“Gibbs! Welcome back,” Abby yelled, black ponytails bouncing, as she ran to the General and threw her arms around him in a crushing hug. Gibbs grunted at the exuberance of the greeting, but couldn’t hold back a smile. Then Abby froze for a moment. Gibbs could feel every muscle in her body tense under his hands. “Oh my God! What happened to you?” she asked, leaning back and squinting into Gibbs’ eyes.
“I’m fine, Abby,” Gibbs said, putting his hands on her shoulders and pushing himself away from the guide’s enthusiastic greeting. He didn’t want to answer questions right now, and especially not here.
“But your energy is all different. What happened to you?” She asked in her worried little girl’s voice, not turning him loose even as he tried to extricate himself.
“Ab…bee” Sentinel Major McGee said, “we talked about this. One hug each and then back to the lab. You have work to do. It’s probably just jet lag you’re sensing.”
Gibbs waited to see if Tim’s admonition would have the desired effect, and was gratified when Abby reluctantly let him go. Her large dark eyes were uncertain. There was no way that Abby believed McGee’s explanation, Gibbs could tell.
“Yeah, Abs, why am I getting a cold shoulder?” Tony asked letting his face and voice show a little boy pout and opening his arms. “Where’s my hug?”
“Oh, Tony,” she moaned. “I’m sorry,” and she threw herself into the guide’s arms only to stiffen in much the same way she had when she hugged Gibbs. She pulled back and stared at him. He tried to distract her sharp gaze with a huge grin and waggling eyebrows.
“Tony,” Gibbs said, before Abby could say anything else. “Take Abby to the lab and get an update from her and Ducky on what they’re working on.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” Tony answered, looping an arm over Abby’s shoulders. She snuggled close to him, looking as if her world had just been tilted on its ear, her pale hand clutched at his belt, holding on. Everyone pretended not to notice that part. The Goth Lab-tech was the emotional heart of their team and as such she was entitled to a freak out every now and then. And if, or when, it happened the others stepped out of their traditional roles to comfort her… that was just how it was.
Gibbs and McGee watched their guides walk to the elevator, brown haired head bent close to the pig-tailed one that nodded regularly. Gibbs hoped that Tony’s golden tongue could work its magic this time too.
McGee waited until they got into the elevator and the doors closed before turning to his boss. “Abby’s been stressed lately. You were gone longer than expected.” There was a definite question buried in the statement, Gibbs knew.
“She’s your guide McGee,” Gibbs said as he turned and walked away. “You need to keep her focused on you.” Gibbs knew keeping Abby, with her lightning quick mind focused on any one person… was not possible. But saying it like it was sure stopped the conversation in its tracks. A conversation Gibbs was not ready to have. He was just grateful Abby seemed happy with Tim most of the time. Tim was not a typical Sentinel, he was, as far as Gibbs could tell, the only kind of Sentinel Abby had any hope of staying bonded to. Tim was no slouch in the I.Q. department and when they got together to solve a problem with a case they were unstoppable.
“Keeping Abby focused on me is easier said than done when someone on our team is injured,” McGee said, watching Gibbs, trying to see if he could pick up any difference in his boss. Abby had never been wrong about these kinds of things, so that meant Gibbs was hiding something, which wasn’t all that unusual, but this time McGee had a gut feeling it was something important. Something he should know.
“Tony’s fine,” Gibbs said, as if that was what they were talking about; he walked up the stairs to his glass enclosed office. “Just a superficial stab wound and a mild concussion. Do you have those reports I asked you for?” Another diversion tactic, this time Tim gave in a bit, interrogating Gibbs was not easy.
“There on your desk,” McGee said, pointing to a small stack of folders as they entered the room. “Sentinel Harris has been stripped of his rank as Alpha Prime and is being charged with one count of threatening a Guide, two counts of guide abuse, seven counts of falsifying medical records. He has been found competent to stand trial.”
“Two counts of guide abuse?” Gibbs asked, hiding the fierce joy he felt at hearing the son of a bitch was going to publicly pay for his crimes, too little too late as far as Gibbs was concerned but he wasn’t untouchable anymore.
“Yes,” McGee continued. “When you had him arrested agents were sent to notify and secure the safety of his guide. They found her malnourished with whip marks, muscular atrophy, osteoporosis, and severe depression. She was hardly reactive, even to the Sentinel handler that was with the team. It seams the bastard kept her confined to a tent with no exercise. We’ve also tracked down the sentinels that signed him off as fit for duty and they’ve been charged with conspiracy to commit abuse as well as one count each of Guide abuse and seven counts each of falsifying medical records. Their Guides weren't in as bad a condition as Harrise's Guide but there was indisputable evidence of abuse.”
“Anyone trying to make the charges go away?” Gibbs asked. He almost hoped someone would be stupid enough to try. He’d enjoy teaching them different.
“No one so far,” McGee said with a smirk. “I think that Harris has lost all of his supporters, they are scattering like flies, no one wants to be associated with him if they can help it. I guess the Harris name isn’t what it once was.”
“I’d say he’s burned his bridges,” Gibbs said as he sat down behind his desk, feeling the way the chair fit him so well. He’d hated using other people’s chairs while he’d been in Cascade. “Anything else?”
“We caught the guide traffickers,” McGee said. “Two of them are still alive. They're mundanes, not sentinels. The Agency wants us off the case.” He waited to hear what his boss would say.
“I bet they do,” Gibbs said as he sorted through the mail piled high on his desk and then leafed through the absurd little pink phone notes he hated so much. There was nothing that would end the world if he didn’t get back to them now. He tossed the dozens of notes into a drawer and shut it with more satisfaction than he should have felt.
“We don’t have any proof that sentinels were involved with the kidnappings.” McGee pointed out.
“Please tell me you didn’t sign-off on this case, McGee?” Gibbs said sitting forward, suddenly not so comfortable in his familiar chair. He showed a flash of temper and a faint growl in his tone. Tim, to his credit didn’t flinch.
“No, we’re still on it,” McGee said. “But this is one hell of a tangled can of worms. We have a couple of Mindwalkers interrogating the traffickers. I tried to get Red assigned but I was told she’s no longer available, so I tried to pull some strings but she’s been transferred to ‘The Department of Guide Proliferation’. When I tried to get her sprung I was stonewalled at every turn. Getting her out is going to take someone way above my pay grade. So I tried for another Mindwalker. They’ve all been transferred to Guide Proliferation. I don’t like it boss, why do they need all of them? My gut feeling tells me that the DGP is up to no good. I had to bring a Mindwalker out of retirement. She’s 68 years old, in good shape for her age but still… Any chance you can get Red sent here, temporally even? That would help.”
Gibbs looked up. “No,” he said, simply, and then opened a file and started to thumb through it.
McGee was confused. Gibbs didn’t give up. He always wanted the best on the job and Red was the best, Gibbs ‘go to girl’. Add to that, that they had a chance of breaking a trafficking ring and routing out some crooked sentinels, if they could get reliable intel fast enough… “What’s going on?” McGee asked. “This isn’t like you…the energy Abby felt, must be one hell of a jet lag.”
Gibbs looked up with an unhappy expression. “If the interrogation is going too slowly then bring another double X out of retirement,” Gibbs said, avoiding the Major’s questions. “Double team the bastards. Get the job done McGee.”
McGee stood his ground; there was a time when he would have scurried away but that time was gone. He was second in command to Gibbs now, and he was nobody’s fool, he learned the lessons his boss had taught him well. Gibbs was hiding something; something that, if he didn’t ferret it out, was going to come back to slap him in the face, he was sure of it.
Gibbs looked up, clearly annoyed. “Now, McGee!”
“Already done,” McGee said meeting Gibbs eyes. “I talked to Elliott in Canada and called in the favor he owes us. He’s escorted a Mindwalker here himself, a half hour before you got in. They should have started the interrogation by now.”
