Tony was still wary around Ellison and didn’t bother to hide it. If Ellison was the same as him, then he had to be feeling it too. He and Blair had arrived at nine that morning with groceries that apparently hadn’t been on Gibbs’ list the night before. Tony had been dismayed to find all natural foods, fruits and veggies and meats alike, being unpacked and put away in his cabinets. He’d almost protested the dumping of his favorite junk-foods, but a single warning glance from Gibbs had silenced him.

He’d been surprised when Ellison had asked to go to a local park, not sure what was on the agenda. So far, all they’d done was walk around in silence while the other man watched the young mothers with their kids and the old folks wandering around in pairs or gaggles of chattering old women.

“So what did you do before NCIS?”

The question, coming after such a long silence, startled Tony. He floundered for a few seconds before answering, “I was a cop.”

Ellison grinned, humor lighting his ice-blue eyes as he announced, “I was in the military and became a cop, and you’ve gone the other way.”

“Well, I’m not really military now,” Tony pointed out.

“Close enough. You’re going to have to be careful about that.”

“About what?”

“What do you think the government would do to and with someone who has our gifts? Think about it.”

Tony had opened his mouth, but closed it again as he did think about it. From the rundown that Blair had given them the night before, he could expect to be able to see and hear up to at least a mile radius when he finally mastered his new abilities. And his touch would be sensitive enough to be able to crack a safe by feeling the tumblers click into place. A shiver ran though him as Tony thought about all the applications he could be used for; espionage being the nicest.

“Exactly,” Ellison confirmed. “The good news is that Gibbs is the only one who knows about you and he’s not going to tell anyone. You never had any public fiascoes bring you to the attention of the government or the media, so the two of you should be safe.”

“You have?”

“Yes.”

Tony waited for more, but nothing came.

Ellison watched a young black mother with twins playing in the sandbox. “What’s she saying?”

“How should I know? She’s at least twenty yards away.”

Ellison smirked. “I can hear her.”

Irritated at the superior look, Tony frowned in concentration, staring at the woman and trying to hear what she was saying to no avail.

“You’re trying too hard. Where are your dials?” Ellison asked.

“Ah, they’re at normal.”

“Then of course you can’t hear them. Turn it up a half-notch.”

Tony shook his head, fear clutching his stomach. “No, I can’t. If I do that…”

“I’m right here, DiNozzo, nothing’s going to happen to you.”

The way Ellison said it, it was a fact. He took a breath and thought about the dials again, notching the hearing one up just a little, not even a full half-click. Instantly, sound was magnified for him. He could hear conversations from all around, the input hitting hard and fast, making him flinch.

“Block them out, DiNozzo. Look at that woman and match what her lips are saying to the sound coming out of them,” Ellison ordered, his voice directly beside him and cutting through the babble.

Tony looked at the woman, straining to see what she was saying, as well as hear it. Suddenly, her face popped into clear view and he could see every word that was formed by her lips. It was only a second later that he picked out her soft, soothing voice, rich with love, saying, “Jeremy, you are doing so good today, honey! I’m so proud of you, building that sandcastle all by yourself. And sharing your toys with Jeffrey too! That’s such a good boy!”

Startled, Tony realized that he’d blocked out the other conversations in his bid to hear only the woman. It was like she was standing right next to him and everyone else was at their normal distance away. He glanced at Ellison and grinned. “That’s so cool!”

Ellison echoed the grin briefly. “It can be, yeah. Just takes practice, like anything else. Try it again with that old man over there. At the chess table.”

It took less time for him to repeat the actions and hear the old man’s conversation. He didn’t turn up the dial any, still paranoid about losing control. Even though the chess table was further away than the sandbox, he concentrated more and was able to pick out the old man’s words.

They spent the morning doing just that, concentrating on his hearing and sight alone because, as Ellison put it, “If those blow up unexpectedly, you’re really screwed.”

By the time noon came, Tony was starving and had the beginnings of a headache, though he wasn’t sure if it was from regular hunger or the odd paces that he was being put through. They went to a Mexican restaurant and, not completely unexpectedly, Ellison put him through more exercises there, too. They spent time on his taste dial, which was actually harder to control than the sight and hearing.

Halfway through the meal, Ellison confided, “Whenever Sandburg brings me to a new restaurant to make me eat some new-age concoction, I just turn off my taste buds. It comes in really handy.”

Laughing, Tony agreed, “I bet it does. So are the two of you partners, or partners?”

“Blair’s my lifemate,” Ellison answered simply. “He’s my everything.”

