Gibbs was back. Gibbs was back. And not back as in 'I'm just here to help Ziva and then I'm off again' like he'd been telling them since he'd gotten here, but back as in 'my stuff in on my desk and you'd better get back into the habit of calling me boss'. Tony had been hoping for and dreading this moment since the second Gibbs had walked out the door, what felt like years ago and seconds ago at the same time.
Gibbs was back. And he had a moustache. Gibbs had a moustache. Had the world gone completely insane?
Tony had no idea what to say to the older man. Did Gibbs even remember him? Remember what they had together? Ducky had told him that, according to the reports of Gibbs' doctors at Bethesda, he had been slowly gaining his memory back, and seemed to be doing well. But apparently, he'd been remembering the most important things – from Gibbs' perspective – first. What if his brain hadn't considered Tony important enough to remember? The thought made Tony's heart clench. He was just being stupid, right? Gibbs wouldn't forget him, he loved him. He'd said so countless times before the explosion.
At least they'd caught the guy who'd planted the bomb. It had taken all of Tony's restraint – and a lot of Ziva's upper body strength – to not kill the guy there and then for almost killing Gibbs, almost taking him away from him. But then Gibbs had left of his own free will, and Tony didn't really have anyone to blame for that. Mike, for encouraging him to go to Mexico? Himself, for not fighting hard enough to make him stay? Gibbs, for leaving him like that? If any, it should probably have been the latter, but he'd never been able to blame Gibbs for anything. Not for more than five minutes of righteous anger, anyway.
Tony was currently in Abby's lab, sitting in her office on her couch, knees tucked up to his chin and hugging Bert to his chest, the hippo occasionally breaking the silence with a loud fart. When he'd come down here, skin pale, hands shaking and eyes wide like a startled horse, Abby had taken one look at him and put two and two together. She'd hugged him tight, kissing him on the forehead like Tony imagined a sister or mother would do. He wouldn't know; he'd never had a sister, and he may as well have never had a mother. Abby hadn't let go for a long time, but when she finally had, she had smiled at him, handed him Bert, and directed him to the couch, squeezing his hand once and kissing his hair. "You can stay here as long as you like, Tonybear, I won't let Gibbs get to you," she had murmured softly, before leaving, shutting the door behind her. Tony really didn't tell Abby how amazing she was often enough.
He looked up when he heard raised voices – specifically, Abby and Gibbs' raised voices. He couldn't help but flinch when he watched Abby standing defiantly in front of Gibbs, the silver-haired man towering a good four inches over her, but the goth girl stood her ground. "Get out of my way and let me talk to Tony, Abby," Gibbs demanded, for once speaking harshly to the scientist. Abby shook her head firmly, her plaits swinging.
"No, Gibbs, you've already broken his heart, I'm not letting you make it any worse! Why the hell did you leave? You didn't even call, or email, or anything! You just up and left. How were we supposed to feel? How was Tony supposed to feel? Did you even think of him at all in Mexico?" she yelled furiously. Gibbs paused in his shouting, a pained expression on his face, but instead of replying, his ice blue eyes travelled over Abby's shoulder, locking with Tony's olive green ones. Tony's eyes widened, and Gibbs' softened.
"Tony," he murmured brokenly, and Abby glared at him.
"Yeah, Tony. You remember, your partner? The guy you've spent the past two years of your life with? The guy who loves you more than life itself? You have no idea what you've put him through, Gibbs. Congratulations on finally living up to your 'second B for Bastard' reputation, I hope you're real happy," she spat. Gibbs ignored her, reaching out and picking her up by the shoulders, moving her out of the way and striding past towards her, pressing the button to unlock the door. Tony's eyes went even wider, and he defensively tucked his knees in tighter, pressing down on Bert and making him let out a particularly loud fart. Gibbs' lips twitched in the faintest of smiles at the noise, but Tony was freaking out too much to laugh. What the hell was he supposed to do now? Part of him wanted to jump into Gibbs' arms and never let go, while another part wanted to tell him to get the fuck out and go screw himself, and yet another part wanted to ask why he'd gone. Which part did he listen to?
"Tony…" Gibbs breathed, starting forward. Tony scrambled back until his back hit the wall, a look of panic on his face.
"Don't. Don't, don't touch me," he said shakily. Gibbs' expression morphed into one of concern.
"Tony, are you okay?" he asked worriedly. Tony let out a harsh laugh.
