“What the hell have you done with my agent?”
Jack moved the phone away from his ear and winced, before putting it back. “Special Agent Gibbs, I presume,” he said dryly. In the background he could here a female voice asking anxiously where Tony was, then a male voice with a British accent attempting to calm her down.
“I want to know why my agent has been transferred to an Air Force base in Colorado, when there are any number of Naval facilities that could help him. And I want to know why you haven’t bothered contacting his primary physician about whatever’s wrong with him, or his consulting physician about his lungs,” Gibbs said furiously. “If anything happens to DiNozzo, someone’s going to pay.”
“Lungs?” Jack mouthed silently, then shrugged. “Special Agent Gibbs, is there some place you can go where we can continue this talk? An empty room?”
“Anything you have to say can be said in front of my team,” Gibbs said.
“Actually, it can’t,” Jack said. “I can tell you what happened, but not in front of an audience whose clearance I don’t know.”
“What the- Fine!” Gibbs snapped.
Jack heard him telling whoever it was to stay put, then seconds later, a door closed and the background noise shut off.
“Talk to me,” Gibbs said tersely.
“One moment.” Jack put his hand over the receiver. “Walter? Now.”
A second later, there was a flash of light and one very irate Special Agent appeared in the briefing room, still holding a phone to his ear. Jack put his phone down.
“Welcome to Colorado,” he said cheerfully.
Gibbs looked around him at the concrete-walled room, eyes narrowed. He stuffed his cell phone into a pocket and turned his glare on Jack. “General O’Neill, I presume,” he said tightly.
“Before I fill you in on your agent, I need you to sign a non-disclosure agreement,” Jack said, pushing the pile of paper towards the ex-marine.
Gibbs scowled, but took the pen on top and rifled through the long form, signing wherever indicated. A minute later, he slammed the pen back down. “Talk.”
Jack took a deep breath. “First up, how did you know Special Agent DiNozzo was in trouble?”
“Do you really want to play games with me?” Gibbs asked menacingly.
“It isn’t a game,” Jack said, allowing some of the tiredness he felt to show in his voice. “It could make a difference to his recovery.”
A flicker of surprise flashed through the agent’s icy blue eyes. “I woke up at just after four a.m. and I just knew he needed me,” Gibbs confessed. “It took a couple of hours to get through to Colonel Roberts at McMurdo and he told me the Air Force had taken Tony. I’ve been trying to find out where ever since.”
Jack nodded. “I thought it’d be something like that,” he said thoughtfully. “Did you know your agent was a latent Sentinel?”
Gibbs stared at the general. “He isn’t,” he said firmly. “He was tested as a kid and it came back negative.”
Jack shook his head. “It’s been brought to our attention recently that the gene that’s tested for isn’t the right one. In around five percent of cases, it gives a false negative.”
“And Tony happens to be one of that five percent,” Gibbs said skeptically.
“You betcha,” he said. “Sending him down to McMurdo seems to have triggered it.”
“Damn it!” Gibbs thumped the conference table. “I’m going to kill Vance. He swore Tony was just going to be Agent Afloat for a few months. With his lungs, Tony should never have been anywhere near the Antarctic!”
“Come on, I’ll take you to him,” Jack said. “We’ve got him in an isolation room right now, but his senses are spiking out of control and he needs help building shields. Unfortunately, the best people we have for helping with that are out of town.”
“You can’t just beam them in like you did with me?” Gibbs asked, falling in beside O’Neill.
Jack shook his head. “When I say out of town, I mean way, way out of town.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Right. So what can you do to help him?”
Jack punched the button for the elevator and turned to the agent with a wolfish grin. “We thought we’d let his Guide help.”
Gibbs felt his jaw drop. “You can’t think I’m Tony’s Guide! Maybe someone like Abby, but not me.”
The elevator doors opened and Jack stepped inside. “But did Abby wake up out of a sound sleep just knowing Tony was in trouble?” The doors started to close as Gibbs gaped at him. “Coming?”