“Then I suggest you get over there,” Gibbs said with a scowl.
“Anderson is overseeing this case, he’ll let us know as soon as they have anything. I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on. Red’s the best there is, it’s not like you to settle.” McGee fixed Gibbs with a steady, stubborn gaze. Special Agent Major Tim McGee could be difficult too, when he needed to be.
Gibbs made a point of glancing up at the security camera and then he looked at McGee. “I suggest you leave my office now!” he snapped.
The small shift of the General’s eyes was not lost on McGee. Gibbs thought that his office might be bugged. He wouldn’t talk here. “I apologize, boss, you’re right I’ve let Abby become too preoccupied with Tony’s injury. I think I’ll go down to the lab and spend a little quality time with my guide.”
“Good idea, Sentinel,” Gibbs said, barely glancing up at Tim as he headed towards the elevators and glad that his diversion tactic worked this time, then went back to reading the reports on his desk. It was going to be a damn long day.
“Okay, out with it,” Abby said as soon as the elevator doors closed. She was gripping Tony’s waist even more firmly, as if she feared he would try to wriggle away. “That’s not jet lag I’m sensing. I know jet lag; it’s… sluggish and tired. You’re energized,” she continued, analyzing her perceptions. “Tell me!”
“Abby, stop it,” Tony said, utterly serious. “You know that what happens between Gibbs and me stays between us. I can’t talk about this with you.”
“But it’s not between you and Gibbs,” Abby said, shaking her hands. “This is totally different, something or someone you’ve both been exposed too.”
Abby was worried, Tony didn’t have to be a guide to feel it, he could hear it in her voice. He took hold of both of Abby’s hands and looked into her eyes, trying to convey comfort to her, to let her know there was nothing to worry about. “I’m asking you, Guide to Guide, Abby; let it drop. When I can tell you, you know I will, but right now …I can’t. Gibbs and I are fine! You need to let this go.”
Abby became still and returned his gaze through heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “You're not a healer, Tony,” she said quietly. She freed one hand and touched his cheek.
Tony dropped her other hand and stared at her, dismayed she could sense so much. “No I’m not, I'm an empath. I know you're worried and I don't want you to worry. Gibbs and I are fine. That's all you, or anybody else, needs to know. Now let it drop.” he said as the elevator doors slid open. Tony stepped out with Abby on his heels. She quickly caught up to him and started walking backward so she could look into his eyes as she talked.
“That was healing energy that you were transferring to me, you shouldn't have been able to do that.” Abby said, carefully analyzing Tony for any reaction. She saw his pupils dilate and a worried look crossed his face. It was only there for a split second but it was long enough to give the precocious guide the information she needed to come to a conclusion. She turned and pushed through the morgue doors. “Ducky,” she yelled, “Gibbs and Tony have bonded with a healer.”
Dr. Mallard looked over his shoulder at the guide as he closed a refrigerated drawer. “I doubt that very much,” he said; he had known Gibbs for years, the sentinel and guide loved each other deeply and worked together in perfect harmony. He couldn’t imagine Gibbs wanting or needing any Guide but Anthony DiNozzo.
“But it’s true,” Abby said, letting a plaintive note creep into her voice. “At first it felt like sentinel energy. You know how I’m able to pick up on that stuff. But then Tony held my hands and I felt a healer so it has to be another guide.” Abby turned to Tony. “You didn’t bring him with you, where is he? I want to meet him. He feels really yummy.”
Tony glanced away, uncharacteristically stiff and not making any attempt to charm Abby. Ducky felt a spike of alarm.
“My dear,” Ducky said as he removed his gloves and began scrubbing his hands. “Are you feeling okay? You haven’t gone and eaten any shitake mushrooms have you. You know you’re allergic and the last time you ate them they scrambled your empathic abilities.” He kept his voice low and concerned, filled with a level of command that demonstrated his years of experience. It wasn’t overt, it just was.
“I haven’t eaten any mushrooms,” Abby said with a whine to her voice. “Why won’t you believe me? I can feel him and Gibbs, their energy! Just ask Tony, he won’t lie to a sentinel.” She stuck out her chin.
“I’ll do no such thing,” Ducky said. “I don’t go prying into another sentinel’s private affairs, but I will tell you this, Abigail; if Gibbs did bond with a healer it would be that little red head he and Tony are both so fond of, and it would be for the purpose of having a family. It certainly wouldn’t be another male.”
Abby suddenly turned and pulled Tony into a hug and closed her eyes as she analyzed what her empathic abilities were telling her. “No,” she said as she laid her head on Tony’s shoulder, “Not female, definitely male sentinel energy.” She pushed back looking at him with a frown. “Why does he feel like a Sentinel one minute and a Guide the next?” she asked.
“Well,” Ducky said. “There you have it. Sentinels are not healers. There is a remote possibility that Gibbs took a Sentinel Brother while in Cascade. That combined with the healing that Tony underwent… You must be picking up some sort of energy osmosis.”
“Yes,” Tony said, relieved that Ducky came up with an out and pulling Abby off of him. He didn’t know why he was against her suspecting he’d actually bonded and had sex with someone besides Gibbs, but it was important to him she didn’t know, not yet. “That must be it, an energy osmosis.”
Ducky looked into Tony’s eyes. Guides made terrible liars where sentinels were concerned and Tony had just told a lie, even an old sentinel like himself with his abilities slowly winding down, and in grieving for his lost guide, could pick up on it. Still it was Gibbs' business not his and he best stay out of it. Unless it was something he should know, but he’d ask Jethro face to face in private, not go through young Abigail to find out.
“Energy osmosis,” Abby said with a huff. “How lame is that?”
Tony took the opening to change the subject. Noting the flare of speculation that had lightened the blue eyes of the old Sentinel, Tony knew that Ducky was on the scent. Luckily he’d go to Gibbs with his question. He was old school; he would never grill a guide about sentinel business. “Gibbs sent me,” he said to the doctor. “He wants to know what you and Abbs have been working on while we were gone?”
“I just finished up the autopsies on the guide traffickers,” Ducky said. “I am 90% sure they are not sentinels. There were no clues of value as to their identity. Abby has the trace evidence. I just have to finish typing up the reports and then I’ll bring them up to Gibbs.”
“I’m running their DNA through CODUS now,” Abby said as she left the morgue and headed for the lab. “Ducky’s right, they are not sentinels. But don’t think this lets you off the hook, Tony, I’ll get to the bottom of this energy change in you and Gibbs, I know what I feel.”
Tony sighed; Gibbs was not going to be happy.
“Abby knows, Boss,” Tony said as soon as he returned to Gibbs’ office, he kept his head lowered and his voice at a sentinel level whisper.
“You told her?” Gibbs asked, just loud enough for Tony to hear.
“No, she figured it out for herself,” Tony said as he slumped into his favorite comfort chair in the corner of Gibbs’ office. He wished he had a blanket to pull up over his head.
“Exactly how much did she figure it out?” Gibbs queried, pinning Tony with his sharp eyes.
“That we both came back bonded to the same man,” Tony said. “She just can’t figure out whether it’s a sentinel or a guide.” He shrugged, itching to have something to hold onto and to squeeze. He picked at the material of the seat cushion.
“Did you tell her she’s not to mention it to anyone?” Gibbs asked.
“I tried to, but it just made it worse. She said I was giving off healing energy. Ducky came up with the theory that it was an ‘energy osmosis’ she was picking up on but she didn’t go for it, not even a little bit. She’s too smart, Boss, Abby knows when she’s being played.”
“Ducky… came up with the theory.” Gibbs said with a moan. “Oh crap.” He was hoping to keep their cross-bonding under wraps, but he hadn’t counted on the Goth pit bull in the lab or the equally tenacious and charming older sentinel. “We’ll have to tell them, the sooner the better. I don’t want this going any further than the five of us.” He didn’t want speculation and rumors overheard by the wrong ears and rumors had a tendency to leak. He probably caught enough attention with putting the Alpha Prime Harris out of business. But he wasn’t so naive as to think that someone hadn’t already taken his place.
