Three days after being released from the hospital Gary had called Gibbs to invite him and Tony over for a barbecue. Jim and Jason were going to be there as well.
"It'll give us a chance to sort of finish the whole 'father-son' trip," Gary had said.
Knowing that Tony was going crazy sitting around the house with nothing to do, Gibbs accepted the invitation.
"Finally, a change of scenery. I don't know how much longer I would have been able to survive cooped up in this house," Tony said as they pulled out of Gibbs' driveway.
"Something wrong with my house, Dinozzo?" Gibbs asked.
"Uh, no. Of course not, Boss," Tony hurried to explain. "I just meant that it will be nice to move around some."
"You're not moving around," Gibbs told him. "You are going to keep your butt in a chair. Change of scenery does not mean change in orders."
"Yeah, yeah. Take the fun out of everything, why don't you?" Tony groaned.
"I should have left you in the hospital, I don't need this grief," Gibbs said.
"But then you would have been bored silly with no one to boss around during your mandatory leave," Tony retorted.
Gary had decided to have the barbecue at his house so he wouldn't have to worry about forgetting anything. His house was not as far a drive as it was to the river so no one was going out of their way to come.
Jim and Jason had arrived before Gibbs and Tony, so they were well on their way into conversation by the time that Gibbs and Tony arrived.
"Hope you didn't have any trouble finding the house," Gary greeted Gibbs and Tony as they got out of the car.
"Not at all," Gibbs replied as he walked up the driveway. "Just had to go over some rules with Tony before we left."
"Rules, huh?" Gary said with a laugh as Tony rolled his eyes at Gibbs. "Well, come on back, the rest of the gang is already here."
Upon entering the backyard Gibbs and Tony were both greeted by Jim, Jason, and Ray.
"Glad to see the swellings gone down, those were some mean looking bruises you were carrying," Jim said to Gibbs.
"You're looking pretty good for a guy who took a swim in the Youghiogheny
River," Ray told him.
"I'm surprised they didn't want to keep you in the hospital longer," Jason commented.
"I got released from the hospital and was forced to join the dictatorship of Gibbs," Tony told them. "If I don't follow his orders I face the death penalty."
"And I believe Order # 1 was to keep your butt in a chair, so sit down," Gibbs said as he lightly shoved Tony down into a chair before moving to help Gary and Jim at the grill.
"Maybe I should give you more than one bag of coffee," Ray whispered.
"Will you be able to mail me more when I run out?" Tony whispered back.
"What's with the orders?" Jason asked.
"He's afraid I'll pull out my stitches," Tony answered. "And he doesn't want to get any more lectures if something else happens to me."
"Is he like that at work?" Ray wondered.
"Yeah, but at work its called rules," Tony replied.
"Doesn't seem like much of a difference to me," Jason said.
"Oh, there's a difference. Rules are more like really good, life-saving advice. Orders are just there to make me miserable," Tony explained.
Meanwhile, over at the grill, Gary, Jim and Gibbs were holding their own conversation.
"So, is he really doing ok?" Gary had asked once they were out of earshot.
"For the most part," Gibbs said with a nod. "He bounces back fast."
"If he's not allowed to move around much, why is he out of the hospital?" Jim asked.
"The hospital would have released him sooner or later. By releasing him into my custody it decreased the risk of him over-doing things too soon," Gibbs replied.
"He seems like the type that would do that," observed Gary.
"You have no idea," Gibbs said.
Jim snickered. "Oh I think we do, boys will be boys and all that."
"It's during those times I say my prayers of thanks for coffee," Gary said laughing.
Gibbs laughed. "Can't argue with that."
"I can't believe he let you out of the house," Abby exclaimed over the phone.
Tony laughed. "Yeah, well, getting an extra portion of Gary's coffee probably helped."
Gibbs and Tony had returned from Gary's not too long ago and while Gibbs was downstairs in the basement Tony had decided to call Abby and let her know he was doing ok.
"I'm just glad Ray will be able help me make sure he never runs out," Tony continued.
"Wow," Abby said. "That must be some seriously good coffee."
"Yep. I'm thinking of asking Ducky if he's going to want to store some in his office for emergencies," Tony told her.
"Sounds like a good idea," Abby agreed. "So, apart from the whole getting shot and thrown into the river thing, how was the trip?"
