Footsore and Fractious

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Tony pushed the door to autopsy open and paused, hearing Gibbs speaking to Ducky. His voice was a little quieter than usual, though still audible, so Tony poked his head around the door to make sure he wasn't interrupting. His report wasn't due until the next day--he could afford to come back later to refresh his memory of the victim's injuries.

On the other side of autopsy, Gibbs was standing with his back to the door. He didn't seem to have noticed the interruption, but Ducky caught Tony's eye momentarily. Strangely, he said nothing, speaking instead to Gibbs.

"Jethro, you can't pretend that you don't know that you spend too much time in this form." Ducky's tone was low and serious. Tony would have said confidential, if not for the fact that the man was speaking knowing Tony could hear them. Easing back out of their line of sight lest Gibbs sense his gaze, Tony wedged the door open a little with the tip of his shoe and tilted his head, listening.

"You just told me yourself that I'm in good condition," Gibbs said briskly.

"Good condition, Jethro. Not excellent condition. Not your best condition. Maintaining human form for such vastly extended periods of time is unnatural for your kind." Tony frowned as Ducky spoke. Human form? Gibbs's kind? Ducky certainly didn't sound like he was joking. He sounded worried. "It places excessive stress on your lower back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Don't try to tell me you aren't feeling it by now, because I know better."

Now Tony was worried. This sounded chronic. From the way Ducky was talking, Tony suspected it was the sort of thing that could take Gibbs out of the field. Possibly permanently. It was hard to imagine Gibbs's body breaking down like that. The man radiated strength. Not to mention that he was in pretty fucking fantastic shape, in Tony's personal opinion.

"It's not like I have much opportunity to change," Gibbs was saying. "There's a boat in my basement, you know."

Tony could almost hear the frown in Ducky's voice. "That basement is hardly big enough, regardless. You need someone to really stretch out and run. Take your days off and use them."

There was a long pause. "The nearest safe place is hours away, Ducky. What's the point in trapping myself in a car for hours on end just to go for a run?" The sentence had just a shade of melancholy to it, something Tony knew would never have been there if Gibbs were talking to anyone by Ducky. He leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes momentarily, fighting the certain knowledge that listening was very, very wrong. "And I'd be much too far away to get back if something came up here," Gibbs went on, more normally. "It's inefficient. I can handle sore feet."

"You could take someone with you," Ducky suggested, almost gently.

"There isn't anyone to take, Duck. Give it up already. If you couldn't convince me to tell even one of my wives, you aren't going to be able to convince me to tell anyone else."

There was a significant pause. "Well. Perhaps that won't be necessary."

Tony barely had time to catch his breath before the door jerked open in front of him and he was confronted by one patently furious Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Tony froze and summoned a weak smile. "Hi, boss," he managed, wincing at the break in his voice.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs growled.

Tony closed his eyes and cringed, waiting for the inevitable bawling out. This was going to be bad. Worse than bad. Jesus, Tony realized suddenly, how is he ever going to trust me after this? This wasn't snooping through Kate's cell phone or gossiping at work or surprising McGee in his apartment. This was eavesdropping on a private conversation--on Gibbs's private conversation--which Gibbs had obviously only allowed himself to have because someone he trusted was watching his back. Tony felt like he was crumbling inside and Gibbs hadn't even said anything yet.


Cracking one eye open, Tony caught a glimpse of Gibbs's stony expression and flinched before the older man turned to face Ducky.

For a moment the three of them stood there, Tony staring at Gibbs, Gibbs staring at Ducky, Ducky glaring back, jaw set. "You knew he was there," Gibbs said flatly, "and you didn't say anything."


Tony felt the tension seep out of his shoulders. Gibbs would be pissed at Ducky, but he wouldn't kill him--figuratively or literally.

"Ducky," Gibbs said, his voice low and hard. "I've trusted you with this secret for more than twenty years. Until now, you've never broken that trust, so I am going to give you one chance to explain why you've broken it now. Talk."

Ducky lifted his chin and met Gibbs's gaze without flinching, a feat Tony envied more than he would ever admit. "You've been alone a very long time, Jethro," Ducky said. "Your life has been hard enough without your propensity for isolating yourself unnecessarily."

"It is not up to you to decide what is necessary or unnecessary in my life, Doctor Mallard." Gibbs turned and took a step towards the doorway. The doorway which Tony was currently occupying. Tony froze, transfixed by his cool gaze. "Move," Gibbs grated.

Tony swallowed what would have been a truly embarrassing sound and stepped to the side at once, not daring to move again until the elevator doors had closed behind Gibbs. Safe at last, he turned wide eyes on Ducky. "What just happened?" he asked shakily.

Ducky removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes for a moment before replacing them. "Depending on what happens this evening, I may have just fatally wounded an exceptionally long standing friendship."

