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Bump in the Night

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“Papa Gibbs! Papa Gibbs! You’re here!” The 4 year old, brown haired, blue eyed little boy bounded over to Gibbs, leaping into the Special Agent’s arms with full faith he would be caught. Gibbs lifted the small child up and flew him through the air before settling him on his hip.

“What’s up, big man?” he asked tousling the boy’s shaggy hair. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” Gibbs eyed Tony and Ellie accusatorily. Both looked completely drained of all energy as they sat propped up against each other on the couch in the safe house.

“That kid has more energy than Tony,” Bishop said in disbelief.

“Wow,” Tim said as he entered the living room with the night surveillance equipment from the car, “I didn’t think that was even possible.”

“That’s because Nathan is way cooler than both of you,” Tony teased, suddenly getting another burst of energy. “He’s Nate the Great!”

Nathan wiggled out of Gibbs’ arms and chased Tony around the couch, roaring at him with his arms in the air.

“Okay, okay,” Gibbs said, snatching Nathan back into his arms as the little boy raced past him, “it’s 2100. Time to settle down and start thinking about bed. DiNozzo, Bishop, you’re relieved. McGee and I will take the night shift.”

“Thank you, Boss,” Tony said.

“Good luck getting the kid to sleep,” Ellie added. “Here’s his snack.”

Gibbs took the Trix yogurt from Bishop and sat down in the corner of the couch with Nathan on his lap. “Winter storm’s scheduled to hit overnight,” he told his agents. “Roads are supposed to be bad by morning. We’ll bring Nathan to NCIS with us and go from there.”

Tony smiled at Gibbs’ unorthodox way of showing his concern. He might never say it but he showed it in other ways and Tony liked it better like that. “See you in the morning, Boss, McGeek.” He held his hand out for a high five from Nathan. “Later, dude.”

“Later, dude,” Nathan mimicked, high fiving Tony.

Bishop patted the top of Nathan’s head, said her goodbyes then followed Tony out the door, leaving Gibbs and Tim alone in the safe house with Nathan.

With the excitement over for the moment, Tim unzipped the bag he’d brought in with him and pulled out the night vision scope. He tilted the window shades slightly and peered out into the darkness while Gibbs resettled Nathan on his lap and fed him the rest of the yogurt. When Nathan was finished eating, Gibbs helped him brush his teeth and waited while he used the bathroom for the last time before bed. He pulled the book Abby had sent along from Tim’s bag and settled back onto the couch to read to Nathan until he fell asleep.

Gibbs wasn’t very far into the story when Nathan’s eyelids started getting heavy and his head started bobbing back and forth. The agent guided the little boy’s head to his chest as he read and rested his hand on the side of Nathan’s face, rubbing slow, soothing circles on his temple. The more he read, the heavier Nathan got as he slowly lost his battle with sleep before finally giving up the fight and letting sleep pull him under.

All was peaceful as Gibbs whispered the last sentence of the book but the sound of squealing tires interrupted the quiet of the night and every protection detail’s worst nightmare started playing out in an instant, leaving the agents no time to react. The last thing Gibbs heard before gunshots pelted the front of the house was Tim calling his name.

“Boss! Boss!”

“Boss. Boss.”

Gibbs rolled his head from side to side as his dream faded and reality took over. He could hear a familiar voice calling his name through the haze his brain seemed to have settled into but everything was so fuzzy he couldn’t put a name or a face with the voice. At the moment he was more concerned with the hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake and sending sharp, shooting pains throughout his entire upper body. He would’ve given anything for it to stop but he couldn’t find his words or the energy to grab onto the hand and make that happen.

“Boss, wake up. You’re dreaming.”

Gibbs blinked his eyes a couple times until the room around him stopped spinning and came into focus. He looked around cautiously and found himself in his basement, lying on a piece of plywood under the shell of his boat with Tony sitting next to him. The look of concern on Tony’s face had him curious but at that moment he hurt too bad to care. He was just happy Tony’s hand had moved away from his shoulder, even if the man was now wiping away the sweat dripping from his forehead.

“Hey,” Tony said once their eyes met and he could see that Gibbs had come out of the daze he’d been in, “the hospital said you left against medical advice. We were worried.”

