A/N: Hey guys. :) I'm back with another Gibbs/Tony friendship fic of the hurt/comfort variety… There's some mentioning of Tony/OMC, but this is NOT a slash fic! – Though I have to admit it introduces an aspect into Tony's character that is not really in line with either sub- or supratext of the show… ;-) That said: Have fun! Hope you enjoy. :)

„He cannot know, Ducky..." Tony's voice had a strangely desperate quality to it, which made the older man's gaze instantly soften.

"Quite on the contrary, my dear boy… Jethro needs to know."

"No! – I mean, no. Definitely not!"

Ducky frowned slightly at the other man's vehemence.

"Whyever not, Anthony? Jethro cares a great deal about you. He will be very happy for you…"

"Happy? – Are you kiddin' me, Ducky? He'd kick my ass so hard, I wouldn't be sitting down for a month… Worse than that: he'd probably just kill me! At the very least I'd be off the team. – Can't let that happen, Ducky…" Nervously combing a hand through his hair, Tony anxiously met the medic's calm gaze.

"Oh, Anthony. Jethro might be many things, but he is not a bigot. – And he'd never fire you because of something personal like this."

Tony eyed him disbelievingly. "He's a Marine, Ducky! If he hears I'm gay, I'm off the team so fast I can't say 'meet my new boyfriend' fast enough!"

Ducky started to shake his head slightly at that, eyeing the younger man patiently.

"My dear boy… Currently having one male lover amongst, well, countless examples of the female variety, doesn't automatically make you gay. – And just because Jethro is a Marine, doesn't mean he cannot see beyond a superficial, preconceived notion."

"Preconceived – Ducky! The guy is as Marine as they get! He's hard as steel – smiles twice a month! I mean, he doesn't use so much as a stool to elevate his leg, even if his knee's been killing him for weeks! – What I'm saying is: he's a Marine through and through. Something like that is as taboo as it gets! He wouldn't be able to just overlook it." He looked up to meet the other man's gaze and hold it. "There's no way he can ever know about this, Ducky… Promise me – promise me – that you will not tell him. Ever."

"McGee. Bring me that chair over there…"

"Yes, boss."

Without even looking up from the paperwork he'd been studying, Gibbs used one hand to pull his left leg up and place it on the seat of the chair his agent had just brought over.

McGee immediately frowned at the entirely unexpected action, but then seemed to recover just as quickly, forcing himself to ignore it and simply sit down at his own desk again.

Sure enough it was DiNozzo who suddenly paled dramatically, standing up as if in slow motion.

"Boss… What the hell are you doing?"

Slowly looking up, Gibbs calmly met his shocked gaze; his expression couldn't have been more poker-face.

"What do you mean, DiNozzo?" He slowly followed the younger man's eyes towards his elevated leg. – His expression didn't change at all when he finally made eye-contact again.

"Knee's been pretty sore the last couple of days; there's some swelling. Thought elevation might probably be a good idea… – There something wrong with that?"

"No!" Tony was still staring at him in absolute shock, a very uneasy feeling slowly but surely creeping up in him. "Nothing wrong with that at all, boss… Just – " Gibbs raised a questioning eyebrow. "Just nothing. Shutting up, boss. – Hope you're feeling better soon."

He could feel his boss's gaze resting on him a moment longer, before both of them simply went back to work.

They had been spending the last hour and a half at the club, listening to the various interpretations of modern grunge. When Jeffrey, the lead singer of the current band who had also gotten them their free tickets for the night and adviced them earlier on which seats to take, had just started in on their third song and was surreptitiously glancing in Tony's general direction, Gibbs turned slightly to face the younger agent, before casually nodding towards the musician.

"He's a nice guy."

Tony raised an eyebrow at that, studiously continuing to sip his beer.

"Sure is." He desperately hoped he was sounding his usual casual self...

A semi-long pause. Then Gibbs spoke again, his eyes now on the musician, voice firm.

"You two seem to be getting along very well." He briefly glanced towards the younger man again, hoping to convey his sincerity. "That's a good thing, Tony."

Somewhat startled by the unexpected comment, Tony reflexively turned to meet his boss's unusually mild gaze. This time, he didn't even pretend not to understand where this was going…

"Thank you, Gibbs." His gratitude and relief were almost palpable.

Two seconds later, he cringed from a vicious blow to the back of his head. – He threw the older man an accusing and slightly questioning glance.

"That was for trusting me so damn little after 8 years, DiNozzo!"

"Yeah; Gibbs…" He more mumbled than spoke into the phone, having been asleep for less than two hours, and having only two or so left before he'd already have to get up again…

"Leroy Jethro Gibbs?" An unfamiliar, female voice asked for confirmation.

Frowning slightly, he pushed himself up into a sitting position, narrowly avoiding hitting his head on the planks of his semi-finished boat.

"Yeah. – Who's this?"

"Bethesda Naval Hospital, Sir. – You're listed as next of kin to one of our patients…"

That got him awake in a heartbeat. A slow feeling of dread was creeping up his gut.

"What happened." Was all he finally replied, not even bothering to ask about the identity of this mysterious 'patient'. – As far as he knew only one person besides his Dad listed him as next of kin, and his old man was currently more than 200 miles from Bethesda Naval Hospital…

"Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was injured tonight. He's conscious and insisted there was no need to call you, but with a head injury involved…" Her voice tapered off somewhat uncertainly.

Ignoring her obvious internal struggle, Gibbs was already on his way up the stairs.

"I'm on my way."


TBC (obviously)… :)