Tony went down the stairs into Gibbs's basement to give it another go, and possibly to irritate the man enough so that he'd finally fire him. If goofing around on the job wouldn't do it, Tony's bet would be on making Gibbs talk about his feelings.
"Hey," Tony said when Gibbs looked up from his work bench. "Thought we could try the talking thing again, since last time went so well."
Tony didn't pour any drinks this time, or try any small talk, given that he knew how Gibbs felt about small talk, and that even trying small talk last time had been a dead giveaway that he'd been nervous. He just sat down and stared.
Gibbs just kept on carving like Tony wasn't even there.
Ten years. His relationship with Gibbs was the longest and most functional relationship in his life, and right now Tony didn't know what the hell was going on. It was a little terrifying.
Tony rubbed the back of his head. "Gotta tell you, Boss, I haven't felt this unsure of you since my first week on the job."
It was weird, like his world had gone all topsy turvy Freaky Friday on him when he wasn't actually doing anything wrong for a change.
Gibbs glanced up from his woodwork. "That tell you something?"
"Well," Tony said, sighing. "I think this is about more than just rule number 12."
Tony narrowed his eyes and tried to rearrange the evidence in his brain until something connected. "You don't trust E.J."
"Nope," Gibbs said. He stood up and circled the bench toward Tony. Tony got up when Gibbs got up out of habit.
"So what is it? Do you think she's using me for information? That Vance asked me to get close to her? I'm in the weeds, here."
Gibbs got in Tony's face. "I need to know you're backing me up, DiNozzo. That my best agent isn't gonna get poached to another team because you can't keep it in your pants."
"I'm not in love with her, Boss," Tony said, eyeing him. "I enjoy spending time with her, with someone who understands the demands of my job. I like not being alone. And I'm pretty sure you know that E.J. is not my first choice for breaking rule number 12, so even I'm not really sure why I'm digging in my heels right now."
He kind of did, though. Even if he couldn't have what he really wanted, he wanted to have something.
Gibbs nodded. "Ziva."
"Yeah," Tony said, drawing out the vowels. He put his hands in his pockets, and cracked his neck, stalling for a moment until he could work up the nerve to say what he was about to say. "If you don't know what the real answer is, then I'll have to stop telling everyone that you know everything. It'd feel like I lost a bet, and you know how competitive I can be."
There was one other thing that he could do to get fired, and talking about this was it. If Gibbs didn't know this, then Tony didn't know anything anymore. Tony had been very careful all his life so that nothing ended up on record, but Gibbs was Gibbs.
Gibbs stared at him hard, the kind of stare that made Tony feel like an insect pinned down in one of Palmer's glass display cases. "We're talking about this?"
"In for a penny," Tony said, trying to ignore the screaming noise in the back of his head.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs said. His tone said he would pay alimony to make Tony go away right now.
"Look, I dumped my career path in the toilet for you," Tony said. "What else do you want from me?"
"That's the point, Tony," Gibbs snapped.
"And yet I seem to be missing it," Tony said. "Do you think I'm seriously reconsidering? If I am, it's all academic, because Vance certainly hasn't offered me anything."
Gibbs jabbed his finger just under the knot in Tony's tie. "You're mine."
Anger and confusion made Tony snap back. "And I'm in love with you. Nothing about this situation strikes me as a change from the status quo, Boss."
"The only person you break rule number 12 with is me. That clear enough for ya?"
Tony squinted. Gibbs looked grumpy and vaguely unsettled, like he did when there was new technology he needed to master, or that time when Tony had asked Gibbs if he minded Tony listing him as his Next of Kin.
It made a tiny light bulb go on over Tony's head. The old school kind, not the new twirly ones that made Tony's skin look wrong when he installed them in his bathroom.
"I find asking you this unbearably weird and awkward, but does that mean I can kiss you?"
Gibbs waved his hand like Tony should just get it over with.
Tony didn't hesitate, didn't over think it, didn't stop to consider and reconsider how well and truly fucked he was because there was no way any of this could end well for him. Gibbs smelled of wood and Old Spice and cheap shampoo, and Tony kissed him. Gibbs kissed him back, and Tony breathed in hard, because the top came off his head and the bottom dropped out of his heart. Tony touched Gibbs's cheek and opened his mouth, kissing Gibbs with the passion of a decade's worth of pent-up frustration. It was hard and fierce, breathless and noisy, the kind of kiss that would get you kicked out of places for indecency.
When Tony was done, or at least done for the moment, Gibbs smirked a little, and said, "That all you got?"
Tony laughed a little. "You know, I'm no less uncertain of what the hell is going on right now than when I walked in this room."
"Know one thing for certain," Gibbs said, circling back around his work bench.
"Oh, yeah?" Tony asked. "What's that?"
"You're breaking up with Special Agent Barrett."