Disclaimer: NCIS doesn't belong to me... at least not yet. Muahahahaha

A/N: This is a One-Shot. Set (season wise) everywhere you'd like. You could even pretend that it's part of the "The Day" universe if you'd like. I made it vague enough to leave room for interpretation.

This is a birthday fic for AZGirl! She wouldn't tell me when exactly her birthday was, but I hope I'm close. Thanks for your help and nice words and support over the months I had the pleasure knowing you. I hope you enjoy this bit of Papa-Bear Gibbs and hurt Tony.

This story was beta'd by the amazing PrincessNala, since I couldn't exactly ask the birthday kid to beta her own gift! :D All remaining mistakes are my own.

On another note, I decided to start uploading "The Day After The Day" sometime after Halloween, no matter if I'm done yet or not. I have written enough to keep up a nice uploading schedule. I realized that it's that much harder to bring yourself to write without the encouragement and reactions of the readers along the way. So, after Halloween it is.

But first, on with the story!

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Traditions

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"Tradition simply means that we need to end what began well and continue what is worth continuing."

Jose Bergamin

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The rain was falling hard that evening but it weren't the sounds of the raindrops against his windows or the howl of the wind through his house that caught Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs' attention. He had been about to get that beer that he'd wanted since returning home and drying off but abruptly stopped in his tracks before his hand could make contact with the cold bottle. For a few seconds he just stood there and listened before his head jerked up in surprise when he recognized the sound of a key being turned in his door.

Only two people in the whole world had a set of keys to his home and only one would have a reason to stop by today.

Against his clear orders of course, but he didn't really expect anything else from his senior field agent. Not anymore, at least.

The former Marine sighed, closed the door of the refrigerator and waited for the inevitable. There was the sound of a door opening and closing and then the shuffle of feet and the rustle of plastic bags and then Anthony DiNozzo was there, right in his kitchen.

Gibbs looked the man over and tried to decide whether he should be angry or amused.

Tony looked even more young in his sweater and sweats than he already did in his expensive suits. His hair was wet from the rain and stuck to his forehead. He apparently hadn't bothered to bring an umbrella since his hands weren't free anyway; the left held the plastic bags and the right an expensive bottle of bourbon, complete with a red ribbon tied around it. Gibbs couldn't help but smirk at the sight. Tony noticed what he was looking at and the impish grin on his face widened even more.

The Italian stood tall and was practically bouncing in place but the cheery attitude didn't fool Gibbs in the lightest. Despite Tony's best efforts to act as if everything was alright, Gibbs noticed the other, less pleasant things as well.

DiNozzo looked flushed, circles of red highlighting his cheeks and circles of black darkening his eyes, indicating that he hadn't gotten much sleep lately. His breathing was elevated but shallow and he was shaking a little. Which was no wonder, since his clothes were just as wet as his hair and clinging to his body.

Simply said: the boy looked a mess.

Tony's smile faltered when he saw Gibbs expression growing darker with each passing second but he pulled himself together, not willing to back down.

"Happy," he croaked, cleared his voice, and tried again. "Happy Birthday Boss."

Gibbs made no move to accept the bottle that was shoved his way and Tony didn't even think about lowering his arm. They stared at each other for a long time, Gibbs expression carefully blank and Tony's with that fixed smile carefully attached, before the young man's arm began to shake more and more and Gibbs finally relented, accepting the bottle with a grateful nod. He wasn't really giving in, of course. He just really didn't want to spent the rest of the evening clearing the shards and the alcohol out of his carpet.

The brief relief Tony felt quickly disappeared and turned into weariness when Gibbs' voice broke the silence.

"I thought I told you to stay home today?"

Tony shrugged, trying to appear indifferent while he winced inside. He hated it when Gibbs sounded all... disapproving.

"I'm feeling a lot better already."

He tried to cover the cough at the end there but he needn't have bothered. Gibbs noticed everything. Sometimes it was frustrating, really.

