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Risks 7: Covering the Risk

Chapter Text

Covering the Risk
by ksl

part 1

Ziva David had assumed Tony DiNozzo was a lightweight. Nothing she'd learned about him had led her to believe any different.

The research that she'd done for her brother had revealed him to be from a wealthy family. She expected him to be the quintessential spoiled rich boy. He was probably denied nothing while growing up. She assumed he knew nothing of pain or loss, neglect or hunger, strife or struggle.

He'd completed high school at an elitist Northeastern finishing school. She figured that he had probably been sent there at the result of expulsion from a public school for juvenile high jinx. His rich family had no doubt suppressed the incident, making sure to leave no record for anyone to find.

His academic ability certainly hadn't been anything special. Tony was an average student at best, nothing remarkable or impressive. His major in college was nothing more than fluff, a platform for showcasing his athletic ability. By all accounts he was talented in that area, but she seriously doubted he could have made it as a professional. Every athlete believes him or herself to be better than they really are.

Law enforcement was likely not his first, or even his second or third, career choice. Ziva had assumed he played at it, treating the job like an adult version of the child's game `cops and robbers'. He would probably end up working at his family's company when he tired of playing.

Until joining NCIS, Tony hadn't been able to hold a position in law enforcement for more than two years. While his file didn't say so outright, she assumed it was incompetence or perhaps some sort of sexual harassment lawsuit that had him moving so frequently. She'd thought he had some sort of political leverage or perhaps Gibbs had some unique, unlikely soft spot for him. There was no other way for Tony to have made it as long at NCIS as he had.

She'd conveniently overlooked the commendations in his file. Those didn't mean anything. It wasn't like he'd worked alone. Everyone on Gibbs' team had commendations in their files. DiNozzo having more commendations than his teammates could be explained away as political. It could be another effort to curry favor with his family, or simply due to his length of tenure. No one else had been on the team as long as he had.

After she started working for Gibbs, she realized how wrong she'd been about DiNozzo. Gibbs didn't suffer fools. He would have fired Tony if wasn't up to the older man's exacting standards. For all his childish antics and effort spent on entertaining himself, Tony was no fool and more than capable as an investigator.

He might not work consistently, and play more than he should, but there was nothing wrong with the final product. Tony ferreted out information as well as she did. And he had an uncanny ability to put together the pieces.

She'd never met anyone who could recognize a woman just by her ass. Hell, he'd only seen that Marine's wife, Jamie Carr, on a soft core porn video when she faked her death, but DiNozzo still knew who she was. Dyeing her hair hadn't helped her out at all.

He'd recognized another woman, Laura Osgood, just by her jaw line and cheekbone. Osgood had later yielded to pressure from Ziva during an `interrogation'. While the information Ziva had gotten had certainly helped crack the case, they wouldn't have known who to ask if not for Tony.

Small comments clued her in that Tony's childhood might not have been quite what she'd thought. McGee obviously knew something because he'd made a statement about unresolved issues between Tony and his father on the very first case they'd worked together. But unlike stories of Tony's love life, McGee hadn't supplied specifics.

Tony's own casual revelation that his father had abandoned him in a hotel for two days, forgetting about him until getting a room service bill, made her wonder even more about his childhood. For all her father's faults, he'd never abandoned or forgotten her.

Tied to a chair, listening to that big hulk of a man hit Tony repeatedly, had definitely caused her opinion of him to change. They were without backup, cut off, and he hadn't panicked or ever lost sight of the mission. He held up his end admirably.

It had left her momentarily stunned when he'd suggested she barter for her freedom to get back to their room, hopefully getting help there, while he stayed behind. He was decidedly blasé about his own potential death, simply stating that no plan was perfect. She never would have expected him to be so cavalier.

It was not false bravado. She'd seen enough of that to know the difference. He seemed to genuinely believe that his death was a minor issue; the case was more important.

She'd never admit it, but the large knife their captor had held worried her. A lot of damage could be done with such a weapon in the hands of an expert. And she had no doubt about their captor's abilities. She hoped she hadn't looked as relieved as she felt when Tony put his plan in motion, saving her from any injury.

She hadn't thought he'd even liked her. In hindsight, she realized he was a better agent than she. He didn't have to like her to put her well being first. She was a teammate, a coworker, a comrade in arms. That was enough.

It was Tony who'd actually bonded with their captor. She hadn't known what to say when he'd asked how far along her pregnancy was. She'd been so sure Sofia Renee knew she was pregnant, but hadn't known enough to pick a time frame. Tony's `three month' assertion had drawn their captor's attention back to him and away from her. Tony had gotten the man to reminisce about his own children.

She wasn't sure what to expect when she and Gibbs burst into the room 356. The sounds of another beating carried easily through the door. She felt a surge of rage at the son of a bitch for hurting Tony more than he had already. She was prepared to shoot the bastard, once in the chest and once in the head, just for good measure.

She'd been relieved to find it was Tony kicking the shit out of the guy and not the other way around. The ferocity of Tony's attack was a bit disturbing, but not all together unjustified. That he'd managed to best the brute while still tied to a chair had Ziva upping her estimation of Tony's abilities again.

She'd tried not to take it personally that the first person he spoke to was Gibbs and that was to demand a divorce. Even though it had been just a cover, she couldn't deny the simple fact that she'd enjoyed spending time with Tony. He'd made her laugh.

Gibbs moved quickly to cut Tony loose, forcing Ziva out of the way. He'd cupped the younger man's face with a gentleness she found surprising. She knew he could be kind, but Ziva hadn't expected to see him display such open concern.

"You okay, DiNozzo?"

Tony smirked, looking down at the man at his feet, still trapped beneath the chair. "Better than he is, Boss."

Gibbs cocked his head to look at the prone man. He pursed his lips in a silent whistle. "Did a number on him."

"Sorry, Boss." Tony didn't sound or look at all apologetic. Ziva couldn't really blame him. And from the looks on Gibbs' face, he didn't either.

"McGee," Gibbs called over his shoulder, "order an ambulance for this guy. Think he's going to need it." Blue eyes gave Tony a critical once over. "He might not be the only one."

"I'm good." Tony shook his head. He swayed dangerously when he made it to his feet. If Gibbs hadn't moved fast enough to catch him, Ziva was certain Tony would have ended up on the floor.

"I think you better let someone else decide that." Gibbs' tone was sharp, but Ziva could hear the anxiety in it clearly.

Sheppard had told her Gibbs looked out for his own, and took the welfare of his team very personally, but this was the first time she'd gotten to see it first hand. Ziva was somewhat surprised to realize how gratifying it was to know she was now one of Gibbs' people and would receive the same consideration. Although, she got the feeling Tony somehow received the lion's share. She wasn't sure why she had that feeling, she just did.

"I'm okay." Tony made a half-hearted effort to shrug out of Gibbs' firm but gentle hold on his arm. Ziva frowned. It worried her that Tony still didn't seem entirely steady on his feet.

"How many fingers?" Gibbs asked, raising just one digit on his right hand so that Tony had a clear view.

"If I'd known there was going to be a test, I'd have studied," Tony muttered.

"DiNozzo." Gibbs barked, his voice softer than Ziva would have expected but no less commanding. "How many?"

Tony squinted, one eye closing. "Two?"

"You are definitely letting someone look you over."

Tony sighed, and closed his eyes. It was a clear sign of capitulation. Ziva could see him leaning more heavily into Gibbs, the older man easily supporting his weight.

"Can I lie down until they get here?"

"Sure." Gibbs moved with Tony, helping him lay down on the bed. Tony flinched, his breath hitching as he stretched out. He swallowed hard. Ziva recognized the greenish cast to his skin and looked for a trash can just in case.

"You okay, Tony?" He'd definitely come out worse for this case than she had, and Ziva couldn't help feeling a little guilty. It wasn't her fault, but she still felt bad about it.

"M'fine." Tony gave her a small smile. He winced as he shifted on the bed, his right arm curling around his abdomen. Ziva had forgotten he'd taken a few shots to the chest and stomach. You miserable prick, she thought giving the man on the floor a dark look tempted to kick him again for good measure. Punching Tony in the gut hadn't been necessary to get him to comply with the order to sit in the chair and allow himself to be tied.

"Cuff that son of a bitch." Gibbs ordered, tossing Ziva his hand cuffs. The venom in his voice didn't really surprise her. It was probably a good thing he was focused on Tony and not the downed man. She was fairly certain she hadn't been the only one to enter the room prepared to shoot first and ask questions later.

Ziva smiled darkly as she complied with the order. He was unconscious and unlikely to cause any trouble now, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She made sure the cuffs were tight enough to be uncomfortable. The paramedics could work around them if they had to.

"Ambulance is on its way, Boss." McGee offered quietly. He looked uncertain, glances darting nervously around the room before flittering back to Tony.

"Everything okay in here?" A bald man Ziva didn't know asked as he leaned in through the doorway. She trained her gun on him as a precaution.

"Just fine, Fornell." Gibbs glanced up to make eye contact, one hand still resting on Tony's shoulder. He made a stand down gesture to Ziva.

Ziva nodded, lowering her weapon as she recognized the name. She'd never met Tobias Fornell, but she'd heard of him. And looking at him, she realized she'd seen a few photos of him in various case files. He was better looking in person.

By all accounts, Fornell and Gibbs didn't like each other, but Ziva wasn't sure she trusted those reports. An entire conversation seemed to pass between Gibbs and Fornell in that one look. They didn't seem like bitter enemies to Ziva.

"Damn, DiNozzo, you look like hell." Fornell grimaced as he looked Tony over. He seemed genuinely concerned. Ziva realized she'd underestimated Tony again; most people who'd met him seemed to honestly like him.

"Still look better than you." Tony retorted, smirking back at the senior FBI agent, green eyes a bit glassy. The bruise along his left cheekbone and jaw was starting to darken. The blood on Tony's chin and upper lip was a stark contrast to his pale complexion.

Fornell rolled his eyes. "Good to see your ego is undamaged, DiNozzo."

The FBI agent offered Gibbs a clean handkerchief. Gibbs used it to very gently wipe the blood off Tony's chin before holding it under his nose. It could have just been dismissed as basic first-aid, but Gibbs was once more show more compassion than Ziva would have expected from him.

"Tip your head back a bit," Gibbs instructed, carefully pinching Tony's nose to help stop the bleeding. Tony grimaced but did as he was told.

"Ziva, McGee, get back down stairs and take care of the two we left in the other room."

Ziva frowned. "I would ratherâ€""

"That was not a request, Officer David." Icy blue eyes fixed on her added emphasis to his no nonsense tone. It was clear Gibbs wasn't going to tolerate any argument from her. "I'll go with Tony to the ER."

Ziva's jaw tightened in displeasure. She'd wanted to be the one to go with Tony, to make sure he was okay. He'd been her `husband' for the last two days; he'd stuck his neck out for her, it was the least she could do.

"Don't worry, Sweet Cheeks." Tony pushed Gibbs hand away from his face, sitting up slowly. "We'll meet up with you back at the office once the docs give me the all clear."

She gave him a dirty look for the pet name. She knew he called her that just to annoy her and seriously doubted he'd use such an endearment with one of his ladies. It was also his way of reassuring her he was okay. Ziva wasn't sure why he thought it better for her to be pissed than concerned.

Gibbs shook his head, his expression a strange mix of pride, affection and exasperation. "DiNozzo--"

"Abby will be worried, Boss." Tony softly interjected, shrugging one shoulder, looking apologetic and determined at the same time. He licked his split-lip, wincing. "She'll want to see for herself I'm okay."

After losing Kate, it was almost a ritual among them to visually check in with one another when any sort of life threatening situation had been encountered. It was another thing that made Gibbs' team so different from what Ziva was used to. They were nearly family...a crazy, dysfunctional family, but family nonetheless. She was surprised by how much she wanted to be a part of that.

Fornell traded a look with Gibbs, before the FBI agent dipped his head and left. She saw McGee looking warily from Gibbs to Fornell, the set of his shoulders relaxing only after Fornell had stepped out of the room. Clearly the junior agent still thought Gibbs and Fornell were just barely tolerating each other.

"Go." Gibbs gave her a pointed look. "Now."

Ziva headed for the door with a disgruntled sigh. She glanced back over her shoulder and could have sworn she saw Gibbs leaning forward to hug Tony. Before she could be certain of what she saw, McGee stepped forward and neatly blocked her view, pulling the door half closed behind him. There was something almost protective in his stance, and she got the feeling he'd blocked her view on purpose.

"We, ah, better get back upstairs." McGee nodded toward the elevator.

Ziva nodded, letting him herd her away from room 356. There was a mystery there. There had to be. McGee wouldn't have moved to hide something unless something needed to be hidden.

Ziva filed it away for further consideration. She liked puzzles.

TBC

Chapter Text

Gibbs lightly cupped Tony's bruised face, unable to stop touching the younger man now that they were once more in close physical proximity. The temptation to hug him fiercely had nearly overwhelmed him earlier. He hadn't given in completely, but he knew he'd taken a few liberties in the level of concern appropriate for a supervisor to show a subordinate. He'd have to remember to thank McGee for running interference and keeping Ziva from seeing any more than she already had. She had probably seen too much as it was, but Gibbs couldn't bring himself to care.

It had been a very long weekend; nearly interminable, minutes and hours dragging by without Tony being where he belonged. It hadn't just been worry that had kept Gibbs up at night. He couldn't sleep without Tony there, without knowing he was safe. He missed the comfort of his steady heartbeat, the warmth, his scent, the feel of Tony's skin, the sense of peace the younger man generated that seemed to envelope the former Marine.

Gibbs wondered if Ziva even realized just how damn lucky she was getting the chance to spend a night with Tony. Probably not. She certainly didn't see Tony the same way Gibbs did, and he was damn glad of it. He was also damn glad Tony was professional enough not to lose sight of the objective. He trusted his lover to stay focused even when pretending to make love to Ziva.

Even though he trusted Tony, Gibbs had very nearly agreed when his lover asked if he wanted them back in the squad room after they'd missed their first shot at who had haired Jean-Paul and Sofia Renee. He had mixed emotions about Tony continuing to play Ziva's husband, but the case was too important not to see it through. The only saving grace was being in contact for most of the weekend. Gibbs could see and hear Tony if not actually touch him. It had almost been enough, until the last few minutes.

Gibbs grimaced thinking about everything that could have happened in those eternal moments when he had no idea where Tony and Ziva were. Finding out the couple they were portraying were the targets ranked as one of the worst in his life. God, but he'd been terrified he'd find them too late.

"Knew sending you in blind was a bad idea," he muttered to himself.

"Like there was a choice." Tony opened his eyes, giving Gibbs a vaguely disgruntled look. "It worked out all right."

Gibbs eyed his lover's face critically, inventorying the bruises, split lip and still bleeding nose. "You call this all right, DiNozzo?" The question held too much concern to have his usual sarcastic bite.

"We got the bad guys." Tony shrugged one shoulder, wincing. He shifted on the bed to a more comfortable position. "Was kind of nice to know no one at the ball was ever in danger though."

Gibbs nodded slowly. It was reassuring to know the dignitaries at the Marine Birthday Ball were never in danger, but finding out he'd made Tony a target hadn't been an acceptable alternative to Gibbs. He wished to hell his lover didn't always assume that the case came first. It didn't seem to matter how often he told him differently, Tony clearly didn't believe his own well being was a primary concern.

