This one is not part of the FIO-verse… and speaking of the FIO-verse, I apologize to those of you who are waiting for the next update of Second Law. I seem to have set myself up for a more complex plot than I was anticipating, and am feeling a bit blocked and overwhelmed about that one as a result. But I'm working through it slowly, and hope to get rolling again on it soon.

TaylorGibbs won a story from me at the Author's Note auction, and here it is. She was kind enough to give me several prompts to choose from, and this is the one I decided to run with:When Tony's life is at risk, a surprising secret from Gibbs comes out. He has some sort of superhero powers.

This is slash, but nothing explicit. Very special thanks to slashscribe for being my beta reader on this!


Tony DiNozzo pulled on the cuffs shackling his arms to the wall above his head. No change from the last time he'd done it, nor the countless times before that. Sighing in defeat, he rested his head against the wall and wondered how much longer it would take him to die.

The last thing he remembered before waking up was helping Abby into a taxi outside the club, then starting on the walk home. His apartment was several blocks away, but it had been a nice night, and he'd wanted to stretch his legs and walk off the buzz from the alcohol. He'd slapped at a mosquito that had bitten his neck, frowning because with all the treatments the city did for West Nile… well, it just figured that the one mosquito in D.C. would choose to bite him. A few more steps and he was surprised at how dizzy he was getting from the relatively little bit of alcohol he'd drunk. Then the sensation of falling… and waking up here in this… wherever it was, with no idea how long he'd been out.

When he'd come to, he'd quickly found that he'd been cuffed to a metal ring in the wall. Both of his arms were stretched uncomfortably above his head. His legs were free, but there was so little give for his arms that he couldn't stand or even adjust his position very much.

There had been enough light filtering through the partially boarded up windows that he could see he was in some sort of abandoned building. There was debris everywhere, and litter and cobwebs… and probably rats. There were always rats.

Movement at the corner of his eye had him looking toward a door across the room and to his right. There'd been someone there, a man, judging by his height and bulk, wearing a hooded sweatshirt that obscured his face.

"What do you want?" Tony asked.

There was a long pause before he got an answer. "From you? Nothing, really. Believe it or not, I'm sorry I had to bring you into this."

"Heh. What is 'this,' exactly?"

There was a slight movement from the man at the door, and an extended pause. Then – "Revenge."

Tony shifted a bit as he tried to place the voice and failed. "What did I do to you?"

"You didn't do anything. Your boss did."

Tony chuckled. "That Gibbs. You know he's going for the record for number of people pissed off in one lifetime?"

He felt a little more hopeful at the answering laugh, and rattled the cuffs. "Well, what's it going to be? Torture? Or am I bait?"

His captor took a step forward and sighed. "Neither. You're going to sit here and eventually you're going to die."

Tony went very still. "Just like that?"

"More or less. I imagine it will take you a while. I think it takes people what… a week to die of thirst?"

Tony stared at the guy. "Why?"

"I told you… your boss."

"Yeah, I got that part. I think I at least deserve to know the details, don't you?"

Hoodie-Man just stood there, presumably looking at him.

"C'mon! Bad enough I'm going to have to sit here and wait to die… you gonna make it worse by letting me wonder about the reason? You said it's not my fault, so at least give me something here!"

Hoodie shrugged. "A long time ago, your boss arrested my father for murder. That was okay, actually… Dad did it, and he regretted it, and he wanted to do his time." He walked a few steps closer to Tony. "I visited him in prison every week. For all those years… we talked about what Dad was going to do when he got out."

"You made plans to go after Gibbs?"

Hoodie snorted. "Not at all. Told you, Dad wanted to do his time. He wanted to make up for what he'd done after prison too… we had plans to open a homeless shelter. Not just a place for people to stay, but a place where they could get real help, work on getting their lives back on track."

Tony pulled on the cuffs again. "Let me guess… your father killed a homeless man."

Hoodie nodded. "Yes. He was drunk and angry and the guy got in his way. Dad beat him to death."

