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Never Go Up Against Your Father When a Bet is On The Line

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Gibbs

They've been together almost six months before Gibbs figures out he's dating Tony. It's actually a call from Jackson that clues him in, what with the way Jack spends more than half the time chatting with Tony about his Christmas plans, rather than talk to his own son. Oh, and then there's what he says when he finally gets round to talking to Jethro.

"You move that boy in yet?" Jack asks when Tony passes the phone back.

"Why the hell would I do that?" Gibbs asks, genuinely confused. "He has his own apartment."

Jack laughs. "I never took you for the go-slow type, not with how quick you let those women march you to the altar."

"What? Dad, Tony and I are friends, colleagues. Are you feeling okay?" Gibbs is starting to get concerned.

His father sighs. "Son, if Tony was one of those redheaded girls you like so much, you'd be married by now, and no bad thing either. He makes you happier than any of those last three wives did."

"I'm going to call your doctor in the morning," Gibbs threatens. "Sounds like you need a checkup, maybe some medication. Definitely glasses."

In the corner of the basement, sitting on the stairs, Tony snorts, his eyes gleaming with the laughter he's working hard at suppressing.

"Yeah, whatever," Jack says dismissively. "Guess I raised me a fool for a son after all. The guys at the diner are going to be disappointed; they've been looking forward to throwing a party for you both. Maybe I should send you down some leaflets. Marianne gave me a whole pile at the last meeting."

"What the hell?" Gibbs lifts the phone away from his ear and stares at it. When he puts it back, he adds, "What meeting? Who's Marianne?"

"She's one of the women at my local PFLAG group," Jack says, as if that explains everything.

"PFLAG?" Gibbs is about ready to give up on the call so he can send his father's doctor round right now, never mind waiting for the morning.

"You know, Parents of Lesbian and Gay–"

"I know what PFLAG is, dad!" Gibbs snaps. "I want to know why the hell you're going to meetings of it! I didn't know Stillwater even had a PFLAG group."

"Well, it's over at Lock Haven, actually, but it's worth the drive over," Jack says. "I've met some pretty decent people. It's just nice to be able to talk with folks who're going through the same thing."

He sounds completely reasonable, apart from the bit where Gibbs is certain he's slipped into one of McGee's alternate universes, or something. "Dad, I'm not gay. I'm not dating Tony. I'm going to hang up and call Doctor Pearson, all right?"

True to his word, he disconnects the call, cutting off his dad's amiable goodbyes, then looks around for his glasses. Tony's already holding them out; he puts them on one-handed while scrolling through his contacts for Doctor Pearson's number.

"Wow, your dad really joined PFLAG?" Tony asks softly, while at Gibbs' ear, his phone beeps its way through dialing out. "I think mine would rather go back to disowning me."

"Good job we aren't dating, then," Gibbs snaps, too distracted to really notice the way Tony's expression freezes for just a moment, hurt flashing though his eyes, before an impenetrable mask of polite amiability settles into place.

"Yeah, Doctor Pearson? It's Jethro Gibbs here. Could you go check on my dad? He was just on the phone, but he wasn't making much sense." It isn't long before the good doctor hangs up with a promise to make a house call.

"One of the good things about small town life, I guess," Tony says. "I, uh…" He stands and gestures towards the door. "Want me to stay?"

"Nope," Gibbs says, turning his attention back to the piece of wood in front of him.

"Would you…" Tony shifts uneasily from one foot to the other.

"I'll call if it's anything," Gibbs promises.

"See you Monday, then, boss," Tony says, and if his tone is that little bit more reserved than he customarily uses here in Gibbs' house, Gibbs isn't paying enough attention to tell.

Gibbs keeps his head down, although he listens out for the sound of the front door closing, then a few moments later, Tony's car starts up and drives away. An hour later, the doctor phones back to let him know his father seems just fine, but maybe Gibbs could do with talking to someone because denial really isn't healthy.

He slams the phone down and spends the weekend in a foul mood.

His temper doesn't improve any through the week. Gibbs finds he's second-guessing the way he acts around DiNozzo; it unsettles him and he hates it. His senior field agent always picks up on things like that and it usually makes him act out, so when DiNozzo's behavior doesn't change, like he hasn't even noticed, Gibbs feels even more off-balance. So he calls up one of his lady friends and arranges to take her out to dinner Friday night if they don't get a case, which they don't, and he spends a perfectly pleasant night reacquainting himself with his inherent heterosexuality.

Gibbs' pleasant afterglow vanishes, however, when he gets home early Saturday morning and spies the neatly folded blanket set on top of the pillow at the end of the couch. In the fridge there's half a pizza with his favourite toppings on it and five unopened bottles of beer.

Maybe - just maybe - he's been dating Tony after all.

For all DiNozzo can be loud and irrepressibly energetic, for all he displays the subtlety of a brick thrown through a window, over the next few weeks, Gibbs is reminded that Tony is in fact incredibly observant. He picks up on little clues and tailors his behavior – his very self – accordingly. It's one of the things that makes him so damn good at his job, especially undercover work. And now Tony remains absolutely and utterly professional: he's respectful to Gibbs, friendly, but with a distance Gibbs doesn't know how to bridge, and somehow he manages to avoid ever being alone with the man. Gibbs hates it, but he can't quite bring himself to call the other man on what he's doing: that'd mean facing up to something he's very carefully not thinking about.

That doesn't stop him being pissed.

Christmas and New Year pass and suddenly it's near the end of January and Tony's still said absolutely nothing about the night Gibbs stood him up; hasn't even alluded to it. He also hasn't assumed he's welcome to drop round any evening they're off duty. He hasn't called by with pizza and beer, he hasn't recommended they watch some movie or other, he hasn't even casually mentioned some new restaurant he's thinking of checking out.

And Gibbs finds he misses it. He misses the times they talk about everything and nothing, the times when Tony quietly sips a beer and watches him work on his latest project. He misses the restaurants they visit. He even misses the damn movies. When he sleeps, he dreams of a tall, muscled body lying against him from shoulder to knee, heat bleeding through soft cotton, leaving him sweaty when he wakes and shaking with loss at the empty expanse of his king-sized bed.

Finally he mans up and, having stocked up on pizza with sausage and extra cheese – Tony's favorite – and a six-pack, he gives in and calls Tony's number. It rings four times before "DiNozzo!" echoes tinnily down the line. Gibbs frowns; Tony sounds a little out of breath. Maybe he's in the middle of a workout.

"Hey. Come on over?" He's about to mention the food, but in the background there's a soft female voice asking Who is it? Can't you tell them you're busy? and DiNozzo gasps and suddenly it's all too clear what he's busy with. "Never mind. I'll, ah… Monday."

Feeling like a complete and utter idiot, he hangs up, bins the pizza and opens a bottle of bourbon instead of the beer. By the time Monday morning rolls around, Gibbs has convinced himself that calling Tony was temporary insanity caused by his father's incipient dementia putting ideas in his head.

