Summary: Tony thought this whole college move-in day would be easier than it's proving to be.
Rated: FR13
Categories: Slash / Femslash, Slash / Femslash > Gibbs/DiNozzo
Genre: Alternate Universe, Drama, Fluff, Future
Warnings: None
Challenges: 57 Mount Pleasant Street Challenge
Challenges: 57 Mount Pleasant Street Challenge
Series: None
Chapter Notes
Written for Fingersnap's "Fifty-Seven Mount Pleasant Street challenge." I know I have a lot of Nepal fics to write, but this one grabbed me, and I had to finish it.

Category/Genre: m/m, drama, AU, futurefic
Rating: FR13
Characters: Tony, Gibbs, Original character (Allison)
Pairing: Tony/Gibbs

Summary: Tony thought this whole college move-in day would be easier than it's proving to be.

------
“This it?” he asks.

And she looks out of the passenger side window to see.

It’s a big brick building, half-covered in thick ivy. Old. Red. A big banner hanging up that reads: “Welcome Freshmen!” The building’s small windows are pressed together close. There are people moving in and out. Students and their parents, all hauling tubs of belongings and over-stuffed suitcases.

The large front door has been propped open. Above it, there’s the number fifty-seven. That’s what the GPS says. 57 Mt Pleasant Dr. It looks pleasant enough.

Tony starts humming a song. She looks at him, because she knows the song, too.

“Dad,” she corrects, “This is Mount Pleasant drive, not street.”

He should know he can’t fool this girl. “Close enough.” He looks at her with a smile wide and bright and sweet enough to catch flies.

“But yeah,” she says, gazing at the building again with apprehensive wonder. “This is it.” Then she turns back toward him, a slow grin of her own on her face.

He puts his attention back on the road and the traffic he’s got to fight through. Tension crinkles the corners of his eyes. “Crowded,” he mumbles. “Wonder where I can find a place to park.”

He’s hoping Jethro’s had better luck with the truck, which carries the lion’s share of the crap Allison has insisted accompany her to college. This place is crawling with students. Students walking, students biking, students everywhere and most of them aren’t watching where they’re going. Glued to their smart phones and tablets and everything and anything except the vehicular traffic maneuvering around them.

“Aly, I don’t want you walking around here with your nose stuck to your phone.”

She rolls her eyes, but she humors him. “Okay.”

While they’re stopped at a long red light, he suddenly reaches out and squeezes her shoulder, laughing. “So what do you think?”

She can only shake her head, but she can’t hide her smile.

**

They meet up at Jethro’s old, battered truck, and find him already throwing off the tarp and planning a move-in strategy that will minimize the amount of trips needed while maximizing productivity. Tony is surprised the truck made it all the way to Wisconsin from Virginia, but he’s sure Jethro hadn’t given the old heap any other choice.

Tony smiles apologetically at those passing by as the three of them muscle their way down the narrow halls of the dormitory. The building is on the brink of being historic, and it smells like it, too. Most of the rooms’ doors are propped open, people busy moving in and out.

There are a lot of smiles, a lot of familial spats. Brief and harried. “No Dave, I think that should go there.” “No Margo, I didn’t bring the desk lamp!”

There are roommates meeting each other for the first time.

Lots of conversations all around.

Allison’s assigned room is on the third floor. And when they get there, they are relieved to see her roommate hasn’t yet arrived. Jethro makes sure to check everything. The fixtures, the escape routes, everything. Then he makes his way down the hall, gauging the distance to the communal bathroom. It’s a basic sort of set up. Showers. A bank of sinks. Toilets. All of it a bit drab, but it’s freshmen student housing at a public university, and no one is expecting five-star accommodations — regardless of the obscene amount of money they are paying for room and board.

Tony watches his kid doubtfully. “You gonna be okay with this, Aly?”

She laughs. “It’ll be fine.”

When they finish dragging Allison’s belongings into the room, Tony has just caught onto the fact that the housing is co-ed. “Did you know that?” he asks Jethro, panting, some cushion thing wedged in his arms.

“Well, yeah, says so right on the pamphlet.”

“I didn’t know that.”

Allison is already setting up her small desk. The whole room is rather spartan. Nothing but a square box space, akin to a prison cell. Cinderblock walls. Two small windows. Identical furniture. Two formica desks. Two beds. Two chairs. That’s it.

“We’re paying a fortune for this place, Jethro, don’t you think it ought to be a bit… I don’t know. Nicer?” Tony comments. One of the lights in the hallway is flickering. He’s kind of stuck on that point. He doesn’t want to think of Allison “roughing it” in these bleak, soviet-era-like conditions. There are shouts coming from down the hall. Apparently, it isn't too early to kick off a party.

“Dad, it’s fine. Really,” Allison says.

“Part of the experience,” Jethro adds, wry grin on his face. He’s teasing Tony.

Tony sucks on his teeth. He remembers his own internment in student housing at Ohio State, back during the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. “Yeah.” He lets it go.

