Figuring It Out

By Kesterpan

Author's note: I said I wasn't going to get bogged down in a multi-chapter fic... apparently I was wrong. Got bitten by a whole horde of plot bunnies. Gibbs/Tony pre-slash, and it's going to be pre rather than actual slash for quite a while, as it will take time for them to figure it all out. Many thanks to everyone who reviewed the prequel to this one! As with the first story, it's unbetaed, so all mistakes are mine alone.

Chapter 1: Post Revelations Conversations

Gibbs In The Morning

Tony stretched his legs, groaning as he unfolded his body from the just-too-short couch. Pushing up into a sitting position, he scratched his head as he considered his surroundings. Probably just a little after six a.m., judging by the light. Huh. That was surprising, because it meant he'd actually slept.

After coming up from the basement, both men had said their goodnights. Tony had expected to spend the night obsessing over something new, namely what the heck was going on between him and Gibbs. He must have fallen asleep pretty quickly, though. Did that mean he was really okay with the idea of him and Gibbs being soul mates? Of all the things in his life he'd never have been able to anticipate, that had to be at the top of the list. So how had he managed to sleep so well? Only thing he could think of was the fact that Gibbs said they'd figure it out. If Gibbs said they'd be alright, then that meant they'd be alright.

Tony bent over, grabbing his shoes and slipping them on, before standing, stretching again, and moving to the front door. He'd get his kit, use the downstairs shower, and generally make himself presentable. He'd be at work a little late this morning; he had a dentist appointment.

Clean up done, Tony headed into the kitchen, only to find Gibbs, unmoving, standing in a t-shirt and sweats, glaring bleary accusation at the coffee maker.

"Morning, Boss!"

No reply. Gibbs didn't even look in his direction, just continued to stare at the machine. Tony began to worry, just a bit. Had Gibbs freaked out overnight about their conversation in the basement?

"Uh, Gibbs? Everything okay?"

Gibbs raised a slightly shaky hand to point at the apparently offensive contraption.


Tony looked at the machine and then at Gibbs. The man's hair was sticking out in many directions, as much as it could with that short cut. Gibbs looked tired, his eyes unusually unfocused.

"Well, yeah, Boss, coffee. I'm sure you're familiar with it."

Gibbs shook his head and glared harder.

"No coffee."

Tony stared at his boss, then walked over to the coffee maker. Gibbs was right. There was no coffee. No light on the machine, nothing working… Tony glanced at the counter top and chuckled. He grabbed the plug and held it up.

"Electronic devices need power, Gibbs," he commented, plugging it in. He hit a few buttons, turned a dial, and said he device started doing its job. Tony turned back to look at Gibbs. The glare was gone; in its place was a slightly abashed expression. Tony was fully ready to tease his boss; he might even get away with it, since Gibbs obviously wasn't firing on all cylinders yet. He took pity on him instead, though. Mostly. He walked forward, stepping directly in front of the older and somewhat incapacitated man. Taking hold of both Gibbs' shoulders, he looked into his eyes.

"Go shower, Boss. I'll bring you a cup as soon as it's ready."

Gibbs stared at Tony, processing the words, then nodded and turned to go. He reached up and patted Tony on the head as he left. Tony laughed once Gibbs was safely out of the room. He finally understood exactly why Gibbs drank so much coffee. "This is your brain on caffeine," he muttered as he went looking for a mug.

Having filled the extra large mug he'd found in the sink, Tony walked up the stairs, through Gibbs' bedroom, and right into the attached bathroom. Gibbs was in the shower; normally Tony wouldn't have thought twice about going in and leaving the coffee for his boss, but this time he glanced at the blurred image of the body through the shower doors. Tony's mind jumped back to the previous night's talk… yup, Gibbs had brought up sex. Tony wondered why, exactly, Gibbs had taken the conversation in that direction. He looked over at his boss again, eyes trying to pick out details of the man's form. Normally he'd never consider doing this; now, though, he was a bit perplexed, and besides, it wasn't like Gibbs was going to notice in his current mental state. Sex with a man? Interesting concept. He'd had gay friends in college; it didn't bother him, but he'd never thought about it for himself. Mentally shrugging, Tony fell back on his we'll-be-okay-Gibbs-said-so mentality.

