Jethro breathed slowly, in and out, in and out. Ducky had been after him to try keeping himself calm when Tony wasn’t available, and sometimes it worked. But it was damn hard with Jen yapping after him. The NCIS director had called him into her office then demanded that he escort her to a joint meeting with a bunch of the alphabet agencies with the Department of Defense.
“Really, Jethro, is it all that difficult to let me represent the agency? I am, after all, the director of NCIS.”
He bit his tongue, his lip, hell, he clamped down so hard Tony would be able to feel the imprints with his welcome home kiss. Was it his fault Jen had dragged him to the meeting? She was the one who wanted to show off in front of the other directors; wanted to show off that she was the “boss” of an alpha sentinel. Was it his fault all of the heads of the agencies had seen that Tony wasn’t there and had been either kind enough or nosey enough to ask after the alpha guide? Was it his fault they then stayed to talk to him about matters of defense and left Jen out in the cold? No, it damn wasn’t. He hadn’t wanted to go, especially without Tony, but Jen had been clear, calling Tony in from his stakeout with McGee was out of the question.
Jethro mentally snorted to himself. She had made her bed, now she had to lay in it.
“Jethro? Are you zoning? Jethro?”
He instinctively jerked away from her as she tried to use guide techniques on him. Jethro snarled at her; she wasn’t his guide. She would never be his guide. “I’m fine, director.”
Jethro didn’t think he would find his guide while picking up his daughter from little league practice.
Since he was a baby, he’d had only temporary guides. His mother, his Uncle LJ, a series of temporary guides assigned to him once he joined up with the Marines. None of them had stuck. None. The other guides had all helped him use his senses, but only his mother had been any good at helping to keep his formidable temper from rising. She was the only one who had brought him any peace of mind, body, or soul.
Those temporary, military guides served him well enough to become a damn good sniper. But they had all come and gone. Some of them had met their destined sentinels out in the field. Those he let go with a warning glare at the sentinel to take care of their new guide. Others had found the military life unsuited to them. Those he let go without an ounce of regret. He loved the military and would not retire just because they couldn’t handle it. Only once had he lost a guide because of a bullet. Thankfully, it just taken Harris out of commission, but it was close enough for a medical discharge. Jethro still kept in touch with Harris, checking on the young woman who was about to become a mother to her sentinel husband’s child.
Now he stared at the young assistant coach who was meant to be his guide. He was laughing: white teeth flashing; handsome face adorably scrunched; long, tan neck exposed as he threw his head back with the force of his laughter. Taller than Jethro by a few inches, heavy muscle that spoke of a lifetime of athletics, his guide was in his early twenties, just a big kid himself with the way he clowned around with the little leaguers. But there was something about the guide. Something in the way he scanned his surroundings, eyes narrowing on the one guy Jethro had been suspicious of too. It was the way he herded all of the kids away from the guy that had caught their attention: keeping himself between the kids and the possible pedophile, glaring warnings over his shoulder. He definitely wasn’t going to be a guide that cowered behind his sentinel. He would stand by his sentinel’s side and defend their territory.
Jethro would have zoned on his guide had it not been for his daughter’s hand in his.
“Daddy?” Kelly was a sharp one, and while she wasn’t a full sentinel – only her smell and taste were heightened – she knew what to look for. She and Shannon had speculated endlessly what his guide might be like, how he might meet his guide. They had only wanted the best for him, someone who could soothe his mind as well as his senses. Her beautiful eyes were wide as they darted between the coach and her father, face growing luminescent with wonder and excitement. “Is it him, Daddy? Is that your guide? Is it Tony?”
Jethro had wordlessly nodded as Kelly squealed in excitement, towing him towards the assistant coach.
The guide must have felt the connection because he had raked his eyes up and down Jethro then grinned ruefully. “Never thought I would have to join the Marines.”
Jethro didn’t even question how his guide knew he was in the Marines. Maybe Kelly had been bragging, maybe in was in her registration forms. He didn’t know or care, he could only stare at that bright smile as his guide reached for him.
“Anthony DiNozzo, but you can call me Tony,” was murmured into his ear as Tony pulled them together.
The first time Jethro enclosed his guide in his arms, the first time that muscular, tall body had pressed against his, Jethro finally, completely, utterly relaxed.
Jethro didn’t relax again until he reached the once-empty apartment where his team was currently doing a stakeout on a possible drug-dealing Marine. He didn’t completely relax until Tony took one look at him and pulled him into an empty room and wrapped himself around Jethro.
“You okay, boss?” the warm, soft whisper started to ease the tension he had carried in his jaw. Tony hugged him like an octopus, hands and arms everywhere, infusing heat, taking away even more of the tension. But it was his mind – part hyperactive, part soothing comfort – that truly eased away the tension and fatigue as it slipped into his. “What happened, Jethro?”
