Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Jilly James
Series: The Alpha Chronicles
Fandom: NCIS/Hawaii Five-0
Relationship: Steve McGarrett/Tony DiNozzo
Warnings: Dead Air, gun violence, adult themes, explicit sex
Word Count: 13,458
Summary: Tony’s long distance flirtation with Alpha Sentinel Steve McGarrett comes to a head when a procedural violation puts his life in danger.
– – – – –
“How are your levels?”
“Good, I promise,” Steve murmured. “The Center is pressuring me to agree to a Guide search.”
“I told you that I’m ready whenever you are.”
Steve sucked air through his teeth and buried his bare toes in the sand. He stared out at the ocean in front of his house. “What if there are other matches?”
Tony sighed in his ear. “We’ve known that was a possibility from the very beginning. If there is a better match for you to be had, I want you to meet them, Steve. You’re an Alpha Ascendant, you deserve the best possible match.”
Steve frowned. Coming online as an empathic Sentinel had been a mixed blessing. His connection with the psionic plane and his spirit animal had kept him on an even keel when others would’ve faltered. He hadn’t gone feral when Victor Hesse murdered his father, he’d kept it together, and the Navy hadn’t even noticed he was online until he reported it after he was already in Hawaii for his father’s funeral. That had been over a month ago, and, as a Sentinel, he found Victor Hesse fairly easily, and had begun to unravel a conspiracy with a lot of moving parts and bad people.
“How’s your team?”
“Good, solid,” Steve frowned as he said it. “How is yours?”
“About the same because she’s never going to forgive me for what happened, and there’s no point in telling Gibbs again that she resents the hell out of me. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to hear any of it. Tim is following her lead, and I regret that for him because he’s never going to be the agent he could’ve been. I thought there was some leadership ability in him, but he fell right into her shadow the moment he could and hasn’t really budged since. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume she was using sex to control him.”
“Are you sure she isn’t?”
“She can’t stand him—considers him weak and inferior but useful in a limited fashion. I’d tell him, but frankly, he deserves whatever he gets on that front.” Tony sighed and yawned.
“It’s late for you—you should go to sleep,” Steve murmured.
“I’d rather talk to you,” Tony admitted. “We’ve had bigger time differences than this—it’s just six hours.”
Steve checked his watch. “Which means it’s midnight there, and you work for a bastard who expects you to keep his hours rather than any sort of humane schedule.” He frowned as he said it then hesitated because Tony wasn’t jumping immediately to Gibbs’ defense like he always had in the past. “Has something happened you aren’t telling me?”
“Nooo…” Tony drew out playfully. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I called Gibbs a bastard and you didn’t offer a single protest.”
“Well, he’s famous for saying that’s what the second ‘b’ stands for,” Tony murmured then yawned again. “Have a good night, Steve. Be careful when you’re chasing bad guys.”
“You, too,” Steve said. “Good night.” He let Tony end the call, he always did, then he dropped his phone in his shirt pocket.
“You make no sense,” Danny declared and dropped down beside him on the sand. “None!”
Steve grinned. “Do tell, Danno.”
“I’m not a Sentinel so maybe I’m missing something in all this,” Danny said and waved a hand. He passed Steve a beer then frowned. “Wait, is that the one you can drink?”
“I wouldn’t stock beer in my own house I can’t drink,” Steve pointed out dryly. “So what are you missing?”
“Like I said, I’m not a Sentinel, but I’ve seen my share. I’ve worked with a bunch of them, and every single one of them would move heaven and earth to keep their Guide by their side. I was surprised that you were unbonded, astounded that you hadn’t agreed to a Guide search, and I’ll tell you, Steven, I’m genuinely perplexed that you apparently have a Guide already living in Virginia without you. Without a bond. Someone could be getting your Guide dirty right now, Steve. They could be touching him and stuff.”
Steve scowled. “Tony was alone in bed.”
“Yeah, but was he alone last week?” Danny laughed when Steve glared. “I’ve seen the pictures, man—in the house. That guy is gorgeous. His bed is only empty when he wants it to be. I hate guys like him. They’re terrible with their movie-star smiles and ridiculously pretty eyes.”
“You look good,” Steve said. “For a short, loud-mouthed cop from New Jersey.” He took a sip of beer as Danny sputtered. He took a deep breath. “Tony is amazing, Danny. He worked hard to get where he is—first as a cop and then as an agent for NCIS—what right do I have to take all of that away from him? It’s hard for a Guide to succeed in law enforcement without a Sentinel.”
“How long can you go unbonded? Six months? A year?”
“I don’t know—the Center is pretty focused on getting me a Guide. They call me every day.”
“Because they’re worried you’ll spiral or, worse, go into prolapse.”
“Death or a sense-numb sociopath,” Steve murmured. “That’s what the rep from the Center told me would be my choices if I didn’t get with the program and agree to a Guide search. But I don’t want the search.”
“You want your pretty Italian federal agent,” Danny said in amusement.
“If you don’t get on a plane and go get your Guide, Steven, I’m going to tell Kono.”
Steve turned to stare at him in horror. “That’s just mean, Danno.”
“It’s for your own good.” Danny sat back with a grin and focused on drinking his beer.
“No, buts,” Danny said and slashed a hand. “I’ll tell Kono, and she’ll tell her whole family. How long do you think it would take to get back to the governor? Do you think she’d toss you personally onto her private plane or make her people do it?”
“We’re no longer friends, and give me back my beer. Non-friends don’t get to drink my damn beer.”
“Well, if we aren’t friends then…” Danny shot up and ran off. “Hey, Kono!”
“Don’t you dare, Danny!” Steve shouted and ran after him. “I take it back! You can keep the beer!”
– – – –
Tony sat down at his desk at 6:45 am; he hadn’t been able to sleep, and since he had little to no social life to speak of, that meant he was at work. He wondered if Steve was still awake, but doubted it. The task force had a few cases but nothing pressing, so Steve kept his team on a good schedule with plenty of sleep. Being a Sentinel, he was uniquely aware of how his people worked and how much better they worked if they were rested and fed.
He was honestly kind of surprised by how well Steve had adjusted to Reserve status and a law enforcement job. A part of him hoped that Steve was exploring the career change because of him. He was ready to make the next step. Tony had known they would be a good fit the moment he’d seen the SEAL on the USS Seahawk. He’d never met a latent Sentinel who made him feel so much, so fast. But as perfect as Steve was for him, it didn’t mean there wasn’t someone out there more perfect for the Sentinel that McGarrett had awoken as. An Alpha Ascendant. Tony blew out a breath, even weeks later he was still stunned by that news.
Sentinels weren’t exactly rare, but an Alpha Ascendant was. There were only fifteen on the whole planet as far as anyone knew, and Steve was one of them. It was a secret now as he hadn’t consented to a Guide search, and the Center hadn’t announced his existence. All of that would change, and even if Tony made the first cut, if their stats weren’t compatible enough, he wouldn’t even show up on Steve’s list. The thought was agonizing so he put it aside and tried to focus on the four case reports he was reviewing for errors. Ziva was sloppy, and Tim thought a certain level of work was beneath him. He’d long given up trying to make them do their job because Gibbs didn’t and wouldn’t back him up on that front.
Tony looked up, surprised that Gibbs had managed to get all the way to their section of the bullpen without him noticing. “Just finishing up some paperwork.”
“We finished that case two weeks ago—why are you just now getting to the paperwork?”
“Because I can’t sign off on these as SFA until all the errors are fixed, or legal will just kick them back to me. I’ve sent these reports back to Ziva and McGee twice already, and all four will be going back to them today for corrections.” He looked at Gibbs then. “But that’s one of those details you don’t care about. Why are you here so early?”
“Meeting in MTAC,” Gibbs said with a frown. “They’re really that bad?”
“McGee’s field notes are missing from two different cases, and Ziva wrote the evidence log for the Michaels’ case in Hebrew,” Tony said flatly, and Gibbs huffed. “It’s not my job to fix their mistakes for them. I shouldn’t have to waste my time checking their work like they’re in the first grade either. McGee has been here long enough that this sort of error is…”
“Done on purpose to increase your workload,” Gibbs supplied. “Why haven’t you told me?”
“The last time I tried to talk to you about them you told me to handle it myself. They both ignored me and this is where we are today.”
Gibbs took a sip of coffee and stared at him. “You look like you didn’t sleep at all. You sick?”
“No, sometimes sleeping is difficult for an unbonded Guide in a city this size. Emotions run high—lots of frustration, anger, happiness—and it’s all stressful when you’re being bombarded with it.” Tony stretched. “I’ll manage. I always do.” Gibbs hesitated, and Tony frowned. “What?”
