Closed Timelike Curve – Rough Trade NaNo 2015

 

Banner by Bindingdiva

 

Title: Closed Timelike Curve
Author: Bindingdiva
Fandom/Genre: NCIS/SG:1
Relationship(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo, Gibbs/O’Neill, O’Neill/Jackson, Gibbs/O’Neill/Jackson, Gibbs/O’Neill/Jackson/DiNozzo
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Major Character Death(s) But don’t let that put you off – This was a Time Travel challenge, and I don’t believe in unhappy endings, Canon Level Violence.

A/N: This is the second draft but hasn’t changed that much from the original. I don’t have a beta at the moment so a mistakes are mine. Unsolicited beta is not welcomed.

Word Count: 86,750

Summary1‘Closed Timelike Curve’ is the jargon for time travel. It means you go out, come back and meet yourself in the past… 2In a CTC, causality breaks down, because an event can be “simultaneous” with its cause—in some sense an event may be able to cause itself. 1Kip Thorne  2Wikipedia. 

 

It was like one of those Sci-Fi movies DiNozzo was always jawing on about. Not the black and white B-movies of the Saturday Morning Picture Show of his youth – all wobbly flying saucers and cod acting. No this was full on SurroundSound, 3D, CGI and Technicolor.

Gibbs tried to concentrate on keeping a bead between Ziva’s eyes, but it was right there that everything seemed so surreal. She was still all Israeli assassin, standing there with her Sig Sauer held unwaveringly in her right hand and pointed right at him. But at her feet was a man who was writhing in pain while being held in place with a beam of light from a big red jewel, which in turn was attached to the woman’s hand by a fancy bracelet. That in itself was weird enough. But as her eyes flashed bright gold he was sure that reality had well and truly left the back alley in Downtown DC.

“You will kneel at the feet of your God!”

The voice was not Ziva’s. It was distorted like one of those voice synthesisers, and Jethro almost laughed both because of the sound and because the sentiment was so absurd.

“I’m not kneeling for anyone, David. Put down your weapon and let me get a medic for DiNozzo.”

He didn’t have to look down to know that getting Tony to the ER was more than a priority – it was imperative. The sound of a sucking chest wound was specific and horrific, and the breath sounds from the man lying at his feet were getting shallower.

Ziva just laughed – a kind of mad scientist laugh, which added to the whole bad movie vibe they had going on. With a twist of her wrist the beam of light stopped, and the other man slumped to the floor with a whimper.

There was a flurry of movement behind Gibbs, but he couldn’t spare the time to look back. He could only hope it was not a threat. He knew he had to keep his aim on Ziva, or he was sure he’d also be bleeding out on the slushy grey snow that was beginning to dampen his feet through his boots.

“Aww, fercryinoutloud, Danny. Didn’t I tell you to wait?”

The voice was familiar. So much so that it took all of Gibbs’ will not to turn and look. That voice belonged a long way from DC and a long time ago. But a smirk from Ziva and a further flash of her eyes made him firm up his stance and keep his eyes forward.

The man at Ziva’s feet obviously also recognised the voice, as he blearily opened his eyes and gave a weak but heartbreakingly sweet smile that rivalled DiNozzo’s best. His eyes were so blue it was a distraction, and Jethro squeezed down on the grip of his gun to remind himself of his priorities.

“O’Neill. I was just going to ask Dr Jackson here about my ship.”

“Hello, Bocce. I thought I killed you once already this year.”

As a comeback it seemed a little random and not really up to O’Neill’s normal standard as Jethro remembered it. However, it seemed it was enough of a diversion, as Ziva’s eyes flashed gold again and her gaze flicked over Gibbs shoulder. That millisecond of inattention was all he needed, and he squeezed off a round aiming for a body shot, hoping to drop her and then find out just what the fuck was going on. The shot hit true, the .40 S&W slicing through the shoulder of her gun arm. But even at short range she barely flinched. Instead she swung down and fired twice at the man at her feet, with a manic grin slicing across her face. Both were head shots and he didn’t make a sound as he began to add to the gore already pooling at Jethro’s feet.

There was a moan of distress from behind him that was filled with grief and disbelief.

So he didn’t wait, just fired again, this time popping two right between her eyes. His aim was true as ever, and with a surprised look Ziva dropped to her knees, the gold light flashing once before being replaced by her usual eye colour.

Jethro let his gun droop slightly, then watched with disgusted fascination as blood began to bubble from her mouth. He didn’t know how the woman was still kneeling as the shots had completely taken out the back of her head. The bleeding increased and then her mouth was forced open from the inside. It was so gross and weirdly macabre that Jethro just wanted the whole fucked up mess to be over.

He had two DB’s and DiNozzo was grievously injured. He knew he should be dealing with that, but there was a sick feeling in his gut that told him to hold his ground.

“O’Neill!”

The dark rich voice came from behind him and the warning was clear. Then in a flurry of movement everything happened at once. A long…thing…which could only be described as a snake with wings, came slithering out of Ziva’s mouth. Before he could even make sense of that weirdness, the creature was flying straight towards him. He’d barely had time to flinch when a huge black hand stretched in front of him and caught the snake-thing inches from his face.

Gibbs tensed as it became obvious that the hand was attached to a man-mountain in black BDU’s and a thick wool cap. The new player was about 6’7” and at least 350lbs of very large muscle. His skin was very dark and the little he could see seemed to glisten.

The man lifted the snake level with his face and with a disgusted sneer said, “You are a false god.”

The snake thing hissed back and wriggled frantically by the man’s grip was too strong. With a sneer and a simple twist of his hands the thing was ripped in two and thrown to the floor.

“A dead false god.” He intoned and there was such deep, dark satisfaction in that voice that it made Gibbs shiver.

Finally, Ziva toppled over and was still and Gibbs’ gut told him the danger had passed. He fell to his knees and almost cried out with distress at the sight in front of him.

Tony was surrounded by a puddle of bloodstained snow that stretched far further than it should, turning his pristine white shirt vivid red. Ziva’s shots had hit true and one had gone right through the pale blue silk tie, pushing the patterned fibres deep into the wound. DiNozzo’s usually vibrant green eyes were dull, pain filled and trained solely on Jethro. Gibbs dragged off his NCIS windbreaker and balled it up to cover the wounds, but deep down he knew it was probably too little, too late.

But still, that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try.

Tony gave a small groan of pain as Gibbs pressed on the wound.

“Boss…”

“Just keep quiet, Tony.” Gibbs said firmly, as he looked around. The familiar voice had now taken physical shape into Jack O’Neill, and the other man was kneeling over the body of the blue-eyed man, his hand tenderly closing the eyelids of his fallen comrade.

“Medic – I need a medic here,” Gibbs shouted as a pained moan from Tony brought his attention back.

“I have called for assistance.”

The black giant was still standing at Jethro’s shoulder. He was holding a strange hinged weapon which he proceeded to fire at the mangled animal corpse. Once… twice…three times…a silver light jetted from it and hit the remains, and the final time it just…disappeared.

“This is fucked up.” Gibbs murmured under his breath.

“Indeed.” The other man answered, with no trace of irony.

Just when Gibbs thought the whole bizarre episode was done, there was a sudden shift in the light and his eyes widened as the body under Jack’s hand began to glow.

“You can go, Danny. But you better fucking get back here ASAP. I don’t want a whole year of waiting without even a call, you hear me.”

Jack seemed to be talking to the glowing octopus that was lifting from the body – and wasn’t that a fucked up statement.

“You tell them I’m gonna come looking for them if they try to keep you. You tell ‘em to remember what I did to the Ori…”

The golden light seemed to subsume the body beneath it as it drifted upwards, leaving nothing but an empty pile of clothes. It hovered for a moment and then seemed to pass right through O’Neill, who smiled sadly, his brown eyes unashamedly glimmering with tears.

“Bye, babe.”

Before Gibbs could even catch his breath, the light moved towards Tony. Gibbs fumbled for his gun but his hand was stayed by the man who had been standing like a sentinel at his shoulder.

“Be still – there is nothing to fear from AscendedDanielJackson.”

Jethro wasn’t so sure about that. He felt like the whole thing was going from bizarre to acid-trip in one easy move. Then the gold light moved over him and there was such a deep feeling of wellbeing that he let his shoulders relax for the first time since the whole episode began.

Time seemed to stretch as an eerie silence settled over the crime scene. The weak light of a winters evening was falling over the city, but in that dirty side-street the golden light was as bright as the sun. Jethro was aware of Jack watching from across the narrow alley. He looked far older than he should and so very sad.

His gaze returned to his own side of the alley as the light finally settled over Tony, and for a single heartbeat Jethro thought it might actually be going to help him, or heal him, or something. Instead Tony seemed to stare off into some unseen distant point and gave a weak facsimile of his trademark grin.

“You don’t want me,” Tony rasped and then seemed to be listening hard.

“Come on, man, you only have to look to see why… And hey if that’s how it is then I can’t go, who would watch his six? Maybe…”

Harsh coughing stopped the words and Tony’s breathing seemed to get worse.

“Where’s the fucking MEDIC?!” Gibbs was beginning to think he was going to lose another agent. As much as he was often irritated by the young man, he was a good investigator. Jethro had lost a lot of memories after being blown up, but he had a good idea that despite his faults, Tony was a great man to have on your six.

A weak squeeze of his hand made him look back down at the man in question. The golden thing had simply dissipated, as if it had never been there. All that was left was the gloomy alley and the tortured rasp of DiNozzo’s breathing. The pale cast of his skin told a more eloquent story than anything else ever could.

“Listen, Jethro.” Tony wheezed, “If you ever remember, then don’t blame yourself. I remembered for both of us…”

“Shh, DiNozzo. Save it for later.” He wasn’t going to let himself wonder why the younger man was suddenly calling him by his given name, and even more why it kinda felt right.

“Not gonna be a later, y’know…Angel told me.” He coughed weakly. “Who’d’a thought angels would be hot, built guys with bright blue eyes?”

Suddenly Jethro was unwillingly caught by the green eyes of his subordinate. It was impossible to look away and a stab of…something…made his heart lurch in his chest.

“Watch your six, boss…Gonna try but can’t promise…”

Tony pulled at him slightly and Gibbs moved as if in a dream, to kneel right over the dying man. DiNozzo’s free hand, slick with blood and icy water reached out to him, as a trembling finger stroked across his cheek and over his bottom lip. “Ducky knows everything, so you need to talk to him, OK? Love you, Jet…”

And then he was gone.

No final breath, no nothing.

All that vivacity, all that humour and bright spirit – Just simply gone.

Gibbs could feel a scream building in his gut, but he fought not to let it free. He’d lost men before and kept it together, men he was far closer to than DiNozzo. Hell, he’d buried his own wife and daughter and he’d not had an emotional reaction till days later. He wasn’t going to lose it here in an alley, not when there was an investigation to undertake.

“Hey, LJ…Come on man. You need to let my people deal with this. You and I need to have a very long conversation.”

Gibbs looked up to see the familiar, if more drawn and aged face of Jack O’Neill.

“I don’t understand any of this, JJ.”

“I know. I have some things to tell you.”

“Tony and Ziva…”

“Yeah.” Jack frowned slightly. “Well, your boy will need to be checked over by my people and then he’ll be released to your ME…”

“Ducky…”

“Fuck me, I thought he’d be long gone by now.”

“Still going.”

Gibbs was so fucking tired. He was about to rub his face when a gentle hand settled over his.

“Don’t think you want to do that, LJ.”

Jack nodded down at their joined hands. The blood on them was thick and dark and once again Gibbs could feel the tidal swell of unfamiliar emotions.

“I have to call this in,” he murmured, without any conviction.

“I promise you it’ll all be handled properly, although your Miss Ziver was it? Well she’ll have to be a missing person that stays missing, I’m afraid.”

Gibbs shook his head. “It’s not that easy, Jack. She’s Mossad. And this is DC, not some Black Op.”

If anything Jack looked relieved at this snippet of intel, which was not what Jethro had expected.

“Her daddy is Director David,” he tried again, hoping Jack would see what a problem that was.

Jack simply nodded. “OK, well I have contacts that can smooth that over.”

He squeezed the hand that Gibbs hadn’t realised he was still holding and indicated that Jethro should get up.

When he was standing he realised just what a mess he was. He could feel the blood on his pants stiffening in the cold winter air, and he was chilled by the damp water that was trickling from the cuffs into his boot tops.

“I have a clean set of BDU’s in the van. Let’s get you changed and then I have about a hundred pieces of paper for you to sign. Although…you still got Ultra-Violet clearance?”

Gibbs nodded. He was proud of the fact that he’d kept his high-level security status in the intervening years since they had worked Black Ops together. They were known as the best Infiltration and Execution men in the service, and he still met young Marines who said their code names with awe, never knowing they were speaking to one half of the team.

“Excellent – maybe only fifty pieces of paper then.” Jack rubbed his hands together, but it was half-hearted at best.

Gibbs cast an eye over his friends face and body. He was still as stunning, even more so with that head of silver hair, and he’d kept his body fit. Gibbs felt a tiny little shiver of attraction that was oh so familiar. They’d been more than brothers-in-arms all those years ago, but Jethro didn’t let himself think about that – hadn’t done for a long time. Not because he was ashamed particularly, but because he wanted those days back too much. It did no one any good to look back. Gibbs had read a quote once that warned about the dangers of wanting to go back.

Don’t time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read.” Gibbs murmured, not realising he’d spoken aloud.

“Hey I know that…James Altucher, right?” Jack grinned. “I met him once. That guy plays a mean game of chess! Course he knew shit about time travel.”

 

Gibbs didn’t have chance to comment on that little nugget of information. They turned the corner of the alley and quickly found Jack’s vehicle.

 

*****

 

‘The Van’, was way too pedestrian a nomenclature for the vehicle he was led to. It was huge and tricked out inside like Air Force 1. There was even a working bathroom including a shower with real hot water, which he used gladly, trying not to react to the bright red of the water as it swirled away. But more importantly, once he was clean and warm in borrowed BDU’s that smelled of the familiar scent of services laundry detergent, there was a coffee maker complete with full carafe. A big mug of strong coffee sounded like just what he needed and it would mean he could put off the life-changing revelations that he just knew were coming from O’Neill, and the darker thoughts about the people he’d just lost.

 

“You’ll have to forgive me if this is a bit choppy. Danny usually does this bit…” Jack’s smile was heart-breaking as he set a laptop on the desk in front of Jethro.

 

“So…in the 1920’s an archaeological dig found a strange stone ring in Egypt…

 

*****

 

It was seven hours later when he finally got back to the Navy Yard. There was a niggling voice at the back of his head that sounded just like DiNozzo, telling him to go see Ducky ASAP. Of course, the real Tony had said something about Ducky ‘knowing’, but Gibbs wasn’t sure he wanted to find out what Ducky knew.

He was tired and emotionally drained after finding out just how not-alone they were in the Universe. And all the time he’d kept finding himself thinking, ‘Tony would love this’, while trying to cope with the knowledge that DiNozzo wasn’t going to be around to know, even if he’d been allowed to tell him.

He dragged tired feet out of the elevator and through the sliding door into Autopsy, hoping against hope that Ducky had already left for the day. He should have known that with a friend and colleague on the table, Ducky would work all day and night to find justice for them. But there was to be no justice for Tony. He’d been killed by a megalomaniac parasite snake which had taken up residence in Ziva’s head.

And no one would ever know.

Gibbs and O’Neill had worked out his cover story, and Jethro had to admit he was glad any crime Jack might commit wouldn’t come under NCIS jurisdiction. The man was a positive mastermind.

The alley had been cleaned – by means unknown to Gibbs – so that even luminal wouldn’t show a single splash of blood. The pile of clothes that had belonged to Dr Jackson had been folded, with a great deal of loving care by Jack, and Ziva’s body had been ‘disappeared’, most probably by the big man with the snake gun – Teal’c.

Who by the by… was an alien.

It was so fucked up it was almost funny.

But the body on the table and the old man standing next to it was far from amusing. Jethro didn’t think he’d ever seen Ducky look so old. The ME was stooped and looked wearier than a mere few extra hours at the table could account for.

“I’ll tell him, my dearest boy. You just rest now. You did your best and if he knows what’s good for him he’ll realise that.”

“You been here all night, Ducky?”

The look Donald turned on Gibbs was not one he’d seen before. It was hard and totally unforgiving. Not even when he’d come back from Mexico and it had been obvious that the older man was pissed about him keeping Shannon and Kelly to himself, had he been treated to a stare that was so lacking in his usual jovial acceptance.

“So you’ve finally decided to grace Ant…Anthony and I with the dubious pleasure of your presence.”

The break in his voice was the only sign of emotion the old man showed. His hands were steady as they rested gently on Tony’s shoulder and hair.

“I was just telling him that I would fulfil my promise to him. He had to endure too long a time of broken promises for me not to. But I want you to know that what I do now I do for him, and not for you. You have treated him so badly since your return from Mexico, that I have a long way to go before I feel able to afford you any courtesy.”

Jethro frowned. He wasn’t aware of any way he’d behaved to Tony that would make Ducky take that kind of tone with him.

The old ME held out a hand. In the palm was a pooled white metal chain. It was obvious he was supposed to take it, so he walked over, skirting the table where Tony’s body lay until he was next to Ducky. He held his hand out and the chain was placed gently in his grasp. Gibbs hooked one finger into the loop of the chain and lifted it to eye-level. Hanging from the end was a thick white metal ring – a wedding band.

“He asked me to make sure this was put back on his finger in the event of his death. It is only fitting that it should be you who does so.”

“This was DiNozzo’s? I didn’t even know he was married… And why should it be me. Surely his wife…Or was this some ruse for picking up women?”

The dark expression of anger that washed across Ducky’s face took Jethro by surprise. So much so that he took a step back.

“Oh, he was married. Read the inscription.” Mallard gritted out.

Gibbs held the ring between his thumb and index finger and turned it.

“AJD – LJG – 11/10/2005:  Semper Fi.”

He looked over at Ducky, feeling like the world had taken another jump to the left. “That’s…my birthday, my initials, his initials, the Marine…”

The headache that had been threatening all day was now arriving in force. The simple inscription tightened his throat, and he groped back behind him for the rolling lab stool he’d noticed on his way round the table. Dropping onto it with little grace, he looked back over at Ducky. The other man was watching him carefully and seemed to be waiting for something. Gibbs felt frustrated at that expression.

“What? What is it you think I should know…Don’t try to tell me I forgot THIS! I wasn’t married to DiNozzo. I didn’t even like the guy that much. I wouldn’t forget this,” he yelled, brandishing the ring.

Once again he had the impression he’d deeply disappointed Ducky with that comment. The ME didn’t speak, but simply turned on his heel and went into his office, where the sound of drawers being viciously slammed echoed through the autopsy suite. Moments later Ducky was striding back with a small bunch of keys which he pushed into Jethro’s hand, along with a scrap of paper.

“Everything you need to know, you will find waiting for you there,” he said, his voice even but with an undertone of anger.

“I don’t blame you for not remembering. I’m almost positive you have no recollection of the event. What I do blame you for is the way you have treated Anthony since your return from Mexico.”

Donald turned back to the still body on the table and stroked back the thick dark blonde hair.

“He never blamed you. Even when he came down here and cried, Jethro…Cried for the loss of the man he loved more than anything; for the loss of the life you’d made together – for years before that joyous event. Not knowing why you didn’t remember your love with him, when everything else began to become clear. My own belief is that your inability to publically affirm your relationship was so deep seated as to bury it in your psyche when the amnesia began to lift.”

Gibbs shook his head. “Come on, Ducky…I can’t believe…”

“He wondered for a while if you’d were ashamed of him, if you’d come back from Mexico with regrets for your marriage, especially after you’d been thrown back to losing Shannon and Kelly. He asked me what he’d done that was so awful that you would forget him completely. That you would forget that you were friends before you were lovers. You have treated him as less than even a mere colleague since your return. Always sniping and pushing him away, even as he worked harder and harder to gain at least a little of your trust back.”

Ducky dashed tears from his eyes and began to pull the body bag up over the young man’s head and pull round the zip before he pushed the gurney over to the cold store drawers. Jethro wanted to stop him. It felt wrong somehow to put Tony in the dark and cold.

“Well now it’s too late,” Ducky continued, choking with emotion. “Anthony died not knowing why. He died thinking that the man he trusted more than anyone or anything else, had forgotten how he’d earned the same trust in return.”

Dr Mallard patted the drawer gently and then turned. The depth of the sadness in his eyes made Gibbs gasp.

“I think I’m getting too old for this,” the ME continued as he gathered his coat from the rack and put it on. “I’m seriously thinking of retirement. NCIS lost its heart and soul today.”

