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The Keys to Love and Hate

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Little Creek, Virginia

Leaving Ducky and Palmer muttering over the dead woman, Tony put a hand over his mouth, biting down hard to control the urge to retch. He backed away from the body and walked over to Gibbs who was talking to the Naval Amphibious Base commander and the SEAL team leader. He shivered as the harsh February wind tugged at the edges of his coat.

“DiNozzo?” Gibbs questioned, and Tony didn’t doubt that Gibbs could read the distress on his face.

“Excuse me,” Gibbs said to Rear Admiral LeJeune and Commander Riggins. He took Tony’s arm and steered him over to the cars.

“What is it?”

“The killer cut her nipples off and hacked . . . fuck, I’m gonna be sick, Boss."

“Breathe through your nose,” Gibbs ordered. “Pull yourself together.

“Yes, Boss.”

“This isn’t like you, DiNozzo.”

“I know,” Tony gulped.

“One can hardly blame young Anthony for his reaction,” Ducky said as he joined them.

“Whatcha got, Duck?”

“Jethro, this was clearly a crime of passion of the most horrendous sort. The poor woman was so brutally and viciously mutilated that one can sense the rage and hatred that drove her killer. I confess that I am a touch shaken and Palmer looks positively green. I haven’t seen anything of this sort since that young woman they found in Central Park back in the seventies. I wasn’t the ME on that one, of course.”

“Duck,” Gibbs interjected, stopping the elderly doctor in full flight. “Profile?”

“As I said . . . unreasoning hatred.”

“Of women in general or her in particular?”

“I really couldn’t say,” Ducky responded.

“She was Ensign Kimberly Welch,” Ziva said, referring to her notes as she and McGee joined the group. “A Navy SEAL. She has served with distinction in several operations. Her team was rotated back to Little Creek after being in Africa chasing pirates for the last six months.”

“I didn’t know the SEALS had started letting in girls,” Tony said.

“Women,” Ziva corrected. “Yes, it has been within the last eighteen months that they tried it. The Navy did it quietly and without fandom.”

“Without fanfare, Ziva,” Tony riposted.

“How did that go over?” Gibbs asked.

McGee tapped his tablet. “According to the Rear Admiral, yes, there were some rumblings about allowing women in the SEALs. The only thing they were less happy about was the repeal of DADT. So the potential conflict was there, but Kimberly Welch was pretty well-respected as being just as hard-core as the male members.”

“A SEAL,” Gibbs mused. “Not helpless or defenseless.”

“I cannot conceive on anyone getting the advantage on such a woman, unless it was someone who was equally well-trained,” Ziva said.

“Which would indicate another SEAL,” Tony said. Talking about the case helped put things in perspective and he felt a little better.

“Speaking of,” McGee put in, “the man who found her is also a SEAL in the same team. David Karofsky, Lieutenant Junior Grade.”

“What does he say?”

McGee consulted his notes. “He claims they usually run together before reveille. But he’s subject to occasional hay fever when they’re in Virginia. He had an incident last night that’s the worst he’s had in years. He took a pass on the run, but became concerned when she didn’t show up for breakfast, so he traced their usual route.”

“Not really allergy season, is it, Duck?” Gibbs asked.

“No, Jethro.”

“He have an alibi?”

“No, Boss. He says he was in his quarters all night, by himself.”

Gibbs stared at the large man standing by himself. “Tony and I will take him back to the Yard. Ziva, escort the team commander to the conference room. I want to talk to him too.”

“I will go and issue an invitation,” she said.

“McGee, I want background on every member of the team as well as every mission from their time in Africa. Ducky . . . standard drug and pregnancy tests. You know the drill.”

Gibbs drove back to the Naval Yard with all of his usual panache, dodging traffic and construction on the 495 to get them there in record time. Gibbs’ style behind the wheel usually left suspects a quivering wreck of fear, but Lieutenant Karofsky seemed unperturbed. He sat like a lump of mud in the back seat, giving off nothing except a glare of exceptionable menace. If it he had been anyone other than a SEAL, Tony would think that he was too stupid to realize his danger. But the SEALs had pretty high standards of intelligence, so he doubted that Karofsky’s IQ was as low as it appeared.

“Take him to Interrogation 1,” Gibbs said brusquely as he handed Karofsky over to the Marines at the Yard. “We’ll be in when we get some coffee.”

“Yes, sir,” one of the Marines murmured.

"I'm just gonna . . . wash up a little," Tony said.

Gibbs nodded, and stalked off, focused on the coffee pot. Tony walked into the men's restroom and leaned on the sink. He turned on the cold water and waited until it was icy before splashing some on his wrists and then ducking his head to wet his face. When he straightened, Gibbs was there. Anticipating the head-slap, Tony started to reassure his boss, but surprisingly, Gibbs wrapped his arm around Tony's waist and pulled him back against his sturdy frame. Tony didn't fight it, allowing Jethro to cradle him.

Jethro kissed Tony's neck, just below his ear. "I need your head in the game," Jethro said.

"I know boss. It's just . . . I could feel the evil and hatred of her killer -- it just radiated from her body. It makes me ill."

"I know. Your empathy is a part of what makes you such a good investigator. But you gotta push it away for now."

"Okay."

Jethro gave him one last squeeze and then exited. Tony followed a minute later.

In the interrogation room, Lt. Karofsky sat silently, like an inanimate lump of flesh.

"Lieutenant Karofsky," Gibbs said. "I'm Special Agent Jethro Gibbs and this is Special Agent Tony DiNozzo."

"Yes, sir," Karofsky responded in a dull monotone, but his eyes had flicked to Jethro with an odd expression that Tony couldn't quite decipher. He was slightly surprised that Gibbs didn’t correct the lieutenant on his use of ‘sir’.

"You are a person of interest in our investigation into the murder of Lt. Kimberly Welch. Do you have anything to add to your initial statement?"

"No, sir."

Karofsky's expression was dull and sullen, a simmering anger under the surface although he gave the appearance of being slightly slow-witted. Tony couldn't imagine what he could possibly think it would gain him.

"Were you and Ensign Welch in a relationship?" Gibbs pressed.

"Relationship, sir?" Karofsky repeated.

"You know," Tony said. "Having sex, doing the horizontal mambo, making the beast with two backs, fucking, as some people say."

Karofsky didn't react other than to look like more of a half-wit. "No."

Tony noticed that he didn't warrant a 'sir' and filed the info away to puzzle over later.

"Anyone on the team have a problem with Ensign Welch?" Tony asked.

"Not that I know," Karofsky answered.

"How often did you run together?" Gibbs asked.

"Every morning, sir."

They flung every question they could think of at him, trying to pick apart his less than complete story, but Karofsky never broke out of his dull, monosyllabic responses, not even in the face of Gibbs' patented 'slam your fist on the table and flip the fuck out' moves. Karofsky merely blinked at him. He behaved like a particularly well-coached witness under cross-examination. Tony couldn't find anything to hang a line of questioning on or anything that would give him a trail to follow. Gibbs was probably equally frustrated.

Gibbs made an impatient noise and thumbed his cell phone. "Yeah, Abs. I need you to come up here and vacuum some evidence off a suspect."

He glanced at Tony while he talked to Abby and Tony got the plan immediately. If Karofsky was a woman hater, then he might react to Abby. Tony stood up and took a position along the wall were he could observe Karofsky's body language when Abby entered the room.

"You have no right against us taking the evidence," Gibbs informed him. "No speaking required."

"Yes, sir," the SEAL responded in his sullen monotone.

The door opened to admit Abby. "Evidence vacuum reporting for duty," she said with a saucy salute to Gibbs.

Tony watched carefully, but saw no sign of any increasing tension in the suspect. Abby was rocking a classic look – platform heeled boots, bustier, mini-skirt, and fingerless opera gloves. Her pigtails were loose, her silky hair moving as she talked.

"This is Lieutenant Karofsky. Need a trace material analysis of the matter on him."

"Hello, Lieutenant Karofsky," Abby said. "I'm Abby Sciuto, lab tech extraordinaire."

"Hello, miss," Karofsky replied politely, without any sign of malice.

He actually looked the most animated that he had since they met him. Karofsky seemed curious, and possibly a little intrigued.

"This won't hurt a bit," Abby said, turning on the vacuum. She started with his head, moving the nozzle through his short hair and bagging the results. She moved on to his shirt, sweat pants, and shoes. Karofsky remained relaxed and cooperative throughout the entire procedure.

"Now luminol," Abby said, picking up the bottle.

She spritzed Karofsky's hands, his shirt and the front of his sweats. Putting down the bottle, she turned out the lights and donned protective eyewear, and then picked up the UV lamp. The luminol glowed on his palms and the underside of his sleeves. Two more patches appeared on the knees of his sweats. Karofsky had clearly kneeled in Welch's blood. None of the patches looked like spatter, however, which was puzzling.

When Abby turned the lights back on, all traces of liveliness had faded from Karofsky's face. He stared at his hands with all the previous simmering anger.

"We'll need those clothes," Gibbs said. "I'll call for a jumpsuit and an escort to holding."

Karofsky didn't acknowledge him that time, just sat hunched in his chair.

"That's one angry sailor," Tony said as they walked toward the bullpen.

"Yeah," Gibbs agreed.

"Funny blood pattern," Tony went on. "No spatter. Even if he was behind her, it would be pretty hard to avoid the spray completely.

"Yep."

"He might have had time to change and then come back to ‘discover’ her body. I’ll get McGee and Ziva to check the base laundry and trash."

"You do that, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, seating himself at his desk and peering intently at his computer screen.

When McGee and Ziva walked into the bullpen, Gibbs looked up and said, “Well?”

McGee shook his head. “Nothing in the dumpsters, no sign of bloody clothes that we could find on the base.”

Ziva set a box on her desk. “We collected the knives from all members of the team. I will take these to Abby for analysis, although most will probably have blood on them.”

“They’ve been a very active SEAL team,” McGee explained. “Hopefully Abby can distinguish the DNA on these knives from Ensign Welch’s.”

“Did you bring the commander?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes, Commander Riggins is in the conference room,” McGee said.

“I’ll talk to him,” Gibbs said. Tony rose, prepared to accompany his partner, but Gibbs added, “Alone.”

>>><<<

The day dragged on without much progress. Commander Riggins hadn’t been able to tell Gibbs anything useful about the team or their past mission other than that the details were classified. Ducky was awaiting the results of several tests before he could present his autopsy results. Abby’s machines were working as fast as possible. They couldn’t do anything else until morning in any case, and Gibbs hoped that a night in the brig would change Karofsky’s attitude.

