“Hey Boss. You busy?” Tony called out as he walked in the front door, causing Gibbs to look up from his book. He’d been engrossed in the Howard Hughes biography but when he saw that Tony was soaking wet he put the book down.
“The hell happened to you?” Gibbs demanded, and Tony shrugged.
“I got a flat tire. It was raining earlier, by the way. Mind if I go dry off by the fire? Won’t stay long, just need to get warmed up. The heat’s out in my car.”
“Go ahead,” Gibbs responded. “Want some dry clothes?”
Toeing his shoes off, Tony smiled. “Nah, should be good - my coat kept me from getting too wet. Wouldn’t mind a pair of dry socks and a towel, though.”
With a nod, Gibbs hoisted himself up from the couch to get the requested items from the laundry room, then detouring through the kitchen to grab a bottle of bourbon and two glasses. Heading back to the living room, the sight of Tony sitting in front of the fire - waiting for him to return - made him smile.
“Thanks, Boss,” Tony replied as he shook his head like a wet dog, resulting in water being flung everywhere.
Rolling his eyes, Gibbs splashed some bourbon into both glasses before handing one over to Tony. “This’ll warm you up. The heat went out? Thought you had a newer car.”
“Heater coil went bad,” Tony explained. “There was a recall; I just haven’t had a chance to take it in yet. I’ll drop by the dealership this weekend and get it taken care of.” Quickly pulling the borrowed socks on, he dried his hair off before taking a sip of the bourbon. “Much better,” he commented, grinning up at Gibbs from his perch on the floor.
“Getting warmer yet?” Gibbs asked. “Was gonna grill in a little bit. Could throw an extra one on for you; give you a chance to warm up.”
Tony’s smile grew, but faded quickly. “Sounds good, but I need to head out in a bit. I have to go pick up a few things for people so I can have tomorrow free.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow at Tony’s uncharacteristic reply. “Shopping? On Friday night?”
“Gibbs, with our schedule, I don’t know when I’ll have time,” the other man pointed out. “Besides, another hour or so and I’ll be done. I don’t suppose you want anything special this year?”
“Keep telling you - don’t worry about it.”
Putting his glasses on, Gibbs peered over the top of the frames towards Tony as he picked up his book again.
Scrubbing a hand over his face, Tony shook his head and sighed. “Just figured I’d check,” he added, causing Gibbs to shrug in response.
“What’re you up to tomorrow? Hot date?”
Tony laughed. “Nope. Heading out to pick up a tree.”
“Fresh trees are best,” Gibbs replied, nodding in agreement.
“Yeah… Anyways, I’m gonna head out.”
Looking up from his book, Gibbs frowned. “You sure? Don’t need you getting sick.”
With a sigh, Tony shook his head as he stood up. “I’m fine. All warmed up now, and I’m sure you want to get back to your book. Hey, have you ever seen ‘The Aviator‘? Great flick based on Howard Hughes’ life, Leonardo DiCaprio plays him. Was nominated for a couple of Oscars, I think. Can’t remember if it won any… The movie, not DiCaprio I mean…”
“Right, shutting up, Boss.” Heading for the door, Tony slipped his shoes and coat back on. “Sure you don’t want anything special for Christmas?”
“Keep telling you - you don’t need to get me anything,” Gibbs replied without looking up from his book. “Good night, DiNozzo.”
“Night, boss.” With that, Tony stepped out the door into the night. As he pulled away in his car, Gibbs couldn’t help but feel disappointed that Tony hadn’t wanted to stay.
“Hey Boss, it’s me. Um…. Not feeling too hot, so I’m not coming in today. Actually, I’ll be out until at least Wednesday. I’m not sure. Anyways, call if you need anything.”
Before Tony had hung up the phone, however, Gibbs’ voicemail had recorded the hacking cough that followed the message. Deleting the message, Gibbs stared at the phone and frowned. A sip of his ever-present coffee revealed that he was due for a new cup, and he set off in search of a refill before heading down to Autopsy.