He tied his scarf around his neck and dropped his fedora on his head.

“I’ll be back tomorrow to see to the final arrangements for Anthony. If you could let me know which Funeral Home he chose, I will liaise with them. Goodnight, Jethro.”

As the ME left autopsy, Gibbs wanted to shout for him to come back, but he was pretty sure the old man had said all he was going to. He looked down at the items in his hands. The ring was warm now from being clasped in his hand. He looked at his own ring finger and found no evidence, not even a faded tan line, to say he had worn a ring there recently. Not that he’d ever worn a wedding ring from any of his marriages, not even to Shannon.

The keyring held three keys. Two were deadlock keys which looked to be for the same lock. The other was a small gold coloured key; the kind that was used for lock-boxes or the fireproof cases people used for their valuable documents.

The paper had been torn from the bottom of the autopsy report blanks that Ducky still insisted on using, and that admin hated him for as they had to transcribe them onto the system. There was an address written on it in Ducky’s distinctive copperplate hand.

‘2447 Willowbrook, Fairfax’ NoVA.

’Everything you need to know, you will find waiting for you there’,” Jethro murmured to the silent room.

“Then maybe I’d better go there.”

He stood, and was about to slip the keys and ring into his pocket when he realised that somewhere in all the argument with Ducky, the man had said that Tony wanted him to place the ring back on his finger in the event of his death. But he wasn’t ready for that yet. It seemed wrong for him to simply slip the ring back on, when he didn’t remember the sentiment behind it. He needed answers to the million questions that were buzzing around him like angry bees. He’d really thought all the big revelations due to his amnesia had been got out of the way. And now he was meant to assimilate the fact that he’d not only been in a relationship with a member of his team, but that they had been married for nearly two years…Secretly.

As if his day could be any more fucked up. It was a mark of how truly FUBAR this whole day was that as revelations went even aliens were much easier to accept than marriage to Tony DiNozzo.

*****

2447 Willowbrook, was not at all what Jethro imagined. He sat at the wheel of his truck, engine still running to power the heater against the freezing weather, and cast an assessing eye over the property and environs.

The neighbourhood was affluent – extremely so. All the houses were on large plots and there were no duplicate properties that would point to one contractor owning the land. The street itself was leafy and wide and most of the driveways had at least two top of the range vehicles, which were protected by high gates or hedges and visible security systems.

2447 was a three storey colonial, on a huge plot surrounded by trees. The yard was neat and obviously tended by a professional, if some of the needier planting in the front garden was anything to go by. Even now in the depths of winter there was colour in the flower beds. The large double gates had remote access, which Gibbs quickly realised was cleverly hidden in the plain silver fob that held the house keys.

If this was DiNozzo’s house, then the guy had spent some really serious cash.

Deciding he had put the inevitable off for long enough, he clicked the remote and the gates swung open smoothly. He drew the truck up in front of the detached garage and wiped a slightly shaking hand over his face. He was so fucking tired. But there was an urgent push from his gut that said this was important and necessary; he wouldn’t sleep unless he dealt with this.

Besides, Ducky was right. There was a funeral to arrange, and if Tony was like others in law enforcement then he’d have it all organised. Death was a constant companion when you carried a gun for a living.

The key slid easily into the lock in the front door and Gibbs stepped inside – only to be assaulted by the long whining beep of an alarm system.

“Damn it, DiNozzo. How am I supposed to know the code?” he groused as he cast around for the alarm box. He was sure he’d have the LEO’s here on the door step if he waited too long, and the realisation almost had him stepping back out of the house and locking the door again.

He found the box just where he expected it to be and flipped down the housing. The scrolling digital readout flashed, ‘Welcome Home, Tony and Jethro’, which made Gibbs scowl.

He growled at the continued irritating whine until a sudden burst of inspiration had him typing in 111059. His birthday seemed to be something of a theme for Tony…he supposed it wasn’t a surprise if they were married on that day too. He still couldn’t get his head around that little nugget of intel.

To his relief it worked and he was soon making his way through the main porch into the massive hallway.

In front of him the stairs led off in a graceful sweep to the first floor, all brass stair rods and elegant carpet runners, but Gibbs was too interested in the first piece of furniture he saw to notice much more.

There against the wall was his Grandma Gibbs’ console table. It had been her pride and joy – polished with love and care every Sunday until she died. Every dent and scratch told a story of children and grandchildren who ran a little too fast or played with their toys around its legs. It had been regretfully relegated to the attic of his house because there was really no ideal place for it.

Now it seemed it had been dusted off and restored to its former glory. And given pride of place in the entrance to this, frankly beautiful home. It looked right there, the warm honey tones set off by the tasteful decoration around it, even perhaps that the décor was decided to compliment the well-loved antique.

Over the table was a copy of a faded photograph. He knew it was a copy as the original was still in his bedroom at home. Grandma and Grandpa, in their Sunday best, standing proudly outside the Stillwater house.

Jethro felt lightheaded and he had a little flash of his own hands gently sanding the maple frame that perfectly matched the table. He found himself making a fist against the wave of grief that suddenly rushed through him. Had he really forgotten this – this beautiful house.

He had to move – to do something other than stand and stare at the table. Proceeding as if he was searching for a suspect, he began to traverse the whole house; the huge kitchen/family room replete with what seemed to be every gadget known to civilized man; a warm snug whose walls were completely covered in bookcases, heaving with books on many subjects, including his own favourites on military history and woodworking; a media room with the biggest TV screen Jethro had ever seen and a whole Blockbuster’s worth of DVD’s.

And finally, a door through to what looked like a basement.

“Oh, Jesus…”

There behind the door was the biggest, brightest workshop Gibbs had ever seen outside of episodes of ‘The New Yankee Workshop’. And big and proud in the centre of the room, the skeleton of a thirty-foot cutter, still at the very beginning of her life. Jethro wandered through the enormous room, every so often fingering the high quality hand tools that lay around, as if the carpenter had just abandoned them minutes earlier.

“Did I…Did I abandon you?” he murmured to the silent craft. “Did I abandon him?”

Suddenly it became imperative that he got the answers he needed. He strode out of the workshop without looking back and began to systematically search the house for the lockbox that would fit the key he still held in his fist.

It was the third room he hit on the first floor that finally gave him what he was looking for. It was set up as a home office, with two desks set in an ‘L’. Once again he could see his own hand in the construction of the furniture, and it was with a sinking heart that he located a hidden safe behind a candid shot of him and DiNozzo. They weren’t touching, but they were facing one another, and the intimacy of their gaze was unmistakable.

Gibbs knew without question that things were going to get infinitely more painful from here on in. But try as he might, despite being surrounded by incontrovertible proof that there was more to their relationship than just work colleagues, he still couldn’t drag the truth of them as a couple from his damaged memory.

The safe took a little longer to crack. He tried the same number from the alarm system, even though he knew DiNozzo wouldn’t be stupid enough to use it twice. When that didn’t work he sat for a moment and pondered his next move. Often these electronic safes had a maximum number of attempts they would allow and then you were locked out, so he needed to make each try count. He closed his eyes, speculating that if he let his mind wander for a moment, the right combination might possibly be dredged up from his impaired brain.

God he was tired. Everything in him said to stop, go home and come back another day. But he wasn’t willing to just give up and there was going to be time to rest over the next few days.

He’d already put in his prelim report before he left the office, and had told Jenny Shepard that he would be gone for the rest of the week as he was executor and next of kin for DiNozzo – something he had been surprised about, even with the revelations that had come from his conversation with Ducky in Autopsy. She’d given him an old-fashioned look but had nodded her agreement.

He’d left her trying to contact Director David to give him the news about Ziva. Gibbs realised he should feel guilty about that, but he knew the issue would have been dealt with by Jack already, and anyway what he had to do was far more difficult than telling the wily old fox something that he already knew.

Gibbs thought he was lucky that both Abby and McGee were in Las Vegas attending a conference. They would be home the next day, and that was soon enough in his view. There was nothing they could do, so why not give them one more day without that grief. And call him a coward but the idea of facing Abbey’s reaction to the death of two of her team mates was more than his battered emotions could stand.

He’d actually been a little ambiguous in the timings and he wasn’t intending to be back at work until after the funeral. He had responsibilities right now; more than he really wanted. There would be time to deal with the team’s grief later.

He stripped off his coat and hung it on the coat rack by the door. Then he sank back into the leather chair and let himself drop into the light meditation he’d been taught by the instructors at Camp Horno Sniper School, reaching out with his senses to centre himself. The house smelled warm, clean, masculine and familiar. There was the vague ticking of a mechanical clock somewhere out in the hallway, and the soft slightly crinkled feel of the hide under his fingers seemed to invite the stroke of his fingertips. He began to relax so completely that it wouldn’t take much for him to doze off.

‘How about Kell’s birthday. You’ll never forget that’.

The voice that whispered from deep in his memory was DiNozzo’s, and the sentiment was clear. Jethro always had a problem remembering those random numbers everyone needed daily in the modern age – PIN’s, codes, those long cell numbers. He’d complained about it often enough. But that date was branded on his heart. He breathed in deeply and despite the lethargy, made himself move.

The lock box was the only thing in the safe besides a couple of letters that looked like they came from a bank and were postmarked the day before yesterday. Tony must have dropped them in the safe before he left for work the final time. Gibbs knew he’d need to deal with those later. He shuffled over to the desk and placed the large black box on the polished wood. Once again he had a little flash of memory to do with the construction of the piece, but it was too small to place.

With surprisingly steady hands, he unlocked the box and lifted the lid.

The contents were not what he expected. There was a pile of DVD’s, the kind you recorded yourself, all in labelled paper sleeves. Then a long thin envelope, made of very expensive paper, had the embossed stamp of a prestigious law firm in Long Island, and was marked ‘Last Will and Testament’ in gothic script. He placed that to one side, knowing it would be his responsibility to contact the lawyers.

Gibbs really wasn’t in any hurry to see what was in there.

Finally, there was a watch box – the hinged kind that came from a high-end jewellery store. He had the déjà vu feeling again, this time actually having a sense memory of holding the box in shaking hands. Jethro’s hands were trembling in the here and now, and he had to fiddle for a moment before he could get the little gold latch to open.

In the black silk interior nestled a beautiful wristwatch. It was silver coloured but had the patina that spoke of platinum rather than white gold. He picked it up reverently and turned it over in his hands, marvelling at the workmanship and noting the Phillipe Patek name engraved along the edge of the band. He knew before he turned it over that there would be an inscription, but it still took him by surprise.

LJG – AJD – 11/10/2005: A te per sempre

A te per sempre – ‘Yours forever’Semper Fi – ‘Always Faithful’. Oh, Tony. What the fuck did I do to you.”

This was why he didn’t have a wedding band, and actually a watch was a much better choice. Trying not to think about it too much he slid the beautifully articulated strap over his hand and fastened the catch. Of course it was a perfect fit. He admired the elegant lines of it for a moment, but he knew he was putting off the inevitable. He flicked through the DVD’s and found one with familiar scrawl across it.

‘This one first, Jethro.’ 

There was a large flatscreen combo on the wall and it was the work of a few seconds to find the neatly stowed remote and get it turned on. Despite evidence to the contrary, he was completely capable of working a TV remote and finding the proper channel to play the recording.

After a moment of blankness, the screen filled with a smiling, but tired looking DiNozzo.

“Hi, Jet.

“The fact that you’re watching this means that my luck finally ran out. This house and what we were to each other may or may not be a surprise to you. Whether it is or not depends on whether you’ve remembered everything. Chances are you won’t have, in which case, I’m sorry you had to hear it from Ducky and not me.”

The man on the screen swallowed hard and it was obvious the message was hard to give.

“I’ve made one of these videos every year since I started in Law Enforcement. It’s easier than trying to write it all down, and hey, I get to be a movie star, if only for a few minutes.”

It made Gibbs heart hurt to see the flash of a grin on the handsome face. Tony was dressed in a tight, over-washed grey t-shirt and dark jeans, and it was hard to look at those vibrant green eyes without his throat tightening up.

“I can hear you saying, ‘Get on with it, DiNozzo’, and I always do what you tell me, Boss. So here goes.

“My papers are in the lockbox and you should have found them already. Everything is in order, the bank accounts are still in our joint names, but the lawyers will need you to sign stuff, even if only to justify their huge fee. Don’t be surprised at the balances on the accounts. You probably don’t remember, but Dad left me everything when he died last year and…well everything was a lot of money. We bought the house with my trust fund, and the only thing I bought with Dad’s money was the Ferrari that you’ll find in the garage. The key to that is in the box in the kitchen. The stocks are looked after by one of my frat brothers – you can trust him. Let’s just say there was a little over $15 million and with compound interest it’s growing every day. You can finish the boat and sail away, and never have to worry about money again. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it in the bank. Give it all away for all I care – it’s as much yours as it is mine – in fact it’s all yours now!

“By the same token you can do what you like with the car, but I’d like you to take it for one last drive for me if you decide to sell it. Drive down Pacific Coast Highway and stop for dinner in the seafood restaurant in Carmel. It’s what we did for our honeymoon and it would be nice if you could remember the places, even if you don’t remember being there with me. We never got to use the car that much, but you enjoyed it as much as I did, even though you were quieter about it…pretty much the same as in the rest of our lives really.

“Please…Please don’t blame yourself for not remembering us. It wasn’t your fault. I’m sure the shock of being propelled back to the time when you lost Shannon and Kelly must have been agonising. It’s no surprise that our short time together got pushed into a corner somewhere. My only real regret is that you forgot that we were friends. I wish I could have been more to you when you came back from Mexico, but somewhere along the line…well it seems like everything we’d found over the years we’d worked together just…got lost. Again, that’s not your fault. Maybe I could’ve tried harder…been a better friend, a better husband…”

There was a moment of dark and then the picture came back up again. Tony was dressed the same but his eyes were red and glassy and he rolled a large brandy glass between his hands. Jethro rubbed at his own eyes, the prickling feeling behind his eyelids getting harder and harder to ignore.

“I’m drinking a bit too much, and without you here to nag me, it’s getting harder to resist. At least now there’s no worry that I’ll disappoint Ducky again.”

Tony shrugged and toasted the screen before taking a sip.

“OK, back to the depressing stuff. Erm…All our documents in our married name are in the false bottom of the lockbox. You might need those. Not that it makes much difference to you. I decided to become Anthony Juliano DiNozzo-Gibbs, but we both thought Leroy Jethro DiNozzo-Gibbs was a bit of a mouthful. So you stuck to just plain Gibbs – and rightly so. It’s exactly who you are. Exactly who you are to me…”

There was a dark moment in the recording and then DiNozzo reappeared. Time had obviously passed as Tony was wearing different clothes and the light in the room was different. Gibbs hoped it was almost over, he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

“I’ve just gone back over the arrangements for my funeral and the list is in with the other documents. Everything is paid for, all you have to do is contact the funeral home and they’ll take it from there.

“There are also a couple of DVD’s in the box that have your name on them. They were your anniversary presents from me. You saw one of them on our first anniversary, but the one for this year was done about three days before you got injured and so you never got it. If you don’t remember – if there is nothing in your heart that says I’m yours, then please don’t watch them, just burn them. They belong to Jethro, my husband, not Gibbs, my Boss.

“I don’t know how I died obviously, but I have to believe you were there – you were always on my six on the job, no matter how far away you seemed in our personal life. If I didn’t get to say it, then I love…love you, Jethro. You are the heart of me and the time we had together, first as friends, then lovers, and then husbands, were the most perfect of my life.

“Don’t stop…Shit, Jet…Just be safe…”

By the last words tears were rolling freely down Tony’s face and he made no attempt to wipe them away as the screen went blank. Gibbs stared unseeing at the bouncing DVD symbol, making its strangely graceful if erratic way around the screen. A quiet sob-like sigh almost made him jump until he realised it had come from him.

There were memories just out of reach – like a word you couldn’t quite recall but desperately wanted to say. He wanted to remember. He wanted to recollect a love like that; a love so very simple that there were very few words needed to describe the monumental size of it.

Gibbs ran his fingers over the other DVD’s, but didn’t feel he could play them…not yet. He was determined that he would dredge those memories up though. It was the least he could do for the man on the screen who was nothing like the guy who’d irritated him on a daily basis. He thought it was likely that his irritation stemmed from his own frustration that there was something about Tony he couldn’t quite get a handle on. Now he realised that it was probably that he loved him more than anything but because of the amnesia he had no context.

He was quite willing to admit that part of his difficulty with DiNozzo was the man’s attractiveness. He’d obviously been rowing upstream on the River Denial a long time before PinPin Pula came along, and he’d hidden Tony away like some dirty secret. The man’s love for him had facilitated that, and Gibbs knew himself well enough to know that he would’ve happily taken advantage of Tony to get the outcome he wanted.

He blew out a long breath and felt around in the box for the secret compartment. Underneath the false bottom was a little pile of documents – A Marriage Certificate, bank books, and a short list of arrangements for the funeral along with the name of the home, just as Tony had said there would be. He traced their names on the certificate. The reality of the whole thing suddenly hit him, making him tremble with emotion. It took every ounce of will he had not to collapse, but he refused to surrender himself to a desolation so complete that he doubted he’d ever climb out of it once he let it take him.

Gathering the documents and discs together he piled them into the box, keeping only the arrangements list and the watch case. After locking it, he placed it back in the safe and secured everything, turning off the TV after first retrieving the disc.

He grabbed his coat as he went past the rack and slipped it on, placing the DVD in his inside pocket. He couldn’t fathom pushing even the image of that sweet, sad man back into the safe. Aware that he had million calls to make before the day was over he quickly made his way back to the truck, giving the workshop door a longing look as he passed it.

He had things to do, but he’d be back.  

*****

Funerals were the seventh circle of Hell as far as Gibbs was concerned, and that was when it was a colleague or a distant relative. To attend the interment of someone you cared about, (shit, probably loved more than your own life if you could only fucking remember!) was worse.

He’d gone to the funeral home the night before and slid the wedding band on Tony’s ring finger with a whispered promise of ‘Semper Fi’. He couldn’t say he remembered their wedding, but he knew the man deserved to have his wishes honoured.

If, despite the despicable way Gibbs had treated him, Tony could still honour their relationship in that way, then it was the least he could do. Jethro struggled with the overwhelming urge to kiss the cool forehead before the funeral director closed the casket, but he didn’t feel he had the right.

Ducky had told him how Tony wore his ring on the chain around his neck when he was at work, but the first thing he did as he walked through the door at 2447 Willowbrook, was slip it back on his finger. Gibbs on the other hand had apparently only worn his watch for special occasions after their wedding. Well he’d already changed that. He hadn’t taken it off, apart from in the shower, since he’d found it in the lockbox the day Tony died.

He’d found an old handmade wooden box that his Grandpa had made, with small birds carved on the lid, at the bottom of a carton in the attic. Gibbs used it to store the watch case, and the watch itself for the few minutes he took it off each day to shower, and to wash his dishes after the meagre meals that were all he could stomach.

He hurt every time he flipped the catch to remove it. If not for the damage water would do to it, he knew he wouldn’t take it off at all.

*****

The day of the funeral dawned cold but dry. Gibbs had willingly offered to be a pallbearer, along with 7 others, consisting of a mixture of frat brothers and agents.

Thankfully though, Jen had insisted on giving the eulogy. It wasn’t that he had nothing to say about DiNozzo, he was just completely and utterly sure he wouldn’t be able to get through a single sentence without making an emotional ass of himself. Gibbs was not at all surprised that Madame Director’s spiel had been trite and formulaic. It was all he could really expect from her. Long association with the woman told him that she was ultimately self-serving and probably saw the whole event as a PR opportunity for herself.

Tony deserved better, and Ducky was on hand to provide it as the whole event was only saved from being contrived by his short but powerful reading of ‘Death is Nothing At All’ by Henry Scott Holland. Tony had requested that Ducky chose something in his list of arrangements, and although he’d never heard of it before, Jethro thought it was eminently appropriate.

There were two lines that had almost been the end of Jethro’s tenuous composure, especially when spoken with the rough sorrow of Ducky’s usually cultured tones.

I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.

He just wished he could remember just what it was they were to each other. The pragmatic part of him felt he should be glad of the reprieve from his emotions, but the die-hard Marine who believed with all his heart in Semper Fi, had vowed to battle tenaciously until he found the core of the relationship between him and Tony.

He couldn’t face the idea of the wake and so left immediately after the service. He disentangled himself from a totally dishevelled Abbey, placing her in the tender loving care of Ducky and McGee, and agreeing with empty promises that they would meet over the weekend. But he had no intention of seeing anyone for the next few days.

