A Call from the Past

by: oliver31 (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 73443
Rating: ADULT
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Violence
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, First Time, Hurt/Comfort
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: Someone from Gibbs' past is coming back to haunt him.

Chapter 1

Chapter one
Monday morning

Damn mondays. Sometimes he just wished the weekend would never end. For once, he had spent two days without being called by his office, two whole days without a threat from a terrorist, a Marines falling down a cliff or whatever made him and his team go on working and worrying for days. And he was there, five a.m. with his first coffee in his hands.
He could not help grinning at the thought of Tonyís remark on his addiction to caffeine. They were heading to the headquarters after a very tough day and Tony had handed him a steaming cup of his favorite brew. ďI thought you would need something strong after this case.Ē
ďWhat about you? ďhad been the only reply that had come to his tired mind. After that Tony had just turned to the elevator saying ďI need something stronger than a coffeeĒ and with a smile he had added ďSamantha.Ē
So was the man, the best agent he had ever worked with, the one he needed on each investigation. Anthony Michael Dinozzo was, most of the time a real pain in the ass but he was also able to see beyond evidences. He couldnít help wondering why a man as smart as him spent his time fooling around like that. Theyíd worked together for two years and the younger man had dated almost every single woman working in the building. Hell! he had even once dated a woman who wasnít a woman. Kate had laughed at him and joked about it for days.
And today, he had to go back to the office and face him once again acting like the boss he was. But the only thing he wanted to be for him was far beyond what theyíd shared until now. He wanted to be his friend his partner... his lover. He wanted to share his life with him and not only at work.
Hell, it was the story of his life : he had met a lot of good guys, he had even fallen in love once but tony was different. He couldnít hope for more than stare, dream and ache in silence, especially as Tony was his subordinate, his very male subordinate.
It had been years since the last time he had felt that little thing right here in his stomach for another guy but Tony had this special thing that had made his heart melt. He had felt it as soon as he had seen him enter the room the day they first met. He had been impressed by the man self control. As he was trying to destabilize him by personnal questions, Tony had answered every one with the sense of humor which caracterised the Special Agent he had became.
But he couldnít afford being in love with a collegue especially when this collegue was a man and working under his direct orders. He had even made it his rule number one over the years. But each time he thought about the man he couldnít help smiling. He was unable to tell when these feelings had begun to grow from friendship and respect to love but he had surprised himself looking over the screen of his computer to stare at the young man more than once in a day. He never missed an occasion to touch him even if it was to slap him at the back of his head.
Little by little it had drifted from little brushes each time he walked near him to more obvious touches. Each time he was near the man he couldnít help looking at him, he had recorded each habit : the way he moved, the way he chewed his pencil when he was writing his reports. It was more and more difficult to hide what he felt for the man. Sometimes he thought that Tony was aware of his bevahiour and playing with him. The man was the most sensible cop he had ever met but he sometimes acted like he was a child. He wore his heart on his sleeves and was unable not to flirt with anyone he cared about. It could have been enjoyable if Gibbs hadnít been so tempted to catch the manís lips only to show him what his flirting game did to him.
He was almost afraid of his need to be close to him, to touch him. If Tony had known about his feelings he would certainly have run fast and far away from him and he couldnít afford loosing him. He prefered having him as a partner in job even if it meant seeing him date every single woman he met.

He had been lost in his thoughts for almost an hour and when he looked up at the clock he realised that it was time to go to work. He had paperwork to finish. Beides it was not a good idea to think about what it would like to be considered more than a boss by his best field agent. He would never have Tony, not the way he wished. So the only way to keep what he had was to go on hiding his feelings. It was the only choice. He had been obliged to hide while he was in the Corps and it had been much more difficult and far more dangerous. He would certainly be able to go on withou outing himself in front of his team mates.
He was going to grab his jacket when his cell rang. He immediatly recognized Tonyís cell number and couldní t help a slight shiver running down his spine. Tony never called him home so early instead he had something pretty urgent to tell him and most of the time it was not good news.
-Damm,... Gibbs.
-Hi, boss.
-Dinozzo. Whatís up? Itís only six a.m.
-Well, I thought you were already up. Did I wake you up?
Gibbs could hear Tonyís voice tense. The man was never totally himself with him. It was not fear but it was like Tony was searching for his approbation, trying not to piss him off. And most of the time Gibbs found it hard to be considered like a father figure by the man he was in love with. He softened his voice, no need to make Tony feel threatened so early.
-No, Tony I was going to the office.
-So, I...
The insecurity in the young manís voice was almost palpable and Gibbs didnít know how to deal with this aspect of his agent. Each time he had felt Tony tensed he had replied harshly. Today was not different. He would have liked him to feel at ease and closer to him but it seemed to be impossible.
-Dinozzo, Iím not in the mood for a charade so speak or I will see you at work!
Tony was the only one who could piss him off in two words. He must admit that the man was gifted.
-Dinozzo, See you at the office at seven.
He was about to hang up when he heard Tonyís voice.
-Boss, wait!
-I called because my car just broke down, so I wondered if could pick me up today on your way. If it bothers you Iíll manage. I just thought ... I mean... Nevermind. Forget it!
-Be ready in ten minutes and wait me outside.
-Thanks, boss.
Tony sounded relieved and Gibbs could feel that well-known sensation which made his heart beat faster each time he was about to be alone with Tony outside of the office. God, he must calm down before driving to Tonyís appartment. He couldnít afford Tony to guess how he felt about him. Besides there was nothing more to see it Tonyís call than a friendcalling for a lift to work. He was glad that Tony had called him instead of Kate or Mc Gee. No... glad was not the word...he was happy, very happy. He hated feeling like a teenager on his first date but that was the kind of feelings that Tony was able to create and he had been the only one able do that for a long time. As far as he could remember Gibbs couldnít find someone who had made him feel so needy and aching for contacts except... But it was not the right time to think about what had happened years ago.

Tony didnít live far from his house so it took him less than the ten minutes he had given him. But when he turned down the street he saw that Tony was already waiting for him.
God the man was gorgeous wearing a tight jean and a blue sweat shirt. He shouldnít think of Tony like that, it was not sane to fantazise about someone who would never feel the same. Tony was his team mate, his male team mate and he could tell that the man loved women a lot. As soon as he stopped the car Tony opened the door.
-Hi, boss. Thanks for the lift. I could have walked to the office but I sprained my right knee saturday so I didnít feel like walking two miles.
Thatís exactly what Gibbs had feared, Tony was hurt. Even if it didnít seem to be too painful he didnít like the idea of an injured Tony. Images came back to him. He had seen him dying in an hospital bed only weeks ago and the memory always made him feel sick. He tried to erase these images that had haunted his nightmares for days.
-What have you done? You know that clubbing all night long is not of your age anymore!
-Even if it could have been that but I only helped a friend of mine. He needed someone to help him carrying some stuff in his new house. So, I helped...
-And sprained your knee in the meantime! Did you see a doctor?
-Yeah mum, he gave me some happy pills to ease the pain and recommended rest and ice.
-So thatís why you decided to walk to work an hour earlier. How do you manage to never follow any advice?
-I called you, didnít I? Besides, itís laughable that YOU reproach ME not to follow advices... You the man who only trust his guts...
-We are not talking about me, here. Iím not the one who only called for help after trying to start his car and realised that he had no other choice. How wld you have been able to drive with a sprained knee? Tony, you should take better care of yourself.
-I didnít want to bother you. I always managed alone. Besides you had a rough week and needed to rest.
-So did you!
-Well, I had plenty of time to rest yesterday on my coach, an ice pack on my knee.
Gibbs turned to the younger man sat in the passenger seat, a compassionate look on his face. He knew how Tony dsiliked to be stuck because of an illness or injuries. And it had happened too much lately...
-Yeah, even a good movie couldnít have enlightened my mood...so I thought I could finish my paperwork this morning. Besides, I love being there early, it feels more ...
-Yes, thatís the right word. Youíve taken lessons in mind reading this morning?
Tony gave him a smile that Gobbs had labelled as the ďTonyís specialĒ. This kind of openess wazs not usual for the younger agent and Gibbs couldnít help feeling happy that he could still make him smile et him.
- What have you done with your two days off?
Gibbs was about to answer when he saw Tony raised his finger to stop him.
-No, let me guess!... You worked on your boat?
-Am I so predictable?
-No, I know that you love sanding and I thought that you would never have missed the occasion of working on your boat even if I canít really see what you find in it.
The older man smiled softly. They had already that kind of discussion before and he knew that Tony was teasing, trying to make him explain what sanding was. It had been a sort of game between him and Kate. They both tried to make him talk and his boat was their favourite subject lately...
-I will show you one day.
As soon as he said the words out loud he imagined Tony in his basement working on his boat. He sighed heavily erasing the images that had formed in his mind.
Tony was looking at him in a curious way and Gibbs was almost afraid he had read his mind. Tony could be very perceptive when it came to interpret the feelings of suspects. His next reply made him think that Tony was in playful mode today.
-You want to teach me how to rub some wood?... I sure would like it!
-Sanding is not rubbing, Tony.
Gibbs sharp tone made the younger agent wince and Tony realised that Gibbs didnít want to joke. Hell! his boss was the serious kind of bossand when he was in those kind of mood it was safer to play soft. In two years he had never see him really laugh, there was always something preventing him from letting go. He was always in control and even if it was part of the job it seemed that for Gibbs it had become a part of himself over the years. A change of subjet seemed to be the best escape for now.
-So, what is planned for today?
-Paperwork, conference with Guantanamo at ten and more paperwork...
-No new case, travel on a submarine... What a pity! And I thought that my week end was boring!
-You should be careful what you wish for, Tony!
-Why? You want to make my dreams come true, boss? I could give you a list even if I canít imagine you as a Santa Claus!
Tony amost bite his tongue. For someone who wanted to play soft, now he was teasing his boss. Like Gibbs had said earlier, he must learn how to take care of himself. He could see the tension on Gibbsí face and knew that he had crossed the line.
Gibbs could sense that Tony had tensed beside him and he realised it was a response to his own stifness.They couldnít have this conversation. Especially in such a small place where he couldnít hide or flee. Gibbs rose his eyes and tried to take his est bastard look, the one which meant ďDonít play with meĒ. And he did what he did every time he felt threatened, he pretended to be mad at him.
-Donít cross the line, Dinozzo.
End of the conversation. Tony knew better than to add something even if sometimes he wished he could yell at his boss only to try to understand why he was pissed off. He had learnt how to deal with his bossí changing mood. Gibbs seemed to be mad at him no matter what he did or didnít do
The remaining of the travel was made in silence allowing the two men to think.
Tony didnít know why he had this effect on him. He had tried to be gentle, to be patient, he had even tried to ignore him. Nothing had changed. It seemed that he was able to upset him whatever he did.
Gibbs seemed to have forgotten the exchange as they arrived at NCISí offices. They both had a lot of work to do before everyone arrived so they headed for their desks without much more talk. Heel, if Gibbs was angry, it would be a very long day and perhaps an even longer week...

Kate arrived an hour later with a huge smile on her face. She seemed to have had a great time this week end.
-Hi, Kate. You look very ďcontemptedĒ today.
Tony emphasized on the last words a huge smile plastered on his face.
-You finally get laid this week end?
Kate gave him his better secret agent glare. He had won, she was angry too. But with Kate he had done it on purpose. He knew well which buttons to push.
-You are so romantic, Tony. It had always amazed me that a normal woman should find this attractive... Sorry I forgot that you only date Bimbos or transsexuals...
-Oh, good shot... but you really donít know me, Kate! Donít talk without knowing... unless you want to try...!
-No comments! Gibbs, how was your week end?
As she talked, she turned her head to Gibbsí desk only to see anger flashing through his eyes. He was looking angrily at Tony from his desk. She had already witnessed such anger in Gibbsí eyes and it matched with moments when Tony was joking about some hot date he had had or some girls he had seduced. She was beginning to wonder why Gibbs was so disturbed by Tonyís constant babbling about his sex life. After all it was part of the role he was playing and Kate suspecting that half of what he talked about was fake. She couldnít find a reason for Gibbsí anger. Tonyís way of life or personnality had never avoided him to do the job. And even if she would never admit it out loud Tony was the best she had workd with.
-Did I miss something important? Tony? Itís only seven on a monday morning and youíve already pissed him off? It must be a record even for you!
-I swear I didnít do anything! Tell her, boss!
They both turned to look at their boss but the man had already left, missing the end of their exchange.
-Waow! This time you really screwed up, Tony. What happened?
-I donít know! I swear! I called him an hour ago because my car broke down, once more. He came to catch me up but he didnít look angry at that time. Well, maybe...
Tony looked almost sad by the thought of having once more made his boss mad. Kate felt sorry for him and tried to lessen his pain.
-I donít think itís something youíve done. He seems a little edgy lately. He has perhaps some troubles with one of his ex-wives. You know the one who hit him.
-I doubt it. I seem to annoy him lately whatever I do or do not. I donít see what I could do.
-Or maybe... he needs to get laid!
She sat at her desk with a bright smile on her face letting Tony think about what she just said.

Gibbs needed a break, fresh air and a cigaret. He had stopped smoking years ago because of his second wife who couldnít bear him smelling of cold tobacco. He had thought about smoking again after his divorce but it was the only positive thing he had won in this union. So here he was, in the back garden of NCISí building, pacing and thinking.
It was more and more difficult for him to stay indifferent in front of Tony, especially when he played those kind of games. The man he was in love with would never love him back and he was unable to face the truth. He was in his late forty and it still was hard to feel rejected.
He was not sure to be strong enough to stay here and be the helpless witness of Tonyís tumultuous love life.
-Hi, Jethro! What are you doing here on your own?
He hadnít heard Ducky coming behind him and as he turned to face him he could see the concern on his MEís face. Off course his friend had seen that something was wrong with him Ducky was the only who could decipher him so easily. They had met years ago after his first divorce which, he must admit, had been the tougher one for many reasons.
Ducky had quickly became the only one he could confine in. But he hadnít been able to tell him about his feelings toward Tony. The older man would have understood and would probably have provided him some good advices and one or two stories of his own but he couldnít face it himself so how could he be able to talk about it.
-Hi, Ducky! I just needed fresh air!
-Itís only 0730 on a monday morning and our young Anthony has already done something wrong?
Ducky had always talked about Tony in an affectionate way. Gibbs smiled at the thought that for them the team was what could be considered as a family... but a weird and dysfonctional one...
-Yes!... No!... Well, he had only been himself. Same old, same old!
-If you say so! But why are you here instead of being upstairs yelling at him?
Good point... You can count on the ME to point out the essential... especially when you didnít wa nt to face the reason why you had fled from your team mates.
-I donít know. I wasnít in the mood for an argument this early.
-You look like someone who could use a little talk with an old friend. Come to my lab, I will make some coffee.
-No, thanks. I will only stay here a little while. Trying to...
-Trying to do what, Jethro?...Stop fantasizing about your best agent. Or find a way not to show him how much you care?
Gibbs was stunned by Duckyís simple statement as if it was an evidence for every one that he was in love with Tony.
-How do you...?
Ducky smiled at Gibbsí reaction. His friend hadnít even tried to deny it.
-Donít worry, itís not that obvious but Iíve known you for years. Besides, I was there when doctors told you that he would be fine after the Y-Pestis and I saw more than a bossí relief in your eyes. I realised then that Tony meant far more for you than the way you treated him. So you donít deny that you have feelings for him that are far from an usual friendship between collegues! Thatís a first step. Now come!
Gibbs was too amazed to argue and he followed his ME to his repair. He had always felt at ease with Ducky even at the beginning. He had learnt to trust him and to listen carefully to his advices. Ducky had his own way to deal with life in general. Maybe his job was the reason why he was so clever when feelings were involved. It was a specialty that escaped Gibbs. He was unable to show or talk about his feelings. It was way too private to share. He had learnt the hard way that showing your feelings was a failure you couldnít afford if you wanted to survive in a hostile environment.
-Here we are!
He was brought out his dream by Duckyís voice and the smell of fresh coffee.
-A black coffee, strong as you like, no sugar. I donít know how you can drink this all day long!
-Years ago, I had to stay awake to be safe so I used to drink a lot of coffee. Old habits die hard!
He realised what he had said when he saw the puzzled look on Duckyís face. He had shared a lot with the older man but there were still some memories he had hiden even to him.
Why was he thinking of this period of his life was a mystery but some memories came back to him and he must swallowed hard before answering Duckyís following question.
-What? When you were in the Corps?
-No, no. It was ong before that!
Ducky was amazed of his friendís confession. Gibbs never willingly talked about his past. The only things he knew about him that didnít come from confessions made under pretty tough circumstances were informations he had heard from one of his ex-wives and even them didnít know him thoroughly. He knew better than to push him and waited for him to go on.
-Itís a long story! A really sad one.
-A story Iím sure a friend could hear!
-One day maybe but not today.
-You know that I am here for you. Whenever you need!
-Sure, Ducky. And you know you would be the one I would look for if I need someone to talk to.
-I am glad to hear it, Jethro.
Ducky sax in Gibbsíeyes a sadnss that he couldnít interpret but he knew that his friend wasnít ready to talk about what had happened years ago.
- So, what about you and Anthony?
-Thereís nothing to tell, really. Iím just stupid. I promised myself it would never happen again but he surprised me. I didnít mean to fall in love with him.
-So you fell for Anthony! Thatís great!
-I donít see what is so great! Every time I fall in love itís a catastroph. Three ex-wives could testify.
-Thatís not the same! So you do not intend to tell him?
-Are you nuts? I canít and I wonít tell him, ever!
-Why? Do you really like to suffer in silence?
-I wonít tell him, Ducky. But if you want an explanation. First, he doesnít feel the same for me and I donít like to make a fool of myself. Plus, I wonít screw up a good team for something that will never be more than friendship.
-How do you know he doesnít feel the same? He is always searching for your attention...
-Maybe but he sees me like the father he never really had. He wants me to be proud of him not to love him.
-How can you be so sure of that without asking him?
-You need prooves? Well, what about Samantha, Anita, Melany... Am I obliged to go on?
-Sure you have a point but it doesnít mean anything and you know it. You are the perfect example, Gibbs. Three ex-wives and yet, you are in love with your team mate. Jethro...
-Itís not the same. I had to hide who I really was. Iíve always been attracted to men. Donít misunderstand me, Iíve loved my wives, in my own way even if it wasnít enough for them... but...
-You are not in the army anymore! You donít have to hide from him.
-You donít understand I canít...
Gibbs sighed unable to answer his friendís question. He didnít want to think of the reasons why he couldnít open his heart to anyone and Tony was no exception on that matter.
-I see that there is something more behind your words. What is stopping you from being happy, Jethro? Iím sure that even if Tony doesnít feel the same for you, he would never let it break the team.
-I know he would prefer to go far away than damaging the team. Thatís what I want to avoid. I am not the only one concerned by that. And for now I think it doesnít worth the risk.
-I think you are lying to yourself. The reason why you donít want to face Tony is not the well-being of the team. You are afraid my friend, afraid of losing hope. As you donít know what he feels you can always hope... I respect your wish not to tell him but itís surely not a solution to wait and see.
-Iím well aware of it ducky. Believe me itís painfully clear to me.
-You know I am here if you need anything. I wonít judge you. You know that, donít you?
-Thanks Ducky. I think itís high time I go upstairs!
Gibbs had to end this conversation because he couldní t face the truth that Ducky was showing him. It was obvious that he was afraid and even if he didnít know why, Ducky had pushed where it hurt the most.
-Yeah, work canít wait? See you at dinner?
-Sure, Ducky!
He didnít really want to face his team mates but he had a job to do and the last thing he wanted was to let his feelings interfere with it.
Tony and Kate hadnít moved from their desks. He was happy to see them at work. They never let anything disturb them when they had a mission to perform.
-Are you okay, boss?
Gibbs jerked at Tonyís words and tried to look professional even if what he thought at the moment was far from the job.
-What make you think I should not be fine, Tony?
-I donít know. You seemed pretty angry when you left so...
Gibbs couldnít afford this kind of conversation with him so replied sharply.
-Everything is fine.
-If you say so... While you were ďnotĒ pissed outside, there was a call for you. It seemed to be important. A man called Brian Anderson phoned and asked for you to call him back asap. Here is his number.
-I already have it, thanks Tony.
He walked to his desk ignoring Tonyís questionning look. Gibbs sighed, somehow it was said that it would be a bad day. His younger brother never called to tell him good news. He was tempted to forget his brotherís call but bad news always caught you back sooner or later, so better face the music now.
He automatically took his officeís phone and dialed the well-known number.
-Brian Anderson.
-Hi, Bri. Itís Jethro. I just had your message. Whatís up?
-Hi, bro.Well, Iím not sure, itís probably nothing. I was...
Gibbs could hear the fear in his brotherís voice. A sound he knew too well and he couldnít ignore it. He had had many occasions to see him scared to recognize when it was serious.If his brother felt threatened, he must know why and by whom.
-Tell me what happened and let me decide if it worth worrying about.
-I received a call last night. I wasnít quite awake but I could have sweared it was him.
Gibbs felt his blood froze in his veins at the thought that it might be him and he couldnít help his voice to shiver.
-What? He is in jail. How could he... ?
Gibbs wasnít aware that he was now yelling in the middle of his office. He could feel the gaze of every single person in the room. They were used to hearing him yell but it was different and the one who really knew him were able to hear the fear behind the loud words.
-Jethro, calm down. I was probably dreaming...
-What did he say? Try to remember exactly what you heard.
The investigator in him came back in a flash. He had to protect his brother and he could only do that if he kept control. But the words of his brother were still ringing in his already agited mind.
-He called me ďSunshineĒ. You know he always did that when...
-Yeah, I remember. What else?
-He laughed, he just laughed. When noone spoke, I hung down the phone. But itís as if I was back years ago. Jet, do you think it was him?
-I donít know, Bri...
Gibbs stayed silent for some times searching for the appropriate thing to do. He must stay calm but it was hard to think straight when your worst fear was coming back to haunt you. First he had to be sure it was really him and then they would decide what to do with that. To be able to investigate he had to know that his brother was safe.
-I will do some research from here. Iíll call you back if I get something. Do you have somewhere safe to stay?
-Iím home. I didnít feel like going to work this morning.
-You still have my keys. Take some clothes, go to my house and close the door. Iíll come home as soon as I can tonight.
-Thereís no need, Jethro. It was probably my imagination...
-Bri, do that for me, please.
Brian wasnít used to hearing his brother plea for anything and he realised how seriously Jethro took the threat. His brother had always been there to protect him no matter what he had costed to him. Brian couldnít help feeling frightened at the thought that Jethro could once more put his own life on line to protect him. But the only thing he could do for now was to reassure him and do as he was told.
-Ok, I will stay at your house for some time.
-Thanks. Iíll call you there. Be careful.
-Sure , bro. Bye.
Gibbs wasnít sure what to do next. It was as if he was back in his worst nightmare , his father had always been his personnal failure. And he was back in his life, he could feel the fear running through his veins.
-Boss, is there something wrong?
Off course it was Tony. He had heard everything... everyone had heard but Tony was the only who dared to ask. It was so easy for him. He just cared for people and couldnít let someone in need without help... even if this someone was his bastard boss who minutes ago had yelled at him for no real reason.
Gibbs had to answer but he was unable to find his words. Or even to think straight. It was as if he was eight once more, back in this dark room and he was afraid, more afraid than he had been for years. He didnít hear Tony stand up and walk to him. He was oblivious to the world around him. He had promised himself never to feel that again but he was helpless in front of the feelings that were overwhelming him.
Tony was at Gibbsí side. He had heard a part of his conversation and even if he couldnít tell about what and to whom he had talked, it had obvioulsly shaken him, shaken him enough to be unresponsive. Tony didnít know what to do. Gibbs didnít didnít seem to hear him as if he was far from the office, lost in a dark place.
Looking at his face, Tony could see the tension drawing fine lines at the corner of his eyes. But what frightened him the most was the fear he could see in his eyes. He had never witnessed him being afraid of anything before. He would have thought that nothing could scare Gibbs.
Tony turned to look at Kate but she seemed to be as lost as himself. It was as if the time had stopped in the office, everyone waited for him to do something, to say something. Tony surprised himself hoping for Gibbs to yell at him. Everything would be better than this pale face and tensed jaw.
-Boss, what happened? Just say something. You are beginning to scare me.
Gibbs couldnít move, the office was spinning around, everything was blurry. He was aware of someone talking to him but he could see who or what this person was talking about. He was cold and everything had become confused. A second later everything went dark. He was aware he was falling but couldnít help it.
Tony was still beside him when Gibbs began to fall but he was too surprised to react. The only thing he could do was to kneel near him telling Kate to go and search Ducky. Gibbs had blood all over his face from a gash on his forehead. He had managed to hit his desk while falling and was uncouncious.
-Boss, look at me, open your eyes! What have you done?
Tony couldnít hide his worryness. He had never felt so helpless. His boss was lying in his arms uncouncious and he hadnít the slightest idea why he had passed out. His hands were covered with Gibbs blood and he couldnít help a silent prayer even if he hadnít pray for years. He couldnít afford loosing this man.
Over the years Gibbs had become the only person who had stayed by his side no matter what... even his parents hadnít given so much attention and he owed that man more that he could tell.
He couldnít begin to imagine what could have made him faint in the middle of the office after a simple phone call. He knew that Gibbs had some ghosts well hiden from everyone but it was the first time that he saw him visibly affected by something that was not job-related.
Ducky arrived two minutes later. He had put Gibbs in a safe position on the floor but the older man was still uncounscious. Tony didnít know if it was because of the injury or because of teh prvious phone call. He help the older bringing his boss to the morgue still wondering if he would ever have answers to his questions. Gibbs had always been the best to keep his private life secret and he knew that this timle he would have to investigate or interrogate him himself to find the truth and beable to help him.

Chapter two.

When he regained conciousness he realised he was in a bright white room. He blinked several times trying to focus on something but his mind seemed to be out of order. His first thought was hospital : colours, smell, coldness.
Then he heard voices... Ducky... Off course he was in Duckyís room... not quite reassuring.
He tried to sit but the pain in his head made him groan and lie back down. He heard footsteps coming closer.

-Here you are, Jethro. Stay still, youíve bumped your head pretty hard on your desk when you passed out.
Okay so he had fallen head first on his desk but the reason still eluded him

-Can you tell me what happened?
-I... itís not really clear for now. The last thing I remember...
Gibbs tried to think about the last events of the day: the travel to Tonyís home, Kate and Tonyís babbling, his discussion with Ducky and ...What next?...

- I was on the phone with Brian. He told me that... shit!
At the thought of the call he had just gave his brother Gibbs sat trying to escape the sudden panic that threatened to overwhelm him once more.
How could he still be so affected by events that had occured years ago. He couldnít control his emotions at the thought of what had happened and what may happen to his brother if he was unable to protect him.

He was still too weak and he only managed to make two steps before landing on the cold floor of Duckyís lab. He hated when his body abandonned him like that but he realised that he had a head injury when the room start spinning around.

-Tony, come here and help me!
Tony must have been at the door because he was beside Gibbs before Ducky could even finish his sentence. Believe in the younger agent to always be where he was needed.

-What are you trying to do, Boss? You want to hurt yourself more than you already have?
Tony lifted him easily and helped him sitting on the table. Gibbs seemed to be oblivious to the two men in front of him. His mind was still focused on his brother. The only thing he wanted and needed to do now was find informations about Him and come back home.

-I must go to see if Brian is safe. You donít understand, I must protect him.
Gibbs knew that what he was just saying made no sense for his friends but he didnít have time to explain now.
Ducky was confused by his friendís obvious anxiety. But he had to keep him calm until he could be sure he had no concussion.
He was worried by his friendís attitude. He had never seen him so nervous before and he couldnít remember that Gibbs had once mentionned someone called Brian before today.

-You wonít go anywhere like this. You must stay here for an hour at least and if you are less confused and donít feel dizzy, I would allow you to go home with Anthony!
-I canít stay here so long. I must go...
Gibbs tried once more to stand but Tony pushed him dowm, a hand placed on his shoulder.

-Boss, you scared me. You passed out in the middle of the office. You must tell us whatís up. We canít help you if you keep everything secret.
Gibbs turned his head to face Tony. He couldnít allow him to come this close to him.
He couldnít afford telling him about his past. Keeping him away from the mess his life was, was the only way not to afraid him.
He had no intention to tell anything to any of them...not if he could avoid it.

-I donít need and donít want your help on this Agent Dinozzo. Ití s none of your buisiness.
He saw in Tonyís eyes that he had made his point. Tony was angry at him now but Gibbs didnít care. He prefered dealing with his younger agentís anger than having him run away from him, the team and his job because of what he would learn.
Tonyís reply surprised him. He had often heard the man use sarcasms before but never with him.

-Sure, boss. Here you are! The Great Gibbs. You are too stubborn. Ducky, I let you with him, Iíve already seen this movie.
Angry was not the right word to describe what Tony felt when he left the lab. He was hurt that Gibbs didnít trust him enough to let him help when he needed. He didnít see the point in pushing away everyone who came close.

Besides he hadnít the slightest idea who this Brian could be. He didnít know why it bothered him so much that there could be someone in Gibbsí life that he didnít know. But the point was that he didnít like when Gibbs kept him away from something that was obviously an important part of his life.

Gibbs was now alone with Ducky but he was far away from this lab, alone in his head. He had looked Tony run out of the room and he knew that the man was upset but he couldnít explain him why he didnít accept his help even if he had needed it more than ever.

-Jethro, may I ask you only one question? I know you donít want to talk about anything linked to your past but...
-Brian is my brother. He is eight years younger. He is a teacher on the campus. Anything else?
-I didnít know you had a brother.
-There was no need for you or anyone else to know it. Now if you are satisfied I feel fine and I have some important things to do...
-Thereís no need to be hurtful, Jethro. You canít blame me for being concerned for a friend who obviously is not as fine as he claims.

Gibbs sighed heavily knowing well that Ducky was right. He had always been there fr hm without ever judging him or questionning his choices.
-Sorry, Ducky. I didnít mean it and Iím happy you were here but I must go.
-I canít tie you on a chair so you are free to go.

Gibbs stood up trying not to sway. He knew that Ducky what looking for any sign to ground him for the next hours and he couldnít afford it. He was a little shaky and drums were playing at the back of his skull but it wasnít enough to stop him.

He turned slowly at the door to face Ducky trying not to fall down in the same time.
-Look, Iím fine!
He tried to sound convinced but he wasnít a good actor especially today. Ducky knew that it was a lie but Gibbs had obviously some more urgent problems than his own health. Things never changed.

-Sure, my friend. I will let you go back to whatever you find more important than your health but you must promise me two things. First if you feel nauseous you call me imediately. Then, if you donít want Tony to drive you back home, call a cab. You are not up to drive. If it only depended on me, you would lay on a bed for the rest of the day...

-I can promise that but I am not going home for now. Thereís something I have to check before and donít give me that look. You wonít make me change my mind on that.
-Someone has to take care of you Jethro because you donít know your own limits. One day you would go too far and nobody would be able to help you.
-Thanks for your concern but noone had taken care of me since Iím eight. And I think I managed pretty well so far.
-Donít forget you have friends who can help.
-I know.

Gibbs walked through the automatic doors. He knew he had upset a friend, two friends, but he couldnít tell them the truth. His past was a mess, his childhood a nightmare and it was not something you could share even with people you considered as your real family.

The thing he feared the most if he had told them his story would have been to see the pity in their eyes. He had so often seen it before but today he wasnít that ďpoor little boyĒ anymore and he didnít want to be him for noone. It had taken him years to build his image.

He had worked hard to become the man he was against everyone and everything : his father, his lawyer, his instructor, his wives and he was ready to fight to keep it whatever it may cost. He hadnít allowed anyone to go through the walls he had erected around him.

He went back to his desk trying not to notice the look of his collegues. They had never seen him ill or down and today he had passed out in the middle of his office.
Gibbs didnít care for what they might think, the only one whose opinion meant something to him was at his desk working.
He was glad that Tony had decided not to look up at him. He could deal with indifference if it meant no more questions. He could only hope that Brian had been wrong and that everything would come back to normal soon.
He sat at his desk connecting his computer to the New York Police Department files. ďJethro AndersonĒ. Even seeing his name written on his screen made him shiver. He looked blankly at the file before him for what seemed hours... How could it possible?

After leaving Duckyís lab Tony had returned to his desk to find that Kate had left for lunch. He wondered sometimes if she really cared. He couldnít have left the building knowingthat Gibbs was probably hurt.

He had wished to find her here. He needed someone to yell at and most of the time, Kate was his favourite partner for ďargument-partyĒ. They were good at that. He stayed there for a moment, waiting. Finally he decided he would be better for him if Gibbs found him working instead of dreaming.
He knew that Gibbs wouldnít go home. He had heard a small part of his argument with Ducky. What afraid him the most was the fact that even Ducky hadnít been able to make him talk. He had hoped that the older man would manage to make him speak. Gibbs had always been at ease with the ME.

As he had guessed Gibbs was not going home soon. He tried to look busy when his boss entered the office. He walked to his desk oblivion to the concerned or curious faces of the ones who had witnessed what everyone already called Ďthe incidentĒ.
The message was clear on his face: ďIím fine. The first one who say something, Iíll kick his ass to Alaska and backĒ.

But Tony was no fool, for the first time in two years he had seen a failure in this strong face. He had seen the fear in those blue eyes and now that he looked at him sat behind his computer, he could still feel it. What could scare a man like Gibbs? What can make him pass out?

Whatever it was, he couldnít let him deal with it alone. He was determined to help him even if he had to do it against himself.
The main question was how. How can you help someone without knowing anything about him? Gibbs was a mystery for him, hell the man was a mystery for almost everyone. Noone could really say that they know him not even Ducky!

He had to find this Brian. His guts told him this man was the link he missed to understand the whole story. He knew that trying to help Gibbs when he didnít want to could mean the end of his carreer but it did worth the risk.

Lost in his thoughts, he hadnít realised that Gibbs was way too still for too long. When he looked more closely to him he realised that he was not reading daily reports; his face was pale, his jaw tensed. He stood up and approached his bossí desk.

-Boss? I should drive you home. You look like someone who could use some rest.
His concern grew when he obtained no response from him. He put a hand on the older manís shoulder and could feel him shiver.
Looking at the screen before him, Tony was surprised to see that Gibbs was reading a police report from New York. He felt too worry to read it for now and he decided that the day had been already too long for Gibbs. Willingly or not he was about to drive him home where he could lie down and rest.

-Boss, grab your jacket. Iím driving you home!
Tony had used his bossy tone but he was about to bring him directly to Ducky when Gibbs stood up and followed him without even a reply.
It was not a good sign, Gibbs would never have allowed Tony to order him anything if he had been himself.
He lead him to the parking lot where Gibbs had parked his car only hours before. He didnít looked at the man before him but he realised that Gibbs was walking slower than usual.
As he sat in the passengerís sit of his own car, Gibbs seemed to be elsewhere far away from Washington. Tony was almost startled when he heard Gibbsí voice near him.

-Thanks, Tony but you shouldnít drive with your injured knee. I could have called a cab.
-Donít worry it doesnít hurt so much.
There wasnít a lot of traffic this early so they arrived at Gibbsí house pretty soon. The travel to Gibbsí home was made in silence and Tony believed for a moment that his boss had falln asleep.

-Here we are, you can unfastened your seat-belt. I hope you enjoyed your flight on Dinozzoís Airlines.
A slight smile appeared on Gibbsí face and even if it vanished quickly Tony was glad to see that he was still able to make him smile. It had became a kind of challenge for him. He had realised that he was able to create almost every kind of feelings in gibbs ...mostly anger but some times the older man offered one his smiles.
He had made it a duty to make Gibbs smile once a week at least.

-You can keep the car until tomorrow. Just donít forget to come and get me on your way.
-Youíre sure everything is fine? You seem preoccupied.
-Fine? Yes, I know. Now if you could just be honest for once.

Gibbs looked at his agent. He knew that Tony could read him easily and he hadnít the strength to make a lie sound true so he opted for a part truth.

-Letís just say that the past has his own way to remind you of the best moments of your life.
-You had never spoken of your life before you joined the Marines.
-Thatís because thereís nothing to talk about. My life really began there. Sometimes what happened before seemed like a dream or a nightmare in so many ways. The Marines had became my only family... except Brian.

Him again, Tony couldnít keep quiet and the question was asked before he even realised it.
-Who is he?
-Brian is my younger brother.

It had been easy for him to talk about Brian. He ahd always been proud of his younger brother.
-I always imagined you as an only child. Why didnít you introduce him yet? You are afraid he could tell me what kind of kid you were?
-No... Well maybe. In some way he is part of the memories I refuse to talk about...

Tony didnít missed the sad tone in Gibbsí voice. He had never been so close to someone who knew Gibbs but something in his bossí attitude toild him that he shouldnít push him too far in that direction. It was up to him to take the next step.
He waited for what seemed long minutes before gibbs decided to speak again and invite him inside.

-You are right. Itís perhaps high time for you to meet him. If you want to come in...?
Tony could hear a slight tremble in Gibbsívoice as if he was unsure that Tony would accept.
-Sure, Boss. I would be glad to meet someone who knew you when you were not... well... less...
-Younger, less crumpy?
-Well, yes!
Gibbs was not sure it was really a good idea but he needed to keep Tony with him even a few minutes more. He had a very bad news to tell his brother. Besides he needed to have a friend by his side especially today.

They both walked to the door and entered the house. Brian had locked the door and it was the first time Tony saw Gibbs use his keys. They found a younger Gibbs sat on the couch working on his laptop.