The hospital. The gunshots. Ambulances. Sirens.

Suddenly reality hit him in the face like a ton of bricks; maybe even worse than that.

He remembered leaving the hospital against doctor’s orders, knowing it had been stupid but not caring. He couldn’t bear to spend one more moment there. He remembered the monitors in Nathan’s room going silent not long after they’d arrived in the ambulance and the doctor stating the little boy’s time of death for the record; the reality of the situation being that the little boy had most likely died as soon as the bullets had started flying but the first responders had worked feverishly to bring him back.

On a different floor in the same hospital, Tim was listed in critical condition as he underwent emergency surgery. The reality of his situation was quite possibly just as dire as Nathan’s. The last words the doctors had said before wheeling him away echoed in Gibbs’ head. ‘He may or may not make it off the table.’

So, yes, Gibbs had left. The last thing he’d wanted was doctors and nurses poking and prodding at him when he had a dead four year old and an agent possibly not far behind.

“Boss?” Tony said again.

“What?” Gibbs grunted. Despite the pain he knew it would cause, Gibbs fought through the hurt and just barely managed to lift himself into a sitting position. Once he was upright, he sucked in a deep breath, trying desperately to push the discomfort away and keep from crying out at the tearing sensation ripping through his chest. The simple movement had hurt more than he’d thought it would. Beads of sweat poured down his face and burned his eyes but he was afraid to lift his arms and wipe it away, knowing it would only cause more pain.

“Boss, you’re bleedi—you’re a bloody mess—you’re—you’re—you like hell,” Tony stuttered as he looked the man over. He’d seen Gibbs banged up before. He’d seen him return to work the day after taking a bullet more than once. He’d returned the day after getting hit by a car, not letting the fact that his arm was in a sling slow him down in the least. The man had even looked better after being blown up by Pinpin Pula on the Turkish ship.

Tony lifted his hand to Gibbs’ shirt to inspect the deep crimson stain that was slowly spreading across his polo but Gibbs immediately grabbed onto his wrist and stopped him.

The lead agent took a moment to calm his breathing before speaking. “That’s not my blood,” he lied. “It’s transfer from Nathan or McGee.” He struggled to keep his tone even as he spoke, hoping to hide just how much pain he was in. He was fully aware that Tony knew he was lying but could only hope his Second would let him get away with it this time. He loosened his grip on Tony’s wrist before releasing it completely, studying Tony as Tony studied him.

“Let me take you back to the hospital, Boss,” Tony said half authoritatively, half begging. “The doctor said you wouldn’t even let her look at you.”

“I don’t need a hospital,” Gibbs insisted.

“Then I’m gonna have to get Ducky outta bed,” Tony said firmly. He knew Gibbs felt like shit but if this was how he wanted to play it, then this was how they would play it. “Those are your two choices.”

Gibbs muttered and growled in frustration as he leaned heavily against the frame of the boat and closed his eyes, hoping Tony would get the hint and just go away. All he really wanted was for everyone to leave him alone until he could sleep off some of the pain. Regaining his strength so he could go catch the bad guy who’d attacked his team and the stolen the young life he’d been tasked with protecting was the only thing on his mind.

“Alright,” Tony said stubbornly, “have it your way.” He stood and marched to the stairs, making his disapproval clear.

Gibbs listened as Tony stomped up the stairs and waited for the basement door to all but slam before slowly laying down on the hard plywood once again. The low groan turned into a loud pained cry as his body protested every move he made. Once he was lying flat, he closed his eyes and laid perfectly still, waiting for the pain to subside and the nightmares to return.


Leon Vance backed his SUV out of his driveway and pointed it in the direction of Washington General Hospital. The predicted snow storm had just reached DC making the drive a scenic one, especially after the mild winter they’d had, but Leon paid no attention to the large, fluffy flakes that would soon create hazards of all kinds for the city. There were other things on his mind.

Moments earlier, he’d been at home, sitting in his favorite chair with slippers on his feet, a robe covering his body and a cup of steaming cappuccino in his hand; the children safely tucked away in neighboring rooms. Now he had a dead four year old in autopsy, Tim hanging on for dear life and Gibbs—quite possibly the most stubborn of them all—at home, refusing treatment. He needed to figure out what in the hell had happened before his superiors caught wind of the situation and started demanding answers from him.