 

Meanwhile, he had every faith that Tony’s frat brothers and his fellow agents would make sure he was sent off with the appropriate level of alcohol and inappropriate stories.

 

As he walked briskly through the snow-covered cemetery, it suddenly struck him that, because of Jethro’s selfish need to keep their relationship quiet, the people around Tony, who thought they knew him well, actually knew less about him than a man with chronic amnesia.
He slid into the truck and rested his aching head on the steering wheel.

 

He was exhausted.

 

On top of the arrangements for the funeral – which of course had included having almost a hundred conversations about the fact that Tony had passed – there had been the IA investigation.

 

True to his word, O’Neill had made sure that every possible avenue of scrutiny had been covered. It wasn’t a surprise, really. The man was in charge of a department of the Pentagon called Home World Security; entrusted with protecting the Earth from invasion from other galaxies by more than one alien species. Of course he was going to be good at covering his tracks.

 

Despite still feeling like his brain was exploded by the reality of ‘we are not alone’, Gibbs couldn’t help envying Jack just a little. The work his friend was doing was important – probably the most important job imaginable, while Gibbs just felt old and tired – both of NCIS and his life.

 

He was pretty disgusted with himself all around, actually and the more he thought about the way he had treated Tony since his return from Mexico, and also the way he had conducted himself as an agent, the worse he felt.

 

Maybe this was as good a time to retire as any…

 

He turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot, not needing to think about where he was going. He’d spent almost every night at 2447, sometimes wandering the house all night, searching for something, anything that would spark recognition and set his mangled synapses back to rights. It was still difficult for him to understand why, out of all the things he could have forgotten – all those terrible memories he would have given everything he owned to have forgotten – it was a loving, married relationship with a thoughtful, complex, generous, beautiful man that had been the undeserving victim of his amnesia.

 

But mostly, on those long lonely nights, he worked on the boat. She had been the only constant during the upheaval of the last week, and in the rare moments when he allowed himself positive thoughts, he could see her riding high on a fair wind, her sails full as she cut through the waves.

 

Trouble was, that particular fantasy always came to a halt as his dream-self turned to talk to a tall, green eyed man who had joined him on the deck.

 

The house was gloomy even though it was only early afternoon, but he’d left the heat on the night before, so it was warm. He threw his thick overcoat over Grandma’s table and touched the photo above it with a reverent hand.

 

“Saying goodbye is even harder when you can’t remember what you’re saying goodbye to, Marmar,” he murmured as the young, round, smiling face of Flora Gibbs beamed happily out of the past.

 

His head ached and his hands were less than steady. He knew he should eat something, perhaps make a cup of coffee, but even the idea of stopping to find the bourbon bottle (which had been his constant companion those last nights) was too much tonight. He knew where he was going.

 

He took a moment to secure his weapon in the gun safe, then without having to think about it, he wandered up the stairs and along the hallway. He bypassed several doors and opened the next one he saw. He’d known when he’d stood in front of the door for the first time that it was the master suite, although he wasn’t sure how.

 

Decorated in blue tones and rich burgundy, with warm cherry wood furniture, it was a haven of serenity. Every other night he’d fallen asleep on the couch in the office, lulled into a restless doze by Tony’s reassurances that it wasn’t his fault, only to wake sometimes only 30 minutes later to click play on the DVD once again.

 

But tonight he was finally ready to be somewhere that might jolt out the recollections by association, or at least that’s what he hoped. He still wasn’t sure he had the right to get into this bed, their marital bed.  But tonight he needed to start searching for answers. So he would sleep right there, in the ridiculously hedonistic eight-foot-wide bed that beckoned him like a siren…

‘The average man spends 26 years of his life in bed – so it needs to be a really good one, Jet.’

Jethro smiled sadly at the thought. Right there, that was pure Tony, and suddenly all those seemingly random facts he would throw out didn’t seem quite so irritating anymore.

“Show me, Tony. Let me see it…All of it, please,” Jethro invoked pleadingly as he let his black suit jacket fall heedlessly on the floor. He toed off his shoes and unclipped his belt and holster, sliding it through the loops and letting it coil on top of his jacket. He popped the button of his dress pants and pulled out his white shirt, but his arms were so heavy with fatigue, it was all he could do to loosen his tie, let alone fathom getting undressed.

Jethro dropped down onto the bed and sank into the most decadent mattress he had ever had the pleasure to lie on.

“I’m sorry I didn’t listen before. Please believe I’m listening now.” 

Throwing his arm across his eyes he let the bone-deep tiredness take him down into sleep.

*****

“What will we call her?”

“I don’t know yet. She hasn’t told me.”

“You do know she’s a just a boat right? You didn’t get a mouthful of solvent instead of bourbon – not that it’s easy to tell the difference.”

“Depends on the bourbon. And yeah, wise guy. I know she’s a boat. The shape sorta gives it away, along with the couple hundred metres of sailcloth I’ve got on order.”

“I’ve been looking at the plans.  A dining galley and two berths…the master is pretty big. She’s gonna need to be way bigger than the Kelly.”

“About twice the size – 38 feet give or take an inch or so.”

“What, you mean to tell me the great Gibbs, boat builder extraordinaire, could be out by an inch or two?”

“I’ll give you an inch or two.”

“Hey don’t put yourself down. I think you can give me a little more than that…At least five and a half…maybe six when it’s warm.”

“You cheeky bastard…”

“No…NO! Jet put down the solvent. These jeans cost me over $500.”

“Then you’d better take them off…”

Jethro woke with a soft smile on his lips – for a second or two. Then without warning he began to sob, big, dry gulping sobs from deep in his gut. There was a parade of images marching across his tightly closed eyes. They were fragmented and jumbled, but they were there, along with burgeoning understanding of just how much Tony had meant to him, before Gibbs had forgotten just how much he was loved.

He rolled out of the bed, his vision blurred with unshed tears, not knowing whether he wanted to scream or throw up. It was completely dark outside, with only the moonlight peeping weakly through the windows, but he found his way through the house without any problem; his situational memory taking control of his motor functions as he walked unerringly to the office.

The DVD dated only months earlier was quickly retrieved from the safe and fitted into the player. Inside the paper cover was a small folded piece of paper. As the system booted up the DVD, he fingered it carefully, reading the words, ‘Your script!’ scrawled on the outside. Gibbs flopped onto the ideally situated couch he had become so familiar with.

‘Come on, Boss. What’s the point of having such a great media centre if I haven’t got anywhere comfortable to watch it from?’

Jethro pressed play, only having a vague idea what he was going to see, but needing to see it anyway.

When the screen filled with what looked like a mid-range motel room, he carefully unfolded the note and read the first line of his ‘script’… ‘Yeah, and tell you what to do.’

Immediately he had a better idea of what was going to be on screen, but he couldn’t have stopped himself from watching if Jack’s snaky aliens were invading and the world was going to end.

He swallowed as Tony moved gracefully into shot. He was wearing painted-on ripped denims, a Rolling Stones ‘Hot Licks’ logo tee, tatty high-tops and a battered brown leather jacket. His hair had been roughly styled, going from his normal office look of ‘Italian heart-throb’, to what Abby would probably dub ‘just fucked’. He looked exactly like what he was meant to be…A young street hustler.

Gibbs stomach tightened as he recognised one of his own most cherished fantasies; one he’d never been able to play out with a male lover. Jethro was reminded just how good at undercover DiNozzo was when the vision on screen tipped one hip against the cheap dressing table and gave him a look dripping with sex.

“Joe said you wanna watch – is that all?”

Jethro’s mouth went dry. The lift of an eyebrow had him realising it was his line. Shit, Tony obviously knew him well enough that he had built a gap in the ‘script’ for Gibbs to get his head out of his pants.

“Yeah, and tell you what to do,” he whispered, the tension so thick he could almost believe he was there with Tony, right then.

Tony reached over past the camera and his hand came back with a roll of cash. Gibbs gave a little moan. They’d obviously talked this through in detail – every element was spot on. Tony counted the bills and then zipped them into the inside pocket of his jacket.

With a cheeky grin he opened his arms wide and winked lasciviously.

“I’m all yours.”

“Yes, you were,” Jethro murmured, heartbroken, not quite sure whether to laugh or cry at the realisation. He looked back down at the paper.

“What’s your name?” he recited dutifully, feeling that it was important he put as much into the execution of his anniversary present as Tony had in the planning, even though he would never know.

“Juliano, but you can call me Juli.”

“OK, Juli. How about you take off your clothes…and make it good.” Everything in Gibbs was warring as he watched Tony strip – his mind told him this was totally inappropriate. He’d just attended the man’s funeral for fucks sake. But his heart and his libido said that this would be exactly the kind of celebration of his life that Tony would want. Just the two of them, sharing the most intimate of experiences. The only way it could be better… was if Tony was there in person.

Jethro watched, rapt, as inch after inch of toned golden skin was unwrapped. ‘Juli’ was good. Every item of clothing seemed to take an age to come off and yet soon all that was left was the jeans.

“Leave them for a while,” Gibbs ordered, as per his script, although it took all his will to look away from the screen. “Play with your nipples, let me hear how good it is.”

The moan that came from the screen was sex incarnate. Tony sucked hard on his fingers and then ran them over his chest, circling the raised bronze nipples. His eyes fell shut as he arched his back, and his groan of pleasure was echoed from the couch.

“Oh God, I wanna see your cock,” Jethro panted, not even trying to stick to the script.

“Anything you want man, but I’ve gotta take my jeans off first.”

Gibbs jerked a little in shock and looked down at the paper that was looking a little worse for wear. ‘I wanna see the goods’ was written there, so he’d only strayed a little. “Do it.” He urged.

And Tony did. First the waistband button and then each of the fly buttons was flicked open, expertly and with the experience of a thousand tricks.

Just how Gibbs had always imagined it.

He peeled open the skin-tight denim and showcased a thick, erect cock. Jethro moaned deeply as the younger man on the screen reached inside the crotch of the pants and pulled his cock and balls over the restricting material. The move bunched the testicles tight against the base of his long dick and it became obvious that he was completely shaved.

Gibbs mouth watered at the sight. His own cock was rising, pushing against the zipper of his formal pants and finding no reason not to, he pushed down the fastener, reaching inside his boxers to free his already heavy erection.

‘Juli’ didn’t touch his cock again, but gave the camera a look of complete wantonness and wet his lower lip.

“All the way off, Juli,” Gibbs rasped, as he ran his fingertips lightly over the head of his straining dick.

Without another word, the younger man did as he was told, making sure to flex and pose to the fullest effect, until finally he was completely naked.

Jethro wanted to cry for the loss of such a gorgeous body and the forgotten memory of how they had been together. He wanted to know what it was like to touch that silken skin and taste the crease where balls met cock.

“Clock’s tickin’, Mister.”

Gibbs scrabbled onehanded for the script that had fallen off his lap and onto the floor, not wanting to let go of his now iron-hard erection.

“Here, get ready. I’ve got a little something for you.”

Tony stepped forward and reached past the camera, giving Gibbs a close-up view of the smattering of soft hairs on his chest. He moved back with a single use, syringe-type tube of lube dangling between two fingers, his smile a smouldering twist of full lips.

“Thought you just wanted to watch, Mister? S’gonna be more if you wanna fuck.” Tony warned as he turned to walk back towards the bed, perfect twin globes of muscular ass flexing as he walked.

Gibbs took himself in hand and pumped hard, groaning at the screen.

‘Juli’ was bent over at the waist, leaning one shoulder on the bed to support himself, as he pulled open his cheeks and situated the tip of the tube in his hole and pressed on the plunger.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jethro panted.

The other man began to finger himself, roughly and with little finesse. It was obvious the part he was playing was getting him hot too, as he gave a little yelp as he pushed in deeper.

Yeah, that’s the spot,” he rasped with another moan.

Jethro watched ‘Juli’ finger himself for several minutes, matching the movement of the younger man’s fingers with long strokes up his very excited cock, which was already damp with pre-come.

Finally, the hustler on the TV said, “OK. What ya got for me, Boss.”

The way the name came from his lips almost made Gibbs spill and he was sure it was purposeful. He was so intent on pinching the head of his cock that he missed his cue.

“Ohhh, OK. That’ll work.”

Gibbs looked over at the paper to find he’d missed saying – ‘Here – I hope you’re nice and loose’.

Meanwhile Tony had been back to the camera and retrieved a familiar long thick flesh-toned dildo. Familiar because it was exactly like the one that lived in Jethro’s bed stand drawer.

“Which way,” ‘Juli’ was saying, as he ran his lube covered fingers up and down the fake shaft.

“Oh God, on your back…please, Tony,” Jethro begged, hoping against hope it was somewhere near the script. He was too involved in his fantasy, too overwhelmed with arousal to be able to check.

“Yeah, that’s good,” the hustler agreed. “But I think you ought to come a little closer to the bed huh?”

Seamlessly the angle moved, the camera nearer to the bed, as if Jethro was sitting at the footboard looking up Tony’s body. It was the perfect shot. Not only could he see the slick loosened hole, but the shaved balls and leaking cock, which pointed straight towards the gorgeous face, which was propped up on several pillows and smiling back at him with lascivious delight.

Then it was like every wet dream Gibbs could imagine. The dildo slowly stroked inside Tony and he couldn’t help the stream of profanity that fell from his lips.

“Fuck yeah, you have such a hungry hole. Look at you take it. You’re gonna take it all. Fuck…”

“Yeah, ung…taking it all for you. You watching me mister, fucking myself for ya?”        

Gibbs hand was flying over his cock. He was diamond hard and panting, his breaths synchronising with Tony’s as they both started to race towards completion.

“I…Boss I can’t hold out much longer.” Tony’s hand was jerking brutally at his cock as the dildo disappeared over and over again.

“Do it, Tony. Come for me, baby.” Gibbs begged, as he felt his own orgasm curling sharp and hot in his gut. “Let me see you come.”

And as if he’d heard, Tony did just that, throwing long ropes of come across his belly and hand, as his ass clenched down on the sex toy, moaning loudly.

“Jethro, Jethro…yeah, oh god…”

Jethro began to shake apart as his own orgasm boiled from him in what bordered on painful spurts. The cry he gave was almost tortured and even to his own ears it sounded lost and mournful.

A giggle from the TV made him look up to see the most beautiful sight. Tony, debauched, covered in come and smiling brightly. He looked so real, so beautiful…so alive…

“Happy anniversary, baby. Hope you had as good a time as I did. Maybe we can do this for real when we’re on vacation next month.”

Then the screen went dark but for a white marquee that read, ‘You have been watching an AJD Anniversary Porn Production. Please ‘come’ again soon’.

Without warning the enormity of what he’d lost slammed into Jethro with a devastating finality.

Tony was gone.

This gorgeous, funny, vivacious man, who would go to such great lengths to give Jethro his most cherished fantasy was dead.

The tears that had already been falling were joined by many more, until Jethro was crying harder than he ever had before – except for when he lost his girls. Once again someone who loved him had died without knowing how he felt for them, only this time he could not abdicate culpability.

Tony was dead and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Getting the boat finished and sailing off who knew where, seemed like a really good idea. Gibbs scrubbed his arm roughly across his sore eyes as the decision he had been mulling over for the last week was finally made.

He couldn’t finish the boat if he was working on the MCRT, not quickly anyhow.

So he’d retire…

Yeah, that was it…no doubts…decision made.

Done.

*****

Six Weeks Later.

Cleaning his Beretta had always been easy – borne of years of field stripping. Both his DI and the armorer at training camp had drilled it into their recruits until they were capable of doing it in their sleep. He didn’t miss his Sig. The weapon had always felt heavy – clunky almost. He’d handed it back in with his badge just a day after Tony’s funeral, much to his relief and Jenny Shepard’s chagrin.

Oh she’d been dismissive at first, telling him to take a little more ‘mental health’ leave. After all his team was completely decimated, with two members of his team dead, and McGee deciding he didn’t want to stay with the MCRT. A Team Lead post had opened up in Cyber Crimes and he had almost run there. Gibbs couldn’t blame him.

After he had refused his badge back and turned to leave, Jen had flipped on a dime, telling him that perhaps it was the best thing after all.

“We could have dinner – maybe revisit some things?”

“Director Shepard, I am not, and will never be interested in revisiting anything with you. That time is long gone.”

Jenny smiled sweetly and sat on the edge of the desk – trying he thought – for coquettish, but in fact just looking ridiculous. “No more rule #12,” she said with a smirk.

“If you think me retiring is going to lead to a relationship between us, then you couldn’t be further from the truth.”

He’d left the office with her voice ringing in his ears, hard and strident – a far cry from the soft seductive tones of moments before. She was raging about how he’d be back and not for the job. If he didn’t think it would have been picked up in her yearly physical and psyche exams, he would have thought there was something wrong with her brain.

And so his retirement had begun.

He began to fit the pieces of the weapon back together, muscle memory doing the work, the voice of Gunny McAlister murmuring in his ear.

Set the barrel locking assembly into the slide;

The last 6 weeks had been both better and worse than he’d hoped. The process of recalling his life with Tony and the intimacies of their relationship had speeded up exponentially, until every night was accompanied by a cavalcade of memories.

The good dreams were filled with soft slow lovemaking, and evenings of pizza, beer, movies, laughing and making out. Jethro working on the boat while Tony cooked delicious meals in the kitchen.

Inspect the locking block lugs to make sure they are housed;

But the bad nights filled his head with ugly scenes of his behaviour towards Tony on his return from Mexico, accompanied by flashes of DiNozzo’s betrayed and hurt expressions, which with hindsight made so much sense.

The many mornings where he would berate the younger man for his hangover – mock him for fictitious one-night-stands, when in fact the man had been drinking to try to cope with the loss of his husband and friend, who had returned as a surly, hateful boss, who used and abused him daily, without mercy.

Check the locking block plunger has popped back out at the base of the barrel;

Even the boat and more bourbon than he should be drinking hadn’t softened the blow of finally remembering their wedding vows – their promises of fidelity and trust. Vows that Gibbs had broken time and time again.

“Listen, Jethro…If you ever remember, then don’t blame yourself. I remembered for both of us…”

But he did blame himself. At the minimum he should have treated his fellow agent well; with respect as the exemplary investigator he was. Instead he growled and pushed and ridiculed, all the while feeling inferior because when he first came back to NCIS, Tony was by far more qualified to be Team Lead than Jethro was by a long way.

Compress the recoil spring and replace it, and the recoil spring guide, so they snap into the groove in the locking block;

But worst of all was the overpowering grief. It seemed to make the memories of Shannon and Kelly fade into obscurity and the extra guilt of that was crippling. How could he love anyone more than his girls?

Glide the slide back onto the frame until fully closed and rear is even with the frame;

He felt numb – numb and empty. The house echoed with Tony, but he couldn’t bear to leave it. His old house lay cold and dead, just like his wife and child. But this house was warm and filled with energy.

He’d hurt Tony, then had lost him; bleeding out in a cold back alley, where the man had been denied hearing the last words of love he had given Gibbs so selflessly returned in kind.

Push up on the slide release tab and rotate the slide release counter clockwise until it stops;

And it didn’t matter that Jethro remembered now…

Because Tony would never know – had died not knowing.

Check the operation of the safety and work the slide a few times.

Gibbs slid the magazine into the grip and pulled back the slide, hearing a round slip smoothly into the chamber. The gun smelled clean and it was warm in his hand. The grip fitted his palm perfectly and he ran an experienced eye over the familiar lines.

And not for the first time the thought came to him – how easy it would be …so very easy to leave the pain behind.

He clicked off the safety with practiced ease and curled his finger around the trigger. He caught himself thinking that here in the kitchen was the very best place to do it. CSI would have no problems working out what happened, and the clean-up crew would appreciate the tiled surfaces.

Jethro’s hand was steady as he slowly turned the barrel towards him.

He was about to close his eyes when a brilliant flash of gold in his peripheral vision made him flick his gaze in that direction.

The main lights were not on, but the fancy cupboard uplighting illuminated the room enough for Gibbs to see there was no one there. Nothing that could have created such a bright incandescence.

Then a warm breeze ruffled his hair, accompanied by a swell of wellbeing and affection. A splash of wet on the back of his hand made him aware that he was crying.

Slow fat tears that rolled lazily down his cheeks.

Jethro started a little as the low rumble of his cell vibrating its way across the table top announced a call.

Caller ID read ‘Jack O’Neill, Saviour of Earth’.

His hand was trembling as he unhesitatingly picked up the call.

“Jack…” he croaked, his voice thick with emotion.

“LJ, what’s going on?” Jack sounded strained – concerned.

“Jack, I have a Code Charlie.”