He hadnít heard them enter so Tony had time to look at him. It was the first time he met a member of Gibbsí family and he was astonished to see how the brothers were alike. Same concentration, same bright blue eyes while he was working on his computer.
Tony looked up at Gibbs and noticed a glimpse of happiness while he was looking at his young brother.

-Hi, Bri. Always working. What is it this time?
-Jet! I didnít hear you. Itís just my class for next week.
-Tony, my brother Brian Anderson. Brian, this is Special Agent Dinozzo.
-Nice to meet you, Mr Anderson and please call me Tony.
-Iím happy to finally meet someone close to my brother. I was beginning to wonder if he didnít live hidden in his basement with his boat.
- I can confirm that when he is not hunting a murderer or a terrorist he is in his basement, rubbing some wood.

Brian smiled softly at him and Tony realised that there was something in his eyes that had disappeared from Gibbsí.

-I think youíll have very interesting stories to tell me. I could smell black mail material from here.
-I donít want to hear it. Tony, you stay for dinner? By the smell coming from the kitchen I can say that Brian made his ďChili SpecialĒ. I can assure you, itís something you must try once in your life.

Tony was surprised by the invitation but he wanted to talk with Gibbsí brother about what happened earlier at the office and it was the perfect moment to do that.
-Sure, if itís Ok for you Brian?
-Off course, Tony.
-Deal! Iíll make some coffee. Make yourself confortable Tony.

As Gibbs left the room, Tony turned to Brian who was still on the couch. He had thousands of questions in mind but he didnít really know how to begin.
If Brian was like his older brother he must be careful not to push him. So he decided to sound curious but not too much which was not a thing he knew too well how to do.

Even if Brian was younger than Gibbs, Tony could find something of his boss in the man before him. He had stood up and was tyding his papers.
He was tall and lean. Tony didnít want to stare but the before him gave hil an occasion to see what Gibbs had looked like years ago.

-I must admit that it is quite weird to be here with you. I always thought that Gibbs had no family and here you are. To be honest I donít know what to ask you first. He is so secret sometimes and there are so many thigns I donít know about him.

-Itís also kind of weird for me. Itís the first time I meet someone who works with him. He wanted to keep his private and professionnal life separated. You are the first one to cross the line. Iím sure you have a lot of questions to ask.

-Yeah! What kind of child was he? You must have had hard times with him as elder brother?

-Not at all. He had always been very protective with me and I owe him a lot. We never had the kind of relationship two brothers can have. He had been my father, my best friend, my teacher and my brother at the same time. We never fought or argued.

Tony was amazed by this man. He had answered a simple question with a sincerity that showed how much he cared about his brother.
Tony could already see many differences between them. For some reasons, Gibbs had learnt to protect himself from anyone who could come to close to him. Brian had revealed in a sentence more than Gibbs in two years. It had seemed quite easy for him to talk about his relationship with his brother.

There was a fragility in Brian that was almost invisible in Gibbs. In some ways he could find some ressemblances with himself.
But when he looked at this man, what shocked him the most was that he seemed to hide something. It was not the kind of look a suspect could have but Tony had learnt to read signs. He had sometimes noticed that with Gibbs.
Both of them didnít want to reveal who they really were. There was always something more, hiden behind a well-painted wall. The french called that trick a ďtrompe-líoeilĒ. It was made to let people think there was here something that didnít exist.
Tony felt like he was in front of that kind of painting but he was sure that he would have to look behind the surface to find what Gibbs was afraid of.

Gibbs came back from the kitchen with a steaming mug of black coffee in his hands. Brian saw the small bandage on Gibbs forehead. Worriness shadowed his blue eyes and Gibbs saw it imediately.
He reassured him with a light smile and Brian didnít ask the question that seemed to burn his lips only secondes earlier. They seemed to be able to understand each other without speaking. Tony had seen those kind of relationship between brothers or sisters... Brian decided to change the subject after a last concerned look at his brother.

-I hope you didnít taste the diner, Jethro.
He turned to Tony and added.

-He had always had the bad habit of tasting every meal before diner.
-But you know I canít resist your Chili. Besides I wanted to be sure it was good enough for our guest. I didnít want Tony to be deceived.
-Donít take Tonyís presence as alibi. You canít help yourself! You are so pathetic, Jethro!
Tony looked at both men, smiling at the soft argument. He was beginning to see what they relationship was made of.

-I forgot to offer you a drink. Iím not used to having guest. I have beers in the fridge.
-No, thanks, boss. Iím fine.
-If you change your mind just help yourself.there are beers in the fridge and coffe on the table.
-You two had time to talk while I was making coffee.

It was more a statement than a question but Tony could feel the doubt in Gibbsí voice and he decided to adopt a light tone.
-Yeah, I took some notes just to be sure not to forget anything when Iíd report back to Kate.
-Iím sure youíll know to be discret. Otherwise I know many ways to remind you who is the boss.

Tony laughed at Gibbs reply. He was well aware of what he could share with Kate and what to keep for himself. Kate was an important member of the team but there was something between Gibbs and him that he didnít want to destroy or even share. They had learnt to trust each other.

Brian was watching the two men interact and he was amazed that his brother should be able to joke like that with someone else. He had witnessed over the years his brother close down to every one. He seemed that this younger man had been able to come closer to him and Brian would have to wait to question him further.

Tony smiled at Brian biting his upper lip as he was used to do when he had something to ask and didnít know how to do it. Gibbs interrupted him.
-Ask your question, Tony. We are not at work and Iím sure that Brian would be happy to answer what ever you have to ask.

-Yeah, boss...You two seemed very close. But there is a question that bothers me.
-Only one?
-No, in fact Iíd have thousands of questions but Iím sure you wonít be up for an interrogation so I restrained myself to one.
-Finally youíve learnt something usefull working with me.
-Thatís funny, Boss.
And it really was. Brian had never seen his brother so at ease and he began to wonder what bond linked the two co workers.
-I think I can answer one question.
-Thatís so kind of you, boss! You are brothers? I mean real brothers, not half ones?
-Yeah, same parents.
-So why have you different family names?

It was as if Tony had dropped a bomb in the house. The temperature dropped down. At that question, Tony saw Gibbs tensed. Even if he didnít know why he realised he had opened the right door. Gibbs was obviously disturbed by the question and was looking at his brother as if searching for help. Brian seemed to understand and it was him who answered.

-We were separated when we were younger. Jethro was eighteen and he decided to take our motherís name. I was younger so I couldnít change my name and I kept our fatherís name : Anderson.
-I see but itís not usual to take his motherís name; you were named after your father. I should call you Jethro Anderson!
This name hit Gibbs like a punch in the guts, he found out he was unable to breath. He hadnít heard it for years but it was as if it was only yesterday. Every moments of his personnal nightmare came back to him. Hearing Tony calling him by his fatherís name was more than he could bear for today.
Tony saw the distress in his bossí eyes and was afraid he would pass out once more. There was definitely something wrong with him.

-It was a joke, boss.
As Gibbs didnít reply or even look at him, he turned to his brother.
- Brian, whatís wrong with him?
Gibbs hadnít moved and seemed to fight to stay concious, each new breath harder than the previous. Brian approached him and put a hand on his shoulder.

-Jethro, come here and sit down.
He looked up at Tony and the special agent could tell it was not the first time Brian saw his brother in such state.
-Tony, could you bring him a glass of water?

Tony walked quickly to the kitchen letting Brian with a non-responsive Gibbs. When he came back, Brian was speaking in a low voice, almost whispering. It seemed to him that Brian was trying to reassure Gibbs like you do with an afraid child.
It was almost surrealistic to see Gibbs fighting not to lose control.
-Breath slowly, Jethro. Thatís it! You are safe here. He canít hurt you anymore.

For the second time today, Tony wondered what could have traumatised a man like Gibbs and made him feel so afraid that he went almost into shock after hearing a single name.
-Here is the water. Are you Okay, Boss?
Tony sat at Gibbsí side and saw that he was pale and shaking. At that moment he seemed so fragile that Tony wanted to hug him, to apologize even if he didnít know what he had done wrong.
-Iím sorry, boss. It had been a long day. Iíd better go.
-No, donít. You donít need to worry!
Gibbs looked up at him and Tony could see in his eyes that he really meant it.

- As you said it was just a long day but you are our guest tonight. Iím tired thatís all.
-I know that you are not talkative when it comes to your private life but I can tell thatís not only tiredness. Thereís something more, boss. You passed out in the office today and now it almost happpened again. So I can understand you donít want to talk to me but, please, donít lie.
-Iím sorry, Tony.
-Now, Iím really worried. What do you apologize for?

Gibbs didnít answer. Tony was right, he didnít want to talk about it, not to Tony and not to anyone else.
Brian looked at both of them. He knew that his brother had never talked about his childhood to anyone.
He had hidden it behind thick walls for years but today he felt that it was high time for him to trust someone and put down his burden. For some reason his brother had brought Tony home tonight and Brian wondered if he hadnít felt the necessity of having him by his side knowing what could happen.
-Jethro, you should tell him the truth. Tony is your friend and you trust him otherwise youíd never have brought him here. Let him help you, help us.
-I canít and you know it. How am I supposed to tell him the whole storie when I canít bear hearing his name?
-Youíve kept it for yourself for too long.

Tony could see the fight in Gibbs mind. He was about to take a decision that was obviously hard for him.
-You know you can trust me, boss. There is something bothering you and I can see itís eating you from the inside. I wonít tell anyone.
Tony wanted to convince him it would be better to talk so he decided to be honest with him.

-I know you think Iím childish and sometimes itís true but you also know that I would never play with your feelings.
-I know that Tony but itís not really the problem here. When I say that I caní t tell you itís because Iíd be physically unable to tell you the whole story. I had never been able to talk about it and itís not different today. Itís even harder now that I know he is free.
Brianís cry startled both men.
-What? Why didnít you tell me?
-I found out about it today and I didnít know how to tell you. How to announce that after only twenty five years they had finally freed that bastard.

Brian sat heavily on the nearest chair. There was no need to be a top investigator to guess who they were talking about.
-You are talking about your father. He had been in jail for twenty five years? What had he done?
Gibbs was loking at his younger brother almost pleading. It was painful to see him like that and Tony began to hate the man that could have inspired such a fear to a man like Gibbs.
-Tell him, Brian.
Even if the situation was obviously hard for him too, Brian seemed to be relieved by his brotherís request. As if he was finally allowed to talk about something kept secret for too long.
-Twenty five years ago, our father, Jethro Anderson, was condemned for murder. Jet testified and he was sent to jail ... until today.

Tony looked back at Gibbs. He was astonished by what he was hearing and he could guess it was not the last incredible news he would hear tonight.

-Your father was condemned on your testimony? God, you witnessed him murder someone? But you were only... You were young!
-I was sixteen, Tony. And yes, I was there. I wish I should have been able to stop him, to avoid this tragedy. Maybe Danny would still be here.

Gibbs seemed to be lost in his thoughts and obviously remembering this events was hard on him. His eyes were bright with repressed tears and Tony was about to reassure him the only way he could. He stayed by his side, putting a hand on his knee.
-Who was Danny?
It was Brian who answered.
-He was the third boy of the Andersonís family. Jet was the elder and Danny was the younger.
As Brian stated the facts, Gibbs was smiling sadly.
-He was an amazing child, Tony. We used to call him ďSunny BoyĒ because his smile was so bright.
-What happened?
Tony had lowered his voice speaking only to Gibbs. He wanted his boss to trust him and talk even if he sensed that Gibbs was on the edge of breaking down.
It was probably what afraid Tony the most. He could feel him shiver by his side and he came closer touching his left arm with his hand.

-Our father didnít need an excuse to beat one of us. It was his favourite hobby. This time he just hit a bite too hard. Danny went on the way, he didnít deserve it. I should have...
Brian interrupted him. They had obviously already had this conversation before.
-What, Jet? Put yourself in the line to be hit more than you already had been? Let him finally kill you? You donít remember how it was that night?
-Donít tell me what I should have done or not! I remember too well! The sound of his head hitting the table. I remember seeing him fall. I remember hearing you scream when you entered the room.
Gibbs was shaking even more. The memories were very painful. It was like he was back in his fatherís house on the nightmarish evening when his father had killed his youngest brother.

-And I remember it too. When I entered the room I saw Danny uncouncious in your arms. Dad was running out of the house. You were holding him tightly as if you wanted to keep him alive one more minute...
-Stop, Brian, please! Donít...

-What I next saw was you. I thought he had killed you too this time. You were covered with blood, barely breathing. You couldnít have done anything to save Danny. Damm, Jethro you were not far from death yourself.
Tony couldnít stay quiet. How could it be possible? Gibbs had been beaten by his father who had in the same time killed his brother.
-God, why had they freed him after only twenty five years? He killed a child. It should have been condemned to a life-time sentence!
-His lawyer was a good one. He succeeded in convincing everyone it was an accident. That Danny fell and bumped his head on the table by accident. They decided heíd had no intentions of killing.

Tony didnít miss the ironic tone in Brianís voice.
-He even cried and said he was sorry and would regret his son every day of his life. He killed Danny, his nine year-old-son and he tried to make us believe he was sorry.
Tony was a little shocked to discover what Gibbsí chidhood had been made of. He would never have guessed what had happened to him but now that he looked more closely at him he could see the lines of tension and exhaustion on his face.

It had taken years him to learn how to keep his worst fears hidden and now he had to face them again.
-So, he took twenty five years and now what?
-He called Brian last night. He had been freed for two days and he was already trying to reach one of us.
-What did he want?
-To scare the shit out of me! And I can tell you he succeeded!
-What are you going to do, now?
-He is legaly free, Tony. We canít do anything. At least he is not authorized to approach Brian. As he was under eighteen at the time the trial took place and a decision was made to forbib him to approach Brian. The decision is still valid. I think thatís why he called. He wanted to show that he could reach you no matter what.
-What about you, boss?
-I was sixteen when it happened and by the time the judgment was done I was eighteen so I didnít any kind of protection.
-Bullshit! What did they think? That you were old enough to defend yourself in front of a killer. And now he can come to say hello as if nothing happened.
-Try to calm down Tony. He canít hurt me anymore. I wonít let him reach me.
-Sure, boss. Like when you passed out this afternoon? Whatever you say, it wonít change the fact that he hurt you and that it still affects you.

Gibbs was stunned by Tonyís words. He had never suspected him to be such a good judge of person. But Tony had made a point even if Gibbs would never admit it out loud.
-I can take care of myself, Tony.
-Iím sure of that Gibbs but you should contact the police. They might be able to tell you if he is in town. I still have contacts if you want me to make some calls...
-Thanks but I donít need to know where he is. Besides it wonít stop him from coming if he decided to. I will wait for him, Iím not afraid of him anymore!
It sounded as if Gibbs was trying to convince himself instead of Tony and Brian felt it too.
-You would have all rights to be afraid. Damn, who could blame you after what you came through.
-You were there too, Brian.
-Yes, I was but you were the only who was hurt on regular basis. He nearly killed you that night and it was not the first time. Each time he was angry, you were there, arguing with him. The result was always the same. At first I thought you were stupid to face him but I soon understood that he would have beaten one of us no matter what. You were trying to protect us from him by making him look at you.

Gibbs bowed his head. He had never felt so tired. He couldnít keep this for himself anymore. He didnít know how Tony would take the news but he felt the need to talk for the first time in years.
-I learnt to know when he was going to explode. You were both too young and fragile, I couldnít let him hurt one of you.

He said those words as if it was the most natural thing to do for a young boy. Tony understood why he was so protective with the members of his team. These revelations enlightened Gibbsí behaviour with a new light.

-So you protected them by being the only one available if he wanted to hit someone. How long did you do that?
-Mum died after Dannyís birth and Dad became more and more insane after that. Little by little he let us all by ourselves. Danny was one and Brian three the first time he tried to kill them. He said it was too hard for him to raise three children. I promised I would take care of them so I did until...
-But you were only eleven. A eleven year-old boy canít take care of two younger children.

Gibbs hadnít left his head as if he had used his last amount of strength. He was drained by the tension of the day.
-Jethro did well. We had always enough food and he taught us everything we needed to know. Our neighboors were there too. Jethro sometimes let us with them when Dad was too drunk. They had a dog. Danny loved that dog. We even had good times with them.

-Where were you, boss, when you placed them there?
-At home. He would have search for them if none of us had been there so I stayed with him.

Tony was amazed to hear them talk about what their everyday life was like it was the most natural thing.
-You stayed with him even when you knew he would beat you? I donít know if I could have done that even to protect my brothers.
-You would have done what you had to, Tony. I was the elder brother and I had promised my mother that they would never be hurt.
-How do you manage to become the man you are?

-Marines, Tony. They taught me what I missed all those years: that you can rely on the man behind you, that you can be useful and help people. I already knew how to survive, there, I learnt what life could be like. Thatís why Brian and me were apart for some years. After the judgment, they placed him in a good family. They gave him what he had missed all those years. I had to do something for myself.

-Thatís when you began to build this wall that protects you from being hurt, isnít it? You have paid a high price for something that was not your fault. Your father was in jail but you built your own private cell.
-You maybe right, Tony but that was the only solution for me not to become insane. Plus, I owed it to Danny. I had to go on for him, to do something with my life.
-Jethro, you didnít kill him. Dad did it. You didnít need to punish yourself. I wish I could have helped you more at that time.
-You did. Everytime I came to see you and that I found you smiling and enjoying life, it gave me the strength to go on. He couldnít reach you there and I was able to sleep knowing it. But you donít know what really happened that night.

Gibbs sighed trying to find the courage to tll his brother what h had feared to reveal.
-I am responsible for Dannyís death. I am sorry I didnít tell you before but something happened before Danny entered the room. It made Dad mad and Danny stood before me to help. He tried to protect me and he was killed because of that.

Brian was speechless and looked at his brother waiting for him to say anything else. Anything that could explain what he had just said.
Tony could feel the tension in Gibbs arm next to him.
-You taught him that you had to protect the ones you cared for. He knew that your father was about to kill you. He did the only thing he could do to protect you. He did what you would have done for him, what you had already done so many times.

Tony could read the guilt in his bossí eyes but he couldnít do anything to lessen the pain.
-You should be proud of what he had done. You made him strong enough to face your father.
-I should have taught him how to hide and he would still be alive.
-And you would be dead? Is that the problem? That you are the one still alive?
-Off course Tony. I survived because he is dead instead of me. How could I ever forgive myself for what I did to him?
-He isnít dead because of you, he is dead for you maybe, to save you. I know the difference means nothing when it comes to the life of someone you loved but he chose to intervene. He may have been only nine but he had already seen what your father could do to you.
-You didnít know him, Tony. You canít tell why he did that!
-Maybe but I know you and I know what you had taught him. I have seen you fight for what you think is right and I bet Danny wasnít different from you.
-Donít do that, Tony! Please!

Tony had never heard him plea before. Gibbs stood up and began to walk to the kitchen. He couldnít stay and hear Tony trying to reassure him, trying to make the death of Danny bearable. He didnít want to be forgiven for what he had done. It was his burden, the one he carried for years. He had learnt to live with the guilt, with the feeling that he was living his brotherís life instead of his own. In a way he was dead in this kitchen years ago.

Brian looked at Tony.
-Heíd never talked about that to anyone before. You are the first but donít wait for too much. I have seen him better than today but he would be fine.
-I know that he always come back but this time he seems pretty shaken. I donít know if itís good for him to keep everything inside like that. He did it for years and I canít imagine how tough it must have been for him.
-I think there is still something he keeps preciously to himself. He never told me why Dad was so mad at him that night and I think itís the reason why he feels so guilty about Dannyís death.
-Do you have any idea what it could be?
-The only thing I know is that there was someone else home with him when our father came back.
-Something might have happened between them.
-Maybe but Iím not sure he would ever tell you or me what made things turn so wrong.
-We should go and see if everything is fine with him. He scared me this afternoon.
-What happened?
-After your call he stayed still. A thing that is really unusual for him. He was so pale and he just passed out. I couldnít catch him and he bumped his head pretty hard on his desk.
-Make yourself comfortable. Iíll take care of him and then we could eat.

Tony looked at Brian while he walked to the kitchen. He was worried for Gibbs but he knew that he would better accept help from his brother. Besides, he needed time to process what he had just learnt about Gibbs childhood.
He had been badly abused, he had seen his brother being killed and had testified to send his own father to jail. What frightened Tony the most was the part still hidden in the dark. His guts were telling him that there was more than that. Something Gibbs had never told even to Brian.
The two brothers came back from the kitchen bringing plates and forks.

-May I help you, boss?
-No, I think we have everything we need. Just take a chair and let Brian do the service.
-The youngest are always the ones who do all the chores, I see.
-You cooked it. Itís only justice that you serve it. Besides Tony is younger than you.
Brian was already heading for the kitchen.
-So, I should help him.
-No. He loves doing that.
After a moment of silence, Tony could feel that Gibbs was about to say something he wasnít sure how to say.
-Iím glad you are here, Tony!
-Me too, boss. I just wished I could have done more to help you.
-Youíve already done more than you had to do.
Brian was back with his Chili. The diner was spent in light discussions about sports, politics. Gibbs was more relaxed even if he was searching for Tonyís eyes more than ever. He needed to know that nothing had changed for him.

Tony tried to behave like always but the news he had learnt had hit him pretty hard. He had never thought Gibbs could have been an abused child. He had never witnessed any signs in his behaviour that could have warned him. He now saw his boss in a new light and he was even more impressed by the man he had managed to become.

As they finished their coffee Tony stood up. He was more tired than he had been for weeks.
-I should go home, now. Itís already late and my boss is a little hard on me when I sleep at work. Brian, I hope weíll have occasions to talk a little more later. Boss, go to sleep, you look like shit!
-Thanks, Tony. See you tomorrow at seven sharp! Donít forget to take me and be careful with the car. I would have Abby to examine it tomorrow.
-Donít worry! Goodnight, boss. Brian.
-Bye, Tony.

As soon as Tony had closed the front door Gibbs felt the tension rise in the room. They were alone with their memories and fears and they had to face it once more.
-Tony is a good man. He must be a good agent too.
-He could be the best even if he wasnít so distracted sometimes.
-Itís part of his charm.
-So you find him charming?
-And you donít? Jet from where I was sitting, I could see you looking at him. Iíve already seen that light in your eyes before. It was years ago and I remember what it meant for you. So...?
-So you are assuming... What...? That I have feelings for him? You know I canít and I wonít risk everything knowing that he would never share my feelings.
-So youíll work with him and see him every day without telling him. I donít understand you sometimes. You wonít try anything even if it could make you, both of you happy. What is stopping you, Jethro? You deserve it! You canít let something that had happened years ago ruin your life.
-You have no idea what happened! Even if you think you have all the answers. You were not there!

Gibbs didnít want to yell at his brother but he didnít need to be told what he had to do. He took a deep breath and calmed down a bite.
-Iím glad you were not there. May I ask you a question, Brian? What if I tell him and he is not interested or worst if he is so disgusted that he asked for a transfert in another team.
-Take it the other way. What if he feels the same and he was just waiting for you to take the first step.
-I canít risk what we have. If he left I would have nothing to hang on.
-So you really love him?
-I havenít felt so close to someone since Ethan.
-What a confession! Iíve only see you two together a couple of times but it was obvious that you were linked. There was something special between you. I couldnít explain why but you seemed different with him like he allowed you to be yourself.
-It was a long time ago. Sometimes it seems to be someone elseís life. Iím not the same man today!
-You are not different, Jethro. You look at Tony with the same faith, the same hope. There is just so much more fear. What had he done to you that night?

Gibbs remained silent and Brian was afraid to have pushed him too far. He was aware that this secret was responsible for the fear of being involved with someone else, men or women. Gibbs had never been close to anyone except him.

-You know you can talk to me. Ethan was here this night, wasnít he?
-Yeah. When Dad entered the room, he was there. We had spent the day playing cards. It was a good day but he entered at the time Ethan and me were kissing. It was innocent, we hadnít planned it to happen. He was drunk and he started to yell at Ethan. I was afraid he could be hurt so I pushed him outside. He was safe.
-And you? There were noone to protect you. I wish I could have been there. When I found you lying here, I thought you were dead. Your eyes were so empty.
-I was dead inside, he had stolen my soul, my innocence.

Gibbs was shaking at the thought and Brian understood that he wouldnít tell him more than that for tonight. Brian took him in his arms. He wanted to hold his brother, to let him know that he wasnít alone. It was hard for Gibbs to accept the embrace but he needed it. He knew he was safe here, that for once, someone was able to protect him. He let his head rest on Brianís shoulder.

-Donít go! Donít let me!
-I promise Iíll be here for you! Nobodyíll hurt you, I promise.
Gibbs didnít realise that he had fallen asleep but Brian had to wake him up and bring him to bed. They hadnít shared a bed since they were kids but he couldnít let him alone especially tonight.

Chapter three.

Face to face.

It was past seven the next morning when Tony arrived at Gibbsí house. Brian was alone in the kitchen when he heard the knock on the front door.
-Hi, Tony! Come in, Iíve made fresh coffee.
-Hi, Brian. I was sure you would say that. You are a caffeine addict too?
-Less than Jethro. Iíve seen him drink coffee since he is ten.

Tony looked around waiting for his boss to yell at him because he was late.
-Where is he? He will certainly be angry because Iím late but I thought he would need some rest after what happened yesterday.
-Yeah, he had a tough day and the night was no better. He didnít sleep well.
-I guess it was hard for him to talk about it ... For both of you...
-I donít really remember what it was like most of the time, only our last days home. But Jethro had suffered for years... Iím glad you were here, itís reassuring to know there is someone he can rely on.
-I donít think he is aware that he can consider me as a friend. He only sees me as a team mate but I care about him.
-I realised that and Jethro knows it too. He has difficulties to open up as if he didnít want to be hurt or see someone he loves hurt anymore...

Brian didnít really realise what he was saying but he saw on Tonyís face that the young agent had heard him well.
-Brian, did he told you what really happened to him that night?
-No but he reacted violently when I tried to make him talk. There is definitely something more. You will have to ask him. I think he will tell you when heíd be ready. Let him do it at his rythm. He is fragile even if he hides it well.
-I think I noticed it yesterday for the first time in two years. So where is he? We gonna be late.
-He is still sleeping. He needed it but you should bring him some coffee if you want to wake him up without being shot at.
-He doesnít sleep with a gun, does he?
-Be careful, Tony!

Tony headed to the stairs with a full mug of black coffee hearing Brian laugh at him.
-Brian you would be responsible for my death if he shoots me. Be sure I would come back to haunt you.
He was given no response but a sounding laugh. He was now in front of the bedroomís door and wasnít sure what to do next. He opened it without knocking.
Gibbs was laying on his back, fully dressed, an arm thrown on his eyes. The older man seemed to be deeply asleep but as Tony approached he saw rapid movements in Gibbs jaw and hands.
He was dreaming and it was not a good dream for sure. Tony sat on the edge of the bed, putting the steaming mug on the nightstand. He knew he shouldnít do that. He should go and search Brian. But if he wanted Gibbs to trust him with his worst fears, why not beginning now. Gibbs was now more agitated and he began to scream still asleep.

-Ethan, get out of here!
Tony put on hand on Gibbsí shoulder trying to wake him up from this nightmare.
-Gibbs, itís Tony. You must wake up, itís only a dream. Nobody is hurt.
At this words, Gibbs sat on his bed abruptly, fighting to catch his breath.

-Are you Ok, Boss? You were having a bad dream.
Gibbs turned his head to look at Tony. Tony was breathless to see him so frightened. He didnít know what to do when Gibbs put his arms around him and rested his head on his shoulder. He did what he thought was the best for Gibbs and hugged him back.

-They are always bad, Tony. I just hadnít made this one for a very long time.
-I brought you some fresh coffee. It maybe help you waking up.
-Iím not sure I could drink it now but thanks for the thought.
It must have been a really bad dream if Gibbs refused a coffee.
-What time is it?
-Donít yell at me. Itís 0730 but we are not late officially. I called Kate and told her to call me here if there was something special before our arrival.
-What did you tell her?
-That my car was broken, that I borrowed yours and must pick you up this morning so we would probably be late...
-Good, so I have enough time to take a quick shower.
-So, you are not mad at me, certainly the best news of the week.

Gibbs winced at Tonyís words. The younger man seemed to be relieved by the fact that Gibbs was not pissed at him.
Gibbs had never thought his changes of mood had so much effects on Tony.
-Am I such a bastard with you?
Tony looked at his boss and saw that it was not an innocent question. The answer wasnít easy to tell but he had to be honest with him.

-Most of the time, no... you are not. But lately you seem to be mad at me whatever I do and sometimes I wonder what Iíve done to deserve that.
-Shit, Iím sorry. I didnít realise I was so hard on you. I didnít mean to hurt you. You didnít do anything wrong, itís just me...
-Has it something to do with what happened to you and Ethan?
Gibbs was about to stand up when he heard the name.
-How do you know about Ethan? Brian told you! He promised.

Gibbs was out the room before Tony could say anything to explain that he had heard him call for him in his sleep. When Tony reached the kitchen he saw the two brothers face to face but Brian didnít seem to be afraid by his brotherís anger.

-You had no right to tell him! I trusted you!
-I didnít tell anything to anyone and if you calm down and explain what this is all about, I would be able to tell you more. For now, I donít understand a word of what you are trying to tell me.

Gibbs seemed to soften a bite. He could feel Tonyís eyes upon him and realised he had over reacted. He seemed to have no control on his emotions since yesterday and he hated his father even more for the way he made him feel even after all those years.

-How does he know about Ethan?
-You should ask him for that, Jethro.
-Iím sorry, boss. I shouldnít have asked but you were speaking in your sleep. You were screaming and telling him to go out. I didnít know who you were alking about so... I asked. You know me, I canít keep my mouth shut. Forget about it, I had no right to ask in the first place.

Gibbs sat at the kitchen table hiding his eyes in his hands.
It was the second time in two days that Tony saw his boss shake and he didnít like it at all. He couldnít let him alone so he took the chair next to him and passed an arm around his shoulders.
-Sorry, I wish I could help you but I donít know what to do to ease the pain. I woní t say I understand what you came through because I canít. My parents were not perfect but they loved me and told me so. I had a family. I canít even begin to imagine that parents could hurt their own children.

Gibbs seemed to be lost in his thoughts. And he didnít look up when he finally spoke.
-I canít let you know what happened, I canít let you go away from me.
-What do you mean? Whatever happened it was not your fault. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You were only a child. Besides I donít intend on going anywhere, you must trust me on this.
Gibbs was about to talk when Tonyís cell phone rang. It was Kate. She always had a good timing.
-Shit! ... Dinozzo!
-Tony, itís Kate.
-Whatís up, Kate?
-You told me to call if something special happened. I think itís special. A man came in ten minutes ago. He claims he is Gibbsí father and wants to talk to him. He said he hadnít seen him for years.
-Kate, where is he, now?
-He is waiting in the rest room.
-Ok, call Mc Gee and tell him to stay with you. Donít stay alone with that man, Kate.
-He doesnít seem to be dangerous, he is just an old man.
-Trust me for once. Iím on my way. Iíll be there in ten minutes.

Tony didnít wait to hear her reply and hung down. He didnít know what to tell Gibbs. The older man didnít need to face his father but he couldnít lie.
-He is at the office, isnít he? He didnít lose time.
-Yeah, he wants to talk to you but I can handle it for you. You stay here and I tell him you donít want to have anything to do with him. Itís simple.
Brian needed to intervene, he knew too well what his brother was about to do.
-Jethro, you are not obliged to do it. Tonyís right.
-I know but I canít and wonít hide from him and if I donít go nothing would stop him from coming here. I donít want him anywhere near you or someone close to me.
-Because you really think I would let you face him alone this time. Never, Jethro, Iíve done it too much in the past ! I wonít let you down. I come with you!
-Surely not! You wonít come with me.
-Gibbs! Brian! Calm down! Boss you canít decide for him. He is not ten anymore.
-Thanks for your support Tony. So, if itís a plot. Letís go!
-Jet, you should take a shower and shave.
-No need. The sooner I get rid of this, the better I would feel.
-If you say so, boss.

They drove in silence to the NCISí Washington headquaters. Gibbsí eyes were fixed on the road and Tony could hear the engine of his brain working faster than usual. He was sure Gibbs was planning something and he really didnít like it. Brian seemed to fear the same thing and looked anxiously at his brother.

As soon as they arrived, Gibbs was out of the car and running to the entry of the federal building. The two men were not surprised to see him run into the line of fire but Tony couldnít help feeling helpless to avoid the confrontation and the pain that would probably follow for Gibbs.

-We should follow him, Tony. He is about to do something stupid.
-Thatís what Iím afraid of. Weíll catch him at the checking point he had forgotten his card in the car.
They found a pretty angry Gibbs at the checking point trying to persuade the guard to let him in. Tony gave him his identification card and they entered the building together.
Gibbs was looking around obviously searching for his father.
-Where is he?
-Hi, boss. Itís a pleasure to see you so nice. You didnít have you coffee?
-Hi, Kate. Yes I had one. Tony brought me one in bed this morning.

Gibbs had not been pleased by her welcome but he had no time to argue and had found a way to shut her up. She gave Tony a puzzles look but the agent only smiled at her. His reputation was over but he didnít care. They had more important things to take care of.
-Can I have an answer? Where is he ?
-Right here, son!

Gibbs turned as he heard his fatherís voice. The man was older than the last time he had seen him but but he still had the same cold blue eyes.
Tony was speechless. Looking at this old man who seemed still strong and tall he could imagine what Gibbs and Brian had suffered. There was no love in his eyes.
-Donít call me that! Iím not your son since the day you killed Danny! Iím not eight years old anymore. Youíve never been a father for me.
-It was a long time ago, son. A man can change.

Gibbs wanted to laugh as he heard his fatherís statement but he only managed to wince doubtfully.
-What do you want?
-We can find a more private place? I only want to talk to both of you.
-There is nothing to talk about besides you are not allowed to talk to Brian or even approach him. Remember?
The old man didnít seem to appreciate his sonís arrogance.
-No matter what you say, Iím still your father and I just want to have a little talk with my son.

Jethro Anderson had closed the space between them while he was speaking. The two men were now face to face and Tony could see Gibbs would not be able to stand his fatherís proximity any longer. Anderson was threatening him.
-Go out of my office!
-Otherwise...? what would happen if I donít want to get out? Tell me, what would you do?

Gibbs was now sure that his father hadnít change. He was defying him in his own office and he had to stop it now and there. So he would go woth the plan he had come up with.
-I doní t want to hurt you but if you donít go now, Iíd have no choice.
-Violence is always a choice! Thatís what the shrinks told me. I thought you learnt that too. If you donít want to go somewhere else, we can talk here. If you donít mind the audience!
-I donít know what you are looking for but you woní t get it. So if you want to stay here then I go. Do what you want to do, I donít care anymore.

Gibbs was about to go out when his father grabbed his right sleeve.
-You canít go like that, you owe me an explanation. You sent me to jail and I want to know why you betrayed me.
Tony couldnít believe what he had just heard. It sounded as if it had been him the victim. The old manís eyes were bright with anger.
-I donít owe you anything. You killed Danny. There is nothing more to say. You wanna know what I felt when they took you? I was relieved that you wouldnít be able to hurt anyone. You are sick and Iím not responsible for that.
Anderson was about to explode. Tony could tell that he was mad as hell. He understood at that moment that it was part of Gibbsí plan. He wanted to make him react in a way or another.

-Now let me go!
-You canít talk to me like that, you little shit!
Gibbs froze. His father was going to hit him. He could feel it in his flesh, like a memory. His instict told him to punch him first but he couldnít move.
He saw his fatherís fist come to his face once, twice before he fell on the floor and felt kicks on his head and on his back. Then, everything went dark.
He could still hear voices and realised that the kicks had stopped replaced by pain.
-Boss, can you hear me?
Tony had run to his boss after two security guards had brought Anderson in cell.
-Gibbs, open your eyes for me. Iím sorry I didnít see it comming. Shit, Kate, go and search for Ducky! Now!
-We should call an ambulance! Tony, there is blood everywhere!
-Kate! Ducky, now!
Tony had yelled at her. He knew she was right but Gibbs didnít need to wake up in a hospital. The trauma of meeting his father was enough and he knew how Gibbs hated hospitals. Knowing what he knew now he was beginning to understand where it came from.

-Brian, are you Ok?
He turned to look at Gibbsí brother when he received no answer.
-Brian, I need your help. Jethro needs your help... now!
Brian was frozen, holding the desk as if it was his last link to life.
Tony stood and put his hands on the young manís shoulders. He needed him to focus even if he knew that Brian was remembering another event that had happened years ago when he had thought his brother was dead.

-I know itís hard for you but Jethro needs you. You must be strong for him like he had always been for you.
-What do you want me to do?
Gibbs was stil uncouncious on the floor, blood running freely from the gash he had above his right eye. Some injuries were visible and Tony felt sick and the thought that he had endured it for years as a child.
-Come here and help me putting him in a safe position. We canít risk moving him before Ducky had had a look at his injuries.
They moved the injured man cautiously trying not to hurt him more than he already was. Tony couldnít help wincing as he looked at Gibbs injuries. What take Ducky so long, his lab was just two stairs down!!. He was relieved to see him enter the room, a case in his hands.
-What the hell happened here?
Tony was a bite shocked, in two years he had never heard the ME swear.
-Anthony, who did it to him?
-Ití s a long story and we donít have time for now. He needs assistance.
-Why didnít you call for an ambulance. Caitlin told me that you refused to do so.

