Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them.
Genre: Gen or Pre-Slash depending on how you want to read it.
Characters: Gibbs; Tony
Word Count: 1,000
Setting: Future Fic with a Flashback
Written For: ncis1000words Challenge #14 - Reverse Fandom: M*A*S*H
Note: Title of M*A*S*H episode 01x09 inspired this fic...
Crossposted: ncisfanfic; ncis_fic; gibbsbasement; ncis1000words
Summary: Jethro has dealt with loss many times throughout his life.
Jethro watched as each item was packed with care into the cardboard box sitting on the desk. A metal tin from the bottom desk drawer had gone first and was followed by items ranging from a Mighty Mouse stapler to red silk boxers. With each item that was placed into the box, Jethro's heart felt a little bit tighter.
It had been eight years. That was six years longer than he thought he would have, but it still hurt just the same. When he had looked into Tony's past prior to giving the approval to Morrow to assign him to his team, the warning he heard the most was, "Don't get too used to him." It had been Jethro's goal to prove that warning wrong, and he had succeeded.
But now, Tony was wrapping his last official moments as Jethro's senior field agent by packing his belongings and Jethro couldn't help but remember the first time he lost something close to him…
"G'night Henry," the young voice chirped as the gate to the dog pen was closed for the night. Given a choice, Leroy would prefer to have Henry in his bed at night, but his mom had stopped that the first time Henry had used the bathroom in the house. Apparently dog pee was hard to scrub out of the new carpeting and the next day, LJ had let him help work on the pen.
The pen was something Leroy was proud of. LJ, his father's friend, was a local legend when it came to woodworking and he had been teaching Leroy the ins and outs of his trade. Prior to the pen, Leroy had only made small projects like birdhouses and mailboxes. Being able to build something large and have LJ take the time to correct any mistakes had made Leroy feel ten feet tall.
The finishing touch to the dog pen had been a thin strip of wood that served as a nameplate across the top. LJ had informed Leroy that all properly built woodworking projects needed a good name and had left Leroy a can of black paint to name it himself. Leroy had thought long and hard, but the best he could come up with was the most fitting: Henry's Home.
His letters had turned out a little crooked, but he was proud of it all the same. Then LJ had carried him on his shoulders so he could put the last nails in to hold the nameplate in place.
The first night Henry spent in the pen was hard on both the dog and Leroy. Henry howled most of the night and Leroy tossed and turned before sneaking out to curl up next to him.
Time passed, and they both settled into being apart at night. Leroy would feed him each night before bed and say good night before disappearing into the house.
Then came the faithful morning when he walked out to the pen to let Henry out and found the gate wide open and Henry nowhere in sight. He swore he had closed and locked the gate the night before, but the evidence said otherwise. He spent days combing the woods around the town and hanging signs. He questioned everyone that came to his father's store, but no one claimed to have seen the dog.
His parents tried to cheer him up, but nothing succeeded until LJ introduced him to a new project. The man said the best way to take your mind off something hurting you was to build something in remembrance. So, Leroy learned to make his first boat and named it "The Henry." It was the first time Leroy Jethro Gibbs experienced a deep hurt, but it was far from the last…
"What you thinking about, Boss… Gibbs… um, Jethro?"
The tentative voice brought Jethro out of his memories and crashing back to the reality that was his senior agent packing his desk to leave. Unable to deflect the question, he answered honestly with a short, "Henry."
A puzzled expression looked back at him, "Okay. Guess I should know by now that if I want the right answer I need to ask the right question. So who's Henry?"
"A dog I had once, one of the best in fact."
The younger man cocked his head sideways and crossed his arms as he leaned back into the desk behind him.
"What happened to Henry?" he asked in a subdued voice.
Jethro looked up and locked his blue eyes to the hazel of Tony DiNozzo. "Ran away and never saw him again. Looked for him for years, but he never came back."
Silence filled the darkened bullpen as they continued to stare; neither man making a move to break it.
Finally, Jethro saw the expression as something clicked inside Tony and he stepped forward and placed his hands in a firm grip on Jethro's shoulders. The older man tensed, but held his ground.
"I'm not running away, Boss. Last time I ran was Baltimore and that was because this gruff federal agent picked up a stray looking for a home. And if you ever need to find me, all you have to do is look over the damn partition where I'll be barking orders at my own team. I might even let you slap me on the back of the head once in awhile," he finished with a wide smile.
"It really is time to let you go, isn't it?"
"Pass time, B-Jethro. But you'll let me talk to you still, right?"
The uncertainty in Tony's voice tore through Jethro and he reached up and pulled the man into a strong hug.
"You'd better, DiNozzo, or there will be hell to pay. And…" Jethro paused as he cupped Tony's face in his hands like he did all those years before. "Don't you go getting yourself killed without me there to watch your six."
A smile answered him as Tony pressed into the hands on his face, "Same goes for you, Boss."