Author’s notes: Written in three days, because for some reason, it simply flowed from my fingers. Not betaed, because I have no NCIS beta. I hope the characters are not too out there – this time, I actually included McGee, Ziva and Abby as well as my favorite couple. Comments are thrived upon, critique is very welcome.


“Pack your bags. You fly out tomorrow.”

The words echoed in his head, back and forth, back and forth. With the last few days’ horrifying events, Anthony DiNozzo did not know what to think. Sadness? Waves of it washed over him as soon as the new Director told Ziva she would be sent back, her liaison position at NCIS terminated. Confusion? That he had felt as soon as he stepped into director Leon Vance’s office, which did not yet belong to him, because Tony had been there too many times with Jenny, and he still could not believe she was gone. Anger? Vance handed Gibbs a stack of folders, all with the words ‘Confidential’ on them.

“Meet your new team,” the Director had said, and Tony felt and heard the malice in the Director’s voice, because this was all about one-upmanship over Gibbs.

Despair? It felt as though he was drowning in it when Vance told him that he would be heading for the USS Ronald Reagan first thing in the morning. If it had not been for the fact that Tony could not remember the last time he had eaten anything, he would have been sick all over the Director’s nice carpet.

They did not speak as they descended the stairs, a team no longer. McGee in front, looking lost like a puppy, his eyes traveling over the open landscape of desks, searching for something – a hint that this was all a joke, perhaps – but not finding it. Ziva trailed behind him, her face a mask of indifference that Tony had no trouble seeing through, not after three years together. She had not yet recovered from the events with Hoffman; the shadows beneath her eyes had returned with the sleeplessness of the last few days. She was a beautiful woman, but something in her eyes made her seem broken now, in a way Tony had never seen before.

Next to him, Gibbs walked in silence. He held the folders containing his new team in one hand, the grip tight. His lips were pressed together and the blue eyes blazed. He looked amazing in his suit, the one he had worn for Jenny’s funeral. It was probably wrong to notice such a thing right now, but Tony could not help it.

“So—uh,” said McGee as they reached the bottom of the stairs. “I guess this is—uh—”

He had not stammered that much in quite some time, Tony reflected. The Probie had grown up into a full-fledged field agent, who could give as good as Tony in their verbal sparring – although, Tony had to point out to himself, Probie would never win over him in physical sparring.

Abby came running at that moment, still dressed in her funeral clothes too. Tony had to remind himself that although it felt as though it had felt like they had been up in the Director’s office for hours, it had not been more than a few minutes.

“What did he say?” Abby asked. “What did he tell you? It can’t have been good, because he called you up there all at once – oh god, no one else’s dead, right? Because I couldn’t take it. Not after Director Shepard – it’s not, right? What did he say?”

She spoke as fast as she always did, though her lower lip quivered and there was a neediness in her voice that was not normally there. Tony had heard it before, when Kate died. He did not need the reminder of that dark time right now, and he pushed the thoughts of his old partner aside, the wound suddenly feeling as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.

“We’ve been—reassigned,” McGee said, because no one else would speak.

“Reassigned?” Abby echoed. “What do you mean, ‘reassigned’? You work here. How can he—”

“Abby, please,” McGee said softly.

Abby stilled then, at the quiet pleading in his voice. She turned slowly to Gibbs, as though he would have the answers.


Gibbs shrugged, though not in an uncaring way, and placed the three folders on his desk.

“Oh god—” Abby whispered. “But—where are you going? You can’t just—leave. He can’t do that.”

“He can and he did,” Tony said, surprising himself by speaking. He wished his tone could have been gentler, but he was bone tired and all he wanted was to go to sleep, to forget the last few days had ever happened.

“Where? Where are you going?” Abby asked.

“Ziva’s going back home to Israel,” Tony said, softer now. “McGee will be going over to the Geeksquad in cyber crimes. I will—I’ll be the agent afloat on the USS Ronald Reagan, starting tomorrow.”

There were tears flowing down Abby’s cheeks and Tony felt his own eyes burning. He would not cry, especially not in front of his boss – former boss – but he might once he returned home to his apartment, where no one could see it.

Abby turned and ran, tall platform shoes no hinder for her.

McGee looked lost, his eyes following Abby until she disappeared down the stairs, and he turned to Gibbs for help. Gibbs nodded his head in the general direction of Abby and McGee took off after her, apparently having needed Gibbs’ approval.