But sometimes it was pretty nice as well. Like now, for example, when Gibbs laid the back of his hand against his forehead with a worried scowl – and yes, only Gibbs could pull that off.

"You're hot."

"Why, thank you. You're not too shabby either." Tony smirked.

He heard a snort that may have been laughter but he couldn't tell since he couldn't see Gibbs face. Strange, he hadn't even noticed closing his eyes.

"I mean you have a fever."

The hand left his forehead and Tony fought the urge to follow it. A part of him realized that this little cold he hadn't been able to shake off for the better part of a week was making him unnaturally needy, but another part didn't care. He'd been lying in his apartment for days, with no human contact at all, and he was beginning to crave it. Even if it came from his grumpy boss, who he was a teeny, tiny bit angry with.

Okay Tony, be honest, he chided himself. He wasn't just a bit angry, he was outright disappointed and, worst of all, hurt. Gibbs hadn't visited even once while he was sick. He hadn't expected the man to coddle and care for him 24/7 but was one visit too much to ask for?

Apparently it was.

And then he'd gotten that call earlier today from Gibbs, telling him that he shouldn't bother coming over tonight. That had been the last straw. If Tony was being honest - and he was that an awful lot today, probably another side-effect of the cold – he could admit that he'd only disobeyed that 'order' to annoy Gibbs.

But then again, he really looked forward to this the whole year and the fact that Gibbs hadn't showed up during his sick leave had left him a bit bewildered. Sometimes he'd felt as if the man had simply forgotten about him. He just couldn't stay home today, alone, no matter how rotten he felt.

Not today.

Gibbs voice pulled him out of his thoughts and he straightened when he realized that he'd slumped quite a bit while he'd been lost in thoughts.

"You really should have stayed home."

Tony felt an unexpected rush of anger but smothered it before it could show on his face. He probably really couldn't blame Gibbs for not knowing that this was really important to him. Not when he himself didn't even know why that was.

"Come on. It's tradition." he said instead, making his way over to the kitchen counter to unpack the things he'd bought.

A tradition that had started due to an embarrassing misunderstanding, admittedly. It had been his first year as an NCIS Agent and he hadn't immediately hit it off with his colleagues, go figure. It had been mutual really, but while Tony tended to ignore them, some of his fellow Agent had decided to play a dirty trick on him.

It had been Gibbs' birthday and he'd wondered aloud what he could get his new Boss, a man he already admired fiercely, when someone told him that Gibbs was having a party and that everyone was invited. Upon Tony asking why he didn't know about that – he'd tried to ignore the voice in his head that tried to tell him that Gibbs had deliberately not told him about it – the guy had said that it was common knowledge and Gibbs probably just forgot to tell him.

In hindsight, he should have known that something wasn't right. Gibbs wasn't the kind of guy who had parties, not even for his own birthday. But young gullible, desperate to impress, Tony had turned up on his doorstep that night with an expensive bottle of bourbon tucked under his arm.

No one can imagine the deep embarrassment that had filled him when a frowning Gibbs had explained that there was no party, that there had never been one. He'd wanted to turn around and run back home as fast as possible before he made an even further idiot of himself, but Gibbs must have seen the intent in his eyes because before he could flee he'd been pulled into Gibbs home and deposited on the couch.

After a lot back and forth between the two men, Tony had decided that he would cook Gibbs dinner to make up for his interrupted evening. They'd had pasta that night, since Gibbs didn't have anything else, and Tony had only mentioned in passing that that wasn't exactly what one could consider a real birthday meal whereupon Gibbs had said that he would just have to do something else next year.

The older Agent seemed to be just as surprised by his suggestion as Tony but he hadn't taken it back either and so, for the last few years, Tony had turned up on his doorstep on his birthday, bourbon and groceries for a big birthday meal in tow.

