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Means to an End

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Gibbs opened his eyes, squinting in the face of the weak sunlight streaming through half closed blinds. He blinked blearily trying to focus his eyes on the clock on the nightstand.  He grunted when he made out the time. It was just after nine. 


Under normal circumstances he’d have been up for hours, but the team hadn’t wrapped up their most recent case until after midnight. Gibbs had sent Tony, Ziva and Tim home around two. Abby, Ducky and Palmer had left well before that.  Gibbs hadn’t left the office until nearly four in the morning, making sure every ‘I’ was dotted and ‘T’ crossed before leaving. Having it all done meant he could have the next two days off and not have to worry about going in to the office.  He wanted that free time, had plans for it, and fully intended to enjoy himself.


Gibbs sighed, shifting a bit as he took stock.  He knew he was in Tony’s bedroom---the sinfully soft pillow he snuggled into, the lightweight and yet amazingly warm down comforter, and east facing windows were all proof of that, but he couldn’t actually remember driving to Tony’s apartment. By the time he’d left the office he’d been moving on autopilot.  He had enough presence of mind to hope he’d heard Tony right when the younger man had whispered he’d see him at his place before he’d followed McGee and Ziva out. 


Gibbs hated the idea of getting to Tony’s apartment, only to find it empty.  They’d failed to communicate clearly once or twice, resulting in several ‘where the hell are you?’ phone calls.  Fortunately he’d gotten it right and didn’t have to deal with getting back in his car and heading to his house.  It didn’t matter how tired he was, there was no way in hell was he sleeping alone when he could be sleeping with Tony.


Gibbs hadn’t seen Tony’s car in the lot when he pulled in, but that didn’t mean much because Tony didn’t always park in a spot that was readily visible.  The door being unlocked when he arrived had been proof Tony was home. Gibbs had shaken his head when the knob had turned easily in his hand.  He was touched that Tony would bother to make it easy for him to enter, and annoyed that it was equally easy for anyone else.  It wasn’t safe, and he made a mental note to tell Tony again not to do that.


Gibbs had a key; it wasn’t necessary for Tony to leave himself vulnerable in his own home.  And saying it wouldn’t make him a hypocrite either since Gibbs had started locking his own door now that he and Tony spent as much time at his house as they did Tony’s apartment. Having someone’s safety, other than his own, to consider had made Gibbs more cautious.


Gibbs had managed not to trip over Tony’s sneakers as he entered the apartment.  The small pot light that illuminated the foyer ensured he spotted the errant shoes before falling on his face.  He scowled and pushed the shoes off to the side. 


Tony rarely let them lying around, and it was a testament to how tired he’d been that they hadn’t been put away.  The younger man had probably kicked out of them carelessly after having gone for a run when he’d gotten home. The gym just down the street from Tony’s apartment was open twenty-four hours, and no one thought anything of his coming in during the wee hours of the morning.


Gibbs thought Tony would have simply skipped running, until he realized the case had likely left Tony exhausted but mentally unable to relax enough to sleep. It was one of the reasons Tony had often come back to the office late at night.   Gibbs had to concede to Tony’s reasoning that working out was probably healthier in the long run than spending extra hours at the office.   


Since returning from his stint as Agent Afloat, working out had become a way for Tony to wind down and deal with the stress of the job as much as working with wood was for Gibbs. It was one of the reasons he’d stuck to the routine he’d established while at sea.  Not to mention the added benefit being more fit added to his ability to do the job.  


It hadn’t hurt that McGee had been focusing on staying fit and slimming down, and Tony saw keeping up with or surpassing the junior agent as necessary.  The rivalry between them reminded Gibbs of what he’d seen between brothers.  It was amusing—as long as it didn’t interfere with the job.  Gibbs just hoped like hell Tony didn’t start dropping weight the way McGee had.  He liked Tony having a bit more meat on his bones, although, he hadn’t said anything and decided he wouldn’t as long as Tony didn’t start looking skinny rather than lean.