Gibbs’ Home after dinner.
“So, Tony and I are cross-bonded to Spike,” Gibbs said. “That’s the energy that Abby’s been picking up on.”
“I’m still not clear as to why you found it necessary to bond with this Sentinel Spikeman?” Ducky asked, his tone almost disapproving. He was a strict traditionalist, he didn’t believe in any amount of straying from the chosen guide, for any reason short of the risk of death; political reasons most definitely didn’t make the list. "I can understand you being part of the resistance against these ridiculous new laws, but it seems as if it would have been enough to take Sentinel Ellison as your brother. He’s the head of his pack.” He sipped his drink, sensitive fingers playing over the cut crystal of the glass. Unspoken was the assertion that to share Tony was an unforgivable sin. Normally Gibbs would agree.
“We needed a reliable form of communication that couldn’t be bugged,” Gibbs explained. “Bonding with Spike gets us into their hive and that makes us part of their telepathic link. These new laws are only the surface of what’s going on. Washington Genetics needs to be closely watched and I need up to date intel.”
“The link is with you?” McGee asked, he was feeling off balance and under that he was feeling… jealous, and a tiny bit resentful. He was part of Gibbs’ team, why wasn’t he included?
“Yes,” Gibbs said, “with me and Tony.”
“This whole thing seems out of character to me,” McGee said. “Why would you need Spikeman linked to Tony?" The only reason a sentinel would let his guide cross-bond is to keep him or her safe. “I don’t see how a sentinel three thousand miles away can keep Tony any safer then he would be without the cross-bond,” he said keeping his voice neutral, not letting the question he truly wanted to know the answer to creep in, why was some far away and weird Sentinel/Guide hybrid better then he was?
“I have reason to believe that soon, guides like Tony, who carry both the sentinel and guide gene will be targeted for kidnapping,” Gibbs said.
Tim was jolted out of feeling sorry for himself. Shit. That wasn’t good…not at all. Abby had sentinel genes herself. She had been born a hermaphrodite, she carried male genes and those genes came from a sentinel. She couldn’t help but run her own DNA to satisfy her own curiosity. Now her unique genetic profile was a matter of record. Tim felt his stomach turn over.
Ducky asked the question that was currently burning a hole in McGee’s gut. “First of all, what possible reason could you have that a guide like Tony would be singled out and secondly it still doesn’t answer why a sentinel on the other side of the continent can keep Tony any safer then Timothy or I can, any one of us would die for him or Abby?”
Gibbs sighed; he had hoped to avoid telling the group this particular secret. It really wasn’t his secret to tell. But, no time like the present to try out the telepathic link. He closed his eyes and asked Spike for permission.
Three thousand miles away Spike’s head popped up and he listened to a voice in his head.
“Who is it?” Xander asked. “I can sense something but I can't hear it.”
“It’s Gibbs,” Spike said, “He’s calling me to ask permission to tell his people about you.”
“I thought we agreed to keep this quiet.” Xander said with a growl. “Just how many people does he want to tell?”
“Three,” Spike said. “Two sentinels and a guide.”
“What’s going on?” Abby asked, “Tony and Gibbs’ auras are vibrating?”
“It’s okay Abbs,” Tony said, “Gibbs is talking to Spike. Asking for permission to tell you the rest of what we know.”
“Permission?” Ducky asked, surprised. Gibbs rarely bowed to another sentinel’s superior rank. He didn’t have too. Few out ranked him and from what they had been told Spikeman wasn’t one of them.
And the answer came loud and clear across the link. “You trust me with the life of your guide,” Spike said. “I trust you with the life of mine. Tell them whatever they need to know.
Gibbs opened his eyes and took a deep breath. “Spike’s guide, Spike’s choice, Ducky, it’s only sentinel etiquette to ask his permission. Guide Alexander Harris’ sentinel abilities have triggered. They are trying to keep it quiet, but it’s only a matter of time before something like this will reach the wrong people and every guide with the sentinel gene will be in danger.”
Ducky scowled, this whole thing was surreal it had to be some kind of practical joke. “You expect us to believe that you were in telepathic contact with this Spikeman sentinel. You’re just trying to get back at me for that April fools joke I played on you last year. Give it up Jethro; you went too far; I’m not falling for it. It’s impossible. Guides DO NOT trigger as sentinels; the sentinel gene is recessive.”
“You think that this is some kind of a joke?” Gibbs said, glaring at his long time friend. “It’s not, this is life and death, Ducky. I don’t joke when it comes to my guide.”
Ducky raised a hand in surrender, it wasn’t often he was faced with Gibbs’ ire. “I won’t apologize, I know you hate that. But to be honest, a joke, or an out right lie, makes more sense then what you’re telling me.” Ducky had made a thorough search of studies on the subject. He’d wondered, even as a small boy if it were possible, he’d wanted to bond with a guide who would be different, special, and more like himself. He’d learned better of course, a guide was not a sentinel. But he’d kept up his reading over the intervening fifty years. Guides did not become sentinels. “If Ellison and Spikeman told you that a guide has become a sentinel they are lying to you.”
“They’re not lying,” Tony said. “Gibbs and I both saw it for ourselves. Xander’s abilities have triggered.”
“I don’t suppose they told you how it happened?” Ducky asked, still skeptical, if it was true he wanted to know how.
“When Xander was kidnapped,” Gibbs began, “he was given an overdose of a sedative; the kind that keeps the brain from laying down long-term memories and as a side effect shuts down a guides’ empathic abilities. The overdose destroyed some of his guide pathways and put him into a coma. They think the brain healed the best it could by triggering his sentinel abilities and laying down new sentinel pathways.” He shrugged. “No one is certain and the data’s not available for public consumption.”
“My God,” Ducky said. “I know the drug you’re talking about. Overdose causes a deep coma in a guide; If memory serves, from what I’ve read on the subject, any attempt by a healer to lay down new pathways causes a synaptic cascade and brain death. You say he not only came out of the coma, he came out a sentinel?”
“No,” Gibbs said. “He triggered a few months afterward. While still healing.”
“They must have used a very talented healer,” McGee said.
“I’d have to agree,” Ducky said. “I never followed up on information I've come across, the last I read was years ago. According to the AMA an overdose of that drug is non-reversible in guides. They spend the rest of their life in a coma and any attempt to bring them out is fatal.”
“Spike kept Xander from having a synaptic cascade,” Tony said, “and he’s still doing it.”
“That is one very talented sentinel,” McGee said.
Tony looked at him. If he didn’t know McGeek better, he’d say the sentinel sounded jealous. Tim studiously ignored him. Okay, that was a definite ‘yes’ on the jealousy meter. Tony thought about it, cross-bonding with McGee? Hmmm. Now Abby…that was cool, he liked the idea just fine, but McGee? He grimaced. Freaky thought.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Gibbs said. “Spike has one other talent, he can track telepathically anyone he is bonded to.” He let that information sink in.
“What do you mean by that?” Ducky asked. “Track them how?”
“Just what I said,” Gibbs replied. “Spike tracked Xander when he was taken, even though they used anti-sentinel methodology. He was able to track his guide from miles away, not a scent trail, not hearing, just feeling the bond, ancient sentinel, mythic-type abilities. If Tony is taken, Spike will find him.”
“Well,” Ducky said. “It occurs to me that our Sentinel Spikeman may be in as much danger as his guide. That kind of talent couldn’t go un-coveted. The military implications are too desirable. A tracking sentinel without limits…but in order to do it there would have to be indiscriminate bonding, perhaps forced, not chosen.” He could imagine how an entire brigade of soldiers forced to cross-bond to their handlers could use that talent. He shuddered, feeling nausea fizz in his belly. He downed the remainder of his scotch and held the glass out towards Gibbs. “I need a drink,” he said and meant it.