Ziva had started packing her things, stacking them neatly in a box. She had very few things of her own, Tony realized – there were no photos or other personal items, just her own stapler and pens and pencils, a few papers and notebooks. She did not say a word as she worked to collect her things, and she pointedly ignored Tony’s searching gaze. They had hardly spoken in the last few days, despite being stuck together, first in a car and then on a plane for several hours, as they headed back home from California. Each had been wading through their own personal thoughts and feelings and Tony knew he had bitten her head off a few times when she had simply tried to be comforting.

He did not want to be comforted, not now. Not when Jenny had just died. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her bleeding, dead body before him.

Ziva finished, Tony simply standing there, watching her fold a shirt that she had kept in one of her drawers. He could not bring himself to move.

She walked the two steps from her desk to Gibbs’ and paused.

“It has been a pleasure,” she said, her voice clear in a way that Tony would not expect his own voice to be.

She reached out her hand and Gibbs took it, and they shook slightly longer than necessary. Then she turned away, took her box, and stopped in front of Tony.

For a moment, he thought she would kiss him. She did, but not on the mouth. Soft, warm lips pressed against his cheek for a moment, and he felt the heat of her body against his own. He would miss her, he knew – she annoyed him greatly, but had challenged him each and every day with her intelligence and humor. They had spent many a late night together, laughing and talking and despite Tony being Tony, not doing anything beyond that.

She was certainly something.

“Tony,” she said, and he imagined that he could hear the emotions in her voice. She did not need to say what she thought of him – despite all their hard words to each other, he knew.

“Ziva,” he said, rather softly.

She turned on her heel, striding over to the elevator, her movements catlike, graceful and deadly. The elevator came up, and she stepped into it, and he wondered if this was the last time he would ever see her.

He sat down, heavily, feeling like the weight of the world rested upon his shoulders. He let his eyes fall shut, and he wondered if McGee and Abby were off comforting each other in a janitor’s closet yet, because they should. They deserved it. At least McGee would still be nearby, even if he was no longer on Gibbs’ team. Tony was in no way happy to be shipping out with USS Ronald Reagan but he still preferred it be him over McGee, who would have been seasick and homesick and every other kind of sick there was, had he been the one to go.

“You gonna sit there all night?”

Gibbs’ voice broke through Tony’s train of thoughts, and he opened his eyes lazily.

“The chair was closer than my bed,” he said.

“Go home, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said.

“You’re not the boss of me anymore.”

He sighed as he finished the sentence, wishing that it was not true. Gibbs had been his boss for over seven years – it was the longest Tony had ever stayed at any job. Gibbs, rather than the job itself, was the reason for that. The job was fun and interesting – most of the time – but it was Gibbs who challenged Tony with every breath he took. Gibbs was the leader, with an intelligence and a trust in his own gut feeling that Tony could ever only hope to achieve. That was why he had stayed, through good times and bad. Even when Gibbs had taken his long ‘vacation’ to Mexico, Tony had stayed, hoping that the man would come to his senses and return. He had, obviously, although that thought would always come with a stream of annoyance for Tony, because he did not think he deserved to be treated as garbage to be thrown away, the way he had been.

Not that it mattered now. Not that anything mattered anymore. Jenny was dead – God, how that hurt – and tomorrow, he would be on a ship, far far away from Gibbs and NCIS headquarters. Gibbs would be getting to know his new team – Tony almost smiled at the thought; he would not want to be in the near vicinity when the new team arrived and even less so when they caught their first case.

“You’re falling asleep again, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said.

“Mm-hmh,” Tony said. Sleeping seemed like a good idea, though he knew that if he fell asleep in the chair, he would have a back ache once he woke up. Lord knew he had fallen asleep in the chair enough times to know that.

“Come on, I’ll take you home,” Gibbs said.

“Really?” Tony asked.

Gibbs shot him a look.

Tony packed his things rather quickly. He saw no point in making it a long, dragged out process, because it would not make it hurt any less. He threw his things into a box, not wanting to look at them, not wanting to be reminded of all the memories he had here. Perhaps if someone hit him over the head really hard, he would forget NCIS and this would hurt less? But thinking about a hit over the head made him think of Franks, who had hit him over the head a few months ago, and that memory led to new memories of Franks, which led to memories of Jenny—

He stopped himself.

Gibbs stood before him, apparently ready to go. Tall and broad shouldered, silver hair longer and his face more lined now than when Tony had first met him, but the intensity of his eyes had not changed.

