Tony's hands gripped the steering wheel tightly as he drove to Bethesda Naval Hospital. He couldn't get the image of Gibbs' barely alive body out of his head. Flesh burnt, cut and blistered, red raw and bloody. Those few terrifying moments when Tony had thought his lover was dead. Yes, his lover. He could remember, clear as day, when Gibbs had pulled him into the elevator and shut off the power, turned to look him in the eye and asked what the hell was going on. That had been after one of Tony's frequent 'Gibbs watching' sessions had gotten him off track in their case. That amazing day, nearly two and a half years ago, when Gibbs had stood there and interrogated Tony until he broke down and admitted he was in love with the silver-haired, blue-eyed man in front of him. As soon as he'd said it, he'd panicked, fearing rejection and possibly even getting fired. He hadn't shown it, though. Or at least, he'd attempted not to, standing there, stock still and eyes lowered, planning a way to switch the elevator power back on while Gibbs was standing in front of the button.
There had been long moments of excruciating silence in which Tony was almost certain he'd be called an idiot, told to pack his things and thrown out, never to see any of them again. Then, he'd felt a calloused hand on his chin, tilting his head up to meet the ice-blue eyes he loved so much. The image burned in his mind even now, those eyes showing emotions he had only seen in his dreams over the past year. There was surprise, relief, but most importantly, love. Gibbs had smiled at him, and the hand had moved to cup his cheek. "You should have said something sooner," Gibbs had said softly, before all Tony could register was the feel of lips on his, an arm around his waist and a hand in his hair. It had taken a few moments to realise he wasn't dreaming before he'd started to respond, parting his lips in invitation for the tongue prodding against them, gripping his boss' hips as the taste of coffee and Gibbs overwhelmed his senses. At that moment, Tony had decided he liked coffee.
When they had finally broken apart for air, the hand in Tony's hair had moved to the base of his neck, and Gibbs had looked at him, face flushed a delicious shade of dark pink and lips swollen. "How long?" he'd asked, his voice slightly husky in a way that sent shivers of pleasure down Tony's spine.
"Since I noticed something about you? The day I met you. Since I started being attracted to you? About two years. Since I realised I was in love? One year, two months, eight days," Tony had replied promptly. Gibbs had closed his eyes briefly, then pressed a soft kiss to Tony's lips.
"So much time wasted," he'd murmured, "Next time you have something this important to say, Tony, don't keep it to yourself. I love you, Tony DiNozzo. You're mine now, and I'll be damned if you think I'll let you go now. You okay with that?" he'd asked. Tony had nodded, still a little confused. Gibbs loved him back?
"I'd like that...Jethro." The name had felt strange on Tony's lips. Sure, he'd said it to himself plenty of times, and he'd often come screaming that name, but saying it to Gibbs was a whole different matter. The older man's lips had curved into a smile at hearing Tony say his name; one of those smiles that only Gibbs could give, the ones that made Tony's heart melt.
"Good," Gibbs had said, "Now I think we'd better go before Kate thinks I've killed you." Tony had nodded again, straightening his jacket as they had both tried to make themselves look like they hadn't just been making out in the elevator. Just as Gibbs had moved to press the button, he'd looked at Tony. "My house, after work," he'd told him.
"Yes, boss," Tony had replied, schooling his face into his usual expression of sheepishness he got after being reprimanded as the doors opened. Kate had looked at him with a sort of smugness that Tony had had to be taken to Gibbs' 'conference room'. Tony had just grinned and made a teasing comment, before getting back to work on the case.
Tony was drawn into another memory as he turned a corner and drove past a saw mill, getting a strong blast of the smell of sawdust, it reminded him of Gibbs. The first time Tony had been allowed to help his lover with his boat had been the night after his confession. Gibbs had invited him down to his basement, poured some bourbon into a mug and started to work, sanding one of the ribs of the boat as he talked to Tony.
After about an hour or so, Gibbs had beckoned Tony over and placed him in front of him, putting his arms around the younger man to hold the sander. Their bodies had been pressed tightly together and Gibbs had instructed Tony to hold the sander how he was, and had covered Tony's hands with his own as he taught him how to sand the wood just right. Tony had closed his eyes, basking in the feeling of his new lover's body so close to his own, the smell of sawdust lingering in the air. He had let the sensation of Gibbs' hands covering his own, fitting so perfectly as if they were made to be that way, and the feel of the wood underneath his fingers being worn away until silky smooth, wash over him, the low, husky voice of the man he loved lulling him into a peaceful state. He had felt a soft flutter of lips against his jaw line, and leant back against Gibbs' well defined chest as the sander had been abandoned and warm arms had wrapped him in a tight embrace. That was the moment Tony had understood exactly why Jethro Gibbs didn't use power tools.
