Fandom & Pairing: NCIS, Gibbs/DiNozzo pre-slash
Word Count: around 1900
Summary: Gibbs and Tony hang from a cliff. Yes, literally.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to anything whatsoever is purely coincidental.
A/N : My first NCIS fic! Hope I got the voices right, or at least close enough so as not to be cringe-inducing. Beta'd by my bff and psychic twin, ennui_blue_lite. I love you, babe!
Gibbs looked over at Tony, who was currently - as was he - holding on with his fingers and toes to a sheer cliff face above a very painful demise far below.
"What, DiNozzo?" he snapped. He was trying to focus on not getting killed here; it wasn't an ideal time for Tony's chatty nature to kick in.
"Uh, never mind," said Tony, clearly deterred by Gibbs' forbidding tone.
Gibbs snorted and went back to oh-so-carefully trying to climb to a higher foothold on the cliff's face. The rock crumbled beneath his toes and he stepped back onto his old foothold just in time.
He heard Tony gasp and then let out a sigh of relief as he made it back to his prior position. Then he spoke again. "Um, boss?"
This time Gibbs didn't even bother to respond.
"Uh, there's something you should probably know. I mean, something I need to tell you. In case, you know, we don't make it."
"We are not going to die here. Understand?" Gibbs put all the irritated confidence into his voice that he could. He wasn't nearly as sure of their survival as he sounded, but then, if he was wrong, Tony wouldn't really be in a position to gloat about it.
"Got it, boss," Tony responded dutifully. He paused and then - "But just in case..."
Gibbs cursed internally. He knew what was coming, and he'd hoped like hell to stave it off. He didn't want to deal with it - had in fact successfully avoided dealing with it for all the time Tony had been working for him. But it sounded like his luck had run out. DiNozzo was determined to say it, and Gibbs had found that once DiNozzo set his mind on something, you'd have more luck stopping a runaway train than holding Tony back.
Still - he was never one to go down without a fight, so he made one last attempt. "Can it, DiNozzo. I'm trying to concentrate here. Whatever it is can wait until we make it to the top of this damn cliff."
"Well, see, the thing is, boss, it really can't. Because if we don't make it out of this alive - and I know you said we would, and I know you're never wrong, but... well, there's a first time for everything and just in case this is the first time you're wrong..." Tony took a deep breath, and Gibbs steeled himself. "I'm in love with you, boss."
Crap. Now how he actually had to deal with it. He loved Tony back - of course he did, how could he not? - but there were any number of reasons that this was a terrible idea. Well, the best defense being a good offense, he decided to push back.
"Yeah, DiNozzo, I know."
"You - wait, what? You know?"
"Well, yeah - you aren't exactly subtle. Even McGee noticed the way you stare at me."
"McGee knows?" Tony's voice was no more than a squeak.
Gibbs carefully tested a new handhold. Seemed secure. Working slowly, he began to shift his weight. As he did so, he spoke. "You've said what you wanted to say, now can we concentrate on getting up this cliff?"
"Yes, boss." Tony sounded dejected, but Gibbs couldn't deal with that right now.
Several minutes passed with both of them carefully inching upward, testing new toeholds and footholds before each move, and both holding their breath when they heard the sound of rock crumbling. They were sweating, now, and sweat made their grip slippery. Gibbs really wished the rest of the team would hurry the hell up and find them.
Tony's breathing sounded labored - all the rock dust in the air couldn't be doing his scarred lungs any good. Then, as if his thought had caused it, Tony broke into a coughing fit and Gibbs' heart stopped. All he could do was will Tony to hold on as the coughs wracked his body, threatening to tear loose his hold on the cliff's face.
Finally, finally, the coughing subsided. Tony was left gasping for breath, but he was still holding on. Gibbs closed his eyes briefly, the enormity of his relief overwhelming him. Then he forced himself to focus again.
"You all right, DiNozzo?"
"Just peachy, boss." The sarcasm was more withering than what Tony usually directed at him, but Gibbs had to admit it was well-founded - it had been a stupid question. He didn't let that stop him from using his customary gruff tone when he responded, though.
"Then get a move on. We're burning daylight here." It was true. The sun was dipping low on the horizon, and an already precarious situation would be made infinitely more dangerous in the dark and cold of night. Where the hell were David and McGee?
They returned their concentration to the climb, no longer speaking. Well, Gibbs was no longer speaking. Tony was muttering under his breath, and Gibbs thought he caught the words "Goddamn uncommunicative bastard" but he couldn't be completely sure. The anger seemed to be fueling Tony's determination to climb, though, and that was all to the good. Having Tony pissed at him was a small price to pay if it ensured his safety.
