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Title: Bonded
By: nancy
Pairing: Tony/Gibbs
Fandom: NCIS
Rating: NC-17
Series: 1) Recruitment
Note: All thanks to Kya, who came up with the original plot bunny of NCIS as a wolf pack!!
Summary: In an AU where shapeshifters exist, Gibbs and Tony finally bond...among other problems.


Jethro looked at Tony and Kate in surprise as he came in on the tail end of an argument. That in itself wasn't unusual, the two were always sniping about something or other. Jethro would never admit it, but he looked forward to the battle of wits every day. What was strange, was that there had been real anger in the heated exchange and it looked like they might even come to blows. Not something he wanted in the middle of the NCIS office, or anywhere, really.

"DiNozzo! Todd!"

Both jerked back from each other, instinctively responding to his pissed tone. He walked the rest of the way over and snapped, "What the hell's going on here?"

Tony's jaw flexed and Kate's expression was mutinous, but both remained silent.

"Fine. DiNozzo, go downstairs and help Abby."

"With what?"

"With whatever!"

Tony practically growled with insubordination as he spun sharply on his heel and stalked to the elevator.

Jethro waited until the elevator doors had closed and Tony was at least a couple of floors down before demanding, "What the hell was that about?"

Doing a credible imitation of a statue, Kate didn't respond.

"Now, Kate!"

"He's pissing all over me!" Kate snarled.

Blinking in surprise, Jethro observed, "You're dry, so I'll assume you mean that figuratively."

"Gibbs, you have to do something about him or I will," Kate hissed. "I refuse to let that, that, half-bred, unbonded, mongrel to treat me that way!"

Finally! he thought. Having a sense of what was going on now, Jethro placated, "He's learning, Kate. He still doesn't know all of our..."

"No! It's not just disrespect, though there's plenty of that to go around," Kate interrupted, still ticked.

"Then what?"

Jethro could practically see the ruffled fur, even though he had as yet to see Kate in wolf form, as the woman snarled wordlessly. The was genuine hurt mingled with the anger and Jethro knew that Tony had somehow managed a serious transgression. If they were a 'normal' pack, then most likely Kate and Tony would be fighting it out in wolf form already.

Sighing, Jethro held up a hand and promised, "I'll talk to him. Just...give him some slack, okay Kate? He really is still new to everything. It's only been a few months since he found out what he was."

Kate glared, but visibly backed down in the face of her alpha's apology and tacit order. "School him, Gibbs, or I will. And I can promise you that he's not going to be so pretty if I get hold of him."

She strode over to her desk, sitting down and grumbling to herself. Scrubbing fingers through his short hair, Jethro looked at the elevators and sighed again. This was definitely going to be fun.


In the three months that he'd known Tony, he'd been on so many different edges that Jethro was starting to feel he could put in an application as a high-wire artist. On the one hand, he wanted Tony to be his mate, his beta, and actually already felt that the younger man was, in many ways. On the other, Tony hadn't really known that he was putting out those pheromones when they'd gotten together the first couple of times and Jethro didn't want him to feel trapped.

They'd been together only five times in total and each had been hotter than the previous encounters. Jethro got hard just thinking about them, and so tried not to, having discovered just how footloose and fancy free Tony was. There was a different girl every weekend and sometimes a couple during the week, as well. He flirted with just about everyone who crossed his path, though he was a lot more subtle with the men. The fact that he and Tony were, essentially, mated, didn't hamper Tony's sex drive whatsoever, much to Ducky's extremely verbal astonishment.

Jethro, on the other hand, had all he could do not to drag Tony off into a corner somewhere at least three times a day and take him the way he had that first time. Only longer and harder, not to mention in a comfortable bed. For the most part, he was successful in resisting the urge and kept his hands to himself. When the need got too bad, though, and he had to give in, Jethro always made sure it was after hours and when Tony had no other plans. He didn't want to appear as if he were hemming the other agent in, no matter how badly he wanted to do just that.

Not for the first time in his life, Jethro was exceedingly grateful to the drill sergeant who'd made his life hell on first joining the Marines. It was only that discipline which allowed him to give Tony the freedom the other man so clearly needed.

*  *  *  *

Abby watched from the corner of her eye as Tony prowled the lab. He'd arrived about ten minutes ago and had started to wear a hole in her floor. Figuring it as some kind of manly thing, that maybe Kate had struck home with a barb or Gibbs had smacked him upside the head once too often, she'd shrugged it off at first. Now, however, there was something distinctly disturbing about the way the agent was casing what was, essentially, her office. The way he kept touching her desk and lab counters, even the walls, reminded her of scent marking, but Tony wasn't in wolf form.

Hadn't been yet, so far as she knew. That was something Gerald and Gibbs were still working with Tony on. And since it was such a big deal for someone Tony's age, kinda like the chicken pox, Abby was sure that she'd have heard about it happening. The next, logical thought hit Abby and her eyes widened in surprise. Testing her theory, she called out carelessly, "Hey, Tony?"

"What!?" he snapped.

Hunching down a little, Abby lowered her eyes to the floor and muttered, "Nothing, I'm sorry."

She heard Tony take a deep breath, then release it forcefully before he crossed over to her. Crouching down, his hand rested on her thigh as he apologized earnestly, "No, I'm sorry Abs. What do you need?"

Smiling a bit, theory proven that his wolfy hormones were all over the place, Abby kept her voice and posture submissive as she asked, "Could you run some evidence down for me? I'm really swamped."

Tony nodded. "Sure. Where is it?"

It took a few minutes to coordinate enough material to keep Tony busy for at least a half-hour, but finally the agent was gone and she could call Ducky.

*  *  *  *

"I thought they were going to have a fist fight," Jethro admitted. "I don't know what to do, Duck. He's getting wilder and harder to control every day. I've never been in this kind of situation."

Generally not one to say 'I told you so,' except in the most subtle of ways, Ducky couldn't resist needling, "I do recall mentioning that having two dominant betas in the pack, especially unbonded, was a bad idea."

Jethro snorted. "Yeah, Ducky, I remember too. Could you just tell me what to do here?"

Before Ducky could answer, his phone rang. Seeing that it was Abby, he held up a finger to Jethro and picked it up with, "Yes, Abby?"

"Tony is so about to Change, it's not even funny," she said, without preamble.

Startled, Ducky demanded, "Are you sure?"

"Positive. I sent him down with evidence to check in to keep him busy so you could get Gibbs. He'll be there a while."

"Well. Thank you for the information, my dear," Ducky replied, hanging up. Turning to Jethro, he said, "For an NCIS agent, sometimes you're just not very observant, Jethro."

