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Box Steps 3: Gift Box

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Gibbs just couldn't sleep worth a damn without the warm, solid presence of Tony nearby. So Tuesday and Thursday mornings now saw him at the office earlier than usual. Fortunately, no one had even noticed. Mostly because there weren't that many people in the office even at his usual arrival time.

Gibbs traded small talk with Martin, the security guard on duty, for a few moments. He made a point of always stopping to say hello. Security often knew more about what went on in the building than anyone else....and so they should. It was the late shift that had told him about Tony's habit of working late. Tony worked late less often now; usually Mondays and Wednesdays.

Gibbs took the stairs up, knowing he could get to his floor faster that way. He grinned. It was a good exercise and helped him to stay fit. He also appreciated the surprise factor; his team rarely looked for him to appear from the stairs rather than the elevator.

Gibbs cocked his head, listening intently. He hadn't entirely believed Martin when he said Tony had left around midnight. The younger man liked to see if he could sneak in and out of the building and elude security. Gibbs knew the game kept them all on their toes so he didn't comment on it.

He nodded when the only sound he heard was silence. Tony really had left at midnight then. Gibbs strode toward his desk, ready to start his day.

He set his coffee down and reached for the bag of mail that now routinely came only to him. Gibbs had laid down the law after Tony was infected with the plague. No one opened anything until he saw it first. No exceptions. Period.

The usual letters and interoffice stuff was quickly taken care of. Gibbs casually stuffed it back into the bag for Kenny to deliver later. The only thing remaining was a small package wrapped in brown paper. He grimaced as he was forced to dig out his reading glasses to confirm who it was addressed to.

It was for Tony. Damn. Gibbs tried not to see it as a bad thing. It wasn't like the infected later had come addressed to Tony. Gibbs quickly checked the sender's name. He breathed easier recognizing the name of Mike's youngest brother, Gabriel Capanzini.

It had to be a birthday present. He wasn't sure why Gabe would have sent it to the office and not Tony's place. Given the sort of hours Tony put in, maybe Gabe knew Tony would get it at the office sooner than he would at his apartment.

Gibbs carried the box over to Tony's desk. He was sorely tempted to open it, curious to find out what Gabe had sent. He mentally slapped the back of his head. Tony wouldn't appreciate his peeking.

Gibbs shook it anyway, listening for any tell-tale rattle. It didn't make any noise. Gibbs glared at it before he realized that Gabe's gift might give him a clue of what he could get Tony.

Gibbs glanced at his watch. Tony would be in soon. It didn't matter what time the younger man left; he was back in the office by 7:30 am at the latest.

Gibbs went back to his desk. He powered up his computer and started to read his e-mail. He read one message and deleted another before his gaze was drawn back to the box on Tony's desk.

Gibbs reached for his coffee. He told himself to stop being stupid and get back to work. He forced himself to wade through his e-mail, sipping his coffee the entire time. He finished the coffee well before he finished with the messages. He scowled at the screen in front of him, wondering why the spam filter they had couldn't block more of the crap that filled his inbox.

He looked up when he heard the elevator ding, struggling not to smile when he recognized Tony's long, confident stride. Gibbs quickly refocused his gaze on his computer screen, and schooled his features into bland disinterest. The security cameras weren't angled to catch a frontal view of Gibbs, but he was still cautious of giving too much away.

Gibbs was impressed by how easy Tony had made acting normal seem. The younger man hadn't behaved any differently. Gibbs had to stay on his toes to catch the subtle heated glances, an occasional wink and soft smile. It was a challenge that he was rapidly coming to enjoy.

"Morning, Boss." Tony's greeting was the same casual one he gave every morning. The smile though was something Gibbs knew was reserved for him alone.

He smiled in return. "DiNozzo."

His smile got bigger when Tony placed a cup of coffee on his desk. "Thanks."

"De nada."

Gibbs tossed his empty cup away. He sipped from the new one as he watched Tony head for his desk. The younger man cocked his head when he saw the package sitting on his blotter. Green eyes flickered back to Gibbs.

"It's been checked."

Tony nodded. When he picked it up, Tony grinned with obvious delight. He pulled out his knife to slice through the paper and tape. Gibbs couldn't resist walking over to get a closer view.

Tony opened the box carefully. The bubble wrap Gibbs could see definitely suggested whatever was inside might be breakable. It also explained why it hadn't made any noise when he shook it.

On top the bubble wrap was a card. Tony used his knife as a letter opener before closing it and slipping it back into his pocket. Gibbs expected to see the usual 'Happy Birthday' or something similar across the front. Instead the card was the sort Gibbs recognized because Shannon used to send him similar ones. It had space for a photo to be slipped into the front, letting the card act as matting for it.