"So if you aren't out to get Gibbs for putting your father in jail, why am I here?"

Hoodie stepped forward again, and Tony could almost make out his face. "You're here because Gibbs wouldn't let my Dad back out."

Tony cocked his head. "I don't get it."

"Dad was up for parole. Gibbs came to the hearing and spoke out against letting Dad go. Your boss is well-respected; the parole board listened to him and turned my father down. Dad died a few months ago, still in prison. He never got to make up for what he'd done. Gibbs took that away from him, and from me."

Tony stared at him. "So now you're taking me away from Gibbs? Why do you think that's going to have much impact?"

Hoodie drew a little closer; Tony could see him, see the smile on his face. "I've been watching. Been investigating Gibbs since the funeral, trying to decide the best way to cause him the same pain I'm dealing with. You're the one who shows up at his house, who he has dinner with, who he hangs out with in his basement. You're the one he doesn't want to lose."

Tony shook his head. "You've got the wrong idea about my importance."

Hoodie smiled again. "It's either you or that Goth girl. Want me to drug you, take you back and put her in your place?"

Tony stared at the man. "No," he said quietly.

Hoodie nodded. "I didn't think so." He looked Tony over carefully. "Want to hear the letter I sent Gibbs about you?"

"Yeah." Maybe there would be clues in there, something Gibbs could use to find him, something Hoodie didn't realize.

Hoodie pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and began to read.


By now you know that Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo is missing. You won't be able to find him in time. He's going to die because of something you did. I'll let you know what that was after he's gone… I'll send you directions so you can retrieve his body. There will be a letter with him, explaining it all.

I know you're going to look for him anyway. You probably have about five or six days from the time you get this letter… maybe less since I don't know when the last time was that Agent DiNozzo had any water.

I will tell you that his only fault is being close to you. He is blameless here, so I won't cause him any undue pain. You, though… I hope every time you try to sleep at night you see him in your mind's eye, begging for food and water, cursing your name for being the ultimate cause of his death.

Hoodie put the letter back in his pocket and looked at Tony. "I left that taped to Gibbs' front door the afternoon after I took you. From what I've seen, he's already pretty frantic." He moved a little closer, looking again at Tony in that strange, careful way. "You can save your energy, or you can yell for help if you want, but I promise no one will hear you. It's really up to you." He backed up a few steps. "I'll be going now. I won't be back for a few days. And again… I'm sorry."

Then he'd turned, walked out the door, and left Tony alone.

Tony brought himself back to the present, resting his head against the wall and staring up at the ceiling. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since Hoodie-Man had left; he'd dozed on and off, and he thought it had been dark out at least one time that he'd woken up. So maybe a day? Two? That only leaves a few more.

He was starting to find it difficult to swallow, and he had a dull headache. Tony still hoped that Gibbs would find him, but it was a faint hope. There were no clues in the letter, nothing to tell Gibbs where to begin looking. Tony didn't even know if he was still in D.C.

Tony closed his eyes and let his head drop, trying to ignore the thirst and the hunger and the pain. Not cause undue pain, my ass. He just hoped Gibbs wouldn't be too hard on himself when it was all over. And that he caught the bastard, of course.


Jethro Gibbs screamed in frustration as he flung the glass jar at the wall of his basement. Tony had been missing for over three days now, and they had nothing to go on. No useful information in or on the note he'd found attached to his door. Abby couldn't remember anything hinky about their time in the club, and her overwhelming feelings of guilt were making things worse.

They had no idea where to look. Director Vance had taken the team off rotation and had them focused solely on finding Tony, but nothing they did panned out. Tony could be anywhere. Ziva and McGee were working feverishly, combing through all of Tony's contacts, his phone records, his internet use – anything that might provide clues.

There were none.

Gibbs had consulted with Ducky, who became extremely grave after hearing what Tony had and had not consumed at the club. They had every reason to believe Tony had disappeared before making it home, so the odds that he'd had any water or decent food after leaving the club were low. Ducky had been forced to admit that Tony had maybe two days left, assuming his abductor was true to his word and wasn't doing anything to hasten the process.

