"DiNozzo, you take the back. Kate and I've got the front. On my count." The words were clipped, terse; no sense in alerting their suspect. It was a bad situation as it was--too much cover for Petty Officer Stewart and not enough for them. Add in Kate's theory that Stewart felt he had nothing to lose...Tony winced inwardly and made it around the back as quickly and as quietly as he could, waiting to move on Gibbs' signal.

He didn't get the chance.

Something slammed into his left shoulder and he staggered back, almost losing his grip on his weapon. He heard ringing in his ears and wondered if he was shouting something, but his hands didn't seem to want to work and then the world tilted at an alarming angle and his head hit something hard and he didn't notice anything else.

"DiNozzo! Tony!"

He'd know that voice anywhere. Tony blinked, staring up at two Gibbs, both of whom seemed to be kneeling next to him. "Wha?" he managed, trying to sit up and failing.

"Easy," Gibbs said, even as he stripped off his jacket and wrapped it around Tony's shoulder, careful not to jostle him more than he had to. "Stewart shot you--you didn't even get a chance to fire first. He was waiting. Sheer bad luck that he tried to make it out the back before Kate and I got in there."

"Shoulda fired," Tony said thickly, closing his eyes against the double images. His shoulder felt on fire and his head was throbbing.

"You did, DiNozzo. You got him."

And Tony had to be dreaming because he felt Gibbs' free hand on his forehead, smoothing his hair back. "Stay with me, Tony," Gibbs said, sharper now. "EMTs are on their way. Stay with me. You hit your head and I'm not letting you fade out on me before they get their chance to deal with you."

"EMTs will be here in two minutes." That voice had to be Kate's--breathless, more than a little edgy. Tony cracked an eye open and saw two of her kneeling on his other side. "How bad is it?"

"Through and through. He'll be fine once they stitch him up. He hit his head, so we don't have to worry about any damage there." Gibbs' tone was almost even. Almost. "Probably they'll keep him overnight for observation."

"Don' need it," Tony protested. "Hard head."

"You let them decide that, DiNozzo."

Tony groaned and closed his eyes again; the world was spinning too sickeningly to do otherwise.

He drifted, aware of sharp pain and people talking and then being lifted and put into what had to be an ambulance. Then there were bright lights and medicine-y smells and doctors buzzing around him and needles--God, he hated needles--until eventually he was lying in a hospital bed, left arm in a sling and bandages wrapped around his shoulder. His head still felt like someone was playing the steel drums in it but they'd told him they couldn't give him anything more than Tylenol until the X-Rays came back.

"You're fine," Gibbs said brusquely, walking into the room. "Concussion'll keep you out longer than the arm will, and you'll be on desk duty til the sling comes off. Doctors still want to keep you overnight."

"Any chance you can spring me, Boss?" Tony managed a weak grin.

"DiNozzo, you're the color of the sheets. Not a chance." Gibbs sighed and crossed over to him. "Take it easy, Tony," he said quietly. "I'll get you out of here in the morning."

"I've been hit over the head before," Tony protested.

"Yeah, and normally you weren't shot at the same time. Humor me."

"Is this my boss speaking, or my lover?" Tony asked as quietly as he could.

"Both." Gibbs glanced around before squeezing Tony's hand. "I've got to get back to the office. Reports won't write themselves."

"I know." Tony smiled. "I'll see you in the morning."

Gibbs nodded. "Call me if you need me." He paused, looking down at Tony. "If I could stay--"

"You can't," Tony said quietly. "I know that."

"Yeah." Gibbs sighed. "I'll come by in the morning."

With that, he was gone, leaving Tony to lie back against the pillows and close his eyes. Sleep would be good. Really.

Of course, sleeping in a hospital was pretty much useless. If it wasn't the noise from outside, or the lights, it was the nurses coming in to check on him and make sure he hadn't suddenly slipped into delirium or a coma in the past two hours. Normally he'd have managed to flirt with at least one of them, but he was tired and in pain and just not up for it.

He'd finally managed to drift off for a bit when the curtain around his bed was pushed back and he saw one of the doctors, along with Gibbs. "Do I get to go home now?" he asked hopefully.

The doctor smiled. "So eager to get rid of us? Let me just look you over and then I'll sign you out. Your boss has agreed to take you home so long as *you* agree to rest for the next couple of days. You lost a fair amount of blood, Agent DiNozzo."

"I promise. Desk duty only." Tony held up his right hand.

"Not quite." The doctor shone a light in Tony's eyes, checking his pupils. "You're to stay home for the next two days. After that, you can go into work on restricted duty until the sling comes off, which should be in about three weeks. Despite what Agent Gibbs may tell you, this wasn't as clean a shot as we'd like to see. You were extremely lucky--an inch more to the right and you'd be looking at a shattered shoulder."

Christ. Tony winced inwardly. From the look in Gibbs' eyes, he'd be lucky if he got to make it to the *couch* in the next two days. He sighed and nodded in acquiescence, realizing that he didn't really have a choice in the matter.

He ended up with a white paper bag full of various prescriptions and a couple of sheets of instructions before he and Gibbs finally made their escape. The early-morning sunlight was warm on his face and he closed his eyes, letting it wash over him as Gibbs drove.

About ten minutes into the drive, Tony noticed that the angle of the sun felt wrong and he opened his eyes. "Gibbs?" he said, turning carefully to look at him.


"We're going south."

"You noticed."

"My apartment is north," Tony persisted.

"We're not going to your apartment, DiNozzo. I want you where I can keep an eye on you." Gibbs' voice left no room for argument.

That didn't mean Tony wasn't going to try. "And what if Kate calls? Or Abby? Or one of them wants to come over?"

"Then I tell them that the doctor said it wasn't safe to leave you alone and I didn't want to deal with your apartment," Gibbs snapped. "I'm not letting you go back there until you've got some color back in your face and you don't look ready to fall over every time you move. Deal with it."