Stepping into the elevator, memories of blue-tinged lips and fingers beneath blue lights came to mind, and he hit the button for Autopsy first, deciding coffee could wait - at least until after he’d had a chance to talk to Ducky.
Thankfully, the ME was already in. “Ah, Jethro, to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“You talk to DiNozzo this weekend?” Gibbs demanded.
“Anthony? Why, no, I didn’t. Is something wrong, Jethro?”
“He called in this morning, Duck. I heard him coughing, he sounds like shit.” Gibbs frowned. “He was fine earlier Friday, but then he showed up at my place soaking wet after work. Did you know the heat in his car’s out? Damn it, Duck, I should have made him change into dry clothes or stick around.”
“You are aware that Anthony is a fully grown man,” Ducky chastised. “He may be stubborn, but he is aware of his limitations, including the damage to his lungs. In fact, I doubt he would call me for anything pertaining to his lungs.” Taking note of the confusion that marred Gibbs’ face, and knowing that his friend was rapidly losing patience, Ducky continued. “Have you talked to Dr. Pitt? The two of them are quite close, as I understand, and I doubt that Tony’s alma mater being defeated by Brad’s this year would change that or cause him to neglect his health. The boy would never risk his lungs like that, not if it might result in jeopardizing his career… He’s as married to his work as you are!”
Gibbs froze. “Duck… are his lungs that bad?”
“Good God, Gibbs. Haven’t you listened to a damned word I’ve said? IF Tony were to neglect his health, then his status as a field agent could be jeopardized - something he would never risk.”
Relieved, Gibbs sighed. “You’re sure about that?”
“Absolutely. I’ll put a call in to Bethesda if you would rather, though,” Ducky said, smiling reassuringly.
“Thanks, Duck.” Placated for the moment, Gibbs turned to leave, nearly running into Jimmy Palmer in the process. Smiling tightly, he stepped around the young man and left, the doors swooshing closed behind him as Jimmy watched on in confusion.
Jimmy asked, “Dr. Mallard? What was that about?”
“Ah! Good morning, Mr. Palmer. It seems as though you might win the pool after all!” Ducky replied.
“Why, The Pool of course. Honestly Mr. Palmer. Just how many are you involved in? You have been spending too much time with Anthony again, haven’t you?”
Jimmy merely smiled sheepishly.
It seemed like the day had crawled by. As promised, Ducky had put in a call to Bethesda, reporting back to Gibbs that Tony had been prescribed antibiotics to keep a nasty case of bronchitis from getting any worse. Knowing that Tony was at home, stuck in bed and stuffed full of antibiotics didn’t help improve Gibbs’ mood - especially since Tony had turned his cell off and had been ignoring any calls to his landline.
By midday Tuesday, Gibbs’ concern had reached epic proportions. He’d spent the past day and a half snapping and snarling at people, and had managed to cause even Ducky to lose his patience and snap back.
“Gibbs, if you’re that bloody worried, go and check him. You are not accomplishing a damned thing by terrorizing everyone.”
Glaring at Ducky, Gibbs bit back the urge to snarl. “It’s not like Tony to be out of touch. I don’t even know if he’s OK!”
“Jethro… While I admit that it is uncharacteristic of Anthony to be out of touch, I am also well aware of the medications he was prescribed - one of which happens to be a cough syrup which includes codeine and will make him extremely drowsy. The best thing he can do for himself right now is rest,” the ME said gently. “Of course, it is well known that chicken noodle soup is also an excellent remedy.”
Stunned, Gibbs stared at his friend. “The hell, Duck? Are you saying I should go over there and play nursemaid?”
