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The first time it happened, Tony was a hundred percent sure he was hallucinating. After all, there was Ziva and McGee – his cute, darling little Probie, trying to practice his interrogation skills – and a suspect on the other side of the glass, and he and Gibbs were in Observation, you know, observing the situation. And then the tech brushed by him to step out and refresh his coffee. And they were in Observation, just Gibbs and him, the two of them, alone together, the computer blinking, and Ziva was doing her shtick with cleaning her always impeccable fingernails with the point of her dagger, and McGee was stuttering his way through trying to be the bad cop. They were attempting ‘bad cop worse cop’ and Ziva was menacing enough and quite obviously worse cop, but McGee, well. Tony sighed and shook his head. McGee definitely needed more work as bad cop. Tony would have to work on him to get him to shape up or he would never be able to pull off bad cop.

Tony was paying complete attention to what was going on in Interrogation, paying attention to what the suspect was saying, mouthing comments to Gibbs, and making fun of McGee’s performance. The usual, really. But as soon as the door shut behind the tech and Tony and Gibbs were alone in Observation, it happened.

Tony was halfway through a very witty comment – even if he did say so himself – comparing McGee to the bad cop in There’s Something About Mary, in the scene where they were interrogating the Ben Stiller character about the fact that he was a serial killer and he’d inadvertently admitted his guilt, and Tony was dissecting the bad cop’s performance in that scene and rolling his eyes, mentioning that perhaps McGee was performing more like Ben Stiller was in that scene rather than the bad cop, when he blew out a breath mid-word as he was tackled right into the one-way mirror, the back of his head thunking on it loudly.

“Boss?” he gasped, looking around, wondering if the perp had gotten loose, had somehow secreted a weapon into Interrogation, or some other terrorist or criminal was on the loose in Observation and Gibbs was trying to push him out of the way of some unseen danger, but all he saw was an empty Observation room. And Gibbs. And Gibbs’ face was shockingly close to his. And Gibbs’ body was somehow in between Tony’s legs, crotch snug against his, but not grinding into him.

And then, that was when It Happened.

Gibbs’ face, which was quite unbelievably close to his, right up in his own face in fact, closed in even more. Tony’s eyes widened and he practically squeaked when Gibbs’ lips descended on his, in a soft, fluttery, lips only, nibbly, tasty kiss. Gibbs’ forearms bracketed him, one on each side of his head, and other than the lips on his and their dicks rubbing against each other through their pants, Gibbs wasn’t touching him anywhere else. And he kept the kiss from deepening, never licking into Tony’s mouth, never requesting more from Tony. But he just kept kissing Tony, eyes closed, as if nothing else in the world existed other than his lips and Tony’s.

Tony knew he should be protesting, objecting, pushing Gibbs away and slapping him – god, how cliché would that have been? – doing something to discourage the man, but seriously, he’d been fantasizing about kissing his boss since the time he tackled the man into the ground, thinking he was a criminal. And now those lips were soft against his, of their own volition and without Tony having done anything to instigate or somehow dare Gibbs into doing this, which were the only reasons that Tony could think of that Gibbs would ever kiss him. Either Tony needed to be punished, or it was a dare. No other options existed. So this kind of shorted Tony’s brain out a little. And he just stood there like a statue, letting Gibbs nibble on his lips, light, gentle kisses that totally made all his synapses misfire.

It was just when Tony’s brain finally kicked back into gear and he was about to either push Gibbs off him (Ha! Fat chance!) or kiss him back (Oh yeah!) when all of a sudden he found himself alone, leaning against the glass, weak kneed, and Gibbs was a good two feet away from him.

“Wha…?” he mumbled, his heart pounding, mouth suddenly dry, and lips so tingly. He licked his lips and tasted coffee on them, tasted Gibbs on them.

Then the Observation room door opened and the tech walked back in with his cup of coffee. He saw how Tony was leaning against the glass, looking flushed.

“Is it too hot in here?” he asked. “I’ll lower the temperature.” He sat back down and pressed a couple of buttons, presumably to lower the temperature, and Gibbs stared into the Interrogation still in progress. Tony could do nothing but just stare at Gibbs, not comprehending at all what had just happened. Gibbs’ eyes flicked over to him, and in them was the customary blend of concern and disdain, as if it was Tony’s fault Tony wasn’t on the ball or feeling like himself.