Abby had been the first one to find out about them. She'd come over to see Gibbs without warning one day, and Tony had answered the door in just a pair of jeans with a large, dark love bite clear on his shoulder. He'd moved in by then, two weeks after his confession. Gibbs had told him that it was pointless for him to keep going back to his apartment for clothes every morning, and that he should just move in. That day they had gone to Tony's place, boxed up everything of importance and taken it back to Gibbs'. A week later, when Abby had found Tony answering Gibbs' door half naked, she had squealed, hugged him, and told him it was about time, before running into the kitchen to do the same to Gibbs. Apparently, she'd known for months that they liked each other, and had been on the verge of locking them in a storage closet. That was the moment Tony realised why Abby was Gibbs' favourite.
The next person to find out had been Ducky. Tony and Gibbs had been down in the morgue, engaged in a rather heated kiss, when Ducky had walked in, taken one look at them and stated quite jovially that he was glad they had found happiness in each other, but if they were going to do that, could they please do it in a place where they weren't likely to contaminate evidence. They had both sprung apart, blushing like guilty teens who had been caught by their parents, and Ducky had chuckled, going into a story about the time one man had almost been convicted of murder because he had had sex on a coroner's exam table and not cleaned up after himself. Gibbs had told Ducky that if they did have sex down here, they'd make sure to clean up, before walking over to look at the report as if nothing had happened. He'd read the report, talked to Ducky, then left with a hurried order to Tony, who had responded with a prompt "Yes, boss,". He'd hopped off the table he was sitting on and made to leave, when he was stopped by a hand on his arm. Ducky had looked him in the eye seriously.
"Look after him, Anthony. He's had enough heartbreak and hurt in his life, and he doesn't need any more," he'd said, and Tony could have sworn he'd heard a subtle threatening undertone from the usually mild-mannered doctor. He had promised to look after Jethro, then left to do his work. That was the moment Tony had realised just how dear a friend Ducky was to his lover.
Kate had never found out about Tony and Gibbs; she had been killed before they'd had the chance to tell her. Tony still had nightmares about that day that left him whimpering in Jethro's arms. The moment the blood spattered across his face. Kate's blood. Both Tony and Gibbs had been distraught after that. Kate had been like a sister and daughter respectively to them. Tony knew Gibbs always regretted not telling her about his and Tony's relationship. They had told McGee a week after her death. Neither of them had wanted something like that to happen to him before they told him.
They had pulled him aside in Abby's lab one day, and he'd asked what was going on, eyes darting around nervously. "There's something you should know. Something we regret not telling Kate about before it was too late, and we don't want to make the same mistake with you," Gibbs had started, standing next to Tony. McGee had looked at them curiously.
"Okay...If it's sensitive information or something, I won't tell anyone, not even Abby," the young agent had assured them.
"We know you won't, McGee, but Abby knows anyway. It's not sensitive information per say, but we would prefer it if you didn't spread it around," Gibbs had said. McGee had nodded, more than a little perplexed at Gibbs' behaviour. "Tony and I are...together. As in, in a romantic relationship. I assure you that it does not affect our working relationship in any way, but if it bothers you, I can have you transferred to another team," he had told him carefully, watching the young man's face for any signs. McGee had blinked a few times, looking between Tony and Gibbs, then to where their hands were clasped, reassuring each other. Tony had stood there, silently hoping McGee would be okay with it. For all his teasing, Tony was really coming to see McGee as one of their own. Part of the team. Part of the family. And he would've hated for their relationship to be ruined because he couldn't accept them. They had waited in silence for a few moments before McGee had spoken.
"You've obviously been together for a while now, and I haven't noticed you treat Tony any differently to any of us, boss, so I can see it doesn't affect work. It just surprises me, I mean, you have three ex wives, and Tony, well, I never thought you would be interested in men," he'd admitted. Here, Tony had had to stop himself from laughing. One of the reasons he'd been thrown out of his home at the age of thirteen was because his father had caught him kissing a boy behind the school gym. "But yeah, I'm completely fine with it. I'm happy for both of you," McGee had said honestly, a smile on his face. Tony had squeezed his lover's hand in relief, and moved to clap McGee on the back, grinning.
"Good man, McGee. Welcome to the family," he'd said. McGee had grinned back.
"Then we've got a seriously dysfunctional family, Tony. A good one, though," he'd remarked, making Tony laugh and Gibbs crack a small smile. Jethro had checked his watch, and his eyebrows had shot up.
"Damn, I gotta meet with Jen. McGee, unless you've got anything else to do, you can go home. Tony, I'll be done in half an hour or so, so if you would be so kind as to wait for me?" he'd asked. Tony had chuckled and pecked him on the lips.
