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Box Steps 3: Gift Box

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Gibbs stared at the date he'd circled almost two weeks ago. He was hoping for some inspiration. He grimaced when nothing came to him the same way nothing had been coming since he'd marked the calendar hanging in his basement. Tony's birthday was three days away and he wasn't any closer to figuring out what to give him than he'd been two weeks ago.

He'd never gotten the younger man anything before, at least not that he could clearly remember; if he had, it was certainly nothing significant or personal. Something in passing or meaningless was not going to cut it. They were a couple now. He wanted to give Tony something that really showed how important he was to him. Something that showed he thought the anniversary of Tony's birth as being a cause worth celebrating.

Gibbs sighed, looking at the date again before focusing on the board he was supposed to be sanding. He was running out of time. This shouldn't be that hard. It wasn't like he didn't know Tony.

Tony's love of movies should have made a DVD an obvious choice. Except that his collection was already massive; Gibbs didn't want to get him a duplicate. Not to mention the lack of personal touch such a gift would mean. Everyone knew Tony liked movies, so anyone could get him one and call it good. Hell, Gibbs thought, a DVD was what Kenny the mail boy gave Tony when he got his name in stupid office Christmas gift exchange. No way was he going to give his lover the same thing a relative stranger would.

Gibbs knew his lover was a snappy dresser and preferred designer suits to anything off the rack. So he considered a gift certificate to Tony's favorite men's clothing store. The more he thought of it, the less appropriate it seemed. A gift certificate was too impersonal, and he had no idea what would qualify as an appropriate amount. Tony's ties cost more than Gibbs paid for half the clothes in his closet. He didn't want to spend too little and have the certificate be inadequate, making him appear cheap. Or spend too much and make it seem like he was assuming the amount spent was all it took to make the gift meaningful.

Gibbs knew Tony wasn't so shallow as to believe it was the money spent that made a gift valuable. His father had probably spent top dollar on the power sander he sent as a gift one year, but it was clearly not something Tony wanted or needed. Gibbs suspected Tony had simply passed the item on to Mike to use. So at least the gift hadn't gone to waste, but Gibbs didn't want give something to his lover that was as thoughtless or callous as what Tony's father had done.

Gibbs had debated calling Mike. The man had been Tony's friend for seventeen years, surely he would have some idea of what would be appropriate. Gibbs just couldn't bring himself to make the call and admit he didn't know what to get. Although he and Mike had gotten along while at the cabin, with Mike welcoming him to the family, Gibbs didn't want the other man to think he was an idiot or worse, the wrong guy for Tony.

Gibbs worked steadily, sanding the board, his mind still focused on figuring out what would make an ideal gift. Dinner out? Maybe some place near DuPont Circle where no one would even question the nature of their relationship. Or maybe they could go out of town? Except Tony's birthday was Thursday. A weekday gave them limited time to celebrate, especially if they got a case. Shame it wasn't Friday. Then he could have planned a weekend get away.

Gibbs cursed. What they could have done wasn't helping. He needed to come up with a viable option.

He took a deep breath. Okay, so dinner out might not be a good idea; maybe dinner in then instead. Gibbs stopped working as he considered that option. They usually ate in so it wouldn't be particularly special. It would have to be more than the usual take out or delivery. That was certainly doable.

Gibbs grinned. He knew a place not far from his house where he could get a real meal; something on par with Mike's cooking. A good bottle of wine and some nice music they could dance to later. And dessert, that was a must.

Gibbs grin faded. He had no idea what Tony's favorite dessert might be. His lover had a sweet tooth and seemed to like anything and everything as long as sugar was involved. So anything could work, but he wanted to do better than that. He nodded. He'd call Mike for that bit of information. That request wouldn't make him seem like a total idiot.

Dinner was planned then. Assuming nothing at work interrupted. He could make a call in the morning and get everything set up. It was a start, but it wasn't quite complete if he didn't have something for Tony to unwrap. Although, knowing Tony, the younger man would be delighted just to have Gibbs make an effort and remember his birthday.

Gibbs was stunned when he realized no one else on the team seemed to know when Tony's birthday was. Given the juvenile and childish behavior his lover often displayed, it was a natural assumption that he'd made a big deal out of his birthday, remind everyone to be sure they didn't forget to get him a gift. But in reality, in five years at NCIS, Tony hadn't mentioned the exact date, not once.

The former Marine thought Abby might know, but she hadn't said anything. Nor would she say anything to Gibbs directly. It wasn't like Gibbs had made a habit of getting gifts for his team; the only exception being Abby herself, so she probably thought he wouldn't be interested. If she told anyone, McGee was the likely choice. The younger agent couldn't keep a secret to save his life. He'd have said something if he knew. Gibbs couldn't see Abby confiding in Ziva. Their relationship had improved, but was still fractious.

Gibbs sighed, glancing at the clock. He hated Monday nights; they just seemed interminable. It was one of the agreed upon nights they spent apart. When he and Tony had originally decided on the schedule they'd planned to keep, Monday night seemed like a good choice to spend apart; they'd have had all weekend together if they weren't working a case. Gibbs hated Wednesdays for much the same reason. Time apart just, as Abby would say, sucked big time.

The only good thing about being on his own tonight was it had given him time to think what to get Tony. Gibbs chewed on his bottom lip. Maybe he could sound Tony out some more tomorrow night, discover if there was something he wanted or needed. He snorted derisively at himself. It wasn't like he hadn't been trying for the past week to do just that, but he didn't have a lot of practice at being subtle. It wasn't like he could just ask, 'Tony, what would you like for your birthday?'.

If Tony had been more like his ex-wife Diane, Gibbs wouldn't even have to guess. She left lists scattered around. She even marked catalog pages referencing size and color preferences. Gibbs laughed softly. It hadn't done him any good. She always wanted something more, bigger and better; she was never satisfied. At least with Tony, he knew that wouldn't be a problem; no matter what he got him the younger man would be delighted.

He knew he shouldn't worry, but Gibbs couldn't help it. Firsts, to him, represented a benchmark, one that he thought set the tone for everything else. He believed firmly in starting out as he intended to continue.

Gibbs finished his coffee, scowling when he realized it had grown cold. He studied the boat for a moment before giving up on working any more on the boat tonight. It wasn't like he'd been all that productive. He missed Tony's presence. The younger man often kept him company in the basement, a silent companion apparently content just to be near Gibbs and watch him work.

Gibbs sighed, heading up the stairs, turning off the light as he reached the landing. Sleeping on the floor left him stiff and sore. And it only served to emphasize he was alone. At least in his bed he had a pillow to curl up with that still carried Tony's scent. Small comfort, but it was all he had until tomorrow night.

At least the night hadn't been a total loss. He had a plan for Thursday. All he had to do now was find the right gift to complete the evening.

He'd be at Tony's place tomorrow. It would be a good time to seriously study the younger man's décor and preferences, look for ideas. Maybe something would come to him, sing out as the perfect gift. .

"When all else fails, there is always prayer," he whispered, saluting in passing to the crucifix that hung in the hallway.

It had belonged to his grandmother. His own ambivalent feelings about God hadn't kept him from hanging it in his home out of respect for his Nanna. She'd been very devout and believed firmly in the benefits of prayer. Shrugging, he sent a silent request heavenward for inspiration. Maybe it would help. Not like he was having much success on his own so far. Praying for divine intervention certainly couldn't hurt.