Tony laughed. “I pity anyone that goes after him, Doc. He’s already killed one hit man bare handed and six highly trained black ops sentinels with nothing but a knife. All I can say is thank God that we’re on their same side.”
Ducky looked at him sharply, he didn’t want to voice his fears, not until he knew more. “I once heard it said,” the doctor began, “that the different between truth and fiction is that fiction has to be believable. I think our Sentinel Spikeman fits rather nicely into the stranger than fiction category.” As far as he was concerned all of this was just speculation until he saw it for himself and it was proved to him beyond a doubt.
“When can I do it?” Abby asked, her excitement contrasting sharply with Ducky’s reticence.
“Do what?” McGee wanted to know; pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it when he did know. Her mind didn’t follow the usual path most of the time. She was brilliant and unpredictable. This was one of those times he was going to regret her tendencies.
“Cross-bond with Spike, of course,” Abby said, making McGee sure he was having a nightmare.
“He’s three thousand miles away, Abbs,” McGee growled, “and you’re mine.”
The growl was uncharacteristic of the easy going sentinel and everyone looked at him, Abby with her mouth open, her eyes huge. He never growled at her. Never.
“You growled at me!” Abby said, surprise mixed with anger. She couldn’t have sounded more offended if she had tried.
Tim flushed but stood his ground. “What do you expect, Abby?” McGee said. “You asked to bond with another sentinel. Which is the same as telling me you want to dump me.”
Abby got up and walked forward, glaring, until she was leaning over McGee, who sat in his seat looking up at her. “You promised me, when we bonded, that you would give me my freedom.”
Tony sat, fascinated as the vignette played out. Despite the anger zigzagging between the sentinel and his guide the connection between them was strong. Breaking the bond…not in the cards for them. He could open his mouth and tell them what he knew to be true…or he could sit back and watch them figure it out. He sat back.
Tim’s normally rounded chin jutted out stubbornly and he met her angry glare returning it with his own. “Freedom for tattoos, rock concerts and occasional retreats with the nuns. Not indiscriminate bonding with other sentinels.”
“Indiscriminate?” both Gibbs and Abby shouted at once, glaring at McGee.
“I don’t think you should have used that word, Timmy-boy,” Tony said under his breath. The bond with Spike was anything but indiscriminate, not with what they had to go through to complete it. As for Abby, she liked to flirt and she’d talk your ear off, but she didn’t sleep around and since she bonded with ‘McGeek’, she hadn’t so much as groped another sentinel with intent.
All three turned on him. “Shut up Tony,” they said in unison. Tony’s brows lifted, eyes widening, but he kept his mouth shut under the combined glares.
“I think this is a topic best discussed in private,” Ducky said smoothly. He meant privately between one sentinel and one guide. Not a group. In his day things like this would never have happen. The younger generation would do well to learn the lessons their elders had to teach them. Ducky pressed his lips together frowning. Gibbs in particular should have known better, and now, Abby, the poor girl was caught up in it.
Abby turned her gaze to the doctor. If he had been standing he would have taken a step backward. He had seldom seen that look from a guide but he had enough experience in his life to know that when it did appear a sentinel had best take notice or there’d be hell to pay.
“No it’s not,” Abby said, “I want to talk about it now!” She gave a credible growl herself, sounding pure sentinel if Ducky didn’t know any better. He blinked. “I have the sentinel gene, just like Tony.” She pursed her generous lips and waited for their response to her statement.
“Abigail,” Ducky said using his most soothing voice, “that’s not possible, you’re a woman, the sentinel gene is carried on the Y chromosome only. Women have no Y chromosome. Even with a sentinel father you cannot carry the sentinel gene. I can understand wishful thinking my dear, but guides are every bit as valuable to society as sentinels. You are already a special lady. There is no need to wish…”
“I’m not a woman,” Abby said, firmly.
“You sure fooled me,” Tony muttered, allowing his gaze to rake dangerously over her tall, sleek form.
“Stop treating me like I’m an idiot, I know what a Y chromosome is. Look at me,” Abby said, stepping into the center of the room and turning, “I’m 6’1” and my shoulders are a bit too broad and don’t tell me you haven’t sniffed out I don’t have a menstrual cycle.” She dared them to blush as she stared into each face pugnaciously. They all knew better than to even twitch.
“That’s not something a sentinel goes out of his way to scent in his female co-workers,” Gibbs said, looking at her with an analyzing tilt of his head… or talk about if he did notice and wonder. Not unless the said guide was his guide.
“There is nothing that you can tell us that will convince us you are a man, Abigail,” Ducky said, letting his annoyance at her continued persistence creep into his voice; he couldn’t understand it. Did she really want to bond with this Spikeman sentinel so much? “There are many women over six feet tall, you have a classic hour glass figure and I’ve seen your medical records; your uterus was removed when you were thirteen, due to abnormalities. That is why you don’t menstruate. Not because you are male.”
“I’m not a man, Ducky,” Abby said, with exaggerated patience. “I’m an hermaphrodite. I have an extra pair of chromosomes, both the XX pair and the XY pair. It scrambled my reproductive system something fierce. I’ve got some secondary sexual characteristics of both genders.”
Tony almost broke his own jaw clamping down on the question he so wanted to ask…was Timmy getting any at all? And if he was… what was he getting? His curiosity was nearly burning his tongue off. But no matter what Gibbs, and for that matter Spike, had said about him not knowing when to keep his mouth shut, this he knew better than to ask here and now.
“How could that be possible, my dear?” Ducky said, recovering after a moment of gaping at the tall slender woman, he kept his voice calm, “nature simply doesn’t permit such a tangle. An egg fertilized with an extra pair of chromosomes simply wouldn’t grow. The addition of an entire new pair would result in absolute cellular havoc.”
“It’s true,” McGee said, standing up and going to put his arms around his guide. “Abby ran her DNA, I’ve seen it.”
“And what did you see, Timothy?” Ducky asked as if he were a benevolent teacher, secure in the facts. “How familiar are you with genetics? Abigail can be quite convincing, but…”
“I don’t need to be a geneticist to count 24 pairs of chromosomes,” McGee said, angry that Ducky seemed to be calling Abby a liar. “She’s my guide…Do you think I don’t know what a woman looks like. Abby’s…her body’s…”
Tony leaned forward in his chair, he didn’t want to miss a moment. McGee was actually going to spill the beans and tell every one exactly what his guide’s physical characteristics were.
McGee turned bright red.
“We get the picture, McGee,” Gibbs said. “It can’t happen in nature…but there she is, our Abby. Genetic manipulation of guides and sentinels has been going on since DNA was discovered, we just never talk about it. Jim said it was more wide spread then we could imagine. The only difference is now they have the confidence to hide it in plain sight. Can’t say that I expected to find it in our own back yard though.”
‘Damn it,’ Tony thought, ‘why did Gibbs have to interrupt, just when McGee was about to say something interesting for a change.’
“You think Abby was genetically engineered?” McGee asked still comforting his guide with a hug. He sounded like he was teetering on the edge of outrage while battling with interest. Tim liked mysteries; he liked them a lot. Gibbs could almost see him bent over his computer, hacking into one of the big genetics firms in search of answers…and blowing their covers as he searched.
“As much as I hate to say this it’s the only rational explanation. If the manipulation was done while the zygote was in the later stages of division…but even then I find this unbelievable.” Ducky said, in an apologetic voice. “God, what is this world coming to? I’d like to take a look at your test results, Abby, see if I can figure out exactly what was done.”
“Sure,” Abby said, hugging her sentinel and looking over his shoulder at Ducky. She was wrapped around Tim like a vine, like one body with two very different heads. “I’ll give them to you in the morning.” Then she let go and looked around at the group. “So, when can I bond with Spike?”
