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The air left both their lungs with a whooshing sound as they hit the floor, Gibbs landing solidly on top of Tony. Grateful for the at least somewhat soft mats protecting them, Tony still felt his spine crack and his head bump rather harshly against the floor, and his eyes glazed over for a few moments. When he shook it off and looked up at Gibbs, he saw his boss’ eyes were glazed too, and the lines around Gibbs’ eyes told him it was not from pleasure. Despite his discomfort though, Tony felt himself stir anyway at the feeling of Gibbs on top of him, and he took a deep breath to try and calm his body down. It didn’t work. Gibbs’ scent of clean sweat and the ever present whiff of sawdust permeated his lungs, and Tony was helpless against his body’s response to it. He held still, waiting for Gibbs to move, but the older man didn’t.

“Boss?”

Gibbs at last focused his eyes on Tony, and Tony could see a flash of pain in them. One of Tony’s hands came up of its own volition and stroked up Gibbs’ side and back in what was meant to be a comforting gesture, but during the fall Gibbs’ shirt had ridden up, and Tony’s hand brushed over naked skin instead of damp cloth. Tony felt a shiver, but couldn’t tell whether it was him or Gibbs who shivered, or maybe both of them. The arousal he had been trying to hide made itself known even more, and Tony knew Gibbs must be feeling it, but Tony didn’t see acknowledgement of it in the older man’s eyes. Tony cleared his throat.

“Gibbs? You can get off me now.”

Gibbs took a deep breath and then spoke, his voice hoarse and soft.

“No, Tony, I can’t.”

“Look, Jethro, I’m sorry about…”

“My knee, Tony. I think I twisted it.”

“Oh!”

Relief flashed through Tony for a moment, quickly replaced by guilt that he was relieved while Gibbs was in pain. He brought up his other hand as well to steady Gibbs on top of him, trying to ignore the feeling of Gibbs’ skin under his fingertips, and tightened his hold.

“Okay, I’m going to roll us onto our sides. Carefully.”

When Gibbs nodded and clenched his teeth together in anticipation of the pain the movement would cause, Tony gently rolled them over, trying to keep their legs from tangling together. Gibbs only gave a tiny grunt when his leg came into contact with the floor, then let himself roll further from his side onto his back. Tony carefully pulled his arm out from under Gibbs and sat up, looking down at Gibbs who had squeezed his eyes shut and was breathing through clenched teeth.

“You okay, Jethro?”

After taking another deep breath, Gibbs opened his eyes and Tony could see the pain in them.

“Hurts like hell. Whose stupid idea was this anyway?”

Tony laughed.

“Yours. I told you we were getting too old for this, but you wanted to blow off some steam, remember?”

Despite the pain, Gibbs chuckled self-depricatingly.

“Don’t remind me.”

They remained like that for a few minutes more until Tony could see Gibbs relax a little, the muscles of his jaw loosening and his breathing coming easier.

“Think you can get up, Boss?”

Gibbs nodded.

“Gonna need your help, though.”

“Of course.”

It took some careful maneuvering and a lot of muscle power from Tony, but eventually they managed to get Gibbs standing without jostling his leg too much. Gibbs’ arm was draped over Tony’s shoulders, and Tony’s arm was around Gibbs’ waist, supporting him. When Gibbs carefully tried to put some weight on his leg, he hissed.

“Fuck!”

Tony winced in sympathy.

“Come on, Jethro, lean on me. Let’s get you to the showers.”

It was slow going, but they made it eventually.

“Want to sit down?”

Tony nodded to the benches in between the lockers, but Gibbs shook his head.

“Then I’d just have to get up again later.”

“Should I call Ducky?”

Gibbs hesitated for a moment, then shook his head again.

“Duck’s already gone home. Everyone has. I just want to shower and get home. I have painkillers and that stupid brace there.”

Tony looked like he wanted to protest, but after a quick look at Gibbs who pleaded him with his gaze, he relented.

“Okay, let’s get you out of these clothes then. Can you hold yourself up?”

Leaning against the lockers, Gibbs steadied himself while Tony helped him out of his shirt. The shoes and socks were a little more difficult, but together they managed. Then Tony quickly stripped himself, grateful that his arousal had gone down during the slow track to the locker room. Tony had no problem being naked around Gibbs, they had seen each other naked plenty of times over the years, but when he looked up at Gibbs he thought he saw something in the older man’s eyes. Tony took a deep breath and reached for Gibbs’ shorts, gently tugging them down and kneeling to help Gibbs step out of them. What he hadn’t counted on was that that would put his face right in front of Gibbs’ groin, and he swallowed hard when he saw the older man’s cock twitch. Quickly rising to his feet, Tony thought he saw a slight smirk on Gibbs’ face.