For the first time in years, Gibbs was faced with the prospect of losing his second in command, his friend, his… whatever Tony was to him. Gibbs wasn't big on examining his own emotions, and now he was going to have to do what he hated: he was going to have to open himself up to all those thoughts and feelings if he was going to find Tony in time.

I hate this. I hate this so much…

Gibbs took a deep breath; negativity wasn't going to help. Another deep breath, and then he moved toward the stairs, heading up to the guest room where Tony had spent time in the past. He walked to the bed, sitting down and running his hand over the pillow… he had yet to wash the sheets after Tony's latest visit.

Should have done this yesterday, or earlier. Waited too long.

There was really no point in feeling guilty. He'd had no reason to think they wouldn't find Tony quickly… they always had before.

I could find him only to lose him.

He'd lost people in the past because of what he could do. He just had to trust that Tony knew him well enough, would believe what Shannon had, and what all those ex-wives as well as some friends hadn't.

Another deep breath, and Gibbs closed his eyes. All that really mattered right now was finding Tony in time. The rest would just have to take care of itself. Drawing on mental and emotional rituals he hadn't used in too many years to count, Gibbs brought an image of Tony into his head. It was really more like a movie than a slideshow… Tony being the incredibly effective agent Gibbs had always known he could be, Tony goofing off at the office, Tony sitting with him on the couch over steak and beer, Tony fighting for his life in that god-awful blue room… and along with the images, Gibbs consciously pulled down his inner walls and felt Tony - who he really was, at the core, something Gibbs had glimpsed and actually touched briefly when he'd told Tony to live in that same blue room, when he'd literally given him the strength to survive.

Once Gibbs was so wrapped up in Tony's essence that he would swear the man was sitting next to him, he cast out his thoughts, hunting Tony in all directions, silently calling his name.

Tony woke suddenly, his body jerking, causing him to hiss with the pain radiating from his wrists and shoulders. He blinked as he looked around the room; he had a sense that he'd heard his own name, but there was no one else there. Tony relaxed against the wall, relieved Hoodie hadn't returned; he didn't want to demean himself by begging for water. For some reason, he thought of Gibbs and felt as if he might cry… if he wasn't so dehydrated.

Tony tried to swallow and managed it with some coughing. He shifted around a little to take some of the pressure off his wrists when he could swear he heard a familiar voice.


"Gibbs?" The sound came out as a croak.

"Tony… thank God. Listen to me. Don't try to talk – just think the words. I'll hear them."

Tony shook his head; his brow furrowed as he tried to make sense of this. He tried to say something but ended up coughing for almost a minute before getting himself back under control.

"I mean it, DiNozzo. Think the words. Don't try to talk."

"Uh… like this, Boss?"

"Exactly like that. That's good, Tony. Perfect, even. I can hear you loud and clear."

"I'm hallucinating, aren't I? I'm dying."

"You're not dying. I really am talking in your head."

"It's okay, Boss… I get to say goodbye to you, and it doesn't matter if it isn't real."

"It IS real! Snap out of it!"

Tony literally rocked forward from a mental head slap. He sat there for a moment, trying to understand the situation. "How…?"

"I'll explain later, I promise. Right now I have to come get you."

"Seriously? Will you bring some water?"

"Tony, I'll bring you a whole damn lake if that's what you need. But I need you to do something for me."

"Anything, Boss. You know that."

"Yeah, Tony, I do. Now listen up… I need you to think about me."

"Come again?"

"Just what I said, Tony. I need you to think about me."

"Umm… anything in particular?"

He felt Gibbs sigh in frustration.

"Tony… we have no idea where you are. Even talking to you the way we are now, I still don't know where you are. But if you…" The pause was so long that Tony began to think he really had hallucinated it all – and then Gibbs was speaking in his mind again. "If you think about me… in an emotional way, I can connect with you on a deeper level, and it'll give me a directional signal to follow."