“Nothing,” Gibbs said. “Kick the reports back and flag me on them so they’ll both know I’m aware of it.”
Tony thought it was a little late on the support front but if it helped get the reports done before he started getting snotty notes from legal, he wasn’t going to complain since it cleared off the most frustrating part of his day with just a few clicks of his mouse. By the time the two of them strolled in at 8 am, he’d read through everything and sent back what required corrections.
His cell went off so he answered it as he stood up from his desk. “Hey, you should be asleep. It’s two in the morning there.”
“Yeah,” Steve said. “But I figured you’d be at work.”
Tony walked around the stairs for some privacy and leaned on the wall. “Talk to me, McGarrett, what’s wrong?”
“Danno’s an asshole,” Steve muttered.
Tony laughed. “I can do nothing about your partner being an asshole from my current location. He’s got your back, and that’s all I need to hear. Besides, he’s from New Jersey, what you see is what you get, and you knew that when you brought him on board.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Steve huffed. “Are you dating someone?”
Tony blew out a surprised breath. Steve had never expressed that sort of interest in his personal life. It was crossing a line, in a way, especially since they weren’t bonded. “No, I’m not involved with anyone.” He could almost feel Steve relax despite the distance between them. “Don’t let Williams’ teasing get to you.”
“He’s just trying to get a rise out of me because he’s worried,” Steve admitted. “And I imagine the Center has called him and other members of my team to check on my status. It’s within their mandate.”
“They can’t afford to have a Sentinel of your abilities go off the deep end so, yeah, I’m sure they’re watching you.” Tony lowered his head slightly, and his spirit animal brushed against him mentally before rubbing against his leg. He let his free hand fall to the jaguar’s head and brushed over silky black hair. “You’re calling more often. Are you grounding yourself on my voice?”
“That would be…kind of terrible, right?”
Tony laughed. “Maybe a little, but I forgive you. Has your spirit animal surfaced?”
“No, not yet,” Steve admitted. “He still feels hurt—sometimes I feel him moving around me, but he hasn’t appeared.”
Tony suspected that Steve’s spirit animal was shouldering the burden of his grief over the murder of his father. Sentinels weren’t really designed for grief—they accepted death, avenged themselves, and moved on. To an outsider, it often appeared to be the worst aspect of being a Sentinel—the apparent disconnection from the matters of life and death. But the truth was that Sentinels and Guides were deeply connected to what amounted to the afterlife of the human soul. Steve knew the peace his father had been given and accepted it as a divine gift.
“What do you think he is?” Tony questioned.
“He’s strong, predatory, comfortable in the water but not bound to it.”
“Much like you,” Tony said in amusement. “Well, let me know when he makes an appearance.”
“Sometimes I feel him with me when I’m swimming in the morning, but that also happens when I run…so.” Steve sighed. “I should let you work.”
“Go to sleep,” Tony told him sternly and ended the call when Steve laughed. He rubbed his cat’s ear thoughtfully. “Sentinels.”
“Didn’t think you wanted one of those,” Gibbs murmured, and Tony jumped slightly.
“For the love of…” Tony sighed. “What’s up, Boss?”
“Got a case. Dead Navy commander in a radio station.”
– – – –
“Tony put your creature away,” Tim demanded.
Tony lowered the camera he was using to document the scene to stare at the junior agent. “Keaton comes and goes as he wishes, McGee.”
“He keeps staring at me!”
“Maybe he thinks you’re interesting,” Tony said mildly and finished up the set of pictures they needed. “Regardless, I can’t put him away. He’s not a toy—but a sentient spirit animal who has a multitude of legal rights affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States.”
Tim rolled his eyes and moved to the opposite side of the room. “Whatever.”
Keaton had stopped trusting Tim long before Tony had, and made a habit of often appearing to stare at the younger agent like he was food. Keaton had rarely been solid enough to actually hurt a being on their plane but he’d torn into a Sentinel a few years back in the middle of the bullpen when the guy had crowded Tony. They’d had to carry him out of the building on a stretcher—covered in psionic wounds and, surprisingly enough, several large physical gashes that had required nearly a hundred stitches total. Tim had given the spirit animal a wide berth since.
“He’s beautiful,” Ziva said from her place across the room where she was sketching the scene.
The sentiment didn’t surprise Tony. Ziva offered his spirit animal respect she’d never come close to offering him. Keaton was a warrior and had proven it to her, but Tony was just a Guide, and they were useless to the former Mossad agent unless they were enslaved to a Sentinel. The day they’d met, Ziva had asked Tony why he didn’t have a master. It only served to remind him that Israel had been the last country in the UN to stop enslaving Guides legally, and that socially they were still considered inferior.
When he’d killed Rivkin, the S/G Center had been forced to come down on Vance and Mossad regarding the entire mess and Israel’s insistence that he be extradited to their country for the murder of their agent. By the end of it, Vance had barely kept his job, and Ziva’s father had been fired for failing to tell the US that he had a rogue agent on US soil murdering people. Ziva had demonstrated what a true mercenary she was by striking a deal with the government that ensured her US citizenship and resulted in a wealth of Mossad intelligence falling into their hands.
But her resentment had doubled, not that Tony had expected differently. Dormant Sentinels were often extremely hostile to Guides due to the popular theory that Sentinels born dormant were rejected on the psionic plane. Tony didn’t know if he bought it but he’d never met a born-dormant Sentinel who wasn’t a raging asshole. Were they rejected because they were assholes or assholes because they were rejected? It was the most vicious of circles, and living Guides often bore the brunt of frustration created on the psionic plane.
Keaton had never let Ziva touch him. In fact, the only person on the team Tony’s spirit animal tolerated was Gibbs, and that could be spotty depending on the older man’s behavior. The one and only time Gibbs had smacked Tony on the back of the head, Keaton had appeared in an instant and put the former Marine on his back. Then he’d kept the man pinned to the floor for nearly five minutes while they stared at each other. In the end, Gibbs had gotten a very intense but quiet lesson on disrespecting a Guide’s space.
Gibbs entered at that point, stopped to rub Keaton’s head where the cat stood sentry at the doorway. “Something wrong, Tony?”
Tony frowned and rolled his shoulders a little bit. “Can’t say for certain but Keaton doesn’t stick around and look at murder scenes normally.”
“Keep an eye out,” Gibbs said. He left without another word.
Tony didn’t have to wonder why. She deeply resented the fact that Keaton wouldn’t allow her to touch him. Gibbs was dormant as well, but he wasn’t born-dormant. Gibbs’ Sentinel had retreated when he his wife and daughter were murdered. Shannon hadn’t been his Guide, but she had been the center of Jethro Gibbs’ world, and the man would never recover from the loss of his child. Before he’d met Steve, Tony had wondered if Gibbs was meant to be his Sentinel. He knew the older man had wondered the same thing. They’d had a moment that had turned into an affair that had lasted six months which had ended when Vance entered the picture and sent Tony to a ship. A ship where he’d met Steve McGarrett.
Tony put away the camera and shouldered his bag. They’d have to surrender the rest of the scene to the techs so evidence could be gathered for Abby. A little niggle of unease drifted around in Tony, and he looked toward Keaton. His spirit animal was staring at him. He checked his phone—it was 6:00 am in Hawaii—he started to send Steve a text message, but as if the Sentinel knew he needed contact, it started to ring.
He answered. “You didn’t get enough sleep.”
“I’m fine,” Steve said. “My sleep cycles are getting shorter. You know that’s part of the imperative. We just need less sleep than mundanes.”
“That is a trait of bonded Sentinels, not stubborn ones who refuse to do a Guide search,” Tony muttered as he left the building and walked to the truck. He put his gear inside and Keaton appeared beside him. The cat leaned against his thigh with a throaty purr.
“Yes, well, my spirit animal woke me up. Hold on a sec, I’ll send you a picture.”
Tony grinned and lowered his phone so he could wait for the message. A text popped into his inbox. McGarrett, the gorgeous asshole, had taken a selfie with a tiger. “Tiger. Fitting.” He put the phone back up to his ear. “You’re both beautiful.”
Steve laughed, and Tony imagined him blushing. “I looked him up—Sumatran Tiger but the Center will make the official identification.”
“Are you going to name him?” Tony questioned. He knew that not everyone did, it was a personal choice.
Very definite choice, Tony mused. He didn’t push for a reason. Most people assumed he named his own spirit animal after Buster Keaton which was true enough, but the reason went deeper than Tony had ever verbalized.
