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The Perception of Truth

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The first time Leroy Jethro Gibbs meets Anthony DiNozzo is in front of a gunrunner’s hacienda. The sun is bright and hot on Jethro’s back, and his shoes leave little puffs of dirt that trail behind him. The man in front of him is young and handsome with an eager-to-please attitude. They shake hands, and DiNozzo introduces himself as Miguel Santiago’s assistant. Gibbs already knows this because he’s been studying Miguel’s organization for the past four months. He knows bodyguards’ faces, family members, maids, gardeners, and one mysterious man that showed up in Miguel’s world nine months ago.

Until this moment, no one had known Anthony’s name, and the big thinkers in the Justice Department still have no clue where he came from. It’s Gibbs’ job to get close to Miguel by pretending to have unlimited access to a number of U.S. military bases all over the world. That access means unlimited admittance to all kinds of weapons. Gibbs’ undercover persona has been put in place by the best. When others look up Lucas Gibson, they’ll find his history as a marine, a gunnery sergeant. They’ll also find his growing history of insubordination and anger at the United States.

Jethro is silent as Anthony leads him to his suite. He’ll be staying a few days so Miguel can begin to trust him. The house’s layout is what he expected, what he’s studied, thanks to a woman who traded information for an immigration card. They know how many rooms are in the main house, where most of the bedrooms are and which suite of rooms belongs to Miguel. They know the location of the servants’ quarters, the pool, the tennis courts, the stables and the garage that holds fifteen of Miguel’s highly prized cars.

“If you like, I can arrange for you to have lunch here in your room, or you can eat downstairs on the patio with me.”

Jethro looks DiNozzo over briefly like he’s trying to decide whether or not to trust him. The undercover agent knows he’ll eat with the other man, if only to try and gain more information about Santiago or about Anthony himself. He seems friendly and efficient. Many of their reports on Santiago tell them he is not a man who trusts easily, but here is this man, an American by all appearances, that Santiago has entrusted his household to. He nods at DiNozzo. “That’ll be great, Anthony. When should I come down?”

“Call me Tony. I’ll let you get settled first, unpack and all that. About forty-five minutes okay with you?”

Gibbs nods and watches Tony back out of the room. He catches a quick look that passes over Tony’s face. The look is a mix of fear, relief and wariness. It’s gone quickly, but Gibbs knows what he’s seen and it only makes the appearance of DiNozzo in Miguel’s world all the more strange.

Lunch turns out to be chicken salad, iced tea and a berry sorbet. They talk, and Jethro learns Tony is from Baltimore and that he used to be a cop. He tries and succeeds in showing no anger at Tony’s words. This man used to be a cop and now he’s some scum’s assistant? How did that happen? Gibbs knows there are bad cops but he isn’t getting that vibe from Tony. He may be wrong, but there has got to be more to the story.

“So how did you end up down here in Salina Cruz?”

Tony laughs and pulls out two cigars. He hands one to Jethro. “Well, Lucas, that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say, it’s an interesting place and though we are on the outskirts of the city, anytime you want to explore I can arrange a car for you.”

Jethro waits until they both are smoking their cigars. Tony has neatly sidestepped his question. “That’s very generous of you and of Mr. Santiago. I’ll remember it.”

Tony smiles, and once again Jethro feels his curiosity rise, clamoring to know Tony’s entire story.

Later in his room, Gibbs checks for bugs and then uses the modified PDA Abby set him up with to send some info about Tony to her. Maybe he’ll know something by tomorrow. He takes a short nap and then has dinner with Tony. Gibbs surprises himself by having a good time and playing a game of chess with Tony. The other man seems to relax as the night wears on. At first he seemed nervous, looking at Gibbs as if he suspected Jethro would want something he couldn’t provide.

Jethro’s sleep that night is pleasant or as pleasant as it can be while he’s undercover looking to bust one of the biggest weapons dealers in the world.

The next morning, Jethro doesn’t see Tony until after breakfast. The younger man seems nervous as he tells ‘Gibson’ that Santiago has arrived and is eager to meet with him in the library.

Gibbs’ first impression of Miguel Santiago in the flesh is one of quiet strength. His second impression is that Miguel is almost too smooth, too handsome and that no matter how hard the other man tries, anyone with a lick of sense would know Miguel is dangerous. His 5’10 frame allows him to move softly. The man he only knew from pictures and reports immediately shakes his hand and invites him to sit down. Gibbs pretends to ignore the look that travels between Miguel and Tony and Tony’s minute shake of his head.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Gibson. Please forgive me for not being here to greet you. I had a small emergency that could not be handled by anyone else. Have you found everything to your satisfaction?” At Gibbs’ nod, Miguel smiles and moves behind his desk. “That is good. If you need something I can’t provide, please let me or Tony know and one of us will go about procuring it.”

Gibbs watches Tony place some papers down in front of Miguel and then stand next to him. This Tony is more formal and less relaxed than the one Jethro met yesterday. There’s an undercurrent between Tony and Miguel that he can’t place. It’s making the skin on the back of his neck itch. Miguel makes small talk about Gibbs’ flight, what he enjoys eating, and what hobbies he has. Gibbs knows this is just so Miguel can get a handle on him and get to know him better. They’ve had contact before this, but none face to face. It’s all been through friends of friends and phone calls.

They talk some more, a little about American politics and the failure of American leadership as it continues to decline in various ways. Gibbs doesn’t agree with everything Miguel says and he speaks up. His study of this man tells Jethro he doesn’t tolerate ass-kissers well. His disagreements and mild debate pay off and Miguel laughs and even concedes a point or two in Gibbs’ favor. Through all the talking, Gibbs notes Tony doing little things around the room, even leaving once or twice. A maid comes in with drinks and Gibbs notices his is the same kind of tea he had yesterday.

They finally talk a little about weapons, and Gibbs figures Miguel has to be handing him some line about not selling to revolutionaries or not being interested in selling to anyone in America. That’s a load of bullshit, but Gibbs’ only nods his head like he really believes Miguel is some innocent purveyor of goods; that he only sells guns to good people who need them. Tony interrupts them when Miguel pauses in telling Gibbs some story from his childhood.

“Lunch is ready, Miguel. Where do you want Luisa to set up?”

“She can set up on the main patio. Are you planning to join us?”

Gibbs ignores the conversation and pretends he doesn’t see the silent communication that occurs between the two men.

“I planned to take care of any loose ends left over from your trip, but I can take time for lunch.”

Miguel stands and laughs, patting Tony on his shoulder. “Good, good. I’ve been telling you since we met, you need to eat more.” Gibbs watches the hand on Tony’s shoulder move to Tony’s neck, where it lays for a moment, before dropping to lay, possessive, against the small of Tony’s back. It’s over quickly, but the move is a telling one. Gibbs just isn’t sure what it tells.

The rest of the day passes quickly, and after dinner with Miguel, Gibbs retires to his room. After checking and receiving no messages from Abby, he showers and gets ready for bed. His rest is less peaceful than it was the night before. Gibbs wakes up at a loud noise, but once he’s fully awake, he doesn’t hear it again. He lies there for a few more minutes, and then gets up and goes out onto his small balcony.

The sky is bathed in blue, but it’s slowly getting lighter. The sun will be up in a few minutes, and he’ll be back to being Lucas Gibson. Gibbs doesn’t see any guards, so the information they received about them only being used on the perimeter of the property was correct.

Gibbs hears a door open and looks down to see a figure silhouetted in light from a room. Gibbs steps back into the shadows that shroud his balcony. It’s Tony. Gibbs watches as Tony says something to someone and closes the door. It’s light enough to see the younger man is only wearing a pair of faded blue jeans that hang precariously from his hips.