The muffled ‘Oh Fuck’, on the other end of the call was strangely comforting. “How close?”

“Imminent.” He replied, truthfully; the gun barrel was still turned towards him, his finger curled lightly on the trigger, and he couldn’t imagine how he could turn it away.

There was a flurry of muffled talking and Gibbs thought he heard Jack giving orders, but he only heard the odd word, none of which made much sense to him.  ‘Asgard Beam’ and ‘Apollo’ simply didn’t parse.

“OK, Gunny. You listen to me and listen good. I’m on my way. I will be there momentarily. But right now, you are going to secure your weapon – Do you hear me? Secure your weapon, Marine!”

Jethro found he couldn’t resist the timbre of authority in Jack’s voice and almost in slow motion he moved his finger from the trigger, and flicked on the safety. Try as he might though, he couldn’t let the gun go. His fingers were beginning to ache from the tight hold he had on the grip.

Another flash in his periphery, this time coruscatingly bright, brought his head around and he was shocked to see a white faced Jack standing right behind him. Moving slowly, telegraphing every move, the General reached over Jethro’s shoulder and gently covered the hand holding the pistol. He gave a little tug on the weapon, but relinquishing it wasn’t something Jethro could imagine.

“Gonna let me have that, LJ?”

Everything in Gibbs wanted to argue; wanted to growl out an explanation about how much he needed it – that there was a workable solution there. But the warm comfort of O’Neill’s touch was just too much to resist and he let his fingers relax on the grip, letting Jack take the Beretta from him.

Jack gave a deep sigh that gusted over his neck before moving back. Jethro shivered at the loss of the heat of another body. It struck him that he hadn’t spoken to anyone else for nearly three weeks, both Ducky and Abby having given up after he’d rejected their numerous offers of companionship. He hadn’t been touched for even longer – the last time was probably a few dozen handshakes at Tony’s funeral.

Gibbs heard the distinctive sound of magazine removal and a round being ejected from the chamber. There was a clatter and thud as Jack stowed the gun in the kitchen lock box. Jethro didn’t look around. On one hand he didn’t want to face his friend, and on the other he was desperate to just hand the responsibility over to someone else.

A big hand grasped his shoulder and he was spun around. Jack’s eyes were glistening and his expression so painfully tender that Gibbs couldn’t help himself. A moment later he was in the familiar crush of Jack’s arms.

“Aww LJ. It’s OK, I got ya.”

“I remembered…Jack, I remembered it all.”

“I sorta realised that.” Jack pulled him in tighter. “Why didn’t you call me? Fuck LJ, you know I’d never judge you. You didn’t have to let it get this bad, go this far…”

A sudden realisation hit Jethro. “I think your Danny was here.”

The other man tensed for a moment, and then sighed deeply. “I had a really strong feeling that I should call you.”

“There was a flash of gold…I was just about to…”

Gibbs felt Jack swallow hard and he put two and two together. “He was your Danny, yeah?”

Jack pulled a little way from their embrace and looked hard at Jethro. “You’re a mess, Gunny.”

He nodded over at the couches in the family area. “You get settled over there and I’ll make coffee.” With another assessing glance he added, “And a sandwich.”

It was difficult to get his muscles to move, the embrace was so what he needed. But he also realised that there was probably too much talking to be done for them to do it on their feet, especially with how shaky Gibbs felt.

*****

Fifteen minutes later they were situated on the couch, a carafe of strong coffee on the table in front of them alongside a plate of PB&J toasted bagels, which according to O’Neill was the only edible food in the house.

Jethro’s hands were still shaking – a mix of adrenaline, DT’s and the fact he hadn’t eaten for god knew how long. Jack didn’t fuss. He just poured a huge mug of coffee each and placed a bagel on a plate in front of Gibbs. The underlying order was explicit and Jethro did as he was urged and began to eat. It was grape jelly – not his favourite but Tony’s, and even that small jolt of memory threatened to take away what little appetite he had.

“Danny and I got together not long after he was recruited to the program. We played at it for a while, I mean he was gorgeous and horny and I was never one to turn down a pretty face,” Jack deadpanned with a raised eyebrow.

“I was never that pretty,” Gibbs murmured.

“Oh I don’t know.” Jack’s smile was warm. “Any way, he was on another planet…Abydos… for a year, and then the shit hit the fan. I went and brought him back. There was a girl there, but she was killed by Apophis – another snaky bastard that we killed hard!”

“How many of those fuckers are there?”

“Ba’al was the last of the top guys. All the others are too weak or too scared to go up against us. We have people out there with their ears to the ground, but I think as a species they are no longer a threat.”

Gibbs had to believe him. He hadn’t ever known anyone who could strategize like Jack. The Earth was in safe hands with him.

“So you’ve been together ever since?”

“Oh we’ve had a couple of breaks. He’s done this twice before. The first time he was gone for a year. The second time only a week. I kinda thought…”

Jethro couldn’t quite believe what Jack was telling him. “What, he’s died before…and come back?”

There was a look on Jack’s face that killed the little glimmer of hope in Jethro’s chest before it could ever catch light.

“Yeah, but Danny is kind of a special case. Those glowy people – That’s what I call them, the geeks call them Ancients – they seem to like Dr Jackson very much. They just don’t like it when he uses his god like powers to help us. They call it non-interference. I just call it being fucking cowardly bastards, but when he does it they tend to send him back…” A little smirk twisted Jack’s mouth. “…naked.”

“Naked?”

“As. A. Jaybird. One time he just appeared in my office. The first time, he didn’t remember any of us.”

Jethro felt sick. That meant Jack would know exactly how Tony had felt. His self-recrimination must have shown loud and clear in his expression, as Jack gently slid his arm around Jethro’s shoulders and squeezed.

“He didn’t blame you.”

“I blame me.”

“Yeah…Yeah I get that.”

Gibbs pushed down another mouthful of bagel, but found himself almost gagging on it. He washed the sticky mess down with a large gulp of coffee, his mind racing over what it must be like to watch someone die and then get them back.

“So you think he’ll get thrown back for today’s interference?”

A million emotions flicked through Jack’s eyes as he gazed back at Gibbs. “I don’t know, LJ. He’s helped much more than this before and still stayed…” he floated his hand out and fluttered his fingers. “I just have to wait and hope.”

At least you have hope! Jethro wanted to shout, feeling a wave of irrational jealousy sweep through him. But deep down, he knew it wasn’t Jack’s fault that his circumstances were different. How Gibbs wished things could have been easier for him and Tony.

Jack seemed to sense the way his thoughts were going. He slapped his hands down on his knees and stood wearily.

“Come on, Jethro. Time to get you sluiced off and into a bed. You look like you haven’t had a good night for weeks, and I’ll be honest, things are a little ripe in the armpit department.”

Gibbs shook his head, not wanting to drag O’Neill into his dramas.

“It’s OK, Jack. You need to get back. You have a job to do…I won’t…It won’t happen again. I promise I’ll call if…”

The look O’Neill gave him was incredulous.

“OK, I’ll just skip off home shall I?  Yeah, that’s really not gonna happen. You’ve got me for the foreseeable. My XO knows where I am. If they need me they can call my cell. Come on, Marine, the shower is calling.”

He hooked his thumb over his shoulder and Gibbs shrugged and got up.

The bone-deep weariness that had plagued him since Tony died seemed to weigh like iron and made the stairs seem never ending. Jack slung a helpful arm around his waist and Jethro leaned in unashamedly. They’d been through too much together to be shy of taking help when it was offered.

“Niiice,” Jack commented as they entered the master bedroom. He let go his hold on Gibbs and walked straight past the bed and into the en suite. He had the shower running and towels on the counter before Jethro had even reached the centre of the bathroom.

As he dragged the ragged USMC tee over his head, Jethro had to admit it’d been way too long since he’d even had a wipe down. With the same care as every time, he unclipped his watch strap and lay it reverently on the counter top. Jack looked at it with interest, and Jethro promised himself he would explain. It was too important to him not to share, especially with someone who knew just how it felt to lose someone so important.

He kicked off his sweatpants and stepped under the almost too hot water, letting the tension of the last couple of hours sluice away down the drain with the adrenalin sweat. The drumming of the flow on his sore back muscles was so very good that he stayed under it until the huge water tank began to run cold.

He walked back into the bedroom, refastening the clasp of his watch, with a towel slung low around his hips, to find the bed had been stripped and remade with clean linens and Jack, wearing a pair of Tony’s PJ pants, putting his uniform on a hanger in the closet.

Jethro’s first reaction was to yell at Jack.

“What did you do? The bed was the only place…” He gritted his teeth in anguished frustration.

O’Neill turned to look at him, his gaze clear of any guilt, and said quietly, “It didn’t smell of him anymore, LJ.”

He padded over to Gibbs and placed his big palm on Jethro’s cheek. “Believe me, I know.”

Of course he knew. How many times had Jack been through this already? Gibbs turned into the comforting touch and their eyes met. There was a flash of…something in Jack’s eyes and a tension that hadn’t been there before.

With a single synchronous move, they were on each other, mouths meeting in a furious kiss, teeth clashing, their tongues fighting for dominance. By the time they drew apart they were both panting. Jethro could feel a flood of arousal hit him as the long hard length of Jack’s cock pressed against his thigh.

He pushed his hand into Jack’s hair, pulling him back in, wanting more of that heat, that connection with another body – someone who understood – someone he could trust to put him back together when he fell apart.

“You sure this is what you need, LJ?” Jack asked hoarsely.

Jethro tightened his grip, not able to articulate what he needed, except that he needed…

“I’m not saying no, just checking in, OK?”

Gibbs nodded. “Please, Jack. Fuck me…I need…”

“Yeah, OK, I got ya. Gonna take care of ya.”

Jack started walking them back to the bed. He pulled off the wet towel from around Jethro’s hips and then gently pushed him back onto the clean sheets.

“You got supplies?”

Jethro knew there was lube in the bedstand and pulled out the drawer, waving it when he found it. “Not sure about condoms.”

Jack gave a small nod and walked back over to the dressing table, where Jethro realised he had made a small pile of his watch and regulation canvas wallet. He unzipped the side pocket and pulled out two foil packs.

“They’re not military issue,” Gibbs noted with a small smile.

“And you know why,” Jack replied deadpan. “I took to carrying them on missions off-world, because you never knew when you were going to be dragged off by the hair into some fertility rite.”

Something in Jack’s smile told Jethro that there were much more serious reasons, but he didn’t want to spoil the mood by going there. And as he stripped off the PJ pants, Gibbs was reminded why Jack would want to carry his own supplies. The man was seriously hung. Long, thick and really fucking beautiful. It made Jethro’s belly clench with anticipation. It had been a long time.

“How long?” Jack asked, with almost spooky precognition.

Jethro reached for him, wanting to feel grounded. He was still screaming inside, the pain getting harder to ignore. “As far as I remember, Tony was a devout bottom. Before that…there’s only ever been you I trusted, JJ.”

With a groan, Jack spread Jethro’s legs and knelt between them. “I’m not sure I can be gentle,” he warned.

Gibbs shook his head. “Need you to make me feel it… I need to feel something, Jack. I’m lost here.”

The sudden heat of Jack’s mouth on his cock made Jethro yell out in pleasure. If the other man kept on like that it would all be over in a few seconds. The press of his tongue along the thick vein was maddening and almost too much and Jethro told him so. Jack pulled back and flipped the cap off the lube, squeezing a small cold puddle on Gibbs’ belly.

“Bastard,” he wheezed as Jack snickered. But he wasn’t cold for long as two long fingers pressed at his entrance and breached him.

Gibbs huffed out a grunt of discomfort, but grabbed for Jack’s wrist when he went to withdraw. “No want it like this. Hard…Make me feel it, ‘K?”

Jack gave him a hard look that seemed to last forever, but then appeared to find what he wanted, as he nodded once and began to finger fuck hard and fast, catching Jethro’s prostate on every second or third pass. Gibbs’ cock was leaking like a tap, the clear drops rolling down over the head of his cock and pooling on his belly.

O’Neill was no better off, and Gibbs thought that no matter how much they wanted it to last, neither of them would hold out that long. The idea of that big meaty cock inside him made Jethro moan.

It seemed Jack wasn’t willing to wait any longer, as he pulled out and quickly opened and smoothed on the condom. The last of the lube was smeared all over it and moments later Jack was nudging up against Gibbs’ loosened hole.

The first thrust in was brutal and beautiful at one and the same time. The heat of Jack’s cock seemed to brand him and Jethro just wanted him to…

“Move, goddamn it, Jack, fuck me!”

The next few minutes were a flurry of straining, heaving muscles and guttural groans. Streams of cursing fell from both of their mouths, when they weren’t joined at the lips, kissing furiously. Jack’s cock raked over Jethro’s prostate with every thrust – it seemed like they still fitted together even though it had been nearly two decades since they last did this.

It felt the same. Vital. Exciting. Real.

And then there was nothing to do but come. Jethro was almost bent double by the force of his orgasm and his cry of completion was soon joined by Jack, who kept fucking for almost a minute, his cock still hard inside Jethro when the Marine became too sensitive to let him carry on.

Gibbs pulled Jack down on top of him, needing to feel grounded. The emotion had built up to a point where it was just too much, and without really knowing how it had happened, Jethro was being rocked as he cried out his rage and loss.

“I did it again, Jack. They both died without me being able to tell them. But at least I remembered Shannon. She was sure of our love. Tony died without knowing – I was right there…right there, and I couldn’t tell him I loved him.”

*****

The room was dark when Jethro opened gritty eyes. He’d obviously fallen asleep still wrapped around Jack, and they were in a strangely comfortable tangle in the middle of the bed considering they’d never actually had the chance to share a bed before. In fact, Tony had been the first man Jethro had ever spent the night with.

The memory made his throat tighten and he huffed out a breath, frustrated with his inability to rein in his emotions.

“Hey,” Jack’s voice was gravelly with sleep. “It’s OK to be sad, ya know and there’s no shame in it. You’ve seen me in the same state, fercryinoutloud. Or did you forget where Code Charlie came from.”

Gibbs shook his head, still not wanting to trust his voice. He remembered clearly the day Jack had called him to tell him about Charlie’s death and the way it had happened. Even clearer was the night a few months later when Jethro had talked Jack down, from the same scenario as his own the night before. Only then Jack had been on the telephone in Colorado and Jethro had been in DC…

“How did you get here so quickly yesterday?”

Jack gave a little snort. “I was wondering when you’d pick that up.”

Jack leaned up, resting his chin on Jethro’s shoulder. “We have beaming tech on our ships, courtesy of one of our allies.”

“You used a space ship to beam into my…Tony’s house?” he asked, completely gobsmacked.

“It’s your house too, LJ,” Jack reprimanded gently. “And yes of course, what else would I do. I had to get to you quickly, before…”

“I made a mess of the kitchen,” Gibbs replied drily.

“Yeah, that…” Jack sighed. “And don’t think we’re finished talking about that.”

Jethro huffed, but didn’t argue. He knew he’d been close to the edge, and would probably have gone through with it if there hadn’t been some intervention. Which only reminded Jethro that Jack had lost too.

“Do you think he’ll come back soon, your Danny? Can he communicate with you?”

Jack rolled onto his back and covered his eyes with an arm. “Sometimes he lets me know he’s around. Usually it’s a breeze where there’s no possibility of one. And then if I’m very lucky…or being tortured to death over and over again…then he appears as a kind of spirit…”

There was no way Gibbs was going to leave the comment about torture alone, but it would wait for another time.

“After the golden light…in the kitchen…there was a breeze. So that was him then.”

“Sounds very much like it. He obviously likes you, it’s more than I’ve had this time.”

“Will he be pissed?”

“What? About this?” Jack snorted. “Nah, he’s a randy bastard – totally insatiable. We regularly have a third.”

Gibbs turned so fast to look at Jack that his neck cracked. Jack in turn rolled his head and uncovered his eyes, which shone smugly.

“Oh yeah. My XO Paul is very willing, and Teal’c has joined us on several occasions. And let me tell you I’m not easily made to feel small but fuuuuuck, that man is hung. DJ wasn’t so nympho before he ascended the first time, so I have to think it has something to do with having been glowy.”

He pressed a soft kiss to Jethro’s mouth. “I bet you’ll have an invite when he comes home.”

Jack closed his eyes and his expression made Gibbs feel deep empathy.

“That is if he decides to come home this time.”

Jethro sighed, “I don’t suppose any of your alien pals invented a time machine? We could just go back and stop it all happening…”

A sharp intake of breath to his left made Jethro look quizzically over at Jack.

“Oh…Fuck. Why didn’t I think of…? Where did that idea come from, LJ? I mean you’re not known for flights of fancy.”

He shrugged, “I dunno. It just popped into my head.”

Moments later Jack was out of bed and pacing up and down. Gibbs slowly moved up the bed until he was resting against the headboard, trying not to let his hopes rise that Jack hadn’t blown his ridiculous, off the wall comment out of the water.

“What are you up to now, Dr Jackson…?” Jack muttered. “What the fuck are you up to?”

*****

There were no words.

Jethro felt the warmth of his friend and erstwhile lover as Jack moved to stand just close enough behind him that Gibbs could smell the essence of him. It was familiar and so welcome in the face of the life-changing events of the last three minutes.

“Does it ever get old,” he whispered, almost too awed to speak.

Out of the window in front of them was the almost unbelievable sight of the Earth, so brightly blue, just hanging there in the inky reaches of space. Gibbs was so moved he had to swallow down the lump in his throat.

“Nope,” Jack replied, pressing a strong and very welcome hand to Jethro’s shoulder.

“General, we have a limited window…”

“Just hold your horses, Captain Abbott. I think we can let the Gunny have a minute longer…” The timbre of command was heavy in O’Neill’s voice. “…He’s been involved in fighting for the freedom of the people down there just as long as we have.”

Gibbs didn’t need to see the Captain of the Apollo – which was a real, honest to goddamn fucking goodness space ship – to know he was immediately chastened. That was the kind of leader Jack was. Fair but firm, and God help you if you stepped outside his usually quite wide boundaries. Even thinking of disrespecting a fellow soldier was one of them.

Nevertheless, and much too soon for Jethro, Jack patted him on the shoulder and said softly, “Time to go, LJ. We’ve got shit to do before we can undertake our mission.”

Even though Gibbs was more than ready to move forward with their plans – was almost frantic with the need to make things right with Tony – it took quite an effort of will to drag his eyes away from the large globe of the Earth. So after the immeasurable grandeur of space, it came as quite a shock when the flash of white light deposited them on a grey corridor that resembled the inside of a missile silo.

“Welcome to Stargate Command,” Jack said, as he opened his arms expansively.

“Niiice – love what you’ve done with the place. What is that, Battleship Grey?”

Jack snorted. “More like Flat Gull Grey, I think. It’s much more soothing for the geeks.”

The men shared a grin as the sound of several pairs of running, booted feet echoed down the hallway. They were quickly surrounded by SF’s in full battle armour, toting MP5’s. Gibbs found his hand straying to his non-existent holster and he bunched his fist in frustration at being unarmed. He didn’t think Jack was worried about him using the gun on himself anymore, but he had made it clear that he wouldn’t be allowed to carry ‘Under the mountain’.

Considering this base seemed to be underground, Gibbs was pretty sure they had reached their destination.

“That was an acceptable response time, gentlemen, but you can stand down now,” Jack ordered firmly.

“General…” The word was drawled in a very exasperated manner and Jethro turned to see an Air Force Colonel in blue BDU’s striding towards them.

Jack winced. “I called – I DID! But you were seeing the kids off for their playdate with the stuck up kids, at their new place.”

The Colonel, whose name tag identified him as Davis, huffed out a longsuffering, beleaguered sigh.

“The Tollan are not stuck up, General. They simply have much more rigid standards of behaviour than yo…we do.”

“Yadda, yadda. Davis, this is my very good friend and comrade, Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”

Jack slung his arm around Jethro’s shoulder and pulled him in. The men around him, some of who Gibbs was surprised to see were Marines, seemed to give a little start at his name – although why that was Gibbs had no clue.

Davis looked a little star-struck as he reached out his hand. “It is an honour to meet you, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir…” Gibbs started on a reflex.

“…He works for a living.” Jack finished for him, rolling his eyes. “We’ll be in the mess, Paul.”

The Colonel checked his watch with a frown. “No General, you won’t. You have a conference call with the White House in…less than ten minutes.”

Jack groaned and never looked more like a little boy who wanted to go out to play and not do his homework, than he did in that moment.

“I’ll look after the Gunny. You can use Colonel Carter’s office. She’s over at Area 51 this afternoon…And I’ll bring you coffee and muffins.”