The only thing new that had come up was that Ducky had informed them that Ensign Welch hadn’t been killed with a single-bladed knife after all, but instead something with two blades like scissors or some sort of shears. McGee and Ziva headed back to Norfolk to gather up all the scissors they could find. Gibbs sent everyone else home around seven.

Tony beat him home and busied himself with sauce and pasta, the simple actions of doctoring the sauce and testing the results soothing him. Gibbs came in just as he was dishing up the end product. Neither of them talked much, which was one of the nice things about Gibbs – he didn’t need Tony to fill up the empty spaces with idle chatter.

They cleaned the kitchen together, and Tony thought about finding a DVD and losing himself in something mindless for a few hours in hopes of turning off his brain.

“Time for bed.”

“What?” Tony protested. “It’s not even nine.”

“Take a shower, Tony. Warm water, put on the massage spray. Stay a minimum of twenty-five minutes or until I get you.”

Tony really wanted to complain because the early bedtime rule was a relic of the time when he had been shattering in slow motion and Gibbs had glued him back together bit by bit. Tony decided against arguing further though, even though he wasn’t that fragile person anymore. If his lover wanted to pamper him, who was he to argue?

The time wasn’t close to being up, in Tony’s estimation, when the shower door opened with a rush of cool air and Jethro stepped in. Strong hands took over the washing duties. Tony relaxed under Jethro’s hands as fingers worked suds through his hair and then with long sweeps of his hands like he was sanding the boat, he massaged the weary muscles of Tony’s arms and legs. Jethro moved to Tony’s back, and he leaned against the warm tiles as water sluiced over him. Jethro’s fingers unerringly found the tense spots in his back.

Tony thought he had probably done all the recovering that Jethro would require, when the tenor of Gibbs’ touches changed from healing to arousing. With soapy hands, he cupped Tony’s balls, lifting and squeezing them. Jethro put more soap on his hands and encircled Tony’s prick. Tony squirmed and shoved himself into Jethro’s touch, trying to get him to do more. Jethro chuckled and pulled his hand away, leaving Tony groaning in frustration.

But soapy fingers parted his crease, sliding over his eager hole. Tony changed his stance, spreading his legs and pushing his butt out, trying to encourage his lover to take some more decisive action.

Jethro rubbed all around the edge of his opening and Tony wanted to slam his head into the tiles in frustration as Jethro took his sweet time with it. He was so excited that Jethro could easily press two fingers inside him at once when he finally stopped teasing.

"Fuck me," Tony said, pushing back against the fingers splitting him.

"Not yet," Jethro responded.

He removed his fingers and shut off the water. He stepped outside and dried off, leaving Tony behind fighting his arousal and resisting the urge to finish himself. Jethro held up a towel and Tony allowed Gibbs to dry him, knowing better than to resist when Jethro was in mother hen mode.

The gentle touches of the towel calmed Tony, making him sleepy.

"On the bed," Jethro said. "Face down."

"Mmkay," Tony murmured. He sprawled on the bed, letting the memories of the whole cluster fuck of a day seep out of his tired brain.

The mattress dipped as Jethro joined him. The sharp scent of Jethro's favorite massage oil drifted across Tony's nose. He made a contented noise as Jethro's oily hands pressed on his shoulders. Jethro covered every part of his body in the oil, strong hands coaxing Tony's muscles into a boneless compliance. Tony drifted on the relaxed feeling, letting his brain check out of the whole thing. Knuckles pressed against the arches of his feet, making him twitch in reaction, but Jethro had him in hand and wouldn't let him escape. Tendrils of the fog of sleep eased into his brain, erasing other things.

But then Jethro, the sly dog, changed things up again. His hands moved to Tony's buttocks, kneading and squeezing. The touches sent different messages to his brain and thoughts of sleep dissipated. He made a questioning noise, not really feeling verbal.

"You with me?" Jethro asked.

"Mmm," Tony responded, finding words too difficult.

Jethro chuckled and his oily fingers slipped into Tony's crack, massaging him from tailbone to just behind his balls. Tony did his best to keep still, knowing that with Jethro in this take charge mood, he wasn't required to do much other than cooperate. Jethro pressed on his hole, massaging the furled muscles but not pushing in. Tony felt himself relaxing and softening, and knew that Jethro could probably enter him without much trouble.

But he moved away, fingers at the small of Tony's back, pressing stress and tension away. He knuckled his way up Tony's spine, spreading the muscles and working them into a state of melting pliancy. Tony found himself on the border between arousal and relaxation and his body didn't know what it wanted more. He knew better than to struggle for either, because this was Jethro's operation, and he'd let Tony off the fence when he was ready.

Jethro leaned over him and nibbled on his earlobe. "That's a good job, Tony."

A flush of pleasure spread over Tony's chest, and some days he hated that he needed Gibbs' approval so much, but not tonight, when Jethro had spent so much time dedicated to making Tony feel good.

Jethro's hands drifted down Tony's back, not massaging so much any more, just rubbing his skin lightly enough to leave ripples of sensation in his path. Tony shivered. Jethro pressed the insides of his thighs, and Tony moved as he was directed, opening his legs. Three fingers entered him at once, making him gasp, but there was no pain, only undulating pleasure washing up his spine. Jethro worked him, fingers thrusting in and out. Tony didn't try to stop the involuntary rocking of his hips, but with his legs spread, he couldn't get any leverage to really push back. He was sure Gibbs didn't plan for him to anyway, so he held still.

Pulling his fingers out, Jethro got more oil and moved to Tony's legs, rubbing the stretched muscles of his inner thighs where Tony was holding his legs apart. Tony forced himself not to react to the loss of what he wanted, but to surrender, to accept whatever Jethro was planning. His thighs gradually relaxed and when the muscles softened, Gibbs pressed them wider, pushing past where Tony would normally be comfortable. He waited and worked the muscles until Tony could easily hold the position.

A nudge at his hole was all the warning he got before Jethro slid inside him in one long slow thrust. Tony's body was relaxed and ready, offering no resistance to the invasion. His wide open legs allowed Jethro to lodge himself deep in Tony's guts and he shivered as Gibbs possessed him. Jethro pressed kisses over his upper back and shoulders, little points of sensation on Tony's already overwhelmed body.

Jethro started moving, fucking him slowly, but expertly dragging over Tony's prostate with every thrust. Tony lingered on the boundary of arousal and sleep, his body still not knowing which way to jump. He was a vessel for Gibbs to do what he wanted, so he would wait until Jethro decided which way he should go. His dick was hard but orgasm was far away.

Finally Gibbs stopped his gentle thrusting and pulled Tony to his knees, fucking him in a way that Tony knew meant business. He braced himself on his elbows and concentrated on offering his ass to Jethro. Strong fingers gripped him, tugging on his cock with the rhythm of Jethro's hips. Tony felt the ebbing and surging waves of pleasure from his hole and his dick, and found himself balanced on a different sort of boundary.

Still, he was just an instrument that was played to the tune that Jethro decided.

Jethro finally let him off the edge he’d been on for what seemed like hours, stripping Tony’s cock with an efficiency guaranteed to wring an orgasm from him quickly. Tony’s body responded exactly as Gibbs wanted – his long-awaited climax surged through his balls and out of him in a rush of hot pleasure. He moaned incoherently, not able to say anything at all.

Jethro rubbed his flanks until Tony calmed and then pushed him flat again. Tony held himself still while Jethro plunged into his body, taking his own pleasure and grinding his pelvis against Tony’s ass as he came. He pulled out after a moment and went into the bathroom, coming back with a warm washcloth to clean them up.

Tony drifted peacefully, but couldn’t quite find the oblivion he needed.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?”

Tony heard lots of things in his lover’s voice – exasperation and frustration along with a hint of uncertainty. Tony usually passed out in exhaustion after a session like that where Gibbs fucked him into the mattress, leaving him wrung out and trembling. Which was the whole point in Jethro’s mind, as Tony was well aware. Tony’s restlessness bugged Gibbs’ ego.

Rolling over on his side, Tony propped his head up on one hand, and then wound the fingers of his other hand through Jethro’s.

“Permission to invoke an exception to rule 62,” Tony said.

The 60 series of Gibbs’ rules encompassed how they conducted their relationship. Rule 60 was in fact the DiNozzo Exception to Rule 12, the one against dating co-workers. Rule 62 was their agreement that they wouldn’t discuss cases in bed.

“All right,” Jethro said. “What are you chewing on?” His thumb stroked the back of Tony’s hand.

“He’s afraid.”

“Agreed.”

“And guilty. Of something. But maybe not this murder.”

“Could be survivor’s guilt,” Jethro suggested. “He was supposed to be with her.”

“What’s your gut say?”

“He’s hiding something.”

“Yeah, I think so,” Tony agreed. “But he didn’t react badly to Abby. According to Ducky, this murderer has a thing against women. Karofsky was curious about her, but not threatened.”

“What about David?” Gibbs asked.

“Ziva’s a different story. Everybody’s threatened by her.”

“Okay, so what do we know about him?”

Tony rolled over, staring at the ceiling while he tried to call up the details that McGee had provided. “Nothing stands out. Graduated McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, class of ’12. Turned down a football scholarship to Ohio State, big mistake there, in my opinion, in favor of joining the Cadets at Texas A&M, on a partial scholarship. Got a degree in engineering, don’t remember what flavor. Went to officer training school after graduation, and was accepted into the SEAL qualification training after he finished. Has been an exemplary SEAL ever since. Currently serves as the team maritime engineer.”

“Not much there,” Gibbs mused. “Hmm, don’t you know someone from Lima? That tailor you like so much.”

“Oh yeah. However, Kurt is no mere tailor; he’s a genius,” Tony huffed.

Gibbs slapped the back of his head, instantly gentling the touch into a caress, winding his fingers through Tony’s thick hair. “Lima.”

“Yes, Boss, you’re right. He’s about the right age to be a contemporary of Lieutenant Karofsky.”

“Go see him in the morning, see if he can shed any light on the Lieutenant,” Gibbs said. “Now . . . are you going to sleep? I’m not up to fucking you again, but I can sure as hell get a dildo and wear your ass out.”

Tony laughed and turned over, snuggling against Gibbs. “I’m good, Jethro.”

>>><<<

Tony slept in the next morning, mumbling a sleepy goodbye to Jethro when he left. He dawdled around the house until he was reasonably certain that Hummel’s Haberdashery would be open. He headed north on his usual route to the Navy Yard, but left the highway when he reached the turn off for Old Town Alexandria.

When Kurt set up his custom couture shop, he had eschewed the more obvious choice of Georgetown for the touristy kitsch of Old Town, although Kurt seemed to thrive on doing the unexpected, from what Tony could tell of him. Hummel’s did very well despite its distance from the corridors of power in DC. Tony happened to know that Kurt owned an ancient town house within walking distance of his shop, so he supposed that Kurt had a good thing going.