Yeah, that must be it. Because there's no goddamn way he's upset at breaking up with DiNozzo.

A couple of weeks later, Abby drops by his desk and stands there, hands on hips, foot tapping, until he looks up. Her black velvet winter coat reaches down almost to her ankles; with the hood up, all she needs is a scythe, Gibbs thinks absently.

"What's up, Abby?"

Abby leans forward, her face contorted by a ferocious scowl. She hisses, "I don't care if you're the most badass marine ever. This is your one and only warning. If you don't fix this, like now, they will never find your body. You understand?" She glares at him, before straightening up and turning round, all smiles, and holding out her arm. "I'm ready for that lift home, Timmy. You done?"

"Uh, sure," McGee says without glancing up. "Just turning my PC off." He's as good as his word, taking only a few moments before standing and shrugging on his own winter coat and leading the forensic scientist off into the snow.

Ziva has already gone, as have most of the other people in the bullpen. It's after 1830 and there's a heavy snowstorm on the way, never mind the inches already on the ground. Gibbs looks over at DiNozzo's desk; there's a handful of files lying open on the desktop and Tony's coat is slung over the back of his chair, but the man himself is absent. The thing is, while Gibbs knows Abby's right – he's spotted the dark circles Tony has under his eyes, and he's clearly lost weight – somehow Gibbs can't quite bring himself to go track the younger man down.

He signs off on the last of the paperwork in front of him and drops it into his outbox, then turns off his computer and gathers his things for the drive home. Gibbs rides down in the elevator, telling himself he'll talk to Tony tomorrow, really, he will.

Overnight, the storm hits with a vengeance.

Gibbs wakes to a silent world. Bright white light crawls in round the edge of the curtains and his nose is cold. The heating's out. When he glances over at the clock, it's dead: the electricity's down, then. He showered last night, luckily, so a quick wash in the last of the lukewarm water from the tank should see him through the day. He sets a pot of coffee to boil over the fire, cowboy-style, thankful for his older house that was built with a proper fireplace and chimney, then pulls on his snow gear and goes outside.

Somewhere around 20 inches of snow has already fallen and fat flakes still drift lazily down from a cloud-filled sky. The trip into work isn't going to be fun. Gibbs sets to work digging out his car; he put snow chains on his tires last night when he got home, so at least he doesn't have that to worry about, and he has a shovel, a piece of old carpet and a tow rope in the trunk, just in case.

A quick bite of cereal and a mug of strong coffee, and a large travel mug filled and ready to go, Gibbs heads out. While he navigates his way slowly to the end of the road, he works his way through speed dial, starting with Vance.

"Hey Leon," he says, letting the car coast to a halt at the intersection. "How's the Yard?"

Vance snorts. "Got power and there's a bunch of swabbies clearing the snow. Better than at home, that's for sure. You going to make it in?"

"Going to try," Gibbs says wryly, correcting as the back end fishtails a little.

"Ducky's taking a personal day, but that's all I've heard so far from your team," Vance says. After a moment he adds, "Drive safe."

Gibbs snorts and hangs up. His next call is to Abby, who's still mad at him but is once again en route with McGee, safe enough in his Volvo McMom-mobile. Ziva's on foot, not too far from work and when she answers her phone, she's busy cursing the weather, the stupidity of the drivers on the roads and the ineptness of the Founding Fathers for building their capital city in the Arctic Circle. In Hebrew. It's a good sign, so Gibbs grins and keeps trundling forwards, keeping a good distance between himself and the car in front. Today is definitely not a day for his usual offensive driving style.

The last call he makes is one he'd really rather not; after all, it isn't as though DiNozzo isn't perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He's been taking care of himself since he was just a kid, and he's an East Coast kid at that. Snowstorms are nothing new. When Gibbs realizes he's doing his level best to talk himself out of calling the one person he should have called first, he rolls his eyes in disgust and hits speed dial.

Tony's cell goes through to voicemail, so Gibbs hangs up and tries the landline. The line must be down at his apartment, because he gets a number unobtainable signal. He tries Tony's cell again and this time someone answers and there's background noise - a lot of background noise - before it cuts off. Worried, now, Gibbs tries a third time. Voicemail again.

"DiNozzo! Call me, goddammit!"

On impulse Gibbs calls up Abby. "Hey, when you get in I want you to run me a trace on Tony's cell."

"He isn't picking up?" Abby asks. "Of course he isn't; you wouldn't ask me to trace him if he was. We're, like, five minutes away, really, Bossman. As soon as we're there, I promise."

"Thanks, Abs," Gibbs says. "Call me when you find him."

He isn't worried, not really. Just like Abby isn't worried, and McGee won't be worried. Tony's fine. DiNozzo's fine. It's just a bit of snow. Gibbs will get to his desk and two minutes later, DiNozzo will bounce in with tales of bad traffic and what do you think the chances are of catching a case involving a Yeti, boss?

But when his cell phone rings fifteen minutes later, Abby's voice comes over the speaker high-pitched and panicked. "Boss, boss, boss, we found his cell phone. It's on the Beltway, so in Tony's car, I'd guess. But it isn't moving and there's a report of a pile-up there and, boss, it really doesn't look good! They're saying on the news there are fatalities. They haven't even got to all of the cars yet!"

"Abby!" Gibbs says, putting a bark into his voice to get her attention, "Listen to me! I'm sure Tony's fine, just helping out, that's all. He'll call in when he can. Tell McGee to let me know when he does, all right?"

There's a pause, then Abby sniffs. "Okay, all right. Tony's fine. Tony's fine. Got it."

"I'll be there in ten," Gibbs says, more gently. Then there's nothing more to do but hang up and drive.

The Naval Yard, in contrast to the surrounding streets, is almost free of snow. Large piles are tucked in out-of-the-way corners, but the sidewalks and the parking lots are clear, with sailors spreading grit to stop the cement icing up. Gibbs tries calling Tony one more time before he gets out of his car, but it doesn't even ring before he's through to voicemail. "Damn it, Tony, you'd better be okay," Gibbs says before he hangs up.

Inside, the building is running on a skeleton crew; most people simply haven't made it in yet. Unless there's an urgent reason why they should be there, Gibbs guesses most people are planning on taking a snow day.

He really wishes Tony had taken a snow day too.

An hour later, Gibbs is about ready to strap on his snowshoes and head on down to the Beltway. If his team were huskies, they'd be yipping at the doors to get on out there with him, but Gibbs knows with the roads in the state they are, and the tangle of traffic and emergency services, it would probably be as fast to walk, which is to say by the time they got there, Tony could have been found, rescued and shipped off to hospital ten times over. Plus he knows from experience that the emergency services really don't need a bunch of anxious feds getting in the way right now. He knows the best thing to do is stay put and wait, but the need to go find Tony is approaching irresistible.