Tony's gaze narrowed, green eyes meeting blue. "We did get the bad guys, right?"

"Yeah." Gibbs nodded. "We got them."

"It's all good then."

Gibbs sighed. He'd have to find a way to convince Tony he was more important than anything else. Eventually he'd succeed. Diligence paid off.

Tony grunted, moving to sit up. Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder and held him in place. "Wait for the paramedics."

Tony rolled his eyes. "I don't need them."

"Think we already covered this." It was reassuring to have Tony fight him on getting check out. It was his lover's normal reaction.

Tony sighed. "I'm fine."

"When they say so," Gibbs countered firmly.

He glanced to the floor where the perp Tony had beaten unconscious still lay, securely cuffed. The man moaned softly, but didn't seem to be coming around. Gibbs wondered if he should be worried the man was still out. He figured the paramedics would deal with that when they arrived. The man wasn't dead, that was good enough for Gibbs.

He instinctively reached for his gun when there was a soft knock on the door. Fornell pushed it open and looked in. He nodded once to Gibbs before his gaze drifted to Tony.

"Paramedics are here," Fornell said quietly, once more making eye contact with Gibbs.

Gibbs knew Fornell genuinely liked Tony. The FBI agent shared Gibbs' fondness for people with enough strength in their convictions to challenge him when the need arose and sufficient intelligence to know when to shut up and follow orders. He shared Gibbs appreciation for people who had the knack for immersing themselves in the job without losing themselves to it completely. The FBI agent respected Tony's ability and dedication, and Gibbs knew Fornell envied his having Tony on his team. He'd commented more than once that Gibbs was damn lucky the Bureau hadn't found Tony first.

Fornell held the door open for the paramedics. Gibbs eyed them, instinctively trying to gauge their ability by their appearance. Looking competent didn't necessarily mean they were, but it certainly didn't hurt.

Gibbs pointed the man on the floor between the beds. "That one has been unconscious for about fifteen minutes."

The blond medic nodded once, moving to check the perp. His partner, a petite African-American woman, gave Gibbs a wary glance. He didn't know if she was assuming he'd beaten the other man and he didn't really care. For what the guy had done and could have done to Tony, he was damn lucky to be alive.

"This is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo." Gibbs gave her a hard look, mutely ordering her to provide him with the best possible care or deal with the consequences.

Her gaze flickered toward her partner. "You okay on your own over there, Jason?"

Jason's attention was focused on his patient; he responded without looking up. "His breathing is fine. Heart rate solid." Jason gave Gibbs a cursory look. "Can I get someone to uncuff him?"

"No." Both Gibbs and Fornell answered. Jason glanced from one to the other. He pursed his lips in annoyance, but didn't argue. "Okay, I'll work around them then." He gave his partner a reassuring smile. "Go ahead and check on Agent DiNozzo, Liz. I'm fine here."

Liz nodded and moved toward Tony, setting her kit on the floor beside the bed. She gave him a genial smile. "Hello, Agent DiNozzo."

Tony returned the smile with a friendly one of his own. "Call me, Tony."

Gibbs stifled the urge to smack his lover. He knew Tony was not intentionally flirting with her. It was just Tony's usual warm and disarming way of approaching people. It was one of the things that made it so easy for them to like Tony.

Gibbs reluctantly moved off the bed to give Liz more room to work, watching her like a hawk. The slow and uneven reaction of Tony's pupils to her pen light just confirmed what Gibbs already knew. Tony had a concussion.

"Any dizziness?"

"A little." Tony admitted, waving a hand in a dismissive motion. Gibbs jaw tightened. Tony had nearly fallen earlier. That was more than a 'little' dizzy.

"Blurred vision?" Liz asked as she delicately checked the bruises on his face.

"No." Tony winced at her touch but didn't pull away.

"Nausea?"

"Not really."

"Yes or no, DiNozzo," Gibbs directed. He wasn't letting the younger man get away with any more half-truth answers.

"Yes," Tony rolled his eyes, "I was a little nauseous before, but I'm okay now."

"Did you lose consciousness at any time?"

"No." Tony sighed and moved to sit up. Gibbs bit back the urge to move, uncertain if he wanted to help or hinder the process. He was at Tony's side the second his lover swayed, offering support and helping him stay upright.

Liz frowned. "I think a trip to the ER is in order. Just to be on the safe side."

Tony started to shake his head and then stopped abruptly, one hand rising to rub at his temple. "That's not necessaryâ€""

"I'll take him." Gibbs cut him off, not giving Tony the chance to argue.

"What aboutâ€"" Tony pointed to the perp still being examined.

"I'll take care of getting him booked and processed once he's cleared medically," Fornell interjected. He smiled tightly. "Joint operation and all. It's the least I can do."

Gibbs knew if Fornell booked the guy then the FBI would get credit for the bust, but he didn't give a damn. They probably had plans to book the others if they hadn't already. The targets hadn't really been anyone in NCIS jurisdiction anyway, and Gibbs had more important things to focus on. He simply nodded to Fornell, accepting his offer.

Gibbs helped Tony stand, pleased the younger man didn't look so much like he was going to collapse this time. He wrapped one arm around Tony's waist. He noticed the infinitesimal flinch and made a note to make sure the ER checked Tony's abdomen and ribs.

The elevator ride to the lobby was made in silence. Tony rested more of his weight against Gibbs when they exited. The slightly greenish cast to Tony's features worried the former Marine. He knew the look.

"Don't puke on my shoes."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Boss." Tony offered him a smile. It was a pale shadow of the bright one he usually gave Gibbs.

Tony swallowed hard a few times, and managed not to actually throw up as they made their way outside. He leaned against the car, taking several slow, deep breaths before moving to sit in the passenger seat. Tony raised hand and wiped under his nose, cursing softly when he noticed fresh blood.

"God, I wish it would stop that."

Gibbs handed him several paper napkins from the stash he kept in the console. He reminded himself that bloody noses had a tendency to bleed like most head wounds. He wasn't going to panic over a little blood.

Gibbs drove to the hospital at a more sedate pace than usual. He definitely didn't want to make it any harder for Tony keep from losing his lunch in the car. And he certainly didn't want to cause his lover any more pain.

Tony never should have gotten hurt in the first place. Gibbs clenched his jaw. The fear and rage of losing Tony resurfaced with a vengeance. Even though he knew a room by room search wouldn't have found Tony and Ziva any faster, he still felt guilty over following Sheppard's lead. Waiting for Ziva to make contact might well have been the right choice, but he couldn't shake the lingering fear of what might have happened if she hadn't.

Tony reached over and captured Gibbs' right hand, neatly interrupting his thoughts. He entwined their fingers, squeezing once. "Not your fault."

"What?" Gibbs glanced over at Tony in surprise. That wasn't what he was expecting Tony to say.

"The way this operation worked out," Tony sighed, his head tilting back against the seat, eyes closed. "None of that is your fault."

Gibbs grunted. He'd ordered Tony and Ziva into harms way, sent them in blind. There was no way it could any of this couldn't be his responsibility, no way he wasn't to blame.

Tony squeezed his hand, turning his head to look at Gibbs. "Repeat after me....I am not omniscient."

Gibbs glared at him. "I don't think I am."

"Then it won't hurt to say it." Tony laughed softly, green eyes sparkling before he sobered. "I knew what I was getting myself in for when I signed on the dotted line, Boss. I'm a big boy. I know the risks."

Gibbs swallowed hard and looked away, eyes once more focused on the road. Shannon and Kelly had known the risks too, albeit not the same way Tony did. They had understood what he did for a living was hazardous, but they were never supposed to be touched by it. They were never supposed to understand first hand the concept of collateral damage, much less be classified as such.

"I was in charge," Gibbs ground out.

"No, the director was in charge."

Gibbs snorted. "Splitting hairs."

"Mine to split." Tony shrugged one shoulder. "Besides I trust you to keep me safe whether you're officially in charge or not."

"Maybe you shouldn't." Gibbs stopped the car at the red light, and turned to look directly at Tony.

Tony blinked in surprise. "Haven't let me down, yet."

"Yet," Gibbs repeated, adding emphasis to the word. "I'm not omnipotent either, Tony."

"Close enough." Tony grinned. He raised their joined hands, kissing the back of Gibbs knuckles. "After four years, I'm willing to take my chances."

He'd been married to Shannon for longer than that. Kelly had been almost eight when she'd been taken from them and everything fell apart. It was on the tip of his tongue to say it aloud, to tell Tony his trust might be misplaced, but he fought it back, keeping it inside. Instead, he made a silent promise to do better this time. This time he'd be worthy of that trust, come hell or high water.

Gibbs told himself things were different. Tony wasn't like Shannon or Kelly. He was a trained agent, capable, smart and well informed. He'd handled everything the job had thrown at him, including nearly dieing and losing a partner. Gibbs trusted Tony to watch his six like he'd never trusted anyone else before. He shook his head, belatedly realizing he shouldn't be too surprised that the trust went both ways.

"There ought to be a light bulb over your head." Tony smirked.

"Shut up." Gibbs was unable to stifle his grin.

"Light's green." Tony pointed out with a smile, once more closing his eyes and resting his head against the seat. He didn't relinquish his hold on Gibbs hand.

Gibbs was glad the ER wasn't busy. He hated to wait. And he was in no mood to see Tony take a back seat to anyone not in critical condition.

Tony seemed resigned, his expression closing off to something carefully neutral. He wasn't upset or nervous, but he certainly wasn't comfortable or happy to be there. Gibbs followed him into the exam area when Tony's name was called, coolly ignoring the doctor's protests. The guy could tell it to the wall for all Gibbs cared. He wasn't letting Tony out of his sight.

"Might as well give it up now, Doctor." Tony took a seat on the table.

"This is highly irregular." The doctor frowned, bushy gray eyebrows pulling down as he glared at Gibbs again. "Exams are private."

Tony shrugged, his expression conveying a subtle amusement. "Think of it as saving time."

"Saving time?" The doctor reached for one of Tony's wrists, taking his pulse.

"You won't have to repeat everything to him later." Tony nodded to where Gibbs stood.

Gibbs had folded his arms and leaned against the wall, watching everything with an eagle-eyed gaze. He smirked coldly when the doctor looked at him again. The doctor just sighed and shook his head, resigned to accepting Gibbs' presence and clearly not happy about it.

The doctor's exam wasn't much different from what Liz had done in the hotel room with the exception of his recommending a head CT. Gibbs neatly overruled Tony's protests that it wasn't necessary. He reassured himself the CT was only a precaution, something the doctor ordered only after he heard the story of how Tony had come to be injured in the first place.

Gibbs made sure to tell him Tony had taken a few hits to the ribs and abdomen. Tony gave him a dark look but didn't argue. He shrugged carefully out of his sweater. Gibbs stifled a wince when he saw the bruises that had already formed. It was no wonder Tony had flinched earlier. Gibbs regretted not getting a few kicks of his own in to the miserable prick who had hit Tony.

"Bruised, but nothing broken," Tony declared calmly, green eyes meeting Gibbs' blue easily.

It bothered Gibbs that his lover would be able to tell the difference with so much confidence. He nodded once, accepting Tony's assertion. But he made sure the doctor seconded Tony's opinion, just in case.

The head CT came back normal. Gibbs ignored the smug 'I told you so' look Tony gave him. He resisted the urge to smack the back of the younger man's head. No reason to give the doctor any more cause to keep shooting him dark looks.

Gibbs snatched up the prescription for painkillers the doctor offered Tony. He knew full well what would happen to that little slip of paper if Tony got it. It would be conveniently lost or misplaced, and Gibbs wasn't about to let that happen. Tony glared at him but didn't protest.

Tony neatly recited to the doctor the standard techniques for monitoring a concussion victim. Tony shrugged off the man's surprised look as he pulled his sweater back on. "Not my first one, Doc."

The man grunted, expressing his displeasure and concern in equal measure. "Perhaps you should consider a less hazardous profession."

Tony arched an eyebrow. "My first concussion wasn't job related, so I'm thinking what I do for a living really doesn't matter all that much."

Gibbs resisted the desire to ask how Tony had come by his first concussion and when. Fortunately the doctor had didn't feel the same need to hesitate, looking askance at Tony.

"Fell out of a top bunk when I was six." Tony shrugged, eyes suddenly focused on a spot on the far wall. "Never was very graceful as a child."

The muscles along Gibbs' jaw flexed as he clenched his teeth. He didn't know if Tony was telling the truth about how he'd gotten the concussion, but the bit about being ungraceful was probably a lie. Tony might have been awkward or clumsy at points in his life, but no one was so much of a klutz they amassed as many injuries in their youth like Tony had without some help.

Tony thanked the doctor. He somehow managed to make it sound as though he was apologizing to the man for wasting his time. The doctor shook his head, clearly bemused by the whole situation.

"You ready, Boss?"

"Yeah." He helped Tony into his coat. Once in the car, Gibbs fixed him with a stern look. "You'll be at the office just long enough to let Abby know you are okay. And then you are going home."

Gibbs could see the protest forming when Tony opened his mouth. He placed a finger against his lover's lips and shook his head. "Not one minute more. We clear?"

Tony pursed his lips to kiss Gibbs' finger before pulling back. "Crystal."

"Good." Gibbs nodded, starting the car. He felt some of the lingering tension ease when Tony once more captured his hand. He squeezed lightly once.

"Love you, Jethro," Tony murmured softly.

"Love you, too," Gibbs raised their joined hands to place a soft kiss on Tony's knuckles.

TBC

Chapter Text

McGee drove the Mustang with exaggerated care, more out of concern for his passenger than for the car. He glanced over at Tony. "You okay?"

"Yes, McGee, I am okay," Tony said with deliberately slow emphasis, letting McGee know he was tired of being asked that question.

"Sorry."

"S'okay." Tony gave him a wan smile. He winced, tongue flicking out to touch the spot where his lower lip had been split. "Thanks for driving. Not sure I could handle having Ziva take me home."

McGee grimaced, nodding in agreement. Gibbs drove like he was always on the verge of being ten minutes too late for something of critical importance, but at least he knew the rules of the road, he just didn't obey them. McGee wasn't so sure Ziva even knew the rules of the road. When he'd shown her around D.C. she had a disturbing tendency to want to drive on the left.

McGee was somewhat surprised Ziva had been willing to give up the notion of driving Tony home. She'd seemed rather adamant when they were standing around Tony's desk. A little fast talking on McGee's part, and a few not so subtle insults with regards to her driving ability from Abby, had more or less convinced Ziva her driving Tony home would be a bad idea. But what McGee thought really sealed the deal was Tony's own quiet request made in the elevator.

Even though they had been monitoring everything in the hotel room, McGee still felt like something happened there he didn't quite understand or had missed. Ziva and Tony appeared to be getting along better than they had before the assignment. And she seemed more concerned about him than she ever had before.

"You didn't really sleep with Ziva, did you?"

"Sleep? I didn't get much sleep, Probie." Tony snorted. "Ziva snores like a drunken sailor with emphysema."

"That wasn't what I meant and you know it." McGee scowled. "Those FBI agents seemed pretty sure you'd gone all the way."

"They were pretty sure we were really Jean-Paul and Sofia too." Tony chuckled. "Foundation of a good illusion is to appear to be what people want to see. It's all smoke and mirrors, McGee."

"I'd have been content to watch pay per view. It was her idea to pretend to be making love." Tony shrugged. "I went along with it, because it added to the cover. Arguing would have meant moving the mirrors and generating more smoke."