A little surprised by the shy expression of love on the otherwise imperturbable, and seemingly unmovable, cop, Tony felt a fleeting wistfulness as he said, “Wish I had someone who was my everything.”

“So you and Gibbs aren’t together?”

Tony choked on the water that he’d started to drink. He coughed a few times to clear his windpipe, and wiped at his eyes. “Did you think we were?”

Shrugging, Ellison answered, “He’s very protective of you and you seem to be pretty…deferential to him.”

The observation surprised Tony and he sat back in the booth, thoughtful. Slowly, he admitted, “I hadn’t really thought about that before, how we looked to other people. He’s just…Gibbs, you know? He’s my boss and a good friend, the best, even though he’d die before admitting it to anyone else. We are how we are with each other, that’s just how it’s always been.”

“You’d die for him,” Ellison stated quietly.

Meeting the other man’s eyes, Tony saw the certain knowledge written in those pale eyes and didn’t even try to deny it. “In a heartbeat.”

“Not to downplay the depths of a friendship between other people, but Guides and Sentinels have a…special bond,” Ellison said, leaning forward on the table. “It’s part of who we are, DiNozzo, the need to make sure our Guides are safe and protected. I can’t imagine a man who needs less protection than Gibbs, but you’re going to feel that way anyhow.”

Flushing a little, Tony confessed, “I already do. I have for a long time now. Almost since the day we met. But, how do you know he’s my Guide?”

Ellison smirked and asked, “You mean aside from the stunt last night with the loaded pistol ready to blow my head off? No reason at all.”

“God. I am never going to live that down, am I?”

“Not from me.”

A laugh escaped Tony and he had the feeling that everything was going to work out all right.

* * * *

Blair hadn’t been this frustrated since he’d been teaching Freshman Anthro to a bunch of kids who’d thought it would be an easy A for an elective class. It wasn’t that Jethro was disruptive like they’d been, but he was just as resistant.

They’d spent the morning going over potential health problems, medicinal allergies that could spring up and their counteragents, anything that could adversely affect Tony from a physical standpoint. And for all of that, Jethro had been attentive and making plenty of notes and writing down all the instructions in his own personal notebook, even though Blair had brought everything on disk for him to be able to check later.

No, it was after lunch when they’d started going over the emotional and psychological and mystical side of things, that Jethro had cooled off.

The military mindset strikes again, Blair thought, irritated. If they can’t feel it or see it somehow, it doesn’t exist. Wouldn’t have thought that a Guide would be like this, but he’s military first, I guess.

Aloud, he suggested, “Let’s take a break.”

Jethro looked relieved and nodded, instantly standing up from the lotus position he’d been in for the last half hour as Blair had tried to go over meditation techniques with him. Watching the older man stride over to the bathroom, Blair sighed and yanked on his hair, the brief pain focusing him.

Something is clearly going on that I don’t know about. Something that makes Jethro not want to even think about this part of things, let alone participate, he thought arching his back in a spine-cracking move.

By the time Jethro came out of the bathroom, Blair had made up his mind and was sitting on the couch with the television on.

Jethro stopped at the sofa and frowned. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on, is that we’re done,” Blair informed him with a shrug.

“Already?”

“Yep.”

“It sounded like there was a lot more to this.”

“There is, but you don’t need to know it.”

Jethro’s gaze narrowed. “Excuse me?”

Shrugging again, Blair explained, “You’re not Tony’s Guide. I was wrong in thinking that you were. You don’t need to worry about it, though. I’ll take on Tony until we find his Guide. It’s not like the two of you have bonded in a significant way, so there shouldn’t be any real trauma in him moving to Cascade. And it’s not like Cascade couldn’t use another Sentinel. I swear that city gets more dangerous every year.”

“I did take psychology, you know,” Gibbs informed him, cool as ice. “A few years worth of it, as a matter of fact. I can recognize an attempt at reverse psychology.”

Blair stood and agreed, “I’m sure you can, but that’s not what this is. Look, Jethro, you’re a good man, and a great friend of Tony’s, that’s really obvious. I know you care about him and want to see that he has everything he needs for a full, balanced life. But to do that, he needs a Guide and you aren’t that.”

“What makes you think I’m not?” Jethro demanded angrily.

Holding up a finger per point, Blair answered, “One, you’re older than he is. Two, you have no patience whatsoever, and Guides need to have that in abundance. Three, Guides have a deeply spiritual nature that connects with the mystical side of life and you’ve been making fun of that for the last hour. And Four, well, you’re straight.”

Jethro opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. He thought a moment and asked warily, “What’s being straight got to do with anything?”