Jethro frowned, demanding, "What do you mean?"

"I suggest that you and Gerald take young Mr. DiNozzo out to the preserve so he can Change, before he jumps into his skin in public," Ducky informed him.

Jethro's jaw dropped a bit and he groaned. "It fits. I can't believe I didn't see it."

"Well, you are rather close to the situation," Ducky allowed graciously.

Jethro snorted. "Thanks, Ducky. Gerald, you up for a road trip?"

Looking up from the computer, Gerald nodded and agreed, "Absolutely."

Meeting his lover halfway, Ducky gripped Gerald's shoulder and warned, "Be careful. He won't go after Jethro, but he might go after you."

With a soft laugh, Gerald pointed out, "I outweigh him in both forms and I know how to fight as a wolf. He's practically a pup, Ducky. I'll be fine."

Still worried, Ducky repeated, "Be careful."

Gerald leaned down for a soft, lingering kiss before he promised, "I will."

The two of them were gone shortly thereafter, leaving Ducky alone with his latest case. Sighing, he walked over to the body and asked her, "I don't suppose you could keep an eye on them for me, could you?"

*  *  *  *

Tony was surprised when both Gibbs and Gerald showed up, flanking him at the evidence cage door. "What's up?"

"We're going on a field trip," Gibbs told him. "You done here?"

"Just about," Tony replied, confused.

"Finish up."

Still frowning, Tony finished the paperwork and signed the forms given him in record time. Once done, he followed the two men to Gerald's jeep, stopping in more surprise when he saw that they weren't getting into an official vehicle. "What's going on here?"

"It's time, Tony," Gibbs answered softly.

Tony frowned at him. "Time for what?"

When Gibbs just looked at him, it occurred to Tony that there was really only one reason Gerald would be going off with them anywhere. A flutter of panic clenched his stomach and he shook his head in denial.

"It's gonna be okay, Tony."

Looking at Gerald, Tony exclaimed, "You said it wouldn't happen until I wanted it to, and I don't! I'm not ready!"

Gerald shrugged and questioned, "You feel agitated for no reason? You want to jump down Kate's throat every time she even looks at Gibbs for too long? You think everyone's looking for a fight and, for once, that you want to give it to them?"

His heart sank as Tony realized that everything Gerald had just said, was true.

Seeing the answer in his face, Gerald continued, "Your hormones are all over the map, Tony, and that's because your body's ready, even if you think you're not."

"Think I'm not ready? What are you, stupid? I know I'm not!" Tony snapped.


Tony hunched down a little at the sharp rebuke. Great. All he needed on top of everything else was a pissed off Gibbs. Arms crossed over his chest, Tony asked sullenly, "So what now?"

"Now we get to the middle of nowhere and you do what nature intended," Gerald answered simply, not offended.

Gibbs took offense for him, though, and smacked Tony upside the back of his head.


*  *  *  *

It was almost painful, watching Tony try not to fidget in the back seat. The jacket was gone ten minutes into the two-hour drive and Jethro was pretty sure the shirt would have been, too, if he hadn't given Tony a warning look.

He didn't know who was in charge of the nature preserve held as a trust for their people, or who had donated it, but everyone in the know, knew where it was. It was impossible to get in, if you didn't know the right people, the armed guards on all the perimeter gates saw to that. Poachers were dealt with severely, and it was seldom done within the law. Those who survived the encounter, and there were enough to spread the tales, did so by the skin of their teeth.

The preserve spanned two hundred square miles along the Virginia Blue Mountains and held every manner of wildlife, as well as a wolf population that was constantly in flux. The 'real' wolves had no problems with the shifters, though they seldom mixed. There was some spill-over, depending on who was in rut at what time, and what males were available, but for the most part, the two species remained separate.

Gerald pulled in at the gate and held out his hand for the guard to sniff. The other guard peeked in at Tony, who snarled at the presumption, and drew back fast in surprise.

Jethro sighed. "Sorry about that."

The guard shrugged and replied, "Been a while for him, huh? No problem. Just make sure you get him in deep before he Changes. I don't want to have to tranq him if he tries to run out Shifted, but I will."

"I understand," Jethro promised.

Gerald drove past the gate without a word and for the next half-hour, they were all silent as the road went from paved, to gravel, to dirt. Finally deeming them deep enough in the forest, Gerald parked off the road and turned to Tony. "You okay?"

Tony shook his head, his eyes a little wild as he replied, "Something's wrong, Gibbs, something's really wrong."

Before Jethro could reply, Tony was out of the jeep. He unlatched the seatbelt and scrambled out of the vehicle after the younger man. Watching, wary, as Tony paced the area, Jethro waited for it to happen. He only vaguely remembered feeling a sliver of what Tony was going through. Of course, he'd been at the mercy of normal teenaged hormones at the time, so it had only been one more part of growing up. Tony, though, had no real idea of what was going to happen, despite spending time with them both over the last month, watching them Change and being instructed as much as was possible.

Unfortunately, until you actually did it, there was no real way to understand.

Gerald joined him and they both stood silent as Tony paced back and forth for several more minutes. Jethro could practically feel the energy and power crackling off the younger man and then, finally, it happened.

Tony froze in place, eyes widening in shock as they met Jethro's, and then his head was thrown back, mouth open in a silent scream. Whether it was of pain, fear, anger, or something else altogether, Jethro had no idea. It took everything he had not to rush over to Tony and do something, anything, to help. There was nothing to be done, so he stayed put.

Groaning, Tony dropped to his hands and knees, his head bent and his back arched as he twisted and stretched every which way. The familiar energy shield coalesced over his body, hiding the actual transformation until it dissipated. In place of Tony, was a chestnut colored wolf with reddish highlights and brilliant green eyes. He was big, though not as big as Gerald, and very well put together, as Jethro would have expected given how in shape Tony was as a human.

A menacing growl echoed softly between them, raising the hairs on the back of Jethro's neck. There was an almost feral look to those green eyes and the scruff was stiff and thick as the wolf glared at them.

"Gerald, don't move," Jethro warned.

"Not an inch," Gerald agreed, just as quiet.

Moving slowly, Jethro stepped between Gerald and Tony, Ducky's warning repeating in his mind. He hadn't seriously considered that Tony would go after Gerald because the two younger men were such good friends. He hadn't taken into account just how freaked and hostile Tony would be in his wolf form, though, nor how pissed. There was very little of reasoning in the eyes that stared back at him, unblinking. The tales that went around, the rumors of feral shifters, men and woman who went mad with the Change, were suddenly a lot more than just rumors.