Tony pushed himself off the mirror, knees still trembling, and straightened his shirt and jacket before he stood next to Gibbs, ensuring that he kept at least a foot between them, and stared unseeing into Interrogation. He was completely silent now, sneaking glances at the man standing beside him. Gibbs was not giving him any looks. Gibbs didn’t look as if he’d spent the last few minutes kissing Tony against the one way mirror in the dark of Observation. Gibbs didn’t look as if he was about to melt into a puddle. And Tony was. Tony was one step away from melting into a puddle at what had just happened and there was no way he could continue to pay attention to what was going on with McGee, Ziva and the suspect. Tony tried to control his breathing as he tried not to think about what he must have hallucinated. He was affected and Gibbs wasn’t. Yup. It had definitely all been in his head. Even if it had felt so real. Did delusions taste like coffee?

Gibbs sighed noisily when McGee said something.

“Get in there and get me something we can use out of this scumbag,” Gibbs growled at Tony.

For a long moment, Tony just stared at his team lead, stared at his lips, wondering if maybe, maybe he’d been concussed one too many times and had just completely hallucinated the kissing.

Gibbs rolled his eyes. “DiNozzo,” he slapped the back of Tony’s head. “Head in the game.”

“Yeah, Boss. Right away, Boss,” Tony squeaked, making a run for the door. He slammed it shut and leaned on it, catching his breath and channeling his inner Gibbs, before he stormed into Interrogation, his anger at himself and his whacked out hallucinations real by now, and he happily took it out on the suspect.

They had their confession not ten minutes later. And by then Tony had cooled down, and had convinced himself that he had imagined the whole entire thing with Gibbs and the thing that he thought happened didn’t actually happen. Yup. Probably something to do with his blood sugar level or something. He would definitely swing by the break room and swipe one of the cupcakes someone had brought in today and that would be the end of that.

But it wasn’t the end of that.

The second time it happened, it was a week or so later and Tony was behind a tree, on his hands and knees, scouring the undergrowth at a wooded crime scene – in Rock Creek Park, what do you know – looking for bullet casings. Not fifteen feet away, Ducky and Jimmy were still examining the poor dead Petty Officer, Ziva was photographing and McGee was bagging and tagging. Right there. By the body. Tony had been instructed to search for bullet casings in the tentative trajectory of the shot and given the thickness of the undergrowth, he’d been on his hands and knees, ass in the air, lamenting to himself the ruination of his Zegna pants which were bearing the brunt of the wooded undergrowth. His search was thorough, focusing on a grid that he’d mapped out in his head, picturing exactly where he thought a casing would fall if he were a bullet casing fired out of a .38, the gun held at about a height of a little under five feet off the ground, which would make the shooter someone fairly tall, assuming that five feet was about chest height for them. And given the thick growth, and the time of death of between 11 pm and 2 am the previous moonless night, there was a large chance that the shooter wouldn’t have been able to locate the casing in the dark, even if they were someone who might be careful to do such a thing in the first place.

He could hear Ducky scolding Jimmy and Ziva and McGee bantering with each other, and he crept slowly along his grid, keeping his eyes peeled and his movements careful, not wanting to disturb any evidence that he might find. He was halfway behind a tree, still having found nothing, when he was roughly yanked into a kneeling position. Gibbs was now kneeling beside him – and he had carefully knelt where Tony had already searched, for which Tony was very pleased – twisting his body around and slamming their mouths together.

Tony didn’t get a chance to even squeak before Gibbs’ lips were on his, hot and demanding, and this time, this time there was tongue. There was definitely tongue. Gibbs licked the seam of his lips and he obediently opened his mouth – nobody could ever accuse Tony of not understanding or not obeying any of Gibbs’ orders, whether they be verbalized or not – and Gibbs’ tongue was immediately in his mouth, hot and wet, and Gibbs sucked on his tongue. Sucked on it. Tony was this close to moaning into Gibbs’ mouth, never mind that they were at an active crime scene and there were way too many of his teammates within earshot.

