Chapter 13: Distressed

"McGee, you're with me. We're going to canvas the victim's neighborhood, talk to the neighbors. Someone heard something. It wasn't a quiet murder. DiNozzo—"

"Bank statements, credit cards. On it, Boss."

McGee looked longingly at Tony's computer, but he had long since learned not to ask about assignments. Kate was in the lab with Abby. Gibbs had his own internal calculus. He wondered if Gibbs had taken Calculus. How old was Gibbs anyway? He seemed ageless.

In the small residential neighborhood where the body had been found, Gibbs pointed to a blue ranch with an overgrown lawn. "You take that one and the one on the other side. I'll take this one—" a yellow cape, with a neatly trimmed yard and flowers bordering the walk, "and the one on the other side. Meet back here after that. Before if you have anything to report."

"Okay, Boss." McGee agreed.

Gibbs walked up neatly edged brick path to the front door, rang the doorbell. After a few minutes, a woman answered the door. It was harder to tell how old people were, the older he got, but his job kept him in practice. Closer to forty than fifty, neatly trimmed brown hair, jeans, print blouse, square framed glasses. To him, she looked like an English teacher.

"Can I help you?" She spoke through the screen door but didn't hide behind the inner door, letting it swing wide behind her. If she heard anything last night, anything scary, she would likely be more cautious.

"Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, ma'am. I'm with NCIS and am investigating a murder. May I come in and ask you a few questions?"

The woman blinked owlishly at him while she took this in, looking down at the badge he held out for her to examine. She peered closer, through the screen, to read the writing, but didn't open the door. After almost a full minute, during which Gibbs considered asking her if she would be more comfortable stepping outside, she pushed the door at him and said, "Of course, come in, Special Agent Gibbs."

She backed up, but stayed in the foyer, offering her hand. "Willie Maines. Wilhelmina but...well, you can see why I go by Willie." She was pretty when she smiled and the intelligence was clear in her eyes, bright and quick. She held out her hand. "Come on into the kitchen. I just made a pot of coffee."

He watched while she reached for two cups, poured the dark brew out of the pot where it steamed, mixed a little sugar into hers and raised her eyebrow at him.

"Black." He said and reached.

She handed him the mug and smiled a little, again. "I figured as much."

Gibbs sipped and then thanked her. The coffee was hot but not boiling and he drank half before asking his first question. She smiled wider and held up her own cup in salute. "Not often I meet someone who gulps coffee like I do."

They drank again and he sat down at the kitchen counter, across from her where she stood on the other side.

"So Ms. Maines—"


"Willie. Can you tell me about your night last night, whether you heard anything unusual?"

"I don't...think I did. I mean, it was a regular night. I was home, correcting papers—" Gibbs felt a small surge of satisfaction at his guess, "and had music on." Her mouth twisted as she tried to remember. "I remember, something, maybe out back?" Perhaps to jog her memory, she moved to the sink, looking out over the backyard. The coffee pot was nearby and she poured another cup of coffee, added a little more sugar. Damn, she finished that quick. He still had an inch or more in his cup. She continued, "I remember hearing dogs barking, the dogs next door. Nice dogs but puppies, really, just bark their friggin heads off every time a bird flies by." She looked over her shoulder at him. "And then, I remember it being quiet. Being glad that it was quiet." And her face changed, like she had just realized something.

Gibbs waited patiently.

"But it shouldn't have been quiet, should it? It's like the movies where when the bad things come, all the animals run away. Is that real? It would make a good story." She swallowed coffee like it was water.

Gibbs felt funny, didn't want any more coffee. Stood, almost fell, and knew, immediately that something was wrong. He felt for his phone but didn't know where it was. Willie stood across from him and drained her mug. He heard knocking behind him. He felt uncoordinated and sleepy. He'd been drugged. He gathered his energy and with a sudden lunge, fell against the counter sweeping his mug and anything else in his way off the counter where it shattered, hard against the refrigerator and floor. He just hoped it was enough for McGee to hear.

Next thing he knew, McGee was standing over him, slapping his face. "Boss? Boss? Can you hear me? Can you talk to me?"

Gibbs felt strange, sleepy and warm, but he also wanted to talk to McGee, tell him what happened. McGee wanted him to talk. "McGee, Willie..."

"What, boss?"

"Willie. The woman."

"She's out cold, boss. I cuffed her, just to be sure, and I called for backup."

"Help me up."

McGee hauled him to his feet and Gibbs leaned heavily against the counter.

"What can I do for you, boss? The ambulance is on its way." Gibbs thought, hard, through the fog, and recognized the effects. "McGee...drugged…probably roofies, maybe something else…I feel sad."