The ex-marine’s sharp vision notes that the pants are not buttoned. Tony is shirtless, and Gibbs can see his chest and lightly muscled arms. He’s also barefoot and his hair looks like hands have been running through it over and over. All in all, Tony looks like he just finished fucking, and in Gibbs’ mind it all comes together.

A few months of studying this house with information from an ex-maid told them who slept where. He knows the room Tony just came out of is Miguel’s room. This is a very unexpected development. Their info had Miguel being married and even though they knew his wife and two little girls lived elsewhere, there had never been a hint that Miguel might have also preferred men. Gibbs wonders who else knows Miguel and Tony are lovers.

The sky is getting brighter, and any moment Gibbs knows Tony will be able to look up and see him. He should go back inside, but he can only keep staring at Tony. This is another version of Tony, and for some reason he wants to keep watching. The younger man seems sad, and Gibbs looks on as Tony takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights one. His shoulders are slumped, and he looks nothing like a man who probably spent the past few hours having sex.

Gibbs knows he’s being quiet, but with almost preternatural speed Tony looks up and meets his eyes. Gibbs steps farther out onto the balcony since he’s been discovered and nods briefly at Tony. Their eyes hold, and Gibbs watches Tony’s face turn red and his shoulders stiffen. Gibbs is careful that nothing but mild interest in the weather shows on his face, no smirking or disgust, no leering or mockery. He breaks the look first and goes inside. He hates when undercover assignments turn difficult.

Gibbs does some sit-ups and push-ups in his room, because there is no way he will be able to go back to sleep. The sun is shining, bright and merciless, in the sky by the time he showers and walks down to the kitchen. Before he steps in, he hears Tony talking to the cook, a lovely woman by the name of Maria. The Spanish is flying back and forth from both of them and Gibbs sees Tony is making a list. He concentrates and realizes Maria is telling him about some spices and fruit that she will need flown in. He’s about to show himself when Maria asks Tony how he’s doing. There is nothing wrong with her question but the inflection implies something other than her checking Tony’s health.

At the shrug Tony gives her, Maria pats his back for a moment before telling him he should have a nice breakfast.

“You need to eat more. You have much on your mind, yes? Still, you need energy.”

Jethro decides to walk in before he gets caught. Tony meets his eyes for a quick moment, and then a friendly mask descends over his face, and he asks what Gibbs plans to have for breakfast. Maria whips up omelets, bacon and toast for the both of them, and Tony invites Jethro to sit in the sunroom. The ex-Marine sips coffee that’s just how he likes it--hot, smooth and strong. Tony talks about movies, asking Gibbs if he’s seen certain ones. They find a few they like and Jethro is hard pressed not to laugh at the enthusiasm Tony displays when talking about ‘The Big Sleep’ and ‘North by Northwest.’

They’re almost done when Miguel enters and sits with them. He doesn’t eat anything, only drinks coffee. Jethro doesn’t speak about any more movies since Tony has stopped talking about them. Tony only mentions the list Maria gave him and Miguel tells him to make sure the items can be delivered in a few days. He smiles at Gibbs.

“Maria, she is a great cook but she wants only the best. I want to keep her happy so I get her the best. That way, I get great food and she gets the satisfaction that I and everyone here appreciate her. Employee loyalty is something I believe in strongly. What about you, Gibson?”

Gibbs pretends to think about it. They know this about Miguel. That he likes to treat his loyal employees well, but his nice-boss act is just that, an act.

“I believe in it too, though it seems it’s getting harder and harder to find such people to hire. Sure you can pay well, but sometimes that’s not good enough. People get greedy.”

Miguel nods his head. Jethro wonders how their information didn’t include the fact that the man likes to talk and talk.

“Yes, that is true. Sometimes you have to find out what a prospective employee wants that only you can provide. That way there is no question of betrayal.”

Jethro nods his head and ignores the sly look Miguel tosses to Tony. He can guess what Miguel is providing Tony. He gives a mental shrug to the other men’s relationship and buries a small murmur that feels like jealousy. He’s undercover, and once he’s done, Miguel and Tony will go to jail.

Miguel invites him to walk in the gardens and Gibbs accepts. Out in the fresh air, the weather is hot but not heavy and cloying. Miguel talks about a few innocuous things before getting down to business.

“If we are to enter into a long term business arrangement, Gibson, I think the first shipment should be delivered to a warehouse I own in Salina Cruz. I also think I should get a small discount since it is my warehouse.”

Jethro pretends to think about this, but the decision’s already been made to make this a sharp and clean operation. If Miguel wanted a discount and it got the weapons here faster, then Gibbs was authorized to go ahead and agree.

“That perhaps could be arranged. Do you know what type of items you want delivered?”

Miguel smiled. “I do indeed. Two hundred FIM-9 Stinger Missiles, two hundred MIM-104 Patriot Missiles, along with fifty M-25 Mortars and fifty M249 Light machine gun SAW’s. Do you think you can fulfill this order?”

Jethro nods his head. “Shouldn’t be that much trouble. I can make a few phone calls once I get home, get the ball rolling. Have a delivery date for you by the end of the week. After that maybe in two weeks it can all be sitting pretty and ready to use in your warehouse.” Jethro gives Miguel a smirk. “With a small discount of course.”

Miguel laughs and pats him on the back. At the offered cigar, Jethro accepts and sits down with Miguel on a bench hidden among some high grass and beautiful flowers. They smoke in silence for awhile, and then Miguel brings up Tony.

“Tony says you saw him leave my room this morning.” It wasn’t a question but Jethro nods anyway. He doesn’t give any other hint of what he may be thinking. The ball is in Miguel’s court. The other man gives a relaxed shrug and smiles at Gibbs.

“Anthony is a very special young man. Sometimes there are things I can only share with him. I trust you are a discreet man personally as well as professionally, Mr. Gibson?”

Jethro quirks one eyebrow at Miguel and solemnly answers, “But of course. What you and Mr. DiNozzo share is no one’s business but your own. Plus, I despise gossipy people.”

That remark gets a real smile out of Miguel, and what he says next blows Jethro away.

“I also allow Tony a certain degree of autonomy. If you wish, he can come to your room and help seal our business deal.”

For the first time, Jethro is speechless. He’s pretty sure Miguel just offered Tony to him as some sort of celebratory item. The ex-marine clears his throat. Lucas Gibson would not turn down the offer so he can’t. Lucas Gibson was a user, and everybody he came in contact with knew this. He’d think nothing of using a man like Tony for some sort of sexual gratification. A brief flash of Tony on his knees, mouth wrapped around Jethro’s cock, makes the older man shudder. He’s not going to screw Tony, no matter how good that image looks.

Jethro thinks he covers his shock well. “Up to him, makes no difference to me.”

Miguel holds up a finger. “Tony likes to please people, and I like to please my business associates. It’s a nice arrangement.”

Miguel gets up, and Jethro follows him. Back at the house, Miguel tells Jethro he has some calls to make. “Use the pool if you feel like it. If not, I have many excellent books in my library.” After Jethro accepts the offer to use the pool, Miguel walks away, adding over his shoulder, “Tony will come to your room, tonight, after dinner.”

Jethro nods his head and makes his way to his room. He enters the information about the weapons Miguel wants in his PDA and checks his email. Nothing from Abby but a short note saying she’s checking on DiNozzo and a few other things.
He changes clothes and makes his way to the pool. He’s pissed, and a swim will help him cool off.

He dives in, and the water is cold but not freezing. He swims laps and tries to figure out how he got into this situation. There are certain things every undercover operative will find distasteful when they’re undercover. They do them anyway or find a way around them. A small voice asks him does he really want to find a way out of having sex with Tony? Jethro tells that small voice to shut up.