Ducky was examining Gibbs while he was interrogating Tony.
-I know it seems unwise but he had been hurt before by the same person. I think that what happened yesterday was only a small part of the story. The one who had caused him to pass out yesterday was here today.
-So, you thought, judging by the profound discomfort that Jethro feels every time he is near an hospital that bringing him here would add to the trauma.
-I wouldnít have said it in such an elegant way but thatís it!

Ducky concentrated on his patient washing the gash and searching for head trauma.
-I think there would be no need for an ambulance. But I must put some stitches on his head wound. If you two could bring him in the restroom, he would be more comfortable on a sofa.
-Is he fine, Ducky?
-Fine is not the right word Anthony. But his injuries are not life threatening only painful. He must have some bruises on his back and chest. I would be able to examine him more thouroughly in the restroom.
-Sure. Brian can you help me. Take his legs.
Tony and Brian brought him in the small room and put him on the couch that had been brought there for the too long working nights.
-Help me taking his shirt off.
When Tony and Ducky looked at Gibbsís chest and back they both winced. The bruises were already turning blue.
-God, itíll hurt like hell!
-Iíll make a tight bandage for his ribs but I canít do anything more. With a good cream, some pills to ease the pain and a lot of rest he will soon be fine.

Tony was looking at Gibbsí face. He seemed to be asleep and Tony wished he would keep this serenity even if he was aware that it was impossible. Gibbs had a lot of demons to face and he could only imagine how hard it would be for him after what his father had just done.

-Here we are. As soon as he wakes up I would give him some painkillers and then you would bring him home.
-Thank you so much, Doctor. Iím glad that Jethro has such friends.
-You must be Brian? Nice to meet you, young man. I wished it would have been in a more enjoyable moment. Iím doctor Mallard, Ducky for almost everyone.
-Ducky, when will he regain conciousness? He has been out for half an hour. Are you sure there is no head trauma?
-I think he will be soon awake, Anthony. To answer your question I donít think that he had passed out because of the blows. I think he did it willingly.
-How is that possible? I know that he is always in control but nobody could pass out on command!
-Iíve already seen it years ago. A young boy who had been beaten on regular basis was able to order his brain to shut down every time he felt threatened. He had learnt to control his mind in order to avoid the pain.
-But Gibbs had never had such a reaction before even when he was shot at. So why now?
-Call it self-preservation or subconciousí memory. But his instinct had told him when to shut down.

Ducky looked at Brian who hadnít spoken for a long time. The young man was looking at his brother obviously lost in his own nightmare.
-Tony, can you stay here with Jethro. I donít want him to be alone when he wakes up. I think our young friend here needs fresh air.

Ducky dragged Brian out of the room without meeting any resistance. As the two men were gone, Tony sat besides his boss. After what seemed hours to Tony, Gibbs opened his eyes, his eye because the right one was already too swollen to open up.
-Take it easy, boss.
-Sure, just here, drink slowly. How are you feeling?
-Better now that he is away for good.
-You did it on purpose, didnít you?
-What do you mean?
-You had it all planned? You were ready to let him hurt you in order to have him arrested.
-You think I like it? How can judge what I do or had to do?

Gibbs was trying to get up but the pain stopped him.
-You should stay here. For your information, boss, I donít judge what youíve done, I was just saying that you should have told me. You should have been...
-Killed? I knew that it could have come to that but you were there to stop him.
-I couldnít stop him before he hit you. Besides I didnít even have my gun!
-I hadnít time to tell you. You would have wished to discuss like you always do.

Looking around Gibbs seemed suddenly anxious.
-Where is Brian? Did he hurt him?
-Your brother is fine. He needed fresh air so Ducky brought him for a walk.
-I didnít want him here, he didnít need to see that.
-Your father had been arrested, he will return t jail. Itís what you hoped for, didnít you?
-I knew he couldnít resist for long. I knew well what to do to make him react. Iím not sure why but it seemed that he was always mad at me. I just had to wait until the pressure was too high.
-How did you manage to pass out on demand? Ducky said it may be a self-preservation mecanism?
-I donít now what it is but when I was a child he came to my bedroom when he was angry. I knew what he would do so at first I retired in my head somewhere safe. With the time I was able to retire so deeply inside myself that my mind ust shut down to preserve himself.

-God, and today?
-I think it was an instinctive reaction. When he hit me I was back years ago.
-He is out of your life now.
-He will never really be out of my life. He had destroyed Brianís life. So many things would have been different if he hadnít been there. He tainted whatever I lived, whoever I loved.
-Like Ethan?
-Donít push me this way Tony! Iíve already told you , thereís some things Iím not ready to talk about.
-Iím ready to hear it if you ever want to talk to someone. You know Iím your friend and nothing would ever change that.
-Donít make promises you would be unable to keep. I wish it could be true but you donít know what secret I was obliged to keep to myself.
They were interrupted by a slight knock at the door.

-Come in, Kate!
-How did you know it was me, Tony?
-Who else?
-Sure, how are you feeling, boss?
-For now... like I had been hit by a truck.
-We delivered him to the local police. They took him to the station. He was a little bite aggressive. They will come later to take your deposition.
-Thank you , Kate. I know you have a lot of questions about what happened but I canít answer now, and may be I never will. I would like to thank you for what you did.
-I wish I could have helped you more.
She turned to Tony offering him a concerned look.
-Take care of him, Tony. I think you will need some holidays... both of you. You look like shit, Tony.
-Thank you so much, Kate. But itís not me who have a bandaged head and a swollen eye.
-No, but you look like someone who could use a good night sleep. The big boss wants to see both of you as soon you feel good enough to walk.
-Sure if Tony could help me up.

It was obvious that Gibbs was in pain but he managed to walk to Morrowís office on his own. He listened to his boss and accepted the medical leave he ordered him to take.
He was surprised when Tony asked for downtime and even more amazed when Morrow granted him. They were out of Morrowís office an hour later and the only thing that Gibbs wished for was to go home and lie down on soft pillows. Tony seemed to read his mind.

-I will search for Ducky and Brian and then Iíll bring you home. You should wait for me in the restroom. Iíll try to hurry.
-I think Iíll need some help to go there. I canít handle the stairs on my own.
-You donít look so good maybe we could take you to the hospital?
-No, I just want to go home. Go and find Brian so we could go.
-First, I bring you to the couch so you could lie down.
-Thanks, Tony.
-Itís a pleasure to serve you, my Lord!
-itís a bite too much.
Tony saw a slight smile on Gibbsí face for the first time in days. He was relieved the nightmare was over even if he wasnít it really was for Gibbs. Anderson was behind bars and Gibbs would go on with his life.
But Tony knew something had changed between them. Gibbs had shared his fears with even if it was unvoluntuary. He felt closer to him. He wasnít sure what these feelings were but he was proud to be considered as a friend by his boss. He was glad that he had trust him enough to tell him the thruth about his father even if he knew there was a part still unsaid.

Chapter four.

The truth.

Tony had left Gibbs on the restroomís couch and had found Ducky and Brian in the backyard talking lightly. He was now back inside the building, walking quickly to pick Gibbs up and drive him home. The older man had obviously had a long and hard day.
Tony entered the restroom without knocking.

-Here I am, boss. Ready to go home?
Gibbs had fallen asleep on the couch and he didnít react at Tonyís entrance. Tony looked at him. He seemed more relaxed even peaceful when he was sleeping.
He still had those fine lines around his eyes but it seemed he was able to forget about the event of the day. Tony didnít want to wake him up but his own bed would be a lot more comfortable than this couch. He was about to sit by his side when Brian entered the room.

-What are you doing? I am ready to leave!
Gibbs sat up abruptly hearing his brotherís voice. It was as if he had heard an alarm.
-Take it easy, Jet. Itís me. Everything is fine.
The younger brother was by Gibbsí sides a hand on his shoulder trying to calm him down. Gibbs was breathing hard but his first thought was for his brother. Tony was amazed to see how protective he could be.
-Hey, are you Ok, Brian?
-Yes, Iím fine. What about you? Your head hurts?
-Iíll be fine with a good night sleep and a cup of fresh coffee.
-I think you will need more than that, boss!
-You may be right, Tony. I heard someone talking about going home?
-Tony will take care of you, Jet! I have a class to perform in an hour. So I must let you under Tonyís care. Iíll come tonight and bring diner.
-Ok, Brian see you tonight. Take care.
-Sure, bro!
As Brian exited the room Gibbs managed to sit on the couch looking at Tony.

-You donít need to bring me home. I can take a cab. Iíll be fine after a little rest.
-Out of question, Gibbs. You have a concussion and you need someone to watch at you every two hours to be sure you are well. Itís me or a nice nurse at the hospital. Your choice, boss.
-Itís a hard choice, Tony but I would rather go home.
-Good so letís go. Let me help you.
-Thanks but my legs are fine.
-If you say so.
It was obvious that Gibbs was hurting like hell, each step was hard for him but the man was too proud to ask for help.

They finally reached the car. Tony had watched him all the way ready to help at the first alert. Gibbs was breathless and wincing when Tony opened the door.
-You donít want to drive, Boss? I thought your legs were fine and since you seem so healthy I thought...
Tony turned to face Gibbs when he heard no answers. The man was leaning against the passengerís door of the car trying not ot fall down. His face was pale and he obvously had difficulties to breath.
-Damn, Gibbs. Why donít you ask when you need help? You are so stubborn. It wonít hurt you to rely on someone!
Tony opened the passenger door and inclined the seat into a more comfortable position. He was afraid that Ducky should have missed something. It was not like Gibbs to accept help so easily.
He didnít even try to hide the wince of pain the slightest move brought to his face.
-Sit there, slowly. You are Ok?
-Not really. My back and my head hurt like hell. I think you should drive this time.
-Iím glad you finally admit that I was a better driver than you.
-Thatís not what I said!
-Yeah, but thatís what I heard behind the words.
-Donít make me laugh, Tony, it hurts.
-But itís good to hear you laugh. Itís not so often.

Tony was amazed by his own words and how true they were. He had never thought of Gibbsí behaviour before but now he was unable to remember the last time he had heard him really laugh.
-Olny with you, Tony.

Gibbs said this last sentence in a whisper but loud enough for Tony to hear it. What did he mean? In two days he had learnt more of Gibbsí life than he had in two years. Most of what he had discovered, had made him feel sick and look at his boss with new eyes. But his last sentence was different. He had heard regret in his bossí voice and it was unlike Gibbs to regret anything.

For two years working with him, he had seen him wounded, angry sometimes, tough with people he didnít like but he hadnít seen him so fragile and helpless than in the last two days. He wasnít sure he knew the man beside him anymore. He was hard to read but Tony was ready to wait by his sides until Gibbs Ďd willingly decide to reveal his real personnality.

He couldnít imagine what Gibbsí childhood had been like. Everytime he thought about it he had that disturbing feeling he didnít know the whole story. He was sick when he thought what he had been through as a child and later as a grown man. It must have been awfully hard to hide the trauma of being an abused child and having been the witness of the murder of your younger brother.

Suddenly, the words hit him: ďabused childĒ. Had he been blind not to see the truth before?
Gibbs had not been only beaten by his father. He could have been able to see it in his eyes. He had already witnessed such an emptiness before.
When heíd worked for the stups, all victims he had interviewed looked the same. They seemed lost, hurt and sometimes angry but only one thing could create loneliness like the one he had seen in Gibbsís eyes. There was only one thing that could make people look like someone had stolen their soul.
Tony brake down so abruptly that it made Gibbs cry out.

-What are you doing, Dinozzo? Give a warning next time.
The sudden stop had made Gibbs injured body react violently but Tony needed to go out of this car. He had stopped in a parking next to the wood and had run out before he could hear Gibbs reply. He had felt suddenly claustrophobic in this small place and had needed fresh air.
-What the hell is happening with him?
Gibbs didnít want to get out of the car but he knew something was wrong with Tony and he had no clue what it could be. He forgot about the pain, he tried to at least and managed to go out. Tony hadnít gone far. The younger man was obviously ill, retching his last meal near a tree. Gibbs walked carefully to him.

-Whatís up?
-Nothing, boss. It must be something I ate today.
-Donít mess up with me, Tony. I know itís not your stomach that is sick.
A sudden feeling of panic hit Gibbs. He had been uncouncious for a long time after his father had hit him. Maybe Tony had not told him all the truth about his fatherís arresting.
-Did he hit you in the office? Are you hurt?
Tony looked up at him and saw the concern on his bossí face. He couldnít lie to him, he owed him the truth.
-No, boss. He didnít touch me. I think itís what happened in the last two days that made my stomach react like that.
-Iím sorry for that, Tony. You shouldnít take it so hard. You know it was a long time ago.
-How can you say that after what he had done to you? He is sick. You must be... I donít know...
-Angry, furious? I had been at first but it led me nowhere but in the wrong way. So I decided a long time ago to bury it deep inside and never again let what happened hurt me.

Tony looked at him seeing a sad resignation in his blue eyes.
-He should have payed so much more for what he did to you!
Gibbs had known since the beginning that Tony would guess some times what really had happened that night. After all, the man wasnít his best agent without reasons.
-We are not talking about bashing anymore, are we? How have you figured it out?
-When I worked as a cop, I had to interview rape victims. They all had the same look on their faces, the same emptiness in their eyes. I saw that look on your face last night. It took me some times to remember what it meant. I think I refused to see it.
-Well, I wish I could have hidden it from you. But I hired you for your abilities to see beyond evidences. I guess I should have known that sooner or later you would discover the truth. Can we go, now?
-Thatís all you have to say? He ... he ... and you never told anyone. You didnít have to suffer alone.
-I donít want to talk about it! Understood agent Dinozzo?

Tony was speechless, Gibbsí face was now unreadable. He had put on the mask he dayly wore and he had hiden his feelings and pain behind it. The man was pretty good at that. Years of training had made him able to give to see what he wanted even for the ones who cared about him. Tony understood how he had been able to fool everyone all those years. Even his wives and close friends.
-Sure, boss. We will do as you wish.

Gibbs walked back to the car, avoiding Tonyís eyes. The younger man knew better than to offer him any help. They sat in the car and remained silent for the last miles.
Tony parked the car in front of Gibbsí house and opened the door but when he was about to go out, Gibbs stopped him putting a hand on his arm.
-Thereís no need for you to stay with me. Iíll call if I need your help.
Tony knew this tone he had had numerous experiences with the manís awful character. Gibbs liked to tell that the second B in his man stands for ĎbastardĒ. Gibbs was trying to get rid of him but he wasnít going to let him do that. If he had to fight with him he would do that whatever it may cost him.
Gibbs had always been able to make people run away from him by using this kind of tone but, today, Tony knew what it really meant and he couldnít leave him alone.

-You wonít get rid of me so easily. If you want to fight I must warn you that I would fight back.
-I donít want you here, Dinozzo! I will take care of myself like I always have.
-What a success! Look at you!
-You are beyond lines, Dinozzo! Iím still your boss!
Gibbs managed to get out of the car and walked to his front door searching for his keys.
He didnít hear Tony coming but when he entered the house he was behind him. Gibbs tried to look angry but he had not enough strength to push him out.

-What the hell are you trying to do here? Was I not clear enough for you? Get out of my house, Dinozzo!
-It was clear like crystal but I choose not to care about what you said.
-That was not a request, that was an order. Get out!
-Or what? You will fire me? You will hit me? Wanna know what I donít care!
Tony knew he was playing with his carreer, that Gibbs had the power to fire him but he needed his boss to react in a way or in another.

-Are you stupid? I can kick your ass out of here!
-You are threatening me, now? Iím not the one you should be angry at!
-Donít dare tell me what I should feel or the way to deal with what happened to me. You canít even imagine what itís like...
-No, I wonít. I donít know what you feel. So tell me. I want to help you!
Tony didnít know what he had expected from Gibbs saying that but when he approached him he realised that the older man had decided to play it hard. But he was prepared for the worst so he avoided easily Gibbsí fist.

-I warned you that I would fight back even if I donít want hurt you.
-I donít want your pity, Dinozzo. You think that I am unable to defend myself and that I need you to look at me. I have a news for you, Iím not an helpless child, I never was.
Gibbs had meant more than he had intended in that last sentence and Tony knew he was about to break down. He knew he was playing a dirty game but it was the only way to make him break the walls he had built around him over the years.
-So if you never were an helpless child, how come you let him do that to you? Why did you let him kill Danny?
Touched but not sunk. Gibbs swayed as if punched but he didnít answer.
-Tell me Gibbs!
-I couldnít... he was...
God, what was he doing to him. He wanted to reach for him and hugged him but he wasnít done yet.
-Tell me why did he punish you? What had you done this time to make him so mad at you?
-I canít!

The man was strong. A life time hiding who he was had made him unable to trust anyone. Tony didnít know what he could do now but he couldnít let the man breath. Gibbs would recover fast and protect himself behind the fake image he had created to survive.
Toyn didnít want to threaten him but he wanted to put him under pressure, physical pressure if needed. Gibbs walked back as if he didnít want Tony to come closer.
-Donít approach! Tony!
-Why? Are you afraid, little boy?
Tony was not prepared for what happened. Gibbs rushed to him and they both landed on the floor. His face was flushed.
-Iím not your little boy!

Tony didnít know who Gibbs was really talking to. He managed to turn on top of him. Gibbs was weak and each breath seemed to cost him more effort than the previous one but the anger flashed through his eyes.
-Iím not your father, you can trust me. I wonít let you down whatever you do or say.
The words seemed to reach Gibbsí conscious and the man soften taking deep breaths.

-What have you done to me, Tony? It took me years to forget about it. Why do you want me to remember it?
Gibbsí voice sounded unsure and weak and Tony was afraid of what he had done.
-You have never forgotten what happened, you just hid it but itís eating you from the inside. You wonít be free to go on with your life unless you put your burden down.
-My life is a nightmare for years and a lie for more years. I canít change it now by talking to you.
-Thatís not what I offered!
Tony sat on the couch helping Gibbs up. The older man was exhausted and he landed on the couch besides Tony.
-What do you propose, Tony? Should I lie on the couch, doctor Freud.
-Donít play dumb with me, Gibbs! I want you to trust me, to consider me as a friend. Iím not a shrink but I can help you deal with it.
-How could you help me, if you get ill at the thought of what happened?

Gibbs was not ready to talk especially to Tony not that he didnít trust him. In fact he couldnít trust himself.
-I wonít lie to you, it hit me pretty badly when I realised it but I wasnít sick because of you but because of me.
Gibbs gave him a puzzled look.
-I hadnít been able to see it in two years. I remember this case with the Petty Officer who had been raped and the way you reacted. Your behaviour became clear suddenly and it was a bite overwhelming, I guess.
-I think I understand but I donít think I could talk about it. Even if I need to, itís just... too hard!
-Itís only me. You have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of.
-Maybe I could answer some of your questions.
Tony knew that it was the best Gibbs could do for now.
-Right, try to relax. Who is Ethan?
Gibbs closed his eyes and Tony was amazed when he heard him answer with a clear voice.

-When I was a child I had a lot of things to hide and a lot of lies to tell. I had to hide the cuts, the bruises to my teachers, my friends. I must lie to social services telling them that my father was working while he was sleeping drunk on the couch at ten a.m.
Gibbs sighed and went on.
-Ethan was the only one I trusted enough to tell the truth to. He knew about every bashings, every insults. He was my anchor to the world, the one I cared about not to lie to.
-You loved him?
-I think you can say that it was love. Maybe more than that. I wouldnít be alive if he hadnít been here. I was about to give up some times and he brought me back.
Tony turned a stunned look at him.

-You thought about suicide? But you were only a child?
-Sometimes I wondered if Iíve ever been a child. The first time I thought about suicide, I was ten. I was in the garden with a knife. It seemed so easy, I knew where to cut. That was the first time I met Ethan. He jumped above the edge and took the knife from my hands. He never asked why, he listened for hours. He never let me down from that day on.
-I should thank him, so.
-I wish I had time to do it myself but he died last year in a car crash.
-It must have been hard for you. Iím sorry I wasnít there for you.
-It wasnít your fault. I went to his funeral. I hadnít seen him for years but I talked to his friends and he seemed to have become a good man. He had left me a letter I never found the courage to read. Maybe I would be able to remember him without feeling that ache deep inside.
-He was at your house that night when your father came back?
-My father was out most of the day drinking, betting. So I decided to spend the afternoon playing cards with Ethan. He was a good pocker player, he taught me how to bluff. We were in the kitchen laughing.
Gibbs smiled sadly at the memory.
-Ethan was older than me, two years older and he had never hiden that he was attracted to men. But, for me, if he was happy with it, I was fine with it too.But when he kissed me I froze. It was strange but not bad. It felt so natural, we had shared so much that it seemed the natural next step in our friendship.
-Thatís when your father came in? He saw you kiss Ethan?
Tony didnít seem to be bothered by the fact that his boss had once kissed another man.

-I didnít realise what hit me. The next thing I remember is being on the kitchenís floor with him on the top of me. His face was red with anger and he was hitting me over and over again. I heard Ethan cry out, yell at him that he would kill me.
Gibbs closed his eyes trying to erase the images of his father.
-I managed to escape and get back to my feet. I pushed Brian out and closed the door behind him before he caught again.
Gibbs seemed to live this event once again.
-Why didnít you go with Ethan? You should have followed him outside, escaped from this house.
-I couldnít leave the house! Danny was sleeping upstairs in his bedroom and I knew he would have gone for him. I didnít want him to be hurt.
-You knew he would kill you this time? By standing here you knew you faced the death!
-I donít think I was aware of that but there was no other choice. I was ready to be beaten but he decided to change the rules. I wasnít not prepared for what happened next, Tony. He...

Gibbs was unable to go on, he was back in this house alone, facing his father, reading the evil in his vicious smile. He wasnít aware of the tears that were now running freely down his cheeks until Tonyís hand wiped them away. The warm feeling of Tonyís hand on his face made him feel better for the first time today.
-You donít have to go on. One step at a time.
Tonyís right arm was around his shoulders, his left hand resting on his own. Gibbs seemed reassured by the contact and his voice was clearer when he spoke again.

-He said I was a pervert, that it was forbidden to love another man. I didnít even know what he was talking about. He tainted what I had with Ethan saying it was bad. He wanted to show me how wrong it was to think of being with another man.
Gibbs was now crying freely letting the pain he had kept for too long, finally go away. Tony didnít say anything, Gibbs needed time to do things at his own rythm. He didnít need him to push him so Tony stayed here offering him the silent support he needed.

-We just kissed. I loved him but I had never thought of him like that.
Tonyís eyes were filled with tears. He was relieved that Gibbs had finally talked to him but he had underestimated the horror of what it had been for him.
Tony wasnít sure Gibbs had ever questionned his sexuality before Ethan kissed him. The older man was crying in his arms because of what this bastard had done to him twenty five years ago. He had never felt so much hate for someone before. He could have killed him without even a blink.
-Iím sorry, Tony.
-What for, Jethro?

Gibbs smiled as he heard Tony call him by his name. He had never before felt free enough with him to even try to call him Jethro.
-Itís good to hear you call me Jethro.
-We are not at work so I thought that it was more appropriate but if you mind...
-Thatís good for me Tony. After what Iíve just shared with you I think we can forget about the protocol.
-It doesnít change anything, it doesnít change the way I see you, the respect Iíve got for you. You are the same man to me.
-Iím not sure to be the same than two days ago. I had a job I loved, a life and now everything seems to be over. I feel different, much more...
-Vulnerable? Maybe you are for now but it will make you stronger.
-I want to trust you on this, Tony but I feel like I lost what I made years to build. My all life was a lie. I never really loved, never shared anything, never trusted anyone enough to open up.
-Itís high time you allow yourself to rely on someone. Thereís no need for you to always be in charge, in control of everything.

-I donít know if Iím ready for that. The last person I loved went away with my hopes. I have never been attracted to anyone after Ethan. I wasnít in love with the women I married. I am not sure to know what loving and being loved could be like.
-Nobody really knows. But one day it hapens. It may seem a bite old fashionned but when you meet the one, you know.
-So, I wait and see?
-Why not?
-Iím not sure to be able to go where my heart will lead me? You wouldnít like it.
-What do you mean? What have I to do with that?
-Not tonight, Tony. I canít afford loosing you.

Tony didnít understand what his boss meant. He was confused by the sadness he could read in his eyes.
-I thought for understood that I had no intentions of letting you down. Iím here to stay.
-What if I had discovered I was attracted to someone and that I couldnít do anything.?
-Why not telling the one you feel attracted to?

Gibbs stood uneasily and headed to the kitchen. He couldnít let this conversation go on. It was too dangerous especially tonight.
-You canít let me like that. Who is it? Do I know her? Gibbs...
He received no response from the kitchen and began to worry. He knew that Gibbs was making coffee. It seemed to be his antidote for almost everything.
He stood at the kitchenís door looking at the man inside. Gibbs was obviously hurting, his movements were slow and his face was tensed. Tony heard him curse when he dropped the spoon he had used. He was about to go and help him knowing that Gibbs would hurt himself if he tried to reach it on the floor.
Gibbs was already bent when he reached his side. His injured body was not ready to do such a movement. Gibbs cried out with pain when his legs gave up and he fell on the floor. Tony helped him sitting against the cupboard.

-Take it easy, boss. Breath slowly.
Gibbs was trying hard to catch his breath and not let the pain overwhelm him. He had been hurt before but this time it seemed that all his body was refusing to support anymore pain. He was about to pass out once again. It took him all his strenght to hold on. He tried to concentrate on Tonyís voice which sounded worried.
-Where are you hurt? Donít try to speak! Just show me!

Gibbs managed to reach his back and his ribs with his shaking hands.
-Let me have a look. Undo your shirt that I could check on your injuries.
Gibbsí hands were shaking and he was unable to undo the small buttons of his blue shirt.
-Let me do this for you! May I?
Tony didnít want to invade Gibbsí personnal space without his permission. He knew too well that the trauma he had lived was still present in his mind. Gibbs nodded weakly and Tony opened his shirt. His face grew white when he had a look at Gibbsí chest. Even with the bandage that Ducky had made earlier, he could see the bruises which had an awful color.
His back was no better and Tony wished for a second that he could put a hand On Anderson to show him what it feels like to be beaten like this.

-Damn, you are badly bruised. It must hurt like hell! Iíll call Ducky!
He knew that the ME would be here in ten minutes but like earlier he would have felt reassured if Gibbs had been in a hospital where he could have a scadron of doctors and nurses looking at him.
He knelt besides Gibbs. He knew it would be almost impossible to convince the man to go to the hospital but he had to try.
-I should drive you to the nearest hospital. You may have some broken ribs or internal injuries.
-No way, Tony.
Even if he was weak Tony saw that Gibbs would never let him do what he was planning.
-Ok, letís call Ducky. But promise me if he says that you need more exams you would let us drive you to the hospital.
Gibbs nodded unable to speak as he was trying to breath slowly. Tony was already walking to the phone when he heard Gibbsí weak voice.
-I donít think I would be able to walk to the car, my back is hurting with each breath and my ribs are not better. I just need some time to rest and I will fine.
-No, Jethro you woní t be fine. You need to be checked.

Looking at Gibbs almost lying on the floor of his kitchen Tony doubted that it was wise to listen to him. He must concentrate to breath, his face was paler than before. He couldnít let him suffer like that. He must do something even if he would have to go against his will.
-Iíll call an ambulance, you canít stay like that.
-Letís call Ducky, first. Please, Tony!
Tony didnít miss the pleading tone in his voice and when he caught his eyes he saw how much it cost him to appear so weak in front of Tony. He would not be able to take more for tonight.
-Ok, I call Ducky. Donít move!
-Promise I wonít go anywhere!
Tony went to the living room where the phone was. He dialed Duckyís home number. The doc hang out immediatly.
-Jethro? What happens?
-Ducky, itís Tony.
-Is Jethro fine?
-Not really! He fell in the kitchen, he says he canít move. He refuses to go to the hospital. His face is white, Ducky he is really in pain. I think he may have something broken or worse...
Tony knew while speaking that he must sound like he was panicking but it was not far from what he was feeling.
-First of all, Tony, you must calm down. Iíll be there in ten minutes. Stay with me. Donít try to move him. The only thing to do for now is keep him warm.
-Ok, Ducky. Just hurry, please.

Tony went back to the kitchen after having caught a blanket. Gibbs hadnít moved, his head resting on the cupboard. Tony surprised himself staring at the man before him.
Something had changed in the way he looked at him. He was more attentive at every move he made, every lines on his face. He knew he cared a lot about him but his feelings were growing deeper, were becoming more than friendship.
He couldnít linger on what he was feeling for now. Gibbs needed him as a friend, nothing more and he couldnít allow himself to cross that line. He sat beside him and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders trying not to move him.

-Like that, you are warm enough?
-Iím fine, thanks Tony.
-Ducky said he would arrive in ten.
They remained silent for a while. Tony wanted to come closer to Gibbs but he didnít know if the older man would accept it.
-You didnít tell me who it was!
It took Gibbs a moment to understand what the man was talking about.
-You never lose the sense of priorities, do you?
-No, not when it counts.
-Itís not really important since it will never be more than a sweet dream .I wonít act on it.
-I doní t understand why. If it worth the risk, you should go for it.
-Itís so easy for you young man. You can have every single woman you look at.
-Maybe, but in the end Iím still alone. Itís not a question of love, itís only a question of need. Need to meet people, to be close to another human being, to share something but most of the time itís just a lie, nothing more.
Gibbs turned to look at Tony. He was a bite surprised by the young manís confession. He had always thought that Tony was enjoying the situation and that he liked playing that game. Today he could see that it was almost a burden to him.

-What a confession, Casanova!
-Now you know my secret! You should share one of your secret with me. Itís the rule.
-Must I remind you who had written those rules?
-You wrote yours. What about I begin to write mine. The first one would be : ď You must tell me who you are attracted toĒ.
-Thatís not a rule. That could be an order if you had any right to give me one but as Iím the boss I choose not to follow this rule.
They were interrupted by Ducky who entered the room holding his case. They hadnít heard him arrive.
-I am glad to see that you two spend such a good time on the kitchen floor. Your door wasnít locked like always so I came in.
Even if Ducky tried to sound light his was scared by his friendís palor. He could see that Gibbs was suffering from his injuries, much more than he would ever admit.
-You should join us, Ducky. Maybe you could convince him to tell who he is attracted to. He refused to tell me.
-Iím convinced that you would find a way to convince him Anthony. But for now I have a patient to check.
-I was quite comfortable here but he you insist I could use a bed.
-Isnít it sarcasm I can hear in your voice, Jethro? Donít try your chance with me, I may let you here.
-Forget about what I said, Ducky. I need your help.

Ducky saw the truth in his friendís eyes and he was disturbed by that simple admittance. It was not like him to let anyone see what he considered as weakness.
-Let me have a look at those bruises. Tony, could you help him staying straight while I examine him.
-Ok, boss. Let me help you. You just tell me if I hurt you.
-Letís go, Tony.
Ducky was amazed to see how close the two men had become in only two days. Something had obviously changed between them. He observed the two of them: heíd known Gibbs for years and he had never seen him trust someone like he seemed to trust Tony.
The younger was holding him with tenderness. Gibbs head rested on Tonyís shoulder. It seemed to be the most natural thing for both men. They were oblivion to the intimacy they shared.
Ducky looked back at Gibbsí injuries only to see that the bruises had spread since the last time he had bandaged Gibbsí ribs. He needed to rest and the time will do most of the job.

-Ok you must keep that bandage and in the morning I will have a look at those bruises but first you need to rest in a good bed with a couple of pain killers. Stay still while I go to my car searching for the pills. Then we will bring you to your bed.
-Iíll take care of him, Ducky.
-Iím sure of it, Anthony.
Ducky left the room letting the two men in a tight embrace. He headed to the car a smile on his face. Maybe something good would merge from this nightmare.

-Breath slowly, boss. Ducky will soon be back. The pills would help you.
-You donít mind if I stay like that for a while, Tony?
-Iím glad you find my shoulder comfortable and no... I donít mind.
-Thanks, Tony.
They heard noises come from the front door and Gibbs realised that his brother was coming. He couldnít stay here, his brother didnít need to see him like that. He had had enough to worry.
-Itís certainly Brian, he told us that he would bring diner. I hope itís some more of its Chili.
-Tony, help me up. I donít want him to see me like that.
-Donít be stupid youíll make your injuries worsen.

Gibbs had already began to stand up before Tony could catch him. He managed to stand but began to cough and bent on the kitchenís table unable to catch his breath.
-What are you trying to do, Jethro. You want to end in a hospital bed?
Gibbs was catching up his breath but he was still panting in Tonyís arms. Tony didnít want to let him go, he was more worried than he could admit.
-If you wanted me to hug you , you should have asked. There was no need to do all that show.
-Shit! Iím discovered!
-I told you, Jet. You should ask for what you want first.
Brian was trying not to show his concern but when he had a look at his brotherís face he couldnít help wincing.

-Hell, you look like shit. Why had you done that, once more? There should have been another way.
-There was no other choice to get him back to jail. It worthed the pain. Believe me.
-He may have killed you. I wouldnít have been able to go on without you , Jethro!
Brian wasní t able to hold back what he had felt seeing his brother hurt once more.
-You never thought of what might happen to you!
-Every plan has its failure!

Ducky chose this moment to intervene. He knew that both of them needed to sort things out but Gibbs was almost unable to stay up. The more urgent thing to do was to lay him in his bed.
-Young men, you will go on with this discussion later. This man need to rest in a soft bed. Tony could you carry him upstairs?
-I donít need anyone to carry me. I can walk!
Gibbs tried to make the step to the door but he fell immediatly in Tonyís arms. He had underestimated his exhaustion. His body didnít want to respond anymore.
-Ok, maybe I canít walk.
-Let me do that for you, boss.

Gibbs looked in the younger manís eyes and saw that Tony wasnít trying to make a joke. He was aware that Gibbs wouldnít be able to go to his bedroom and considering what he had been through today it was not amazing.
-Letís go. If you think you can handle me!
Tony was stronger than he had thought. He lifted him with ease and care. Gibbs closed his eyes because of the pain but mostly because he couldnít help the warmth that had invaded his body as he felt Tonyís strong arms around him. As they arrived in the bedroom, Tony delicatly put him on his bed.
-Here you are, safe and sound. Did you like the trip?
-Sure, I felt like a virgin wife after her marriage! Thanks, Tony.
Tony couldnít help laughing at Gibbsí reply and he was glad to see the weak smile that appeared on Gibbsí face.
-Well, young men. Now you go out and let me do what I am here for. Then a good night sleep for you , Jethro.
-Everything you say, Doctor.
Brian and Tony exited the bedroom and Tony couldnít help a last look at Gibbs who was now lying on his bed
-Iíll stay here tonight, boss so if you need anything just yell. I wouldnít be far.
-Thanks, Tony.
Gibbs was glad that Tony was staying the night even if he knew that he would sleep straight to the morning.

As the two men closed the door, Ducky sat on the bed next to Gibbs.
-I hadnít the occasion and the time to tell you exactly what I thought about what you did today.
-Ducky, it was the only way and nothing you could say would have made me change my mind. I had to put him out of our lives.
-I donít know the whole story between you and your father but I guess that was not the first time he had hit you.
-It was his favourite hobby when I was younger.
-God, I wished I had been wrong. But seeing the way you reacted I thought you had experienced this kind of situation before.
-I thought I had succeeded in forgetting a part of it but when I felt the first punch it all came back in a flash.
-I think you are wrong, my friend. There must have been another way. You shouldnít have needed to put your life in the line like that. You scared everyone at the office and I had never seen Anthony so worried and angry at the same time. Kate told me he was about to hit your father even after the guards had restrained him. Timothy had to stop him.

-Tony knew before we came to the office what my father could do.
-Thatís why you didnít tell him what you had planned. You shouldnít play with otherís feelings. You should be careful with the ones who cares, Jethro.
-I hadnít time to think about it. I knew I had to face him and he would not have been able to stay near me without becoming mad. I never understood why I had the effect on him. That was the only way to protect Brian.
-Oh, Jethro. What could have made you think that your life was less valuable than anyone elseís life. You are not expendable, Jethro and itís high time you realise that.
-I didnít want him to kill me if thatís what you think. I had never wanted it.
-Now you are lying, Jethro. I saw it in your eyes when you briefly regained conciouness in the office. You were relieved but there was something else that I wasnít able to decipher at that time.
-I had sometimes wished that it would finally be the last time. I even tried to end it myself once or twice but I always found reasons not to take that final step.
-And today on what did you hang on?
-You are well aware of who made me resist once more. I am not able to give up on him and I realised he counted even more than I had imagined.
Gibbs tried to turn to find a more comfortable position but Ducky had to help him.
-This conversation is over for now but you have to make me a promise. Please donít take so much risks without telling one of us.
-You have my promise that the next I would choose to face an angry bull I would invite you to the show.
-Iím glad to see that you are able to laugh with your own life. For now take those pills and sleep.
-Thanks, Ducky for being a true friend even when I am stupid.
-My pleasure , Jethro. Good night.
-Good night, Duck!

Gibbs was already asleep when Ducky closed the door and returned to the living room where Tony and Brian waited for him. Tony was the first to see the ME enter the room.
-How is he, Ducky?
-He is already asleep. He was exhausted and his weakness was caused by both the exhaustion and the trauma of seeing his father after all those years. Before you ask the next question, he will be fine. Physically his wounds will heal with some rest and painkillers. I am more concerned by his emotional health. He was pretty shaken by what happened today and he would need help to go on with his life.
Tony and Brian seemed to process the news and search for the apropriate answer.
-You know I will do what I can to help him but the main question is to know if he would accept this help.