"I'm heading out, Boss! Got that thing at the dentist at eight, should be in the office by ten at the latest!"

Tony could see Gibbs shift position, and then the shower door slid open and his boss peered around it at him, hair plastered down on his head. Gibbs' eyes were a startling blue against the darker than usual wet hair. He stared silently at Tony.

Tony sighed, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

"It. Is. A. Real. Dentist. Appointment."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed a bit, still staring, and then he nodded once. Tony saw more awareness creep into them as Gibbs' gaze turned to the coffee mug sitting by the sink. The senior field agent was just a little startled when the shower door slid all the way back and his wet, naked boss stepped out, made a beeline for the mug, grabbed the coffee, took several long swallows, put the mug back down, then turned and walked back into the shower, sliding the door shut behind him.

Tony leaned over to look in the mug. More than half empty, and the coffee remaining was still steaming. Bossman must have asbestos lining in his mouth. Tony grimaced a bit, then turned to leave. He made his way to the car, moving a bit on autopilot. No, I did not just ogle my boss' bare ass. And I definitely did NOT look at his… I really should find out what exercises he's doing.

In The Bullpen

Tony strode into the bullpen at about 9:40 a.m. A quick survey as he tossed his pack next to his desk showed Ziva at her computer, but all other desks vacated.

"Goooood morning, Zi-vah!"

Ziva looked up at Tony, favoring him with a small smile.

"Good morning, Tony. How was your appointment at the doctor?"

Tony flung himself into his chair and powered up his computer.

"Dentist, Ziva. You aren't going to catch me making a mistake, it was a real appointment. Now, what's the word, Girl-Probie?"

Ziva shot Tony an irritated look, than sighed and looked somewhat morosely at a pile of files on her desk.

"Gibbs has put us on cold cases. He is in MTAC, and says we will most likely be working on these files for a few days."

Tony made a face.

"Where's McAbsent?"

"Tim is downstairs with Abby. Speaking of Abby, I should warn you – she is acting very strangely today. She is more energetic and bouncy than usual. I believe you would say she is more fun than a barrel of flunkies."

Tony straightened up and looked at Ziva, his expression incredulous.

"You have fun flunkies? You're gonna need a really big barrel!"

Ziva shot Tony a more irritated look.

"I would not think the flunkies would fun; isn't the point of the saying that someone is more fun than they are?

Tony manfully resisted the urge to bang his head on his computer monitor.

"It's monkeys, Ziva! You know, I can't tell if you're really that hopeless or doing it on purpose."

"Ah, monkeys, I see. " She paused, brow furrowed. "No, I don't see. Why on earth would someone put monkeys in a barrel?"

Tony tried to decide if an explanation would be a good idea. He was saved when he was able to redirect his attention to McGee, who was arriving back at his desk.

"Morning, Tony. Nice of you to join us."

"Hey, McCritical! It was a real dentist appointment! What do you want, a signed hall pass?"

McGee nodded. "Pretty much, yeah. Watch out for Abby, she's on a caffeine high."

Tony grinned. She and Gibbs both.

"Well, you watch out for Ziva, Boy-Probie – she's got flunkies."

McGee looked up at Tony, then over at Ziva, who seemed to muttering something in Hebrew.

"Scary thought."

The whirlwind known as Abby came flying past McGee's desk and into the bullpen, coming to a stop in front of Tony's desk.

"TONY!! You're here! Please tell me you haven't fallen in love while undercover at the dentist's office! I don't want you to get your heart broken again; you still haven't really gotten over the first time!" Abby's eyes were huge, gazing at him imploringly.

Tony groaned and flung himself back in his chair.

"For the last, and I do mean last, time, it really was a dentist appointment!"

Abby continued to gaze at him, then started bouncing in place.