Gibbs suspected it was Tony’s competitive nature that had him working out even when staying at Gibbs’ place.  Tony had mapped out a path to run when he stayed at Gibbs’ house, but he hadn’t been able to use it yet.  The potential impact of the chilly air on his lungs and danger of slippery terrain had kept him from trying it out. In an effort to give Tony’s restless energy an outlet, and make it obvious he was welcome in Gibbs’ house, Gibbs had invested in a treadmill and a universal for Tony to use.  He had turned his guest room into a home gym. It was a small price to pay if it meant Tony would enjoy spending time at his house and be willing to stay the night more often. 


Not wanting to bother with turning on more lights, Gibbs had navigated Tony’s dark apartment with the same ease he used getting around in his own home. In the month since their return from Chicago, he’d come to know Tony’s place like the back of his hand. Other than being occasionally careless with his sneakers, Tony typically kept his apartment neat, so there was little actual danger of tripping over anything in the dark.


Gibbs had opened Tony’s bedroom door quietly, hoping he wouldn’t disturb the younger man if he was asleep.  The door squeaked, sounding as loud as a gunshot to Gibbs.  He’d never noticed it making noise before.  Gibbs had glared at it, silently promising the hinges a shot of oil.


“Boss? That you?” Tony’s voice had been a soft whisper of sound.  If Gibbs hadn’t been listening closely he’d have never heard him. 


“Yeah, Tony it’s me.”  Gibbs had stepped into the room, shedding his clothing, tossing things haphazardly on the small, padded bench at the foot of the bed.  He’d deal with them in the morning.


“I didn’t mean to wake you.”  Gibbs had said as he slid under the covers.


“Wasn’t really sleeping yet.”  Tony had sighed, shifting until he was close enough to lay his head on Gibbs’ shoulder, an arm and leg wrapping around him.  Gibbs rubbed his cheek against Tony’s hair.  He had yet to grow tired of the feel of those baby soft strands against his skin.


Gibbs had taken a deep breath.  The smell of Tony’s soap and shampoo was stronger, testifying to the face that he’d showered recently.  It was an enticing fragrance that Gibbs had been unconsciously familiar with even before they’d started sleeping together.  He now found it hard to sleep without that distinctive scent nearby. 


“You have a good workout?”  Gibbs had asked softly. 


“Kicked ass on the stair thing,” Tony mumbled, sounding smug.

Gibbs grinned in response to that.  Tony periodically opted for something other than the treadmill.  He called the machine an ‘elliptical’ and described as being similar a blend of running, cross country skiing and taking the stairs.  Gibbs had immediately dubbed it ‘stair thing’ because he couldn’t remember the other name for it.  Tony now habitually referred to it by that name so Gibbs would know what he was talking about.  It was apparently more of a workout than just running, and Tony had been increasing the amount of time and the resistance level on it whenever he used it.


Although, Tony seemed to be more aware of his limitations now than in the past, Gibbs wasn’t entirely convinced he wouldn’t push himself too hard. Ducky said his lungs were scarred, and he warned him about the dangers of getting chest colds, bronchitis and pneumonia.  It was one of the main reason Tony worked out indoors during the winter months, but it was entirely possible Tony believed being inside was the only precaution he really needed to take which made his overdoing it not just possible but probable.  Gibbs might not have been paying attention before to what the cold weather could do to Tony, and what limitations it might have as a result of the plague, but he sure as hell was now. 


Gibbs had wanted to ask how long Tony was on the stair thing, to make sure he wasn’t over doing it, but the younger man had already fallen asleep.  Obviously all he’d been waiting for was for Gibbs to get home.  It made Gibbs feel guilty for not getting there sooner.  He’d fallen asleep promising himself to leave the office earlier in the future, and to start going to the gym with Tony and make sure he wasn’t pushing too hard.  


Gibbs had slept soundly until he’d awoken just a few moments ago.  He pulled the comforter up over his head, fully intent on going back to sleep, feeling far too relaxed and content to consider doing anything else.  He reached out to pull Tony closer, frowning when he didn’t encounter the warm, solid weight of the younger man. 


