Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them.
Word Count: 1,062
Written For: Prequel to hawk_soaring's Ficmas Day 04 Request and 2013 tibbs_yuletide Day 24
Beta: All Mistakes Are Mine
Summary: Gibbs regrets what might be his last moments with Tony.
Gibbs sat on the leather couch and tried his best to concentrate on cooking the single steak to perfection over the fireplace. But he couldn't make perfection when there was only one steak instead of two being seared by the flames. And if he turned his focus away from the steak, he was greeted with the sight of the boxes still stacked in the living room. They'd been there since August and he wasn't sure they'd ever move again.
Gibbs didn't have many regrets in his life. Until six months ago, he'd only admit to two; not being there when Shannon and Kelly needed him and pushing his dad away for all those years. Now, a third regret had taken hold of his heart and left him alone and lost on Christmas Eve.
It had been June when they'd surprisingly had a long weekend for the first time in months. Gibbs had spent Friday and Saturday reacquainting himself with Tony's body throughout the house. Tony had strutted around naked once Gibbs had actually turned the deadbolt into place on the door. It had been perfect.
Then Gibbs had ruined everything when Tony headed out the door Sunday morning saying he needed to take care of things at home. Gibbs had blurted out the question that had been at the tip of his tongue for months. He'd asked Tony to move in with him so they didn't have to be apart.
Tony hadn't reacted the way Gibbs had hoped. Of course, Gibbs' presentation had probably been more demanding than he had intended it to be. Tony was also a very independent man who liked his private space as much as Gibbs liked his basement. The fight had been epic and Tony had stormed off. Gibbs had figured he'd let the man cool down for a few days and once they had a case at work to distract them both, things would be okay.
But Gibbs didn't get his few days. Monday morning had seen Tony called to Vance's office on the heels of two FBI agents. By noon, Gibbs had been ready to tear down Vance's door and demand answers. However, his phone rang and they were called out on a case and he left Tony behind.
When they returned around five, Tony was nowhere in sight and his bag was gone. With his anger about to boil over, Gibbs had stormed up to Vance's office and found the man waiting for him outside the door, evidently forewarned of his return by security.
Then the man told him that Tony had been handpicked for a joint undercover operation. It was need-to-know and long term. Worst of all was that Gibbs wasn't on the list. As Vance had put it, the fewer that knew, the safer DiNozzo would be. All Gibbs could think of was the fight they'd had and that he'd never get the chance to set things right.
June had rolled in July and then August. Gibbs had spent every other night at Tony's apartment. He told himself it was to make sure that Kate was okay, but in reality, he wanted to be surrounded by Tony's things. He was also hoping that Tony would somehow break cover and get a message out. But nothing happened.
It was late August when Gibbs found the notice from the building's owners that the place had been sold and earmarked for demolition to make way for a new office complex. All tenants had sixty days to vacate. Gibbs had tried then to get more information on Tony's op, but loss of home wasn't considered important enough compared to the mission goal.
So with the help of the others, Gibbs had packed Tony's apartment and moved everything to his house. He put Tony's nicer furniture pieces in the living room and moved his own couch to the basement. Kate had been placed next to his fish and Gibbs figured she was just as lost as he was without Tony.
It had been the night before Thanksgiving when Vance had stopped by his desk. The others had left already and the lights were dimmed throughout the office. When Gibbs looked up, he was expecting the worst given Vance's face. Tony's handler had lost him and he'd now missed two check-ins. The rest of the surveillance that they had on Tony's targets was silent in regards to the missing man. It was as if he'd just disappeared.
Gibbs wanted to scour the earth to find Tony. Even if all he found was a body, he needed the closure. But he still had no clue as to the nature of Tony's mission. Short of having Abby and McGee hack into every computer they could to track him down, there was nothing he could do. He'd lost the only thing he'd truly loved since Shannon and Kelly.
Now, six months later, he was celebrating a holiday he didn't want to celebrate because the only person that would have made it special was gone without a trace. It had been over a month since he'd gone off the grid and Vance had told him that morning that the task force had called off the search and was trying to salvage their operation.
Gibbs was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't register the door opening until someone sat down beside him on the couch. Gibbs nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Tony sitting beside him. He blinked several times before he reached out a tentative hand to touch Tony's face. He was afraid that his hand would pass right through.
Instead, Gibbs found himself stroking a cheek covered in a scruffy beard. Underneath the hair, he could feel how thin the skin was on Tony's face. He took a quick check of the rest of the man and noticed that the dirty clothes were hanging extremely loose on his body. There was also a new pink scar above Tony's left eye.
"Hey Jethro," Tony's voice was scratchy, but it was him and Gibbs' heart nearly broke. "Wanted to tell you Merry Christmas and that you didn't have to knock down my apartment building to get me to move in with you."
"Missed yah, too, Tony," Gibbs said and then he pulled Tony into a kiss, neither man caring about the smell of burning steak from the fireplace.
Sequel Four Turtlenecks