“Heard about your case,” Steve said.
“Navy Commander shot on a live radio show? Yeah, it’s all over the news,” Steve said with a laugh. “I even got a glimpse of you from the on-scene footage from ZNN. You look good. I noticed Keaton was with you. That’s unusual, right?”
“He’s a little antsy,” Tony admitted. “Some crimes resonate with him—put him on edge.”
“That’s…” Steve trailed off. “Tony.”
“I know, Steve.” Tony took a deep breath. It was tribal. Keaton was sticking close because there was a threat looming that went far beyond a very public shooting of two people. “I’ll be careful.”
“Do that,” Steve whispered. “Don’t go dark on me unless you have no choice.”
“Promise.” Tony listened to the Sentinel breathe for a full minute before he said goodbye. He closed the phone and pocketed it.
“You’ve met your Sentinel,” Gibbs said.
Tony looked to his left and found Gibbs standing near the end of the truck. “I think we’re compatible.”
Gibbs nodded. “Hell, Tony.” He sighed and looked away.
“Want to see?”
“Of course I do,” Gibbs muttered. “Is this asshole good enough for you?”
Tony laughed and pulled out his phone. He opened it up and thumbed to the picture Steve had just sent. “Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett, US Navy SEAL. He’s currently in the Reserves.”
Gibbs took the phone and stared. “His father was murdered. I heard about that. McGarrett went on a sanctioned Retribution. You met on the Seahawk.”
“Yeah but he was latent at the time. He’s not ready for a Guide search.”
“Well he listened to the murder of his father,” Gibbs said quietly. He handed the phone back to Tony. “He probably needs some space to get right with that mentally.”
“And I’m giving it,” Tony exclaimed.
Gibbs laughed and cupped his head affectionately. “Of course, you are. No one would ever know that you have the patience of a saint.” His hand tightened and he gave Tony a little shake. “McGarrett’s a lucky man.”
Tony flushed. “Come on, Boss.”
Gibbs grinned and released him. “Let’s figure out why this asshole killed two people today.”
– – – –
He didn’t need voiceprint to know he’d found his man. Tony stared at Arthur Haskell as the man told him about how great the neighborhood was but there was something off about his tone and the man was a pile of nerves. Haskell wasn’t the shooter, but he was knee deep in the MAH. After a few minutes of chat, Tony walked away from the house. Keaton, currently invisible at his side, brushed against his leg as he moved toward the next house.
“Tim, start a search on Arthur Haskell.” There was no confirmation, which made Tony hesitate briefly as he was about to ring another doorbell. He sighed and rang the doorbell anyway. “Hi, my name is Tony, and I’m considering buying in their neighborhood…” He trailed off as he met Matt Lane’s gaze. The mailman he’d interviewed earlier. “Mr. Lane?”
“Agent DiNozzo.” Lane frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“Just checking out the neighborhood. I’m engaged to be married, and the wife-to-be told me to check out this neighborhood after work. Do you live here? What do you think?”
“Just visiting,” Lane explained. “This is my friend Zach Nelson’s house. Hey Zach, the federal agent guy I was telling you about is here.”
A rifle being primed was the only warning he got before the door swung open. The guy fired without a word. The impact of the second bullet knocked him off his feet, and the last thing he heard before his head connected with the concrete sidewalk was Keaton roaring.
– – – –
Steve bent at the waist, horror slicking over his mind like blood.
“Commander McGarrett, are you all right?”
He waved off the barista. “Don’t touch me, please.”
“Okay, okay, just…can you sit? Who do I call? Do I call the S/G Center? I don’t know anything about Sentinels.” Her heart beat was thunderous in his ear. “Oh, God, a tiger. A fucking tiger.”
Steve reached out blindly and grabbed Jack by the scruff of the neck. His spirit animal came close with a rumbling growl. “It’s fine,” he said hoarsely and fumbled with his cell phone. “Call Danno.”
The phone was ripped from his hands so fast that in different circumstances, he would’ve been amused. Steve blocked out her frantic conversation with his partner and slowly slid to his knees. People in the café were backing up, some all the way out into the street if his hearing wasn’t going on him. He buried his face against Jack’s neck and took a deep, ragged breath. Time lost so much meaning that he didn’t realize how long he’d been kneeling on the floor until Danny slid a warm, solid hand around the back of his neck and Steve’s mind began to clear. For a mundane, his partner was quite soothing.
“Steve, I’m here. We’re going to get you up on your feet, big guy. Look at you and your ridiculous spirit animal. A tiger huh? Now you’ve got a matched set—a Tony and a tiger.”
Steve laughed weakly. “Danno, I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“Well, we’re going to figure it out,” Danny announced. “Come on, Kono’s cleared the way to your truck, and I’m driving. If you can’t be trusted to get my coffee, you could’ve just said instead of making this big scene.”
Steve sighed. “Sorry.”
“Lucky for you, the crazy people on this crazy island love you,” Danny said.
– – – –
Tony woke due to a very wet swipe of Keaton’s tongue. “Ugh, gross.” He coughed and took a deep breath. He was on a concrete floor of what looked like a garage. He started to sit up but immediately regretted his life choices. Bulletproof vest or not, taking two rounds in the chest was no picnic. He ran a hand down his front. Correction, three rounds. Keaton rubbed his head against Tony’s shoulder with a rumbling purr.
“Did you scare them off?” Keaton chuffed like he was proud, and Tony laughed reluctantly. His vision blurred, and he sucked in a deep breath. “Okay, big guy, go get Gibbs.”
Keaton growled and put a paw on Tony’s shoulder.
“Gibbs,” Tony repeated as everything started to darken around him. “Get Gibbs.”
– – – –
“I know!” Gibbs snapped and glared at the Director of the Washingon, DC Sentinel/Guide Center. “They’re both already on report for dereliction of duty and whatever charges you want to file, you can! I just want my agent!”
Dr. Henry McCord stared at him. “My strongest tracking asset is inbound and will be on the ground running within the next thirty minutes, Agent Gibbs. But our biggest concern is the fact that we have an Alpha Ascendant on a plane heading our way who is on the cusp of a feral episode. The same Alpha Ascendant who was granted the right to an International Retribution Hunt less than five weeks ago. If we don’t have Tony DiNozzo in our care by the time Commander McGarrett lands in Bethesda, then we’re going to have a serious problem on our hands. He’s a high-ranking Navy SEAL, and whether it proves to be accurate or not, he thinks DiNozzo is his Guide.”
Gibbs exhaled sharply. “Right. I didn’t know he was…I heard about the hunt. I didn’t realize he was an Ascendant.”
“McGarrett had an empathic zone out roughly ten hours ago, I can assume that is right around the time NCIS lost Anthony DiNozzo?”
Gibbs started to respond, but Keaton appeared in front of him with a throaty growl, his tail lashing back and forth dangerously. He immediately knelt down in front of him. “Hey.” He cupped the panther’s face. “Is Tony okay?”
Keaton chuffed and put one paw on Gibbs’ thigh. He growled again.
“Show me where to go.”
– – – –
“Tony? Can you hear me?” A warm, familiar hand touched his cheek, checked his pulse. “I’m here, okay. I’ve got an ambulance outside. Just cleared the scene.”
“Head hurts,” Tony whispered.
Cool air hit his chest and Tony realized that Gibbs had unbuttoned his shirt. He huffed and patted the man. “No naked stuff anymore.”
Gibbs laughed. “Unlucky me.” He cleared his throat. “He’s wearing a vest, but it looks like he took three rounds in it. Pulse is steady. Pupils are blown. Considering the head injury, we need to route him to the S/G Center. Send them in.”
Tony exhaled sharply as Gibbs unfastened the side of his vest. “Follow the rules.”
“Yes, you do,” Gibbs murmured. “Good job, Tony.”
“Haskell,” Tony said. “Lane. Nelson.”
“Don’t worry about that now,” Gibbs said. “I got it. Which one shot you?”
“Nelson.” Tony coughed. “Did they get Ziva and Tim?”
“No, they’re fine.”
Tony frowned, he couldn’t make sense of that. “’kay. Tired.” In the back of his mind, something clicked into place. “No backup.”
“They’ll pay for it,” Gibbs said grimly.
“Assholes,” Tony muttered and let himself drift again.