"Good!! I'm so glad you aren't lying to us again. I'd have to kill you and leave no forensic evidence. I've been worried about you, Tony! Oooo, I haven't done your name yet!" Abby started shifting her weight from one foot to the other, repeating Tony's name over and over and over… "Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony…"

Tony looked from her to McGee, who was trying not to laugh, to Ziva, who looked back at him with a raised eyebrow and an 'I told you so" expression.

"Abs… ABBY! What are you doing?" Tony asked.

Abby broke off in mid-'Tony.'

"You know how if you repeat a word over and over again, it loses its meaning and just becomes a sound? It's a form of habituation to a repeated sensory stimulus. I've been doing everyone's names this morning. I started with 'McGee' but it was easier to do with 'Tim.' Then I went to 'Ziva,' which sounds really cool when it's just a sound. Now I'm going to do you!"

Tony leered at her, and said "Oh, really?"

"To-ny! Not like that! Not that you aren't hot, but you're my friend, and I don't want to mess with that. No, I'm going to do your name. Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony…."

Tony grinned, although a part of him had flinched a bit at her comment. His eyes met hers, and he joined in, the two of them chanting his name together.

"Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony…"

A well-aimed ball of paper bounced off Tony's head.

"Shutting up, Boss!"

Tony tilted back to look up at the stairs, but there was no one there. He looked around the bullpen – no Gibbs. Frowning, he looked over at McGee, to see him leaning back in his chair, crumpling up another piece of paper in one raised hand while smirking at him. Tony's eyes narrowed and he began plotting vengeance.

Ziva looked desperately at Abby, who was still chanting Tony's name, still bouncing from one foot to the other. "Abby!" she called, "How many Caff-Pows have you had this morning?"

Abby stopped chanting, and cocked her head, thinking.


Ziva shook her head.

"This cannot be healthy for you, Abby. It is an addiction!"

"Yeah," Tony spoke up, "and Gibbs is her enabler."

"That so, DiNozzo?"

Tony straightened up, punching random letters on his keyboard. "Morning, Boss!"

Gibbs met Tony's eyes as he strode past the stairs, giving him a warm smile.

"Morning. Abs, what are you doing?"

Abby flung herself at Gibbs, magically avoiding his coffee as she pulled him into a hug.

"GIBBS! You smiled! Good for you, you should practice more. I'm making everyone's name lose its meaning. You know how when you repeat a sound –"

Gibbs extricated himself from the hug and put his free hand on her shoulder.

"Back to your labby, Abby. Need you to take another look at the results from that cold case."

"Ooo, good one, Gibbs!" Abby turned and started a swinging walk back toward the elevator, pony tails dancing. She chanted as she left, "Labby Abby, labby Abby, labby Abby, labby Abby…"

Gibbs seated himself at his desk.

"Get to work, people!"

Down To The Labby

"With me, DiNozzo! Bring those files and go through the evidence with Abby after I leave."

"On it, Boss!"

The day had been pretty normal so far. They'd worked relatively steadily the rest of the morning. Ziva had found a possible connection between two cold cases in two parts of country from four years ago; she and McGee were trying to run down the possible leads. Gibbs had been in and out of MTAC and had gone on several coffee runs. He'd brought everyone a coffee when he'd come back from the second one. Tony'd gotten a smile as well as the coffee, after which he'd gotten strange looks from McGee. A few minutes ago Gibbs had come back down from MTAC and announced that he needed to check on some retesting with Abby. Now Tony was following him into the elevator.

Tony half-expected Gibbs to hit the stop button. His boss seemed a little preoccupied, eyes narrowed, staring absently at the elevator doors. Yup, the hand moved forward and the elevator stopped. Gibbs turned to Tony, looking at him thoughtfully.

"How you doing, DiNozzo?"

"Fine, Boss."

Gibbs looked Tony up and down. Tony laughed nervously.

"All body parts present and accounted for!"

Gibbs shot him a half-smile.

"Just looking for signs of 'not fine,' DiNozzo." Gibbs sighed lightly. "I was thinking you should come over after work, we could order pizza, work on figuring some stuff out. But I have to run an op in MTAC this evening, could be a late night."