He looked at McGee, green eyes fixing him with a pointed look. "Even if Gibbs hadn't been watching, I was not going to mess up the best thing in my life for a piece of ass who wouldn't give me the time of day once the job was done."

McGee winced. That was a harsh assessment, but he wasn't sure Tony was wrong. Ziva had been a spy, and McGee had no trouble envisioning her using sex as a weapon or tool for getting the job done. McGee had never slept with anyone who didn't see sex as being something intimate or at the very least a mutual _expression of affection, and he wasn't sure he wanted to.

McGee didn't want cold and meaningless, ever. Given the number of partners Tony admitted to having before Gibbs, it was a safe bet he'd done meaningless, but McGee doubted he'd ever had sex for any reason other than mutual pleasure and satisfaction. McGee thought Tony was way too warm and personable to really ever treat sex as a means to an end. Not that he'd ever tell Tony that.

"If I was going to whore myself, I'd have done it years ago. For a hell of a lot better return than this job." Tony sighed softly, something unreadable in his eyes. "I'd have made nice with all those wealthy debutants, who were just about as interesting as watching paint dry, that my father thought I should ingratiate myself with."

McGee blinked. "Didn't even know there were such things as debutantes any more."

"Kind of like unicorns." Tony snickered. "More myth than reality, but trust me, they still exist."

McGee nodded. Tony's stories were often just stories, but when he said 'trust me' it was usually safe to do so.

"Is that why you and your father don'tâ€""

"Let's not go there, Probie, hunh." Although worded like a request it was a clearly not a suggestion.

McGee swallowed hard, recognizing the tone, and being smart, he let the subject drop. He knew better than to challenge Tony when he sounded like that. It reminded him of Gibbs.

He concentrated on the road, and trying to shift smoothly. He rarely drove a standard, hadn't in years in fact, and the last thing he wanted to do was grind the gears in Tony's baby. He wasn't sure Tony wouldn't hit him for that. But he was pretty sure he'd deserve it if Tony did. The Mustang was a thing of beauty.

"Listen to the engine," Tony instructed quietly. "She'll tell you when its time to shift."

"I'm...ah...I was never very...good with stick shift." He gave Tony an apologetic glance.

"Relax." Tony slouched further into the seat, giving McGee a far more understanding look than he expected. "Just takes a little practice."

"Abby's good at stick." McGee cautiously shifted, pleased to have the car accelerate smoothly through the intersection.

"Yeah, I know."

"Should have let her drive," McGee muttered.

He was unaware Tony heard his soft comment until he patted McGee on the arm. "You're doing fine."

Tony lightly tapped his wrist with two fingers, signaling it was time to shift again. "Abby wouldn't have left me at home alone. And I'm not sure how to explain Gibbs coming by."

"You could just tell her you guys are a couple," McGee suggested. "She'd understand. Hell, she'd probably be thrilled."

"Yeah." Tony sighed deeply. "Probably." He shrugged. "Think that's more Gibbs' call than mine."

McGee knew Gibbs and Abby had a long history and a strange relationship that was akin to father and daughter, but it wasn't like she wasn't Tony's friend too. He frowned. When he'd discovered Gibbs and Tony were a couple, they'd mentioned something about an agreement, but they'd never gone into specifics. "Is that part of the agreement you two have? Keeping Abby in the dark?"

"Not exactly, no." Tony rubbed at his temple. "Might need to talk to Gibbs about it. Could be time to rethink the whole thing."

McGee nodded, opting to just pretend he understood what Tony was talking about. It wasn't really his business. While he liked being in on their secret, McGee was uncomfortable being the only one. He worried that he might slip at the wrong moment. And it would be good to know he had back up for moments like what happened at the hotel. He'd nearly missed his cue to usher Ziva out of the room and block her view.

He winced when he stalled out the Mustang at a red light a block from Tony's place. Tony shook his head. Rather than yell at him the way McGee expected, Tony calmly talked him through restarting the car and getting it through the intersection.

"Long as you don't grind the gears or burn the clutch, I'm not going to yell at you." Tony patted the dash. "She's too fine a lady to be abused like that."

"Where did you get this car?"

Tony shook his head. "Story for another night."

McGee's curiosity was piqued. Tony had evidently not found the car at some dealership, in the newspaper or online. It wouldn't have much of a story if he had. There was only so much embellishment even Tony could add to something so mundane.

McGee pulled into Tony's parking spot, neatly cutting the engine. He tried not to feel overly proud when Tony gave him a quiet 'good job, McGee'. He kept thinking that eventually he'd stop looking forward to those little words of praise, or even acknowledging them. So far, they still made him want to puff out his chest a little. Getting them from both Tony and Gibbs made for an exceptional day.

Tony levered himself out of the car. McGee was pleased the taller man was now steady on his feet. There was something strangely unnerving about seeing Tony at less than his best. It was unexpected, kind of like Gibbs giving him coffee. McGee preferred things to be predictable.

McGee tossed Tony the keys without even thinking. He was impressed in spite of himself when Tony deftly caught them, almost without even looking. McGee might excel at video games but he didn't have the same degree of eye hand coordination as his teammates. Time in the field had certainly improved his ability but it wasn't as natural for him as it was for Tony, Gibbs or Ziva.

He followed Tony up to his apartment. McGee toed out of his shoes, leaving them next to Tony's on the small rack in the front entry way. Even though the former Marine hadn't said so, McGee knew he was expected to stay with Tony until Gibbs arrived.

"You want something to drink?"

McGee shook his head. "I'm good."

He wondered if Tony might actually take Ducky's advice and pour himself a stiff drink. He really didn't think alcohol was a good idea. Not with a concussion. McGee was relieved Tony grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge instead and headed into the living room.

Tony didn't so much sit on the couch as settle into it. He stretched out his long so that his feet rested on the coffee table. He made a graceful gesture with one hand, inviting McGee to make himself at home.

"What do you think of the Director taking Ducky to the ball?" Tony asked.

McGee grinned, leaning back into the recliner. "I'm thinking he'll have a lot more fun than she will."

"Probably." Tony snickered. "Betting Ducky knows damn near everyone there."

"Definitely makes him a good escort choice. He can introduce her."

"Point."

McGee sat forward. "So what did you think of her dress?"

Tony sipped his water, pursing his lips. "I think she's a beautiful woman who has no idea how to dress."

McGee blinked in surprise. Being involved with Gibbs had not lessened Tony's vocal appreciation for a woman's assets. He'd have thought the tight fitting, push up dress would have met with Tony's automatic approval.

"You don't think she looked good?"

Tony shrugged. "Wasn't exactly the sort of gown that would give her the image she should be going for."

McGee cocked his head to one side. "What image should she be going for?"

"One that makes people realize NCIS is more a force to be reckoned with than they think or expect."

McGee raised both eyebrows, unsure of how a dress would help or hinder that impression. "How wouldâ€""

Tony pointed a finger at McGee. "She's the director of a lesser known federal agency with a mid-range budget and limited jurisdiction. It would be better for her to look like an intelligent, capable woman who is in control and just happens to be good looking. Rather than trying to attract attention to herself as a good looking woman."

Tony looked rueful. "Right or wrong, guys in charge tend to be dismissive of women on general principal. No reason for her to give them more fodder by appealing to their less intellectual side from the outset."

Tony shifted on the couch, wincing as he resettled into a more comfortable position. "Marines and navy types will respect the office, or so I'm told, but that doesn't mean they will automatically respect her. And even the office doesn't get much respect from other law enforcement agencies. So she's got to work at leveling the playing field."

Tony took another sip of water. "She should have gone for something classy with a bit less cleavage. Maybe a shorter skirt rather than the whole floor length thing. Could have still done sexy, just should have been something more like Katherine Hepburn or Princes Diana. Simple, elegant and understated rather than flashy."

McGee stared at him. He never would have expected that sort of intellectual commentary from Tony in a million years. The man was definitely smarter than he let on.

"Politics is about appearance more than substance." Tony rolled his eyes. "More smoke and mirrors, Probie. Just smoke and mirrors. But when the stakes are high, every little bit counts. And the stakes can't get much higher than when it comes to establishing your credibility."

Tony sighed, tipping his head back to rest on the couch. He looked pale and tired under his bruises. McGee had a feeling Tony knew more about politics and proving himself than just from having worked at NCIS. Hell, McGee had worked at NCIS for several years and still wouldn't have made the same observations Tony just had. He wondered if Kate would have or Ziva. Neither had ever shown much skin on the job, and both actively tried to downplay their gender unless the situation required them to draw attention to it.

"You want something to eat?" McGee asked hesitantly, looking for a safer topic of conversation. Something he hoped wouldn't surprise him quite the way the last one had.

He didn't think Tony had eaten anything since breakfast, and he knew he hadn't. They could probably order in easily enough. Pizza or Chinese would work well enough.

Tony grimaced, eyes drifting closed. "Not sure I want to risk the stomach just yet."

McGee nodded. Concussions could be like that. He winced. He should have known better than to ask about food. McGee blushed when his stomach rumbled loudly.

Tony chuckled, opening his eyes. "Just because I'm not hungry doesn't mean you can't eat, Probie." He took a sip of his water before pulling his feet off the coffee table. He moaned softly, repositioning his weight in preparation for getting up. "Think there's something in the fridgeâ€""

"Just stay put. I can look." McGee interrupted quickly. Gibbs would probably have his balls in a vice if he found out McGee had let Tony wait on him after he'd gotten hurt.

Tony nodded slowly, giving in graciously. He moved so that he was reclining on the couch, pulling the colorful afghan from the back as he did. "Should be a Tupperware container on the top shelf. Louisa probably left something in there."

McGee remembered Gibbs telling him about Louisa the day after he'd found out about them. She was an elderly neighbor that seemed to have taken a shine to Tony. It had amazed McGee to find out that the feeling was mutual. The fondness in Tony's tone whenever he mentioned her made that very clear. McGee had yet to meet the woman, but he was looking forward to being introduced some day.

He opened the container he found on the top shelf. A careful sniff confirmed it was tuna noodle casserole. McGee selected a cupboard at random, pleased he'd guessed right when he found the plates. It took two guesses to locate the silverware.

He spooned out a modest amount of casserole onto a plate and put it in the microwave. When he put the Tupperware container back in the fridge he grabbed a bottle of water. McGee didn't think Tony would object to him in eating in the living room.

Tony had turned on the TV. The icon at the bottom of the screen indicated it was the Turner Classic Movies. McGee frowned, trying to figure out which movie it was. He didn't know much about current films much less classics.

"Crest of the Wave." Tony obligingly filled him in. "Was filmed in Scotland in 1953 and released in England the same year. Didn't make it to the states until 1954." Tony pointed to the man just stepping on screen. "Gene Kelly." He pointed to another. "Jeff Richards."

McGee had a vague idea of who Gene Kelly was, but Jeff Richards didn't ring any bells. He shrugged. If he asked, Tony would probably fill him in, but it didn't matter at the moment. He took a bite of the casserole, appreciating the flavor. Definitely home made.

"This movie isn't one of my favorites, but it's not all bad either."

"War movie?" McGee took another bite of the casserole.

"Sort of." Tony rearranged the afghan a bit so it covered his feet. "Set during world war two. They are working on building a new type of torpedo."

McGee settled into watch. The movie didn't have any of the special effects he'd come to take for granted, but the story was engaging. He was beginning to see some of the appeal old movies had.

Tony would periodically identify other actors, occasionally adding another film name they'd been in. McGee mentally filed away the names for future reference. He looked over to ask Tony about a still unidentified actor when he realized the other man had fallen asleep. He briefly considered turning the movie off, but Tony had fallen asleep with it on, the silence would likely disturb him more than the noise.

He checked his watch. Gibbs should be arriving soon. Hopefully, he wouldn't object to letting McGee stay long enough to see the end of the movie. He really wanted to see how it turned out. And he wouldn't mind having the chance at seconds of Louisa's casserole.

TBC

Chapter Text

Gibbs rubbed his thumb over the names of his wife and daughter one last time before slipping the flask back into his pocket. At times like these, he missed his old family something fierce. Not a day didn't go by that his daughter didn't come to mind, when he didn't wonder about what she'd be like if she'd lived. And part of him still wished things between himself and Shannon had worked out better.

Shannon blamed him for Kelly's death; no more than he blamed himself. Guilt and recriminations created a rift between them that got wider and wider. Ultimately, it proved to be a span neither of them could bridge. And in all honesty, neither of them tried very hard. It was easier, less painful to simply accept that without Kelly there was no reason to rebuild their lives together. It was easier for both of them to simply walk away and start fresh somewhere else, with someone else.

Gibbs wasn't terribly unhappy with his life now, but that didn't mean he didn't miss what he had once. Occasionally he caught himself wondering if Kelly would have liked Tony. He thought she would have.

Gibbs sighed. He glanced around the empty bull pen, eyes instinctively coming to rest on Tony's desk. He smiled softly. Gibbs was more satisfied and content than he could remember being in a long time. It had taken him awhile, and a few mistakes in between, but he'd finally found the right one. Nodding to himself, Gibbs got up, grabbed his coat and headed for home.

Everything at the office was in order. There was no reason to stay any longer. There hadn't been any reason to stay as long as he had, except that it made for good cover. He never left before his team, ever.

Gibbs shook his head, pushing the button for the elevator. He'd have preferred to be the one to drive Tony home. Not that he didn't trust McGee to handle things, he just would have felt better doing it himself. Gibbs sighed and rubbed tiredly at his eyes.

He hated politics. He hated the need for secrets even though he understood very well the reason for them. But he wasn't about to give Sheppard any more fodder for disrupting his team more than she already had. She'd already included herself on a number of cases. Hell, she'd assigned Ziva to the team, and still thought Abby having an assistant was a good idea. Ziva was proving to be a good addition, but Abby hated putting up with Chip. No one seemed to really like the guy. Gibbs just couldn't see that ending well. And if there was one thing he hated more than politics, it was picking up pieces.

Gibbs pursed his lips. He wouldn't mind including Abby in the circle of informed people. But he'd promised Tony that nothing at the office would change. Maybe now, with relationship past the six month mark, Tony would be open to telling Abby...and Ducky. It would be good for McGee to have back up. Would be good for Gibbs and Tony too. Although, Gibbs wasn't entirely sure he could convince his younger lover of that. For all his irrepressible attitude and general upbeat outlook, when it came to personal things, Tony was decidedly pessimistic at times.

He nodded to himself, pulling out of the parking lot with a squeal of the tires. It couldn't hurt to ask. If Tony said no, nothing changed. If he said yes, Gibbs didn't think much would change there either. He trusted both Abby and Ducky to know how to be discrete when the situation called for it, and neither had ever expressed any homophobic tendencies. If anything they were two of the most open minded people Gibbs had ever met.

It was late enough most of the rush hour traffic had long since cleared out. Gibbs still used every shortcut he knew of to get to Tony's place. He hadn't trusted Tony enough to let him take the prescription pain killers with him; the younger man was too fond of just tossing them away. He hadn't appeared to be in much pain when McGee had taken him home, but enough time had passed Gibbs knew Tony could be hurting now. He cursed softly, hating the need for secrets anew. If he'd been able to take Tony home like he wanted this wouldn't be a problem.

He pulled into the lot for Tony's building. He wasn't sure who was supposed to have the parking space next to the mustang, but no one had objected yet to his using it. The lot was never completely full so maybe no one cared if there were one or two more cars than usual.