“I’m coming,” Tony mumbled, and he walked behind Gibbs, not looking back as they waited for the elevator.

They stood quietly in the elevator as it descended. Tony found himself wishing that Gibbs would flick the emergency switch, blue lights coming on, and that he would tell Tony that it was all an elaborate hoax. That none of the last few days had been real at all – Jenny’s death had been faked, and Tony had dreamed the fire and the funeral, and Vance had not been appointed director, and the team had not been split into a million little pieces, so small that they would never be the same again—

The elevator dinged as they reached the garage, and Tony sighed deeply.

Gibbs shot him a look, one eyebrow quirking up in question.

Tony shrugged. “Just wishing it was all a bad dream, boss.”

He would have to stop calling Gibbs ‘boss’.

“You and me both.”

Gibbs’ muttered words surprised him. Gibbs had hardly said a word about Jenny’s death, or about anything else that had transpired. He had never been one to share his feelings, but this time, Gibbs had not even said a word about the fire that had conveniently been started in the dead director’s home.

Tony did not know what to think about the fire. He saw the necessity to keep the cover intact, but it was still barbaric and still a great danger. Firefighters risking their lives to put the fire out, other houses at risk of catching fire, people around the house risking injuries and smoke inhalation. But Gibbs had not said a word about having started the fire – though it was not hard to figure out that he had – and as such, it was not a subject Tony was willing to breach.

They sat silently in the car and Gibbs did not drive at breakneck speed for once. A pang of sorrow hit Tony – he would likely never hang onto the handles of the car as Ziva tried to kill them with her driving, never try to keep a cup of coffee from spilling all over as Gibbs drove and decided on some u-turn that was illegal in every way. He would no longer hear McGee talk gibberish as he explained something MIT-ish he had just done to get a fix on a suspect, no longer get to try to connect the dots as three other people in the car talked.

Had it been any other time, Tony would have enjoyed the ride with Gibbs immensely, and he would have talked all the way through it. But not now, not today. He felt empty.

When Gibbs stopped the car in front of the apartment building where Tony had been living for the last few years, Tony felt as though his body had been filled with lead. He did not want to get out of the car, did not want to face his dark apartment alone, knowing that tomorrow, he would leave and not come back for a long time.

“Wanna—” he started, then stopped, because Gibbs was not the kind of person one invited in just like that.

Gibbs surprised him again. “Yeah.”

Tony’s eyebrows rose. The two got out of the car, Gibbs locked it, and they walked up to the building. Tony even held the door for Gibbs, who looked slightly amused by this.

The apartment was neat and tidy; the cleaning lady had been there once while Tony had been in California, and since returning to Washington, Tony had hardly been at home.

“Would you like some coffee? Or something stronger?” Tony asked.

“I think a shot of something stronger is called for tonight,” Gibbs said.

Tony could do nothing but agree, and he picked a bottle of whisky and two glasses, pouring a little into each. He handed Gibbs one glass, and sipped on his own. A part of him felt a need to drink himself into oblivion, even though it would be an extremely bad idea considering he would be leaving for work on a ship tomorrow.

Gibbs sat down in one of the recliners in the living room and Tony sat down on the couch. He liked his couch – he had spent many hours watching movies on it, and Ziva had liked to sit on one end with Tony on the other, when they had hung out at his place. Once, she had fallen asleep, curled up on the couch, and he had placed a blanket around her, letting her sleep. He had gone to bed after that, and she had been gone in the morning when he woke up, the blanket neatly folded on the couch, but he had always had the feeling that she had liked that he had taken care of her, just that once.

Gibbs did not need to be taken care of.  He sat up straight, his posture always that of a marine. Memories flashed before Tony’s eyes – he recalled when Gibbs and Kate had gone undercover to catch the sniper serial killer, because good God had Gibbs looked good then, and the time in the sewer system when that insane woman had kidnapped him, because hearing Gibbs’ voice had been to hear his savior. Then there was the time in Bethesda, when Tony had been sick with Y. pestis, and Gibbs’ voice had been the only thing to keep him grounded through the pain, when he only wanted to let go and die, because every breath made his body feel as though it was on fire, every gasp for air harder than the previous one.

So many memories.

“I’ll miss you.”

He blurted the words before he could stop himself, and studied the glass of whisky carefully to avoid looking at Gibbs.

“I know,” Gibbs said.