It's a good thing they aren't on a case at the moment: Tim has the plasma screen showing local news and he's also watching to see if either Tony's cell phone or his car move: they seem to be heading slowly away from the Beltway but in a manner that suggests the car's been recovered by a tow service, rather than Tony heading in to work. Once it stops, they can figure out who has it - a mechanic, the police impound lot - and they'll be able to go check it out, but for now it looks like they'll have to wait.

None of them are good at waiting.

Abby's monitoring emergency services chatter, while Ziva's called round the local hospitals and found out which ones the Beltway pileup victims are being bussed to. And Gibbs has made his own calls; if and when the local first responders – be they police, EMTs or fire crews – find one Anthony DiNozzo, they'll damn well let Gibbs know.

It's killing Gibbs not to go out there and search himself. Hell, it's killing all of them. But no news isn't necessarily bad news: a lot of phone lines are down, and Tony isn't the type to pass by an accident and not stop to help.

He's fine, Gibbs keeps on telling himself, he's fine.

Snowplows soon have lanes open on most major roads; the pile-up on the Beltway is mostly cleared, and Gibbs can't keep himself at his desk any more. He's up and pulling on his coat before he can stop himself, but there's a ping as the elevator doors open, and a tall figure steps out, looking down as he brushes snow off his ski-pants leg with one hand, while the other balances a tray of drinks and a large brown bag of pastries.

Tony passes off the tray to Ziva and drops the bag in front of her. "Would you hand these out? I need to go change. Mine's the hazelnut latte, and I want one of the maple pecan danishes, so don't eat them all."

"God, Tony!" Gibbs chokes out and with two long strides he's there, wrapping his arms around the snow-dusted man.

"Uh… Boss?" Tony says, his hands coming up hesitantly to pat Gibbs' shoulder. "You okay?"

Gibbs holds him tight, and Ziva has a hand pressed to her mouth and McGee's out from behind his desk, while moments later, running footsteps herald the arrival of a distraught goth. She plasters herself to Tony's back, forcing an "Oof!" out of him as she collides.

"Not that I'm not touched by this little display, but I'm starting to freak out, here," Tony says, his voice somewhat muffled by Gibbs' coat. "Really. Guys?"

Gibbs forces his arms to loosen, to let go, and he takes a step back, blinking furiously until the bullpen comes back into focus. He raises a hand, intending to issue the mother of all head slaps, but instead finds his hand cupping the back of Tony's neck and simply holding on.

"Where the hell have you been?"

He should be furious at Tony for showing up safe and sound after letting them all worry. He should be; he is… No, he isn't. He doesn't quite know what he feels, apart from overwhelming relief that threatens to send him to his knees, but it certainly isn't anything like anger.

But Tony's eyeing him oddly and Abby's stepping back and sniffing loudly and it's McGee who points to the news still playing on the screen.

"Your car's on the Beltway."

"Yeah, so?" Tony shrugs, ignoring the screen for now. "It crapped out on me last night on my way home, so I parked up in a service lay by. I called the tow company but they said they couldn't get anyone out there until the storm passed. I managed to get a lift home, but I didn't realize I'd dropped my phone in the car until I got there, and the landlines were already down. Then this morning, I had to help dig out a couple of my neighbors, check on a few that're getting older, but the super has a backup oil furnace, so they still have heat, even if they don't have power. I'm sorry I'm late; I got here as quickly as I could."

"Tony!" Ziva snaps, "There was an accident on the Beltway this morning. People died!"

Tony blinks, turns his attention to the screen. "Shit, I didn't know. God, I'm sorry! I promise I'd have called if I could."

"I got…" Gibbs clears his throat, drops his hand, takes another step back. "Someone answered your cell, but they hung up."

"That's odd," Tony says, frowning. He leans over and plucks the phone off his desk. A few moments later, he says, "Who is this? Really? Yeah, that's mine. Okay, well, thanks. I'll be round to pick it up when I can get a lift. Do you know what– God, I only had that fixed last month! Right, right, okay. How long– Sure, okay. Thanks again. Bye."

He drops the phone back onto its cradle. "You must have called while the tow company were hooking up the car. They made sure my mechanic has my phone, apparently, so as soon as I can get down there, I can pick it up. Damn, I can't believe I was stupid enough to leave it in my car!"

"Ya think?" Gibbs forces himself to produce a glare, but what he really wants to do is something highly inappropriate for the workplace. Like hug Tony again for the next hour, just wrap himself around the younger man until he's reassured himself that Tony's there, he's fine, he's unhurt. Maybe take him home and lock him up and never let him out of his sight again.

He stifles the urge and glares harder.

Tony winces at Gibbs' expression, but tugs off his coat and moves around his desk. "Look, I'm really sorry about scaring you guys. But I brought you coffee and pastries. Even you, my forensic goddess," he smiles at Abby, who still looks tragic, so he winces again. "I think I preferred it when you just stole all my stuff," he mutters, embarrassed.

Ziva deliberately relaxes her shoulders and clears the relief from her face; she sets one of the coffees aside and opens the bag of pastries. With a grin that is only slightly forced, she pulls out an apple turnover. "If I have to wait a while longer for your letter opener, I suppose this will do. Abby, what would you like?"

Abby sniffs and says quietly, "A hug." Then a little more loudly, she adds, "Is there a chocolate muffin?"

Ziva looks in the bag. "Apparently so." She hands it over, while Tony sheds layers: long coat, fleece under that, scarf and gloves. A sweater Gibbs would bet a hundred bucks is something like cashmere. From the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet beside his desk, Tony produces a towel and proceeds to rub his hair dry, then he drops into his chair and bends down to take off his boots. Gibbs takes the strong black coffee that Ziva holds out, and snags a cheese danish, then retreats to his desk and by the time he's seated, Tony's rummaging in his backpack which is stuffed somewhat more full than usual. A pair of running shoes emerge, followed by a pair of jeans. It looks as though Tony's going for casual – probably a good idea on a day like today.

"Back in a minute," Tony says. "Don't let McGee eat my pastry while I'm gone!" Then he's up and across the bullpen, heading for the men's room to get changed.

"I see you found your missing team member," Vance says. He's standing on the bend in the stairs that lead up to MTAC and his office, leaning his elbows on the handrail.

"Yup," Gibbs says, and takes a sip of his coffee. It's exactly the way he likes it. A knot loosens in his chest and despite the extra shots of espresso he knows are in his drink, his stomach stops feeling like it's on fire.

The team settles down to paperwork, with a break for sandwiches around 1300. By 1530, the bullpen's emptying out of the few people who've made it in, and Gibbs makes a decision.

"Go home, people. Keep an eye on the weather report. If it hasn't gotten any worse, be in by ten tomorrow. And if you aren't here by then, you'd better have called me with a damn good reason. McGee, make sure Abby gets home okay. Ziva, you need a lift?"

Ziva shakes her head. "It will take me twenty minutes, maybe thirty, to walk home. I will be fine." She begins the arduous process of bundling herself up to face the outdoors.

Tony perches on the corner of his desk and watches her, one corner of his mouth twitched up into a fond smile. "She'll never admit it, but I think she's getting to like our inclement weather," he says to the room at large.