“I’m not sure you can Abbs,” Tony said quietly, watching the disentangling with fascination. He remembered Spike saying he only bonded with people he could love. “He can only bond with… compatible energy.” Tony finished lamely. No way was he insensitive enough to say Spike maybe couldn’t love Abby, everyone loved Abby. There was just no guarantee that Spike would.
“There is nothing wrong with Abby’s energy,” McGee said, sure he didn’t want to think of her with another sentinel but he wasn’t going to let Tony insult her either.
“Not Abby,” Tony said, suddenly seeing a better way out of his conundrum. “You, Tim, I’m not sure you’d be compatible with Spike.”
“Why not?” Tim said, taking immediate insult and glaring suspiciously at Tony.
“Spike and Xander are…different.” Tony finished lamely, shooting a pleading glance over at Gibbs who was watching him dig the hole that much deeper. His expression was fond, but he wasn’t helping. Tony was going to be shoveling his own way out.
“So you and Gibbs are good enough but I’m not,” McGee said glaring at Tony. “I’m not the right kind of sentinel.”
“It’s not that, McGee,” Tony said. “Gibbs and I almost couldn’t…”
“We have to have Abby meet Xander,” Gibbs said, interrupting the path the conversation was about to go down, and rescuing his guide after all. “He can tell if she’s in any danger. We can decide what to do from there.”
“Why Xander?” Abby asked.
“Xander is Spikeman’s Guide, and I mean that in the most possessive, protective, and unique way you can imagine. He’ll only allow Spike to cross bond with you if you’re in danger.”
“He has reliable Hazard Detection, ESP,” Tony said. “He figured out I carried the sentinel gene with it.”
“Wow,” Abby exclaimed, “I’d love to learn that. I wonder if he could teach me?”
“No he can’t!” Gibbs said, pushing away from the wall where he’d been leaning and advancing on Abby. “It isn’t something you’d want to learn.”
“Why not, it’s just a matter of doing the proper exercises. I can set something up in the lab…”
Abby was intrigued again. Gibbs was going to do his best to extinguish every drop of curiosity that pulled her in that direction. It was far too dangerous. “Stop it, Abby,” Gibbs growled, “This isn’t a game. You want to know how the bastard taught Xander hazard detection? Electric shock. And if he refused to do the exercise, or if he wasn’t good enough, he got locked in a sensory deprivation tank. Does that sound like fun, Abby? This isn’t playtime, this is real.”
Tears filling her eyes, Abby mumbled, “I just… If I play with it, I don’t get so scared. They really tortured him?”
Gibbs turned and stalked toward the door, "yes they did," he said with a growl and then he left the room. He walked over to the window and stood looking out at the Georgetown streets.
Tony spared a single glance at Abby’s stricken face and then followed his sentinel. He came up behind Gibbs in the privacy of the next room and hugged him carefully. Gibbs didn’t like public displays of affection, but Tony felt this was a special case. He waited for the stiff man in his arms to decide. He bent his head and laid it on his sentinel’s shoulder.
“She’s just trying to cope with all of this as best she can.” Tony whispered into Gibbs’ ear.
“Abby’s parents must have been in on this, there’s no other way it could have been done, and Xander's parents too,” Gibbs whispered, staring out at the streetlights. “Using their own children that way, he said shaking his head. We’re at war, Tony, we can’t let them do this to our children.”
Tony felt the tiny, infinitesimal relaxation in the body he held. Gibbs was letting himself be held. Tony melted into the too rare opportunity. If he could have he would have purred. “I know, Boss, I know,” he whispered against the strong throat. He pressed a simple kiss into the skin. “I know.”
Ducky stood in the doorway watching Tim and Abby walk to their car before turning to Tony. “I’d like a few moments alone with your sentinel, if you don’t mind.”
“Or even if I do, I bet,” Tony said, more than passingly familiar with Ducky’s old world chauvinism. Guides, even those who were big and strong like DiNozzo, should be protected and sheltered by Sentinels. Tony understood that was just how Ducky was; he didn’t mean any insult, and the older man knew Gibbs would tell Tony whatever Ducky shared with him. Still, Dr. Donald Mallard insisted on keeping up the gentle charade except in the most urgent of emergencies. Tony bestowed an honestly affectionate smile on the forensic medical man and then he turned to Gibbs, “I’ll be in the bedroom,” he said.
The pair of sentinels, one in his prime and one with wisdom that only comes with years of experience stepped back inside the house and closed the front door.
They walked to the kitchen and Ducky set about making tea. The ritual soothed the old sentinel and Jethro kept a polished copper kettle expressly for his friend’s visits. Gibbs reached up and pulled down the flat wooden tea chest that held the small tins of English and Scottish teas, placing it on the counter, for himself he brewed a small pot of hot black coffee.
When the tea was finally steeping on the tray next to a few lightly sweetened tea biscuits, Jethro followed the elder sentinel over to the kitchen table and sat down.
Ducky waited for the tea leaves to settle before he took a cautious sip. The scent was pleasant enough, Gibbs supposed, but certainly nothing he’d want to drink himself, yet he could appreciate how Ducky’s lids lowered in frank pleasure as he took his tea and nibbled on the cookies.
“What is it, Ducky?” Gibbs asked, once he sensed his old friend was ready to talk.
“I was going to stay out of this mess with the new laws, ” Ducky began. “ I thought it was a young man’s concern, but now I find it is threatening the people I love. I’m ashamed to say I’ve kept my head stuck in the sand, as far as these matters are concerned. I thought the things I heard were fanciful rumors; I believed genetic manipulation of sentinels and guides was no more than a nightmare scenario, stories used for the hazing of young sentinels. But no more, Jethro; I want in on the resistance.”
“I never though you were truly out, Ducky,” Gibbs said in his usual smooth and calm voice. “I was just waiting until you decided you were ready to jump in with both feet, as usual.” He couldn’t help but reach out and pat the old man’s hand. Ducky had become the longest living fixture in his life. The man’s patterns of behavior were no mystery to him. Anymore than his own habits were to Ducky.
“Thank you, Jethro, be that as it may, I may not be able to do much but I have contacts within the medical community; I should be able to learn things that other sentinels aren’t privy to,” Ducky narrowed his eyes against the fragrant rising steam from his cup and sipped with such blatant enjoyment that Gibbs wondered for a moment if drinking tea had anything in common with having sex. “They may be less cautious around a doddering old fool like me.”
Jethro hid his smirk at the foolishness of the unbidden thought. Nothing…nothing…could be as good as sex with DiNozzo. He got back to the subject at hand. “Anyone who categorizes you as a doddering old fool deserves to be taken down hard. Just don’t take any chances; I don’t want any heroics tipping our hand.” Gibbs said, after they had enjoyed the company and their beverages in silence for a little longer.
“Thank you, Jethro, for not telling me I’m still young,” Ducky said with a smile. “At my age two out of three ain’t bad.”
“I’d never lie to you, Duck,” Gibbs said, his face serious, “but, you have a lot of fight left in you and this is a war we can’t afford to lose. These people were willing to kidnap and enslave a guide to get what they wanted and when that failed they tried to railroad and kill a guide just to make a point.”
“I know what I’m doing, Jethro,” Ducky said, with a shake of his head. “It’s not as if I’ve never worked undercover before. I have an opportunity that may give us some insight. There’s a medical convention in Boston next month. I thought it would be good for me to get away for a few days, it seems like a reasonable transition time after the loss of my guide. There’s no telling what I may be able to learn.”
“Just be careful, Ducky.”
“I promise,” the doctor said, “I’ll keep my ears open and my head down.”
Abby waited, she thought very patiently, for McGee to finish hanging up their coats and to close the closet door before shoving him against the wall. Her hands gripped the shoulder of his shirt and tugged on it, almost tearing it free of his pants.
“How dare you accuse me of wanting to dump you?” she growled, glaring into her sentinel’s eyes even as she systematically and aggressively stripped him.