**

Together, they tour the remainder of the amenities and the immediate campus.

There’s a dining hall not too far away. It’s in a more modern building, and everything looks nice and clean and inviting. Lots of tables, inside and out. They head past some campus buildings. The science and business complexes look a lot fancier than those reserved for the social sciences and fine arts. Allison has chosen to study English, although she says she’s still not entirely sure.

Tony can’t complain there. Anything would beat out Physical Education in the major department. And Jethro really doesn’t have an opinion either way, although he says she should shoot for law school. Tony’s jaw nearly hits the pavement after that remark.

**

They head for the student union, which is packed to the gills with all the newly arrived students and their family members. The view of Lake Mendota is beautiful from the terrace, and they are lucky enough to find a table amidst the burgeoning crowd. Jethro heads to buy two beers and a soda pop, while Tony sits beside Allison, and they watch the sailboats bob up and down on the leaden gray water. The sky is blue, perfectly blue. Someone’s small child plays on the steps at the water’s edge, stomping through the water and chasing off mallard ducks. A blue-haired girl dressed all in black walks a pit bull along the sidewalk.

Tony can feel Allison’s eyes on him, but he doesn’t know if he can look at her yet without getting a bit too misty-eyed. They haven’t even gotten to the hardest part. That’s still to come.

She says, “I’m gonna be fine, you know.”

And he does know, because his kid is very strong, very smart, and very independent. He can’t bring himself to say that, though, because that would be admitting too much. In a small way, he wants her to still need him. And he’s her dad, and his job is to be there for her, always.

She’ll be so far away here. He’s counted the minutes and hours that separate their house in Virginia from her new dorm room in Madison, and it’s just too far away.

“It’s gonna be good,” she’s saying, and her smile is encouraging and full of so much confidence. Where she’d gotten that, Tony doesn’t really know.

Jethro keeps saying, “From you, doofus.”

And then Tony finally looks at her and admits, “I don’t think I could be any more proud.”

**

The sun dips toward the water, so Allison says it’s about time to head back to the dorm. She’s anxious to meet up with her roommate, someone she’s only met on paper.

Tony suggests it could be a real nightmare. His first roommate quickly became a binge-drinking alcoholic during the first semester. No keg left untapped. No red Solo cup left un-beer-ponged. “What?” he says in response to Jethro’s sharp look. “It’s a true story. Cautionary tale, that’s all.”

Jethro says, “I think you’re describing yourself.”

They turn the corner, and there it is again. The old dorm building — 57 Mount Pleasant drive, not street — looks unchanged from what it might have looked like sixty years ago. And they take a different route up the back stairway, with Jethro mumbling, “Fire exit.”

They meet up with the roommate. Her name is Holly, and she seems far removed from ever experiencing a drunken bender. She seems more interested in reading and organizing her bookshelf than socializing, although her father has struck up an in depth conversation with Jethro regarding what they ought to do with the one wobbly desk in the room.

Tony meanwhile digs around for the bed linens.

Allison stops him. “I can do that, mom,” she teases.

Of course she can, Tony thinks, but he wants to do this before they leave, so she doesn’t have to.

But she’s stubborn, as always, and finally it’s Jethro who wraps an arm around his middle and steers him away from the bed. “Let’s leave Aly to settle in,” he says.

Holly and her father have gone, leaving the tiny room to themselves.

And Tony’s already got tears in his eyes, even though he hates the feeling.

“Dad, I’ll be okay,” she insists for what has to be the fiftieth time today and the hundredth time this week.

“I know,” he says. “I know.”

Jethro is standing beside him, smiling slightly, and Tony suddenly thinks this situation is absolutely hysterical because when did he become the mother-hen of this little family? He laughs and looks up at the dated little light fixture overhead.

“Are you okay?” Allison asks, worried.

Tony can only nod and wipe his eyes with the back of a hand.

“He’s just gonna miss his girl,” Jethro speaks for him. “A lot. We both are.”

And suddenly Tony can’t believe how much he loves this guy, just for those few words.

Allison bites her lip and brushes her curly hair behind an ear. Her own eyes grow wet as she steps forward to hug him. The embrace is tight. Tony counts the seconds. He doesn’t want to let her go.

**

Before they head out, Jethro holds out the keys to his old truck. “She’s yours. Take good care of her. Your dad and I bought a permit in the nearby lot for the year.”

She reaches out for the keys, but Jethro moves them away. He raises his brows.

“I’ll wear my seat belt,” she promises.

He’s waiting for something else.

She tries, “Always signal my turns? Change the oil every three thousand miles? Rotate the tires?”

Jethro chuckles. “Every thousand for that truck. And check it often.”

Tony adds, “One ticket and I’ll yank your license myself.”

Allison looks vaguely annoyed. “It’s like I’m sixteen all over again. I think I’m old enough to handle the responsibility.”

Jethro chucks her under the chin. He says, “We know.”

She takes the keys.