Great. Now he had a stubborn lover to deal with, in addition to his bastard boss. Tony sighed and closed his eyes again.

On the other hand, getting from the car to Gibbs' bedroom took about every bit of strength he had and he was almost pathetically grateful to lie down. Gibbs helped him get settled under the covers, pillows supporting his injured shoulder, before leaving briefly. He returned a minute later with a plate of toast and a glass of milk. "You need to eat to take the pills," he said quietly.

Tony sighed and reached for the milk, drinking about half of it before turning to the toast. The concussion was still making him slightly nauseous and getting the food down was an effort. By the time he'd finished the last bite, Gibbs had pills waiting for him.

"What are these?" Tony asked.

"Antibiotic and painkillers. We'll see how you're doing in a few hours."

"We?" Tony asked, swallowing the pills. "Um, Gibbs, not to be a downer, but you've got to go in today. You can't stay here and take care of me. It's too suspicious."

"I know." But from the look on his face, Gibbs didn't like it. "The doctor said you shouldn't be left alone for the next couple days," he said, stroking Tony's hair gently.

"Yes, but..." Tony shrugged his good shoulder. "You're my boss."

"Which is why I should watch out for you. If you die, I've got to find another agent." Gibbs gave him a wry smile.

"Jethro..." Tony turned his head into the caress, kissing his palm. He winced a little as the motion pulled at muscles that really didn't want to move and rested his head back against the pillows. "I'll be fine."

Gibbs sighed. "No, you won't, Tony. You can't get out of bed without almost falling over and your balance is shot to hell because of your arm. I can't in good conscience leave you here."

"Then tell Kate to come over. She can work from here and it makes a lot more sense to have her here than it does to have you stay." Tony smiled. "And it's not like she doesn't already know."

"Kate's not physically strong enough--"

"Jethro!" Tony cut him off. "Listen to me, okay? As much fun as it is to watch you get all overprotective here, you have to step back. You have to be my boss here, *not* my lover. And as my boss, you *can't* take the day off to nursemaid me. You just can't. You wouldn't do it for Kate, or McGee. You can't do it for me."

As he'd expected, Gibbs sighed and nodded at that. "I don't like it," he admitted. "And if this had happened to Kate, I would make sure she had someone with her, even if it was you."

"Then get her over here."

Gibbs shook his head wryly and pulled out his cell phone, hitting a button. "Kate," he said after a moment. "Yeah. DiNozzo needs someone to stay with him and I've got to get into the office. Can you work from home?" He paused. "No, not DiNozzo's apartment. My place. You know where it is? Good. Be here in twenty." He flipped off the phone.

Tony took his hand, reaching across his lap to do so. "I'll be fine, Jethro," he said quietly. "I'll lie here like a good little agent and take my pills and I'll only get up to use the bathroom. Okay?"

"I'm going to hold you to that," Gibbs warned him.

"Yeah, I know. You'll get Kate to report on me." Tony grinned. "If I only knew a way to bribe her..."

"Not a chance, Tony." Gibbs leaned forward and kissed him. "You scared the crap out of me," he said softly. "I should have known Stewart saw us coming."

"I should have seen him before he drew on me," Tony countered.

"He had cover. You didn't."

"Yeah, and if it had happened to you?" Tony raised an eyebrow. "You'd be saying the same thing, only a lot grumpier. I screwed up, boss."

"Yeah, maybe." Gibbs sighed. "But you're paying for it now."

"No, right now I'm just in pain. I'll be *paying* for it when I'm stuck on desk duty and you dump mountains of paperwork on me even though I can't type to begin with and I *really* can't type one-handed." Tony wrinkled his nose.

"I'm sure I can come up with something more creative." Gibbs smiled. "You'll find a way to dump the paperwork on McGee anyway."

"Damn, you're on to me." Tony grinned and took Gibbs' hand with his good one, rubbing his thumb over the back. "And I'll be back at work in a couple days."

"We'll see."


Kate didn't bother ringing the doorbell; Gibbs' door was never locked and it was unlikely he'd hear her anyway. She shut it behind her and headed upstairs, knowing where she'd find them.

As she'd expected, Tony was sitting up in bed, pillows piled behind his back and supporting his left arm. There was a mostly empty glass of milk on the nightstand next to him, along with a few pill bottles and a plate with a couple of crumbs. Gibbs was sitting on the edge of the bed, facing him, shaking his head at something Tony had said.

"Am I interrupting?" Kate asked from the doorway.

"Nope. Just convincing Gibbs to go into work and stop hovering." Tony grinned. "You should go--"

"Don't even start, DiNozzo," Gibbs almost growled. "Kate's staying. And I'd make you stay if she were in your place."

Tony sighed. "Could you grab my laptop, then?"

"No." Gibbs stood up. "Kate's working. You're on sick leave until I say otherwise."

"Don't you mean until the doctor says otherwise?"


Kate winced. She wouldn't want to be in Tony's place right now. Gibbs was always a bear when one of them got injured and she didn't even want to *think* about what it meant for Tony now that they were lovers.

That word made her pause. "I'm going to go get my computer set up," she said hastily. "Gibbs, where's your hook-up?"

"Living room, downstairs, but you can plug in up here if you'd rather." Gibbs turned to her.

"Might as well," she said, knowing it hadn't been a suggestion.

"Gibbs, for the last time, I'm not going to do anything but lie here and stare at the ceiling. I can't read, there's no TV, and with the meds I'm going to be in la-la land in twenty minutes. Give Kate a break." Tony sighed and shifted a little, pushing one of the pillows behind his shoulder. "The last thing she needs is to be cooped up in a room with me all day."

"I didn't know you cared," Kate said sweetly.

"I've already been shot once. I'm not taking chances with your temper." Tony gave her an innocent smile.