Gibbs studied the photo Gabe had sent. It was a shot of the beach at night. The full moon looked as though it was rising directly out of the water; the white foam of the waves in sharp contrast to dark sand of the beach.

"Nice shot."

"Photography is sort of a growing hobby for Gabe." Tony grinned. "That shot I've got mounted above the fire place that you like so well is one he took."

"He took that?" Gibbs raised his eyebrows, impressed. The shot was of an older, wooden sailing vessel running with the wind. It looked like a restored clipper ship from the 1800's. The shot was so crisp and clear Gibbs expected to feel the wind on his face and hear seagulls every time he looked at it.

"Gabe loves the ocean." Tony grinned.

Gibbs knew the reason Gabe gave the photos to Tony was his lover was just as enamored of the ocean as Gabe seemed to be. It wasn't just pretty girls in bikinis that drew him to the beach, although, Gibbs was sure at one time that had been part of the appeal. No, Tony really loved the entire experience; the sight and sound of the water, the feel of hot sand in his toes, the smell of salt water. It was a shame they didn't have enough time to make a weekend getaway to the shore. That would have been a great gift. Gibbs filed the thought away as something they could do later--maybe for Labor Day weekend.

Tony smiled fondly at the photo card in his hand. "Still remember pretending to be pirates with him and looking for buried treasure."

"You ever find any?"

Tony chuckled. "No, but we're still looking."

Gibbs had no trouble picturing a younger Tony eagerly looking for riches. Tony loved puzzles and digging for information. It made him a damn fine investigator. And he loved a good story even more. He'd probably read Treasure Island and the Gold Bug as a child, which no doubt prompted the game of pretend with Gabe.

Tony opened the card and read it. Whatever message Gabe had written made Tony laugh with obvious delight. Gibbs wanted to know what the card said but couldn't bring himself to ask. So far, Tony hadn't even mentioned why Gabe would be sending him anything at all. Was his lover assuming Gibbs already knew about his birthday or that Gibbs wouldn't care so it wasn't worth mentioning?

He would love to ask but was almost afraid of the answer. Nana always told him not to ask questions he wasn't sure he wanted the answers to. Maybe it was better not to know.

Tony pulled out the bubble wrapped item still chuckling as he removed the protective covering. He snickered as he held up his unwrapped prize. Unlike the traditional garden gnome that had sat forlornly in Mike's flower bed the one Tony held in his palm was only four inches tall. And Tony's gnome's hat and clothing was painted black, he wore a pair of sunglasses and had what looked like a gun belt added to his waist.

"Meet the mini Agent K."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, amused by the gothic looking little gnome. Even in dark clothing the gnome couldn't be anything but whimsical. Abby would love him. "Agent K?"

"From Men in Black." Tony rolled his eyes. "Never mind. It's not in important."

Gibbs winced internally. Tony made a dozen movie references on a good day, usually regarding films Gibbs hand never even heard of much less seen. He hated knowing so little about something his lover so obviously enjoyed.

Well, this at least I can fix, Gibbs thought. "You own a copy of Men in Black?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah." Tony frowned. "Why?"

Gibbs smiled. "We could watch it tonight."

"Sweet." Tony grinned. "I'd like that."

The soft ding from the elevator reminded Gibbs they weren't alone. Not that they were doing anything suspicious but better safe than sorry. He made his way back to his desk as Tony shoved the now empty box under his desk.

Tony placed 'Agent K' just to the left of his computer monitor. The gnome wasn't exactly out of sight but he wasn't in direct view either. And Tony had enough personal items in and on his desk it was unlikely anyone would notice one more. Gibbs was curious what would be said when 'Agent K' was finally noticed, and who would make the first comment. His money was on Abby.

The photo card, Tony casually tacked to the partition that separated his work space from the hallway. It fit seamlessly with a post card from Panama City that had come from one of Tony's frat brothers, and one from Cuba that Paula Cassidy had sent. Gibbs wasn't sure who had sent the ones showcasing treasures from the wreck of the Atocha and the Central American.

"Good morning, Ziva," Tony greeted her with a smile.

"Good morning, Tony."

"Ziva." Gibbs rarely wished anyone a good morning. Their surname was greeting enough as far as he was concerned.

She tipped her head to Gibbs. "Good morning, Gibbs."

Tony looked at his watch, frowning. "You catch a different bus?"

It was a good twenty minutes before her usual arrival time. Gibbs tried not to glare at her for being prompt. It was hard not to. She'd cut short his time alone with Tony.

"No." She beamed at him. "I got my own car."

Tony sat down at his desk, leaning forward on his elbows, eyeing her eagerly. "So what did you get?"

"A mini cooper." Ziva was obviously proud of her purchase.

Tony pursed his lips. "Okay."

Ziva frowned. "It is a perfectly good vehicle, Tony."