Ignoring that for now, Tony helped Gibbs over to the showers and kept him steady while Gibbs quickly soaped up and rinsed off, then Tony washed himself too and got their towels, drying off quickly. After he had helped Gibbs into clean sweats and dressed himself, they began the long walk to the garage and their cars. When Tony started steering them towards his own car, Gibbs shook his head.

“My car, Tony.”

Tony snorted.

“You can’t drive like this, Gibbs.”

“You’ll drive.”

That made Tony look at Gibbs sharply. Gibbs had taken the Challenger to the office today, and nobody but Gibbs ever got to drive that sweet yellow and black car. Seeing the look on Tony’s face, Gibbs quirked his lips at him.

“You can drive it, Tony. I trust you.”

After having settled Gibbs in the passenger seat, Tony quickly went back upstairs to retrieve their bags, grinning giddily at the idea of getting to drive Gibbs’ car. When he returned, Gibbs was leaning back in his seat, eyes closed, but when Tony got in and adjusted the driver’s seat and the mirrors to account for his slightly larger frame, Gibbs looked at him and smiled at the gleeful expression on Tony’s face. Tony drove them to Gibbs’ house carefully, in part because he didn’t want anything to happen to the car, and in part because he didn’t want to jostle Gibbs’ leg and cause him pain, but the happy little smile never left his face.

When he had settled Gibbs on the couch with an icepack, Tony found the brace and painkillers upstairs and gave them to Gibbs, who took the pills without complaint, that alone telling Tony that he really must be hurting still. After a while, Gibbs removed the icepack and Tony helped him put on the brace, and they leaned back on the couch, each sipping a beer, resting in silence. At last Gibbs seemed to relax again, the painkillers kicking in, muting the pain in his knee to a dull throb. He turned his head and looked at Tony, who saw the movement and turned to Gibbs.

“Thanks, Tony.”

“Always, Jethro.”

They held each other’s eyes for a few moments more, then Tony got up to get them both another beer. A little while later, drinks finished, Gibbs patted Tony’s thigh.

“Time for bed.”

Tony grinned.

“Bed or couch?”

“Bed. You coming?”

“I’d love to.”

Gibbs shook his head, but chuckled, and let Tony help him off the couch and up the stairs. The brace certainly helped, but Gibbs was still unsteady, and Tony kept a close eye on him while Gibbs was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, turning only when Gibbs made use of the head. When Gibbs was done, Tony helped him to the bed, then used the bathroom himself. Switching off the light, Tony stood in the doorway for a moment, then decisively walked over to the bed and settled on the free side, turning his back to Gibbs. Gibbs gave a small grin in the dark.

“Keeping an eye on me?”

“Just in case you need the bathroom in the middle of the night.”

“Right.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t take advantage of you in your weakened state.”

This time Gibbs chuckled, and Tony grinned. They both knew that even with Gibbs’ knee injured, he could still best anyone who wanted to try anything with him. After a few more moments of silence, Gibbs cleared his throat.

“Tony?”

“Hmmm?”

“Back in the gym…”

Tony interrupted him.

“Can we talk about it later, Jethro? I’m tired, and we both need some sleep.”

Gibbs nodded to himself, and then softly patted Tony’s shoulder.

“Okay. Good night, Tony.”

“Good night, Jethro.”

 

In the morning, Tony tried to persuade Gibbs to stay home and call in sick, but of course Gibbs refused. Knowing that arguing was pointless, Tony helped him downstairs after Gibbs had managed to dress himself, and after breakfast he drove them over to the Yard. He did insist that Gibbs went to see Ducky first thing, and helped him over to Autopsy, keeping an eye on him while Ducky examined him in between mutters and tutting.

“Really, Jethro, you should know better at your age. Romping around in the gym after hours, when you know that no one is there to care for you should something happen.”

After a quick look to Tony, Ducky amended his statement.

“Except young Anthony, of course, who took very good care of you from the looks of it. Excellent job, Anthony. But really, Jethro, you should have called me last night. At least you managed to prevent some swelling, and it is a good thing you did not refuse to wear the brace this time. I must insist you stay at your desk though, you are in no condition to go running around in the field.”

