Author’s notes: I started on this in 2007 right after the episode aired, and only recently found it again and decided to continue it and finish it. My first NCIS fic, not betaed. Critique is very welcome, but be gentle as far as characterization goes – first time in this fandom.



His lungs burned.

It had been two hours since he got out of the water – two hours and he had had time to go home and shower and change and try to eat but not managing to get a single bite down – and his lungs still burned.

Over and over, it played in his mind. Gibbs’ clear blue eyes, staring emptily into the water, his hair like a grey halo around his face. For a drowning person, he had looked strangely at peace. It had frightened Tony, even more so than the simple fact that Gibbs had already been under water for nearly five minutes.

He had gotten the girl out, and though he had barely had time to breathe, he had dove back into the water – the cold but clear water – to find Gibbs.

To save Gibbs.

Gibbs never needed saving, yet now he did.

And then they had been on the docks, sprawled out, neither breathing, and Tony had done what his training told him to. His own lips to Gibbs’, in a way he had never imagined, never wanted, not this way, blowing life into lungs that stood still. Cold lips, clammy face, water dripping everywhere.

Only when they were both breathing – when Gibbs was breathing again – and touching and smiling at each other like Tony didn't even exist, did Tony call the ambulance because it could not be good for anyone, Gibbs or not, to be under water for five minutes.

He sat in his apartment, staring blankly at the TV showing some movie that Tony had already seen. His chest hurt, although not just because his lungs burned from the lack of oxygen.

Gibbs had not even looked at him.

He hadn't expected a thank you, but – a look? Any kind of recognition. But then, it was Gibbs, he told himself, and Gibbs did not do thank yous and hugs and kisses, except with Abby.

And Tony didn't mind the kisses and smiles Gibbs bestowed on Abby, nor did he envy the loving gaze with which he had looked upon the girl. Those were the kisses and smiles shared between a father and daughter, the pride of a parent, and Abby was the little one, the youngest sister in the odd formation of a family they had. So Tony didn't envy it.

But it would have been nice to get just a little something. A little gratitude, a bit of happiness to still be alive – because Tony was glad that Gibbs was still alive. Gibbs did not seem to care. From what Tony could see, the man was glad that Maddie was alive – her lips had still been blue when Tony had driven away from the scene, unable to stay any longer, hurting and cold still, his hair damp and his clothes in a bag next to him. Maddie had sat, shaking and her gaze wavering, going back and forth between the ocean and the ambulance and Gibbs, who stood next to her, fighting off the ambulance personnel who simply wanted to make sure that his lungs were not filled with water.

It was odd, how something as cold as water could make Tony’s lungs burn as they did. The water had been icy, like jumping into a stack of needles, painfully prickling his skin. He hadn't reflected upon it until he was out of the water and they were alive again – then the cold droplets that ran from his hair and down his body made him shiver with cold.

Gibbs had touched Maddie. Smiled at her.

Tony couldn't recall the last time Gibbs had smiled at him.

He had returned from Mexico and sent Tony flying from his position as boss. Gibbs had not even talked to him about it – he had simply packed Tony’s stuff up and placed them back on Tony’s old desk, because he couldn't care less about Tony’s feelings on the matter. Really, no one had cared about what Gibbs had just done to Tony – they were all simply so happy that he was back.

Tony too. He had been thrilled. He had missed his boss so much it made his heart hurt. He had missed Gibbs so much that when the Director asked him to go undercover and get involved with an arms dealer’s daughter, Tony had agreed.

In a desperate attempt to get over Gibbs, who was back but ignoring him even more than he had before he had gone on his extended vacation, Tony had allowed himself to fall for Jeanne. She was a beautiful young woman, with a sense of humor, and intelligence that matched his. He wondered if he could have fallen for any woman if he had been forced to stay with her as he had been forced to stay with Jeanne, or if it was all simply a defense mechanism, to get his heart thinking of something, anything, else than Gibbs.

Gibbs’ lifeless eyes stared at him whenever he closed his eyes, and Tony filled a glass with vodka and downed it. It burned differently than the ache in his chest from the lack of oxygen earlier. Tony wondered if Gibbs’ lungs burned as well.