"I'm sure it is." His tone made it clear he didn't believe what he just said. If it wasn't for the twinkle in his eyes, Gibbs would never have known Tony was obviously jerking Ziva's chain.

Gibbs ignored their bantering in favor of focusing on the problem of getting Tony a gift. The gnome the sort of almost gag-gift a long term friend with shared stories would send. It had made Tony laugh and would no doubt make him smile every time he looked at it.

Gibbs sighed. Amusement wasn't quite the emotion he wanted so something silly was out of the question. His eyes drifted over to the picture Gabe had sent. The scene was calming and suited Tony as much as 'Agent K' had.

The post cards of the ship wrecks suddenly caught his attention. And just that quickly, Gibbs realized he had a great gift idea. It was perfect. He only barely managed to suppress the urge to pump his fist in the air and shout 'yes' in victory.

All he had to do was make a quick phone call, preferably where no one would hear him do it. Assuming what he wanted was available, he could pick it up after work. Gibbs locked his computer, grabbed his coffee, and stood up.

"We have a case?" Ziva asked, attention no doubt drawn to Gibbs by his abrupt movements.

"No," he replied shortly. He gave Tony a little wink on his way past the younger man's desk; he didn't want Tony to worry. Tony lightly touched the side of his nose in return.

As much as he resented not being able to communicate openly, Gibbs actually enjoyed all their secret little signals. It was fun to know they could speak without saying a word. He hadn't experienced that even with Shannon.

Gibbs headed for the closest secluded spot he could find. If what he wanted couldn't be had, he'd have to keep looking. Gibbs sent a quick thank you heavenward for the inspiration. He tacked on a brief request for luck locating what he wanted. Maybe Nana was right to have faith in prayer

"Worked once," he muttered to himself, laughing silently at what his grandmother would have to say about his grudging admission. If it kept working, he might have to change his mind on the whole issue.

Chapter Text

Gibbs surveyed the kitchen. The snow white, fine linen tablecloth had taken forever for him to find. It was a remnant from one a previous wife, although he had no idea which ex had actually left it behind. He remembered it costing a small fortune and only being seen a few times a year, usually for the holidays. Gibbs thought Tony's birthday was a sufficiently special occasion to warrant using it. He had to admit the fabric nicely dressed up his otherwise plain and battered kitchen table.

The only two place settings of Noritake china to survive ex-wife number one's fit of rage looked right at home on the fresh linen. The stark black and white pattern with silver accents had always struck Gibbs as being classy and elegant. He had a feeling Tony would appreciate the simple design and quality far more than his ex had.

The marble candle sticks with red candles were waiting to be lit. Gibbs had found them in the same box as the linen table cloth. He had no idea where they'd come from or how he'd ended up with them, but they looked pretty good holding court in the center of the table.

They crystal wine glasses didn't exactly match, but they were also lone survivors from what were once larger, complete sets. Gibbs hadn't been able to find any others. And he didn't have the time or inclination to go out and buy a set of expensive glassware he'd rarely use. The small imperfection likely wouldn't bother Tony any more than it did Gibbs.

Gibbs sniffed appreciatively as the scent of dinner filled the kitchen. Everything was in the oven, staying warm until Tony arrived. A real home cooked meal...sort of. Gibbs hadn't cooked it, but the meat and potatoes menu was definitely something he'd have cooked if he knew how.

When he called Mike to ask about Tony's favorite dessert, the other man had casually mentioned Tony's favorite vegetable was steamed baby asparagus. Gibbs couldn't really remember Tony showing a preference for anything green and leafy but he was willing to take Mike's word for it. It wasn't hard to get asparagus added to his dinner order; it made up for the lack of green things on Gibbs' plate. Rabbit food wasn't something he cared to eat no matter what Ducky said.

Gibbs smiled, thinking about his conversation with Mike. Mike really was a good guy. He was clearly pleased by the reason for Gibbs call. He'd even given Gibbs a couple of other choices in case Tony's favorite dessert wasn't readily available.

Mike had evidently played some part in Gabe's gift choice because he'd laughingly asked what Tony thought of 'Agent K'. Gibbs had readily shared with him Tony's amusement. He let Mike know 'Agent K' had taken up residence on the younger man's desk at the office.

After watching 'Men in Black' with Tony, Gibbs now knew who the little gnome was supposed to represent. He also better understood Tony's laughter at seeing Tommy Lee Jones' character being referred to as small gnome.

Gibbs couldn't honestly say he liked the movie. The plot was a little too far fetched, the characters a bit too improbable for his decidedly practical viewpoint, but Tony's reaction to it made for an enjoyable night. The younger man loved the special effects, and gave the former Marine insight into the power and purpose of CGI. Tony's explanation of how they created the images reminded Gibbs of the simulations Abby ran when investigating a case.