"Fine. Set up wherever you like. I've got to get into the office." Gibbs snagged his jacket from its spot over the back of his chair and pulled it on. "Tony--" He turned back, hesitating. "I'll be back later, okay?"

"I'm fine." Tony reached across his lap awkwardly and took Gibbs' hand. "Go on and terrorize McGee for me."

Gibbs smiled slightly. Kate almost missed it; she was stunned speechless by the way Gibbs crouched down smoothly, kissing Tony's forehead before standing back up. "Watch out for him," he said, passing her on his way to the door.

Kate nodded dumbly.

She waited until she heard the door close behind him to stare at Tony. "Did he just--" She gestured.

"Don't start. I had a hard enough time convincing him to go to work. He wanted to stay and hover." Tony winced, looking a lot more drawn and pale suddenly. "God, I hate concussions."

"You should know; you get enough of them."

"Very funny." Tony sighed and closed his eyes. "Probie's going to end up a wreck by the time Gibbs is done with him, you know."

"That's different from normal how?" Kate sat down in the chair by the bed.

"Good point. Sorry you have to babysit."

Kate shrugged. "You'd do the same for me. Difference is, *I* won't destroy your apartment."

"No, since we're not *there*." Tony grimaced. "Bastard wouldn't drive me home. He said he wanted me somewhere he could keep an eye on me."

"Good," Kate said. She knew she'd surprised him when he opened an eye. "Tony, you're in pretty bad shape. You probably don't remember it, but you lost a hell of a lot of blood before they managed to get you stitched up. The doctor said that it was a miracle the bullet didn't shatter your shoulder."

"I know. He told me, too." Tony made a face. "I'd consider myself lucky, but I should have been smart enough not to get shot in the first place."

Kate shrugged. She hadn't been there. She didn't know what had gone down. "You gonna be okay if I go downstairs and set up?" she asked instead.

"Yeah. I'm probably just going to sleep anyway. Expect some phone calls--I'm sure Gibbs will check in more often than he needs to."

"Yeah, well." Kate stood up. "You scared him. And it doesn't take a profiler to figure that out."

"I know." Tony opened his eyes and looked at her. "That's what scares me. What if someone else finds out cause of this mess?"

Kate shook her head slowly. "I don't know," she admitted. "Let's hope it doesn't happen."


"How's Tony?" Abby demanded as soon as Gibbs got into the office.

"Complaining because he's stuck in bed for the next two days and I sent Kate over there to keep an eye on him."

"Well, der. You sure you needed to do that?"

"He can't stand up without falling over," Gibbs said shortly. "The only reason that he's out of the hospital is that I said I'd have someone there with him. So yes. I'm sure. Anything else?"

Abby looked hurt and Gibbs sighed inwardly. "He's fine, Abs," he said tiredly. "He'll be in pain for a bit and he'll need physical therapy on his shoulder but he's fine."

"I can drop by his apartment later," Abby offered. "I'm sure Kate won't mind. She'll probably flee as soon as I open the door."

"He's not there."

Abby's eyes widened. "You didn't send him to Kate's, did you?"

"No." Gibbs downed the rest of his coffee and tossed the cup in the trash. "He's at my place. I wanted him somewhere I could keep an eye on him. I don't trust him not to try and do something stupid, like get out of bed."

"He's that bad off?" Abby asked in shock. "I thought--"

"He's *fine*," Gibbs said in frustration. "Don't you have work to do?"

Abby stalked off, radiating annoyance in every black-clad line of her body. Gibbs rubbed his forehead and sat down at his desk, deliberately ignoring the empty desk next to him and the one across from him.

He wouldn't call until lunchtime. He even tossed his cell phone in his desk so he didn't have to look at it.

Lunchtime just happened to be around eleven, that was all.

"Todd," Kate answered briskly on the second ring.

"How is he?"

"Asleep, last I checked. Hold on." Gibbs heard the sound of footsteps and the squeaky board on the third stair and leaned back in his chair, waiting. "He's out cold," Kate said quietly. "You want me to wake him?"

"No, he needs the sleep. How are you doing on the Carson profile?"

Kate had just started talking when he heard a groan from her end of the phone and she shut up. "Tony?" he heard her ask.

"Ugh." The phone connection was muffled, but it was enough for Gibbs to hear Tony muttering something.

"Gibbs, I have to go--Tony's being an idiot and trying to get out of bed."

"Sit on him if you have to," Gibbs told her.

"He'd enjoy that too much. I'll see you later." She flipped off her phone and Gibbs sighed, turning back to his own computer.

No hot cases meant he could leave a little earlier than he'd planned. Like around three, maybe.


"Would you lie *back*?" Kate asked in frustration. "You're supposed to be staying *in* bed."

"Kate, amusing as I find it to watch you snap at me like some kind of terrier, I have to use the bathroom, so you can either help me up or..." Tony frowned. "There is no or."

Kate sighed. "Idiot." She gripped Tony's arm carefully, giving him leverage to stand up. Once upright, he swayed a little, paling; Kate was afraid she'd have to catch him or push him back on the bed before he regained his balance.

"I *don't* need help for this," he said as he headed toward the bathroom.

"I should hope not."

She waited, not-quite listening. She was just starting to worry when the door opened. "I washed my face and brushed my teeth, Mom," Tony said, seeing the look on her face. "Okay?"

"Just making sure you didn't fall in, DiNozzo," she said, supporting him with one arm around his waist. It worried her that he didn't protest.

Tony almost fell into bed before managing to get settled; he winced as he pushed pillows behind his shoulder. "I think I need the painkillers," he admitted.

Kate picked up the bottle. "You need to eat to take them."

"Just get me some milk, okay? Too nauseous to eat. Stupid concussion."

"Be right back." She picked up the glass and plate and headed downstairs, finding Gibbs' fridge surprisingly well-stocked. One glass of milk, one banana, and some toast later, she went back upstairs. "Eat," she said, giving him the plate. "Or you get no pills."