Twenty laps later, Jethro stops and treads water by the edge of the pool. No one is around but a gardener. Shit, he has to get out of this situation without blowing his cover. If it comes down to it he’ll keep it light and find some way to turn Tony down. Jethro hears footsteps and knows before he lifts his face that it’s Tony.

“I bought you a towel. Lunch is in an hour, anything special you want?”

Jethro narrows his eyes and tries to decide if Tony is flirting with him. He climbs out of the pool and ignores the look Tony gives his body. He also doesn’t note how handsome Tony looks in cream colored pants and a matching short sleeved shirt. The material is made out of some lightweight fabric, and Tony looks cool and polished.

“I’m sure whatever Maria fixes will be fine.” Jethro grabs the towel and decides to let a little of his anger show. He figures Lucas Gibson hates being backed into a corner just as much as Jethro Gibbs does. He doesn’t joke around or smile at Tony and he sees the moment Tony realizes something is going on. His posture and demeanor become more stiff and formal, and after Jethro tells him he’s not thirsty, Tony nods at him and disappears back into the house.

At lunch, Jethro eats alone and tells himself it’s for the best.

Back in his room, Jethro takes a short nap but not before noticing his room’s been searched. He thinks it’s the first time and wonders why Miguel waited. Before dinner, he picks out a book and reads in the library. He smiles at Luisa when she informs him dinner is ready.

Both Tony and Miguel are at dinner, and Jethro enjoys debating education with Miguel while Tony quietly looks on. During the discussion, Jethro catches Tony looking at him and for a moment, Jethro can read the disappointment and sadness on Tony’s face before it’s hidden away. He refuses to think about why Tony looks like that or that he likes the affable man and it’s a shame he’ll be going to prison.

Miguel gives Tony a small smirk as the gunrunner announces he has some work to do before going to bed. Jethro nods at him, and when he and Tony are the only ones left at the table, Jethro ignores him for a few minutes, getting some type of petty satisfaction out of making the other man wait. Finally, he gets up and gives Tony a quick look before gazing out the patio doors that are behind the younger man.

“Bring a bottle of Jack Daniels to my room in about twenty minutes.”

Jethro observes Tony’s hand running up and down his shirt nervously, but the younger man only nods. “I’ll be there.”

Back in his room, Jethro showers quickly; telling himself it’s just for show, and dresses in navy blue pajama bottoms and a matching button down shirt. The weather cools down considerably here at night.

Jethro answers the knock at his door and moves aside so Tony can walk in. He’s carrying two glasses and a bottle.

“Did you want some coca cola? Because I can go and get some, really it’s no problem at all. Some people like it with coke, some, without.”

Jethro shakes his head and pulls the bottle out of Tony’s hand. He looks at the younger man, who’s dressed in a pair of dark green linen pants and a loose, matching button down shirt. His feet are bare, and it makes him look vulnerable.

“So what do you do?” Jethro doesn’t mean to ask that, but it pops out before he can control his mouth.

“Um, what do you want me to do? I--I can take off my clothes or I can, um, give you a blowjob, anything you want.”

All of Jethro’s plans disappear like wisps of smoke. He sits the bottle down and reaches for Tony. He pulls the nervous man close and kisses him. Jethro doesn’t wait for Tony to open his mouth; he uses his mouth and tongue to do it for him. He feels the younger man relax and for some reason that just makes Jethro angrier. Their bodies make a soft ‘thud’ as he pushes Tony against the door.

Jethro unbuttons Tony’s shirt and gets his hands on the chest he’s been thinking about since he saw it that morning. Hot skin and hair tickle and rub against his hands and it makes Jethro hungry for more. The undercover agent curls one arm around Tony’s waist and strokes the warm skin he finds on Tony’s back. Jethro switches their positions and now he’s against the door with Tony’s chest pressed into his chest.

Tony is rubbing against Jethro like some giant cat, and it feels good, wonderful, fanfuckingtastic. He hasn’t felt anything like this in a long time. Why does it have to be Tony he feels it with? Criminals don’t turn him on, but this one, who’s in deep with a major gunrunner, does. He’s been feeling something for Tony since they shook hands under the hot Mexican sun.

No telling whom else Miguel has given Tony to. Loud pants draw Jethro back to the situation. He can make out Tony’s expression even though the lights are turned low. As the younger man rubs his entire body against Jethro, he looks like sex personified, the kind of hot, sweaty sex that can take over your body and brain without giving you a chance to escape. His hands grasp Jethro’s hips lightly, his eyes are closed, and he looks so fuckable that Jethro sees why Miguel wants a ‘special’ relationship with this man. The reminder that Tony is Miguel’s property blankets the more roaring thoughts in his head, and he’s able to think a little.

Jethro slides his hand into Tony’s pants and grabs hold of his cock. It’s hard, and Jethro uses his thumb to press against the underside of the head over and over. A rhythm starts and he’s sliding his hand up and down and soon Tony is gasping into Jethro’s shoulder as Jethro brings him off, hard and fast. Tony comes, and Jethro waits three heartbeats before pushing him away.

He walks to his bathroom and washes his hands. He grabs a hand towel, dampens it, and walks back into the room and hands it to Tony. The younger man is sitting on his bed, looking sated and warm and damn if Jethro doesn’t want to join him. Tony smiles at him, and Jethro wonders if it’s the same smile Miguel gets when they’re in his bedroom.

“What do you want to do now?”

Gibbs opens the bottle of Jack Daniels, pours some into a glass, and takes a swallow. He smirks at Tony.

“Nothing. You can go back to your room. I just wanted to test a theory.”

Tony looks at him, looks at his body, and yes Jethro’s achingly hard but he’s not going to do anything about it. He’s pissed at himself, at Miguel and at Tony. Confused hazel eyes meet his and Jethro can’t stop the cruel twist that comes across his face.

“I don’t fuck whores, especially ones that belong to someone else. I just wanted to know if this was a bluff or not. The way you came panting my name tells me it wasn’t.” He points his glass at the floor where Tony’s shirt lies, and really can’t remember if he took it off the other man or if Tony removed it himself. Most likely Jethro did. “Don’t forget your shirt.”

Jethro looks at Tony and hardens his heart and mind at how dejected the other man looks. He looks like someone just hit him and really, did Tony think he was anything but what he is? The ex-marine coldly watches Tony cough and get up. The younger man looks even more debauched than he did that morning, and Jethro grips the glass in his hand so he won’t grab Tony and drag him to bed.

Nothing like this has ever happened to him and the fact that’s it’s now happening during an undercover mission is throwing his mood and emotions all over the place. After Tony wipes himself off and puts back on his shirt, he places the hand towel on Jethro’s night table. Jethro frowns when Tony doesn’t look at him. This is just too much for Jethro, and he refuses to feel like he just kicked a fucking puppy.

“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?”

Tony turns to look at him. “I think you’ve said it all, Mr. Gibson.” He makes it to the door and opens it before turning back around. “I thought you might be different since you treated me different, but I see now that your disgust was just buried deeper than most.”

Jethro can try and deny this but decides not to. He’s trying to keep in mind things Lucas Gibson would say to Tony and not Leroy Gibbs. Both men are similar, but as he proved about five minutes ago, their moral codes are a little different.

“If you don’t like what you do, you need to find another profession, Tony. Perhaps one where you’re not fucking who your boss tells you to.”

The only response Jethro gets at first is a contemplative look. Then he gets a bitter smile; one mixed with an emotion Jethro can’t place.

“I like your world, Mr. Gibson. It seems very straightforward. I’ll be sure to think about that changing jobs thing.”