Gibbs opened a bottle of Merlot, letting it breathe. He preferred beer or bourbon, but figured the wine would go well with steak. And it definitely went better with the table setting, mismatched glasses notwithstanding.

Gibbs glanced up when he heard a soft knock at the door. Tony always knocked before entering. It was a polite habit likely ingrained in him from the time he was a child. It also made good sense for him not to surprise a former Marine sniper. The consequences could be ugly.

Gibbs quickly checked his reflection in the hallway mirror. He'd showered and shaved when he'd gotten home. That was the easy part; picking out what to wear took far longer than he thought it would. He didn't want anything too formal, and nothing that resembled what he wore to work.

The black silk and cashmere sweater had been a one time indulgence on his part. The soft fabric had caught his attention, all but begging to be touched, insisting he try it on. It had looked just as good on as it felt to touch. Gibbs had been unable to resist adding the sinfully expensive item to his wardrobe.

He paired the sweater with a pair of blue jeans. The jeans were comfortable and would keep him from feeling too dressed up. According to Abby, the jeans did fantastic things for his ass. That was a ringing endorsement if he'd ever heard one.

"Hello?" Tony's voice drifted into the kitchen from the doorway. "Anyone home?"

"I'm in the kitchen," Gibbs called back. If he didn't answer Tony would head for the basement, which was usually where Gibbs spent most of his time.

Gibbs looked down, realizing with some surprise that he was still barefoot. Hearing Tony heading his way, Gibbs shrugged philosophically. It was too late to do anything about that now. He was lighting the candles when Tony stepped into the room.

"Something smells wondâ€"" Tony stopped abruptly, green eyes taking the tableau in front of him. "Wow."

That one word, laced with amazement, made Gibbs glad he'd put in so much time and effort. Tony blinked, looking a bit like he thought he might be imagining all he was seeing. He shook his head.

"Was I supposed to bring something?"

Gibbs smiled. "Just yourself."

"You look good." Tony's compliment was accompanied by an openly appreciative gaze.

Gibbs resisted the urge to drop his gaze or blush. He wasn't some teenager with a crush for crying out loud. Forcing himself to sound nonchalant, Gibbs asked, "You like?"

"Very much." Tony stepped forward, one hand rising to lightly stroke Gibbs' chest. The warmth of his touch pressing the unbelievably soft fabric against his skin made Gibbs' shiver. He fought not to arch into that touch like a cat looking for attention.

Tony's eyes glowed. He looked decidedly pleased with Gibbs reaction. "Good thing you don't wear anything like this to the office."

"Probably," Gibbs agreed, letting out a shaky breath. As much as he'd like to let Tony keep petting him, this night wasn't supposed to be about him. "Sit down. I'll get dinner."

Tony sat. "Not to sound like some kind of schmuck...but did I forget something important? An anniversary or something?"

The questions were so naturally unassuming and casual, Gibbs knew his answer would be a surprise. He grinned, forgetting dinner for a moment to come stand next to Tony, cupping his face with both hands. "Happy birthday."

Tony stared at him, mouth open in nearly comical astonishment. Green eyes darted toward the elegantly set table again before focusing on Gibbs once more. "You did this? For me?"

"Yes," Gibbs nodded, his grin softening to a warm smile, "I did this for you."

"You did this for me," Tony repeated, clearly stunned. "No one's ever...I mean, it's not like no one...Mike does something whenever I have the day off...always calls if we can't get together." Tony bit his lower lip. "Sammy, Zeke, and Gabe always send something, but other than those guys..."

Gibbs kissed Tony chastely. He was suddenly very, very glad he'd made the effort to make this evening special. "Happy birthday, Tony," Gibbs whispered, placing a kiss on each cheek with careful deliberation.

Tony smiled shyly, eyes glowing once more. "Thanks, Jethro."

The simple heartfelt gratitude nearly overwhelmed Gibbs. Something most took for granted, something so basic as having one's birth remembered, shouldn't engender that much emotion.

"You're welcome." Gibbs cleared his throat. Dinner. He needed to get that on the table he reminded himself. He wasn't going to let prime rib go to waste.

"Why don't you pour us both a glass of wine while I take care of dinner?"

Tony nodded. "I can do that."

Gibbs took both plates from the table and brought them to the stove. Well-done steak, a baked potato and steamed baby asparagus for Tony; medium rare steak and mashed potatoes with gravy for Gibbs. Everything was almost as hot as when it had been delivered half an hour ago. Good.

Gibbs set Tony's plate in front of him with a graceful little flourish. Tony raised an eyebrow. "You worked as a waiter once, didn't you?"

"Yeah." Gibbs chuckled as he took his seat. "My first job."

"Did that too. When I was in college." Tony grinned. "I looked good in a tux."

"Tux?" Gibbs cocked his head to one side, trying to figure out where that bit of information fit.