"Sad? Gibbs, sit down, would you please, Boss?"

Gibbs staggered forward, lurched through the doorway. "Get Tony."


"Help me upstairs." McGee took his arm and Gibbs held onto the banister on his other side. When he got to the head of the stairs, he went into the first bedroom he saw. He turned and leaned against the doorway, eyes closed, forehead pressed against the frame. He struggled to contain the swirling sadness and sleepiness.

He reached out blindly, got a piece of the man's shirt. "McGee, r'you listening?" His words were a slurred, and he didn't wait for a response. "Get Tony. Secure th'scene. I think she...suicide. Rohyp...ropip...ro...ro…" he stopped trying to pronounce it, "Roofies...better for suicide than rape. Tell paramedics. Get Tony." He fell backwards and slammed the door on McGee, locking it on the other man.

"Gibbs! Boss! Are you alright?" Gibbs could hear the panic. But he couldn't answer, could just hope that he called Tony. Gibbs crawled onto the bed and tried to hold on. The urges to sleep, to laugh, to talk rose up. He knew that lack of inhibitions was much more commonly associated with alcohol than Rohypnol, which was primarily a drug used to combat insomnia. Mixed with some drugs, antidepressants maybe, it could definitely result in his lowered inhibitions.

Gibbs curled in on himself, fighting the sudden urge to cry. He knew it would feel so good. Just to let go, to cry and cry and cry. He put his hands together, slipped them under the cheek pressed to the pillow. Tried to make himself smaller, so the sad would be smaller too. Poor Gibbs. Poor Jethro. He held still, trying to be small. Trying to hold on. Tony.

Tony pounded up the stairs. Gibbs, had to get to Gibbs. When he turned the corner he found McGee standing guard outside the door.

"Jeez, Tony, he told me to get you and shut himself in. I haven't heard a thing since." McGee was wild-eyed and upset.

Tony nodded, trying to communicate calm. "It's okay, McGee. It'll be okay."

"But...but why did he ask for you? Has this happened before?"

Tony figured the more truth he could share, the better he could hide the rest. He shook his head, as if he too didn't know what it was all about but that it was perfectly normal, part of the duties of Senior Agent. "No, but it's Gibbs," he said in a whisper. "Doesn't like to be out of control."

McGee nodded himself, set his lips, a little bit of knowledge reassuring to him. "Okay, yeah. Okay. What can I do?"

"Just go supervise the scene, okay. I talked to Baker from the car. There is a bloody hammer the basement, so this is a crime scene until further notice. Baker is head tech, but you are the ranking member of our team down there okay? Don't worry about us. I brought my car, I'll get Gibbs out."

"Okay, Tony. Thanks. Just...text me if you need anything."

Tony gave him a little smile everything in in him screaming to get to Gibbs now now now, "Will do, Probie. Go on now."

McGee gave him a look that was starting to turn suspicious at Tony's new-found maturity but too relieved to dwell on it and with a job in front of him, he finally headed downstairs.

"Gibbs. Gibbs." Tony couldn't wait any longer, jiggled the lock, pushed hard. "Gibbs, I'm going to break the door down in five seconds if you don't let me in."

"Tony. You came." Gibbs wrapped his arms around Tony as the younger man came into the room. He pressed close, relieved to be able to act on all these feelings, not to have to hold still, hold it all in. Tony, trying to assess, gave up trying to get enough distance to check him out, just gave into his own need and held him close. Rubbed up and down his back. Gibbs made a sound of satisfaction, of comfort and gladness, and hugged him harder, pressing his face to Tony's neck and chest.

Suddenly, he started wriggling, pulling at his jacket. "Tony, I can't get my jacket off."

"Huh? Here...Gibbs, what are you doing?"

"Just help me, would you?"

Tony really needed to get a look at his partner. McGee had found prescription bottles: one labeled Rohypnol and one without a label but from the size, shape, and number on the pill, Ducky thought GHB. Ducky had talked him through what he might find. Tony helped Gibbs get the jacket off and then sat on the edge of the bed.

Gibbs climbed on top of him.

"Jesus, Gibbs, what the hell?" Gibbs crawled over him, settled next to Tony on the bed, pressed along his side and leg but then pushed at Tony until the other man lay back and then half draped himself across his chest. Tony pulled him close for a minute. "Come here. Are you okay?" Tony was confused by this strange behavior but those drugs were strong, usually made people suggestible, pliant. McGee said that Gibbs had said he felt sad.

