"You're awfully quiet," Gibbs commented after they'd finished eating.
DiNozzo's cheeks burned bright red as he noticed the six-pack was gone and he'd barely said two words since Gibbs' "Amen."
Gibbs let the apology slide. "Don't blame you. Must have been unnerving having him just drop in like that after all these years."
Tony laughed softly. "Unnerving? Yeah, maybe. But it shouldn't be. It's what I'm used to from him. Nothing for long stretches of time and then, bam, it's like I'm important again."
Gibbs noted the empty bottles filling mostly Tony's side of the table even as his heart twisted at the soft admission. Gibbs wanted to tell Tony of course he was important, but he didn't know how DiNozzo would react to that sort of kindness after the day he'd had. He decided to just wait him out.
"He told me he loved me," Tony finally said after getting up and moving to stand by the window. Gibbs could see the tension in his shoulders despite the alcohol.
"What'd you say to that?" Gibbs asked, genuinely wanting to know.
"Nothing," Tony said, and Gibbs saw his reflection wince. "Nice, huh? He even repeated himself. And I didn't say anything."
"He ever say it before?"
Tony turned, looking at Gibbs as if realizing who he was talking to. "It doesn't matter. We don't need to do this, Gibbs. I'm fine."
"Come on, Tony," Gibbs said, purposely using his first name and giving him a look. "We're not at the office, or in the field. I'm not your boss right now. It had to have hurt for him to just drop in and drop that on you."
"I guess," Tony said, shrugging. He turned back to the window. "So what did you two talk about on your tour?"
Gibbs wasn't sure if the positioning was defensive or if he was being given permission to lie. Knowing DiNozzo, it was probably both. Gibbs decided to go with the truth anyway. "You."
Tony snorted, his breath fogging the glass. He lifted a finger and drew lazy strokes there. Gibbs noted bemusedly that they were smiley faces. "Really? And here I thought maybe he'd taken up boat-building."
Gibbs saw Tony watching him in the glass and gave him a half-smile for his effort.
"Speaking of which," Tony continued, "can we move this little party southward? It's creeping me out being up here." And with you studying me like that. Go build a boat, dammit. And stop disassembling me.
"Why's that?" Gibbs asked, not giving in even though he wanted to. An uncomfortable DiNozzo was a dangerous one, he knew.
"You know why," Tony said, a slight edge of anger in his soft words. It was like speaking with a dull knife.
"Sorry. I'll stop pushing you."
Tony turned again, raising an eyebrow. "Wow, Gibbs. Steak and apologies? You're pulling out the big guns tonight. Did someone accuse me of murder again?"
"I know you, DiNozzo," Gibbs said simply. "You've got a thousand things flying around in that head of yours and you'll suffocate if you don't get some of it out. I was worried about you even before I knew he dropped the 'L' word on you."
Tony grinned and Gibbs looked confused. "Thanks," Tony said, "Now all I can think about are lesbians."
"See? He's even affecting your usually flawless deflecting skills," Gibbs said. "That doesn't even make sense."
Tony rolled his eyes. "It would if you didn't live in your basement. It's a TV show... never mind."
"See?" Gibbs teased again, glad to see his agent smiling, even if he didn't get the joke. "You don't know what you want. I thought you wanted me in the basement?"
The smile fled Tony's face.
"What?" Gibbs asked, seeing the look.
Tony was silent for so long Gibbs thought he was going to just ignore him. "You're right. As usual. I don't know what I want. But I did tell him that after my mother died, I needed a closer relationship."
Gibbs blinked in surprise at that. DiNozzo always talked in terms of wants, not needs. Gibbs wondered what it meant that Tony had brought up his needs to his father... and to him.
"I don't know what I want, but I'm glad he's gone again. I found myself caving to him and letting him control me again, and I hated myself for that. I even made excuses for him, telling him it must have been tough having his wife die on him and leave him with me."
Gibbs swallowed a sigh as he imagined that conversation. The phrasing was so very DiNozzo: "your wife" not "my mother."
"It really doesn't matter, though. It's all moot now anyway. I said it before: He is who he is. And I am who I am," Tony said, locking eyes with Gibbs in the glass. "And I didn't turn out so bad."
The open vulnerability in Tony's eyes when he said those words tore Gibbs' heart out, making him want to wrap him up in an Abby-worthy hug. Or go punch his father in the face for throwing away something as precious as a child. Yeah, definitely the latter. But he didn't. He just nodded. "Yup. You're irreplaceable, DiNozzo. Come on, let's go build a boat."