TOO OLD?

 

By

 

Ashleigh Anpilova

 

It's a month after Gibbs agreed to go to Tim's book launch party and the evening has arrived.

An established relationship story.

Written: October 2009. Word count: 3,058

 

 

 

Muttering to himself as he stared into the mirror that stop on top of the chest of drawers and trying for the third time to tie the damned bowtie, Jethro wondered what had possessed him to tell Tim he'd go to his book launch party with him. All he'd have to have done would have been to say 'no', and Tim wouldn't have asked again. He wouldn't even have let him know how much Jethro's refusal had hurt him.

 

But he hadn't said no; he'd said yes. And that was why he was standing in their bedroom in his tuxedo trying and failing to tie the black tie. Tim had been mortified when his publisher's assistant's assistant had called to tell him what the dress code was. In fact Tim had been so concerned, he'd told Jethro it didn't matter; he'd go on his own. Of course perversely Jethro had immediately declared of course it mattered; he'd said he was going, so he was going. Tim had been so happy that once Jethro had really realized what he'd agreed to, it was far too late to change his mind and let Tim down.

 

As the days had let up to the party, things had gotten tense between the partners. Jethro had spent more time working on his boat than he'd done in months, and when he was around had found himself snapping at Tim over the slightest little thing. Thus, on more than one occasion Tim had retreated to his study. Oh, they always made up before they went to sleep; yet another 'homily' Ducky had told Jethro had been 'never go to sleep on a quarrel'. In fact, looking back Jethro realized they'd made love five nights in a row - something of a rare occurrence. Not that they didn't have an active sex life, a very active one at times, but after all Jethro reminded himself he was sixty-four.

 

And that was the crux of the matter: his age; the age difference between him and Tim and what other people would think of it. It didn't matter that Tim had told him more than once that the twenty-three year age difference didn't matter to him, and it wasn't that Jethro didn't believe his lover; he did. Nonetheless, he still found himself bothered at times. It wasn't that he minded on his own behalf, how the hell could he mind when Tim made him feel at least ten years younger? Okay there were times when he felt guilty, because in six years he'd be seventy and Tim would still well under fifty, and he found himself wondering what happened when he got sick and Tim had to take care of him? Those were the times he felt too old for Tim; that he told himself he was too old for Tim. And those times had come more frequently during the last week or so.

 

But even more than his own feelings, Jethro found himself thinking what other people would think. His lover was one of those people who looked several years younger than he was and despite a few lines around his eyes and mouth, Tim easily looked no more than thirty-five, whereas even on a good day, Jethro was convinced he looked his age and maybe a bit more. Too many years of being out in all weathers had taken its toll on his face, and his hair was now a pale grey. People would see them together and think all he wanted was -

 

Tim strode into the room; he looked damned gorgeous in his tuxedo, crisp white dress shirt and perfectly tied bowtie. He also looked a sexy as hell and instantly Jethro forgot his worries and found his mind turning to the possibility of forgoing the party and getting Tim naked under his hands. Except Tim was the 'guest of honor'; it was his party. Jethro sighed to himself, tore his gaze away from his lover and went back to trying to tie his tie.

 

Seconds later he felt Tim's hands on his from behind him and Tim's body pressed lightly against his. "Let me," Tim murmured, his lips on Jethro's ear. Then before Jethro could say anything, Tim surprised him by saying, "God, you look good. Have you any idea how much you turn me on seeing you dressed like this?" Tim's chin was now on Jethro's shoulder and he could see his lover's eyes in the mirror. The look confirmed Tim's words, as did the way Tim pressed a little closer to him, thus allowing Jethro to feel the beginning of Tim's arousal.

 

He groaned softly to himself; he was suddenly aware, in a way he hitherto hadn't been, just how much power he had over Tim. He knew Tim loved him, he knew that while their relationship was totally equal, Tim still 'looked up' to him, rather like the way Jethro still 'looked up' to Tom Morrow. He knew with a word or gesture, he could have Tim naked in bed and the party would be forgotten. Sure it would make life difficult for Tim, but if Jethro spoke or touched him, Tim would give into him.

 

Jethro was only human, despite what his team had thought on more than one occasion, thus for a second or two he did allow the thought and the image of his naked lover in bed, under his hands, his mouth on Tim's, making love to him. Or maybe he wouldn't strip Tim; maybe he'd make love to him while Tim was still looking so sexy. For a fleeting moment he allowed himself to imagine Tim on his back, bowtie undone but still around his neck, shirt partly unbuttoned, jacket completely open, his trousers unbuttoned, unbelted and unzipped and pushed down just enough to allow Jethro to -

 

He stopped the thought instantly. He couldnít, he wouldn't, do that to Tim - well maybe later; maybe when they got home from the party, he might. But for now . . .

 

Jethro moved forward just a little so that Tim's body was no longer brushing his, took Tim's hands firmly away from his bowtie and turned to face his fleetingly pouting lover. "Tie the damned tie and let's get the hell out of here. The sooner we go, the sooner we can get back. And when we get back . . ." He trailed off and deliberately let his gaze wander down and up Tim's body.