"Christ. Now you sound like Gibbs." Tony unpeeled the banana and took a bite, glaring at it. He ate mechanically, like he was forcing himself, but he got everything down. Kate handed him the milk and two pills and he swallowed them gratefully, slumping back against the bed. She frowned, noticing the dark shadows under his eyes and the paleness of his face.

"You look like crap, DiNozzo," she said bluntly.

"Polite as always, Kate." Tony closed his eyes. "It's the concussion. Once that clears up I'll be fine. Well, until Gibbs kills me for screwing up."

"You didn't screw up. I read the reports. There was *no* way you could have seen Stewart."

"I should have been able to see him. He got the drop on me, Kate." Tony sighed and looked at her.

"We don't shoot first," Kate pointed out. "And you did get him, Tony."

"By sheer luck. I don't even remember shooting."

"Doesn't matter, though." Kate shrugged. "You gonna be okay if I leave you alone?"

"I'm fine. I'm going to go back to sleep like a good little boy and I promise to call you for help if I decide to do anything drastic, like empty my bladder." Tony gave her a wide smile and Kate snorted.

"God help Gibbs when he has to deal with you later," she said, leaving the door partially open as she went back downstairs.


Focusing on work was pretty much a lost cause. Gibbs swore under his breath and got up to find Abby, wondering if she'd finished with Carson's computer yet.

From the way she was glaring at the monitor intently, fingers flying over the keys, he guessed not. The music was blaring and he didn't bother interrupting her, just left and went in search of Ducky. Maybe the ME would have more information.

"I'm afraid not, Jethro," Ducky said apologetically, stripping off his gloves. "I won't know anything more until Abby's done with the tox screen."

Gibbs sighed. "Yeah, I figured as much."

"Problems focusing today?" Ducky asked. "Tony will be fine, you know."

"I know." Gibbs looked at the X-Rays up on the light board, not really seeing them. "He should be back at work within a couple days."

"The doctor said two days of bedrest should be enough, but I think he may have been overly optimistic."

"So do I. DiNozzo looks about two steps better than one of your 'friends' down here."

"Kate is with him?"

"Yeah. She's making sure he doesn't kill himself trying to go to the bathroom."

Ducky smiled. "I wish her luck."

"If she makes it through the day and they're both in one piece, I'll let her out early next time she has a date."

"I'm sure she'll appreciate that." Ducky studied Gibbs through the lenses of his glasses. "Just as I'm sure you'd appreciate being able to get home to Tony."


"Well, he is at your place," Ducky said reasonably. "Abby told me." Ducky smiled. "And something tells me he's not in the spare bedroom."

Gibbs stared at him for a long moment before rubbing a hand over his face. "How long have you known?" he asked finally.

"How long has it been?" Ducky countered gently.

"Five months."

Ducky nodded. "About three."

Gibbs shook his head. "How? And why didn't you say anything?"

"I assumed you would tell me when you felt comfortable enough to do so," Ducky said placidly. "As for what gave it away? You did, Jethro. I've known you for how many years now? I know what you're like when you're in love. Oh, you've been very careful, both of you. No one who doesn't know you the way I do would have guessed. But...a glance here, a casual brush of shoulders there..." Ducky shrugged. "It wasn't hard, once I realized there was something to look for."

In love? No. Couldn't--they'd never said--"I need to go," Gibbs said abruptly. "Tell Abby I want her results on my desk ASAP." He turned and strode out of autopsy, his mind whirling.


"How is he?"

Kate looked up from her computer, surprised to see Gibbs there at...three-thirty? Whoa. "He's asleep," she said. "Or he was as of half an hour ago. The painkillers knocked him out."

Gibbs nodded and headed upstairs without another word.

"And hello to you too," she muttered, following.

Tony was out cold, head turned to the side and mouth slightly parted. The shadows under his eyes were dark, more noticeable due to his paler-than-usual skin. The pain lines on his face had eased a bit, though, and when Gibbs knelt next to the bed and smoothed his thumb over Tony's forehead, he sighed and seemed to settle more.

"You can head back to the office if you want, or call it a day. I'll take care of him from here." Gibbs stood up, looking at her.

She nodded. "I'll go back for a bit. Got some things to tie up." With Tony out, Kate knew his paperwork would end up mostly on her desk--well, what she couldn't dump on McGee anyway.

"Okay." Gibbs looked down at Tony before turning back to her. "Thanks, Kate."

"He'd have done the same for me," she said simply before going back downstairs to get her things.


Tony woke up to the feeling of a hand stroking through his hair. He made a soft sound and turned into the caress, nuzzling against the callused palm. "What time is it?" he asked sleepily.

"About five."

"You left early." He blinked his eyes open, forcing them to focus on Gibbs, sitting next to him on the bed.

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah. About three."


"I would have done it for Kate too, and don't tell me otherwise. I wanted to make sure you were all right."

"I'd be better if I could stop falling asleep every fifteen minutes," Tony grumbled, stifling a yawn.

"Some of that's the meds. Some of that is blood loss. It takes time, Tony." Gibbs stroked his hair again, gently. "Have you eaten?"

"Kate made me have a banana and some toast before she let me take the painkillers." Tony made a face. "Are you going to make me eat too?"

"Yeah, I am. Think you could handle some soup?"

"Do I *have* to?"

"Time for the antibiotics. They'll wreck your stomach if you don't eat. C'mon, Tony, you know the drill."

Tony grumbled. "Think I can go downstairs for it?"

"Not a chance in hell." Gibbs kissed his forehead. "Kate told me you nearly fell over going to the bathroom."

"I've been stuck in bed all day! I wasn't going to be steady on my feet just getting up!" Tony looked at Gibbs, hoping his best wide-eyed innocent look would work.


Damn. Tony glared at him. "Bastard," he muttered.