“Not at all!” Ducky exclaimed. “However, if one were to be so inclined, there is a lovely delicatessen not far from his apartment. He’s quite fond of the soups there, I believe. You will find a drugstore across the street as well, and I’m sure Anthony will be running low on various sundries. Perhaps you might swing by on your way to check on him? A word of advice, though - he needs his rest. He very well may still be quite ill… In fact, if he has yet to return any calls, perhaps I should stop by…”
“No, I’ll do it,” Gibbs hastily replied. “He left his wet socks at my place anyways. Been stinking up my living room,” he added, inwardly wincing at the lame excuse as Ducky looked on, amused.
“Very well, then. I assume if anything has changed, you will let me know?”
His mouth pressed into a tight line, Gibbs nodded once before heading towards the elevator.
Once he saw the other man disappear, Ducky headed for his office, shaking his head and chuckling with amusement. “Socks? Really, Jethro…” he commented to himself.
Poking his head up from the pipettes he was cleaning, Jimmy stared at Ducky in disbelief. “He honestly said that? And kept calling him Tony?”
“Do you think he’ll be upset when he finds out that Tony’s fine?” Jimmy asked nervously. “And aren’t you breaking the rules? I mean, we voted that Abby couldn’t lock them in the ballistics lab together. Isn’t it kind of cheating since you told him to go over and check on Tony? Especially after he’d checked in earlier?”
“Not at all, Mr. Palmer. If Jethro would have checked his email, then it would be one thing - however, he clearly hasn‘t. Secondly, you didn’t make the suggestion, I did. Thus, you haven’t broken the rules at all.”
“Excellent point, Doctor. And if it works?”
Ducky smiled. “A nice bottle of scotch would make for an excellent thank you gift.”
Quietly, Gibbs stepped into Tony’s apartment. When several minutes of knocking hadn’t produced the desired result, he’d resorted to using the spare key Tony had given him in case of emergencies. A quick once-over of the apartment told Gibbs that Tony had in fact purchased (and brought in) his tree, although only half of the lights had been haphazardly draped over its branches. More concerning, however, was the stack of tissues on the coffee table. Upon closer review, Gibbs realized there was blood on them.
His gut churning, Gibbs dropped the bags he was carrying and headed for the bedroom. The sight of a Tony-sized lump in bed was an instant relief, as was the muffled snoring coming from underneath the pile of blankets. Moving closer, Gibbs examined the various bottles on the bedside table, taking note of two antibiotics, a half-finished bottle of the cough syrup Ducky had mentioned, and a nearly drained bottle of Nyquil. There were also more tissues scattered around, and Gibbs was relieved to see that there was blood on only a few of them.
Suddenly, the lump under the blankets moved, and Gibbs could hear the hacking coughs all too clearly. Alarmed, he moved towards the bed and pulled the blankets down, revealing a bleary eyed Tony.
“Boss? ‘cha doing here?” he asked, trying to sit up as he recovered from his coughing jag. “Something wrong?”
“Well, yeah, DiNozzo. You’re sick.”
Crinkling his nose, Tony shook his head and laid back down, pulling the blankets back up over his head. “Yup. Shoulda listened to ya, Boss. Don’t like being sick.”
“Don’t know of anyone who does, Tony. You need anything?” Gibbs asked softly.
Tony pushed the blankets down quickly. “Am I dead?” he asked frantically, trying to cover a cough. “You called me Tony, and you’re being nice. Seriously, Gibbs, am I dead?”
Gibbs eyebrows shot skyward. “What?”
“Oh, shit, I’m dead. I never thought I’d go this way! Damn it!” His rambling was cut off by a head slap, and the relieved expression on Tony’s face nearly made Gibbs laugh out loud.
“Not dead. Not yet, anyways. You need anything?” Gibbs repeated.
“Yeah, just give me those two bottles there,” Tony said, gesturing towards the cough syrup and Nyquil. “Due for a re-up of both.”
Gibbs frowned. “Ok to mix those? Thought they both make you drowsy?”