“It’s been the best job,” Tony said, quickly continuing, for some reason unable to stay quiet. “The best team. I wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t think so. First with Kate – she was special – such a lady. And Ziva too, although way different—and McGee – he’s gotten good. Those cyber crime geeks will be lucky to have him. He’ll fit right in.”

He did not ramble often, but he did now. He found that he hardly even cared. It was the last night, the last supper – although not so much a supper, as a glass of alcohol – and the worst thing Gibbs could do was to slap him upside the head. Tony found himself wishing Gibbs would do so, one last time. He whined and bitched about it, he knew, but in a way, he had always liked it. It was his. His and Gibbs’.

He wondered if Gibbs would slap his new team. It seemed likely.  

“Don’t be too harsh on the newbies,” Tony said. “They’ll probably do the best they can. They’ll be nervous. McGee was nervous – even Kate was nervous when she started, even though she’d never admit it. And agent Lee, she was shaking and she didn’t even have you as her boss, she just had me.”

“Nothing just about it,” Gibbs said.


Tony looked up, meeting Gibbs’ steady gaze.

“I never told you that you were a good team leader,” Gibbs said. “You were. Director Shepard told me. Hell, even McGee said some of the stuff you did worked better with you than with me.”

Tony stared. He had waited for almost two years to hear the words now coming out of Gibbs’ mouth, and now that he finally did, it felt unreal. He had wanted Gibbs’ approval so badly – after all, Gibbs had given him his badge and gun and told him, You’ll do, it’s your team now, and Tony had wanted to do well – and he had never received it. Until now.

“So—all I had to do to get to hear that was to be transferred to a ship and no longer be your senior field agent?” Tony asked, disbelief heavy in his voice.

A corner of Gibbs’ mouth quirked up in a slight smile. “Feeling underappreciated, DiNozzo?”

Tony shook his head, not quite ready to laugh Gibbs’ words off. “I just thought you thought I wasn’t good enough.”

Gibbs’ features sharpened, brows creasing into a frown.

“Why would you think that?”

“You pretty much sent me packing,” Tony said. “I mean you just moved all my stuff over to my old desk. What was I supposed to think, that you were thrilled with the way I’d handled things?”

Gibbs regarded him quietly. Something in his demeanor told Tony that Gibbs had never thought about his actions that way – Gibbs had simply decided to come back, and he had not thought much at all of where that would leave Tony, or what Tony would think.

“I’m sorry,” Gibbs said, shocking Tony. “That wasn’t my intention.”

Tony stared. “Okay, now I’m starting to think you’ve been replaced by an alien.”

Again, Gibbs gave a half smile, though it was more troubled now. Apparently, the idea that Tony had felt as he had about being demoted back into senior field agent bothered Gibbs. Tony tried not to show how much that made his heart leap.

“Look,” he said, standing up because he wanted to move around, “it’s not like it matters anymore. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be on the USS Ronald Reagan and you’ll have new people to boss over. And really, you can demote them all you want, I don’t care.”

“You just told me to take it easy with them,” Gibbs said.

“I changed my mind.”

Tony poured himself another glass of whisky. He held it in his hand as he paced a few steps back and forth. The alcohol burned as it made its way down his throat. More memories played before his mind – the first time he had met Kate aboard the Air Force One, such a beautiful woman with enough guts to stand up to both him and Gibbs, and the time in Baltimore when he had first been introduced to one Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, whom Tony had somehow managed to impress enough to get a job offer from. He remembered a time, not long ago, when he had thought Gibbs dead – he could still feel the water all around him, remembering his lungs burning with the lack of oxygen, as he tried to get to Gibbs—

He shook his head.

“Why is director Vance doing this?”

He thought he knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from Gibbs nonetheless.

“You know why.”

Yes, power-play. After the antics Gibbs and his team had shown in the events surrounding Jenny’s death, director Vance had decided that they needed to see who was in charge. No one got away with hiding evidence from the director, or setting fires to former directors’ houses just to cover up the mess created because two members of the team had not quite done what they were supposed to.

Tony wondered what would have happened if he and Ziva had refused to leave director Shepard alone. What if they had tailed her from the start? What if he had listened to Ziva earlier? What if they had reached the tavern a little earlier, before the shooting had taken place?

What if.

Tony hated those words with a passion.

He set his glass down. “I should start packing. Don’t want to be late for my flight tomorrow.”