Tim snorts, and Ziva fixes them all with a glare. "It is merely sensible to acclimatise myself to the extremes of your idiotic weather."

Holding up his hands, Tony shakes his hands and laughs. "Whatever you say, Ziva. So did you sneak out in the night to make snow angels?"

Ziva finishes winding an extremely long scarf round and round her neck and up over her hat. "Even I know it is snowmen, Tony," she says scornfully.

Tim chimes in, "Actually, Ziva, snow angels are where you lay down on the ground in the snow and flap your arms, so when you stand up, it looks like the outline of an angel."

Ziva frowns. "But why would anyone want to lie down in the snow? You people are crazy!"

Tony laughs, and for some reason, Gibbs has to swallow hard. When the younger man glances over, he has to look away quickly, pretending he hasn't been watching Tony while the team banter.

"DiNozzo, you're with me," he says, getting ready to leave. Tony opens his mouth, then closes it again: long experience has taught him there's no point in arguing. Gibbs is oddly pleased by this, as he is by the way Tony tucks in behind him as he heads for the elevator.

Gibbs drives them over to Tony's apartment, by way of a pizza place they know and like and which thankfully has both power and staff, and a grocery store to pick up some essentials. The electricity's still out when they get to Tony's, but at least the heating's still on, and that's more than Gibbs has back at his place. Tony pauses when Gibbs stops to grab his go bag from the trunk.

"You planning on stopping over?" Tony asks, sounding uncharacteristically uncertain.

"Yeah, if that's okay," Gibbs says, hefting the bag. "It's either that or I'm going to have to sleep on my own damn couch."

Tony grins. "Yeah, my couch is way more comfy, no disrespect, boss."

Gibbs follows him as he trots up the stairs to his apartment, idly speculating on the play of muscles that he can't see beneath the long coat and all those layers. By the time Tony unlocks the door, Gibbs is half-hard.

The only surprising thing about it is that it isn't surprising at all.

"Borrow your phone?" Tony asks and Gibbs hands it over. By the light of its screen, the younger man digs out candles and matches, setting them carefully around the room. Gibbs drops his bag near the door, then pops the beer outside on the windowsill to chill. They shed coats and sweaters, kick off shoes – the apartment is actually a little on the warm side – then Gibbs makes himself comfortable on the couch while Tony heads for the bathroom.

Things get a little awkward when he comes back; Tony grabs two of the beers and pops them open before joining Gibbs on the couch. He makes an abortive move towards the TV remote before huffing out a self-conscious laugh.

What with the candlelight, the pizza, the warm, cozy room and their proximity to each other… Gibbs bursts out laughing, leaving Tony staring at him in confusion.

"Happy Valentine's day," Gibbs says, lifting his beer and holding it out. A moment later, Tony grins and clinks bottles with him.

"Happy Valentine's day," he says. "Not quite the evening I'd anticipated, but…"

A pang of jealousy hits Gibbs and he has to work to keep his expression neutral. "Got a hot date lined up?"

"Yeah, with a stack of movies." Tony indicates the pile of dvds sitting next to the redundant television. "10 Things I Hate About You, Practical Magic, Kate and Leopold, She's The Man." He sighs and leans forward, flips open the pizza box. "So it's lame and more than a little girly, but in my defense, two of those are based on Shakespeare, so…" He trails off and concentrates on biting the point off his slice.

Gibbs feels unaccountably relieved, and it's possibly that, or the half-bottle of beer, or maybe it's even the candlelight, but he says, "I owe you an apology. My dad was right." When Tony stares at him, wide-eyed, he ducks his head and picks at the label on his bottle. "I freaked out and I hurt you. I'm sorry."

Carefully, Tony sets down his pizza and his beer, wipes off his fingers and swallows his mouthful with some effort. "Boss…"

"No, not your boss here," Gibbs says. "Jethro. I miss you, Tony. I miss this." He waves a hand. "Just spending time together outside of work." Tony's still staring at him, so Gibbs figures what the hell. "I miss you more than I've missed my last three wives, and I see you pretty much every day. If I wasn't so chickenshit, I'd have let myself know long before it got to this."

"What, Jethro?" Tony says, his eyes dark and unreadable. "What would you have let yourself know?"

Gibbs takes a deep breath and sets down his beer. He takes Tony's hands in his. "That I… God, that I love you." As if a floodgate's been opened in the dam of his stoic façade, he hurries on, feeling the words tumble over themselves to get out, and knowing that if he doesn't say them here, now, he'll never be able to let them out again. "I'm miserable without you. I don't know how we're going to make this work, or even if you want to make it work, but I want to go home with you every night and I want to wake up next to you every morning for the rest of my life." He shudders. "Tony."

Tony's hands tighten until he's gripping Gibbs almost painfully. "You're my boss. You're a bad-tempered sonofabitch and you're going to be paying alimony for, like, another hundred years because you've been married four times. To redheads. To women. You think communication's something that happens to other people and you can't function without coffee. You pretend you don't need reading glasses and you seem to think you're invincible." He sighs. "I'm just your pain-in-the-ass senior field agent. I'm not female and I won't dye my hair red, not even for you. You don't know if I'm gay, or bi, or if I just want to be friends. Hell, come to that, you don't even know if you're bi. We've never so much as kissed. And you didn't figure out we were dating until your dad pointed it out to you."

Gibbs shrugs. "Yeah, I know. You'd be better off with pretty much anyone else on the planet. And if you want, I won't… I won't bring it up again. I just needed you to know. So." He blinks and looks away; if Tony doesn't want this, doesn't want him, it'll probably kill him to shove his feelings down and lock them away again, but he'll do it somehow, he knows he will...

Tony drops Gibbs' hands; one of his own flashes up and cuffs Gibbs round the back of the head. "You're an idiot, you get that?"

"Yeah," Gibbs says ruefully, rubbing the back of his head. "At least it wasn't a nine iron this time."

Tony rolls his eyes. "No, you really are an idiot," he says, and his tone is fond. He leans forward and slowly, way too slowly, he presses his lips to Gibbs'.

Gibbs closes his eyes and shivers as stubble brushes against stubble. His lips part and Tony shifts closer, hands coming up to frame his face. They're warm and strong and callused, and Tony's lips lack the softness he's come to expect, but somehow it feels right, it feels like coming home after a lifetime spent away. He sighs and parts his lips and feels Tony move to enter, take charge. He tilts his head a fraction more, pushes forward, wraps his arms around those broad shoulders and loses himself in a fierce give and take until some indefinable length of time later, they break, panting, wrapped around each other.

"So, no problem with the guy thing?" Tony grins.

Gibbs presses his cheek to Tony's, closing his eyes in relief. "No, no problem at all."

Tony nuzzles his neck, humming in contentment. "All right then. You want to finish dinner, or jump straight to the bedroom?" Gibbs' stomach rumbles and after a second, Tony's joins in. They separate, laughing. "I guess that's us told," Tony grins and Gibbs feels a smile stretch across his own face, happier than he's been in a very long time.