It was Brian who answered the question.
-I think that if thereís someone that could help him itís you Tony. I saw how he trusts you and you are the first one to have come so close to him. Over the years I had learnt to observe him and I never saw him like he is with you.
-You know him better than I do Brian but he is not the kind of man who could let someone else see what he thinks are his weakness. And he would need to fully trust me with his worst nightmare. I donít know if he would be able to do that with anyone.
-Did he tell you what happened on the night Danny was killed?

-When I drove him here I realised what he had tried to hide and he told me but...
-He never told anyone. You are the only to know what happened to him this night. When I found him in the kitchen with Danny in his arms I tried to make him talk but he seemed alone in his mind.
It seemed hard for Brian to talk about these events.
-It took him two weeks to talk again when the judge told him that they would be obliged to free our father if he didnít tell her what happened. But even that day he only talked about Danny and what he couldnít hide. He had refused the doctors to examine him. For days I was the only one who could approach him.

Tonyís jaw was tensed and he had not realised that his fists were closed. He wished he could have done something to help him forget about everything. Sometimes he wished some fairy tales could come true. He felt Dukyís hand on his shoulder.
-You couldnít have done anything to avoid what happened this afternoon. You know how he could be when he had decided to act. It was his decision Tony.

-No, Ducky it never was his decision. He had always felt obliged to face his father. His mother had asked him to protect his brothers. She knew what his husband was able to do an dshe put a too heavy burden on the shoulders of an eight year old boy.
-Thatís Jethro who told you that?
-Yes, Brian.
-I didnít know that. He was with her when she died and he told me that she had just fallen asleep.
-You were too young to understand, Brian. He tried to make it easier for you.
Ducky was trying to reassure Brian but the day had been hard for him too and what Tony had just revealed to him had hit hard.

-Damm, Ducky. Gibbs was eight and she made him the one responsible for what could happen to his brothers. You donít see it. Itís as if she blames him for Dannyís death.
-She was dying , Anthony. She only wanted to be sure that there would be someone to look after them.
-So she made him pay the price. For almost ten years he took every blows, every insults thinking it was what his mother had asked him to do. And when his father killed Danny he thought he had failed. He hadnít been able to protect him.
-I know thereís no words to tell what he went through, Tony but it is not the right moment to talk about that.
Tony looked at Brian for the first time since the beginning of the conversation. The younger man was lost in his thoughts, tears running down his cheeks. He hadnít thought about him lost in his anger against Gibbsí parents.
They were both guilty for what had happened to him.
-Iím sorry Brian, I had no right to judge what your mother did. I let my anger spoke for me.
-No, Tony, you were right. She shouldnít have asked him to protect us. Jethro used to talk about her when we were alone in our bedroom. I didnít remember much about her and Danny was only a baby when she died. I think he wanted us to keep in mind the image of an ideal mother who had loved us.
-It wanted you to think there was someone that had loved you while what your offered you was anger and violence.
-He replaced her and him at the same time and he was only eight. He shouldnít have had to do it.
-Nobody should ever live what he had lived but he did it for you and the best way to thank him is to live the life he had ever wished for you.

Tony hadnít spoken for a while. He couldnít help feeling angry . Brian was not the one to blame he didnít want his anger to upset Gibbsí brother. His boss would never forgive him if he did so. He only began to imagine what could bond the two brothers. Ducky saw that Tony needed some times alone.
-I think itís time for everyone to go to bed. I guess that both of you are sleeping here tonight. Thereís a guestroom with a bed for two and the couch.
-Ducky, you take the bed, Brian could take the couch.
-Where would you sleep, Anthony?
-Someone needs to stay with Gibbs. Even if I know his injuries are not life threatening, he may have bad dreams and I donít want him to be alone if it happens.
-Itís nice of you, Anthony and I think you are the best for the job.
No more words were spoken whie they prepared for the night. They all had enough to think about on their own.
When Tony entered Gibbsí bedroom he was relieved to see him sound asleep. He took the armchair and put it next to the bed where he could see Gibbsí face. Looking at the fine lines drawn around his eyes he wondered how much time it would take for him properly heal after what he had been through.

Chapter five.

The meaning of love.

The next morning Gibbs woke up with the feeling that someone was looking at him. He didnít want to open his eyes, didnít want to see where he was. He had that strange feeling that he would better try to forget what had hapenned. His body told him that something bad had hapenned and he was able to remember that he had felt like that before.
It took him time to remember the events of the last two days. In this brief movement between sleep and awakeness he had been able to forget, to pretend that everything was as usual, that this story was only a bad dream and he was back in his life.
He secretly wished he should be able to go back in time and erase those damned two days in which his fears had come back.
He slowly opened his eyes looking at his surroundings. He could tell by the light in the room that he had slept later than usual, the day light was entering through the curtains.

He heard a moan coming from his left and as he turned his head he could see Tony still asleep on a chair beside his bed. His legs were curled on the armrest, his head bent on his torso. The young man must be very uncomfortable in this position. It would certainly not the way he would have chosen to sleep. He had to wake him up but he took some time to look at him, secretly wishing he would have the opportunity to tell him how he felt.
Gibbs sat on the edge of his bed. The pain he had endured the day before wasnít gone but it was far less overwhelming. His back and his ribs were still sore but he was able to move without wincing and fighting to catch his breath. He stood taking a second or two to find his balance and walked to the sleeping man. Putting a hand on his shoulder he tried to wake him up.
-Tony, wake up. You shouldnít have slept like that!

Tony had never been a morning man. Gibbs had seen him need an hour to finally be able to say a coherent sentence after a hard night. Tony lazily opened one eye, it took him time to focus before realising who was talking to him but even if he wasnít fully awake his face lightened with a warm smile. The one which could make Gibbsí heart melt.
-Hey, boss. Finally awake!
-Why are you sleeping on that chair beside my bed? How long have you stayed there?
The first answer Gibbs heard was a groan. Tony didnít seem to understand what is boss was saying.

-Too much questions, boss! Let me try to stand up, my legs are numb then you could eventually ask your questions, one at a time. My brain needs times to be powered in the morning.
Tony streched his legs and arms allowing Gibb to have a look at his firm body. The older man tried not to stare at his friend but the temptation was too hard to resist. Gibbs had already seen him at the gym but he had always refused to allow himself to look too obviously at him. Tonyís voice brought him out of his dream.

-Ok, I listen now. What do you want to know?
-Why have you spent the night on this chair?
Tony adopted that innocent look he was specialist of. Gibbs had seen him use it before. He knew too well that he would be forgiven whatever he may have done with this look.
-Ok, I admit I was worried for you. I didnít want you to stay alone if you had bad dreams. And I was right, the least I can say is that you hadnít a restful sleep. I wanted to be there if you needed me.
Gibbs tried to look angry but he couldnít hide that the concern he could read on Tonyís face flatered him.
-Thanks for finally answer my question but you didnít need to spend the night sleeping on a chair.
-I was sure you would say that. Thatís the reason why I didnít ask for your permission.

That kind of behaviour was new for Tony, he would never have done something that could have bothered Gibbs without asking first. It was obvious that something had changed in the way Tony acted with him and Gibbs wasnít sure it was for the best.
-You thought I would need your help but I didnít remember waking up once this night.
-The fact that you donít remember doesnít mean that you didnít have bad dream. In fact, you were pretty agitated some times.
-Thanks, Tony.
Gibbs saw that Tony was waiting for the next sacarstic reply that usually followed every thanks Gibbs gave him but nothing came.
-Did I hear you well? No reprimand, no slap at the back of the head. I should have tried the bed.
-Donít ever try this if you want to live.
Tony laughed at the thought of Gibbsí reaction if he had woken up with Tony asleep at his side.

-Ok, boss. I woní t try but the next time you take the chair. How are you feeling?
-Much better than yesterday but not enough to sleep on a chair.
Tony smiled at him reassured by the way Gibbs was joking. He could still see the sadness and the anger in his eyes but for the first time he could hope that one day Gibbs would be able to finally heal.
-Now, itís coffee time. I think we shouldnít let Brian and Ducky alone in your kitchen.
-They also stayed the night?
-Your brother let Ducky sleep in the guest room and took the couch. You canít get rid of the family, Gibbs.
The last sentence made Gibbs shiver. He had always considered his team members as his true family but it had never been so true than today. They all have spent the night at his home only to be sure he would be fine. Nobody had ever done that for him without being payed to do so.

-So, they let you with the chair?
-I voluntered besides it was a chair in your bedroom or a carpet in your basement and itís freezing cold down there.
-There was no need for the three of you to stay the night.
-Itís what a family does. Thay take care of their own.
Tony had approached him while speaking. It was far too dangerous to have this kind of conversation with Tony so close to him. Tony would be able to see how his words were affecting him. He had never dreamt of Tony considering him as a family and it was an overwhelming feeling.
He had always refused to be too close to anyone and this man had succeeded in moving him, coming down his radar. He realised he had missed a question Tony had asked when the younger put a hand on his arm.
-Jethro, is something wrong? Did I say something I shouldnít have said?
-No, Tony. You didnít say anything wrong. I was just thinking of your choice of word. I had wished for a family for years and I didnít axpect it to take this form.
-What? You donít see it? Brian is already your brother, you are the elder, the wiser should I say, Ducky could be your uncle and me , I should be...
-My guardian angel?

Tony seemed to take his time to think of the proposition.
-Why not? But donít call me Jimmy Cricket or our deal is out!
-Itís a full-time job, you know. You are sure to be up for the job?
Gibbs was playing the game Tony had begun but his question was not as innocent as it could seem and Tony realised it. He looked right in Gibbsí eyes when he answered.
-I havenít planned to go far from you for the next week and you could rely on me whatever you need.
-Iím not used having someone looking at me, Tony.
-Itís high time you begin to think of yourself. And as you donít seem to be able to do so I would do that for you.
Gibbs seemed to think about what Tony had just said. He must admit that he wouldnít have guessed that Tony cared so much and even if he was glad he was not sure to be able to deal with it. He had to be honest with Tony.

-You donít need to do that, you donít owe me anything, Tony.
-What? You donít want me as guardian angel. So I could be...
-The youngest brother of the family. Iím sure Danny would have agreed to let you use the title.
Tony looked seriously at Gibbs searching for irony but the only thing he could see in his eyes was sadness and what he had never seen before some kind of tenderness.
-I would be honored to be the youngest of the family. As far as I am not the one who does all the chores.
Gibbs laughed at Tony last remark, it reminded him of Brian who always pouted when it was time to tidy his bedroom. Tony seemed to be the only one able to make him laugh so freely and it was good.
-You would have to do what goes with the status. .. We would make a weird family.
-If you are nasty with me I would go and tell Ducky. I like the idea of being the youngest finally. You will be punished and be obliged to hear one of his never ending story.

It felt good to babble like that with Tony. Even if their discussion could have seemed childish it made Gibbs feel more comfortable with his feelings. Tonyís attitude toward him had changed. The young man seemed more relaxed like he had realised that his boss was also a man who could have emotions.
-Iím sure you were a nice young boy when you were a child. The kind other kids couldnít stand. Always the best in whatever you did.
-I wasnít always the best but I was, in fact an unbearable child. An only child who always obtained whatever he wanted.
-How did you manage to become the man you are?
-I met someone who taught me that life was not a fairy tale where you only had to ask for what you wanted. He showed me that I would have to fight for what I wished and not wait for someone else to give it to me.
-He did a pretty good job. But have you reached your goals?
-Mostly, yes even if there are still things I want to do.
-And can you tell me who that guy was?
-Itís someone I met at the University. I acted there like everything was due to me. I always tried to impress people, I showed off but he wasnít impressed by my family or the money I could have. He saw behind the appearances and made me realise that I was someone and not only the son of someone.
Gibbs didnít miss the sadness in Tonyís eyes and wondered what kind a childhood Tony had really had. There were still things he didnít know about him.

-I didnít always want to hear what he had to say but he was not afraid by me so little by little I began to listen and learn. Sometimes you remind me of him. You always tell me the truth whatever it might cost, how hard it could be. I know that you would never lie to me and itís reassuring.
Tony smiled at Gibbs hoping that he would understand how important it was to him.
-You are a good agent, Tony. I know I donít tell you so often. More than that you are a good man and in my standards I didnít meet many people about whom I would have said that.
Tony didnít know what to say. He had thought that Gibbs had such a high opinion about him.
-Stop with compliments, I could get used to that, boss. What about a coffee?
The change of subject was a bite abrupt and it didnít escape Gibbs that there were some parts of his life that Tony didnít want to share. Gibbs couldnít blame him for that.
-I follow you , lead the way.

The two men headed to the kitchen. Gibbs walked slowly and was aware that Tony was waiting for him. The young man was still in mother hen mode but Gibbs didnít care. He was glad of the evolution of their relationship in the last two days and he liked the way they were now bonded.
It was easier for him to trust Tony now that he knew what had happened to him. He had nothing to hide anymore and it was a relief to be allowed to really be himself in front of his friend.
They heard voices coming from the kitchen. Obviously, Ducky was telling Brian one of his favourite tale. Ducky stopped when the two men entered the room.
-Hey, you two. How are you feeling, Jet?
-Much better but I think that Tony would need a massage and a hot bath to ease the pain he would certainly feel after a night spent on a chair.
-I thought you have decided to be nice with me, today.
-It was nice, Tony. Besides I never promised that!
Brian looked at Ducky trying to see if the ME knew what they were talking about but he seemed as lost as he was.

-I think weíve missed something, Ducky. Would you like to share your secrets with the two us, Jet?
-Tony thinks we can build a new family and he volunteered to be my guardian angel.
-You didnít have to tell them about our agreement!
-Itís you who talked about family, Tony. Remember?
-Ok, I surrender. You are the boss here.
-Iím glad to see you in such a good mood. But Iím not sure I would agree with what you reserved to me.
-Oh, Come on Uncle Duck.
-Anthony, if you want me to play that kind of game, letís go!
Tony and Gibbs were suddenly afraid of the smile that appeared on their friendís face.
-To begin, you two sit down and have a real breakfast and not just a cup of coffee. You must eat something. You know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you the strenght for the day. A good breakfast must have vitamins, cereals and milk...

The three men seated around the table were smiling, looking at Ducky while he was babbling. They broke into laugh when the older man stopped in front of them a bottle of orange juice in one hand and cereal box in the other hand.
-What? You wanted me to be your uncle? So itís my job to teach you how to take care of yourself! Thatís not what uncles do?
-The only thing my uncle taught me was to shut up when he was watching a baseball game on TV and where the beers were so I could bring him one when he had finished with the one he was drinking. Besides I didnít even like baseball!
-Poor Anthony! You should know that baseball is inspired by an ancient english game...
Gibbs knew how long Duckyís stories could be and he wouldnít be able to hear one more without a coffee in his hands. He must stop him now if they wanted to eat their breakfast before midday.
-Ducky, coffee, now please!
-There is something new. You learnt to say please during the night?
-Thatís funny, Ducky but I really need a coffee!
-Ok, Jethro. Iíll give you your favourite drug but you have to promise me to eat something. You will need it to heal properly. And here itís the doctor speking not the uncle.
-Iíll take a toast and a big black coffee; Satisfied, doc?
-Not really but I guess I must be happy with that!

The four men ate in silence. Gibbs surprised himself wishing this moment would last a little longer. He was savouring the quietness of being with his friends. There was no need to talk, he could just enjoy the moment. But Brian was the first to break the peaceful silence.
-I love being there with you but we are not all in holidays and I have a lot of poor students that need my lights.
Brian stood, followed by Ducky who was finishing his orange juice.
-I have to go too. The deads wonít wait and my boss is sometimes a little angsty when the job isnít done in time.
-Ducky, your boss is on medical leave for at least one week so I donít think you need to hurry.
Gibbs turned to look at Tony and saw that genuine smile on the young manís face.
-Dinozzo, thatís not because Iím not here to kick their ass that the job doesnít have to be done!
-I donít like when you call me by my name. Thatís not a good sign! It remind me of my father. Ducky, Brian donít leave me alone with him!
The two men couldnít help laughing at the face Gibbs made. Tony was enjoying himself and didnít want to stop.
-You know how he can be. I donít know why but he is always mad at me even if Iím the nicest guy of the world.
-Now, you are pathetic, Anthony. You are a grown man. I have seen you face terrorrists and Generals and you are afraid of your boss?
Tony tried to look afraid but he liked the idea of spending the days alone with Gibbs.
-You would be responsible for what could happen to me. So, boss. Itís just the two of us, today!
Gibbs didnít seem to pay attention to Tonyís words. He was looking at his brother ignoring the young man next to him.
-If you donít hurry, you will be late, Bri! Donít let your students alone. You know how the youngers could be. Look at Tony.
-Sure, Jet. Iíll see you tonight. Try not to be nasty with Tony.
-Iíll call you to check if everything is fine, Jethro!
-Yes, Ducky. Thanks for support!

The two men exited the room still laughing at their friendís childish attitude. Brian was still worried for his brother. Even if Jethro had always been able to go through every tough events he felt that this time it would be more difficult for him. Ducky seemed to read his mind and put a reassuring hand on his arm as they walked to the car.
-Donít worry, he will be fine. With some time and Tonyís help.
-Are you sure he would be able to heal?
-They are building a new relationship even if they donít realise it for now.
-So, you know how Jethro feels about Tony?
-I am aware that Jethro sees Tony as much more than a friend.
-He is in love with him. Iíve seen him like that before. If Tony turns him down he wouldnít be able to stand it.
-Iím sure that Tony feels the same. The main question is to know if he would realise it soon enough. I will talk with him. I donít want them to miss a chance to be happy.
-You are a dangerous man, Doctor Mallard!

Gibbs was now silent savouring his second cup of coffee. He had always thought that the second one was the best one. The first was only necessary to open his mind but the second one was for the pleasure of the bitter taste. It had taken him time to find again pleasure drinking coffee. It had for a long time meant the need to stay awake to avoid his father hurting his brothers.
Tony was looking at him and didnít like the sadness that had reappeared in his eyes. He had to distract him from the thoughts that were running through his mind.

-You didnít eat your toast, boss. You promised.
-Yeah but I needed some more coffee first.
-How can you drink stuff like that with no sugar or cream?
As soon as he had said the word he had regretted it.
-Old habits die hard. I used to drink it black since I am twelve.
Well played Dinozzo! He wanted to make him think of something else than his past and he had asked the question he shouldnít have. But now he had opened that gate he couldnít close it now.
-A twelve year old boy doesnít drink coffee!
-A twelve year old boy shouldnít have to stay awake to be sure his two brothers would live another day without being hurt, to allow them to sleep quietly.

Tony didnít know what to reply. He wasnít even sure Gibbs had spoken to him. He didnít seem to have realised what he was saying.
-It was a great responsibility for a child but you did well with Brian. He is a good man and he loves you.
-Who he became is more the fact of his foster family than mine. They helped him when he needed the most.
-I think youíre wrong. You made him strong enough to accept the help he needed. You showed him he could proud of who he was. You donít see the way he looks at you. You are not only his brother but the father he dreamt of when he was a child.
-You are amazing sometimes, Tony. How have you learnt to observe people like that? Iíve already seen you do that with suspects or victims even if itís not a part of your job. I didnít hire you as a profiler but you seem to be able to profile sometimes better than Kate.

-Justin, the man I told you about studied psychology at the university. I helped him learning and he taught me how to analyse peopleís actions or read the signs that everyone unwillingly sends. He used to tell me that I had to know people I cared about to keep them with me.
-He was certainly right but itís not because you can tell what someone desire that you would be able to make them stay. I knew what each of my ex-wives wanted but I was unable to give it to them.
-What was so important for them that they couldnít stay with you?
-Even if none of them told me I knew that they wanted a real family but I wasnít ready to have a baby. I would never have risked making a child unhappy.
-Iím sure you would have been a great father. You are not like him. Iíve seen you with many children, you were careful and gentle with them. Itís something you have in you, you canít pretend with kids. They are able to see through people and when you talked to the kids we met they saw the that you were honest with them.
-Itís something to know how to deal with kids when they are not yours but itís more difficult to raise your own child.

Gibbs wasnít at ease talking about something so intimate with Tony. His marriages hadnít really been success stories and even now it was hard for him to face the reasons why they had failed.
-Youíve never wanted to have a child?
-I never found someone I wanted a child with. Besides Iím not sure I would be able to have a kid and give him the time he deserves. I donít want to do the same mistakes my father did with me. He gave me whatever I wanted but he didnít really understand that what I wanted the most was to be with him.
-Everything seems to bring us back to the place the father have in our life.
-It seems so. But there is one more reason that is more selfish. I love my way of life and Iím not ready to give it up. I love my independance.
-But you never wanted to have someone with you when you go home, some to share your life with?
-Not if I have to give up what I have. My friends, my job.
-The women you met at the office, in the bars, doing your jogging...
-What are you implying, boss? I like flirting but I donít sleep with every woman I meet.

Even if Gibbs had said it with a smile, Tony could hear the hidden reproach behind the words.
-Donít tell me that Samantha, Anita, Melany donít exist!...
-You wrote a list. You really have time to loose. I wasnít aware that you were so attentive to my love life. For your information, my last loverís name was Chris and we broke up before I joined the NCIS. Iím not always the childish man you seem to see in me.
-Iím not as good as you at deciphering peopleís personnality. Iíve begun to realise that Iíve made a lot of mistakes with you. Iím sorry if I hurt you sometimes.
-I should say the same thing to you. Three days ago, I would have said that you were my boss and would never have seen you as more than a team mate, that you were unable to let someone get close to you. And look at us today, we even slept together last night!
Both men laughed at that statement but Gibbsí laugh faded as he realised what Tony had just said. If only he wasnít joking about it but it was good to laugh and see the man he loved smile back at him.
Gibbs had the intuition that it was the day to test his chance even if it was risky.

-It seems that you and Justin had been close friends?
-Yeah, we were like you and Ethan. We stayed in contact until he went to San Francisco. He wanted me to follow but it was too far, too soon so we parted good friends. But we are still friends.
-You talk about him as if he had been much more than just a friend.
It was more a statement that a real question and Tony hesitated before answering.

-You guessed well, like always, boss.
Gibbs didnít react and Tony felt a bite angry that his boss didnít seem to accept it.
-Did it shock you? If you really want to know the whole story, Justin had been my first lover. He was nice with me and I guess that you can say that he was the first to show me what being in love meant.
Gibbs couldnít say anything. He would never have guessed that Tony had ever been with another man. He didnít know what he had searched for by asking him that question but certainly not for that kind of confession.
Tony couldnít help feeling angry at Gibbs attitude toward his revelation. He had never talked about his past love life before but he had wished that no matter who he had loved, Gibbs would still see him like he always had. But today the older man seemed to be unable to accept what he had revealed.
-Does it change anything that I should have been with a man, that I love both men and women? I know that it doesnít match with your idea of what should be but itís a part of who I am.
Gibbs remained silent even if he knew that Tony was misunderstanding him. He couldnít find something to say, something that could make him understand what it meant to him. He had never wished he would hear him say something like that.
He had thought he knew him and he would never have guessed that a man like him should be interested in another man. He was so lost in his thoughts that he didnít realise that Tony was staring at him.
Tonyís anger had raised seing that the man before him didnít react.

-Thatís it Jethro? Too much information for you boss?
Still nothing. He would have prefered to be hit or yelled at but Gibbs stayed there looking at him.
-I Ďd better go. I guess there is no place for me in your family anymore. It was good to share it with you the time it lasted. Bye, Boss. Iíll ask Morrow for a new assignation.
Tony knew he was over reacting but he couldnít help feeling upset by Gibbs non reaction. He had to make him say something in a way or another. But even the threat of him being assigned to another team didnít make him move.
-Donít tell me that you never met gay men before. I suppose that Marines are not used to tolerate such weakness. But you know what? I donít care. I learnt years ago that I didnít need otherís agreement.
-Tony I donít... I didnít know.
Gibbs had tried to explain what he felt but his words had sounded desperate even to himself. He couldnít face him anymore. He realised in an instant what this revelation really meant to him. If Tony had been attracted to men all those years and had never told him anything, it could only be because he felt nothing for him.
He had seen all his hopes vanish before him. Even if he would never have done anything to show him how much he cared he had always hope that Tony would do something.
-I guess that you said all you had to! If I had known I would never have said anything and would have gone on hiding my preferences.
Tony stood up and walked to the front door without looking back at Gibbs who hadnít moved from the couch. The older man jerked as Tony shut violently the front door. How could he always manage to make the worse happen? Ten minutes ago they were laughing at the same jokes and now he was gone. He had hurt the only one he really cared about.

He was unable to move, frozen inside. The feeling of loose was almost unbearable. The only thing he could do was to take the phone and call the pre registred number of Duckyís lab. The ME was the only one he could talk to.
-Doctor Mallard speaking.
-Itís Gibbs.
Ducky could hear the tremors in Gibbsí voice and guessed that something had gone wrong with his friends.
-Are you fine, Jethro? Where is Tony?
-He is gone, Ducky. He told me about his past lovers and ...
-What did you tell him, Jethro?
-Nothing and I think it was worse. He would have prefered me to yell at him but I couldnít.
-Jethro, Iím sorry.
-Ducky, he thinks that I found it wrong that he could have been with a man.
Ducky didnít like the laugh he heard from Gibbs after that sentence. He knew his friend was on the edge of breaking down and he couldnít do anything from here.
-Jethro, you stay where you are and I would bring him back.
-I canít stand loosing him, Ducky. He misunderstood my reaction.
-I know, Jethro. I will tell him and I come to your house.
-Thanks, Ducky.

As he hang down Jethro lie down on his couch. He hadnít felt so empty since that day when his father had stolen his soul. The day his nightmare had began. He couldnít move and breathing seemed to be harder and harder as he thought about what he had lost. He was exhausted of fighting and he needed to let go for once.
He managed to walk to his bedroom where he found the little box he was hiding in his dresser. Ethanís last letter was there where he had put ot years ago. He sat on the edge of his bed wondering if he would be able to read it.

Ducky was worried as he drove to Tonyís appartment. Things had turned wong between the two friends and he didnít know if he would be able to make them talk again. It was amazing how alike they could be but in the same time they seemed unable to communicate.
They needed help and Ducky was there as a mediator. So he was there in front of Tonyís door wondering if he could knock or just enter. He could only hope that he would be able to find the right words to convince the young man that Gibbs wasnít disturb by what he had said. But he couldnít betray the secret Gibbs had told him.
He tried to open the door which was unlocked. One more ressemblance betwen the two of them. As he entered the room he could feel that something was wrong and that Tony was grieving. The stores were shut and the soft sound he heard coming from the audio system was classic music. The kind of music you listen to when the mood is quite dark.
Tony was on his couch, a glass of wine in his hands, head bent, eyes shut. Definetly not a good sign. Ducky knew he would have to play a tight game. Tony would not be easy to convince.
-Hey, Anthony. What are you doing here alone in the dark? You were supposed to play guardian angel, today?
-I donít want to play anymore, especially with someone who is disgusted by who I am.
As Tony looked up at him Ducky could see that he had cried.
-Same question, Duck. Why are you here? You are on a mission from the boss? He sent you to repair the damages? Good try from him but Iím not interested in being a member of his family. I had to hide for too long.
Ducky could hear the bitterness in Tonyís voice and he couldnít blame him. He knew too well how it was like to feel rejected by your friends.

-I think you could have, at least, listened to what he had to say. You dropped your bombshell and went away. Gibbs is a man who needs time especially after what happened to him. I hoped that you knew him better than that.
-I didnít need him to say anything. All I had to know I could see it in his eyes when he looked at me.
-I can tell you that whatever you thought Gibbsí behaviour meant, you are wrong. He might sometimes be a bastard as he likes to call himself but he is not the kind of man to judge people. He is not as intolerant as you think he is.
-Oh, I see! It must be me, so. He canít stand me being gay. Why? Have I come too close to him. Is he afraid of me?
-You may be not far from the truth. He might be afraid of you but not for the reason you believe. The last days had been hard for everyone but especially for him. He had been obliged to face his worst fears and he trusted you enough to let you help. And believe or not, I know him for years and it is not something he could do easily.
-If I follow you, itís my fault that he couldnít bear my sexual preferences. I didnít do it to upset him, you know. He asked and I felt I could be honest with him. He didnít say anything, he was there, looking at me without really seeing me. It was as if I had became invisible. I had seen this kind of look already and I could not stand it from him. I was so angry that he could feel disgusted or disturbed.

-Tony, what did you expect from him? In two days he had seen his past come back in the worst way. He had had to face the man who had abused and bashed him. He thought he had been able to forget it.
Tony was amazed to hear Ducky talk about the agression. He knew that Gibbs hadnít told him.
-No, Tony he hadnít told me but he didnít need. You have to understand how hard it could have been for him to let his father hit him once more in order to send him to jail. The only anchor to sanity was you. He hung on you, Tony.
-Iíve seen him face the worst terrorrists and he appeared to be the man who is afraid of anything. You exagerate Ducky.
-No, I donít Tony. And I donít think it was a good time to let him alone. So if you want to come with me Iíll go and check if he is fine.
-I donít think that he wants to see me so Iíll pass this time.
-Do as you wish young man but you are only avoiding the real reason why you are angry at him. I will be there when you open your eyes but I donít think Jethro would be able to wait for you.
-He didnít need me.
-I donít know if he really wants to fight now.
Ducky headed to the door hoping that the young man would change his mind. But he was too stuborn to see that he had made a big mistake. He would eventually realise what he had made. The only thing that Ducky could hope was that it wonít be too late for them.
For now, he had to take care about his friend and let Tony thing about what really mattered to him.

As he entered Gibbs house he heard no sound. Gibbs was not in the living room. The first room Ducky checked was the basement where Gibbs was building his boat. He had seen him work on his boat for hours. This boat had always been like a therapy for him after each tough cases even after his divorces. He began to worry when he found noone there.
-Jethro, itís Ducky.

No answers. He climbed the stairs in a hurry. He had never thought of Gibbs as someone who could try suicide but he didnít really know what he could do after what had happened lately. He was in front of the bedroom not really sure of what he would find behind it. He had experienced fear before but today it was different for him. It had seen friends dead or hurt but Jethro was special for him. He had always been.
-Jethro, may I come in?
He pushed the door. The light from a small lamp on the nightstand made him able to see his friend sat on his bed.
-Iím here, Ducky. Come in.
Gibbs looked up at him from his position.
-I suppose Tony didnít follow you. Is he fine?
-Our Anthony is fine but Iím more worried about you, my friend. Anthony had let his anger blind him but with time he would go over it and come back.
-I donít know if I can wait for him, Ducky.
Ducky could hear that his friend was exhausted and that he wouldnít have the strenght to endure one more traumatising event.
-What are you looking at?
-Just old photographs and a letter I canít open.
-Itís a bite dark here to look at photographs.
-Yeah I guess but I donít need any light to see what they paint.

Ducky had never heard him so resigned. It was not like him to give up so easily and it was surely a good sign. He was now afraid that Tonyís reaction had made more damage to Gibbsí soul that he had thought.
-Can I have a look at those photographs?
-Sure they are the only ones I got from the family. Just the three of us, I burnt those where my father was. Here is Danny.
-You two had the same eyes. He seemed to be a good boy.
-He was. This night he tried to save me. He was the bravest kid I knew. It should have been me.
-It was not your fault, Jethro. You couldnít have changed anything. If you had been killed this night what do you think would have happened to your brothers? You were too young to do anything as you were unable to react differently to Tonyís speech.
-What had he told you?
-Well he seemed angry but he is smart enough to see that he had made a mistake.
-I canít blame him. I should have said something to make him stay.
-Maybe but he should have understood what you were going through and stay to help you.
-Ducky, you donít understand. Tony had to hide who he really was to anyone and when he thought he had found someone he could trust, the only thing he was offered was silence.
-You donít have to defend him, Jethro. You have too many things to think about for now. Did you eat something this morning?
-Yeah but I was unable to keep it. It seems that my body doesnít want to endure more mistreatment.
-Let me examine you. You may have a concussion.
-Iím fine Ducky. I will go over it. You know me, Ducky. I just need time and everything will return to normal.
-Sure, my friend. I know you will need time to heal and Iím not talking about your physical wounds here. The thing I know is that you would need him to do that and you too are well aware of that.
-I will do without him if I have to, Ducky.
-You should phone him. You have to clear things between you. If you donít do it for yourself you have to do it for the team. You know that Tony would ask for a transfert if he thinks that you donít trust him.
-You are right Ducky. Iíll do it but I donít have the strength to confronte him today.
-Now, Jethro. You canít delay that discussion. He is at his appartment. I wonít let you unless you promise me to call him. You will feel better after talking to him.

Ducky could sometimes be more stubborn than himself but he had always been a precious friend.
-Give me the phone and go back to work. You wasted enough time today.
-Itís never a waste of time when you do it for friends in need.
-Thanks, Ducky.
-Iíll check on you later.

Gibbs was now alone in his bedroom, sat on his bed with his phone in one hand not able to convince himself that it was the thing to do. He finally dialed Tonyís number and waited for the young man to answer.
-Tony, itís Jethro. Donít hang down.
He knew what he had to do but it didnít make it easier. He wanted Tony to know that he didnít mean to hurt him but as always it was easier said than done.
-I have to apologize for what I did today. I shouldnít have reacted like that but I was surprised by what you said. I would never have guessed but it doesnít change anyhting between us.
-Not really I should go on like that for hours but it wouldnít change anything, would it? You made up your mind on what I thought and who I was.
-Your actions speak for you , boss. Like always.
-I owe you an explanation but not on the phone. Can I come to see you? There are things you need to know. After that you could do whatever you want to.
-I still have your car.
-Iíll take a cab but I need to talk to you.
He didnít even hope that Tony would forgive him but he had to try to make things better.
-I will come to your house. I doní want you to take a cab in your state. It wouldnít be good for your back. Donít move. Iíll be there in ten minutes.
-Thank you, Tony.
-I will listen. I donít know if I would be able to forgive you.
-Sure, Tony.

Chapter six.

A letter from the past.

Jethro had hung down the phone and was still on his bed. Tony had accepted to talk but he knew that nothing was won. He had to convince Tony that he was not disturbed by what he had said without showing his own feelings. Tony was not attracted to him and Jethro was not ready to loose him as a friend for a false dream. He knew that he needed him.
He sat there with Ethanís letter in his hands not really sure what to do next. It was perhaps high time for him to read it. He opened it and began to read. Little by little the tears began to run down his cheeks. Ethan had always been his link with life and even now he was dead he was sending him a message that he couldnít ignore.

He was there in his bedroom crying, when Tony opened the bedroom door. Gibbsí back was turned to the door and he didnít see the young man enter the room.
-Hey, boss. What are you doing in the dark?
Tony sat on the bed next to Gibbs. The next thing he saw was Gibbsí eyes. They were red and swollen. He could still see wet marks on his cheeks. He had never seen him cry before and he didnít really know how to react.
-What happened, Boss? Is there something wrong?
-No, Tony. I was just reading an old letter. It brought back old memories. Thatís all, Tony. Iím sorry.
He knew he had to go straight to the facts and apologise before Tony ran away from him.
-I had a bad reaction when you told me about Justin. But it was not because I disapproved. Your private life should be none of my buisiness but it was a shock for me that Iíd never been able to see it before.
-Great speech, you prepared it.
Tony knew that his sharp tone would not improve their situation but he was still too angry at him to pretend everything was fine. He had been deceived by his reaction and he couldnít forget about it so easily. Gibbs was the man he respected the most and he hadnít taken well to feel judged and condemned by him.

-Well, not really. I thought that you would appreciate honesty but it seems that whatever I should say you would not forgive me. I can say that I would have reacted differently if you had said it at another time. But in fact I donít know. I was taken aback by your confession but it doesnít matter anymore.
-What are you trying to say?
Tony was suddenly worried by Gibbsí resignated tone.

-I decided to ask for early retirement. I donít think I would be able to handle the job and all the stress now. And before you ask, it has nothing to do with you. Itís only me and my ability to do the job.
Tony couldnít stand what he was hearing. Gibbs couldnít give up on the team like that.
-You canít do that. We need you, the team needs you. You canít just give up like that. What would you do?
-I donít know. Maybe finish my boat, try to build a new life. And I need time to do that.
-I canít believe that it is you who say that. Iíve never seen you as a coward, someone who runs away but thatís what you do. You are fleeing.
-Thatís not what I do. I gave all I had and I have nothing left to give. I donít want to hide myself behind the job anymore.
-Off course, thatís what you do. You said that you wonít be able to handle the job. Why? Because of what happened the last three days or because you canít trust me anymore? I should be the one to go, so.
Tony couldnít hide his anger.

-You are wrong, Tony. Iíve always trusted and I would trust with my life no matter what you can say. Iím just tired of pretending to be strong, to be the one in charge. I donít want to be in charge anymore.
-So you choose to be alone instead. To turn your back on what is your life. Would it be easier to grieve on what you life should have been if there is noone around.
For the first time in years Gibbs felt the need to be honest in front of Tony, to make him realise how he felt.
-I want that nightmare to end. I donít want to dream every night that Iím back in the basement where he locked me when he wanted to be alone, to see Dannyís body fall, to feel his hands on me...
Gibbs was breathless. It was almost unbearable to see him so helpless. Gibbs was a strong man and it was the way that Tony sees him. He had always been able to keep control on everyone and everything but today he seemed lost, traumatised by his past.