Now it’s Jethro’s turn to receive a smarmy smile, which Tony delivers with an expertise he has not shown before. Jethro knows he’s missing something but the facts he has are indisputable. Tony is Miguel’s assistant so he knows about the guns and the money and the fake companies where the money is put. He also runs Miguel’s house if Miguel is called away. Tony is sleeping with Miguel and lets Miguel use him to entertain, celebrate or persuade some of his business partners. A mean, petty part of Jethro wonders how much he’d have to pay Tony to do all of that for him.

Jethro has one more drink after Tony leaves. Sleep is long in coming, and in the morning he tiredly checks his email. Abby has sent him some information. He reads over Tony’s job record and wonders why the younger man has been a cop in three different police departments with two years being the longest he’s stayed. The information also contains the fact that Tony originally traveled to Mexico after quitting his last police job in Baltimore, MD. Apparently his mother lives in Salina Cruz with her second husband, a Raymond Guerrero.

The undercover agent lets all of this mix in his head as he sits in the library and makes a few phone calls. If Miguel is recording the calls, all he will get is Jethro speaking to three pre-arranged agents that have been set up as his contacts. They talk in code because Lucas Gibson is cautious. He’s due to leave today and start making arrangements to get Miguel’s guns all in one place to be shipped to his warehouse. It won’t take long and then they will have a chance to take Miguel down.

The same man Jethro is thinking about joins him for breakfast and they talk about a few things. Jethro wonders if Tony told him what happened last night. Miguel invites him for another walk and Jethro is tempted to ask Miguel if he suspects his house is bugged. It’s not, as far Jethro knows, but Miguel’s actions of always speaking away from the house say otherwise. He mentally shrugs the thought away. The man is paranoid, after all.

“Did you get the ball rolling?”

Jethro nods his head. “Yes, I made some phone calls. Tonight I should know some things, be able to start collecting pertinent details.”

Miguel nods his head. “That is good. I know we will have a long and rewarding partnership.” In an abrupt change, Miguel brings up Tony. “Were you satisfied with the treatment you received from Tony?”

Jethro pretends to think about it. Then he nods slowly. “Yes. He’s a very talented man. Very handsome.” Jethro curses his runaway mouth. He does not need Miguel knowing he finds Tony attractive.

Miguel laughs. “He is a handsome man. Made even more so by the fact that he doesn’t really see it himself. The first time I saw him was at his stepfather’s funeral. Afterwards I pursued him very carefully. He acted like he had no idea what I wanted until I had to come right out and say it.”

Jethro gets an uneasy feeling in his stomach. “Really? What did he do then?” He makes sure to keep his voice light and on the verge of boredom.

“He resisted. He did not want to become my friend. Even with a job offer, he turned me down. Silly, naïve boy.” Jethro wants to hit Miguel because something bad is about to be said. Miguel’s voice is full of smug satisfaction.

“Tony’s mother disappeared one day on her way to the market. It was very sweet when he came to me two days later, willing to do anything I wanted. Tony realized quickly that I ran Salina Cruz and could help him or hinder him. I chose to be upfront with him, so no mistakes would be made.”

Miguel sees the question on Jethro’s face. “I told Tony his mother was being well cared for at one of my places. As long as Tony did what I said, this would continue. He ranted and railed for awhile, threatened me with various things, including the American embassy. In the end, he knew none of his threats would work and gave me what I wanted.”

The gunrunner gives a careless shrug. “Once we got that out of the way, the rest was only a matter of time.”

The sounds in the garden seem too quiet and the feeling in Jethro’s stomach grows worse. He flashes on the image of Tony’s bitter smile as he left his room last night.

Jethro had seldom wanted to hurt someone as bad as he did right now. All these months, all this time, forced to work for someone you hated. Worse, Tony knew the work involved him sleeping with Miguel. He doesn’t want to think about what Tony felt when Miguel started whoring him to his business partners. He remembers Tony saying he thought ‘Lucas’ was different. It makes him think how the others must have treated Tony to think the undercover agent was nice in comparison.

The circle of people that know about Tony and Miguel are probably full of people that ‘admire’ the way Miguel could control Tony with polite reminders and threats and not fists and brutality. They know Miguel is ruthless but this goes into a different territory.

The ex-marine coughs. “Hmm, interesting way to recruit someone. Is his mother still alive?”

Miguel is practically oozing self-satisfaction. “Oh yes. Tony is keeping his part of the deal so I am keeping mine. They even get to chat occasionally. If something happened to his mother, I have no doubt Tony would try and kill me in a most painful way.”

Jethro realizes how sick Miguel is, because this seems to excite the other man. “He’s only been reluctant to do a few things for me but as time goes on, there will be nothing he won’t do.”

By now, Jethro thinks, Tony’s probably got a serious case of Stockholm syndrome.

Jethro resolves to press his case to go back to NCIS full time after this. No more helping the Justice Department. He stifles the burning sense of shame that’s curled in his gut.

Back in his room, he knows he should relay this information to Abby but he needs to think. The Justice Department won’t care why Tony is doing what he’s doing. They’ll take him down with Miguel and throw him in some federal jail for the rest of his life. Jethro knows Tony has potential to be something more, that as an ex-cop it’s probably killing him to help Miguel with his gunrunning empire.

If he can convince Tony to turn evidence against Miguel, Jethro might be able to get Tony out of jail time. In order to convince Tony though, he will have to find Tony’s mother. It all hinges on that fact. Jethro has the ugly thought that once his superiors know all of this, there is nothing to keep them from doing the same thing Miguel has. They can probably help find Tony’s mom, but will they let her go or use her to make Tony recall every single thing he’s done for the past nine months?

Jethro decides to have Abby do a search on all of Miguel’s properties. He won’t tell her why and once he has that information and a few more facts, he can decide if he’s willing to risk his career to make sure this turns out well for Tony. By questioning himself, Jethro knows he’s already made the decision.

The undercover agent sees Tony an hour later, swimming in the pool. Powerful arms cut through the water like it’s air as Tony swims back and forth. He stops and props his head on the side of the pool. He hasn’t seen Jethro yet and Jethro takes the time to look at Tony. His face is a mix of sadness, despair and restlessness. Jethro wishes he could tell the younger man that he plans to help him, that his days with Miguel are numbered, but he can’t. To say anything would compromise a case that involves lots of time and people.

Plus, as much as he wants Tony to welcome him with happiness and relief, Tony will likely turn out to fear and hate Jethro. The ex-marine is essentially putting someone Tony loves in danger, and Tony might hate Miguel or he might have feelings for him. These feelings could make it hard for Tony to give up any information on Miguel when the time comes.

Jethro smirks when Tony spots him. He can’t change the way he acts toward Tony. He was an asshole last night and he has to remain one. Fortunately, this whole operation is pissing Jethro off so it’s not hard to maintain his undercover persona. Tony looks at him for a long moment before a polite mask comes down over his face. The smile he gives Jethro is fake with a faint hint of disrespect. Jethro hopes this means that deep down, Tony is still the same man he used to be. The older man can’t wait to meet the real Tony.

“Did you need anything Mr. Gibson?”

Jethro shakes his head. “No, I’m leaving this afternoon and I just wanted to thank you for such an entertaining visit. Perhaps we will see each other again?”

Tony pushes himself out of the water and sits down, legs kicking lazily in the water.

“It may not be as intimate a visit as this one was, but I’m sure we will see each other again.”

Jethro lets his eyes roam over Tony’s body. The man looked great, wet. He meets Tony’s eyes. Hazel eyes glare at him, and if Jethro could die from a look, he’d be dead. Make that wet and angry. For the first time, Jethro thought about keeping Tony once this was all over. He knows that sounds wrong but that’s what he wants.

Jethro murmurs, “I’ll look forward to it.”

The undercover agent leaves and packs up his belongings. The lunch Gibbs has is light, and Miguel joins him. They don’t talk about much, just a few discussions about some historical battles. Tony comes in but doesn’t stay. Miguel travels with Jethro to the gunrunner’s private plane. It’ll drop the undercover agent at a small airfield where it’ll be up to Jethro to make his way back to his base of operations in Washington, D.C.

