraits, but it's more than that, isn't it?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes, it is. And it is not quite as straight-forward as you might think," Ducky headed towards his desk and sat down, Gibbs followed him.
"Didn't think it would be," he said, snagging the other chair and straddling it. "Well, go on then, educate me."
"Well, as you say a limner does indeed paint portraits, but it is more than merely painting. They seem to paint beyond the physical; they depict the person they are painting, they show them as they really are, they show their personality. You should really be able to see the scene or the person that has been limned. Say a courtroom scene; you feel as if you are really there. Limners tend to use water-colors or even distemper, or they did. But a limner also embellishes objects with gold or other bright colors and they illuminate manuscripts and letters. The true limner is dying out now; indeed the word is rarely used. It is considered archaic and most often occurs in literature than in general day to day conversation. Often it was a futile and frustrating job as a true limner is rarely satisfied with what they produce, others are happy, but the person producing the limned picture rarely is." Ducky came to a halt and gazed at Gibbs. "Does that help?"
"Er, yeah, Duck. Thanks," Gibbs was reeling slightly under the onslaught of information, but he got the general gist of it. He wondered quite what the SecNav wanted limned; did he want a personal portrait or was it something else? And how the hell did he persuade him he didn't want it. Why couldn't he have stuck to having his walls painted or papered?
Suddenly an idea came to him; he almost dismissed it as it seemed unlikely, ridiculous even. But what had he got to lose? "Donít suppose you know anyone who does these limned whatsits, do you, Duck?"
Ducky smiled and his eyes lit up. "Well, now, Jethro, as a matter of fact I do. An old friend of mine, with whom I was at Edinburgh, decided that medicine wasn't for him. He'd always had a talent for drawing and painting, but never had I seen anyone who could bring a scene, a portrait to life in the way he could. He - Oh, do forgive me. Yes, I do."
Gibbs sighed to himself. He should have been a bit more specific. "Don't suppose this guy's in the States?"
Ducky's smiled deepened. "Amazingly, he is. He's here for a year, I believe. He teaches art and he and a local tutor have exchanged jobs and homes for the duration. Now that really is a coincidence, is it not? You asking about limning and he - Ah, but of course you don't believe in coincidences, do you?" Ducky teased him gently.
Gibbs laughed. "I wonít tell if you don't." He swallowed and stopped laughing. "Duck," he said.
"You trust me, don't you?"
Ducky blinked and looked surprised. "That's a very odd question, Jethro. It is not like you to ask a question to which you already know the answer. Of course I trust you."
One day Gibbs would ask Ducky why he couldnít just answer a simple question with a simple answer. "So if I asked for this guy's contact details, but said I couldn't tell you why, you wouldn't be . . . Upset? Offended? Angry?"
Ducky stared at Gibbs for a moment or two. "I would be curious, naturally. However, I would accept your word that you are not able to tell me and that would suffice."
"Would it? Would it really, Duck?"
Ducky smiled and briefly squeezed Gibbs's arm. "Of course, Jethro. Now, let me . . . Ah, yes, here you are." And he handed Gibbs a business card. "You'll be able to contact him here. Just mention my name."
Gibbs squeezed Ducky's hand. "Thanks, Duck," he said, standing up. "Got to go. I'll catch you later." He smiled down at Ducky before turning and heading out of Autopsy.
THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY'S HOUSE - LATER THAT EVENING
"Agent Gibbs." The SecNav stared at Gibbs.
"What can I do for you?"
Gibbs held up a bottle of fifteen year old scotch. "Brought you this, sir."
The SecNav took it and stared at his, his eyes widened as he read the label. "What do you want, Gibbs," he asked, turning his penetrating stare on Gibbs. His tone told Gibbs clearly he knew this was not merely a social visit.
Gibbs straightened up. "There's something I need to . . . Discuss with you, sir."
The SecNav stared at him for several seconds. Then he nodded. "You'd better come in."
"Thank you, sir."
Gibbs pulled up outside his house. As he turned the engine off, grabbed his briefcase and got out, he noticed the living room curtains had been closed. Despite himself he smiled; it had been a long time since he'd come home to find someone, other than his dad, waiting for him.
The front door was locked, so he dug into his pockets and pulled out his keys. "Hey," he called, "I'm home." He shut the door and relocked it.
"You're late," Fornell came out of the kitchen.
"Good to see you too." Gibbs dumped his briefcase on the floor and hung his coat up. He sniffed; the scent in the air was tantalizing and instantly made him how long it'd been since he'd eaten. "Thought you were getting carry-out."
Fornell shrugged. "I felt like cooking," he said. "Drink?"
"In a minute." Gibbs grabbed Fornell, pulled him nearer to him and kissed him. "Tastes good," he said finally lifting his head. "Grandmother Fornell's recipe again?"
"Only the best," Fornell quipped he grinned at Gibbs.
"Come on, let's get that drink." Gibbs turned towards the living room, but Fornell caught his arm.
"About the . . ." He trailed off.
Gibbs was silent for a moment. Then he shrugged. "Sorted." He went into the living room, grabbed a bottle of Macallan he kept for when Fornell or Ducky visited and poured two measures. He handed one to Fornell.
"Thanks. It is?"
"Yeah, that's why I was late. Been to see the SecNav."
"And he's got a new limner."
Fornell's mouth fell open. "How?"
Gibbs stared at him. "Duck knew someone. I convinced the SecNav Duck's guy was better than the one he had."
Fornell shook his head. "Does Ducky know everyone?"
Gibbs ginned. "Sometimes reckon he does."
Fornell went into the kitchen and Gibbs followed him, the tantalizing smell was even more tantalizing. He could get used to this, coming home to Fornell, maybe he should - "Huh?" he said, realizing Fornell had said something.
"I asked how you convinced the SecNav to change limners." He paused mid-stir and looked hard at Gibbs. "You didn't -"
"No, Tobias, I didn't. But about that . . ."
Fornell sighed. "Look, Jethro, the link with the Navy's tenuous at best." Gibbs stared at Fornell, narrowing his eyes and really studying him. Fornell held the stare, never once looking away from him. He was telling the truth - at least as far as he was aware. "I wanted to tell you, but my director - he wants his guy, Jethro. He's been after him for most of his career. Before he retires he wants him. You know what that's like."
Gibbs glared. "Don't fight dirty, Fornell," he growled. "Doesn't suit you."
Fornell put a hand on his arm and offered a silent apology. "Let's eat," he said.
Gibbs nodded. "Sounds good to me."
Fornell dished up and Gibbs carried the plates through to the main room. "We're okay, aren't we?" Fornell asked, as he picked up his fork.
Gibbs took Fornell's hand and gave it a quick squeeze. "Yeah, Tobias, we're okay." He shoveled a mouthful of pasta into his mouth. "It's good," he said around it.
Fornell took a mouthful as well. "I told you, nothing but the best," he said, after swallowing it. "Jethro?"
Gibbs, about to take another mouthful, paused. "Yeah?"
"Thank you," Fornell said quietly.
Gibbs shrugged. "De nada. Well, come on; you're getting behind," he took another helping of pasta and began to eat it.
"I didn't know we were on a schedule," Fornell said, taking a second helping for himself. "Have you got another date?"
Gibbs grinned. "Yeah. You. Me. Shower. Bed." He leered at Fornell and laughed as Fornell took an even larger mouthful of his pasta and hastily swallowed it. Yeah, he really could get used to coming home to Fornell; he could get used to it very easily.
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