He said the last part with a layer of sarcasm, wanting nothing but to rebel in some small way. For once, he wished he had not been disinherited by his father, because enough money to quit would be nice. Really, he could probably quit – but that would mean giving up any chance of getting his old job back, and he did not want to do that. Not yet.

Gibbs stood up then, and Tony realized suddenly how close they had come to stand. Just a few inches apart; close enough for Tony to feel the heat of Gibbs’ body. A faint hint of Gibbs’ shaving cream, a closer view of the texture of the suit he wore. Every sense of Tony’s seemed to be tingling; in seven years, he could count on one hand the occasions when he had been this close to his boss – and he had been either dying or in jail on at least three of those occasions.

He pressed his lips against Gibbs’ before he could stop himself. A sense of panic fought with the need to stay close, to keep kissing Gibbs, because this was probably the only time in his life he would get to do so. And it felt too good to stop.

Gibbs did not respond. No other parts of their bodies touched one another, and Gibbs did not move to rectify this.

Tony pulled back, his dazed mind wondering if Gibbs would serve him with a fist to his face. It seemed very likely. Gibbs was not gay, had never been gay – but then, neither was Tony, not really, it was all just Gibbs – and that was the reason why Tony had never, in seven years, made any kind of move. A part of his mind told him sarcastically that it was great that on the very last night with Gibbs, he had to kiss him. Such timing.

But Gibbs did not hit him. He simply regarded Tony with an expression that Tony could not, for the life of him, read.

“I—sorry,” Tony said finally, when the silence had stretched and become so uncomfortable that Tony could barely move.

“Don’t apologize,” Gibbs said, rather softly. “It’s a sign of weakness.”

“So is kissing your boss,” Tony muttered, and moved quickly towards the kitchen.

He heard Gibbs follow, but did not turn around to look at him. His cheeks burned, and his mind played a single word over and over again – stupidstupidstupid.

He sighed, and turned on the faucet, water running into the kitchen sink to disappear. Tony wished the water would whisk him away too. It did not, but he placed his hands under it, and started scrubbing. There had been blood everywhere in the tavern – Tony had been wearing gloves, of course, but he still imagined it seeping onto his skin, permanent markers there. And it was not just Jenny’s blood. He had the blood of many others on his hands as well.

He felt as though he had been split in two. One part held his hands beneath the stream of water, scrubbing and lathering the soap, the part of him that thought of Jenny and the other dead bodies in the tavern, and for that matter all the other people Tony had killed or been unable to save. The other part of him was alternating between wanting to turn around and kiss Gibbs – whom he knew was watching – again, and wanting to run and hide, because whatever would come out of Gibbs’ mouth next, it could not be good.

The images mixed and meshed together, until Tony could not make sense of anything, least of all his own feelings – Gibbs’ eyes, Jenny’s broken body, warm lips, warm blood, love, death—

Suddenly Gibbs stood next to him, silent but close enough for Tony to feel the warmth he radiated.

“No need to scrub yourself until you bleed,” he said gently, turning off the tap.

Tony watched him, eyes wide, as he wrapped a towel around Tony’s hands, drying them carefully with squeezes instead of rubbing. Tony had not realized just how hard he had been scrubbing – his hands already felt slightly sore. In a way it felt good – he had failed to do his job, he should hurt.

“Come on, DiNozzo, let’s go sit down,” Gibbs said.

The towel was still around Tony’s hands, and Gibbs led him, like a frightened animal, back to the couch. Tony realized he was shaking, and he dared only glance at Gibbs for a moment or two at a time, afraid of what he might see in those expressive eyes.

They sat down, but Tony could not sit still. He fidgeted, his mind playing scenes from the last few days over and over in his mind, jumbled together into a mess that was all tinted in blood red, because everything that had happened had led to death.

“I’m sorry, boss,” he said softly, brokenly, even though he knew it was a sign of weakness, as Gibbs would point out.

But Gibbs did not say it was a weakness. “About what?”

Tony looked up, and he saw pain but also kindness in his boss’ eyes.

“About everything,” Tony said, voice just barely above a whisper. “About not tailing Jenny as we should’ve – Ziva told me we should but I said no, I didn’t want to—and I’m sorry that she—that we weren’t there for—that we were to late—and that you had to—I know you two—”

He trailed off, cursing his inability to form coherent sentences. He felt cold, freezing, even though the room was the same temperature it always was. Everything felt cold now.