"Yeah, I guess so."

They finish up the pizza, have a couple of beers, and Tony entertains him by telling him the plot of the movies he was going to watch.

"If you know them all, why watch them again?" Gibbs asks. He knows why; Shannon and Kelly had their favorites, films they wanted to watch over and over again.

Tony thinks for a moment, head cocked to one side. "Because they're all about hope," he concludes. "It doesn't matter if you're from different centuries, or you cast a spell wishing for someone impossible so you'd never get your heart broken, somehow there's always a way for true love to work out." He laughs, and Gibbs raises an eyebrow. "Should've fished out The Princess Bride," he chuckles.

That's one Gibbs has actually seen, and more than once. He keeps a straight face as he says, "Never had you pegged for believing in twoo wuv, Tony."

Tony's jaw drops, then a predatory look crosses his face. "You actually quoted a movie at me. Do you have any idea what that does to me? I think we should move this to the bedroom."

"As you wish," Gibbs says, and laughs as Tony drags him to his feet and hauls him off to bed.

 

Tony

The thing is, Tony's never been one for physical contact. He isn't a hugger. He isn't really a back-slapper, or a manly arm-clasp kind of guy. It's something he comes by honestly; his parents weren't the hugging types either. Both emotionally distant alcoholics, they barely touched each other, let alone their infant son. His mother, beautiful, remote, loved him from a distance and the closest she came was the casual brush of fingers as she dressed him up, cool lips pressed briefly to his cheek, such a pretty boy, until that distance became the insurmountable barrier of death. His father's touches were harder, to make him a man, to make him understand what was expected of him, his place in life. And later in the evening, after the drinks Tony so carefully mixed and brought him, came anger and open-handed slaps and sometimes even a fist.

For a while, after his mother's death and after his father sent him away, before it became clear just how completely Tony wasn't wanted, the only physical contact he had was with other boys when they fought, when he was bullied and pushed around. Then came military school and sports and eventually thank goodness came girls, with their beauty and their soft, sweet skin, and he gets good at sweet-talking them so they'll let him kiss them and sometimes they'll even kiss him back.

Sex is amazing, it's awesome, it's socially acceptable and it gets Tony lots of contact with minimum emotional investment. He looks good, he's fit, he knows how to make the ladies laugh. He's good for a night, or a lunchtime, or a quick half-hour between classes. So Tony rides that high all the way through to Baltimore, where he crashes and burns and it's all because of Wendy. She taught him how to express himself through music, how to express his emotions shielded by the code written by composers dead a century or more: she taught him the piano, and she's older than him, but she's beautiful and he's shown her a part of himself he's never shown another living soul.

It's hardly surprising when he falls in love.

He's forgotten that getting involved means getting hurt, and he's blindsided when Danny – his partner, of all people – turns out to be a dirty cop and he can't tell Wendy and she's blaming him for whatever's gone wrong between him and Danny and whatever's going wrong between him and her, and anyway she thinks it's all Gibbs' fault for riding in and sweeping him off his feet, carrying him off to another job, another city. It's Gibbs' fault for spotting the lack, the hole in himself, that pit of neediness – and promising with one glance, one touch, to fill it.

And just like that, he loses the two people who should have his back.

He gains a mentor, though, a man who challenges him professionally and is probably the closest thing he's got to a friend. He has Gibbs, and once again he has sex with a parade of beautiful, anonymous women, and that suits him just fine. It's all he needs. But it isn't like Gibbs doesn't come with his own share of heartache, as he finds out to his cost; another divorce later, Gibbs is set in a pattern of headslaps and camaraderie, just the two of them against the worst the Navy and Marine Corps have to offer, right up until Air Force One comes into play.

And then there's Kate.

She teases him like a sister, which is wonderful in its own way, but she sets a precedent of ignoring any and all requirements for a Senior Field Agent that carries on down the decade like an outdated protocol the MCRT just can't seem to shake. At times, it's like Gibbs has bought into that construct too, and those are the times that shrink Tony's confidence, his soul, make him want to transfer out anywhere else but here. But he's kept busy pretty much all the time, and the work is always varied and interesting and most of all it makes a difference to the people they're there to protect. Not being tied to a geographical area makes it both more and less frustrating: when perps cross those lines on a map – city, state, country – they don't have to stand at the border hoping they'll come back, but equally the community he's sworn to defend isn't composed of streets and houses; there's very little opportunity to actually get to know the people.

People come and go, directors, team mates, lovers; some move on, some die, but through it all – with that one glaring exception – Gibbs is there with his temper and his headslaps and his list of rules that, goddamnit, should be printed up and posted on the wall if he expects Tony to know and follow them all. He's the anchor that prevents Tony from drifting onto the rocks and it's no coincidence that when he snaps, Tony ends up capsizing. Jenny screws him over royally, him and Jeanne both, and he spends a long time foundering, wondering how long it'll take him to go down for the third time, because his team don't want to know and Gibbs – well, Gibbs could throw him a lifeline, but instead he's angry and he's going to let him sink.

Tony really, really hates ships.

Somehow, impossibly, he rights himself, gets back on an even keel, or what passes for one at any rate, and it's business as usual. Only it isn't quite, because his father's back in the picture, however peripherally, and Gibbs' dad is too. To be honest, Jack's more of a father to Tony than Senior ever was, and Tony soaks up those drops of affection like a sponge that hasn't seen water in a hundred years. Things come back to haunt the team, but they act together as a team (mostly) and somehow it makes the tough times bearable; they pull through the crises doing what they do best and the MCRT is just kickass.

But somewhere at the back of Tony's heart is a wish he's almost forgotten, a desire – a need – for more, for companionship and comfort and most of all for love; all the things he's been trained out of hoping for. He's heading rapidly towards the big four-oh and what does he have to show for it? A wardrobe filled with designer suits and a close rate that's the envy of federal agents everywhere. If he's lucky he'll end up a footnote in a dry, dusty book about minor federal agencies, or maybe the more obscure aspects of the US Navy. (He doesn't count McGee's novels; Tommy is so far from the truth of who he is that he's really glad Tim's their geek, not their profiler.)

He finds himself less and less inclined to seek out the empty consolation of a beautiful woman's arms, and more and more inclined to search out his boss at home, bringing takeout, beer and light-hearted banter as the price of admission. Tony chats to Jack when he calls, since Gibbs usually runs out of things to say after the first half-dozen grunts, and they share a surreptitious delight in insinuating that Tony is Gibbs' latest squeeze. Apart from the whole 'not a chick' thing that Tony's hung up on, Jack likes him better than the last three put together, not that he got to know them, but he thinks Tony's funny and charming and oddly sincere. That, and he'll let Jack know what his taciturn son's been up to, the times he flings himself into danger and strides back out none the worse for wear.