Blunt, Blair answered, “Tony and his Guide will eventually become lovers. It’s inevitable. From everything that I’ve read and researched, from how Jim and I are, that’s the thing that cements the bond between Guides and Sentinels. If you were a woman, you’d wind up getting married and having kids. But you’re not only a man, you’re straight and you’re military, and that leads to all kinds of problems right up front.”

“Like what?” Jethro challenged.

Throwing up his hands in exasperation, Blair exclaimed, “Like this! You’re rigid and need to be in control! God, it’s like when I first met Jim, all over again! If you’re the Guide, then the Sentinel needs to feel like he’s in charge, even if he’s not. They have a primal imperative to protect the Guide first, and then to protect their Tribe. But you’re this macho, domineering jerk who can’t even admit to the possibility that there’s another side after death! That spiritual connection is essential, Jethro, completely essential to being a Guide!”

Tight-lipped and stiff, Jethro turned and walked a short distance away. Watching him closely, Blair waited for an explosion, but it never came. After a few minutes, he frowned and asked insistently, “What aren’t you telling me, Jethro? What’s really going on here?”

“I’ve been dead, Blair, I know there’s another side.”

Not having expected that answer, it took a few seconds for Blair to collect his thoughts. “What happened?”

Jethro turned back and offered a wry twist of the lips. “It’s classified.”

“Of course it is,” Blair muttered, running a hand through his hair.

Apologetic, Jethro said, “I can’t change who I am, Blair and I’m not going to try. I’m too set in my ways and we both know it. Maybe that doesn’t make me Tony’s ideal match, I don’t know. He probably would be better off with someone else, but I can’t let him go. I won’t. There’s not a chance in hell that I’ll let him leave with you. I’d kill you first and that’s a fact.”

Blair believed him. Aside from the dangerous gaze that was leveled his way, he knew that that was exactly how he’d react if someone threatened to take Jim from him. “So how can we work around your…fear…of the unknown? Because you’re going to have to, Jethro.”

“I don’t know. Can we save it for another time? Let me think things through a little?”

“Yeah, I guess so. But we do need to work on the meditations because you’re going to have to use them a lot until Tony gets used to his senses.”

“Sure. Okay.”

Not exactly the whole-hearted endorsement he’d been hoping for, but Blair would take what he could get. A thought occurred to him and he asked, “You’re not really straight, are you?”

Jethro flashed him an ironic grin. “Only when I was in the Marines.”

* * * *

Glad that Blair had taken Jim and left just about the moment the two Sentinel’s had returned from their outing, Jethro just listened to Tony as he went on and on about the day he’d had with Ellison. It was soothing to be alone with Tony even though the other man was hyper from the experiences he’d had training his senses.

Finally running out of steam, Tony flopped down onto the floor and grinned up at him. “So how was your day?”

Jethro grinned back, unable not to, and answered, “Not nearly as exciting. I got to go over shopping and allergy lists, and then meditated for a few hours.”

Wincing, Tony apologized, “Sorry to hear that.”

“That’s okay. You can make it up to me by eavesdropping on Abby and Kate. I know they’re up to something for my birthday and I want to be prepared,” Jethro teased.

Tony laughed. “Sure thing, Boss. So what’s for supper?”

Wriggling his eyebrows, Jethro replied, “I thought that I would teach you how to cook.”

“Oh, come on. Be serious.”

Jethro just grinned at him.

“Oh man. You’re serious? Shit.”

Jethro snorted and slapped Tony in the back of the head before standing. “Come, young Padawan. To the kitchen, we go.”

“I thought you said you didn’t see that movie!” Tony complained, also standing.

They bickered like normal as they got supper ready and Jethro took comfort in it. He hadn’t been entirely truthful with Blair, letting the other man believe it was the spiritual things that made him uncomfortable and afraid. The real thing that haunted him was losing the way he and Tony were together now; the affection and healthy competition, the laughter and touches. God knew that he’d screwed up every other important relationship in his life and he was terrified of doing the same thing with Tony.

Aside from that, there was the lingering belief that Tony could do a hell of a lot better than one Jethro Gibbs, with a second B for Bastard.

“Hey, earth to Gibbs, you in there?”

Startled, Jethro realized that Tony was frowning at him, which meant he’d drifted without even thinking about it. Talk about being comfortable with someone. Shaking the thought away, he said, “Sorry. Just got lost in thought for a second.”

Stirring the vegetables in the large frying pan, Tony asked hesitantly, “What were you thinking about?”

