Title: Sometimes it's about more than the obvious. SLASH Gibbs/Tony

Summary: Gibbs disappears after Mikes funeral and no one can find him. That is until Tony receives a strange letter that explains there may be more than one reason Gibbs disappeared.

Feedback: Always welcomed and appreciated.

Author's notes: Thanks to three great readers/fans from my Facebook page that read the first chapter for me and gave feedback. I took everything each of you said to heart and made some changes. I was so appreciative and amazed at the seriousness of your feedback and suggestions. There were some wonderful suggestions that I had not even considered or thought of, so thank you so much.

If you are up for it, join my Facebook page, link is on my profile. We have a great time over there ;)

As happens a lot with me, I have not had this edited/beta'ed. As always I have tried my best to catch the mistakes, but they do get by some times.


Thirty two hours, that's how long he had been sitting on this couch. Thirty-two hours, leaving the comfort of this makeshift island of concern only to get something to eat, drink or hit the head. Thirty-two hours of old westerns, classic movies, and the odd detective show when he couldn't find one of the earlier two. Thirty-two hours of calling him, getting no answer, and leaving a message. Thirty-two hours of hitting redial on the phone, getting no answer and leaving a message...again. Thirty-two hours of calling every bar he might be at only to be told they hadn't seen him in weeks.

It had actually all started fifty-six hours ago, after Mikes funeral, when Gibbs just disappeared. No good-byes to anyone, no I'm leaving, no sign of his departure at all. He was there one minute then gone the next. Not unusual for Gibbs, but with the events of the past few months weighing heavy on everyone's mind and heart, worry instantly set in. Everyone had tried to call him, Tony, Abby, McGee, and Ziva. Everyone was sure he would answer when Ducky called, but again it went straight to voice mail. As a last resort they had even made Palmer call, thinking Gibbs would believe something had happened if Palmer was calling him. Still nothing.

That was when Tony finally went to the house and again found nothing. He'd stayed for hours, sitting on the steps, staring at the front door, believing at any minute Gibbs would walk through it. After eight hours of sitting there, his back hurt, his butt was numb and the house had grown completely dark as night set in. He'd gotten two calls while he was there. The first was Ducky. He and Palmer had contacted the hospitals, no one with Gibbs name or fitting his description had been seen or admitted. The second was Abby. She and McGee had tried tracing his cell but it was off. The last call he had made was two days ago to the Chinese restaurant down the street from his house. And no credit or bank card activity. McGee was monitoring Gibbs cell and cards, he used either, they would know.

Deciding there was more he could do, Tony finally left the house. He'd driven to every bar he knew Gibbs had ever went to and some that he just happened to pass along the way. Still nothing. It was after bar forty-six that he gave up and drove home half asleep. That was when he had stumbled into his apartment, fell exhausted onto the couch...and stayed there.

Tony looked at his watch, thirty-two hours and eighteen minutes he had now been on the couch. And he would probably be here another ninety-two, leaving only because that was when the team had to be back to work. They had all been given a few extra days off after Mikes funeral, the loss hitting all of them hard, although no one as deeply as Gibbs. Tony had even been working on an excuse to give to Vance if Gibbs didn't show up for work on Monday. Vance might be their boss, but he wasn't part of the team, they hadn't included him in any of this. They would only involve him if they absolutely had to.

A knock at the door suddenly startled Tony from his thoughts. He stared at the door like some foreign object he'd never seen before and he wasn't sure how to respond to the sound emanating from behind it.

"Who is it?" Tony called out.

"Certified letter for Anthony DiNozzo." A male voice called back.

Who would be sending him a certified letter? Tony glanced around the apartment realizing the complete disarray it was in.

"Mr. DiNozzo?" The voice spoke again.

"Yeah." Tony sighed, finally jumping off the couch and making his way to the door. He cracked the door open slightly looking at the mailman standing before him.

"Signature confirmation required." The mailman held out the letter and a pen to Tony.

"Sure." Tony quickly signed the card and accepted the letter.

"Thanks." The mailman nodded looking at Tony with an odd expression before turning and walking away shaking his head.

Quickly returning to the safety of his private island, Tony studied the envelope. Plain white, letter sized. He held it in one hand. It was heavy, bulky, definitely five or six pages inside. Holding it by the side edge, he held it up to the light next to the couch, too thick to see through. He looked at the return address, his eyes going wide when he focused on one word. MEXICO. Oh God, Gibbs had went back to Mexico.

Ripping open the envelope and tossing it aside, Tony unfolded the plain white paper and looked at the first line.

I'm sure you're wondering why you're getting a certified letter from me.

Who's me? Tony picked the enveloped up off the floor and looked at the return address again. The color drained from his face, his mouth dropping open as he read the name on the return address. M. Franks.