The salt sprinkled across the nearly empty hospital parking lot sparkled under the streetlights. Two pick-up trucks with snowplows on the front and salt spreaders on the back raced through the lot throwing salt in their wake, trying to get a head start on what the local meteorologists had promised would be a devilish storm.

Leon chose a spot near the front in an already salted part of the lot, parked his SUV and hurried into the hospital. If Gibbs was hurt badly enough that he was hiding out at home, licking his wounds in private instead of out searching for a child killer, Leon knew it would be up to him to temporarily make decisions for the team. Depending on what state Tony was in, he could hand the reigns over to him but that wasn’t a decision to be made hastily.

After a short stop at the reception desk in the ER and a quick ride on the elevator, Leon found himself in the fifth floor waiting room with Ellie Bishop. “Sit rep,” he said, immediately cringing at his harsh tone. The pressures of his job sometimes made it difficult to remember he was dealing with intense human emotions and teams that loved each other like family.

“Well,” Ellie replied shortly, “Nathan—dead. McGee—nearly dead. And Gibbs. Um, I don’t know about Gibbs but based on some of the stories I’ve heard about him, I’m guessing he’ll be just fine.”

Leon frowned at the snarky response he’d gotten from his newest NCIS agent. “Mrs. Bishop,” he said, softening his tone and hoping the sympathetic smile on his face conveyed the compassion he was truly feeling for her situation.

“Sorry,” Ellie said. “The safe house was compromised somehow,” she reported. “Nathan’s dead. McGee’s in surgery with bullets and shards of glass and shrapnel all over his body and Gibbs is at home refusing treatment. Tony went to get him but he won’t come back to the hospital so he called Ducky.”

“Good,” Leon said. “What about Mr. Palmer and Ms. Sciuto?”

“Tony didn’t wanna tell ‘em news like this over the phone,” Ellie answered, “especially Abby. He said he’d take care of it after he got Gibbs squared away.”

Leon nodded, approving of the way Tony was handling the situation so far. “Do we know who did this?”

“Maybe Nathan’s dad?” Ellie replied with a shrug. “I mean, he’s a four year old kid. There can’t be a long list of people who’d want him dead.” They were protecting the kid from his abusive father. The case had landed in their laps after the disgraced Marine had taken his son on a drug run that had ended in the murder of a local gangbanger.

“What about our gangbangers?” Leon asked.

“It doesn’t make sense. Nathan didn’t witness them committing a crime. It was his dad that killed someone so why would the gangbangers want him dead?”

“Revenge. Nathan’s dad killed one of them.”

Ellie frowned. “That’s just, that’s so wrong. He’s only four years old.”

“An investigator always considers all the possibilities, Agent Bishop,” Leon said. “Criminals don’t play by any rules. How are you holding up?”

“I’m okay,” Ellie answered. “Not the first time I’ve been in this situation and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I can handle it.”

It was clear Bishop was trying to hide how bothered she was by the situation but Leon didn’t see the need for any immediate concern and there were protocols in place to prevent agents from getting lost in their heads. He made a mental note to keep an eye on her then moved on. “And Tony?”

“He’s handling it too, Sir. I think he’s kind of on autopilot right now.”

“Good. I’m gonna let him handle Gibbs for the time being but I would like to talk to him the next time he calls you with an update.” Leon knew Tony was the best equipped of all of them to deal with Gibbs in situations like their current one. Trying to butt in would only cause unneeded animosity and most likely an argument that would quickly get out of hand.

“Of course, Sir.” Ellie watched as the director removed his overcoat and folded it neatly over one chair before settling into the one directly across from her. Her eyes tracked left and then right before landing back on her boss again and mouthing ‘okay’. She hadn’t been expecting the man to stay and had never experienced a silence quite so awkward.

“Problem?” Leon asked.

Ellie smiled and shook her head. “Nope.”

Leon knew he needed to get to the office, touch base with Balboa’s team and make sure the investigation was moving forward in a professional and organized manner but that could wait a little while. Balboa’s team would still be at the crime scene and he was hoping for an update on McGee’s condition and maybe even Gibbs’ because he knew SECNAV would want to know when she called. He grabbed a magazine from the table next to him and settled in for a long wait.