Tony favored Gibbs with a big smile.

"That's alright, Boss. How about I promise not to freak out tonight, and maybe we'll do pizza tomorrow?"

Gibbs nodded.

"Sounds like a plan."

"It's a date," Tony replied cheekily.

Gibbs shook his head and rolled his eyes, then reached out to start up the elevator again.

Tony had a sudden thought, and turned toward Gibbs.

"Do you promise not to freak out too?"

Gibbs smiled. "Yeah, Tony, I promise not to freak out too."

The elevator doors opened, and the two men walked into Forensics, their ears assaulted by - the melodic strains of a classical waltz?! Both men stopped abruptly, looked at each other wide-eyed, then slowly crept forward towards Abby, who was standing at her computer. Tony resisted the urge to reach for where his gun would be as he visually scanned the room.

Gibbs got to Abby first.

"Everything okay, Abs?"

Abby turned around, giving Gibbs a small smile.

"Gibbs. Tony. Yay, company."

Gibbs raised both eyebrows, looking at Abby with a concerned expression.

"What's with the real music, Abby?"

Abby sighed heavily.

"I over-Caff-Powed, Gibbs. You and McGee each brought me some this morning, then I found important evidence for Pearson's team, so she brought me one too. Then you brought me another one, and then the guy who fixes Major Mass Spec was late, so he brought me one. The music is an antidote… it's really bringing me down, Gibbs!"

Gibbs reached out and patted her shoulder sympathetically.

"You'll be alright. What have you got for me?"

Abby grabbed her remote, turning off the offending noise as she went back to the computer, breathing a sigh of relief.

"Well, Gibbs," she began, glancing at Tony, who grinned at her. "And Tony too! I did find an anomaly in the DNA results from the case involving Lieutenant Pierce. The original analyst concluded there was no match, but I found evidence that he misinterpreted some potential contamination, so I'm rerunning the DNA now. Should have results for you by this evening."

"That's good work, Abs. That puts Pierce back on the suspect list, at least for now. All team names lost their meaning yet?"

Abby grinned, straightened up and saluted.

"Working on it, sir!"



Gibbs leaned forward to kiss Abby's cheek.

"Don't ever change, Abs."

"Okay, Gibbs! Hey, I didn't do yours yet. Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs…"

Gibbs shot them both a big smile as he left the lab.

Tony turned to Abby, who was still repeating 'Gibbs.' He grabbed the remote and turned the music back on. Abby wound down, pouting slightly. Then she smiled at Tony.

"Thanks, I needed that. I think maybe I'm metabolizing caffeine differently as I grow up."

Tony grinned, remembering Gibbs earlier in the morning.

Abby hit the remote again, then looked at the files Tony carried.

"Rechecking evidence lists?"

"Right on the first guess!"

"Awesome. Let me just input some data, and I'll be right with you."

Tony watched while Abby opened up a spreadsheet on her computer. It was entitled 'Gibbs Smile Log.' Her fingers flew over the keys. She brought up a bar graph, then turned to Tony and announced, "Something's hinky with Gibbs!"

Tony dropped the pile of files on the shelf, and stared at the graph. "You're keeping track of when Gibbs smiles?!"

Abby nodded decisively. "Pre-emptive measures. I started after he came back from Mexico. All dates and times of known smiles are recorded, together with a rating system. There's also a system for abnormal lack of smiles. McGee helps with data collection. We're keeping track of his emotional state, so we can catch warning signs and proactively turn things around before he leaves again."

Tony nodded. It actually made a bizarre sort of sense.

"Okay. So what's hinky?"

Abby hit a key and an enlarged view of the graph came up on the plasma screen. They walked over to the screen, contemplating it for a moment. Abby started to explain, using her 'lecture voice.'

"As you can see, Gibbs smiles in a fairly consistent pattern." She used the remote to flip through several screens of graphs. "There is very little deviation from the pattern: a few minor highs and lows, nothing particularly notable." Then she reached the graph she'd had up initially. The left hand side showed a very similar pattern compared to all the others. The last bar on the right, though, was much higher.