The Navy had arranged his transportation to DC which meant he’d left his team behind because there were protocols when it came to moving Sentinels of his rank and profession. He hated it because they were quickly becoming his Pride despite the fact that Kono was the only latent among them. Gibbs had sent a message from Tony’s phone about an hour before he landed from Gibbs. Steve knew enough about the older man to know that texting wasn’t a thing he normally did, so he appreciated the effort if not the content which had read: Tony located. Injured. Stable condition. S/G Center Washington, DC-Gibbs
The Secretary of State was leaning on a black SUV not far from the plane when he came down the ramp. He paused and stared at Elizabeth McCord, the Alpha Guide of Washington DC. Her husband taking over the regional center had caused a few waves, mostly due to the fact that he was a Sentinel than any other reason. Alpha Sentinels didn’t often take such roles in their communities. Steve let a man standing near McCord take his bag.
“Commander McGarrett, welcome to DC.”
“Thank you, Secretary McCord. Where’s my Guide?”
“Agent DiNozzo is in stable condition and in an isolation ward at the Center. I’ll be escorting you there—we have some issues to discuss, and I have the results of the Guide search you agreed to.” She motioned to the back seat of a vehicle as a Secret Service agent opened the door.
Steve recognized management when he saw it, but he slid into the SUV as she obviously wanted and said nothing when the door shut. She entered on the opposite side and picked up a tablet.
“Is Tony on the list?” Steve asked.
She turned to stare at him. “Yes, in fact, but he’s not the only one.”
“I don’t care about the others,” Steve said shortly.
Elizbeth turned the tablet over in her lap and continued to focus on him. He felt her brush against his shields and he couldn’t help but glare. “I see.”
“Better than you might suspect,” she said and tucked the tablet away. “Tony is actually perfect for you—across the board. It’s the kind of match we rarely get to make in this day and age, even with the technology available to us, and you found each other while you were still latent. It’s lovely.”
“We can’t let you near him, Commander.”
Steve’s stomach knotted. “What? Why?”
“He’s taken a severe blow to the head,” Elizabeth admitted. “And has a grade three concussion. As a Guide, I can tell you that he’s compromised and unable to make good decisions for himself. You’re not strangers, and are obviously already connected on some level, but he’s not capable of consenting to a bond.”
“Brain damage?” Steve asked.
“No, but he’s in and out of consciousness. When he’s awake, he’s aware of his location and surroundings, but he’s part of our Pride, Commander.”
“I’d never hurt him but…” Steve exhaled sharply.
“The bonding imperative can be overwhelming,” Elizabeth murmured. “It can be beautiful, or it can be brutal—you both deserve to bond on equal ground and right now he can’t meet you there. You can see him through a window from where we have him isolated. But you won’t be allowed to smell or hear him. It would only make things more difficult for you.”
“Okay,” Steve said hoarsely. “I.” He closed his eyes and leaned against the window. “He’s really okay?”
“He will be.”
“Seeing him will be enough,” Steve said and hoped he wasn’t going to make a liar of himself.
“You’re among your own kind, Commander,” McCord said then. “Let us take care of you both.”
– – – –
Jethro looked up and got his first look of Tony’s Sentinel in person. “Commander McGarrett.” He inclined his head toward the window. “There’s a doctor in with him now. They tell me his room is shielded against psionic impressions as well, and he appears to be resting.”
Steve walked to the window and dropped his bag. His fingers curled into a fist against the glass, and he took a deep breath, despite the fact that he wouldn’t be able to smell Tony. Except he did. He frowned and turned to Gibbs. “You.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Me, what?”
Steve’s gaze narrowed. “You touch my Guide a lot, Agent Gibbs?”
“He was mine before he was yours,” Gibbs responded evenly, and Steve calculated how much shit he’d have to take from Tony if he punched the Marine in the face. Gibbs grinned then. “I found him, Commander. So, I did touch him quite a lot while I was checking him for injuries.”
Steve knew that wasn’t the whole of it. Tony had told him when they’d still been on the Seahawk that he had a lover and wasn’t available for anything Steve might have in mind. Though Tony had never explicitly stated it, Steve had figured that Gibbs was that lover. He couldn’t blame his Guide—the guy was hot, and he had that whole protector vibe going on, which was very attractive. He sat down, and Jack appeared. The tiger dropped his big head on Steve’s thigh and huffed.
“I know, buddy,” Steve murmured and rubbed his head. “He’ll be okay.”
“He will be,” Gibbs assured and sat down opposite Steve.
“Do you have the guy who shot him in custody?” Steve asked lowly.
“Yep,” Gibbs said. “In the midst of searching for Tony, we found a terrorist cell and a bomb, but the FBI took my case.”
“Those bastards,” Steve said solemnly and smiled when Gibbs grunted his agreement. “What else do I need to know?”
Gibbs frowned at his coffee cup.
“Must be bad if you’re frowning at your life source,” Steve said dryly. “Tony says you’re eighty-five percent coffee.” He looked toward the window. “He wears a vest—he promised me that—every time he’s in the field.”
“It’s NCIS policy for Guides to wear a bulletproof vest no matter their bond status during field ops. An injured Guide is the number one cause of feral episodes among Sentinels, so we work to prevent those whenever possible.” Gibbs took a deep breath and checked his watch.
“How long have you been dormant?” Steve asked.
“I’m surprised Tony didn’t tell you,” Gibbs said.
“He said it was your personal business—it’s just, you still have some of the quirks.” Steve frowned. “Don’t your instincts go offline with the senses?”
“I wish,” Gibbs said. “It happened in 1991, and I don’t discuss it.” He took a sip of coffee. “Tony’s backup turned off the feed from his radio because they were bored listening to him do his damn job.”
Steve’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“They didn’t hear him get shot, they didn’t hear the two men involved discuss killing him, nor did they hear the screaming of his spirit animal during the whole mess. Tony was put in a van, driven nearly fifty miles away, and they left him in a house that was for sale. We have the whole thing recorded since Tony was wearing a wire. They considered killing him, but they were afraid of Keaton and the punishment they’d face for killing an online Guide.”
Steve nodded. “Tony said you were a functional mute on the best of days.”
Gibbs laughed a little and shook his head. “I know what’s it like to be where you are. You need information. It’ll keep you calm. Tony would be devastated if you went off the deep end while he was unconscious.”
“I appreciate the sacrifice then,” Steve said and rubbed his free hand over his head and clenched the other in Jack’s fur. “These two agents who abandoned my Guide in the field. Where are they?”
“NCIS custody—they’ll be reprimanded at the very least, and at most, I can’t say for now. It’s not my decision, because if it were, they’d have already been fired.”
“Right.” Steve frowned down at the toe of his combat boot.
“Want some coffee to frown at instead?”
McGarrett looked at Gibbs, helplessly amused and angry all at once. He relaxed against the chair. “I can see why Tony’s so fond of you, and it’s annoying.”
“Well, you’re pretty annoying, too,” Gibbs admitted wryly. A black panther appeared, and Gibbs leaned forward. “Have you met Keaton?”
“No, he apparently didn’t like the ship Tony was on. He won’t let me near him without Tony,” Steve said and frowned as Gibbs rubbed the cat’s head. “Has he always allowed that with you?”
“You have nothing to be jealous of,” Gibbs said as he rubbed Keaton’s ears. “And no, he made it clear from the first day that he had my number and wasn’t above taking me out if I crossed the line. He’s been coming and going since we brought Tony in.”
“Probably with Tony,” Steve said. “A spirit animal’s connection with the normal plane weakens when their Sentinel or Guide is unconscious, but you already knew that.” He stood and went to the window. “He’s moving.”
“He’s restless,” Gibbs allowed. “Pissed off, I’m sure.” The door opened, and Henry McCord entered. “Dr. McCord.”
McCord glanced between them but focused on McGarrett. “Thank you for agreeing to our terms. The doctors tell me that he’s doing well and there is no brain swelling. His empathic shields are replenishing, and he should be in a good place by tomorrow morning to meet with you.”
“I’ll wait until he’s on his feet,” Steve said. “I’m not a threat, Dr. McCord.”
“No,” McCord agreed. “You’re an Alpha Ascendant Sentinel, and we want to take care of you as much as we do him.” His gaze dropped to Keaton. “How solid is he, Gibbs?”
“Not very at all,” Gibbs admitted. “I could push through him without much effort, but I haven’t because he doesn’t like it.”
“No, they don’t like reminders that they aren’t real to us,” McCord said “If he gets less solid let us know. The stronger his presence is on our plane, the better Tony is. Too bad he took the blow to the head—the two men who did this would’ve never survived the encounter.”
“The shooter had a deep chest laceration we had to have stitched,” Gibbs admitted. “So, he got at least one swipe in before Tony’s loss of consciousness forced him from our plane.”