“This,” Jethro answered, honest. “The whole situation. Us. The Sentinel and Guide thing.”

“Blair really wrung you out,” Tony observed.

A little surprised by the too-accurate comment, Jethro bluffed, “No, it’s just a lot to take in.”

“Gibbs, come on, this is me you’re talking to.”

Busted. Jethro half-grinned and admitted, “Some things today hit a little too close to home, I guess.”

“Like?”

“Did I ever tell you that I died?”

Tony froze in place, the spatula ceasing its circular motion. He swallowed heavily and turned big eyes to Jethro as he demanded, “When? How?”

Knowing that there was no way that Tony would let him get away with ‘classified,’ Jethro answered, “It was in a training exercise of all things, a stupid accident. One of the cadets panicked while they were treading water and he went under. I dove in after him and he clocked me in the head with his boot. They had to drag both of us out of there, but by then, I was already dead. I was dead for about three minutes. They were just about to give up on me when I came back, throwing up pond-water and not remembering a damn thing about what happened.”

“But you remember now,” Tony guessed softly.

Jethro nodded. “Stir, Tony.”

Tony jolted back to awareness of his actions and started stirring again. “So what happened? What was it like?”

“It was like…home, I guess. Someplace so comfortable and familiar that you could walk around blindfolded and not stub your toe on anything,” Jethro mused aloud. “But there was something missing, too, something not right and I had to get back to find it. I couldn’t rest for leaving it behind.”

“Wow. That’s…really damn disturbing actually. Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this before?”

Surprised by Tony’s anger, Jethro answered, “It’s not usually an acceptable topic of conversation. It never occurred to me that you’d want to know.”

“That my best friend had died? Why wouldn’t I want to know that?” Tony demanded.

Picking up the plates, he held one out to Tony, who scooped the vegetables onto it, and then they did the same to the other. Moving to the counter to set down the plates, he used the action to mask his confusion over Tony’s response. Finally, he repeated, “Best friend?”

Tony flushed but nodded, a stubborn set to his jaw. “I know there’s some military code that denies the whole emotion thing and I’m cool with that, I really am. But shit, Jethro, don’t you know what you mean to me?”

“I…yeah, I guess I do,” Jethro admitted, which was the other part to the fear he’d been hiding from Blair. Tony was so all-consuming that sometimes, Jethro feared losing himself in the whirlwind of the younger man’s emotions. He was afraid of not being able to fill the need for love and affection that Tony so obviously had. He’d never been enough for any of his ex-wives, so how could he possibly be enough for Tony?

Tony took a breath, then released it explosively. He turned the stove off and closed the distance between them, staring intently at Jethro as he echoed, “You guess you do? Well, let me spell it out for you, just so there’s no misunderstandings, okay?”

Suddenly wondering if this was at all a good idea, Jethro couldn’t stop himself from nodding.

“You’re my rock, Jethro. I know I’m pretty scattered sometimes, and I don’t look before I leap, as you’re so fond of pointing out. I probably wouldn’t do it so often if I didn’t know that you’d be there to get me out of whatever trouble I got myself into,” Tony admitted softly. “I look up to you not because you’re infallible, but because you aren’t. I love your drive and your outrageous sense of justice, even when it’s kicking me in the ass. I wouldn’t be half the man I am now, if I’d never met you. If…if I didn’t love you like I do.”

What could he possibly say to all of that? The vulnerable look in Tony’s eyes, the glint of fear that he’d gone too far, all of it put him to shame. Gripping the back of Tony’s neck, he said roughly, “I love you too, Tony,” and sealed their mouths together in a hungry, desperate kiss.

Tony groaned in response and wrapped his arms around Jethro’s waist, pushing him against the counter as he took control of the kiss. He devoured Jethro’s mouth, feasting on it like he hadn’t eaten anything in a week, and all Jethro could do was open his mouth further, inviting the tongue that slid inside.

It had been a long time since he’d done anything with a man, and he’d always been the aggressor before, so this was almost an entirely new experience. Tony posessed him in a way that no one ever had and Jethro moaned in pleasure, his legs opening to give Tony better access to his body. The younger man pushed his leg between Jethro’s, rubbing against the hardening cock with his thigh.

Threading his fingers through Jethro’s short hair, Tony pulled on it, breaking the kiss to suck hard at Jethro’s throat. The marking of his skin sent a bolt of pure lust through Jethro and he gasped, tilting it back for more.

Growling softly at the exposed neck, Tony bit sharply on the other side and marked him again with his teeth before hissing in a feral tone, “Mine!”