"Tony. I know you're confused right now, but I need you to calm down," Jethro stated firmly. "You're still you. I know you can understand me, so just sit your ass down and relax."

The growling got a little quieter, then stopped altogether as Tony's ears perked up at Jethro's voice. The body language was still unwelcoming, but Jethro would take what he could get. He wanted to Change, knowing that Tony would accept him in wolf form, but had to get the other to accept him in both forms. Tony had to be able to know who he was, which was more than just a jumble of overwhelming instincts.

Stepping closer, Jethro continued, "I know this isn't exactly what you had in mind, that things are a lot different than you ever imagined, but you can hear and comprehend and think in this form, as well as when you're a man. Gerald isn't a threat to you and neither am I, unless you piss me off or break a pack rule. Come on, Tony, sit down and show me that you understand what I'm saying to you."

Jethro saw a lot of confusion and even some pain and worry in the expressive eyes, but at least the anger had decreased by several notches. And then Tony sat back, on his haunches, whining. Relief surged through Jethro and he closed the distance between them, crouching down beside the wolf. Jethro scratched his fingers through the thick fur and said, "It's going to be okay, Tony, I promise. Now, you think Gerald can come a little closer, or do you still want a pierce of him?"

Tony chuffed, as if in embarrassment, and his head lowered.

A moment later, Gerald was beside them, but in wolf form. Surprised, Jethro looked at the black wolf and asked, "You want to go for a run now?"

Gerald barked emphatically, tail wagging.

Snorting, Jethro looked at Tony and questioned, "I suppose you do too, huh?"

Tony had definitely perked up at the mention of going for a run, his ears flickering this way and that. He licked Jethro on the cheek then, somehow, managed to look completely horrified that he'd done so.

Laughing outright, Jethro said, "Don't worry about it, DiNozzo, just don't make a habit of it."

Tony was on his feet at that, barking happily, and playfully nipped at Gerald. The black wolf huffed in amusement and looked at Jethro.

"All right, all right. I know when I'm outnumbered," Jethro mock-grumbled, standing.

Cracking his neck, Jethro exhaled forcefully and concentrated, dropping to his hands and knees much as Tony had done. The difference was that by the time Jethro would have reached his knees, he'd already Changed. He always felt younger, in wolf form, and certainly more relaxed than he ever was as a man. It gave him the excuse to lower some of those Marine-instilled inhibitions. He took the opportunity to make a feint at Tony, then playfully nipped him on the backside when Tony fell for it.

Tony mock-growled at him, careful to keep in a submissive posture when he did, and Jethro laughed to himself at the sight. Tony was bigger and probably a lot stronger than him in wolf form, so it was pretty unusual to see. Or it would have been, had any humans been around.

As it was, Jethro just yipped at the young wolf, his version of sticking out a tongue, and took off running into the trees, the two younger shifters hot on his heels.

*  *  *  *

Jethro sighed and repeated calmly, "All you have to do is concentrate, DiNozzo. It doesn't take any more effort to Change back into human form, than it did to get to wolf form."

Tony whined and plopped his head down on his paws in defeat.

Glancing at Gerald, Jehtro asked, "Suggestions?"

"Let him sleep it off. He'll wake up normal tomorrow, sure enough," Gerald answered.

Which was true. The dominant form was always the form that a Shifter returned to during sleep. Gerald was so comfortable in both skins, Jethro knew, that it was fifty-fifty as to what Ducky woke up to each morning. Tony was so unused to this form, even if he liked it, that he would automatically change back to a man once he fell asleep.

Jethro sighed again. "They'll never let us take him out of here like this."

"They will in a cage."

Tony barked in outrage at Gerald's calm assessment.

Jethro jabbed a finger at him and said, "When you decide to be a man again, then you can bitch about cages. Until then, you do what I say to get you home, DiNozzo."

A growling whine issued forth, but Tony settled back down on his paws.

It took some cajoling from Gerald to get Tony into the jeep, of which Jethro would have no part, but they were on the road again before dark. When they got to the gate, he wasn't surprised to find the guards armed with tranq guns. He got out and said, "We need to get him back home."

"It's against the rules to let a potentially dangerous Shifter off the preserve, sir, you know that," the man replied staunchly.

Jethro opened the door and barked, "DiNozzo! Get your furry butt out here now!"

Tony slid out of the jeep to land beside Jethro.


He sat.

"Here's the deal. This is his first Change, and he's stuck. We're going to bring him home so he can sleep in familiar surroundings and change back while he's sleeping," Jethro explained.

The guard was plainly startled at the information, eyes widening, and exclaimed, "His first Change? But he's in his twenties!"

"Thirty-two, actually," Jethro corrected. "And I know. It's a long story. All you need to know is that he's no threat to anyone, not even a cat."

"You're his alpha," the guard stated, more than asked.

Jethro nodded anyhow and said, "He's not going to get into any trouble. As a matter of fact, we can even put him in a cage if that would make you more comfortable."

Tony heaved a sigh at his words and plopped down to the ground.

A grin twitched the guard's lips at the action and he shook his head. "No, it doesn't look like that'll be necessary. I do, however, need you to sign a release."

"Not a problem."

A few minutes, and a lot of signatures, later, Jethro hustled Tony back into the jeep and took his own seat. He waved at the guard and Gerald started the long trip home.

*  *  *  *

Jethro ignored the looks he got from Tony's neighbors on the walk from the elevator to the apartment. Fortunately, it was late enough that most people were already home and in for the night, so they didn't meet up with too many of them. Gerald had asked if he needed any help, but Jethro knew Tony was going to be fine and so had ordered him to his own home.

Fortunately, Tony's keys were in the coat pocket that he'd left in Gerald's jeep, so it was easy enough to get inside. Tony barked happily and leaped onto the sofa, tongue lolling out as he looked back at Jethro, as if to say, 'Well? Don't just stand there, come on in!'

Shaking his head in amusement, Jethro shut and locked the door before moving further into the apartment. It was a standard apartment with standard furniture, nothing special. Not that Jethro was really surprised, considering Tony's wardrobe and penchant for buying expensive electronic toys.

By the time Jethro was done in the bathroom, Tony was sacked out, sound asleep on the sofa. Sitting on the edge of the coffee table, Jethro just looked at the young wolf for a long time, combing his fingers through the thick, soft fur.

"What am I going to do with you?" he murmured affectionately.