Tony paused a moment before answering. "It wasn't what I thought it would be."
"Meaning what exactly?" Abby asked.
"I guess I sort of figured it would be like any other undercover op," Tony explained. "You know, focus all of your attention on the job kind of thing. I mean, we did focus on our job, but…"
"It wasn't your normal 24/7 kind of assignment," Abby finished for him.
"Yeah," Tony sighed with relief that his friend understood what he was saying.
"So," Abby wondered out-loud. "Was it a good kind of different or bad kind?"
Tony laughed. "Good kind of different. Hell, I'm pretty sure I talked with Gibbs more on that trip alone than I ever did with my…well, with him."
There was silence on the phone as both Tony and Abby contemplated what he had just said. There was no doubt in Abby's mind who it was Tony was referring to.
"Maybe you and Gibbs can do a trip like that for real sometime," Abby suggested in an attempt to try to move away from the subject of Tony's so-called father.
"Yeah, maybe," Tony said casually.
"Oh, come on Tony. You know Gibbs would if you asked him," Abby told him.
"But who said I was ever going to ask him?" Tony retorted.
Abby took in a deep breath before continuing, knowing how stubborn Tony could be. "You told me yourself that he was the one who initiated the conversation about your colorful resume. Gibbs wouldn't do that if he really didn't want to know. You of all people should know that he doesn't do small talk."
"I know that, Abby," Tony said after considering what she said. "Talking is one thing, willingly hanging out together outside of work is something completely different."
"And hanging out with the guys from the rafting trip was what? All part of the job? I think not," Abby pointed out to him.
"That's different," Tony told her quietly.
"It just is."
"That's not an answer."
"I know it's different."
"If you say so…"
"I do. Can we please not talk about this anymore?"
Abby agreed. "I'll drop it, for now."
Tony sighed. "Thanks for the warning. Maybe…"
"Hey! Dinozzo! What are you still doing up?" came Gibbs' voice from behind the couch where Tony was sitting.
Tony jumped and let the phone drop to the floor. "Geez, boss. Don't do that!" Tony glared at Gibbs as he walked around and picked up the phone.
"What are you doing keeping Tony up?" Gibbs asked into the phone.
"Hey bossman! Just making sure he's still alive and all. You have fun today?" came Abby's cheerful voice over the phone.
"It's past his bedtime, Abs. Call back tomorrow," Gibbs told her before hanging up the phone.
"Party pooper," Abby said to the dial tone.
"Hey! Did you really have to do that? I promised her I'd call her when we got back," Tony said as he continued to glare at Gibbs.
"You called, you talked. You kept your promise. Now it's getting late and time for you to be getting some rest," Gibbs told him.
"What?!" Tony exclaimed. "I am way too old to have a damn bedtime!"
"This is part of, what did you call it? The dictatorship of Gibbs, right?" At Tony's scowl, Gibbs continued. "Well, here's another order for you. Follow the doctor's directions so you can come back to work."
"All I've been doing is resting. It's not like I'm going to drop dead if I'm not in bed by midnight you know," Tony complained.
"I'd rather not take that chance with you," Gibbs told him as he took hold of Tony's arm and hauled him off the couch and steered him in the direction of the stairs.
Tony gave him a curious look before saying, "Come on, my luck isn't that bad."
At Gibbs' glare, Tony asked, "This is some payback for all the crap you went through in basic training as a Marine, isn't it? You can't be a drill sergeant so you're taking it all out on me."
"Do you really want to test that theory?" Gibbs asked him before pointing to the stares. "Bed. Now."
Tony groaned before heading up the stairs. Halfway up, he turned around and said with a knowing smirk, "Or maybe you're just afraid of what kind of lecture Ducky will make you sit through if you don't follow your orders."
Before Gibbs could retort, Tony had turned around and darted up the rest of the stairs and out of sight.
Gibbs couldn't help but snicker at Tony's antics as he dialed a number on his phone.
"Hello?" a voice on the other line said.
"Hey, its me," Gibbs said.
"Jethro! It's about time. I expected you to call much earlier," Ducky's voice scolded over the phone.
"Sorry, Duck. Got a bit sidetracked," Gibbs told him.
Ducky sighed. "Dear lord, what has that boy gotten into now?"