Gibbs took the steps two at a time. He was glad it hadn't snowed recently. The overhanging roof wasn't enough to keep snow and ice from accumulating on the stairs. As far as Gibbs knew, the only one who ever made an effort to keep them clear was Tony.

He slipped his key in the lock, opening the door to step silently inside. Gibbs could hear voices from the living room, frowning when he recognized what had to be a British accent and music. Movie, he decided with a smile.

He toed out of his shoes, leaving his coat on his usual hook. It still gave him a momentary flash of happiness to realize his lover had so casually given him the right to stake a claim on anything at all. He had his side of the bed and his pillow, a coffee mug that was his alone to use, a selection of his favorite channels were bookmarked on Tony's satellite under Gibbs' name.

He stepped into the living room. McGee's gaze drifted away from the TV almost immediately to meet his. The younger man didn't look startled to see him standing there. Either he was losing his touch or McGee was getting better. Gibbs hoped it was the latter.

"Where isâ€""

McGee pointed to the couch, drawing Gibbs attention to the long, lanky body resting there under the brightly colored afghan Louisa had made. The flickering blue light from the TV danced over Tony's pale and bruised features. It reminded the former Marine just a little too much of the ultraviolet lights used in the isolation chamber at Bethesda. He stifled a shudder.

"Did he eat anything?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"Said he didn't want to risk it." McGee shrugged apologetically when Gibbs raised his eyebrows. "He wasn't sure it would stay down."

Gibbs nodded. He could just let Tony sleep, but he didn't think it was a good idea to let him skip a meal. Or two really. He hadn't gotten lunch. His stomach should have settled by now...and if it hadn't that was likely a sign the concussion was more serious than the doctor thought. Better to wake Tony now, Gibbs decided. He could do a quick round of concussion check related questions, make sure he was okay with eating, feed him and put him to bed.

Gibbs flicked on the lamp on the nearby end table, letting white light banish the shadows. It could have been the faint click or the added light that made Tony frown, eyes squinting open before closing again.

Gibbs smiled down at him. Tony looked so much like a toddler waking up from a nap. He quietly said Tony's name before carefully moving one hand to run his fingers through his hair. He didn't want to startle or scare him. He waited for Tony to open his eyes again.

"Hey."

Tony smiled. "Hey, yourself." He sighed and started to stretch but aborted the move with a small groan.

"You okay?"

"Sore, little stiff, but otherwise fine." Tony blinked owlishly, one hand rubbing carefully at his eyes. "What time is it?" He mumbled around a yawn.

"Almost eight."

Tony grunted an acknowledgement. He sat up, fingers moving to rub at his temple.

"Head still hurt?" Gibbs sat down next to him.

"A little, yeah." Tony admitted.

Gibbs held out a small pill bottle, offering it to Tony. Tony eyed it warily for a moment. "It's just Tylenol with codeine," Gibbs assured him. "You can just take one. Should be enough to take the edge off." It was a fine line to walk getting Tony to do what Gibbs thought was good for him while still letting him make the decision.

Tony nodded reluctantly, taking the bottle. With greater ease than Gibbs had ever managed Tony popped the top off and shook one out. He closed the bottle and set it on the coffee table. He grabbed a bottle of water that had only a swallow or two left in it and downed the pill.

"Louisa leave anything in the fridge?" Gibbs asked even though he knew she likely had. She stocked Tony's fridge on a regular basis.

"Tuna noodle casserole, I think." Tony glanced at McGee.

The computer whiz nodded. "It's very good."

Everything Louisa made was good. And she always made a lot of it. Gibbs still wasn't sure if she knew they were a couple or not, but she did seem pleased that he was around to eat with Tony several nights a week. To his knowledge she'd never questioned where Tony went on the nights he didn't come home. But then even before he and Tony were dating, Tony's active social life and the job likely kept him from making it home every night, so she might not have even noticed any changes to his schedule.

"You up for eating some of Louisa's cooking?"

Gibbs was pleased Tony nodded without hesitation. The younger man rose to his feet easily without swaying once upright. It was another good sign.

"You want more, Probie?" Tony asked with a knowing smile.

McGee grinned, unashamed. "I wouldn't say no to seconds."

"Figured." Tony smirked. "Reason she always makes plenty."

Gibbs headed into the kitchen, knowing Tony and McGee would follow. He dished out casserole for all three, making eye contact with Tony to confirm just how much the younger man wanted. It was less than he usually ate, but not so little Gibbs had to worry about Tony eating just to humor him.

"You get everything taken care of at the office?" Tony asked as he sat at the table. The answer varied but the question was always the same, part of their usual routine. Tony asked even when he already knew the answer.

The familiar question was reassuring. It was more proof Tony was okay. Gibbs nodded, answering the query. "Yeah, everything is taken care of."

McGee looked askance at him. Given that the case had been closed before everyone else had left, it was natural for the younger man be curious about what the hell he'd been doing at the office. Gibbs didn't offer an explanation, just giving McGee a firm look, daring him to verbalize the question. McGee looked away.

It was one of the things that Gibbs truly appreciated about his lover. Even on his first day, Tony would have risked asking. He naturally pushed the boundaries whereas McGee, after some encouragement, was slowly learning to the same. The thing that amused him at the moment was if McGee asked, Gibbs would tell him the truth; tonight he'd just been killing time until he could come home to Tony.

Green eyes met blue in a shared look of amusement. Tony hid a smile. Gibbs lightly bumped his lover's knee under the table with his own. He loved how often frequently they were on the same page.

"What did you think of the movie?" Tony asked McGee, eating more slowly than he usually did.

"Not bad."

Gibbs listened to the younger men discuss the merits of a film he'd never seen. At the office, he'd slap down references to movies and pop culture, but at home it was fun to listen to Tony expound on the value of the classics. Gibbs had to admit he was far more 'with it' as Abby would say than he'd been before he and Tony started spending so much time together. Not that he let that show at the office either.

Even eating slower than he usually did Tony still finished first. Gibbs arched an eyebrow, silently asking if he wanted more. Tony shook his head. He belatedly covered a yawn with one hand, and Gibbs fought off the urge to yawn himself. It had been a long couple of days.

"I should call a cab," McGee said, looking a bit sheepish as his gaze darted from Tony to Gibbs and back. He clearly thought he should have said something sooner.

"You sure?" Tony yawned again. "You can sleep on the couch if you want." He smiled. "Not like you haven't slept there before."

McGee looked warily at Gibbs as though he expected him to object. Gibbs just shrugged, letting the younger man know he had no opinion on the matter. It was still Tony's place. He could extend an invitation without Gibbs' permission.

It wasn't like he planned to do anything tonight that would embarrass himself or Tony. Tomorrow morning might be a different story. He stifled a chuckle. Course anything they did likely wouldn't embarrass them but that didn't mean it wouldn't embarrass McGee. If the comments Abby had dropped occasionally were to be believed, McGee had a greater sense of propriety and modesty than either he or Tony had.

Gibbs' eyes met Tony's. His lover had no trouble reading his mind, none at all. Tony dropped his eyes coyly, smiling suggestively. It was a good look for him; a little tease and a lot of promise.

"I'll...ah...I think I'd rather...that is...It's probably better if I just go home," McGee got out, a faint blush coloring his cheeks.

"You sure?" Tony's expression morphed seamlessly into something open, friendly and innocent. It was a neat trick.

"I'm sure." McGee cleared his throat, pushing back from the table. "Thanks for dinner."

"Any time." The offer was casually made, but genuine just the same. "Louisa always makes enough to feed a small army."

McGee smiled. "I'll remember that." He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called for a cab. Gibbs wasn't sure if he had the number memorized or kept it on speed dial. He chose not to ask, deciding it didn't matter.

Tony saw McGee to the door while Gibbs made short work of cleaning up the kitchen. He heard the TV shut off and knew Tony was turning off lights they'd left on in the living room. On a normal night it would be early for them to even think about going to bed, but tonight wasn't exactly normal.

Tony leaned against the door jamb, watching him do the dishes. He never questioned why Gibbs preferred to wash by hand rather than use the dishwasher. It was another thing Gibbs liked about Tony; he could go with the flow, accepting Gibbs' quirks without batting an eye.

"Should have talked McGee into staying." Tony grinned. "Let him see you elbows deep in soapy water. Not every day he gets to see you in all your domestic glory."

"He lit out of here like he was on fire." Gibbs rolled his eyes, still amused by the younger man's chagrin. Some days McGee was just so easy. "Not even a chance to see my 'domestic glory' could have convinced him to stay."

"True." Tony chuckled. "You want help?"

"I got it." Gibbs waved him off. "Go get ready for bed."

Tony tossed off a sloppy salute. Gibbs quickly finished up with his self appointed task, leaving the wet dishes in the rack to dry. He'd put them away tomorrow. Gibbs flicked on the small night light that was plugged in near the toaster. It cast just enough illumination that neither of them had to worry about stubbed toes first thing in the morning. Gibbs had installed another one just like it at his house.

He stopped in the bathroom, taking care of his own nightly rituals before heading into the bedroom. Gibbs smiled, seeing Tony already under the covers waiting for him. He striped down to his boxers, and quickly joined him, turning off the bedside light.

Tony sighed and snuggled into him, his head coming to rest naturally on Gibbs' shoulder. Gibbs rubbed his cheek against the silken strands, eyes closing in silent gratitude to whatever divinity had seen fit to give him this.

"I should ask you a few standard questions before you go to sleep." He'd meant to do that earlier. "Make sure your concussion isn't worse."

"I think I've already proven I'm okay." Tony chuckled. "I knew you when I woke up. Knew McGee. Remembered what Louisa had put the fridge. Remembered the movie I'd been watching. Think I'm as mentally stable as I ever was."

Gibbs laughed softly. Tony had a point. Asking him who was president seemed a bit redundant now.

Feeling Tony shiver, Gibbs frowned. He hadn't forgotten that Tony sometimes got chilled when he'd been injured. "You warm enough?"

"Getting there." Tony wrapped an arm and leg around Gibbs, using him like a body pillow. Gibbs rolled into him slightly, pulling him in even closer, and making sure the comforter was pulled up far enough to cover them both. Tony's soft sound of pleased contentment made Gibbs smile.

Gibbs could almost feel Tony's heartbeat. He reveled in the weight and feel of his lover, something he'd sorely missed over the past few days. He took a slow, deep breath and soaked up the feeling of well-being.

"McGee thinks maybe we should tell Abby about us," Tony said after several minutes of silence. With his face tucked into the hollow of Gibbs' shoulder his voice was muffled, the statement little more than a whisper against Gibbs' skin.

Gibbs ran a hand up and down Tony's bare back. He placed a kiss in Tony's hair. "And what do you think?"

He could almost feel Tony weighing his thoughts, picking his words with care. Gibbs expected Tony to answer the question in a round about way. He had a tendency to do that when he was nervous or uncertain.

"She already knows I'm not as straight as I pretend to be."

Gibbs caught Tony's hand, keeping him from fisting it as he wove their fingers together. "And she was okay with knowing about you?" He was pretty sure Abby was fine with Tony's bisexual nature, but it never hurt to be sure.

Tony nodded, the soft strands of his hair tickling Gibbs skin. "She's okay with me being bi." Tony raised his head, the glow from the streetlamp filtered through the blinds to provide enough light for Gibbs to be able to make out Tony's pensive expression. "Don't know how she'll feel about you and me together."

Gibbs raised both brows. "Why would that be a problem?"

"Cause, I'm just a friend. But you're more...a father figure." Tony bit his lip. "She has higher expectations of you. Wants better for you...more than me."

Gibbs seriously doubted Abby would ever think Tony wasn't good enough for him. It didn't matter if she did. The only way Gibbs was ever going to give up Tony was if the younger man asked him too, and even then he probably couldn't walk away.

He gave Tony a chaste kiss. "I think you are more than enough. And in this case, all that matters, is what I think. Understand?"

"Yeah, Boss." Tony gave him a tentative smile.

"Abby loves you like a brother, Tony. Don't think you need to worry about us meeting with her approval." He squeezed the hand he still held. "She wouldn't worry about you if she didn't love you. And she sure as hell wouldn't have shared that stupid farting toy with you."

Tony snickered, countenance lightening to something joyful that was beautiful to see. He dropped his head to Gibbs' shoulder again, settling in once more. All the tension Gibbs had felt in him fading away.

"So...are you okay with telling her?" Gibbs asked, not sure the original question had been answered.

"If you want to, I'm okay with that. If you don't want to, I'm okay with that too."

Naturally, he bounces it back to me, Gibbs thought with a grimace. Okay. Then he'd go with his gut. "I want to tell her."

"Okay." Tony rubbed his cheek against Gibbs' chest.

"Okay?" No discussion. No comment. "That's it? Just okay?"

"You want me to make a fuss?" Tony raised his head again, a smirk appearing.

"No...but I sort of thought a bit moreâ€""

"Why?" Tony shook his head. Even in the dim lighting Gibbs would see his eyes sparkling with glee.

Tony kissed him softly. "You got to learn to accept it when things come easy."

Gibbs snorted. "Hello pot, I'm kettle."

Tony laughed, a delighted peal of amusement. "I love you, Leroy Jethro Gibbs."

"Love you, Anthony Michael DiNozzo." He kissed the tip of Tony's nose. "And don't you forget it."

Tony smiled shyly. "Will try not to."

"Good." Gibbs cupped the back of Tony's head, gently forcing him to lay it on his shoulder again. "Go to sleep."

Tony snuggled in with a soft sigh. Gibbs ran his fingers through Tony's hair. The repetitive, familiar gesture soothed both of them into slumber.

Chapter Text

When Tony came to work wearing a turtle neck and singing, it was a sure sign he'd had a good night. Or more likely a good morning, Abby thought with a smile. Given the shape he was in last night, she seriously doubted he'd been up to much of anything.

She'd known for awhile now he was seeing someone. He was happier, more balanced and his flirting was more playful, less aggressive and lacked obvious intent. She had no idea who he was seeing, since he hadn't seen fit to actually say anything to her, she wasn't sure if she should ask. She wanted to, had hinted a few times trying to give him an opening to tell her, but he hadn't taken her up on it. Damn it. She was going to have to try harder.

Knowing he had someone in the wings was one of the reasons she hadn't put up more of a fight to be the one to take him home. She knew he'd convince McGee to leave him alone. But that didn't mean he'd be alone. And from his cheerful mood and smile, it was obvious someone had made it a good morning for him.

The same someone had no doubt taken good care of him last night. So whoever it was, Abby approved of him or her so far. That could all change if this mystery person didn't continue to take good care of Tony. He deserved to be happy. If this mystery person hurt him, Abby knew how to hide a body, and make sure it was never found.

The bruises on Tony's face were more obvious than they'd been last night. Abby winced in sympathy. At least he didn't look like they bothered him, and he was steady on his feet. She found that decidedly reassuring. She hadn't liked seeing members of her family getting injured on the job before Kate's death, now she really hated it. The thought of possibly losing another friend was just too painful to contemplate.

"Good Morning, Abby." Tony grinned as he offered a Caf-Pow, breaking her out of her dark thoughts.

"Thank you, Tony." She smiled back, happy to see him looking so much better.

He bowed. "Always aim to please." Tony usually brought her first of the drink of the day.

"You look better." She couldn't resist commenting.

"Thanks." He gave her a warm, genuine smile. It told her just how pleased he was she'd noticed. "Feel better too."

