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Box Step 2:Shadow Boxing

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Gibbs eyed the cookie jar on Tony's kitchen counter. It was shaped like a teddy bear wearing a number fourteen Ohio State jersey. It wasn't the shape of the jar or the fact fourteen was Tony's number when he played football in college that he found interesting; the fascination lay with what Gibbs knew as inside. Mike had sent them home with two dozen chocolate chip cookies.

Gibbs glanced toward the living room. He could hear the TV. He had no idea what Tony had on, but he'd said something about picking out a movie. Gibbs figured the younger man was sufficiently engrossed he wouldn't notice Gibbs helping himself to a cookie or...three.

He reached for the top of the jar, freezing when he heard Tony clearing his throat behind him. Gibbs cursed silently. Damn. So close.

"You know, Mike gave those to both of us." Tony stepped closer, wrapping his arms around Gibbs' waist, resting his chin on Gibbs' shoulder. "You don't have to make some stealth attack if you want one. Just help yourself."

"Takes all the fun out of it," Gibbs mumbled.

Tony chuckled and placed a kiss at the base of Gibbs' neck. "Not everything is a mission, Jethro."

When Tony let go and stepped back, Gibbs resisted the urge to grab him and hold him close. He liked the feel of Tony next to him, had gotten used to it over the past three days. But now that they were back in the 'real world' he thought it best to get used to forcing himself to maintain some level of control. It was good practice for when they went back to the office. He'd need to be able to resist the urge to touch Tony in any way that might reveal their new relationship.

"You want milk?" Tony asked, already moving toward the refrigerator.

"Yeah." Gibbs grinned, delighted he'd get a chance to have Mike's cookies the way he'd wanted to the first time around.

Tony had made a point of stopping at a convenience store on the way back to his apartment. He'd picked up milk, bread and two pints of ice cream. Just the necessities he'd called them.

Gibbs opened the cookie jar, pulling out a handful of cookies. Tony poured two tall classes of milk, before glancing over at Gibbs again.

"Hope one or two of those is for me."

Gibbs felt his face warm. He hadn't actually thought to share them. He reached into the jar for a few more.

Tony laughed softly. "Mike's cookies have always had a limited shelf life."

Gibbs took a bite out of one. He sighed. They were so damn good. He wondered what he'd have to promise Mike to get him to make more.

"I'm pretty sure he can be bribed with some of that wood you got in your basement." Tony offered him a glass of milk, grinning. "Mike's always looking for new stuff to work with."

"Stop reading my mind," Gibbs ordered, taking the glass even as he made note of what might qualify as a good bribe.

"Wasn't all that hard, Boss." Tony snickered. "Not like I haven't had the same thought. More than once."

"What did you offer him?" Maybe there was something better than wood that Gibbs should know about. He didn't want to risk being turned down.

Tony smiled slyly, taking a cookie for himself and dunking it in his class of milk. "Not telling."

"I can find out."

"Well, you are a trained investigator," Tony observed casually, both his tone and expression full of mischief. "I'd expect you to be able to ferret out a detail like that."

"Ferret?" Gibbs arched an eyebrow.

"Hey you were the one talking about weasels just the other day." Tony bit into his soggy cookie with obvious delight.

"Completely different context."

"God, I should hope so." Tony snickered, dodging Gibbs playful swat. "Bring your milk and cookies. The show is about to start."

"What are we watching?" Gibbs followed Tony into his living room, glad they decided to stay at his place tonight. The younger man's apartment was definitely more comfortable than Gibbs' place. Gibbs couldn't remember the last time he'd sat on his couch or had more than coffee at his kitchen table. He'd have to pick up a few necessities of his own when he made it back to his place.

"D.O.A."

Gibbs blinked. Dead on arrival was the name of a movie? Had to be. He couldn't see Tony selecting some sort of documentary for them to watch.

Tony must have caught his expression. He smiled as he explained. "Yes, D.O.A is a movie. Dennis Quad, Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern. 1988. Not quite a film noir but close."

Tony somehow managed to flop on the couch without spilling his milk. "Would have been better if they'd stayed true to noir and left out some of that pop soundtrack stuff, but overall, it's not bad." Tony shrugged, taking another bite from his cookie. "Plot's a bit weak, but the core idea was actually pretty innovative."

"What's it about?" Gibbs sat down next to Tony, close enough he could lean against the younger man. He sighed when Tony laid an arm over his shoulders and pulled him closer.

"Dexter Cornell, played by Dennis Quad, has to figure out who killed him and why in twenty four hours."

Gibbs shook his head. "The guy's dead and investigates his own murder?"

"Yeah." Tony grinned. "Like I said, the plot's a little weak but I think you'll like it."

Gibbs wasn't too sure about that, but he'd take Tony's word for it. He figured being able to snuggle in close to Tony for two hours was a fair trade off if he hated the movie.

To his surprise, Gibbs found himself enjoying the story as it unfolded on Tony's sinfully expensive plasma screen TV. About half way through the movie they'd shifted positions a bit so that Gibbs' back rested against Tony's chest, and Tony's long legs wrapped around Gibbs, his chin on Gibbs' shoulder. The cookies were little more than crumbs and empty milk glasses were left on the end table.