“Don’t worry about that, Ducky. He’s hardly able to walk, let alone run.”

Tony grinned unrepentantly at the glare Gibbs shot him, and Ducky hid a small smile.

“Very good. Well then, gentlemen, there is nothing more I can do about it now. You will just have to take the time to heal, Jethro.”

Gibbs sighed.

“I know. Thanks, Duck.”

“Take good care of him, Anthony.”

“You know I will, Ducky.”

Ducky watched with a small smile as Tony helped Gibbs off the table and out of Autopsy, knowing that Tony would always take care of Gibbs any way he could.

 

They didn’t catch a case that day, for which Tony was quietly grateful, because it meant that he wouldn’t have to argue with Gibbs about going out in the field. McGee and Bishop quietly worked cold cases, but Tony’s mind kept drifting. Gibbs had started to ask about what had happened in the gym last night, but had let it go when Tony had asked him to. But Tony knew that it wasn’t the end of it, and he was debating with himself what to do.

He had decided to stop pretending some time ago, after things had ended with Zoe. Gibbs was the only one he truly loved, and Tony was content with that, even if it never led to anything. But now Gibbs had found out, or at least had some idea of what was going on, and that was something Tony hadn’t really been ready for. He hadn’t decided yet whether he was up to telling Gibbs how he felt, but now it seemed he had little choice. He sighed softly to himself. But then he remembered the little smirks and chuckles Gibbs had given him the previous night, and the more he thought about it, the more he felt that Gibbs already understood. As the day passed, Tony felt a calm settle over him, and he knew that if Gibbs brought it up again, he would tell the man the truth. He was done with lying.

 

That evening after dinner, Gibbs looked longingly to his basement, but knew he wouldn’t be able to do much there. Tony decided to distract him, and after some debate, they settled at the table for a game of chess. All through dinner and the game, Tony had been waiting for Gibbs to bring it up again, but while they did talk a little, Gibbs let that particular subject rest. It was when they had gone upstairs and gotten into bed, that Gibbs spoke again.

“Tony? About…”

“I didn’t mean for you to find out, not like that.”

When Gibbs stayed quiet, Tony sighed and rolled from his side onto his back, staring up at the ceiling in the dark. He cleared his throat.

“I don’t want to lie anymore, Jethro, but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable either.”

“How long?”

“I’ve always been attracted to you. I’ve loved you for a while now.”

“Tony…”

“I don’t expect anything, Jethro. It’s alright. I just thought you should know. No secrets between us. I hope you’re okay with it.”

Despite feeling good about getting it out in the open, Tony still held his breath while he waited for Gibbs to respond. After a few moments he heard the sheets rustle, and then felt Gibbs’ hand softly stroke over his arm.

“I’m okay with it, Tony.”

Quietly releasing his breath, Tony nodded thankfully in the dark.

“Thanks, Jethro.”

And then he rolled back onto his side, his back to Gibbs again, and tried to fall asleep. He heard Gibbs sigh behind him, but the older man stayed quiet, and eventually Tony drifted off.

 

His thoughts kept Gibbs awake for a long time even after he had heard Tony’s breathing even out, telling him the younger man had fallen asleep. Gibbs had expected Tony to admit to an attraction, having clearly felt his arousal in the gym even through the pain his knee was causing him, but apparently Tony’s feelings for him were deeper than Gibbs had thought. Things would have been simpler if Tony had only felt physical attraction. Gibbs was pretty certain that they could have enjoyed each other for a while without damaging their friendship, and Gibbs had been looking forward to that. He had seen signs in Tony for a while now, and his own attraction to the younger man had always been there.

But now Tony had told Gibbs he loved him, and that was something different. Gibbs didn’t do so well with love. The people he loved got hurt, either by him or because of him, and he would never let anything hurt Tony. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be fair of him to keep them apart simply because he was afraid. He loved Tony, and Tony loved him too. To deny them both happiness because something might happen to ruin it somewhere in the future was callous and heartless, the coward’s way out. But did he really dare risk his heart and Tony’s happiness, and ultimately their friendship after all these years?

And because he loved Tony anyway, would it really make a difference whether they acted on it or not? Anyone observant enough already knew that there was a bond between Gibbs and Tony, and if they wanted to hurt Gibbs, hurting Tony would be an obvious choice. And as for Gibbs hurting Tony, wasn’t he hurting him anyway if he kept his feelings hidden, leaving Tony to think that his affections were unrequited? So what it really came down to was this: was Gibbs man enough to give Tony his heart?