“Oh God, Tony,” Jethro groaned, hooking a leg over his lover’s hip to pull him in hard.

Tony centered himself over Jethro, his hands leaving the hair to hold the counter to either side of him, and grind against him. He bit Jethro’s ear and announced harshly, “No one else, Jethro, never again. Only me!”

Panting as he neared orgasm, Jethro nodded frantically and agreed, “Just you, Tony, always! I’m yours!”

Tony seized his mouth again as he humped against Jethro, driving them to the edge together. When his hands slid inside the back of Jethro’s pants to squeeze his ass, Jethro moaned into his mouth and came, spilling in his pants. Tony continued to plunder his mouth and jerk against him until he came a short time later, gasping and freezing in place against Jethro.

Jethro sagged in the younger man’s arms with all the strength of a wet noodle, his forehead resting on Tony’s shoulder.

Gentle kisses rained over his temple and cheek as Tony nuzzled his face and murmured, “Let’s take this somewhere else. I really want to hold you.”

Chuckling wearily, Jethro pointed out, “You are. If you weren’t, I’d be on the floor by now.”

Tony grinned and pulled away only to tug Jethro upright and slide an arm along his waist to lead him to the bedroom.

* * * *

Running his hands over the firm, warm skin of Gibbs’ chest, Tony kissed the older man sweetly, loving his mouth and pouring all the suppressed emotions into it. When he left Gibbs’ mouth, there was a grumbling protest that made him grin and promise, “I’ll be back. Time for some exploration.”

He licked and kissed his way down the throat, pausing to suck at Gibbs’ Adam’s apple, before admiring his handiwork. There were two vivid hickies adorning his lover’s throat, clearly marking him. It was almost scary, how much he wanted to possess Gibbs…no, how much he needed to possess him. What really set him on fire, though, was the way Gibbs responded to him. How he arched into every caress and begged silently for more. Remembering the look of pure ecstasy as Gibbs had come in the kitchen hardened Tony’s cock the rest of the way and he bit sharply at a nipple just to hear the other man moan his name.

Fingers twined in his hair as he lingered over the nipple, sucking and biting it hard enough to leave temporary teeth marks in the skin. Gibbs groaned as his fingers tightened in Tony’s hair, arching into his mouth. Tony bit the flesh one more time in promise before traveling further south, ignoring the as-yet unmarked nipple, despite Gibbs’ attempt to bring him over there next. He nuzzled against Gibbs’ belly for a moment, then pressed his face against the side of his lover’s hard cock, breathing him in.

It was…pure Gibbs…strong, masculine, musky, and slightly bitter. He grinned at the comparison to Gibbs’ personality but decided against sharing it for fear of his hair being yanked out in retribution.

“What?” Gibbs gasped.

Looking up to meet the thin circle of blue nearly swallowed by the iris, Tony answered, “I’ll tell you later. Hang onto your hat, Boss.”

“I don’t have a…fuck! DiNozzo!”

Tony went down as far as he could on Gibbs’ cock in one go, sucking on it and swallowing the pre-come. It was incredible, felt like he could lose himself in the sensations dragging at his senses. All he could smell and taste were Gibbs. His sight was narrowed to the small patch of body right around the cock, the steel gray hairs mixing with the dark, the wrinkled bit of skin where abdomen met groin. His hearing was engrossed solely by the gasping moans of his name from above and the rapid heartbeat that his own was doing its very best to match. His fingers danced over his lover’s body in a constant caress, memorizing every bit that they could.

“Tony, please, please, I’m gonna come, oh God, I’m gonna come again!” Gibbs cried out.

Which was exactly what Tony wanted. He wanted to swallow his lover down, take him inside and experience Gibbs intimately and always. Gibbs shouted in a loud, wordless release, his back arching taut as he spilled inside Tony’s mouth. It wasn’t as much seed as before, to Tony’s disappointment, but at least he didn’t have to worry about spilling any, he was able to drink it all down.

Gibbs pushed at his head, struggling weakly to get him off the limp shaft in his mouth. Taking pity on him, Tony stopped sucking and pulled away, breathing hard and still tasting his lover on his tongue. He worked his way back up Gibbs’ body until he was lying beside him and pulled the exhausted man into his arms. He was hard and aching, desperate to plunge into his lover’s body, but held back, sensing that Gibbs was on some kind of edge. The other man’s heart beat much too fast and he clung to Tony, face buried against his throat.

“What’s wrong? Please, Jethro, tell me,” Tony whispered, rubbing his fingers through the damp hair.