His stomach clenched and he clamped his mouth shut swallowing the overwhelming desire to vomit. What the hell? He glanced at the postmark...the day after Mikes funeral.

His first thought was Mike was alive, but if that were the case he would contact Gibbs, not him. Then the thought that it was a joke, some prank...but there was no one cruel enough to joke about this. The next thought was one of those bizarre, movie induced concepts. Mike was haunting him, sending a letter from the grave. He shook his head, that was ridiculous. Just read the damn letter, he told himself.

Again he read the first line.

I'm sure you're wondering why you're getting a certified letter from me. Well, you need to know a few things, a few things Probie won't tell you. Some things, Probie would kill me for telling you. But then if you're reading this I'm already dead and in the ground, so no worries. I wrote this months ago, when I found out I was on the last leg of this journey, gave it to a friend to mail once I took the big sleep. And no I'm not haunting you. I have better things to do with my after life than haunt your sorry ass.

The statement made Tony chuckled. He was sure Mike was drinking, fishing and getting laid.

It's hard to decide where to start this story, information, whatever you want to call it, but I guess my part in it starts about eight months after you started at NCIS. Decided to make a surprise visit to Probie's, hadn't seen him in awhile and when we talked, he kept telling me about some cocky new probie he was training. That would be your cocky ass. I had never heard him talk so much about a new agent or about their potential. Hell, he never talked about another agent unless it was to bitch. So I was curious. Showed up unannounced, no big deal, I did it all the time.

We tossed back a few beers, I told him about Mexico, then I asked about this new agent he kept talking about. I'd read your file, knew the basics about your background, wasn't impressed. Then Probie started talking about you. You're dedication, loyalty, being a fast learner, and someone he knew he was going to come to depend on. High praise from him. But it was when he talking about the personal relationship he had with you that I realized something was different.

First thing, he actually knew your damn name. Usually he called Probies, Probies or got their names wrong. Plus he'd been to your place, remembered your number without looking it up, and had referred to you by your first name more than once during a conversation. Then I find out you'd been to the house, knew where he lived, he'd never done that before. I asked him what he saw in you, what made you so special and he got this glazed over look and just said he'd seen something in your eyes in Baltimore. Again, I knew something was different about his relationship with you, but never guessed what it was.

What was it? Tony thought to himself. He knew Gibbs saw something in him, quoted rule five, but he never really knew what he saw. At that point in his life and career, he was young, didn't stay at a job more than a few years, wasn't a lot to be impressed or excited about. And his relationship with Gibbs, well that was a mystery even to him most of the time. They were close, he understood that, but it was completely different than Gibbs and Franks relationship. He would have loved to have that kind of relationship with Gibbs, but it never happened. It seemed every time the two of them got closer, Gibbs would pull back. He had pushed for a reason once and it had gotten him a week of silence from Gibbs. After that he never brought it up again. He shook his head and went back to the letter.

After that visit he stopped talking about you to me. Just like that. I would have to ask how you were doing, prod him to get even a basic answer of, "He's fine." So I stopped asking and didn't hear anything about you again until after that crazy bitch drugged you and held you with that Marine in the sewer.

Yeah, Tony remembered that all too well. Nothing scares you shitless more than realizing you've been drugged and have no idea what is about to happen to you.

I actually probably wouldn't have heard about it, but I happened to call Jethro that night it happened. I could tell he was upset, distracted, had something on his mind. Took me almost an hour to finally pull it out of him. He told me the story of what happened to you, told me it was a mistake to let you follow Sacco alone, and he should have know better. Said he was afraid he had lost you when he picked up your phone in the road. For some reason, I let it go. I know what it's like to think you might lose an agent, it gets to you.

He wanted Gibbs to be worried about him, but Gibbs had never let it show that he was. Gibbs had joked about it, told him he was irreplaceable, but again it had been a joke. Never once did he think Gibbs had truly been worried and upset.

During our next conversation, he mentioned you, just in passing. Said you were becoming a good agent, just like he knew you would. That was it. Even during later conversations when I pushed again, he didn't budge, never said a word about you. I started to think you'd pissed him off or that you turned out not to be as great as he thought you would be. Figured he was covering his bad judgment by just not talking about you. I was waiting to hear you'd quit or got canned, but that info never came.

You opening that damn SWAK letter like a dumb ass, was the first time Jethro specifically called me to talk about you. He called that night, you were sick, still fighting, but no one was sure if you were gonna make it. It started with him so sure you were gonna be fine. He said you were healthy, strong, stubborn, you wouldn't give up, you'd fight and win. Then the conversation went on and the realist and the fear set it. He'd seen how weak you were, the pain in your eyes, and knew you were losing the battle, but he prayed you'd win the war. He wanted to take your place, said it should have been him.