Tony giggled a little at that. "Like a mental GPS, Boss?"

"Yeah, Tony, like a mental GPS."

Tony thought he could actually feel affection from Gibbs in his head. It was weird, and it made his scalp itch a bit, but he latched onto the sensation.

"That's it, Tony. Think about how I make you feel, think about why you've been on my six all these years."

Tony thought about Gibbs, about his own career at NCIS. He remembered tackling a suspect to the ground in Baltimore, and the irreverent grin he'd gotten from that same suspect-turned-Navy-Guy at the precinct. He remembered the first head slap, and the oh-so-many times he'd been on Gibbs' six and Gibbs in turn on his. Tony thought of Gibbs ordering him to live through the plague, and the desperation he'd felt trying to resuscitate the man on that dock. He thought about Gibbs' loyalty and patriotism, about all the things he admired, and all the times he'd wished his boss – friend – could be happy. He thought about his sometimes confused feelings for his mentor, and suddenly he realized he could literally feel Gibbs, as if the man were sitting right next to him.

"That's it, Tony!"

"Boss? Gibbs – I… I can feel you."

"Yeah, Tony, I know. Listen carefully… I'm on my way. I'm coming for you, right now."

Tony could feel the protectiveness coming from Gibbs, the worry and the relief and… and… what?

"Gibbs…?" Tony thought in a very small voice.

"Yeah, Tony?"

"You… I… you love me?"

There was a moment of absolute stillness… and then Gibbs' voice came back to Tony, very soft and warm. "Yeah, Tony. I love you."

Tony felt dizzy and happy and confused and elated and terrified. And then his head rocked forward again, only this time there was what felt almost like a caress at the end of it. "Focus, DiNozzo. Just concentrate on what's connecting us – gives me a stronger signal to follow."

"On it, Boss."

Tony focused, reveling in the feel of Gibbs, wading through emotions that were at once both foreign and familiar. He almost felt as though he was seeing bits of Gibbs' past unfolding in front of him, until he was gently but firmly nudged away. That didn't matter; Tony was so full of Gibbs and Gibbs' feelings for him and his for Gibbs that he had plenty to concentrate on.

And then Gibbs was there, really there, right in front of him, his hands on Tony's face, and Tony smiled at him with cracked lips and passed out.


"Tony… c'mon, Tony, wake up."

Tony blinked his eyes open and stared up at Gibbs, whose hands were still on Tony's face. Gibbs rubbed his thumb along Tony's forehead and smiled. "You're gonna be okay."

Tony stared at him. He'd heard Gibbs' voice, but Gibbs' lips hadn't moved. "How –" He broke off into another coughing fit, wincing as he pulled on his chained wrists. Gibbs moved one hand behind Tony's head, cradling it from the wall, and put the other on Tony's neck.

"Easy, Tony, just breathe. You're alright."

Tony felt warmth curling out from Gibbs' palm, spreading through his neck and throat, soothing the dehydrated tissue. The coughing faded away. "I don't – what…" Tony cleared his throat, then tentatively thought, "It was real?"

"Yeah, it's real." Gibbs' hand moved from Tony's neck and reached for a bottle of water. Tony was surprised to realize he wanted the warmth back more than he wanted to drink. "Just a sip, or you'll get sick. I'll take care of those cuffs next."

Gibbs held the bottle up to Tony's mouth, and Tony drank gratefully. Gibbs didn't let him have much, but the cool moisture spreading through his mouth and down his throat made tears burn at the corners of his eyes.

"It's okay," was all Gibbs said, stroking his hand through Tony's hair once before letting go and reaching up for the cuffs and the metal ring on the wall. Tony expected to see Gibbs grab his lock picks, but was in for another surprise when all Gibbs did was put his hand around the metal ring, close his eyes for a moment – and the cuff clicked open. Gibbs repeated the process with the other wrist, grabbing Tony's arms for a moment and urging him to move slowly, then letting go to rub Tony's shoulders, trying to relieve some of the ache in his muscles. Tony still groaned in pain as he lowered his arms, then collapsed back against the wall.

