Sleep Now

by Jane Davitt

He's been awake for long enough to describe it in days, not hours. Blood, dried hard, once sticky, is matted into his chest hair. It's his, or he would have made time to wash it off.

Gibbs has ridden his ass -- their collective asses -- from the moment of the phone call that opened the case to the click of cuffs that ended it. His head is filled with a litany of words spilling from Gibbs' mouth at regular intervals, furious, scathing, biting… words that hurt, stung, goaded him, kept him awake.

He hopes that was why Gibbs said them, anyway.

And those words had worked, because rah-rah team, sure, but Tony's the one who shone in this one and he knows it. There're cases like that now and then, when he's there in the killer's head (dark in there but not too dark with the pale, scary light in Gibbs' eyes to illuminate the shadows) and it's so fucking easy --

So clear.

He needs to shower as much as he needs to sleep. He needs to piss out bad coffee and he needs to put food in his stomach that isn't mostly grease and sugar. He needs to -- needs to --

Needs to make it fuzzy around the edges so that he can sleep clean and quiet.

He stares at the sander Gibbs has given him, a wooden block wrapped in sandpaper, scratchy over hard to apply to rough and splintered and make it smooth. Put like that, it sounds impossible.

Out of the corner of his eye -- and he can't turn his head; it's just not something he has the strength for -- he can see Gibbs. Can smell Gibbs, sweating caffeine and a bleak, black bitterness. Gibbs doesn't care that they got the son of a bitch. Tomorrow, maybe, he will but not right now.

Tony tightens his grip on the sander because his hand is shaking and draws it along the wood. Again. Again. His knuckles catch against something and he's left staring at the tiny curls of abraded skin, the beads of blood welling up, pretty in a way, bursting like berries filled with juice.

Gibbs takes the sander from him and cradles Tony's hand in his as he studies the damage.

"Didn't bleed on the boat, boss," Tony offers and he gets what he's been waiting for, what he's stayed awake for, filthy, jittery, starved.

"You did good, Tony."

"Thanks, boss."

And Gibbs sighs, as if that's taken the last of his strength, and sags a little, shoulders slumping.

This is the really scary part but Tony's braver now than he has been in the past. He stays. Other times, times Gibbs has forgiven him for (he thinks), but he never will, he's left Gibbs alone, run away. Stumbling feet, uneasy, terrified smile. (Look at the funny man crying, Mommy! No, sweetie, don't stare, it's not polite.) Now he doesn't even have to pretend this isn't Gibbs he's holding, slow tears leaking out. A man he's stripped naked for, a man he's spread himself open for, a man he's knelt to in as pure a form of worship as he's capable of performing.

This Gibbs isn't that Gibbs. This Gibbs is smaller, broken, sad, but he's stopped being a stranger.

Tony holds him, counts down. It takes longer every time for Gibbs to find himself again but when he does, they'll fuck (dirty bodies on clean sheets) then shower, then sleep (clean bodies on dirty sheets).

He doesn't want the sex; too tired, really is so very fucking tired, but Gibbs will need it after this and it's easy; it's skin and hands and mouth and ass; it's simple.

And it puts Gibbs back where he belongs and Tony needs that.

It's been one hell of a long day.

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