Getting to his feet, Jethro headed for the bedroom. They'd grabbed fast food on the way home so they could feed Tony, not knowing what might be in his fridge, so he wasn't hungry. Exhausted from the day, Jethro just about managed to kick his shoes off before crawling under the covers. With the smell of Tony all around him, Jethro found himself relaxing completely and yawned hugely, closing his eyes. It was a few minutes later that he heard nails clicking on the wooden floor and then the bed dipped as Tony jumped on it.

Once the wolf was comfortable, Jethro rolled onto his side and threw an arm around his mate, burying his face in the soft fur as he drifted into sleep.

*  *  *  *

Tony woke suddenly and completely, the body of another man sprawled over him, in his own bed startling him out of dreams. He never brought one night stands home with him, male or female, preferring to keep his relative anonymity intact. Then he recognized the scent and relaxed, memories of the previous day flooding through him.

Talk about weird, he thought, moving slowly until he was on his back. I was me, but I wasn't me. And how embarrassing to get 'stuck' like that. God. Gibbs probably thinks I'm a complete moron.

Closing his eyes again, Tony draped an arm over Gibbs' back and sighed in deep contentment. It was so good to have the other man in his arms again, and even better to have him in his bed. If there was a way he could figure out to get the man here permanently, Tony would go for it. It wasn't an entirely new thought, but far more comfortable than he'd have imagined with Gibbs right there. He'd been on his own for a long time now and was hungering for something more.

Something that he knew he'd get with Gibbs.

The last month had been great. He and Kate had settled into a comfortable rivalry. They both knew that he was beta, even if it wasn't official. It wasn't even a matter of seniority, though he did have that on her. It was more that Gibbs always turned to Tony first, in every situation; dangerous or boring, it was Tony to whom Gibbs asked first for help or suggestions.

Kate wasn't thrilled at being Gamma, but didn't seem to have any plans to challenge him in the near future. Tony was pretty sure this would be the status quo until Kate caught some alpha's eye and she left their odd little pack. Well, unless she decided to relinquish her spot as gamma and have kids, which Tony totally didn't see happening. He had as yet to see any maternal instincts surface, even in the face of actual babies. Abby had gotten that peculiar, inherently mom, pitch in her voice that women did when a coworker had brought her baby around, but Kate definitely hadn't.

Gibbs moved slightly, his lips pressing against Tony's throat and to suck there lightly. Tony groaned as heat instantly ran through him, hardening his morning woody even further. It wasn't even that he hadn't had sex recently, because he had. There was just something about sex with Gibbs that curled his toes and banished his mind entirely. They'd only done it twice when he'd first joined NCIS, but just the memory was more than enough for jerk-off material.

Tony's hand rubbed slowly up and down Gibbs' back as he arched his throat, offering more of himself to the sleeping man. The sucking increased, alternating with biting, and Tony's breath hitched in his throat at the sensation. He felt suddenly, horribly empty and whined with the need to have Gibbs inside him.

The noise finally woke Gibbs, who stopped sucking and pushed up onto an elbow. Piercing blue eyes that seemed far too awake, locked onto his own. Then Gibbs was on him, mouth seizing Tony's and demanding entrance with his tongue and dominance with his body. Moaning, Tony gave it to him, opening his mouth and spreading his legs for whatever Gibbs would give him.

The kiss went on forever, taking most of Tony's oxygen from him and rendering him utterly pliant. His nails raked sharply up Gibbs' back, provoking a growl and a hard thrust against Tony's crotch.

They were both still clothed from the day before, but that didn't last long. Minutes later, Tony was naked, his legs pulled up as Gibbs pushed lubed fingers into his hole. Moaning in need, Tony held tight to his thighs as he was stretched, keeping himself open and exposed to his alpha. It was much too long a time later that Gibbs finally pushed his cock inside Tony. Hissing at the stretch and burn, Tony bit his lip to distract himself. Then Gibbs took over the distraction for him, dizzying him with another eternal kiss.

When Gibbs was all the way in, balls hanging tight against Tony's ass, he broke off the kiss and growled, "Are you going to stop fucking around on me now?"

Panting, Tony gasped, "Yes! Oh shit, yes!"

Gibbs pulled out a short distance, then thrust back in and demanded, "You'll be my mate?"

"Yes!" Tony shouted, pleasure surging through him. "God, yes! Always!"

Gibbs seemed to go wild at that, losing all his restraint and slamming in and out of Tony harder and harder. Tony's legs locked around his mate's back, urging him to keep going, as did the gasped pleadings he couldn't help but utter. He had to cling to the headboard with one hand while clutching the other to Gibbs' back to keep them from falling off the bed. His body responded to the fierce claiming with pleasure, his body's bruising buried under the soul-deep need that was being filled. As if through sheer force of will, Gibbs could make them one entity.

When orgasm rocked through Tony, obliterating thought, it just about seemed as if Gibbs had succeeded. He didn't even feel the final few thrusts or the seed that filled him to overflowing. He certainly didn't care that Gibbs collapsed on him after coming, lost in his own devastating release.

*  *  *  *

Waking the second time was a lot more painful than the first, but Tony didn't even care. Something inside had been soothed by the very ferocity with which Gibbs had taken him. A wave of contentedness buoyed him just on the edge of sleep, the warm weight of his lover under and in him, added to the pleasurable sensations.

"You conscious yet?" Gibbs rumbled, voice laced with humor.

Tony grinned, not opening his eyes, and answered, "Nope."

"Good, because we need to talk."

Sighing at the mostly-serious tone, Tony opened his eyes and found that Gibbs must have just rolled them, because he was several inches down Gibbs' chest. And, though he enjoyed the feeling of his lover inside him, it was far too distracting for a real talk. Sighing regretfully, Tony carefully pulled off Gibbs' cock, wincing at the burn. Once free, he was immediately tugged down into Gibbs' arms and he happily snuggled close.

"I don't share, DiNozzo," was the first thing out of Gibbs' mouth. "I'm a possessive bastard and make no bones about it. If we're going to do this, then you need to know that up front. No one else. Ever."

Tony grinned at him and replied, "I think I can manage that, considering that you've just managed to knock me unconscious with your dick."


"Okay, I'm sorry," Tony apologized, placating with a kiss to the bare chest. "I'm serious, too. See? One on one is definitely something I can manage. I've, well, been thinking about it since we were first together."

"You have?" Gibbs questioned, surprised.

Tony nodded. "Yeah. I'm kinda...I'm not one's ever brought me home to meet their parents, let's put it that way, but mostly because I've wanted it that way. I was a player and I liked it, but...I'm ready for more now."

Gibbs was silent for a few minutes, taking the information in, then said, "Good."

"That's it? Good?" Tony echoed, bemused.

Gibbs kissed him deeply and pulled back to say, "Very good."