"I'm alright but I don't know, don't know, what is going to...come out, what I'm going to say...damn it Tony, hug me!" Tony's arms clamped automatically and firmly around his partner. Gibbs made a small sound of satisfaction and pressed in deeper. "I don't know," Gibbs voice was muffled against Tony's shoulder, "what I am going to do or say next. I felt sad before. Not now. I feel so good. Like I could just say anything."

Oh shit. Tony was starting to get the idea here, but needed a little more information. "Jethro, tell me what happened okay? Can you do that?"

"Sure, Tony. I can do that." He leaned back, a small smile growing were those tears on his face? "We came here and I sent McGee around to the neighbors' he always does what I say. He always does what I say, doesn't he?" Gibbs trailed off.

"Who, McGee?" Tony couldn't help but smile through the worry.

"Yeah, McGee. So when I knocked, I think Willie didn't know that I wasn't alone. I watched her pour the coffee but then I drank the coffee and then I felt...funny...sad..." Gibbs rubbed his head and frowned, his voice was back to normal suddenly, "Tony, I don't like feeling like this." He looked up and into Tony's eyes, agitated, scared, "Help me."

Tony's hand came up, stroked Jethro's cheek. The other man leaned in, fast, and Tony was helpless not to slip his arms around, not to pull the other man close. Gibbs just sank into him and Tony rubbed his back. "S'okay, Jethro. It's going to be okay, babe." Gibbs kept talking, a sure sign he wasn't well. "Jethro, I'm going to take you home, okay?"

"Okay, Tony." His voice was muffled against Tony's throat. Tony felt Gibbs' lips press a warm kiss on his skin and almost moaned. The only time he got to see uninhibited Gibbs was when they had sex, and even then he didn't get uninhibited chatty Gibbs. He didn't know there was such a thing. "Tony, I don't want anyone to know."

Tony tried to think how to make that happen. He moved, trying to get to his phone. Gibbs murmured in disapproval and kissed his neck some more. Tony smelled good. Safe. "You smell safe, Tony."

"Jethro—" Tony ran his fingernails down Gibbs' scalp, trying to soothe him. Jethro's head fell heavy against his shoulder again. Tony pressed speed dial #3.

"Tony, how is Jethro?"

"Ducky, I think it is a mixture like we thought. He could have drank a whole mug, but McGee doesn't think he had time to have two probably. Do I need to take him to a hospital?"

After a little more consultation, Ducky decided that Jethro could go home with Tony to watch over him, calling to check in hourly. Tony thanked him and hit speed dial #5.


"Yeah, McGee." His fingers scratched lightly at Gibbs' neck and Gibbs moaned.

"Tony is Gibbs okay?" McGee sounded worried.

"He'll be fine, Probie. What's the situation down there?"

"They have taken the woman away, she's still alive, and most people are in the basement and the rear exit, cataloging evidence.

Tony knew he should ask more questions about the scene but he couldn't bring himself to care right now. Gibbs came first.

"McGee can you clear the way for us out to my car in about five minutes? I think Gibbs would like a clean getaway, and I would like to get him out of here."

As good as his word, McGee cleared the way to Tony's car; they didn't see a single agent on the way out. As Tony helped Gibbs into the passenger seat of his car, reaching across to snap the seat belt in place he looked up to see McGee watching from the door. He closed the door on Gibbs and walked partway back to the house.

"Ducky says he's going to be okay, McGee. I'm supposed to take him home and watch him, call Ducky if anything changes."

McGee looked behind him and then came down the steps and crossed the lawn closer to Tony. "He's really out of it, isn't he?" McGee looked totally freaked out.

"Yeah, but it's just the drugs. It's not him, you know?"

McGee's expression still seemed really worried. "I just...I have never have seen...and maybe I should have come with him and then he wanted you—" Tony realized that McGee felt guilty.

"Tim," McGee's eyes snapped to Tony's at the sound of his given name, "you didn't do anything wrong. You heard the noise, made the right decision to get inside right away. He had given you an assignment; you were supposed to be working the other side of the block. I don't even blame Gibbs. There was no reason at all to think the killer was in that house. Hell, that woman might not even be the killer; he might just have interrupted a suicide in progress." He thought about that. "Okay, unlikely that this isn't connected but still. You didn't do anything wrong. And Gibbs didn't not want you, didn't think you weren't on his six. He just wanted me."

"But why?"

There were a lot of things that he could have said, about Gibbs and he being partners before Kate came even, about having been on each other's six longer. But Tony was reluctant to lie to McGee. It felt like maybe that Gibbs and he were going to be together for a while anyway. He didn't know; tried not to think about the future for fear that the only possible future he could see is one where they were not together. He settled for Truth in place of truth.