In the darkness of the bedroom, Gibbs nodded to himself. Tony already had his heart anyway, the younger man just didn’t know it yet.

 

For the next three days, with Gibbs out of the running until Ducky cleared him, the team worked cold cases. Gibbs’ knee was healing well, and he really didn’t need Tony to help him get around anymore, but neither man mentioned it. Tony still drove Gibbs to and from work, and they both liked the easiness with which Tony crawled into bed with Gibbs at night, the comfort of being near each other. Tony felt settled by Gibbs’ acceptance of his presence in Gibbs’ bed, and resolved to enjoy it for as long as Gibbs would let him. And Gibbs had no intention of letting Tony go.

That Friday evening they finally went down to the basement for the first time since Gibbs had gotten hurt, and the familiarity of Gibbs working on something while Tony sat at his side and watched made them both smile. Tony poured them both some more bourbon, and Gibbs reached out and brushed his hand through Tony’s hair.

“Thanks, Tony.”

For a moment, Tony froze, and then he looked at Gibbs.

“You don’t have to…”

“I know.”

“I mean, I didn’t tell you so you would feel obliged to…”

“I know.”

“Then why did you do that?”

Gibbs smiled at him.

“Because I wanted to.”

“Oh.”

After a few moments of silence, Gibbs spoke again.

“I like touching you, Tony.”

Tony just stared at Gibbs.

“Always did. Head slaps.”

He looked at Tony pointedly. Tony unconsciously raised his hand and brushed it over the back of his own head, as if he could feel every one of the slaps he’d received there over the years.

“Oh.”

Then Tony gave an almost shy little smile, and Gibbs quirked up one corner of his mouth in response.

 

Gibbs was already in bed when Tony came out of the bathroom, and he saw Tony hesitate and fidget a little, unsure of his welcome under the covers after what had been said in the basement. Gibbs lifted the corner of the comforter and held it up.

“Come here, Tony.”

Taking a deep breath, Tony walked over and scooted into bed, rolling onto his side facing away from Gibbs immediately. Gibbs smiled, then moved to the middle of the bed and closed his arm around Tony’s waist, pulling the younger man back against him. He felt the tension in Tony’s muscles, and when he softly brushed his fingertips over Tony’s bare belly, felt the skin and muscle twitch under his touch.

“You know…”

He felt and heard Tony hold his breath, waiting for his next words.

“… I could get used to this.”

“Jethro, you really don’t need to…”

“After all, I’ve been dreaming of it often. And the real thing is even better.”

Breathless, Tony shifted in Gibbs’ hold and rolled onto his back, turning his face so he could look at Gibbs. The older man smiled.

“That’s even better still.”

And then Gibbs leaned over Tony, and softly kissed his lips. It only took Tony a few moments before he started responding, and when Gibbs at last pulled away, Tony’s eyes were wide and his pupils dilated. Tony reached up and brushed his fingers over Gibbs’ cheek.

“Jethro?”

Gibbs swallowed at the tenderness and insecurity in Tony’s voice, then forced himself to be honest.

“I don’t know why you would want an old man like me, Tony, but if you really do, you’ve got me.”

“You…”

“I promise I’ll love you and try like hell not to let you get hurt.”

“Get hurt?”

“The people I love get hurt. I never wanted that to happen to you. But I already love you anyway. So if you really want me, you have me.”

Tony just stared at Gibbs for a long while, then swallowed the lump in his throat.

"You really mean that, don't you."

"I do."

"You're not just saying it to humor me? Poor Tony and his inappropriate feelings, have to give him something to keep him from leaving?"

Gibbs looked at him sharply.

"Leaving?"

"Well… I could understand if you wouldn't want me around anymore. I mean, talk about awkward. Your male SIC, past his prime, suddenly says he's developed these feelings for you and crawls into bed with you. Is he watching your six, or is he watching your ass? You've got to be wondering whether I've gone crazy, or am I just saying this for some nefarious reason you haven't thought of yet. Maybe setting you up for a sexual harassment charge…"

"…are you?…"

"No! No, Jethro. I'm just saying…"

"…you doubt me."

"No! I know you wouldn't lie to me, Gibbs, not about something important, but…"

"You doubt yourself."

Tony squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and swallowed hard.

"I doubt that… that anyone can… truly… love me."