Tony shook his head in fond exasperation.

*  *  *  *

Kate was more than pleased by the changes in Tony when he and Gibbs showed up at work the following Monday. Once Ducky had explained why Tony had been acting like such an asshole, Kate had immediately forgiven her partner. She'd known that the Change would be difficult for him and, when Gerald told them how Tony had gotten stuck, her sympathies had expanded.

Those sympathies had changed to outright approval when Tony had given her a sincere apology first thing Monday morning. That alone was more than enough to get on her good side, but Tony had also brought her flowers, which helped. She'd scented Gibbs all over him, of course, and known exactly what had happened over the weekend. Something of which she also heartily approved. It had been a little nerve wracking, if she was honest with herself, not really knowing her place, or where Tony stood, with Gibbs.

The rest of the week, he and Gibbs were frighteningly on top of their game. They worked almost like one, finishing each others' sentences, knowing what the other wanted even before he spoke. They put a double homicide and a kidnapping to bed in a single week, with time to spare. It was scary enough for her to seek refuge in Abby's lab, more than once.

Still, she was more than happy with how things had turned out and knew that eventually, everything would go back to normal. There would be more head smacking and aggravated shouts of DiNozzo's name from Gibbs, as well as grumbled insubordination and irritating digs at Kate's expense on Tony's part.

Funny how quick she'd gotten used to that as normal.

Shaking off the thought, Kate was going to return to her report when her eye was caught by a handsome, blond man walking their way off the elevator. He was broad shouldered, blue eyed and moved with the confidence that came with experience and strength. There was a determined air to him as well, which snared Kate's interest, especially when the man headed straight for Gibbs' desk, even though the agent wasn't there.

She stood and walked over to him with a smile. "Can I help you?"

"No thanks. I'm waiting for Gibbs," the man replied.

"Oh, I'm on his team. Special Agent Kate Todd," she stated, holding out her hand.

He took it and said, "Special Agent Stan Burley. I used to be on Gibbs' team."

Eyebrows arching in surprise, Kate asked, "Really? And you came back?"

Grinning, Stan said, "I'm a glutton for punishment, what can I say?"

Kate opened her mouth to respond when the elevator doors opened and Gibbs and DiNozzo got off, mid-argument. It was all a mock-struggle for dominance to anyone who knew them both, but to the untrained eye, it probably looked really heated. Kate wasn't surprised when Burley straightened to make himself visible, subtly ending the argument as both men took notice of him. Kate was surprised, however, when Gibbs paled slightly on seeing who she stood beside, his expression shuttering into that unreadable mask that had been missing all week. She hadn't realized just how open he'd been, the last few days, until he was back to 'normal.' Kate instantly decided that she liked him better the other way.

"Burley," Gibbs greeted, clipped.

Burley hesitated then said, "It's good to see you again, Boss."

"What do you want?"

"Can we talk somewhere private?"

Kate was looking at their body language with a practiced eye and could see how much Gibbs didn't want to talk in private with this man.

Despite that, Gibbs nodded. "Conference room."

It wasn't until they'd walked away that Kate realized that Gibbs hadn't introduced Tony or even made any move to do so. Her eyes flickered over to him and found a wounded expression in place. She hurried to assure him, "I'm sure it's nothing, Tony."

"Oh it's something," Tony replied, staring at the conference room door the men were now hidden behind. "I'm just not sure what."

Kate sighed as she sat back down at her desk and thought, So much for things getting back to normal.

*  *  *  *

Having Stan in the same room was a lot different than Jethro would ever have thought. He'd fully expected never to feel anything for anyone else, the way he felt for Tony. He'd anticipated being a one-man man the rest of his life. Having Tony as his mate, his beta, and his friend filled an aching hole in Jethro that he hadn't even realized existed. Facing Stan now, though, all the old feelings came back in force, kicking him in the gut and tearing at his heart.

"You look good," Stan observed softly. He kept his distance by standing on the other side of the conference room table.

Jethro had to counter honestly, "So do you. Shipboard life agrees with you."

"I guess. Been reassigned, though."

"Where to?"

Please don't say here, please God, don't say here...


Oh thank you God.

Jethro managed a smile and said, "It's a good post."

"Yeah. You're getting some newbie, though, who got displaced with my reassignment," Stan warned, apologetic.

Remembering a personnel sheet crossing his desk, Jethro replied, "McGee, right?"


They were silent then, and Jethro had no idea how to break it. Words had never been his strong suit, always deserting him whenever he needed them most.

"I'm sorry."

Jethro's jaw dropped a bit and it took a few more seconds before he could ask, "For?"

"Behaving like an asshole," Stan clarified, rueful. "Leaving you flat. Tearing into all your weak points. Using our personal relationship to influence our professional one. Take your pick."

But Jethro didn't want to, hating to remember how bitter things had gotten at the end.

"Most of all, I'm sorry for hurting you, Jethro, you can't know how sorry I am," Stan whispered.

Stan walked around the table to stand beside Jethro, not doing anything at first. Jethro watched him warily, not sure what he was going to do or say. This was a Stan Burley that he wasn't familiar with. This man was quiet and soft-spoken, radiating sincerity and love as those blue eyes locked onto his own. This was the man that Jethro had only caught glimpses of during their relationship, the one he'd tried to reach, but had been unable to, thanks to the secrets in his own life.

Reaching out, Stan cupped his face and whispered, "I want to come home, Jethro. I want to try again, if you'll let me."

"I..." Jethro's words died out, again when most needed. All it would take was a few, simple words like, 'It's too late.' Or, 'I'm involved with someone else.' None of those words surfaced, though, and Jethro was left with a panicky feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was fucking up everything.

Stan's thumb brushed over his lower lip before he leaned in for a short, infinitely sweet kiss. Jethro jerked back, but not before Stan's tongue had slipped inside his mouth. Shaking his head, Jethro said, "I can't talk to you right now, especially not about this, not here."

Offering a faint grin, Stan nodded and confirmed, "Right. Keep work and personal separate, Rule 12B, since we broke Rule 12."

"Damn it, Stan, this isn't..."

"I'm not making fun," Stan interrupted. "Honest. Look, let's meet for dinner, okay? We can talk somewhere public where you won't be worried that I'll maul you, even if you want me to."

Jethro glared at the minor spate of humor, but found himself agreeing, "Stefano's at seven."

Nodding, Stan offered a smile. "I'll see you there."

"Jesus, what've I done?" Jethro muttered, scrubbing his fingers through his hair. He glanced at the door where he knew Tony was waiting to find out what was going on and felt a hell of a lot more than just a pang of guilt. He'd not only disrespected Tony by not introducing the two men, but just pissed all over their relationship by agreeing to meet with Stan for dinner.

