Gibbs was at his desk when Tony strolled back into the bullpen. "Where have you been DiNozzo?"
Instead of shouting when he got no reply, Gibbs simply looked over, weariness and frustration being his main driving force as the day wore on. What he saw did not impress. Tony had the sliver square thing Abby had brought for him not so long ago in the palm of his hand. The thin white wire of the head phones trailing up his shirt and into his ears, blocking out any command Gibbs might bestow. Rolling his eyes to lessen his impatience Gibbs immediately stood, walked over and yanked the wire, pulling the headphones out of Tony's ears eliciting a small yelp. He knew McGee was watching him, Ziva too, though she was being only slightly more subtle. When he turned back to his desk both were trading smiles, he didn't care to understand what that was all about.
"Sorry Boss." Tony threw out.
Gibbs sat back down at his desk and picked up his glasses, ready to carry on with what he was doing. Then his phone rang. Answering it he could see all three of his team pensively waiting, they did not need another case so late in the day, this day especially. He said nothing telling during the conversation. When he hung up, he didn't move and wondered just how long they would hold their positions without saying anything.
"McGee, Ziva, evidence garage."
"Gibbs?" Ziva queried, McGee just looked on dumbly.
Neither Ziva nor McGee looked sure about what exactly was going on but they went with it.
Tony watched them go, "What do you want me to do Boss?"
"Finish your damn report." Gibbs said bluntly.
"Oh? Yeah, okay, roger that, can do, loud and-"
"DiNozzo." It was a warning, Gibbs hoped to God Tony took it.
When Tony simply lowered his gaze, looking just as lost and alone as he had in autopsy earlier, Gibbs knew it wasn't over. The rare hug he'd given not being all that Tony needed from him.
Heaving a sigh Gibbs threw down his pen. "Come here."
Gibbs indicated here to be next to his desk. Tony jumped up and strode over straight away, the lost look swapped for the eager to please, but Gibbs' trusted what his gut was telling him and soldiered on regardless.
"Sit." He ordered. Tony looked confused. "On a chair DiNozzo."
"Right boss, sorry."
"Talk to me."
"Movies." Gibbs paused, watching his 'very' special agent figure that one out. "What do you think? Something's going on with you."
"Nothing's going on."
Gibbs glared, not the soft concerned glare he'd been throwing around more recently but the hard, scares the confessions out of the bad guys in less than a minute glare.
When Tony couldn't raise his gaze to meet his, Gibbs knew he was going have to enforce desperate measures.
"Coffee," He said, indicting with his hand Tony was to follow, which he did without thought, "coat DiNozzo."
"Yes Boss." Tony turned back to grab his coat and chased after Gibbs.
Tony's nerves got the better of him. He'd followed Gibbs into the elevator, out of the building and through the Navy yard to the coffee shop and now they were on their way back again, Gibbs as yet to say a word other than to the barista.
"So boss," Tony surprised himself that he had nothing to follow that. Not even a go-to movie reference to alleviate his awkwardness.
"You okay Tony?"
"I'm…doing ok." Tony changed his line at the last second. He never could lie to Gibbs, at least not without feeling like the worse person that had ever lived. Lying about this just wasn't worth it.
"Checked in with Ducky?"
"Yeah, everything's fine." The glare told him Gibbs had already spoken to Ducky and was testing him. "Ok, so I might have pneumonia, Ducky wants me to go to hospital."
"And I'm not going, which he didn't argue with strangely enough." Tony gave Gibbs a sideways glance, but found nothing that would tell him if his boss had had a hand in his triumph. "Basically I've got to do the usual things I do whenever I get so much of a sniffle now, thanks to the sodding plague, and, of course I'll take my meds like a good boy."
Tony could tell his sarcasm was not appreciated on this matter, not that his humour ever was truly appreciated, but even less so at this moment. "He says I should be fine, so as long as nothing changes, there's nothing to worry about."
"Who says I'm worried?"
Tony laughed. Seven years with Gibbs had taught him to appreciate the straight man to his comedian.
Gibbs' silence, as always, said more than any words could and Tony knew he was going to be making a grand confession in less than a minute whether he wanted to or not.
"… It's difficult." Tony felt how dry his mouth had become and coughed, but that only made it worse.
Out of nowhere Gibbs produced a bottle of water, Tony took it gratefully, and continued.
"You know when we found your badge in your desk, I… was scared." Tony darted a quick glance at Gibbs before averting his gaze forward again. "Then at the river, I saw the car and I…"
"I know." Gibbs spoke into the pause.
"I was terrified, didn't stop to think just ran and then when you weren't breathing…" Tony continued in disjointed sentences and ramblings, getting more worked up the more he was forced to confront the events of the last couple of days. The thought of losing someone close for a second time, the thought of being left alone again…
"Tony," he could hear Gibbs calling his name but couldn't, didn't want to stop the words.
"Hey!" Gibbs growled in his face.
"Yeah, weakness I got it."
"No" Gibbs stressed, "You don't need to say sorry for being afraid."
Tony wanted to deny it, stake his claim that DiNozzo's do not only, not pass out, but they are never ever afraid. But for once his sensible, less insecure side won. He simply nodded his gratefulness that for once in his life he was allowed his feelings and telling someone didn't end with their utter disappointment in him as a son.
"Thank you, Boss." Tony spoke hesitantly, after a long pause.
Gibbs nodded and gave him a quick smile. They continued their walk back to the office, Tony feeling complete for the first time he could ever remember.
Gibbs and DiNozzo walked back into the empty bull pen together. Tony was carrying on, happily, his keen investigator skills not taking the hint that enough was enough.
Tony was speaking in his usual loud and jovial tone. "Boss, you hugged me, it was kind of epic."
"I've hugged you before." Gibbs said quietly confident, wanting an end to conversation already.
"Err, no, at least not like that anyway. You've hit me before, plenty of times. Been nice occasionally, which can be a little creepy depending on the circumstance…"
"Shutting up Boss."
When Tony sat down at his desk and popped the little white headphones back in in his ears, Gibbs couldn't stop the amused smile. He'd done it. He'd talked, in his own way, to Tony. Not that they hadn't 'talked' before now, but usually he would let Tony hang himself out to dry, head slapping him when he got silly, using his actions to communicate as always. Gibbs had to admit the young man he'd hired so long ago had grown on him, become more to him then he could ever have imagined him being back then. He'd found himself really caring for him and now, faced with the hard evidence of just how far Tony would go for him, Gibbs knew he loved him.
It was a bold statement, and the force of thinking it alone took his breath away. He'd taken the step from being a mentor to feeling like a father and couldn't quite remember when that change had occurred. Gibbs thought back to when Tony was kidnapped and trapped in the sewers with Atlas, they had found him and Tony had asked what they were doing there. At the time he'd thought how stupid a question it was, they were there to save him of course. But now, with the advantage of hindsight, he could see that despite Tony's constant need to seek his affection Tony had never expected to receive it. Gibbs thought about things said and done, like leaving for Mexico the way he did last year and Gibbs felt a pang that it took Tony risking his life for him, not in the line of duty, not for any reason other than he was simply afraid of losing him, to get perspective.
Tony was nestled at his desk, typing away. Instinctually, as always, Gibbs managed to sneak up on him and yanked the little headphones out of his ears for the second time. Tony stared up at him, and by the surprised expression, he wasn't sure what he was expecting to occur next. Without a second thought, Gibbs lightly slapped him on the back of his head, and walked away, he was half way to the stairs when he heard it.
"Love you too Boss." Tony quipped.
Gibbs smiled. Again.