**

Just the two of them now for the night. Tony and Jethro wander traffic-restricted State Street, heading northeast toward the brightly lit capitol building. The town has a quirky, festive atmosphere. There are a lot of students, but also a lot of twenty and thirty somethings, too. State government types, aging hippies and dissidents, a guy playing guitar for quarters and dollars. Lots of well-dressed and well-to-do couples gather in front of the Overture Center.

They choose a quiet restaurant, closer to the capitol square, to pass the evening. Tony doesn’t think he can handle sitting in the motel room, staring at the walls and the television, and knowing that tomorrow they’ll be hitting the road again, this time without Allison.

He knows that’s the point. Aly’s gone to college. They’ve been looking forward to this date for some time, and she’s worked so hard to get great grades and an impressive scholarship. Still, the reality is finally sinking in.

And Wisconsin is still too damn far from home.

After all these years, Jethro can read his mind. “You’re thinkin’ so hard the bartender can hear it.”

Tony frowns. “Thought this would be easier. But it actually sucks.”

“Yeah, well…” He’s watching Tony, a gentle expression on his face.

“Feels like I missed so much, you know, looking back,” Tony says. “I’ll always see that eight-year-old little girl in her.”

Jethro can understand.

Finding out about Allison all those years ago had been an amazing and life-altering event for Tony. For both of them, really, but especially Tony. Hell, the kid looked just like him. Same honey brown hair, same hazel green eyes. Same confidence, same smile, same busy brain. But Jethro knows, as amazing as it was, there will always be a part of Tony who regrets missing out on the other half of Allison’s childhood.

Tony would never say he feels cheated, but there’s always that question. Eight years is a long time to live blissfully unaware of the best thing in your life.

Aly’s mother has never been very forthcoming about it. She and Tony can barely recall the night that led to Allison, and he feels some shame about that. A lot of shame.

“Did a great job with what you were given, Tony,” Jethro says, voice low, truthful.

Tony looks away. Finally, after the drinks and appetizers arrive, he muses, “Who will she date? Hopefully nobody like me at that age.”

Jethro sips his bourbon neat and listens.

“I don’t want to think about it,” Tony goes on.

“Then don’t. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. Besides, you weren’t half bad of a catch.”

“I had a lot of time to grow up since college.” Tony smiles gently. He moves his hand across the table, and soon Jethro’s reaching out to give it a squeeze with his own.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you,” Jethro says.

Tony has his mouth full of fried cheese curds, and there’s no shame in his gluttonous assault on the appetizers. He manages a preoccupied, “hmm?”

Jethro squeezes Tony’s hand again. “We need to get married.”

“We’re already practically married,” Tony says dismissively. “What’s the point?”

“No. I mean for real. On paper.” Jethro takes his hand away and produces something small and plastic. “And I want to legally adopt Allison. I know she’s an adult now, but legally… I think it’s important. That’s the point. It’s important.”

Tony looks at what he’s holding. It’s a gum-ball machine ring. He laughs, fondly.

“It’s all we can afford, after out-of-state tuition, room, board, books, gas to drive all the way here…” Jethro jokes.

“Well, how could I ever say no to that, Gibbs?”

**

Back at the motel room, with the television volume on low and the air-con rumbling and growling under the window, they can’t keep their hands off each other.

Tony presses Jethro against the emergency exit placard stuck to the wall, kissing and groping, until Jethro pushes Tony toward the bed.

Neither of them say a word as they undress each other, their moves slow and lazy and familiar.

**

Allison takes the announcement in stride. She’s happy, very happy, and not surprised at all.

“I’ve always seen you as my parents,” she says. “Both of you. Equally.”

Then she smiles at the silly gum-ball ring, and adds, “And I think I’ve got the cutest parents ever.”

Their brunch doesn’t last long enough. It’s filled with Allison’s plans for the coming weeks. Even though she’s only been here for a night and a morning, her head is already filled with ideas. Tony wonders if she’s even slept.

She wants to join this club and that club. She’s excited about her classes. Her roommate, Holly, has family up near the Dells, and she’s already been invited to their lake house. She wants to study abroad next year. Portugal, maybe. India. He finally suggests Italy, but she says everybody studies in Italy.

Tony keeps his mouth shut, and he smiles and listens, even though the tension he feels in his chest hurts.

Soon it’s time for another goodbye. Tony doesn’t get all weepy this time, but he’s got that look on his face that suggests he might, if he stays here any longer.

So Jethro pays the bill, and he makes Allison promise lots and lots of phone calls. “That’s why we’re paying for that cell phone.”

They hug again, and Tony cups her cheeks with his hands. She opens her mouth to say something. But he says for her, “I know. You’ll be fine. I get it. Or I will get it, eventually.”

**

Tony takes the first shift of the long drive back to Virginia, because he says it’ll keep his mind off things. Corn field after corn field. Mile after mile.

He starts counting the minutes and hours between him and Allison.

There’s a hand now resting on his leg.

He starts counting the minutes and hours between them and Allison.

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