Tony sat on the edge of Gibbs’ favorite chair, leaned slightly forward with his elbows resting on his knees and his hands folded together in front of him, frantically rocking himself back and forth as he watched over Gibbs and thought about Tim lying helplessly in a hospital bed. He’d somehow managed to get Gibbs up the stairs and over to the couch while he waited for Ducky to arrive but the man was so out of it that Tony doubted he even knew he’d been moved.

Now he was alone with his thoughts in the silence of the dimly lit room, his anger growing with each passing second. He was desperate to hit the streets and track down the person responsible for the attack. He wanted nothing more than to make them sorry they were ever born but first he had to make sure the team was taken care of. Tim was in good hands at the hospital with Bishop and the medical personnel. There was nothing any of them could do to help Nathan anymore and Ducky was Gibbs’ best bet.

He breathed a quiet sigh of relief when he heard the distinctive sound of Ducky’s old Morgan out front. He knew it hadn’t been very long in real time but with everything that had happened that night and everything he felt he needed to accomplish, time felt like it was standing still while the world raced on.

“Where is he, Anthony?” Ducky asked, all business as he entered the house.

Tony flipped the living room light on and pointed at the couch.

“Oh dear God, Jethro,” Ducky scolded graciously when he saw the state his longtime friend was in. Gibbs’ hair was wet and matted with sweat, his face sporting a few nicks and bruises and his shirt was soaked through with a mixture of sweat and blood. He looked like he’d just returned home from war.

“Stubborn bastard wouldn’t even let the doctors look at him,” Tony grumped. The stress and pressure of the situation was really starting to get to him. “I don’t know how he managed to get himself home without killing himself and everyone else on the road.”

“I took a cab, DiNozzo,” Gibbs muttered. He’d been taken by ambulance to the hospital. The car was still at the safe house and now peppered with bullet holes.

“You’re alive,” Tony snarked.

“Calm down, Anthony,” Ducky advised, patting his shoulder. “I have no doubt that if you were in Jethro’s position, I’d be making the house call to your condo.”

Tony narrowed his eyes at the doctor, fully intending on objecting but nodded his head in agreement instead. Ducky smiled at him as he opened his medical bag and put it within arm’s reach on the coffee table.

“Let’s have a look at you, Jethro,” Ducky said. “Do you think you can sit up long enough to get your shirt off or shall I cut it?”

“’m perfectly capable of taking my shirt off, Duck,” Gibbs muttered stubbornly. He took a moment to gather his strength before reaching out and grabbing onto Tony’s hand which had appeared in front of him and pulling himself up. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t stop the growl of pain that came from deep inside him or stop the sweat from pouring off his brow. The telltale signs in addition to his horribly contorted facial expression gave away everything he’d been working so hard to hide.

Once Gibbs was upright, he paused to catch his breath and regain his bearings. The change in position had the room spinning again and the pressure on his midsection was almost unbearable.

“Boss?” Tony said, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“I need a minute.”

“Boss, please let me help you,” Tony pleaded. “There’s no shame in it. Nobody even has to know.” He sat down on the coffee table, directly in front of Gibbs, his eyes pleading with the man. “I’m really worried about you. Now’s not the time to go all Gary Cooper on us.”

Gibbs contemplated the offer for a moment before nodding. “Okay, but I’m not gonna let Ducky take the scissors to my shirt.” He knew the shirt was going to end up in the trash anyways but it was the principal of the matter.

Tony let out a quiet laugh for the first time that night. “We’ll take it real slow,” he said, not noticing Ducky slipping out of the room.

Tony took a moment to assess his boss’s condition, noting possible sore spots and trying to figure out the best way to get the man’s shirt off with the least amount of movement. The first problem was his shirt was tucked in and Tony knew if he started tugging and jerking that would only cause more discomfort.

“Sorry, Boss,” he mumbled as he undid Gibbs’ belt, popped the button on his pants and lowered the zipper. At least Gibbs was the kind of guy that wore underwear.

He carefully untucked the polo shirt and eased it up Gibbs’ long torso and over his head before pulling it off his arms. The shirt was loose enough Gibbs didn’t have to do much more than just sit there and lift his arms slightly but the undershirt would be a different story.