"Tony, I want you better. And for once in your life, you're going to listen to the doctor's orders. Or I'll make Ducky come check you out, and he'll be more cautious than whatever his name was."

Tony sighed and dropped his head back against the pillows. "Fine," he said waspishly.

Gibbs kissed his lips gently. "I'm going to go make you some soup. i'll be right back."

Tony just nodded, eyes closed.


Gibbs stood and went down the stairs, opening one of the kitchen cabinets and taking out a can of chicken noodle soup. He poured it into a large bowl and put it in the microwave, heating it while he got a sleeve of saltines and some ginger ale. With luck it would go easy on Tony's stomach--Gibbs had had concussions before and knew how queasy they made him.

As the food heated, he looked at the microwave door, deliberately *not* thinking about what Ducky had said earlier. He stared at the green numbers until they blurred in front of his eyes, blocking out everything else.

When the microwave beeped, he put all the food on a tray one of his ex-wives--number two, if he remembered correctly--had left behind and carried it upstairs, settling the tray across Tony's lap carefully.

"I feel like i'm seven again and staying home from school," Tony said with a wry smile, reaching for the spoon. "Of course, my mother never made me soup."

"Who did?" Gibbs asked.

Tony shrugged and ate a spoonful of soup. "I did, mostly. I was really good at using the microwave."

Gibbs decided not to push, choosing instead to watch Tony eat. He got down the entire bowl of soup and about half the sleeve of crackers before pushing the tray away. "Pill time?" he asked with a grimace.

"You know the drill, Tony." Gibbs moved the tray aside and counted out the meds--one large antibiotic, one smaller pain pill. He handed them to Tony, who swallowed them with a gulp of ginger ale. "They should kick in soon."

"Hope so," Tony admitted. "My shoulder hurts a bit."

That probably translated to it "throbbing in excruciating agony". Tony was almost as good as he was at hiding pain. "You want me to get you an ice pack?" Gibbs asked.

Tony shook his head. "I'll be fine once the drugs kick in."

Gibbs brushed a lock of hair off Tony's forehead, leaning forward to kiss him. "C'mere," he said, kicking off his shoes and sliding into bed, settling Tony against him. "This okay?"

Tony sighed and let his head rest against Gibbs' shoulder. "Yeah."


The phone rang the next morning around seven; Tony groaned and reached for it before sagging back with a gasp of pain. "Shit," he muttered, closing his eyes and waiting for the throbbing to subside.

He heard Gibbs answer the phone. "Yeah. Okay. Get Kate to give you directions. Be here in twenty." He hung up and turned to Tony. "Abby's coming over today," he said by way of explanation. "She volunteered, I didn't ask."

"Right." Tony swallowed against a dry throat. "Got any of those painkillers for me?"

"Right here." Gibbs handed him a glass of milk and a pill and Tony swallowed them gratefully. "I'll get you some toast so you can take the antibiotic," he said, setting the glass down.

"Okay." The concussion had to be going away; food was starting to sound like a good idea. As if proving that, his stomach growled. Loudly.

Gibbs smiled. "i'll see what else I can dig up," he said before leaving the room.

Tony lay back against the pillows, silently willing the pain pills to work faster. He opened his eyes with an effort when he heard footsteps and saw Abby standing in the doorway, hair down for once, wearing a black skirt over black fishnet stockings and black boots with a long-sleeved tight black sweater. "Hey, DiNozzo," she said, dropping into the chair next to the bed. "How're you doing?"

"I've had better months," Tony admitted wryly. "You got picked to be my babysitter today?"

"I volunteered. Thought I'd spare Kate." Abby grinned. "Sides, this way I don't have to sit in the lab and pretend to do work. Not much going on right now."

"I'm touched by your altruism."

"That's me." Abby squeezed his hand. "You scared us, Tony. Don't *do* that."

"I didn't exactly plan this," he protested.

Before Abby could respond, Gibbs came back in with a plate of toast and scrambled eggs. "Abs," he said, giving Tony the plate and a fork. "Didn't hear you come in."

"I snuck in. These actually aren't all that loud." Abby swung one boot and grinned up at Gibbs. "So what are my orders?"

"Keep him in bed," Gibbs told her, looking at Tony. "Although he might be able to make it to the couch today--*if* he can stand up without wobbling."

"Got it." Abby nodded. "We'll play cards or something. You *do* have cards, right?"

Gibbs opened a drawer in the nightstand and tossed her a deck. Abby caught it and grinned. "Cool. And I've got my laptop, too."

"Abs, the pills knock me out," Tony warned her between bites of the eggs.

"I can still play," Abby said with a shrug.

"Good point."

"I've got to get to work. Abs, sit on him if you have to." Gibbs smiled. "I'll be back later." He passed a hand over Abby's hair and left.

Tony watched as Abby jumped up, going to the window to watch Gibbs leave. Once the car had driven away, she turned around, hands on her hips. "So how long have you two been sleeping together?" she asked.

"What?" Tony stared at her, his food momentarily forgotten.

"C'mon, Tony. I'm not an idiot. You're here, not at your place. You're in the master bedroom, and the other half of the bed is rumpled--*someone* slept here last night. And unless Gibbs has suddenly joined the rest of us in the twenty-first century, that's not his TV and DVD player in the living room." Abby folded her arms over her chest. "Am I wrong?"

Tony sighed. "Abs--"

"Don't 'Abs' me. Am I wrong?"

Tony set his plate down. "No. Five months."

"Who else knows?" Abby asked, sitting back down in the chair next to the bed.

"Kate. And I think Ducky. Gibbs said something last night but I was pretty out of it." Tony shrugged his good shoulder. "We've been trying to keep it quiet."

To his relief, Abby nodded. "Fair enough." She grinned. "I figured *something* was hinky but I didn't know what. And I wasn't about to ask Bossman."

"So you took advantage of me in my injured state? Nice, Abs."