Tony parked the Charger on a meter around the corner from the shop and then checked his tie before entering Hummel’s. The bell tinkled as he entered and Tony smiled as the sounds of the latest pop diva in full wail wafted softly through the sound system, another unexpected choice in lieu of the usual Vivaldi or some other classical music choice.

Kurt hurried forward, his business-like smile morphing into something much warmer as he recognized Tony.

“Why, Anthony DiNozzo, where have you been?”

“The darkest depths of Africa, my good sir,” Tony replied in his broadest Sean Connery voice. “Seeking the perfect martini.”

Kurt laughed and stepped into Tony’s embrace, giving him a full body hug. Kurt was tall and slim, possessing a sort of impish beauty that intrigued Tony. He told himself that he was far too old for the designer, but if he hadn’t been with Jethro, Tony might seriously try to start something with him.

They pulled apart and Kurt ran his fingers down Tony’s lapel. “I have some divine slubbed silk that needs someone like you to carry it off,” he said.

“Regrettably, I’m here on business,” Tony said. “My sort of business.”

“Oh? I can’t imagine what I could do for the NCIS but come back to my office and we’ll talk. I feel this will require tea.”

Kurt’s office was tastefully decorated in neutral tones and miraculously clutter free. Kurt quickly filled a strainer with loose tea and poured water from an electric kettle over it. Tony pulled his tablet out of his messenger bag and stared at it, wondering where to start.

Holding out a mug of tea, Kurt said, “Tony, I’m manfully resisting my curiosity, but you’re killing me here.”

Tony smiled at his companion as he accepted the beverage. He took a sip, but knew he couldn’t delay much longer. “All right, but it’s not pretty.”

“I would expect not,” Kurt responded.

“We’re investigating the death of a Navy SEAL, which led us to question someone you may know.”

“Who?”

“Lieutenant David Karofsky of Lima, Ohio. McKinley High School, Class of 2012.”

“Karofsky?” Kurt blanched. “He killed someone?”

“We don’t know,” Tony answered, a little surprised by Kurt’s reaction. Clearly he knew the lieutenant. “We were hoping you could tell us something about him. The man has been uncooperative.”

“Tell me,” Kurt demanded. “Everything you know about it.”

“I can’t reveal details to civilians.”

“And I can’t help you without them,” Kurt retorted.

Tony debated, weighing how pissed off Gibbs would be versus the insight that Kurt could provide to unravel the enigma that was Lieutenant Karofsky.

He sighed. “You’ll be sorry.”

Kurt raised an eyebrow.

Tony turned to his tablet, calling up Ducky’s report, focusing on the words and forcing himself to speak in a dry clinical voice. He knew if he let his emotions rule him, then Kurt would freak out.

“Nipples removed with what seem to be poultry shears. Extensive damage to the vulva and clitoris from same weapon. Victim was stabbed in the throat with the shears, severing her carotid artery and slicing part of her windpipe. All wounds contemporaneous with death and order is impossible to determine. However, the removal of her clothes suggests that the mutilation occurred post-mortem.”

Tony looked up to see that Kurt’s normally pale complexion had turned pasty and he looked like he was going to be sick.

“Mercy,” Kurt whispered.

“Not likely,” Tony said. “He gave her none.”

“Someone was angry.”

“Yes, our pathologist believes that this killer has some deep-seated and unreasoning hatred of women in general.”

Kurt’s expression changed from illness to startlement. “Is that so? Then based on the profile, it couldn’t be Karofsky.”

“Why not? When I first mentioned his name, you didn’t seem surprised.”

“He’s not capable of this murder.”

This murder? Kurt . . . do you think he could kill someone?”

Kurt replied primly, “If he’s a SEAL, then one hopes he could.”

Tony closed his eyes, forcing himself to remain calm. “An unsanctioned killing? Could he do it? I’ve told you way more than I should . . . don’t play coy now.”

Kurt slumped. “Yes, I believe he’s capable of murder. But not in this case.”

“Why?”

“He doesn’t hate women. He took the biggest bitch in school to prom, not once, but two years in a row. And believe me, if I had to list the people most likely to be horrifically murdered just due to sheer aggravation, she’d top the list. But he liked her and they actually got along really well.”

“Why did they break up?”

Kurt shifted uncomfortably. “They were never dating.”

“Explain,” Tony demanded.

“She’s gay.”

“Did he know that?”

“He was one of the few who knew at the time.”

“So he went to prom knowing he was going with a chick who’d never put out? That’s a remarkable show of tolerance for a high school boy.”

“Well,” Kurt said, “she was one of the hottest girls at our school. He got major points from everyone else who didn’t know. It wasn’t entirely selfless on his part.”

There was an odd note in Kurt’s voice and Tony growled in frustration. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Shaking his head, Kurt replied, “Let me see him. See if I can convince him to tell you the truth.”

“Do you know what he’s hiding?”

“Not specifically in this case. But I know enough about him to make a guess.”

Tony picked up his phone and tapped one of his contacts. “Yeah, Boss. Hummel wants to talk to him. Thinks he can convince Karofsky to explain himself.”

Glancing at Kurt, Tony said, “Yes, Boss.” He put the phone away. “Lets go.”

“Let me leave some instructions and get the afternoon fitting rescheduled.”

Tony waited impatiently while Kurt talked to his staff and then he escorted Kurt to his car.

>>><<<

As they turned onto the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to cross the Potomac, Kurt studied his companion. Anthony DiNozzo was a study in incongruities. He handled the powerful V8 Charger like a little old lady, but Kurt knew cars almost as well as he knew fashion and he suspected that in a different car, Tony would be a different driver.

Tony didn’t say a word as they crossed the Anacostia, but Kurt was happy to give in to his meanderings about his enigmatic client instead of thinking about what awaited him in the Navy Yard. Tony had exquisite taste in fashion, and he also had an air of having grown up with the privileges of the very rich, for all that he was currently working as a government employee. In Kurt’s experience, there were distinct differences between people who had money as children and those who had come into their wealth as adults. It nothing to do with snobbery or conceit. It was just a different attitude that was easily identifiable once you knew what to look for.

The silver spoon childhood could explain the fashion sense, but Kurt wondered other things about Tony – how anyone that particular about their clothes couldn’t be on Team Gay. But he had never caught the slightest whiff of interest from the Federal agent, not even when Kurt had delicately telegraphed his willingness to do a little exploring. Kurt could only conclude that Tony was either rigorously and blindly straight or that Tony was in a relationship that met his every need. Kurt would bet the latter, because Tony would be a poor investigator indeed if he was too narrow sighted not to pick up on things unspoken.

At the gatehouse guarding the Navy Yard, one of the MPs took Kurt’s driver’s license and studied it carefully, comparing the picture to Kurt himself, and making Kurt wonder if he really looked like that much of a threat.

“Special Agent Gibbs said to let him through,” the guard said finally.

“Thank you, my man,” Tony said, easing the car forward.

Kurt looked around curiously, but aside from all the cuties in uniform, the fabled Navy Yard looked much like any other office complex he’d ever seen. The large office with its grouping of desks might be slightly more high-tech than the average, but that was about all the difference Kurt could see.

Until they were approached by a silver-haired fox whose demeanor made Kurt want to straighten his shoulders and his posture, an urge he hadn’t felt since the last time Sue Sylvester yelled at him. The man was seriously hot though, despite his age and his grim visage.

“Uh, Gibbs, this is the friend I was telling you about,” Tony said, gesturing to Kurt. “Kurt Hummel, Special Agent Jethro Gibbs.”

“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Kurt said, holding out his hand.

Special Agent Gibbs shook it briefly, and then growled, “Don’t call me sir.”

“Yes, uh, Mr. Gibbs,” Kurt said.

“DiNozzo!” Gibbs barked. “A word?”

“Uh, yes, boss. Here, Kurt,” Tony said, pulling out a desk chair. “Just sit for a moment. We’ll get you in with Lieutenant Karofsky in a minute.”

Kurt sat down, but he watched carefully as Tony followed that incredibly rude Gibbs person to a little alcove by the stairs. In Kurt’s opinion, being handsome didn’t give a man an excuse to avoid the basic social niceties, so he was dying of curiosity about Tony’s boss.

Tony appeared to be talking rather quickly and waving his hands while Gibbs listened stoically. Gibbs said something, perhaps a question, Kurt thought and Tony answered with the cheesiest grin Kurt had ever seen. Gibbs responded to that with a smack to the back of Tony’s head, but just for the slightest moment, Kurt thought that the older man turned the blow into a caress, his fingers ever so slightly tugging at Tony’s hair. Kurt shook his head, thinking that he must be seeing things, but when he looked more carefully, he noticed that their bodies were inclined towards each other and in spite of Gibbs’ grim face, Tony looked completely relaxed and happy.

Kurt spun the chair around, thinking furiously. He was pretty sure he’d found the source of Tony’s lack of interest in him . . . with the silver fox at home, Tony surely had no need to look elsewhere for his pleasures. Also, if Special Agent Gibbs and Tony were both gay, then they probably wouldn’t react badly when they found out that facet of their murder suspect’s character. The idea made him slightly more hopeful that he could talk Dave into telling the truth, which Kurt was almost positive had something to do with Dave being gay. He was sad to think that even after all these years, Dave still hadn’t come to accept himself, even if it meant getting him out of a murder charge. Maybe being in the military had changed him, because as far as Kurt could remember, by their senior year, while Dave wasn’t exactly out and proud, he wasn’t the emotional mess he’d been previously and he’d been okay with his orientation.

The conversation concluded and Tony gave the silver-haired man such a luminous smile that Kurt took a breath to settle himself, wondering what it would be like to have someone look at him like that. He spun his chair around in hopes that his spying hadn’t been noticed.

“They’re bringing Karofsky up from holding,” Tony said. “Are you ready?”

Kurt stood up. “As I’ll ever be.”

Tony ushered him into the elevator. Kurt stared at the walls, thinking about how Tony had gazed at Mr. Gibbs, like he was his entire world. Kurt was mildly jealous, not because he had some deep unrequited yen for Tony, but because the man had found the person that made him look like that.

The elevator let them out in a short hallway lined with closed doors. Tony stopped in front of one a few doors down, giving Kurt a cryptic look.

“I don’t want to influence you,” he said.

“I’m not afraid of him,” Kurt answered, because it was true . . . his fear of David Karofsky had faded a long time ago.

“Okay,” Tony said, sliding a card through the security reader. The door clicked open and Tony stepped back to allow Kurt inside.