And then abruptly it was over, and Gibbs was somehow back on the other side of the crime scene, talking to the first responders and DC Metro, and Tony was on his knees, breaths coming in short pants, licking his lips, peeking around the tree, staring wide eyed at Gibbs. Slowly the sounds of Ducky still scolding Jimmy, and the banter between McGee and Ziva filtered back through his consciousness, and Tony thought, surely, surely Gibbs had lost his mind. Either that, or Tony had. And at that point, Tony wasn’t entirely sure which option he preferred.

Or maybe, he had hallucinated that, too? A second hallucinatory Gibbs kiss? Could that be possible? Or maybe he was suffering from narcolepsy, and he was having little micro-pockets of sleep and had twice had vivid dreams of Gibbs kissing him?

His breathing finally returned to normal, and when Gibbs’ eyes flicked over at him and that impatient frown appeared, Tony frantically returned his attention to the grid search. Luckily, in the next minute or so, he hit the jackpot and found the bullet casings, the metal glint catching his eye from underneath some leaves.

He photographed the area, put down markers for each casing, photographed it some more, before he finally removed the casings and dropped them in an evidence bag, carefully marking them. He handed the bags over to McGee before he went back and resumed the grid search, to see what else he could unearth.

He pushed away all thoughts of Gibbs or Gibbs kissing him, or how Gibbs’ tongue tasted, or how much he had enjoyed it when Gibbs sucked on his tongue and focused on the case. Because he was definitely, definitely hallucinating. Or dreaming.

Later, when he asked Ducky to test him for narcolepsy, Ducky laughed until he cried, and afterwards thanked Tony for making him laugh, because he needed it. The case was a difficult one for him, since he had known the mother of the victim.

Tony sighed inwardly, thumped Ducky’s back and walked away.

For the next week or so, nothing happened. Tony kept glancing over at Gibbs, and at times just eyeing him suspiciously, wondering if he was going to be attacked and kissed again. Not that he was necessarily protesting it – god, his morning jerk off sessions in the shower had gotten that much hotter from knowing the taste of Gibbs’ mouth for reasons other than CPR and the feel of Gibbs’ tongue in his mouth – no, he wasn’t protesting the kissing. He just wanted to be more of a participant than a shellshocked bystander. And he wanted to understand it. Why was Gibbs kissing him? Was there a trigger, or did Gibbs just kind of feel like it? And what the hell did it all mean?

And besides, he was only fifty percent sure that Gibbs was kissing him. OK. Maybe forty percent sure. Alright. Twenty five percent sure. But that was a one in four chance that Gibbs was actually kissing him, and he wasn’t just making it all up in his head. And was twenty five percent more than when It Happened in Observation when he had been a hundred percent sure that he’d hallucinated that kiss.

So yeah, Tony eyed Gibbs, continuing to do it even when McGee and Ziva noticed him doing it and teased him about his neverending obsession with all things Gibbs. And Gibbs seemed his usual self, if perhaps a tad bit more smug than usual. But as they always seemed to, the MCRT got caught up in a hot case and were running around, frantically trying to find the killer before he could strike again, and seventy two hours, two more dead bodies, a gun battle and one concussed Tony later, they had rounded up the two perps, tag-teaming serial killers, marines killing other marines. It had been a very difficult case, and Tony was woozily leaning against the elevator and Gibbs was escorting him to Ducky to be examined.

Ducky checked him out, pronounced that he had a concussion (surprise!), and told him to go home and sleep it off and sternly ordered Gibbs to ensure that Tony followed these orders. Tony rolled his eyes, totally regretted it when his head throbbed even more with the eye movement, and he told Ducky he would go home after he finished his reports and not a minute sooner.

Ducky glared at him, and he glared right back before the Senior Field Agent switched tacks, seeing that Ducky was about to insist on him going home. “Besides, you know I won’t be able to relax until I know those two are behind bars for good. Let me finish the paperwork and then I’ll be a good boy and go home,” he said, wheedling to Ducky in that specific wheedle that Ducky could not resist.

Ducky sighed and shook his head. “Fine, dear boy. But dictate your reports, and ask young Timothy to type it up for you. I do not want you to look at any screens for a good twenty four hours.”