"I don't know because—" He risked a glance back at the car but Gibbs was still in the passenger's seat. Sleeping maybe. "—he obviously has not told me but I think he finds it easier to be vulnerable in front of me than in front of other people." He held up a hand to forestall another why? "I gotta get him home." He waved his hand at the house. "Figure this out, okay? Make it so, Number One." The Star Trek reference netted him a small smile and a nod.

"Okay, Tony. Let me know if I can do anything." McGee peered around him at the car. Gibbs had more than his team's obedience, Tony thought not for the first time. He inspired loyalty and real caring as well. On cue, Kate called and Tony got into the car and updated her as he backed out and got on the road home.


"Just a second, Kate." Tony held the phone pressed between his cheek and shoulder as he turned left and left again. Gibbs spoke again.

"What is going on? It is not safe. I have to get to the Navy Yard. Tony, drive me to the Yard." Gibbs' voice got louder and more agitated.

"Tony, is that Gibbs? Are you two in trouble?"

Tony couldn't handle both of them at once. "No, Kate. We're fine. Call Ducky would you? He'll tell you everything. And can you call Abby after he does so that Abby doesn't call me too? I've got my hands full." He hung up without saying goodbye, tossing the phone into the center console.

Gibbs was still talking, demanding to go to the office.

Tony reached out and took Gibbs' hand, squeezing and rubbing his thumb along the knuckles. "Do you trust me, Gibbs?"

That shut him up for some reason. Gibbs looked almost indignant. He snapped, sounding almost like himself. "Of course I trust you."

"Well, guess what?"

"What?" Gibbs answered far more agreeably than usual.

"I am in charge now." When Gibbs didn't object, as would be...um...normal, Tony continued. "Just for right now."

"You are?"

"Yep." Gibbs head lolled back against the headrest and his hand was hot in Tony's. Taking his eyes off the road for a second, Tony worried that Jethro's eyes were glassier. He pulled over. Putting the car in park, he turned and held his hand to Jethro's forehead. A little too warm but not hot. Jethro hummed—hummed—and rubbed his face against Tony's hand. To comfort him, Tony stroked his cheek and face with the palm of his hand. Jethro sighed. Tony leaned over and kissed him lightly, but wasn't quick enough and Jethro moved into the kiss fast, deepening the kiss and opening his mouth to taste Tony.

Tony reined himself in, spoke in the older man's ear, felt him shiver. Loved knowing how to make him feel good. "Jethro. Let's go home, okay?"

Gibbs sighed again. "Okay. You are in charge."

Tony decided he could enjoy this a little. "That's right, I am. We have half an hour to get home. Do you want to sleep?"

"No." Again, Gibbs was laying back against the seat and headrest, relaxed. He turned just his head to look at Tony and his bright blue eyes were steady on his. "Talk to me."

This had become a standard line in their relationship. Usually indicating a shift to the x-rated portion of the evening.

"Jethro, not while I'm driving." Gibbs might be uninhibited and a little confused a minute ago but he seemed alert enough now.

"No, Tony, I just mean talk to me. I feel like talking. That's not normal is it?" He brows creased. "I don't feel safe." He repeated his earlier complaint.

Tony didn't want Gibbs to be sad or worried, squeezed his hand and said, "Okay, let's talk. What do you—"

"Are you my boyfriend?" Gibbs sounded curious but not upset. Tony, however, was surprised at the turn the conversation had taken.

"I...guess so."

"You don't know?"

"No, I am, but I didn't know if you would want to be called that." Gibbs must have been thinking about this, for it to come out now, and Tony found himself eager to find out what Gibbs would reveal next.

Gibbs paused. "I'm not sure I do, but I like you."

"I'm a pain in the ass, you usually say." Tony smiled still from Gibbs' emphatic assertion.

"I don't mean it." Gibbs' voice sounded almost normal and Tony looked away from the road for a second to get a glimpse of the other man's face. Mouth set, eyes focused on Tony. If it weren't for the glazed look in those blue eyes, Gibbs seemed completely himself. What were they talking about?


"I don't mean it. I like everything about you. I like that you make me oatmeal. I like it when you keep me company in the basement. I like waking up next to you. I like that you need me. I like that you talk sometimes and sometimes you leave me alone so that it's quiet. I like the way you sometimes smile while you kiss me." Gibbs voice was dreamy and Tony felt vaguely guilty about letting him go on like this but he wanted to hear this, to know. Suddenly though, Gibbs looked a little pissed. "Did you call me babe?"

Tony laughed and Gibbs smiled immediately, proud to have made Tony smile. Tony said, "When?"