"Please. You're awake, the meds haven't quite kicked in yet, and you've got food in your stomach. You're fine for the moment."

"I'm in pain," Tony said grumpily. "And I'm stuck on desk duty for the next however long it is."

"Poor baby." Abby kissed him on the cheek.

"Your sympathy underwhelms me." Tony hid a yawn.

"Pills kicking in?" Abby asked.


"What've they got you on?"

"Um." Tony looked at the bottle. "Percocet."

"Ooh. Good stuff." Abby grinned. "No wonder you're loopy."

"Go kill things on the computer," Tony said, fighting another yawn. "Stop mocking me."

"The two are not mutually exclusive, you know." Abby grinned and opened her bag, taking out her laptop. She crawled onto the bed on the other side of Tony, unzipping her boots and kicking them off before sitting cross-legged. "I can do both. I'm talented."

Tony closed his eyes, deciding ignoring her was the better part of--of something. The pills were taking effect and he was content to lie there in the warm sunny room and drift, the throbbing in his shoulder reduced to a mild ache that would go away soon. He heard Abby laugh quietly and felt a gentle kiss on his cheek before letting the meds drag him under.


Work was a little easier with Kate there. Not much, but a little. Gibbs made it until eleven-thirty that day before picking up the phone.

"Talk to me," Abby said cheerfully.

"How is he?" Gibbs didn't waste time on small talk.

"And hello to you too, Boss. It's a lovely day here, although the bedroom's a bit sunnier than I prefer. But Tony likes it, so I'm dealing for now. I'd put him on the line so he could talk to you himself, but he's sleeping. He woke up about an hour ago and made it to the bathroom all by himself--I offered to help and he grumbled at me. When's he due for more pain meds? I asked him and he said he didn't know and didn't really want to take them anyway."

Gibbs ran a hand over his face. "Give him more around one--don't let him tell you otherwise. And make sure he eats something."

"No problem. And hey, Boss?"


He could *hear* Abby's grin through the phone line. "Is he good in bed?"

"What?" Gibbs stared at the device like it had just grown antlers.

Abby giggled. "See you later, Boss." She hung up and Gibbs stared at the phone for a moment longer before flipping it closed and tossing it down on his desk.


"How's Tony?" Kate asked, looking up.

"He's fine. Well enough to grumble about taking the painkillers." Gibbs got up and walked over to Kate's desk, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Did you know Abby knew?" he asked quietly.

Kate's eyes widened. "She knows?"

Gibbs smiled wryly. "She asked me if he was good in bed."

"I guess she knows," Kate said with a swallowed laugh. "Don't look at me. I haven't said a word."

"I didn't think you had." Gibbs sighed. "But now you know, and she does, and so does Ducky. I'm not too happy with this trend."

Kate looked up at him, her eyes serious. "You can trust us, Gibbs. None of us are going to say anything. We wouldn't do that."

"I know. I'm just wondering how long we can keep this quiet from everyone else."

"That I don't know." Kate shook her head slowly. "But we'll do our best to help. You know that."

He nodded shortly. "Thanks."

Kate smiled a little and shrugged. Before she said anything, Gibbs held up a hand. "I need coffee. You want a cup?"

"Not your stuff. I like my stomach lining the way it is."

"I'll get it milder for you." Gibbs grabbed his keys and his phone and left, needing some fresh air. Things were just getting too weird for his liking.

Around five, he got home to the sounds of music coming from upstairs; following it led him to the bedroom, where Abby and Tony were playing some strange card game that he didn't recognize at first glance. "Hey!" Abby said, tossing down her hand. "What's up?"

"Making sure you two survived the day." Gibbs smiled and sat down in the chair at the side of the bed, noticing with relief that Tony looked better than he had that morning. There was more color in his face, he was awake--if looking a bit groggy--and the shadows under his eyes had faded. "How're you doing?"

"Better," Tony said, gathering up the cards with his good hand. "I think I might make it downstairs tonight."

"Don't push it," Gibbs warned him.

"I'm going to forget how to walk if I have to stay in bed much longer," Tony complained. "C'mon, Gibbs. Cut me some slack."

"In case you've forgotten, DiNozzo, there's a flight of stairs between you and the kitchen. I'd rather not have you tumble down them because you were too damn impatient to wait five minutes."

Abby laughed. "I think that's my cue to leave. Play nice, guys." She kissed Tony on the cheek, gathered up her laptop and her bag, and slid off the bed. To Gibbs' surprise--and secret pleasure--he got a kiss on the cheek as well before she headed downstairs and left.

"You look better," Gibbs admitted, moving to sit on the bed facing Tony. "How's your head feeling?"

"Much better. Headache's almost gone. Although you could kiss it and make it better, you know."

He smiled and leaned forward, pressing his lips to Tony's forehead. "Is that better?"

"Nope." Tony grinned. "I want a real kiss."

Gibbs stroked his fingers through Tony's hair, sliding his hand down to cup his face gently before leaning in to kiss him. He'd meant it to be gentle, but Tony made a soft sound and opened his mouth and Gibbs fell headlong into the kiss, only pulling away when he had to breathe.

"Now that's better," Tony whispered against his lips. "Be even better if--"

"I don't want to jostle your shoulder," Gibbs said with more than a hint of reluctance.

"I won't move?" Tony said hopefully. "C'mon, Gibbs, it's been *days*."

"Your sex drive never ceases to amaze me."

"You've never complained about it before," Tony pointed out.

"You're hurt, you're on drugs, and I am not going to risk screwing up your recovery and having to explain to the doctor that you re-injured your shoulder by having sex." Gibbs took Tony's uninjured hand and squeezed it. "Give it a little longer, okay?"

Tony sighed but nodded. "Abby knows," he said after a moment.

"I know." Gibbs couldn't stifle the smile. "She asked me if you were good in bed."

"What did you say?"

"I didn't get a chance to answer. I was too stunned and then she hung up."