Drawing in a deep, shuddery breath, Gibbs let it out slowly and relaxed against him. It was a few more minutes before the heart slowed to a normal rhythm and the other man’s breathing grew steady. When he looked at Tony, it was difficult not to react to the world of pain and fear in the crystal eyes staring at him.

“Everyone…” Gibbs trailed off, then tried again with, “Just…don’t ever leave me, okay? No matter what asinine thing I do, or say to you, please…I couldn’t, I don’t think I could survive if you, if you left me.”

Cupping Gibbs’ face, Tony swore, “I will never leave you, Jethro. Ever. They’d have to pry me off you. And I won’t let you push me away, either.”

Some of the fear receded, but not a lot and the uncertainty lingered as Gibbs whispered, “Make me believe it, Tony. Make me feel it, in my gut.”

Tony took his mouth almost savagely, letting his need for this man pour out. He rolled Gibbs onto his back, devouring his mouth as he undulated against the lean, muscled body. When he pulled away, he stared down at Gibbs and vowed, “I am never letting you go, Gibbs. You’re mine now and it doesn’t matter what you do to shake me loose, I’m not going anywhere. You can bank on it.”

Gibbs reached up and laced his hands behind Tony’s neck, yanking him down for a long, hard kiss. His legs wrapped around Tony, locking behind him and pulling him in so that his cock rubbed between the sweat-slicked ass. Even knowing how much Gibbs wanted this, there was no way that he’d take the chance on hurting his lover. He gentled the kiss before breaking it off to exclaim hoarsely, “Lube, I need lube, be right back.”

“No you don’t,” Gibbs protested, not letting him go.

Staring down at him, feeling they were on some kind of threshold, Tony said steadily, “I’m not going to hurt you, Jethro. I’m going to take care of you and protect you from here on out, even from yourself if I have to. Let me go.”

For a long moment, Gibbs just stared back at him. Then the legs fell aside and he whispered, “Hurry.”

“Trust me, I’ll hurry,” Tony assured him, grinning to lighten the mood a little.

It worked, provoking an echoing smile from his lover just before Tony hopped off the bed and ran to the bathroom. He would’ve used the lube in the bedside table, but he didn’t want to risk some kind of reaction. He grabbed the “safe” lotion, making a mental note to ask Blair about “safe” lubes, from under the bathroom sink and ran back to the bedroom.

When he got there, Gibbs had already repositioned himself so that a pillow was under his hips and there were a couple more supporting his back and shoulders. They would be face to face, but Gibbs wouldn’t be unnecessarily strained. He smiled in approval and promptly jumped on the bed, dislodging Gibbs in the process.

Exasperated, Gibbs squirmed back into position with Tony’s help and complained, “Just like a little kid sometimes, DiNozzo, I swear.”

“Hey, sex is supposed to be fun, remember?” Tony teased.

Kneeling between Gibbs’ legs, he squirted some lotion onto his hand and rubbed his hand between Gibbs’ ass, not entering him, just massaging the area. He added more lotion and this time, pushed a single finger into Gibbs. It was tight and contracted around his finger, so he didn’t go far. Working it back and forth, Tony took his time to prepare his lover, intent on the feel of the flesh around his finger.

He knew without being told that this particular act was something that Gibbs had never done with anyone else. And while irrationally pleased by it, Tony was also curious as to why. Despite what everyone thought, though, he did have the good sense that God gave him and kept his mouth shut for a better time.

Two fingers took longer to be accepted by Gibbs’ body, but Tony remained patient. He briefly thought about the damage he could have caused by giving in to his lover before and was intensely glad that he hadn’t. Even caught up in passion as he’d been, Tony had known instinctively what to do and not to do to protect this man.

Even Gibbs needed someone to give him rules, maybe especially Gibbs, and Tony planned to be that someone.

Arcing his fingers inside his lover caused the other man to cry out and jerk in shock. Grinning wickedly, Tony announced, “Say hello to my little friend.”

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs ground out, panting and trying to sound threatening.

Still smirking, Tony started stretching the internal muscles, adding more lotion as he did. Every so often, his fingers thrust deep inside and curved to stimulate the prostate, earning another shock of pleasure for Gibbs that left him breathless. Thankfully, it took less time to get Gibbs used to three fingers than it had the two and finally, determining that his lover was ready, he leaned over and kissed him, long and deep while he lined his cock to the entrance.

He eased slowly inside, breaching the tight outer ring of muscle with a grunt of effort that elicited a gasp of discomfort from Gibbs. Tony moved in and out in small increments, loosening his lover and getting him used to the penetration. Not to mention that he would probably have gone off like a rocket if he’d had any sudden stimulation to his cock.