Then Tony fell silent and he knew he was preparing his next sally. It came as he was reaching for a higher handhold and he nearly let go when he heard Tony's voice.
"So, whaddaya say, boss? Wanna do the horizontal mambo? Make the beast with two backs? Play bury the snake? Hide the - "
"DiNozzo!" it exploded out of him without conscious thought.
"Well, boss, do you?" Great, now Tony sounded cheerful and cheeky. He was doomed.
He opened his mouth to issue a stern denial, and found that the words wouldn't come. He didn't lie to Tony, and he wasn't going to start now. Even if it would be better for both of them. So, deflection. Not that he thought it would work.
He moved to a higher handhold as he responded. "Doesn't - " he grunted with effort " - matter what I want, DiNozzo. Doesn't matter what you want. It can't happen."
"But you do want to. Be with me," Tony prodded.
He didn't answer, just kept climbing, but he knew his silence was as good as an admission.
Tony certainly took it as such, because he sounded much more confident as he asked his next question. "So why can't it - oh shit!" he said as he nearly lost his footing and Gibbs' breath caugh in his throat yet again. Tony regained his balance, pulled himself up to a higher perch, and then continued, undeterred. "Why can't it happen?"
Gibbs was only about ten feet from the top now. Ten feet had never looked so long. He wasn't sure if it was because of the exhaustion of the climb or the thorny conversation.
Tony was only a few feet lower than he was, and Gibbs waited for him to catch up before continuing to climb. Not that he could do much from his position if Tony lost his hold anyway, and wasn't that a thought to make his blood run cold. He redoubled his efforts, while searching for words to answer Tony's question.
DiNozzo deserved an answer, and while Gibbs could have said something about Rule 12, that wasn't the real reason. God knew he'd broken the rules often enough when it suited him. So he made up his mind to tell the unvarnished truth. His ex-wives had never appreciated it, but it was how he was wired. Direct, blunt, and to hell with anyone who didn't like it.
"You're a permanent frat boy who wants to screw everything that moves and I'm an inflexible bastard who doesn't know the meaning of the word 'compromise.' One or both of us will fuck it up and it'll get ugly and then we'll have nothing - won't even be able to work together. That's why it can't happen."
Tony was silent, and Gibbs didn't dare look at his face to see how he'd reacted. He couldn't bear to hurt Tony, hated to see the kicked-puppy look that he got whenever Gibbs was more of a bastard to him than usual. Which only reinforced his conviction that they'd never work out.
He looked upward, and focused on getting to the top of the cliff. He was almost there, so close - one more foothold and then - his hand reached over the edge of the cliff, scrabbling along the ground for something to hold onto to pull himself up. There was nothing.
No - wait. There was a small, jagged bit of rock poking up from the ground. He wrapped his hand around it firmly, ignoring the way it dug painfully into his palm. He pulled, and dug in his toes to any purchase they could find, and then - finally - he had enough leverage to pull himself up and over the cliff's edge.
He immediately turned around on his belly and looked for Tony. It was almost fully dark now, and he could only make out the vague outline of Tony's form. He could hear his gasping breaths, and the soft rattle of small bits of rock dislodged by Tony's passage, falling into the canyon below, its bottom now invisible in the gloom.
He had a sudden vision of Tony losing his grip, falling and falling into that abyss, his body lying broken at the bottom of the ravine. His heart clenched so hard in his chest it hurt, his entire body freezing up in terror and denial of that ending.
It didn't matter if Tony was an immature playboy. It didn't matter if he was an ornery, beat-up ex-Marine. It didn't even matter if it ended badly - at least they would have tried. God, he'd been a coward for so long. Shannon would have smacked him upside the head if she'd been there.
He'd get Tony safe, and then he'd tell him he'd changed his mind. That he loved Tony and wasn't going to let go as long as Tony would have him.
He reached down, lying on the cliff's edge, stretching his arm as far as it would go, digging his toes into the dusty ground for purchase. Tony was nearly high enough for him to reach. Just a few more inches.
Tony found a new foothold, and boosted himself up. Now Gibbs could reach him. He held out his hand and Tony moved to take it, his fingertips brushing Gibbs'. Gibbs stretched a bit further, grinning ferally - they'd beat the odds yet again. Fate had given him a second chance.
His palm made contact with Tony's. And then he heard the crumbling of falling rock.