"It was a high end place. Formal attire was required for the wait staff." Tony shrugged on shoulder. "Tips were good."

Given how good his lover had probably looked in a tux, and his outgoing personality, Gibbs had no doubt Tony had made good tips. He wondered what it would take to get Tony into a tux now. Whatever it was, Gibb was pretty sure it would be worth the effort.

Gibbs held up his wine glass by the delicate stem as he waited for Tony to the same. He wanted to say something to deep and meaningful but nothing came to him. Instead he settled for what seemed like a good traditional toast.

"May you have many more birthdays to look forward to."

Tony smiled. "From your lips to God's ear." The crystal sang with a muted ping when he lightly tapped his glass against Gibbs'.

A comfortable silence settled between them as they began eating. The steak was tender and juicy; just the way Gibbs liked it.

"This is really good." Tony ate with obvious enjoyment. "Going to have to order from them more often."

"That can be arranged." Gibbs tried hard to keep his tone even, but he knew his obvious satisfaction at Tony liking the meal he'd picked came across loud and clear.

Tony grinned. "You are so cute when you're smug."

Gibbs could feel his face warm. "Shaddup."

Tony laughed quietly, saluting Gibbs with his wine glass. He sipped the Merlot, raising both eyebrows. "Nice."

Gibbs tipped his head in acknowledgement, accepting the praise. There was no way he was going to admit that he'd sat through a forty five minute dissertation on the nature and quality of wines from Ducky when he'd asked the ME to recommend a good red. Gibbs was impressed when Tony made a few comments on par with Ducky's. The younger man obviously knew a bit about wine.

"Don't read too much into that." Tony rolled his eyes. "My uncle, Mario, owns a vineyard or two. Most of what I know I picked up at dinner parties listening to him talk."

"You never mentioned having an uncle before," Gibbs offered nonchalantly, not sure if he should comment or not, but to curious about Tony's family to let it go unremarked.

"Mario is Pete's father."

"Pete?" Gibbs frowned, struggling to place the name.

"My cousin." Tony sipped his wine again before setting his glass down. "The one who collects buttons."

Gibbs nodded, sighing. "Forgot that." Three months and odd bits and pieces in his memory still weren't all there, leaving gaps he often wasn't aware of until they were pointed out to him. Just the other day he'd mistakenly called Ziva 'Kate'.

Tony reached across the table to lightly caress Gibbs' knuckles with his fingertips. "I only mentioned Pete once. Not exactly the sort of thing that you should bother to remember much less worry about forgetting."

Gibbs was frequently amazed and often grateful by how imperturbably Tony handled his small lapses. Ducky never acknowledged his mistakes, but then in comparison to his mother Gibbs' loss of small details was barely noticeable. McGee usually got even more nervous, blatantly unsure if he should simply accept the errors or point them out. Abby usually looked concerned, babbling nonsense to cover it up as though the sudden flood of information would reassure Gibbs. Ziva had a tendency to give him measuring glances like she was trying to figure out how far gone he was.

"Eat your dinner," Tony directed with a smile, "it's too good to waste it."

Tony redirected the conversation, picking up again on the nature of wine making. It wasn't long before they drifted on to sports, and then on to whether or not Abby and McGee were really a couple, shifting again to the possibility of a new probie being assigned to the team. Gibbs usually found 'small talk' to be too much effort to bother with, but enjoyed talking with Tony. The younger man made it surprisingly easy.

Gibbs waited until Tony had finished eating before pulling the small, neatly wrapped package from his pocket. Shannon had always wrapped Kelly's gifts saying when Gibbs did them it looked like a second grader had done the job, so the former Marine had asked the clerk at the store to wrap Tony's gift. The paper was a midnight blue offset by a thin ribbon of silver and a neat bow.

Tony eyed the box, expression one of guarded curiosity. "What's that?"

"Your birthday present."

"Really?" Tony's smile lit up the room. "You didn't have to get me any--"

"I know I didn't have to." Gibbs cut him off gently. "I wanted to."

Tony shook his head. "I mean dinner would have been more thanâ€""

"Tony, take the box." Gibbs didn't quite growl but it was close enough.

Tony bit his lip, shyly reaching to take the gift being offered. He lightly fingered the paper. "You wrap it?"

"No." Gibbs smiled wryly. "Sales girl did it for me. I picked out the paper though."

Green eyes warmed when they met blue. "Good choice."

"I thought so."

To Gibbs surprise, Tony didn't just rip off the paper. The younger man very carefully and neatly removed the bow, deftly working his way under the paper to neatly force the tape to give way without tearing it. Having only seen Tony unwrap the gift Gabe sent, Gibbs wasn't sure if it was normal or not for Tony to take such care.

He wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing for the behavior to be abnormal. On one hand it was a good thingâ€"it showcased just how much the very idea of a gift from Gibbs meant, which was decidedly heartwarming. On the other handâ€"it showcased just how much the very idea of a gift from Gibbs meant, which made him more than just a bit nervous. What if Tony didn't like it? What if the thing he thought was so perfect proved to be an absolute disaster?

Tony opened the box. His eyes widened. He reverently ran his index finger over the item. It was almost as though he were afraid to touch it.

Tony swallowed hard, looking up at Gibbs. "Is this what I think it is?"

"If you think it's a genuine Spanish doubloon...then yes, it is what you think it is."

Gibbs knew a local jeweler who specialized in unique jewelry and antique coins. The ancient coin, recovered from a shipwreck off the cost of North Carolina, had been neatly mounted in a basic gold setting that held it securely without obscuring any of the identifiable features. Unsure of what sort of chain Tony might prefer, Gibbs had selected a simple, sturdy box chain hoping it would suit the younger man.

Tony very carefully removed the pendant from the box, the chain dangling over his fingers. His thumb lightly caressed the gold coin.

"I...ah...thought might appreciate having a little pirate booty until you could find some buried treasure of you own."

Tony smiled at him. "Pretty sure I already found the greatest treasure I'll ever have."

The line was overly sentimental and sappy but the obvious love and affection in Tony's voice and expression made Gibbs feel what Abby called the 'warm and fuzzies'. He smiled shyly, resisting the urge to duck his head.

"Do you like it?" Gibbs asked, wanting to be sure he'd made the right choice.

"I love it." Tony grinned, eyes sparkling with happiness.

Gibbs felt a rush of relief and delight. He felt a surge of pride when Tony neatly translated the symbols on the coin and dated it to the right time period if not the exact year. His lover clearly knew more about 'treasure' than just what could be found in fictional tales.

Tony stood, offering the pendant to Gibbs. "Would you do the honors?"

Gibbs took the chain, carefully working the clasp. He moved to stand behind Tony, raising the pendant over the younger man's head. Gibbs secured the clasp. Unable to resist he kissed the nape of Tony's neck, arms encircling his lover in a warm hug.

Tony leaned back into Gibbs, tilting his head to rest on the former Marine's shoulder. He captured Gibbs' hands, holding them tightly to his chest. "Thank you."

"You are welcome," Gibbs whispered.

Tony gave him a slant eyed look that was full of promise. "I'd like to demonstrate my appreciation, Jethro."

"A demonstration?" Gibbs was pretty sure what Tony meant, but it was more fun to let Tony explain.

Tony pressed his ass against Gibbs' groin. The older man's burgeoning erection no doubt gave away his attraction and interest. Tony's raspy chuckle made Gibbs' skin tingle with anticipation. "You know what I meant. I can tell."

"You don't have to, you know." Gibbs couldn't believe he just said that; he didn't want Tony to think their relationship was just about sex. Sex with Tony was good...better than good, it was great, but they were about more than that. A lot more.

"Have to?" Tony laughed, turning in Gibbs' arms. "I want to." His expression turned coy. "It's my birthday, right?"

"Yes, it is," Gibbs agreed, shivering when Tony leaned forward to nibble on his earlobe.

"So, I can pick what I want to do, right?"

Gibbs struggled to keep his breathing even. "Of course."

"What I want to do," Tony breathed in his ear, warm air ghosting over Gibbs' skin, "is thank you for the lovely meal, and my very nice present." He nuzzled Gibbs' neck. "You don't have to say yes."

Gibbs swallowed hard. Like he could say no? Like he ever would? "Please."

Tony sucked delicately at the spot on Gibbs' throat that made him weak in the knees. How he could lavish attention on that spot and never leave a mark was a mystery to Gibbs. It wasn't one he really cared to solve, half afraid if he asked, Tony would stop doing it. And that he definitely didn't want to happen.

"Bedroom." Tony didn't quite growl, but the raw, husky quality gave his voice a close approximation to it.

Gibbs loved it when Tony sounded like that, but he wasn't prepared to blithely follow the order. The ingrained habit of being in charge reasserted itself. He knew it was stupid, but couldn't seem to stop himself from asking, "What about dessert?"

Tony arched an eyebrow, giving Gibbs a look of fond amusement. He obviously knew what the older man was doing and why. "Will it keep?"

It was pointless to lie. Tony knew him too well. The white chocolate raspberry cheesecake would be fine in the fridge. "It'll keep."

"So will the dishes," Tony winked at him. "And any other stupid reason you might come up to satisfy your need to prove you aren't a slave to your desires--that you aren't absolute putty in my hands." Tony grinned, waggling his eyebrows. "Now that we've settled that, can we go to the bedroom and go make some noise?"

Gibbs snickered. "Putty?"

Tony leaned in and captured Gibbs' lips in a soul searing kiss which left Gibbs gasping for breath and desperate for more. "Putty," Tony asserted with a confident whisper.