But it was when he stopped talking, during the silence, when I finally understood. Could've knocked me over with a feather, completely shocked the hell out of me and that ain't any easy thing to do. I've pretty much seen and heard it all, but when I realized what he hadn't been telling me...Damn that was like someone telling me there had been a mistake and the world really was flat.

I listened to his silence for half an hour before I ordered him to take a shower, go to bed, check on you in the morning. That if you were as strong and stubborn as he said you were, you'd fight and win. We were both right, you made it. When I called the week you went back to work, he had nothing to say about you again. Told me you were fine and changed the subject. At least this time I knew why he didn't wanna talk about you.

What the hell had Mike figured out? Tony blew out a long breath. He never realized Gibbs had been so affected by his brush with the plague. Gibbs had ordered him not to die, and he knew that was Gibbs way of saying he was worried and cared, but he hadn't thought twice about it. He'd only seen Gibbs once during his two weeks off after he left the hospital. Gibbs had showed up out of the blue, dropped off some paperwork he was suppose to fill out for his leave time. They talked a few minutes, Gibbs was probably there a total of ten or fifteen minutes, then left. He didn't see Gibbs again until he went back to work. So what the hell had Mike figured out from Gibbs being concerned about his bout with the plague? Shaking his head, he went back to the letter.

Kate's death was the next I heard your name from his lips. He was telling me the shock and anguish he felt when he saw your face covered with her blood and the horror in your eyes. That was a rough time, he talked, I listened, countless phone calls happened about Kate's death. Eventually, he called and his mood had changed, you never get over an agents death, but you get past it. Ziva's arrival created a new mixture of feelings for Jethro. He trusted her, knew she would change the dynamic of the team, and in some way she helped all of you deal with Kate's death. The problem was she also forced Probie to face feelings he wasn't ready to face. I'll get back to that.

Tony stopped. Did Gibbs have feelings for Ziva? The two of them did have an unusually strong bond, Gibbs accepted Ziva long before everyone else did. But it always seemed like a father daughter relationship to him, never sexual. Gibbs was a good looking man, Ziva an attractive woman, wouldn't be the first time an older man got all hot and bothered over a younger woman. Tony's body shivered, that thought just gave him the willies, it was hinky! Super hinky. Gibbs would never go for Ziva and not just because she wasn't a red head.

It was during Jethro's little hiatus to Mexico that we finally talked about the truth. I kept my mouth shut the first week, gave him some time to heal after what had happened, the coma, losing his memory all that shit. But towards the end of that second week, it was time. I knew the truth but I wanted to hear it from him and he needed to admit it to himself.

We were on the porch, drinking a beer when I told him I knew. He denied it, yelled and screamed at me like I was Satan himself. I let him, he need to do it and I was the only available target. Then he just stopped, sat back down, looked out over the ocean, sighed and said I was right.

Now I'd like to think you have even a little idea of what I'm talking about, but since I know you, and your head is almost as thick as Probie's, I'm sure you have no fucking idea what I'm talking about. Hell if you had a clue, I wouldn't need to write this damn letter to tell you the truth.

Tony rolled his eyes. Nice to know that Mike thought so highly of him.

It's probably easiest if I just say it. Come right out and tell you straight up. So here goes. He's in love with you.

The letter fell from Tony's hand, as his lungs suddenly stopped taking in air, his eyes went wide and he felt as if he was about to pass out.

This had to be a dream, had to be. He pinched his arm.


Okay not a dream. Then maybe some really sick joke, but Mike wouldn't do that, and he wouldn't do something like this to Gibbs. Taking a deep breath, Tony ran his hands through his hair, then blew the breath out. He needed to know more before he could totally process this. He picked up the pages of the letter, putting them back together then started reading again.

Well you either shit yourself, passed out, or dropped the letter not believing what you read. I'm hoping it's the last one. And to answer your question, it's not a dream and it's not a damn joke, even I'm not that much of an asshole to play a joke like this.

He loves you, has for years, pretty much since you came to NCIS. I think he fell in love you the moment he met you in Baltimore, although he says it happened gradually after you started at NCIS. I let him think I believed that, but I know love at first sight when I see and hear it. Him even admitting it is a feat in and of itself so I don't push the love at first sight bit. Shit, Probie in love with another man, even I have a hard time admitting it. Not that I care, I don't give a shit who anyone wants to fuck, but come on Probie! I originally thought maybe it was all those failed marriages that had something to do with him falling for you. Turns out you weren't the first nut he'd wanted to crack.