 

He watched Tim swallow hard before grabbing the ends of Jethro's bowtie and swiftly and efficiently tying it for him.

 

 

To Jethro's surprise when they reached the foyer of Tim's publishing house, Tim slipped his arm through Jethro's and led him towards the room that already had a low buzz of far too many people talking. Reminding himself just why he was doing this - for Tim - Jethro let Tim guide him into the room.

 

Not sure whether to feel uncomfortable by the fact that Tim was holding his arm, or uncomfortable because actually he felt damn proud to have Tim there, Jethro glanced around him. A few people nodded and waved to Tim, but to Jethro's relief no one stopped talking or stared at the two men in shock.

 

"Timothy! You're here." The woman Jethro recognized as Lyndi Crawshaw, Tim's publisher, hurried over to them and she and Tim dutifully air-kissed, before she turned her attention to Jethro. "Jethro Gibbs," she said, holding out her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you again, under, I must say, far happier circumstances. You must be really proud of Timothy."

 

By his side Jethro saw Tim's ears grow pink and his lover frowned slightly. "Lyndi -"

 

Jethro shook Ms. Crawshaw's hand. "I am, indeed, Ma'am," he said. "And it's good to see you again."

 

The heavily made-up eyes widened as he automatically fell back on years of addressing people and she smiled. "Oh, please, Jethro, I may call you Jethro, may I not?" She went on without giving him a chance to answer. "As I was saying, please, Jethro, call me Lyndi, ma'am is so . . ." She trailed off, apparently unable to complete the sentence.

 

Jethro nodded. "Lyndi it is."

 

She beamed at him; he was sure her teeth had to have been capped, they were all so perfectly aligned and the kind of white that looked so natural, it couldn't be. "Good. Now let me get you both a drink." She snapped her fingers and a waiter carrying a tray of red wine dutifully appeared. "Matthew," she said, glancing at the man's ID badge. "This here is our guest of honor, Timothy McGee, better known to you, I am sure, as Thom E. Gemcity. And this is his partner, Leroy Jethro Gibbs," Jethro was amazed she'd remembered his full name, or maybe she'd asked Tim beforehand. "I am making you responsible for ensuring their glasses remain topped up, and once the food is served that their plates always have something on that. Can you do that?"

 

The man inclined his head. "Yes, Ms. Crawshaw," he said. "Gentleman," he offered the tray first to Jethro and then to Tim before silently and smoothly, as all good waiters did, sailing off again.

 

"Good," Lyndi said. "Now if you'll excuse me, Timothy, Jethro, I really must go and talk to Taylor Baxter about the cover design. He assured me that . . .  Later, Timothy, I need to talk to you about chapter fifteen." And after air-kissing Tim again and smiling her perfect smile at Jethro she hurried off.

 

Jethro took a deep sip of the wine; it was good, make that very good. Clearly his lover rated high quality drink and if what he could see being laid out on the tables on the far side of the room, food too.

 

He was about to say something to Tim, when Todd Ryder sashayed over to them. "Timothy!" he exclaimed. Jethro was aware that it was likely everyone but him called his lover by his full name; he wondered if he ought to try to adopt the name for the evening, especially as he knew Tim actually preferred it to 'Tim'. But his lover had been 'Tim' to Jethro for far too long for him to change now. "And you've brought your divine Jethro with you. What a pleasure it is to meet you again, Jethro, or should I say Agent Gibbs? I do hope you aren't here to chase and arrest me this time." He took Jethro's hand between both of his and squeezed it, while maintaining the kind of eye contact Jethro rarely saw outside of his home.

 

"Todd." He heard Tim's tone and recognized it well. He wondered if Todd did.

 

"Oh, don't fuss, Timothy. You can't keep Jethro all to yourself all of the time, now can he, Jethro?" He was still holding Jethro's hand between his and smiling at him.

 

By his side Jethro could sense Tim's unease and he heard his lover clear his throat. Meanwhile, Todd was babbling away, his gaze never once leaving Jethro's as he used every flirtation trick in the book. For some reason Jethro himself wasn't bothered by the overt display, in fact something hit him. He quickly drained his glass and decided to test this theory.

 

As soon as the empty glass left his lips, Todd let go of Jethro's hand with one of his and snagged the glass. "Shall I refill that for you, Jethro?" he almost purred.

 

Jethro quickly glanced at Tim who was now radiating so much concern and tension that Jethro feared he might just explode. He winked at Tim, not certain if his lover saw it, then put the hand Todd wasn't holding onto the younger man's shoulder, bent his head a little and said, "Tell you what, Todd, let's get," he paused just for a second, "Timothy to fetch us both a glass, and you can stay here with me." The look on Todd's face told him his theory had been correct.

 

Todd's eyes widened so much, Jethro felt himself wince, Todd's mouth fell open and his face paled. "I . . . I . . . I . . ." was all he could manage, before he dropped Jethro's hand as though it had suddenly burned him, pulled himself away from Jethro's grip, turned, tripped, managed to regain his balance, before hastening away in an ungainly fashion.

 

Jethro turned to his lover who was now laughing softly. "You've still got it, haven't you? Your ability to read people. What gave him away?"