Tony whooped happily at the thought of being able to make McGee take dictation from him, and Gibbs’ hand automatically went up to smack the back of his head. Ducky caught Gibbs’ hand before it could make contact, and he clucked disapprovingly at his friend.

“The boy is concussed, Jethro!” Ducky shook his head. “Do not exacerbate his condition. I will know if either of you disobey my orders.”

Tony gave Gibbs a scared look and nodded wordlessly at Ducky, and Gibbs gave his old friend a grunt of agreement. And then they both escaped from Ducky’s lair, back into the elevator up to the squad room floor.

Tony immediately leaned back against the back wall with a sigh, closing his eyes. In truth, he was feeling more than a little battered and his head hurt like a son of a bitch. He would so be going home as soon as he could dictate his reports to McGee and sleeping for as long as he possibly could.

He was just standing there, eyes closed, breathing softly, when the elevator whined to a stop. He opened his eyes and saw Gibbs move away from the elevator emergency off button towards him. His eyes widened as Gibbs’ calloused palm came up and ever so gently cupped his cheek. Gibbs leaned in and kissed him, a soft, gentle, tender kiss. Gibbs kept their lips pressed together, thumb rubbing his cheekbone gently. Gibbs pulled away, kissed him softly once more on the lips, and again on the cheek, making him feel as if he were precious to Gibbs, before he backed away and restarted the elevator.

Tony stared at him, and kept staring while Gibbs put a hand under his elbow and gently steered him out of the elevator and into the bullpen. Tony stared at Gibbs and his expression must have been concerning enough that McGee hardly even complained when Gibbs told him to allow Tony to dictate his reports to him. And Ziva ended up running out and bringing him back a cup of hot chocolate without being asked.

In a daze that wasn’t entirely caused by the metal pipe to the head, Tony finished his work, and Ducky sent Jimmy to drive him home directly after it was done. Tony went home, crawled into bed, allowed Jimmy to tuck him in, and then he slept for almost a full twenty four hours. He woke up still snugly tucked under the covers, clinging tightly to a stuffed hippo who wasn’t Bert, but was definitely someone Abby had brought by to keep him company, and with vague memories of waking and answering annoying questions and going right back to sleep. By the time he dragged himself out of bed, he found that his refrigerator was stocked with fresh foods, there were non-loopy painkillers on his kitchen counter, and a note from Abby asking him to call when he was up.

He picked up an apple from his newly replenished fruit bowl and began chewing on it, sitting at his island, head propped up on his hand. His front door opened and Abby was by his side, hugging him, and kissing his cheek, and calling Ducky to see if she needed to do any health checks. Tony sighed and allowed her to baby him for a while. Sometimes he needed the reminder of why he was still at NCIS and this was one such day. The confusion over the thing that happened in the elevator with Gibbs, he again pushed out of his mind. It did no good to think about something that he was now about only thirty percent sure had happened. And well, given that he had been concussed at the time, it should probably be less than that, except he really wanted it to have happened now. He wanted to think that he could be precious to Gibbs. That Gibbs could have been actually worried about him.

Shit. His life was really depressing if all he wanted was to have his delusion that his boss was sneaking him kisses at work to be true.

But, life went on. And Tony’s delusion kept on going. Every few days, Gibbs would lay one right on him. In Autopsy behind Ducky’s back as Ducky was turned away, talking about the results of the autopsy he had just performed. In the parking lot, where Gibbs opened the passenger door for Tony, kissed him soundly, and then was in the driver’s seat even before Tony could react. Gibbs smooched him in the NCIS van while Tony was driving, and McGee was in the back, complaining about something or other. Tony almost crashed the van that time, but Gibbs had slapped the back of his head as he steadied the wheel, rolling his eyes impatiently.

But the kisses kept coming on. On the team’s regular Saturday morning gun range outing, Gibbs pinched Tony’s ass and kissed him with McGee and Ziva in adjacent areas. Gibbs frenched him in the evidence locker when they were digging out boxes from an old case. One time, Gibbs even kissed him right in front of the MTAC door as Tony was bending over to place his eye on the retinal scanner. And every time, Tony was so surprised he never got a chance to kiss back before Gibbs disappeared again. And every time, nobody was around or was looking in order to notice what was going on.