Anyway, after our little chat, we spent a lot of time talking about you. How he felt about you, why he didn't tell you, why he said he'd never tell you, and anything and everything else that had to do with you. It took almost three weeks for him to tell me all of it, everything he needed to say. I listened to all of it, just letting him get it all of his chest. I don't know if it helped, maybe it did. When he was done, I waited. Waited a couple days to see if he'd ask for my opinion, my suggestions, but he never did. So I gave them, whether he wanted them or not.

I head slapped him and told him what a dumb ass he was. Then I told him to tell you how he felt. Love don't come around that often and life is too short to waste time when it does. I knew he wouldn't listen, he'd already explained to me why he couldn't and wouldn't tell you. And it had nothing to do with rule twelve. So what were the reasons, damn there were a lot. I remembered the ones that made sense, forgot the ones that didn't. I'll give you the edited version, the reasons I believed were rational reasons not to tell you he loved him.

Oh God. Tony groaned. He could give a hundred reasons for anyone not to love him or tell him they loved him. Probably some of the same reasons Gibbs had given Mike.

I'm sure you know the first reason.

Of course. Tony sighed.

You do have a reputation with the women, although I'm sure half is wishful thinking, and the other half is largely exaggerated. Not that it matters. Still hard to imagine a man who likes women so much ever wanting another man. For him that was a big reason not to tell you. And I told you I'd get back to that Ziva making him face feelings he wasn't ready to face. He believes you and Ziva, are or wanna be more than friends. Hell, I even thought it at one point. Think one of the reasons he believed it was those undercover tapes from the hotel!

That assignment was going to haunt him the rest of his career. Between the FBI taping his fake sex with Ziva and him showing his penis to everyone in MTAC, it constantly came up. Sure he flirted with Ziva and she flirted back, but it was nothing. And it would always be nothing. They had never and would never! Flirting was just part of his genetic make-up, one of those DNA traits from his father. Plus rule twelve. Tony suddenly scrunched his face up, realizing he'd broken that, not with Ziva but EJ. That had definitely pissed Gibbs off and in the end, as always Gibbs had been right about that.

Friendship, now that is something Probie takes very seriously and telling you how he feels could ruin that. He couldn't handle losing that friendship, he values it too much. You're one of the few people he trusts, respects and believes in, not something he's willing to risk. Especially when he believes, you don't feel the same way.

Wow, he never realized Gibbs felt that way about their friendship. He always did most of the talking when they were together, seemed like he needed Gibbs' friendship more than Gibbs needed his. And nothing could ever destroy their friendship, nothing. Gibbs could tell Tony he was serial killer, like Dexter killing because he believed it was justified and Tony would accept it, probably fight the good fight with him. That was how much Gibbs friendship meant to him. Tony would take a bullet for Gibbs, not because it was expected but because he would truly give his life for the man.

Which is really the big reason, he refuses to tell you how he feels. He believes there is no possible way you could see him as anything other than a friend. Believes there is no way in hell you have feelings for him, especially love.

The writing on the page suddenly jumped and blurred. It took him a moment but he realized it was because his hands were shaking. Laying the letter down on the coffee table, Tony ran his hands down his face and took a deep breath. Then he rolled his shoulders and shook out his arms trying to remove the trepidation and nervousness from his body. He knew what was coming next, knew because Mike was an investigator and would have figured it out.

Picking the letter back up, he steadied himself and started reading again.

But we know differently don't we? I knew the first time I saw you look at Jethro that friendship wasn't the only thing on your mind. The way you looked at him when you knew he wasn't watching. Always standing a little too close, trying a little too hard to please him, and the way your face lit up when he was around. You got it bad, probably as bad or worse than him.

And just like that stubborn bastard, you can't open your mouth and admit it. I should have just head slapped you both, locked you in a room until you both admitted it, then I wouldn't have to write this fucked up letter. I don't know what it's gonna take for either of you to admit how you feel. Hell, you'll probably both go to the god damn grave not having said a fucking word.

But I'm hoping I have better luck with you than I did with Probie. So here's the bottom line. He loves you, you love him, deal with it. I'm sure right now, Probie took off wanting to deal with my death alone, but that's not what he needs. What he needs is you and only you.

This could play out two ways. Either he's gonna pretend he's fine, go on as if he's dealt with it and bury it deep. Or he's gonna shut down. Either way he's gonna be a jack ass and a bastard. There's gonna be a lot of anger, a hell of a lot of anger and he's gonna take it all out on you. The anger isn't just about my death, it's gonna be about you and his feelings. And it's gonna get ugly. How the anger will manifest I'm not sure, but it will be about you.

So the final question is, do you love him enough to go to him and get it through this? Even if it means taking a mental beating to get to the love.