“The director.” Jethro let his hands wander over his guide and lover, refamiliarizing himself with the muscles and skin and strength of his guide. He basked in the light bond, missing him since Tony had left their bed to set-up and start the stakeout this morning.
“And what has our lovely director done now?” Tony asked with an amused smile brushing against the skin of his neck.
Jethro huffed, glaring at his guide, not caring that Tony couldn’t see it. He had no idea how Tony could be so amused by Jenny’s flirting. Tony seemed to just take it in stride whereas Jethro was always left irritated by her hot-one-second-cold-the-next routine. He wished she would just settle on one, preferably the cold part of it. He had no interest in her and wished she would just stick to being the boss rather than whatever the hell it was she was doing. And yeah, maybe he could be blamed for using her attraction to him to benefit the team’s work every now and then, but he had made it clear that he wasn’t interested. Hell, he had even dated Hollis but that hadn’t seemed to deter Jen at all.
“Hey.” Tony pulled back just enough to nuzzle his cheek, brushing their noses together in an Eskimo kiss before opening so sweetly for Jethro’s real kiss.
He wouldn’t have survived the death of his wife and daughter had it not been for his guide.
Tony had done more than soothe his sentinel with his empathy and their bond, even though those had become deeper, more intimate sharings of mind and soul. Tony had done all that, but he had also feed and cleaned Jethro’s body when he had been too broken with grief to care. He had handled all of the arrangements, had taken care of Jethro, even though he had lost family too when the woman who had gladly welcomed him and little girl that called him ‘Uncle Tony’ had died.
Shannon had adored Tony, glad to have someone watching her husband’s back. They shared a love of music and movies, conspiring against Jethro to broaden his horizons. Kelly had adored him too, always chanting “play with me, Uncle Tony!” whenever they were home on leave. He remembered how Shannon had laughed when she said they had two children, not one.
The funeral was finally over, the house they shared finally quiet. His mother-in-law and her hateful glares that alternated with piteous crying were finally gone. Well-wishers and gossip mongers had taken their leave but left their casserole dishes. Tony had sniffed at some of them and immediately whisked them away.
Jethro could barely move as he stared at a spot on the ceiling. Not zoning because he had all the rest of his senses trained on his guide, the only family he had left. Except for the old man who had brought a goddamn date to his granddaughter’s funeral.
Tony said nothing as he came in, kept his silence as he shed his clothes and climbed into bed. This was Tony’s bed, where they bonded and Tony slept. Jethro couldn’t go back to the bed he shared with his wife.
His guide wrapped himself, body, mind, and soul around him. Jethro held on just as tightly, closed his eyes, buried his face in Tony’s neck and grieved.
Sex with his guide was an experience in total immersion.
Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Mind, body, and soul. Nothing of his was left untouched by Tony.
Gorgeous, tan body slinking and sliding its way up his. Bitten off moans, harsh panting, sibilant hisses, all spoke of pleasure, given and received. Sweat rich with pheromones and lust, it tasted just as sweet. Hard planes of muscle under his fingertips, smooth skin only broken by scars of a life lived saving others, tiny hairs that tickled and clung. Soft hair that curled over the back of his hands as he brought Tony down for another hard kiss.
Jethro had to grit his teeth as Tony slowly impaled himself on his hard cock. He loved this position, loved watching Tony pleasure himself on Jethro’s cock. Watch him ride, slow and savoring. Watched as Tony touched himself everywhere but his own cock; hedonistic as he heightened the pleasure by denying it. Jethro never just watched, couldn’t, not with all that temptation right there. Pinching brown nipples elicited gasps, clutching his hard ass made Tony smirk, grabbing his hair and pulling his head back to lick up that long neck just to feel strong hands gripping his shoulders.
Angled his hips just this way to hear Tony moan his name.
Tony’s mind was a whirl of more, yes, love you, my sentinel. All possession and heat, love and desire. Jethro sank into his feelings as deep as he was in Tony’s hard, tight body.
Leaned up to swallow Tony’s carnal sounds with another kiss, never tiring of sinking into Tony’s mouth, playing with Tony’s agile tongue.
“Jethro! Jethro! Where are you? Why aren’t you – Oh my God!”
He panted as he turned his head, sure he couldn’t have heard what he thought he heard. Stared in shock at Jennifer Shepherd as she stood in the doorway of his bedroom. Tony shifted, a piercing bolt of pleasure made him shudder, because even with her standing there, Tony was still everything. “Get out,” he hissed, glaring at her.
“We are so getting new locks,” Tony muttered as he straightened. Turning towards Jen, Tony’s face was challenging as he purposefully lifted up then slowly slid back down.
Jethro bit off the moan and a chuckle. The little shit was claiming him. He let the laugh out as Jen’s face distorted with rage as she slammed out of their house.
“Just for that little display,” he murmured, twisting them both, now on top, thrusting back in hard.
Tony threw his head back and enthusiastically wailed through his punishment.
Thank God Tony was an athlete otherwise getting through basic training would have been hell.