Chip gave Tony a dirty look when he entered the lab. Both Abby and Tony ignored it. She wasn't sure what his problem was with Tony, but she had thought he was getting over it. He'd really been part of the team on the last case.

Abby just added Chip's continued hostility to the list of why she didn't need him as an assistant. No one hated Tony. They might dislike his immature attitude and juvenile behavior, but no one outright hated him. And if Chip couldn't work with him, or the rest of the team, he really needed to find a job somewhere else.

She waggled her eyebrows at Tony as she took a long sip of her drink. "So anything going on upstairs?"

"McGee is probably going to spend the morning trying to clear up crap from having his identity stolen." Tony leaned against the table, arms folded. "Getting all that off his credit is likely going to take a few months."

Abby nodded sympathetically. "Told him a secure server isn't always secure."

Tony shrugged. "It could be worse."

She raised both eyebrows in silent question. Abby hadn't thought there was much worse that could happen to a person than having his identity stolen. Well, at least in terms of catastrophes that didn't involve life and limb.

"He could have been declared dead," Tony pointed out.

Abby winced, nodding. She'd forgotten about that paperwork snafu. It had taken Tony forever to his personnel file straightened up after that. She knew Gibbs had taken several people to task to fix the problem. Abby actually thought it rather sweet the way the former Marine had quietly and forcefully ripped into the admin department.

Being declared dead stopped being funny when Tony couldn't even get in the building and was threatened with being pulled from active duty. The final straw came when Gibbs found out Tony wasn't getting his pay check. Given that it happened around Tony's two year anniversary with NCIS, Gibbs had been worried the whole thing might be enough for Tony to get wandering feet and look for greener pastures. Not that he'd actually said so, but Abby could tell. The boss man always got a little meaner when he was worried. So he leaned on a few people and got the problem fixed faster than Abby had thought possible.

"Ziva is still having problems with her computer." Tony's gaze sharpened, letting Abby know he knew she had something to do with it.

"That's too bad." She tried to sound sincere, but knew she failed when Tony shook his head, green eyes twinkling. He wouldn't call her on it, which meant she owed him one.

Ziva and her stupid spy ware impressed McGee. And that annoyed Abby. Not so much that she'd done anything irreparable to Ziva's computer, just enough to slow it down, make more temperamental. If Ziva was all she claimed to be, then she should be able to fix it or at least be smart enough to ask for assistance.

"Any new cases?"

"Not yet." Tony shrugged. "But you know how quick that can change." He glanced at his watch. "Speaking of which, I better get my ass back up there before Gibbs notices I'm gone."

"Too late." Gibbs strolled in, startling Chip but not really surprising either Abby or Tony.

He didn't look pissed, Abby noted. More like...relaxed. At least as relaxed as Gibbs ever got. It was good to see him looking less stressed than he had for the last few days. She was pretty sure he hadn't gone home the whole time Tony and Ziva were under cover. And she really doubted he'd slept much.

"Good morning, Gibbs," Abby greeted him with a bright smile.

"Good morning, Abby." He sipped his coffee before looking at Tony. "Didn't I tell you to go see Ducky and let him look you over?"

Tony rolled his eyes. "Boss, it's notâ€""

"Ducky, DiNozzo. Now."

"On it, Boss." Tony sighed. No one argued with Gibbs when he used that tone. "Catch you later, Abby."

He waved to Chip as he left. Chip didn't respond or acknowledge him. Abby gave him a hard look and caught Gibbs doing the same.

She signed with the ease of long practice, 'What is up with Chip?' Abby shook her head, dark pigtails flapping. 'He is a seriously weird dude, Gibbs.'

'I know.' Gibbs signed back, setting his coffee cup next to her Caf-Pow, freeing both hands to speak. Intense blue eyes met hers. 'Do you have plans for Friday night?'

Abby raised both eyebrows. 'Plans?'

'Yes, plans.' He glared at her, impatient as ever. His hands moved faster. 'Are you doing anything Friday night?'

'No.' She cocked her head curious where he was going. If it was related to a case he'd have just told her to cancel whatever plans she had. It was months until her birthday or his.

'I want you to come to dinner. My house.'

Abby grinned. 'What's the occasion?'

'No occasion.'

She assessed him. He gave off vibes that from anyone else she would have read as nervous. Whatever it was, it was serious and important to him. And it was also obvious that he wasn't going to go into details in the lab, which made it personal. His opting for sign language rather than speaking outright indicated that as well.

'O.K.' She took a sip from her Caf-Pow. "Formal or casual," she said aloud.

"Casual is fine." Gibbs smiled. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead before leaving.

Abby immediately sent an e-mail to Tony. If anyone knew what was up or was willing to help her find out it was him. On the off chance that anyone was looking over his shoulder, which she knew happened, she used his personal account and signed it Naomi.

The name was the product of a rough case. She'd wanted to forget for a little while that there were horrible people in the world, doing horrible things. She wanted to pretend to be someone else for a little while, someone without cares or worries. Naomi seemed like the sort of name someone unspoiled and naïve would have.

She'd run into Tony at a club after she'd already introduced herself to the bartender as Naomi. He'd played along, not even batting an eye. Of course, he was there under an assumed name as well. Given the nature of the club, it was a safe bet most names were aliases of one kind or another.

Abby cued the CD player, ignoring Chip's wince. He stilled called her ma'am, gave Tony dirty looks, thought she should be nicer to Ziva, and was rude to Palmer the other day. He could put up with her music. It seemed fitting.

As she usually did during moments of down time she worked on an article she was hoping to get published. Abby liked the idea of being respected in academia, and contributing to the body of knowledge out there. Science was her religion after all. She needed to stay in touch with the other faithful.

She smiled when her email announced an incoming message half an hour later. Her smile grew wider when she saw it was from 'honey buns'. The nickname started out in jest, something she'd done in an effort to annoy him once when he'd been particularly immature one day, but rather than be offended or insulted Tony seemed to enjoy it.

She frowned. Tony was one of the few people she knew who always managed to sound exactly like himself whether writing or speaking. And he was definitely being evasive in his response. So he knew about Friday. Damn. Had he come down to warn her or feel her out to see what she knew and Gibbs showed up before he could say anything?

She shrugged. Only way to find out was to ask. She sent a response. Abby grinned. Naomi might be innocent and naïve, but she was persistent and learning fast.

She laughed softly when Honey Buns fired back another message. Abby could almost hear Tony singing, "I know something you don't know". The little shit, she thought fondly. He knew she loved a good mystery.

She couldn't resist starting a game of twenty questions. Abby used instant messenger instead of e-mail, wanting a 'real time' conversation. She began with the traditional first question. "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" She murmured out loud as she typed.

"Ma'am?"

"Go away, Chip." She rolled her eyes. "I'm busy." She'd forgotten he was even there.

"Is it something I can help with?"

"No." Not just no, hell no. Her dialog with Tony was private. "Go find something to do," she instructed absently with a wave of her hand, relieved when he walked off. She didn't care where he went or what he did, just as long as left her alone.

She had no trouble picturing Tony's smirk when he responded to her first question. Not that the brief one word answer gave her much to go on. She sipped her Caf-Pow. This was going to be fun.

It took three questions before she thought to ask the most obvious ones. Was anyone else invited? Was Tony going to be there?

Abby bit her lip when there was a noticeable hesitation in his answer. She could almost see him with his fingers poised over the keyboard. Maybe something had come up. A case or Gibbs had walked in. Both or either would stop their conversation.

The rapid 'gotta go' didn't really tell her what had caused Tony to sign off but she could guess. Gibbs. Damn it. He knew she'd talk to Tony.

"Damn, Silver Fox." She snickered, amused in spite of herself. "Foiled me again."

Well, she had a few days to keep digging. She wasn't going to concede victory to the Silver Fox just yet. Despite evidence to the contrary, Gibbs couldn't be everywhere. She sent another e-mail to Tony telling him they'd continue the game later, when he was Gibbs free.

Nodding to herself, she went back to work on her article. She could think about what else to ask Tony while she did. Being able to multitask was definitely a blessing.

She grinned, sipping her drink. Even if she didn't know before Friday what was going on, she'd definitely know by then. It was a win, win all the way around.

Chapter Text

"Honey buns?" Gibbs asked, blue eyes tracking Tony as the younger man went through his usual work out with weights.

"Yeah?"

Gibbs hid a smile at the careless, natural response. Tony was clearly answering as though he'd called his name, deliberately overlooking the real question Gibbs was asking.

Time to try a different approach. "Who's Naomi?"

"One of Abby's aliases." Tony huffed out as he worked through a lat pull down set.

Gibbs tried not to watch too closely, but found his eyes drawn to the effortless play of muscle just the same. Tony's long, lean form was admirably well defined without the bulk usually associated with serious weight lifters. Gibbs fought off the temptation to touch the smooth, sweaty skin. He was damn glad Tony had set up a universal and weight bench in the spare bedroom of his house rather than going to the gym. Gibbs really didn't want other people watching his lover working out.

"One of Abby's aliases?" Gibbs cleared his throat, frowning slightly as he brought his attention back to the conversation. "Just how many does she have?"

"Never asked, Boss." Tony grunted as he started another set. "Not sure I really want to know."

"Why?"

Tony huffed out a small laugh. "Because if she has people out there referring to her as 'Queen of the Damned' I'd rather not know about it."

Gibbs snickered. Tony had a point. "Why does she call you 'honey buns'?"

When he first read the ID names on the instant messenger dialog, looking over Tony's shoulder, Gibbs had managed to control the instinctive rush of jealousy by the skin of his teeth. He was very glad he hadn't said anything stupid before he realized the actual messages were a game, not some sort of bizarre code or romantic liaison. Just moving into Tony's line of vision at the time had been enough to kill the conversation. It wasn't until later that Gibbs understood what it had been about. He was not at all surprised Abby would try to ferret out what he wanted to come to dinner for. She was far too curious to let it be until Friday.

"Not sure why she calls me that now." Tony shrugged, before getting up to change the weight setting for a new exercise. "Started out as a joke."

"A joke?" Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

"Or an insult." Tony grinned. "Could have been either one or both at the time."

Tony didn't seem upset about it. He'd probably been teasing or annoying Abby and she'd retaliated. They reminded him of siblings at times the way they played. Although, at one time, Gibbs had thought there might be more between them. If there had been, he really didn't want to know. The last thing he wanted to ever worry about was seeing Abby, someone he thought of as a daughter, as a possible romantic rival.

"So you don't care that she calls you 'honey buns'?" If it bothered Tony, Gibbs would tell Abby to knock it off.

Tony sighed softly, eyes half closed as though he were pondering some half forgotten memory. "Sully always told me it didn't matter what you were called. What mattered was what you answered to." He gave Gibbs a quick smile. "She never answered to her given name that I knew of. Or when her step-sister called her 'bitch'."

"Good philosophy," Gibbs admitted. He really wished he'd had the chance to meet Tony's Aunt Sully.

"Wouldn't want just anyone calling me 'honey buns'," Tony admitted with a small shake of his head, "but from Abby, it's okay. Honestly, I think it's kind of cute from her." He rolled his shoulders, flexing and stretching for a moment before once more grasping the weight bar. "And it's a hell of a lot better than some things I've been called."

Gibbs' lips curled in a wry smile. He could easily say the same thing. His ex-wives had called him a number of things over the years. The only one he admitted to being was a bastard. Not many people would consider the term a compliment, Gibbs thought with an internal smirk.

He watched as Tony started another set, muscles working smoothly as he raised and lowered the bar. The tank top he wore was damp with sweat, and clung to his skin. It made Gibbs fingers itch to touch.

He stifled a wince when he noticed the thin bruises running across Tony's biceps and just above his elbows. They were from the ropes that had tied him and Ziva to the chair. The bruises had already faded to the yellow-green stage and Gibbs knew they'd be gone in another day or two. The ones on Tony's cheek and abdomen were still a rather dark shade of blue and purple. It would take longer for them to disappear.

Gibbs sipped his coffee. If they were at the gym at the office, the former marine would have joined Tony in working out. But here at home, he preferred to watch. He liked having the chance to just observe, without having to worry about someone seeing him taking more than a passing interest in Tony's form. Here he could revel in the simple pleasure of taking in the beauty of his lover; he could openly appreciate the lithe, hard body that was now his alone to fully enjoy.

Tony struggled through the last few lifts, veins appearing in ropy patterns along his hands and forearms. Gibbs held himself in check, not interfering or offering to help. Tony never used free weights without a spotter, but with the universal he was in no danger of finding himself pinned if he lost control of the weights.

Gibbs knew Tony liked to push himself. The former marine was willing to let him as long as he didn't hurt himself. Tony wasn't always the best judge of his own limitations, but then Gibbs realized he had similar problems when it came to his own. Blue eyes narrowed, measuring the faint tremors he could see as Tony struggled to complete the set. He nodded. Tony would be sore tomorrow but he could handle it.

Gibbs shuddered in reaction to Tony's panting breaths and soft grunts when he exhaled the final time before letting the weights settle to the resting level. Gibbs swallowed hard. Tony sounded almost exactly the same just before he came.

"You about done there, Honey Buns?" He'd meant the question to be lighthearted, but the roughness and hunger in his voice made it something else entirely.

Tony gave him a teasing look before dropping his gaze coyly. "You got something in mind, Sweet Pea?"

Gibbs grinned wolfishly at the endearment. "Yes, I do, Baby Doll."

"Baby doll?" Tony snickered. He arched an eyebrow, struggling to keep his _expression serious. He stood up and sauntered toward Gibbs so gracefully the older man wasn't sure Tony's feet were even touching the ground. "This plan of yours, Sugar Plum...is it something I'm going to enjoy?"

Gibbs licked his lower lip, nearly groaning when he saw Tony's eyes track that small movement. "Definitely, Sweet Cheeks."

Tony placed his hands on the wall, framing Gibbs' shoulders, leaning in until he was a hair's breath from kissing Gibbs. "Awfully sure of yourself there, Cupcake."

Gibbs set his mug down on the nearby shelf, empty hands coming to rest on Tony's hips before sliding down to cup his ass, pulling him closer. "I've got reason to be." He'd have tacked on an endearment, but at the moment he couldn't think of any. He just wanted to touch and taste.

He captured Tony's mouth in a kiss that was nearly bruising in its intensity, unable to resist any longer. Gibbs welcomed Tony's tongue, greeting it with his own like a long lost friend. He dueled lazily with the younger man, not really caring who won.

Tony's tongue caressed the roof of Gibb's mouth, making him moan. He loved it when Tony did that, the gentle slide back and forth reminiscent of a more intimate act. Gibbs didn't understand how it was Tony could always taste so good. The flavor of the man was as addicting and heady as Gibbs' coffee.

He was dizzy and breathless when Tony broke the kiss. Gibbs was damn glad he had been leaning against the wall when they started this. He was fairly certain he'd have ended up on his ass otherwise.

Tony nibbled his way along Gibbs' jaw line. Gibbs turned his head, tilting it to give his lover greater access. He tried not to whimper when Tony found that spot just below his ear that always made him weak in the knees. God...Tony had a talented tongue.

"I was thinking a shower sounded good." Tony nipped Gibbs' earlobe. "You up for one?"

Given how uncomfortably tight his pants had gotten, Gibbs was up for just about anything. He pulled Tony's hips forward to rub himself against the other man. He was pleased with the breathless little sigh the action elicited.