By this time, Tony was maybe fifty seven percent sure that it wasn’t a delusion and that Gibbs really was kissing him in all of these places. And the reasons why he was only fifty seven percent sure that Gibbs was actually kissing him was that a) nobody else ever saw it, b) Gibbs never behaved differently towards him in any and all other situations – and yes, Tony was definitely cataloguing each and every interaction that they had now – and c) most importantly, there were no earthly reasons why Gibbs would be stealth kissing him. None. Whatsoever.

On his first half day off, he actually went in to see a doctor – not Ducky, because he didn’t want Ducky knowing that he was seriously questioning his own sanity – and they ruled out narcolepsy and several other things that were related to his physical health. And so far, Tony hadn’t quite summoned the courage to speak to a therapist about the fact that he was fifty seven percent sure that his boss was repeatedly kissing him on the sly and acting like nothing happened afterwards, which meant that there was a forty three percent chance that he might be delusional. He could already see himself benched from the field because this was a very serious delusion. And besides, it wasn’t like he wasn’t enjoying the kisses or the delusion of being kissed. He did wish that they would last longer. He really wished that the forty three percent of him that was sure that the kisses were a delusion would take control and allow him time to kiss back or respond properly.

It went on that way for a few more weeks. Gibbs was exceedingly good at catching him off guard and kissing him and lately all of the kisses had been heavy on the tongue and getting deeper and more intense. And then the Other Thing Happened.

Gibbs was dragging himself in to work looking like death warmed over for a couple of days before Ducky took him in hand and forced him to get a check up, ignoring his assertions that he never got sick and that he wasn’t sick. When he needed to be, Ducky was very good at strong arming people and so Gibbs was herded to Autopsy where Ducky presumably gave him a check up and ran some tests.

As it turned out, Gibbs had mono and was sent home to rest for a few days. When word got around that Gibbs had been struck down with mono, Agent Boyd who had just recovered from a bout of mono paled drastically. After all, he had caught it from his teenaged son sneezing on him, and then a couple weeks or so ago, their coffee cups had accidentally gotten mixed up and Gibbs had taken a huge swig out of Boyd’s cup by accident. Gibbs had cringed and berated him soundly for his ‘frou-frou’ coffee, but that was supposed to be the end of that. But apparently enough saliva had been exchanged during the coffee cup mix up that Gibbs had now gone down with mono.

Tony joined in teasing Boyd about the fact that Gibbs would kill him when he was better and back at work again, and he put $10 down on Director Shepard coming down with it next in the new pool that had been organized, predicting who would be next in line from kissing Gibbs. And then he was busy, busy running around leading the team and solving cases while Gibbs was out sick, and on his off hours he went over to Gibbs’ house, ensuring that the grumpy bastard was taking his medicine and keeping hydrated with things other than bourbon and coffee. The huge fight that they had over Gibbs refusing to drink water or Gatorade had to be resolved by bringing Abby and Ducky in because both men were beyond angry, especially after Gibbs threw the open bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade right at Tony and soaked him with it. His dry cleaner lamented that he wasn’t a miracle worker when Tony brought the Gatoraded Tom Ford in to be cleaned, and his two thousand dollar Ferragamos were beyond salvation and Abby had had to take them away from a tearful Tony so he wouldn’t have to be the one to throw them out.

But after the blowout, whatever it was that Ducky said to Gibbs worked because Gibbs meekly drank whatever Tony brought him, although Tony stopped speaking to him for a full thirty six hours. Those had been his favorite pair of Ferragamos, goddammit, and he was damned if he was just going to let the incident pass with no consequences for Gibbs. Gibbs was much nicer to him after that so Tony grudgingly ceased giving him the silent treatment. But even with the abuse and the complete loss of his favorite shoes, Tony kept going to Gibbs’ after work and taking care of his ailing boss.

So Tony was pretty much off his feet with exhaustion, working cases at the same breakneck speed as Gibbs did – because he was not going to have Gibbs come back and accuse him of less than his best performance – and spending all his time after work caring for a cantankerous Gibbs. It was no surprise that he was getting quite run down. He was just so, so tired all the time. But it truly surprised everyone – himself included – when a week after Gibbs had been sent home with mono, Tony collapsed. He had just driven the team to the crime scene in the NCIS truck and was climbing down out of it when all of a sudden things went dark.