“Half way there,” Tony said comfortingly. He found the bottom of Gibbs’ undershirt and gently lifted it, his face tightening in sympathetic pain. “Shit, Boss,” he whispered as he revealed the man’s bruised and bloodied abdomen.

Gibbs couldn’t hold back the groan as he lifted his arms enough Tony could get the shirt off. At least he’d saved some small part of his dignity by not having Ducky cut him out of his clothes. “Is it bad?” he asked. He didn’t really want to move enough to look down at his body but the look on Tony’s face told him all he needed to know.

“There’s a lot of blood,” Tony answered, briefly looking the man over before helping him lie back down on the couch. He eased Gibbs’ underwear down slightly which had the man grabbing for his wrist again. “There’s a tiny shard of glass, Boss,” he said. “It’s not big enough or deep enough to cause any problems. Do you want me to pull it out or let Ducky?”

“You can,” Gibbs answered.

With Gibbs’ hand still wrapped around his wrist, Tony once again eased the elastic band of his boss’s boxer briefs down slightly and carefully removed the small piece of glass before it could cause any more problems. He carefully fingered a second cut less than inch away to make sure there was no glass in it before sitting back.

“Tell me the truth before Ducky gets back,” Tony said. “How are your legs? Do we need to get you out of your pants?”

“My legs are fine.”

Tony looked at the man skeptically before carefully running his hands over Gibbs’ legs in search of sore spots. When the man flinched and Tony felt something wet beneath his fingertips he looked back up at Gibbs. “I’m sorry but they’re coming off, Boss.”

Tony unlaced Gibbs’ boots enough he could effortlessly slip them off his feet and he immediately noticed the immense swelling in his ankle and wondered how the man had managed to walk at all. Gibbs held onto the top of his underwear and Tony slipped a hand under his lower back and the two worked together to get his loose fitting jeans over his hips so Tony could pull them down his legs and carefully remove them. His legs looked much better than his upper body but there were a few cuts and a particular gash on his thigh that had Tony a little concerned.

“How would you like to be my assistant in Mr. Palmer’s absence, Tony?” Ducky asked as he stepped into the room with a washcloth and a large bowl of warm water.

“Just tell me what to do,” Tony replied, rolling his sleeves up.

Ducky put the bowl on the coffee table next to Tony, wrung out the washcloth and handed it to him. While Tony busied himself with carefully washing away the sweat and blood from Gibbs’ body, Ducky listened to his heart, measured his blood pressure and took his temperature. Once Tony was finished cleaning the man up, the extent of his injuries became clear causing Ducky to knit his eyebrows in concern.

“Jethro, this is a gunshot wound and this is a graze,” Ducky said, carefully inspecting his left bicep. The bullet hole was in the inner part of his bicep, very close to his armpit and the graze was on the outer part, near his shoulder.

“The bullet that went through Nathan’s chest passed through my arm after killing him,” Gibbs explained. “There were bullets flying everywhere.”

Ducky looked at the back of Gibbs’ arm, ignoring the moan of pain when he eased it away from the man’s body, and was relieved to find the exit wound. “You really should go back to the hospital for x-rays, Jethro.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Duck. My arm’s not broken, I’m fine.”

Ducky shook his head disapprovingly and rolled his eyes before turning his attention to Gibbs’ face. There were a few cuts and nicks on his cheeks and forehead and a bruise close to his eye but nothing that concerned the doctor. His chest and abdomen was a different story. There were deep, dark bruises on his left shoulder and covering his right clavicle, near his left nipple and over his ribcage on the left side of his body. The right side of his body was dotted with nicks and cuts and a large gash that would definitely need stitches on his upper chest.

“You were holding Nathan in your left arm,” Ducky pointed out quietly.

Gibbs opened his eyes and looked up at the doctor. “Yeah,” he answered, “but it didn’t do any good. I think he was hit by one of the first shots.”

Gibbs’ arms covered in cuts and bruises confirmed his story. He’d done everything he could to protect the four year old but it hadn’t been enough.

“This is another bullet graze, Jethro,” Ducky said, poking at the gash just above the man’s left hip, “and another one,” he added, inspecting the gash on Gibbs’ outer thigh.

