Gibbs opened the door quietly. He wasn’t sure why he was being so hesitant; it was his house, after all. It was just that Tony had looked so miserable that morning… if he was sleeping, Jethro didn’t want to disturb him.
For once in his life, Gibbs had hated to go to work. It was only the flu, but DiNozzo had been wiped out by it. The normally energetic young man had been reduced to a huddled lump underneath the covers of their bed, fever-induced chills making him shiver. Jethro had longed to stay home and take care of him, but half the office was out with the same thing. The bad guys were unlikely to stay home just because the good guys were sick, so someone had to go in and mind the store. He’d hated to, though, the dual responsibilities between work and lover tearing at him all day.
Anxious to check on his ill partner, Gibbs set the brown bag he was carrying down on the kitchen counter and hurried down the hall. Sure enough, Tony was still in bed and, given how the curtains were still drawn, probably had been all day. At least aspirin and part of the glass of water he’d left on the nightstand were gone, evidence that DiNozzo had at least followed one of his instructions. Only a shock of brown hair was visible above the blankets, but the snuffly sound of congested snoring indicated that Tony was still under there somewhere.
Jethro smiled fondly and quietly made his way out of the room. He went back to his bag of supplies and lifted out a container of soup he’d bought at the local deli. He dumped some of it into an oversized mug and, after checking to verify it was still warm enough to eat, made his way back to the bedroom.
It took an educated guess to tell which side was the one Tony was facing, but Gibbs had lots of practice. Setting the mug on the nightstand, Jethro perched on the edge of the mattress and gently shook DiNozzo’s shoulder. Or, at least, the lump he thought most likely to be Tony’s shoulder.
“Tony?” He called softly. “Hey, babe, I need you to wake up a minute.”
A muffled whuffing noise was heard under the blankets and the lump started to stir. “Wha?”
“Just me, babe.” Jethro assured him.
Moving almost in slow motion, the covers were pulled down and Tony’s head poked out from his nest. His hair was sticking out every which way and only the bleariness in DiNozzo’s eyes kept Gibbs from laughing at the sight.
“Feeling any better?” He asked quietly.
“No. Feel like crap,” Tony wheezed. “Well, maybe crap warmed over.”
Jethro ran a hand up and down the other man’s back, wincing when he felt the heat radiating from his lover’s body. “I’m sorry about that. Sorry I couldn’t stay and take care of you.”
Tony shrugged. “Had to go to work, I know that.” He leaned into Jethro’s body, but stopped short of touching. “Besides, you’re here now.”
“That I am,” Gibbs said with satisfaction. He turned to the nightstand and picked up the mug. “Here, I want you to eat this. You need to take more aspirin to get that fever down and I don’t want you to do it on an empty stomach.”
DiNozzo shook his head. “Not hungry.”
Gibbs put a note of steel into his voice. If there was one thing being a Marine had taught him, it was how to get his orders obeyed. “Eat it anyway. You need fuel to fight off this bug.”
Tony sighed and reached reluctantly for the mug. “Give it here.”
Jethro silently handed it over and watched as Tony started to sip at the warm liquid. When the other man’s hand started to shake, he just as quietly reached to steady the mug, the obviously miserable condition DiNozzo was in making him refrain from making any ‘I told you so’ comments.
Only a few sips had been taken, however, when Tony stopped to ask a question. “Are you feeling okay? You haven’t caught it from me, have you?”
“No, I’m feeling fine,” Jethro assured him. “McGee reported that Abby’s on the mend and Ducky’ll be back in the office tomorrow.” His team had been hit hard by the illness, but none of the others had been as sick as Tony was.
“Good.” DiNozzo nodded his head as he took another sip. He drank obediently for a few more moments before pushing the mug away. “No more.”
“I like Chicken and Stars,” Tony grumbled. “Not this stuff.”
Gibbs held the mug out. “I got this soup at the deli, DiNozzo. Old fashioned chicken noodle. It’s already prepared and you needed to get something in your belly right away.”
“Chicken and Stars,” DiNozzo asserted, glaring as well as he could out of swollen eyes.
“Do you have any idea how much sodium is in that canned stuff?” Gibbs asked. “It’s worse for you than the flu is.”
Tony looked at him in accusation. “You’ve been talking to Kate again, haven’t you?”
Gibbs shrugged. “She is one of the few that didn’t get sick. Maybe she knows what she’s talking about.”
“You didn’t get sick.”
Jethro bit back a smile. If Tony was feeling up to arguing, he was definitely feeling better than he had that morning.
“I’m too mean to get sick,” Gibbs claimed.
Tony didn’t dispute the statement. “Chicken and Stars got me through my childhood, our housekeeper used to always get it for me when I was sick. It’s good enough for me.”
Jethro gave in before Tony could go into full pout mode. That lower lip of his should be registered as a lethal weapon. “And I’ve got some in the kitchen, but I didn’t want to take the time to heat it up right now. Eat this for now and you can have the other later.”
DiNozzo looked from the mug to Gibbs and back again. “Oh, all right, if it’ll make you happy.”
Gibbs wisely didn’t say anything, only watching quietly while Tony finished it off, his hand continuously rubbing DiNozzo’s back.
“Satisfied?” Tony asked.
“Yup,” Jethro answered succinctly.
He held out two aspirin and the half-full glass of water, smiling openly at his lover’s sniff of disgust. Tony didn’t protest further, however, and immediately yawned after taking his medicine.
“C’mon, go back to sleep,” Gibbs encouraged DiNozzo to lie back down and started to pull the covers up. He was stopped, however, by a fever-warm hand and a pleading voice.
“Oh, babe, you didn’t have to ask,” Jethro said. He’d wanted to do nothing more all day.
After toeing his shoes off, Gibbs crawled into the bed, on top of the covers, and settled behind Tony. DiNozzo nuzzled close and Jethro did the best he could to get his arms around the blanket-covered man.
“Feel better already,” Tony murmured.
“Me too,” Gibbs answered.
And it was the truth, after worrying about his sick lover all day, it was a relief to be home and have the man in his arms. Holding Tony was like chicken soup for Jethro’s soul; it was that soothing.
Gibbs snorted as he contemplated his own thoughts. Maybe he *had* been talking to Kate too much; that sounded way too romantic. When Tony got better, he’d share it with him and they’d both have a laugh. Better yet, since the statement was true even if it was sappy as hell, perhaps it would go a ways towards easing some of Tony’s insecurity about his place in Gibbs’ life. It’d be worth embarrassing himself over sharing it, if the thought brought DiNozzo some comfort.
Sighing in contentment, Gibbs settled in. The bad guys could wait until tomorrow. For now, he was looking forward to nothing more than holding Tony until they both felt better.
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