His guide’s physical prowess was amazing, even with his blown out knee. It was his mouth and antics that got him into trouble. They had been sentinel and guide for less than a month, they were still learning to be a bonded pair, learning how to get along when their personalities were similar, and yet, still different. Tony had so much energy and was outgoing to the extreme, while Jethro was more still, more introverted. Oh, their sense of humor was the same, and he enjoyed a lot of the stuff Tony did, but Tony was forever in motion and Jethro just wasn’t.
“DiNozzo’s a disruptive presence!” The gunnery sergeant was yelling, completely disregarding the base commander’s presence. “He mouths off! He instigates the other recruits! He--”
“Is Gibbs’ guide and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The base commander was calm as he continued to go through his paperwork like a two hundred pound marine wasn’t pacing like mad and yelling up a storm in his office. “He’s meeting the requirements and as long as he’s not being disrespectful to you or his other instructors, there’s nothing you can do.”
The sergeant seemed to deflate before Jethro’s very eyes. “But he’s so annoying.”
Jethro forced himself to keep a straight face. That was stupidly close to sounding like a whine. Granted, he knew Tony could be a bit of a challenge to handle. Energetic and fucking absolutely nosey as hell, Tony was like a giant puppy who got into everything but would then give you those eyes and you had to forgive him.
“Yes, sir.” He snapped to attention.
“Do you think you could . . . talk to your guide?”
Jethro quickly went through all the possible options for talking to his guide. He finally settled on one. “Yes, sir, I can.”
Jethro held the door open for the gunnery sergeant, trying not to wince when the man glared so hard he swore he smelled smoke. In the next few days, he kept a careful watch over Tony. He had told his guide about the meeting and, unsurprisingly, Tony was on his best behavior. But Jethro knew it wouldn’t last. When it didn’t, he was ready.
“Ow!” Tony cupped the back of his head, making huge puppy dog eyes at him. “What was that for?”
Jethro lifted one eyebrow at him and waited.
Just like he knew he would, Tony got it and winced. “Sorry.”
The next time it happened, Tony didn’t ask, instead yelping, “Sentinel brutality!”
“You going to report me, guide?” Jethro couldn’t help himself. He whispered it low into the shell of Tony’s ear, grinning when he saw his guide swallow hard.
Jethro might have worried if Tony wasn’t leaning into him, if he couldn’t feel their bond strengthening. He raised his hand again, Tony braced, but instead, he smoothed down soft brown hair. “You need to behave, Tony.”
Tony leaned into his hand, eyes closing. “O-okay.”
After that, Jethro only used the head slaps when he absolutely had to to get Tony back on track.
It wasn’t a total surprise that Monday morning came with a summons to the director’s office.
Jethro was also completely unsurprised that the meeting was supposed to be only between himself and the director.
“You’re not going by yourself.” Tony didn’t even try to phrase it as a question. He kept his voice low, not wanting to attract attention from his other two teammates.
Glancing down at Tony’s phone, he saw it was already ringing for Marie Sinclair’s office. “Marie.”
“Sentinel Gibbs, what do I owe the pleasure?” The clan lawyer’s voice was low, smooth, and soothing, probably inherited from her guide father.
“We’ve got a situation.” He filled her in and told her the time of the meeting. Jethro leaned into the hand Tony had placed on his shoulder, using it to ground him as he listened to Marie as she instructed her assistant to reschedule things. She said goodbye, he hung up.
Jethro leaned back into Tony’s solid presence behind him, rubbing at his eyes. He couldn’t believe he was going to have to drag a lawyer into this. He hated lawyers and rule 13 specifically said to never involve them. Well, there were always exceptions to the rule. Aaron Hotchner was a lawyer and a damn fine beta. Marie wasn’t bad either; always there when the clan needed her.
“Boss, is everything okay?” McGee was nervous, fiddling with his pen.
Jethro glanced over to see Ziva just as invested in the conversation. He wondered how much they heard.
“It’s fine, probie. Nothing to worry your pretty little head over.” Tony gave McGee his patented DiNozzo grin, guaranteed to fool and throw people off his trail. He turned it on Ziva too. “You either, Miss Thang.”
Ziva clearly didn’t believe him, raising her eyebrow.
After another moment of staring, the two of them went back to work. With one last squeeze, so did Tony.
Jethro surveyed his people one more time, satisfied they were working on their reports, he left for autopsy.
“Ah, Jethro, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Ducky was at his desk inside, peering over some paperwork. Palmer was nowhere to be seen. “Mr. Palmer is studying for his exams.”
Jethro wasn’t surprised that Ducky had answered his unasked question. They had been friends for so long, almost as long as Tony had been his guide. But while his guide would always know more things about his life that Jethro didn’t share with anyone else, it was Ducky that was his best friend, the person that could make him talk about things he didn’t want to. “The director walked in on Tony and me.”
“And by that I take it you mean inflagrante delicto?” Ducky’s expression was half amused, half worried.
