1. There was this Baltimore police detective Gibbs met during the course of an investigation. He was a little green, full of quirks which should have annoyed Gibbs to no end but didn't, and very eager to please. "You're the boss," he had said almost from the beginning, even though Gibbs wasn't his boss at the time and everyone else in the Baltimore PD was stonewalling him. Halfway through the case, Gibbs turned to him with an incredulous, "Why are you helping me, DiNozzo?" The response to this was a wide, happy smile that practically light up the room. Gibbs knew he should have said it then, but instead he handed Tony a business card and said, "When you're ready for a real job, give me a call."
2. They'd been working together a year before Tony showed up on his doorstep one night, a pizza in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other. Actually, by the time Gibbs opened the door, he had been trying to balance the beer on top of the pizza box to ring the door bell. He almost lost both, and Gibbs couldn't help but grin at the comical scene before him. He laughed heartily and took the six pack, ushering Tony inside before asking what he was doing there in the first place. "It's a weekend, Boss," came the innocent reply. "Thought you could use some company." Something else lay unspoken between them, and even though Gibbs recognized it right away, he wouldn't acknowledge it unless Tony did, too. "Outside work, it's Jethro, and yeah... I could."
3. The first time Gibbs slapped Tony upside the head, it hadn't been meant as a form of reprimand. It had never been that, at least not with Tony. Gibbs walked into the bullpen and Tony was goofing off instead in working. Chatting with one of the other agents. Teasing Kate with seemingly no mercy. His face was lit up in that happy go lucky smile and Gibbs' heart swelled with emotion at the sight of it. But they had a case to solve, so Gibbs just breezed past him on his way to see the Director, his arm reaching out at lightning speed to deliver the blow. "Back to work, DiNozzo," he gruffed, thinking I love you and wishing the smack had been a caress.
4. What started as a typical day at NCIS - Tony and Kate bickering like siblings who'd spent too much time in a car together and McGee caught in between - ended up being a nightmare for just about every involved. There was an envelope in the mail with no return address or even a proper recipient. Tony opened it, releasing a cloud of fine, white powder. One by one, Gibbs watched as everyone on his time - except for Tony - was cleared on contagion and released to begin work on the case. For Tony, it was different. The white powder was Y Pestis, the Plague, and not just any ordinary strain, but one altered to be fast acting and very strong. Kate volunteered to stay with him in the hospital, and Gibbs let her because he was needed on the case. Because he needed to be the one who solved it. For Tony's sake. When it was over, he stood by Tony's bedside, leaned in as close as he could get, and tapped the man he loved on the forehead. "You will not die."
5. When the explosion robbed Gibbs of years worth of precious - and some not precious - memories, he didn't know to say "I love you" to the angry young man who stood in the doorway watching pack his bags for Mexico. He couldn't remember what had transpired between them in the years they'd known each other. Nights spent watching movies and drinking beer. Nights where Gibbs worked on his boat while Tony sat on the stairs and rambled on about whatever popped into his head. The one night when Gibbs interrupted those ramblings by shoving his tongue into Tony's mouth and realizing they'd both been wanting that to happen for a very long time.
"See ya round sometime, DiNozzo," he said when he was through packing.
"But you're coming back, right, Boss?"
Gibbs didn't know, then, why the plea sounded so heart breaking, but after a couple of months in Mexico, he did. By the time he returned, Tony was apparently seeing some one else - some mystery woman - and it was too late to say what needed said.
6. Tony never really recovered from Jeanne.
Gibbs watched him day in and day out for months on end, waiting for a sign that Tony was over his star-crossed relationship with the arms dealer's daughter. The relationship which had never been intended to be real in the first place, but for reasons no one could fathom, had been all too real, just the same. Gibbs blamed himself for Tony's broken heart. Their intimate relationship - not to be confused with the friendship and working relationship they already had - had just begun when Gibbs went to Mexico and while Tony said he understood why, and didn't blame him for abandoning them, Gibbs knew better. He knew that the bond between Tony and Jeanne had formed quickly because Tony had been looking for someone to replace him. Because Gibbs had abandoned him.
After Jeanne, Tony dated sporadically. They both did, actually, but never each other and never anything permanent. Gibbs couldn't find anyone to fill the void left by Tony DiNozzo any more than Tony could fill the one left by Leroy Jethro Gibbs. They were each damaged goods without the other. But that didn't stop Gibbs from jealously fearing Tony's sudden interest in Ziva, or from being grateful when Ziva admitted to him that she looked upon her co-worker only as a friend.
Then came the Hutton case and out of nowhere, Tony developed an obsession with the missing ZNN correspondent. He watched her die, and everyone could see it for what it was - like losing Jeanne all over again.
When she was gone, he came to Gibbs for comfort, though and that was a step in the right direction, for both of them. They drank beer and Gibbs admitted he had difficulty not getting involved with the people they were helping. After all, he was only human.
"You're not human," Tony said with a laugh. "You're Gibbs."
That should have been it, but Gibbs shook his head. "Oh, I'm human alright. Probably more so than anyone else, judging from the monumental mistakes I keeping making."
Tony's head shot up at that, like he wanted to say 'You don't make mistakes, boss. Say it ain't so.' but he didn't. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Gibbs nodded his head. "The biggest is taking for granted the people I care about the most. I love you, Tony. I should have said it a hell of a lot sooner than this, and I can hope that someday, you'll forgive me enough to give us a chance."
For once, Tony was speechless.