-I donít want to see pity in my friendís eyes. And donít want to be the one who had been bashed in their eyes. I donít want to loose my friends because I am unable to love them. I donít want to loose you, Tony but I know that I have nothing to offer for now.
-What make you think that you have to loose someone. When I offered my friendship, I didnít wait for something in return. I wanted to be here for you.
Gibbs winced at the use of the past tense. Nothing had gone as he had hoped and now he was in front of his friend and he didnít know what he had to do.
-You need help. And Iím sure that doing your job would be an important part of the healing process. Giving up in not the solution. Take a little more time to think about it before doing anyhting stupid.
-You may be right but for now I donít see what I could do to feel better.
-You didnít sleep well for two days and didnít eat properly neither. You canít go on like that. Iíll prepare something to eat and then you would take a nap. You canít make such a decision in the state you are.
Gibbs tried to smile but he had no strenght left and only managed a grin. He couldnít help feeling relieved at Tonyís light tone. He was glad that he had decided to stay.
-I didnít know that you could cook.
-You can hardly call what I o cooking but I learnt to cook pastas with my grandmother.
-Letís go for pastas, so. Everything you need is in the kitchen. I just take a quick shower.

Tony was dressing the table when Gibbs entered the kitchen his hair still damp from the shower. Tony couldnít help staring at him. The man didnít seem to be aware of his charm, of the strenght that still radiated from him.
-It smells good.
-Just sit and try it.
-Iím not very hungry but I promised...
Gibbs ate half his plate in silence and looked up at Tony. He realised that the younger man was studying him.
-Can I have a coffee, now?
-You didnít eat all your plate? You promised but itís a good start. But no coffee for you otherwise you wouldnít be able to sleep. You donít need to stay awake now. Your father is not here to threaten you or Brian anymore. Besides I would stay here if anything happen.
-Promise me one thing. You would not sleep on a chair.
-Deal! Iíve always dreamt of sharing a bed with you. Now go to sleep, Iíll awake you for dinner.
-Sure Tony. youíll stay here?
Even if he didnít want Tony to think he needed him, he had to be sure Tony wouldnít leave.
-Wonít go anywhere, boss.

Tony was now alone in the kitchen washing the dishes. It allowed him to think about what had happened since his arrival at Gibbsí house. He had found him crying and couldnít help wondering what Ethan could have writen on this letter.
He had seen Gibbs put it on a box in his bedroom. He was an investigator and he wanted to know what was in this letter. It may help him figuring out what was eating Gibbs inside.
He walked to the bedroom and opened the door. Gibbs seemed to be asleep. He looked at him for a while, seeing for the first time that his bruises had spread and taken a blue taint. It reminded him of his fear when he had seen him uncouncious on the floor of the office.

He forgot about the letter and sat on the bed beside the sleeping man.
Gibbs opened his eyes.
-Sorry to wake you, boss.
-Whatís up, Tony?
-Nothing. I just wanted to be sure you were fine.
Tony looked up at the box where Gibbs had hiden the letter. Gibbs followed his gaze and understood immediatly what his friend were thinking.
-You can read it if you want. I donít want to hide anything from you. I think it could enlighten some things.
-I donít need to read it but I wonít lie to you. Iím curious to know what could make you feel so sad.
-It was not really sadness. It was more regrets about things I should have done or said.
Tony stood up and opened the little box. He took the photographs and smiled at the look of a young Gibbs. He could recognize Brian too.
-Is it Danny?
-Yeah, my father had a little camera. We used to borrow it. It was Ethan who took this one.
-Youíre sure you want me to read it?
-Yeah, Tony. it might explain you what Iím unable to tell you.
Tony opened the white envelop. The hand writing was regular. Tony read it out loud.

ď I donít know if I would ever be able to send this letter to you but I think that I needed to write some things down. The last time I saw you was the worst day of my life and yours for sure.
You were in the middle of this tribunal, a lot of people around you but you seemed to be alone, so lost that it was almost unbearable fo me to look at you. You had lost that brightness in your eyes that made you so special to me.
I know what he had done to you even if I only realised what it really meant years later. I should have stopped him, I should have stayed with you. I wish you could forgive me for abandoning you there. I canít forgive myself.
I loved you, Jethro and I think I still do. You were so brave, so strong and so alive despite of what you had gone through every day of your young life.
I hope you had the life you deserved. I could only hope that you finally found someone who could offer you what I had been unable to give. You deserve to be loved.
I donít know what you felt when I kissed you but it was special to me. It meant a lot that you allowed me to be so close to you. You were my best friend and what we shared meant a lot to me.
I wish I should have been able to save you, to say the words you needed to hear. I loved you so much and I wanted to show how good it was to be loved, to share this love with someone else.
Love worth the risk. If you ever feel what I felt for you when we were kids, go for it. Donít let it fly away.
I hope you will one day read this letter and that it will find you happy with the one you love. You must know something : you have been loved and I hope that you have found the strength not to let your past ruin your life.
Your father was wrong, there is nothing wrong in being loved and love in return . love as nothing to do with the colour or the gender of the one you love.
Donít forget me like I will never forget you. Take care.

Tony was stunned to read it and as he turned to look at Gibbs he saw that the older man was staring at him with wet eyes. Gibbs had been right, it enlightened some of his reactions.
There was so much love in those words. Tony hadnít been aware of what they had shared and missed. He understood why Gibbs had been shocked by his revelations. The last time that Gibbs had been close to another man, he had been badly abused and the man he loved had gone away.
-He seemed to really love you.
-Ethan had writen it years ago and I only read it today.
-Why havenít you seen him after that day. You could have been happy with him. What prevented you from being with him?
-I couldnít see him without remembering what we had done. When I kissed him it was something special. Iíve never felt that with anyone else. But it was tainted by what happened after.
-It must have been hard for you to see him at the trial.
-I didnít really see him. I was absent. They called it post-traumatic shock. Noone really cared so I go on pretending I was fine.
Gibbsí voice was clear now even if Tony could hear that it had not been so easy for him as he wanted it to appear.

-But you were not, you are still not fine. It is high time for you to stop pretending.
-I did it with you.
-No, you were not totally honest with me.
-What? Iíve told you everything.
-No, you didnít tell me who is this person you are attracted to. You thought I had forgotten about it?
-No, I was sure you would remember it but I thought you didnít care.
-The reason why you didnít tell me is because itís another man, isnít it?
It was amazing to see how Tony always found a way to obtain what he was searching for. He was now looking expectingly at him.
-You are right. Iím attracted to another man but I canít do anything about it. Itís been a long time since I last felt that kind of feelings. But I have nothing to offer to him, I caní t even give love.
-You have a lot of things to offer and I would be proud to inspire such feelings to a man like you.
Gibbs didnít reply. He needed to sit down and breath slowly. The room had began to turn around him. He wasnít sure of what he had heard. How could Tony even think of him as a potential lover?

-Hey, Jethro. Are you ok?
Tony put a hand on his shoulder and sat beside him.
-I meant what I said. You are a good man and I must agree with Ethan. You deserved to be loved.
-What are you saying, Tony?
-That I care about you, a lot. I donít really know how you can call what I feel for you but I want to be part of your life if you would allow me.
Gibbs couldnít stay still he stood up and began to pace in the small room.
-You canít say that, Tony. not now.
Tony didnít have the time to reply before Gibbs was out of the room. He only heard the front door that Gibbs had shut violently. He ran outside not sure what he was searching for. He had read signs that you make him think Gibbs did care about him but he was begining to think that he had made a huge mistake.
It didnít take long to find Gibbs. He was walking down the streets unaware of his surroundings, obviously heading for nowhere in particular.
Gibbs had felt the need to go out of his house. He didní trealise that the younger man had caught up with him. He was still walking to clear his mind.
-Gibbs, could you stop walking for a minute, we need to talk. Iím sorry, I shouldnít have said that, it was not the good timing. You know I wonít do anything that could hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable.
Tony wanted him to stop and look at him. The last thing he wanted was to break the fragile balance they had reached today.

-We need to talk, boss but not here. Letís come back inside.
Gibbs followed him inside. He knew it was the occasion he had waited for but he couldnít find the courage to tell him.
As they entered the house Tony guided him to the couch. He had allowed him to take control of the situation.
-Are you fine, Jethro? Iím so sorry. I wasnít thinking straight. After what you had been through... Besides you told me that you had feelings for someone...
-Tony could you just stop babbling so I can say something.
-Sure, boss.
-Itís not something easy to say. I tried to find the best way, the best moment to talk to you about it. And now that I had found it I canít say it.
-I donít know what you are trying to say but I can reassure you that I wonít do anything. The feelings I always had for you had changed. I surprised myself staring at you and enjoying what I saw. When you didnít say anything this morning I was so angry. I didnít know why but I felt rejected and it was unbearable. I had time to think about it and I realised that what I feel for you goes further than friendship.
-Tony, you donít know what it means to me.
-No I donít and I wonít if you donít talk to me. Can you tell me who is the man you have feelings for.
-There is things I could explain first. When you told me that you had had a relationship with another man I was kind of jealous. If you were attracted to men, why had you never try anything with me. I have feelings for you for almost two years and you never...
-What? Stop here! You have feelings for me? For two years? I donít know what amazes me the most. The fact that you could feel something for me or the fact that you waited two years to tell me.
-Sometimes you need to be patient.
-Or stupid!... Sorry, boss. I didnít mean that you are stupid but you have told me.
-I couldnít risk loosing you. I didnít know what you felt and I had learnt to hide.
-I thought that you would hate me if you discovered I was gay so I began to play that game, to date every women I met and talk about it especially when you were there. You seemed not to care. All that time you were hiding your true feelings! What a waste of time!
-We can say that we were both stupid but it wasnít necessarily a waste of time. I shouldnít have told you about my father. I think we needed time to trust each other enough to take the next step.
-So you want to take the next step?
-I donít know.
He saw the disappointment in Tonyís eyes and he didnít like it.

-I know what I feel for you but I would need time. I donít know if I am able to have a real relationship. My feelings are true but I canít forget what I was forced to do. You must take it slow but I trust you enough to give it a try. What do you think?
-I think you are right. We worth a try and we will take it as slow as you wish.
Tony approached Gibbs, facing him. He touched his arms. He didnít want to rush things but he needed to be close to him, to make it real.

-You must tell me if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
He cupped his cheek with his right hand caressing his lips with his thumb. He felt the older shiver under his touch.
-Does it feel good, boss?
Tony let his hand go down on Gibbs upper arm and rest on his back. He pressed him closer to him.
-Tell me what you feel. I need to know we are right.
Tony was whispering in Gibbsí ear, his hands running up and down his back. It was more a reassuring touch than a loving caress.
It was the only word that he managed to say. He hadnít feel so good since a long time. He didnít want to break the contact.
-Yeah, Jethro. Tell me what you want me to do.
-Just hold me tight, Tony. I need to feel itís real. That you are really here with me.
-Anything you want, Jethro.

They stayed there in a loving embrace. It was the first time they shared such an intimate moment and Gibbs melted in Tonyís arms. Tony felt him relax in his arms and was relieved that he accepted him so close to me. He didnít need more for now.
Gibbs rested his head on Tonyís shoulder. He felt safe for the first time in years and he realised what he had missed all those years. He had never allowed himself to show any kind of emotions. Now he was in the arms of the man he loved and the feeling of being loved and protected was almost overwhelming. He couldnít hold back the tears that were blurying his vision.
Tony felt Gibbs tensed in his arms. He knew what would follow and he needed Gibbs to show his feelings. He tried to reassure him, caressing his hair.

-Itís just you and me here, Jethro. You are safe. You can let go Iíll hold you.
A little moan escaped Gibbsí throat turning into a soft sob. He finally allowed himself to feel, feel Tonyís arms around him, his hand in his hair, his smell.
-You are with me, Jethro, and I wonít let you down whatever we choose to do with us. I wonít let anyone hurt you.
It was what he needed to hear. He didnít try to hold back the tears that escaped his eyes.
-Everything will be fine. You can trust me.
Gibbsí last barriers gave up. Tony held him tightly.
-Sssh, itís ok to cry. You have all rights to feel upset. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
Gibbs was exhausted but weirdly he felt safe and free, finally free to love. He looked up at Tony and realised that the young man was crying too.
-Iím sorry, Tony. I didnít mean to upset you.
-I donít cry because Iím sad, Jethro. Feeling you so close is a strong feeling. Are you fine?
-Yeah, Tony. I feel fine in your arms. I donít know where that would lead us but I want it. I want to share my life with you. But...

Tony could hear the insecurity behind Gibbsí last word.
-What bothers you?
-I donít know if I would be able to love you, Tony. It scares me.
-What are you talking about?
-I donít think Iím not ready for a sexual relationship, Tony. Iím sorry but it may take some times.
-Jethro look at me.
Tony waited for his soon-to-be lover to look at him.
-There is no need to rush things. I want to be with you. I wonít tell you that I donít want to make love to you. But what I really want with you is much more than a good time in bed. I love you , Jethro with all my heart and all my soul. I want to make you happy, I want to hear you laugh, to spend time with you, to feel your arms around me...
Tony guessed that the words were hard to say and he knew there was again an horrible memory behind Gibbs unability to say the word Ďloveí. He had always used the word in a negative way.
-We have so many things to learn from each other. I want an us, Jethro.
-I want it too, Tony.
-Iím glad to hear it. For now I think we should get up. Not that I complain having you in my arms but my legs are getting numb and this position wonít do any good to your back and ribs.
They stood up. Gibbs was stil unstable on his legs and Tony had to hold him.

-Hey, boss. It was a bite draining for both of us.
-Iím sorry. I guess the last days had been exhausting for you.
-Yeah, they were. But you donít have to apologise for that. You are not responsible for that and it ended pretty well. It worthed the trouble.
They were interrupted by a knock at the door. Tony opened the door allowing Ducky to enter. He immediatly check where Gibbs was.
-Iím happy to see you there, Anthony.
-You were right. I over reacted and misunderstood the meaning of his silence.
They joined Gibbs who hadnít moved. Ducky looked worried when he saw his friendís face. Tony couldnít blame him. Gibbsíeyes were swollen and added to his bruises and cut he looked as if he hadnít slept for days.
-Are you fine, Jethro.
-Iím more than fine, Ducky.
The ME couldnít understand the meaning of his friendís smile but it warmed his heart to see it. He turned to look at Tony only to see the same smile plastered on the younger manís face.

-I guess that the two of you had taken the time to talk.
-We did Ducky. Tony and I cleared some things.
-You are curious! Letís say that we found out that we had both been stupid and that there was no need to hide anymore.
-Jethro, you told him what you felt?
-Yes Ducky and he didnít run away.
-I told you that I wonít let you down, boss.
As he was saying those words, he sat beside Gibbs taking his hand and entwitching their fingers. That simple gesture moved Ducky. He had witnessed the trust that the two men shared but there was something more here. They had finally admitted that they were bonded by something more than friendship.
-Iím sure that you two will be fine so Iíll drive home. Mother is worried when I come back late.
-Thanks for everything Ducky.
Ducky walked to the door and as he launched them a last look he felt a slight jealousy seeing what they were sharing.

Tony didnít want to break the contact they had. He wanted it to last but he could see that Gibbs needed to rest.
-Itís time to go to bed, Boss. I interrupted your nap and you seem to be exhausted.
-Yeah, I think itís a good idea. I think I could sleep for two days.
Gibbs tried to stand but he sat back wincing with pain.

-Let me help you, Jethro.
Tony put an arm around his waist and helped him up.
-You go to bed, Iíll bring you a glass of water with some of the happy pills that Ducky left. Do you need me to go there?
-Iím not quite sure that my legs would be able to carry me upstairs.
Tony was stunned to hear him so clearly ask for help and he didnít know if he could feel glad that he trusted him enough to ask or worried that he felt so bad that he couldnít walk to his bedroom. Gibbs seemed to read his mind.
-Iíll be fine, Tony. I swear but Iím not for now. To be honest my ribs and back hurt like hell and Iím far beyond exhaustion. And you canít blame me for taking advantage of the situation.
-Youíre sure? Promise me you would tell me if you felt that something was wrong. He hit you pretty hard...
-I know Tony but Ducky checked everything and even if itís painful there no threat for my health.
-So, you just want me close to you?
-Always, Tony.
Tony looked him straight in the eyes and couldnít hold back the tears at the love he could read in those blue eyes.
-Donít cry, Tony. I need you and even if I am not able to tell you how much I care for you, be sure that I want you by my side.
Gibbs wiped away the tears on Tonyís cheek and let his hand linger on his friendís skin. Tony closed his eyes to savour this moment. It was the first intimate touch that Gibbs allowed himself to do. He sighed and took Gibbsí hand.

-I canít believe that Iím really living this moment here with you.
-It seems surreal to me too but Iím here Tony.
They walked to the bedroom and after having put Gibbs in bed, Tony went and searched for the pills which would allow Gibbs to sleep without feeling the pain. When he reentered the room he saw that Gibbs had allen asleep. The older man didnít even take time to get rid of his clothes and was lying across his bed an arm on his eyes. Tony sat on the bed and put an hand on his arm.
-Jethro, wake up! You canít sleep like that.
Gibbs opened his eyes visibly not totally aware of who was talking to him.
-Tony? I think that Iím tired.
-It seems so. Let me help you. Youíve got to get off these clothes.
Gibbs sat on the bed allowing Tony to open the buttons of his shirt. As Gibbsí shirt was thrown away, Tony took a second to check on his bandages.
-You undid them to shower. You should have called me to redo them. They are not tight enough.
-It can wait until tomorrow, Tony. I donít feel like doing it now.
-You would sleep better. It will only take a minute.
-Ok! I surrender, you can be worse than Ducky.

Tony unwrapped him and winced at the look of his chest and back.
-I should have killed him.
-Tony. I may not agree with him but he was right when he said that violence was not the solution.
-How can you say that after what he did to you?
-I saw what revenge could make of honest men and I donít want you to go that way. I wouldnít allow you to corrupt your soul especially for him.
-He hurt you more than you could ever make him pay for.
-Maybe but the only way to make him pay is to be what he ever prevented me of being. He wanted me to be as him, angry and violent but he never succeeded. And today Iím able to show him his own failure.
-What can I do to help you?
-The only thing you have to do is stay with me and teach how to make you happy, Tony. Thatís all I want to do now.
Tony put a hand on Gibbsíchest.
-I can do that, boss.
He approached him not really sure that Gibbs would accept what he intended to do.
-Tony, I donít know...
-Itís just me, Jethro. Noone would get hurt this time. I promise.
Tonyís lips brushed Gibbsí and the older man couldnít help the moan that escaped his throat at the slight touch.
-I love you, Jethro and noone would hurt you anymore.

Gibbsí eyes were closed and Tony began to wonder if it had been wise to go this far. He was worried that he may have made a mistake expecting Gibbs to be ready for their first kiss.
-Boss? Iím sorry, I shouldnít have...
Gibbs was still no responding.
-Jethro, please talk to me.
As he approached him, Gibbs let his head rest on Tonyís shoulder searching for the younger manís comfort.
-Tony, tell me that you really meant what you just said. Tell me Iím not dreaming.
Tony was stunned to hear such insecurity in Gibbsí voice. Tha trauma was real and Tony wanted to make Anderson pay for how fragile and insecure he had made him.
-I love you, Jethro. Iíve loved you for years even if I didnít realise it earlier. I will tell you everytime you would need to hear it. Never doubt it.

Tony wanted him to feel how much he loved him and he put him in a hug, caressing his back.
-I need to put on this bandage and then you would sleep. Iíll stay with you if you want me to.
-I donít want you far from me, Tony never.
Tony carefully bandaged Gibbsíribs and helped him laying down.
-Let me pamper you for once. I think that noone had ever done that for you.
-I remember my mother coming to my bedroom to see if I was asleep. She used to enter my bedroom and I waited for her pretending I was asleep. She just kissed me and went away.
-May I kiss you, Jethro?
-I would love that Tony.
The contact of Tonyís lips on his own made him shiver. He had wanted to be kissed by that man for years and there he was with him.
-Now, youíve got to sleep.
Tony began to stand but his arm was grabbed by Gibbsí hand.
-Stay with me.
-Youíre sure?
-I need you Tony as I never needed anyone.
Tony saw the truth in Gibbsí eyes and couldnít resist any longer.
-Let me find something to sleep on and I will join you.
-In the drawer, youíll find T-shirt that would fit you well.

Tony disappeared in the bathroom and Gibbs could hear him brush his teeth. He thought that he could get used to having Tony with him. He liked the way they had foud their place together.
Tony returned to the bedroom wearing only a navy blue shirt and a pair of boxers. He layed down on the left side of the bed letting some space between them. Tony was not sure what he was allowed to do.
-Can you hold me in your arms Tony?
-Off course, you donít have to ask for that, Boss. Besides I love cuddling.
-Me too but donít spread the news.
-Why? Iím sure that Kate would be interested by the news.
-I think that she would be more interested in knowing how you discovered it.
-Sure but Iím not ready to share you with anyone else.
Gibbs fell asleep in Tonyís arms and in the morning he couldnít remember sleeping so well for years.
The first thing he realised the next morning was that he was alone in his bed. He immediatly opened his eyes searching for Tony. He was about to stand up when the younger man entered the room with a steaming mug of fresh coffee in his hands. Gibbs could help sighing of relief as he saw him there.
-You thought that I had changed my mind seeing you beside me this morning and that I ran away. I canít believe that you still believe everyone has to go away. You are incredible some times, boss.
-I didnít even say a word, Tony.
-There was no need for you to speak. Sometimes your eyes speak better than words. I saw it in your eyes.
-You saw the fear in my eyes? I couldnít help it, Tony. I canít help feeling afraid at the thought that I could lose you.
-For the thousand time, I swear that I wonít go anywhere unless you throw me out. Even then I will come back. I will fight for you, Jethro. Donít forget about it. You wonít get rid of me so easily.
-I donít want to especially if you go on bringing me coffee in bed.
-Donít get used to it, boss. It wonít last forever.
-I thought that you loved me.
Tony went closer and put the mug on the nightstand. He approached Gibbs putting a gentle hand on his chest.
-I love you but next time I want to wake up with you in my arms and stay like this all day long. Just you and me.
Tonyís lips were brushing Gibbsí as he was talking. The older man could feel his breath and he surprised himself wanting more, being even closer to him. For the first time it was Gibbs who initiated the kiss. It was soft and gentle but he put all his heart in that kiss and Tony seemed to melt at the contact.
-If you go on like that boss we woní t get out of this bed for the next seven days.
-Is it a promise, Tony?
-Itís a wish, Jethro. But it wonít be for today. I had a message on my cell from Kate. It seems that we have to go to the office, today. She wasnít very specific but I guess that she will soon call here.
-She should have called me first.
-She may have but I think that we let the phone hung out yesterday. I found out about it this morning.
-Ok, so letís have a coffee before she calls.
As he was saying those words the cell on the nightstand rang.

-She is a mind reader?
Gibbs tried to reach his cell but he winced and sat back on the bed.
-Are you Ok, Jethro?
-Yeah, I only forgot I should move carefully. Answer and let me catch my breath back.
-Are you sure you want me to answer your phone. She may ask why Iím here?
-I donít care what she thinks, Tony. We donít have to hide. But if you donít want her to know you just have not to answer.
Tony grabbed the cell smiling at the thought of Kate at her desk and the look that would appear on her face when she would hear his voice.
-Boss, itís Kate.
-I love when you call me Boss, Kate.
-Tony why are you answering Gibbsí cell?
-Well, to tell the truth we spent the night together and as he is still at his first coffee I guessed it should better for you if it was me instead of him.
-You spent the night with Gibbs?
-Yeah, and I can tell you that he doesnít sleep with his gun.
-God, I donít know why I listen to you.
-Because you love me, I guess.
-Shut up and let me talk to Gibbs!
-I will see if he is out of the shower.
-Tony! let me talk to him, now!
Tony looked at Gibbs and was pleased to see him smile at the joke he had made to their team mate. Kate had always been very conservative. She believed in family, god and what goes with it. Tony was always happy to piss her off. For once Gibbs was willing to play that game with him.

-Jethro, itís Kate and she wants to talk to you. Can I say to her that you are on medical leave?
Tony knew that she wouldnít have called if it hadnít been urgent but he couldnít help reminding her that Gibbs was not in good health and didnít need to work for a while.
-Whatís up, Kate?
-Hi, Boss. Sorry to disturb you on your down time but we have a new case and director Morrow asked for you to come back earlier. Both of you.
-What do we have that you canít handle with Mc Gee?
-Itís a bite complicated. The case is simple but the political side of it may make some trouble.
-I see so they call me to play diplomat. I guess that Morrow need more rest than me. Prepare a report, we will be there in an hour.
Gibbs gave the phone back to Tony and began to get prepared. He was obviously in pain but he had a job to do and Tony could see that he would do what he had been asked for.

-We will be there in an hour, Kate. Just the time for a second and a third coffee. Bye, Kate.
-You do like to tease her, donít you?
-I can imagine her gasping at her desk. It was delightful. So what is it all about?
-I donít know but I guess that Morrow wouldnít have called us if he had thought that it would be a piece of cake.
-You talked about diplomat?
-Yeah, it seems that this case has some political implications. I donít like it, Tony. Politics isnít really my cup of tea.
-You donít even like tea.
Gibbs laughed at that remark but he sobbered when he saw the concern look on Tonyís face.

-Are you up to this, Jethro? I donít want you to forget about your wellfare once more. There are other Agents who could do the job.
-I know that Tony but I can do this job if you stay with me.
Tony approached and hugged him, holding the man he loved tightly.
-Always, Jethro.

Chapter seven.

The Evansí case.

Gibbs had given the keys to Tony as he didnít quite feel like driving. He could see the worryness in his loverís eyes but the only thing he could do about it was to try not to wince at each move which was more difficult than he would have expected.
Tony was driving in silence for almost five minutes when he looked at Gibbs.

-Spill out, Tony!
-I didnít say anything and didnít intend to as you seem to have already taken your decision.
-I couldnít say no. It was a request from the director.
-He would have understood given the circumstances. You didnít even try.
-We have a job to do Tony.
-I know that but I canít understand why you always put your job in the first place. You are much more important than any case we could solve.
-You must separate your private life and the job. Itís not about me and you here.
-You donít understand that being together have changed many things, Gibbs. You are still my boss and I will do whatever you ask. But you are the man I love and I donít want to change what I feel for you. I canít stop worrying for you as we enter NCISí buildings.
-I didnít ask you to ...because I couldnít help worrying for you for years. But you must trust me when I say I can do the job.
-I think itís not a question of your abilities to do it. You need it. Donít you?
-Maybe that I need to do something not to think too much. But I would have prefered spending the next days alone with you. We have so much to discover together.

Tony couldnít help a smile at the thought of what he wanted to discover with him.
-Ok, boss. But if you donít feel fine I bring you home and in bed immediatly.
-Deal. But promise me not to ask every minute if I am fine.
-I will do my best, boss.

Tony knew that Gibbs had turned into Special Agent mode and this only prooves of his tiredness were his red rimmed eyes and the bruises that covered his right eye and cheek.
As they entered the office they found Kate and Tim already at work on their new case. Tony was aware of Gibbs heavy breathing behind him. The older had obviously some difficulties to breath but Tony knew that his unease was also due to the fact that he was back where his father had attacked him. He knew better than to ask if he was fine or slow down to wait him.

-Kate, what do we have?
Kate gave Tony an alarmed look when she saw Gibbs but she knew that he wouldnít allow her to be concerned for him while they were trying to solve a new case.
-A young man was found dead in an alley behind a pub yesterday. The local police had only found out about his identity this morning. Thatís why they contacted us.
-Why are we concerned by this case?
-His name was Evans, Sergeant Michael Evans.
-Ok, but you said that this case would be complicated. Why?
-Lieutenant Evans was beaten to death and left in the alley behind a pub called the ďBlack HorseĒ.

She had said that as if this simple information could have explained everything.
Gibbs didnít know anything about that pub but Tony seemed to find this meaningful.
-Itís a notorious gay pub, boss.
-So you think itís a case of gay bashing. I guess that our top advisers want us to play soft on this. Is there any prooves to confirm that theory?
-Yeah, the officer who arrived first found a note on the wall.
-Kate, do I need to ask for everything or have you decided to play the game of twenty questions?
-No, boss. The inscription said ďthere is no place for fags in the army.Ē

She handed the file to Gibbs. He was begining to feel sick but it was not the time to show his feelings.
-Here is the preliminary report from the local authorities. I think we should go there just in case they had forgotten something.
-Are you implying that they may not have done a complete search on the site?
Tony choose this moment to intervene. He had been confronted with such cases as a cop and knew too well how gay bashings were considered by some of his former collegues.
-Even if the cases of agressions against gay men or women had increased it seems that it is not the priority in that state. I have seen cases closed even if we hadnít found anything only because the victim was gay.
-I was just saying that we have more experience of crime scene.

-We all understood what you meant Kate. You are right, we have to go there but first I want to see Ducky. I suppose that they transfered Evanís body here?
-Yes, Ducky is already at work.
-Tony you are with me, Kate get the car ready.
Gibbs didnít wait for reply and headed for Duckyís lab. He trusted his team, they knew what to do and they never discussed a direct order. He entered the elevator, Tony on his heels.

-What do you think about this case?
-I think that, unfortunatly, itís what it seems to be. Some narrow minded idiots had decided to show their hate by killing an innocent man. As disgusting as it is, itís not unusual.
-They knew who he was. Do you think that could be the facts of other Marines?
-I hope not. They may have found his papers. But...
-Some ďfriendsĒ of him could have followed him in order to make him pay. Marine Corps is not known to be tolerant toward gays. No offense, boss.
-No offense taken, Tony. I know that too well. I witnessed some of them in action.
-Did you...?
-Not me but a friend of mine was seriously wounded on the field because there was noone to back him up.
-They never tried to hurt me. They knew that I would have killed them before they could do anything.

Gibbs approached Tony and put a slight kiss on his lips. The young man was amazed by the soft touch. Gibbs had only brushed his lips but hte fact the he had been confident enough to do it was one more proof that there was more than friendship between them.
-You can do it whenever you want, boss.
-I donít think it would be a good idea Tony because I seem to always want to kiss you or be close to you.
-Sure, even if I think that it would be a good lesson for everyone to see us kissing in the middle of the office.

Gibbs couldní t help laughing at the thought of the two of them kissing in front of everyone.
The elevator doors opened and they found Ducky at work on the body of the poor Lieutenant Evans.
-I thought you two were on holidays?
-They needed us for the job, so here we are.
Tony tried to take a light tone but the mutilated body of Evans was there to remind them the seriousness of the situation.
-What are your first conclusions, Ducky?
-I canít say much for now, Jethro. I havenít began the autopsy yet but I can say that this poor Lieutenant was hit several times in the head by what could have been a base ball bate or something approximatly the same size.
-Cause of death?
-The beating caused severe damages to the skull. Multiples traumas have caused a massive blleding.
-God they are sick!

Tony has been unable to hold back the remark. Gibbs turned to look at him.
-They only killed him because they supposed him to be gay.
-We donít know that for sure, Tony.
-What other proof to you need. He was in a gay pub and was attacked when he exited this pub. Besides there is this inscription on the wall. Come on, boss. You know Iím right. They beat him to death because they couldnít stand working with him.

The young man was obviously disturbed by the case but Gibbs needed him to be at his best and not only for the case. He was almost unable to look at the mutilated body on the table. Dead body had never disturbed him as much as this one. He knew he was emotionaly fragile and he needed Tony to stay focus on the facts.
He approached his field agent and cupped his neck with his right hand. The gesture was intimate but Gibbs didnít care.
-I know itís unfair and disgusting but if you want to send the one who did this in jail, we will need prooves, solid ones. You canít let your feelings interfere with this invesgation.

Gibbsí left hand had moved to Tonyís chest and the younger man knew that the warmth he was feeling was not only due to the anger. Tony covered Gibbsí hand with his. They both needed the contact to feel safe.
-I see that the two of you are doing well. Iím glad to see it my friends. It will make you stronger. If you want my opinion you should have declared yourselves years ago but nobody listens to an old man like me...
The two men were aware of Duckyís constant babbling but they didnít want to loose the contact. Gibbs was the first to break it.
-We must go to the crime scene. I want your conclusion asap, Ducky.
-Youíll have it by the end of the day. Iíll send samples of anything I would find to Abby.
-Thanks, Ducky.

Kate and Tim were waiting for them by the car as they entered the parking.
-Tony, you drive as you know the place.
-Sure, boss.
Kate was in playful mode today and as Tony had made jokes earlier about him and Gibbs she continued in this way.
-You know all the nice places. I didnít know that your field of investigation was so extended...
She was waiting for a sarcastic reply that never came. Instead of trying to shut her up, Tony looked t her with a huge smile.
-Always happy to amaze you, Kate.

Gibbs didnít miss the defiant tone behind the kind words and he was glad that Kate decided to end the conversation. It was not the best time for them to come out even if he didnít really care of what they might think.
While they were driving, Gibs took a look at the photographs taken on the crime scene by the police. The young man had been found in a dark alley behind the pub. He had been hit by more than one person.
The facts were simple, the mobile was obvious but the main question they had to solve was who. They had to stop them before they found another body.
Gibbs could feel shivers running down his spine at the thought of what this young man must have been through before he died. He was aware that homophobia was a pleague that had spread lately. The hate supported by some stupid laws or religious speeches. The army was known to be quite untolerant regarding gays.

They arrived at the place five minutes later and Gibbs immediatly knew why nobody had witnessed the attack, or heard Evans call for help. Even if the pub was in down town, the neighbourhood was made of waste grounds and closed plants. No need to ask why nobody had called the police.
-Tony sketch the crime scene, Kate search the alley. Mc Gee youíre with me. We are going to talk to the batender.
-Sure, boss.
Tony wanted to go with Gibbs but he took the camera and walked to the alley followed by Kate. He knew that he was the best to sketch a crime scene and that as ďprobieĒ Mc Gee. Their new colleague needed to learn how to lead an interrogation.

-Iím sorry to have disturbed your holidays, Tony but the big boss wanted you two on this.
-No problem Kate. But Gibbs needed to rest and I donít think itís a good thing for him to be back to work so soon.
-I donít know what really happened with his father but you must trust him to know if he is able to do the job.
-I know he is able to do the job, Kate. But at what cost?
-He seems to be fine to me.
-Yes, Kate he ďseemsĒ... thatís the word. He can make you see what he wants and hide the rest.
They began the job in silence even if Tony couldnít help looking at the door of the pub for Gibbs.
Tony and Kate were back to the car when Mc Gee and Gibbs exited the pub.
-Off course, nobody had heard anything. I think they are afraid to talk but the bartender told that Evans came here often. He hadnít seen him for two months. He remembers him that night. Evans left the pub alone at 0100. thatís when he met his attackers. Anything useful in the alley.
-Nothing more than what was writen in the report. No wonder why they had chosen this pub. By night noone could have seen what happened there.
-You are right, Tony. I think they chose the pub more than the victim.
-So whatís next, boss?
-Kate I want you to check on Evans schedule for the last two months. Mc Gee help her and have a look at his bank accounts just to be sure. Tony you come with me. I want to talk to Evans friends before they take time to build a story.
-Sure, boss. What do we do with them? They may run to the headquarters.
Gibbs couldnít help slapping him at the back of the head even if the gesture was softer than usual.
-We donít have time for jokes, Tony. but next time you will follow us running!

They had let Tim and Kate at the office and were driving to the base where Evans worked. Tony looked at Gibbs whose eyes seemed to be even more tired now.
-We interview them and then I drive you home.
-Not yet, Tony. I have to check on Duckyís report before we decide what to do next. Besides Abbyís analysis may help us. We must catch them before they decide to do one more victim.
-You think he was killed by Marines he was serving with.
Tony couldnít help the sickness growing as he thought that this young man may have been killed by those who were supposed to be his family, his closest friends...

-I donít know, Tony. nowadays, there are many people that think gays should be banished from their neighborhood.
-There are not so much people that could act on it.
-I know but whoever it is, we would need solid prooves.
-Here we are. Evans unit is based on the East side.
They parked near the reception and walked to the little room. Tony had called to meet Evansí CO and he was already waiting for him.
After some usual questions about Evans background and behaviour with his camrades Gibbs asked if he had friends among them.

-He didnít have much friends on the base. He was studying most of his spare time but I sometimes saw him with Sergeants McKay and Everett. I will call them.
-Thanks you, Colonel.
They waited for them in a small room. As the two men entered the room Gibbs looked at Tony. the younger man understood that his boos wanted him to interview one them while he would talk with the other one.
-Tony you go with Sergeant Everett. Sergeant McKay if you want to follow me.
-Sure, Sir.

They used to do that when they to confront suspects. Never let them time to think about their testimony.
Gibbs opened the door of the interrogation room. Tony headed at the ooposite end of the hall. He knew what Gibbs wanted him to do.
Collect facts and try to decipher the personnality of the man. It took them almost an hour to collect the information they needed. Tony was convinced that the man he had interviewed was guilty of behind a narrow minded bastard at least. If he hadnít killed Evans he was guilty of being stupid enough to admit out loud that he knew Evans had been gay and that he hated him for that.
When he closed the door of the car, Tony looked at Gibbs. The shadows under his eyes had darkened.
-They did it, Boss. Everett was too nervous to be honest.
-I donít know Tony. Mc Kay was ashamed to admit that he had troubles working with Evans but he didnít seem stupid enough to jeopardize his career. His father was a Marine and the Corps means a lot to him.
-We would have to check on their alibi.
-I donít think they did it, Tony. Even they had problems with him they would never have killed him. It would have been too dangerous for them. I guess it was not easy for Evans to work with them but I think they didnít further the usual jokes and humiliations.
-Maybe but if itís not them who could it be?
-I donít know. Letís go see if Ducky had found something.
-Yes but the next step would be your house, a good meal and a nap.
-Itís only midday, Tony.
-Yes and you look like someone who is about to collapse. You promised and donít tell me you are fine because I can see you are not. You need to lay down on your bed.
-Is it a proposition, Agent Dinozzo?
-One step at a time, remember, Boss?