McGee put his hands up in surrender. He tried to think through the rising hormones that Abby’s touch always stirred in him, but it was always harder to think when she was like this. A dominant Abby was…Tim almost groaned out loud, he fought to keep his voice even. “What was I supposed to think, Abby? Everyone was crying the virtues of Spikeman and you ask to bond with him.”
“Everyone?” Abby asked. “Just Gibbs. Gibbs was the only one talking about Spike.”
“See, you just called him Spike,” McGee rationalized, “like you know the guy, and wasn’t it you that said his energy was yummy ?”
“Yeah? Well, you’re my sentinel, McGee.” She started in on his clothes again. “And I’m going to show you that in ways you can’t possibly misunderstand. Got it?” she growled into the shell of his ear.
He nodded frantically as her black nailed fingers closed on his straining cock through his boxers and squeezed. “Yes!” he yelped, not caring if it came out as a squeak.
Abby kissed his cheek. “You’re all mine, Sentinel,” she whispered, finding her way to his skin. Her thumb circled the head of his cock. “My yummy Tim. Mine.” She bit him and he squealed.
Abby grabbed McGee and pulled him off the wall and then still holding on to her sentinel she pivoted and gave him a sharp shove toward the bedroom.
McGee staggered backward, nearly falling but able to catch his balance only to have his Goth guide advance on him, her eyes glaring, she shoved him backward again with a low growl. McGee knew that look and that sound. Abby was a tigress on the hunt for her mate. She continued down the hall forcing McGee’s ‘retreat’ into the bedroom until the back of his knees were tight against the mattress and then Abby pounced knocking him backward onto the bed.
McGee looked up at his guide and let his eyes slide over her slim muscular body, past her pierced bellybutton…and there he saw it. Abby’s large clit swollen and hardened into a small cock, the purple tip peaking out from her labia lips. His tongue flicked out of his mouth, his sentinel taste buds searching the air for any taste of his guide.
She lifted her weight up. “You deserve a spanking, McGee, roll over.”
Tim moaned but didn’t fight; he rolled onto his stomach and Abby began her assault of his back, raking her fingernails over his muscles just short of enough pressure to draw blood.
Finally she came to his ass. She sat on the calves of his legs and bending down she kissed the tattoo of a bat with her face, a copy of the caricature Caitlyn, an agent killed in the line of duty, had drawn of her. Seeing that tattoo never failed to fill her heart to overflowing with love. How could he think she would leave him? He was the only sentinel that had ever wanted her as a guide, the only one that could keep up with her runaway freight train of a mind. A tear dropped from her eye and plopped onto McGee’s ass.
“Abbs?” McGee asked, lifting his head to look back at her when he felt the drop hit.
Her hand came down hard, with a resounding smack. “That’s for thinking I would ever leave you,” Abby said, her voice dominant and fierce.
McGee turned his head back and buried it in the pillow, satisfied that she was okay.
Smack! “And that’s for growling at me.” Smack! “And that’s for not knowing I could never love anyone else as much as I love you.” Abby lifted her weight off of McGee. “Now, roll over Sentinel, I’m not finished with you yet.”
McGee rolled over and waited for Abby to straddle him again.
Abby picked up his hard cock in one hand and cupped his balls in the other hand. “What’s this McGee?” she asked, as if he were trying to hide something from her.
“Your toy,” he answered, quite familiar with this game.
“Mmmm, mine,” she said looking at him with her wickedly playful smile.
Tim moaned; Abby was about to turn him into a quivering mass of jell-o. She bent down, exhaling warm breath over the length of his cock and then blowing cool air. She continued alternating warm and cool air, with an occasional thumb over the tip of his cock, and rolling his balls in her hand, until McGee began to leak pre-cum.
Abby took the tip of his cock into her mouth and licked at the delicious droplet, and then she forced her tongue into the tender slit before nursing his cock for more.
Tim felt like his eyes were about to roll back into his head and he lifted his hips.
Abby let McGee’s cock slide deeper into her mouth, circling it and teasing it with her tongue, before pulling back. “I’m going to ride you now, McGee,” she said, holding his cock so it pointed at the ceiling. “Don’t move until I tell you.”
She positioned herself and ran the moist tip of his erection over the two and a half inches of her own small dick.
McGee fisted the sheets on either side of him and forced himself not to stab upward. Then he felt her settle down over him, taking his thick length into her hot, moist tunnel.
Abby wiggled trying to find just the right angle, the angle that would rub her cock against her sentinel’s as she rode him. When she found it she took her time savoring the slow build to orgasm.
McGee reached for her but she grabbed his wrists and held him firm as her ride quickened and became faster and faster and then she called out. “Now, McGee.”
Tim thrust upward as Abby slammed down onto him. He felt himself explode into his guide, Abby’s energy enveloped his mind, warm and nurturing, even as a gush of her vaginal fluids pooled on his belly, he was not alone, they were one.
Abby rolled off of McGee and cuddled in beside him. “Now are you convinced?” she asked in her sleepy little girl voice.
“I love you more than life, Abigail Scuito,” McGee said, stroking her hair and giving her nose a kiss.
“I know that, you silly sentinel,” she muttered and then she was asleep.
Tony looked up from his book. He was curled into the reading chair next to his side of their king sized bed. He closed the book when his Sentinel appeared in the doorway and set it aside, his full attention on the General. Gibbs' face was serious. A peek into the kitchen an hour ago had shown Tony the two Sentinels sitting together companionably. Ducky talking and Gibbs listening.
"How is he?" Tony asked, openly concerned. "Is he...?"
"He's Ducky." Gibbs said, simply. "He's fine, DiNozzo. He wants to get involved in the resistance. He's already figured out his action plan."
Tony wasn't sure what to say. He was afraid for the older man, but he was well aware Ducky's life had not been a sheltered one. Donald Mallard was a man full of surprises only revealed when the situation was desperate. Tony suspected this would not be the first active resistance Ducky had been a part of. And yet, he was afraid for him, for his safety.
"It's dangerous." Tony said, knowing Gibbs would understand from that one short statement what was on his mind.
"It is." Gibbs responded. "Ducky can handle himself. He wasn't always just a doctor." The worried look remained on his Guide's face. But that was Tony. He worried. Gibbs looked at him affectionately, then began to get ready for bed.
Gibbs moved over to his closet and started to undress. He did so with a quick efficiency that had at some point during their relationship started to make Tony hot. It was the beginning of their foreplay. He could tell just by how Gibbs undressed if it was a night they were going to sleep, or one they would be up all night in more intense pursuits. Tonight they'd make love.
Washington D.C., Gibbs/DiNozzo townhouse, Saturday Morning
"I wish you'd stop looking at me like that," Tony complained.
"Like what?" Gibbs asked, eyeing Tony from head to toe with delicious intensity.
"Like the cat that swallowed a canary," Tony said, with an annoyed tone of voice. "And wouldn't mind doing it again."
"Can't help it," Gibbs said taking another sip of his coffee. "You're still glowing. It's hot."
"You're insufferable when you're this proud of yourself," Tony pointed out primly. "It's just guide glow, the natural state of a guide after bonding with his or her sentinel."
Gibbs sipped his coffee and continued watching Tony glow. He liked it on him; DiNozzo with a glow was beautiful.
Tony waited a few minutes before asking the question that kept swirling in his head. "Boss, how are you going to handle this thing with Abby? I doubt if McGee is going to take her to Cascade. He'd rather shoot Spikeman than voluntarily let him near Abby."
"You're right, he won't," Gibbs said, agreeing at once, "Tim wouldn't dream of taking Abby all the way across the country in search of another Sentinel, that's why I'm going to have them come here."
"Easier said than done," Tony said thoughtfully. "There's Xander's health to think about and they're a nesting pack; you can't get just two of them to separate and come out here. You'll end up with more than Spikeman and Harris. You'll get Ellison and Sandburg and maybe Miller and Finn." He shrugged. "Hell maybe they'll bring a few others for us to induct into the resistance." His tone was very dry.