Plus, Gibbs is generally a lot happier when Tony's around. Not that they'll let him know. Neither of them has a death wish, after all.

Still, Tony's pretty much given up sex in favor of sitting on his boss's basement steps, or sharing the couch over a beer and a steak and a game on the TV. Something about the proximity to that tall, solid-muscled ex-marine almost, almost makes up for the lack of actual touching, for the feel of naked skin-on-skin. Almost, but not quite.

So when the joke finally slips out and Jack baits his son into sending the local doctor to check up on him in case he's had a stroke or developed rapid-onset dementia or something, Tony waits for the fallout. He tries not to weigh his options – new job, new city, new life again, versus finally having everything he's ever needed all wrapped up in one grumpy hard-ass caffeine-addicted package. (When he lets himself think about it, which really isn't more than odd seconds on the edge of sleep, Tony really doesn't care that Gibbs isn't a woman with legs up to her armpits and a sizable rack, because he's spent a lifetime avoiding hitting on guys simply because he's enough of an outcast anyway and jock and cop and special agent are labels he hasn't wanted to lose while he's had them; they're as close to belonging as he can get.)

But at work Gibbs acts a little off around him and then he doesn't show up for their usual end-of-the-week pizza and beer evening (not a date, no matter what Jack says), and being stood up is bad enough when it's at a bar or a restaurant or something like that, but Gibbs stands him up at his own house, and that's when Tony knows it's over.

Third time's the charm, apparently, when it comes to finally getting through to Tony's heart what his head's known since he was twelve – since before, if he's really honest with himself. He's just not the kind of guy who people can make that connection with. There's something about him, something fundamentally flawed, which means that, ultimately, he's unlovable.

It hurts more than it should.

Tony retreats, regroups, reassesses his behavior, his goals, his expectations. It's pretty clear now that Gibbs is it for Tony in every way that counts, just as it's clear that Tony's nothing more than a slightly annoying colleague and more an acquaintance than a friend for Gibbs. Fine, hint taken, lesson learned. Tony pulls back to appropriate levels of interaction; he doesn't bug Gibbs at home any more, he doesn't search out opportunities to be alone with the man, he doesn't flirt, he doesn't chat with his boss's father on the phone. He gets his job done and then he leaves it behind when he goes home, alone.

After a while, he finds himself looking forward to Abby's hugs because they're pretty much the only physical contact he has nowadays, unless someone bumps into him on the street or a perp decides to resist arrest. That's when he figures he may not have Gibbs and he may never have a wife and kids, but there's always that old socially-acceptable fallback, sex. His heart may not be in it, but his dick's quite happy, right up until Gibbs calls him up and invites him over one Saturday night in January just after he's finished round one with a very lovely blonde called Allison, or Alice, or something like that. It's an olive branch he never expected to get and he's about to say sure, be right on over, when Alex murmurs "Who is it? Can't you tell them you're busy?" and slides her hand behind his balls and Gibbs, the bastard, hears, of course he does, and hangs up with a comment about Monday.

Something in Tony's heart breaks once and for all; he knows he's lost any chance he had of making things right, just like that.

Alissa's pissed as hell when he leaves, but his dick's finally caught up with his head and his heart and is as broken as the both of them at this final loss of Gibbs. So he spends the weekend holed up in his apartment watching a string of film noirs, where the bad guys get their comeuppance, the women are deadly and the men know it and broken hearts don't last more than a couple of scenes. He barely eats, but he sleeps more than usual although his dreams leave him tired and restless. Tony tells himself he just has to get used to it, that he can get through this, that he can't miss something he never had, but he can't bring himself to joke around at work more than the absolute minimum needed to maintain the illusion that everything's fine, that nothing's changed, that his world hasn't come crashing down around his ears.

Abby notices something, though, as does Ducky, but they're kind enough to leave him be.

After a couple of weeks, Tony's belt is done up a notch tighter and he thinks maybe it's time to move on. He looks on the internal job board; he could transfer out somewhere mid-west, but the prospect of winter on those endless plains is enough to get him looking up flights to the Caribbean. Just out of curiosity, he checks opportunities for senior law-enforcement in Jamaica, then winces at the stats on gun crime on the island. Knowing his luck, he'd get shot his first day on the job. Maybe not. But the US has naval bases in the Pacific; he checks out Pearl Harbor, then Japan.

It isn't anything more than a pleasant daydream, but Abby must keep tabs on his browsing history because an IM pops up with an IOU for a hundred hugs, a night out dancing and a tray of chocolate brownies if he'll just stay here. He taps back a quick don't worry, just fed up with winter, which he doesn't for a minute think she believes, but the gods are on his side and he manages to avoid her until hometime. He spends a while in Records filing away a bunch of cold cases he'd reviewed and selecting the next few to go over when they aren't out chasing down terrorists or arms smugglers or missing sailors. By the time he gets back, the bullpen is pretty much empty apart from one of the other team leads waiting for the elevator.

"Better get out of here," the guy says, "snow's starting."

Tony nods a thanks and takes his advice. The journey home isn't too bad, apart from the bit where his car craps out on the Beltway and he has to pull into a service area, then when he calls the tow company he finds out they won't pick it up until the morning, and only then when the roads have been cleared. Cursing, he gets out to take a look under the hood himself, but a family who've just finished an emergency pitstop for their pet pooch ask if they can give him a lift and hallelujah, they're going past the end of his street. It isn't until he gets home that he realizes he's lost his cell phone. He's going to leave a message with McGee, but when he checks, his landline is down already, so there's really nothing to do other than grab a nice hot shower, microwave something that claims to be lasagne, then go to bed.

In the morning, the power is out. Tony dresses warmly, wishing he were actually using his ski-pants for skiing, then goes to check on a few of his neighbors who are well past retirement age. They're okay; the landlord installed a back-up generator to power the heating after the ice storms a couple of years back, so while they might be stuck heating water on a camping stove, they won't freeze, and that's what really matters.

After giving a hand to dig out a couple of cars, Tony sets off on the walk to work. If he makes it far enough, he might be able to get a bus, or maybe the fates will be on his side and some kind samaritan will give him a lift like last night. But the world is white and beautiful and there's hardly any traffic around, and although the snowplows are undoubtedly working overtime to clear the roads, they aren't clearing the roads around here. It takes Tony nearly three hours to slog in, and yeah, maybe he should just have called in and taken the day off, but something about the way the people he passes smile and call out good morning lifts his spirits, and anyway, he doesn't have his phone. He's unreachable and for once, it feels good. For the first time in ages, he feels good.

He's so late that another ten minutes won't matter, so Tony stops off at the coffee shop near the Navy Yard and picks up drinks and pastries for the team. It doesn't matter if they aren't in; someone will be and Tony's certain they won't go to waste. He heads into the Yard, grateful for the good job someone's done of clearing the sidewalks, and whistles as he passes through security and takes the elevator up to the bullpen.

That's when things get weird.