“Ah, well, that is a problem, isn’t it?”
“It’s none of her business.”
“Of course, not, Jethro,” Ducky soothed, but then he turned a piercing glare at him. “But you and I both know that she has made you her business.”
He snarled under his breath, turning his face away from Ducky because he wasn’t the one he was snarling at.
Ducky merely nodded as if taking Jethro’s silence for an agreement. “Any repercussions yet?”
“Meeting in an hour. Supposed to be just me and her.”
“Tony isn’t going with you?” What Ducky was really asking was, “You’re not going to bring in the other person this affects with you?”
Jethro shook his head. “Tony had me call Marie Sinclair instead.”
“Ah.” Ducky smirked. “An excellent move by your young man.”
Ducky was right. If he had brought Tony into the meeting with him it probably would have turned into a situation. One in which he would lose his temper for any perceived attacks on his guide and where Director Shepherd would have been in her rights to reprimand both of them. But with a lawyer in the room he would be in his rights to stay silent as Marie dealt with the director. Silent he could do.
Jethro bit back his smirk when Jenny’s face contorted into even angrier lines when she saw Marie follow him into her office.
“I requested just you, Agent Gibbs.”
Oh yeah, she was mad, addressing him like that only when she wanted power over him.
“Alpha Sentinel Special Agent Gibbs,” Marie corrected, blithely seating herself at the conference table in the director’s office.
Gibbs hid his smile by ducking his head while he sat beside her.
Jenny never blushed unless she was drinking or on purpose while undercover, but her eyes gleamed with fury and her color was rising. She remained standing, another of her ploys for power in situations that were out of her control. “And who exactly are you?”
Marie raised a single, sleek brown eyebrow. “Marie Sinclair of Sinclair and Smythe, the Washington and Tri-State area clan lawyer.”
“Not following your own rules,” Jenny sneered.
Jethro merely shrugged one shoulder. He could see how his calm silence infuriated her and how she worked to remove any trace of emotions from her face.
Her voice was carefully blank. “I asked you here to speak to you about your relationship with your guide.”
He leaned back in his seat and stared at her.
“I was not aware that your relationship with Agent DiNozzo was so intimate.” She tried, he’d give her that, but there was that gleam again: anger, hurt, jealousy.
“I see no relevance in this comment, director.” Marie was leaning forward, body language aggressive. “What Alpha Sentinel Special Agent Gibbs does with Alpha Guide Special Agent DiNozzo is no business of yours.”
Jenny opened her mouth, Marie held up her hand.
“Unless the alpha guide has come to you with a complaint?” Marie peered at her, practically daring Jenny to claim something so ridiculous. “After all, any agency regulations regarding non-fraternization between team members does not apply to sentinels and their guides.”
Jenny opened her mouth again but said nothing.
“Well, director?” Marie demanded. “Has the alpha guide lodged a complaint with your office?”
“No. Of course not,” she gritted out, face hard, eyes blazing.
“Then I believe this meeting has come to its end.” Marie stood and gathered her things, completely disregarding matters and niceties as she ushered Jethro out in front of her.
Jethro couldn’t believe how anticlimactic that all was. And relatively painless.
They both turned before they could reach the door. Jethro could only stare as Director Shepherd clearly worked to find something to gain control of the situation, for it to play out how she wanted it.
Before she could say a word, a knock interrupted them.
Cynthia, the director’s personal assistant, stuck her head in, wincing with regret. “My apologies, director, but there’s a call on line 1 for Agent Gibbs. It’s from Hawaii. They say its urgent.”
Jethro stared down at the thirteen month old baby boy fast asleep in his crib.
He couldn’t believe he was a father again. At his age.
James Mann, now James Gibbs, had his father’s blue eyes and his mother’s dark blond hair. Sweetly chubby like all babies; a quiet, serious sentinel just like his father.
Tony pressed himself against his back, chin hooked over his shoulder, one hand on his waist, the other on the side of the crib. “He’s so tiny. Almost a mini-you.” He chuckled softly. “His mind is a lot like yours too. Watchful and loving.”
Jethro was glad his guide was still so enamored with the new addition to their lives. Even after changing diapers and the long hours of fussing on the airplane from Hawaii to their home in D.C. Even after the hassle of dealing with moving everything out of the old master bedroom, moving all of their things from Tony’s old room into it, then moving all of James’ things into Tony’s old one.
For years, Jethro had been slowly letting go of his past. Letting Shannon and Kelly go. He had a new family in Tony, Abby, Ducky, Ziva, and McGee. Even Palmer was counted among his friends and family. He reconnected with his father, forgave him for all their past troubles. And he fell in love with Tony. Truly loved him, like he had Shannon. He would never replace her, not with any of those redheads, but he had learned to love again with Tony.