“I told you bullets were flying everywhere,” Gibbs replied.

“The large gash on your chest and the small cut on your right side just above your pubic bone are going to need to be cleaned and stitched,” Ducky said. “I also want to give you a heavy dose of antibiotics to prevent infection as well as something for the pain.”

“Just do what you gotta do, Ducky,” Gibbs replied, his head resting on the arm of the couch and his eyes closed. He was well aware he was being watched closely by both Ducky and Tony and it was all he could do to keep his expression neutral while they poked and prodded at him.

“Okay, Boss,” Tony grumped, “this has gone far enough. Let me get you in the car and take you back to the hospital.”

Gibbs mustered up a halfhearted smile at the pathetic plea that he was guessing was supposed to come out as an order. “I’ll be fine, Tony,” he replied patiently. “Ducky’s patched me up before. He knows what he’s doing.” He carefully reached over and patted Tony’s hand, trying to reassure him.

Ducky cleaned the larger cuts and bullet graze wounds, made sure there was no glass or debris in any of the cuts peppering his body then stitched him up while Tony sat by as patiently as he could, thinking about the different places he felt like he needed to be and things he needed to be doing.

“He was limping pretty bad when I helped him up the stairs, Ducky,” Tony said helpfully. “And his left ankle is pretty swollen.”

“Thank you, Tony,” Gibbs snarked.

“You’re welcome, Jethro,” Tony replied sweetly.

“How did this happen?” Ducky asked looking over his swollen ankle.

“I think I twisted it when I jumped for cover with Nathan. I tripped over the damn coffee table.”

“Let’s have a look,” Ducky said.

“I’ll go grab an ice pack,” Tony said, moving out of the way so Ducky could start his examination. He’d meant to get one earlier but helping Ducky and his boss’s plethora of injuries had distracted him.

After some gentle poking and prodding and mobility tests, Ducky sighed heavily and applied the ice pack Tony had retrieved. “Jethro, there’s no way to tell if it’s broken without an x-ray. You really need to go back to the hospital. If it is broken and you don’t get it looked at, it’s only going to get worse.”

“It’s just a bad sprain,” Gibbs insisted. “I’m not going back to the hospital.”


“How’s Tim?” Gibbs interrupted, putting an end to Ducky’s lecture.

“Bishop’s supposed to call as soon as he gets out of surgery,” Tony answered as he wiped the sweat from Gibbs’ forehead once again. He didn’t remember ever seeing the man sweat before. The fact that he hadn’t stopped since Tony had arrived concerned the younger agent.

Ducky rechecked Gibbs’ vital signs and gave him the shot of antibiotics and pain meds before telling him how much of a stubborn fool he was. “I’ll have to run by the store and get an ace bandage to wrap your ankle,” the doctor said. “I gave my last one to Tony a couple weeks ago.”

“No need,” Gibbs said. “I have several upstairs.”

“Probably brand new,” Ducky grumped, unhappy over his friend’s stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to reason.

“I’ll wrap it for him, Ducky,” Tony interjected when he noticed how upset the doctor was getting. Gibbs would really lose it if they both started going after him. “Thanks for stopping by.”

“Of course,” Ducky replied. “Those pain meds will most likely knock him out. I’ll return in the morning to check on him.”

“I don’t know what we’d do without you, Ducky,” Tony said warmly.

The comment pulled a smile out of Ducky as he finished packing his medical bag. “Timothy’s at Washington General or Bethesda?”

“Washington General,” Tony answered. “Bishop’s there with him, fifth floor. At least they were being moved to the fifth floor when I left to chase Gibbs down.”

“If you need me that’s where I’ll be too.”

Tony saw Ducky to the door before returning to the living room.

“You gonna spend the night lecturing me?” Gibbs asked, his eyes still closed and his body as relaxed as it could be.

“I thought you might like a bath instead,” Tony replied. “Might help you relax a little.”

Gibbs opened his eyes and looked at Tony helplessly. He could barely move and knew that even if he did manage to make it up another flight of stairs, that there was no way in hell he could really bathe himself but there was no way he was telling Tony that. He wasn’t used to depending on others and he hated for Tony to see him as weak as he was. 