 

Jethro shrugged and snagged Tim's glass from his hand and took a sip. "Don't know exactly what it was, I just got the feeling he was all talk. Does he do that kind of thing often?"

 

Tim took his glass back. "Fairly, he likes to play the so called 'stereotypical' gay man. But it is all an act. He has a long-term lover who he's been with for ten years."

 

Before Jethro could reply, the waiter who Lyndi had 'ordered' to make sure Tim and Jethro's glasses were topped up appeared and handed Jethro another glass of wine and topped Tim's glass up. Both men nodded their thanks and Matthew departed as silently as he'd appeared.

 

"Ten years?"

 

Tim nodded. "Yes. In fact he's over there," he nodded in the direction of a man who Jethro was surprised to see looked about the same age as him. "Bartholomew Lloyd-Jackson; he's a semi-retired banker."

 

Jethro turned back to Tim. "And he doesn't mind Todd behaving like a . . .Well, like he does?"

 

Tim shrugged. "I would imagine he'd rather Todd didnít, but given he knows there's nothing in it, I think he sees it as part of Todd's charm."

 

"You like him, don't you?"

 

"Todd?" Jethro nodded. "I do, yes. He's actually a very intelligent and astute man, once you get past the whole 'I'm gayer than gay' act."

 

"I keep telling him that one of these days, his act really will get him into trouble, but he doesn't listen to me." Jethro and Tim turned to see the man Tim had pointed out, standing by them. He held out his hand to Jethro. "Bartholomew Lloyd-Jackson, and you must be Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Timothy's partner. I wanted to applaud you for the way you handled Todd."

 

Jethro took the man's hand and shook his. It was a firm, cool grip, the kind he approved of. "Yes, I'm Jethro, pleased to meet you, Mr. Lloyd-Jackson."

 

The man frowned and shook his head. "And I thought it was only us British who were so formal. It's Bartholomew, which I do know is something of a mouthful; however, I have liked any shortened version of it. Ah, there you are, Todd," he added.

 

If Jethro had had any doubt as to the depth of the relationship Bartholomew and Todd shared it would have vanished the second he saw the look the two men exchanged. In turn he found his own gaze flicking from the partners to Tim. The look on Tim's face and in his eyes was the one he was used to seeing, albeit not that often in such a public venue.

 

Suddenly he realized that Tim was quite a home in the surroundings, and whatever unease he may have felt as to how Jethro would find the party had fled. Reluctantly pulling his gaze from his lover's face, Jethro glanced around the room and saw that Tim had spoken the truth about there being a lot of gay couples present at the party. Men stood with men, women with women, men with women and it was quite easy to spot the couples from the friends and co-workers. Couples made up the vast majority of the people present; Jethro supposed that was logical really, given the event was a social one.

 

The rest of the evening was, to Jethro's surprise, very enjoyable. He discovered that Bartholomew had, albeit many years before, dabbled with wood work, and the man shared Jethro's sense of humor. In his lover's presence all hints of flirtation and the 'gayer than gay' fled, and Jethro saw the Todd Tim had spoken about; and he understood fully why Lyndi valued him as her assistant.

 

He was also introduced to what seemed like the entire publishing house staff and their partners, and saw just how highly Tim was thought of. In fact more than once, his lover had flushed and tried to change the subject, as yet another person told Jethro what a fine writer and person Tim was.

 

Finally, after accepting a dinner invitation from Bartholomew and Todd for the following week, saying goodnight to Lyndi and a couple of other stragglers, Jethro and Tim were in a cab heading back to Reston House.

 

Jethro had enjoyed himself; he's enjoyed him a lot more than he'd thought he would. However, he was also glad the evening was over and Tim and he could return to the peace of their own home, lock the door and - He stopped that thought immediately.

 

 

Jethro closed the front door of their home behind them and locked and bolted it before turning to look at Tim. He held out his hand. "Bed?"

 

Tim nodded, took Jethro's hand and tugged Jethro towards him. "Thank you," he said, putting his arms around Jethro and pulling him closer. "For tonight," he added.

 

Jethro completed the embrace, enjoying the feel of Tim's body pressed against him. "I enjoyed it," he said, kissing Tim's cheek.

 

Tim pushed him away a little and looked at him. "Really?" he asked, he sounded both delighted and slightly disbelieving.

 

"Yeah," Jethro said, pulling Tim back closer to him and kissing him properly. When they broke away, he added, "What's not to enjoy? I was with you." He felt and heard Tim's sigh of pleasure.

 

SOME TIME LATER

 

With Tim already asleep by his side, Jethro carefully reached out to turn off the bedside light. His entire body throbbed with satisfaction of the drawn-out love making session Tim and he had enjoyed.

 

As the room plunged into darkness, he kissed Tim's cheek and settled down next to his lover. As his eyes began to close he decided that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't too old for Tim after all.

 

 

LINKS TO THIS GIBBS/McGEE SERIES:

 

Why Me?

Concerns

The Final Hurdle

A Sense of Relief

Just A Kid

How To Raise The Subject

Coming Together

Why Not?

Too Old?

 

 

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