Davis’s raised brow almost made Gibbs snort out loud. By the expressions of the SF’s, this was not an unusual confrontation.

“OK, get me an earwig, and I’ll let you know when I’m done so you can bring the Gunny down.”

A quick flash of surprise was covered just as fast, as Davis simply nodded his acquiescence and gestured for one of the SF’s to hand over his tiny ear piece. With a wave Jack was gone, striding down the corridor at a fast lick, trailed by a small balding Master Sergeant with a clipboard, who up until that point had been hidden behind the heaving wall of combat assets.

It suddenly struck Jethro that the man he was about to have coffee with must be Paul Davis, Jack’s XO, who was also often a third in Jack and Daniel’s bed. That made him give the Colonel a surreptitious look over. Probably ten years younger than Gibbs, he was of average height, combat fit and handsome enough, but not in the spectacularly gorgeous way that Tony, and Daniel, had been. The thought made the knot of pain in his gut flare just a little, but he pushed it down, his training not letting him show any flicker of weakness in front of the enlisted men and officers.

“The mess is this way, Si…Gunny.”

“Gibbs’ll do.”

“Gibbs then. Although I feel like I know you better as Felix – with all the stories the General tells about the two of you.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from the Marines following them, and after a brief whispered conversation, one of them was brave enough to ask, “Were you and the General really that Felix and Oscar?”

Gibbs smiled over his shoulder. “Yep, those were our call names. During our training the guys handling us said we were the Odd Couple – so it stuck.”

“You were so awesome,” another, very young voice called out.

With a shrug, Jethro shook his head. “No more awesome that what you do here, what with the…” He flashed a look at Paul who gave him a nod of agreement. These guys were obviously all read in on the program. “…aliens and all.”

“Teal’c said you took Ba’al out a few week ago. Good riddance to that snaky bastard.”

Now that was just a little too close to the mark and Gibbs felt his temper start to rise, but he didn’t have time to respond before Davis was turning swiftly.

“Ba’al was infesting one of the Gunny’s team at the time, Williams. One of these days you’ll learn to put the safety on that lethal weapon you call a mouth.”

Gibbs was impressed. The XO had dealt with the issue swiftly and well, and had consequently risen in his estimation. He gave him a nod of thanks.

“I apologise, Gunny.” The marine was as big and as young as they came, and despite his ability to crush Gibbs with one hand, he looked like a five-year-old as he stood with his head hanging, his face flushed bright red with embarrassment. He’d had his reprimand from his CO, he didn’t need Gibbs to reinforce it. So he just gave a tight nod of acceptance, which the soldier received with grateful relief.

“Howdya like your Joe, Gunny,” the XO asked as they turned off the interminable corridor and into a large mess hall.

His answer of, “Black and strong – is there any other way to drink it?” was answered with a many voiced ‘ooh-rah’ from their entourage.

*****

Thirty minutes later Gibbs and Davis were alone at a mess table littered with the remnants of a rather good cheeseburger and fries, which Gibbs had originally turned down. The smell of Davis’s meal when it arrived had made Jethro’s stomach growl, much to Paul’s amusement and he was quickly furnished with food of his own. He was amazed to realise just how hungry he was, and how little he’d eaten over the past weeks.

They had run out of small talk a few minutes earlier and he looked away from his cup to find the other man gazing at him assessingly. He cocked his head in question, and Davis gave a little huff of a laugh.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“You can ask…” Gibbs said, leaving the inference that he might not answer.

“Jack…I know you and he…” The other man looked down at his cup, as if it had the answers to his unasked questions. “Is he doing OK?”

Gibbs was a little taken aback. That was not a question he expected. “I’d think you’d know that better than me,” he said.

Davis shook his head. “We don’t share a bed without Danny. Me and the Gener…Jack, well let’s just say I think he indulges Danny by letting me…”

Oh so that was the way of it. It was a dangerous thing Jack was doing, even if it was for Daniel. Inviting a man to join you, who was in love with your partner, but who you didn’t love…Well Gibbs wasn’t sure he could do it. He didn’t say anything, getting the feeling the other man needed to talk about it. After all, if he loved Daniel then he had lost someone important to him too.

“I’m not the only one they…”

“Yeah, Jack said, but regardless of that, I’m sorry for your loss, Paul.”

It wasn’t usually in Gibbs emotional vocabulary to empathise with another man – kids and women, yeah, but the men Jethro was around in the service and NCIS were not the touchy-feely kind…except for Tony of course. But there was something that resonated with him about how the young Colonel was feeling.

“He could well be back.”

“Hmm…?” Gibbs could hear the ‘but’ clearly.

“But if he comes back this time, I don’t think the General will be in a sharing mood. Even though we’ve been through this before with Dan…Dr. Jackson, it hit him particularly hard this time.”

“Ahh.”

Davis was about to say something else when his hand moved to his ear. “Yes sir, we’ll be right up.”

He motioned to the server who nodded and quickly brought out three huge travel mugs of coffee and a wrapped plate of muffins, which they shared between them.

The journey to the office housing Jack was in an elevator with a seemingly ridiculous number of floors. They went down instead of up, as Jethro had expected, when Davis hit the button for level 28.

“How far underground are we?” Gibbs queried as the car continued its descent.”

“The Stargate is on the bottom level, 28 and is 800 metres below ground level. NORAD takes up the first 10 levels and then we have them all from there on down.”

“NORAD?” Gibbs said half in amazement, half disbelief. “We’re in Colorado, Cheyenne Mountain?”

Paul nodded with a wry little smile, “Yeah, beaming fucks up all your sense of distance, huh? There and back in the blink of an eye. Of course the General thinks of it as his own private cab service, not caring that every time we use Asgard beaming tech it costs the taxpayer $20,000.”

Gibbs’ stomach clenched. Jack had dropped everything to get to him immediately. Something warm set up home in his gut that his friend cared so deeply for him that he would utilise expensive technology, just to get his sorry ass out of a cluster-fuck of his own making.

“Here we are, Gunny. This is the General’s home from home. I sometimes have to use a crowbar…or chocolate pop tarts, to get him out of here and back to DC.”

They walked through another non-descript door and into a wide, modern conference room with a large hardwood table, the workmanship of which Jethro could really appreciate. They dropped the mugs and muffins on the table and then Davis motioned to a glass fronted office to their left that Jack was just exiting.

“Did my XO look after you OK, LJ?”

“You probably have the best food of any base I’ve ever been on, and you know there’s been more than a few – but the coffee is for shit!”

“Fuck you and that Marine Tar you drink. You wait, Danny’ll introduce you to the good stuff – I swear he gets down on his knees and leaves an offering for the coffee gods. He’s such a freakin’ connoisseur.”

A sharp intake of breath from Davis made them both look in his direction. “You OK there, Paul?” Gibbs asked.

“Have you heard…is he back?”

There was something a little heart-breaking about the hope in Davis’s eyes. Jethro cut a glance over at Jack to see his reaction, and was pleased to see the other man was more than aware of the way his XO felt.

“Now you see, there’s a thing…”

The look of dread that crossed Paul’s expression made Jethro swallow down a snort of amusement. Oh yeah, he knew he was in trouble. Jack was about to follow up when a loud siren began to blare and there was the heavy sound of grinding gears. Gibbs turned to follow the sound and was met by Jack who was rubbing his hands together with glee.

“Walter!” he yelled across the room, “Open the blast doors.”

What Gibbs had taken to be more riveted iron, was in fact a sliding hatch over a wide viewing window. As the metal moved up, a large room below them came into view. And in the centre, fogged with jets of what looked like steam, was a huge stone ring.

And it was moving; an inner circle turning as metal V’s shot out like compass point indicators.

“Now you get to see what the whole shebang is about, LJ. This…” Jack pointed with no little excitement, “…is the Stargate.”

They walked through from the conference room into a large control room, where banks of computers were flashing madly.

“Is it a scheduled activation, Walter?”

“Yes, General. SG-14 is due back from their investigation of a possible Ancient site on M48-811. It’s one of the new planets in the Milky Way that came from the Atlantis database.”

Gibbs was amazed that everyone just took all this fucked up information in their stride. “Atlantis, Jack?”

“Yeah, mind-fuck ain’t it. It’s in another Galaxy and we have a base there. Poor bastards are dealing with a very FUBAR situation involving Space Vampires. So anything we can find here that will help…”

It made Jethro dizzy just thinking about it. That there were service men and women millions of light years away, fighting space vamp…

He resisted the urge to shake his head to clear it.

“Receiving IDC. It’s SG-14. Opening the Iris.”

Then everything got even weirder as the metal cover on the circle unfolded like an exquisite flower. He flinched as a huge horizontal plume of what looked like water exploded outwards, and then settled into a rippling blue puddle over the Stargate.  Seconds later a troop of Marines in utility uniforms came streaming out of the centre of the gate – not at all wet, so Gibbs surmised what looked like water actually wasn’t. The leader of the group looked up and gave a grin and a sloppy salute, which was returned by Jack.

Jethro was captivated by the way O’Neill had reverted to looking much younger, far less stressed than he had when they had first beamed onto the base. This really was home to him, and once again Jethro found himself feeling jealous of Jack’s sense of belonging and worth.

“Well that’s it, shows over.” Jack looked over at him and gave him a grin which he couldn’t help returning. “Cool, huh?”

Gibbs pointed a finger at the Stargate, which he was pleased to see was not visibly shaking. “I can’t even begin to tell you how fucked up that thing is…But yeah, really cool.”

They wandered back to the conference room and Jethro made a long pull at his coffee mug as the other two men got themselves situated, with Jack at the head of the table.

“Sir, can I ask why the Gunny is here, and why you are talking as if you know Daniel is coming back?  Is it need-to-know?”

“It is need-to-know, Paul, but as in ‘You-Need-To-Know’. The Gunny and I are going to be putting a mission together…”

Paul pulled a notebook out of his breast pocket and opened it, ready to make notes.

“…And we’re gonna need to use the tech in lab 17.”

Gibbs watched as Davis went milk-white. “But…but, General…Jack. You know what Colonel Carter will say about messing with the time line; temporal paradox’s, the butterfly effect.”

“CTC…yadda, yadda. And that’s why she’d in Nevada and not here. By the time she gets back, whatever we do will have affected this time line and she won’t even know.”

The Colonel wiped a hand over his face and sighed deeply as he massaged his temples.

Jack shot Jethro a closed look and then turned back to his XO. “Paul, I can’t tell you the circumstances, but Danny has been in contact – this is his idea. He wouldn’t have given me the push in this direction if it was going to be a problem.”

Jethro though Jack was stretching the truth more than a little there, but whatever it took. The last thing they needed was to block any avenues that would make the mission successful – whatever the fuck the mission was. Hell, Gibbs was just along for the ride right now. This shit was so far out of his comfort zone it was almost on Atlantis!

The idea that Daniel was somehow involved in the plan seemed to go down well with Davis, however, and the Colonel’s shoulders relaxed a little.

“OK, OK. I know McKay was in that lab when he and Sheppard came back from Pegasus for the meeting with you and the IOA. I’ll make some discrete enquiries about the time jumper’s mission readiness.” He scribbled down a couple of notes before giving his attention back to Jack.

“I want this on the down-low, Paul. Just us three, so make your enquiries non-specific. I know how to fly it; I just need you to make sure it’s not gonna fall apart when I take it out of the atmosphere.”

Gibbs could tell the young XO’s nod was less than enthusiastic, but he was acting on an order from his superior, and it was obvious he trusted Jack’s judgement – although more fool him, in Jethro’s opinion.

In the end though, it really didn’t matter. They just needed to get back and stop Tony and Daniel dying. The fact that he was going back into space was just gravy as far as Jethro was concerned.

*****

For a supposed time-machine it was completely underwhelming. Built like an old tool-box, it was all square lines and totally non-aerodynamic looking.

“Are you sure this thing can even get in the air, Jack. It must fly like a brick.”

Gibbs walked around the back of the shuttle and ran his fingers over the dirty and pitted surface. He felt the sting of static electricity and then the whole ship began to hum and glow and the hatch that made up the back of the shuttle began to open.

“Oh, fuck, I didn’t touch anything,” he said as he stood back and found himself holding his hands up, in a very Tony-esque way.

“Now isn’t that fascinating,” O’Neill said as he gazed sharply at Gibbs, his eyes slightly narrowed in thought. “You, my friend, have just become a person of interest to the Stargate Program.”

He didn’t know why, but the idea that he might have a place here, at this base, filled Gibbs with an excitement he hadn’t felt for at least decade. However, “Whaa…?” was all that came out of his mouth.

“You have a special gene – the Ancient Technology Activation gene, or ATA. A lot of the tech they left behind on Atlantis will only work for carriers.”

Paul was looking at him as if he’d just levitated.

Jack had boarded the ship and the internal lights were glowing brightly.

“Only Jack and Colonel Sheppard make the Puddlejumpers react like that. You just joined a very exclusive club with two fly-boy’s.”

The Colonel looked amused at his disgusted reaction to being lumped together with Air Force personnel.

“Davis!”

Gibbs followed Paul inside the ship, which was about the size of a small minivan.

“Explain – what’s that Canadian bastard done to my time-ship.”

Paul checked his notes and then nodded. “Well, according to the geeks, he’s made it easier for you to fly and to programme in your destination where and when. Apparently the algorithm is based on the Fibonacci integer sequence. So you can go back 1 hour, 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 5 days etc.”

“So we were in DC…7 weeks ago…that’s 49 days.” Jack calculated quickly. “I was in the infirmary 5 months ago having my knee sorted out, again, so 144 days is probably out. We should probably go for 89 days. That gives time to get the us’s from that time-line squared away, and then put plans in place to stop Ba’al’s snaky ass before he sets up home in your Agent.”

Jethro nodded. That gave them a pretty good margin for error.

“Erm, Sir…”

“What happens to the other us’s when we get to the point where things change?”

Jethro had read enough science fiction to know that there would be a place where a whole new time-line would come into existence. He’d just never believed it could possibly ever happen – especially not to him.

“General…”

“Our previous experiences have been that they sort of just…cease to exist. It’s not as if they know it’s happening. We’ll have to be really careful for the interim five weeks, that we don’t talk to anyone about future events – and no, LJ, no betting on a ballgame.”

Gibbs grinned at the eminently fake look of piety Jack was wearing. “You tried didn’t you…”

Jack pulled a wry face. “Carter found out – She was the physicist on SG-1, before I was bumped upstairs. She’s CO of this base now. Let’s just say that betting slips taste realllllly nasty.”

“O’Neill! GENERAL!” They both turned at Davis’s irritated yell.

Jack quirked an eyebrow in his direction. “Yes??”

The other man had the courtesy to blush a little for shouting at his CO. “We have a problem. I’ve been reviewing McKay’s last research journal entry and it appears he calculated that the fuel cells only have enough capacity for a single jump of up to 55 days. Then they’ll need to be recharged for at least a month, before another jump can be made.”

“What! But that…” Jack scowled like he wanted to shoot something and Gibbs could empathise with that impulse.

The Colonel looked sick at being the bearer of bad news.

“It means if you go today, and I mean in the next three hours, then that will only give you 4 days in the other time-line before the shooting occurs.”

*****

Considering how underwhelming the time-shuttle was as a spacecraft, the journey back in time was slightly less anti-climactic. The initial take-off was fast, there was nothing that could move that quickly in Jethro’s experience. But there was absolutely no sensation of motion.

Jack said it was all down to the Ancient inertial dampers. Gibbs found he missed the rush of acceleration as they left the ground and streaked through the upper atmosphere.

The breakthrough from the exosphere into space proper however, was just as awe inspiring as he had expected, and despite their tight time constraints, Jack indulged him by making a wide arc around the Earth, and pointing out his house. Although when Jethro commented that his finger could have been indicating anywhere in the DC area, Jack said the ship had relayed the exact co-ordinates.

“Come on, I know you can hear her, can’t you LJ?”

Gibbs swallowed hard. Oh yeah, he could hear her, whispering in his ear – latitude and longitude; fuel coefficients; local proximity alarms.

“I was hoping it was just lack of oxygen.”

A voice murmured in his head that oxygen tanks were at optimum level and he gave a little start of shock.

“The Puddlejumpers are not sentient,” Jack reassured, “Although we have met living machines before. We think these ships link with the ATA gene and provide a sort of telepathic interface, which she reacts to. I can also set course and even fly with my mind in the shuttles on Atlantis. We think this is a much older model, so she just keeps you updated with flight data.”

Gibbs shook his head. It was overwhelming. He was the least techy guy in the world and yet here he was, intimately linked to a space shuttle which was going to take them back in time.

“OK,” Jack said as he tapped a few buttons on a weirdly marked control pad. “I’m gonna let her know where and when we want to go, and she’ll take it from there.”

There was a small tremor in the plating under their feet and then a stream of blue concentric rings formed in front of the nose of the shuttle. Within a second they were hurtling through the first ring and into what seemed like a tunnel.

And then they weren’t.

Instead they were back over Colorado, Pikes Peak on one side of them, glowing red and gold in the setting sun, as they took a smooth arc towards Peterson Air Force base.

“We’re not going to get shot out of the sky by F-15’s are we, JJ?” Gibbs could help but ask nervously. “After all, the whole idea is to arrive incognito.”

Jack shook his head and gave him a sheepish smile. “I forgot you haven’t done this before. We’re cloaked. Completely invisible,” he added in reply to Jethro’s frown of incomprehension. “We have been since before we left the mountain. The last thing we need is some whacko conspiracy theorist getting a hold of video to put on the internet.” With a slight twitch of his fingers he brought them down to land in a remote corner of the airfield, next to a large hangar.

“We keep a couple of other long range shuttles here, and as I’m one of the only people able to fly them, I’m keyed into the security system. I let them know I was on my way in as we banked around, so we shouldn’t have half the base bearing down on us with their safeties off.” With that Jack stood from the pilot seat and made his way towards the back of the ship. “Just hang tight for a minute and I’ll open her up.”

The back of the shuttle slid silently down and Jack jogged down the ramp and around the side of the hangar. Moments later the hangar door opened, just enough to allow the shuttle inside.

“Won’t there be a problem if the time shuttle’s already here?”

“The one that belongs to this timeline is still under the base. Before we took her out, it hadn’t been flown for 5 years. If any of the geeks happens to look in lab 17, she’ll still be there large as life. If we’re successful, the timeline will merge and it’ll…” he wiggled his fingers “…disappear. I’ll know where she is, so problem solved.”

The whole time thing just made Gibbs head explode, so he just nodded. Jack of course was not fooled and gave him a knowing grin.

Less than five minutes later they were gathering their kit bags. Considering the panic there had been when they realised how little time they’d have before Daniel and Tony were shot, they had only bought minimal equipment. Gibbs had been provided with a set of Stargate Command BDU’s, and an ID that proclaimed him to have top level clearance. Jack had said because of his gene, he would have it anyway, and that idea made him feel quite excited about what the future might hold…in the past…

Their kitbags just had an assortment of weapons, including the slick, but rather scary disintegrator ray that Teal’c had told him was called a Zat’nik’tel. The big alien had given him a quick overview of the weapon and he had shot and dissolved a few dummies on the range. The highlight had been the nod of respect the Jaffa warrior had given him, when he had also managed to shoot the huge and slightly unwieldy staff weapon with a high degree of accuracy.

His Mona Lisa smile had been joined by a softly spoken, “You are indeed a warrior, GunnyLeroyJethroGibbs.”

High praise indeed.

The pair of them jogged away from the relocked hangar and towards a green painted, single storey building about 100 metres away. Once again Jack let them in, using first a palm scanner in a box fixed to the outside of the block, and then the more familiar iris scanner into the interior.

Inside was set up like a barrack room, with a set of lockers along one wall and a door which he surmised led to the head and showers. Jack made his way to a locker with O’Neill stencilled on the door. It opened with a fingerprint scan.

“Tight security.”

Jack nodded, “Has to be. Even then there have been clones and aliens pretending to be us. There’s even a robot me out there somewhere on another planet.”

He laughed at Gibbs, who was sure the look on his face was nothing if disbelieving.

“I’m not kidding; you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff we’ve seen over the last ten years or so.”

Gibbs was blown away by how glib Jack was, and how lightly he dealt with it. But then he realised that wasn’t any different from the way O’Neill dealt with anything, so perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise after all.

“You love it don’t you.”

“Fuck yeah. I mean there’ve been some really tough times, too many to count. But since they bumped me upstairs…fuck, but there’s been something missing. Doing this…”

He reached over to Gibbs and squeezed his shoulder, “…and with you… It’s a real rush. If this goes well and we get our men back, then I’m gonna make sure I’m back under the mountain. I wasn’t made for a corner office in the Pentagon.”