As the final scene unfolded, Gibbs snorted in disgusted. "He murdered his friend so no one would know he couldn't write his own damn book?"

"We had a surgeon set a guy on fire so no one would know she made a mistake," Tony noted, his tone dry.

Gibbs grimaced. "Point."

"And let's not forget the dead guy in period dress sealed in a Civil War coffin so the people who killed him could get access to a treasure map in a safety deposit box."

Gibbs rolled his eyes, looking over his shoulder at Tony. "Not all our casesâ€""

"Or the private detective looking to prove an accident was murder so he could collect on a million dollar reward."

Gibbs turned, shifting so he could look directly at Tony. "Okay so a few of our casesâ€""

"A few?" Tony arched an eyebrow. "More than a few, Boss."

Gibbs snorted. "There weren't that many."

Tony arched an eyebrow. "A man had his wife and daughter kidnapped so he could steal two million dollars from the federal government."

Gibbs jaw tightened, recalling the details of that case clearly. He still couldn't understand how a man could risk something so precious, so utterly irreplaceable, for money. It made no sense to him.

"Then there was the kid with a bomb strapped to his chest holding a high school home room hostage so drug dealers could find his mother who was supposed to be dead. And we've got the married assassins who are the targets, not the ones doing the hit. We investigated a forty year old murder on Iwo Jima that wasn't really murder. We had a transgender murderer who was robbing the Navy blind. We got cybersex andâ€""

"Okay. Okay. You made your point," Gibbs growled, although it lacked any real heat, cutting Tony off before he could continue listing more weird cases they'd worked. It was reassuring to find himself familiar with most of them, and distressing to realize Tony was right. A lot of their cases were down right bizarre.

Tony sighed, resting his forehead against Gibbs'. "Fact is stranger than fiction, Boss. And a lot of our cases prove that."

"Then why bother watching movies?" Gibbs asked, genuinely curious. Most of their cases were definitely more interesting and challenging than anything Hollywood ever dreamed up.

"Because in fiction they give us all the details and the good guys usually win." Tony's voice was soft. "Whereas in real life...we almost never know all of the why and how things happen. It's usually just who, what and where for us. And in real life the good guys winning isn't guaranteed."

Tony kissed the tip of Gibbs' nose. "Don't always watch dramas or action films. Sometimes I need to watch a good comedy to remember how to laugh, recapture a sense of the absurd."

"So it's more than just escapism?"

"You sound so surprised." Tony chuckled before sobering, green eyes meeting blue squarely. "Can't tell me the boat you got landlocked in your basement isn't an escape of sorts. Everyone needs something to balance the insanity in their lives."

"McGee playing online..." Gibbs frowned as he remembered overhearing the junior agent talking about some sort of computer game he indulged in.

"Our very own little elf lord," Tony confirmed with a laugh. "God only knows what Ziva's got to do to relax. Probably involves beating the hell out of something." His expression turned wry. "Not sure I want to know what Abby does."

"You went clubbing with her and you don't know what she does?"

"Clubbing is what she does for fun, Boss, not exactly the same thing as finding balance."

No, no it wasn't, Gibbs agreed mentally after he thought about it. Abby might be irreverent and fun loving, but she had a serious side. And she could be just as impacted by the darker aspects of their job as any of the field agents.

He remembered the dirge Abby played in her lab when Kate died. The music was so unlike her usual fare, a definite clue to her mood. He remembered her hiding in the elevator when Mawher was stalking her. And her getting drunk in his basement.

"Boss?" Tony sounded concerned. "You okay?"

"I'm fine." He smiled, trying to ease the worry in bright green eyes. "Just remembering a few more things."

"Didn't look like good things," Tony offered hesitantly.

"Mawher." Gibbs made his name sound like a curse. "Abby afraid to leave the elevator."

"Ah." Tony nodded. He sighed. "I wish she'd come to us when he started getting weird."

Getting weird? Gibbs snorted derisively. Mawher was always weird. What sort of normal man wore eyeliner and painted his fingernails black? But he understood what Tony was saying. Their was weird and then there was obsessive.

"It wasn't because she didn't trust you." Or me, Gibbs thought. She had good reason to worry that he might beat the shit out of Mawher. He would have. Tony probably would have too given how angry he'd been when he found out about Mawher. Tony was very fond of Abby. He would do anything to protector, the same way Gibbs would.

"I know she trusts me." Tony smiled ruefully. "She was quick to point that out."

"And she will come to us in the future." He'd made it clear to Abby and he expected her to let him know about problem suitors in the future. She'd better follow through, or there would be hell to pay.

"She mentioned you had a talk." Tony made quotation gestures in the air around the word 'talk'.

"We did." That was all Gibbs was prepared to say on the subject.

Tony nodded, clearly getting the message. Whatever was discussed between Gibbs and Abby wasn't any of his business. It amazed Gibbs that the younger man who thought nothing of going through Kate's purse or McGee's Ipod would so easily respect boundaries Gibbs drew. Maybe it had to do with just how clear the lines were drawn.