And with that new love, new life, he was able to let the house change too. He had cleaned out Kelly’s room and turned it into an office for them both. The basement no longer housed a boat that was slated for burning once it was finished. After the boat he built for his goddaughter, he had turned his attention to building things that were meant as gifts for others. The master bedroom that he and Shannon had shared had slowly become a storage room.
Jethro had no idea what to think when he answered that phone call. It had been Hollis Mann’s lawyer, asking him to come to Hawaii, a dying woman’s last wish. He had been confused, demanding answers from an uncooperative lawyer, but he had gone.
Tony had kept a comforting hand on his arm the entire flight.
Behind them, Marie sat and silently worked. When she had heard him tell Tony about the lawyer, she had insisted that she accompany them. He wouldn’t realize how grateful he would be at her pushiness until later.
Not until he entered a hospital room and saw Hollis laying there in the bed, tubes and machines attached. Pale and so small against the sterile white sheets.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice barely a breath loud, only his enhanced hearing allowing him to hear as clearly as he did.
He had no idea what to say to the woman dying in the bed, her injuries from the car accident so severe they had saved her but they said she wouldn’t make it. Jethro took her hand, hoping to comfort her in her last hours. Still no idea why she had asked to see him.
“Hanging on, to tell you.” Her eyes drifted towards a small Japanese woman, holding a young toddler. “Sorry didn’t . . . . before.”
Tony made a noise, eyes darting from Hollis to Jethro to the baby.
Jethro reached for the baby, his senses imprinting without conscious thought. He had a son. A sentinel like him. Small and soft, blue eyes taking him in as seriously as he took in his son. He pressed a kiss to the soft cheeks, to his forehead. A benediction, knowing that his son was about to lose his mother.
He helplessly looked at Tony. He had no idea what to say, what to do. For the second time in his life, he was completely at a loss.
Tony, his perfect guide, knowing exactly what he needed, stepped forward and carefully, gingerly, amateurishly took the baby. He was listening to the nanny as she took pity on him, instructing him on how to hold the little boy. The baby didn’t fuss at all, calming instantly when Tony wrapped him up in a light bond, cooed as he imprinted on Tony. Tony’s smile was uncertain but so very bright with love.
Marie handled the legal work to make sure that nothing would interfere with Jethro’s custody of James, thank God she had insisted upon coming.
Jethro had been so shocked by James, all he could do was sit in Hollis’ rocking chair, hold his little boy, and rock as he stared incomprehensibly at the wall.
He kept from zoning by extending all of his sense, latching onto his son and his guide.
Tony was on the phone with McGee.
“—yeah, I can’t believe it either. He’s cute and, damn, so tiny!”
“Well, I can’t wait to meet him – Abby! Stop! Let me finish talkin – Abby!”
Jethro chuckled softly, glancing down at his son. “You’ve got an interesting family, Jamie. I can’t wait for you to meet them.”
Sharp blue eyes, just like his and his father’s, watched him even though they drooped with tiredness. One small hand had wrapped itself around one of his fingers and hadn’t let go. Jethro knew it wasn’t just his finger that James would forever hold.
“I talked it over with Jethro, and it’s going to be a lot of work.” Tony was sincerely sorry as he talked to Ducky now.
“Nonsense, my boy! That is what movers are for! We will have all the changes made by the time you get here. Now, will we need to lay in extra supplies?”
“Thanks, Ducky, but no. Well, maybe just the perishable items? Jethro wants to move all of Jamie’s furniture from Hawaii to DC. He wants to make sure Jamie has something from his life here. He’s got movers coming in tomorrow and he’s already picked out a bunch of Colonel Mann’s things to be preserved so that Jamie can fill his senses with her when he’s old enough.”
Jethro retracted his hearing, focusing all of his attention on James once more. He wished he’d had the chance with his own mother, his wife and his daughter, but the preservation of things so that a sentinel could fully experience smell, sound, and taste without any interfering chemicals was a newly perfected science. He had chosen several soft sweaters that had been Hollis’ favorites, her scent completely embedded in the fabric. Recordings of voice and video tapes of her speaking to her bump during her pregnancy would all be digitally enhanced then preserved for James until he was older. Taste was tricky, but Jethro knew the foods she liked, the flavors she always chose. James would have as much of his mother as Jethro could ensure.
He looked up when Tony entered the nursery, relaxed into the soft kiss pressed to his lips.
“Your control is slipping,” Tony murmured, long fingers smoothing down James’ fine hair. “Time to bond.”
Jethro looked down at the bundle in his arms, not wanting to relinquish James just yet.
Tony shook his head and smiled. “James can come too. Blair says that even as infants, bonding helps sentinels center themselves.”
He didn’t remember that from his own childhood, but he was willing to follow his guide and the Guide Prime’s leads. Jethro followed Tony into the living room to find thick blankets already spread across a large patch of floor. He tucked James in between their bodies and opened his mind to his guide. He sighed as soothing calm and fierce love swept through him.
James, surprisingly, cooed, free hand reaching for Tony. His little eyes completely closed, breath evening out into sleep.