Gibbs looked at him indulgently. "Jealous much, DiNozzo?"
"Me?" Tony blurted indignantly. "You...." He sputtered to a halt, seeing the glint in his Sentinel's eye. Gibbs was baiting him. Gibbs in a playful mood was just scary.
"Ellison is the Sentinel Liaison officer for the Cascade area," Gibbs said getting back on track. "I'm going to call him to Washington to give his input on setting up a task force to deal with the recent outbreak of guide kidnappings. You're right he will come with Spikeman and Harris, and that's who we really need to see, but they don't nest with Miller and Finn, so I doubt if Ellison will bring them. Miller's promotion to Alpha Prime will be coming through soon and someone needs to be in Cascade to keep an eye on the genetics lab."
"So, are you going to call them via ESP?" Tony asked.
"No, I want this to go through regular channels," Gibbs said. "I really will be setting up a task force. Ellison and Spikeman both have experience dealing with a guide kidnapping, it's only natural that I would want their input. All of this needs to be above suspicion, so it is all going to be done out in the open."
"Hide in plain sight," Tony said with a nod of understanding. "We'll have to reserve a nesting room for them at one of the sentinel friendly hotels."
"They'll be staying with us," Gibbs said in his no negotiation tone of voice.
Tony's mouth dropped open and it was a moment before he could speak. "Do you think that's wise, Boss?" he asked. "Having them in the house? We don't have a nesting room and we'd have virtually no privacy, not with two more Sentinels and two more Guides in the house." Maybe the guides weren't bonded to Gibbs but they were certainly tuned in to him, and Gibbs was Tony's personal property, if Spike had other ideas, it was just too damn bad. He almost growled his displeasure.
"They're our bond-brothers, I'm not insulting them by sending them to a hotel," Gibbs pointed out. "We can turn the guest bedroom into a nest easily enough."
"That wasn't what I was thinking, and you know it," Tony said annoyed at Gibbs for avoiding the obvious. "What if Spike wants to re-new our bond?" There it was out in the open, well, mostly. He wasn't saying he was jealous. Not out loud. He was just...concerned.
"Then we'll deal with it," Gibbs said, with a scowl. There was no point in talking about what might or might not happen. Right now, the priority was to make sure Abby was safe. Maybe she wasn't officially bonded to the other sentinels that worked in the building but every one of them felt her presence. If they lost Abby, it would be like having their heart torn out. "Ducky's going into the lab this morning to take a look at Abby's DNA. We should swing in around eleven hundred hours and see what he's found out, then I'll give Cascade a call."
"What did you find out Ducky?" Gibbs asked as he, McGee and Abby walked up behind the sentinel and Gibbs placed a hand on his oldest friend's shoulder.
"You see this, here," Ducky said using his pen to point at the computer screen. "That is the extra pair of chromosomes. The interesting thing is that whoever did this tried to balance out the extra pair by turning off portions of the x chromosomes and all of the Y chromosome except for the part that holds the sentinel genetic information. When this was done, gene splicing was not within our abilities. It is rather a ham handed attempt, if you ask me, at least compared to what we can accomplish today. Now we have a machine that can cut DNA..."
"Ducky," Gibbs said giving his friend's shoulder a squeeze, "can you make an educated guess as to why they did this? Layman's terms please."
"Oh, yes, quite, Jethro," Ducky said getting back on track. "It would seem they were trying to create a female sentinel." Gibbs felt the hair on the back of his neck rise in a wave. Female Sentinels were a bad idea. Male Guides might prefer them over male sentinels. Gibbs only just kept his teeth covered, resisting the instinctive snarl.
"Then why would they use a guide for the mother?" McGee asked, oblivious to the undercurrents. "If they wanted a female sentinel why chance getting a guide?" He was of course a male sentinel with a female-ish guide; Gibbs knew he couldn't understand, not entirely.
"Well, it looks as if they tried to turn off the Guide area on the X chromosome," Ducky said, pointing at the computer screen, "perhaps hoping that nature would fill in the missing bit with the sentinel information, but, being a dominant gene it turned itself partially back on."
"Partially, what do you mean partially?" McGee asked ready to defend his guide. "Abby has an 8.5 empathic rating, she is not a partial guide." He sounded hostile.
"McGee," Abby said stroking his arm. "It's okay, it wasn't an insult. Ducky's just reading the DNA."
"You're quite right, Abby, there was no insult intended," Ducky said. "But you must agree, Timothy, Abby is not your run of the mill guide. She is very sensitive to life energy and although she is rated an 8.5 she is not a healer."
"That would make her more, from my point of view, not less," McGee said, he was happy she wasn't a healer. If she was then she'd have to go heal other sentinels. "I don't see how you can say she is a partial guide, Tony's not a healer, would you call him a partial guide?"
"That's not what he said, Tim," Abby said as she snuggled up against McGee, hugging him tightly, taking the precaution of making sure his arms were trapped under her own. "Even though we have mapped the human genome, we still don't understand how everything works. Proteins do more than one thing. It could be that the reason I see emotions as vibrations is some kind of weird protein/enzyme connection or reaction that doesn't usually happen."
"That's enough arguing," Gibbs said. "Abby is our Abby and I wouldn't change her, none of us would, I just want to make sure she is safe. We have to understand what was done in order to do that McGee. You said that the technology has improved, Ducky. Any chance some hotshot would kidnap Abby and try to finish what they started?"
"I can't speak for what is in another man's mind, most especially a criminal's," Ducky said. "But, considering what they did to that poor Harris guide, anything is possible." He looked like he was imagining a very dark future indeed.
Saturday Morning, The Nesting House… Cascade, Washington
“Oz, what are you doing here?” Jim asked when he answered the unexpected doorbell and saw the small red-haired man standing on the stoop.
“Can I come in?” Oz asked. He wasn’t much for small talk, in fact he wasn’t much for talking at all.
Jim nodded, holding the door wide, taking a step outside. He looked up and down the street to be sure no one had followed the young man. “Sure, Buddy. Is anything wrong?” Jim asked as he moved aside to let the smaller man in. He was a bit surprised at the computer genius’s appearance; Oz had never visited his home before. Jim hadn’t thought he knew where it was. “Let me take your coat.” He hung up the over-sized jacket in the hall closet, hearing Blair headed their way as he did.
“Oz, this is a surprise,” Blair said as he entered the living room, he was smiling his welcome. Jim knew he liked the quirky young man. “Have a seat, can I get you a cup of coffee? I just made a new pot.”
“Coffee sounds good,” Oz said, sounding a little nervous. Now that he was here, he wondered about the wisdom of his action. This was the home of two sentinel detectives. If he was wrong about his assumptions, he could find himself in jail before the day was over.
Spike came into the living room, all pale sensuous grace, followed by Xander, who greeted their visitor with an enthusiastic, though startling, hug. “Hey, man, how are you? Sit down. Gee, it’s good to see you.”
The greeting confused Oz. He hardly knew the guide. He had only met him once at the police station before the kidnapping but Xander was acting like they were old friends. “Ahh, thanks,” the redhead said as he took a seat in one of the big overstuffed chairs.
“Are you in trouble?” Jim asked, as Blair offered a tray full of hot coffee along with chocolate chip cookies. “Do you need help?”
Oz shook his head. “I’m not in trouble,” he said as he added cream and sugar to one of the mugs and lifted it off the tray along with a couple of cookies; they smelled good, they were warm, and he guessed, homemade. Very Blair.
Jim lifted his eyebrow as he took his own cup of black coffee from the offered tray. “What is it then?” He probed gently, observing the young man with all his focused senses, something was making the other man nervous.
Daniel Osborne took a sip of his coffee and then began his rehearsed speech. “I think what the government is doing is wrong, they have no right to take away a man or woman’s reproductive freedom. I just want to offer my support and help if you need it.” There he said it, the ball was in their court. He waited, forcing himself to take a bite of cookie. It was fantastic. He wished he wasn’t too nervous to really enjoy it.