"Sure, I'll be around, find me when you're done," he had said, shooing the other man out with a swat on the ass. When he was gone, Tony had looked back to McGee. "You okay, Probie?" he'd asked, snapping him back into reality.
"what? Oh, yeah. It's just, Gibbs was just nice to you. That part will take some getting used to," he'd said with a grin. Tony had laughed, and at that moment, Tony understood what people said when they said the best family wasn't the one you were born into, but the one you made yourself. And with Jethro, McGee, Abby, Ducky and even Jen, Tony had felt he had the best family in the world.
Tony had a brief flash of memory, of the picture on their bedroom wall. It had been taken about two or three months after Ziva had arrived. Tony, McGee, Ziva and Gibbs had been doing an investigation in a place off the gulf of Mexico, and the hotel they had been staying in only had two rooms for them, each with a single bed. Ziva had taken one room, while the men had stayed in the other, with Tony and Gibbs sharing the single bed and McGee on the floor. Ziva had woken early, and come across to their room while Tony and Gibbs were still asleep.
McGee had let her in, forgetting that she didn't know about them, and she had spotted the couple, asleep in each other's arms, given McGee a victorious smirk and whipped out the camera, snapping a picture of the two of them. Tony's head had been on Gibbs' chest, with the older man's nose buried in his hair and Gibbs' arms wrapped around him protectively, their legs intertwined. "I knew it!" she'd exclaimed in a whisper, McGee's wide-eyed gaze on her inquisitively. She had shrugged. "What? It's not that hard to figure out with all of Abby's cryptic comments, plus the fact that Tony's car hasn't left the parking lot in weeks. I think they're cute," she'd explained, not realising Gibbs' eye cracking open lazily.
"I don't do cute, Ziva," he's remarked. She'd whipped around, blushing.
"Oh, Gibbs, you're awake. No, I wasn't implying that you were cute, I was saying that I think your relationship with Tony is cute. Damn, I've really put my hand in it, haven't I?" she'd said hopelessly, looking at Gibbs' sharp gaze.
"I think you mean 'put your foot in it', and yes, you have, Ziva. But ignore Jet, he's cranky in the mornings without his coffee," Tony had said cheekily, opening his eyes just in time for the light whack to the head.
"You do not want to know how cranky I can get, Tony," Gibbs had warned him, a hint of a smile on his lips. Tony had shared a grin with Ziva, and at that moment, Tony had decided that Ziva wasn't the cold, hard Mossad she claimed to be. Not all the time, at least.
That reminded Tony of the photo next to it. The photo that also hung in the self proclaimed 'NCIS Annual Picnic Hall of Fame'. They had gone on the picnic, and Tony and Jethro had decided to take a little trip into the woods. Now, it had been their team's turn to set up this year, so they, McGee and Ziva, along with Abby and Ducky who had offered to help, had been there early. So Tony and Gibbs had decided there was time for a quick grope under cover of the trees. Of course, they hadn't figured on the Director deciding that it was a good day for a walk, and leading half of NCIS on the scenic route. Along with the photographer they had hired.
Tony had been locked in a passionate embrace with a half naked Gibbs, his own shirt flung in some branches a few feet away, and had been working on the older man's belt with the distraction of Gibbs' hands doing something so good it shouldn't be legal, when he'd heard a loud gasp, followed by more gasps, a few wolf-whistles, and a series of camera clicks. They had both frozen, and lifted their heads up slowly to see a heavily blushing Director, and many of their colleagues with varying expressions on their faces, ranging from embarrassment, shock, surprise, and a few women with their 'aww, that's so sweet' faces on, to faces of disgust and even a couple of smug expressions. Tony had later found out that those were the people who had had a bet on about which of his team Gibbs was screwing and had bet on Tony. The photographer had been still snapping away in the corner, and Tony had looked to Gibbs, willing his blush to go away. "I don't suppose we could convince them that they're all hallucinating, could we, Jet?" he'd asked hopefully. Gibbs had glanced from the crowd, then back to Tony.
"Don't think so, Tone. I suppose we'd better go tell Ducky to start up the barbeque. Special Agent Cooper, would you mind passing me my shirt?" he'd asked calmly, as if he didn't have kiss-swollen lips, a row of hickeys up his chest and 'I've-just-been-fucked' hair. The blushing woman had pulled his shirt down from a branch above her head and handed it to him as Tony retrieved his own. Tony had shrugged his shirt on, then realised half the buttons had been ripped off when Gibbs had gotten impatient. Gibbs had looked down at his own shirt and seen the same, along with a tear in one of his button holes. He'd looked up at Tony with a smirk. "Rough bastard, I liked this shirt," he'd complained playfully, fully aware that everyone could hear them. Tony had smirked back teasingly.