“Good for him,” Henry said with a small smile.
Keaton purred deep in his chest in response and swished his tail.
– – – –
Early the next morning, Steve let the people at the Center herd him into a conference room about a hundred feet away from Tony’s room. There were several mundanes which surprised him. He recognized the Secretary of the Navy, Phillip Davenport, though he’d never met him in person. He understood Gibbs being allowed so deep into the bowels of an S/G Center; he was a Sentinel driven dormant by trauma. Steve imagined it was a deeply personal trauma. He sat down near the head of the table where Dr. McCord was ensconced and across from Elizabeth McCord.
“Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett everyone. Steve, this is Phillip Davenport, Secretary of the Navy, Leon Vance, the Director NCIS, Commander Sturgis Turner, JAG, and Tobias Fornell, FBI.”
Steve focused on the JAG officer. “Why are you here, Commander Turner?”
“I’m here for you, Commander McGarrett,” Turner said. “It’s my job to make sure your interests are protected.”
Steve nodded and glanced toward Gibbs who merely inclined his head. “What’s going on?”
“One of the agents involved in the case that led to your Guide being injured and kidnapped made a deal with the government that included an employment deal with NCIS,” Vance said. “Dr. McCord is insisting that she be fired.”
“I see.” Steve glanced around the table and focused on Elizabeth McCord. “This deal included information that was valuable to State?”
“Very,” Elizabeth admitted reluctantly. “As an intelligence asset, she remains a very valuable resource when it comes to the Middle East and our ongoing fight against terrorism. I don’t need to tell you how important timely and accurate intel is overseas.”
“No, you don’t,” Steve murmured. “Does this deal prevent her from being reprimanded as well?”
“No, but she can’t be fired, which is what McCord is insisting on,” Vance said. “Dr. McCord that is.”
“I take it that you’d like to keep the other agent as well,” Steve said.
“His father is a high-ranking Naval officer,” the SECNAV admitted reluctantly. “He’d rather not be embarrassed by this situation.”
“I hate politics,” Steve said, and Gibbs saluted him with his ever-present coffee cup. He turned to McCord. “If NCIS wants to keep those two fuck-ups, let them.”
McCord frowned deeply.
“They aren’t keeping my Guide,” Steve continued. “Tony made it clear a month ago that he would join me in Hawaii when I was ready. It had been my intention to ask that he be transferred with NCIS to Pearl Harbor and made a liaison with the task force I run. But it’s become clear that NCIS doesn’t value him.”
“Actually, Commander, I’ve already started the process of reassigning you to NCIS,” Davenport interjected.
A low rumbling was the only warning they had before Keaton jumped up onto the table and walked the length of it. The panther hissed at Davenport, and the older man paled.
“Commander McGarrett, control your spirit animal.”
“That’s not his,” Henry McCord said dryly. “It appears that Agent DiNozzo is awake.” Keaton dragged his claws against the surface of the table in front of Davenport and roared. “And threatening the Sentinel of an Alpha Guide is an entirely stupid thing to do.”
“I wasn’t threatening him,” Davenport protested. “He’s already working in law enforcement—what does it matter where? He can come to DC and work with NCIS where he could do the most good.”
Steve turned to Turner, who was staring at him. “Can you walk me through the process of resigning from the Navy? I’ve never really looked into it as I had no intention of leaving before mandatory retirement age.”
“Of course, Commander.” Turner pulled three folders from his briefcase. “In fact, I had already started that paperwork in case that was the route you wanted to take. Most Sentinels with civilian Guides leave the service rather than risk their Guide being pulled into a combat situation.”
“Wait,” Davenport said and held up a hand even as Keaton growled and leaned right into his face. The older man stood and backed away from the table. “There is no need to resign, Commander McGarrett, you can stay in the Reserves, in Hawaii, if that is your wish.”
Turner passed McGarrett the file. “I’ve left the dates off, so you sign and file these whenever you need, Commander.”
“Thank you,” Steve said and pulled the file to rest in front of him. Keaton hissed and leaped off the table though he started to prowl around the whole table in a lazy, predatory circle. “You’ve called the wrong person into this meeting. Tony is the one who was betrayed by these two people, and nearly murdered as a result. I’m furious, of course, on his behalf, but he deserves a voice in this matter more than I do.”
“You’re the Sentinel,” Vance said roughly.
“And without a Guide, I am weak and at some points even helpless,” Steve said evenly. “How can you be in charge of a federal agency and be this fucking clueless? Though it does go a long way toward explaining that whole mess with Israel and how you saw no problem with turning Tony over to Mossad for interrogation.”
Vance glared at him. “How do you know about that? That incident is top secret.”
Elizabeth McCord sighed. “Commander McGarret is an elite combat asset for the United States Navy, Director Vance. His security clearance is higher than yours.”
“Rivkin was on my personal watch list when I worked in Navy intelligence, and I kept an eye on his activities abroad when I moved into fugitive apprehension,” Steve said and stood. “I’m finished here, Dr. McCord.” He picked up the file Turner had given him. “My feelings regarding the two agents involved in this mess will depend entirely on how Tony feels about the punishment you come up with.” He focused on Vance. “Asset or not, if Tony isn’t happy then I will see them both officially sanctioned for their crimes against my Guide, and absolutely no one in this room can say otherwise.”
A minute later, he entered the observation room, dropped the file on his bag and walked to the window. Tony was up and pacing around the room. Steve tapped on the window, and his Guide turned toward the sound. Tony walked across the room and hit a button to activate the intercom.
“How are your levels? You didn’t have to come.”
“My levels are fine and of course I had to come. You let a civilian put three in your chest.”
“I was wearing a vest,” Tony pointed out.
“So what?” Steve demanded. “You were still hurt—grade 3 concussion, bruised ribs. I went down with you—empathic zone out.”
“Oh.” Tony huffed and leaned his head against the window. “Steve. You’ve already started to bond with me through the psionic plane.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Steve whispered. “Don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad.” Tony stepped back from the window and rubbed absently at his chest. “They’re not going to let you in until I’m leveled out. You can’t feel it because of the room shielding, but I’m a mess.” He turned as the door to the room Steve was in opened, and Gibbs entered. “Hey, Boss.”
Gibbs glanced between them. “I can come back later.”
“No, he needs to be briefed, and you know more than I do about it,” Steve said shortly.
Gibbs passed Steve a cup much like his own and took a sip of coffee before he focused on Tony. “How’s your head?”
“Hurts,” Tony said. “A low-grade headache. I’m fine. Talk to me, Gibbs.”
“We have the whole thing recorded—what happened in the car while they were supposed to have your back. Do you want to hear it?”
Steve did, but he said nothing.
“Yeah, might as well.” Tony moved away from the window and turned his back on them as Gibbs pulled a digital recorder out of his pocket and placed it on the speaker next to the window.
“I’m so tired of listening to him talk,” Tim said. “I thought Guides were supposed to be soothing.”
“Tony isn’t much of a Guide—the only Sentinel he’s ever managed to attract was that one on the cusp of sensory-prolapse and that was probably just desperation,” Ziva said and groaned. “Just cut it off—turn it down. He’s such a fool.”
“Better?” Tim asked. “It’s still recording, but we don’t have to listen to his bullshit.”
“Much better.” Ziva sighed. “He does not deserve to be online—the way he flaunts his spirit animal.”
“I don’t know why Gibbs keeps him around.”
“To fuck,” Ziva said bluntly and laughed when Tim choked. “Did you not know? I do not blame Gibbs; it is what Guides are made for—to comfort a Sentinel. They’re useless otherwise—weak people meant for servitude.”
“But Gibbs is dormant because that guy killed his wife and kid.”
“He still has the instincts of a Sentinel,” Ziva said flippantly. “So he keeps Tony around to use as a hole. I just don’t know why we have to put up with him, too. He should leave his fuck-toy at home and get a real agent for the team. But no, we must all suffer.”
Gibbs turned off the recorder.
Tony had never in his life hated two people more than he did Ziva and Tim in that moment. He focused on Steve who looked…perplexed, then his gaze drifted to Gibbs who was obviously furious. That was a comfort—at least one of them was reacting appropriately.
“I stopped sleeping with Gibbs after I was agent afloat,” Tony said.
“I figured,” Steve admitted. “But it wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t—I don’t have the right to get mad about relationships you had with other people. Besides, given an opportunity—I’d have probably taken a ride, too. He’s hot.”