Gibbs couldn't really muster a single argument. He wasn't entirely certain he wanted to. "Bedroom."

"Knew you'd see reason." Tony kissed him again, pushing him toward the hallway.

Gibbs went willingly, blindly trusting Tony not to let him run into a wall, unwilling to relinquish that delectable mouth for even a moment. He moaned when Tony's hands found their way under his sweater. The contrast of Tony's warm hands and the soft fabric was exquisite.

Gibbs pulled up Tony's shirt and rubbed the sleeve of his sweater up and down the newly exposed skin. Tony's head tipped back as he sighed, eyelids drifting closed.

"Definitely can't wear that to the office," the younger gasped breathlessly, swaying slightly.

Gibbs rucked Tony's shirt up higher, pressing his chest to Tony's, making sure he teased his lover's sensitive nipples. He reveled in the way Tony reacted, arching against him, hands clenching almost painfully tight in Gibbs' hair. The little whimper of pleasure made Gibbs grin with savage delight.

Gibbs pulled back, tugging on one of Tony's hands, encouraging him to follow. The trip down the hall halted several times as they explored one another with lips and hands, soft sighs and breathless moans filled the growing shadows. Somehow Tony managed to loose his shirt, his pendant catching the faint light and glinting each time he moved. Gibbs lost his belt and his button fly jeans were undone by the time they made it to the bedroom.

Gibbs shrugged out of his sweater. For as wonderful as it felt, the material didn't hold a candle to Tony's skin against his. He didn't want anything between them.

Tony sighed softly, fingering the fabric. "Shame you couldn't leave that on."

"Don't have to wear it to enjoy it." Gibbs eyed Tony speculatively before rubbing the sweater against his chest.

Tony's eyes widened, a flush warming his skin as he leaned into Gibbs' touch. Gibbs used the sweater to tease Tony's nipples into hard points, rubbing and pinching through loose folds of silk and cashmere.

The younger man's eyelids fluttered as he fought to keep them open, a dazed half smile curling his lips upward. He moaned low and deep in his throat, a sound that made Gibbs painfully hard. There was something so damned appealing about that sound, something so enticing about Tony's lost in the pleasure of the moment look. Those things belonged to Gibbs now, it was for him, and him alone. He growled, leaning in to bite at the side of Tony's neck, marking him with teeth and tongue.

Tony chuckled, a warm and husky sound. He probably knew why Gibbs was marking him and obviously didn't mind. Tony kissed Gibbs' shoulder, and then licked him. "Honey dust," Tony murmured appreciatively.

Gibbs liked indulging Tony's sweet tooth. Although the Christmas present had been a mistake, it didn't hurt that using it showed Tony how much he liked it. And Gibbs found he liked the way it made his skin feel.

"Need to get rid of the rest of our clothes," Gibbs panted in reaction to Tony's hands roaming over his back. Tony kept his touch so light it raised goosebumps and it was all Gibbs could do to keep from begging for more.

Tony nodded vaguely in agreement to Gibbs' statement. He was clearly more interested in exploring the skin already exposed.

Gibbs took a deep breath and stepped way, holding Tony at arms length. The younger man smiled; it was slow, full of promise and sexy as hell. It took more than Gibbs thought possible to maintain his distance.

"Pants off." He almost snarled. "Now."

The way Tony looked at him was nearly tangible, green eyes roving over him, lust and love present in equal measure. Tony's tongue darted out to lick lips swollen and red from being kissed. "You too."

Gibbs nodded jerkily, hands moving to quickly to get rid of his jeans. He was vaguely grateful for having forgotten to put on shoes. He didn't want anything to slow him down.

Tony had turned way from him, looking over his shoulder at Gibbs. He rubbed one ass cheek, long fingers flexing and squeezing invitingly. Gibbs couldn't look away from that amazing ass.

"I want you to take me," Tony murmured, gaze heavy lidded and sultry, bold and inviting.

Gibbs swallowed hard. He was struggling not to lose control completely. He forced himself to take a deep breath and release it slowly, counting backward from ten.

Tony moved to kneel on the bed. His pendant swung freely as the younger man lower his hands so he was on all fours. He looked over his shoulder, lips pursing in a kiss. "C'mon, Marine, make me scream."

Gibbs hand shook as he pulled the lube from the night stand. He was glad they'd forgone condoms only last week. He wasn't sure he'd have been able to open the stupid thing tonight.

He ran one hand down Tony's back, soothing and arousing at the same time as he popped the top open. Squeezing a generous amount on to his fingers, Gibbs teased Tony's opening, requesting entrance with a light touch. Tony whimpered, pushing back into his fingers, mutely asking for more.

Gibbs added a finger, scissoring them, stretching his lover. Tony was so tight, so hot. The younger man's head dropped as a whimper of pleasure escaped. Even without being able to see Tony's face, Gibbs knew he was biting his lower lip for control.