It was only then that he realized what had woken him in the first place was Tony’s absence.  He pushed back the blankets, sitting up to look around the room.  His clothes from last night were missing, as was the hamper that usually sat near the closet. Gibbs cocked his head, acute hearing picking up on the faint sounds of the dryer tumbling.  Tony had a high efficiency, front load washer that made surprisingly little noise, but it still should have been enough to wake Gibbs. 


Gibbs shook his head, running a hand over his face.  He must have been more tired than he realized.  But Tony should have been just as tired.  Why was he up so early?


He could smell coffee now as well.  The enticing fragrance forced him out of bed.  He’d get a cup of coffee and then he’d track down Tony.

Gibbs shrugged into the monogrammed, dark blue, terry-cloth bathrobe Tony had gotten for him.  He’d originally protested, thinking the gift too expensive and unnecessary.  It wasn’t like he was the sort to lounge around, but in the past month he’d found himself enjoying taking a more leisurely approach to starting his day whenever he could.  Gibbs liked that he and Tony could sit on the couch together, watching a movie or a game or whatever Tony happened to find, relaxing and simply being together. Tony would invariably end up snuggled into him, head on Gibbs’ shoulder.


It was the first time he’d done that when Gibbs realized the robe had been as much for Tony as it was for him.  Tony liked quality fabrics because they felt good against his skin.  And Gibbs was developing a real appreciation for how nice it was to encourage Tony to be close to him, with as much skin showing as he could manage.  Anything that encouraged Tony to touch him, however innocently, was a good thing in his mind.


The robe was now something Gibbs considered essential.  If there were ever a fire, after making sure Tony got out of the building okay, his next priority would be to rescue the robe. There were a lot of good memories wrapped up in it, and Gibbs fully intended to hang on to them for as a long as humanly possible.


He shuffled into the kitchen.  Gibbs had claimed the largest mug Tony owned for himself. It still wasn’t as big as he’d prefer, but it worked well enough. He filled the mug with coffee, breathing in the scent with his eyes closed to better enjoy the moment.


“You know, if I didn’t know I could make you look like that, I’d be jealous.”


Gibbs opened his eyes to see Tony sitting at the kitchen table smiling warmly at him.  Tony was similarly attired to Gibbs, except his robe was silk and emerald green.  He also had on some sort of slippers that looked more like moccasins that Gibbs knew were lined with sheepskin.  He secretly envied and periodically considered stealing them, but had so far resisted.


“Good morning,” Gibbs muttered, feeling just a little embarrassed about having missed Tony entirely when he entered the kitchen.


Tony got up and stepped toward him.  He leaned in, kissing Gibbs firmly.  It was a welcoming kiss, friendly rather than fierce, not entirely platonic but not quite passionate either.  It was the sort of kiss Gibbs enjoyed getting and giving---they implied familiarity, and affection; they weren’t the sort of kisses you got from a one night stand. 


“Now, it’s a good morning,” Tony told him, stepping back with a grin.  He turned to fill the mug he had in his hand.  Gibbs absently noted it had Bullwinkle on it.  Tony had a number of mugs depicting classic cartoon characters, most of whom Gibbs recognized but hadn’t thought they would be something Tony would appreciate.  Then he remembered Tony owned a Mighty Mouse stapler, so it wasn’t a huge surprise he would have mugs with Rocky the Squirrel, Scooby-Doo, Fred Flintstone, Bugs Bunny, and Woody Woodpecker.      


Tony added what Gibbs considered an ungodly amount of sugar to his coffee.  The younger man looked tired.  Hell, Gibbs still felt tired.  So why weren’t they both in bed sleeping?


“Why are you up?” Gibbs asked.


“Couldn’t sleep.”  Tony shrugged.  “It happens some times when my schedule gets messed up.” 