Gibbs blushed, and Tony laughed despite the twinge of discomfort that caused, then he grew serious. “Gibbs.”
“We both know that Ziva is and always has been a problem,” Jethro said. “More so when she sold her own country out for a job and an apartment. Accepting her on the team was the worst choice I could’ve made.”
“Jenny preyed on us both—when were vulnerable and still reeling from Kate’s death,” Tony said. “Tim had potential once, but that’s gone—replaced with arrogance and self-importance. What else was recorded?”
“They decided to read to pass the time,” Gibbs said shortly.
“I take it Vance wants to keep Tim. I know he doesn’t have a choice about Ziva.”
“No, none. The deal David made with the State Department was pretty clear cut, and as long as she’s fulfilling her part of the deal, NCIS is stuck with her.”
“I don’t want to leave you with her, Gibbs.”
“I can take care of myself,” Gibbs said shortly. “They want you in a meeting. Can you handle that?”
Tony focused on Steve. “That’s going to require that you surrender to a safe room on the opposite side of the facility.”
“I know,” Steve murmured. “It’s fine. They don’t have the right to have the conversations they’re trying to have without you. Henry McCord is trying to manage me and protect you—but those outside the S/G Center are making choices based on personal comfort and politics.”
“Okay,” Tony said. “Get some sleep, Steve, and when you wake up, I’ll be ready to leave this place.”
Twenty minutes later, he was dressed in sweatpants in a t-shirt, despite what his doctor preferred, and was seated at the table. Keaton was sitting beside Henry McCord rumbling in displeasure. He wondered what the animal had been up to since all the mundanes were gathered on the opposite end of the room. There were claw marks on the table, still glowing faintly with psionic energy. He tapped Keaton’s head. “I told you about ruining furniture.”
Keaton hissed at the SECNAV, and Tony sighed. “I’m tired, and I’d like some pain medication, so can we have this conversation now? What do you want from me, Vance?”
Vance glared at him.
Henry McCord sat forward slightly in his chair. “Director Vance, I’d remind you that in this building, DiNozzo outranks you. You’re here as a courtesy, and my patience is wearing very thin. You should all be fortunate that my wife is who she is, or I wouldn’t care about your ridiculous little spy at all. Bess, tell Tony about Ziva David’s deal with State.”
Tony focused on Elizabeth McCord who offered him a strained smile. “You’re very stressed, Madam Secretary.”
“Yes, well, I have a full plate these days.”
“And these people are wasting your time,” Tony supplied. “The bare facts will do.”
“Ziva David received citizenship and the guarantee of a job at NCIS in exchange for a hard drive of data that she smuggled out of Israel when she came here to manage her half-brother, Ari. She’s also required to report any intelligence she runs across regarding issues in Israel and the Middle East to her handler at the CIA. Her information proved to be invaluable and actionable to a large degree.”
Tony focused on Vance. “And I suppose McGee’s father is involved in his son’s situation.”
“He’d rather not be embarrassed,” Vance admitted. “And Agent McGee has a great deal of potential. Men like him are the future of NCIS.”
Tony’s gaze narrowed. “You mean easily led cowards who leave their partner to die in the field?” Vance’s eyes widened in shock. “You mean an agent so wrapped up in his own worth that he dismisses the contributions of everyone he can to feed his disillusion that his education makes him superior? What skills could he possibly have to make up for his arrogance and weakness? Those computer skills he’s so proud of? Tech schools toss hundreds of kids out into the real world every year with the same degrees that McGee is so proud of. They’re young, dynamic minds with fluid thinking that haven’t yet been bound up in self-importance. Any one of thousands could take McGee’s place at NCIS if his computer skills are the only thing he brings to the table, and probably run circles around him.”
He focused on McCord. “This is a waste of time, Henry. They’re going to get what they want on the issue of them keeping their jobs due to security clearances and convoluted politics that serve personal motivations rather than the tribe. But you don’t have to make their lives easy.”
“I’m listening,” Henry said and tapped a pen gently on the table.
“Sanction them officially and forbid them both from ever working with one of us against—Sentinel, Guide, latent, or trauma-dormant. Neither McGee nor Ziva can be trusted with our people no matter their status. He’s arrogant and selfish. She’s cruel and intensely jealous, even for a born-dormant, with profane and unacceptable opinions about the Sentinel/Guide relationship.”
“Wait,” Vance said. “If they’re sanctioned by the S/G Center they won’t be able to work in the field. That’s too restrictive.”
“You don’t honestly think we care, right?” Bess demanded. “They’re irresponsible and don’t deserve the trust of our kind.” She turned to her husband. “I think Tony’s solution give us the best method of protecting our people. If NCIS violates rules of an official Sanction in any single way, we’ll pull our people out of the agency altogether. There are other agencies that would be thrilled to get the ten pairs that are currently working as field assets there.”
“McGee and David are part of the MCRT. You can’t just tear Gibbs’ team apart,” Vance protested and turned to Gibbs for support.
“I’m retiring, Leon,” Gibbs said shortly. “I’ve stayed as long as I have for Tony, and he’s going to Hawaii.”
“Oh, well, I only stayed for you,” Tony admitted. “You should’ve said—we could’ve been on a beach this whole time.”
“Wait, so you two are having a relationship?” Vance questioned and almost stood.
Elizabeth McCord slapped her hand on the table. “Have you not read a single bit of literature regarding your interactions with Sentinels and Guides? That is none of your business, and how dare you ask him such an intimate question!”
Henry cleared his throat and stood. He offered his wife his hand and she took it as she left her chair. “This conversation is over. The Sentinel Guide Center of North America hereby sanctions Ziva David and Timothy McGee for recklessly endangering the life of an online Guide through depraved indifference. They are forbidden from having any sort of relationship, work or personal, with a Sentinel or Guide—latent or otherwise. Ziva David, born-dormant, is further excommunicated from our people and cannot consider us a place of sanctuary. This directive will be distributed to all regional Centers, from there, it will be distributed to all law enforcement personnel in the country. The punishment for ignoring this directive is imprisonment in a federal prison for everyone involved.”
Tony said nothing as the McCords left the room in the wake of complaints. Vance looked ready to blow, which wasn’t surprising—the way McCord had phrased the sanction meant that no Sentinel/Guide in the country was going to risk ignoring it. Accusing someone of depraved indifference in relation to a Sentinel or Guide was a career killer.
Fornell stood. “Well, I hope you’re happy with McGee and David, Vance, since you’re definitely stuck with them. There won’t be another organization in the US that will work them. And you’ll be lucky to keep the bonded pairs you’ve currently got on staff. I should go clear off my schedule so I’ll have to time to interview them.”
Tony shared a look with Gibbs and stood.
“DiNozzo,” Vance started.
Tony glared openly at him, and Keaton appeared with a throaty growl. “Ziva wouldn’t be in this country if it weren’t for you, Vance. This bullshit is your fault since Shepard is dead and not around to get her share of the blame. You think McGee is so special—I’m glad, since Fornell is right—you’re stuck with him. I’ll have my resignation forwarded to you, and Gibbs will clean out my desk. Don’t speak to me again—ever.”
Tony left the room, his hands shaking, and turned to his doctor. The man had insisted on sticking close, and he appreciated that. “I want my Sentinel.”
“It’s not protocol…” He trailed off when Keaton roared. He turned to Henry McCord who was standing alone a few feet away. Henry leaned on the wall and looked up from his phone. “Alpha?”
“Let them be, Doc, he’s still recovering but obviously in control of himself, otherwise we’d be putting Vance in an ambulance due to having been mauled.” He glanced at Keaton. “Honestly, you’re probably pretty close to getting stitches yourself.”
A few minutes later, he was knocking on the door of a room in guest quarters. Steve opened it immediately and pulled Tony into the room.
“You cheater, you were listening,” Tony murmured against Steve’s jaw.
Steve shut the door and inhaled deeply against his hair. “I’ve missed you so much.” His fingers were gentle as they drifted through Tony’s hair. “You’re in pain.”
“A little but I want to be with you.”
“Come to bed, you need rest.” Steve led him to the bed, prodded him under the covers then joined him.
Tony took a deep breath and, for the first time in months, utterly relaxed. Steve tucked his face against the back of his neck as they spooned together and DiNozzo laughed.
“What?” Steve questioned.
“I just always sort of figured you’d be the type who’d want to be the little spoon.”
Steve’s hands tightened briefly, and he laughed at himself. “Yeah, probably, but not tonight.” He kissed the back of Tony’s neck. “Sleep.”
Tony caught Steve’s hand and pulled it upward to press against his heart. “You, too.”