Gibbs smiled softly to him. He loved being able to flirt with Tony. The man had always been charming and Gibbs couldnít resist his smile. They parked the car and walked to the MEís lab.
-Greetings young men. What have you found?
-Nothing definitive. Even if the Marines who worked with Evans are not the most open minded Marine I ever met. Gibbs thinks they didnít do it and as he is always right I guess we would have to search elsewhere.
-We would have to check everything, Tony. I didnít say I had given up the idea of Everett and Mc Kay being guilty. Whatís new, Ducky?
-The autopsy confirmed what I supposed. Sergeant Evans died from a massive bleeding in the head caused by several hits. But he didnít die immediatly, they had kicked him in the back, the ribs. They wanted him to suffer before killing him. He had several fractures on the legs, his right arm.

Gibbs was feeling dizzy at this words. He had seen many victims of bashing before but it was the first time he felt so close of one of them. He had felt the same pain, he had been in that dark alley.
It had not been the same place but he knew what it was to be beaten without being able to fight back, to know that whatever you could do you would die.
Ducky was going on with the description of Evans wounds but Gibbs couldnít hear him anymore. It was as if his brain wasnít able to process. He heard Tonyís voice but it was a far sound, too far to understand what he was telling.

-Ducky do you find something interesting to send to Abby?
-I found some interesting things. A hair that didnít belong to the victim and bites of wood in the head wounds.
The two men went on talking oblivion to the fact that Gibbs had stay quiet for a long time. He was trying to regain the control of his mind but he couldnít find the strenght to hold on the present events. He was back in his worst nightmare, facing his father, facing the death once more.
Tony was the first to notice Gibbsí stillness. He realised that something was wrong as he saw the tears running down Gibbsí cheeks.
-Jethro, come here!
He walked to the older man and hugged him tightly. At first Gibbs tensed in his arms and Tony was worried that he may have had the wrong reaction.

-Itís me, Jethro. Everything is fine. You are safe here.
Gibbs began to relax at the soft words. Ducky came back with a glass of water and a chair. He placed a gentle hand on Gibbs back.
-Sit down, Jethro and drink that.
Gibbs allowed Tony to help him sitting on the chair. He still had Tonyís hand in his and the younger man knelt beside him keeping the contact.
-Are you Ok, boss?
-Yes, Tony but it had been a long day.
Ducky looked doubtfully at him. I thought that it had not been the first ďlongĒ day in the last week for his friend.
-Sure, Jethro. And I can say by the shadows under your eyes that you didnít sleep enough. I will give you something to help you sleeping.
-Thanks, Ducky but I donít need anything.
-Boss, you must let Ducky help you. Last night you had nightmares and if taking a pill could help you rest, you should take it.
-You donít understand, Tony.

Ducky was amazed to see how much Gibbs was afraid. He had never witnessed so much fear in his friendís eyes before. He didnít know what to do but Tony seemed to know why Gibbs was afraid to sleep.
-I understand, boss but you know you can sleep now.
-No, no. What if something happens? If someone needs me?
Gibbs didnít seem to be really aware of his surroundings, he had closed his eyes, overwhelmed by fears he had for too long hiden.
-Jethro, look at me... Open your eyes and look at me.
As he opened his eyes Tony repressed a sob. The trauma of his childhood was visible in his eyes and it was almost unbearable for Tony to see him in such a pain.
-Do you trust me, Jethro?
-Off course, Tony. you know that.
-You know I will be here for you, that I wonít let you down, never?

Gibbs seemed to relax at those words as if he was little by little coming back to the present. Tony knew where he wanted to lead him. He needed him to look at him, to see the love in his eyes.
-Iíll tell you what we are going to do. Iíll bring you home, cook some meal and then youíll go to sleep.
-Iím not that tired and itís only midday...
-Ssssh! Let me finish. You will take the pills Ducky wanted to give you and Iíll stay with you. I will lay beside you and if anything happens Iíll take care of it. Can you do that for me?
Gibbs nodded slightly. Tony looked up at Ducky.
-Iíll take the pills, Ducky and bring him home. I think he had had enough for today.
-Sure, Anthony! You will take care of me? He needs you.
-I wonít let him down, Ducky. I love him too much to do that.
-Iím glad to hear it, Anthony.

Ducky was whispering as he didnít want Gibbs to hear what he had to say. He had known him for years and he wanted Tony to be aware that Gibbs wasnít fine even he pretended to.
-He is fragile, Tony... emotionnaly. Iíve never seen him like that.
-I know, Ducky and I think itís only the begining. The trauma of his childhood had hurt him deeper and he took him years to hide it. After what happened yesterday, he couldnít continue to pretend nothing had happened and it was as if he was obliged to live those events once more.
-He is lucky to finally have you by his side.
-He had always had me he was just not aware of it. I love him, Ducky like I never loved anyone before.
-He loves you too even if he is not able to say the words out loud for now. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at you. Bring him home. Iíll call if we find anything.
-Thanks, Ducky.

He turned back to Gibbs who hadnít moved from his chair.
-Are you ready to go, Jethro?
-Yeah, Tony. if you have anything new, Ducky, call. I think I need a good nap. See you tomorrow.
-Just think about yourself, for once, Jethro. You need to take your time and rest.
-We havenít time, Ducky. We have to catch them before they kill again.
-We will Jethro.

The two men exited the lab and walked to Gibbsí car. As soon as they arrived at Gibbsí house, Tony headed to the kitchen.
-We will have to go to the grocery. You have nothing left in your fridge.
-Near the phone, you have some numbers of restaurants which deliver.
-What do you want?
-I donít know. What about chineese. I could teach you how to use chopsticks.
-Sure. You go and take a hot shower to relax your muscles. Iíll take care of the diner.
Tony looked at Gibbs as he climbed the stairs. The older man was obviously tired but more than that it was as if he had lost what made him the strongest man Tony had ever met. Tony didnít know how to help him. He could only be here for him, reassure him and comfort him with his love.

Tony called the restaurant and as he hung down the phone rang.
-Hi, Tony. itís Brian. How is he doing?
-Hi, Brian. Well, to be honest he is not quite fine. We were called for a case today. A young Sergeant had been beaten to death because he was gay.
-he didnít this kind of stress. How are the two of you? Ducky was so happy to see you two together that he called me.
-He is incredible some times. He canít keep his mouth shut.
-You canít blame him for spreading good news, Tony. itís not so often.
-Yeah, I guess so.
-Iím glad he had finally found someone he could rely on. You deserve to be happy. I just hope this case wonít hurt him more.
-He was a bite shaken, but Iíll take care of him.
-Iím sure of that Tony. Tell him I called. Bye.
-Bye, Brian.
As Tony hung down he heard footsteps behind him.

-Who was it?
Tony had turned to look at Gibbs while he was speaking. He froze as he saw him. Gibbs was in the middle of the living room, his grey hair still damp from the shower, a towel tied around his waist. The man was handsome. Firm chest, strong arms.
-I... You... Woaw! I was just..You are hot!
Gibbs couldnít help laughing. Nobody had ever told him he was ďhotĒ especially another man but he was flattered.
-You think Iím hot?
-Yeah, do you ever look at you, Gibbs?
-Not really.

Tony couldnít help staring at him. Gibbs was aware of the manís eyes on him. Even if he couldnít understand what the young saw in him.
-What do you se when you look at me, Tony?
The question was unsure as if he was afraid of Tony might answer.
-I see a strong man, the man I fell in love with. I can see your courage and your soul. You are beautiful, Jethro, in every senses of the world.
Gibbs was stunned to hear what Tony had said. He would never have guessed that Tony could find him beautiful but he was even more amazed by the manís sensibility.
-I should put something on... although...
-Yeah! One step at a time.

Gibbs turned and his move was stopped by the pain of his unhealed ribs. Tony rushed to him and put a hand on his arm.
-Sit down on the couch. I think you need a ďMassage SpťcialĒ. Iím an expert. Do you have some oil?
-In the bathroom.
-Wait here a minute.
Gibbsí muscles were sore and he knew Tony was right. Besides it was the ideal occasion to be closer to him. He didnít know how close he could allow him to come without being uncomfortable. It had been hard for him at the begining to accept the hugs, the kisses. But Tony had found the words to reassure him and it became easier.

Tony was back and sat beside him on the couch. He put some cream on his hands and began to squeeze Gibbsí shoulders. The younger man was indeed an expert. His hands were running easily on Gibbsí shouldrs and back. The older man couldnít help leaning on the sensations.
-Are you feeling better?
-You are doing just fine.
-I told you I was an expert.
-Yeah, but if you go on like that I would fall asleep inyour arms.
-I would be glad to sleep with you in my arms but not before you ate something.
They were interrupted by the door bell. Tony let Gibbs go with regrets.
-Diner is ready. Go and put something on while I dress the table.

After the diner, Gibbs sat on the couch a coffee in his hands. He was relaxed and enjoyed the moment. Tony sat beside him.
-What are you thinking?
-Nothing special. I was just enjoying the quietness.
-Sorry to disturb.
-Donít be stupid, Tony. I love having you here. And the closer you are the better I feel.

Tony leaned comfortably on the couch reassured by Gibbsíwords. They just stayed there, shoulders to shoulders. Gibbs closed his eyes and didnít resist when he felt the sleep coming.
As always when he fell asleep he reviewed the day. But today was not specially a good one to remember, like the ones before.
He could see the two Sergeants they had interviewed but the image that appeared stronger was the mutilated body of Evans in Duckyís lab. He was able to understand what the young man had been through, how he had suffered not only because of his injuries but because he had known all the time that they were hitting him that they would leave him no chances. They wanted to kill him and he had been aware of that.

Gibbs could see what had happened in this alley, he could hear Evans call for help he knew wouldnít come. He could feel the fear running down his spine, unbearable feeling of helplessness. He could feel the first kick, the taste of the blood in his mouth, the moment his knees had given up under him, the coldness of the floor. At that moment it wasnít Evans that he saw in the alley, it was himself pleading for help, hoping that finally someone would hear him and save him from the death.
Tony had seen Gibbs fall asleep and had hoped that the older man wouldnít have nightmares. But he could feel the tension that was making him move and moan in his sleep. He put a hand on his arm.
-Jethro, wake up.

Gibbs woke up with a start, looking around for a moment before he could remember where he really was. He was aware of Tonyís hand and it was the only thing he wanted the concentrate on. This slight contact was enough to reassure him.
-Where were you, this time?
He couldnít lie to Tony even if he felt a bit ashamed to be afraid of something that didnít happen to him. But he couldnít help shivering at the thought of what had happened to this young man.

-I was in the alley behind the ďBlack HorseĒ.
-It wasnít you, Jethro.
-I know, Tony. but it seems that my mind had his own way of thinking. Iíve been there, you know. I know what he felt while they were beating him.
Tony sighed. He knew that Gibbs could see ressemblances between his life and the way Evans had been killed. But he didnít want him to think about it. It was hard enough for him to deal with his own fear without being obliged to live with someone elseís nightmare.

-I know, Jethro. I wish I could help you forget about what happened but I canít. I can just be there for you and hold your hand until the nightmare vanished.
-Would you sleep with me tonight?
-I didnít intend to sleep on the chair. Off course, Iíll stay with you. Go to bed. Iíll bring you a glass of water and the pills Ducky gave me.
Gibbs was already in bed when Tony entered the dark room. It was early in the evening but Tony felt so exhausted that it could be a good idea to have some rest. Gibbs swallowed half the water with two pills and lay back in bed.
-Sleepy eyes, Boss?
-Yeah, Iím not used to take those things. They seem to be pretty strong.
-Come closer, old man. Itís freezing here.
Gibbs rested his head on Tonyís chest, sighing heavily.
-Are you comfy?
-Yeah, you?
-It couldnít be better. Now you just sleep and donít worry about anything. Iíll take care of you, Jethro.
Gibbs only heard half of Tonyís speech. Tony kissed the older manís forehead before letting the sleep overwhelm him.

The next morning, Tony waited for Gibbs to wake up. He didnít want him to wake up alone. The night had been quite calm and they both had been able to rest. Gibbs was still curled against him but he could feel him move.
-Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.
-Donít ever try to call me that in front of anyone.
-And at home? Itís just you and me.
-You can call me whatever you want when we are alone.
-Is that a question? Have you already called Kate?
Even if he had just waken up, Gibbs was able to focus on the job. It had always amazed Tony to see how this man could go straight to the facts.

-I waited for you to wake up. I wanted to share this moment with you. Now I intend to go to the kitchen and make some coffee then I would eventually call Kate. But before that I want a proper Good Morning.
Tony cupped Gibbsí cheek with his right hand turning the older manís face so he could kiss him.
-Good morning, boss.
Gibbs closed his eyes to savour the soft contact of Tonyís lips.
-Good morning Tony.
Tony smiled at him and stood up from the bed.
-Now, coffee then Kate.
Gibbs took his time to dress knowing that Tony was able to deal with Kate and plan their schedule.
As he entered the kitchen he found him before a mug, eating home made pancakes.
-You made the coffee, phoned Kate and made pancakes at the same time.
-Iím able to multitask, boss. Besides I didnít want to spend so much time on the phone with Kate.
-She teased you, didnít she?
-You know her. She canít keep her mouth shut.
-What did you tell her?
-Nothing, she just asked if you were fine. And I told her that you had slept well because you had spent the night in my arms.
-I guess she didnít believe you.
-No, she told me that I over estimated my powers on you. I was hurt.
-She is wrong Tony. But you canít blame her. She doesnít know you as I do. Or she would have seen that you meant everything to me.

Tony was stunned by Gibbsí words. It was not a declaration of undefying love but it was the first time Gibbs expressed so directly his feelings.
-Iím glad to hear it, boss. Maybe you would allow me to tell her that some day?
-You can tell her what you want Tony. I donít care. Iím not ashamed of what I feel for you. If she is not able to deal with it it would be her problem not ours.
-Woaw. You are ready to tell them for us?
-Not really. I didnít say I would be the one who would do the telling but if you feel the need to tell anyone, I would agree.
-Thanks, Jethro. But I think it would be better to wait until we solved the case. Unless she continues to tease about you and me.
-I was sure that behind that childish attitude was hiden a grown man.
-thank you, boss. I feel appreciated. Before I hang up on her I managed to have informations. Abby had had some interesting results with the samples Ducky sent to her. So I planned a meeting at her lab with all the team in half an hour.
-Good job, Tony.
Gibbs put a kiss on Tonyís cheek and sat at the kitchen table with his coffee.
-I definitely prefer that than a slap on the head.
-I could do both.

Chapter eight.

As soon as they entered Abbyís lab they knew that the results were not what they expected. The forensic scientist informed them that the hair found on the victim didnít belong to Lieutenant Everett or Mac Kay. Kate had checked their schedules and had found witnesses that had seen them in the club the night Evans had been killed.
This informations only confirmed what Gibbs had felt.

-I checked military data base for DNA but no match found. This hair doesnít belong to your Marines. Well it doesnít belong to a Marine at all. Iím sorry, Bossman.
-Are you absolutely sure, Abby?
-DNA doesnít lie, Gibbs. This hair doesnít belong to them. You will have to search somewhere else.
-I guess so. But we donít have time for that. If they follow the same schedule another young man would be attacked tonight. And we canít let it happen.

Gibbs sat on a chair in front of Tony and began to think out loud as he was used to doing when a case disturbed him. Tony knew he needed it to make things clearer and sometimes joining him, they were able to find a solution.
-What do we have? A Marine beaten to death behind a gay bar by someone who obviously knew he was in the army. Even if Evans had never came out, Everett and Mc Kay didnít bother to hide everyone knew about his sexual preferences. We have a hair found on the victim which doesnít belong to him. Something else Ducky?
-I found wood particules in Evans head wounds. He was most likely killed with a baseball bat or some other bludgeon made from maple.
-Mc Gee have you found something in the police reports?
-Gay bashing seems to be increaseing lately in the district.
-Something linked to our case?
-In the last two months there had been twenty attacks. Ten of them happened at the exit of a gay bar. Only one seems to match our murderers modus operandi. Andrew Robertson was found dead behind ďOíMalleyísĒ three days ago. He was Second Lieutenant based at Quantico. I asked for the autopsy report.
Tony had to intervene even if he knew that Kate would find an occasion to tease him.
-Boss. There may be something in the fact they chose those two clubs among others. There are plenty of gay bars in Washington. But these two are known to be the place where military or police personnel go when they donít want to be seen.
-You think that they chose the ďBlack HorseĒ and ďOíMalleyísĒ because they knew they would find their chosen targets there.
-I thing that those sick bastards didnít only want to kill some gay men, they targeted soldiers.
-So, where does it lead us?
-We may be able to find their next target.
-You seem to be a specialist of these kind of places, Tony. So where?

Tony didnít like the tone of Kateís voice.
-What bothers you the most, Kate? Is it the fact that I could be right this time or the fact that I know where gay clubs are in DC?
-I didnít mean it like that, Tony. but I didnít think you would be the kind of guy who go to gay bars.
-I love the music there.
Gibbs smiled at his loverís reply. He knew that the younger man had realised they had no time to loose in arguments. There would be other occasions to clear things with Kate.
-So, Tony. do you know where they would go tonight?
-Maybe. There are not many bars where policemen or soldiers could go without being questioned. Abby do you have a map of Washingtonís down town?
-Sure, Tony.
Tony was able to locate five clubs or bars that fit the profile. They were all looking at the map, trying to find a way to eliminate more places.
-They must choose a place where they could hide and without neighboors.
-This one seems to be the perfect place. A narrow street, no neighboors except stores which are closed at night.
-Ok. Tony I heard you say some times that you were the best for under cover mission. What about haunting gay clubs tonight?
-Sure, itís been a long time but I could manage.

Kate looked at them feeling that something had changed. They seemed more confident with each other.
-It would be risky to go there alone, Tony. Even with back up.
-I didnít intend to send him there alone, Kate. Besides even if Tony is a good actor they wouldnít think he could be a Marine.
Ducky was worried when he understood where this conversation would lead them.
-You donít really think of going there yourself, Jethro? You are not fit enough to play the bait.
-I must agree with Ducky, boss. I was a cop like Robertson.
-Yeah, but we must catch them and what would be more attractive to them than a couple.
-You want us to play lovers?
Tony couldnít hide his smile.

-A Marine and a cop. They would not be able to resist us.
-They never attacked a couple before. Besides have you ever been to this kind of club Boss?
-Iím aware of the details of the file thatís why I would go out alone. Kate, I donít think you are an option for this job. No matter if I had spent the night dancing at Babylonís or not. It could only be Tony and me this time.
Tony looked at Kate. She was speechless and Tony knew Gibbs had wanted to send everyone a message by talking about the most famous gay night club in town.
-So the two of go under cover and what?
-Abby give us some credit. I think our homophobic bastards would be thrilled by our couple. If we play this right we could make them follow one of us and catch them all.
-Isnít it a bite risky, Jethro?
-Not if we stay together, Ducky. I wonít wait for another young man to be killed. We will need surveillance, video. Abs, Mc Gee you take care of that.

The discussion was over and they all knew they wouldnít be able to make him change his mind. The only thing they could do was their job and be there if something went wrong.
-Ducky you check the autopsy of Robertsonís case as soon as it arrives. I want them to fall for this one too.
-I will study it in detail. If there is any similarity I will find it.
-Good everyone knows what he has to do so we meet at lunch.
Every one exited the lab except Kate.

-You are taking too many risks, boss. I know that I wonít be able to make you change your mind on that but I hope you wonít regret it later.
-You know I wonít risk any of your lives on this but someone has to do something.
-If you say so.
Gibbs didnít want to have this kind of conversation with her now but he couldnít let her doubt his abilities to make the right decision.
-Even if you think that itís not the right thing to do Iím able to take decisions. And I donít need you to discuss them. Iím still your team leader and you have a job to do, Agent Todd.
-Sure boss.

She exited the room with no more reply but Gibbs knew this was not over. He would have to explain to her why he had made this decision. He knew he had let his feelings lead him.
He was alone with Tony and he could feel his eyes on him. He knew what Tony wanted to ask and he waited for him.
-Have you ever been to Babylon, Jethro?
He couldnít help laughing at the question.
-In another life time, Tony.
-I would have paid to meet you there. I could imagine you on the dance floor.
-I was mostly at the bar. Iím not the kind of man who could dance.
-I can teach you even if what you do there is not dance. Itís more a question of moving in a suggestive way.
-I see and you know how do that, Tony.
-Iíll show you one day in private, boss.
Tony smile faded as he approached Gibbs.

-Are sure itís the only solution? What if they follow you in the alley behind the pub and attack you?
-It wonít happen, Tony. We wonít go there without back up. Kate and Mc Gee will be outside.
-I know but if something happen to you, I wonít...
-Donít go there, Tony. We will prepare everything. I donít intend on letting them catch me.
-You canít promise that. You know there is a risk. Donít lie to me.
-I donít want you to worry. There is always a possibility that everything gets out of control but Iím not afraid. You will be there.
-Sure, Love.
-I love when you call me that.

Tonyís hands were on Gibbsí shoulders. The older man could see the tight shirt of his lover follow each breath. Tony was so close to him that he could almost hear his heartbeat.
Gibbs stood in front of Tony and brushed his lips on Tonyís.
It was a slight kiss at first but they both wanted more. Tony didnít want to rush things but feeling Gibbs so close and willing in his arms sent shivers down his spine. His tongue found his way through Gibbsí parted lips.
Gibbs couldnít remember the last time he had felt so much in just one kiss. Tony was a passionate man and Gibbs had known that he would take the initiative. He didnít know for sure how long they stayed there, kissing in the middle of Abbyís lab but a soft moan escaped Tonyís lips as they parted.
-Woaw, boss. I wonít be able to concentrate on the job tonight if you kiss me like that. But I think we are ready.
-Iím not really sure. I think I need one more try.
-Whatever you want.
Tony was more than pleased to obey such orders.

They joined A bby, McGee, Kate and Ducky who couldnít help worrying about their friendís decision. They had spent their time planning their scenario for tonight. The point was to make it obvious they were together.
The most difficult part of their plan was to indentify the attackers before they attack and try to kill Gibbs. The murderers seemed to prefer gay men from the Marines, so they had to offer them what they wanted.

-Mc Gee what do you have prepared for us?
-Only the best, undetectable microphones. Even the FBI canít find them. The second team would stay fifty meters away in the street. We would be in communication with you two all the time. If something goes wrong you would only have to call for help. It would take a minute for the team to be there.
-What if he doesnít have a minute, Timothy?
-No negative attitude will be accepted here, Ducky.

Gibbs had tried to lighten the tone of the conversation but the ME was not in the mood for jokes.
-You shouldnít take it so lightly, Jethro. Lieutenant Evans was a trained Marine and he couldnít do anything to defend himself.
Gibbs decided to ignore him. He couldnít afford loosing time thinking of what might happen to him.
-Good job Mc Gee. Now we must be clear. Tony and I will go there separatly, as if we had an appointment. We will meet at the bar and give the guys a show.
-Youíll need someone inside to back you up. You wouldnít be able to search for them and play lovers in the same time.
-It would be too obvious, Kate. We stay there for a moment and then I would go out alone while Tony looks at the ones who would have noticed.
-Donít look at me like that, Ducky. I tried to make him change his mind but I must agree itís the only way we could catch them before they attack someone else.
-Iím well aware of that young man. Iím just afraid that the price to pay would be too high. You wouldnít be able to fight back if they attacked you and even if the team wonít be far away they would have enough time to hurt you badly.
-I am aware of this, Ducky. But you would be here with all your bugs and if I feel they are on to me I will call immediatly.
-I must agree with Ducky. They could hurt you pretty badly even if we arrive as soon as we receive your signal.
-I know it Kate and I never told you it wasnít a bit risky. Iím not longing for being kicked but if we wait there would be another innocent victim.
-Letís just hope it wonít be you.
-Iím flattered Ducky but Iím not quite innocent, you know.
-I am not hearing that!

They all turned to look at Abby who had stayed silent until now.
-I canít believe you are willing to play the bait after what that man had done to you. Just look at you, boss. A swollen eye, a gash in the forehead, broken ribs, hematomes the size of Texas. Whatís next?
-Abby this has nothing to do with my father.
-Are you sure of it? I think on the contrary that it has everything to do with your father. I donít know why but you wouldnít have thought of such a plan if he hadnít reappeared. You donít have to sacrifice yourself to catch them. We will find a way.
-We have no time to find another way. I donít know if you are right but we have to do something. A young man was beaten to death because those bastards thought he didnít deserve to live. Are you saying that we shouldnít do the best to catch those who did this to him?

The other members of the team were watching them wondering who would eventually win the exchange. Abby had always been the only one who could face Gibbs and today she was doing what they all wanted to do without daring it.
Tony agreed with Abby but he also knew there was no other way. They wouldnít be able to face themselves if they stayed there without trying anything. It would be easier but it was not like Gibbs to choose the easy way.

-Abs, Gibbs is right. Even if I know it is dangerous we have to try something. Besides I wonít be far from him. If I see someone suspect following him, Iíll arrest him before he could touch Gibbs.
-You, most of anyone here, should try to make him change his mind, Tony. Donít you see that he is about to put his life in the line one more time.
Tony looked at her with cold eyes. He was aware that Abby knew about his feelings toward Gibbs. The young woman had always been able to read them like open books. He could let her question his abilities to protect the man he loved.

-I can tell you that I would die instead of letting him be hurt. If I had agreed with him itís only because he would go no matter what I say. I prefered to help him instead. So letís get clear for everyone here. I will be there to back him up and believe me no one wants more than me to see him here safe and sound after this mission.
They were all stunned by Tonyís speech. Nobody had missed the possessive tone in his voice. It was clear for every witness that there was definitetly something between them.

-Everything will be fine, Abs. Tony is the best to take care of me.
-We all could see that, boss. May I ask a question that everyone wants to ask here?
-Itís not really good timing, Kate. We would continue this discussion tomorrow, promise. We still have some things to talk about.
-I think the plan is pretty clear, boss. We go there, we show off and arrest the bad guys.
-The hard thing would be to pretend to be in love with you, Tony.
-Iím hurt, boss. Am I not a loveable guy.

They couldnít tell what Gibbsí smile meant but it was for Tony only. Kate was now sure there was something more between them than usual and she was determine to know what.
They planned the last details concerning the security with Mc Gee and Kate trying to ignore Abby remarks. After that McGee went to prepare the car grabbing Abbyís arm to make her follw him to the parking lot.
He was aware that the young woman was worried but he knew that neither Gibbs nor Tony needed her to remind them how dangerous this plan was.
Tony and Kate were now arguing about the weapons they could take. Gibbs didnít listen to them and ended the argument sharply.
-No weapons for me. We donít know who they are. They may be former soldiers and if they are they would see if I am armed.
They didnít find anything to say so Kate decided to change the subject.
-Are you sure you are up to this, boss?
-For the last time Kate, yes I am. Iím still able to do the job.
-I donít worry about your abilities to do the job. Iím worried for you. There are limits for what a man can handle on his own...

She was about to add something when Tony approched Gibbs standing by his side in a protective attitude she had never witnessed with him.
-He is not alone, Kate.
-Sorry Tony but I wasnít talking about the mission...
-Me neither, Kate.
He put a hand on Gibbsí shoulder to make his words clearer. She was amazed to see Gibbs accept the touch. Tonyís eyes were cold as he had said that. He seemed to be angry at their team mate as if she was threatening him.
Gibbs could feel him tense behind him. He decided that reassuring Tony was far more important for now than hiding their new love from Kate. He turned to face the younger man he passed an arm around his waist to draw him into a hug. Tony began to relax in his arms.
-I need you to focus, Tony.

He broke the contact to face Kate.
-Iím not alone anymore, Kate.
-I didnít know that you were so close.
-Is there a problem with it, Kate?
-Even if I had a problem with the two of you being together, be sure it wonít interfere with the job.
-Iím glad to hear it, Kate.
-I must go prepare the weapons.

They stayed in the room as she walked away. Gibbs was not sure what to think of her reaction. He had known she would stay professionnal, thatís how she reacted when something bothers her.
-I donít think she took it well, boss.
-I donít care Tony. She can take it the way she wants, she can even talk to Morrow. I would resign if I have to. Besides I needed her to know.
-Me too. Iím happy you felt confident enough to tell her.
-I thought that you were about to yell at her if I didnít find a way to shut her up.
-So smart of you. No I know why I love you.
Gibbs froze at the way Tony had said it. It seemed so easy for him to say those words that Gibbs couldnít allow himself to say. He wasnít still sure that Tony really meant it. His vision began to blur. He was suddenly oblivious to his surroundings.

Tony saw him grow paler. He approached him placing a hand on his back.
-Are you Ok, Jethro?
As Gibbs felt Tonyís touch he knew he could let go. His knees gave up under him and the only reason why he didnít fall was because Tony caught before he touched the floor.
-Easy boss. We will sit here for a moment. Just stay with me.
Tony was woried by Gibbs weakness. It seemed that the older man was more affected by the events than he had thought.
-What happened, boss? I should take you home.
-No, Iím fine, Tony. I was just surprised by what you said.
-Why? You think I didnít mean it? You still think that noone can love you? You heard me well, Leroy Jethro Gibbs and I will say it until you believe me. I love you, Iím in love with you.
-Thank you Tony. I think I feel a little insecure for now. I know we are good together. It feels good to be able to touch you and kiss you. I feel safe in your arms but donít be mad at me. I canít say those words to you. Itís not because I donít feel it too but...
-Hey, boss I donít wait for you to say anything you are not ready for. But you must be sure of something. I wonít do anything which could hurt you, never. I wonít lie to you, Jethro.
-I know, Tony.

Tony took Gibbsí hand and entwined their fingers. Gibbs didnít want this moment to end. It was reassuring to feel Tonyís heat near him. He needed to feel him close. He knew that the mission they were about to perform would be hard but they had to concentrate on it.
-Feel better?
-Always felt better when you are around, especially now.
-Why didnít you tell me what you felt? It could have changed many things.
-I didnít know if you felt the same and I was not ready to tell you the truth about my father.
-So if he hadnít been freed, you would never have told me?
-I donít know, Tony. Ití s hard for me to admit it but I was scared to death to loose you. Iíve seen so many people run away at the thought of the man I really was.
-Iím not anyone, Jethro. I thought you knew it.

Tony seemed to be hurt by what he had heard from his lover. Even if he could understand his fears, it was hard to know that Gibbs hadnít seen through him.
-Iím sorry, Tony. I have nothing to say to make it easier for you. I couldnít afford loosing you. I couldnít risk what we had. I know itís selfish but it was the only way to keep you by my side.
-Thereís no need for apologizing, boss. I was good at hiding myself. I tried to send you signals some times but I was too afraid to be rejected.
-I promise you we would take time to have a real conversation as this case would be closed. I donít want to hide anything from you, Tony.
-Appointment taken, Jethro. For now, we have to dress for tonight. I want to make a good impression on our first date.What do you want me to wear, boss?
-It is not how I pictured our first date Tony. I promise that our real first would be much more romantic than a gay bar. Everything you choose would be fine to me. What do you suggest for me?
-A uniform would be too obvious. Even if I love you in your uniform. I think that your grey shirt will be fine. It matches your hair and makes your eyes brighter. And the black trousers I saw you in when we met at the restaurant the other night.
-You seem to know my wardrobe better than me. What will you wear?
-Tell me, Jethro, what had you planned for our first date?
-I sometimes thought that I could take you to Geneís for a romantis ďtÍte ŗ tÍteĒ. Then a last drink at the Shamrockís.
-What a plan! Certainly more romantic than a beer at the ďHot StuffĒ. I didnít think of you as a sap.
-I would do anything you want me to!
-I must go now or I would be late for tonight. I will meet you at the pub at eight. Donít let anybody flirt with you. You know you are mine.
Tony headed to the door slowly waiting for Gibbs to add something.
-Your blue shirt and those tight jeans you wore on monday morning when I picked you up.

Tony walked to his car smiling while Gibbs headed to Duckyís lab. The ME was reading the autopsy report of Robertson.
-Jethro. This report is quite interesting. There are obviously similarities between Lieutenant Evansí attack and Robertsonís case. The wood extracted from Robertsonís wounds was analysed and it comes from the same source as the one I found on Evans.
-So we only have to find the bat it comes from and we would be able to charge them for two murders.
-Sure, those bastards would stay behind bars for years.
-We will catch them, Ducky.
-And can you tell what the price would be for you?

Gibbs didnít know how to answer this question. He knew that he couldnít hide anything from Ducky but he didnít want to show him how scared he was to have to face these men.
-I know that you donít agree with this mission and that you would never question my decision. And I thank you for that. But we wouldnít have this conversation if I hadnít told you about my father.
-Maybe but you must admit that things have changed in the last two days and that the return of your father in your life had hit you pretty hard.
-I am well aware that I am weaker now because of him and what he had done to me. But you were right to say that things have changed and some of them for the better. I have someone to fight for, now. And I wonít risk loosing what I have with Tony even if we take it slow for now.
-Itís another reason to be careful, Jethro. You two deserve a chance to build a real relationship.
-I intend to take all the time needed to have a real relationship with him. And you know I mean it, Ducky. I wonít risk what we have even to solve this case.

They stayed quiet for a moment. Ducky knew that his friend had something more to say and waited for him to be ready to do so.
-Ducky I need you to do me a favor.
-Anything you need, my friend.
-I want you to give that letter to Tony if something happens. If Iím unable to tell him I want you to give it to him.
-Jethro, nothing will happen. We will be here to back you up. I wonít let anything happen to you now youíve found someone you love.
-I know, Ducky. But I would be reassuring if I knew that he would know what I feel for him even if I am unable to tell him. I want him to know how much I love him.
-I can understand tht but promise me that you will be careful.
-Sure, Ducky. Iíll let you work. I have to prepare, I have a date tonight.

Ducky looked at his friend as he exited the lab. He couldnít help that strange feeling deep in his guts that told him that something terrible was about to happen.

Chapter nine.


It was eight minus ten when he entered the club. He wasnít really at ease, even if the environment was quiet. He had never gone to a gay club before and he didnít know what to expect.
When he pushed the door open he was surprised to see that there were no differences between this place and a traditional club in town. He didnít know what he had been waiting for, maybe more colors, noise. But nothing like that here, no pink lights, no techno music, just a soft jazz playing and little single lights on each table.

Gibbs headed for the bar where a young man with long curly hair was cleaning glasses. They had agreed that the bar would be the best place to observe and be seen. They didnít know how the victims had been chosen. If they had noticed them inside or had waited outside. So they would have to play it both ways.

-What can I do for you, gentleman?
-Hi, I will have a beer.
-A beer. Itís the first time Iíve seen you here.
Gibbs didnít know if the young man was used to talking with every customers but he was flattered by the flirting tone he had used.

-No, Iíve just arrived in town and a friend of mine recommended this place. He told me it was a safe place to go for someone who didnít need to be seen.
-I see. What branch?
-How do you know Iím in the service?
-I suspected it when I saw you enter. The way you move, the way you scanned the place heading to the best place where you would be able to have a look at anyone coming in. So?
-Marines. Gunnery Sergeant Gibbs.
-So, Gunny what brings you here?
-Iím waiting for a friend. He will be here soon. We agreed to come here separately. We must be discreet.
-I should have guessed. All the good guys are already taken.
-You must meet a lot of guys here?
-Not so often. Besides this club is not a good place to find the good one. The men who come here are searching for a one night stand. They are not searching for love. And as Iím here all nights... You see what my problem is?
-I see. You talk like someone who had been badly hurt.
-I wonít bother you with my love life. I donít want my customers to go away running. Letís just say that I had my share of problems. Who doesnít? Now your turn. Who is that wonderful man?
-He is a cop.
-You must have a complicated life, Gunny. I see why you have to be discreet. Being gay in the Marines is already hard but dating a cop... He must really be special to be worth the risk.

Gibbs couldnít help smiling.
-He is. He is the best thing that has happened to me in the last twenty years or so. Tony and I have taken our time to be sure but I would give up everything for him if I had to.
Gibbs looked up at the young man before him amazed how easy it had been for him to admit that in front of a perfect stranger.

-Hey, I share my secrets with you and I donít even know your name.
-Blair Taylor.
-Nice to meet you, Blair.
They heard the door open and they both turned to see Tony coming in, a huge smile plastered on his face. Blair looked at Gibbs noticing how the older manís eyes had lightened at the sight of this man.

-I understand why you take all those risks,. He is really hot.
Gibbs must agree with Blair as he was unable to take his eyes off of Tony. He had listened to him and was wearing the jeans with a blue shirt that didnít hide his broad chest.
-Hi, are you waiting for someone?
-Only you.
Tony bended and placed a gentle kiss on Gibbsí lips while his right hand was stroking his knee.
-I missed you, Jethro.
-We only parted two hours ago.
-The longest two hours of my life. I was thinking of you in this shirt. You know how good you look in that?
-Did you have a look in the mirror before heading here? Every man in here turned to look at you when you entered. Even Blair told me he found you hot.
-Who is Blair? I thought I told you not to flirt while I wasnít here.
-Itís my fault, Tony. You canít blame me for trying to seduce a man like him. But I wonít do it again, I swear. You two look so in love.
Tony looked at the bartender with shining eyes. The young man seemed to be sincere and it was good for him to hear it.