He had downed enough glasses of vodka to forget the count already. The bottle, which had been full upon opening, was now only about half left. Tony did not feel drunk, but he had trouble discerning reality from fantasy, as his mind took him back under water again and again and again. He heard his own heart, felt it beat hard against his chest, his lungs burning with the need for oxygen and his mind filled with only one thought – get him out.

He hadn't wanted to take Maddie up first. He didn't care about her. But he knew Gibbs would never allow Tony to help him up first, and would never forgive Tony if she did not survive, and as such, he had been forced to help her first.

He started to pour himself another glass, when there was a knock on the door. He shook his head and decided to ignore it.

It didn't work; a series of rapid knocks gave him the start of a headache.

He stood, and swayed on his feet, and realized that he was probably a tad more drunk than he had given himself credit for. He tried to stand still as the world righted itself around him, and another set of knocks were fired against his front door.

He walked to the door and pulled it open.


He wondered if he sounded as shocked as he felt, to see Gibbs standing outside.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled, “Did I give you permission to leave earlier?”

Tony frowned at him. So Gibbs had noticed his presence, at least.

“I figured you’d go with her to the hospital,” Tony said, proud that there was only the slightest hint of a slur to his voice.

“You weren’t cleared by the medics,” Gibbs said.

“I’m fine,” Tony shrugged, turning back into his apartment.

Gibbs’ hand landed on his shoulder and turned him around. Tony thought fleetingly that in a sober state, no one would have been allowed to lay a hand on his shoulder; he would have a gun at their face before the touch came. Then again, Gibbs was different, and one of the very few people who could sneak up on Tony.

Gibbs watched him, and Tony noted the stark contrast of the silent fury, like a storm, against those lifeless eyes that had stared at Tony earlier.

“You’re drunk,” Gibbs said.

“Yeah,” Tony said, because he could not come up with a good reason to lie.

Gibbs didn't ask why – perhaps because he knew why, even though Tony had done his best to keep his feelings hidden and stored so deep he could hardly find them himself, or perhaps because he didn't care. The latter was likelier.

“Is she okay, then?” asked Tony, looking at anything but Gibbs.

Gibbs didn't answer, and when Tony did meet Gibbs’ gaze, he suddenly found himself pinned against the wall. His back pushed against the cool surface of the stone wall, and against his front, Gibbs was pressed.

Tony told himself he was dreaming.

Then his coherent thoughts took a vacation, because Gibbs’ mouth descended upon his own, warm lips covering his. Gibbs’ lips were dry but soft, his chin rough with a shadow of stubble.

They stood there, lips and bodies pressed against each other, completely still, for several seconds. Then a whimper escaped Tony, a sigh, as he relaxed against Gibbs, and his mouth parted slightly.  It was all the invitation Gibbs needed to dart his tongue out and run it along Tony’s lips.

And Tony kissed back then, because if this was a vodka induced dream, then it was a damn good dream, and he would make the most of it – and quite possibly drink loads of vodka more often.

One of Gibbs’ hands ran along his neck and up into his hair, fisting and holding and releasing and petting, and Tony’s heart raced and his body responded, his cock growing hard embarrassingly quickly against Gibbs’ thighs.

“Something you wanted?” Gibbs asked, a low growl in his ear.

“Oh god, yes,” Tony whispered, eyes closed, panting and his body burning with want and need.

Then Gibbs pulled back, and Tony whimpered at the loss of closeness.

“How long?” asked Gibbs.

Tony bent forward and nibbled at Gibbs’ neck, tasting him and marking him, answering between kisses. “Years. It’s always—been you.”

He couldn't recall a time before Gibbs, a time before blue eyes and grey hair and barked orders and every once in a very rare while, a kind word, a thank you, a bit of encouragement. Tony didn't know why he had fallen for his boss, why the hardass remarks made him want to push the man against the wall and taste him – not unlike the way they were doing now – or why the lack of encouragement hadn't made him fall out of love.

Because that was what it was – love. He was in love with his boss. With Gibbs, the second ‘b’ for ‘bastard’.

He pulled back and looked into Gibbs’ eyes, but found he could not read them. Then he closed his eyes, and he was back under water, back looking at Gibbs’ lifeless body and empty gaze, floating in the water-filled car.