Kurt’s first thought upon seeing the man inside was ‘yowza’ because he was big without being bulky – acres of muscle and tanned skin. The man had on a t-shirt that showed off his muscular arms and Kurt imagined that the rest of his body was equally as impressive.

But then he picked his head up and Kurt couldn’t restrain his gasp of shock. The man was clearly the same Dave Karofsky that Kurt remembered, but he was also very different. His eyes were full of a bleak despair, worse than Kurt had ever seen him in high school, although his face was clearly that of a man who had endured many things. Kurt’s first urge was to drag Lieutenant Karofsky into his arms and fuss over him, but he had no idea how that would be received.

“Hello,” he said instead, keeping his voice soft and non-threatening.

Karofsky wrinkled his brow, staring as Kurt took a seat in the chair opposite him, the sadness giving way to disbelief. “Kurt?”

“Yeah, it’s me.” He pulled a small smile out of somewhere.

“I’d shake hands,” Dave said, but he picked his hands up and then Kurt noticed the handcuffs chaining him to the table. “But . . .”

Kurt was momentarily reassured by Dave’s attempt at humor, but that fled as the seriousness of the situation sank in. They weren’t taking any chances with him, and while Kurt was convinced that Dave hadn’t done the horrid thing that Tony described, he was starting to doubt whether he could convince anyone else of it.

“I’d ask how you are, but you look horrible,” Kurt said, seeing no point in sugar coating the situation.

“You look amazing,” Dave responded. He looked like the effort of speaking cost him all his energy and his face fell into depressed lines again. “What are you doing here?”

“Agent DiNozzo is an acquaintance of mine,” Kurt answered. “He asked for my help.”

“With what?”

“He wanted insight about your personality.”

Dave huffed a rather bitter laugh. “Great.”

“I told him I didn’t think you could possibly have done it.”

“You did?”

Dave’s eyes were wide and open, full of . . . hope, maybe. Kurt wanted to touch him again.

“Yes, I did. However, I think you’re in a lot of trouble here, and as far as I can tell, you’re not doing much to help yourself.”

>>><<<

Tony hesitated outside the closed door, wondering if Kurt would really be all right with the SEAL, but then he opened the door to the observation room to find Gibbs already inside. Looking through the window, Tony saw that Kurt was sitting across the table from Lieutenant Karofsky, but he was leaning forward intently as if he’d like to grab the SEAL’s hands . . . or slap his face, Tony wasn’t exactly sure.

“Tell them the truth,” Kurt pressed, his voice filtering through the speaker system from the other room.

Tony looked up as Abby slipped inside the observation room.

Karofsky was saying, “I don’t know what happened. I was . . . out. And my hay fever kicked in like it hasn’t since I was a kid. I went back to quarters and took a Zaditor. It knocked me out. That’s it.”

“Bossman,” Abby said. “That might be true.”

“Whatcha got, Abs?”

“Major Mass Spec finally finished running all that stuff I vacuumed off him. The substance in his hair was aluminum phyllosilicate, otherwise known as muscovite mica.”

At their blank looks, she elaborated, “Glitter.”

“Like at a club,” Tony said.

She nodded. “But that’s not the most interesting thing. The glitter was mixed with pollen. Most people who suffer from hay fever are highly sensitive to common ragweed or Ambrosia artemisiifolia, which is prevalent throughout most of the eastern United States. It’s one of the most highly allergenic plants in existence, however, there’s an even more allergenic variety from the southwest . . . Arizona and New Mexico. That one is called burrobush or technically Ambrosia dumosa. Guess which one was in Lieutenant Karofsky’s hair?”

“The burrobush,” Gibbs sighed.

“Yep. It has a hundred times more active histamines than any pollen on this side of the Mississippi.”

“So someone who already has hay fever . . .”

“He’d feel like he’d been nuked,” Abby finished.

“He was set up,” Tony concluded.

“Looks like,” Gibbs agreed. “But he’s still hiding something.”

“The club. Maybe it was some place SEALs aren’t supposed to be.”

Inside Interrogation Room 3, Lieutenant Karofsky was still looking mulishly at Kurt. “I can’t.”

“You can,” Kurt urged.

“Do you know who is working this case?” Karofsky said. “Jethro Gibbs, one of the most hard ass Marine snipers ever. I . . . just can’t. Not to him.”

“I think you’re underestimating him,” Kurt said. “I have a feeling he’d be very understanding.”

Karofsky shook his head stubbornly, but Kurt suspected that he really wanted to talk. Twelve years hadn’t changed the big goof much, not enough that Kurt couldn’t tell what was on his mind.

“Then just tell me,” Kurt suggested. “There’s no one else here.”

“Don’t be stupid, Fancy. It’s a two way mirror.”

Fancy?” Gibbs mouthed.

Tony shrugged. He’d never heard that nickname before.

“No it’s not, Hamhock.”

Dave glared at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Just go with it,” Kurt urged. “You’re just chatting with me, two old acquaintances. And I already know most of it anyway.”

Dave sagged. “I went to a club. Picked up a twink with blond hair and blue eyes. He had a mouth like a Hoover.”

He leered at Kurt, who didn’t react. Karofsky shook his head. “Yeah . . . I was planning on getting him to take me home and then slip out in time to meet Kim. But I started sneezing and I couldn’t stop.”

“He’s gay,” Abby whispered.

“All right, DiNozzo, lets go.”

Gibbs exited the observation room and barged into the interrogation room without bothering to knock. Tony hurried to keep up with him.

“All right, Lieutenant Karofsky, I want the truth this time,” Gibbs said, banging his files down on the table. He glared at Kurt. “You can stay.”

Gibbs radiated anger, intimidating both witnesses. Kurt scurried to the other side of the table, pulling a chair close to Lieutenant Karofsky. Tony wondered if they’d been lovers in high school or something that would account for the charged tension between them.

“I have a huge fucking problem,” Gibbs said. “And you, Karofsky, are pissing me off.”

“You’re mad because he’s gay?” Kurt said, anger creasing his face.

Tony wondered where the mild-mannered tailor got the courage to confront Gibbs head on when even the most hardened Marines quailed before his unrestrained anger. He settled back in his chair, eagerly awaiting the show.

Gibbs gave Kurt an impatient look. “No, I’m furious because I have a dead SEAL and the lieutenant isn’t doing anything to help me catch her killer. In fact, all he’s been doing so far is getting in the way. Now give me that fucking truth!”

Kurt finally gave in to his urge to comfort, patting Karofsky’s arm and saying, “It will be okay, I promise. They’ll understand.”

Karofsky looked at him and then turned to Gibbs. “Okay. We just got back last week and I needed . . . uh, I needed a little relaxation. I went to Club Bacchus.”

Tony was familiar with the club, one of the many that catered to the military personnel stationed around Hampton Roads. This particular one was noted both for its debauchery and for its gay clientele, but was pretty careful about the members so none of the city officials had found any reasons to shut it down.

“They make sure everyone has a Unicard,” Karofsky continued. “And they require references before they let you join. So you usually don’t have to worry about some minor calling foul if things get a little rough.”

“And were you looking for something rough?” Gibbs asked.

“No. All I wanted was a pretty boy on his knees with my dick in his mouth.”

“What time did you head out?” Tony asked.

Karofsky looked thoughtful. “Maybe nine thirty? I didn’t check, but I’m sure it was before ten.”

“What did you do at the club?”

“Danced a little.” He looked at Kurt. “I discovered a few years ago that I like dancing.”

Kurt smiled at him. Tony suspected that this was some reference to their shared history, but decided it probably didn’t have anything to do with their case.

“What did you drink?” Gibbs asked.

“A couple of beers. They have Sam Adams on tap.”

“Okay,” Gibbs said. “How long were you dancing?”

Karofsky shook his head. “I don’t really know. It was a little after midnight when I got back to quarters, so probably less than an hour.”

“And your partner, the twink. Did you get his name?”

Karofsky shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It wasn’t that kind of thing.”

“Description?”

“Blond hair, really light.”

“Probably bleached,” Kurt put in.

Gibbs threw him a look, but Kurt refused to drop his eyes.

“Uh, yeah, maybe so,” Karofsky agreed. “Blue eyes. Not as tall as me, but not short either. Average, I guess.”

“Any marks, scars, or tattoos?” Tony asked.

Karofsky thought for a moment, and then shook his head. “He had on a tank top and there might have been something between his shoulder blades, but the shirt covered most of it. I couldn’t tell you what it was.”

“Who approached who?” Gibbs asked.

“The DJ started playing a Lady Gaga song and they always dump glitter when that happens. He came up to me and poured a handful of glitter over my head and said something about magic. Not the worst pick up I’ve ever heard.”

Tony carefully didn’t look at Gibbs. He supposed the odds of finding the kid were probably slim to none, but it was pretty clear that the lieutenant had been targeted. If nothing else helpful turned up, they’d have to locate him.

“How often do you go to Club Bacchus?” Tony asked.

Karofsky shrugged. “I usually head there about once a week when we’re stateside and have liberty.”

“Anyone else know that you were in that habit?” Gibbs inquired.

“Kim did. I didn’t really hide it, but I never said much to the rest of the team about my personal life.”

“Okay,” Gibbs nodded.

Tony sighed. They would have to question the entire team because it was clear that someone else knew about Karofsky’s orientation and had taken advantage of it.

“Back to the club . . . what happened after the glitter?”

“We went outside. He, uh, you know . . . gave me oral sex.”

“When did you start feeling your allergies kick in?”

“As soon as we got outside, but I ignored it because . . . uh.”

“You were about to get a blow job,” Tony supplied.

“Yeah. Plus it’s so cold right now that I didn’t think anything would be blooming.”

“What happened?” Gibbs asked.

“He . . . finished me off,” Karofsky answered. “By that time, my eyes were so swollen, I could barely see. I was going to return the favor, but he said I looked sick and should go home. He went back inside and I left.”

“That’s all we need for now,” Gibbs said.

“So you’re letting him go?” Kurt asked.

“No, that’s not a good idea,” Gibbs replied.

“What? Why? He didn’t do it!”

“Kurt,” Karofsky said mildly.

“Someone set you up,” Tony said. “Someone who might want you out of the way permanently, because if you were convicted of this, you could get the death penalty. We need you to stay here until we figure this out.”

Both Kurt and the lieutenant looked a little sick.

“I’m staying, too,” Kurt said.

Gibbs rolled his eyes and then glared at Tony. “Figure something out, DiNozzo.”

“Abby,” Tony said.

“Yeah, that’ll work. Get them settled and then get back up here. I’m pulling in the rest of the SEAL team.”