-We are, Blair. And no I wonít blame you. But he isnít as nice as he may seem. He could be a real pain in the ass.
-Itís part of my charm.
-Itís refreshing to see happy people. With what happened lately...
-What are you talking about?
-Well, in the gay community rumors fly fast. I heard about those men who were attacked behind clubs. I can tell you that people are afraid.
-Any idea of who did this?
-Politicians are not in a hurry to find them. It seems to be a good thing for them that clubs like mine are not full anymore.
-What are you trying to say?
-I donít know who did that but local authorties are not bothered. They will only wait and see.
-But you didnít close the club.
-No, Iím not the kind of man who can be easily frightened. But I must admit that when I close up for the night I look behind my back before heading home. But it would please them if I closed the club. You may call it arrogance but I donít want them to win.

They drank in silence for a while meditating on what Blair had said. They couldnít find any reason to close their eyes to murder. Gibbs didnít want to give up.
If no one else was willing to do it, they would catch them and put them behind bars. They wonít kill again in the name of hate and some misguided religious beliefs.
-You are really quiet tonight, Jethro.
-Sorry, Tony. I was just thinking of what Blair said.
-I know what you think but itís not our role to go on a crusade for gay coupleís rights. We have murderers to catch.
-What a wise man you are, Tony.
-Donít forget Iím your guardian angel.

They kissed trying not to forget why they were there. It was hard for them to stay aware of their surroundings while they were so close.
They heard the door open and saw two men enter the club. They didnít seem to be really at ease here but it was not enough for them to be the killers. Something in their behaviour rang a bell in Gibbsí mind. They had seen them kiss and the taller was looking at them.

-Kate, can you hear me?
-Loud and clear, boss.
-Have you seen the two men that just entered?
-Yes, they parked their car near us.
-Were they alone?
-There is no one else in the car.
-Thanks, Kate. Stay in contact.

Blair had listened carefully to the exchange and he felt that the two men were not here only to drink a beer. Blair had also noticed the strange behaviour.
-Those two seem to be jealous.
-Have you seen them here before?
-I donít think so. It seems to be the day for new customers.
They were here for two hours now, talking, kissing. The other two hadnít moved from their seats and the club was now crowded. They hadnít taken their eyes off the two special agents.
-Itís time for me to go. Keep an eye on those two for me.

Tony caught Gibbsí hand.
-Be careful, love.
-Give me ten minutes and if you donít hear the signal go out to Kate and Mc Gee.
Gibbs headed to the door after waving good bye to Blair. Tony tried to concentrate on their suspects. Something was bothering him and he couldnít really say what it was. The two men didnít make a move to follow Gibbs and Tony was a bit reassured that they could have been wrong.
-You seem to be worried. You think itís them?

Tony was stunned by Blairís question.
-You know, a bartender must know how to judge people quickly. And I can tell that you and Gunny are not what you told me. Your questions were too precise to be innocent. You investigating those muders?
-One of the victims was a Second Lieutenant in the Marines. We are NCISí agents.
-You two are good actors. I was sure you two were together.
-We are, Blair. You canít pretend love even for good actors.
-To be honest I didnít say the truth to you. I had seen them before. I didnít remember at first because there was two other men with them. But they were here yesterday. I didnít see them tonight.
-What? You are telling me that those two were here yesterday with two other men?
-Yes, they stayed there, drank beers.
-Look around and tell me if you can see them somewhere. Tís important, Blair.
The young man looked around searching for the men he had seen the day before.
-No, Tony they are not here.
-Kate, can you hear me.
-Yeah, Tony. whatís up? I thought Gibbs would go out at ten?
-You didnít see him? Shit.

Tony could feel his blood freeze in his veins. There was four killers. He understood at that time what their plan was. Those two were there to choose the victim while the others waited for him to go out. He must warn Gibbs. He had gone out five minutes ago and Kate hanít seen him yet. He tried to run out of the club but he was slowed by the crowd. He had to go out and find him.
His heart was beating hard in his chest. He was so scared of what he would find outside. It took him what looked like an eternity to go out. As he opened the door the fresh air surprised him.

-Kate, Mc Gee. Something has gone wrong. There are four. Two of them are inside in the right corner. Mc Gee go and get them. If you need help, ask the bartender, his name is Blair. Kate with me in the alley.

Tony saw them run out of the car but he was already hurrying into the alley. He heard Gibbs before seeing him and what he heard made him dizzy. The man he loved was in pain and he hadnít been able to protect him. He had promised him nobody would hurt him anymore. Now he was here in this dark alley. What they had feared the most was happening and he couldnít run fast enough.They had been fooled by those bastards.

He had to save him. He saw that Kate was handing him something and without thinking he took it. He was relieved to feel the gun in his hand. He was not prepared for what he saw when he entered the alley. Gibbs was already on the floor trying to protect himself with his arms while they were hitting him with a baseball bat.

-Drop that bat or I swear I will kill you two.

Kate was behind him with two other men. The agressors looked up at them and saw they had no chance. They raised their hands after having thrown away their weapons. Tony couldnít move, his finger was still on the trigger. Kate went to his side putting a hand on his arm.

-We caught them, Tony. itís over now. I called an ambulance and Ducky will soon be here.
-They killed him.
He wasnít really aware of what he was saying. He couldnít look at Gibbs.
Tony finally found the will power to go to him and kneel beside him. He was covered with blood and he couldnít feel a pulse. A sudden panic was preventing him from breathing. He was so still. Tony heard Duckyís voice but he couldnít understand what the ME was saying. He realised that he was in the way.

-Let me take care of him, Anthony.
-I... I canít feel his pulse, Ducky. I let them kill him...
-No, Anthony. he is not dead. His pulse is weak but I can feel it. Kate where is the ambulance? We havenít much time.
Tony could hear the anger in Duckyís voice.

-Ducky, Where is all this blood coming from?
-He was hit in the head several times, Tony.
Gibbs was trying to open his eyes and Tony took his hand .

-Thatís it, Love. You must fight for me. Open your eyes. Let me see that you are here with me.
-Iím here, love. Iím so sorry. I should have guessed what they had planned.
-God, Jethro stay with me. You canít leave me alone, not now.
Tony wasnít aware of the tears that were running down his cheeks.
-Donít ...cry...so... sorry.
-Nothing to be sorry for, Boss. You will be fine. You promised me a real date.
-Sorry, Tony... I canít... hurt...
Tony couldnít help a cry has he felt Gibbsí hand relax in his hands.

-You canít do that to me. You canít let them win. You have to fight, Jethro, for me... for us!
Ducky had already opened Gibbs shirt and began to do cardiac massage. Gibbsí heart had stopped.
-Anthony is right Jethro. You canít let them win.
They were all relieved to hear the sirens of the ambulance and a minute later they were surrounded by paramedics. Tony was sent away so they could work, he could hear Ducky talking to them.
-His heart stopped a minute ago I began the massage immediatly.
-ok we will take care of him now, doctor.
Tony heard the sound made by this machine that send electrical shock. His heart missed a beat at each shock. He collapsed on the ground. The only thing he was able to see now was the red of Gibbsí blood on his hands and the green straight line on the monitor...

Chapter 10.
Healing process.

It seemed to last for an eternity. Tony couldnít breath as he looked at the man trying to bring Gibbs back to life...

-We have a pulse.

He knew that Gibbs was a strong man but he had been too close to loose him this time. They put him on a gurney and carried him to the ambulance.
-We have stabilized him for the moment but he has severe head wounds and his blood pressure is very low. He must have internal bleedings. We called the hospital and they are preparing surgery for him.

The paramedic looked at Tony who was still sitting on the floor.
-You should take him with you. I donít think he should drive.
-I will take care of him. Thank you very much for bringing him back to us.
-It is not won yet but he is strong.
Ducky turned to look at Tony as the ambulance was driving away.

-Tony, my dear friend. Jethro will be fine. They are driving him to Bethesda where a squadron of surgeons are waiting for him.
Tony didnít reply and Ducky didnít know if he had really heard him. Kate walked to them and looked at Ducky.

-Is he alright, Ducky? He seems so ...
-Lost. Yeah. You are aware that our Anthony and Jethro are much more than friends to each other?
-They told me so.
-It must have seemed a nightmare coming true to him when he saw Gibbs uncounscious on the ground. He is in shock, Caitlin.
Ducky put a reassuring hand on Tonyís shoulder and help him stand up.

-Jethro would need you when he wakes up. I will drive you to the hospital, my friend.
Tony seemed to realise where he was and gave a puzzled look to Ducky and Kate.
-Where is Jethro. Where did they take him?
-He is gone with the ambulance. They are taking him to the hospital.
-I want to see him, Ducky. I need him.
-I know my friend. I know.

It was almost unbearable for them to see Tony so helpless, so vulnerable. He had lost the brightness in his eyes. Ducky was by Tonyís side as if he was afraid that the younger man could pass out.
He felt mixed emotions. Of course he was worried for his friend but he was also angry at Gibbs who hadnít been able to take care of himself like he had promised. Ducky knew he had to be strong for Tony and Kate, who was silently crying.

They both helped Tony sit in the passenger seat of the car and Kate drove them fast to Bethesda. Little by little Tony seemed to regain control of his mind.

-Where are those sickening bastards, Kate?
-We sent them to the headquarters. They will be interrogated but as we have all the evidence we need, I donít there will be any need for them to answer questions.
-I want to have five minutes alone with them and I can assure you that they will sing.
-I donít think Morrow will let anyone of us near them. Even if I would like to see their faces in the dirt.

Tony was surprised to hear such hate in Kateís voice. Even if he had doubted that Kate would accept their relationship he realised that she cared a lot about Gibbs and it warmed him a little.
As they entered the emergency room they were asked to wait because Gibbs was already in surgery. There was extensive internal bleeding.
The three of them were asked to sit in the waiting room where a doctor would come to talk to them as soon as Gibbs got out of surgery. They knew that Gibbs was in bad shape. The could not forget the sight of his blood on the ground.

But Tony was the only one who had seen life leave his eyes. He had heard his heart stop and he could still taste the bitterness of that moment in his mouth. The precise moment when he had thought he had lost him for good.
-Tony, do you want something to drink?
-No, thanks Kate. I donít think I would be able to swallow anything. But you can do something for me.
He handed her a small piece of paper.

-Itís Brianís phone number. Can you call him. I donít want to leave this room if ...
-No problem, Tony.
They both looked at her as she exited the room. Tony was exhausted. He had witnessed his worst nightmare coming true before him. And now he was waiting for a doctor to tell him that the love of his life would be fine. It was the only thing he wanted to hear right now. The pain in his chest was almost unbearable. He felt as if someone had ripped away his heart.

-He will be fine, Tony. Before the mission he came to me and told me that he had a reason to fight now and you are his reason to fight Tony. He wonít give up on you.
-I hope so, Ducky. But he almost died today and Iím so scared.
Tony didnít hold back the tears and didnít resist when Ducky hugged him. He needed to let go. He didnít hear Kate coming back but he felt someone caressing his back.

-Iím sure he loves you, Tony. I saw it in his eyes and Ducky is right you are his reason to fight.
-Thanks, Kate.
They stayed there in a tight embrace, trying to find the strength in each other to believe everything would be fine. Tony was glad that their friends were there with him, he wouldnít have found the strength to wait without them.

They waited there for two hours without anyone to talk to. They all jerked when the door opened revealing Brian who seemed to be more than angry.
-What happened, Tony? I donít understand! You said that...
Ducky interrupted him, seeing that Tony had begun to tremble under the verbal attack.
-Calm down, young man! There was nothing Tony could have done to avoid what had happened, Brian. Jethro is in good hands. Surgeons are operating on him now. You should sit down a moment.
-Yeah, Ducky. You are right of course. Sorry , Tony, I didnít mean to say it like that.
-You were right, Brian. I had promised to protect him and I failed.

Brian stood and walked over to Tony. He knelt in front of him and placed a reassuring hand on the younger agentís arm.
-Itís not your fault, Tony. You couldnít have changed anything that happened.
-I donít know, Brian. If I had been faster or if I had guessed that those guys had made two squads.
-Tony, look at me.
Brian waited for Tony to look up at him.

-I donít want you to think that all thatís happened is your fault. Jethro wouldnít let you think that. You know that he wouldnít have let you think that you were responsible.
-Brian. You were not here. You didnít see him. You didnít hear his heart stop. I couldnít...
-Tony, Iím sure he will be fine. He will fight for you.
Tony could feel the tears runing down from his eyes once more.

-You have to be strong for him. He would need you when he wakes up, Tony.
They were interrupted by the doctor who opened the door of the waiting room.
-You are Agent Gibbsí family?
-Iím his brother and this is the rest of the family.
-We have stabilized him. His internal injuries were extensive and he lost a lot of blood. We believe we saved his kidneys.
-Will he be okay?
-We canít be sure for now. His skull has been fractured in many places. I called the best neurologist I know. He will be here in the morning.
Duckyís medical experience allowed him to ask precise questions.

-What are the chances of permanent brain damage?
-We canít be sure since he is still unconscious. All I can say is the next twenty four hours will be decisive.
-Thank you, doctor.When could we see him?
-He is still in intensive care and he will remain there until we can upgrade his condition. We will have to wait until tomorrow, at least.
-I need to see him.

Ducky turned to face Tony and was about to try to persude him to go home. But when he saw the pain in his friendís eyes he knew that Tony wouldnít be able to go anywhere without being sure Gibbs was alive.
-Doctor, can we just have a look at him. It was pretty hard for us to see him there.
Ducky could hear the sigh of relief from behind him when the doctor allowed Brian and Tony to go and see Gibbs.

The two men followed the doctor in the corridors. Tony wasnít even aware of where they were heading. The only thing he knew was that he would see Gibbs. What the doctor said was still resonating in his ears. Brain damage, permanent injuries, he didnít want to think about it now.
They arrived in front of the closed door of room number 101.

-Here he is. I give you five minutes. He is in good hands and we have your phone number Agent DiNozzo.
-Thank you, doctor.
Tony opened the door and entered the room where Gibbs was lying in the bed covered with white sheets. Tony could hear the bips from the numerous machines that were linked to his lover.

-He is so pale, Brian.
-I know, Tony. But itís because he has lost a lot of blood. Iím sure he will be fine.
-I hope so, Brian.
The young Agent walked to the side of the bed. His lover had a tube in his mouth to help him breath, his head was heavily bandaged. Tony leaned over the rail, his lips brushing Gibbsí ear.
-You know I love you , boss. I need you here with me. You have to fight.
He had whispered but Brian had been able to hear him. He walked beside Tony and placed a hand on his back.
-Iíll take you home, Tony. you need to rest.
Tony looked up at him with wet eyes.

-I donít want to leave him alone, Brian.
-They will take care of him, Tony.
A nurse entered the room, beginning to check on Gibbsí vitals. She smiled at them.
-You are his family?
Tony was the first to answer to the young lady.
-I love him, Maíam.

She didnít seem to be shocked by the confession Tony had just made. She smiled at him.
-He is a lucky man to have someone like you by his side. Be sure I will take good care of him. I will call you if there is anything new but he will be unconscious for a while.
-Thank you...
-Annie, my name is Annie.
-Promise me to call if anything happens no matter what time it is.
-You have a deal, young man. But promise to try to rest. You look like someone who is exhausted. Now go home and let me do my job.

Brian took Tonyís arm.
-Iíll take him home and stay with him tonight. We will be here first thing in the morning.
They exited Gibbsí room and walked to the waiting room where Ducky and Kate were still waiting for them.
-Are you OK, Tony?
-Yes, Ducky. I saw him, he seems so pale and all these machines...
-They are here to help him, Tony.
-I know, Ducky but itís not reassuring to think that he needs help to breath.
-Letís drive you home.

They arrived at Gibbsí home ten minutes later. Tony didnít want to stay at his apartment. He felt closer to his lover here. He didnít wait for Ducky to tell him to go to bed and walked to Gibbsí bedroom.
He layed down on the bed where he had slept the last two nights. But he missed him, he couldnít be there without him. He found Gibbsí shirt beside the bed, he took it. He fell asleep in the smell of the one he loved, linked to him.

Ducky and Brian had stayed in the living room and were drinking a coffee, unable to go to sleep.
-What really happened tonight, Ducky?
-It was a dangerous mission. Everyone tried to persuade Gibbs that it wasnít necessary but you know how he can be when he had decided to do something. He wanted to catch those bastards more than any of us. He planned a trap with Tony. They had to play lovers in a gay club and attract the killers. Everything went terribly wrong. We realised there were not two but four killers. As Tony had stayed inside Gibbs went outside. It seems that he had been attacked as he exited the club. As Tony realised that they had been fooled he went outside but it was too late. We found him in the alley, they were beating him.

-God, what had he done?
-He wanted to catch those bastards and I think it blinded him. Iím sorry that we were unable to protect him even against himself.
-Itís not anyoneís fault, Ducky. I wish Tony could be convinced too.
-He will feel better as soon as Jethro will regain consciousness. You know Iíve never seen either of them like that. They seem to be really in love this time.
-Iíve seen that too, Ducky. We will have to take care of them because they are unable to do it themselves.
-You are right my dear friend. Iíll begin immediately by checking on Tony.
-Iíll prepare something to eat.

Ducky walked to Gibbsí bedroom and found Tony asleep with his loverís shirt in his hands. He sat on the bed. Even if he didnít want to wake him up he was unable to stay away. He had to reassure him, to reassure himself that everything would be fine. He placed his hand on Tonyís forehead. The young man must be exhausted because even the contact didnít wake him..
-My poor young friend. I hope you are able to get through this nightmare.
He stood and exited the dark room. He joined Brian in the kitchen where Gibbsí brother was cooking. They shared a light meal and decided to sleep in Gibbsí house.

The next morning Tony was the first up and when Brian joined him he had already made coffee and was ready to go to the hospital.
-You have just the time to drink a cup before we go.
-Sure, Anthony but we will get coffee at the hospital. I think we all need to see him.
-Thanks, Ducky. I am barely able to wait. They didnít phone so he must be fine.
-Off course, Tony. He has always been able to get through the worst moments. Nothing would change that.

As soon as they arrived at the hospital Tony ran more than he walked to Gibbsí room. As he arrived there he found the bed empty. A sudden panic overwhelmed him. He ran outside searching for a doctor.

-Where is he? Ducky he is not here.
-If you had not run so fast, Anthony, you would have heard the nurse who told us that they had moved him to a regular room this morning.
-He is fine?
-Yes, Tony. he even regained consciouness briefly in the morning.
Tony looked around as if he was searching for a sign of Gibbs presence somewhere.
-Room 235. The floor upstairs.

He headed for the stairs. Breathless, he stood in front of Gibbsí door. As he pushed it open, Tony was pleased to see the man he loved carefully wrapped in white sheets. But what made him sigh was the fact that the oxygen machine had disappeared. He suddenly heard a voice behind him.

-He was able to breath on his own and his test results have been better than expected. We decided to transfer him out of the intensive care unit.
Tony was relieved to hear that but he was unable to thank the doctor that had delivered such good news. He sat beside the bed in a plastic chair. He needed to feel Gibbs closer to him, he took his hand and brought it to his lips. He was relieved to feel his warmth against his mouth. He didnít even look up when Ducky, Brian and Kate entered the quiet room.

-Iím glad to see the two of you reunited. The doctor let us enter just a minute... You will be able to stay with him today, Anthony. The nurses have told us he regained consciousness briefly this morning and the only word he said was your name. So they guessed that it would be better for him to have you by his side.
-Yeah, Iíll stay with him. I donít want him to wake up alone. But for the case...
-Donít worry Tony. McGee and I will take care of the reports. He needs you here and for now Gibbsí health is our only priority.
-Thank you, Kate.
-Take care of him and when he wakes up, tell him that we are all with him.
-Sure, Kate but Iím sure he already knows it. We are a family.
-Yes, Anthony, we are. And as a family we stay close through tough times.

Tony smiled at them seeing that they really meant it. He could almost picture the rest of their weird family. Even if Abby and McGee were not here he could feel that they both shared the emotions caused by Gibbsí attack.
As they exited the room he concentrated on Gibbsí breathing. He could have stayed here all day long just looking at his chest rising with each breath.
A new nurse entered the room a moment later.

-You must be Tony. You know he asked for you the moment he opened his eyes. My name is Cassie. Do you want anything to drink or eat?
-Nice to meet you, Cassie. Even if I wish it could have been in other circumstances.
-Yes, I guess it is a stressful situation for you but his results are good considering what he has been through. The doctors expect him to wake up soon.
-Iím glad to hear it. It has been a nightmarish week.
-If you need anything or if you have questions, donít hesitate. My shift ends at noon.
-Are you so involved with every patient or have you experienced his charm before.
-In fact Iíve met him years ago. He was my neighboor and one night as I was walking back from the university I was attacked by two men. Gunny heard me call for help...
-Let me guess... He kicked their sorry asses back to their motherís home?
-Something like that. He looked after me until he moved to a new town.
-He does that sometime with people he cares about.
-You two seem to be close?
-We are. We worked together for years now and we are friends.

-I respect your discretion but there is much more than friendship in the way you look at him, the way you were holding his hand when I came in. You donít have to hide what you feel in front of me. I am just married so I know what it feels like.
-Thanks, Cassie.
-No problem. I owe Gunny for what he did to help me. He is a good man.

Tony didnít reply, he had only eyes for Gibbs. Cassie walked out of the room smiling at the love she could see in Tonyís eyes. Gibbs moved in his sleep and Tony approached him.

-Jethro, can you hear me. Come on, open your eyes for me. I know you can do it.
It was hard to see him fight against the pain, the tiredness but Tony knew Gibbs would do it for him.
-Look at me, love. Show me that you are here. I miss you so much.
Tony wanted to scream as he finally saw the blue eyes of his lover.
-Good job, boss.

Gibbs looked at him but Tony didnít know if he could really see him. He seemed to be confused.
-You are in a hospital, donít try to move. You were assaulted in the alley behind the pub last night. You have lost a lot of blood and they had to operate on you.
Gibbs closed his eyes as if the memories were coming back. Tony thought he had lost consciousness again but the older man took his hand and squeezed it. It was his way to make him understand that he remembered.

-We caught them boss. They will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. We have all the proof we needed.
Tony could see how relieved Gibbs was to hear it as he rifted into sleep again.
Cassie re entered the room holding a steaming cup of fresh coffee.
-I thought that you would like to drink something hot. Itís pretty chilly today.
Tony took the offered cup and couldnít hide the huge smile that was plastered on his face.

-He woke up, didnít he?
-Yeah, he didnít say anything but I was able to tell him what happened.
-And he saw that you were here with him. It will help him recover to know that you are with him. I think that he needed to see you as much as you needed to.
-I guess I needed to be sure he was alive. You know when I saw him unconscious on the ground of that alley, there was so much blood... I thought he was dead.
-Iím sure he will be fine. It will certainly take some time but he will recover with your help. Itís obvious that you love him and the fact that you were the first he asked for when he woke up shows how important you are for him.

-Life has his own way to make you understand what is really important. And this man is the most important person in my life. I canít imagine living without him.
-I think I can understand. I saw Doctor Fraser, the one who did the surgery yesterday, he will come later in the morning with the neurologist he called. I told him to share the details with you as you are Agent Gibbsí next of kin.
-You think he will need another surgery?
-I canít say for sure but the MRI showed swelling that needs to be reduced. Doctor Fraser would be more precise than me.
-Thanks, Cassie for being honest with me.

Tony smiled at her when she exited the room. He couldnít help loving her.
The voice was weak but it was the softest sound he had ever heard.
-Iím here, Love. I wonít move from here. You just need to rest.
-Need you.
Tony was not sure what Gibbs meant but he saw him raised his hand searching for him. He took it and pressed it to his cheek.
-I wonít let you alone, Love. Donít be afraid, I will stay here.

He kissed his loverís hand trying to reassure him by his warmth. He didnít want him to feel lonely as he had when he was a child. He needed to feel his love. It had always been easy for Tony to express his feelings. Gibbs seemed to relax at the contact even if it was obvious that he was in pain. Even Tony relaxed a bit.
A moment later, Doctor Fraser entered the room with a white haired man.

-Agent DiNozzo, this is Doctor Jones the neurologist. Heís going to have a look at Agent Gibbs. Did he wake up already?
-Briefly minutes ago. He seemed confused for a moment but he recognized me.
-Thatís a good sign. His results are good but we must take every precaution to avoid further injuries.
-Sure, doctor. Iíll wait outside while you examine him.
-Thank you , Agent DiNozzo.

Tony exited the room giving a last look at the man in the bed. He was waiting in the hall when he saw Abby coming from the other end.
-Abs, what are you doing here?
-I couldnít stay in the lab without thinking about him. So McGee sent me here.
-Iím happy to see you here, Abs. He woke up a moment earlier and he recognized me.
-Why are waiting outside?
-He is with Doctor Fraser and the neurologist to see if he suffers from other damage.
-Do you think he will be fine?
-I hope so, Abs. But the nurse told me that there was still swelling and he may need more surgery.
-Hasnít he had enough? And you Tony? How are you dealing with all this mess?
-Iím better now that I saw him awake. He even talked to me.
-Iím sure he willbe fine, Tony.

The two doctors exited the room while they were talking.
-How is he, doctor?
-He seems fine to me, Agent Dinozzo. He talked to us and he was aware of where he was and what had happened.
-You donít know how Iím glad to hear it, Doctor Jones. What about the swelling in his brain?
-We will schedule another MRI later to see if it has been reduced. But I donít think that he will need more surgery.

Abby couldnít stay quiet at the good news.
-Itís great, Tony! Can we see him, doc?
-Sure, young lady. He is awake but we must let him rest.
-Thank you, Doctor.
The two doctors walked to another room as Tony and Abby entered Gibbsí room. The older man was wide awake and smiled at his friends.
-Hello you two!
-Happy to see you awake, boss.
-Abs! What are you doing here? You donít have a job to do?
-Sure, boss. Itís my break.
Abby couldnít hide her smile. Tony approached the bed and sat on the edge.
-How are you, Jethro?
-Fine, Tony. Even if I donít really remember what happened. The only thing I seem able to remember is you talking to me.
-Iím glad that you remember me, boss. There is no need to remember anything else. The only thing important is that you are here now.
-You are so cute together! Thatís wonderful that you finally decided to declare yourselves.

The two had replied at the same time, looking at the young woman in front of them. Abby kissed Gibbsí forehead softly and whispered something in his ear that Tony wasnít able to hear. She exited the room.
-What did she tell you?
-Itís a secret between us Tony.
-Can I kiss you, boss?
-Do you really have to ask?
-I donít want to hurt you, Jethro.
Tony bent and placed a slight kiss on Gibbsí lips.

-Now, Iím fine.
Tony was smiling at him when he felt his eyes water.
-I will be fine Tony. You donít have to worry.
Gibbs wiped the tears away but the movement made him wince.
-Donít move, boss. Youíve been badly hurt. What do you remember exactly?
-I remember my father, our last case and that stupid mission I planned. And a man called Blair donít ask me who he is.
-You have almost all the pieces. The plan was too risky and it turned wrong. I hadnít guessed that there were four attackers. They were waiting for you to leave the club.
-Iím sorry, Tony. I should have been more careful. I didnít see it coming.
-You couldnít have guessed. Besides we were supposed to back you up. When you left the club, I felt that something was wrong but I couldnít put a finger on what was bothering me. When I realised it, it was too late...
-It was not, Tony. they didnít kill me.

His breath was uneasy and he could feel the tears in his eyes. It was too hard for him to think about the moment he had felt Gibbsí heart stop. Gibbs felt that Tony was too shocked to talk. He had to reassure him.

-Hey, come here.
He guided Tonyís face on his bandaged chest trying not to wince at the pain caused by the contact.
-Can you hear it, Tony?
The younger man didnít quite understand what Gibbs meant but the hand in his hair forced him to stay still.
-Do you hear my heart? Iím still here, Tony and I have no intention of dying soon. If Iím still alive itís only because of you. I was about to give up, Tony but then I heard your voice and felt you hand in mine.

Tony concentrated on his earing trying to feel Gibbsí heart. What a beautiful sound. Here it was, strong and regular. The young man closed his eyes and let his feelings overwhelm him. He could feel all the tension of the last days fly away from him. Gibbs could feel his loverís sobs and became aware of what Tony had been through.

As Ducky and Brian entered the room five minutes later they found the two men deeply asleep. Tony still wrapped around his loverís chest.
-Iím glad that they finally found each other. They were meant to be together.
-How long did you know that they were in love with each other, Ducky?
-I think I knew it even before them. I saw their exchanges. They were not aware of the way they touched, the way they looked at each other, how close they were.
-Jethro would not have been able to recognize love because of what Dad had done to him. Why didnít Tony say anything?
-He was attracted to him from almost the beginning but I think he was afraid to be rejected. They were friends and he didnít want to risk it for a dream.
-I hope they will be okay.
-We will look after them and prevent them from making a mistake. What about leaving them have some rest? May I buy you a coffee, young man?
-I knew you were a gentleman, Doctor Mallard.
-Itís amazing how you look exactly the same as your brother.
-I take it as a compliment.
-It was one.
Both men headed for the cafeteria letting Tony and Gibbs rest in each others arms.

Chapter 11.
Starting a new life.

It took five days to be sure that there was no more bleeding resulting from the head trauma and two more days to complete all the neurological tests.
After five more days in bed, Gibbs was declared fit enough to go home. Tony, who had spent most of his time at the hospital, was more than relieved to hear the doctors say that he would be allowed to bring him home the next day.

Tony suspected Gibbs to have been a nasty boy with all his nurses, except Cassie, until they decide to send him home.
Tony went to the hospital early. They agreed they both would stay at Gibbsíhome until the older man had recovered enough to stay alone. He knocked at Gibbsí door and entered as he heard his loverís invitation.

-Are you ready to go home?
-More than ever.
Gibbs wasnít dressed already and Tony guessed that the nurses hadnít come to help him yet.
-Maybe I could help you dress up then I will take you home where your bed is waiting for you.
-My clothes are on the table behind you.
Gibbs sat slowly on the edge of the bed. His movements were cautious and Tony could see that every breath hurt.

-I have always dreamed of saying this: Strip down, Marine!
-Donít make me laugh, it hurts, Tony.
-Sorry, Boss.
Gibbs stood slowly and approached Tony placing a gentle kiss on his lips. Tony savoured the moment and did not want to break the contact. They hadnít had time together in the last five days even if Tony had spent all his time with him. There was always a doctor, a nurse or some visitors to disturb them. That simple kiss was the most intimate touch they had shared since the attack.

Tony helped him get dressed. He was glad that Gibbs had accepted his help so easily as it had never been natural for him to show his weakness.
-Sit down here for a while while I collect your things.
-Thanks, Tony. I didnít remember that dressing up could be so exhausting.
-You must take it easy for a while. I will ask for a wheel chair to go to the car.

Tony was worried hearing no reply from Gibbs when he had talked about the wheel chair. The older man must be quite exhausted to accept it so easily.
Gibbs waited on the bed while Tony was dealing with the papers.
The older man was exhausted and the pain in his chest made each breath hell. He wished he could lie down on his own bed with a soft pillow, and a night without nightmares. They had haunted him the last five nights and he had awakened with sweat on his forehead and Tony at his side. The younger man man had spent all his nights looking after him.

-Are you ready?
He hadnít heard Tony and the nurse come back from the office with the wheel chair.
-Sure Tony. I was dreaming of my bed and a coffee.
-Itís a dream easy to accomplish. Sit here, Gunny.
-You never called me Gunny before.
-It sounded too intimate but I liked it when Blair called you that.
He helped his lover sit in the chair and they headed to the place where Tony had parked the car. As they exited the elevator they realised that the way to the parking couldnít be taken by a wheel chair.

-What a pity! They couldnít build walkways to the parking garage.
-This building is older than me, Tony.
-Ok, do you think you can wait while I get the car?
-How far is it?
-I didnít find a place near the exit. I parked it in the next lot.

By the time Tony returned with the car Gibbs was exhausted just sitting there.
He had spent nearly two weeks in a bed and the last two days had been able to shuffle along dragging his IV stand to the coffee machine and back to his room. Now he wasnít sure he would be able to stand up for long if Tony didnít hurry. The younger man was now swearing as he dropped his keys in the gutter.

-Sorry Boss.
Gibbs could feel the sweat running down his temples. He had trouble focusing on Tony and closed his eyes feeling the dizziness growing.
-I got them, Boss.
Tony looked at his lover worried to read the pain in his eyes.
-Good, Tony.
Gibbs pushed himself up as the nurse and Tony reached for him, holding him still.
-Sorry, Jethro. What a guardian angel I make!
-The only one I want next to me.
-I should have been more careful. Iím stupid.
-I will be just fine Tony, just open that door so I can sit down for a moment.

Tony let him go to open the door. Gibbs closed his eyes concentrating on his breathing. Breath in, breath out, slowly as he had learnt from his past experiences. He hoped that Tony would be fast because he didnít know if he would be able to stay conscious for a long time.

He tried to turn to look if Tony had opened the door. Bad idea. The move made his world spin around. He tried to catch something to stabilize but he couldnít focus on anything. He knew he was about to faint and that Tony would feel guilty about it. He tried to hold on but his body refused to fight anymore. Gibbs was falling down when Tony looked up at him.
-Shit, Jethro. Look at me, Love. Open your eyes. Please look at me, tell me that you are fine.
Tony wasnít aware he was tearing up. He couldnít help feeling responsible for Gibbsí weakness. It wouldnít have happened if he had not been so stupid.
Gibbs heard Tonyís plea. As he opened his eyes he saw the younger man bent over him face pale with concern. He realised that his head was resting on Tonyís shoulder. He wasnít face up on the sidewalk after all.

-Hey, Iím sorry, Jethro. I was too slow.
-No need to apologize. I could have stayed up a little longer if I hadnít tried to look behind me. It was not the best move to try.
Gibbs reached for Tonyís cheeks, wiping away the tears.

-I donít want you to cry especially not for me, Tony. Iíll be fine. For now I donít really know where my head is but with a good night rest and a hot bath I will be good as new.
-Is that a proposition, Agent Gibbs?
-There is enough space in my bath tube for the two of us if itís what you want to know.
-I knew you couldnít resist my massage.
-I think it could be helpful.
-Agent DiNozzo, if you donít get Agent Gibbs in the car right now he will be back in bed right here.
Tony help him stand and then assisted him to settle down on the passengerís seat. He didnít like the pain he could see in Gibbsí eyes.

-Are you Ok?
Gibbs was trying to catch his breath. It wasnít late but he felt as if he had spent the day running a marathon. He felt old and sore but he couldnít let Tony see it.
-I will be fine Tony. I think I just had too much exercise for today.
As Tony entered the car, Gibbs opened his eyes. He seemed to be unable to keep his eyes open.
-Letís go home, Boss.
Tony turned his head to look at Gibbs. He was relieved to see a real smile on the older manís face for the first time in days. He couldnít resist that smile and kissed him.
-I love to see you smile. It makes your eyes shine.
-Only for you, Tony.

They kissed once more and Tony drove them back to Gibbsí house, their house for a while.
As they arrived, Tony realised that Gibbs was asleep. He parked the car and looked at his lover. He noticed the black smudges under his eyes, the bandage that circled his head, the blue marks on his cheekbone and he was able to picture every other wound.
-Is your exam finished?
He hadnít noticed that his lover was awake and observing him too.

-You donít know how much you scared me, Jethro. Promise me that you wonít do anything so stupid again.
-I promise to listen to you the next time we plan a mission like that. You tried to tell me it wasnít a good idea but I didnít listen. You know I canít promise that nothing will ever happen to me as you canít promise me that too.
-You have a deal. We will learn together to trust each other and everything will be fine.
-How about going inside? How do we proceed?
-First I will bring your bags inside and prepare soft pillows on the couch for your arrival. Then I come back here and help you.
-Good plan, Agent Dinozzo! For now Iím comfortable enough. You can even take your time.

Tony smiled at him and headed to the house. Gibbs hadnít been totally honest with him. Even in a sitting position he was not that comfy. His ribs hurt and he was feeling a bit dizzy from the travel. For the second time today he was aching for a bed. Tony was back at the door of the car and looked worried by what he saw there. Gibbs was paler than ever.

-Iím just tired Tony. I think I can walk if you let me lean on you.
-I donít think that you would be able to walk. Iíll carry you.
-There is no need, Tony.
-Ok, weíll give it a try but if you feel dizzy or in pain I want you to tell me. I donít want you pass out again or I take you back to the hospital.
-Sure Tony.

The younger man unfastened the seat belt and helped him out of the car. They walked slowly to the door. The sidewalk had never seemed this long to Gibbs. He began to feel light headed at mid-way and didnít even try to pretend to be able to go on. He couldnít play with Tonyís feelings. He stopped walking, breathing hard.
-A little, I think Iíve gone as far as I could. I wonít be against the idea of relying on you for the rest of the way.
-You learned faster than I thought you would.

Tony looked at his lover with worry eyes. He couldnít hide his concern even behind a huge smile. It was not a problem for him to carry Gibbs inside. The older man had lost a lot of weight lately.
Gibbs put his head on Tonyís shoulder as the younger man lifted him in his arms. He felt that he could trust him and relied on him. Tony carried him to the couch and laid him on the soft pillows he had put there. Gibbs let a moan escape his lips as he felt the pillows under his head.