Since they’d started…dating?  Seeing one another?  Having a relationship?  Gibbs didn’t honestly know what to call it, but since Chicago, he realized that while Tony could roll with the punches, adjusting and adapting better than most, he was really more a creature of habit.  He preferred to have a routine, and having structure.  He got up at the same time nearly every morning, ate the same thing most days for breakfast, figured out what he was wearing the night before.  Gibbs suspected it was something that had been ingrained while Tony was attending the Rhode Island Military Academy.  Being in the Corps had given Gibbs a similar appreciation for order. 


Tony frowned, head cocked to one side as he studied Gibbs.  “Why are you…oh, shit, I’m sorry, Jethro.  I didn’t mean to wake you. I just thought I’d get a head start on some stuff. Things piled up a bit and…well, I thought with the bedroom door closed and the door to the utility room closed the noise wouldn’t bother you. I should have--”


“It didn’t.” Gibbs quickly assured Tony.  “It was you being gone that woke me.”

“Really?” Tony looked decidedly pleased. 


Gibbs was tempted to turn it into a joke.  It was an old habit, a reflex he belatedly recognized as being a byproduct of his simply not recognizing his feelings for what they were.  Blue eyes met green.


“I sleep better when you’re with me.”  Uncomfortable with both the level of honesty and eye contact, Gibbs looked away and sipped his coffee.  “The bed is colder without you.”


That earned him an affectionate smile and another kiss.  “Sleep better with you around too.”


“Not that much better,” Gibbs observed, “or we’d both still be sleeping.”


Tony rolled his eyes.  “I might not have bothered going to bed at all if you weren’t here.”


“Guess it’s a good thing I stayed then.”


“A very good thing.”  Tony agreed with a grin.  “You want breakfast or were you planning to stick to coffee?”


“You going to cook?” 




Over the past month, Gibbs had learned that Tony liked cooking breakfast on the weekends.  Those meals were one of the few times Gibbs had seen Tony actually eat like he used to when he’d first met him.  Tony might not be able to make anything else, but Tony could easily make some of the best pancakes, waffles, eggs and home fries Gibbs had ever eaten.  Why he couldn’t make anything else was something Gibbs hadn’t gotten around to asking yet. 




“I can do that.” Tony nodded.  “Might even have some preserves and whipped cream.”


Tony had made Belgian waffles for him two weeks ago.  The strawberries weren’t fresh but rather some sort of preserve that Gibbs hadn’t been able to resist.  He’d come very close to eating the entire jar.  Tony said he’d gotten it at a local farmers market.  Gibbs fully intended to visit that market as soon as he could. 


Tony pointed to the cupboard.  “Check there and see what I’ve got, while I get everything else, will you?”


“On it.”  Gibbs opened the cupboard.  He couldn’t find any strawberry preserves, but a jar of raspberry and one peach.  He thought either one should work as well.


He set the table and then settled in to watch Tony cook.  The younger man moved with a grace and economy of motion which was enjoyable to watch. Gibbs wished they could to this every morning, but their work schedules didn’t really allow for it.


It didn’t take Tony long to mix up the batter and turn out half a dozen of waffles.  They were light, fluffy and just a little bit crisp—Perfect.  Gibbs covered the majority of his in raspberry preserves adding a healthy dollop of whipped cream.  Tony did the same, except he used the peach.


Tony chuckled.  “Thinking we shouldn’t tell Ducky about this.”


“Damn right.”  Gibbs did not want the ME’s ongoing tirade about improving his diet to deny him something this good.


Breakfast was leisurely consumed.  They didn’t talk much, but touched frequently.  Hands brushed against one another, feet and legs lightly made contact under the table.  Gibbs liked having the freedom to touch and not have to worry about anyone seeing more than they should. 


“More coffee?”  Tony asked when the waffles and most of the preserves had been consumed.


“Yes, please.”


Gibbs sat back with a silent sigh and reluctantly had to admit it was probably a good thing he didn’t eat like that all the time. But damn it was good.  He said as much to Tony when he returned to the table with the coffee pot.