“Come on, I’ll help you,” Tony said as if he could read Gibbs’ mind.

“I suppose if I try to turn down the offer, you’ll just pester me until I say yes?” Gibbs asked, even though a bath actually sounded really nice.

“I’ll always do whatever it takes to take care of you when you’re being too stubborn to take care of yourself,” Tony answered.

Gibbs beamed at the feeling of love and concern the comment gave him. He hesitated for a moment, contemplating everything Tony bathing him would mean, before reluctantly nodding his agreement. He’d just have to find a way to get over feeling weak and vulnerable and accept the help that was being offered.

Tony helped Gibbs sit up on the couch and let him rest for a moment while he grabbed a cup and a few other supplies from the kitchen then the two began the slow journey to the second floor of the house, down the hall and into the master bathroom. Neither commented on the awkwardness of the situation as Tony got the bath water going before helping Gibbs out of his underwear. Gibbs focused all his energy on fighting the pull of the pain meds that were desperately trying to drag him under and tried not to think about being completely exposed in front of Tony.

While the tub filled, Tony carefully covered the small cut just above Gibbs’ hipbone that Ducky had stitched with saran wrap and sealed it with medical tape so the stitches wouldn’t get wet. The other stitched cut was high enough on the man’s chest that it wouldn’t be submerged in water.

“Can you lift your leg over the side of the tub?” Tony asked when he’d finished as he rolled his pant legs up before stepping into the already half full tub.

“I don’t know,” Jethro answered honestly.

“Lean on me, Boss. Trust me,” Tony encouraged. “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.” He smiled and continued, “or, at least if we do fall you’ll be on top of me so I’ll break the fall.” He wouldn’t be Tony DiNozzo if he didn’t throw a little humor in there.

“I think I’ve broken enough for the both of us tonight, DiNozzo,” Gibbs replied tiredly.

After getting Gibbs into the bathtub, Tony tucked his arms under Gibbs’, wrapped his hands around the man’s body and carefully lowered him back into the water, knowing the change in position and all the jostling, no matter how gentle, had to be causing massive amounts of pain. Once Gibbs was settled, Tony let him lean back against his legs for a moment while keeping his hands on Gibbs’ shoulders to steady him.

“You good?” Tony asked cautiously.

“I think so,” Gibbs answered with a heavy breath.

Tony stepped out of the tub and readied the soaps, washcloth and cup. Gibbs moved his hands to his lap to cover himself while he waited, wishing Tony had made a bubble bath so he didn’t feel quite so exposed. At least he was hurting too bad for the warmth of the water to have its usual effect on him. Tony didn’t need to see everything, after all.

“Tell me if I hurt you,” Tony said sympathetically as he knelt beside the tub.

“Just do it,” Gibbs replied quietly, focusing on his breathing and letting the hot water soothe his aches.

Tony used the cup he’d brought up to wet Gibbs’ hair then took his time rubbing the shampoo into the man’s short hair. He failed miserably at keeping water out of Gibbs’ eyes while washing and rinsing and broke rule six repeatedly but his boss didn’t complain once. After his hair, face, neck and back were washed, Tony moved on to his chest but the arms crossing his body were in the way.

“You don’t have to be embarrassed, Boss,” Tony said cautiously.

“I know,” Gibbs replied quietly. And he probably wouldn’t have been as embarrassed if Tony was just his senior field agent but the attraction he’d felt for the last several years changed things.

“Want me to get naked too?” Tony offered. It came out teasingly but both of them knew he’d do it.

Gibbs smiled. “No,” he answered. He leaned back against the tub and closed his eyes then moved his hands and arms out of the way. Things seemed a little less embarrassing with his eyes closed.

Fear, worry and the direness of the situation kept away any inappropriate temptations as Tony washed Gibbs’ arms, chest and belly but that didn’t put an end to the struggle to keep his eyes focused on the task at hand.

“You doing okay?” Tony asked, trying to focus on something—anything but what his eyes kept returning to.

“Just trying not to move too much,” Gibbs answered honestly. “I do appreciate this, Tony,” he added sincerely, “weirdness and all.”

“Who said anything about it being weird?” Tony asked with a chuckle. “Just one guy giving another guy a bath.”