The first few times had been a disaster since Tony usually didn't bother to cook for anyone, not even himself. One time he'd almost managed to set Gibbs' kitchen on fire and another time they had to order pizza because he'd mistaken the sugar for salt.

Surprisingly enough, Gibbs had been pretty relaxed about those incidents, putting the fire out without blinking an eye and even smiling a little bit when Tony had tasted the sugar infested food and spit it right back out over the whole table.

With each year it got better though, and now Gibbs' birthdays (mostly) went without a hitch.

Well, except this one, it seemed. It figured that Tony had to get sick when Gibbs' birthday was due. He still couldn't believe his bad luck.

Tony shook his head – and tried to ignore the dizziness that hit him – to get back on track. It was unfortunate that he was sick but he was here now, nonetheless. He would just have to make the best out of this situation. This little tradition was more important to him than anything else and he wouldn't let a little infection get in the way of it.

"Tony-" Gibbs tried again but Tony ignored him. He would do this, even if it killed him.

The Italian opened the fridge to put the things away he didn't need right away and stopped cold when he saw that there was no room for his stuff. The fridge was bursting with groceries and ingredients, everything you needed to fix yourself a three-course meal.

Tony's shoulders slumped in defeat and he silently closed the door again. He just couldn't face the full fridge and its implications right now.

It had been an unwritten law that he would bring everything he needed to cook himself. Every time he came around, Gibbs fridge was empty and it had always been a special kind of pleasure for Tony to fill it for his boss.

But this time there was no room for his things and that could only mean one thing.

"You were planning on cooking yourself. That's why you didn't want me to come." It wasn't a question. There was no mistaking what he had seen.

There was a second hesitation. "Yeah well," Gibbs said, gruff but without anger. "Don't quite fancy someone sneezing into my food."

Tony only nodded. God, he felt like an idiot. Of course Gibbs didn't want him to cook for him when he was sick, that had to be the most unsanitary thing anyone could do. He registered faintly that the food in there had to be enough for two but his humiliated brain immediately came to the conclusion that Gibbs had to anticipate another guest. Maybe a woman. He probably hadn't expected Tony to show up in his state and invited someone else over to celebrate. Tony was just disrupting his evening. Again.

The thoughts chased each other in his head and he almost didn't notice Gibbs coming up to him and taking him by the elbow.

"Come on." Gibbs said and pulled him towards the stairs that led upstairs. "Go dry yourself off. Help yourself to some dry clothes. You know where to find them."

Tony wanted to protest, wanted to turn and go home and never think about this day ever again but he was beginning to feel the cold creep into his bones and the tickle in the back of his throat got worse. Fresh and dry clothes were probably a good idea and that way he could get out of Gibbs' sight for a while to collect himself. He could still leave then.

He didn't notice the sad smile that touched Gibbs lips as he helped him upstairs.

It was probably better that way, anyway.

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When Tony came down the stairs fifteen minutes later, dressed in some comfortable clothes from Gibbs, he was determined to say a quick bye and disappear out of that door as fast as possible.

His boss had other ideas though and took his arm to lead him into the living room before he could make a break for it. Tony went willingly enough, hoping that if he did what Gibbs wanted this whole embarrassing affair would be over quicker. What he wasn't expecting to see however, was the couch covered with three thick blankets and as many fluffy pillows and the coffee table overflowing with various pill bottles and enough tissues to last him a life time.

If he didn't know better, he would almost say that he was expected to lie down and before his feverish brain could process that thought properly, Gibbs was already pushing him down into the fluffy haven and tucking him in like a little boy.

Gibbs saw the awe in the young mans face and unsuccessfully tried to stifle a smile. He'd actually counted on more resistance but a sick Tony was obviously a pretty mellow Tony.

"Boss," the boy croaked and coughed. "Boss what are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?"

To an unobservant eye it may have seemed like Tony finally relaxed into the couch but to Gibbs it looked more like he was trying to bury himself beneath the blankets.