Tony wanted to be surprised that Ziva showed up at his apartment but he wasn’t.
“You’ve ruined everything! Always! Every time!” Ziva shouted. “First Michael, then my father’s career was destroyed because of you, and now this. The director had to put me in an intelligence position on a desk.”
Tony stared at her.
“Have you nothing to say, you glorified concubine?” she hissed through clenched teeth.
Steve pulled the door from Tony’s hand and opened it wide. Her eyes widened in shock, and Tony realized she hadn’t been informed that he’d found his Sentinel.
“Did it ever cross your mind that the vast majority of born-dormant Sentinels come from countries where Guides are subjugated and treated as sex slaves?” Steve asked. “The UN has started investigating it as such policies have stunted the growth of our population the world over. What Guide would even want you? You small-minded bitch.” He shut the door before Ziva could say a word.
“What?” he asked. “She is a small-minded bitch, and she stinks. Also, she called you a whore, and demeaned a relationship you value highly on a recording that is part of the evidence in a terrorism case being handled by the FBI.”
“What does she stink of?” Tony asked curiously as he locked the door.
“Aggression but the scent is corrupt because she’s dormant. And I’m not trying to be judgy, but she’s sleeping with three different men—who is she to talk about your sex life?”
Tony grinned at him. “Judgy?”
“It’s a word,” Steve said defiantly. “You have a whole bunch of suits.”
“I like suits. I look good in suits.”
“I’m sure you look good in everything, but suits aren’t exactly the best choice for work attire in Hawaii.”
Tony grinned. “Danny texted me two hours ago to let know you have something against ties. He was worried my collection might get lost in the move.”
Steve huffed. “He’s ridiculous. I’d never throw away your things—not even your stupid ties.” He cupped Tony’s hip and pulled him close. “How do you feel?”
“Liar,” Steve said gently. “It’s okay to be sad. I know you love him.”
“It’s complicated, but we set aside that part a while ago, and everything is okay. I knew going in that it wouldn’t last, and it had nothing to do with Gibbs being dormant and everything to do with the fact that he’ll never love anyone the way he loved his first wife. The biggest disappointment I had in that relationship was my belief that he was probably my Sentinel, then I met you and realized I was wrong about that.”
“Maybe the Guide part of you just wanted to offer him as much comfort as he would allow.” Steve pulled him a little closer. “You should rest some more. I’ll finish prepping everything for the movers.”
“Are you sure?” Tony asked around a yawn.
Steve put Tony back to bed and kept his own temper carefully banked while he did so. He knew Ziva hadn’t actually left the building. Hiding his fury was easy since they hadn’t yet completed the bond. Tony was injured, and Steve didn’t want risk getting rough with him. He waited until Keaton curled up on the bed with Tony before walking out of the bedroom and closing the door. He grabbed Tony’s keys off the counter and was careful to lock all the locks into place as he was leaving.
It was pathetically easy to follow her scent to a stairwell just down the hall from Tony’s door. It was a good hiding place as it allowed her to watch the elevator. Steve pushed open the door, shoved her bodily into the wall under the stairs leading up, and wrenched the knife she had out of her hand.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Steve asked lowly.
“You know who I am.”
“I know you used to be a top-tier Mossad operative until your Daddy’s ambition ruined your whole family. He drove his misbegotten son around the bend and forced you to kill him. Then he left you twisting in the wind after it came out that he’d orchestrated a spy operation in the US. Now, you’re just a traitor to your country.” He pressed the knife under her chin, and her eyes went wide with shock. “You get by on your looks a lot—that was your favored method of assassination when you were Mossad. I studied you and a few other honey-traps just like you—using your body and pretty little face to fuck your way into the lives of dangerous men so you could kill them.
“You resent Tony because he’s a Guide, but that’s not the only reason—Tony’s influence and friendship with Gibbs kept you from endearing yourself to him one way or another—surrogate daughter or mistress. You were ready to play the part but Tony was in your way, and when Kate Todd was murdered they turned to each other for support—leaving you with only the role of invader.”
“Shut up, you know nothing.”
He drew blood and Ziva’s breath caught. Steve drew the blade along her jaw line, blood trailed down her neck. “Come near my Guide again and I will cut your fucking head off. Clear?”
“The entire state of Hawaii is my territory; you’re not welcome there, ever. Set foot on my land and you’re dead. I’ll hunt you to the ends of the Earth.” He dropped her, slammed the knife into the drywall, and left the stairwell. Steve he let himself back into Tony’s apartment. Jack was sprawled next to the baby grand piano. Steve ignored the look his spirit animal sent him and threw himself on the couch.
His cell phone started to vibrate in his pocket so he pulled it from his cargo pants and answered it. “McGarrett.”
“Steve, how are things going in Washington? I admit my power is limited there, but if there are strings I can pull, I will.”
“Everything is going well, Governor. My Guide and I will be returning to Oahu within the next forty-eight hours. The Navy is going to move his belongings on the SECNAV’s orders. I’ve been in contact with my team and everything is good on that front.”
“The Navy isn’t going to make you fly commercial, correct? I can arrange a private plane for you and your Guide.”
Steve considered that. “They did offer me transport back, but it wouldn’t be a comfortable ride for my Guide who has a concussion and still has bruised ribs.”
“Let me handle a private plane then—it’s the least that I can do. I’ll have your personal vehicle taken to the airport as well. I’ll send you a text with the details.”
“Thank you, Governor.”
Steve ended the conversation with a frown. There were issues with Governor Jameson that he had to get a handle on sooner rather than later. She was both honest and dishonest at the same time. Her desire to clean up the state was genuine, yet there was an undercurrent in her that spoke of an entirely different agenda. Politicians were prone to duplicity, and he wasn’t that good at picking out the nuances of a person’s character. The Navy had trained him to be a Sentinel so his untrained empathic sense was often the biggest source of distress for him.
Keaton strolled out of the bedroom, crawled up onto the couch, and put his head on Steve’s thigh as he lay down. He hesitated only briefly before touching the panther’s head. “Tony says you’ve been with him since he was young—I’m really glad he had you to keep him safe.”
Keaton chuffed and pressed his head firmly against Steve’s thigh.
– – – –
Tony sat down on the stairs just short of the end and watched Gibbs working. “Hey, Boss.”
“Not anymore,” Gibbs said, his hands steady as he worked. “And probably too long at that. How’s the bonding going?”
“We shored up our psionic connection but have waited for the rest because of my ribs,” Tony admitted. He stood and walked the rest of the way down the stairs and ran one hand along the finished side of the boat. “Come to Hawaii?”
Gibbs shook his head. “You need time to make a fresh start—personally and professionally.” He paused in his sanding. “But maybe when I finish this boat I’ll bring it to you.”
Tony grinned. “Really? What will you call her?”
Gibbs lifted his head. “Caitlin.” He smiled then. “Though she never met a boat she couldn’t get seasick on.”
Tony laughed. “I remember.” He ran one hand along the frame. “I can’t wait to see her—she’ll be beautiful when you finish.” He focused on Gibbs. “Gonna miss you.”
“Already miss you,” Gibbs said roughly. “He knows I’ll kill him if he hurts you, right?”
Tony laughed. “Well, he does now. He’s outside in my car. We’re taking it to the Navy Yard so it can be packed and shipped.” He frowned. “I talked with Ducky and Palmer, but Abby refused to take my call. I considered going to her apartment but I just…”
“You were right all along about that situation,” Gibbs said as he returned his attention to his boat. “She is immature and doesn’t take change well at all. I ignored it when Kate was killed because I figured it was mostly grief, but it goes deeper.”
“Abandonment issues are the least of it,” Tony agreed with a sigh and checked his watch. “I should go.” He huffed a little when Gibbs started sanding again. “Come here and give me a hug for fuck’s sake.”
Gibbs set aside the sander and walked around the boat frame then pulled Tony into a tight hug. Tony closed his eyes when the older man took a deep breath against his hair. “Take care of yourself.”
“You, too.” Tony turned his head slightly and kissed his jaw.
“Gonna get my ass kicked,” Gibbs muttered and cupped Tony’s head gently then released him. “Call me when you have time.”
“I will. Don’t let Vance talk you into staying.”
“I won’t,” Gibbs said. “Besides he’s afraid Alpha Sentinel McCord is going to sanction the whole agency so he’ll leave me alone.”
Minutes later, Tony slid into the driver’s seat of his car, and Steve looked up from his cell. He turned the device and showed Tony a picture of his team. “They’re at my house cleaning to make room for you and your stuff.” He inhaled and sighed. “Why does Gibbs smell so good?”