“And that I’m leaving – it wasn’t supposed to end like this,” Tony said, his voice shaking. “Maybe if I’d—I don’t know. If we’d done our jobs. If I’d done my job. I’m – I was – senior field agent.” He paused, then added, quieter, “And I’m sorry I kissed you. I don’t know what came over me.”

Gibbs regarded him as though he was waiting to see whether more apologies were forthcoming or not. When none came, a small but sad smile turned his lips.

“That’s a lot of apologies,” he said.

“There’s a lot to apologize for,” Tony said. “Probably more if I got to think about it, but I’m tired and I’m cold and I don’t seem to be at my usual level of genius.”

He said the last part with a tired teasing tone, a bleak shadow of his usual self.

Then Gibbs placed a blanket around his shoulders and Tony stared. When no explanation seemed forthcoming, other than that Tony was, as stated, cold, he simply pulled the blanket tighter around himself.

“You did your job, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said. “You followed direct orders from the director of NCIS. Trust me, if she wanted to lose you and Ziva, she would have found a way even if you’d tried to tail her.”

Tony looked down at his feet, studying the carpet closely.

“And if you had, against odds, managed to tail her all the way out to the tavern,” Gibbs continued, “then who knows if you’d have been able to save her, or if Ducky would have even more bodies down in autopsy. Do you want that, DiNozzo? Would that make you stop apologizing?”

“Well, Ducky says the dead talk to him, but yeah, I think I’d’ve been quiet,” Tony said quietly.

“And do you think it would’ve made anyone any happier? Do you think that I would’ve gotten to keep my team without you? Do you think there would’ve been a team to keep at all?” Gibbs asked.

Tony hoped they would not have been happier, even though he sometimes suspected that McGee would probably be fine with not having to listen to Tony’s name calling anymore.

Not that he would have to listen to that anymore either way now.

“You did your job,” Gibbs repeated. “You followed orders, and you did what you were supposed to. She did what she wanted to, died the way she wanted to, and she didn’t want you or Ziva involved.”

Gibbs placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder and let it linger, making Tony acutely aware of his own body.

Then Gibbs sighed, and the hand fell to his side.

“As for the kiss,” Gibbs said, “I hope you don’t mean your apology, and that you know exactly what came over you.”

Tony stared at Gibbs, wide-eyed. “What?”

Gibbs leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Tony’s lips. It was so simple, so easy, so perfect in its comfort and warmth. Tony leaned into it, and he was embarrassed to realize that his eyes burned with tears – tears of mixed emotions, with happiness battling grief and sorrow for director Shepard, and anger towards the new director because he would force Tony to spend his coming months on board a ship so far away from Gibbs, so far away from the team, because his team had been split into small pieces.

Gibbs pulled back and regarded him, and Tony was surprised to see amusement in his eyes.

“I will regret saying this,” Gibbs said, “but you’re thinking too much.”

Tony let out a dry chuckle, that was somewhere between a real chuckle and a sob, and he turned his head away from Gibbs, embarrassed. Gibbs should not see him like this – a wreck, so tired and angry and sad and yet happy, all at once.

He felt a hand cupping his cheek. Warm blue eyes regarded him.

“Come on, DiNozzo,” he said.

“Where are we going?”

Gibbs smiled slightly. “To bed, before you fall asleep out here and I have to carry your ass to the bedroom.”

Tony gawked at him. “You’re going to sleep here?”

“You kissed me. You can’t be completely adverse to the idea,” Gibbs said. His rather light tone had been exchanged for a deeper, more serious one when he continued. “I’m going to sleep with you, in one form or another tonight. And then tomorrow, you will be shipped out to USS Ronald Reagan, and I will spend every minute of my time trying to figure out how to get you, McGee and Ziva back to NCIS. And no matter how long it takes, I’ll wait for you, because I’ve waited for seven years already, so I can wait a little longer.”

“I think I’ve fallen asleep and I’m dreaming,” Tony said, still staring at Gibbs.

A quick smile passed over Gibbs’ lips and he moved to Tony’s side. Tony wondered for a moment if Gibbs would kiss him again – he rather hoped so – but no. He felt the familiar move as Gibbs’ smacked him lightly upside the head. It felt comforting, and Tony did not even think about the fact that he thought it comforting, because it had been for a long time. It was his and Gibbs, theirs and only theirs. No one else was allowed to do it to Tony.

“Thanks, boss,” he said quietly.

Gibbs passed his hand through Tony’s hair, massaging his neck briefly, and then he said gruffly, “Bed. Now.”

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