"Please, Gibbs...Please." Tony whispered hoarsely. "I'm ready...please."

Gibbs gave his leaking cock a cursory swipe of lube. He knew Tony preferred a little burn, a little sting, wanted to feel him as he thrust in. Even knowing that, Gibbs still took his time, giving Tony a chance to adjust, unwilling to risk hurting his lover.

Tony moaned, spreading his legs wider, pushing back into Gibbs. Gibbs held Tony's hips, keeping him from taking too much too fast. He used his hold to brace himself, to keep from thrusting hard into that warm, welcoming channel.

"Jesus," Gibbs gasped, not sure if he was praying or cursing.

Tony rolled his pelvis, hips enticing Gibbs to move, signaling he was ready for more. Gibbs thrust forward slowly, easing in, sinking all the way into his lover with a guttural moan. He tightened his hold on Tony, struggling not to come right then.

Tony reached up, hands griping the headboard, sitting back into Gibbs, driving him in deeper. The gasped in unison, both affected by the new position.

Tony was chanting something that sounded like Gibbs' name over and over. He rocked forward and then back. Gibbs moved to meet him, keeping his stokes slow, deep and even.

Gibbs reached around to let his hands roam over Tony's chest. He curled his fingers into the light hair that covered the younger man's pecs, tugging and twisting. Tony gasped, back dipping as he arched his chest, silently asking for more. Gibbs gave his nipples the same treatment, relishing in the low moans and mewling cries of pleasure Tony made. His lover was so responsive; it was never hard to know what he enjoyed and wanted more of.

Gibbs thrust harder and faster. He altered the angle, looking for that spot that would make Tony scream. He knew he found it when Tony quivered, almost shaking with the intensity of the moment.

" there," Tony panted harshly, his knuckles bleaching white as he clutched the headboard.

Gibbs hammered that same spot over and over, leaning forward, breathing in deeply. Tony smelled so good. Musk and spice and something he couldn't quite identify. He nibbled on one shoulder, finding Tony tasted just as good as he smelled.

Gibbs' left hand continued to focus on caressing Tony's chest, while his right moved south to stroke Tony's cock. Tony thrust into his grip, tremors rippling over his skin as muscles flexed and tightened.

Gibbs wanted to slow down, to make it last, but the feel of his lover, the sound of him, the scent, knowing just how close he was....slowing down just wasn't an option. They moved closer and closer to climax. Thrust met thrust, harsh and ragged breathing echoed, the bed frame groaned and shuddered in time with them.

"So...close...please don't stop...please...please..."

Gibbs increased his speed again, thrusting harder, tightening his hold on Tony's cock as he continued to stroke it. He could feel the tremors building as Tony got closer. The younger man's entire body was nearly vibrating, hips action becoming less smooth and more erratic.

Tony rocked back, arching into Gibbs, coming with a howl, spurting over Gibbs' hand. Gibbs shuddered as the internal contractions from Tony's orgasm pulled his own from him. He bit his lover's shoulder, muffling his own cry of completion as he came hard enough to see stars.

He collapsed against Tony, gasping for breath. Gibbs unconsciously continued to pet Tony's chest, the action serving to ground both of them. He sighed softly as he felt Tony's heart rate slow, his own gradually slowing to match.

Gibbs reluctantly pulled free, missing the intimate contact almost immediately. Tony turned to face him, stretching with catlike grace, looking sated and sleepy. He leaned in and gave Gibbs a long, leisurely kiss.

Gibbs cupped Tony's face with both hands, resting his forehead against his lover's. "Happy birthday, Tony."

"Best birthday ever," Tony declared with a warm smile.

"Until next year."

Tony's smile widened into a Cheshire grin. "Makes getting older something to look forward to."

Gibbs laughed, feeling light hearted and weightless. "Yes, yes it does."

Tony patted the bed. "Lay down with me?"

There was no way he could refuse that invitation. No reason he'd even want to. "I'd love to."

Tony kissed him again before pulling back the comforter. Gibbs wrapped himself around Tony. They curled into one another in a tangle of limbs that over the last few months they'd found to be the most comfortable position for both of them.

"G'night, Jethro," Tony murmured.

"Good night, Tony." Gibbs snuggled in closer, nuzzling Tony's neck, breathing in his lover with a satisfied sigh. He basked in the sense of contentment and peace he'd never found with anyone else. It wasn't his birthday, but Gibbs made a wish anyway. He wanted many, many more years with this man.

Given the recent luck he'd had with God, Gibbs smiled sleepily as he sent a quick request heavenward, cementing his wish with a prayer. Nanna might not approve of his request, but she'd have been pleased that he was finally starting to see the value in what she held dear. That had to count for something.


The end