Tony smiled.  “Glad you liked it.”


He filled Gibbs’ cup and then set the empty pot down on the table.  “I’m going to go take care of the stuff in the dryer.”


The timer on the dryer had buzzed signaling it was finished while they were eating.  That Tony didn’t immediately get up to deal with confirmed Gibbs’ suspicion that whatever had been washed wasn’t something Tony cared if it wrinkled or not.  That would be casual clothes, workout gear, sheets and towels.  Probably Gibbs stuff is in there too, but unlike Tony, he not only knows how to use an iron he’s willing to. 


“I’ll clean up here.”  Gibbs offered.


Tony gave him a quick kiss. “Thanks.”


Gibbs patted Tony on the ass as he walked by, enjoying the feel of firm muscle under soft silk.  He got a wink in return.


Gibbs chuckled quietly as he started cleaning up the kitchen.   He filled the sink with hot water and started the dishes.  He couldn’t understand why Tony didn’t have a dishwasher.  Even Gibbs had one, although he rarely used it.  It was something his last ex-wife had insisted on having.  Looking around Tony’s kitchen, Gibbs had to concede that without removing a few of the older cabinets and upgrades to the plumbing a dishwasher just wouldn’t work. 


This building was older than the one Tony used to live in, but it was better maintained and in better shape. It had character, and reminded Gibbs a lot of his own home.  He kind of hoped that similarity was the reason Tony had selected it.  Tony had always seemed comfortable in Gibbs’ home---even before they’d started this.


Gibbs smiled.  It hadn’t taken long for them to get pretty damn domestic. It had never really been this easy with Shannon because he’d been away so much; they’d never managed to establish a set routine.  They had both been willing to make it work, and that was probably the biggest reason they’d succeeded where his later marriages had failed.


Until he’d been truly on his own, after Shannon and Kelly’s deaths and the succession of his many ex-wives, Gibbs hadn’t really done much with regard to housekeeping.  He hadn’t done the dishes or the laundry, but he took out the trash, shoveled the walk, and made sure the wiring worked well.  He’d thought it was a give and take that worked---and it had with Shannon, but not his ex-wives.  He liked knowing he had it with Tony after just a month together.


He smiled as he scrubbed the waffle iron, knowing full well if it wasn’t clean, he likely wouldn’t be eating waffles any time soon.  It was a fair trade.  Especially if Tony stocked up on more preserves.


He sighed softly, still feeling tired but very content.  This sort of quiet, easy morning never happened with any of his ex-wives.  They would never have been comfortable with so little conversation at the table, or accepting of him coming home so late, or his sleeping in when they were up and moving. 


It suddenly struck him as odd that he’d told all of the women he’d married he loved them when he hadn’t known any of them as long as he’d known Tony.  He’d put off saying ‘I love you’ to Tony, not wanting the other man to doubt his feelings, wanting time to prove his commitment to Tony, wanting Tony to understand he wasn’t someone Gibbs would ever willingly walk away from.  He had no idea how long that would truly take, but he did know he didn’t want to wait any long to say it. 


Tony might not believe him, but he’d didn’t want anything to happen with him having never said it at all.  They’d both had their share of close calls.  Anything could happen.  It did damn near every day.  Just driving to work could be fatal if the sheer volume of traffic related deaths was anything to go by. Gibb didn’t want to die having never told Tony how he really felt, or have Tony die never hearing him say it. 


Gibbs snort, rolling his eyes at his melodramatic thoughts.  They seemed at odds with how relaxed and happy he felt.  The sun was shining.  It didn’t seem like the sort of day that warranted thinking about the worst. Still, he didn’t want to miss a chance to let Tony know how he felt.  Tony knew he cared.  The younger man didn’t seem to have any doubts about that.  Maybe he was ready to accept that Gibbs didn’t just care about him but truly loved him.


“You want me to dry?”  Tony asked, startling Gibbs.  He hadn’t heard him come back into the kitchen.