"Yeah, I'm up for a shower," Gibbs whispered against the pulse point of Tony's neck.

He buried his face in the hollow of Tony's shoulder, breathing in the other man's scent, unconsciously classifying each component. There was clean sweat, soap, faint traces of Tony's aftershave, and that hint of something uniquely Tony that always reminded Gibbs of dark chocolate. It made him hungry for more.

He instinctively clutched Tony closer to him when the younger man started to pull away. He wasn't ready to let go yet. Full body contact, so close and comfortable, that was so right and easy, had been a long time in coming and Gibbs wanted to enjoy it.

Gibbs sighed deeply when one of Tony's hands moved to massage the back of his neck, long fingers caressing his skin. He felt Tony turn his head and place a kiss in his hair. He tried to memorize this moment, file it away forever so he'd have it later to draw on for strength or patience.

This last case had been close. Too damn close in Gibbs' opinion. He could have lost him again...Jesus, again. Like it nearly happening once wasn't enough. It hurt to even...no, he wasn't going to think about that. Not now. Not ever. Tony was fine. He was alive and whole, warm and breathing.

"You okay?"

Gibbs lifted his head, smiling. "I'm good." It wasn't a lie. Not exactly.

Green eyes searched blue. Tony nodded, the pad of his thumb moving to lightly stroke Gibbs' cheekbone. He dropped a quick kiss on the tip of Gibbs' nose.

"C'mon. I can hear the shower calling." Tony took one of his hands, pulling him after.

Gibbs followed easily. He gave into his earlier desire to touch, hand moving to lightly travel up and down Tony's spine before coming to rest on his nicely rounded ass. Gibbs squeezed once. Tony cast a demure look over his shoulder that was totally out of place with the heat in his eyes.

"A tempo debito, L'amore." Tony smiled. "Sii paziente."

Gibbs wasn't sure what Tony had just said, but he liked it when his lover slipped into softly accented Italian. One of these days he was going to have to learn.

Tony flipped on the small vanity light in the bathroom. Gibbs squinted in response to the sudden illumination even though it was not really that bright or harsh. He was belatedly aware of how dark the rest of the house had been.

The vanity light was an addition that Tony had talked Gibbs into. It was something of a minor miracle since none of his ex-wives had ever managed to convince him the bathroom needed one. He was glad Tony had suggested a bulb that was far less glaring and intense than the 100 watt ones in the overhead fixture.

Tony neatly shrugged out of his tank top. He balled it up and used an overhead toss to nonchalantly drop it into the hamper. The natural grace of the movement spoke of hours of practice. Not for the first time did Gibbs wonder how disappointed Tony had been to lose out on a career as a pro athlete. While he'd never wish Tony any pain, Gibbs was selfishly glad the younger man had to opt for a career that made meeting him possible. You are a lucky bastard, Gibbs thought to himself.

"You going to join me?" Tony asked, looking over his shoulder as he turned on the water. His voice took on that husky quality that Gibbs found impossible not to respond to.

He nodded once, firmly. Gibbs stripped out of his own clothes, no caring where they ended up. They could be dealt with later...much later.

Tony grinned. He'd beaten Gibbs in the race to get naked, but he usually did. Gibbs was beginning to think all his clothes came with emergency escape zippers.

Tony stepped into the shower. He held out a hand in invitation to Gibbs. Gibbs felt his face warm, unaccountably flattered by the simple, genteel request. It was blatant proof Tony wanted him there, and that he wasn't taking for granted that Gibbs wanted to be there. Not that there was any doubt about either one, but it was nice to be asked.

Gibbs smiled, taking Tony's hand. It should have felt ridiculous when Tony raised his hand, bowing slightly, to kiss Gibbs' knuckles, but the heat in those beloved green eyes as they met blue made the gesture anything but silly. Gibbs never would have thought the back of his hand was an erogenous zone before, but it sure as hell was now.

Tony stepped back, pulling Gibbs gently forward into the shower with him. The water was warmer than he preferred but still cooler than Tony normally set it for. Gibbs raised an eyebrow in silent question.

Tony shrugged. "Hot water will last longer this way."

"Plan on taking some time?" Gibbs leaned in, nibbling on the strong column of Tony's throat.

"Yeah." Tony's answer was more of a long sigh than a word. His head tipped to the side, mutely giving Gibbs free rein.

Gibbs couldn't resist marking Tony again, in the same spot he had just that morning. Tony would be wearing a turtle neck again tomorrow. The small moan Tony made in response had nothing to do with pain.

Gibbs blindly reached for the soap. He still had no idea what brand it was or the exact fragrance, but he loved knowing the two of them wore the same scent now every day. It was another subtle mark of ownership and commitment; a mark that didn't need to be hidden or explained like the hickey he'd just left on Tony's neck.

Gibbs lathered his hands before running them over Tony. He kept his touch balanced between a gentle caress and a deeper massage. He could feel the taut muscles stretching and relaxing under his touch, releasing the tension built up during Tony's work out.

Tony moaned, back arching when Gibbs shifted focus to his nipples, playing with them. Soap slick skin moved easily under his fingers, nubs hardened in response to repeated stroking and pinching. Tony's skin flushed with color that had nothing to do with the hot water.

Gibbs leaned forward, rubbing his chest against Tony's. The younger man's chest hair teased his nipples, making him sigh in response to that exquisite, almost tickling pleasure. His arms wrapped around Tony, giving his hands access to that incredible smooth skin of Tony's back. The lather that clung to his hands, allowed him to glide over Tony's skin, muscles bunched and flexed under Gibbs' fingers, quivering in response to his touch.

He kneaded Tony's ass. The well rounded flesh fit neatly into his hands as though they'd been made for him alone. Gibbs bit Tony's shoulder, licking away the small hurt, before moving on to leave a trail of small nips up the younger man's neck.

Tony raised one long leg, wrapping it around Gibbs waist, pulling him closer. Gibbs moaned when their groins met, hard cocks rubbing against each other as Tony rolled his hips in a sensuous move that a striper would have envied. Tony's hands ran along Gibbs' arms, up to frame his face before pulling him in for a passionate kiss.

Tony sucked Gibbs' tongue into his mouth. They shared a breath, back and forth. They were both gasping when they broke apart.

He bit back a whimper when he felt one of Tony's fingers teasing his entrance. Gibbs shivered as the pad of Tony's finger very lightly circled his hole, taunting him with the promise of more. He rocked forward, rolling his hips, rubbing himself against Tony. Tony murmured something too low and indistinct for Gibbs to understand it as anything more than encouragement to do more.

He followed Tony's lead, tracing the rim of the younger man's puckered opening with one finger. He kept his touch just as light as Tony's, moving at the same speed. Tony lay his cheek against Gibbs'. Panting breaths, small gasps and moans letting the former Marine know just how good this was for him.

"Favore...piu....Gibbs...piu."

Gibbs wasn't sure what Tony was asking for until he felt the younger man's finger slip inside him. A single digit didn't leave him feeling as stretched and full as Tony's cock would have but it was still enough to make Gibbs shudder with pleasure. He breached Tony's entrance in turn, sliding in and out slowly.

"Cristo....proprio cosi." Tony groaned. He nibbled Gibbs' earlobe. "So...good.... so...damn good, Boss."

Gibbs turned his head to capture Tony's mouth again. He swallowed those little noises, claiming them for his own. Hips and hands continued to move, working with each other, gliding and thrusting them toward climax.

Tony trembled, his whole body quivering as he pulled away from the kiss to gasp for breath. He turned slightly and worked a hand in between them, long fingers wrapping around their aligned cocks. Gibbs bit his lip as Tony jacked them both once and then again.

He thrust forward into Tony's hand, hips snapping in a broken rhythm. Tony's finger slide further into, easily following his jerky movements. Gibbs' breathe caught, mouth open for a timeless moment as his orgasm crested and broke over him.

Tony's body clenched around him, muscles tightening so hard he was nearly vibrating. The younger pulled in a shallow, desperate breath with a sound similar to a sob. He released it with a soft, guttural cry of Gibbs' name, his come spurting over his hand and Gibbs' stomach.

Tony leaned into Gibbs, random twitches ghosting over him like aftershocks as he struggled to catch his breath. Gibbs sighed, hand moving to cup the back of Tony's head, fingers getting lost in the younger man's damp hair. Gibbs could feel the shaking in his legs gradually fade away, heart beat slowing to normal.

"Wow," Tony whispered, turning his head to place a kiss on Gibbs' temple.

Gibbs chuckled, raspy and breathless. "That good?"

"Oh yeah." Tony grinned at him, eyes heavy lidded and sated. "Definitely."

Tony slowly unwrapped himself from Gibbs. The former Marine watched as Tony stretched; his movements languid and graceful. The younger man reached for the soap, and started to clean Gibbs. His movements were punctuated with lazy, random kisses.

Gibbs returned the favor when Tony was finished. He was glad he had installed a bigger water heater last month. The old one wouldn't have held out long enough to take their time and enjoy the afterglow.

Gibbs shut off the water as it reached a point cooler than even he cared for. Tony handed him a towel before snagging one for himself. Gibbs deliberately looked away when Tony bent over to pick up their scattered clothing and toss it all in the hamper. His ass was just way too tempting by far, but the loud rumble from Tony's stomach meant dinner was in order before Gibbs would act on that temptation.

Tony hung up his towel in a haphazard fashion. Gibbs fought down the compulsion to rearrange it, reminding himself to be glad his lover didn't leave it lying on the floor. He hung his own towel neatly.

Tony pulled his forest green robe off the hook on the back of the bathroom door, shrugging into it before belting it loosely closed Gibbs bought it for him to wear when he stayed at his place. He wanted Tony to feel comfortable and welcome in his home.

Tony offered him the old flannel robe he'd had for years. It was well worn and very soft. Not that he'd admit it out loud, but Gibbs liked the silk one at Tony's place better; it was just as soft, but came with the added bonus of having been worn by Tony for a time.

He pulled on the offered robe, before padding barefoot after Tony into the kitchen. "Should be some leftovers in the fridge."

They weren't really leftover so much as never eaten. Gibbs had gotten some Chinese while Tony was undercover with Ziva, but hadn't really been able to eat much, too worried about his lover to bother with it. Giving up on the whole thing he'd just shoved them in the fridge and headed back to the office.

Tony nodded, pulling out two cartons. He opened one, giving it a cautious sniff, something that take out usually warranted, and then offered it to Gibbs. Gibbs liked shrimp fried rice, but it wasn't usually Tony's first choice.

Tony opened the other carton, nodding to himself. It was cashew chicken. Gibbs knew that one was definitely on Tony's favorite list. Gibbs offered Tony a fork while he fished out a pair of chopsticks, both of them taking a seat at the kitchen table.

"You think Abby will keep asking questions?"

Gibbs snorted. "The pope catholic?"

"Right. Silly question." Tony snickered. "She is persistent."

"That going to be a problem?"

"No." Tony shrugged. "Not really." He smiled. "I want you to be the one to tell her so keeping my mouth shut won't be hard to do."

Gibbs studied his lover. "You are okay with this?" If Tony changed is mind, Gibbs wouldn't fight him on it. He could still make dinner for Abby; he'd just have to find something else to talk about. Not a big deal.

"I'm okay with it." Tony looked away, a faint blush coloring his cheekbones. "Don't mean to seem like such a chickenshit about this."

"You aren't." Gibbs lightly chucked him under the chin with one knuckle. He smiled gently. "Can't really fault you for being cautious when most of the time I'm worried you're too reckless."

Tony laughed softly. "Good to know."

"Finish your dinner, Honey Buns," Gibbs ordered, managing to achieve the light, teasing tone he couldn't quite get earlier when Tony had been working out.

Tony grinned, eyes bright with amusement and affection. "Only you and Naomi can call me that."

"Fair enough." Gibbs had no issue with that. He didn't want anyone ever using anything sounding even remotely like an endearment when addressing Tony. Tony was his. He didn't share.

"Eat," Gibbs ordered, giving Tony a leer. "You need to keep your strength up."

"You got more plans, Pumpkin?"

Gibbs smiled. "Always."

"Good." Tony waggled his eyebrows. "Glad I'm not the only one."

Gibbs laughed. He dug into his food, eager to be done with it and move on to better things. An encore was most definitely in order.

Chapter Text

Abby stared into her closet. Gibbs said casual, but she couldn't help thinking she should dress up a bit. Whatever this was, it was important to him. Important always translated into better than casual. Her mother taught her that.

But if it were formal, he'd have said so. No ball gowns then, or the funeral dress. Which still left her with no idea what to put on. Damn.

She sighed. If Tony had just been a little more forthcoming, she wouldn't have spent the last half hour unsure of what to wear. Who knew the little shit could be so good at keeping a secret?

Abby had even tried to enlist McGee's help, but he was proving to be just as difficult. Although, McGee was no where near as cagey as Tony, he'd been avoiding her with astonishing ease. She grimaced. She'd never realized McGee was sneaky in his own right. And she couldn't decide if she was pleased or pissed by that revelation.

She was sure that he knew something about tonight. When she told him about Gibbs' invitation, McGee had smiled. He looked happy and way too smug to not know something. She was pretty sure it wasn't bad news. McGee wouldn't have looked happy if it was. That was one worry off her mind.

She didn't even bother asking Ziva. If the Mossad officer knew about whatever it was before Abby did, she'd have to kill someone. It was better not to know. At least not just yet.

Abby finally pulled out a pristine white silk, button down shirt. It had been a gift from Gibbs for her birthday the year after she started at NCIS. It looked good over her black leather bustier. Her below-the-knee length black leather skirt was long enough to be demure if one overlooked the thigh high slits on either side.

She opted to leave her hair down, but secured it at the back of her neck with a silver barrette decorated with a spent .22 casings. Abby kept her leather wrist bands. She selected a pair of dangling cross earrings that had been the inspiration for the large tattoo on her back. The earrings had been a gift from grandmother.

She regarded her reflection in the mirror. Abby smiled at herself. She looked good. It was not exactly formal, not quite casual, and definitely not what she wore to the office every day. She grinned down at her shoes. The lace up granny boots with their small heel were not high enough to qualify as a fetish but they were definitely sexy as hell. She didn't get to wear them nearly often enough.

She grabbed her leather motorcycle jacket on her way out. Abby had found the heavy coat at a secondhand store. The various buckles and snaps, and the death head skull design on the back sealed the deal. There was no way she could have left it behind in the store for someone else to take home.

Abby drove to Gibbs' house, head bobbing along with her music. She wasn't surprised to see Tony's mustang parked in the driveway when she turned in. She'd known he was going to be there, but she expected him to be late, not early. Tony was never so late as to be rude but he was rarely on time either, unless it was work related; then he was always prompt.

She bounded up to the door. Abby frowned when she found it locked. Gibbs had never locked it in all the time she'd known him. He'd mentioned not even knowing where the keys were when she'd asked him for one, in case of emergencies. He had one to her apartment; he had one for everyone on his team's place of residence, just in case.

She cocked her head studying the door knob. It looked new. Maybe he'd finally wised up and realized leaving the door unlocked all the time was simply not safe and replaced the old locks. Hell, Ari Haswari had gotten in without difficulty. Bastard could probably have picked the lock or broken the door down, but still, there was no reason to make it so damn easy for him to have gotten in. Abby knew even Madame Director had shown up uninvited at least once. She nodded to herself. It was definitely a good idea for Gibbs to start locking the doors. Abby made a mental note to ask Gibbs for a key, before knocking on the door.