Tony started laughing, head falling back against the pillows. "That's Abs for you," he said wryly. "She just came right out and asked me how long we'd been sleeping together."

"Ducky knows too."

"I thought you said something last night. How'd he find out?"

It took Gibbs a split second to decide against telling Tony about that particular conversation. "He's known me longer than any of you. Apparently he's known for three months."

"Huh." Tony shrugged his good shoulder. "Doesn't surprise me, really. Let's just hope no one else finds out."

"Yeah." Gibbs sighed. "Yeah, that's the trick, isn't it."

Tony tightened his grip on Gibbs' fingers. "We'll manage. Somehow."

Gibbs smiled a little. "When did you become such an optimist?"

"I'm not. I'm pretending I don't have to worry about this. I'm going to have a hard enough time being stuck on desk duty and watching you go out on a case without me without having to worry about the whole concept of being outed." Tony looked down at their hands. "I really don't like the idea of you going out in the field without me to watch your back. And don't tell me Kate'll be there, or even Probie, because it's not the same."

"I know. I know, Tony." Gibbs brushed the fingers of his free hand over Tony's face. "I wish I could tell you that you won't have to worry about that."

"Yeah. I wish I could tell you that I won't get hurt again, too, so we're even there." Tony sighed.

"I'd rather you didn't get hurt again either." Gibbs leaned forward and kissed him again. "I didn't particularly like seeing you lying there on the ground. You scared the shit out of me, Tony. And I'm not thrilled about seeing you stuck in bed, either."

"Fair's fair, Boss. You did the same to me when I found you in the morgue after Ari shot you." Tony touched the spot on Gibbs' chest where the bullet had hit him. "Our job isn't exactly safe."

"No. And I can't protect you, much as I want to, sometimes." Gibbs shook his head wryly. "You take too many damn risks, DiNozzo."

"It's part of why you hired me and you know it. You don't play by the book--you wanted someone else who didn't. Kate's enough of a rule-follower for both of us."

"Yeah, well. She's learning." Gibbs shrugged. "Are you hungry?"

"Depends. Are you going to let me out of bed to go eat?"

"*If* you can stand up on your own, without wobbling, I'll let you go downstairs and relax on the couch." Gibbs stood up, watching, ready to support him if Tony needed it.

It took a moment for Tony to push himself away from the pillows and swing his legs over the side of the bed, but he got to his feet with only a momentary stumble. "That didn't count," Tony said with a mock-glare at him. "My balance is shot to hell."

"I know. Come on."

Tony made it downstairs and onto the couch without a problem, although he looked content to relax there once he got settled. Gibbs handed him the remote and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm going to go make dinner. Find something on that idiot box."

He went to the kitchen, wondering just what he had in the fridge that was edible. The murmur of the TV was loud enough that he heard sound, but not loud enough that he could hear exactly what was on. As he heated water and took out a box of pasta before dumping a jar of pasta sauce into a small saucepan, it occurred to him that he hadn't been this domestic in years. Not since...his third wife. If that even counted.

The thought made him freeze.

*'I know what you're like when you're in love, Jethro.'*

Gibbs' hands clenched on the counter. God. He just wasn't going to think about right now.

He finished making dinner automatically, bringing the pasta bowls out to the living room where Tony was watching some random football game. Tony took his bowl with an absent smile of thanks and began eating hungrily, bracing the bowl on a pillow. "S'good," he said between bites.

"It's just pasta, DiNozzo."

"Still good." Tony swallowed, licking sauce away from the corner of his mouth. "You gonna let me go to work tomorrow?"

"How's the head?" Gibbs asked.

"It's fine. Shoulder hurts, but that's to be expected." Tony looked at the sling and grimaced. "I so need a shower."

"You can't get that wet," Gibbs said, nodding at the bandage on Tony's shoulder. "You'll need help."

"Aw. And I thought you'd never ask." Tony grinned. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm almost looking forward to paperwork if it gets me out of the house."

"If you're saying that, you're better enough to go back," Gibbs admitted. "Desk duty *only*, DiNozzo. I'm sure I can come up with enough for you to do. Although I want you to tell me if you need to leave. I can take you home, or Kate can."

Tony sighed and nodded. "Okay. But for now...shower? Please? I feel gross."

Gibbs smiled and stood up, holding out a hand. "C'mon. Let's get you clean and back into bed."

"That would be *so* much more tempting if you were offering sex too," Tony grumbled, getting to his feet.

"We'll see."


Gibbs barely managed to hang up his towel. He should have known better than to think he could hold out against Tony--especially a warm, clean, peppermint-scented Tony who wouldn't stop kissing him.

"Bed," he said, pushing Tony's good shoulder gently. "I'm not going to risk hurting you."

Tony pouted. "But--"

"Trust me. Go lie down." Gibbs kissed him and watched him crawl into bed, stuffing a pillow under his left shoulder. When Tony was settled, he padded into the bedroom, pausing at the side of the bed and just looking at Tony for a long moment.


"Patience." Gibbs leaned down and kissed him, gently and lingeringly. "If you move, you'll hurt your shoulder."

"I'm beginning to think you have a thing for this," Tony grumbled.

"For what?"

"Taking advantage of me when I can't move. Or when you've made me promise I won't."

"It's taken you this long to figure that out?" Gibbs asked in amusement. "Told you, Tony. I like having you at my mercy like this. I'd rather it wasn't because you were injured, but yeah, I like you like this."

"First chance I get, I'm turning the tables on you," Tony warned him.

Gibbs smiled and moved to kneel between Tony's legs. "I'll hold you to that." He leaned down and kissed Tony again, deeper, more hungrily, bracing himself on one arm to run his other hand down Tony's chest. His fingers skirted the edge of the bandage, ghosting over the injury underneath.