“That’s very kind of you, Oz,” Jim said, wanting to progress slowly. “No one is happy with this forced reproduction, but I’m not sure I know what you mean by help.” He felt Blair go tense at his side, and Spike had stopped his languid stroking of Xander’s hair. The bright blue eyes were fixed with laser like intensity on Oz now. Xander had stopped the low purr and was equally still and attentive.
“The same kind of stuff ‘Sentinel Redwolf’ has always done,” Oz said. “Look, I’ll be frank. I’ve known you and Blair a long time and I can’t imagine you’ll just give into this crap without a fight. Not after what happened to Xander. Anyway if you need me for anything ‘unofficial’, just let me know.” Oz put his coffee down on the end table and got up to leave. This hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped but at least they were going to let him walk out in one piece. He hoped the friendship wasn’t destroyed.
“Oz,” Jim said as he walked to the closet to retrieve the man’s coat. “Your friendship means a lot to us. Thanks for coming. It’s good to know you’re in our corner.” He let his hand rest for a moment on the younger man’s sleeve. Oz almost dropped the cookie he was clutching in his hand. Jim Ellison was not a toucher.
The smaller man looked up into the sentinel’s eyes. “I know you can’t say anything, I didn’t come here for specifics. I just wanted you to know I’m here if you need me... for anything.” He slipped into his coat and waited to hear what else would be said.
“Like old times, Oz,” Xander said. He didn’t sound unhappy, more gleeful and Jim stared at him. He was acting oddly again.
Oz looked over at Xander cuddled up on a love seat next to Spike. He had heard that Xander was brain damaged during the kidnapping, that could account for his odd friendliness, although it didn’t account for Spike’s tolerance of an overly outgoing guide. He wasn’t sure what the guide meant by ‘old times’, but he decided it was best to go with the flow so he smiled and nodded his agreement.
“There is something you may be able to help us with,” Jim said, “but it could be dangerous if it is traced back to you.” He spoke slowly as if just making up his mind.
“I didn’t think this would be a walk in the park,” the computer tech said. “I’m willing to take a risk, besides I know how to cover my ass when it comes to computers.”
“We need you to hack into Washington Genetics,” Jim said. “It would be helpful if we could monitor what they’re up to, but only if you can do it without being caught. These guys play for keeps, Oz. They would kill you if they track it back to you. There would be no public arrest, no trial, just a bullet. I want you to know what you are offering to get involved with.”
Oz slipped out of his coat and handed it back to Jim. “Like I said, I know how to cover my tracks, big guy,” He sat back down and picked up his coffee cup. “What specifically do you need to know?”
“Any information you can get for us,” Jim said.
“Okay," Oz said, “I can hack in without them knowing. I'll get bills of lading and 'follow the money' info, maybe get a key-logger app onto a few key computers…”
“Key-logger?” Jim asked.
“It logs everything typed on a particular keyboard and sends it to the hacker.”
“Passwords?” Jim asked.
“Everything.” Oz replied. "Companies they do business with, people they send emails to.
“Sounds like something that would be very useful,” Blair said. He grinned, a huge, not so nice grin, and Jim knew he was imagining sticking it to the people who wanted to take advantage of the special connection between Guides and Sentinels.
"Follow the money," Jim said thoughtfully, as a detective, he knew that following the money led to solving a big case 99% of the time. "I never thought we could get that kind of information so easily."
"It's not going to be easy, Big Guy," Oz said, "but it is doable." He stood up. “I’ll get busy and see what I can find out,” he said putting down his empty coffee mug. “Oh, I almost forgot.” He reached into his pocket and tossed Jim a cell phone. “Burner phone, untraceable, I’ll call you at that number when I have anything.”
“Thanks for doing this,” Jim said and he meant it. It could get him killed.
“No,” Oz said. “Thank you, I can’t remember the last time I felt so ‘energized’ this is going to be fun.”
Jim handed Oz his coat for the second time and walked with him to the door. He stopped and put a hand on the smaller man’s shoulder once again, waiting until the surprised blue eyes met his. He wanted to make certain Oz knew how serious the situation was. “Safety first, fun second, or I don’t want your help. Understood?”
“Understood,” Oz said, his expression told Jim that he knew it wasn’t a game as he slipped on his coat. "You've always treated me with respect," he said looking up into the sentinel's blue eyes. "That's not the norm for a computer geek, mostly I got laughed at until I got the job with the police and met the sentinels and their guides. I'm not going to stand by and do nothing while someone hurts the best friends I've ever had," and then he turned and walked out the door.
Gibbs Office, Washington D.C.
Gibbs sat behind his desk and looked at his watch, it would be just after eleven o'clock in Cascade. Time to make the call. It wasn't a call he particularly wanted to make, but it was a call he was glad he could make. It gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when he thought of Abby or Tony suffering the same fate as Xander.
The phone rang seconds after Jim closed the door behind Oz. He walked over and read the caller ID before picking it up. "Sentinel Ellison," he answered, formally, but Gibbs heard the underlying tone that acknowledged they had a bond greater than two sentinels calling about simple business.
"General Gibbs here, Sentinel Ellison," he said keeping the conversation formal, though his own tone was also more, he knew that all calls were logged and recorded for security purposes. "I hope I'm not catching you at an inconvenient time."
"Not at all General. What can I do for you?"
"I'll come right to the point, Sentinel Ellison. There has been a recent increase in guide abductions. Our intel shows that the perpetrators are attempting to use our ports to smuggle the guides out of the country and we have evidence that sentinels are involved. I want to set up a task force and I would like you to come to Washington, I believe your input will be very valuable."
"You know I would like to help anyway I can," Jim said going along with the formal conversation. "My only concern is that our police department is short staffed right now. I'm not sure my Captain can afford to give me the time off."
"That's not a problem," Gibbs said, thinking Jim was good, he was giving just the right amount of resistance to belay any suspicion. "I can have the Sentinel Agency loan him a few sentinels until you get back."
"There is one other consideration," Jim said. "I'm a pack leader and I nest with my second, Sentinel William Spikeman and his guide. I would have to bring them along."
"By all means, Sentinel," Gibbs replied. "I'll put you up at my place, we have a spare bedroom, I can turn it into a temporary nesting room."
"That sounds good," Jim said, approvingly. Miles and miles away Gibbs hid his smile. Ellison continued as if unaware of the subliminal communication that was taking place. "When do you need us?"
"I can have tickets waiting for you at the Seattle Airport on Monday, and I'll have a car waiting for you when you arrive in D.C., if that's okay with you?"
"That sounds doable, General, I'll see you Monday." Jim hung up the phone.
It took only a few seconds for Spike's voice to come into Gibbs' head. 'Is this about our bond?' he asked.
'No, not directly,' Gibbs answered. 'I think one of my people may be at risk. I'll fill you in when you get here.'
Spike could sense that Gibbs was forcing himself to remain calm. Whatever it was it had alarmed the General sufficiently to prompt him marshaling the troops to protect the person in danger, and he knew Gibbs was not one given to over reaction. 'Do you need us to come now?' Spike asked.
'We'll be okay until Monday.' Gibbs answered. 'I don't want to raise any eyebrows with you showing up for no apparent reason."
'We'll be there Monday,' Spike said, before shutting down his mind connection to Gibbs and turning to the group, "He thinks one of his people is in danger, and it's got him on edge."
"Shit," Blair said. "Gibbs on edge, that's not a good thing."
Jim just grunted, looking forbidding. The line separating him from being Gibbs' pack leader was a fine one. He was almost taking that position, but not quite. It was, however, a near enough thing that he felt the threat personally to anyone close to the General. He had to speak to Miller before they left. The sooner the better. They were hive and Graham would be sworn in Monday as the new Alpha Prime of the agency. He needed to know about Oz and Gibbs before they left for D.C..