After Jethro is on the plane, he thinks up and discards plans furiously. He finally settles on one that he hopes will keep Tony out of jail, his mother safe, and give the younger man a chance to change his life for the better. That this plan also will keep Tony close to Jethro is nothing more than the way the plan came out. That’s what Jethro plans to keep telling himself, anyway.

He gets to D.C. in the early morning hours and lets his boss know. Director Morrow tells him there will be a meeting in about five hours. Jethro showers and eats something before taking a short nap.

Jethro makes it to the meeting, coffee cup in hand. The ex-marine listens as two agents report that they can have the weapons gathered and ready for transport in five days. Jethro listens as the information he gathered is discussed. When the subject of DiNozzo comes up, Jethro lets it be known he thinks he has a chance to get the ex-cop to turn on Miguel. Fornell, a FBI agent Jethro grudgingly respects questions him.

“How certain are you that DiNozzo will turn? He’s been with Santiago for almost an entire year.”

Gibbs is not going to explain about DiNozzo’s mother or that DiNozzo and Miguel are closer than boss and assistant.

“I’m pretty certain. I have a few things to investigate but once those things check out I think DiNozzo will be willing.”

Gibbs pushes the image of a willing DiNozzo away.

Morrow nods his head. “Okay, once it all goes down, we’ll give you time with DiNozzo. If he turns, that will be quite the accomplishment. We also need to know that the information we get from him will be true. Any thoughts on that, Agent Gibbs?”

He has a few thoughts and he shares them. The meeting goes on for another hour before it breaks up. After the meeting, Fornell catches him alone and tries to press him for more details about DiNozzo, but Jethro tells him that the plans are not fleshed out yet. He can tell Fornell doesn’t believe him, but that’s too bad. Jethro thinks only a few people should know the fact that Miguel and Tony are lovers. He’s resolved not to tell anyone about Tony’s mother until after she is away from Miguel and somewhere safe, or as safe as Jethro can arrange.

After the meeting, Jethro makes his way to Abby’s lab to get her report on all of the homes Miguel owns. While Abby’s Goth appearance throws many off, Jethro likes it, thinks it fits her personality and shows that she’s got a healthy dose of self assurance. She compliments him on his tan and gives him the information he’s been waiting on. He frowns at the list of houses. They know about most of these, but there are five more where Tony’s mother could be staying. He has an idea and thinks it out while Abby watches.

“I need to know which of these places was relatively empty about nine months ago. Can you check to see if supplies enough for at least two people, maybe three, suddenly started going to one of these places?”

Abby’s fingers fly over her computer and she makes noises in the back of her throat.

“Let’s see. Santiago doesn’t really move from his main house so I don’t know what he’s doing with all these other properties.” She gestures at the screen. “This is where his wife and kids live, along with assorted servants and bodyguards. This other place is a well known vacation house of theirs.”

Jethro leans in closer as Abby explains and eliminates other places. She settles on two possibilities, and Jethro gets a twinge in his gut that she’s right. Both places are close but not too close to Santiago’s Hacienda. He sees the shipping information at the same time Abby points it out. It’s a small cottage hidden from a main road. Food and other items started being delivered eight months ago. Satellite was also installed for the cottage. It had phone lines already but a quick look into phone company records tells them an installer was requested seven months ago to check the lines.

Back at his desk, Jethro makes some phone calls. It takes him ten minutes to track down an old friend who is not amiss to doing a “snatch and grab.” Gibbs explains a little about what he needs, and his friend is even more enthusiastic since he mostly tracks down parents who kidnap their kids. Richards agrees to a meet tomorrow when Gibbs tells him he needs this done fast. The other phone call is to a friend in Virginia. Gibbs makes arrangements for Tony’s mom to have a place to stay for a few weeks. The special agent is hesitant in bringing her to D.C. but at least this close he can quickly assure she is safe and sound.

At home, Gibbs unpacks, does some laundry and orders dinner. He’s tired, and once he has a few chores done, decides to forego working on his boat for some sleep. That night he dreams of Tony. This Tony is like the one that came to his room, seductive, a little nervous, but ready for sex. In his dream, Gibbs does everything he wants to and Tony pleads for more. The next morning Gibbs is grumpier than usual.

The meeting with Richards takes place at Jethro’s favorite coffee shop. Jonathan Richards served with Jethro in what seems like a lifetime ago. They’d saved each other’s lives and the lives of other people. They talk a little before Gibbs tells Richards what he needs.

“I’m involved in a hush op, but during the assignment I discovered a woman’s being held against her will. She’s not part of the op but her being held is influencing someone who is. I need someone to go in, get her, and bring her to Virginia. You up for it?”

Richards runs a hand over his bald head. “Where’s she located?” Jethro pulls out a map and points out Salina Cruz. “She’s in this city. I can get you the exact coordinates to where she’s being kept.”

“People holding her dangerous?”

Jethro nodded. “Assume so. If you can take her without killing, that’s good, but if it becomes an issue, do what you have to do.”

Richards smiles. It’s the same smile he’d given Jethro right before he blew the gates on a POW camp. “Usually all I get is husbands hunting down wives who took off with the kids. Half the time, the husbands turn out to be scum. I like finding the wives and giving them a few tips on how to hide better.” Richards rubs his goatee. Jethro waits for him to think it over.

In the end, Richards accepts the job and even gives Jethro a discount. For two thousand dollars he and a partner of his choice will go and get DiNozzo’s mom and bring her back across the border. They’ll deliver her to Jethro’s friend in Virginia. Gibbs agrees to the terms and writes Richards a check. Even if, after all this is over and Tony decides to take his mother and disappear somewhere, it’s still worth it.

No one should have to worry about loved ones being used to make them do reprehensible things. Richards lets him know he’ll be in contact when he departs and when he gets back with Tony’s mother.

At work, Jethro catches up on paperwork. He hates it, but it’s a necessary part of his job. He doesn’t have much since he hasn’t been working any criminal investigations. After buying Abby a soda and joking with her for a few minutes, he heads back to his desk. Fornell is waiting for him and drags him off to lunch and a meeting. The ex-marine guesses that Fornell wants to try and get more information out of him. The FBI agent is never satisfied with what he has and always wants more. Jethro throws him a few extra details but leads the conversation away from Tony. He leaves, ignoring the look Fornell gives him.

Jethro meets with Director Morrow and lets him know there’s more to the story than he’s revealed. That the Director does not immediately demand to know what Gibbs is hiding shows the level of trust the other man has for the ex-gunny. Jethro knows this and is not above taking advantage of it. He plans to tell the Director everything so someone else will know about Tony’s choice, but not right now.

Back at his desk, Jethro gets a note that he needs to be at Lucas Gibson’s residence tonight and tomorrow. He goes there directly from work. The apartment is sparse and cold and decorated in mostly gray, black and blue. At nine p.m. he receives a call from Miguel on a pre arranged cell phone. They talk for a few minutes and Jethro promises to call him tomorrow with a delivery date. Miguel asks if he plans to be there and Jethro promises he will indeed be at the meet.

When Jethro talks to Miguel the next day, he tells him things are moving faster than he expected but that that’s a good thing. He gives Miguel a date five days out and then hangs up. It’s been decided that Jethro should stay in his undercover persona’s apartment until he’s ready to go back to Salina Cruz. He’s not to approach his job or house for any reason. Jethro agrees with this assessment and thinks of a list of things he can do for the next five days.

The next night after a day of reading and exercise and bringing out his old cooking skills, Jethro gets a call from Richards that he and a friend will be leaving in the early morning hours to go to Salina Cruz. He gives Richards the address in Virginia where Tony’s mother can be brought after she’s back in the United States. Gibbs sleeps well that night.