>>><<<

Kurt glanced at his watch. It was late, nearly ten at night. Abby, a goddess among women, had provided them with some dinner. Kurt had called his shop when it became apparent that the case wasn’t going to wrap up that day, and arranged to have his staff cover his obligations. Luckily Valentine’s Day had just passed and they weren’t in to the wedding season yet, so demands for custom jobs were at a momentary lull.

When Abby was busy, he and Dave spent the time catching up on their lives since high school graduation. Kurt felt an odd sort of pride about the things Dave had done, as if he were the gay ambassador to the SEALs or something equally ludicrous. Despite the changes to the US military over the years, life couldn’t have been easy for him, but he seemed content with his choices.

Kurt glanced over the other man, who was sitting on a rolling chair, intent on some hand-held game that Abby had provided. The lab tech was currently sleeping on the floor of her office. Kurt wondered why the NCIS didn’t have a sleeping room if they had people staying over night as much as they appeared to. Dave would probably be more comfortable back in his cell.

Or maybe not, he thought as Dave’s shoulders slumped and he dropped the game on one of the counters.

The urge to comfort him that Kurt had experienced when he first saw him in the interrogation room hadn’t faded. Nor had his other urges, but Kurt silently yelled at his libido to back off.

“What is it?” he asked.

Dave looked at him, his face full of pain. “I miss her.”

Kurt found a blank space on the wall and settled to the floor, patting the spot beside him. “Tell me about her.”

The SEAL hesitated for a moment, but Kurt gave his most winsome smile and Dave shook his head before getting up and ambling over. Kurt carefully schooled his face to keep his reactions to Dave’s physicality from being obvious.

Dave settled beside him, stretching his long legs out. Kurt shifted over until their shoulders touched. He decided to be bold and reached for Dave’s hand, tangling their fingers together and giving him a squeeze.

“I want to know,” he said. “She was important to you.”

After a long moment, Dave said, “She was so fucking fierce. She reminded me a little of San, you know? But without the bitchiness. She didn’t need it. Kim was a total badass.”

“How did you become so close?”

“She figured me out pretty quickly. She was smart like that. Anyway, with women being new to the SEALs, she knew she’d need an ally. I haven’t really hidden myself, but it’s not like I’m really out to the rest of the team either. She told me she knew.”

“She was brave,” Kurt surmised.

“Yeah. We agreed to watch each other’s backs. And we talked, you know? A lot of what we do is hurry up and wait . . . wait for intel, wait for orders, wait for the new moon. So we’d talk. I told her everything about me, probably even mentioned you a few times. I can’t ever remember having a friend like her.”

“I wish I could have met her,” Kurt commented.

“Yeah,” Dave agreed, rubbing Kurt’s fingers. “Me too. Although, I guess if she weren’t dead, I wouldn’t be talking to you now.”

Kurt considered that. “I like to think that we come into other people’s lives for a reason. That maybe some things are meant to happen.”

“Like us running into each other again?”

“Yes.”

Dave shook his head. “A pretty fairytale. The world is a fucking ugly place and I’ve probably seen some of the worst of it. Hell, I’ve been the worst of it for lots of people, not just you.”

“Maybe,” Kurt conceded. “But you were doing your duty. That changes things.”

“Sometimes I wonder,” Dave muttered.

“Come on . . . ,” Kurt cajoled. “Aren’t you the tiniest bit happy to see me again?”

Hopefully Dave wouldn’t be appalled by Kurt flirting with him under such dire circumstances, but Kurt really couldn’t help himself . . . Dave was attractive on many levels and something about him just tugged Kurt towards him.

“Of course I am,” Dave said. “Maybe . . . never mind.”

“Maybe what?” Kurt pressed.

“After this is all over, we could . . . I dunno, hang out or something.”

“Or something, definitely,” Kurt said, rubbing Dave’s fingers.

>>><<<

The MPs escorted the next SEAL into the interrogation room. Gibbs flipped the folder open and said, “Petty Officer Jesse Sanchez.”

“That’s right,” the SEAL replied.

“Did you know Ensign Kimberly Welch?” Gibbs asked.

Sanchez looked at him oddly. “Well, yeah.”

“What was your opinion of Ensign Welch?”

“That bitch? She was one hot mama, I tell you.”

Tony wondered if Sanchez had the slightest clue how much those two statements contradicted themselves.

“Bitch?” Gibbs questioned. “Why so?”

“Wanted to play with the big boys, didn’t she? Wouldn’t share that hot bod with anyone but the K-man.”

“K-man?”

“Lieutenant Karofsky. The dude you arrested for offing her.”

“Let me get this straight . . . she wasn’t a slut, so that made her a bitch?” Tony said.

“What the fuck, man?” Sanchez protested.

“Well, I’m just trying to clear up your statements, which aren’t models of sensibility, just so you know.”

“Did she have sex with anyone besides Lieutenant Karofsky?” Gibbs asked.

“Fuck no. Everybody asked her. She was too good for the rest of us. Spent all her time spreading her legs for K-man. Whoever ganked her did the rest of us a favor.”

“How so?” Gibbs persisted.

“Fucking bitches don’t belong in the SEALs. Teach the rest of them a lesson.”

“Did you kill her?” Gibbs asked.

“Are you a fucking ‘tard? K-man did it, everybody knows it.”

Gibbs didn’t say anything else, just stood up and Tony followed him into the observation room where McGee and Ziva, along with Ducky, had been watching the interaction.

“Sanchez has a lot of anger,” McGee said. “Enough that he fits Ducky’s profile of the killer.”

“Yep,” Gibbs agreed.

“Quite possibly,” Ducky said.

“He doesn’t seem to know that Karofsky’s gay though, Boss,” McGee continued.

“Nope.”

“It’s pretty certain that whoever arranged that pollen shower for Karofsky had to know his orientation,” Tony said. “So the killer must know.”

“Unless the attack on Karofsky is something separate from the murder,” Ziva put in. “Could it be a coincidence?”

“I hate coincidences,” Gibbs snarled.

“That would stretch the rules of probability to the breaking point,” McGee said. “He was her running partner. He’s the one the killer had to disable to get to her. A SEAL on her own is one thing, but two SEALs together . . . too big of a challenge.”

“McGee, Ziva . . . I want the background on every member of that SEAL team. Deep background. Every unexplained event that ever occurred in their lives, especially any deaths of pets, relatives, guys on the street. I don’t care if they were accidental, natural or what the hell ever. Get Abby to help if you need it.”

“What are you thinking, Boss?” Tony asked.

“That team is hiding an animal. This can’t be the first time he’s killed. I want him flushed out and I want it yesterday.”

“I hate to bring this up,” McGee said. “But there’s still the pirate angle.”

Gibbs rubbed his eyebrows. “I’m not going to consider that African pirates made it to our shores, co-opted one of our citizens, and took two SEALs out of commission unless I’m forced to. Do the background search. If that doesn’t give us anything, then I’ll consider reaching out to the CIA or Interpol.”

“Got it, Boss.”

“We’re gonna keep Sanchez on ice for now because I don’t think we can entirely rule him out of this. Tony and I will keep talking to the other members of the team, piecing together their stories.”

Tony sighed, knowing they were probably in for a grueling few days ahead of them. Gibbs didn’t seem inclined to send anyone home, now that they didn’t have a clear suspect anymore. Tony pulled out his go bag and refreshed his deodorant, considered whether to change his shirt, but decided against it on the theory that he might need it later.

>>><<<

“What have you got?” Gibbs demanded when everyone was back in the bullpen after completing their various tasks.

“We have not discovered very much,” Ziva answered.

“The usual,” McGee added. “Car accidents, cancer, heart attacks. A few of them in the team member’s immediate families.”

“Only one of these deaths sang any bells,” Ziva said.

“Rang,” Tony corrected automatically.

She ignored him. “During Commander Riggins’ senior year in a high school, a girl in his hometown was brutally murdered.”

“The killer attempted to cut her head off, but botched it,” McGee said, looking at his notes on his tablet. “The local LEOs immediately focused on her boyfriend, but he had a solid alibi. They never found the murder weapon and eventually wrote it off as a drifter when nothing else happened. It’s currently in their cold case files.”

“Let me guess,” Gibbs snarled. “Riggins was the boyfriend.”

McGee shook his head. “No, the boyfriend was someone named Bart Mancuso. The only contact between the dead girl and Riggins was an AP physics class they shared that year.”

Gibbs stared fixedly at the wall. Tony turned those small bits of information over in his mind, considering the likelihood that the girl’s death was another coincidence. There was something really wrong with the picture although it seemed innocuous on the surface. Tony had come to hate coincidences as much as Gibbs did.

“I don’t like it,” Gibbs said finally.

“Your gut, Boss?” McGee asked.

“Don’t need a gut for this,” Tony put in. “Something stinks.”

“Agreed,” Gibbs said. He pointed to Ziva and McGee. “You two . . . on a plane to . . .”

“Pocatello, Idaho,” Ziva said.

“Yeah. Talk to everybody you can find. There’s a connection between Riggins and that girl. Find it.” He turned to Tony. “We’re gonna keep talking to the rest of that team. I want to know everything there is to know about every one of them. Maybe something will shake out about Riggins if we cast the net wide enough.”

“On it, Boss,” Tony said, rolling over to his desk to put things in motion.

Ziva and McGee grabbed their go bags and headed for Reagan National. Tony called for some pizza and had it delivered to Abby’s lab. Hopefully her unwilling guests were staying out of her way. Considering the new information, Tony thought that their decision to keep Lieutenant Karofsky close and protected was probably the best they could have made. Abby’s lab was out of the way and better option than the morgue. Kurt still refused to leave and Tony wondered if Karofsky realized that he’d probably gained a life partner in the process of losing his best friend. Tony recognized the look in Kurt’s eyes and was willing to bet that the designer wasn’t going to let the big man slip out of his life without a fight.

>>><<<

By the end of the next day, Tony was heartily sick of hearing the mundane details of each SEAL’s life.

“I hope I never have to hear someone arguing about the benefits of a P-90 versus of XM29 again,” he grumbled to Gibbs, as he leaned back in his chair and stretched his spine. He was feeling brain dead.

“Up to MTAC,” Gibbs said. “David and McGee are checking in.”

“How’s Abby doing with our guests?” Tony asked.

“She and your friend appear to be kindred spirits,” Gibbs chuckled.

“Good,” Tony said as they took their seats in MTAC’s plush chairs.

Gibbs nodded to the technician and soon enough McGee’s face filled the giant screen.

“Go,” Gibbs said.

“Okay, Boss,” McGee said. “The girl, Melissa Herbert, was wildly popular . . . cheerleader, Homecoming Queen, honor society type.”

“Must’ve been smart too,” Tony pointed out.

“She was,” McGee agreed. “She was taking two other AP classes and had already passed the AP algebra test the year before. We talked to the physics teacher, who said, quoting, ‘she had such a burning spirit, such drive. She was one of those kids who make teaching them a pleasure.’”