He had fought to make the wheel give, so that he could get Gibbs out. He did not know where he got the strength from, but it had come, in a rush of adrenaline and lack of oxygen.

His body burned, his lungs screaming for air, as he pushed up to the surface, to their rescue and safety. Gibbs’ dead weight pulled at him, and the surface seemed impossibly far away.

And then they were up there, and Tony pushed and pulled at Gibbs’ body to get him onto the dock, and he had chosen to do CPR on Gibbs before the girl, because although Gibbs would never forgive him if the girl didn't survive and Gibbs did, Tony also knew he would not survive if Gibbs did not.

And then they were both breathing, their hearts beating once more.

“Can I get an ambulance—” he had gasped into the cell phone after dialing 911, and he had given the address and orders, all the while coughing and spitting and shivering.

Gibbs hadn't looked at him; his gaze had been locked with the girl’s, and Tony had not existed to either of them.

He suddenly pulled away, from the memory and from Gibbs' arms, because it was all too much. He stumbled into the living room, embarrassed to find that there were tears in his eyes, and a lump in his throat. He blamed the vodka; he didn't cry. Except he had, when Paula died. He sat down heavily on the couch.

Gibbs wasn't dead. Crying was pointless.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, and Tony felt the couch move slightly as Gibbs sat down next to him.

He could still taste the salt water in his mouth, even though he had showered – a hot shower, trying to get the cold out of his soul – and brushed his teeth and downed half a bottle of vodka since. His imagination was running wild, blending into reality. Was this all a dream? It must be; Gibbs never came by his place, and he most certainly never kissed him.

“You couldn’t even say thanks,” Tony said, the words a snarl and a whisper and filled with so much raw emotion that even he himself was surprised. He stood up, the world swaying again but he stayed upright, and flailed with his arms while he spoke. “I saved your life and you couldn’t even bother with a simple thank you. I saved her life and you—you kick me out of my job, you tell me over and over again about everything I do wrong, you almost get yourself killed and you just don’t care! You make me save her, you make me think you’re dead—you were dead—what if you hadn’t—what if I—”

He trailed off, images still flashing before his eyes. He heard the sound of Gibbs coughing as he came back to life, turning his head and spewing water before resting his head back once more, closing his eyes, a smile on his face – a blissful smile. As though he didn't care that he had just been dead for far too long.

Tony felt fingers wrap around his own, and he decided that they seemed real, more real than the dock and the droplets of water running down his back.

“Tony,” Gibbs said, using his first name for the first time since coming to Tony’s home. “I didn’t know what to say. What you did was well beyond what the job requires you to do.”

“I’d do it all over again, boss,” Tony said quietly, looking away. Gibbs’ hand felt warm and real, and so safe that Tony dared say what he would never had dared say otherwise.

“I know.”

Tony looked up, and he was taken aback with the intensity of Gibbs’ gaze. A fire burned in his eyes, unlike anything Tony had ever seen before.

Tony kissed Gibbs then, because he decided that if it was a dream, then it wouldn't matter anyway, and if it was real, then Gibbs had already kissed him once, and it was safe – if anything involving Gibbs was truly safe, that is. It felt like it. Gibbs’ body felt hard and strong beneath Tony’s shaking fingers, and it fitted so well against his own. Tony ran his fingers up and down Gibbs’ arms, marveling at the feeling, because he had dreamed about it for so long but never imagined he would get the chance to feel it for real.

He remembered the feeling of Gibbs’ cold, blue lips against his own on the dock, when Gibbs hadn't responded or even breathed at all, when his heart had been standing still and his head had lolled to the side when Tony hadn't held it in place. It was nothing like this, nothing like the man who now wrapped his arms around Tony in a caring way that Tony could never have imagined him able to do. It seemed so foreign, for such a hard man to be so gentle.

“Tony,” Gibbs said softly, a hand on his chin making Tony look at Gibbs. “Thank you.”

It was like a breath of life, like the ones Tony had breathed into Gibbs’ dying body. It still seemed like a dream, but despite the uncharacteristic words, it felt real. With just a few simple words, Gibbs had breathed life into Tony’s burning lungs. The pain had been replaced – with a burning need and a burning love for one Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

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