“I’ve always been able to see right through your act,” Gibbs replied.

Tony smiled, knowing what Gibbs was saying couldn’t be any closer to the truth. He was the one person who’d taken the time to look and he cared enough to not let him get away with hiding behind humor and expensive clothes. “Yeah, well, you’d do the same for me.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Tony squeezed more manly scented body wash onto the washcloth and lathered it up then washed Gibbs’ legs. He cringed when the man flinched then noticed there were no injuries on his left thigh to cause him to jerk. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Gibbs lied.

“Boss, please don’t lie to me,” Tony pleaded. “Just tell me so we can deal with it and move on.”

“Alright,” Gibbs said, “remember I said I tripped over the coffee table when I was trying to get Nathan out of the line of fire?”

“And you twisted your ankle,” Tony said, “yeah, I remember.”

“I think I pulled a groin muscle too.”

“Oh,” Tony replied. “Um, believe it or not I actually have some experience with that. Do you want me to massage it for you?”

“Maybe later,” Gibbs answered. Things were already awkward enough for one night and at the moment all he wanted to do was make it to his bed before he fell asleep.

“Okay,” Tony said. He finished washing Gibbs then took a moment to look over the other man’s body while he was relaxed with his eyes closed. He told himself he was just making sure he hadn’t missed anything when in reality he knew he was looking for other reasons.

“Done?” Gibbs asked.

“Kinda,” Tony answered. “I mean, I draw the line at washing your junk, Boss,” he said with an awkward laugh. “You’re gonna have to do that yourself.”

“Thank you,” Gibbs said as he took the washcloth and finished cleaning himself up, and Tony wasn’t sure if he was being thanked for letting Gibbs wash his own private area or for helping him wash the rest of himself.

“Do you feel better?” Tony asked, waiting for the man to finish up.

“Yeah,” Gibbs answered. “I’m not looking forward to getting out. I know that’s gonna hurt like a bitch but it’s nice to not be caked in sweat and blood anymore.”

“Don’t worry,” Tony said, “I’ll help you.”

Gibbs handed the washcloth to Tony when he was finished and waited for the man to pull the plug so the water could start draining before helping him stand. He couldn’t stop the pained groan despite Tony’s gentleness as his body was lifted into a standing position. Tony supported Gibbs for a long moment, letting him adjust to the change in position and waiting for the pain to subside before rinsing him off under the shower, helping him out and carefully patting him dry.

“Do you want me to help you get dressed or do you wanna just sleep naked?” Tony asked, hoping Gibbs wouldn’t fight him on the sleep issue. The man obviously needed his rest and Tony needed to get to NCIS so he could track down the man responsible for hurting his teammates.

Gibbs thought about it for minute before answering. “Maybe just a pair of underwear. They’re in my top dresser drawer. You can borrow a shirt too, if you want.” Tony’s was pretty wet after helping him out of the tub and it was cold and snowy outside. The last thing Tony needed was pneumonia.

Gibbs emptied his bladder while Tony grabbed a pair of underwear and one of his Marine Corps hoodies. By the time Gibbs made it into the bedroom, Tony’s wet shirt was on the floor and the man was decked out in one of his long sleeve tees and the hoody. Tony helped Gibbs get the boxer briefs on and pulled up before turning the covers back and helping him lay down.

He skillfully wrapped his boss’s ankle with the bandage he’d found in Gibbs’ medicine cabinet before covering the man up. “Need anything else, Boss?” he asked, trying not to sound too anxious. “You want a goodnight kiss or anything?” More humor. Tony couldn’t help himself. The worse the situation, the more humor it required to make it through.

“You headed back to the hospital to check on McGee?” Gibbs asked, his eyes already slipping closed. No wonder the man hadn’t put up a fight about sleeping. He could barely keep his eyes open.

“Eventually,” Tony answered, trying not to lie to Gibbs. “I need to check in with Balboa too. His team’s heading up the investigation.”

“Keep me updated,” Gibbs muttered as sleep pulled him under.

Tony stood beside Gibbs’ bed for a long moment and watched until he was sure his boss was asleep. He put a glass of water and Gibbs’ phone on the nightstand then hurried down the stairs and out the front door to his car.