"Today represents an anomaly, and anomalies are significant. Usually Gibbs posts a daily average of around 3.6 on the GSS – that's the Gibbs Smile Scale. Today's average is a 7.275, or 7.3 if we stick to significant figures." Abby turned to gaze at Tony. "That's insane, Tony!"

Tony stared at the graph. "Where did you get a 7.3 from?

Abby used the remote again, and that last bar on the right switched over to a view of several different bars.

"Smile 1: a 6.7 when Gibbs brought me the Caff-Pow this morning. Smile 2: a 7.2 when Gibbs smiled at you in the bullpen. Smile 3: a 6.5, data input from McGee after Gibbs' second coffee run, again a smile at you. Smile 4: an 8.7 just now, here in my lab. 8.7, Tony! Something is seriously wrong!"

Tony looked at the graph again. An average of 7.3 was certainly significant compared to the usual 3.6. He tried to ignore the funny, slightly flippy feeling in his stomach. Was this telling him something about Gibbs' reaction to their conversation last night? Did I actually make him happy, saying he was my soul mate?

"Tony! What do we do? You must factor into the equation somehow, you're directly involved in two out of four incidents, and at least peripherally in the third. What gives?"

Tony shrugged. "Maybe he's found a new redhead?"

Abby shook her head. "I don't think so. When he was dating Colonel Mann, he averaged only a 4.7. Of course, she wasn't a redhead, but could hair color alone account for a GSS differential of 2.6? This is way hinky, Tony! You have to keep a close eye on him. We can't lose him again!"

Tony shook his head. "Abs, you're not making sense. Why would he leave if he's happy?"

Abby made a frustrated noise. "I don't know! He's not behaving predictably, so we can't expect him to behave logically. Tony, promise me you won't let him leave!"

Abby was genuinely distressed. Tony reached out and pulled her into a hug.

"Abs, everything will be fine. He's not going anywhere. In the meantime, stop freaking out by listening to classical music. Play some Android Lust or whatever it is, and have dinner with me tonight. I need some advice."

Abby's mood immediately shifted from worried to happy. She grinned at Tony, then moved back to the pile of files he'd left near the computer. Tony followed her. Frowning as she sorted through the files, she looked up at Tony.

"This advice better not have anything to do with your appointment this morning, mister!"


Gibbs couldn't help the big smile as he left Abby's lab. Abby always brightened his day, and being with her and Tony, even for just a few minutes, had lightened his mood considerably. He'd been disappointed when he realized the necessary timing for his MTAC op would interfere with his half-formed plans to spend time with Tony later. He thought about that as he waited for the elevator. What was so disappointing? Probably just don't want things to get strange or awkward, which could happen if we don't get it figured out soon. The elevator doors opened; he walked in, hitting the button to go back to the bullpen. On second thought… Gibbs impulsively hit the stop, canceled the call, then hit the button for autopsy.

Gibbs breezed through the autopsy doors, finding Dr. Mallard and Jimmy Palmer standing over a body. Ducky glanced up at the sound of the doors opening.

"Ah, Jethro! This is a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting you today, since you don't have an active case. Our only guest is this poor Petty Officer of Pearson's. Gunshot to the head, execution style. Died instantly, of course."

Gibbs grunted acknowledgment. He felt a brief sense of envy; he'd rather be working a hot case than dealing with his MTAC op.

"Duck, you got a minute?"

"For you, Jethro? Any time. Mister Palmer, why don't you take a break, get some fresh air?"

Palmer shot both men a smile, and turned to leave.

"Now what's on your mind, Jethro?"

Gibbs sighed. "It's about Tony, Duck."

Palmer, who hadn't quite gotten out of the room, stopped and turned back. He had a slightly panicky look on his face.

"This… uh, it's not about his appointment this morning, is it?"

Surprised, Gibbs looked up at the earnest young man. He thought of just glaring at him, but remembered Palmer's concern when they'd thought Tony was dead, years ago. He decided to go easy on him.

"No, Palmer, it's not. It was a real dentist appointment."