“What did you find about her death and Riggins?” Gibbs asked.

“Most of the town is proud of him. Hometown boy turned war hero. He was liked well enough, a jock, but quiet. Not so obviously on the fast track as Melissa.”

“With a few exceptions,” Ziva said, stepping into the camera frame. “I spoke with Melissa’s best friend at the time of her death.”

“And?” Gibbs demanded.

“Riggins had asked Melissa to the prom and the best friend, Becky Schumacher, found it creepy.”

“Why?”

“Because Melissa and Bart Mancuso had been dating since their sophomore year. Everyone at the school was aware of them as a couple. Ms. Schumacher thought it was strange that Riggins would ask her out under those circumstances.”

“All right.”

“There’s more, Boss,” McGee said. “The physics teacher, Mrs. Alvarado, said that Melissa sent her an email a couple of days before her death. Said that she was fairly sure one of her classmates had cheated on the semester exam and that this person would try it again on the AP exam.”

“What did Alvarado do?” Gibbs asked.

“She wrote Melissa back and asked her to come and talk to her. Melissa responded that she wanted to be sure before she potentially ruined someone’s life.”

“She had honor,” Gibbs murmured.

“It probably got her killed,” Tony added.

“She was found in an abandoned patch of forest on the outskirts of town,” Ziva said. “Time of death was established at the time that Mancuso was pitching in the regional high school baseball championship game. In front of hundreds of people.”

“Did the teacher mention the cheating accusation to the LEOs? Surely they talked to her,” Gibbs said.

“They did,” McGee agreed. “She told them and they talked to the members of the class, but the students all had alibis. None of them triggered any suspicions.”

“What about the best friend?” Gibbs demanded.

“Unfortunately, the police concentrated on the boyfriend and Schumacher was questioned about him and not about anything else. She never mentioned the prom invitation to them and she didn’t know about the physics cheating.”

“So here’s the scenario,” Tony mused. “Melissa confronts Riggins about the cheating. Maybe she wants him to do the right thing, confess, own up to it. Or else she’ll tell what she knows. So she agrees to meet him to talk about it. He handled the social rejection okay, but now she’s about to ruin his future. He takes steps.”

“That works, Boss,” McGee says. “So what have we got now?”

“He cheated on something again,” Gibbs said. “Kimberly Welch knew about it.”

“How does setting up Karofsky fit into that?” Tony asked.

“It’s the same scenario . . . maybe he hit on Welch and she turned him down,” McGee said. “But then she finds out something or witnesses something dishonorable. She can wreck his life. He wants her too, but she’s involved with Karofsky.”

“But they weren’t . . . Riggins had to know he’s gay,” Ziva objected.

Tony snapped his fingers. “No, but Karofsky described her as his best friend in the world. They had a very close, very intimate relationship. They loved each other without the sex. You’ve heard what the rest of the team said about them, Boss . . . they all thought the two of them were together.”

“Okay,” McGee said. “This time he’s older and wiser. He can’t count on the investigators just giving up. So he has to make sure the ‘boyfriend’ doesn’t have an alibi.”

“It is like falling dominos,” Ziva said. “Kimberly Welch tells him ‘no’ but then she finds out something incriminating. He is going down the same road as before. It’s a pattern.”

“What did she have on him?” Tony mused. “Would she tell Karofsky?”

“If he knew, he would have told us already,” McGee said. “He’s devastated by her death. Loss of his best friend would outweigh any loyalty he had to his team leader.”

“I think we should talk to him again,” Tony said. “He might not know the specifics, but he might have an idea.”

“Whatever happened was most likely from their latest mission,” Gibbs said.

“What I don’t get,” McGee said. “If he wanted to kill her, why not do it in Africa? Murder would surely be easier to hide in the chaos of battle. Why wait till they’re back here?”

“Dunno,” Gibbs said. “Maybe he had no way to drag Karofsky into it over there.”

“But why bother? Doing it like this . . . where he has to get another SEAL out of the way, just has to make it harder on him,” McGee insisted.

“Maybe that’s the psychological aspect of that Ducky mentioned,” Tony said. “He has to make sure that history repeats itself.”

“How does he fit with Ducky’s profile of a woman hater?” McGee asked. “To go all these years without snapping?”

“We’ll have to ask him,” Gibbs said. “But I suspect that he’s a functioning sociopath. He can keep a lid on his urges until the two conditions we have here converge.”

“It was probably why he chose the SEALs,” Tony said. “They were the last bastion of the military that excluded women, so he was safe for a long time.”

“And if you add a touch of homophobia to the mix, you’ve got the motive for trying to hang Karofsky,” McGee concluded.

“Yep, and as he saw it, Karofsky was getting something that Riggins thought he should have.”

“We need proof,” Gibbs said. “Get on it.”

“All right. Ziva and I will head back.”

“Tell the LEOs to look into Riggins as a suspect in Melissa Herbert’s death,” Gibbs ordered. “Maybe if they have a place to look, they can find what they need to move the case.”

“We will do so,” Ziva said. The screen went dark.

Gibbs stood up and pulled out his cell. “Abs. I want every single weapon in possession of that team analyzed . . . No, I don’t know what we’re looking for. Just fishing.”

Outside MTAC, they encountered Director Vance.

“Director, I need SECNAV to give my team clearance to be read in on that SEAL team’s latest mission,” Gibbs said.

“What have you got?” Vance asked.

“Something bad went down and that team leader is implicated. I need to know what they were doing before I confront him about it.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Special Agent.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m gonna head down to the lab,” Tony said. “Talk to Karofsky again.”

Tony made his way downstairs. Hesitating in the doorway, he saw Abby dancing at one of the counters while her fingers flew over a keyboard. Kurt sat on the floor on a blanket, with his back propped against the wall. Lieutenant Karofsky curled up beside him, lying on his side and clutching one of Kurt’s shapely legs like he was holding his Teddy bear. Kurt and Abby seemed to be talking back and forth with apparent ease, while Karofsky appeared to be snoozing. Even though he was sleeping, Tony could clearly see the lines of grief and weariness on Karofsky’s face. Kurt never stopped touching the SEAL, running his fingers soothingly through the big man’s hair without seeming aware that he was doing it.

Stepping quietly, Tony nodded to Abby and then walked over to the two figures on the floor. He settled cross legged in front of Kurt.

“Hey.”

Kurt smiled. “Hey, yourself. Any news?”

“Nothing specific,” Tony hedged. “I need to talk to him.”

With a sigh, Kurt nodded, bending over the prone form of Karofsky. “Dave,” he whispered, fingers gently touching his face.

Karofsky stirred, looking up at Kurt with something unguarded in his eyes. Apparently the SEAL returned Kurt’s interest, Tony thought. He hoped his friend wasn’t about to get his feelings stomped, but that look reassured him.

“Kurt?” the lieutenant rasped, his voice rough with the sleep still clogging his eyes.

“Agent DiNozzo is here.”

Karofsky immediately went on alert, rolling over and sitting up. “Sir?”

“Morning, sunshine,” Tony smirked. “Our investigation is pointing towards something that must have happened when the team was in Africa.”

“Really?” Karofsky frowned. “It was pretty routine. We didn’t have any casualties.”

“What exactly was the mission?” Tony asked.

“I can’t tell you,” Karofsky said, looking regretful. “It’s classified.”

Tony was pretty certain that Gibbs would badger SECNAV until they got the clearance, so he dropped that part of it.

“How did Ensign Welch get along with Commander Riggins?” he asked instead.

Karofsky shrugged. “Fine, I guess. She wasn’t buddy-buddy with anyone on the team except for me and a couple of the other women. She and Riggins were both the vanguard and they did a good job.”

“Riggins was point?”

“Yeah, Commander was a stand up guy. He wasn’t one of the lead from the back losers. If we were in it, he was in it.”

Tony winced internally at the admiration in Karofsky’s tone. He wondered how the lieutenant would take the news that his beloved commander had set him up for the murder of his best friend. Tony reflected that being in the SEALs probably kept Riggins worst urges blunted – most of the time, he could probably kill without question. Maybe that’s what Kimberly Welch discovered . . . that Riggins was an unsanctioned murderer who killed for fun.

“Keep going,” Tony urged. “What I really need is a sense of the squad and how everyone worked together. Especially with the women being a new thing for the SEALs.”

Karofsky shrugged. “It was tough at first; some of the guys said a lot of shit.”

“Did you?”

“Nah, I like strong women.”

“Okay,” Tony said. “What about the other officers, or the leaders, the ones the rest of the team looked up to?”

“The Master Chief was cool with it, but he’s not the yelling type of guy, more of a cold bastard, so he didn’t get in anyone’s shit about it, but he kept an eye out.”

Tony looked at his tablet, paging through the list of SEAL team members. “You mean Master Chief Walker Navarro?”

“Yeah, he might be able to tell you better about the enlisted personnel.”

“I’ll talk to him,” Tony said.

At that moment, Abby office phone shrilled and she picked it up. “Yes, bossman, I’ll send him your way.”

She turned around to Tony, “SECNAV in MTAC. Gibbs is on the way up there.”

“Okay,” Tony said, getting to his feet.

“One thing, Tony,” she said. “I’ve run all the weapons like Gibbs asked. The side arm you were interested in has human brain matter on the muzzle.”

“Did you get any identifiable DNA?” Tony asked.

Abby looked solemn. “Not yet. There were multiple donors. Many multiples. That’s the only gun that had any type of tissue.”

“Understood, Abs.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss. “I’ll tell the boss.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow when Tony settled beside him in MTAC. “Learn anything?”

“Not much. Riggins and Welch were point on whatever they were doing. Karofsky said it was classified.”

“We’re about to be read in.”

“Abby found samples of human brain matter from many different people on the muzzle of Riggins’ sidearm. None of the other guns did, including Welch’s.”

“Is that so?” Gibbs murmured.

The communications tech to their left tapped the screen and SECNAV appeared in front of them. Gibbs stood up.

“Afternoon, sir.”

“Special Agent Gibbs. What can I do for you?”

“I’m sure that you’re aware that we’re investigating the death of a Navy SEAL out of Norfolk,” Gibbs said.

“I’ve seen your preliminary reports.”

“We have reason to believe that the team’s commander is implicated and it probably has something to do with their mission in Africa.”

“That op is very classified.”

“He cut off her nipples with poultry shears,” Gibbs snapped, and Tony could tell that his lover was losing his battle to be polite to the Secretary of the Navy.

SECNAV looked troubled, but he nodded. “The President and his security council determined that the pirates operating out of the western part of Africa present a threat to the stability of this country, not only because they’ve abducted several of our citizens, but from an economic standpoint, their seizure of container ships tends to cause perturbations in the markets.”