McGee had been talking to Tony as they got out of the truck, and he called out Tony’s name when for no reason he could fathom, Tony’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and the man faceplanted onto the ground with a loud thump. Luckily, the EMTs that had been called out to check out the body were still there, waiting for NCIS to arrive so they could give their statements, so they immediately went to work to revive Tony. They were only partially successful because Tony awakened but was running such a high fever that he wasn’t at all coherent. They ended up carting him to the hospital and McGee heard him raving on and on about how it had to be higher than fifty seven percent by now.

It also surprised everyone that Tony was diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis. It, however, did not surprise anyone that Tony of course had all of the rare symptoms that can occur in an adult with mono. He was hospitalized for a week with a recurring raging fever, his lymph nodes enlarged, his breathing greatly impaired, and his spleen dangerously swollen and in need of monitoring in case it ruptured. Suffice it to say, Tony was not feeling at all well.

A few days into his stay at the hospital, McGee and Ziva brought Gibbs by to visit him. McGee was babbling on about how Gibbs must have sneezed on Tony to infect him with mono even though it was weird because Gibbs never sneezed, and Ziva thought Tony’s mono was completely unrelated to Gibbs’ or Boyd’s and had to do with one of the floozies he must have been kissing given his promiscuous lifestyle.

The hypocritical bitch, Tony thought to himself. As if Ziva’s proclivities for sex were any better than his. And besides, the only person Tony had been intimate with in forever was Gibbs, if you could even call being attacked with stealth kisses ‘intimate’.

Tony sat in silence, stewing and glaring angrily at Gibbs who seemed to be fully recovered now. After ten minutes, Gibbs sent McGee to get him a fresh coffee from a real coffee shop and not from the hospital cafeteria because the coffee there was definitely not strong enough for him, and he sent Ziva down to the gift shop with cash to buy Tony the most obnoxious get well gift she could find. And so Gibbs engineered it so that he and Tony had a few minutes alone.

Tony laid in the bed, feeling exceedingly weak and exhausted and he hurt everywhere especially his throat and his abdomen – from the swollen lymph nodes and swollen spleen – and Gibbs suddenly looked very upset.

“I’m sorry,” Gibbs finally said, and Tony stared at Gibbs, beginning to panic.

“Am I dying?” he asked in a hoarse whisper, just about the only sound his poor, abused throat could produce. “Am I dying and the doctors sent you in to tell me because I’m too young and pretty for them to tell me themselves?”

Gibbs actually laughed at that.

“No, DiNozzo. You’re not dying,” he assured the man.

“Then why the hell are you apologizing to me?”

“Because I gave you this illness and you really went down hard.”

Tony gasped and narrowed his eyes. “I knew it wasn’t a forty three percent chance I was hallucinating,” he muttered.

“You thought you were hallucinating?” Gibbs asked mildly.

“Well, yeah!” Tony threw up his hands. “Why on earth would I think that you would want to kiss me even once, never mind repeatedly? And then never ever mention it to me, or give me any kind of hint that it had actually happened or anything like that?”

“I did keep kissing you,” Gibbs said apologetically.

Tony snorted. “Yeah. I know that now. But, I had myself checked out for narcolepsy and possible signs of head trauma or brain injury causing delusions, alright?” he growled.

Which made Gibbs laugh again. The bastard.

“I’m not trying to be funny!” Tony rasped angrily.

“I know, darlin’. I’m sorry.”

“Did you just darlin’ me?” Tony didn’t know he could squeak in a harsh whisper. All of a sudden all the anger drained right out of him along with all his energy. His eyelids grew heavy and Gibbs pulled the chair closer and took his hand, holding it tight, and kissing the back of it.

“Yeah, darlin’,” Gibbs said softly. “But you’re too sick to talk about this. So you focus on getting better and we’ll talk later.”

“Eighty four percent sure this isn’t a delusion,” he mumbled before he dropped off, his last conscious thought was of how soft Gibbs’ lips were, kissing the back of his hand repeatedly.

When he awoke, he was alone but the glow in the dark psychedelic neon Get Well stuffed unicorn sitting on the tray right in front of his face, glowing softly in the dark frightened him so much that the nurses came rushing in, thinking he was having a heart attack. He vowed to kill Ziva as soon as he was well again. She deserved to die for that myocardial infarction inducing stuffed animal.