Gibbs stepped into the elevator just in time. He stared at the other man as if he could weigh the truth of his words by proximity alone. As the elevator stopped and the doors opened, he said, “If this is some kind of game-”
“It might be some kind of cosmic joke, but it’s no game,” Jack said soberly. “I’m in that five percent.”
Wordlessly, Gibbs followed him down the corridor and into the infirmary, where Jack tapped on a doorframe and popped his head around the door. “Doc? I’ve got someone here to see Special Agent DiNozzo.”
“His Guide? Oh, thank goodness!” A woman came bustling out past the general and held out her hand. “I’m Doctor Biro; I’ve been trying to keep your Sentinel stable since he got here.”
Gibbs took the proffered hand and shook it. “Special Agent Gibbs. I’m- I used to be Tony’s boss. I’m not a Guide, though.”
Biro gave him an assessing look. “We’ll see. Come with me.” She led him down to the end of the infirmary where another corridor gave onto a row of private rooms. At the very end was one marked Isolation. Quietly, she pushed open the door and in the room’s dim lighting, Gibbs could make out two people sitting on either side of the figure in the bed.
“Tony,” he breathed, stepping forward without any conscious thought. His agent was naked under the thinnest of silk sheets but rashes covered most of his exposed skin and his face was contorted in pain. His hands were wrapped tightly around a glowing ball. Gibbs covered his hands with his own. “It’s okay, Tony,” he murmured, his voice rough with emotion. “I’m here now. You can let go.”
Warmth flooded through him and he gasped as his mind opened and the void inside him was filled suddenly with the most incredible, vibrant essence of the man lying in front of him. “Tony!” he gasped again, and the younger man’s eyes opened.
“I knew you’d come,” Tony whispered, the faintest hint of a smile ghosting over his drawn features. “Hi, boss.” His eyes closed again and he whimpered as the dim light sent a fresh wave of pain stabbing at his eyeballs.
“Always,” Gibbs said with a tiny smile.
Jack watched from the doorway, amazed at the transformation in front of him. From barely-controlled fury, violence held in check by the thinnest of leashes, to relaxed and smiling with a depth of love rarely found, Gibbs was a different man. That man was a predator, dangerous, and if anything, Jack would have pegged him for a Sentinel himself. This man was a Guide in the presence of his Sentinel. God help the person who tried to come between them now.
“What have you got yourself into now, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked softly.
“You know me, never one to pass up a ball game,” Tony said weakly, relinquishing the Ancient object to Gibbs” steady hands.
With the barest of glances, Gibbs handed it off to the figure beside him. Daniel put it on the floor under his chair and cleared his throat.
“You’re going to need to help build his shields,” he said quietly. “Although I think you’re already starting to do that just by being here. And you’re going to need to bond.”
Gibbs nodded, not taking his eyes from his agent, his Sentinel. “How do I do that?”
“Normally we’d have a Sentinel here who could help start the bond, but…”
“Out of town, yeah, I got that,” Gibbs said. “So tell me what I do.”
“You get him to let you in so you can nest around him,” Daniel explained. “The easiest way would normally be sex, get all his senses focused on you. But he’s in no shape and his senses have been spiking for hours. A Sentinel with a sixth sense could stimulate the pleasure centers of his brain to kick start the bonding process.”
Gibbs sighed, then bent and pressed a chaste kiss to his agent’s lips. Then with one swift movement, he raised a hand and smacked Tony on the top of the head. “Focus, DiNozzo!”
Toni’s eyes flew open and locked onto Gibbs. “Boss!” He gasped, then Gibbs was kissing him again, aggressively plundering his mouth, heedless of Toni’s dry, cracked lips and the sour taste of pain and fear. Tony gave in, his senses locking onto his boss, his mind opening to let Gibbs in. He felt the fierce protectiveness and love as it slid around and through him, binding him deeper, tighter, until just as all his air was gone and his lungs burned with the need to breathe, Gibbs was there, in him, surrounding him and Tony knew he’d never be alone again.