"Before. And another time, before now."

Tony teased. "Maybe…"

"There is no maybe about it. You did."

"Did you like it?"

"It sounded strange."

"But did you like it?"

"I...I did like it."

"Good. Because I liked it too."

"Well, for now it is okay because you are in charge, Tony."

"Yes, I am." And Gibbs smiled again.

"How do you know?" Gibbs sounded confused.

"How do I know what? That I'm in charge?"


"Well, your judgment is impaired because of the drugs, Boss."

"That's true." Confusion turned to drunken certainty. "But I'm still the boss."

"Yes, yes you are, Gibbs. You'll always be the boss."

"Gibbs. Babe. Boss. Jethro. That's what you call me. You are really nice to me, Tony. And I'm a bastard. I'm kind of an asshole sometimes, Tony. And I never even care. I don't even care right now. That probably makes me even more of a bastard."

This was the weirdest conversation Tony had ever had, but he was enjoying it, in a strange way, even with the worry and the new, strange, panicky feeling in the pit of his stomach. It felt like something was going to go wrong, like a premonition. He tried to shake it off and focus on the present. Taking care of Gibbs. Hearing more about what was going on in the man's heart, if not his head. Hell, Gibbs probably wouldn't remember any of it. Partial amnesia was one of the side effects of rohypnol. "Hey, you know how you like everything about me?"


"Well, I like everything about you too, Gibbs—even when you're a bastard. You are mine, Jethro. My bastard." Tony realized that he only recently started feeling like this was really true. That Gibbs was going to be able to, maybe even wanted to belong to him.

"Don't own me, Tony." Ah, there's the Gibbs he knew and loved.

"I know." At this answer, Gibbs looked smug, but then not, when Tony continued. "Doesn't mean you're not mine."

"You think so?"

"I know so. I'm in charge aren't I?"

This seemed to pull Gibbs up short. "You are in charge."

"Then you are mine."

Gibbs didn't answer. Turned his head away to look out the window. But he didn't let go of Tony's hand.

Gibbs refused to go to sleep without Tony, so Tony settled them both in bed, leaving his T-shirt and jeans on in case something happened and he needed to get up. Gibbs settled his cheek against Tony's chest sleepily, something he had never before done; the rest of him, naked but for boxers, was half draped across Tony. Tony's head swam a little with emotion, as he pulled the other man a little closer, a little further on top of him. One hand played with Jethro's hair and he pressed a stealthy kiss to the top of his boyfriend's head. It really did sound ridiculous. That was never going to work. Tony only barely allowed himself to think of it in his drunkest moments but if somehow, the impossible became possible, partner...maybe...worked.

When Gibbs' was deeply asleep, his breathing was uncannily quiet. Some nights Tony leaned over to feel the slight breath on his cheek, checking that the man was still alive. Now though, he could feel the slow rise and fall of the Jethro's back beneath his hand. He reached across and snagged the phone, called Ducky and checked in.

Though Tony assured him that Gibbs was okay, Ducky wanted to come over and see for himself. Tony hesitated before agreeing, but he needed to know Jethro was alright and didn't need to go to the hospital. After hanging up, he thought briefly about running around to make it look like he didn't live here half the time but couldn't muster the energy. Hell, in this state, Gibbs would probably kiss him in front of Ducky and ruin all Tony's hard work anyway. He shrugged and leaned back, thinking in slow circles of nothing, concentrating on the feel of Jethro's skin under his fingertips.

A while later, he heard the front door open, close. Ducky didn't call out, just searched until he found them, upstairs in the bedroom. At the door, he paused, looking at the two men without apparent surprise. Tony smiled a little, crooked and rueful. If Ducky wanted to, he could take that smile to mean, "Look at Stoned Gibbs, isn't he sweet," and pretend the shared bed, the physical intimacy was just a side effect of the drugs.

Instead, Ducky gave him a little nod and a smile in return. He spoke, careful to be quiet, not to wake Jethro. "He is not an easy man to live with."

Tony rolled his eyes a little, but his smile was irrepressible. "No."

"Or an easy man to love."

Tony's arm tightened reflexively around Gibbs. The doctor's eyes flicked over to Jethro, missing nothing.

"I'll have to disagree with you there, Duck."

Ducky didn't move, just watched the two men, one sleeping, one holding, both relaxed and comfortable. He watched for what seemed to Tony to be a long time, as though memorizing. Or mesmerized.

"I will happily consign myself to being wrong, then. Won't be the last time." And he moved forward with his usual brisk efficiency.