And wasn’t that the truth. Gibbs could empathise. He’d always fought the idea of being Director of NCIS for that very same reason.

Jack retrieved a small plastic box from his locker and lifted 2 earwigs from it. He handed one to Jethro and they both made sure they were located firmly. Then Jack tapped his twice.

“This is O’Neill, Command Code Sierra Tango Niner Niner Seven.”

“General. What is the word for today?”

Jack didn’t even hesitate. “The word for today is granularity…I repeat the word for today is granularity.”

“What do you require, Sir.”

“Beam up to Apollo. Immediate return beam out, location for the captain of the Apollo only.”

“Understood. Stand by.”

There was a moment’s silence and then, “Prepare for beam out.”

Jack placed a hand on his shoulder and then, with a bright flash, they were once again on the command deck of the spaceship. “Captain Abbott.”

There was a cry of ‘General on Deck’, and then the captain of the ship came to attention in front of his chair. Although he was attentive, Gibbs had enough experience to recognise that he wasn’t that fond of Jack, or of unidentified people on his command deck.

His eyes flicked from his CO to Gibbs who he looked at as if he were something under his shoe. Gibbs almost nodded a greeting, but then realised that as far as the captain knew, they hadn’t ever met before. This time thing was a mind-fuck.

“General O’Neill, I wasn’t aware of a scheduled beam-out today.”

“That’s because it wasn’t on your schedule, Captain,” Jack replied, his tone level but having a hint of reproach. The captain’s head went back a little and he nodded.

Yeah’, thought Gibbs. ‘Keep your thoughts to yourself, Captain. It’s not your place to question the General.’ Perversely the thought that the General had been expertly fucking Jethro’s ass not 12 hours ago, and how that would affect the metaphorical bad smell under the captain’s nose, almost made him laugh out loud.

“How can the Apollo be of service, Sir?”

“You can drop us at my home co-ordinates. The Gunny and I have something to pick up before I go on to my next destination.”

The fact that the something they had to pick up was the Major General O’Neill of this timeline was not discussed, for obvious reasons.

“There will be a short wait, while we recharge the beam. Beam out in 2 minutes.”

“Very well.” Jack folded his hands over his chest and turned to look out the viewing window. Gibbs wasn’t going to miss another chance to see that amazing sight, so he turned on his heel and looked his fill.

“Still not getting old?” Jack murmured.

“Hell no.”

*****

“I didn’t know being a Major General was such a big pay hike.”

Gibbs grinned over at Jack, trying to push down his slight nervousness about what came next. The elevator up to the penthouse had been luxurious in the extreme.

“Yeah, right,” Jack snarked. “It all belongs to the Government. They like it to look like they pay us the big bucks for sitting in the hot seat, but it wouldn’t pay for this kinda place.” He turned sad eyes on Jethro. “The only time it’s ever felt like home is when Danny was there, and with him being in Colorado half the month…well it’s never enough.”

He couldn’t argue with that sentiment. As the memories had come flooding in over the six weeks since Tony had died, Jethro had found the big swanky house to be more and more lonely. Money really couldn’t buy the kind of security that love could give, no matter how much you had.

They stepped out of the elevator and straight into a wide carpeted lobby.

“How you gonna handle this?”

“Oh, there won’t be any problem. I just can’t remember whether Danny was here or not. If he was you better be ready for me to fall apart a little.”

Gibbs nodded. “Should I stay out of sight?”

Jack grinned and nodded to a tiny red light blinking in the corner of the lobby ceiling.

“He already knows we’re here.”

The door slid open with almost no sound and a very casually dressed O’Neill stood in the doorway.

“Alt Universe?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

“Nah, future.” Jack replied.

The other man, who Gibbs decided to call O’Neill just for the purposes of keeping the whole thing from becoming too confusing, looked a little surprised.

“Well what ya wanna go and do that for?”

The grin fell off Jack’s face. “Danny…”

With a sage nod O’Neill stepped back from the door and let them in. They walked through in a large family room complete with bar and huge TV, which was showing a hockey match between Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

“You might as well turn that off,” Jack said with a look of disgust. “The Avalanche were all over them.”

“Aw, fercryinoutloud. And they were having such a great season.”

Gibbs couldn’t help his snort of amusement. There was O’Neill, faced with his future self and the thing he was most bothered by was his team’s performance.

The sound brought O’Neill’s eyes fully on him and the start of surprise made Jethro grin. “Hey, Jack. Long-time no see.”

“Well apparently not.” O’Neill snarked back. He swung his gaze between the two of them. “You gonna tell me what the deal is?

“In three day’s time, we’re gonna have a run in with the last of Ba’al’s clones here in DC. When that happens, the snaky bastard is in one of LJ’s team.”

“And you want to save them?”

“Thinking back, I’m almost certain she’s already been infested,” Gibbs said ruefully. “She always had a sharp tongue and a prickly arrogant nature, but over the week before the shooting she was much worse than usual. I put it down to…” He bit his bottom lip.

“Time of the month?” Both O’Neill’s smirked.

“Or something like that.” It was so weird seeing those twin grins and twinkling eyes. Jack was attractive alone, but two of him…

“You do know, with the Tok’ra in hiding there is no chance of us getting that snake out of her.”

Jack nodded and rubbed his hand over his face. “There’s no easy way to say this…”

But O’Neill was ahead of him. “Danny,” he sighed softly. “Did he ascend?”

“Yeah, and for me he’s been gone over 6 weeks. I spoke to him before he left and he promised he’d be back, but I’ve had a bad feeling. LJ’s husband, Tony was also killed at the same time. 12 hours ago Gibbs called me…

The world seemed to stop. Was Jack really going to tell O’Neill what he had been going to do?

“…And said he’d seen the same gold light in his kitchen as he’d seen at the scene. I’d been feeling like I should call him all day, so it seems Danny wanted us to be in touch…

Jethro should have known O’Neill wouldn’t be fooled by the flimflam, as he took a step towards Gibbs and caught his chin with gentle fingers and looked into his eyes.

There was a moment when the other man seemed to gaze right into his soul and then he let him go with a sad sigh.

“Hmm, I see.”

He flashed a narrowed eyed look at Jack who gave nothing away, but Gibbs was pretty sure O’Neill knew exactly what he’d been about to do.

“You OK, LJ.”

Gibbs huffed out a sad laugh, “No, but I will be. Just having Jack…you there helped.”

The sparkle in O’Neill’s eyes told Gibbs he was probably very aware of how Jack had ‘helped’.

“So this host.”

“Ziva David,” Gibbs murmured, his voice a little husky with the emotion engendered by Jack’s touch and concern.

“She’s a Mossad assassin and yeah, the daughter of Director David. She had Danny under a hand device and was questioning him about Ba’al’s ship. I think the clone has gone a little whacko. It’s been over 3 years since Snake-Prime’s mothership was blown outta the sky. You’d think the Xerox snakes would remember that. She’d already shot Tony. Gibbs was holding a bead on her, then she just stopped with the hand device and shot Danny twice…head shots.” By the end of his recitation of events Jack’s voice was thick with sorrow. O’Neill reached over and patted his shoulder in shared empathy.

Jethro was a little lost by all the talk of clones and motherships and really couldn’t fathom how either of these men had coped with losing and regaining their lover not once but several times. Still he did his best to keep up with the conversation, needing to be ready to jump in with persuasion if O’Neill decided he didn’t want to help.

But instead of argument, O’Neill wandered into the kitchen and retrieved his cell. “OK, before you tell me the plan you should know Danny is going to be here in…about 15 minutes, which will be more like half an hour Jackson time.”

Jack’s expression was one of joy, and Jethro couldn’t help but be excited as he realised that it meant he would see Tony soon too. Four days would be more than enough time to turn things around. He’d make sure his husband never set foot in that alley, and that he knew within the first few minutes that Jethro loved him and remembered everything.

O’Neill rubbed his hands together. “So what’s the plan?”

*****

Ten minutes later, O’Neill was dressed in Jack’s BDU’s and was heading out of the door. They’d decided that he would avail himself once more of the beaming technology of the Apollo, (which Jethro thought was just to piss off the uptight Captain Abbott) and beam down in Jethro’s basement.

After thinking hard about what had happened in the lead up to the shooting, Gibbs had remembered that this particular evening, he’d been passed out, flat on his back under the boat, due to an early finish at work and an early start on a bottle of bourbon.

O’Neill was going to try to contact the Asgard, one of their alien allies who were apparently the original Roswell Grey’s – and fuck if that wasn’t bizarre – using tech they had brought with them from the future. Hopefully they would agree to keep this timelines Jethro under some kind of sedation until the timeline changed. Not that they were going to tell the aliens that, but Gibbs was happy to leave that in O’Neill’s hands. Of course there was a chance that the Asgard would not be in the galaxy, in which case a single shot with the Zat would keep past-Gibbs from waking up. That worried Jethro a little, but both Jack’s didn’t seem concerned. In fact, the consensus of both O’Neill’s was that if Daniel was involved then the Asgard’s ‘little grey butts’ would be orbiting Earth as they spoke.

O’Neill turned at the doorway and smiled at them both. “I’m glad you did this, even though you’ve only got 4 days. Just don’t let them get shot again, OK?”

They both nodded in agreement and he loped off to the elevator.

They shut the door behind him and wandered back into the family room. Jack picked up the house phone and called down to the concierge for food. Gibbs couldn’t imagine living like this, with everything catered for – not that it wouldn’t be nice for a short while, but he liked his own space too much. He’d never lived in an apartment of any kind. When others had gone to college he was already in the Corps.

“I ordered a steak dinner. Danny will be famished, he always is and I think we could both do with a decent meal.”

Jethro was about to agree when the doorbell rang. Jack was half way across the room before Gibbs could reach him. “Jack, I know how you feel but…”

With a deep sigh and what sounded like a sub-vocal growl, Jack slowed down finally reaching the door at his normal laconic stroll.

“Jack, you won’t believe the traffic. What’s going on in this town…?”

Daniel Jackson was even more beautiful close up than he’d been across a dark, damp alley. His blue eyes were luminous and sparking with intelligence. Those same eyes were only for Jack and he melted into the other man’s embrace, his mouth seeking out Jack’s almost aggressively.

Jethro watched as they seemed to meld impossibly closer, Jack’s grip so tight that he had to be leaving bruises on Jackson’s upper arms.

“Hey, hey, it’s OK, I’m not going anywhere. What’s going on? It’s not been that long since I was here.”

He pulled away from Jack and then seemed to catch sight of Jethro over his shoulder. He gave a little shudder and swayed in Jack’s embrace.

“Danny. Hey, you OK?”

Gibbs could understand Jack’s panic. If that was Tony in his arms…He swallowed against the longing he felt. ‘It won’t be long’, he told himself. ‘By this time tomorrow that’ll be me and Tony’.

“Jethro.”

Jackson’s voice saying his name was a surprise. He’d never met the man before, well not in this timeline.

“Daniel, how do you know LJ?”

The younger man gave Jack a sheepish smile. “Hmm, well I think I’m the reason you’re both here, right?”

Gibbs threw a shocked look O’Neill’s way. “You’re right, that’s my name. But how could you possibly know that?”

“It’s difficult to explain.”

Jack gave him a little shake, his arm still wrapped around his shoulders, even though the other man was no longer unstable.

“Then try. I know how much you love boring us with your explanations normally. Don’t start getting coy now.”

Daniel gestured to the seating area, where a large, well cushioned L shaped sectional couch looked really inviting. They all settled, with Jack keeping Daniel pulled in close to his side, while Jethro took a seat in the shorter section, facing them.

“When you ascend…you know what that is right?”

He aimed the comment at Gibbs, who nodded.

“Good. So when you ascend you realise that the next plane of existence is not linear like this one is. There is no progression of time from one minute to the next. You are literally a higher being, able to see things in more than four dimensions. You’d think it would be overwhelming, but when you are freed from a physical body there is no limit to what your ascended brain can process.”

He looked over at Jack who was trying to be attentive, but Jethro could see that he was much too caught up in the fact that he had his lover in his arms again to really pay attention.

With a fond smile, Daniel turned back to Gibbs. “What that means simply…”

“Oh, please god, make it simple” Jack heckled, but there was no bite in his words.

He was unceremoniously poked in the ribs, eliciting a pained grunt. “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by the man with Broca Plague, there are no limits. As I love this big lug, I tend to focus on him if I’m off ‘being glowy’ as he puts it. This is one of the events I watched.”

Gibbs thought he understood, but it truly didn’t make any sense.

“So what you’re saying is that the last time you ascended…that is to say in the past, you saw an event which happened in the future and knew that we would come back to the past to fix it?”

The smile he got for his pains was incandescent, and it was all he could do not to bask in its warmth.

“Exactly!” Daniel poked Jack in the ribs again, “See what you get if you listen? And Gibbs has no frame of reference. What’s your excuse?”

“Hey I have frames…of reference. I’m just so used to sitting through your jaw…information dissemination that I tend to filter out extraneous words.”

“By that, he means he doesn’t listen and simple doodles on my written reports all through my PowerPoint presentations.”

Jack’s expression was completely disgruntled, but Daniel simply pressed a couple of kisses to the corner of his mouth and it melted to pure goofy.

“So you’re here to help us. To stop Ziva from shooting Tony…” Suddenly Gibbs was struck by an anomaly. “But if you already knew, why did you go chasing her into the alley, and why didn’t you let us know?”

“Oh I really like him, Jack. Can we keep him?” Daniel’s smile warmed even more, but this time Jethro could have sworn there was a flirty edge to it.

“You’ll have to ask Tony,” Jack replied blithely. “It’s a good question though, Danny. If you’ve already seen everything that could happen why haven’t you used this information all the many times we could have used it.”

There was a slight edge to his voice that said he was feeling a little pissed that events could have been changed by Daniels prior knowledge.

Daniel leaned forward and leant his elbows on his knees. “There are some events that are fixed points in time. If they don’t happen then the consequences for the timeline are dire. This was one of those points. However, somehow Ba’al had messed with this event. Probably aided and abetted by Adriana, or one of the Ori Priors.”

He looked over apologetically at Gibbs. “I know some of these names mean nothing to you, and they really don’t matter anymore, as we made sure they are not a threat a few months ago.”

Gibbs nodded, accepting that there was going to be a lot he didn’t understand.

“Anyway, I wouldn’t have been able to remember this event unless something went wrong. Just seeing Gibbs here today has brought back all the memories of that point in time. Tony is going to be very important, but just how is something I didn’t get to see. Maybe that’s something I homed in on this last time I ascended. But what is necessary, is that Tony needs to ascend too.”

The shock that lanced through Gibbs was almost visceral. “You mean he has to die?”

Jackson gave a regretful nod. “When I died, did my ascended form go to Tony?”

Jack’s eyes were bright with concern, as Gibbs, feeling very shaken, went through the whole story, from his amnesia right to the shoot-out in the alley, step by step. Jethro appreciated his tacit support as he relieved the horror of Tony’s last words.

The room was quiet for a few minutes before Daniel spoke again.

“I’m only guessing here, because I didn’t see your past in this, mainly because as I said I wasn’t looking, but I believe your amnesia – in fact the bomb that caused it, was probably all set in place by Ba’al. It sounds to me like Tony couldn’t release his burdens and ascend, firstly because he didn’t believe he was good enough, and secondly because I would have told him that he wouldn’t be able to help you if you were ever in trouble.”

“Fucking non-interference!” Jack spat, “More like glowy cowardice.”

Daniel patted his hand absently. “I think I prompted you to come back in time so that you can begin to treat him a little better, and so that he can meet us both. If you’d still remembered him and your relationship; if you hadn’t have treated him so badly on your return from Mexico, then his self-esteem would have been better. Maybe then Tony would have been willing to come with me, and he would have known that you had someone he could trust to watch your six i.e. Jack, until he got back.”

“Fuck it, no. NO! This last few months has been hell without him. And you’re telling me I have to watch him die again, that we both have to watch you gunned down and bleeding out in a filthy alley? Just what could be so important that you’d ask that of me – of Jack? Hasn’t he had to do that enough? And what if you don’t come back. What are we meant to do then?”

Gibbs couldn’t stay in the room any longer.  He surged to his feet, not really sure where he was going. Jethro felt like he was going to shake apart, it was all too much.  But before he could take a step, Daniel was right there in front of him, wrapping him in long warm arms. He smelled so good and he was so real and grounded, there was nothing Jethro could do but lean in and soak up the pure vitality of him, as it calmed and soothed him.

“I’ll bring him straight back, I promise. I know he has a higher purpose and it doesn’t include staying on the ascended plane that I’m sure of. We’ll both come back.”

Jack pressed up against Jethro’s back. “It’s OK, LJ. Let’s calm down, get a beer. The food should be here any time now. Then we’ll talk this through, right, Danny.”

Gibbs watched as the younger man nodded, and the veracity shining in his eyes made Jethro’s gut stop churning. He felt Jack’s mouth touch the crown of his head, as Daniel’s lips pressed softly against his eyelids, making them fall closed. The world might be going to fall apart any moment, but right then he was too emotionally spent to care.

*****

By the time Jethro walked into one of the penthouse guest rooms, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When Daniel had suggested he stay with them, he hadn’t even thought to argue, he was just too bone weary and overloaded to do anything else.

The continuing stream of information had been almost too much to take in and overlying it all was the constant beat of, ‘He has to die. He has to ascend. He has to ascend. He has to die.’ The Marine in him, the Agent in him, goddamn it the husband in him couldn’t parse the idea of watching Tony die again. They’d come all this way – metaphorically and physically speaking – to save both Daniel and Tony, and yet it seemed both men were going to have to die once more before they could finally end this nightmare.

Jack seemed sadly sanguine about the idea of losing his lover again. There was an air of inevitability that hung over Jack and Daniel’s interactions with each other. Their touches and glances were suffused with a needy hunger that wasn’t completely to do with lust. Gibbs could understand it completely. He was fighting the very insistent urge to catch a cab over to Tony’s house – their house – and just hold on to his husband as tightly as possible.

But Daniel’s explanation of why he couldn’t do that was just too fucking sensible.

“We can’t risk changing things too obviously. Your agent is definitely being infested by Ba’al and will be watching every move you make. Any deviation from his expectations about you – that you have serious amnesia about everything to do with Tony – will in turn make him diverge from his plans. The fact that I was there in that alley caught him unawares and he had to change his plans on the fly. The Goa’uld was a clone and a half mad one at that. It was really amazing that he managed to keep his interactions as Ziva David on something approaching a believable level. If Tony was to die and I didn’t, then there would be no way to encourage him to ascend. I’m afraid the main events need to happen.”

“So I have to treat Tony how I did before? Fuck it Daniel, that’s going to just push him back to feeling the same way about himself, and me. I was a total bastard…No, more than that, I was a complete tyrant. I had all this…emotion linked to him and I couldn’t work out what it was about. It came out as anger, mistrust and downright bullying. I can’t even believe I said some of the things I did to him.”

Daniel winced in sympathy, but said nothing else – there was nothing more to say.

Jack, as always, had plenty to say, however. He reached over and put his arm around Jethro, pulling him in. It should have felt awkward with his lover plastered along Jack’s other side, but the embrace of an hour earlier had blasted through all the embarrassment and he just let himself luxuriate in his friend’s touch.

“There’s nothing to say you can’t start to ease off a little, especially outside the bullpen. If you meet him in the corridor, or the break room perhaps, there’d be nothing to stop you giving him a look that makes him think you might be starting to get something back.  Send Ziva off on some task or other and then involve him in conversation that doesn’t include a nasty comeback or sarcasm…although that might worry him, being as that’s your default setting.”

Jack grinned at Jethro’s scowl.

“I know you can do this, LJ. When I think of some of the shitstorms you got us out of with your undercover skills, this should be a piece of cake.”

“I didn’t love those undercover marks.”

Daniel joined in. “I know, but you have to bury the guilt for just a little while to make this work. We need to meet Tony too, but I’d suggest we leave that to the last night. We’ll also need to make sure we keep in close contact, so I suggest we pick up some burn phones first thing in the morning.  Whatever the plans we make, if we don’t pull this off then things could get infinitely worse. I have an inclination this all has to do with the problems John and Rodney are having in Pegasus, and if the Wraith are coming here…”

Both Gibbs and O’Neill looked at him in horror, as he grimaced.

“Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I believe that’s the case. I’m almost certain someone on the ascended plane is blocking my memories, but I don’t get the impression it’s for the wrong reasons. I just think we need to keep going a step at a time.”

“So, slowly and carefully begin to make Tony think I’m remembering, keep those same things from Ziva, and introduce him to my friends, when I haven’t had a civil word to say to him for nearly four months. Thanks for the assignment, Dr Jackson.”