Tony wasn't the only one who wanted--needed this. Seeing Tony lying on the ground, bleeding and dazed, was an image Gibbs wasn't going to forget any time soon. He wanted to run his hands over Tony, every part of him, reassuring himself that Tony was alive and all right. He wanted, badly, to slick his cock and push inside Tony and feel him, hear Tony moan and writhe and clench around him.

But he couldn't--not without hurting Tony. He'd have to wait for Tony's shoulder to heal to do that.

He traced a line down the center of Tony's chest, down his stomach, watching the muscles clench under the light caress. He had to hide a smile--Tony was so incredibly responsive it never failed to amaze him. He hoped he'd never take it for granted.

A thought flashed into his head and he closed his eyes, swallowing. What if the shot hadn't been so lucky? A few inches to the right, that was all it would have taken. Clean shot to the heart--Tony would have been dead before they'd even reached him.

Gibbs lowered his head, resting his forehead against Tony's stomach. He breathed in peppermint and the warm scent of Tony's skin and felt the muscles move as Tony exhaled.

Forget what would happen if people found out--Gibbs wasn't sure he could take going through this again.

"It's not going to change," Tony said softly. "Who I am isn't going to change whether we're together or not. I'm a cop, Gibbs. This is what I do."

"I know." Gibbs sighed.

"And it wouldn't be easier if you weren't there. You'd drive yourself crazy wanting to know who my back-up was because no matter who they were, you wouldn't trust them because they wouldn't be you." Tony laughed a little. "Did that make sense?"

"Enough, yeah." Gibbs knelt up again. "I still don't have to like it, Tony. I don't like seeing you hurt."

"I don't exactly like *being* hurt." Tony gave him a wry smile. "And I'd like it even less if you were the one lying here. For one thing, you're a worse patient than I am."

Gibbs smacked his thigh. "What the hell am I going to do with you, DiNozzo?" he asked, shaking his head.

"Right now, pretty much anything you want. I can't move or get up without help and you're blocking me anyway. So..." Tony shrugged his good shoulder and visibly relaxed. "Like you said, Gibbs. I'm at your mercy."

He leaned up and kissed Tony again, one hand cupping the side of his face. "Don't move," he said quietly. "Got it?"

"Yeah. I got it." The look on Tony's face said that he wasn't thrilled.

"If you move and hurt something again, you get to tell the doctor why," Gibbs warned him.

"You don't play fair."

"Never said I did, Tony." Gibbs kissed his throat, his shoulder, nuzzling the dip between his collarbones. "In fact, didn't you tell me you learned that from me?"

Tony snorted, his head falling back against the pillows. "Bastard," he said affectionately.

Gibbs licked a line up Tony's throat, biting down gently. "Yeah. So?"

"N-nothing." Tony shivered under his touch, his nipples hardening almost instantly under Gibbs' fingers. Gibbs pinched one and Tony groaned, low in his throat.

He slid down Tony's body, using his hands, his legs, his torso to caress every part of Tony that he possibly could, just to *feel* him, warm and alive and breathing. Tony was already half-hard and when Gibbs rubbed his cheek against the side of Tony's cock, Tony groaned and hardened instantly.

Gibbs licked around the head of Tony's cock, sucking it into his mouth, playing with it. Tony's legs fell apart and his uninjured hand gripped the sheets. "C'mon," he ground out. "Don't tease me. I'm injured here."

He wanted to draw it out until Tony was whimpering and writhing under him, until the only sounds Tony could make were moans and gasps. But he couldn't--not if he wanted Tony to stay still. So he licked a line up the underside, tasting the pre-come at the head, right before he swallowed as much as he could.

"Fuck!" Tony's hips arched involuntarily and Gibbs pressed him back into the mattress, hands on his hips. He raised his head, letting Tony's cock slip out of his mouth.

"Don't move," he said softly. "Or I'll stop."

"Bastard," Tony groaned.

"Yeah." Gibbs grinned. "We've been over that already." He lowered his head, taking Tony's cock into his mouth again.

Tony moaned helplessly, legs tensing as he fought to stay still. Gibbs pressed him down more firmly, spreading his hands wide over the warm skin, licking at the head of Tony's cock.

"God--Jethro, please, don't tease me," Tony managed, breathing hard.

Gibbs kissed the head of Tony's cock and sucked it into his mouth, tongue pressing against the the spot guaranteed to make Tony moan. He slid his hands under Tony's body, squeezing his ass and lifting him slightly. It was easier this way to take more of him in, to swallow a little more each time he breathed.

"Oh, fuck--God--" Tony was panting, shivering under Gibbs' hands.

He slid one hand up to Tony's lower back, holding him; the other moved down between his legs, rubbing against his perineum. Tony made a short guttural sound; it sounded like he'd bitten off a cry. Gibbs smiled to himself, closing his eyes to better focus on what he was doing. He felt Tony's moans as much as he heard them, the vibrations running through his body.

Tony was getting close, his whimpers almost desperate now. Almost--and as he felt Tony tense and tremble, he moved his hand, pushing one finger into Tony, hard and rough and dry.

Tony made a low keening sound in the back of his throat and came, unable to keep from arching up as he did. He sagged back against the bed, his breathing evening out in seconds. Gibbs looked up and couldn't hide a smile--Tony was completely passed out, limp against the mattress. Given the medication and the strain Tony's body was under, it wasn't exactly surprising...and more than a little flattering.

He got up and went to the bathroom, washing his hands and brushing his teeth. His own erection had faded enough that he didn't really need or want to deal with it--one of the few advantages to getting older, he supposed. By the time he padded back into the bedroom, Tony was sound asleep, head turned to the side and his good arm stretched out over Gibbs' side of the bed.

He shook his head wryly and crawled into bed, turning off the light as he did. He had to shift Tony's arm carefully so he could get settled; Tony just sighed a little and snuggled down deeper into the pillows.

For a long, long time, Gibbs lay there, watching him sleep.
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