Buried at last in Gibbs, Tony stared down into his lover’s eyes, memorizing the moment with all of his senses; the smell of their sex and sweat, the incredible tightness surrounding him, the slightly strained look on Gibbs’ face and the salt stinging his lip from where he’d accidentally bit it open. The words slipped out, unbidden… “I love you.”

A slow smile surfaced on Gibbs’ face as he whispered back, “I love you, too. Now please, do something.”

Tony laughed, a thing of pure joy, and this time did as he was ordered. He started thrusting, just a little, and tried to angle for Gibbs’ prostate. The older man was only half-hard, but Tony was determined to bring him all the way off again. Tony nailed it unexpectedly and Gibbs’ hands gripped his shoulders, the nails digging in as he jerked against Tony.

Keeping that angle, Tony moved in earnest, earning a steady supply of obscenity from his lover as he was well and truly taken for the first time. Grinning fiercely, he obeyed the urgings for harder, and more, and faster, his hips slamming into Gibbs while his cock plundered his ass. Long legs wrapped around him again and nails raked his skin, burning and accenting the pleasure with bits of pain.

“Come on, Tony, fuck, come in me, come in me,” Gibbs moaned, his voice and body shaking. “Do it, please, oh God, please do it!”

It wasn’t until Gibbs spilled between them, a weak burst with scant seed thanks to his previous two releases, that Tony finally came. He slammed one last time into the willing body and came, shuddering, with his heart stopping as his entire body felt like it merged into Gibbs. They both shouted with it, and Tony didn’t even feel it when he passed out on top of his lover.

* * * *

His ass was already killing him, his body felt like it had been going for days, and Jethro wasn’t entirely sure that he could string two words together, but he’d never felt better in his life. Tony was a limp, unconscious lump on top of him, still lodged deep inside his body, and Jethro didn’t even have the strength to put his arms around his lover. Struggling against exhaustion was a futile thing and he knew it, but Jethro wanted to remember as much of this moment as he could.

For the first time ever in his life, Jethro Gibbs, with the second B for Bastard, felt whole.

* * * *

Yawning and rubbing his eyes, Blair stumbled into Jim when the other man stopped short a few feet from Tony’s apartment. Frowning, he asked, “What’s wrong?”

Jim grinned and, putting his hands on Blair’s shoulders, turned him around and started him walking again...back to the elevator. “Nothing’s wrong. How would you like to get some sight-seeing done today?”

“What? Jim, come on man, stop messing around,” Blair complained crossly. “You keep me up half the damn night, get me up at an obscenely early hour so you could specifically get Tony out for a longer time, and now we’re turning around?”

Pressing the elevator button and keeping his hand on Blair’s shoulder, Jim explained, “They’re bonding. I seriously doubt an interruption would be welcome.”

Blair took in Jim’s meaning right away and he grinned. “Really? Cool! I wonder if this will help Tony get better control, faster. You know, I’ve always wondered if you had so much trouble in the beginning because…”

“Chief.”

“What?”

“Just get on the elevator.”

* * * *

Jethro was again waiting for the other shoe to drop. When he and Tony had finally come up for air, it was to discover that Jim and Blair had to go back to Cascade, that there was a gruesome murder case that needed their expertise. So they were waiting for the flight to be called at Dulles International. Tony and Jim were talking easily a few feet away, bantering back and forth like they’d known each other for years. Brother warriors or something equally as annoying.

“Jethro, we need to talk.”

There was the other shoe.

Sighing faintly, he turned towards Blair and asked, “What about?”

Obviously troubled, Blair hesitated before saying, “I don’t have the answers. I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it since we had our talk yesterday. I’ve only been a Guide myself for five years and I’ve made some pretty big mistakes over that time.”

Not sure where Blair was going, Jethro prompted, “And?”

“And I do believe that the spiritual side of being Sentinel and Guide is very important, but maybe interacting with that is different for every pair. On one of the disks I gave you is the information about what I’ve been able to glean over the years, including mine and Jim’s personal experience with the Sentinel/Guide Mythology and Spirituality. The Temple, the Spirit Animals, all of it is there for you to look over. What you do with it…I can’t tell you what to do with it, that’s just something that you’re going to have to figure out on your own.”

That makes me feel so much better, Jethro thought sarcastically. Keeping his tone even, though, he replied, “I can’t promise to do anything with it.”

“Yeah, I know. I just want you to know that if something comes up that you can’t handle, anything, you can come to me, to either of us. You don’t have to go it alone like Jim and I did all those years. You have us as a resource, you have our experiences, use them, please. If not for you, then for Tony,” Blair finished softly.