Tony grinned at James, his big hand spanning to cover almost all of James’ torso. “I can feel him,” he whispered, barely able to hold back the glee in his voice and face. “He’s so tiny, but I can feel him in my mind.”
Jethro smiled back, relieved and so very hopeful.
After a week in Hawaii, finishing paperwork and making all of the arrangements for Hollis’ funeral and the remains of her home, the three of them were finally home. Thankfully, the team had agreed to wait until the weekend to descend upon the new family, to give them time to settle in. Jethro was ridiculously glad, especially since flying with an infant sentinel was always a terrible situation. Thankfully, Tony had kept James in a light bond and it had kept the fussing to a minimum, but James was still tired and cranky as hell.
Tony studied James grousing in his baby talk, then smirked. “He sounds just like you when you’re cranky.”
Jethro glared but that only made Tony laugh and point at James. He turned to find James glaring at them both.
“Apple,” Tony chortled, picking up James and nuzzling him. He turned James towards Jethro. “Have you met your tree, yet?”
Jethro swatted at Tony’s ass but his guide nimbly danced away.
“How about a bath, Jamie? Would that help, hmmm? Jethro, come fix that flower pad bath thing.”
‘Flower pad bath thing?’ Jethro had known it was a bad idea to leave all of James’ care to Tony as he worked with Marie to deal with the legal issues surrounding James’ custody. He had no idea what the hell a flower pad bath thing was.
He soon found himself staring down at his son . . . being eaten by a giant, plush, blue flower.
Jethro was . . . concerned, but it was obvious neither Tony nor James were. In fact, James seemed to be drowsing happily in his warm bath, laying back against a thick, plush flower petal as Tony gently bathed him.
Tony, damn him, was definitely trying to hold in laughter. “The days of uncomfortable plastic baby baths are over, Gibbs.”
“Instead, you let Seymour eat my son.”
James’ eyes popped open, watching Tony as he laughed his ass off. Instead of being fussy about being awoken, James giggled, splashing them both as he wiggled and slapped at the water. It was Jethro’s turn to laugh when Tony’s shirt was soaked.
“Ha ha, funny, boss.”
Jethro found himself breathless, but not from laughter, as Tony whipped off his shirt, then lifted James’ naked wiggling body out of the flower. The sight of a bare-chested Tony and James’ naked little butt made him stupidly glad he had this chance with them both.
Jethro opened the door to a face full of the softest teddy bear he had ever felt.
“Do you like it?” Abby practically squealed as she threw herself at him. “It’s a Nap teddy bear. Softest teddy bear ever! I named him Theodore! I bet Jamie is going to love him!”
Jethro caught her, placing a single finger across her lips. She instantly quieted. “Jamie’s asleep, Abs.”
She positively wilted.
“Well,” Ducky cleared his throat, nudging Jethro through the door anyway. “It’s lucky then that we also brought dinner, isn’t it? We can have a nice meal and a nice conversation until the lad is awake, all right?”
Ducky’s calm demeanor didn’t fool Jethro at all. His old friend was just as eager to meet Jamie as Abby.
Jethro wasn’t surprised to see McGee, Ziva, Palmer and his wife lined up right behind Abby and Ducky. He offered them a small smile as the women hugged him and the men shook his hand. He was about to close the door and join them when another car rumbled into the neighborhood. He focused his hearing and heard a familiar heartbeat.
“Another guest?” Tony asked, slipping his fingers into Jethro’s to anchor him in another sense.
Jethro nodded. “Jackson’s here too.”
Tony grinned and leaned against him, waiting with Jethro for his father.
Soon enough the taxi stopped in front of the house; the two of them going to help Jackson Gibbs with his things.
“I’m not late for dinner, am I?” Jackson leaned on his son, leaving his luggage to the younger Tony. “My girl Abby said I should be here about this time.”
“They just got here, Dad.” Jethro smiled down at his father’s head, carefully guiding him up the steps and into the house.
“And my new grandson? How’s he doing?” His dad’s eyes were darting around, clearly looking for James. Jackson wasn’t a full sentinel, only his sight was enhanced, the genes for a full sentinel having skipped his and his father’s generation.
“He’s upstairs, Dad. Sleeping.” Jethro grinned when a disgruntled expression crossed his father’s face.
“Well, I’ll just have to stay up long enough to play with him.”
“I think you’re going to have to take a number, Jackson,” Tony said with a laugh and a squeeze of Jackson’s shoulder as he passed. “There’s a line and it starts right here.”
Jethro and his father stopped to watch as Tony bounded up the stairs with Jackson’s luggage.
“You’ve got a good one there, boy. Don’t let him get away.”
Jethro shook his head at his father. “I haven’t, Dad.”
Jackson grunted as if Jethro hadn’t agreed with him. “Damn surprising, him taking to your boy like that. Didn’t know he was ready to settle down like that.”