Feeling more and more like a jackass, but not sure what the hell else he could do, Jethro took a deep breath, exhaled forcefully, and went to face the music.

*  *  *  *

It was almost surreal, watching Gibbs walk into the conference room with a stranger who was, obviously, not a stranger to his lover. That Gibbs hadn't even bothered to introduce them was a bad sign, even Tony knew that, new as he was to the whole Shifter world. The man wasn't one, he was definitely a pure human, but that was all that Tony knew for sure.

Oh. And that the bastard was way too handsome.

A span of seven insanely long minutes went by before the man exited the conference room without Gibbs. The barely-there smile bothered Tony a lot more than the fact that Gibbs was still in the conference room. His gaze locked onto Gibbs when the other man finally came out of the room and walked towards them. For the first time since knowing him, Tony knew Gibbs was nervous and that could only be a bad, bad thing.

Forcing himself to remain calm, Tony asked, "Everything okay, Boss?"

Gibbs stopped at his desk and replied, "Not sure yet. I'm...meeting Stan for dinner tonight."

It was more the scent of the stranger, Stan, on Gibbs that threw him. Tony's nostrils flared as he concentrated on just what kind of scent it was, and then his eyes widened as the realization hit. Swallowing against a painfully dry mouth, Tony could only say, "Okay."

A frown surfaced on Gibbs' face and he questioned, "Okay? That's it?"

"What else should I say?" Tony countered, stifling the impulse to slug his lover. "You have a right to see whoever you want, Gibbs, I'm not some kind of ball and chain."

That was, apparently, the wrong answer because Gibbs stiffened and snapped, "Glad you think so, DiNozzo. I'll see you tomorrow."

Open-mouthed with a new kind of shock, Tony just watched him go, unable to make his feet move or engage his mouth.

"Go after him!" Kate hissed.

He looked over at her, but shook his head. If Gibbs wanted out, if after only a week he didn't think that Tony could cut it, then it was better to just stop things right then and there. It wouldn't stop his heart from being shattered, but maybe he could get out with at least a little dignity intact.

"Tony, go after him," Kate repeated, leaving her desk for his. "Gibbs isn't thinking rationally."

Tony frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I didn't remember until they were, ah, talking, but Burley is Gibbs' ex," Kate explained.

Well. That explained a lot right there.

Kate continued, "You have to know that he's happy with you."

But Tony shrugged and looked at her, pained, and questioned, "Do I?"

"Damn it, Tony! Go. After. Him!"

Standing, Tony started gathering his things, glad that the day was over. "I'm going home. If he wants me, he knows where to find me."

Tony was at the elevator when he heard Kate mutter, "Men! Stupid, blind, idiots!" and couldn't help but silently agree. Pressing the call button, he sighed and waited, impatient to get home to that bottle of rum he'd been saving.

*  *  *  *


Abby jumped in fright, almost dropping a test beaker. Glaring at Kate, she exclaimed, "Don't do that!"

"Sorry," Kate apologized. "But it's an emergency."

Worried, Abby demanded, "What's wrong?"

"Burley's back and it looks like he wants Gibbs back, and Tony's not doing squat about it."

Abby blinked at her for a long moment, translating the rapid flow of words into actual meaning. When she did, she groaned and set down the beaker. "Great. Just great. Perfect timing!"

Shaking her head, Kate asked, "What?"

"It's that 'will I, won't I,' time," Abby replied. When Kate just looked mystified, Abby explained, "Gibbs and Tony have been together, properly bonded, for only a week."

"So? They're still bonded."

"Yeah, but Burley and Gibbs were together for over a year, Kate. A year. Burley was pretty much everything to the Bossman, despite lack of fur. Tony's only known Gibbs for a few months. That kind of competition is pretty damn hard to beat, especially when you're as insecure as Tony," Abby pointed out.

Stubborn, Kate repeated, "They're still bonded! I've never heard of a time period making a difference. Or ex-lovers coming into play, especially human ones!"

Abby heaved a sigh and said, "He's still human, Kate. I know you guys think that being all wolfy gives you a lot of advantages, which it does, but you're still subject to emotions. And even being in the Marines as long as he was hasn't erased them from Gibbs. And if Tony's not going to fight for him, then the wolf thing becomes a serious disadvantage."

"How do you mean?" Kate questioned, leaning on the counter.

"Okay, it's like this," Abby began, putting three pen caps between them. "This is Gibbs, Tony, and Stan. You've got Gibbs and Burley together, bonded, for all intents and purposes, for a year, maybe longer. Burley takes off, leaves Gibbs a wreck."

Incredulous, Kate demanded, "A wreck? Gibbs?"

Abby poked her in the arm, angry at the presumption that Gibbs didn't have a heart to break. Ignoring Kate's gasp of pain, she continued, "Yes, a wreck. Enter Tony. He's everything a beta should be, except maybe a little too submissive, but that appeals to Bossman because the quasi-alpha he'd been knockin' boots with just shredded him. They fool around a couple of times, Tony and Gibbs I mean, and then, finally, bond."

Still glowering a bit, Kate prompted, "And?"

"And then Burley comes back, but Tony doesn't interfere. Tony's new to all this so he doesn't get that Gibbs was expecting a fight. He was probably expecting Tony to shove him into the nearest closet and take what was his. That didn't happen, so Gibbs is even more confused, and probably even angry."


"That Tony doesn't think he's worth fighting for."


"Yeah. Tony, on the other hand, is coming from a completely human perspective. He's thinking that if Gibbs is ready to go out with Burley after they've been together only a week, well, what can he do about it? He's the new kid on the block. Gibbs is Gibbs. Would you try to stop him from doing something he wanted to do?"

"Well no, but I'm not his mate," Kate replied.

Abby sighed. "And Tony doesn't really know how to be one. Not a Shifter mate, anyhow."

"So what do we do?"

"The only thing we can."

"Which is?"

"Call Ducky."

*  *  *  *

"You seem nervous."

Jethro looked back at Stan and shook his head. "No. Why would I?"

"I don't know. Why would you?" Stan questioned, smiling a bit. His gaze scanned the crowd of diners in the quiet, unassuming restaurant. "See any terrorists in the crowd that I should know about? Or maybe just one of your ex-wives?"

Snorting, Jethro took a sip of the bourbon and said, "You wanted to talk, so talk."

"No beating around the bush, as usual. All right. I told you before what I want and how sorry I am. I meant it. I'll do anything to win you back, to regain your trust."