This merely resulted in Tony reaching over for the bottles himself. “It’ll knock me out, yeah, but that’s okay. Trying to sleep this shit off right now.” He threw back a shot of the Nyquil, then the cough medication and grimaced. “Tastes like crap. Can you give me a second, Gibbs?”
A raised eyebrow was the only response, and Tony sighed. “I need to hit the head, and I don’t have sweats on. Can’t you just go wait on the couch or something?”
Trying to keep his annoyance at bay, Gibbs headed back towards the living room. The sight of the carryout bag on the coffee table brought him back to his senses, and he moved it to the kitchen to spoon some of the soup into a bowl before reheating it in the microwave. Another trip into the living room reminded him of the tissues, and he gathered them to deposit them in the trash just as a much more alert Tony emerged from the bathroom, clad in only a pair of low-slung sweatpants.
“You brought me soup?” he asked as Gibbs placed the bowl on the coffee table. “Are you positive I’m not dead, Gibbs?”
Gibbs snorted, and then reached out to gently head slap Tony, stroking his hair back down quickly before pulling his hand away. “Yup. You feeling any better? Was worried.”
Tony shrugged, then reached for the bowl of soup and took a bite. “Feel like crap still, but not as bad as yesterday. Feels like I’ve been sleeping for a week, and I’m still tired.”
“Well, yeah - you need it, though. Had me scared.”
Sputtering, Tony spat some of the soup back into the bowl in shock. “What? Why?”
Gibbs shrugged. “Not like you to be out of touch, ‘s all.” Tony’s raised eyebrow prompted him to continue. “And heard you coughing on the phone. It sounded bad.”
“So what, you figured you’d come over and bring me soup? Not that I don’t appreciate it, but that’s not your standard MO, Gibbs. You’re more likely to try to head slap this bug out of me rather than nurse me back to health.”
“I’m holding back,” Gibbs retorted. “Figured you’d have a headache or something.”
Laughing, Tony shook his head but started coughing again. “You’ve never held back before, why start now?” he wheezed, collapsing onto the couch.
Gibbs shook his head. “Don’t tempt me,” he growled. “You were coughing up blood earlier, weren’t you?”
“What? What the hell are you talking about, Gibbs?” Tony exclaimed. “Who the hell said that?”
“I saw the damn tissues! They had blood on them!”
Puzzled, Tony stared up at Gibbs. “The ones on the coffee table?”
Gibbs was nearly yelling at this point. “Yeah, Tony, those tissues! You tell Brad about that one? You should have gone to the damn hospital!” At that point, Tony bent over double and started shaking, causing Gibbs to crouch down in front of him in alarm.
“You ok? Tony, talk to me!” Concerned, Gibbs moved closer, only to realize that Tony was shaking with… Laughter? His eyes narrowing to slits, Gibbs leaned back and waited for Tony to stop and explain what the hell was going on.
His laughter dissolving into a coughing fit, Tony gasped for breath before staring at Gibbs in shock. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Christ, Gibbs, why the hell did you think that? The damn tree whacked me in the face, nearly broke my nose! I had a nosebleed, and you thought what, that I had a reoccurrence of the plague or something?”
Gibbs eyes grew wide, and he backed away as though burned. “What?”
Wiping at his eyes, Tony looked up at Gibbs, grinning madly. “Seriously, boss. Didn’t you get my email?”
“What email?” Gibbs growled. “You want to explain what the hell is going on here?”
Amused, Tony shook his head. “I sent you an email earlier today, let you know that I was fine but still beat! Christ, Gibbs, you didn’t check your email earlier today, did you?” Gibbs just glared at Tony, who smirked back. “Didn’t think so.”
“Well, then why would Ducky make it sound like….” Gibbs voice trailed off, and Tony’s smile grew wider as he saw the confusion on his face.
“Something you want to tell me, boss?”
Gibbs frowned and looked away. “Dunno what you’re talking about.”