Jethro couldn’t argue with the man as he steered them towards the dining room. He had been surprised as hell when Tony had taken to James like a fish to water. He would have said Tony was like a kid with a new toy, but he could see and feel how much Tony adored his son when they bonded. Could feel the tiny tendril of bond that connected Tony and James. He was more than fine with that.
“Jackson!” Abby was much more careful this time, leaning down to hug his father. “You made it!”
“Of course, I did!” Jackson left him for Abby without a single glance. “Wouldn’t miss my grandson or my best girl!”
Jethro rolled his eyes at his father’s incorrigible flirting and shared a laughing glance with Ducky who was directing the rest of the team in setting the table. As soon as Tony came back downstairs, he was put to work too. Jethro sat down and relaxed.
“Hey.” Tony slid into bed, carefully holding onto James. “I think this little guy is still too wound up from our guests tonight to go to sleep.”
In his arms, James gurgled, one arm wrapped solidly around Theodore the teddy bear, the other hand clamped firmly on Tony’s t-shirt. Jethro held out his hands for his son, warmth filling him as James settled on his chest. Tony slotted into his place behind Jethro’s right shoulder, chin hooked over his shoulder, legs tangling with his own. One arm wrapped behind Jethro’s waist, the other hand tickling James’ toes.
James cooed and kicked, laughing quietly.
“All excited, aren’t you, little guy? Aren’t you?” Tony was doing his version of baby talk, cooing right back at James, making him laugh. “But that’s okay, because Daddy and Uncle Tony don’t have to go to work tomorrow, and we can stay up and--”
“Papa.” Jethro couldn’t look at Tony, not sure what to expect.
“Okaaayy, not one for daddy? That’s weird, but papa it is.”
Jethro looked up in time to see Tony giving him a strange look before his guide went back to playing with James. He cleared his throat. “Not for me. For you.”
He could see the instant Tony got it. Green eyes widened, mouth dropped open, heartbeat skyrocketed.
Jethro pulled him close, pressed a kiss to his slack, surprised lips. “Really.”
Slack lips turned into a smile then a heartfelt kiss. “Awesome.”
Jethro’s laughter shook James’ perch, making the little boy giggle and wiggle.
If anyone had been brave enough to ask him, Jethro would have said that he fell in love with Tony after his relationship with Hollis ended, after Tony’s undercover operation with Jeanne Benoit had been blown. But, sometimes, he wonders if that was true or if he had loved the younger man for longer. He thinks about this now because he can’t think about anything but love as he watches Tony play with their son.
“Jamie! Jamie! Smile for Papa!” Tony reaches out to tickle James with one hand, the other videotaping James’ bright laughter, smiling face, chubby cheeks creased with dimples that made him look more like Tony’s biological son than his own.
Jethro really didn’t care who James’ biological parents were, he knows that James was blessed with three. “Hey you two, can I play?”
Tony and James grinned at him.
“I don’t know,” Tony teased, turning to James, camera still focused on that sweet little face. “What d’ya think, Jamie? Should we let Daddy play with us?”
James left his bear in his lap to hold out his hands to Jethro. “Da!”
Jethro stuttered to a stop.
Tony gasped, heart hiccupping in joy, smile growing radiant. “That’s right, little guy! Da! Daddy! Say it again, Jamie, ‘Daddy!’”
“Da!” Jamie clapped his hands, held them out again towards him.
Jethro could only sweep him up and hug him tight.
Hid his laughter against Jamie’s soft hair when Tony exclaimed, “I can’t believe I got that on tape! It’s going on Facebook right now. Abby is going to freak!”
Jethro could not believe the stupidity he was hearing. He was almost tempted to get his hearing checked. Could a sentinel loose only one sense? He was flabbergasted.
“Director, are you seriously asking Alpha Sentinel Special Agent Gibbs to retire?” Marie Sinclair didn’t seem to have any issues as she leaned forward and sneered at Director Shepherd.
The director was desperately trying to hide a smug expression, he just knew it. She was doing it badly. “I’m just offering him the option. After all, he’s a father now, but with Agent Gibbs on the front lines of this agency, an unforeseen incident could leave his son without his parent.”
He refrained from pointing out that James had two parents, not one. He also refrained from getting in her face. He knew it wouldn’t do a lick of good. Instead, he sat silent, letting Marie handle it.
And she did, smiling condescendingly. “We’ll take that under advisement. And if you have no further issues to discuss, director, Alpha Sentinel Gibbs is quiet busy.”
Jenny’s eyes narrowed, but she could say nothing as they left.
“The nerve of that woman!” Marie muttered only loud enough for his sentinel ears.
Jethro grunted, placing a hand at her back to escort her out. “Thanks for coming in again.”
Marie smiled at him. “You’re very welcome, Jethro. And, seriously, you say the word and I will get her out of your hair permanently.”
He grinned at her. “Please don’t tempt me.”
She eyed him with interest. “Hmmm, maybe I can get the alpha guide on my side. We’ll talk you into it.”