Tony grabbed a dishtowel that had a pattern of black bats and spiders.  It could have only come from Abby.  To give it to him, she had to have known he wasn’t entirely the playboy bachelor he made himself out to be.  He wouldn’t need a dishtowel if he never did anything more in his kitchen than eat take out and drink beer.




Tony looked up from the plate he was drying.  “Yeah?”


Gibbs hesitated. Blurting out he loved Tony in the kitchen while they took care of breakfast dishes wasn’t exactly romantic.  It wasn’t simple.  Well, it was—there was nothing really complicated about how he felt and saying it wouldn’t be painful or truly difficult.  He loved Tony.  And that also made it a damn big deal.  It wasn’t something to be taken lightly, because Gibbs meant it when he said “I love you”.  He’d never not meant it.  He’d never been the one to leave any of his wives---they’d all left him.  They were the ones who walked away, changed their minds, found him to be just too difficult to put up with.  After years together, Tony had certainly showed far more staying power than any of his exes ever had.  Gibbs didn’t have to worry that Tony would walk away.  He just had to make sure Tony knew he was in for the long haul too.


Gibbs chewed on his bottom lip.  Maybe he should wait.  Do it like they did in Tony’s movies.  Maybe that was what Tony expected.  Something with moonlight and candles and music.  But that wasn’t Gibbs.  Never had been.  And he was afraid if he put it off he might not find another time to say it.  


“Jethro?”  Tony frowned, looking concerned. “You okay?”


“Yeah.” Gibbs cleared his throat.  “I’m just…trying to figure out how to…I mean I want to tell you…I just thought you should know—“


“Tell me what?”  Tony moved closer, one hand rising to cup Gibbs’ cheek.  “What should I know?”


“I love you.”  Gibbs blurted out, wincing internally over how brusque he sounded.  He forced himself to make eye contact and hold it, instinctively reaching out to wrap his hands around Tony’s waist and hold him in place.


“I have loved you for a long time, but I was too damn dense to figure it out until you were assigned as Agent Afloat. Then I just…I don’t have words, Tony.  I was never good with them.  I wanted to tell you I love you in Chicago, but I thought it was too soon.  That you’d think it was just because we had sex.  But really, we had sex because I love you. I wouldn’t have risked it for anything less.”


Tony searched his face. “Boss…Jethro…I have---“


“You don’t have to say anything,” Gibbs quickly assured him not wanting to hear any doubts or protests.  “I just wanted you to know how I feel. This isn’t some passing fling for me. This is real.  Probably the most real thing in my life in a long time.”


 A slow smile of wonder appeared on Tony’s face.  “You mean that.”


“I do.” Gibbs nodded, turning his head enough to place a kiss in Tony’s palm.  “And with all the crazy shit that has happened and could happen, I didn’t want to wait any longer to tell you. ”


Tony pulled him closer and kissed him.  It was slow, gentle and so sweet.  It was the promise of more to come.


“Love you too, Jethro.”


Gibbs hugged him hard, feeling an overwhelming relief and joy.  He wanted to laugh out loud.  The last time he’d felt like this was when Shannon had said yes to the ring.


“So you got any plans for the rest of the day?” Tony whispered in his hear. 




Tony pulled away enough for Gibbs to see that bright grin Tony only got when he was truly happy.  “Thinking we might want to wander back into the bedroom and celebrate our mutual feelings.”


That sounded like a great idea.  It sounded like the best idea ever as Abby would have said.


“I like the way you think, Tony.”  Gibbs kissed him soundly.  “I like the way you think.”


Tony batted his eyelashes flirtatiously.  “That all you like about me?”


“I like everything about you,” Gibbs answered.  “Everything.”


Tony blushed, green eyes glowing.  He took Gibbs’ hand and led him down the hall to the bedroom. Gibbs decided talking might not be so bad if this was what he got every time he managed to get it right.  It was definitely incentive to keep trying.  And he was pretty sure he’d have the rest of their lives to keep working on it.  That should be just about enough time.