Gibbs roused as Ducky took his blood pressure and temperature, checked his eyes and his mouth. Ducky patted Jethro on the shoulder lightly. "Go back to sleep, Jethro. Tony will look after you."

"Tony's in charge, Duck."

Tony rolled his eyes again, but Ducky laughed. "I can see that."

Jethro nuzzled his face into Tony's shoulder and neck. "Tired."

"Go to sleep." Tony said.

"Babe." Gibbs said.

"Jesus." Tony muttered, looking up at Ducky sheepishly. Ducky, unembarrassed and unabashed, waited to see what happened next.

"Go to sleep, babe." Tony said, pulling Jethro in close.

"Still sounds weird." Gibbs mumbled into Tony's throat and then chuckled, voice raspy with fatigue, natural or otherwise. "Night, Tony."

"Night, Jethro." Again, Tony's eyes went to Ducky's and throwing caution to the wind, pressed a kiss onto Gibbs' temple. Gibbs made a sound of approval.

"Ducky, do you need me to come down with you?"

Ducky moved finally, packing up his things and said, gently, "No, no, I think Jethro is going to be fine. I'm going to leave some water by the bed." He disappeared into the bathroom, returned with a full glass. "Have him drink it when he wakes up."

"Will do."

Ducky still lingered.

"Good night, Ducky." Tony prompted.

"Yes, well, you will have to make allowances, Tony. Give me time to catch up." He came back to the bed, held out his hand. Tony reached up and shook Ducky's hand. Cool, dry, firm.


Before Tony could say anything, Ducky left the room and Tony followed the sounds of his departure until the roar of the engine faded into the distance.

0500 hours and Tony's alarm on his phone went off. He reached blindly and pulled the phone toward him, squinting and pushing buttons until it stopped beeping. He threw it back on the nightstand and then turned his head to see if Jethro had woken up. The other side of the bed was empty. Something wasn't right… Tony bolted upright. He had forgotten all about yesterday. He flipped the covers back and got out of bed, feeling really weird to have slept in his jeans and shirt. Not bothering to put on shoes or socks he ignored the cold floor and didn't brush his teeth yet, just headed downstairs.

"Down here, Tony." The gravelly voice called to him from the basement. He had been standing at the head of the stairs, listening for the noises that would tell him where Gibbs was and what he was doing. He hadn't heard anything but he didn't think that Jethro would have left the house. At the sounds of Gibbs' voice, he felt both relief and a wave of nausea. Swallowing hard, he padded down the stairs carefully, and when he reached the bottom, he met Jethro's eyes where he sat on a stool near the workbench, wood and knife in hand.

"I've never seen you carve." Tony looked Jethro over carefully, looking for signs of illness or upset.

"Don't do too much of it anymore."

"When did you?"

Gibbs answered with a glance and a vague movement of his head.

Well, he wasn't chatty anymore.

"I don't feel like talking anymore."

And he could read minds again.

"How much do you remember?'

"Some. Asking McGee to call you. Car ride home. Ducky." Gibbs was all the while moving the knife almost gently along the wood. His hands stilled now and he looked up from where he was looking down, raising his eyebrows at Tony. Looking for confirmation more than questioning, he thought.

"Yep. Ducky knows." Tony felt almost gleeful about that. He wasn't sure why. "He won't tell anyone, though, I'm sure. Said you were lucky to have me. Wouldn't stop going on about it."

The corner of Gibbs' mouth turned up. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." Tony took the final step down and crossed gingerly to the other man, leaning a little against the boat, not too close. Gibbs' posture was relaxed and his focus seemed genuine and not to quiet any agitation. "How long you been up?"

"About 0300."

"How do you feel?"

Gibbs looked up fully, met his eyes. Quiet. "Okay." He laughed a little. "Well rested. What happened with the woman?"

"She did it. Was in the middle of a suicide attempt. Poured you a cup to knock you out. The "sugar" she added was more of the drugs, on top of the two cups of coffee to your one."

"I don't remember any of that and even if I did, I don't talk in my sleep, so I'm assuming she's alive?"

"Yep. Worked their magic at the hospital and she is alive and told us what she did, to help you. She's not talking about the killing, but it is only a matter of time. They found plenty of evidence at the scene. It doesn't seem that it was premeditated. When it was all over, she didn't know what to do and decided to...well you know the rest."

"Guess I owe you another thank you."

"I'm not counting, Jethro." His voice sounded harsh to his own ears even and the mood swing from almost wild giddiness at the thought of Ducky knowing to relief at seeing Gibbs returned to his taciturn normal. And now the current burst of irritation.

Jethro's eyebrows drew together in a frown. "I didn't say you were. I was just saying thank you."