He was both grateful and insulted by the offer, and tried not to let the insulted feelings win because he knew that no such insult had been intended. It was his own pride that was rearing its ugly head and Jethro knew that in order to keep Tony safe, he had to swallow it. Forcing a smile, he nodded and promised, “I will.”

Thankfully, the flight was called right then. Blair offered him a knowing smile before turning around and Jethro flushed in embarrassment at his behavior, something he hadn’t done in a long time. There was just something about Blair that brought out the worst in him, as if the other man’s very patience and strength and spirituality, which were all very close to the surface, made him want to deny or test him.

Tony joined him in watching the two men head for the gate. He bumped Jethro’s hip and said, “You ready, Boss?”

Snorting, Jethro met his lover’s sympathetic gaze and answered honestly, “No. But let’s go anyhow.”

* * * *

Jim gritted his teeth as the plane’s engines whined to their highest pitch in preparation for the flight. Even Blair’s hand on the back of his neck, trying to rub the tension away as it gathered, didn’t help. He had to admit, at least to himself, that traveling around like this was getting more and more difficult as he got older. Not just because of the combined assault on his senses, though that was bad enough, but because it was actively starting to hurt to leave Cascade.

Which made him a little afraid of what he’d be like in another five years.

“Hey. What’s wrong?” Blair asked, leaning against him.

Thinking about it, Jim decided against telling Blair, it wasn’t something urgent that needed to be dealt with, after all, even if there were a way to stop or change it. And Jim was pretty damn sure there was no way to do either. He kissed Blair lightly and answered, “Nothing you need to worry about.”

“Uh huh.”

Grinning at Blair’s unconvinced tone, Jim put his arm around his lover’s shoulder and asked, “You think they’ll be okay? I know you’re worried about Gibbs.”

“I am,” Blair agreed, biting on his lower lip. “I think they’re going to be in for a really rough ride if Jethro doesn’t at least try to accept the entire package. It would be like denying Tony himself.”

“You can’t do anything about that. It’s his decision, Chief,” Jim pointed out, a little regretful.

“I know, I know. I just can’t help worrying.”

Jim sighed and pressed his face to Blair’s head, burying his nose and mouth against the fragrant hair and breathing him in. It helped soothe his senses a little, giving him a surcease from the unfamiliar and overwhelming scents in the plane.

Taking his hand, Blair brought it to his lips and murmured, “Love you, Jim.”

And really, that would see him through anything.

* * * *

“So did you straighten everything out?”

Tony coughed at Kate’s choice of words and manfully restrained from looking at Gibbs or even in his direction. The other man was still in some pain from their repeated lovemaking and sitting rather gingerly. Clearing his throat, Tony maintained an innocent expression as he replied, “Relatively speaking. Why? Didja miss me?”

“Like a hole in the head,” she retorted, turning to Gibbs. “And you know, not that I don’t appreciate the taste of power, but the next time you two take off, could you at least make sure I’m buried in work?”

Gibbs was pointedly not looking at Tony as he replied, “Why’s that?”

Arms crossing over her chest, Kate complained, “Because I had to listen to Ducky all day, every day, while you were gone.”

Smirking, Gibbs fished around for something in his drawer and tossed it to Kate. “Tools of survival. Ask Gerald.”

Tony whooped with laughter as he saw that the item was a package of ear plugs.

“Very funny, Gibbs.”

“Am I laughing?”

Settling down at his own desk, Tony powered up the computer and sighed in contentment as Gibbs and Kate snarked back and forth to each other while occasionally passing real bits of information as to how things had gone while they were away. He could almost smell her intense curiosity as to what had happened, but knew she’d never ask. They might joke about prying into peoples’ lives for a living, but neither would dream of really snooping on the other.

He was a little disappointed and nervous that Jim and Blair were gone, but he knew that they had their own lives to lead. The senses weren’t exactly easy to control yet, and sure as hell not second nature like they were for Ellison, but he was getting there. Gibbs was bound and determined to have him up to speed ASAP, which meant yesterday and if anyone could do it, Gibbs could.

Tony smiled at the thought.

Gibbs’ comment of, “So Kate. What’re you and Abby planning for my birthday?” caught Tony’s attention.

She answered smugly, “You’re never going to find out until it’s too late, Gibbs, so you might as well stop trying.”

Gibbs flashed him a conspiratorial grin and Tony cleared his throat again, trying not to laugh. Oh yeah. Everything was definitely going to be fine.