Everyone looks at him like they've seen a ghost and Gibbs – Gibbs is hugging him (he doesn't think about how damn good that feels), and Abby's joining in, and it takes a few minutes before Tony manages to extricate himself and finds out they think he's been caught up in a fatal pile-up on the Beltway.

Oh.

He'll never admit it, but Tony has warm fuzzies inside at this proof they care about him, care about what happens to him, even McGee. Even Ziva. He pushes it down, focuses on defusing the tension, getting everyone over their worry and the jitters from that adrenaline-trickle of low-level fear, and by the time Gibbs calls it a day, just a few short hours later, they're all doing fine.

But Gibbs insists on driving him home – the roads have been plowed by now – and for the first time in, god, three months, they settle down to pizza and beer. It's by candlelight, since the power is still out, and it's only then that it hits Tony: it's Valentine's Day. Well, Gibbs bursts out laughing and wishes him a happy Valentine's day, but still, that counts.

Tony manages a smile and clinks beer bottles with his boss, who looks way too good for a man his age with the candlelight softening the laughter-lines around the corners of his eyes.

"Happy Valentine's day," he says. "Not quite the evening I'd anticipated, but…" He shrugs, glancing round the room, because isn't it a kick in the teeth that now he knows he'll never have this for real, he has the setup for the perfect romantic date with the guy he's been in love with for the past ten years. Tony's pretty sure somewhere Someone's laughing themselves silly.

Gibbs gives him a sharp look. "Got a hot date lined up?"

Yup, Fate or God or whoever, they're definitely laughing. Tony hasn't bothered looking for company since that fateful phone call, but Gibbs doesn't need to know that, so he keeps smiling. "Yeah, with a stack of movies." Tony indicates the pile of dvds sitting next to the redundant television. "10 Things I Hate About You, Practical Magic, Kate and Leopold, She's The Man." He sighs and leans forward, flips open the pizza box. "So it's lame and more than a little girly, but in my defense, two of those are based on Shakespeare, so…" He trails off and concentrates on biting the point off his slice, as if he could ignore the weight of Gibbs' stare.

So it takes him by surprise when Gibbs says, "I owe you an apology. My dad was right." Tony's head snaps round and he stares at his boss, wide-eyed, as Gibbs ducks his head and picks at the label on his bottle. "I freaked out and I hurt you. I'm sorry."

Carefully, Tony sets down his pizza and his beer, wipes off his fingers and swallows his mouthful with some effort. "Boss…"

"No, not your boss here," Gibbs says. He continues with unprecedented openness and emotional candor. "Jethro. I miss you, Tony. I miss this." He waves a hand. "Just spending time together outside of work. I miss you more than I've missed my last three wives, and I see you pretty much every day. If I wasn't so chickenshit, I'd have let myself know long before it got to this."

Tony feels like he's been punched. He croaks, "What, Jethro? What would you have let yourself know?"

Gibbs takes a deep breath and sets down his beer. He takes Tony's hands in his. "That I… God, that I love you." Tony stares as his emotionally guarded, functionally mute boss bares his heart and soul; for a moment, he wonders if he's fallen through into some alternate universe. "I'm miserable without you. I don't know how we're going to make this work, or even if you want to make it work, but I want to go home with you every night and I want to wake up next to you every morning for the rest of my life." He shudders. "Tony."

Tony's hands tighten until he's gripping Gibbs almost painfully. He feels like he's in freefall and he doesn't know if he has a parachute; he doesn't know what he's going to say until his mouth opens and words tumble out.

"You're my boss. You're a bad-tempered sonofabitch and you're going to be paying alimony for, like, another hundred years because you've been married four times. To redheads. To women. You think communication's something that happens to other people and you can't function without coffee. You pretend you don't need reading glasses and you seem to think you're invincible." He sighs. "I'm just your pain-in-the-ass senior field agent. I'm not female and I won't dye my hair red, not even for you. You don't know if I'm gay, or bi, or if I just want to be friends. Hell, come to that, you don't even know if you're bi. We've never so much as kissed. And you didn't figure out we were dating until your dad pointed it out to you." There's so much more he could say, but he's about reached his limit. For now.

Gibbs shrugs. "Yeah, I know. You'd be better off with pretty much anyone else on the planet. And if you want, I won't… I won't bring it up again. I just needed you to know. So." He blinks and looks away.

It takes a split second for the penny to drop, then Tony drops Gibbs' hands and cuffs Gibbs round the back of the head. There's no way he's going to let Gibbs talk himself out of this, not after Gibbs has offered him everything he's ever wanted. "You're an idiot, you get that?"

"Yeah," Gibbs says ruefully, rubbing the back of his head. "At least it wasn't a nine iron this time."

Tony rolls his eyes. "No, you really are an idiot," he says, amusement and affection coloring his tone. He leans forward and slowly, giving his boss time to freak out and run away if he really wants to, he presses his lips to Gibbs'. He feels the older man shiver as stubble brushes against stubble. Gibbs' lips part and Tony shifts closer, cups his face and changes the angle until Gibbs sighs and parts his lips. Tony takes charge, tilts his head a fraction more, pushes forward, wraps his arms around those broad shoulders and loses himself in a fierce give and take until some indefinable length of time later, they break, panting, wrapped around each other.

"So, no problem with the guy thing?" Tony grins.

Gibbs presses his cheek to Tony's. "No, no problem at all."

Tony nuzzles his neck, humming in contentment. "All right then. You want to finish dinner, or jump straight to the bedroom?" Gibbs' stomach rumbles and after a second, Tony's joins in. They separate, laughing. "I guess that's us told," Tony says, grinning at Gibbs' smile. He's pretty sure that if he weren't already sitting down, his knees would be giving way right now in relief.

"Yeah, I guess so," Gibbs says, so they finish up the pizza, have a couple of beers, and Tony babbles on about the plots of the movies he was going to watch, but Gibbs actually seems to like it and Tony's not about to question why. At last, Gibbs says, "If you know them all, why watch them again?"

Tony thinks for a moment, then says, "Because they're all about hope. It doesn't matter if you're from different centuries, or you cast a spell wishing for someone impossible so you'd never get your heart broken, somehow there's always a way for true love to work out." It occurs to him that there's a movie he really should have set out to watch, a movie that's absolutely perfect, and he laughs. When Gibbs raises an eyebrow, he says, "Should've fished out The Princess Bride," he chuckles.

Gibbs says, "Never had you pegged for believing in twoo wuv, Tony."

Tony's jaw drops, then a wave of lust sweeps over him. "You actually quoted a movie at me. Do you have any idea what that does to me? I think we should move this to the bedroom."

"As you wish," Gibbs says, and laughs as Tony drags him to his feet and hauls him off to bed.

 

The Happy Ending

Tony has to go back and grab a couple of the candles, then put out the others because knowing his luck, his apartment would catch on fire just to interrupt them. He re-enters the bedroom to find he's finally got a naked Gibbs stretched out on his bed, head propped up on one arm, a knee bent so Tony can get a good look at those lean thighs that frame an absolutely perfect cock and balls. Of course, the shock of walking into his bedroom and seeing Gibbs laid out like an all-you-can-eat buffet means he fumbles the candles and nearly sets fire to the place anyway, but he makes a last-second save and only spills some wax on his sock and the carpet.