When he was released, Gibbs drove him to his house, because Tony was still supposed to be supervised and monitored. The team lead had taken two weeks off to care for Tony.

It’s just the guilt, Tony told himself. He was still truly weak and could barely make it to the bathroom and back without needing a nap. He slept a lot and was out of it for much of the first few days. But on the fourth day he woke up because people were arguing. As the child of parents who never had an easy relationship, Tony was especially sensitive to people arguing near him, most especially while he was asleep.

He came awake with a jolt and realized that Ducky and Gibbs were yelling at each other, right there, at his bedside.

“When I advised you to tell young Anthony your feelings, I did not mean that you should go around kissing him when he is completely unprepared, and then walking away as if it had never happened!” Ducky yelled.

“I didn’t realize he would actually think he was hallucinating!” Gibbs yelled back.

“Did you know he came to me asking if he could possibly be narcoleptic? And I thought he was joking!” Ducky sounded livid.

“I know that now!

“You could have spared the boy a lot of trauma if you had just told him you loved him!”

What?” Tony couldn’t help it as the question slipped out.

Gibbs gave him the guiltiest look, and Ducky sighed and shook his head, scrubbing his face. “It’s high time you told the boy how you truly feel, Jethro,” he said gently. “At this point, whatever he might feel, you owe it to talk to him since all of your, er, non-verbal advances have resulted in this terrible illness on his part.”

Gibbs nodded.

Ducky squeezed Tony’s shoulder and leaned down to drop an affectionate, paternal kiss in his hair, something the elderly ME seemed to do to anyone in his care who still had a pulse. Tony tried not to ask himself if Ducky might possibly even affectionately kiss those in his care who no longer had a pulse. “Anthony, my dear boy, I will leave you in Jethro’s questionable care,” he grinned at Gibbs, who predictably scowled at him. “I shall be back in the morning to check up on you.”

“OK,” Tony nodded.

After Ducky left, Tony and Gibbs stared at each other for a long time. And then the conversation they had was simple and short.

“I love you, Tony DiNozzo,” Gibbs said softly.

“What do you mean you love me? You love me like you love Abby? Like a son?” Tony asked.

“I should hope not, given how I’ve been kissing you all this time,” Gibbs grinned.

Tony nodded, conceding the point.

“Are you OK with that?” Gibbs asked.

Tony’s mind was blank really, at this point, but he felt himself nodding. Yes. He was OK with it. He was OK with Gibbs loving him. And not like a son. Nope.

“I don’t expect you to reciprocate or want to have anything to do with me outside of work…” Gibbs continued.

“Pretty sure I’ve been in love with you from the beginning, Boss,” Tony muttered, blushing profusely.

Gibbs stared at him in shock, hope in his eyes. “Yeah?”

Tony nodded, eyes down, suddenly feeling inordinately embarrassed.

Gibbs’ calloused palm caressed his face. “That’s good,” he said, sounding hoarse himself. “That’s real good, DiNozzo. Can I kiss you, DiNozzo?”

Tony nodded, eyes, down, face flushing.

Gibbs leaned close and brushed his lips tenderly on Tony’s cheek. “Oh, my darlin’,” he sighed.

“Not a hallucination?” Tony asked, finally meeting Gibbs’ eyes.

Gibbs shook his head. “Not a hallucination,” he assured Tony, his eyes big, blue, and serious.

And that was the end of the conversation. As Tony got better, there was more kissing and not just on the cheek, although Gibbs refused to violate Ducky’s orders on what Tony was ready for physically even though Tony begged to be violated more than enough times. But, Tony recuperated at Gibbs’ house for the rest of his illness, and when he was finally well enough to go back to work, he ended up stabbing the psychedelic glow in the dark ugly ass Get Well stuffed unicorn that had been positioned right in the middle of his desk with his K-BAR and scattered its insides all over Ziva’s desk in righteous fury. And all Gibbs did was snicker at the whole thing.

And it turned out that Ducky was the only one who had put money down on Tony in the pool of who would get mono next from kissing Gibbs, and he walked away very much enriched.