Tony laughed. “He’s always smelled like coffee and sawdust to me which is comforting in a way.” He put the car in gear. “Thanks.”
“A lot of Sentinels wouldn’t have tolerated me visiting an old lover to say goodbye.”
“Well, he told me I didn’t have anything to be jealous over, and he meant it. He’d never interfere in our bond, so if he meanders his way down our way to really retire, I won’t make a fuss about it.”
“Really?” Tony questioned.
“He lost his wife and his baby girl,” Steve said quietly as they started moving. “If he finds comfort in being close to you, Tony, I’ll never resent him for it. I’m not saying he can move into my house, but he’s welcome on my island.”
Tony sighed and merged into traffic. “I’m gonna have to get Danny to give me a list of all of your faults—because you have to be hiding a ton.”
“Nah, I’m pretty great,” Steve said and grinned when Tony laughed.
– – – –
Much to Steve’s relief, Tony slept almost the entire flight. His breathing was good, vitals normal, and the headache he’d kept for the better part of three days was finally gone. The farther they moved away from Washington, DC and that mess, the better he felt. He figured that Tony might have to return now and again for old cases as they moved through the court system. The people involved in the kidnapping, and the bomb making were in the process of taking plea deals to avoid additional charges related to the abuse of an online Guide.
They landed late at night, which had been Tony’s choice—the late arrival meant a minimal crowd at the airport. Flying privately had been nice, and Steve figured he should probably send the governor flowers as a thank you since it had helped Tony a lot. His truck was exactly where it should be so they loaded the few bags Tony had brought, and Steve took his Guide home.
Tony’s things were only a day or two behind them, so they had time to make the few decisions that his team had left for him. They left Tony’s luggage in the living room, and Steve gave him a brief tour before prodding him into the master bedroom.
Tony pulled his T-shirt over his head. “Shower?”
Steve blew out a breath. He really didn’t think he had the self-control to shower with Tony without things getting sexual. Just sleeping beside him with all of their clothes on had been really difficult. He hadn’t even risked kissing his Guide for fear that taste would send him right over the edge and into a bonding rut.
Tony laughed suddenly. “I’m looking to get laid here, McGarrett.”
“Oh, thank fuck,” Steve exclaimed and jerked off his own shirt. “And yes, let’s take a quick shower.”
By the time he’d tossed off all of his clothes, the shower was running. Steve slipped into the stall and crowded his Guide against the cool tile. Tony was relaxed in his hold, his hands curling over Steve’s shoulders as the Sentinel got as close possible. Both men hissed as they came to rest against the wall completely, cocks pressed together between them.
“You did the exercises?” Tony questioned as Steve breathed against his neck.
“You mean that jerk off schedule you gave me so I’d stop having sensory spikes when I come? Yeah, I totally owned those exercises.” McGarrett rubbed his lips against Tony’s jaw. “I need…”
“I’m yours,” Tony murmured, and his breath hitched as Steve cupped his ass and lifted. He wrapped his legs around his Sentinel’s waist. “Fuck you’re strong.”
“I got a little boost when I came online,” Steve whispered hoarsely against his skin then he opened his mouth and tasted his Guide’s skin. He shuddered. “Fuck, Tony.”
“We really need to wash the travel off,” Tony said. “Stay with me, here. You can have me any way you want after we shower.”
Steve lowered Tony to his feet and reached for the bath wash. “I’m not going to rut.”
“Are you sure?” Tony asked, clearly amused.
“Positive.” Steve poured soap into his hand and set the bottle aside. “I’ve done hearing and scent already.”
“Touch,” Steve agreed and slid to his knees.
“The universe loves me,” Tony murmured as Steve spread soap down his legs.
“I love you,” Steve whispered as he rubbed soap between the toes of Tony’s left foot. “I didn’t really plan on that part.” He relaxed at the rush of immense affection that poured off his Guide at his confession. “I served on two different Teams while I was active duty—there were Guides on both of them. From the start, I knew the Navy was trying to bring me online. I don’t think they’d have bothered if they’d known I’d be Ascendant.”
“Sentinels with empathy aren’t ideal soldiers,” Tony murmured. He ran his fingers through Steve’s damp hair. “Prolonged conflict and constant war can burn them out.”
“Yeah,” Steve agreed as he moved upward slowly. “The Guides had no body hair, which, at the time, turned me off—but you feel amazing.” He rubbed the soap over Tony’s thighs in slow, firm circles. “Perfect.”
Tony shuddered and trembled through the thorough washing of his cock and balls. Steve was methodical, but his touch was tender, careful as he spread soap all the way up to Tony’s collarbones then gently turned him around. By the time his Sentinel was gliding big hands over his ass, he was out of his damn mind so it really didn’t surprise him at all that he came the moment Steve slid a single soapy finger over the rim of his asshole. Tony’s breath caught and he groaned.
He laughed weakly and let his forehead rest against the tile. “It’s been a while since I’ve had anything but a plug there.”
“You plug?” Steve questioned.
“Just the last few weeks, and the last lover I had was Gibbs. I lost interest in having other people touch me after I met you.”
Tony reached out and grabbed the soap, checking the label out of habit. It was a Sentinel-friendly brand which meant odorless and tasteless. He poured some into his hand and started with Steve’s neck then worked his way down. By the time he reached his Sentinel’s feet, McGarrett was braced against the wall, head thrown back, and eyes shut. Tony took pity on him and prodded him under the water as he washed his back.
“Relax, I got you.”
“I haven’t been with anyone since I met you either,” Steve confessed in a harsh whisper. “I think the Sentinel in me has been hovering under my skin since I set eyes on you.” He turned and pulled Tony around. “Now.”
“Now,” Tony agreed, and his breath hitched as Steve cupped his ass. He reached out turned off the water.
Barely seconds seemed to pass before Tony was flat on his back, still wet, in the middle of Steve’s bed. McGarrett pulled a bottle of lube from underneath the pillow and slicked himself up as Tony spread his legs. He arched down into the penetration of McGarrett’s slick fingers and rocked his hips briefly before stilling completely as Steve pressed his open mouth against his balls.
Steve hummed as he licked up the length of Tony’s cock. “Damn, you taste amazing.” He pulled his fingers free and slipped up between Tony’s legs. “I can’t wait anymore.”
“Then don’t,” Tony murmured and clenched one hand onto the back of Steve’s neck. Steve filled him with one smooth stroke. “Jesus. Fuck.”
Steve curled into him, buried his face against his Guide’s neck. “Tony.”
“I’m here,” Tony whispered.
He spread his legs deeply and tilted his hips so that Steve could settle fully. Tony opened his mind by degrees—bringing his Sentinel as close as possible. Their psionic bond deepened further, and Steve made a soft shocked sound; he started to move with rough, full bodied thrusts. Wildness burned between them, and Tony took every bit of it in—the depth of Steve’s empathic gifts was astounding. Their connection deepened until Tony was able to discern information from Steve’s senses which were blown open.
“Dial it all down,” Tony whispered fiercely against his Sentinel’s neck, and Steve obeyed immediately. “Good—that’s perfect.” He caught Steve’s head in his hands. “Are you going to come for me?”
“Sentinel,” Tony whispered, and pleasure burst through him—his vision whitened, and his own body responded with a rush of come. Tony shuddered and trembled through his Sentinel’s orgasm with a pleased groan.
“Fuck,” Steve whispered fiercely against his mouth. “What the hell was that?”
“Spontaneous human combustion?” Tony guessed, and laughed when Steve did. “I think that was having two orgasms at the same time, which was fantastic.”
Steve shifted him carefully around and spooned up behind him, tucking his face against the back of Tony’s neck. “Yeah.”
“If you share my pleasure—will you share my pain, too?”
Tony caught the hand that was rubbing his thigh and laced their fingers together. “That is our duty to each other—we share everything.”
“That’s beautiful,” Steve murmured. “And scary. I’m kind of an asshole.”
Tony laughed. “So am I.”
“What if you start to hate me?” Steve asked.
“I won’t.” Tony rolled to his back so he could meet Steve’s gaze. “Not ever.” He rubbed his Sentinel’s bottom lip. “I love you—always.”
The stark relief on Steve’s face was heartbreaking. “I’ve never had that before.”
“Of course you have. I’ve always been here—we just had to find each other.”
Steve relaxed on the bed fully and pulled Tony close. He pressed a kiss to Tony’s forehead and another to his mouth before smiling widely. “Lucky me.”