Two days later, Jethro has a meeting with some agents from the justice department. In case Miguel is watching him, the meeting takes place in the back room of a tailor’s shop. That way, anyone reporting back to Miguel will only be able to tell him that Lucas Gibson ordered some suits. The agents let Jethro know the guns are all gathered and ready to be delivered to Miguel’s warehouse. For security purposes the bottom of each crate has been tagged with a small microchip. After the meeting, Jethro asks Director Morrow to remain behind.

“Sir, there is some additional information you need to be aware of. While I was in Santiago’s house, I discovered that Anthony DiNozzo is in an intimate relationship with the man. This and the fact that he is working for Miguel Santiago is because Miguel is holding DiNozzo’s mother against her will at an undisclosed location.”


Morrow doesn’t say anything and neither does his expression change. Jethro continues, “I took it upon myself to investigate whether or not I could find where she was being kept. I did find the most likely location and also hired someone to go and get her. I haven’t received the final report but I’m confident she is on her way back to the United States.”

Jethro meets his boss’s eyes and waits. A short nod is the only thing he receives in return. “I assume the reason none of this was in your report was to save the Justice Department money on any rescue attempt.” Jethro pretends to agree and gives a wary nod.

“The reason I didn’t mention DiNozzo and Miguel sleeping together is because I believe it will taint the way others deal with DiNozzo. If he turns evidence over to us and has a chance to start a new life I want it to be an actual chance and not something half-assed because someone is prejudiced against him. Even if he decides not to help us, his mother should not be used against him in order to force him.”

Gray eyes narrow and meet Jethro’s. “You already have plans for DiNozzo, don’t you?”

Jethro nodded his head. “I do. I’d rather not discuss them yet, but if things go the way I want them too, I’ll come to you first.”

“That’s good enough for me, but make it soon Gibbs.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jethro left first and did what would seem to anyone observing him some window shopping, but truthfully he barely saw the shiny baubles that gleamed in the windows. The next few days are going to be tough for all involved and no matter how much he wishes they were over, he has to get through them and in the process try and help DiNozzo.

At home, he checks his cell phone but there are no new messages. The next morning, Jethro gets a coded message from Richards that the package is at its new location and he and his partner are okay. Jethro breathes a sigh of relief. He leaves a message with Richard’s answering machine telling him thanks for a job well done.

Jethro spends the rest of the day in meetings until four p.m. and then it’s time to contact Miguel and let him know Lucas Gibson will meet him tomorrow at the designated warehouse with the items they discussed. Miguel happily agrees.

Another brief meeting and then Jethro packs and gets on a plane for Salina Cruz. He’ll be glad to get away from all the damn meetings. A brief nap has him dreaming of Tony and he spends the rest of the flight telling himself over and over he doesn’t want the younger man in his bed.


Jethro doesn’t see any agents around Miguel’s warehouse, but that’s the point. If he can spot them, then so can Miguel. He only has to wait about fifteen minutes, before Miguel pulls up with two bodyguards and Tony. He nods at Tony and shakes Miguel’s hand.

“It is good to see you again so soon, Mr. Gibson. I am happy that your search was so prompt.”

“The fact that I have somewhere to store all the items in one place helped a lot. Usually you have to find someplace for a few here, someplace for a few there. Shall we go make sure everything has arrived?”

Miguel nods to Tony, who enters a code and opens the warehouse doors. Jethro hands over keys to a truck and one of the bodyguards drives it into the cavernous facility. After the truck is in, they all walk in and prepare to inspect the weapons. Jethro watches as Tony and the two silent bodyguards unload the crates.

Opening the crates proves the weapons are the ones that were ordered. Before Miguel can ask about testing them, there’s a soft thud and smoke appears in the middle of their group. Shouting erupts and Jethro sees Tony pull a gun. Shit! Jethro knows the agents won’t hesitate to kill Tony. Coughing and trying to see, Jethro tackles Tony and lands on top of him. He holds on as Tony struggles and yells for Miguel to run.

Still keeping in character he yells, “No! Tony, we don’t know what’s going on. This could be some of my enemies or some of Miguel’s.” Shots are fired, but Jethro can’t see if anyone gets hit. It gets quiet except for the gasps and choking from the smoke grenade. The undercover agent feels someone take his arm and pull him outside. In the bright sunlight he sees agents surround him and the other men. His frown is furious as he listens to one agent tell them they are all under arrest for theft and the receiving of United States military weapons. All of them are put into separate cars and taken away.

His car contains an agent that explains that Miguel Santiago will be held by the United States Military police in a secure location along with Tony and the two bodyguards. Jethro nods his head.

“I want time with DiNozzo in a room. There are indications he might turn evidence against Miguel so I need to explain things to him.”

“Whatever you want, Special Agent Gibbs.”

The drive is moderately long, and once they arrive at an anonymous building, Jethro is hot, thirsty, and hungry. He nods in agreement when he’s told all the prisoners are being kept separate.

Jethro gets something to eat and drink and has a short meeting with Special Agent in Charge, Charles Evans.

“We should be ready to extradite Miguel back to the U.S. in the morning. All of the paperwork is being rushed. Usually with an operation like this, we should have had the paperwork in a few weeks ago but we were cautious because we didn’t know who Miguel owns and who really wants to see him gone.”

“Wise precaution. You have a room ready for DiNozzo?”

Jethro takes a glance at the room and nods his approval. It looks like a slightly comfortable interrogation room, which is exactly what he needs. He talks shortly with Fornell via phone and promises to call him when he has DiNozzo’s cooperation.

DiNozzo’s in the room when Jethro enters it again and only looks at him when Jethro sits across from him. He wants Tony to talk first, to set the tone of this meeting.

“Mr. Gibson, interesting day we’re having so far. This is not nearly the surprise you may have thought it would be.”

“The name’s actually Gibbs, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Why is this not a surprise?”

Tony shrugs and seems to relax into the chair. “You set off my old cop alarms. There was just something about you that didn’t scream arms dealer, but I figured it wasn’t any of my business.”

“So you didn’t tell Miguel about your suspicions?”

The question gets him a look of surprise. “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

Jethro gave a little huff of neutrality. Tony was probably used to these types of rooms but from the side of the investigator.

“We want you to give evidence against Miguel in exchange for lesser charges.”

Jethro’s plan actually includes no charges but he wants to know what Tony thinks about a few things first.

“I don’t think I can do that Gibbs. There are things going on that go deeper than Miguel Santiago.”

Jethro nods and sits across from Tony. “I know what you’re referring to, Tony, and that’s not a problem for you anymore. I hired certain people to locate the reason you were cooperating with Miguel. That reason is now back in the U.S. safe and sound.”

That gets Tony’s attention like nothing has since he’s been in the room. His eyes narrow, and the easy smile on his face disappears.

“Really? That’s interesting. So, what? I give you a bunch of information or this reason gets charged with something she had nothing to do with?”

Jethro shakes his head. “No. Even if you decide not to cooperate, she’s not part of this anymore. She can go where she wants, when she wants. You have my guarantee that she will not be used against you in any way.”

He sees that Tony doesn’t believe him. He leans forward, closer to Tony and his suspicious hazel eyes. “I don’t play that way, Tony. I know she’s been used to gain your cooperation but that’s over. I won’t allow her to be a factor.” He takes out a cell phone. “This is the number where she’s at. This location is only known to a few and no one in the Justice Department. The person I had retrieve her isn’t affiliated with the Justice Department.”

Jethro looks on as Tony holds the phone. He punches call and puts the phone to his ear. A few seconds later, someone picks up.

“May I speak to Catherine Guerrero, please?” Shocked, grateful eyes meet his when a woman comes on the line.