"Well, don't, okay? I don't need your thanks. I just need-" Tony didn't know what he needed, but his hands were clenched at his sides and the basement felt too small all of a sudden. Maybe he was hungry, or still tired. It was a crazy day, yesterday. His eyes darted back up to Jethro who had stopped carving and was looking at him steadily.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." Even Tony could hear the uncertainty.

"Tony I don't remember a lot about yesterday but I remember a coupla things." Gibbs' mouth switched and even though he looked a little embarrassed, his lips twitched several more times, deepening the lines around his mouth and eyes.

"What?" Tony prompted.

"I remember demanding, yelling at you to...to hug me."

Tony was working too hard to push back the panicky feeling to laugh outright but he couldn't help but grin. "Yeah, you knew what you wanted alright."

"I also remember waiting for you to come and the difference between the time when you were there and the time when you were not. I was glad you were there, Tony. Very glad. More relieved than I want to admit but...I think you might need to hear it."

"Yeah. Well, thanks. It wasn't a problem." Tony rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "I'll be fine." He turned and went up the steps. "I'll see you later okay?" He needed to get out. Get away.

He went into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of coffee and then didn't want to wait for it to cool. He left it on the counter and poured himself a glass of water instead. Drank it. Stood in the middle of the kitchen, looking at the empty glass in his hand, water beading on the inside, fingers white where they pressed against glass.

When Gibbs put his hands on Tony's hips, Tony jumped violently and the glass shattered a moment later. Gibbs jumped too, but backwards and brought Tony with him, dragging him by a belt loop of his jeans.

Tony stumbled as Gibbs pulled him back and turned into the fall, landing against Gibbs who reeled a little but righted himself easily enough. For a few glorious moments, Tony let his full weight rest against Gibbs, Jethro. Jethro, Tony. The man's heat and scent and the strength of his strong hands on Tony's back all meant safety and trust, making the fear of certain betrayal all the more acute.

He pushed away with sweaty palms, swiveling, struggling, but Gibbs arms were around him, holding him. Next thing he knew, Tony had thrown a punch but had to turn again to do it, telegraphed the move so clearly that Gibbs blocked it easily. Tony felt disconnected, separate from his body and watched from a distance as he pushed clumsily against Gibbs. It was as if he didn't have command of his body, as if he was still learning how things worked. Gibbs had him around the waist again and Tony fought harder, panicked at the constriction of his waist. Gibbs, almost as if he recognized the gesture, slipped his hands easily up and around Tony's shoulders. The new hold was just as effective but didn't constrict Tony's breathing. Tony's struggles lessened but not entirely, not enough to escape and he didn't really want to, he just wanted...jesus, he didn't know what he wanted but Gibbs got it just about right, not entirely but damn close, when he turned Tony around and pulled him into his body. God the man was like a furnace. No wonder he was clear-headed; he must have an incredible metabolism.

Tony went limp, just like that, letting Gibbs' heat and the sound of his voice murmuring be his answer.

Tony gave in so quickly, exhaustion so complete, that Jethro staggered when Tony put his arms around him and let the other man take some of his weight. The younger man was almost completely still, but for faint trembling and weak plucking—surely unconscious—of his fingers at Gibbs' hips and back. Jethro slipped a hand under Tony's T-shirt and spread his palm against Tony's back, and he lifted his other hand to the back of the younger man's head, fingernails stroking once through the soft hair to rest his warm palm around the vertebrae of Tony's upper back.

For some reason, this had heat shooting down Tony's arms and sides, down his legs and his back. He felt warm where he had not realized he was cold.

Tony knew what had caused the attack now, but hadn't recognized it before. He hadn't had one in so long; never since he graduated college and didn't have to go home ever again. He never again slept under his father's roof and he hadn't had one of these attacks since then.

Something he loved being taken away, or threatened, or withheld. That was the most familiar memory of his childhood. The moan of pain was involuntary and he was barely aware that the sound was his own. Jethro's arms tightened a little but otherwise stayed in place, hanging on, anchoring.

"I told you I am possessive."

"I'm beginning to get the idea." Gibbs was silent then, just holding Tony. The steady sound of Jethro's breath a metronome.

"You don't get close to people because you are afraid they will be taken away from you?" That didn't sound right. Tony was one of the most open people he knew; he got close to everybody.

Tony rolled his head to the side, cheek still pressed to Gibbs' shirt, but that wasn't good enough, somehow, and Gibbs felt the plucking fingers of Tony's hand slip under his own shirt and snake upwards to push and pull until Jethro's shirt had been bunched up high, Tony's fist in the center, so that Tony could smell him better, feel more surrounded. Gibbs pressed more firmly on the back of Tony's head, protective and accepting.

