Leaning against the frosted window sash, he pensively looks across the cool room at the body lying motionless on the bed and sees how the winter light coming through the windows is clearer, sharper, showing truths which are missing in the shadow dappled summer sunshine. In his sleep, Gibbs looks so pure.

Cleansed.

Every hair captures the sun and reflects it back, giving his body a silvery aura with a crowning halo, and the clear, honest blue of the sky, Tony knows, is but a faint imitation of what he'll see when Gibbs finally opens his eyes.

Tony's gaze slides to the photograph of Shannon on the wall – her blue eyes regard him peacefully and he tips his head in salute. Jethro, he thinks but never calls him that, couldn't call him that – he's Gibbs and always will be, but Tony thinks of him as Jethro in his mind – has told him and told him in both words and gestures how much he appreciates Tony's respect for his late wife, how much Tony's love for his girls means to him.

Tony cannot imagine it any other way, for they're part of who Gibbs is and, as much as he'd rather the entire chain of events which led them together had never happened, Tony learned very young that what is is and to make the best of it or move on.

Peoria.

Philadelphia.

Baltimore.

Make your own luck.

An alley, a tackle, a smile, an offer he couldn't refuse.

Life is short, after all, whether you're eight, or thirty-eight, or, he grins towards the slumbering form, fifty-eight.

He can't help but smile fondly when Gibbs begins rooting for his warmth in his sleep. Pushing off the wall with his butt, Tony tosses the case file onto the nightstand before smoothly sliding back into bed and the man who can sleep sitting up in a C-140 but becomes restless within minutes of Tony winnowing his way out of his grasp for a quick absence latches on, irresistibly drawing the younger man back into their winter nest. Pulling the covers over them, Tony slides nimble fingers over the broad back as Gibbs nestles his head into his chest, and grins when his partner snuffles deeply before relaxing with a deep, reassured breath when he recognizes his lover's scent. Tony kisses the precious crown gently then wriggles just that little bit under Gibbs as Gibbs unconsciously shadows his movements until he is cradled atop Tony's chest.

Gibbs presses his ear to the cleft, pulling them impossibly tighter together. One lone eyelash tangles with chest hair, tickling a nipple, as stubble rasps lightly across bare skin like 320 grit sandpaper on fine ash. Tony knows this feel – the slight catch to the glide at first, with Jethro's warm hand wrapped over his, guiding it along the grain, his chest pressed to Tony's side, free hand clasping his waist and his lips at Tony's ear whispering to him over the soft shuss of wood and sand, magically weaving a spell with his sylvan lyrics. Later, they would follow each other's grain in an ancient dance of touch, texture, sensation.

Loving, cherishing, reassuring.

Claiming and reclaiming.

They fit together so perfectly, Tony muses, it's almost as if they have honed each other over all these years. Gibbs has certainly molded Tony. Headslaps turned to caresses turned to something far more profound.

Tony's hands lay clasped at the small of Gibbs' back while he sighs in contentment. They're not on call today, so it's a perfect day for a lie in. He snorts to himself at his rambling thoughts. So much romanticism in one morning – the season has him in its grasp.

With the barest tightening of muscle, Gibbs rouses – at one minute asleep, the next, fully aware. Tony tightens his arms in invitation – stay – and smiles gently when the silver head tips to meet his gaze. Hundreds of words pass silently in milliseconds – an entire conversation – before Gibbs rest his head back on Tony's broad chest and relaxes. While Tony kneads his back, one of Gibbs' hands wanders to his chest, reflexively smoothing again and again. Tony smiles at this. Gibbs worries about him. Has worried since the first time he felt the rumbling rasp of Plague scarred lungs against his cheek.

But, Tony worries about Gibbs, too. As much as the team suspects Tony is the fragile one, while they may not be very far off, as Tony has no delusion that they both have their scars, Gibbs is much more sensitive than the team gives him credit for. His invincibility is as much smoke and mirrors as Tony's manic behavior. Away from the team – away from the job – Tony considers himself blessed to know the delightful, introspective man beneath the tough, Marine exterior. Even as the hand slows and stops with a breathless sigh, Tony continues his delicate ministrations.

He glances around the lightening room. The pictures on the walls proof of lives well lived. His frat brothers grin back at him from Panama City, 10 years ago. Kelly from over 20. A glare in the corner of his eye from the rising sun reflecting off the Jack Daniels gift box on Gibbs' nightstand causes him to turn away, which elicits a grunt of protest from his companion. Kicking off the covers, with an arm wrapped around Tony's shoulders, Gibbs bodily rolls them onto their sides in his sleep. Tony follows readily and can feel the furrowed brow smooth against his cheek as they, once again settle with legs slotted together.

Like puzzle pieces.

At Gibbs' insistence, the house has been kept warmer ever since Tony moved in, despite the younger man's protests. Yet, most mornings find the two of them comfortably entangled in bed and the covers on the floor.

When Gibbs told him he could have both job and family, Tony never imagined that Christmas promise would lead to this.

Family, roots, permanence.

An end to his wanderings.

A place to call home.

His ring glints in the soft rose light when he slides his hand higher to worry at the puckered scar on Gibbs left shoulder blade. Ari put the hole here a little better than a year before he put a hole in all of their lives. Tony can still smell the gunpowder, feel Gibbs shaking ever so slightly in his arms, still feel his own terror at just how few inches…

..so few inches…

A shift of Gibbs' arm captures him, pressing foreheads together on the pillows.

An intimate embrace.

From the moment he was orphaned to illness and circumstance, Tony hoped but never once thought he would feel this level of safety and contentment again.

Treasured, revered, protected.

He yields to the sensation, revels in it even as he is entranced, once more, by its existence.

The room darkens slightly as snow begins to fall. Its nearly soundless patters upon the sill a counterpoint to the synching heartbeats, the gentle exhalations. Tony's hand drifts to Gibbs' waist as his eyes slide shut.

God rest ye merry gentlemen.