“So, what, you figured you’d show up and nurse me back to health? Or was it just you being worried?”
Vaguely irritated, Gibbs scratched at the back of his neck. “Maybe.”
“That’s not an answer, Gibbs. Try again.”
“Duck… might have made it sound worse than it was.”
Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “Might have?”
“He was going on and on about how you might lose your field agent status, crap like that,” Gibbs muttered. “Figured I’d come check on you.”
“So, which one was it?” Tony asked. “You just being worried, or trying to nurse me back to health so you could keep your senior field agent?”
Gibbs shrugged, much to Tony’s annoyance.
“Again, not an answer. Spit it out, Gibbs. Am I reading way too far into this ? Because, let me tell you, right now I’m pretty confused; it sounds like you were worried about me.”
“Would you just drop it, already?” Gibbs barked, annoyed at how Tony was prodding him.
“Nope. Do you really want me to drop it, Gibbs?”
Gibbs sighed, then shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know.”
“You know what? I don’t think I’m going to drop it. You know why, Gibbs? I think, deep down, you don’t want me to drop it. I think there’s a reason why you won’t tell me what you want for Christmas. And I think that we’re on the same page about that.”
“The hell are you talking about, DiNozzo?”
Tony smiled shyly, then ducked his head. “This.” Leaning forward, he pressed his lips gently against Gibbs’, chastely kissing him. Shocked, the other man’s mouth fell open a bit, and Tony began to deepen the kiss, pulling back when Gibbs didn’t participate. Taking in the stunned expression on the other man’s face, Tony leaned back in to kiss Gibbs again, cupping his hand against the back of his head, pulling Gibbs in closer to him. This time, Gibbs kissed back before pulling away, resting his forehead against Tony’s.
“Why now?” he asked, causing Tony to chuckle. “You’re sick.”
“I’m sick, Gibbs, not stupid. You showing up, worried to death about me, it’s kind of a red flag, you know.”
“I wasn’t worried. I was concerned.”
“Gibbs, you brought me chicken noodle soup. That’s not your standard MO. Normally you just smack me on the head and tell me I’m fine.”
Gibbs’ mouth quirked up in a half smile. “It works, though.”
“It does, but that’s not my point.”
“Yeah? So what is your point, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked.
“My point is that I’m going back to bed. You should come with me and we can make out and cuddle.”
“I don’t cuddle.”
“Fine. We’ll have a manly lie-together. But I need a nap, the Nyquil is about to kick in and I’d rather be horizontal when it happens.” Standing up from the couch, Tony scratched at his stomach as he stretched and yawned. “You coming or not?”
“Yeah, yeah…,” Gibbs muttered as he followed Tony into the bedroom, admiring the view while Tony stripped naked and slid under the covers. Half smiling, Gibbs stripped down to his own boxers and crawled in as well, snuggling up Tony as he got comfortable.
“Better?” Tony asked as he yawned, then leaned over to kiss Gibbs sleepily.
“Yeah… You feeling better now?”
Tony chuckled. “Yep. Much better. Looks like I got all I wanted for Christmas, too.”
“You wanted me?” Gibbs murmured sleepily. “Why?”
Snorting, Tony leaned back in to steal a few sloppy kisses. “Just run with it, ok. You really want to argue?” Gibbs shook his head. “Yeah, didn’t think so.” Dropping a kiss on the other mans’ forehead, Tony let himself drift, dropping easily into a deep sleep.
Several hours later, Tony woke up, enjoying the feeling of another body curled up against his. Gibbs had apparently decided to use him as a human teddy bear, and the peaceful look on the other man’s face made him smile as he reached for his cell phone, sending out a quick text.
“He finally made a move - let Palmer know he won.”
Satisfied, Tony tossed the phone back on the nightstand before curling back into Gibbs, falling back asleep, a smile playing across his lips as he enjoyed knowing that, for once, he’d gotten all he wanted for Christmas.