“Mother? Yes, it’s me. Are you okay? Really? That’s great. I know. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Do you need anything? I hope to see you soon. Shh, it’s over, don’t worry, he’s not going to get a chance to hurt you again.”

Jethro turns away from the rest of the conversation. It’s not for his ears but he can’t leave the room. The phone call goes on for a few more minutes and then he hears Tony say goodbye. He turns back around and sits down. He ignores the bright dampness in Tony’s eyes.

“I realize you don’t know me, Tony, and have no reason to trust me, but I will do everything in my power to make sure she’s not put in the middle again.”

He keeps his eyes on Tony as Tony cocks his head to one side and studies him like the one piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit.

“What do you want to know?”

And it turns out to be that simple. Gibbs pulls out a recorder and begins asking questions. Tony tells him names and dates and weapons. Two hours later, Gibbs has enough that they will be able to throw Miguel not just in jail, but under it. He smiles at Tony as the other man sips a bottle of water. Jethro refuses to watch one tiny drop of water trickle down from Tony’s mouth to his throat.

“Anything else you want to add?”

Tony wipes his mouth and nods his head. “Actually everything I just said and more is on a disk I have. It’s in a hidden place at the Hacienda.”

“Hunh. Well, that’s perfect. Did you see this coming?”

Tony shakes his head.

“No, but I’m all for insurance. I didn’t really believe Miguel would ever let me go. I figured when he got bored with me, he’d take me for a ride that I wouldn’t come back from.” He shrugs, but Jethro can tell that it bothered Tony to live and sleep with a man who one day planned to kill him. Jethro looks at Tony when the younger man clears his throat.

“What about the other stuff?”

Jethro frowns and gets a significant look from Tony. The recorder is off but they still need to tread carefully.

“I can’t say Miguel won’t talk, but the fact that you had a close personal relationship with the man is not a widely known fact. I told my boss and told him the reasons behind it. Whom you want to tell is up to you.”

Tony hugs himself and Jethro makes a mental note to ask him later if he wants to talk to someone about all of this, a professional someone.

“I’d rather no one know but I think that’s going to be impossible.” Determined eyes meet his. “I did try and escape once. About two months in, I just walked away. I had a small clue as to where he was keeping my mother so I headed there but he caught up with me about five miles away from his house. He didn’t say anything but the next day he handed me a picture of my mother with her arm in a sling.” Tony rubs the back of his neck and sighs. “After that I didn’t try again.”

Jethro reaches across the table and touches his hand briefly. “Tony, no one is going to blame you for doing what you had to do.” The ex-marine coughs. “I apologize for the way I treated you. I was undercover, but perhaps I could have handled the moment in my room better.”

A wry smile crosses Tony’s face, and he sits back in his chair. “Don’t worry about it. It’s in the past. But I think you’re wrong about the blaming. I slept with the enemy and I slept with whom he wanted. No one is going to care about why I did it, they’re only going to care that I was his whore.”

Jethro doesn’t physically react to Tony’s words, but the fact that Tony definitely needs someone to talk to moves to the top of his list.

“I don’t care and actually I want to offer you a job.” At the smirk Tony gives him, Jethro laughs. “Don’t worry, Tony, not everyone is after your ass. This is my last assignment with the Justice Department. I’m going back to my regular job of being a Naval Criminal Investigator and I get to pick my own team. You think you’d like kicking some bad guy ass?” He holds up a hand. “Just think about it, DiNozzo. No need to decide right now. If you do decide to take the job, you’ll have a few weeks to get settled before you start.”

Tony seems to think about this. Jethro has a feeling he’ll take it. He thinks Tony needs something bigger than being a cop, and being a special agent for the Navy may be just the thing.

The younger man nods his head. “I’ll think about it. Thank you.”

They talk a few more minutes until an agent comes in and Jethro tells him about the disk. Tony listens and then speaks up.

“It’s hidden in the back of the drawer where I keep my socks. The wooden panel is fake.”

The agent takes notes and before he leaves, Jethro asks Tony, “Is there anything you want from Santiago’s house?”

Tony thinks about it. “Yes, bring me my laptop, the clothes in my closet and the book on my night stand. That’s it.”

Jethro eyes the agent. “Do it and let me know when you’re back.”

Once they’re alone again Tony asks, “What will happen to Maria and the rest of the people who work for Miguel?”

“That depends on Miguel and his lawyers. They may continue to work until Miguel is convicted, or they may get dismissed in the next few days. I know you liked some of them, but it can’t be helped.”

Tony rubs his eyes and yawns. “Yeah, I know. Any chance I can get something to eat?”

Jethro takes Tony to the little hotel the FBI has taken over and gets him the room next to his. He drinks a shot of whiskey while talking with Tony over little trivial things. Inside, he’s smiling at the way Tony is eating with enthusiasm and appreciation. There is a sparkle in Tony’s eyes that he’s never seen, and it suits the younger man.

The ex-Marine wishes Tony a good night before taking a shower and sacking out on the bed.

Jethro is sleeping deeply when his doorknob turns. He slips his hand under his pillow and grabs his gun. He sees the outline of Tony’s body and relaxes. Jethro clears his throat and says, “Hey, Tony. Everything okay?”

Tony closes the door and sits on the bed. “Yeah, everything’s fine. An agent brought me my stuff from Miguel’s house. I told him if they have any questions about the disk to come get me. He said he didn’t think they would.”

The look in Tony’s eyes is making Jethro wary. He doesn’t want Tony to think he has to repay him in any way. When Tony shifts closer, Jethro sits up and scoots back.

“Look, Tony. I don’t know where your head is at right now, but you need to go back to your room.”

Before he can continue, Tony leans forward and kisses him. Jethro knows he should push Tony away, but his arms don’t seem to be working. It’s a completely different kiss than the one they’ve already shared. That kiss, back at Miguel’s hacienda, was fueled more by anger than desire. This kiss is lust and longing tangled with joy. Jethro curls a hand around the back of Tony’s neck and pulls him closer. The sound Tony makes, deep in his throat, has Jethro hard in seconds. Jethro tears his mouth away from Tony’s and counts to ten silently in his head.

“We can’t do this Tony. It isn’t fair to you and it’s not something I want to look back on and feel guilty about. I have enough regrets in my life.”

Tony stares at him, looking into his eyes, and Jethro has no clue what the other man is looking for. Tony straddles his body, his thighs a warm clasp over Jethro’s legs.

“What if I want this? What if for the first time in a long while I get a choice? No one is telling me who I should be extra nice to; no one is expecting me to want you for no reason other than I do. Do you understand how that’s making me feel?”

Jethro places his hands on Tony’s waist. He’s close to giving in but he’s older and is not in the mood for a quick fuck. “What happens if you take my job offer?”

Tony shrugs. “What happens here, stays here. We keep it professional back in D.C. If we want more, then we go for it.” Jethro resists the urge to moan as Tony shifts and moves further up Jethro’s body until he’s rocking back and forth, rubbing their groins together.

“I’m not much for one-nighters, Tony.” A hand lightly scratches his scalp, and Jethro leans into the touch. This is what he misses most about being with someone, the little touches that come with it.

“I can’t guarantee you more than this, Jethro. You want to take a chance?”

Suddenly Jethro does. Tomorrow is that, tomorrow. He wanted a chance to touch and kiss Tony, and this may be the only one he gets. Deeper in his mind, he starts plotting to make sure this is only the first time. He kisses Tony and lets his hands rub over stomach muscles and through coarse chest hair. He flicks his thumbs over Tony’s nipples and swallows the groan Tony makes. It’s a definite turn on knowing that he can effect Tony this way.