Palmer smiled and relaxed. "Oh, good! That's great!"

Ducky smiled in his assistant's direction; Palmer gave both men a small wave and left. The smile vanished from Ducky's face as soon as the doors closed behind Palmer.

"Are you sure, Jethro?"

Gibbs grinned. "Yeah, I'm sure."

Ducky persisted. "How can you be? Anthony excels at undercover work. He had us all fooled before, you know."

Gibbs' grin got a little bigger.

"Tony's appointment was at 8. I called his dentist's office at 8:30, verified that he was actually there. Routine cleaning."

Ducky broke into a relieved smile.

"Ah, that's excellent news. I shall stop worrying. So what's wrong with the lad, then, that you need to see me about him? Nothing medical, I hope?"

Gibbs sighed, shaking his head. He looked over at the next autopsy table; it looked clean. He hoisted himself up, and sat, a little hunched over, looking at the medical examiner.

"Tony's fine. I need some advice, Duck. You said once that Tony's like a son to me. I'm not so sure that's really the case."

Ducky gave Gibbs an incredulous look. He removed his scrubs, placing them on a side table. Walking over to his desk, he grabbed his wheeled chair and brought it over to where Gibbs was sitting. He sat down and removed his glasses, polishing them a bit with a handkerchief. He replaced them, folded the handkerchief and put it back in his pocket, then looked seriously and a bit sternly at his friend.

"Why on earth would you say such a thing, Jethro? You know you care about Anthony, very much."

Gibbs nodded. "No question about that, Duck. Just not sure about exactly what I feel."

Ducky looked confused. "I must confess that I don't understand what you're talking about."

Gibbs nodded again. "Yeah, I know. Tony came over to my place last night; he needed to talk over the case. You know how he got obsessed over Dana?"

Ducky sighed. "I certainly do. I also know he stayed with her at the hospital until she passed away. He must be having a rough time. What can I do to help?"

"Actually think he's okay with it now. It's what we ended up talking about that could be a problem." Gibbs shifted on the table, moving his hands around a bit as if he didn't quite know what to do with them. Ducky took note of the uncharacteristic movement.

"Do go on, Jethro."

"Tried to work out why he got so emotionally involved in the case. He admitted he broke rule 10 –"

"Which you have done numerous times, Jethro, occasionally with near-disastrous consequences."

Gibbs grimaced. "Yeah, Duck. I know. We ended up talking about his lack of dating, about the fact that he hasn't been in a real relationship since he was undercover. I… I talked a bit about Shannon, tried to tell him it's worth the risk of getting hurt. Said Abby would have called me and Shan soul mates. Tony said he didn't need to find a soul mate, that he's got me."

Ducky's eyes widened almost comically. Gibbs concentrated on keeping his expression neutral.

"Oh, my."

"Surprised the hell outta me. After he got past the panic attack, we talked some more. Agreed that we might have feelings that go beyond friendship, or a sort of father-son thing. Neither of us have any idea what to do about that, but we want to figure it out."

"Jethro, are you saying that you and Tony are contemplating…" Ducky paused, for once having to search for the right words.

Gibbs looked seriously at his friend. "Yeah, Duck, I think we might be contemplating an actual relationship beyond work, beyond just friends, definitely not a father-son thing."

Ducky gave Gibbs a stern look. "Jethro, neither one of you has ever, to my knowledge, been attracted to men. Are you sure you've got this right?"

Gibbs laughed. "Sure? I'm not sure of anything right now. I'm pretty sure I caught him staring at me while I was in the shower this morning – no, Duck, nothing happened, he just brought me coffee. He slept on my couch last night. I'm also pretty sure I've been feeling more upbeat than usual today."

Ducky contemplated Gibbs, who looked back at him steadily.

"Alright. What do you intend to do now?"

Gibbs scratched the back of his head.

"I'm not sure. I don't want things to get awkward, don't want the team to suffer for it, definitely don't want to do anything that makes him leave."

Ducky laughed at that.

"You'd need more than a crowbar to pry that boy away from you. You do know he's turned down his own team at least once, don't you?"