"You can take that up with Abby," Gibbs said. "She was the one who had him on the phone for about an hour."
"Ah, well, Abby I can forgive. She's just worried about Tony is all," Ducky replied. "He taking his antibiotics like he's supposed to?"
Gibbs rolled his eyes, glad that he was only talking to the man on the phone. "Yes, and I just sent him upstairs to get some sleep too."
Ducky chuckled. "Bet he didn't take too well to that."
Gibbs laughed as well. "Nope. He claims he's being forced to live under the dictatorship of Gibbs and that he's too old to have a bed time."
"Hmm, I think that is still up for debate, especially when considering how often he ends up sleeping in the office," Ducky said.
"Yeah, I'll have to work on that," Gibbs said.
"I've been meaning to ask you how things went between the two of you during the trip. At some point he must have had to call you 'Dad'," Ducky ventured.
Gibbs took a moment to get his thoughts together before answering. "I sort of had to work him up to feeling comfortable enough to call me that."
Gibbs then went into detail, describing for Ducky the conversations they had on the drive up, the stop at the restaurant, the incident at the cabin, and everything in between.
"Good lord! I always had my suspicions, but really," Ducky exclaimed.
"There's definitely more there though," Gibbs said. "I think the only reason he told me about the scars on his back was because I saw them."
"I had always wondered about them," Ducky said. "He was very tense about the subject when I asked him about it once."
"You saw them?" Gibbs asked.
"Of course. You are always sending him down to autopsy for me to check him over," Ducky reminded him. "I was bound to see them sooner or later, knowing Tony's unfortunate habit of getting into trouble."
"You could have told me about it," Gibbs stated.
Ducky took a deep breath before answering. "No, I couldn't Jethro. He specifically asked me not to say anything to anyone about them."
There was silence for a few minutes as Gibbs took in that bit of information.
"Surely you must see how much he trusts you," Ducky said, pulling Gibbs from his thoughts. "Tony wouldn't have told you anything if he didn't feel comfortable enough to do so. That story was not an easy one to tell, I'm sure."
"It wasn't easy to listen to," Gibbs said as he once more recalled Tony's tone of voice when he spoke to Gibbs.
"Hmm, well perhaps the next time the two of you decide to have a heart to heart it will be on a more pleasant subject," Ducky stated.
"I just hope he learned that he can talk to me about anything," Gibbs said.
"Oh I don't doubt that. On that note perhaps you should be getting some rest yourself," Ducky told Gibbs.
"Trying to tell me I have a bedtime now too, Duck?" Gibbs teased.
Ducky chuckled. "Of course not. But you will surely need all whatever rest you can get to keep Tony in line tomorrow."
"Good point. Night, and thanks," Gibbs said.
"Anytime. Good night, Jethro."
After hanging up the phone Gibbs headed upstairs, pausing to look in on Tony as he headed towards his own room. 'Wouldn't put it past him to try and stay awake to sneak back downstairs later,' Gibbs thought.
Glancing into the bedroom he couldn't help but smile at the scene before him. Tony was sprawled out on the bed, completely down for the count. Asleep, Tony looked closer to his actual age then when awake. While he acted like a teenager, he still wore a mask everywhere he went. Until this undercover op, Gibbs had only seen Tony drop his mask when he was asleep in the office, completely exhausted. Gibbs suddenly wondered if anyone really knew how old Tony really was. He was certain Abby knew, and of course Ducky did, having seen his medical records. But the rest of his office he wasn't too sure about. He laughed to himself, thinking that McGee would probably be shocked to know that he was actually a bit older than Tony.
Moving past the guestroom to his own, Gibbs began to recall everything that had happened over the past few days. He knew he had begun to make some progress with Tony, now he just had to make sure he didn't lose what ground he had gained. Tony wouldn't make it easy, but then again few things in life were, and that didn't necessarily make it worthwhile either. But Gibbs was determined to show Tony how much he was valued and respected and nothing would stand in his way.
'That's a promise, Tony,' Gibbs thought.
Author's note: Well that's it, it's FINALLY done lol. Sorry it took so long. Don't know what was wrong with me there forever. I've got a sequel in my head, gonna start writing it. Hope everyone reads like they read this one! Loved the reviews, thanks for taking the time to write them!