"This evening?" Tony asked, brow furrowed.

Ducky gave him a small smile. "When you go to Jethro's home so that he can show you what we were discussing."

"Oh," Tony said faintly.


From the moment Ducky had said it there had never been any doubt that Tony would go to Gibbs's house that night, but as he parked the car he had to wonder why Ducky thought Gibbs would actually show him anything. He hadn't heard anything conclusive and Gibbs had to know it because Gibbs would never have said anything conclusive, not right there in autopsy.

By the time Tony reached the front door, he'd managed to convince himself that this was a wasted trip, that Gibbs wouldn't tell him a damned thing, and that he was about to treat himself to the dressing down he'd been spared earlier in the day. Which is why he was startled when Gibbs opened the door dressed in nothing but a pair of sweatpants.

Actually, that would have surprised Tony regardless. Gibbs wasn't in the habit of flaunting himself. Hell, the man worked out in three layers of clothing. Which was probably a good thing, Tony told himself, making a conscious effort not to let his eyes linger on the strong, smooth chest and the small peaked nipples. Tony blinked frantically and fixed his eyes on Gibbs's face, not caring it if made him look stupid. He was feeling pretty stupid.

"You going to come in?" Gibbs asked neutrally, standing back from the door.

"Right!" Tony shook his head, half hoping to knock some sense into himself, and stepped over the threshold. Gibbs shut and locked the door behind him, which was odd. Gibbs almost never locked his front door. Tony glanced over at Gibbs curiously, got another eyeful of skin and jerked his gaze away. "Uh, boss? Why are you walking around half naked?" The moment the words left his mouth Tony winced. There were only a thousand better ways he could have asked that.

Gibbs didn't take offense, just shot Tony an impatient look. "Because, given what you're here to see, wearing clothes would defeat the point."

"Hey, not objecting to the nakedness," Tony said, smiling and spreading his hands. Gibbs glared at him. "Uh, not that you're the type I usually go for, in the nakedness department," he backpedaled quickly. "Not that there's anything wrong with your nakedness--"

"Tony!" Gibbs snapped.

"Yeah, boss?" Tony said weakly.

"Shut up."


For a long moment, awkward silence prevailed. Tony tried not to stare at Gibbs, standing there in nothing but a pair of sweatpants, with limited success. Gibbs didn't make any secret of the way he was staring back. Eventually Tony swallowed convulsively and forced words past his lips. "I'll admit that I am wildly curious about what's going on here," he began, "but I don't actually know anything about it. I overheard maybe five minutes of conversation and neither of you said anything definite, except that apparently you aren't as healthy as you'd like us all to think." Tony paused and took a steadying breath. "So if you really don't want to show me whatever it is Ducky thinks you're going to show me, just tell me to get the hell out of here and I'll go."

After a moment, the hardness in Gibbs's stare eased up a little bit. "I know you, DiNozzo," he said after a moment. "You'd go, but you wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it. You'd be watching me, waiting for me to slip up, and frankly, I had enough of looking over my shoulder years ago." Briskly, Gibbs hooked his thumbs into the waistband of the sweatpants and shoved them down.

Tony blinked, unable to not look, but before he could even succumb to a blush Gibbs changed and suddenly the fact that his boss was naked was the last thing on his mind.

Gibbs's belly and flanks no longer flowed into ordinary hips and groin and legs. Instead they gave way smoothly to a short, fine coat of hair and the rise of withers and eventually to hard, smooth hooves. Gibbs's body stretched out behind him, the long lines of an equine back ending in powerful hindquarters and the smooth fall of his tail.

"You're a centaur," Tony said, stunned, and was briefly, powerfully glad that that was what ended up coming out of his mouth. He could only imagine Gibbs's reaction if he'd called him a horse.

"Yeah," Gibbs said, surprise leaking into his voice. "Have you met others of my kind?"

Tony tore his gaze from Gibbs's new--old? real?--body and forced himself to focus on the man's face. "Others?" he asked weakly.

"I'll take that as a no," Gibbs said wryly.

Tony said nothing, unable to resist looking back at this new form of Gibbs. Greek myths weren't exactly his strong suit, but on the rare occasion he'd imagined the creatures they described, he'd only been able to think of a centaur as a human torso stuck onto a horse's body. It didn't seem to work. The two things didn't belong together and his imaginings had led him to snort at the myths and roll his eyes at those who placed any real weight on them.

There was nothing "stuck on" about Gibbs like this.

He was the way he should be. Gibbs as a centaur was even more powerful, even more overwhelming than he was as a man. It was like that reservoir of intensity that Tony had always seen in the man had finally been made manifest. Gibbs wasn't strange or out of place in his ordinary human living room--the living room was out of place around Gibbs.