"Looks like you let me ruin your birthday."

Gibbs sighed and took a seat on the edge of the couch. Sometimes he really didn't know whether Tony was really that clueless or... no actually, he could totally believe that Tony just really was that clueless.

He reached for one of the bottles on the table and dribbled some of the contents into a cup he'd already prepared. Tony watched him with suspicious eyes.

"And how do you think you're ruining my birthday?"

"By being here?" Tony asked casually. "You obviously already have other plans." He edged away when Gibbs tried to give him the cup and for a moment Gibbs really thought that he would pull the blanket over his face. "What is that?"

"Cough syrup. And I guess my plans will have to change now."

Tony grimaced at that and Gibbs could see that he'd somehow hurt the boy. He would have liked to tell him what his other plans had been, or better yet, whom they'd involved, but that would undoubtedly lead to another long conversation and first they had to take care of that coughing and fever.

"Ah, no thanks." Tony said and was immediately wracked by another coughing fit. "Don't need it."

Gibbs just raised an eyebrow and grabbed one of Tony's hands to push the cup into it. The younger man took the cup, but held it like some would hold a poisonous snake.

"That stuff tastes nasty, Boss." he whined and looked at the liquid. "And it's brown! Are you sure that it didn't already pass the date of expiry?"

"It's brown because I put cocoa into it. Now drink."

Gibbs still remembered how Kelly had despised the taste of the cough syrup and how he'd mixed it with a bit of chocolate to make her drink it anyway. She too had been on this very couch when she was sick, buried under piles of blankets and watching cartoons. It was a bittersweet memory.

The fact that he did the same for Tony now, tucking him in and making him his special 'Get better' drink, as Kelly had called it, should have felt weird or wrong but it didn't.

Not at all.

Tony's face softened and he was about to take a little sip before he paused and fixed Gibbs with a withering look.

"I'm not a child, you know?"

This time Gibbs did laugh out loud and couldn't help but ruffle the boy's hair. "The pout tells a different story, DiNozzo. Now drink up and get some sleep."

Tony drank the vile stuff (that wasn't that vile anymore, thanks to the chocolate) and watched Gibbs disappear into the kitchen. He had half a mind to quietly stand up and leave but he suddenly had to yawn and almost without his consent his body relaxed into the crushions and his eyes fluttered close as sleep overcame him.

Before it could take and pull him under completely, he heard some weird sounds coming from the kitchen and wondered what Gibbs was up to now.

And then he was gone, dreaming of chocolate and empty fridges.

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When he woke up it was to the smell of something delicious and Gibbs standing in front of him with a steaming plate in his hands.

"'oss?"

"Up with you. Before it gets cold."

Tony struggled into a sitting position and was finally able to identify the smell that penetrated the room.

"Soup?"

"Chicken soup. Not exactly what I'd planned but I called Ducky and he said that you probably wouldn't be able to hold much more."

Planned? Tony blinked and suddenly he remembered the full fridge and his assumptions that Gibbs had probably planned to cook for someone else tonight. It couldn't be that...

"Me?"

Gibbs seemed to be able to follow his train of thoughts and smiled grimly. "Didn't want you to come because I'd planned to get to your apartment tonight. I would have come sooner but the case didn't leave much room for anything else."

It wasn't exactly an apology but it came as close as Gibbs would ever come to that and Tony flushed a bright red when he realized how stupid he'd been. Of course Gibbs wouldn't simply forget him.

He should have known better, really.

Gibbs took a seat besides him. "You gonna eat that?"

"I don't know. I mean, there's a reason why I was the one doing the cooking all the time."

Gibbs growled, but his heart wasn't in it. It was good to see the boy joking again. He had missed his senior field Agent a good deal more than he cared to admit.

"I don't plan on making this a habit, DiNozzo. Next year it's your turn again."

Tony simply smiled. He thought that he could live with breaking the tradition just this once.

After all, there was always the next birthday.

END

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