Jethro shook his head, still grinning as she left and he returned to his desk.
Tony was by his side in an instant. “Boss?”
“She wanted to give me the option of early retirement.”
“What?” Tony breathed in shock. His ass landed on Jethro’s desk with a thump.
Any other time, he would have glared at his guide, but instead he leaned back in his chair, hand on Tony’s muscled thigh.
“She said something could happen to me on the job, leaving Jamie alone.”
Tony opened his mouth, then twisted it. “I hate it when she’s right.”
Jethro chuckled, nodding ruefully. Even though he knew that Jamie would never be alone as long as Tony lived, as long as anyone in their strange little makeshift family lived, it was still a possibility. They were on the same team; if something happened, both of them could be killed or severely hurt.
“Are you going to?” Tony wasn’t looking at him, his fingers creeping up to lace through Jethro’s.
He sighed. “I don’t want to.”
“But we have Jamie to think about now,” Tony summed up. He rubbed at his face with his free hand. “Maybe we should talk to Hotch and Reid? They’re raising Jack and they’re both law enforcement.”
“Not on the front lines, like us,” Jethro refuted, wishing he didn’t have to. “Maybe Sandburg will have some advice?”
Tony shook his head. “Neither of their wives is on the front lines.”
He swallowed the urge to growl.
In a rare display of a public affection, Tony leaned over and bussed his forehead like he was James or something. “Let me do some research, talk to some people.”
Jethro nodded, knowing Tony would come up with something they could both live with.
“What do you think about becoming a teacher?”
Jethro paused in feeding James, then slowly turned to stare at Tony. “A what?” He turned back when James reached out with both hands to draw his father’s hand with the spoon closer. He couldn’t help but grin at his son and his cunning. Why bother crying when you could reach out and get it yourself?
“A teacher.” Tony leaned over to kiss both him and James on their foreheads before dropping into the chair behind James’ high chair. He nudged some papers towards him. “At FLETC.”
That gave him pause, but not in surprise like the last time. This time, it was contemplation. “At the Cheltenham location?”
“Yup,” he said, popping the ‘p.’ Tony could barely hide his smug smile. “Instructor openings in Advanced Instruction of Marksmanship and in Protective Detail.” His smile turned wicked. “There’s also an opening in Driver Training but I told them not to let you apply to that unless they wanted more accidents during high speed chases.”
Jethro tried to glare but was too busy feeding James and thinking about this new possibility. FLETC’s Cheltenham location was less than thirty minutes from their home. He could be home every night with James, could be home fast if something happened. It was about the same distance to NCIS in case Tony needed him there. He was overqualified for both jobs and teaching was what he did sometimes with his team. Granted, they were amazing people with incredible skills and fine instincts, but between them and his time as a gunnery sergeant, he knew how to teach just about anyone. He slowly nodded as he thought it over, then smiled softly at his guide. “You did good, Tony.”
His guide’s smile was brilliant.
Jethro had expected nothing less than the director at her most solicitous, but condescending when he was once again called into her office. He had known this was coming the second he received the invitation to attend a meeting of the joint chiefs of staff. As the duly appointed senior alpha of the East coast, chosen by the alpha prime himself, it was his honor and privilege to represent all sentinels at such meetings. Tony, as alpha guide, represented all the guides, but more than that, his affable nature and his calming influence on Jethro had made him highly sought after. The fact that they were invited but not the director had been no surprise to anyone.
The fact that Director Shepherd took offense when Tom Morrow never had ensured that Jethro had Marie Sinclair on speed dial.
When the dust had settled, everyone knew where everyone else stood.
Tony would be promoted to team leader, taking over where Jethro left off.
Jethro would teach Advance Instruction of Marksmenship at FLETC and advise anyone who wanted it as a consultant.
And Director Shepherd? Well, she heard from everyone, from the president to the janitor, what a bad decision it was to let the alpha sentinel of the East Coast go as an agent. After that momentously bad decision, very few people sought her out for her opinion, only going to her when they couldn’t go around her. SecNav eventually replaced her with Leon Vance, who was known for a much better relationship with the alpha pair.
He should have known. Really, he’s a capable NCIS agent. Soon to be retired, yes, but still sharp mind, sharp senses. He really should have known Tony would do something like this.
And he had no excuse because he had seen James dressed in everything from Ralph Lauren polos (Tony) to an onesie with a mathematical equation that translated into “I ate some pie and it was delicious” (McGee) to a handmade “NCIS probie” t-shirt (Abby). But when he came home and saw James wearing a bright red onesie that said, “This is my bottle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. This bottle is my best friend. It is my life, I must master it as I master my life.”
He burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. He had to wipe tears from his eyes, sucking in panting breaths, trying so very hard to glare at his smugly grinning lover as Tony bounced a giggling James in his arms.
“Knew you’d like that.”
Jethro could do nothing else except kiss that stupidly smug smile and hold onto them both.