They’re pressed close, but Jethro wants to be closer. He tumbles Tony out of his lap and turns until he’s leaning over Tony. The kisses stop, and they look at each other. Jethro thinks he can get used to the look in Tony’s eyes. He kisses Tony again and lets his hands wander over Tony’s body. The carefree laugh he gets as his fingers graze a spot under Tony’s ribs has him smiling. He licks a path from Tony’s mouth down his neck to his collarbone. The appreciative noises Tony makes are hypnotic. Tony’s hands roam over his back, tracing his spine, and then move through his short hair.

Jethro rubs his body over every part of Tony he can reach. The lean body beneath his is responsive and soon they meet in some sort of rhythm that fills the quiet room with soft pants and urgent groans. Jethro grabs Tony’s cock and presses it against his. He pumps both of them slowly, and his eyes almost roll back in his head. The room came with an air conditioner, but the two of them are making too much heat for it to be of much use. The sweat helps them glide together faster and faster until Jethro feels himself come. It’s like the Fourth of July, but ten times better.

He keeps stroking Tony until he climaxes a few minutes later. Jethro is sticky and usually he’d get up and take a shower, but right now he just wants to savor the feel and smell of Tony. Lips brush his ear. “I really wanted you to fuck me.”

Jethro let out a huff of air. “Maybe next time, Tony.” Jethro’s almost asleep when he hears Tony whisper, “Good, perfect.”

The sun wakes Jethro up the next morning, and he’s not surprised to find Tony gone. After his shower, he hunts down some coffee. A few agents are talking frantically when he shows up in the lobby. Jethro gets a sense of foreboding and walks over to Agent Charles. “What’s wrong?”

The agent can barely meet his eyes. “Miguel’s dead. One of his supporters tried to break him out an hour ago, and Miguel ended up on the wrong end of a bullet.”

Jethro’s stunned. He thinks about the polite man he got to know for a few days. The same man who relished the fact that he had complete power over Tony. He can’t feel sorry that Santiago is dead. He wonders what Tony will feel. “Is all our work wasted?” Agent Charles shakes his head. “Not all of it. The disk DiNozzo gave us had some of Miguel’s contacts on it. We have a big jump on who we’ll go after next. You want me to inform DiNozzo?”

“No, I’ll do it.”

Jethro grabs some coffee for Tony and makes his way to his room. He only has to knock once before Tony answers. He tries to ignore the fact that Tony is in nothing but a towel. He hands Tony the coffee and waits for Tony to take a few sips. The room’s barely been touched. The bed and the nightstand are the only thing giving away the fact that someone is in this room.

“Earlier, someone tried to break Miguel out. He was caught in some crossfire. He’s dead, Tony.” Jethro didn’t know what to expect but hopes he’s ready for it. He remembers Tony’s actions during the arrest, how he’d tried to get Miguel out at the risk of his own life. He waits for Tony to say or do something, but all he does is sip his coffee. When Tony’s done with the cup he drops it in the trash. A flick of his wrist and the towel flutters down to his feet. Jethro just watches as Tony gets dressed, no embarrassment on his face at Jethro seeing him naked.

Any other time Jethro might think Tony was teasing him, but there’s no smirk or ‘come and get it’ glint in Tony’s eyes. Tony dresses in black jeans and a white t-shirt. Jethro relaxes when Tony speaks. The younger man’s eyes focus on putting on his boots. “Well, just like that, a big problem I have is gone. What happens now?”

Jethro sits down beside him on the bed. “We go back to D.C. The agents are in love with your disk. Whatever charges they were going to press against you we’ll work on getting dismissed. You take some time, get used to being back and have some visits with your mom. That job is still yours if you want it.” Tony nods and looks at him, eyes bright with unshed tears.

“I hated him, but I got used to ignoring that hatred so I could just survive. Now I’m thinking of all the time we spent where it all seemed so normal. It wasn’t bad 24-7.” Jethro nods his head. He doesn’t say anything. Tony squeezes the bridge of his nose. “Shit, I lost count of how many times I wanted him dead.”

Jethro stands up and places his hand on Tony’s shoulder. Hazel eyes meet his. “Whatever you feel is okay, Tony. He was a big part of your life for the past nine months.” Jethro isn’t used to offering comfort so he stops. Tony nods and stands up in front of him. For a minute, Jethro thinks Tony is going to kiss him but Tony steps away and begins packing what little stuff he has in a bag. “We leaving today?”

“Yeah, probably in a few hours. You hungry?” He can tell Tony is about to decline the offer but changes his mind. “I could eat. What’s available?” They head for the door.

Jethro snorts. “Not much.”

A few hours later, they’re in the plane when Tony turns to him and gives him a searching look. “I’ll take that job, Gibbs. If you think the higher-ups will allow it.”

Jethro smiles. They will if he has anything to say about it. “I don’t think it will be that big of a problem. After all the interviews about Santiago are over, what are you planning on doing?”

Tony shrugs. “Spending time with my mother. Seeing what she wants to do, now that she has some choices.”

Jethro hands him a card. “This is the name and number of the only psychiatrist I trust. You definitely will want to talk to him. Maybe your mom will too.”

Tony takes the card but doesn’t say anything. “Is this a condition of the job? That I have to be shrunk?” Jethro thinks about it. What little he knows of Tony tells him the ex-cop prefers to handle his own problems.

“It can be if it has to be, DiNozzo. You might not think you need to talk about some of the stuff that happened, but nobody comes out of a situation like that the same way they went in.” For Jethro that’s the end of the discussion. Tony’s a grown man. He knows he’ll need to get some stuff off his chest, especially if he doesn’t want it to interfere with his job.

Tony shrugs. “Whatever. How much time do I get before reporting for work?”

“Five weeks do it?”

Tony nods. “That should do it.” He stretches out as much as he can and Jethro ignores the long legs. He could seriously dream about those legs. He doesn’t think about what he says next, just says it. “Need a place to stay?” He can see Tony studying him out of the corner of his eye. He turns to look back. “No strings, DiNozzo.”

Tony nods. “Didn’t think there were. Yeah, I don’t know what shape my bank account is in, so thanks.”

“No problem.” Jethro leans back in his seat, glad the agents are in the back of the plane. They’re probably making plans on the best way to use all the information they’ve got. He’s already spoken to Morrow and Fornell about Tony joining his team. They still need some convincing, so Jethro does a little planning of his own.

Back in D.C. Jethro accompanies Tony to the interview with Fornell. The FBI agent hints that Jethro doesn’t have to stay, but he ignores the message and settles down to listen. Three hours later, he calls a halt for the night and takes Tony back to his house. After he closes the front door Jethro breathes a sigh of relief, glad to be home. He laughs at Tony’s eager craving for pizza and gives in.

They eat while watching a baseball game. Jethro’s still awake after the game is over, but Tony’s half-asleep. He checks the locks and stands over Tony. The urge to touch him is strong, and Jethro knows in the coming weeks he’ll have to curb that urge into something approximating boss and subordinate. Right now he gives in and brushes Tony’s hair off his forehead before shaking the younger man awake.

“Hey, why don’t you go on and sack out in the guest room?” Tony stands up and yawns. It makes him look younger than he is and kind of adorable. Oh yeah, Jethro thinks, he’ll have to reign in thoughts like that.

His house is quiet, and Jethro’s on that edge of being deeply asleep when a floorboard creaks. He’s not surprised when Tony shows up at the foot of his bed. Jethro’s silent as he throws his cover back in invitation. He smiles in the dark at the small sound of pleasure Tony makes when he lays his head on Jethro’s chest. Jethro knows his life is now more complicated than he imagined when he first agreed to help the Justice Department. He’s okay with that. He needs something more exciting than working on his boat. Looks like he might have found it.

Sleep claims Jethro and he slings an arm over Tony and closes his eyes.