Feeling overwhelmed, all Tony could do was watch while Gibbs took his lacerated wrists, one after the other, wrapped his hands around them, and closed his eyes. Tony felt that soothing warmth again; he closed his own eyes and just soaked it in.


Tony opened his eyes and smiled. "You can talk." His voice was raspy, but at least he could speak without coughing.

Gibbs' lips twitched into a small smile. "Yeah, I can talk." He was quiet while he helped Tony drink a little more water, and then to Tony's surprise he spoke again. "When I mind speak with someone, it becomes a habit… tough to get back to using my voice."

Tony nodded as if he understood, then looked down at his wrists, somehow not surprised that the cuts, raw patches and bruises had vanished. He ran his fingers over the skin of one wrist, then looked at Gibbs. "You'll explain, right?"

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. Later. Have some more water, then I'm taking you home."

Tony took another drink, then moved gingerly to his feet with Gibbs' help. Gibbs grabbed Tony's arm and slung it over his own shoulder, put an arm around his waist, and they began to slowly move toward the door.

"Where are we?"

Gibbs glanced around. "Abandoned strip mall a little south of Franconia."

Tony grunted in acknowledgment, knowing as well as Gibbs did that without these… abilities of Gibbs', Tony would have died there.

They made it to the car, which was parked haphazardly up on the sidewalk in front of the building. Gibbs helped Tony in, buckled his seat belt for him, and gave him the water bottle one more time for another small sip. Taking the bottle back, Gibbs looked Tony over carefully, reaching out to run his fingers through Tony's hair before he straightened up, closed the door and went around to the driver's side of the car, pulling out his cell phone and hitting speed dial.

Tony lay back and closed his eyes, listening as Gibbs got into the car, closed the door, fastened his seat belt, and started up the car, all while talking on the phone. "Duck… yeah, I found him… played a hunch, turned out I was right… dehydrated, but clear-headed… yeah, I know… meet me at my place and tell the others… thanks, Duck."

Gibbs flipped the phone shut and replaced it on his belt, glancing over at Tony as he did so. They drove in silence for a while, until Tony sat up a bit and opened his eyes, watching the scenery and taking small sips from the water bottle Gibbs handed him.

"Tony… who did this?"

Tony recapped what happened with Hoodie-Man, how he'd been taken and what the other man had told him. "You know who he is, Boss?"

Gibbs nodded slowly, his eyes narrowing. "Yeah. His father was a Chief Petty Officer with a drinking problem who couldn't control his temper. Went on a drinking binge after making port, killed a homeless man in a wheelchair after bumping into him. I spoke out against his release because he'd failed anger management courses in prison several times and started at least two fights in the month before he came up for parole."

Tony shook his head. "Wonder why his son's so blind." He took another sip of water and looked over at Gibbs. "Know his name?"

Gibbs shook his head. "No, but we'll fix that." He pulled out his phone again and hit another button. "McGee, pull the file on Chief Petty Officer Stephen Boyle, get his son's name, track him down, take Ziva and arrest the bastard – and don't be nice about it… yeah, he's the one who grabbed Tony." He hung up and tossed the phone to Tony, who missed the catch. Neither one of them commented on that directly, but Gibbs' voice sounded in Tony's head as he accelerated. "We'll get you some food, Tony. You'll be back to normal in no time. Wanna call anyone?"

Tony looked down at the phone he'd picked up from his lap, then shook his head. "Not yet."

"That's fine. When you're ready."

Tony gave Gibbs a small smile and sighed as he let himself relax. He tried to remember everything Gibbs had said when he was… mind speaking, that was it… when Tony was still chained up. He ran the conversation through his head; the memory was fuzzy, but it was still there. He wasn't sure what to think about Gibbs admitting he loved him, so he shied away from that part for now. He felt a twinge of disappointment as he did so, and with a shock realized it wasn't from him; it was from Gibbs. He closed his eyes and concentrated, searching for that feeling of connection he'd gotten right when Gibbs had said he was coming for him. It only took a moment, and then he could feel what Gibbs was feeling: tremendous relief that Tony was alive, worry about Tony's reaction to Gibbs' own feelings, disappointment that Tony wasn't comfortable with those feelings, and a low, simmering anger toward the man who'd taken him together with pride at Tony's determination to survive.