"We'll get you a new one, Jet. What are we going to do for now, though? I haven't got a spare," Tony had asked him. Gibbs had shrugged nonchalantly.
"Leave it open, it's not like they haven't seen it, now," he'd suggested, gesturing to their audience. Tony had nodded and grabbed Jethro's hand, making to walk away.
"Oh no you don't, boys. Get back here," the Director had ordered them. They had stood in front of her, waiting for her to either fire them or congratulate them. Either that or tell them to stop seeing each other, but Tony hadn't even wanted to think about that. "How long has this been going on?" she had asked sternly, her voice betraying no emotion.
"A year and three months, ma'am," Tony had replied, earning some raised eyebrows and whispers. The Director had done a double take.
"And you kept it secret from everyone?" she had asked, a little amazed.
"Everyone except McGee, Ziva, Ducky and Abby," Gibbs had replied, his hand still squeezing Tony's gently.
"Well I have to congratulate you on that front, not many people can keep a relationship secret under the eyes of all of NCIS," she had said. Tony had waited on edge until she had spoken again. "And, I suppose that as long as it does not affect your relationship at work, I see no reason to do anything about it," she'd continued, and Tony had let out a small sigh of relief. "Now, I believe we have a picnic to get to. Just, try to keep your hands to yourselves, boys," she'd warned them, smiling. At that moment, Tony had decided that maybe the Director wasn't so bad, really.
Of course, they'd gotten back to the picnic site and, after a thorough teasing from Abby, who was the only one brave enough to do it, everyone had gotten over it, and they'd had a really good time, no longer having to hide themselves. And that picture wasn't the only picture of them from that day. There was another one, framed and hung on Tony's cubicle wall at work, from when the sun was starting to set over the lake they were by, and most people had gone home. During the course of the day, a few people had gone swimming in the lake, Tony, Gibbs, McGee and Abby included. They had stripped down to their underwear, Abby gaining more than a few appreciative looks, and dived in.
The picture was some time afterwards, when the water had gotten too cold. McGee, in his shirt and trousers, and Abby, in her black mini-skirt and slightly damp black and red skull and cross bones tank top, were caught in mid-kiss, arms around each other. Next to them, Ducky was regaling Ziva with one of his many stories, both of them with smiles on their faces. On McGee and Abby's other side, Tony and Gibbs were stood, both in just their jeans, which for Tony were low-riding. Gibbs was stood behind Tony, his chest flush against the other man's back and arms looped loosely around his waist, Tony's hands covering his own. He seemed to be whispering something into the younger man's ear, making Tony smile softly, and both had the look of two people very much in love. Tony loved that photo, and it brought a smile to his face whenever he looked at it, as it did for all of the people captured in it.
Tony was dragged out of his memories as he pulled up in a parking space as the hospital. The doctors had called to say that Gibbs had woken up, but didn't remember anything since Shannon and Kelly had been killed, the last time he was in a coma after the explosion. They said that maybe seeing Tony would help him remember something, and as Tony entered the hospital, he hoped to God it did. He couldn't bear to think of what he would do if Gibbs, the man he loved more than life itself, never remembered who he was. He flashed his badge at the reception desk, and informed the woman he was here to see Jethro Gibbs. "Room 247, third floor," she replied kindly, and Tony thanked her, before walking straight to the stairs.
Would Jethro remember him? Would he ever get 'his' Gibbs back? The one who whacked him over the head when he said something stupid, and held him through the night when his nightmares became too much, whispering reassurances and words of love in his ear. Would he ever remember the time they'd been kissing in the basement when Fornell had come down, asking Gibbs for some input on a case. Or the day they'd met that woman in the shopping mall, who'd started ranting on about how 'those dirty fags' 'should be locked up by the authorities', and they'd turned to her in the middle of the store, pulling their badges and told her quite plainly that they were the authorities, and could she kindly keep her homophobic opinions to herself. Would he remember when Tony had come down with the flu and he'd spent a week looking after him, catering to his every need and worrying constantly, no matter how many times Tony assured him he was fine.
These thoughts rushed through Tony's head at a hundred miles an hour as he took shaky steps towards room 247. Ducky was stood outside, and gave him an encouraging squeeze of the shoulder. Tony reached out and slowly opened the door, stepping inside. Jethro was sat up against the pillows, dressed in a hospital gown, arms and face covered in healing burns. Tony felt a tug in his chest as he looked at his injured lover, wanting nothing more than to take him in his arms and hold him close. His gaze travelled to Gibbs' eyes, those ice-blue orbs he adored, and saw a confused stare looking back at him, as if he didn't recognise him. "Do I know you?" Those four words came in a hoarse voice from the man in front of him, proving that no memories had been stirred.
And at that moment, Tony's heart shattered.