"Not...exactly. Jethro?"

Gibbs' chest tightened at the thin sound of Tony's voice. Nevertheless, it was Tony's voice, a man's voice. Not a child's. Part of him was reassured and waited for Tony to tell him what to do. "Yeah, Tony. I'm right here. What do I do?"

"I need to just be close to you, alright? Just...don't leave me right now, okay?" Despairing and...disgusted, he tensed and started to pull away. "Jesus, I'm such a fucking train wreck. You shouldn't have to..."

Jethro's arms tightened, one of the fingers resting on the back of his neck, stretched and tapped gently on the back of his head. Shut up. "Tell me what you need, DiNozzo."

Tony gave in, just too tired to fight more. "Just don't leave me alone right now."

"Okay.. C'mon." Jethro slowly removed his hand from Tony's lower back, stroking gently on the way down and out from under his shirt. He moved a little bit away and Tony very reluctantly allowed his own hand, fisted underneath the collar of Jethro's shirt to release its hold and drop to his side. Jethro's other hand still splayed warm and reassuring at his neck. Jethro' eyes were on Tony's and his body close when, without losing contact, he stroked his hand down down Tony's shirt to rest first outside and then under his T-shirt against his skin. Jethro nudged him forward and kept the connection while they went back upstairs.

They took the time only to remove pants and T-shirts. So little time had passed since Tony had gotten up that his own down comforter would have still held body heat but Jethro's blankets and comforter did not. They were cool and Tony shivered until Jethro climbed in after him and gathered him close. Tony shifted and squirmed as Jethro wrapped his arm around from behind, and Jethro let the other man work it out for a minute. When Tony was still uncomfortable, Jethro pulled back and turned Tony over so that they were facing. Cupping Tony's face in his hand, he leaned in and pressed his lips to the other man's. The kiss was for Tony but somehow Jethro fell deep under its spell himself, his lips parting slightly while the taste and feel of the Tony's lips and tongue calmed and excited him. Tony's body quieted and when Jethro pulled back, it was to kiss along his lover's jaw until he could nuzzle against Tony's neck and ear. Tony sighed, finally content, and a little tension bled from the younger man's body, shivering now almost completely gone.

The two long male bodies wove themselves together and Gibbs couldn't help but think about how being with the right person made all the difference. The physical stuff—the feel of his chest against Tony's equally flat one, the silky feel of freshly shaved cheeks so different than a woman's naturally smooth ones; large, strong hands touching and stroking—was both unnerving and a wonder to discover.

Jethro moved his palm in slow soothing circles.

"I'm sorry." Tony's voice was a whisper against his neck.

"For what?" Jethro's voice was gruff.

"For falling apart. I didn't know that would happen."

Jethro stretched his arm out and Tony automatically lifted his head to settle against the smooth muscle of his upper arm, bringing their faces level. Tony's eyes would only meet his for a few seconds before the shadowy eyelashes fluttered down.

"Why would you?" Jethro had learned to use what he had discovered as Tony's boss. Any attention was good attention, and the easiest way to hurt Tony was not to attend to him, not to mention him, not to bring him, to recognize others but not him. Straight speech—which to others always seemed to mean that Gibbs was cold and abrasive—was perfect.

"I have felt this way before, had this kind of panic attack before, but not for a long time." Equally matter-of-fact, Tony was able to share a little information.

"So you haven't been having secret panic attacks anytime...any of us...were wounded or attacked?"

"No! No. I mean, I think tonight," Tony turned and rubbed his face fretfully against Jethro's arm, pushing the hair off his face, "that I just...I realized...and uh, I thought that...and you...asked for me and then you needed me...and the drive home...and then Ducky...I don't know, Jethro. It just all was too much." Tony finished this uninformative speech and moved a little closer to his partner, letting his cheek rest high up on Jethro's shoulder, tucked almost under his chin, perilously close to laying on his chest.

Bullshit. Tony knew damn well what he had realized and the rest was just cover. But it would wait.

Jethro leaned back some and settled Tony against his chest. Tony stopped fighting what he wanted and sighed in acceptance. His arm wrapped around Jethro's waist. His leg stretched across and between Jethro's own. His breathing slowed to deep and even. His distress melted away as his body shaped itself to Jethro's.

Something Winston Churchill said had stuck with Gibbs for years, in part because he wasn't sure he understood it.

"You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her."

It flitted through his mind now, his last thought before succumbing to sleep himself, wrapped around this man that he loved.

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