-I see that you appreciate the treatment, sir?
-You canít even begin to imagine, Tony. Iíve dreamt of that for the last five days. There is nothing like home.
-Iíll let you rest here until lunch then I will bring you to bed with your happy pills.
-Thank you Doctor DiNozzo.
-Let me help you get rid of your shoes. Then I will fix you a real cup of coffee. I had bought the brew you like to drink.
-What a sweet thought, Tony.

Tony kissed him softly on the lips but the Gibbs seemed to want more and deepened the kiss letting his tongue play with Tonyís. The younger agent broke the kiss for air.
-You seem to be in a good mood, Boss.
-Iím glad to be here and to be with you. Besides I wanted to thank you.
-I wouldnít wish to be anywhere else. You are the most important person for me. I need to be with you.
-I need you here too, Tony.
-So, letís make some coffee and then we will just stay here savouring the moment.
-I have a favor to ask you.
-What is it, Boss?
-I want to spend the rest of the afternoon in your arms. I couldnít ask for it at the hospital but I need it Tony.
-I would be happy to grant your wish. I need it too, Boss.
-Good. But first I need a real cup of coffee. The stuff they served at the hospital was awful.

Tony walked to the kitchen a huge smile plastered on his face. For the first time in days he was able to see that they would be right together.
As he returned to the living room he heard a slight knock on the front door of the house. He had been surprised not to see any members of the team at the hospital this morning but he knew that they couldnít wait to check on their friend.

-I bet Ducky or Brian. What about you, Boss?
-Maybe Abby.
Tony headed to the door and couldnít help laughing at the sight of the man standing at the door. Ducky smiled back at him.
-I won, Boss. Come in.
The ME entered the house searching for his friend.
-How are you, Jethro?
-Fine, Ducky.
-Donít lie, Boss. You are not so fine.
-What happened, Anthony?
-Nothing, Ducky. I was only tired, thatís all.
-No, it was my fault Ducky. He almost passed out in the driveway of the hospital.
-Tony I donít want to hear that. Iím fine now.
Tony decided to change the subject of the conversation.

-Can I serve you coffee, Ducky?
-I will follow you my friend.
The two men walked to the kitchen. As they entered the room, Ducky put a hand on Tonyís arm.
-What bothers you, Anthony? I can see that you are still worried about something.
-Iím afraid that they let him come home too soon. He is still weak, Ducky. He passed out because he couldnít stand up. I had to carry him inside.
-He has been badly hurt Tony. Only a few days ago we didnít know if he would survive without brain damage. I think that you ask for too much, too soon, young man. He will be fine Tony and I will be here to make that happen.
-Iím glad to have you as a friend, Ducky. You are a precious man.
-Did he hurt himself when he passed out?
-No I was able to catch him before he fell.
-I will check on him, just to be sure. Beside his bandages would need to be changed.

The two men returned to the living room where Gibbs had fallen asleep on the couch.
-I think you should carry him to his bedroom. He would rest better there.
-Sure, Ducky!
Tony approached the couch and placed a hand on Gibbsí forehead.
-He is feverish, Ducky.
Tony took him in his arms.
-IĎm taking you to bed, Jethro. You need to rest.
-You promised...
-I will join you later, Love.
The younger man laid him on his bed and turned to look at Ducky.
-Donít worry, Anthony. He will take two pills and sleep until tomorrow morning. What about your promise?
Tony smiled shyly at the older man.
-I promised him he would spend the afternoon in my arms. We didnít spend much time together lately.
-You need to spend time together, I understand.
Ducky handed Tony two pain killers and a glass of water.
-You give it to him and wake him up in four hours for him to take two more pills. If he still has fever you call me.
-Thanks, Ducky.
-It would be good for you to nap in Gibbsí arms. You need rest, my dear friend. Besides you made him a promise you have to keep.
-You are right, as always, Ducky.
The ME was still smiling as he exited the house of his friends.

It was late in the afternoon when Gibbs woke up. He could feel Tonyís arms around him and was glad that the younger man had kept his promise. Even if he wanted to savor the moment he had an urgent need to go to the bathroom and he didnít know if he would be able to go there on his own so he had to wake Tony up.

The younger man opened one eye and glanced at him as if he didnít realise where he was or who was beside him.
-I need to go to the bathroom and I think I will need your help.
Tony woke up immediately as if the fact that Gibbs asked for his help was the only thing he needed to emerge.
-Sure, Boss. Let me help you.
It was less easy than he would have thought to walk to his bathroom. He was washing his hands when his head began to pound. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on keeping his balance but it was a fight he couldnít win. He had to call for help.

The younger man who was waiting outside the room entered and wrapped his arms around Gibbsí waist.
-Letís go back to bed.
As Gibbs was back in his bed, Tony placed his hand on his forehead and winced as he felt the warmth under his skin.
-You are still hot. I will bring you two more pills and something to eat.
-Thank you, Tony.

Gibbs didnít like to feel so weak but he couldnít do anything against that for now. His head still hurt, as his ribs, his back and the rest of his abused body. He hadnít heard Tony come back and when he opened his eyes he saw the young man staring at him a glass of water and a plate with a sandwich in his hands.
Gibbs took the water and the two pills Tony handed to him.
-Thanks. Iím not hungry for now. Iíll give it a try later. I promise.
Tony was still silently looking at him.

-I was just thinking how much I love you.
-I know that, Tony.
Gibbs couldnít look Tony in the eyes. He was unable to say the words he knew Tony was waiting for.

He knew they had the right to be in love but he couldnít forget what his father had told him. He shouldnít be ashamed of what he felt for this man even if the world they were living in would probably never see them as a real couple, even if every religion on earth condemned their union. Something that can make you so damn happy could not be bad.
Why should they hide? Nobody wants to hide when in love.

Tony wondered why people couldnít allow two men to be in love. He had an occasion to see what effect it could have to announce that you were in love with another man. He could still hear his father telling him that he didnít need to have a gay son under his roof. He was unable to hear the sobs of his mother as he had definitely closed the door of the house where he had grown up. He had never seen them again. He had only been eighteen when he had driven to Boston. He had no regrets but sometimes like today he would have been glad to be able to share what he was living with his family.

-Are you okay, Tony?
-Sure, I was only thinking that I didnít want to hide, Jethro. I want everyone to know what I feel for you. I want them to know that Iím in love with a wonderful man.
-I donít know if everyone would feel happy for us, Tony. People are not ready to accept same sex relationship especially in jobs like ours.
-I know but we can say it to our friends.
-They are already aware of it, Tony.
-I know but I thought of a more official declaration.
-You want us to marry. You know we canít.
-I would have loved to marry you , Jethro but I thought that we could invite them here to diner one day and just... tell them.
-Itís a good idea. We will do that as soon as I am able to stay up more than two minutes.
-Yes, sure.

Tony felt that Gibbs didnít really want to talk for now but he knew that if he didnít push him a bit they would never have this conversation about where they wanted to go together.
-What do you want to do tonight? I was thinking that we should go out to celebrate your return home.
-I knew that you didnít believe me when I told you I wasnít clubing anymore.
They both laughed at the thought of Gibbs in a night club. But the older man sobered fast and looked at his lover placing a hand on his cheek.
-Iím so sorry that I am not able to tell you how I feel but it seems that every time I try to say those simple words they stay caught in my throat. I wish I could be strong enough to tell you...

Tony could hear the sorrow on Gibbsí voice as if the older man grieved for his inability to say ĎI love youí to someone. And suddenly it hit him. Grieving was the right word to use.
-May I ask you one question?
-Sure, Tony.
-Who was the last person who heard you say those words?
-I... I donít remember!

Tony knew it was a lie but Gibbs had made it without even thinking about what he wa saying. It had been a defensive mechanism, a way to protect himself from painful memories.
-I think that you are lying to me, Boss. You remember well who it was but you donít want to think about it because it would be too hard to face the truth.
-If you are so sure you know the truth, you may be able to enlighten me as I seem to have lost my mind.
Tony didnít miss the irony in his loverís voice but he chose to forget about it and to continue this way. They had to clarify it before it compromised their relationship.
-I think that Danny was the last one to hear those words from you and thatís why you are unable to say them again.

Gibbs shook his head, he didnít want to hear what he had tried to forget all those years especially coming from the one he loved so much.
-No, you donít understand...
-On the contrary, I think I understood pretty well what happened. He was dying in your arms and you knew it. You had to reassure him and you told him...
-He was so weak. I didnít want to loose him but he seemed to be so afraid. I had to help my little boy to go through this moment. I told him that he didnít need to be afraid, that our mother would wait for him on the other side. I was sure that he would be reassured to hear that she would be here for him as I couldnít follow him. Then I told him... and he was gone...

Tony approached Gibbs and hugged him as he began to cry. He had kept this memory for himself and never allowed himself to think about it. Now the walls that he had built around his heart, preventing him from being hurt were crashing down and Tony knew that it would take time for him to heal properly.
They stayed there a moment in a tight embrace until Gibbs broke the silence.

-I didnít lie, Tony. I didnít remember it until you began to tell me. It seemed that I had kept it hiden since that night.
-It was too painful for you to think about your brother and the precise moment he died in your arms. You associated the words with that moment and decided not to say them as if they had killed him.
-What would have I done without you?
-I could return the question to you. I think that we are the two parts of the same soul and it took us time to find out that we were meant to be together.
-You never cease to amaze me.
-And you have seen what I am able to do.
Tony had always made him laugh even he had never showed it before. The young man was the only one who could make him feel better.

-What about watching the hockey game on TV?
-I didnít know you were a hockey man, Boss.
-Letís say that I like watching games but, please, never ask me to go onto the ice.
-I didnít intend to, Boss. Even if I am sure that you would be cute.
-Donít laugh at me when I canít defend myself.
-You are right. Itís quite unfair to take advantage of the situation. Let me help you lie down on the couch.

Tony was still laughing as he helped Gibbs sit. He had climbed upstairs to snatch a blanket when the door bell rang. Gibbs didnít feel like standing up to answer but he knew that Tony hadnít heard the bell.

Chapter 12.

He managed to walk to the door and was surprised to see no one there. He was sure he had heard the bell. He looked inside and was about to ask Tony if he had heard anything but something made him look back outside. He could see a kid there now. He was not sure he could trust his eyesÖit must be his mind playing tricksÖ

His hands began to shake, his vision blurred. He was not sure to be in his house anymoreÖ
The boy didnít move and didní t answer. It couldnít be himÖDanny was dead years ago but he this young boy had the same hair, the same eyesÖ
-Danny?...What are you doing here?
He wanted to call Tony but he could not take his eyes from the apparition in front of him; he didnít want him to disappear and he was sure that if he closed his eyes, the child would vanish. An illusion created by his tired mindÖ thatís what it was but he didnít want this dream to end.

-Danny. Iím so sorry. I should have found a way to help youÖI should have been the one killed this dayÖ
The young boy didnít move, didnít answer but Gibbs could now see a smile on his face. He had seen this smile before. Danny had an irrestible smile. The kind of smile which could make the hardest hearts melt.
Gibbs could feel the tears running down his cheeks but for the first time in years he didnít didnít cry because he was sad or hurt. His little brother had given him the most precious gift he could have been given.

By this smile he had said he forgave him. He had told him everything in one smile. Gibbs could feel the weight he had carried for years lighten at the thought Danny was not mad at him.

Gibbs didnít know how much time he had stayed there looking at nothing. Danny was gone now but Gibbs had not moved.
He saw Ducky park his car in the street. The ME walked to Gibbs and placed a gentle hand on his friendís shoulder.
-Are you ok, Jethro?
-Yes, Ducky. Iím fine for the first time in years.
-Iím happy to hear that, jethro even if you donít look so fine to me.
-Iím fine, DuckyÖWhat are you doing here?
-I received a call from the police. They wanted to know if you could go and make your deposition today. I told them I would ask you but I think it would be wise to wait until you feel better.
-I want to do it, Ducky. No need to wait. Letís get rid of it.

They walked inside where they found Tony.
-Hi Ducky.
-Hello, Anthony.
-Tony, I have to go to the police station to make a deposition on what happened at the office with my father.
-Youíre sure itís a good idea? They can probably wait for one or two days.
-Itís ok, Tony. I want to do it. The sooner the better.

Tony walked to Gibbs, wrapping his arms around his waist. He looked him straight in the eyes trying to read the truth.
-Iím sure of it Tony.
Gibbs closed the gap between them and kiss Tonyís lips softly. Tony closed his eyes savoring the soft contact.
-You know I canít say no when you talk to me like thatÖBut promise me you would tell me if youíre not feeling fine.Ok?
-I promise Tony. But I just need to tell them what happenedÖ
-I know, Jethro but youíve been through a lot lately and Iím not sure this new ordeal is really neededÖ
-I need to do it Tony and I wonít be aloneÖ

Tony smiled at him still holding him closely.
-And who are you planning to drag there?
-I think that Ducky would be happy to help an old friendÖ
Tony kissed him once more and ran to the stairs.
-Give me a minute to take my jacketÖ
Gibbs turned to face Ducky who was smiling at the sight of his two friends playing like teenagers.
-Itís good to see the two of you happy, Jethro.
Gibbs didnít have time to reply anything because Tony was already running down the stairs his jacket in one hand and his keys in the other hand.

They drove to the police station in silence and Tony could feel the tension raising in Gibbs as they approached the station. He knew his lover needed to do that to be sure the man was sent to jail for a long time. But he could help feeling they should have waited for that.

As they arrived they were received by the cop in charge of the ďAndersonís caseĒ. Gibbs tomd them what he remembered from that day and Tony added what he had seen. Ducky who had thought wiser to follow them talked about Gibbsí injuries. It took them only fifteen minutes and they were about to leave when Gibbsí father was brought into the bulpen.

Gibbs stood up at the sight of his father and Tony placed a gentle on is arm trying to reassure him. Anderson was smiling at themÖTony couldnít help shivering when he saw the hate in the manís eyes. He was about to tell Gibbs theyíd better get out of here when the older man walked to his father. Tony looked at Ducky a silent question on his lips. He couldnít understand why Gibbs was doing that. He didnít need to talk to the man responsible for his worst nightmare.

Gibbs didnít really know what he was about to do but he wanted to talk to his father. He wanted to face him, to show him he was not afraid anymore. He knew that Tony would be here and the old man wouldnít do anything in the middle of the police station.

-JethroÖ what a pleasure to see you here! I heard youíve been assaulted and badly hurt.
-Iím touched by your interest for my welfare.
-You canít help being worried for your sonÖhow are you?
Gibbs couldnít smiling at his fatherís question. He had closed his eyes trying to find the strength to go on and tell his father what he had to say. Tony had witnessed the exchange and he walked to Gibbs knowing the older would need his help.
Gibbs felt Tonyís hand on his back.

-Tony, my father wants to know if Iím fine. Isnít it funny. He was unable to see me without punching me down and today he wants to play the worried father.
-You canít forget the fact that I am your father and even if we had hard times, I loved you.
-You loved me like you loved Danny when you bumped his head on the table and let him die on the kitchen floor? You loved me when you beat me? You loved me when you raped me?

Gibbs had not realised that he had closed the gap between them. He wanted to face him, to look him in the eyes. For the first time in years he had the opportunity to tell him what he felt.
Tony caught the old man by the arm and pushed him away from his lover.
He was afraid of the reaction that this man could have in front of Gibbsí accusations. Gibbs couldnít afford been hurt once more and Tony would do everything needed to prevent him from any pain.

-Youíve already hurt him enough. I wonít let you touch him once more.
-So you need a bodyguard to protect you, Jethro? I thought you were a grown man. Perhaps itís the way it goes in fagís couples.
-You donít know who I am and I donít care. Iím not afraid of you anymore and Iím not ashamed to say that I need him. Not to protect me but to feel loved. He gives me what I never had a chance to have because of you, someone to trust. Now, I want you to leave my life because I would never give you what you are searching for. You wonít be able to destroy me, now, Iím done with you and your threats.
-I could destroy your carreer with what I know about you. I think that your superiors would appreciate to know what you are doing with one of your team members.
-You can do that but I would only loose a job. Sure I love that job but you know what? You can do anything you want I would always be happy with him.

They were surprised to see the old man sat down on the chair without replying anything. Ducky turned to look at his friends and saw that the exchange had made some damages. Gibbs was swaying dangerously and Tony seemed to be lost in another world.
He thought that something important had been played here and that he didnít understand what their two friends had understood but for now he needed to make Gibbs sit down and called Tony back to Earth.

-Anthony, I think that you should help Jethro walking to the car. He needs to sit down.
The young man helped his lover walking slowly to the car but he seemed to still need time to recover. Ducky took the keys from Tonyís hands and drove back to Gibbsí house.
Ten minutes later they were all sat in the living room waiting for someone to say something.
-I think you convinced him, Jethro.
-Maybe, Ducky but to be honest I donít really care what he thinks.
-Do you think he would tell director Morrow about you two?
-I donít know. But Iím not sure Morrow would listen to a man who is about to be judged for assault on one of his agent but I meant it when I said I didnít care.
-You canít say that.

Tony that had been quiet for a long time sent an angry look at his lover.
-You love your job and you are the best agent they have. They canít afford loosing you. I would ask for a new assignation.
Gibbs turned to face Tony. He realized it was high time that the young man knew how he really felt about him. He cupped Tonyís cheek with his right hand forcing the young man to face him.
Ducky couldnít look away even if he knew he was witnessing an intimate moment. He should have left the room but he didnít want to disturb them as they seemed to have forgotten about him.

-Tony, look at me and listen carefully. I donít know what would happen but there is one thing Iím sure about. I want you by my side, to share my life, my bed whatever it might cost. Iíve already waited too long to be myself with you, to be allowed to show you how much I cared.

Tony could feel the tears that threatened to fall. He could see the love in Gibbsí eyes. For the first time the older man had let the mask down. For the first time in years he could say that he was facing the real Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
The one who had been hurt and betrayed with his fears, his failures and his anger. The man he had fallen in love with, the man who had allowed him to become a part of his life. He wanted to tell him how much he loved him but Gibbs put a finger on his lips.

-Iím not done yet, Tony. if I had to choose between you and my job, I would choose you without any regrets because I canít imagine my life without you. Itís never been easy for me to trust people but I trusted you enough to let you see me as I really was. I revealed my fears and my worst nightmares to you...
Gibbs swallowed as if he was about to make a difficult confession.
-You donít need to say it, Jethro.
-I know, Tony but I need you to understand how much I care about you. It wonít be real until I say it out loud.

Tony could see how hard it was for him. Gibbsí head was bent as if he was trying to forget about the audience and concentrate on himself. Tony cupped his face with his hands and forced him to look up to him. He was surprised to see tears in Gibbsí eyes. He couldnít let him cry and pulled him in a hug.
-There is no problem, Love. I know what you feel as I feel the same. We will face whatever might happen together. No matter what, I will stay here with you. You donít have to make any promise, I love you.

Gibbs was now crying freely on his loverís shoulder. Ducky decided it was time for him to leave. The two men needed to stay alone. He waved his hand at Tony and the young man nodded.
It took Gibbs long minutes to calm down but he finally relaxed in Tonyís arms. He looked up at Tony trying to catch his breath.
-Sorry Tony. I once more made a fool of myself.
-I canít let you say that the man I love is a fool. In fact, he is the bravest man I ever met. And donít wince, itís true. Youíve faced your worst nightmare in the last week and today you sent your father to hell.
-I was able to say to him my deepest thoughts and I canít even tell you...
-Danny was the last one to hear those words from you and they are too precious for you. I understand that you would say them when you would be ready.
-Sure, Tony.
-You should go to bed and rest. I will join you soon. Iíll eat something before.
Tony helped him up and to his bed.
-Donít worry I can cook without burning the house so lie down and sleep.
Tony heard a whisper coming from Gibbs who was almost asleep.
-Thanks, Tony.

The younger man smiled back at his lover and exited the room. He knew it will take time for Gibbs to be truly himself but he was on the good way.
Tony sat at the kitchen table taking his time to eat. He knew that Gibbs was already asleep. He was lost in his thoughts when he heard a yell coming from upstairs. He abandonned everything on the table and ran to Gibbsí bedroom. As he entered the dark room he saw Gibbs sat on his bed trying to catch his breath.

-Jethro, What happened?
He walked to the bed as he heard no reply from the man in front of him. He could see sweat running down Gibbsí face. The older man didnít seem to be really aware of his surroundings and Tony understood that he had again had a bad dream. There had been more frequent since his agression but Tony had always been there for him.
-It was only a nightmare Jethro. You are safe in your bedroom with me.
Tony didnít want to touch him. He had tried sometimes but the older man had reacted badly at the touch so he had decided to try another approach.
-Jethro, look at me.

Gibbs didnít move. It must have been a bad one. The conversation they had had earlier must have induced it. Tony decided to try something else.
-Danny is safe with your mother now. You had helped him, Jethro. Now he is free.
Gibbs seemed to relax a bite and was able to breath more easily. Tony knew it was now safe for him to come closer. He put his arms around his loverís waist.
-Yes Iím here, Love. Go back to sleep I will stay here with you.
They both fall asleep soon and spent the rest of the night sleeping in each otherís arms.

The next morning they woke up as the sun began to enlighten the little room. Tony bent and took his loverís hand in his and kissed his palm softly.
-What a nice way to wake up! You know I could get used to it!
As an answer Tony kissed him again, deepening the kiss. As Gibbs opened his mouth, Tonyís tongue forced the way. They broke apart to catch their breath. They were both breathing hard, their cheeks flushed.
-I think we should stop now if you want your coffee before noon.
-You are right besides Iím hungry.
-Good ! letís go!

They headed to the kitchen and Tony was surprised when Gibbs took his hand trying to make the contact last as long as he could. Gibbs sat heavily on the nearest chair while Tony prepared coffee and toast.
-What do you want to do today, Boss?
-I donít know. Maybe read a book or go for a little walk. But donít have a job to do?
-I asked for the week of holidays Morrow had granted us. And he agreed that I deserved it as promised.
-Good so you are free for the next week?
-Iím all yours Boss.
Gibbs couldnít hide the smile that appeared on his face as he heard his lover say those words.
-What are you planning, Boss?
-I am just glad that you would be here for the next days.
They ate in silence for a moment until Gibbs saw the same sad look in Tonyís eyes than he had witnessed the day before.

-Sad memories again?
-I remembered when my father and me ate our breakfast together. Every sunday morning I would wait for him and bring his coffee while he was reading his newspaper.
-You seem to go well together.
-It was before he began to see me as his successor. He wanted me to be the next executive president of Dinozzoís corporation. He tried to teach me how to make profits while the only thing I wanted was to play baseball with him.
-Your father must have been disappointed when you decided not to follow his wishes.
-He was even more upset when I told him that I wanted to go to Boston to be a cop and I wouldnít come back.
-What was his reaction?
-He yelled at me, screamed like a good italian father but he accepted my decision. I thought it would be the good time to be honest with him. If he had accepted me to be a cop, he could also accept me being gay. But I was wrong.
-He didnít deserve a son like you. I wish I had known you at this time.
-I was the same pain in the ass as today except I was younger. I grew up living alone. It was the first time far from the family. It wasnít easy at the begining. I had some money left but not enough to live in a city like Boston so I began to work in a club at night and attended the Academy during the day.
-It must have been hard for you.
-I managed. It was hard but I couldnít go back home not after what my father had told me.
-Did you see your mother again?
-No, I tried to call once or twice but my father was always checking on her. It was forbiden for her to talk to me. I knew he could be violent so I stopped calling. I didnít want her to pay for me.
-It was years ago, Tony, she must worry. Maybe you could see if...
-Jethro, it would only hurt not to be able to see her again. I donít want to hope he had changed. I prefer considering I had lost them for good.
-Itís not fair for you and for her.
-Donít insist, Jethro. I donít want to see them, to hear about them...

Tony could feel the anger raise but he was unable to control it. Each time he talked about his father he couldnít help feeling guilty. He had abandonned his mother. He knew she had cried a lot after he left.
-Ok, Tony. but she has the right to know that you are fine...

It was enough to make him explode. He didnít want to throw his anger at Gibbs but the tension accumulated in the last days was about to overwhelm him.
-You canít talk about what I should do or not do with my family. Did I ever tell you what to do regarding your father? You decided to face him alone and you didnít hear me say it was stupid. So please, leave me alone with my family.
Gibbs was surprised by Tonyís sudden anger but he could understand that the links between a son and his father could be difficult to explain.

-I didnít want to upset you. I just thouhgt that if I had the opportunity to see my mother once more I would take it.
-If she was as crazy as your father it wouldnít be a good idea.
Those words had escaped his mouth before he could really think about them. He saw Gibbsí face grew paler. He wanted to take the words back but all he could do was looking at him, expecting his lover to say something. When he spoke his face was tensed but there was no anger in his voice.

-I donít remember her very well but she used to come to my bedroom at night. She read me stories before I sleep. Even after Brianís birth she continued to come. She always had time for me. No, Tony she was not like him. Sometimes, after her death, when I was lying on my bed I imagined she would come to sing my favourite song. I could almost hear her voice but it faded with the time.
-Iím sorry, Love. I didnít mean it. Everytime I talk about my family I canít control my anger. I missed her so much. It was hard to learn to live without them.
-Donít you think that you are now strong enouhg to go there and see if your mother is fine? He had no right to tell her not to see you.
-You may be right but Iím not sure I want to do it now. We had our share of emotions and for now the only thing I want to do is to share time with you.

Gibbs knew that the conversation was over, the younger man didnít want to talk about his family and Gibbs didnít want to push him more even if he thought it was important.
-So, what about a little walk?
-Sure, Boss if you feel up to it. Then a little nap before lunch. Ducky told that he would come to change your bandages and see it everything heals well.

They washed the dishes only enjoying to share those simple acts. They exited the house a moment later. Gibbs felt well enough to walk alone. It felt good to breath fresh air for the first time in five days. The walk didnít last for long as Tony realised that his lover was still weak, his breath was begining to be harder.
-We should go back. The doctors told you to take it easy.
-Yes, besides Iím longing for that nap you promised me.
They headed to the house smiling at each other, walking shoulders to shoulders as they approached the house. Tony was amazed when he felt Gibbs taking his hand, entwitching heir fingers. The simple gesture told the younger man much more than all the words Gibbs might have said. He wouldnít have thought that Gibbs was confident enough to make such a move in public.

-You are sure you want all your neighboorhood to know we are together?
-I already told you that I didnít care what people may think.
-I donít believe you. Where is my Boss, the one that slapped me behind the head.
Gibbs knew that Tony was teasing but he wanted to see how far he would go.
Tony didnít need a proof of the older manís feelings but he liked playing with him, flirting. Gibbs had always been amazed by Tonyís ability of acting childishly. He was able to turn every situation into a game.

This time he was not prepared for Gibbsí reaction. The older man wanted to show him that he meant every single word he had said and that he was still the Boss.
Taking Tony at his own game, he stopped walking, turned to face him. Placing his hand behind Tonyís neck, attracting the younger man. The kiss that follows was the most erotic moment they had ever shared. Being kissed by the man he loved in the middle of the street, in front of everyone made Tony shiver.

When Gibbs broke the kiss, he realised that Tonyís eyes were still closed. He had obviously scored whatever the game Tony had begun was.
-Still doubtful, Agent Dinozzo?
Tony seemed to have lost the ability to speak. He couldnít believe that Gibbs had dared to kiss him here.
-You have lost your mind? No more coffee for you!
He was trying to stay serious but his eyes were shining.
-I love when you play crazy, Boss. I didnít think you were able to do something like that. But itís... well... itís cool.
-I have some abilities that you donít know about!
-I canít wait to discover what you are made of!

The two men were still close and they both felt that the temperature had taken a few more degrees. Tony noticed that Gibbs had not let his hand go and that he was squeezing it as in an invitation.
-I think itís time to go home because I donít know how long I would be able to keep my hands off you. You donít know how hot you are!
-I didnít know you found me hot, Boss.
Tony smiled at the older man. He was aware of the fire burning in Gibbsí eyes and was flattered to be the object of so much desire.
-We should head home, Boss.
Approaching the older manís ear he whispered softly.
-I need privacy to show you how hot I believe you are...

Gibbs shivered at the soft kiss Tony placed on his cheek before breaking the contact. There was no need for more words now, they were definitely on the same page. All they had to do was to allow themselves to feel and let their desire talk for them.

As they closed the door, Tony led Gibbs to the bedroom holding his hand tightly. Arrived in front of Gibbsí king size bed the younger man faced him, trying to see if his soon-to-be lover was ready to take the next step. He knew that it would be hard for him to be confident enough to face such intimacy. As always he was unable to read him. The older man was used to hiding his feelings for so long that he seemed to be natural.

-Promise me that you would tell me if you are not comfortable with anything. I donít want to rush things between us. We will take all the time we need to adjust to our new relationship.
A bright smile appeared on Gibbsí face and Tony realised that he had just said what the older man needed to hear from him.
-Thanks, Tony. I just want to feel that someone could indeed love me.
He approached Tony, looking at him. For the first time Tony was able to see that sincerity and that faith that he had missed with every men or women he had once believed to be in love with.
-Make love to me, Tony.

It was only a whisper but it Tony heard him loud and clear. The younger man felt his heart melt. He had had many experiences with both men and women. But it had always been sex first and talk another day... maybe. But today it was different. Gibbs was too important to him to risk loosing him.
He knew that the man in front of him was the one he had been searching for all those years. He didnít want to push him too far, too fast. But he couldnít have misunderstood Gibbsí words. He could see the desire in his eyes reflecting his own feelings, he could feel his warmth so close to him. He decided to let his hands talk fo him and began to softly caress Gibbsí arms, shoulders never breaking eye contact.

Gibbs was focused on Tony, the feeling of his hands on him, the scent of his skin close to himÖ so close. He seemed to be unable to control his mind anymore, thinking of how soft his skin must be, wondering what this skin would taste.
As Tony undid his shirt he could help a moan escaping his throat. He had the feeling that he wouldnít be able to stay up if Tony goes on like that. He was about to fall overwhelmed by the sensations that the younger was awaking in him. He had dreamt of that moment for so long that he couldnít believe it was real this time.

He closed his eyes allowing his shirt to fall on the floor of his bedroom. His chest was still heavily bandaged and Tony was very careful in his exploration, his hands travelling lightly on Gibbsí upper chest. Gibbs tried to stay up when Tonyís mouth began to play with his right nipple but it was a lost cause.
His knees gave up under him and he landed on his matress. His fall was softened by Tonyís arms. The younger man followed him down still busy exploring his loverís chest. Tony was the Boss and even it was pretty new for him to be in charge with Gibbs he was really enjoying the sensation.

Gibbs was unable to move not only he had a very possessive man who was pinning him down but it seemed that he had lost his willpower the second Tony had put his mouth on him. He wanted to touch, to feel, to give back what Tony was making him feel but he was lost in the sensation of being so close to the one he loved so fondly.
Gibbs opened his eyes when Tony broke the contact.

-Whatís wrong, Tony?
-Nothing, I just wanted to see you. I want to really see you...
Tony smiled at the puzzled expression written on Gibbsí face. He moved his hand down to Gibbsí waistband, making his intentions pretty clear.
-Only if you are comfortable with it...
The older man could see the insecurity in Tonyís eyes and he couldnít blame him because he was not so sure himself to be ready for what Tony had planned but he nodded quietly. He wanted to be with him more than anything else.

-But I want to see you too, Tony.
-I was planning something like that. To be honest with you what I had in mind implied us being naked...
Tony knelt on the bed, pulling off his shirt. Gibbs couldnít help staring at the man before him.
-I want to touch you.
Tony kissed him and whispered words in his ear that Gibbsí brain was trying to translate as Tonyís hand unfastened his belt and undid the zipper of his jeans.

ďTouching is goodĒ... As soon as he understood what Tony had said, he allowed his hands to discover Tonyís body. They took their time feeling, exploring but it wasnít enough.
Tony broke the contact once more breathing heavily. He looked down at Gibbs. There was no need for words when he saw how confident the older man seemed to be. Tony slowly put down Gibbsí pants still looking for any sign of discomfort in Gibbsí eyes. But his move only result was a soft moan which escaped Gibbsí throat. Even if he could see that Gibbs wanted it as much as himself, he didnít know if he would be at ease with him being so close. Gibbs seemed to understand his hesitation.

-I want it Tony. I trust you.
Tony didnít need anything else and he pulled off the last item covering Gibbsí body. Tony stood and looked down at the man he loved so much. He was flaterred by the trust Gibbs had had in him to allow him to go so far. He knew it had been a big step to take for the older man. Tony got rid of his pants and boxers.
They were both naked now and Tony couldnít help thinking about the time they had wasted.
Gibbs shivered as Tonyís body pressed against his side. The heat was spreading gently through him as the younger man went for more exploration. It was amazing to see how easy it was to trust this man.
Their bodies seemed to already know each other. Tony knew where to touch, to caress. There were no obstacles, no barriers. Tony was kissing him, mapping his body with both his hands and mouth. It felt so damm good. Nobody had ever been able to make him feel so wanted, so loved.

Tony was showing him what it was like to be loved. He was giving him what he had missed for so long. Gibbs suddenly felt his eyes burning as tears went down his cheeks. Tony heard the soft sob that his lover had tried to supress.
-Are you ok, Love?
Tony was worried by Gibbsí reaction. He knew that they should have waited to go further but Gibbs had seemed to be ready. He looked down at Gibbs and saw no fear in his eyes. He gently patted his right cheek, wiping away the tears.

-What happens, love?
-Iím fine, Tony.
-You donít look so fine to me.
-I was just thinking...
-I see. I understand we should have waited until you are ready...
-No, you donít understand Tony. I want to be with you, to share every thing I have with you... And I really mean it... Itís just...
-Hey, we donít need to do anything tonight. I fine with just sharing your bed...
-Thanks, Tony. What you are giving me is so unexpected and so wonderful. I donít want to loose it.
-You wonít loose it. I am not going anywhere for the next fifty, or so, years.

Gibbs stayed still for a moment and Tony wished he hadnít said too much. He didnít know what Gibbs wanted to do with their new relationship. They hadnít had time to talk about what they would do. Gibbs sighed heavily and looked at Tony, his blue eyes wet with tears.
-Tell me it is really happening. Tell me that you will still be here tomorrow and the day after...
-You are stuck with me for a very long time, Leroy Jethro Gibbs because I am fondly in love with you and nothing will make me change my mind...
-Can you just hold me Tony?

Tony took him in his arm and Gibbs found his place, his head on Tonyís chest. They stayed quiet for a moment. Tony could hear Gibbsí sobs and feel his tears on his chest. He didnít care if they didnít make love soon, there were more important things than his physical needs. He knew that it would take time for Gibbs to be able to face such intimacy but for the first time in his life he was willing to wait.

-You know I love you , Jethro. What we have is really important for me. You donít have to be ashamed in front of me and I want you to tell me what you want, what you need me to do or not do. I will always be there for you, to hold you whenever you need. You donít even have to ask.
Gibbs kissed Tonyís chest, still crying. Tony felt suddenly helpless. He wanted to comfort him but didnít really know how to do so.
-Talk to me, Love.
When Gibbs finally decided to talk, his voice was barely audible.
-I... Do you know how long I have waited for you? How alone I felt before I met you?
-I think I can. But we are together now and nothing will separate us...
-Sure, Tony...
Tony didnít like the insecurity he could hear in Gibbsívoice. He put a hand on his loverís cheek, making him look at him.
-Now, listen carefully to me. I will never allow anyone to come between us. Do you hear me? You are mine now...

Gibbs didnít miss the possessive tone in Tonyís voice but he didnít feel threatened as he might have been. Tony was right, he belonged to him even more than the younger man could imagine. Tony had always been his equilibrium, the only that had been able to ground him and now he had become a part of his soul.

-I have never needed anyone as much as I need you, Tony. If I ever loose you I donít know ...
A finger on his lips quieted him.
-Donít think of what might happen. Nobody can tell what the future will be made of. But we have a lot to discover, a lot to share.
-Yeah, Tony. I know but I ....
Tony knew what Gibbs was trying to tell. The older man had been unable to express his feelings for Tony. Even if he had tried to tell him how much he cared, the words were too hard to say for him. Tony wanted to reassure him, tell him that he didnít need him to say the words. But he also knew Gibbs needed to say them to feel that what they had was real.

-Brian once told me that I had the right to be loved and I remember answering him that it would be true when I would allow myself to love someone again. I was wrong, Tony. I needed to feel that someone loved me to open my heart again. You gave me so much more, Tony. you offered me your trust, your friendship, your love even when you realised the mess I was.
-Hey, donít talk like that of the man I love...
Gibbs laughed kissing Tonyís chest.
-You allowed me to open my eyes, my soul. You are right Tony. I belong to you , heart and soul.

As Gibbs stopped talking, Tonyís eyes were wet, nobody had ever made such a heartful declaration to him. He knew that he was now where he belong too. He had finally found his home, there in his Bossí arms. He didnít need anything else. He had anything he needed to feel happy, complete.
He knew that Gibbs would soon be asleep as he heard his breath slow down. He put his hand in his loverís hair gently patting his head.
-I love you, Boss. You can sleep now. I will be right there when you wake up.
Gibbs mutered something with a sleepy voice and reached for Tonyís ear, softly kissing him.

-Love you, Tony.

The older man was now asleep but Tony was unable to close his eyes for an hour. He looked at the man asleep in his arms. He didnít know what they would do with their relationship. There was so many questions they had not already solved but he was sure of one thing. He was in love with this man and he would fight for this love, for him whatever it may cost.

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