Tony answered, smiling in greeting. "Hey, Abby."

He was wearing a green gray sweater that did nice things for his eyes and those gray slacks she liked. They made his ass look great. Abby had always appreciated the aesthetic appeal of Tony. The man was definitely easy on the eyes.

Abby considered herself to be too mature to be attracted to someone solely on the basis of looks, so it was a good thing Tony was smart too. And funny, charming, and liked the same horror movies she did. He was too much of a friend for her to consider a serious sexual relationship.

Although, she'd have been more than willing to indulge in a little casual sex with him if he'd ever made the offer, but for all his comments to Kate about friends sleeping together, Abby knew Tony never slept with a good friend. Casual friends...sure. Those were people he wouldn't miss if everything was ruined or got hinky because of the sex, but good friends, people he'd miss, never. Abby considered it a compliment that she fell within the category of someone too valuable to lose for a moment of gratification. It definitely put her a step above the likes of Paula Cassidy.

She stretched up on her toes and gave Tony a quick kiss on the check. "Hi, Tony."

He made a small bow and made an inviting gesture with one hand. Abby smiled. She loved it when he got formal and proper. She didn't know any one else who could pull it off with as much natural grace and ease as Tony did.

"May I take your coat?"

"Please." She turned her back to Tony, letting him slip the jacket from her shoulders.

He hung it on the small rack near the door, treating the garment like it was of a fine fur rather than distressed leather. He gave her outfit an appreciative once over that she took as the compliment she knew he intended it to be. It was always nice to know she looked good enough to warrant more than a passing glance.

"Where is the Silver Fox?"

"Kitchen." Tony tipped his head.

"Anyone else coming?" Abby asked quietly.

"No."

Abby nodded. The only other person she really expected might be there was Ducky. He was probably one of Gibbs' oldest and best friends. And he had been part of the team for longer than anyone else. She tried not to think about how the original team was no longer intact, and never would be again.

She headed for the kitchen. Abby knew Gibbs could cook; they'd shared meals infrequently over the years. She never really knew when he'd invite her over or what he'd make, but she'd always enjoyed their time together. Thinking about it, she realized it had been months since Gibbs had invited her over.

She took a deep breath, savoring the aromas coming from the kitchen. Gibbs was one of the few people she trusted to do a good job with Cajun Cuisine outside of New Orleans. She loved his chicken Jambalaya, and she was delighted he'd made it for her.

Abby stepped into the kitchen, noting the table was set with what she'd jokingly called Gibbs' good china. As far as she knew, he didn't own any real china: good, bad or indifferent. But he did have at least one set of plates and flatware that matched.

Gibbs looked up from what he was doing at the stove and smiled. "Good timing. Just need another minute and dinner will be ready."

"Would you care for a glass of wine?" Tony asked from over her shoulder.

"Sure." Her tastes tended toward hard liquor when she drank, but Abby didn't mind an occasional glass of wine.

She blinked in surprise when she took the glass of white wine Tony offered her. She was expecting one of Gibbs cheap glasses not expensive cut crystal that would likely ring with a clear tone. Abby studied the glass, watching the light play along the delicate facings and intricate design etched into the side. She was savvy enough to grasp instantly that the 'DN' she saw most likely stood for 'DiNozzo'.

"Yours?" She asked anyway, sipping the light, semi-dry beverage.

Tony nodded. "Mine."

Interesting, Abby thought. She knew Tony's relationship with his family was estranged to say the least. It was odd that he would have anything with a family emblem on it at all, much less something he'd bring to set Gibbs' table with.

Tony smiled softly, looking at his own glass as he swirled his wine. "My aunt Sully had them commissioned on one of her trips overseas." He shook his head, smile fading. "Used to be a set of twelve. There are only seven left now."

The way Gibbs' gaze sharpened as he looked at Tony, Abby realized he was hearing this for the first time the same as she was. Gibbs frowned, blue eyes darting to the glass on the table.

"Maybe we shouldn'tâ€""

"Of course we should." Tony's smile brightened again. "Sully always said they were meant to be used, not sit in a cabinet and collect dust. She made me promise to use them when she willed them to me."

"Are you sure?" Abby interjected softly. She had no idea who Sully was, but she was clearly someone important to Tony. And Abby understood the value of mementos left by a lost loved one.

"I'm sure." He smiled. "I wouldn't have brought them by if I wasn't." He reached out and lightly tapped her glass with his own. The soft ping resonated just like she thought it would. "Salute."

"Salute," she returned the toast. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask about what happened to the other five glasses and for more information on Tony's aunt. It was so like Tony to just drop a tidbit about his family and not fill in any of the really important details.

"Sit." Gibbs ordered, neatly cutting her off before she could voice her questions. She shot him a look, which he ignored with practiced ease as he deftly placed the food on the table.

Damn, Silver Fox doesn't miss a trick, Abby thought with an internal smile. He definitely kept her on her toes. And in her place. Letting Tony offer the information was one thing, but asking was quite another. As much as her insatiable curiosity begged for answers, her affection for Tony made her realize Gibbs had been right to stop her from asking. His family wasn't quite taboo but it was within spitting distance. And she wasn't sure if talking about Sully was a painful subject for him or not. It was better to leave it alone.

Tony held out her chair for her. She smiled, and took her seat. He took the seat on Gibbs' right. It was, Abby thought, his rightful place. He was Gibbs senior agent, quite literally his right hand man. Stan Burley never assumed that role even half as well as Tony did.

Conversation began as a lighthearted affair, which Abby had expected. Getting Gibbs to open up about anything wasn't done easily. It took time, and usually had to be approached in a round about way. She could be patient.

Abby didn't mind reminding Gibbs how frustrating she found being assigned an assistant she didn't need, or thanking him again for getting the Director to rescind the stupid dress code. And she always enjoyed discussing favorite movies and bands with Tony. She was okay with talking about the weather even, but eventually she had to force the conversation to the real reason she was here. Abby had a suspicion if she didn't, Gibbs might never get to it.

She'd been patient long enough. Tony had sent several nervous glances toward Gibbs since they'd sat down to eat. He was almost as anxious for the moment to break as she was. Abby figured she owed it to the both of them to move this along.

Finished with her meal, Abby pushed her plate forward enough so she could easily rest her elbows on the table. She held her wine glass loosely between her hands. Better to take the bull by the horns had always been her motto. Or in this case, Gibbs, she thought wryly.

Cocking her head to one side, she made eye contact with Gibbs and held it. "You know, I love having you cook for me. And the food was delicious, as always." Her gaze flicked to Tony. "And I love sharing a meal with good company." She sipped her wine, taking her time and making sure she had their complete attention. "But if all we were getting together for was eating and talking, you would have said as much, Gibbs. And you wouldn't have been so antsy about it."

"Antsy?" Gibbs scowled. "I have never been antsy."

Abby rolled her eyes. She'd known him long enough to know antsy when she saw it. She pointed a finger at Tony. "And you wouldn't have been so evasive."

Tony looked away, a bit of color rising to his cheeks. "Busted."

Abby grinned. "I may not be a field agent, but I'm a damn good investigator in my own right." Taking another sip, she looked at Gibbs once more. "So, you want to tell me why it is you wanted me here?"

Gibbs smiled softly. "I wanted to tell you that I'm seeing someone. And it is serious."

Abby hastily put down her wine glass so she could hug him awkwardly, leaning precariously over the corner of the table to reach him. "Gibbs...that's great. That is just so awesome."

He returned her hug. Too excited to stay still she pulled back and searched his eyes. She knew he had been lonely, or at the very least in need of company, more than just at work. The mysterious red-head hadn't been seen in weeks.

"You really found someone special?"

"I really found some one special," he confirmed.

She grinned and hugged him again. This was wonderful news. Her grin faded as it suddenly occurred to her just who he might be seeing. It would certainly explain Tony's evasiveness and those earlier nervous glances toward the former Marine. She pulled back and pinned Gibbs with a firm look.

"Please tell me you aren't doing the wild thing with the director?" A blind man could tell there was a past between them. "That would just be so not right, Gibbs. I mean, I'd be happy for you and all if you're happy, supportive of a friend and all that, but I just can't see how you wouldâ€""

"Abby, I'm not dating Jen." Gibbs glared at her, clearly offended by the idea. "We might have gotten together...For a case." Gibbs' emphasis on 'for a case' and terse tone made it clear whatever he'd had with Sheppard it was not his idea or anything he cared to repeat. "I do not now, nor have I ever wanted to have a long term, meaningful relationship with her." Gibbs growled. "Not just no, hell no."

"Okay...good." She bounced in her chair, clapping her hands. That was settled. She felt much better about knowing Gibbs wasn't interested in the Director. That would have just been so wrong she didn't even have enough words to articulate how wrong.

"So who is she?" Abby waved her hands. "C'mon, spill. I've been in enough suspense already."

"She's a he." Tony injected quietly. "It's me, Abby."

Abby started at him momentarily stunned. She felt like such an idiot. Why else would Tony have been there for dinner? And brought fine crystal classes as well. Or been so nervous and evasive. Sheesh, talk about missing the obvious, she told herself wondering if she should give herself a head smack for being so dense.

She already knew he batted for both teams; it has just never occurred to her that Gibbs might as well. Abby was also belatedly aware that Gibbs was holding Tony's hand, and had been since she asked if he was dating Sheppard. She really did need that head smack.

She slowly realized her silence and open mouth was creating the wrong impression. Tony's posture had gone stiff, and his _expression was nearly impossible to read. Abby would have been her salary he was getting ready to toss it all off as some sort of joke, already trying to pull his hand from Gibbs' grasp. She couldn't let him deny this. And she definitely couldn't let him think she was anything but deliriously glad for him to have found someone who would treat him right.

Abby quickly left her seat and moved to Tony's side of the table. She hugged him hard before pulling back and kissing him soundly on the mouth. "Congratulations. I am so happy for you."

He looked a little dazed. She wasn't sure if it was her enthusiastic hug and kiss or her easy acceptance. She smacked him on the arm. "You should have told me before you told McGee. We've been friends for years. Years, Tony."

"Hey." Tony rubbed his arm. "It wasn't like we planned to tell him."

"But he knew before I did." She pouted.

"How do you know he knows?" Gibbs asked, eyebrows raised.

"Because, I asked him if he knew what was up with this dinner invite." She put both hands on her hips. "He started avoiding me. McGee never avoids me without good reason." She snorted delicately. "You didn't really think Tony would be the only one I asked, did you?"

The vaguely sheepish look on his face made it clear that was exactly what Gibbs had thought. Abby shook her head. "I do listen to you, you know."

Gibbs smiled, and saluted her with his wine glass. "I do now."

She laughed. Abby kissed Tony's cheek. "I really am happy for you." She looked at Gibbs. "Both of you." If any two people deserved to be happy it was them.

"Thanks, Abs."

"Now, I want to know all the details." Abby took her seat again, leaning in.

"Details?" Tony swallowed hard.

"You know, details." Abby waggled her eyebrows, waving a hand. "The why I already get." She leered good naturedly at Tony and then favored Gibbs with a saucy wink. It wasn't hard to see why they'd be interested in each other. The only one who wouldn't find either man worth lusting after was dead.

"But I'm still missing the how and the when." Abby grinned. "And feel free to expound on favorite sexual positions. Locations. Kinks. Whatever."

Gibbs held up a hand. "Not going into our sex life with you, Abby."

"C'mon Gibbs, I'd tell you."

He stared at her before shaking his head. "That is not the point."

"Prude." She giggled, unfazed by his glare. Abby knew he wasn't going to budge. She hadn't really expected him to; it was just so much fun to tease him.

"Okay, fine." Abby smiled. "Have it your way." She could afford to give in. Tony might just spill if she could get him alone at some point.

"But I definitely want to know when you got together and how."

Tony man tipped his head to Gibbs, clearly signaling he was willing to let the older man tell the story. She tapped her wine nearly empty wine glass, asking for more. Tony smiled and poured it for her, filling his own and Gibbs' glass as well.

Abby wasn't surprised to find out it Gibbs had been the one to initiate the relationship. It made sense. Hell, she hadn't known Gibbs was into men, it was unlikely Tony would have. Tony was always careful never to hit on any man he thought was straight or might rebuff his advances. He'd hinted once at something bad that made him cautious but he'd never given her specifics. And for all his bravado, Abby knew Tony was about decidedly insecure about his ability to maintain a relationship. If he wouldn't risk his friendship with her for a quick roll in the hay, there was no way he'd risk his place on the team. Working at NCIS, with Gibbs and the team, was everything to Tony.

What did surprise Abby was just how long they'd been a couple. Oh she'd known Tony was seeing someone for a some time, but she would never have guessed he and Gibbs had been together for more than six months. As far as she knew that was a high water mark for Tony. None of his relationships had lasted that long.

And Gibbs...well, he was clearly deeply in love with Tony. He worried about Tony more than he did anyone else on the team. He made a point of touch him. She knew that head smack thing definitely meant as much as a kiss. Made sure Tony ate well. Made sure he wasn't staying at the office until two in the morning any more. Tolerated his childish antics, even encouraged them from time to time.

Gibbs was certainly more in love with Tony than he'd ever been with his last ex-wife. That woman was proof positive Gibbs was better off playing for the other team. No doubt about it. She was a head case.

"So how long has McGee known?" She sipped her wine. "And just how did he find out if you didn't plan to tell him?"

Gibbs cleared his throat and looked away. Tony blushed. Abby stared. "Is that why you started locking the doors?" She chortled. "He walked in on you in flagrante delicto?"

"Not quite." Tony shrugged one shoulder. "And not here."

"At the office?" Abby nearly choked. "Are you out of your minds?" Not everyone was as open minded as she and McGee were. Good lord. Stuff like that could get them fired or ruin their careers or worse. "Have you any ideaâ€""

"It was two in the morning, Abby." Tony was quick to cut her off, _expression earnest. "And it was a kiss. In the parking garage."

"We'd just gotten back after that case on the Enterprise," Gibbs added quietly, his hand still holding Tony's.

Abby nodded. She remembered that case. The whole team had been gone for more than a week. She'd hated having them all gone and being stuck in the lab. "No time alone for you guys?"

"No." They answered in unison.

That had to be just a bit frustrating. "Guess I can understand how you might get a little...well, stupid about where you were and what you were doing."

Tony snickered, trading a look with Gibbs. "Didn't seem stupid at the time."

"Never does, Tony," Abby pointed out. She'd had her own moments of insanity when getting off was more important than good sense.

"We haven't done it since, Mom." Tony rolled his eyes at her.

"Good." She nodded, giving him an approving look and a smile. Not that she wouldn't mind getting the chance to witness the two of them in a lip lock, but at the office...it was just too risky for that, there was too much they could lose.

"We know what's at stake, Abby," Gibbs stated calmly.

Gibbs might be careless with himself from time to time, but Abby knew he'd never be careless with Tony. He would not risk the younger man's career or his well being. She patted his arm, letting him know she understood.

"And that's kind of why we wanted you to know about us." Tony bit his lower lip. "This last case was a little...intense."

That was definitely something of an understatement, but Abby wasn't sure she had a better descriptor. Nearly losing Tony had scared the hell out of her. She couldn't imagine what it must have been like for Gibbs. Or how he'd have felt finding Tony bloody and bruised in that hotel room. Pretending to just be his boss would have been a lot to ask of anyone in that situation.