He could do with putting a rug down there anyway.

Hopping on one leg to pull off his sock before the wax sticks it to his foot, Tony growls at Gibbs when he laughs. "Hey, I don't see you offering to help!"

"Old enough to be undressing yourself," Gibbs says very helpfully, but as soon as Tony's naked, his clothes left in a heap on the floor, Gibbs reaches out and pulls him down onto the soft sheets and proceeds to kiss the daylights out of him.

The candles burn steadily, casting a glow that hides some of their scars and blurs the difference in their ages. Tony gives in to the urge to rub himself against Gibbs, to explore the muscles that are still hard, a lean strength rather than Tony's more obvious bulk, but Gibbs runs his hands over every inch of him, explores his shoulders and the small of his back, the jut of his hips, the small patch of hair on top of his foot. In return, Tony's touch-drunk on the way the hair on Gibbs' chest rasps as it rubs against his own, the feel of Gibbs' neck under his lips and tongue, the way Gibbs' butt-cheeks fit perfectly into his hands.

Gibbs groans and laughs and lets Tony indulge himself right up to the point where he reaches a hand between them and wraps it around Tony's cock.

"Boss!" Tony shakes apart in an embarrassingly short time, but Gibbs doesn't seem to care, and as soon as he can breathe again, Tony shows Gibbs just how much he appreciates him, using his hands and his mouth to coax the older man into what is, by all appearances, a pretty earthshaking orgasm.

They use Tony's undershirt to clean up, then they pull up the covers and Tony wriggles around until he's curled around Gibbs like a cat around a teddybear.

"You done?" Gibbs asks, but he sounds amused, so Tony hums an affirmative and gives one last little wiggle, just because he can, before settling down into a well-earned nap.

Although a part of Tony fully expects them to be called out at oh-dark-o'clock, they get to sleep uninterrupted until the alarm on Gibbs' phone wakes them in the morning. Tony gets a grunt and a kiss and a smack on the butt as Gibbs hauls himself out of bed and goes to use the bathroom. The power's still out, so it's a two-incher bath rather than a shower for both of them, and although Tony offers to scrub Gibbs' back, Gibbs shakes his head and says, "Later," which leaves Tony wondering how much later later is, and if that possibly includes showers in the gym at work, which would be all kinds of exciting but probably not the best for their job prospects.

He gets a headslap, because Gibbs always knows what he's thinking, and while Gibbs potentially has a whole long list of dirty thoughts himself to explore, they have to get moving if they're to de-ice the car and make it into work via Gibbs' favorite caffeine-dealer before 9.

"You always that quiet after sex?" Gibbs asks as they inch out of the slick parking lot.

Tony chokes, then blushes, then laughs. "No, not really."

Gibbs gets this smug look, then says, "So what, I'm your catnip?" As Tony splutters, he grins an evil little grin that bodes absolutely no good for Tony whatsoever, and says, "You ever see a cat in a patch of catnip?"

Tony pouts. "You looked like you were having fun."

Gibbs takes one hand off the wheel and taps Tony under the chin. "Didn't say I wasn't. Just wondering about tonight."

That's enough to have Tony sitting uncomfortably in his seat all the way to the coffee shop and he has to get out into sub-zero temperatures, and Gibbs is definitely having way too much fun now he's got a whole new way to torment Tony.

But the thaw comes a few days later; Tony gets his car and his phone back, and a week later he's sat on the stairs in Gibbs' basement watching the older man at work on his latest project when the phone rings. Gibbs tosses it to him and he answers with a cheery, "Gibbs' phone, how may I service you?"

After Gibbs has gotten over his coughing fit and Jack has finally stopped laughing, Tony catches up with his lover's dad and thanks him for bringing his son up to be such a romantic, which leads to a PG-rated explanation and having to ignore the patented DeathGlare Gibbs is sending his way, because if Gibbs is going to torment him with sex, the least he can do is get a little of his own back by talking to Jack.

"He finally going to make an honest man of you?" Jack asks, and Tony can tell he isn't entirely joking.

"You know, he's been keeping me on the straight and narrow since I met him," Tony says thoughtfully. "Well, apart from teaching me how to pick locks and when not to wait for a warrant, that is. Hey, does that mean he's been leading me astray?"

"Yeah, sounds about right," Jack says sourly. "Pass me over to my son, will you?"

Tony does as he's told and watches as Gibbs grumbles at his dad. "Didn't you cause enough trouble last time?"

He slips behind Gibbs and presses against his back, listening in as a tinny voice says, "I was right, though, wasn't I? Listen to the voice of experience for once in your life, Leroy!"

Gibbs glares at the phone, then snaps, "Fine. This good enough for ya?" Keeping the phone held up between them, he turns his head and says, "Tony, my dad wants to know if you'll marry me."

"You still haven't moved me in here," Tony points out cheerfully. "And when the power went out, whose place was it that had heating? Oh, that's right, it was mine!"

"I'll buy a generator," Gibbs growls. "Yes or no?"

"Sure, why not?" Tony beams. "Jack, you up for a summer wedding?"

"As long as I don't have to wear a damn fool penguin suit, I don't care when you have it," Jack says. "Listen, I gotta go make a few calls."

"PFLAG?" Tony asks, but Gibbs shakes his head.

"You had a bet with the guys at the diner, didn't you?" he says. "I want half your winnings."

"Taking the bread out of your own father's mouth. Your poor, aged father!" Jack says, then laughs himself silly. "Oh, and the doc bet me fifty bucks too, so thanks for sending him over." He hangs up and Gibbs tosses the phone into the corner.

"You realize he'll want us to have a reception up in Stillwater so all his buddies can come," he says drily, but he isn't really put out about it, so Tony wraps his arms around his fiancé and takes the opportunity to get in some quality snuggling before Gibbs goes back to his woodworking.

"You realize you asked me to marry you because your dad's going soft in his old age, right?" Tony says. "I mean, if you don't want to, that's okay–"

Gibbs cuts him off with a headslap that's more of a love tap. "You're an idiot, DiNozzo," he says fondly.

"Yeah, but I'm your idiot," Tony says. "And you're mine."

Since that's patently true, there's nothing more to be said, and when Gibbs takes Tony to bed later and Tony wraps himself around the older man, getting as much of him in contact with as much of Gibbs as possible, as though that's slowly making up for a lifetime of not being touched, Gibbs wraps his arms around Tony and vows into the quiet darkness that he'll never push Tony away again. And though things aren't perfect, since their jobs are tough and sometimes bring out the worst in them, they find a way around the inevitable arguments and miscommunications, and when next Valentine's day rolls around, they watch The Princess Bride, naked, in bed together, and afterwards they cuddle up together and life is good.