Shaking his head at the memory of that conversation, Gibbs stripped off his BDU’s and took a quick trip through the en suite shower. Jack had found him some boxers and a soft white tee, which he dragged on, and then gratefully dropped on his back onto the comfortable King bed. The linens were cool against his face and he turned on his side, punching the pillow into submission, more to get rid of tension than to make himself comfortable.

The room was mostly dark, but he realised he hadn’t quite shut the door properly, something he would usually only do when he felt there might be a threat. The reflection in the large vanity mirror on the dressing table, gave him an unimpeded view through the door of the opposite bedroom, which happened to be Jack’s. His eyes began to adjust to the low light, and he realised the image was showing him the first few moments Jack and Daniel were sharing alone together since they’d come back to this timeline.

Daniel’s sweater was already off, his white button-down open completely down the front and Jack was kissing his way down the younger man’s throat. It was gorgeous to watch, as they were completely uninhibited and desperate in their passion for each other. Jethro felt his cock filling as the first moan from Daniel sizzled down his spine. God, the man was sex incarnate, all golden skin and firm muscled body. Tony was gorgeous in the same way, Gibbs had no trouble remembering that now, and the quixotic thought of both of young men together, in the same state, made his cock go from half-hard to leaking iron in moments. He gave a quiet moan as he let his fingers drift over the boxers to circle the growing damp spot at the fly.

Jack had told him how seductively sensual Danny was, especially since his first trip up to the ascended plane, but the man was also aggressive in his sexuality, tugging firmly on Jack’s hair to move him where he wanted him, speaking low words that made Jack press his head into Daniel’s shoulder and pant as the other man kept whispering.

Jack moved towards where Gibbs imagined the bed was, out of his view, but Daniel shook his head and moved out of Jethro’s line of sight. He was soon back with a throw pillow which he tossed on the floor. He clasped Jack’s hand and dragged him back towards him, placing his big hands on Jack’s shoulders as he pushed him down onto his knees on the pillow.

O’Neill’s hands were scrabbling at Daniel’s fly buttons and Jethro could empathise with his needy fumbling. He was sure the first time he got to be with Tony…after this whole goat rope was over… that he would be just like a horny teen too.

If Jack’s cock was beautiful, then Jackson’s was a work of art. Nearly as long as Jack’s but probably a little narrower in girth, he was uncut and the tip of his glans, just showing from the foreskin, was rosy red.  He only caught a quick glimpse of it though, as Jack leaned forward and swallowed Daniel whole, making a loud sighing groan as no doubt, the taste and scent of his lover hit him right behind the balls.

Jethro watched for a few moments as Jack sucked and licked the straining cock like a lolly, while the one hand that Gibbs could see began to delicately fondle the high tight balls nestling closely under Jack’s chin. Jethro’s hand grasped at his own cock and he began to squeeze gently and rhythmically, more to tease than arouse, his breathing getting faster and lighter as the tension began to grow.

Abruptly Daniel pushed Jack’s head away, causing the other man to look up in dazed surprise. Daniel said a few words too quietly for Jethro to hear and then the two men moved position, with Jack being helped to his feet by his lover. They stepped out of line of sight, and Gibbs tried not to be too disappointed that his voyeuristic tendencies were not going to be indulged any longer.

He had no inclination to stop the movement of his fingers, and rolled over onto his belly, trapping his hand and his now copiously leaking cock beneath him. He pulled forward a favourite memory of Tony, tall and golden under the shower, his head thrown back as he pleasured himself. It was a reminiscence of the first time they’d ever acknowledged the heat that passed between them, and Gibbs had simply watched as Tony jerked himself to orgasm, his bright green eyes holding Gibbs’ gaze the whole time. It had been unbelievably hot, and had marked the beginning of their emotional journey together.

Gibbs was starting to push into his hand and the mattress, moaning quietly as the tension began to rise, when he heard the soft shush as the door to his room was pushed open. Turning his head, he saw Daniel silhouetted in the doorway.

“You wanna come join us, LJ?”

Did he? The idea was a real turn on and his cock gave a lurch, which he staved off with a quick tightening of his fist. The thought of lying with the two of them, maybe being fucked by Jack while he fucked Daniel, was certainly a pleasant one. But then Tony’s big green eyes flashed in his mind’s eye, which jolted Jethro a little.

“I…Tony’s alive here. It would feel like…”

“No, no. I understand that. It would feel like cheating if you came to be with us without his permission, or if both of you were willingly in our bed…”

Jethro’s cock really loved that idea. It harked back to his initial fantasy of Tony and Danny together. He was so turned on he couldn’t speak, so he just nodded once.

“You don’t have to be in bed with us tonight, Jethro. But you don’t have to be alone either. We have an oversized armchair in the bedroom. The door is open if you wanna watch.”

Daniel turned to leave, and it was then Gibbs realised the other man was completely naked. His erection was almost flat to his stomach and his ass…oh god his ass was gorgeous; high and round. What would it be like to see Jack buried in that, or to watch it flex as he fucked Jack into the mattress.

Giving the head of his cock a sharp pinch to temper his arousal, Jethro turned to face the doorway. Daniel was waiting there and he had to think the turn had been for effect. This man was everything Jack said he was and more; a sensual incubus with a sirens call.

“OK,” he managed, his voice husky with arousal, his libido making a decision that his mind couldn’t – or wouldn’t.

“Good,” Daniel breathed out, and it was almost like a moan. He stepped away from the door and across the hall into the master bedroom. Not wanting to waste any time, Jethro pulled the tee over his head and stepped out of the cotton boxers, before following Danny.

The bed was even bigger than the one in his room, its covers folded back neatly to the footboard. Jack was sprawled, looking thoroughly debauched already, with several big purple bites littering his neck and chest. His big cock was steady leaking pre-come onto his belly as he languorously stroked along the length. He gave Jethro a welcoming smile.

The room had a gas fireplace that looked like a real wood fire. It was burning brightly, giving the otherwise dark room a warm glow which reflected over Daniel’s golden skin, almost mimicking the aureate intensity of his ascended form. The chair was huge, big enough to take two grown men, and Jethro made a mental note to get one for his and Tony’s bedroom as soon as possible. The options it gave for any number of positions was infinite. It was draped in a white cotton sheet. They’d obviously expected him to say yes.

“Get comfortable, LJ.” Daniel murmured. “Then we’ll get started.”

Jethro moved to sit in the chair, but before he could settle, Daniel had stepped up to him and kissed him full on the lips. At the same time, he drew a single fingertip up Gibbs’ length, almost causing him to come. Jethro let out an explosive cry, of negation and pleasure, almost afraid that just one touch from the other man had been enough to end everything. But Daniel moved away, with an apologetic smirk and knee walked over the bed to lie completely on top of Jack.

They kissed and writhed for long seconds, Jethro panting to keep himself from coming too soon. He might not feel able to join in, but he could surely enjoy the show they were obviously willing to give him.

“Tell us what you want, Jethro,” Daniel breathed, while Jack looked over at him with lust soaked eyes. “We’ll do whatever you want.”

“Anything?” Gibbs voice was heavy with arousal. He dropped down onto the chair and shifted to place one leg across the padded arm, while leaving the other foot flat on the floor. He heard Jack groan and he knew his position gave the men on the bed an intimate and unimpeded view. His cock lurched at the thought of being seen as well as seeing them and his balls felt heavy as they dragged against the cool cotton.

“What do you want?” Daniel repeated, breathily.

“I want to hear you both,” Jethro answered, not needing to think. Sound was a big turn on for him and Tony had often accused him of liking aural sex.

Daniel trailed his fingers along Jack’s inner thigh. Jethro knew that was a real hotspot for the other man and Jack’s vocalisations were proof of that. “Like that?”

“Yeah, and talking too,” he replied, “The dirtier the better.”

“Oh I can do dirty,” Daniel chuckled darkly. “You want me to fuck him?”

O’Neill’s long moan told Gibbs that the Jack thought that was an amazing idea, and by the jet of pre-come from his own cock, so did Jethro. “Yeah, I want that. I want to see you buried in him, face to face.”

Gibbs didn’t know where that particular visual came from but he wanted it like burning. He had to pull down sharply on his balls to stop just the idea of it making him come.

There were no more questions from Daniel to Jethro. He turned to his lover and began to play him like an instrument, drawing sounds from him that Jethro had never heard Jack make before, all of them overwhelmingly arousing.

“I’m gonna fuck you, General. Fill you up with my come and then lick it out of you, before I even let you think about coming. And LJ’s gonna be stroking that luscious cock of his, watching you being reamed by my big prick, watching it stretch you wide. When things have all been settled and Tony is back with us, then the four of us are gonna be in this big bed. Four cocks, O’Neill…maybe we’ll slide two of them in your ass while one more is fucking your mouth.”

Jack’s cry of yes was ecstatic. Jethro had no idea his friend had such fantasies and just the idea of it made his own balls draw up tightly.

“And I won’t let you come. We’ll all come all over you while you’re tied up in that leather and steel ring you love so much.”

While he was talking, Daniel was moving over Jack, his fingers sliding up and down Jack’s crack, teasing his hole and dipping fingertips inside. It was already glistening with lube and Jethro guessed that Jack had taken care of it before they’d invited him in.

“You been using that big dildo I bought you while I’ve been gone, dreaming it was me deep inside you? Are you all ready to take me, General?” Daniel’s voice caressed the appellation of Jack’s rank with a purr.

“Yes,” Jack hissed as Jackson shoved two fingers unceremoniously inside him.

Gibbs could hardly stop his hands from trembling. He needed lube, wanted to feel the touch of a finger around his own asshole. “Slick?” he croaked out.

“On the floor by the chair,” Daniel replied, his voice shaking with unsuppressed lust.

Gibbs reached down and found the small bottle of lube that had been left out for him. He coated his trembling fingers and, after smoothing a little over his aching length, reached under his balls to circle his own pucker.

Back on the bed, Jack was wanton, writhing on Daniel’s fingers – four of them now, sliding roughly inside him. “Gonna be inside you soon, baby. Gonna fuck you so good, you’ll feel me tomorrow as you sit in that big leather chair in the Pentagon. I might even send you to work plugged to keep all my come in you, while your favourite ring squeezes your cock tight. Then I’ll make sure I have to drop in the office for a few minutes and watch you as you squirm, desperate to come. I could jack off in the visitor’s chair with my back to the door and no one would ever know. But you’d know, wouldn’t you…”

Gibbs was moaning loudly at the pictures Daniel painted with words; dirty, filthy words. His own cock was streaming pre-come that was adding to the slick slide of his hand, while he teased himself with a single finger pressing firmly on his prostate. His eyes followed every move as Daniel withdrew his fingers from Jack and grabbed hold of the backs of his knees, pulling the other man’s thighs over his own. With a single perfect thrust he was inside, and buried to the hilt in his lover. Jethro couldn’t help but cry out at the sight of Daniel pounding into Jack. The full globes of his ass flexed and swelled, just as he knew they would and it was almost too much. He was desperate to come, but didn’t want the vision in front of him to end.

It was obvious Daniel was close, after all it’d been a while for him and Jack, and he’d been teasing all of them with his words and actions, for almost an hour. His strokes soon became erratic and he reached down for Jack’s thick cock, which was almost purple with arousal.  At the first stroke Jack’s face contorted with pure pleasure.  Jethro would know that look anywhere. Jack was teetering right at the edge.

It seemed like they were all joined by an invisible thread that pulled Jethro’s orgasm out of him at exactly the same time as the men on the bed. Come boiled over his fist and he felt his hole tighten harshly around his finger as Daniel’s triumphant cry of completion joined Jack’s, which could only be described as a wail.

Suddenly the room seemed to be smothered in silence, punctuated only by the rasp of heavy breathing as they all rode the aftershocks of their orgasm. Daniel was the first to move, walking unsteadily to the en suite. He returned with a warm damp face cloth for Jethro and one for himself and Jack. They all slowly cleaned up, the two men on the bed murmuring endearments as they smoothed the cloth over each other’s trembling bodies.

Gibbs began to feel like an interloper in the intimacy of their afterglow. With a quiet sigh, he rose from the chair, leaving the cloth on the floor, and began step out of the room.

“Jethro, hey, you don’t have to leave.” Jack’s voice was heavy with satiation.

“Yeah, I do, but thanks. This was amazing.” He stepped towards the door, feeling overwhelmed by a strange sadness.

“LJ, don’t be an idiot,” Daniel piped up, husky from all the talking he had done. “Tony wouldn’t want you to be alone and there’s lots of room.”

He’d scooted into the centre of the bed as Jack folded back the covers.

“Come on.”

For the life of him Gibbs couldn’t think of a reason not to. The heavy post-orgasmic lassitude was making his limbs ache for sleep, and he really didn’t want to be alone.

With a small smile he slipped into the space Daniel had made for him. Jethro spooned into Daniel who in turn curled into Jack and their warm bodies and even breathing soon began to lull him to sleep.

“It’ll be OK, LJ. It’ll all work out and we’ll get him back soon,” Daniel promised and somehow Gibbs couldn’t help but believe him.

*****

NCIS Building: 0543 am – CTC minus 72 hours

Walking through security and into the NCIS building was not the familiar, safe feeling he expected it to be. The guys on security wore the same faces, the walls were the same dull beige and Halloween orange, the elevator still the site of a thousand and one conversations – serious and otherwise.

But Gibbs knew something that no one currently in the building knew; that in fact only a thousand or so people on the planet knew – that there were aliens among them. He knew Ziva wouldn’t be in the office this early in the morning, meaning he had an hour or so to get his head on straight before he had to face her and her snaky parasite passenger.

There were so many ways it could all go wrong and most of them would be his fault, so he needed to bring his best game.

He was going to be on this mission alone, with only phone contact with Jackson and O’Neill, until the night before the shooting. Gibbs looked at his watch. They had exactly 72 hours before he and Jack once again had to face that clusterfuck. Only this time he clearly remembered just what Tony was to him. He gritted his teeth against the growing grief, the tension almost too much to bear.

As was his wont, he called in at the coffee kiosk for a cup of his usual Joe. The barista was pleasant and made small talk about the news of a minor celebrity being caught in flagrante with a Republican senator. Jethro was never so glad that his normal morning conversation with the girl was usually a grunt and ‘Thanks’ as he took the oversized cup from her, as he had no idea what that particular morning’s news had been. That was an oversight on his part, as he always read the paper with his first coffee of the day.

The coffee this morning had been…unbelievable. Jack had told him that Daniel was a coffee snob, but the rich dark brew he’d been handed when he stumbled to the breakfast table had been beyond good. Danny had given him a smug smile, a bone melting kiss, and then pushed a pound bag of the beans into Jethro’s duffel before they left the penthouse.

He wasn’t sure what to make of Daniel’s overtures. There was a part of him that thought he was being comforted, especially as Daniel had been the one to break the news about Tony’s fate and Jethro’s part in it.

However, his gut told him that wasn’t the case at all. Both Daniel and Jack had kept talking about how they would all sleep together when Tony ‘got back from Glowy Land’ as Jack put it.

After watching them in bed together, Gibbs could only find one reason not to be tempted – Tony.

He wasn’t sure how the other man would feel about a foursome and he’d said so. Jack just gave him smirk and a knowing look, and refused to follow up, much to Jethro’s chagrin. He supposed he’d have to play it by ear.

Wanting to do a recce before entering the bullpen, he rode the elevator the extra floor and ended up on the mezzanine outside the Directors office. He was about to lean on the rail and look over into the bullpen when a voice made him turn.

“Hi, Agent Gibbs.”

“Angela. You’re in early this morning.”

Jethro was on pretty good terms with Jen’s secretary. Her willingness to sometimes turn a blind eye helped with his penchant for just strolling in unannounced, and she had passed leave forms and expenses dockets under the radar for him on occasions. Within the capacity of her duties, he knew he could trust her to have his six.

“How’s your mom?”

The middle-aged woman sighed deeply. “Not good. The doctors say there is nothing they can do now, so it’s a waiting game. She’s coming up for 80 and says she feels like she’s done everything she wanted to, so we’re all trying to be content, but it’s hard.”

Gibbs squeezed her arm and nodded. “Yeah, it’s always hard to lose someone you love, no matter when it happens.”

He cleared his throat, trying to move the lump that seemed to be lodged there. He couldn’t afford that kind of emotion, not now and definitely not here.

“You’re not getting that virus too are you? Agent DiNozzo has been suffering for a few days now.”

Jethro caught himself before he could look concerned. The Gibbs of this time would have had something suitably vicious to say…

“If he didn’t spend all his off-duty time in smoky clubs he wouldn’t have a problem.”

Angela gave him a slightly sharp look but then seemed to decide not to get into a discussion about trivial things, for which Gibbs was grateful.

“Did you want to see the Director, only she’s not back in the office for a couple of days? She did tell me I could call her cell if you specifically needed to speak with her, but otherwise she’s unavailable.”

Angela transferred her bag from her shoulder to her hand and leaned forward to let the beam of the iris scanner shine into her eye.

‘Yeah, I bet she’d break into her leave to ‘speak with me’, Jethro thought wryly, as the door to Shepard’s office slid open.  “Nah, it’s OK. I just wanted to run something past her. It’ll wait.”

With a bright smile the secretary passed through the door and into the outer office. “Well if you’re sure. You have a good day, Agent Gibbs.”

“I’m sure. Thanks, Angela.”

The door slid closed as Gibbs turned to lean on the railing. As his eyes skimmed the large open plan office area, his breath caught in his throat. There, huddled behind his desk, with his jacket pillowing his head was Tony. Jethro’s heart began to race and he gripped the brass railing tightly as he fought the impulse to say ‘Fuck it all – Fuck the aliens, and Stargate Command, and the bastard Ascended Ancients’, to run down the stairs, gather Tony up and take him far away from Ziva and her alien passenger.

For a few moments he couldn’t think of any reason why he should let his husband die again; die not knowing that Jethro was now fully cognisant of everything they were to one another. He reached down to touch his watch, the cool metal having become a kind of touchstone for him over the past months, giving him great comfort. But he quickly realised he’d left it locked safely away in his house, as he couldn’t let Tony see him wearing it. His old military issue watch with its leather strap just didn’t have the same ambience, and he wondered if it was more the words engraved inside the band than the object which eased his mind.

Before he could act he told himself to remember the reports that Jack had shown him – Top Secret missives from thousands of Light Years away. Reports that told of the battle raging in the Pegasus galaxy and the fears of the military CO and his Head of Science, that it was getting harder and harder to hold the Gate on Atlantis. If the mission there failed, then Earth would be wide open for invasion by the Wraith and all the horrors that would bring.

Except Dr Jackson was sure that somehow Tony was important in the fight to stop the worst case scenario happening.

Over and above his love for Daniel, Jack also trusted him, and Gibbs trusted Jack. Jethro didn’t know what form this fight would take, but he knew he would be right alongside his Tony when it happened.

He took a sip of his coffee and it was stone cold. He’d been standing there too long, and for the sake of the mission he couldn’t afford to do anything too much out of the ordinary.

He checked his watch and found it was nearly 0700. Ziva would be arriving in the next hour, and he wanted as long as possible with Tony before he had to split his concentration between the two Agents.

He strolled down the staircase, in his usual stealth mode, but Tony was already stirring and had hauled himself into his chair. He couldn’t have looked further from his usual put together self,

Hair awry, shirt creased and half pulled out, his eyes were red rimmed, and by the dark scruff on his jaw it was obvious he hadn’t shaved at all over the weekend.

Gibbs had to look away for a moment as he recognised he was the reason for that unkempt look. He didn’t think he could feel any guiltier, but the expression of deep pain that skittered across Tony’s face when he caught sight of Gibbs, was another nail in his gut.

He knew he should make a snide comment, it was expected of him, but his mouth was so dry it was impossible to speak. He turned his back on Tony and strode to his desk, throwing his coffee cup into the waste bin and stowing his gun to give him time to get his equilibrium back.

“Morning, Boss.” Tony’s voice was hoarse and it sounded as if it was painful to speak.

“You spend the night here, DiNozzo, or are we just a stop off point between one night stands?” Jethro snapped, the words so difficult to get out that it almost hurt.

Jethro’s gut turned over as he watched the words hit home and Tony covered the flash of pain in his eyes by turning his head and running his hands through his hair, trying and failing to get it in some semblance of order.

“No, Boss. I couldn’t sleep. So I came in about 4 am, to look over the overnight reports on those BOLO’s we have out on the Peterson case.”

Angela was right’, Gibbs thought, ‘his throat does sound sore’.