Tony opened his eyes and looked at Gibbs. "I can still feel you… inside."

Gibbs glanced at him, then kept his eyes on the road and nodded. "Yeah."

Tony's eyes became unfocused as he tried to explain. "It's like… your feelings, they're mixed with what you're thinking."

Gibbs sighed, looking uncomfortable. "I can block them from you, if you want."

Tony thought about that. "No… no, don't do that, Boss. I mean, if you're okay with it…"

Gibbs looked over at Tony, surprised. "You don't mind?"

Shaking his head, Tony groped for an explanation. "Not really. It's… weird, I guess, kind of makes my head itch. But… I like it. Like feeling connected to you like this. I think I'd miss it if you took it away."

Gibbs shifted in his seat and cleared his throat, blinking rapidly for a second. "I won't take it away, Tony. Not unless you ask me to."

Tony watched him, then reached out to touch his shoulder. "You okay, Boss?"

Gibbs snorted. "You're asking me that, DiNozzo? You're the one who almost died."

"Nah, I had a few hours left," Tony grinned. Then the smile faded and he squeezed Gibbs' shoulder. "I'll be okay if it's making you uncomfortable and you'd rather block it."

Gibbs shook his head. "It's not that, Tony…" His mouth opened and closed a few times while he tried to find the right words. Then he sighed, glancing over at the younger man. "You're the first one since Shannon who doesn't mind. No one since her and Kelly has ever said they wanted me there, like this."

Tony thought about that. "No wonder it was so hard for you to move on," he commented quietly. He moved his hand from Gibbs' shoulder to his neck, squeezing lightly. "On your six, Boss," he said softly.

Gibbs nodded and swallowed hard. "Thanks, Tony."


Tony sat on a corner of Gibbs' couch, sipping water and munching slowly on some crackers. Ducky had just left, pronouncing Tony surprisingly fit given his ordeal, and ordering that he continue to sip water and eat small amounts of bland food. He'd wanted Tony to go to the hospital for an IV, but when Gibbs pressed him on it, Ducky admitted it wasn't absolutely necessary.

Tony had called Abby, and after he'd gotten her past the tears, he'd promised she could see him tomorrow. She was going to call Tim and Ziva and give them a better update than they'd gotten from Gibbs. And Gibbs would be going in to work the next day to interrogate Matt Boyle, or Hoodie-Man as Tony still thought of him, and presumably scare him to within an inch of his life.

Now Tony was fidgeting on the couch. Water, food, and Gibbs laying his hands on Tony and flooding him with that soothing warmth every time he walked by had Tony feeling much more like himself; he was impatient to have that talk Gibbs had promised him.

Rapid footsteps on the stairs indicated that Gibbs was coming back. The steps disappeared into the kitchen; Tony looked up to see Gibbs in a t-shirt and jeans, carrying two more bottles of water. Gibbs shot him a small smile, sat on the couch a few feet away from Tony, and handed him one of the bottles. Tony eyed the bottle remaining in Gibbs' hand, grinning as Gibbs twisted the cap off and held it out to Tony as if it were a beer. Tony removed the cap from his own bottle and tapped Gibbs' with it. They each raised their bottles, silently toasting each other, then drank.

Their bottles were lowered at about the same time, and Tony raised an eyebrow. "Can't remember the last time I saw you drink water, Boss. Coffee, beer, bourbon… but not water."

Gibbs shrugged, looking faintly embarrassed. "Seemed like the right thing to do."

Tony suddenly felt a little self-conscious himself. "Thanks."

Gibbs nodded, looking down at his water. Then he sat back, legs stretched out in front of him, and began speaking, not looking at Tony.