Gibbs looked surprised. "When?"

"Not long after you got back from Mexico. And Vance asked me about Tony not long after he stepped into the Director's chair. He wanted to know my professional opinion of Tony's abilities, because he was under the impression the frat boy routine wasn't entirely legitimate. I suspect Tony's on a short list of candidates for team leadership. But that's beside the point. I don't think Tony would take a leadership position if it were offered, not as long as he has the option to remain on your team."

Gibbs looked uncomfortable. "That's another thing, Duck. What if we start something up, and that influences his career decisions? I don't want to hold him back."

"As I just said, Jethro, I can't see Tony leaving your team. More likely he'll step into your position as MCRT leader when you retire. Unless, of course, the two of you exchange vows and go off to sail the world together." Ducky smiled.

Gibbs' tone turned gruff. "Ducky," he warned.

"Jethro. I'm serious. Regardless of the fact that neither of you has ever shown interest in a homosexual relationship, both of you are mature enough to recognize that it's the person who matters, not just the gender. This reminds me of a couple I knew many years ago, back when I was starting my medical career." Ducky paused, but when the expected interruption and demand to get on with it actually didn't happen, he gave himself a little shake and continued. "Their situation wasn't one of like gender; it concerned a difference in ages. He was a good deal younger than she was, by about twelve years. In those days, such relationships were quite rare. They were both concerned about the potential obstacles, including the likelihood that were he to commit to her, he would miss out on the opportunity to have children, as she was already well into her forties. But they forged ahead, and had many happy years together."

Gibbs grunted in acknowledgment and looked thoughtful. Ducky caught Gibbs' eyes, fixing him with a very serious expression. "My advice to you, Jethro, is to talk things out with Anthony, and do it soon. I would also strongly suggest that you not attempt to rush into a physical relationship unless you are both absolutely sure you are comfortable with the idea. Are you sure, really sure, that the feelings are sexual in nature?"

Gibbs shook his head. "Not exactly. I brought up the idea, in a general way, 'cause I was trying to understand the connection between Tony's reaction to the case and him calling me his soul mate. Pretty easy to connect the dots between Tony's pursuit of a woman and sex. Not so easy to connect that to what he said last night."

Ducky nodded agreement. "True enough. And what was Tony's response when you did bring it up?"

Gibbs turned thoughtful. "He's brought it up himself a couple of times since, but just in a joking around kind of way."

"And we both know that joking around is one of Tony's primary defense mechanisms," Ducky responded. "I would say his bringing it up means it's on his mind. What about you? Would you say you find him physically attractive?"

Gibbs started a little at the question, but didn't hesitate to reply.

"I've always known he's a handsome man, Duck."

Ducky gave his friend a knowing look. "And you have given me an answer that's not really an answer. Well, my friend, I have told you what I think you should do. Talk to Anthony. Set some ground rules so that there is no awkwardness, or at least if there is, you'll be able to work through it. I cannot stress enough that while you need to work this out, you should do so slowly and carefully. And do try to keep an open mind to all possibilities, Jethro. Love does come in a whole host of forms."

Gibbs' head shot up at that. "Never said anything about love, Duck," he protested.

"Please, Jethro, the fact that you love Anthony and he loves you has never been in any doubt. The question is simply what form that love will take."

Gibbs looked at Ducky searchingly. Finding the acceptance he was looking for, he nodded. He jumped down from the autopsy table, and shot Ducky a grin on his way out.

"Thanks, Duck!"

Dr. Mallard watched his friend leave. "Well, that is indeed a surprise." He walked back to the dead Petty Officer, looking down at the body. "I do hope you'll keep it all to yourself, my boy." He headed to the side-table to grab his scrubs, but suddenly changed direction and moved to his desk across the room. Picking up the phone, he punched in a few numbers and waited.

"Ah, yes, Abigail. I have some data for you. One that started out as a 3.4, but turned into a 5.8. I'm not sure how you want to handle the data entry. Oh, and a 7.6. Do be a dear and add it to today's tally."