Stan frowned. "What do you mean, why?"

Leaning on the table, Jethro repeated, "Why? I haven't changed, Stan. I'll still give you heartburn, still be an uncommunicative bastard, never do enough politicking to get further up the NCIS food chain. What changed that you suddenly realized all of that was okay?"

Stan took his hand and confessed, "I realized that it was part of who you were. I had a lot of time to think, Jethro, nothing but time, really. I...missed you. I missed having you with me all the time, missed working with you, missed...being...with you."

Unable to keep his eyes on the earnest ones staring back at him, Jethro looked away again. Everything inside was screaming at him to leave, to go back to Tony's apartment and beg for forgiveness for even thinking about doing this. His damnable pride, though, kept him right where he was as he thought, If Tony were really bonded to me, he wouldn't be able to allow this to happen. Maybe something isn't right between us. Maybe he doesn't really want to be with me and is taking this as an opportunity to get free. To stop us from bonding any further.

Whatever the situation was, Jethro wasn't about to go crawling back to someone who didn't want him in the first place. He'd begged only once before in his life and it hadn't gotten him anything except contempt.

"Is there a chance here between us?" Stan asked softly, his thumb brushing back and forth over Jethro's hand.

"I don't know," Jethro answered honestly. "I never expected this, that's for damn sure. You made it perfectly clear what you thought of me when you left."

Stan winced and would have replied, save the waiter arrived with their order. Once the young man was gone, he said, "I should never have said those things, Jethro. I can only plead temporary insanity and beg your forgiveness. It's just that I knew you were keeping things from me and it got to me. I wanted you to let me all the way in and you wouldn't."

It was Jethro's turn to wince, but he had to repeat, "Nothing's changed, Stan. I still have secrets."

"I can live with that, as long as you don't lie to me," Stan stated. "I know it'll take time to regain your trust and I'm willing to go as slow as you need. If you even want me to."

Forcing himself to look into Stan's eyes, seeing only the open, raw need there, Jethro was tempted to say yes. He opened his mouth to speak when a woman screamed. Head snapping towards the source, his jaw dropped as Tony, in wolf form, ran through the restaurant, growling. In an instant, he knew what was going to happen, just before it did: Tony leaped and hit Stan square in the chest, knocking him over to the ground.

Jethro launched himself across the table and tackled Tony, barely able to drag the wolf off of Stan, and not before blood had been spilled. He had to shove the snapping and snarling bundle of fur away with his feet, shouting, "Get out of here! God damn it, get the fuck out of here!"

Tony took a menacing step forward, fangs bared.

Furious, Jethro pulled his gun on Tony and ordered, almost inaudible, "Get out of here now and don't you ever let me catch you like this again."

The growling changed to a whining as feral green eyes widened in pain and the tail lowered between Tony's legs. In the next instant, utterly defeated, Tony ran from the restaurant.

Turning to Stan, who was unconscious on the floor, Jethro pulled the other man's tie off and used it as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of Stan's forearm.

"I called 911 and animal control," the manager exclaimed crouching beside him. "Dear God! A wolf! Where on earth did a wolf come from in the middle of the city?"

Shaken by the entire incident, Jethro just kept pressure on Stan's arm, grateful that more damage hadn't been done by those wickedly sharp teeth. What the hell was he going to do now? Groaning to himself, Jethro knew there was no way he could avoid the Council being notified.

Tony was in so much trouble, he didn't even know where to start.

*  *  *  *

The good news was that Tony now knew how to Change back and forth without any trouble. The bad news was that he knew he was in such deep shit that he wasn't sure he'd ever get out of it. He'd only meant to follow Gibbs and Burley. He hadn't been going to do anything at all, just watch and see what was going on. Which, in retrospect, was a really, really stupid thing to do, but he was pretty sure that even had he known what was going to happen, he wouldn't have been able to stop himself.

It was weird, thinking back on it, almost like he'd been under some kind of compulsion. And if he'd heard that from any suspect, he'd have laughed. Having now experienced it for himself, Tony was in no laughing mood. Knocking tiredly on Ducky's door, Tony leaned against the doorframe for a few minutes before he remembered there was a doorbell. Sighing, he rang the bell and assumed his former position of holding up the wall.

Not a minute later, the door opened and Ducky's shocked expression almost broke through the numbness, but not quite.

"Anythony! Dear heaven what have you done, my boy?" Ducky exclaimed, hustling him inside.

Tony allowed himself to be brought into the living room, promptly collapsing on the sofa and burying his face into a cushion.

"Anthony, tell me what happened."

Groaning, Tony sat up, hugging a pillow, and answered, "I don't even know. One minute I was watching them through the window, the next he just, he touched Gibbs and I attacked him."

Ducky's eyebrows rose almost off his face. "Am I to understand that you attacked Stan while he and Jethro were at dinner? In a public restaurant? While you were Shifted?"

Tony groaned again and nodded, confirming, "Yeah."

"Oh dear."

"Now Gibbs hates me," Tony whispered, clutching the pillow tight. "I think I'm going to throw up."

"He doesn't hate you," Gerald said, sitting beside Tony.

Looking at his friend, Tony replied, "He does. You didn't see his face, Ger. You didn't see..."

Gerald put an arm over Tony's shoulder and soothed, "He doesn't hate you, Tony, he's just pissed."

Ducky, meanwhile, picked up a phone and Tony cringed, knowing just who the older man was calling. The one-sided conversation was painfully short.

"Jethro? I understand that...yes, he's here...I assure you, he isn't going anywhere...No, I don't that truly necessary? Oh very well. Call me when you're finished at the hospital. Yes, good-bye."

Sighing, Tony asked, "House arrest, right?"

"Yes, well, he'd rather you not be alone anyhow," Ducky replied, diplomatically, as he hung up. "And I'm afraid I have to restrict you to this form."

Tony frowned. "Excuse me?"

"Ducky, is that necessary?" Gerald asked.

"To placate the others, yes, it's necessary."

"What others?"

"He isn't going to do it again, and he was provoked, it sounds like."

"He attacked a human, in public. There are rules, Gerald."

"What others?"

Ducky sighed at Tony's loud demand and explained, "The Council. You didn't think that we had no form of government, did you?"

Exhausted, Tony replied honestly, "I never thought about it. So what do you have to do?"

"I'll be right back."

Tony watched him go, leaning on Gerald. "Gibbs will never forgive me."

"It's not your fault, Tony," Gerald assured him. "If anyone's in trouble, it'll be Gibbs."

That shot through Tony like an electric bolt and he pulled away, exclaiming, "How do you get that?"