"I've been told I'm a telepathic transmutive empath."

Tony let out a startled laugh. "That just sounds so wrong coming from you… like it's something McGeek should be saying."

Gibbs shot Tony a wry smile. "No kidding."

Tony tilted his head. "Okay… telepathic I get. That's the mind speaking thing. What about the rest of it?"

Gibbs sighed. "An empath is someone who can sense emotions. I can also project them. The transmutive thing… means I can take emotional energy and use it to affect the physical world."

Tony stared at him. "The cuffs… and my feeling so much better so quickly."

Gibbs nodded again. "When I touch you and you feel warm… I'm using that energy to help you heal faster."

"So if you hadn't done that, I'd be in the hospital right now."

"Probably, yeah."

Tony scratched his head. "When I had the plague?"

Gibbs smiled slightly. "Uh huh."

Tony shivered a bit, thinking about how close that had been. "If you hadn't helped heal me… would I have made it?"

"Don't know. I like to think so."

Both men grew quiet for a while, remembering. Then Tony drank some water, cleared his throat, and spoke.

"So… you could always do these things?"

Gibbs nodded, looking into the fireplace. "Yeah. It's always been a part of me. Don't remember it, but when I was a little kid, I was projecting emotions all over the place. Jack was at a loss; Mom read up on things, made some connections, found someone who could explain it and help get me to control it."

Tony picked at the label on his water bottle. "Do you use it much?"

Gibbs took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Haven't used it like today since I… since I lost Shannon and Kelly." He shook his head. "Last time with Kels was not long before I deployed… before…" His voice trailed off, and he ran a hand through his hair, then raised the bottle to his lips and drank. Looking down at the coffee table, he smiled slightly. "She disappeared in a park; we were all walking together, and Shan and I looked away for what felt like just a second. I connected with her the same way I did with you, only it was much easier, more automatic. Found her not too far away, following some damn stray cat."

Tony's lips twitched. "So they knew about…" he started tentatively.

Gibbs nodded. "Shannon figured it out when we got engaged…" He looked like he was going to say more, but then pressed his lips tightly together. Glancing at Tony, he continued with mind speak. "I was so happy, couldn't contain it like I usually did. Caught her up in it, she asked questions… I thought she'd turn me down after that, but she just hugged me and said she was the luckiest girl in the world."

Tony simply reached out squeezed Gibbs' arm briefly. Gibbs smiled at him, but didn't say anything else. After a few minutes, Tony picked up the conversation again. "Your ex-wives?"

Gibbs shook his head. "Only the first one knew for sure. She couldn't handle it… she wasn't comfortable with those strong emotions, and I had a hard time not projecting how much I missed my girls."

Tony's brow furrowed. "You don't worry that she'll tell someone?"

Gibbs snorted and shook his head. "Who'd believe her?"

Tony grinned. "Good point. No one's going to associate you with any emotion other than general pissyness – ow! Thank you, Boss." Tony rubbed his head and looked at Gibbs carefully. "That's why you don't show your feelings much, isn't it?"

Gibbs shrugged one shoulder and nodded.

"So… after the first ex, you never told anyone else."

Gibbs sighed. "No, but it made both Diane and Stephanie uncomfortable. I'd pick up on something, know something I shouldn't have, project some emotions too strongly. Stephanie once said she felt as though I could make her feel things or think things."

Tony looked at him, startled. "Could you?"

Gibbs turned to look directly at him. "Yes," he said quietly. "But I wouldn't, Tony. Not even to some dirtbag in interrogation, and certainly never to you. It… it would be like rape."

Tony nodded. "Okay." He sat back and relaxed. "I'm betting that you do a little mind reading in interrogation sometimes, though."

Gibbs' lips twitched, but he didn't say anything.

"And Abby says you always seem to know when she's got results, and you definitely always show up at just the right moment to catch me doing something stupid!"

Gibbs grinned and reached out to ruffle Tony's hair. "Stop doing stupid things, and it won't happen."