“Enter the SEAL team,” Gibbs said.

“Yes. Their brief was to destroy the harbors that the pirates have been using and scuttle any confirmed unlawfully registered ships that they could find. We’ve been coordinating their raids with local leaders and informants to rout the pirates from their hideouts. The SEAL team was to cause property damage only, not to engage the pirates or do anything else that might be viewed as an act of war, although they were certainly allowed to defend themselves.”

“Have they been successful?”

SECNAV visibly hesitated. “Very much so. However, I’ve gotten reports from the locals that they have exceeded their orders. I had dismissed it as bellyaching because I have no doubt that some of those communities profited from supporting the pirates in their midst.”

“I would suggest that you examine those reports carefully,” Gibbs said. “We found brain tissue on Commander Riggins’ gun. From what you’ve told us, there’s no legitimate reason for it to be there.”

“I would say not,” the Secretary agreed. “Where is the commander now?”

“Enjoying our hospitality,” Gibbs answered.

“Let me know if I can be of any further assistance,” SECNAV said before signing off.

“Holy shit,” Tony breathed. “McSparrow was right. This is about the pirates.”

Gibbs smiled briefly, and then sobered. “I’ll get the Marines to deliver Riggins to interrogation. Get McGee and Ziva. I want her in the room with me. Might put him off balance.”

Riggins didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on when the Marines showed him to the door of interrogation. Tony instructed the MPs to stay put because he couldn’t help but think that this was going to turn out to be trouble.

He darted into the observation room and saw that Riggins was on his feet, staring at the cameras in the corner of the room. Tony looked the man over carefully . . . he was reasonably attractive in his uniform and Tony presumed he wasn’t stupid, because he doubted he’d be leading a SEAL team if that were the case. Tony couldn’t see anything about the man that screamed ‘I’m an entitled lunatic.’

Gibbs walked in with Ziva behind him. “Sit down, Commander.”

“What’s this, Agent Gibbs? Quite a change from the last time we talked.”

But he took the chair Gibbs indicated. Ziva sat directly across from him and Gibbs sat off to the side. Riggins cut his eyes at her before turning to Gibbs.

“Would you like an attorney, Commander Riggins?” Gibbs asked him.

“For what?” Riggins asked.

“To protect your constitutional rights,” Ziva answered. “This is my understanding of the function of a lawyer in these circumstances. Is that not right, Gibbs?”

Her accent seemed to have gotten extra thick and Tony silently applauded her for playing up the things that would be most likely to piss off the commander.

“Yep,” Gibbs said.

“Don’t need one,” Riggins replied.

Gotcha, Tony thought.

“We would like to know the location of your bloody clothes,” Ziva said.

He didn’t look at her as he answered. “What is she talking about?”

“The clothes you were wearing when you stabbed Ensign Welch with the poultry shears,” Ziva replied, not at all put out by his attitude.

Tony checked the monitor, and was amused to see Ziva’s smug little smile.

“You pierced her carotid artery,” Ziva continued. “That would produce a fair amount of spray.”

“Are you going to let this bitch talk to me like that?” Riggins said to Gibbs. “I didn’t kill Welch.”

“Yes, you did,” Ziva said pleasantly. “She caught you murdering civilians in Mauritania. You were about to be exposed as the barbaric pig that you are.”

“Shut the fuck up,” he growled.

“Dishonorable discharge, a court martial, loss of your pension,” Ziva crooned. “But the worst thing would be that you could not hide those uncontrollable urges to kill anymore. Sucks to be you.”

With a roar, Riggins stood up and kicked his chair away. “Bitches, fucking bitches!! Fuck off and die! Fucking kill you!”

Tony and McGee watched in appalled horror as Riggins totally flipped his shit, screaming things about Ziva and Welch and some other woman that they didn’t know, making Tony think that there was more than one murder in Riggins’ past. McGee looked startled but pulled out his tablet and began typing.

In the interrogation room, Ziva and Gibbs evidently had heard enough. Ziva took him down with a beautiful combination move. Tony went into the room to assist with the arrest.

As he cuffed the commander, Gibbs said, “You are under arrest for the murder of Ensign Kimberly Welch. And Melissa Herbert.”

When Gibbs said the other girl’s name, Riggins went limp.

Gibbs pulled him to his feet. “And maybe more.” He turned to the MPs, “Put him in holding for now. We’ll call the JAG office and have them send someone for him, and then get him transferred to Leavenworth.”

They watched as the Marines prodded the prisoner out the door.

“McGee is already on that other murder he mentioned,” Tony said.

“What a mess,” Gibbs said, shaking his head.

“I’ll tell Abby’s guests they’re free to go,” Tony said. He hesitated. “Maybe you could speak to the base commander and get Karofsky a few days of leave. He’s probably going to need it.”

Gibbs nodded. “Yeah.”

In the lab, Abby was showing off her tattoos. Kurt looked as perky as possible under the circumstances, which included sleeping on the floor and not changing his clothes for several days. Karofsky, on the other hand, looked more wrecked than the last time Tony saw him.

“Tony!” Abby exclaimed, catching sight of him.

Kurt and Lieutenant Karofsky got to their feet.

“It’s over,” Tony said. “We got him.”

“Who?” Karofsky asked, his face set in grim lines.

Tony could easily see where that was going. “No you don’t, big boy. We’ve got him, and we’re going to let the wheels of justice do their thing.”

“She deserves to be avenged,” Karofsky answered.

“She doesn’t deserve her best friend fucking his life up on her behalf when the US government is capable of taking care of the problem,” Tony said. “Besides, you have something else you should be doing.”

“I do?” Karofsky asked.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Kurt will fill you in.”

“I will?”

“Never mind that,” Karofsky said. “Who was it? I hoped it was some random psycho, but I guessed that it wasn’t or else you wouldn’t have put me in protective custody.”

Tony sighed, knowing that his news was going to hurt just as much as Welch’s death, and perhaps more, because it was such a betrayal of Karofsky’s trust. “It was Riggins. Welch knew something about him that would get him dishonorably discharged and probably a court martial. He killed her before she had a chance to tell anyone about it.”

Karofsky went pale. “Riggins? How? I don’t . . . what the fuck?”

“He has a history of it,” Tony said. “We’re also looking for your partner from the other night to confirm Riggins’ identity.”

This time Karofsky looked like someone had punched him. “How would some random club kid know Commander Riggins?”

“We don’t know yet, but we’re fairly certain that Riggins hired him to douse you with super pollen to get you out of the way and leave you without an alibi.”

Kurt moved then, putting his arms around Karofsky, who sagged like Kurt was the only thing holding him upright.

“We need you to talk to one of our sketch artists, and then Kurt can take you back to his place.”

“I can?” Kurt asked, looking entirely puzzled.

“Gibbs is arranging some leave time for Lieutenant Karofsky. I’m sure you have lots of catching up to do.”

Tony hoped he’d read the situation correctly. Kurt seemed intent on being there in support of Karofsky, so Tony hoped he would take him home and fuck his brains out. Karofsky needed the comfort.

Kurt smiled. “We do indeed.”

>>><<<

Kurt padded barefoot to the bathroom and paused at the door, taking in the sight of the man who was filling his claw-footed tub to overflowing. David Karofsky was a big man, his body made of planes of hard muscle and robust bones. The scene appealed to Kurt on a very basic level and he couldn’t help responding to it in a physical way.

Dave had been in there long enough that most of the bubbles had disappeared, and Kurt wondered if the water had gone cold.

He cleared his throat and stepped carefully towards the bath, kneeling beside the tub.

“How are you feeling?”

Dave scooped up the lingering bubbles in an effort to cover himself. “Better,” he said.

Kurt had no plans to spook the Navy man into running away or on the other hand, to let him deny the attraction that he was certain went both ways. He swirled his index finger in lazy patterns through the water, carefully avoiding the area that Dave had attempted to cover.

“Why are you doing this?” Dave asked.

“Doing what?” Kurt responded.

Dave raised a dripping wet hand. “Taking care of me. Bringing me home. All you had to do was convince me to tell NCIS the truth. That was the end of your obligation.”

“You need someone pampering you,” Kurt said. “I know you’re a big, tough SEAL but everyone needs human kindness on occasion. You’ve had a rough few days.”

“Oh.” Dave closed his eyes. “Good point. After everything . . .”

Kurt thought he knew what Dave meant by ‘everything.’ Losing his best friend, finding out that he had been set up to take the fall for something so unthinkable, discovering that his commanding officer, the one that Dave had trusted with his life, was the one who had done it. All of it was a lot for one person to bear.

“Thank you, Kurt. You’re a good person.”

Kurt smiled. “I’m not completely without ulterior motives.”

“Oh yeah?”

Dave gradually relaxed, becoming accustomed to his presence, and let his hands rest on the sides of the tub. Kurt swirled his finger closer to Dave’s wet skin.

“I like you,” he said.

Dave opened his eyes, looking like he was about to argue, but Kurt overrode any objections he might have.

“I liked the person you had become by the time we graduated. Time has mellowed my memories of what went on before. But I really like the man you are now.”

They wouldn’t speak of the bullying. Dave had apologized for it enough at the time and then redeemed himself by his continued defense of Kurt. Teenaged Kurt had been too frightened and too insecure to see Dave Karofsky as anything other than a very volatile acquaintance. Grown up Kurt had no such hang-ups. He wanted Dave – in his life, if possible, but definitely in his bed in the short term.

Dave grabbed Kurt’s wrist, halting his questing finger, and lacing their fingers together. He drew their joined hands to his mouth and raked his teeth lightly over Kurt’s knuckles provoking a shudder that rippled through Kurt’s frame.

“I like you, too, Fancy,”

A spark of mischief entered Dave’s eye, and Kurt said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is cashmere.”

But Dave ignored him, wrapping his free arm around Kurt’s shoulders and dragging him into the tub. Water sloshed all over the floor and Kurt squawked, trying to escape while his struggles sent more water over the edge.

“You impossible heathen,” Kurt protested, but Dave looked so pleased with himself that Kurt couldn’t help laughing.

Dave grasped Kurt’s chin, tilting his head up. He hesitated for a moment, but Kurt made no protest, waiting instead to see what the SEAL would do. Dave took Kurt’s mouth in a blazing kiss, plundering his mouth so thoroughly that Kurt reflected that Dave may have been chasing pirates, but he could certainly qualify as one.

Kurt surrendered to the kiss, opening up and allowing himself to be invaded. He squirmed, trying to get closer, but the sides of the tub restricted their movements. Kurt let out a whimper of frustration.

