Tony stretched lazily, luxuriating in the feel of the soft cotton sheets, the firm mattress and the soft feather pillow, as he wriggled his toes under the comforter and entertained himself with the thought that there was nothing more pressing demanding his attention than the occasional trip to the bathroom.
"You better have a good reason, why you're not asleep." Gibbs noted as he stood in the doorway.
"I woke up?"
Wordlessly, Gibbs came over to stand beside the bed, reaching out and laying his palm across Tony's forehead, checking for fever, grunting with satisfaction, before he perched on the edge of the mattress, eying him closely.
"You feel up to some real food?"
With a start, Tony realised that he did feel better. He hadn't woken up, hacking up a lung for one and his headache was almost gone. Turning his head, he wasn't entirely surprised to see it was almost 21.00. He remembered Gibbs' waking him from time to time to eat some soup or fruit jello and take his medication and a couple of trips to the head, but the rest of the day was a blank.
"Sorry," He shrugged sheepishly. "I haven't been very good company."
"You've been asleep for almost thirty-six hours. I'd say you needed the rest." Gibbs stood up.
"Thirty six?" Tony sat up, coughing harshly once or twice, before spluttering with indignation. "I slept through Christmas?"
"Still Christmas for another three hours," Gibbs grinned at his dismay, as he walked over to the wardrobe and pulled out some clean sweats and a thick, towelling dressing gown. "Get washed up, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes."
"You haven't eaten yet?" Tony was surprised. Gibbs gave him a 'look' that said clearly he had said something boneheaded. Tony wasn't exactly sure what it was, but he figured he could milk his sick person status a little, with a slightly theatrical cough he eased himself out of bed, making his voice a little hoarse, as he passed within head slapping range. "I'll just go wash up then, Boss."
Thirty minutes gave him enough time for a bath, the blissful hot water easing out the last of his muscle cramps as the warm steam soothed his breathing. As he towelled himself dry the smell of rich, warm, cooking, prodded his stomach into life, as his mouth started to water. Rubbing at his hair, he took a few minutes to dry it off with the hairdryer, before heading eagerly down to the kitchen.
"You want anything to drink?" Gibbs asked, as he put the final dish on the table.
"Beer?" Tony asked hopefully.
Gibbs gave him an assessing look, before reaching into the refrigerator and extracting two bottles, flipping the tops off, before pouring them out into two glasses. Inclining his glass in a salute, Tony took a grateful swallow, feeling the fresh, sharp taste trickle down his throat in a blissful feeling of normalcy. Regretfully, he put the glass down, determined to savour it. Even though his medication didn't expressly forbid alcohol, he doubted Gibbs would allow him more than one.
"Eat up, before it gets cold."
Sinking into his seat, Tony grinned at the plates of fluffy, biscuits, soft mounds of mashed potatoes, rich, thick gravy, carrots glazed in honey and peas topped with mint, alongside tender white turkey breasts. As he piled his plate high, he couldn't help but contrast the warm, welcoming, kitchen, with the stiff, formal meals of his childhood, when his father always insisted on trying to poison him with a large spoonful of sprouts.
"You got any ketchup, Boss?"
He expected a head slap, instead Gibbs tipped his head on one side, regarding the younger man with tolerant amusement. Rising to his feet, his boss reached out a large bottle of ketchup, pausing to ruffle his senior field Agent's hair, before placing it on the table. Grinning openly, at the younger man's wary expression at the open affection, Gibbs dug into his own meal with enthusiasm, as he recalled the ghost of a little girl, her forehead creased in concentration as she emptied the last of the ketchup bottle over her Christmas dinner.
Tony had helped clear the table and stack the plates in the dishwasher, before he visibly started to flag. Dismissing him to the couch, Gibbs smiled at the muted sound of the TV as he finished cleaning up. Carrying his coffee through, he wasn't surprised to see DiNozzo dozing, his head lolling sideways, as he snored softly. He moved forward, intent on claiming the recliner, when he noticed the medium sized box on the coffee table, with his name written in overly large letters on the attached tag.
With a rueful smile, Gibbs picked up the box and gave it an explorative shake. It was heavier than he expected and shifted only slightly, as if it had been well packed. It wasn't a bottle of Jack. Or another box of honey dust. Curious now he ripped open the paper to reveal a plain brown box. Lifting the flaps, he stared down, a grin of genuine appreciation lighting up his features.
"I found it when I was interviewing that guy on the Forsyth case," Tony's spoke without a hint of sleep as he looked at Gibbs. "The case was pretty dirty, but it cleaned it up nice and the workings were as good as new. I mean, I know you need GPS and stuff these days, but I thought maybe you could make a feature of it or something."
"Oh, this is meant to be used," Gibbs spoke in a suitably reverent tone as he lifted the old fashioned brass ship's compass out of the box, lifting it up so he could look at it from every angle, as the light played across its surface. "It's a beauty."
"Well," Tony sounded both pleased and a little bashful. "You've done a pretty good job of steering me through life. I just figured .."
Gibbs looked up as DiNozzo trailed off uncertainly. In the beginning their gifts had been unsentimental and practical, a bottle of Jack, or a quality knife. In the five years that he had worked with Stan Burley, they had never got past that. But Burley had had a wife and a family and a whole other life. Gradually, Gibbs had come to recognise in Tony a loneliness that threatened to consume him. If Burley's boiler had blown up, he would have booked himself into a Hotel, not come running to his Boss for a roof over his head. He'd told Ducky once was DiNozzo was too old to adopt. But he wasn't sure either of them really believed it.
"Turned out pretty well." Gibbs grinned.
Tony frowned slightly, as Gibbs straightened up and crossed over to the sideboard, not entirely sure if his Boss was referring to the refurbishment project or his senior field Agent. With a grin, Gibbs pulled out a small, well worn leather box, the gilt lettering worn to illegibility. Tony's expression was questioning, as he opened up the lid, to reveal an expensive dress watch.
"It belonged to my paternal grandfather," Gibbs was talking. "Just about the only thing of value he ever owned. Thing like that should be worn. And I wanted to keep it in the family."
"Boss," Tony ran a revenant thumb across the thick crystal face, for once at a loss for words. The strap had been replaced with soft new leather and the watch had obviously been recently cleaned, its glass and metal sparkling under the lights. There was no doubting its quality and craftsmanship. He was pretty sure Cary Grant used to have a watch like this. "What if ..?"
Gibbs shook his head, he knew what Tony was going to say. But he thought it was unlikely that he would ever have a son, or even a son-in-law. He had already had three disastrous attempts at recapturing the happiness he'd felt with Shannon and Kelly. He couldn't imagine ever going down that route again. Besides, it wouldn't change how he felt about DiNozzo and he didn't want the younger man thinking he had only got it by default.
"Just take the dammed thing."
Tony looked up, a small smile, hovering around his lips as he met Gibbs eyes. They grinned at each other in a moment of perfect accord.
"Merry Christmas, Boss."