All Kate would have had to do to keep him out her purse would have been to put it in her desk. Leaving her purse under it or on top was essentially an open invitation. The same held true of McGee's Ipod; Gibbs still wasn't sure exactly what an Ipod was for, but everyone these days seemed to have one and McGee leaving his out in plain sight was just plain foolish. Ziva never left anything on or under her desk, and to Gibbs knowledge, Tony hadn't invaded her privacy. He'd never rifled through desks, lockers, or cars. And he rarely broached subjects they hadn't already touched on.

"You want to watch something else?"

"Thinking it's past your bed time little boy," Gibbs countered with a grin when Tony yawned.

"Not that tired." Tony shook his head.

"You have to be to work in the morning," Gibbs reminded him.

"Unlike you," Tony sighed, lower lip curling outward in a very enticing pout.

They'd decided on the way back that Gibbs should take another day, maybe two, and spend some time in his own home. It would give him a chance to get comfortable with the memories he regained and the ones he might never recover. Time apart at the office would also help keep their teammates from making the connection that there was more between Gibbs and Tony than there had been before. The plan was for them to spend tomorrow night together at Gibbs' place. After that, they'd have to play it by ear.

Gibbs wasn't really looking forward to having to being so careful, or spending a few nights a week alone, but he understood the necessity of it. He hoped to eventually convince Tony that no one would care they were involved, but he knew that would take time. So many good things do, he reminded himself silently. He'd waited five years to have this much. A little longer wouldn't kill him.

Tony yawned again. Gibbs shook his head, smiling. "Bed time."

"Will you tuck me in?" Tony gave him a wink and a smile, sleepy green eyes glowing with warmth and affection.

"I'd love to." Gibbs captured that smile with a kiss. He reveled in the way Tony let him take control, his mouth opening readily to invite Gibbs' tongue in. So sweet, wet and warm. God, he loved kissing Tony.

Tony moaned softly, his breathing coming in harsh pants when Gibbs finally broke the kiss. Not satisfied with just tasting his mouth, Gibbs worked his way along Tony's jaw until he found that spot below the younger man's ear that made him shudder. Tony shuddered again when Gibbs sucked lightly at the pulse point on his neck. He resisted the urge to leave a mark, not wanting Tony's first day back at work to raise too many eyebrows.

"Let's go try out your bed." Gibbs pulled back, standing up to offer a hand to Tony. As comfortable as the couch was, Gibbs really didn't want to test his own limits on it.

"You looking for a repeat performance?"

Gibbs would swear Tony's voice dropped a full octave; rough and needy it made him shiver in response to the memories it conjured. He desperately hoped Tony never used that 'bedroom' voice in the office. He'd never be able to guarantee discretion if Tony did.

Gibbs cleared his throat. "Was...ah...thinking maybe we'dâ€""

"Trade places?" Tony asked, giving Gibbs a look that obviously said he had no problem with that option. If anything, Tony's expression said he'd enjoy it.

"You like playing catcher?" Gibbs nearly winced at his phrasing, feeling foolish for using a sports analogy.

"You mean better than pitching?"

Gibbs was grateful Tony easily understood what he meant and didn't call him being so inept at explaining himself. "Yeah."

Tony squeezed Gibbs' hand. "Some guys are top all the way. Some are bottoms. And some like me can go either way...depending on my mood."

Tony had obviously enjoyed their interactions. No hesitation, doubt or fear. He clearly had experience Gibbs lacked, and the former Marine struggled not to ask just how and when and with who Tony had come by that knowledge.

"For a guy who goes with his gut," Tony whispered, "you think way too much."

Gibbs scowled. "I just want to be sureâ€""

"I know. It's one of the reasons I love you." Tony smiled, and kissed him gently. "Trust me when I tell you....I will not hesitate to let you know if I'm not enjoying myself." He winked at Gibbs. "Pretty sure you'd be able to tell anyway."

"Yeah." Gibbs grinned remembering the way Tony reacted when he'd done something the younger man really liked.

"So quit worrying." Tony tugged at his hand. "Let's go make some noise."

Gibbs laughed, following behind eagerly. "What about your noisy neighbor?"

"I added insulation to the bedroom walls." Tony leered, green eyes raking over Gibbs in with a look that made him shiver. "We'll find out if it was enough."

Gibbs swallowed hard. How the hell had he managed to long without this was definitely one of life's greatest mysteries. He'd have to stop by a church tomorrow and light a candle so God would know just how grateful he was Tony had been willing to wait for him to get his head out of his ass.

Tony caressed his cheek. "I'm going to have to give you something else to do with that brain of yours."

Gibbs grinned eagerly. "Please do."

"Would be my pleasure, Jethro." Tony laughed pulling him close.

"Mine too." Gibbs whispered, as he captured Tony's mouth again in a searing kiss.

He shoved the bedroom door closed behind them, shutting out the rest of the world. Unless the building was on fire or a bomb went off, he wanted nothing to interrupt. He had a lot of lost time to make up for. And tonight was only the beginning.