"We...ah...it seemed like a good idea for us to have more than McGee toâ€""

"Gotcha." Abby nodded, touching her thumb to her nose. It was the signal that Redford and Newman had used in The Sting.

Tony smiled brightly, clearly recognizing the gesture. "I love you, Abby."

"Love you, Tony." She gave Gibbs a fond look. "Love you too."

"Never had any doubts, Abby."

"So just McGee knows?"

Both men nodded. Abby was decidedly pleased to have been invited into the inner circle. She was damn good at keeping other people's secrets, and she looked forward to helping them out whenever they needed it.

"We've considered talking to Ducky." Gibbs lightly squeezed Tony's hand. "Just haven't worked out the how and when for that yet."

"Sweet." Abby grinned. She was delighted to know she ranked higher in the order of priority for sharing the good news, but it wouldn't be right to leave Ducky out for long. He was too good a friend to be kept in the dark. And she and McGee would likely need more help if Tony kept getting into dangerous situations.

"You ready for dessert?"

"Oh yeah." Abby laughed. "Definitely." She wondered just how much more information she could get them to share before she left. Abby just loved a challenge.

Chapter Text

Gibbs finished washing the dishes, leaving them in the rack to dry. He'd put them away in the morning. Tony had seen Abby to the door while Gibbs took care of cleaning up. He could hear their voices but had no idea what was being said. He wasn't worried. Things had gone too well at dinner for him to be concerned now.

Wiping down the counter one more time, Gibbs decided the kitchen was restored to order enough to suit him. He split what was left of the second bottle of wine they'd opened between his glass and Tony's before heading into the living room. He knew that was where Tony would have headed after seeing Abby to her car and locking up.

He offered Tony his glass, taking his usual seat at the corner of the couch. Tony smiled, accepting his glass with one hand before resting his back against Gibbs' chest, head on Gibbs' shoulder. It was their usual position and Gibbs loved the feeling of warmth, trust and closeness it engendered.

"You could have told me how important these glasses are," Gibbs said quietly, rubbing his cheek against Tony's hair.

"Didn't really think about it." Tony patted the hand Gibbs had placed on his chest. "Sully always used them for anything she considered a special occasion. I've tried to do the same since she passed them on to me." He tilted his head to look up at Gibbs. "Thought tonight qualified."

"Yeah." Gibbs smiled. "It did." Openly and deliberately sharing their relationship with someone else was definitely special.

"It went well," Gibbs observed, sipping his wine. Abby's reaction hadn't been exactly what he'd expected, but it wasn't far from it either. She was naturally supportive of her friends and loved ones. And she wasn't judgmental, living to close to the fringe to really feel the need to judge anyone by the usual standards.

"Now that is an understatement." Tony chuckled.

Gibbs stifled a snicker. Yeah, it was, he admitted to himself. But he wasn't sure how else to describe it.

"You got any thoughts on how to tell Ducky?" Tony asked.

Gibbs shook his head. "Not entirely sure he doesn't already know."

"You think so?" Tony shifted, turning so he could look more fully at Gibbs.

Gibbs lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. "He's known me for years. Knows I'm not exclusively into women."

Tony nodded slowly. "Kind of like Abby knew about me."

"Well, he never saw me clubbing."

Tony laughed. "Hell, I can't even imagine you at some of the places I've been to with Abby."

Gibbs bit back his instinctive jealous reaction in favor of satisfying his curiosity. Striving for casual, he asked, "What sort of places did you go to with her?"

"Mostly places with loud music. Dance clubs, mosh pits and leather bars." Tony shrugged. "Tried a fetish club once or twice but it wasn't really my scene."

"You miss it?"

"It?"

"Going out to clubs?" As far as Gibbs knew Tony hadn't been out like that since they got together.

"No." Tony leaned back into him with a contented sigh, settling in again. "Wouldn't mind taking you to my favorite blues bar, but the others, no I don't miss them."

"Blues bar?" Gibbs was intrigued. He liked blues and jazz. Didn't care for it all the time, but they were both definitely styles of music he could relate to.

"Yeah." Tony waved a hand. "It's got great atmosphere. Kind of place you'd expect to see Sam at the piano, and Rick Blaine tending bar."

Gibbs smiled recognizing the reference to Casablanca. "Sounds like an okay place."

"We'll have to go some time so you can see for yourself." Tony sipped his wine. "Could take Ducky. Bet he'd feel right at home there too."

"Good idea."

Tony looked up at him. "I do have them now and again."

"Yes, you do," Gibbs admitted easily. He tightened his hold on Tony hugging the younger man closer to him. He depended on Tony's good ideas, relied on him to act as his second, and trusted him to watch his back.

He felt as well as heard Tony take a deep breath. Gibbs waited wondering just what it was his lover was bracing himself for. Tony cleared his throat.

"You...ah...you said that...you and the director were together...for a case."

The statement was really more of a question. Tony's tone and hesitation made it clear he wasn't sure if he was crossing some unseen boundary. Gibbs made a conscious decision to share a piece of his past. If he wanted Tony to come clean about his at some point, he had to be willing to do the same. He loved Tony; he owed it to him to show him how much, and letting him know that it was okay to ask him anything was definitely a part of that.

"We were working in Paris." Gibbs laid his cheek against Tony's hair. He patted Tony's chest, not sure if he was reassuring the younger man or himself.

"They were expecting a couple." He didn't go into who 'they' were. That part was still classified. "So we had to play the part."

"Kind of like me and Ziva on this last case?" Tony asked softly.

"Kind of." Gibbs sipped his wine. "Only this case went on for nearly a year. And we didn't have the option of just pretending."

"Back up team for us wasn't as close to us as we were to you and Ziva." Gibbs sighed. "We didn't have the electronics equipment or twenty four hour support. The ops had been deliberately kept small so it had a better chance of sliding in under the radar and succeeding."

Gibbs shook his head. It was a fly by the seat of your pants sort of job. The kind he wouldn't even consider now. But back then...Gibbs grimaced thinking about it. He'd taken the job because Diane had already handed him divorce papers and working overseas on a high risk assignment was preferable to listening to her rant at him or try and take another swing at him. And reconciliation with her was out of the question after he found out how many others she'd been with while married to him.

"We had to make sure everything was exactly as it appeared to be." And that meant having sex with Sheppard. It wasn't a hardship at the time. She was young and beautiful and just as willing as he was to do what it took to get the job done. But in hindsight it was certainly something Gibbs regretted. Everything between him and Sheppard had changed after that, and not all for the better.

"Probably should have handled it differently, but without better information or backup all the time to cover--

"Best bet is always to play it straight...all or nothing...in a situation like that," Tony cut in with quiet conviction, the voice of experience. "Even when they were there, I'm betting your backup wasn't as good as you are either."

"Not all that good. Came close to losing you this time." Gibbs argued, his throat suddenly tight, unsure Tony's faith in his ability to provide competent backup wasn't misplaced. The memory of losing contact and not knowing where Tony was rose up to steal his breath.

"Close doesn't count." Tony captured Gibbs' hand and entwined their fingers.

It does with hand-grenades, Gibbs thought inanely, remembering a comment made by his drill instructor at Paris Island. Not really seeing the point in arguing about it, Gibbs kept his mouth shut. Short of asking Tony to give up the job he loved and wrapping him in cotton batting there was no way he could be sure of the younger man's safety.

He couldn't ask Tony to quit. Gibbs needed him there as much as Tony needed to be there. He just had to trust that the younger man could and would take care of himself, hold his own in any situation. He wasn't sure he even still believed in God, but Gibbs sent silent prayers heavenward every morning asking for Tony's continued safety. And he sent one every night in gratitude that Tony was still in one piece.

"Does she know you only slept with her for the case?" Tony asked, drawing Gibbs attention back to their conversation.

"I don't know." Gibbs bit his lower lip. "Thought she did, but lately, I'm not so sure."

Tony nodded, his hair tickling the sensitive skin of Gibbs' face. "Kind of got the impression she was looking for more from you than just a supervisor subordinate relationship."

"Yeah." Gibbs scowled. Damn. He had hoped he'd misunderstood. It wasn't the first time he'd read the signals wrong. "Wish I knew what the hell to do about it," Gibbs muttered more to himself than Tony.

"Could always cite rule twelve."

Gibbs snickered, hugging Tony to him. "Would make me a hypocrite."

"Only if she finds out," Tony pointed out reasonably, tilting his head to give him a slanted look of amusement. "And keeping Sheppard or anyone else from finding out was kind of the whole point of telling Abby, remember?"

"True." With Abby and McGee covering their six, and eventually Ducky...they had damn good backup.

"Might have to keep an eye on Ziva too."

Gibbs blinked. "Ziva?"

"I know I wasn't firing on all cylinders in the hotel room, but I'm pretty sure we said or did something that made her look twice."

It was more likely Gibbs had done or said something, not Tony. Tony hadn't been up to much of anything at that point. Damn, Gibbs cursed silently. Some of his anger at himself must have communicated itself to Tony.

The younger man pulled away so he could look more directly at Gibbs. He brought joined hands up and kissed Gibbs' knuckles. "S'okay, Boss, think McGee covered pretty well."

"It's not okay." Gibbs almost growled. He'd made a promise to Tony that no one at the office would know if he didn't want them to, and god damn it he'd already failed twice. Once with McGee, and now possibly with Ziva.

At least with Ziva he thought he had something he could use to keep her in line. All it would take was a phone call, but blackmail had never been his style. And he hadn't covered for her killing Ari just so he'd have something to use against her...at least not at first. The thought only appeared later on when he found out she'd been assigned to his team. It was unlikely he'd go against his own honor and integrity to use the information against her. She probably knew that. But if she posed a genuine threat, unlikely didn't equal impossible. He'd sacrifice a lot more than his honor for Tony if that's what it took.

"If I knew for sure where her loyalties lay," Gibbs ground out in frustration.

Tony shrugged. "Every game's got a wild card. Sometimes more than one. Ziva and Sheppard may well be ours."

"This is not some game, DiNozzo." Gibbs glared at him.

"Sure it is," Tony countered. "It's one with real high stakes, and no do overs. A winner takes all sort of thing."

Gibbs had to admit Tony had a point. He'd known going in just what sort of risks were involved. He didn't have any regrets. Finding ways to mitigate those risks, to cover their asses was just part of the deal.

"Suggestions?" Gibbs unconsciously asked it the same way he did when he wanted input on a case, seeking theories and ideas for consideration.

"We continue as we have." Tony shrugged one shoulder. "We add Ducky into the mix just to be on the safe side. Give us one more ally. And we really need to work on a contingency plan for what to do if someone like Ziva or Sheppard figure out we're a couple."

Gibbs tried not to get sidetracked by the sudden flash of delight at Tony's reference to them as a 'couple'. Not him and me, but we, Gibbs thought with an internal smile. He fought off the emotion and focused on the issue at hand.

"Contingency plan?"

"Yeah. Was probably something we should have had awhile ago." Tony smiled ruefully. "Like before McGee saw us kissing."

"I've got enough time in," Gibbs offered tentatively. He'd made the offer before when McGee had found out about them and Tony had flatly refused to let him quit. "I could retire without much fuss."

"Thinking if you leave NCIS, I couldn't stay." Tony sighed softly, shaking his head. "Not sure I'd want to work for anyone else."

"You could head your own team." Tony had more than enough time in. He was smart, capable and could easily take Gibbs place if it came to that. Hell, he had already done it once or twice.

"I don't want my own team." Tony rolled his eyes. "I don't mind taking over in a pinch, but I've never really wanted to be the guy in charge full time."

Tony shook his head. "And I'm not sure I could trust someone else to watch out for me like you do." He grinned, bright green eyes meeting blue. "You spoiled me for anyone else."

Gibbs couldn't help feeling just a bit smug, knowing it wasn't just the job Tony was talking about. "Spoiled?"

"Rotten to the core." Tony's grin widened, unabashed. He shrugged one shoulder, grin fading a bit. "Thinking the only solution is for us to both quit."

"What would you do?" Gibbs asked. Tony had too much life and energy to sit around doing nothing, and he was nowhere near close enough to draw retirement.

"Not a clue." Tony didn't sound concerned. "But I was looking for a job when I found this one, so I'm thinking it'll work out okay."

Gibbs chuckled. He wished he knew how to be that adaptable. But then the Corps had been his life for so long, and then NCIS, he'd never need to even think about what else he'd be doing.

"We could travel." Tony's eyes lit up. "Maybe go see all those places people are always meaning to go."

"You mean treat it like a vacation?"

"Sure." Tony looked at him. "Why not? We could figure out everything else along the way."

Why not, indeed, Gibbs thought as he considered the suggestion. He hadn't had a vacation, a real vacation in years. And if it came down to where neither of them were working there was no good reason not to. He nodded. "Okay."

"Just okay?"

"You want to argue about it?" Gibbs arched an eyebrow.

"No." Tony laughed and kissed him. "I don't want to argue about it."

"So we have a plan."

"A damn good plan," Tony agreed with another quick kiss.

It wasn't much of a plan in Gibbs opinion, at least not yet, but it definitely was a start to covering all the bases. They could work on refining it later. He smiled. "You think we can maybe move on to something better then?"

Tony returned his smile with a sweet one of his own. "You got something in mind?"

Gibbs gave Tony a heated once over. His voice deepened, dropping to a rough, needy whisper when he spoke, "You bet your sweet ass, I do, Honey Buns."

Tony shivered, eyes darkening. Gibbs knew full well what that tone of voice did to the younger man. He ran his fingers through Tony's hair. "You want to come play with me?"

Tony rolled easily to his feat, placing his empty wine glass on the coffee table and then doing the same with Gibbs'. He offered his hand to the former Marine. He winked at Gibbs, waggling his eyebrows. "C'mon, sailor, let's see what you got."

Gibbs took Tony's hand, letting him pull him up. Once on his feet he drew Tony into him, kissing him deeply. He only pulled back when the need for air made him. He rested his forehead against Tony's, making eye contact and holding it.

"Showing you what I got is going to take awhile."

Tony's eyes sparkled with good humor and affection. "Rest of my life?"

Gibbs loved the hopeful, happy tenor of that question. He cupped Tony's ass with his hands, squeezing once as he pulled the other man's hips closer to his own. "A lifetime sounds just about right."

"Good." Tony smiled, and playfully shoved him toward the bedroom. "Let's go make some noise."

Gibbs led the way to the bedroom, one hand wrapped around Tony's wrist to make sure he didn't lag too far behind. "Good thing I got a lock for the door."

"Oh yeah." Tony chuckled, patting his ass with his free hand. "Don't want any interruptions. Especially not when I make you scream."

"Scream?" Gibbs looked over his shoulder. "You've never made me scream."

Tony's eyes glowed with merriment and promise. It was a wicked combination. "All that means is I just haven't done it...yet."

Gibbs shivered, already anticipating what that promise might entail. Tony was a very, very talented lover. "And if you can't?" He couldn't resist firing back a challenge.

"Well then," Tony leaned in, nibbling his earlobe, "I guess I'll just have to keep trying. Got a lifetime for me to work it out, right?"

Gibbs swallowed hard when Tony's tongue started doing whatever the hell he did to that spot below his ear that always made him weak in the knees. He really didn't think it would take Tony long to figure out how to make him scream now that he'd put his mind to it. No, not long at all.

But making him work for it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun. And turning the tables would be too. Yeah, a lifetime sounded just about right.

The End