Breaking the kiss, Dave got his feet under him, standing up and dragging Kurt with him.

“You’re all wet,” Dave said, smirking. “Let me help you with that.”

He wrenched the sopping sweater over Kurt’s head and efficiently opened his trousers shoving them down his legs. He picked up one foot and then the other, stripping the pants away. Kurt would have protested the harsh treatment of his clothes, but the sight of Dave at his full height, naked and rampant, had shorted out his higher brain functions, leaving him an aching ball of need.

Dave toed open the drain and as the water receded, dropped Kurt’s wet things in the bottom of the tub. Kurt came to his senses enough to make his feet work as Dave dragged him in the direction of the bedroom. He briefly mourned the destruction of the fine cashmere, but then consoled himself that it wasn’t like he didn’t have ten sweaters in almost the same shade already.

“Supplies in the drawer,” Kurt gasped before Dave manhandled him onto the mattress.

On the bed, Dave touched him with a sort of desperation, but Kurt understood the urge to bury himself in another body when he was hurting so he clung to Dave and didn’t hold back. At the very least, Dave knew what he was doing and those big hands were ridiculously skilled at taking Kurt apart.

Kurt tried to include lots of endearments and praise for Dave in his cries, but then he sort of lost any and all trains of thought and was reduced to random begging. Dave indulged him rather quickly, filling Kurt with one thrust. Kurt gave up after that, clinging to the man who was pounding into him and letting the waves of pleasure wash over him.

Dave grabbed Kurt’s dick, pulling roughly and mercilessly on it until Kurt couldn’t hold back and he dug his nails into Dave’s brawny shoulders as he climaxed. Dave cried out when he came, a wordless howl as his body jerked and his hips snapped forward, plowing Kurt’s ass.

He collapsed, shuddering and shaking when it was over, and Kurt wrapped him in his arms and murmured ridiculous things until Dave calmed down.

>>><<<

Kurt woke up hours later, opening his eyes and holding his body still – taking stock. Dave slept beside him, breathing deep and even. The mattress dipped down in his direction as he lay on his side, facing Kurt. The room was too dark to read his expression, although Kurt could only hope that it was more peaceful than it had been over the last few days. They weren’t touching except where Dave had one calf pressed over Kurt’s leg. Testing the weight of it, Kurt felt exposed and held open, but he didn’t care and that startled him.

Tracing the root of his feelings, Kurt discovered that he was shockingly content with his position and the man in his bed. Kurt wanted to lay claim to Dave and keep him there in his bed, and in his life.

The uncomfortable realization that he had taken Dave’s physical attraction to him and spun it into moonlit dreams of forever finally drove Kurt to pull his leg away and get out of bed. A check of the clock revealed that it was a little after two in the morning. Not bothering with a robe, he padded downstairs and into the kitchen, turning on the light over the stove.

Deciding he was feeling peckish, although internally scolding himself for eating to alleviate his discomfort, Kurt nevertheless pulled out some left over ham, a chunk of Gruyere, an onion, and three eggs. Taking an apron from the hook inside the pantry, he tied it loosely around his waist. The rhythmic motions of chopping and stirring soothed his frazzled spirit and gave him room to think.

Dave may have wanted him for nothing more than some comfort sex after his ordeal, but Kurt had learned long ago that the only way to get what he wanted was to ask. He was fully prepared to bang the door of Dave’s resistance down in an effort to persuade Dave to at least go out with him. Kurt smiled as he poured the omelet into the heated frying pan. He did have a few advantages after all, and physical attraction wasn’t a bad place to start.

A noise startled him and Kurt whirled around to find Dave standing just inside the circle of light cast by the stove hood. He was naked – big and magnificent, making Kurt want him all over again.

“Now that’s a sight straight out of a wet dream,” Dave said. “That apron frames your ass perfectly.”

Kurt gulped, staring at Dave’s unabashed nudity. “I could say the same of you.”

He turned around to mind his omelet before he could get too distracted. Dave moved closer, not touching, but Kurt could feel the heat from his big body along his back. He flipped the omelet over, concentrating on the task.

“Is that your favorite feature . . . my ass?” he asked, knowing he was fishing, but unable to help himself.

“No,” Dave said, slowly moving his hands over Kurt’s shoulders. “Your back, I think. Strong but flexible. Not overly muscled, but sleek. Ah, fuck, Kurt. Words aren’t my thing.”

Flipping off the gas, Kurt turned around with a smile creasing his face. “You’re doing fine so far.”

Dave dipped his head and kissed Kurt briefly. “Smells good.”

Kurt slid the omelet onto a plate and reached for a couple of forks. “Just a little snack. I thought we might need our strength.”

Dave’s hands hadn’t left Kurt’s shoulders, and naked as he was, he couldn’t conceal his rising . . . interest. Kurt pressed back a little, just to show that he wasn’t opposed to a repeat performance. Dave grinned and followed Kurt to the table. They ate quietly, forks clinking as they cut up the omelet.

“How many days do you have?” Kurt asked.

“I have to be back at Little Creek by 1600 on Thursday.”

Doing the math in his head, Kurt said, “So that gives us three nights and four days.”

Dave nodded. “Do you want . . . I mean, I know Agent DiNozzo told you to take me home, but you don’t have to keep me.”

“Oh, I totally want to keep you,” Kurt murmured.

Kurt smirked at Dave’s startled look, but then Dave reached over and slid his hand over Kurt’s thigh, pulling his legs apart. Dave went back to eating, but his fingers moved ceaselessly over Kurt’s skin, teasing him. The back of Dave’s hand scraped against his balls, and Kurt let out a helpless little whimper.

“Open your legs, Fancy,” Dave said, sliding out of his chair and pushing Kurt’s chair back.

Kurt did as he was told and then gasped as Dave went to his knees and took Kurt’s cock into his mouth. Kurt stared at the mountain of a man kneeling in front of him and felt a little shaky inside. Dave grabbed his thighs and put them over his shoulders, pulling Kurt forward on the chair until most of Kurt’s ass was hanging over it and he couldn’t balance himself very well except with his hands and his legs on Dave’s shoulders. He had to trust that Dave wouldn’t let him fall on his butt.

Fingers probed his ass, finding his hole and slipping in on the leftover lube from earlier. Kurt was slightly tender, but he pushed back, wanting to feel every bit of the burn as Dave worked him open again. Dave kept his tongue busy, probing his slit, tracing the vein on the underside and then his other hand took Kurt’s balls and squeezed them. Kurt shuddered and pushed himself into all the sensations Dave was creating, trying to get himself further into Dave’s mouth while at the same time, he wanted Dave to give him more fingers. He liked that Dave wasn’t afraid to be rough with him; sometimes Kurt had to convince his lovers that his slender frame wasn’t lacking in strength, but Dave got that already.

Every time Kurt got close to coming, Dave took his mouth off Kurt’s dick, but his fingers never stopped working his ass. Dave kept him on the edge through several cycles of building him up and then backing off. Kurt’s head spun dizzily.

“Come on, please,” Kurt begged.

“What?”

“Just fuck me.”

Dave removed his fingers carefully and then put Kurt’s feet back on the floor. He tugged Kurt up out of the chair and steered him up the stairs towards the bedroom. Kurt leaned on him with shaky legs for the whole trip, wondering what on earth possessed him to buy a house with three floors.

Dave seemed intent on making up for his haste during their first session. He took the time to explore every inch of Kurt’s skin, mouth and fingers probing all Kurt’s secret places. Kurt latched onto Dave’s large nipples, gnawing on them in an attempt to get the SEAL to loose control, but Dave seemed to have a plan, and that involved driving Kurt clean out of his mind. He played with Kurt’s ass, spreading him wide with his thumbs, licking the ring of muscle, and working all his fingers in before pulling out and leaving Kurt whining for more.

When Dave finally rolled him onto his stomach and propped his ass up with pillows, Kurt didn’t care what happened anymore . . . he just wanted to be filled up with Dave’s cock.

Dave took his time though, long smooth slow strokes that gave Kurt a chance to feel every bump and ridge of his latex-clad cock. Kurt squirmed, trying to urge him to go faster, but instead of getting a clue, Dave clamped his strong hands on Kurt’s hips and held him in place while Dave took his sweet time about the process.

After what seemed like hours, but probably wasn’t, Dave groaned, “Getting close. Touch yourself, Kurt.”

He pulled back on Kurt’s hips, giving him room to get a hand on his cock. Kurt took advantage immediately, as his body clenched around Dave’s invading prick. He was tempted to toss himself off as fast as he could, but instead he matched the strokes of his hand to the speed of Dave’s hips as he thrust inside.

“That’s it,” Dave said.

They moved together until Kurt’s orgasm gathered in his balls and swelled out in surges through his dick. Dave stopped moving until Kurt had finished and then he resumed his slow, even pace. Even Dave’s self-control gave away eventually as he lost himself, his cock jerking and filling the condom.

Dave pulled out and eased over onto his side, rubbing Kurt’s back. Kurt shifted closer until their bodies touched from shoulders to toes. He watched Dave’s face, but the big man didn’t seem sleepy, staring instead at the ceiling.

“What will you do next?” Kurt asked. “When you go back?”

Dave sighed. “I don’t know what will happen with the team. Gonna be some shit hitting the fan when everyone finds out about Riggins.”

“It’s hard to think about, I imagine,” Kurt said.

“Yeah. I could probably get an honorable discharge based on hardship if I asked for it, since my commanding officer tried to get me convicted of murdering my best friend.”

Dave’s voice was full of bitterness that Kurt wholly understood. Part of him leaped with joy at the idea of Dave out of the Navy and possibly in his life for good.

“Is that what you want?”

“I don’t know. I like being in the SEALs. We do some good, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know. It’s gonna be hard to think that we have the righteous mission after this.”

“One psychopath can’t bring down the whole team,” Kurt said. “That’s part of the point of the whole ‘team’ idea.”

Dave smiled, turning his head and giving Kurt a soft kiss. “Pretty smart, Fancy.”

“I want a relationship with you,” Kurt said. “Or at least . . . I want to try.”

“Yeah, I’d like that,” Dave agreed. “But . . . can you deal with the separations and the secrecy about my job?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to think I could, but I’d definitely like the chance.”

“If I go back,” Dave said. “If I don’t, it won’t be an issue.”

Kurt knew that maybe if he pushed, then he could get Dave to resign from the Navy, but part of him knew that would be incredibly selfish. Although that was what he really wanted, he said instead, “I think you should do whatever you want. Whatever will satisfy your moral code.”

Dave nodded. “I still have nineteen months left of my current tour.”

“Not really that long . . . in the scheme of things.”

“Will you wait for me?” Dave asked.

“Yeah,” Kurt said with a smile.