"Am I okay? Am I okay? God, Gibbs, do you really think I'm okay? You leave me, leave us, without a word, then waltz back in and take charge, and you expect me to be okay?" he asked incredulously. "Damn it, Jethro, I can't be like you. I can't shove everything aside and pretend like nothing ever happened between us," he said, his voice choked. He was shocked to feel wetness on his cheeks, realizing he was crying. When had that happened?
"I don't want to pretend like nothing ever happened, Tony," Gibbs replied quietly. Tony scoffed.
"Really, 'cause it sure doesn't seem like it. I'm tired, Jethro. I'm tired of this, of you being able to drag my emotions all over the place. I haven't had more than three hours sleep at a time since the explosion. I haven't eaten a full meal in weeks, and I've lost count of the amount of times I've gotten so drunk I've had to have Ducky give me a banana bag. I don't wanna do it anymore," he said, voice cracking.
"Does that mean what I think it means? Are- are you leaving me?" Gibbs asked, panicked. Tony raised an eyebrow, still not letting Gibbs get near him. Abby was nowhere to be found.
"How can I leave you when you've already left me?" he asked bitterly. Gibbs frowned.
"I never left you, Tony," he murmured, reaching to clasp Tony's shoulder. Tony flinched away from his touch, making Gibbs' expression crumble.
"Then what do you call going to Mexico for months?" Tony asked him. Gibbs shook his head.
"I didn't do that to leave you, Tony. I did it because I had to sort my thoughts out. I still had gaps in my memories, I didn't want to come back without my head straight," he insisted. Tony looked up to meet his eyes, tears still trickling from his own.
"And you couldn't have said something to me before going? Couldn't have explained this to me before you left? I thought that either you didn't remember me, us, or you didn't love me anymore and wanted an out," he admitted. Gibbs' eyes widened and, ignoring Tony's protests, moved forward to wrap his arms around him tightly, pulling him to his chest.
"Never think that I don't love you, Tony. I'm so sorry, so, so sorry for leaving like that, Tony. I just… didn't want you to see me weak like that," Gibbs confessed. Tony craned his neck to look up at Gibbs, having given up struggling. It just felt so good to be back in his arms after so long.
"You should know I don't care if you're weak as a kitten, Jethro, I'll still love you. Besides, having some memory gaps doesn't mean you're weak. It means you just got blown up," he told him. Gibbs frowned at him apologetically.
"I know that now. Listen, Tony, I've been a colossal idiot, and I can understand if you never want to see my face again after all I've done, but I really want to apologise for all the shit I've put you through. I had no right, and I'm sorry, and I just hope you forgive me for it. Please, Tony, I love you. Don't leave me," he murmured quietly, his own eyes shining with unshed tears. Tony's eyes were wide. Gibbs apologising twice in the space of five minutes? The world really had gone mad.
"I should hate you right now," he told him, and Gibbs' eyes lowered as he made to pull away. Tony's hand closed around his wrist, stopping him, and Gibbs looked at him imploringly. "But you're lucky that I never could hate you. I haven't forgiven you, and it's going to take a hell of a lot of time until I can, but God help me, I love you too damn much to let you walk away now, Leroy Jethro Gibbs," he finished, a slight smile on his face as he cupped Gibbs' chin, forcing him to meet his gaze. Gibbs looked back at him with a hopeful expression on his face.
"You're not leaving me?" he asked hesitantly. Tony shook his head, moving one hand down to take Gibbs', bringing them up between their faces so they could both see the matching platinum bands on their ring fingers.
"I'm not leaving you, Jet. You're wearing your ring, I thought it had been destroyed in the blast," he said quietly.
"No, it was alright. The doctors gave it to me when I was discharged, but in the chaos I'd forgotten about it until I got to Mexico and found it in my bag," Gibbs replied, bringing Tony's hand to his lips and kissing the ring on his finger. "I love you, Tony. So much. I promise I'll never hurt you like that again," he breathed. Tony felt the first true smile in months spread across his lips.
"I love you too, Jethro," he said softly in reply, tentatively leaning closer. Gibbs closed the distance between them, capturing his lips in a slow, gentle kiss. Tony couldn't help but grin to himself as everything seemed to slide back into place. The world had righted itself again, everything was alright, except… "Jethro, just promise me something else, please?" Tony asked once they had parted. Gibbs gave him a curious look.
"Anything," he replied firmly. Tony gave him a small, mischievous grin.
"Shave off that damn moustache."