It took all Tony had to resist reaching out to touch, to lay his hands on the speckled grey coat that covered Gibbs's body. It was, Tony noticed absently, just a little darker than his hair. The tail was the same. Tony drank in the sight of him, trying to commit every detail to memory. He could hardly believe that Gibbs had let him see this once. To expect to ever see it again meant taking for granted things that Tony wasn't even sure were possible.

"You're not really going to believe it unless you touch me, are you?"

"What?" Tony asked, jerking his attention back to Gibbs's expression. All the tension had gone now, replaced with a kind of tolerant amusement that would have irritated Tony if he weren't so grateful for it.

"Go ahead," Gibbs said instead of repeating himself. He tilted his head back towards his own flank. "I don't mind." Just this once was unvoiced but understood.

Tony was well aware that this was real--Gibbs's sheer presence didn't really allow for disbelief--but he wasn't about to turn down an invitation to lay hands on the man. Centaur, Tony corrected himself as he stepped closer. He gingerly laid a hand on Gibbs's withers, where his hips would have been in human form, and just rested it there a moment, absorbing the heat Gibbs radiated and the soft smoothness of the coat of hair. Under his hand Gibbs's skin twitched, though the centaur himself stood stock still.

All but holding his breath, Tony ran his hand along Gibbs's body, moving with the grain of the hair and feeling it shift slightly under his touch. A faint, choked sound startled him. Quickly looking up to see if he'd done something wrong, Tony realized two things. One, Gibbs was taller than him in this form. And two, Gibbs was a little flushed, almost like he was embarrassed. Or aroused. The thought sent a rush of heat through Tony. He licked dry lips. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked, though he was pretty sure he hadn't. Not that there was anyway to know for sure. Not without getting down on his knees to look. One disadvantage of Gibbs's current form.

"No," Gibbs said roughly. "I just-- It's been nearly thirty years since someone touched me while I this."

"Oh." Tony swallowed an apology. He wasn't sorry. He was never going to be sorry he'd seen this and touched Gibbs like this and Christ, he might not be able to tell if Gibbs was turned on, but if he kept thinking like that Gibbs wasn't going to have any trouble telling that Tony was. Talk! he told himself silently. Distract him. Or yourself. Either works. "Ducky said you don't do this often enough?" Absently, Tony continued stroking the broad curve of Gibbs's flank.

Abruptly Gibbs's body fell away from Tony's touch. The younger man had just barely enough time to register that Gibbs was human and naked and hard before he was seized between strong hands and kissed. Startled, Tony gasped, which Gibbs took as permission to deepen the kiss, hands tilting Tony's head a little for a better angle.

Tony moaned deep in his throat and gave himself up to Gibbs's insistent lips and the hot, slick possession of his mouth. Reaching up, Tony hung onto Gibbs's wrists to steady himself and closed his eyes. The kiss was hungry and urgent and better than anything Tony had ever felt before because this was Gibbs, a Gibbs who trusted him and wanted him and somewhere low in his gut Tony knew that no matter what Gibbs asked of him, he'd do it. No matter what Gibbs wanted from him, Tony would give it.

Whimpering softly into their joined mouths, Tony arched his body toward Gibbs. For one brief, intense moment he could feel the hard planes of Gibbs's body pressed against him, the ridge of his aroused cock rubbing eagerly against Tony's belly.

Then the hands that had pulled him close pushed him away so harshly he actually stumbled. Lifting one hand to touch kiss-swollen lips, Tony stared at Gibbs uncomprehendingly.

"We can't do this," Gibbs said, a little breathlessly. He snatched his sweatpants up off the floor and pulled them on again. "I can't do this to you." He put a hand on Tony's shoulder and steered him towards the door, holding him there while he unlocked and opened it. "Go, Tony," Gibbs ordered him harshly. "Forget what happened here."

One more push and Tony found himself on the doorstep, still speechless, staring at Gibbs's front door. Forget what? Tony wondered, slowly recovering from his shock. That Gibbs wasn't human? That he'd kissed Tony? That he apparently wanted Tony? That he looking fucking incredible in a pair of sweatpants still tented out by his hard on?

Tony stood there for a long time, getting his cock under control and his head wrapped around the revelations of the past half hour before he made the short trip to his car. Even then he sat there for a long time, thinking.

We can't do this, Gibbs had said. Which meant that he wanted to. I can't do this to you, he'd said. Which meant he didn't want to hurt Tony, though how he'd gotten the idea that he could into his head, Tony couldn't imagine. He hadn't exactly been objecting and it wasn't like Gibbs hadn't come clean about the potential giant speed bump in whatever sort of relationship--long or short term--he'd been contemplating.

Tony grinned broadly as he turned the key in the ignition.