Tony grinned, then changed the subject. "So the whole 'affect the physical world' thing… I know you can heal, and you can open locks with your mind… what else can you do?"

Gibbs smirked. "I once set an abandoned barn on fire when I was really pissed off."

Tony's eyes widened, and he stared at Gibbs in shock. Gibbs looked at him out of the corner of his eyes. "And then I banked the flames. No major damage."

"Holy crap."

"Yeah. Came in handy a few times when I was deployed."

"I bet."

Tony sat, thinking, then turned to Gibbs with a serious expression. "How is it that Vance's office is still intact?"

Gibbs laughed and shook his head, then looked over at Tony, still grinning. "Thanks, Tony… for understanding."

Tony gave him a warm smile back. "Just don't ever let McGee know."

Gibbs looked at him, surprised. "Why? You think he wouldn't handle it well?"

Tony grinned. "Probie reads comic books. How do you think he'd react if he found out that his boss is an honest-to-God superhero? He'd probably show up in a cape and tights, wanting to be your sidekick, and honestly, I really don't need to see that."

Gibbs grinned, but shook his head. "I'm no superhero, Tony."

"You are to me, Boss." Tony tone of voice was abruptly serious.

Gibbs shifted uncomfortably and looked around the room, settling his gaze on the empty plate in front of Tony. "Want some more food?"

His mouth suddenly dry, Tony shook his head. "Gibbs… what exactly did you mean when you said you love me?"

Gibbs went completely still. "Tony…"

Tony plowed on. "I need to know, Gibbs. You did say it right? I didn't imagine it?"

Gibbs shook his head slowly. "No – no, you didn't imagine it."

Tony swallowed. "Okay. So, um… what did you mean, exactly? 'Cause I gotta tell you, Boss, it makes a difference…" Tony stopped talking when Gibbs gently placed a hand on his leg.

"Don't call me 'Boss' right now, Tony."

"Uh, okay. Gibbs. Jethro?" Tony laughed nervously, feeling a little jolt of delight from Gibbs when he called him by name.

Gibbs removed his hand from Tony's leg and turned a bit on the couch to face him. "You trust me, Tony?"

A bit taken aback by the question, Tony tilted his head slightly. "Of course."

Gibbs looked at him seriously, his face giving nothing away… but Tony could feel the increasing nervousness that the other man was hiding so well on the surface. Then Gibbs was leaning forward, cupping one hand beind Tony's head, and pulling him into the most earth-shattering kiss Tony had ever experienced.

The kiss itself was great, with Gibbs' lips sliding over his own, mouth working against Tony's… it wasn't hesitant, or desperate, just raw and powerful, with Gibbs' fingers running through Tony's hair and Gibbs' other hand sliding up Tony's back, pulling them closer together. But the kiss wasn't really the earth-shattering part… it was the way Gibbs took down all the barriers between them, and projected to Tony everything he couldn't find the words to say.

admiration, lust, affection, trepidation, trust, love, possessiveness, hope, desire, passion, friendship, caring, protectiveness, exhilaration… and those were just the ones Tony could identify.

Gibbs pulled back slowly, ending the kiss much too soon, and allowing the emotions to recede a bit. He watched Tony carefully, while Tony just stared back at him, completely astonished… and then Tony did the one thing he could think of that would quell the last of Gibbs' concerns. He followed Gibbs' example, lowered his own inner barriers, and sent all the same emotions and more back to Gibbs.

A small smile appeared on Gibbs' face, and Tony could feel happiness welling up from wherever it usually hid in Gibbs' psyche. But for someone who was used to words, it wasn't quite enough, and Tony thought back over their conversation, trying to come up with a way to express how he felt. The words Gibbs had shared from his own past came back to him, and he smiled happily.

"Hey, Jethro?"

"Yeah, Tony?"

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world."

Gibbs stared at Tony for a moment, then pulled him into a fierce hug. As he buried his face in Gibbs' neck, Tony couldn't help but feel that for a guy who only a few hours ago had been waiting to die, life really couldn't get any better.