With a deep sigh as his heart clenched in sorrow for the man he loved, Gibbs settled against Tony, burying his face into Tony's neck, his arm thrown across Tony's chest to pull him tighter against him.

"I do love you, Tony. It's an easy thing to do, I promise. Let's just sleep on it, okay?"

Tony nodded a little, and tried to relax in Gibbs' hold, but to was a long time after Gibbs had drifted off to sleep that Tony finally managed to succumb to sleep as well.

 

Over the next days, Gibbs tried to figure out what he had done wrong. Tony still stayed with him at his house, still slept in his bed, but refused to speak about what had happened and turned his back to Gibbs every night, his body tensing and stiffening when Gibbs reached out for him. Gibbs didn't persist, no matter how much he wanted to hold Tony in his arms. In the mornings when Gibbs woke up before their alarms went off, he found himself wrapped around Tony or vice versa invariably, but he extracted himself from their bed without waking Tony, not wanting to aggravate Tony's discomfort.

When Ducky cleared Gibbs for field duty several days after Gibbs had tossed the hated brace aside and pretended his knee was no longer bothering him, Tony carried their bags down to the garage as he had done every day, but then handed Gibbs his bag and turned to his own car.

"Tony?"

"You're fine now, Boss. Don't need me anymore."

"Tony!"

But Tony hastily got into his own car, and sped off without looking back, leaving a cursing Gibbs behind.

 

That evening, Tony started to pack his bags several times, but always put everything back in his closet again. He couldn't leave. No matter how much of a fool he had made of himself that it had made Gibbs take pity on him, he couldn't leave. Feeling deeply sorry for himself, he slumped on his couch.

The knock came about an hour later. Tony contemplated pretending he wasn't home, not in the mood for whichever of his neighbors wanted something from him, but before he could even make a decision, he heard the door open anyway. He reached for his gun, wondering who would be stupid enough to break into a federal agent's apartment, but before he could grab it, his wrist was caught in a steel grip. Tony let out an undignified squeak, and then looked up at his assailant.

"Gibbs?"

Tony was pulled off the couch in an instance and shoved towards the bedroom.

"Get in there, DiNozzo!"

Hurrying to obey the command from his boss, Tony moved without thinking. Gibbs slammed the bedroom door shut, his piercing gaze on Tony standing at the foot of the bed.

"Strip, DiNozzo."

The command was soft but absolute, and Tony automatically responded to the tone he was used to from Gibbs. Clothes were discarded quickly, and within seconds he stood naked and panting. Gibbs stared at him for what seemed like an awfully long time, then his gaze softened. But seeing the questions starting to form in Tony's eyes, Gibbs barked again.

"Sit, DiNozzo. On the bed, facing me."

When Tony immediately complied, Gibbs shrugged off his coat and let it drop to the floor. Then he bent over Tony and kissed him, commanding but still gentle, taking control. His breathing was ragged when at last he pulled back, but Gibbs managed to sound commanding still.

"Undress me."

Tony's hands deftly removed Gibbs' clothes, and his eyes widened when he saw Gibbs' state of arousal. Tony licked his lips in desire, but waited, and waited, and waited… At last Gibbs pushed him back onto the bed, pushing Tony onto his back, covering him from head to toe with his own body. Taking Tony's mouth in a deep and feverish kiss, Gibbs couldn't bite back a moan of desire this time. But then he pulled back and stared down at the man he loved. His tone was much softer now, but still every bit as commanding as it had been before.

"Trust me, Tony. Love me. Love me back."

Tony swallowed, his eyes shiny, and Gibbs knew he had been right. Tony distrusted tenderness and emotions, not used to them being directed at him, having been taught by long experience that things like that always ended badly for him. Even though it broke Gibbs' heart, he knew he had to persist, at least for now. He leaned down again and took Tony's mouth in another deep, devouring kiss, relishing the taste of his lover, and the moans that Tony gave in pleasure as he gave in to the kiss and ran his hands over Gibbs' body. Despite the circumstances being less gentle than Gibbs would have preferred for a first time, he still took great care in preparing Tony, and when he finally pushed inside of his lover, he tried to hide the feelings in his eyes. But the longer it lasted, the more they shone through, and by the time they were both getting ready to explode, Tony was staring into Gibbs' eyes with longing and wonder, and Gibbs saw he was finally starting to believe.

"I love you, Tony. I love you."

This time it was not a command, but a soft plea, and Gibbs' heart soared when he saw Tony's smile.

"I love you too, Jethro."