Gerald's dark eyes met his as he explained, "Gibbs went out with an ex-lover when the two of you have only been bonded about a week or so. Talk about being provoked? Ain't nothing going to happen to you, Tony. Gibbs is the one who should've known better. Who does know better. Don't know what they'll do, though. I don't think there's been anything like this in a good fifty years."

"Great," Tony muttered. "Just perfect."

Ducky returned just then with a syringe and said, "I am sorry to do this, Anthony, but I have to agree that it's for the best."

Alarmed, Tony asked, "What's for the best? What's that?"

"It's a serum to prevent you from Shifting. Perfectly harmless, I assure you, it acts as a disinhibitor for that particular gland. Created, believe it or not, from a base of Allium vineale, otherwise known as wild garlic. It turns out that the old legends are true in part. It doesn't kill us, though, it just prevents us from changing," Ducky related.

Tony swallowed nervously, but rolled up his sleeves when Ducky gestured for him to do so. "What else is in this stuff?"

"Garlic's the main ingredient, of course, but there's also hydrated magnesium sulphate, melatonin, and St. John's Wort."

Tony thought for a moment, then asked, "Epsom salt, sleep hormone and an anti-depressant?"

"All natural, of course," Ducky confirmed. "When one is prevented from changing, one can become...agitated, to say the least."

Gerald snorted and muttered, "To say the least."

Clearing his throat, Ducky swabbed Tony's arm with iodine, then injected the serum. Though he hissed at the pinch when the needle went in, Tony didn't feel any other reaction to the serum.

"It won't feel like much. Just maybe an itch you can't scratch, or the feeling that you can't relax enough to calm down," Ducky explained. "You'll be fine, though. We'll keep an eye on you."

Sighing, Tony asked, "Can I take a shower?"

Ducky nodded. "You know the way, my boy."

Feeling about as defeated as he ever had, Tony stood and walked to the bathroom. Yanking off his clothes and throwing them in the hamper, Tony put on the water and waited for the temperature to get as hot as he could stand it. Stepping under the spray, Tony groaned as the hard pellets attacked his body, lowering his head so his neck could get hit. The entire night had been bizarre, dreamlike, and the only thing he knew for sure was the Gibbs would never want to see him again. Not after attacking a relatively defenseless human.

But Gibbs is mine, damnit! he thought on a snarl. He shouldn't have been anywhere near that asshole! What the hell was he thinking?

And then...

What the hell were you thinking? Attacking some man who never did you any harm? Ripping into him with your fangs like a hot knife through butter? Did you like his blood in your mouth?

Tony barely made it to the toilet before throwing up.

*  *  *  *

Instead of calling once he was done at the hospital, Jethro drove over to Ducky's house. It might or might not be a bad idea, but he had to talk to Tony. He had to know just what the other man had been thinking when he'd attacked Stan like that. A mix of guilt and guilty pleasure ran through him, putting him at odds with himself, whenever he thought about the incident. There was no doubt that what Tony had done was wrong, and yet...he couldn't help feeling a little thrill when he thought about how definitively Tony had put down a threat to their union, their bond.

Because you're a sick, sick bastard, he reminded himself, walking up to Ducky and Gerald's door.

The door opened as he raised his hand to knock, and Ducky looked at him with distinct disapproval as he said, "Come in, Jethro."

Feeling a lot like a schoolboy at the principal's office, Jethro did, mildly surprised not to feel Ducky's hand swatting him upside the back of his head. "How is he?"

"Considering that you jerked him around and he mauled a relatively innocent bystander as a result? Young Anthony is doing quite admirable."

Forget the swat to the head. Why do that when you could go for the jugular?

Squirming a bit, Jethro asked, "Can I see him?"

Ducky peered at him intently, then sighed. "I suppose. I've already given him the injection, so he's likely to be a bit jumpy. Be careful with him, Jethro."

And he knew it wasn't Tony's physical state that Ducky was talking about. Nodding sharply, he walked past Ducky towards the guest room he, himself, had stayed in on more than one occasion. He tapped lightly on the door and waited. When Tony opened the door, Jethro was shocked by the hollow, defeated look on his lover's face. Struck through by guilt, Jethro reached for him, but Tony flinched back, out of distance.

Hand dropping to his side, Jethro asked, "May I come in?"

"Yeah, sure," Tony answered, listless.

Stepping into the room and closing the door behind him, Jethro looked at the other man shrewdly and took in the worn expression, the way those normally bright eyes skittered away from meeting his. Sighing faintly, Jethro apologized, "I'm sorry, Tony."

Surprise lit Tony's face and he asked, "For what? I'm the screw-up."

"Putting you in that position. I shouldn't have. I wasn't going to, but..." Jethro's words stopped, unable to explain himself.

Tony frowned, prompting, "But what?"

Even knowing how lame it was, Jethro bit the bullet and explained, "But you didn't care if I did go out with Stan, so I did."

"Didn't care?" Tony repeated, incredulous. "What the hell, Jethro!?"

"You're the one who said I should see whoever I wanted to see," Jethro reminded, forcing down the anger as he remembered the words.

Tony growled, exclaiming, "Because I didn't want you to feel like I was caging you in! for God's sake, Gibbs, what did you expect me to do? Forbid you to see someone you used to burn the sheets up with? I can see that going over real fucking well, can't you?"

And Jethro knew that Tony was right; he'd been damned if he had, and if he hadn't. Jethro held up a hand and said, "You're right, and I'm sorry. I'm just not the relationship thing, DiNozzo."

Tony snorted, mouth twisting a little. "No, really?"

Recognizing the forgiveness in his lover's voice, Jethro smiled a little and closed the distance between them. Hesitantly reaching out, he gripped Tony's shoulder and, when there was no resistance, drew him in. Nuzzling at Tony's throat, he whispered again, "I'm sorry. It'll never happen again, Tony, I swear. You're it for me."

Tony sighed deeply, body trembling lightly in Jethro's arms, and finally his arms went around Jethro's waist. Holding tight, he bit just under Jethro's ear and whispered back, "You do it again, it's you I'm coming after."

Jethro shivered a bit at the threat, knowing that the other man was perfectly serious. Grinning fiercely, Jethro knew then that he'd made the right choice. He felt it all the way to the depths of his soul in a way he hadn't, with anyone else. Tony wasn't just his beta, he was Jethro's equal and would do whatever it took to keep them together, to protect Jethro and the pack, no matter the consequences.

And there would be consequences, especially to Tony's actions tonight, but they'd face them side by side, together.


Next story in series - That Fits The Crime.