“You’d better get yourself cleaned up and ready to work – ASAP; either that or go home.”

Tony stood immediately and opened the draw of his file cabinet, pulling out a neatly folded pile of clothes and a wash bag.

“Fifteen minutes, DiNozzo,” Jethro growled as Tony passed his desk on the way to the head.

“Yes, Boss,” Tony croaked dutifully.

As Tony left the bullpen, Jethro bit back a curse as the faint odour of stale alcohol drifted to his nose, along with the more pleasant and welcome scent of Tony’s cologne. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eye sockets trying to stave off an incipient headache. Tony had obviously been drinking heavily last night. Jethro recalled he’d mentioned his drinking in the last video message…

“I’m drinking a bit too much, and without you here to nag me, it’s getting harder to resist.”

Suddenly Gibbs got an idea that would help him to quietly begin his campaign of change with regard to his interactions with Tony. He quickly rifled through his bottom desk drawer until he found a medium sized plastic sandwich box. He pulled off the lid, and there inside were a myriad of over the counter medicines. The small distinctive jar of Tiger Balm Red, a few blister packs of Tylenol and Advil, an almost depleted tube of Neosporin and a package of anti-bacterial wound wipes. He lifted a new plastic container of Band-Aids and found what he was looking for – a blister pack of Cepacol Extra Strength Lozenges.

Tony had put the box together for him not long after they had got together. Jethro was always complaining about having to go out to pick up headache medicine, or to the First Aid station for a simple waterproof adhesive bandage to cover a deep paper cut.

The strange thing was, he had been in that same drawer since his return from Mexico and he’d never even given the box a thought. For someone as obsessively neat and observant as he was, especially about his own work space, the box had never even got a second look.

Keeping back a strip of the Tylenol and the Cepacol, he put the other medication in the box and pushed it back into the drawer. With a quick look to make sure Tony was not anywhere in sight, he pulled out the bottom drawer of his own file cabinet. There under a pile of old file jackets, was his own little secret stash. Glass bottles of lemon juice and tabasco, a small pile of salt sachets and several single serving cans of soda water. It never did for his team to know when he was hung over, and to his continued surprise, Tony’s patented method really worked.

He placed the bottles on the desk and moved things around in the drawer until he found a plastic tumbler – the kind motels used in bathrooms. With the ease of familiarity, he combined a sachet of salt, the can of soda water, five drops of tabasco and a good shake of lemon juice. He stirred them together thoroughly with the end of a pencil and then stepped across the bullpen to place the drink, pills and throat lozenges on Tony’s desk.

Jethro kept his head down and feigned being busy as DiNozzo stepped back into the bullpen, looking much tidier, although the bags under his eyes and the red rims spoke to many sleepless nights and too much Scotch. How he’d not noticed that the first time around, Gibbs couldn’t work out.

He watched out of the corner of his eye as Tony came to a halt in front of his own desk and immediately noticed the new additions.

“Erm, Boss…Did you see who put these on my desk?”

“Nobody here but me, DiNozzo.”

Gibbs had to work to put the expected growl in his voice.

He watched as Tony picked up the cup and gave it an exploratory sniff. His eyes widened comically and he slowly walked over to Gibbs desk.

“Boss, how did you know how to make this?”

Gibbs looked up at Tony’s incredulous face, his green eyes shining with something like amazement, and it was all Jethro could do not to grab him and kiss him.

Gibbs shrugged one shoulder.

“Someone musta told me how, don’t know who. Had all the stuff in my bottom file drawer, although I’d never drink it no matter how hungover I was,” he lied.

Looking up at Tony, he made his eyes hard and narrow. “Not that I’d make a habit of coming into work hungover.”

Tony dropped his eyes in recognition of the reprimand. “Yeah, sorry about that, Boss. I’m having trouble sleeping.”

“Not my problem, DiNozzo. But my best Agent not bringing his A game ‘cause he’s hungover…That’s a problem.” He tipped his head towards Tony’s desk. “We got a problem DiNozzo.”

Tony shook his head and then winced.

‘Yeah’, thought Gibbs, ‘A lot of Scotch’.

“Well what ya waiting for. Drink it, take the Tylenol and if the lozenges don’t help your throat, then see Ducky. I want you at your best in the next hour or I’ll send you home and write you up – Understood?”

With a grimace, Tony upended the cup and swallowed it down. Remembering how awful it tasted, Gibbs almost flinched in sympathy, but instead he looked back down at the file on his desk and Tony took this as dismissal. Keeping his peripheral vision on his husband, he saw Tony give him one more assessing look before he walked back to his desk and popped out three of the headache tablets, swallowing them down with a huge swig of water from the litre bottle on his desk.

Jethro had to hide a soft smile as Tony fingered the pack of lozenges and shot a glance over to Gibbs desk. He knew that look. Tony was calculating whether it was safe to say something or if he’d get his head bitten off. In the last timeline, Tony would have kept his head down, knowing that talking to Gibbs would only bring a verbal KO. But right now DiNozzo was teetering between hope and fear. The idea that Tony would be afraid to talk to him, after all they’d been through together, made Jethro very sad, but as the other man squared his shoulders and took a deep breath, he had to admire Tony’s bravery.

“It’s called a Defibrillator,” Tony piped up, tentatively.

“What?” Gibbs made the word sound like a bark, but he looked up, schooling his face into a neutral expression, hoping it would encourage Tony to continue. ‘Come on, baby, meet me half way. Show me you haven’t given up on me yet’, he thought.

“The hangover cure. It’s called a DiNozzo Defibrillator, and I taught you how to make it.”

Gibbs frowned, playing the amnesia card for all he was worth. “Hmm, right? Well if anyone was going to teach me to make a foul concoction like that, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised it would be you, DiNozzo.”

The words were gruff and dismissive, but Tony’s face lit up as if he’d had the best of compliments. “Thanks for the lozenges, Gibbs. It’s getting better slowly, but I’ve had this sore throat since that stake-out with Ziva last week. I woke up feeling like someone had cut the back of my throat with a razor. Our little Israeli Ninja-chick however, hasn’t had a problem, so I must have been brewing the virus before that.”

Gibbs gut gave a major lurch at Tony’s explanation. This could spell trouble and that was not good, not good at all. He needed to pass the intel on to Jack and Daniel, and soon. His train of thought was interrupted by the ding of the elevator. Ziva. He flicked a glance at his watch and saw she was only seconds from being late in.

“Cutting it fine, David.”

Once again he didn’t even lift his head. He might as well start treating them more equally. Tony would appreciate the subtle change in dynamic, where Ziva and hopefully the megalomaniac snake, wouldn’t.

“How am I supposed to be on time when the imbeciles on security don’t hurry themselves,” she grumbled imperiously. “The one with the stupid face nearly saw the butt of my gun.”

Tony frowned and looked puzzled. “Frank was on this morning. He’s usually the most efficient.

“I do not know his name, only that he was behaving like a dumb-donkey.”

“A Dumb-ass, and maybe you just need to get an earlier bus, Miss Tardy Mossad.”

Although the words were playful, there was an edge to Tony’s voice that Gibbs couldn’t remember hearing at all in the first timeline.

Fuck it, if he was honest, he would have to admit that most of the time he wasn’t listening. In his past the sharp, biting comments from Ziva had been like background noise as far as he’d been concerned, and there’d been no recognition at all of how it had affected Tony, much to Gibbs’ shame.

“Quit jawing and let’s get some work done. McGee is still out at Norfolk, looking into records on their system that can’t be remote accessed. Ziva, go down to Abby and find out what the timescale is for turning round the evidence we brought back yesterday.”

Ziva flicked a hard glance at first Tony and then Gibbs. “Is it not Tony’s role to run around the building pretending to work? I have my report to write.”

Fear of pushing the alien inside his Agent too hard vied with the need to respond in an expected way. A voice in his head that sounded like Daniel told him to just be himself. Normality won out and he turned a flinty gaze on the woman.

“I told you to go to Abbey’s lab not T…DiNozzo. Your report should have been completed before you went home last night. That won’t be happening again.”

The female agent glared at him, and Gibbs swore he caught a flash of gold in her eyes. He shut down the little trickle of fear that ran down his spine and glared at her.

“Why are you still here, did I not make myself clear?”

With a huff she slammed her backpack down on the desk and flounced out of the bullpen. Without thinking, Jethro rolled his eyes, and just caught the flash of surprise in Tony’s expression before he schooled it.

“How ‘bout me, Boss.”

“Your head clear now?”

“Yep, clear as a bell and ready for action.” The red rimmed eyes still spoke to bone deep tiredness, but Gibbs could see Tony’s gaze was more acute.

“Well get back to those overnight reports. I’m going on a coffee run. If McGee gets back before me, then Ziva can help him build the timeline for the wife’s spending for the three weeks before Peterson came home on shore leave.”

“It was her, Boss. I’m sure of it.”

Gibbs stopped in front of Tony’s desk, and the other man looked up at him in pleased surprise. Jethro thought it was probably the first civil conversation they’d had in several weeks. He tapped on the file in front of Tony, their fingers tantalisingly close enough to touch.

“Then get me proof, DiNozzo,” he said as he carried on to the elevator.

Just before the doors closed he called over, “I think it was her, too.”

Tony’s ‘Yes, Boss’, was accompanied by an incandescent smile that warmed Jethro all the way to the coffee stand.

*****

The parking lot was quiet at this time of day. Most of the agents and ancillary workers had only just arrived at work and were busy at their desks planning out their days – or at least they should be. It was also the ideal time and place to call Jack. He pressed #1 and waited as the call rang out.

Well that was fast.” O’Neill’s voice was slightly muffled, although he wasn’t whispering.

“I can call back later, but I didn’t think this could would wait for our scheduled contact time.”

Gibbs leaned against a pillar under a security camera, knowing the next nearest one would pick up that he was there, but anyone watching would not be able to read his lips.

“That sounds ominous. I have a meeting in…Fuck, three minutes, but Danny is here. So if I have to leave I’ll hand you over to him. Is that OK?”

“No problem, but you might want to put this on speaker, if you can.”

There was a small hiatus consisting of muffled cursing and then he heard the smooth voice of Dr Jackson. “Hey, LJ. What’s up?”

Gibbs couldn’t help but smile. He didn’t know why but Daniel just affected him that way.

“I’ve made first contact with both marks,” he said, falling back into mission mode as it seemed the most expedient. “Good first interaction with AJD and fuck, I must have shit all over him from a great height considering the way he reacted to the minute bit of sugar I gave him this morning. It was no more than any half-decent boss would have done after all.”

He couldn’t help the self-recrimination he felt and it must have come over in his tone, because Daniel reacted quickly.

“You’re making it right, LJ. He won’t hold it against you, I promise. By the time this is all over he’ll understand it – he’ll understand everything.”   

“OK, I’ll try not to beat myself up too much, but it’s hard. It was all I could do not to…”

“God, Jethro. I can’t begin to know how hard this must be for you.”

“If you two have finished with the therapy session, I’d like to know why LJ is calling us only three hours after we dropped him at his house. I have literally 90 seconds before my XO is going to be calling me for a meeting.” Jack’s tone was all Major General and Gibbs couldn’t help but respond reflexively.

“Sorry, Si…JJ.”

He heard Daniel snort in the background, and Jethro couldn’t help a wry grin to himself at the slip. He’d never called Jack ‘Sir’, even though O’Neill had always been ahead of him in rank.

“He told me that he’s had a killer sore throat since the stake-out with ZD, which is where we assume she was introduced to her resident serpent. I remembered that the mouth is where it slithered from after she was eliminated and it made my gut itch.”

Shit, LJ, you’re right to be concerned. I can’t be certain without actually examining his throat, but it certainly sounds like the bastard may have tried to infest him first, but something stopped him.” Daniel sounded incredulous. “It’s something we’ll need to look into after this mission is complete. There are so few Goa’uld left it would be pretty academic, but interesting nevertheless.”

“I told him to go see Ducky. Is that going to cause a problem? Do you want me to rescind that order?”

It would probably be best,” Jack replied gravely. “The Duck man is too good a forensic investigator not to see how anomalous the injury will be. He’d keep digging away until I had to get heavy, and he’d the last person I’d want to do that to.”

“Well, AJ won’t go if I don’t push, so if I seem to forget it, he’ll no doubt conveniently forget too.”

Gibbs heard the familiar sound of Colonel Davis’s voice, and he wasn’t surprised when Daniel came on the line a few moments later. “JJ has gone to his meeting, but I agree with what he was saying. Let’s just keep this between us and look into it when this is all over.”

“OK, no problem.”

“How you doing really, LJ?”

Gibbs was never one for talking about feelings. Damn it, he may be more gay than bi but he was still a man. However, there was something about Daniel that made you want to talk to him, and Jethro found he didn’t have any inclination to resist the pull.

“It’s so hard, DJ. I just want to hold him, you know. He looks so fucking tired and sad and I know it’s my fault.”

He heard Daniel take a breath to speak but he continued over him. “I understand what you’ve been saying, but it doesn’t stop me feeling so fucking angry with myself. Even if the amnesia took away my recall of our relationship, I have no excuses for treating him like shit.”

“Yeah, I hear ya. Just a few more hours. I promise, with everything I am, that I’ll get him back to you as quickly as I can.”

“The same day?”

“I can’t say, LJ. Time works differently there, and we’ll need to get him to a place where we can investigate whatever it is he needs to do. But I won’t let it take a moment more than it needs to. Please try to trust me.”

“I do, I really do.” And he didn’t know why, but it was true. From the first time Jethro had set eyes on him he’d known that Daniel Jackson was someone he would never need to wonder about.

“Also it struck me that we have a JJ, an LJ, a DJ and an AJ. You can’t get more synergistic than that. We’re gonna be an amazing team, Jethro, just you wait and see.”

Gibbs laughed at the other man’s enthusiasm and his whimsy, but somehow it seemed to make sense, and in a strange way it made him feel better…a lot better.

*****

NCIS Autopsy: 1426 – CTC minus 63 hours 17 minutes

“…makes you say that, Anthony?”

“I don’t know, Ducky. He just…feels different today. He made me a Defibrillator. I taught him how to make that. He remembered how to make it, just not how he knew.”

“Oh, Anthony. You promised me you would moderate your drinking, and coming into work the worse for wear is not the best way to ingratiate yourself with Jethro.”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry, Duck. It’s just so hard to go back to the house and be there without him, you know?”

“I can indeed empathise, my dear boy. The house in Reston has simply not been the same since I lost mother. But that is the cycle of life, I’m an old man after all and it was not a surprise to lose a loved one. You on the other hand have lost your loved one, only to see him every day.”

“At first I just…I thought…I hoped it would be over by now. He remembered everything else so quickly; you, Abby, even Ziva and McGee. But me…It’s like I’m a complete stranger. Ah, man…maybe I’m not worth remembering.

“Now you will cease and desist with that self-destructive train of thought. You know as well as I do, for reasons which have never been completely clear to me, that Gibbs made the decision to keep your relationship a secret from everyone. With something buried that deeply, then maybe the amnesia has caused his subconscious to keep it ‘under wraps’, as one might say.”

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t hope; that the way he spoke to me today was just an anomaly?”

“Anthony, there is always hope. Just…please moderate your reactions until you know for certain. Take special note of anything out of the ordinary over the next few days and then perhaps we should consider talking to him.”

“But you said…”

“Yes, I know I counselled that you should not reveal your status as a married couple. The way he was behaving led me to think that he would have reacted badly to that and denied it completely, despite evidence to the contrary. As we are both aware, when Jethro is cornered, he tends to dig in. I feared he would become even more intractable than normal. But time has indeed moved on without any glimmer of recognition and I think we should begin to be a little more proactive.

“I need him back, Ducky.”

“My dear, dear boy. I know you do. Take heart. He loved…he loves you very much. One only had to look at him during your wedding to know that. He’s just got a little…lost. Give it few days, keep note of anything along the same positive vein as today, and then we’ll try to give him a nudge along the right path.”

“Yeah, OK.”

“Now as much as I love to see you, did you just come down here to talk to me, or do you have an official reason…”

From his position in the corridor, Gibbs tensed. He needed to be ready to interrupt them if Tony decided to mention his sore throat.

The tiny listening bug he’d placed on the hem of Tony’s jacket was working perfectly. He wished they had access to that tech all the time, but it was invented by the head geek on Atlantis and very hush-hush. The conversation had been crystal clear, but difficult to listen to.

However, Ducky’s sage counsel had given him the ideal conditions to begin to ease his relationship with Tony; allowing him to lift his husband’s spirits without the main mission being completely blown apart, while preventing Ziva/Ba’al being clued in that Gibbs had remembered everything.

Ziva had been vicious to DiNozzo all morning, and he’d watched Tony heave a huge sigh of relief when she announced she was going out to lunch. Gibbs of course had had to make a show of reining her in, quizzing her about the status of her report and other searches. Tony had watched the verbal exchange somewhat tensely, but with a little hint of a smile.

Looking back, it must have been months since anyone other than Tony got dragged across hot coals like that, and Gibbs made sure to be just a little extra biting. He had to be careful not to go too far as he didn’t want to anger the snake too much. Jack and Daniel were concerned about the Goa’uld’s mental stability, as when combined with Ziva’s natural hot-headedness and ruthless streak, it was a potent combination. Add to that the need to keep his reactions as ‘normal’ as possible, while encouraging Tony – it was a fucking nightmare of an assignment.

Seeing Tony’s shoulders drop as she left the bullpen made Jethro wrack his brains for a reason to get her out of the office for the rest of the day. For once, luck was on his side, when a call from McGee, asking for help going through some physical records at the Norfolk personnel office, gave the ideal opportunity to send her out again. Ziva hadn’t bothered to fight him on it, which Gibbs counted as a win. It was unlikely either she or McGee would be back that day, so he could mark off one day where any interactions with her, and her psychopath passenger were over.

He’d been hard at work – there was still a crime to investigate, even though he knew where it was going to lead – when he noticed Tony leaving the bullpen. He didn’t make a fuss – the guy could have been going to the head after all. But just in case, he’d flicked on the receiver for the bug and situated the tiny earwig. He’d quickly realised that Tony was in Autopsy, and given his conversation with Gibbs earlier, it stood to reason that for once in his life, DiNozzo would decide to do what Jethro had told him to.

Which was what had brought him to his position in the corridor outside Autopsy.

“…had a sore throat, but it feels much better now. I think I was a little dehydrated from the booze and sleeping in the office. The aircon is on in there all the time. I’ve been mainlining water and the hangover cure has balanced my electrolytes.”

“Well if you’re sure. If the discomfort continues for another day or so, then I shall expect you back here, do you hear me young man?”

“I hear ya. And Ducky, thanks. I don’t know what I’d’ve done without you over the last six months.”

“You are very welcome, Anthony. Jethro is not the only one who cares about you, you know.”

Gibbs didn’t know quite what, but he was going to have to do something really nice for the old ME. The man had been a rock for Tony and had firmly, and quite rightly, put Jethro in his place in the old timeline. Maybe a trip to Scotland would be a start.

The hiss of the doors had him stepping out of the hallway and striding towards Autopsy as if that was where he’d been heading all along. He’d made a fine art out of keeping tabs on his Agents and was very rarely caught. As Tony gave a little start of surprise when he saw him, it seemed he’d pulled it off yet again.

With a quick assessing glance, he took in the slightly glassy eyes and a darker bottom lip, which spoke to Tony’s emotional state. He often abused his lip with his teeth, usually when he was trying to hold in anger or upset.

“Ducky have anything for us, DiNozzo?

“I came down to see him about my throat. He doesn’t think there’s anything to worry about, but I have to go back in a day or so if it doesn’t get better.”

Tony’s ability to extemporise was what made him the exemplary undercover operative he undoubtedly was. A little bit of truth in your lie added to the ring of legitimacy.

“Hmm,” Jethro nodded. “You’re still looking like a stiff wind’ll blow you down. You still hungover?” He made the question harder than he really wanted to.

“No, Je…Boss. Just tired I guess.”

Jethro noticed the slip, but made no indication that he had. “Did you eat your sandwich?”

Ziva had bought them all lunch back at Gibbs’ insistence.

“Not yet. Stomach was a bit off earlier,” Tony replied with a little grimace.

Gibbs waved the file he had in his hand. “I need to give this to Ducky. Grab my burrito for me and bring it to the break room. I’ll get us some coffee.”

He stood calmly as Tony’s eyes raked across his face. Gibbs knew what he was looking for, but couldn’t give it to him, not quite yet. The green eyes were dulled with fatigue and the aftereffects of too much alcohol. A longing rose up in Jethro to see them limned with their usual gold flecks and sparkling with laughter.

Knowing the moment was stretching out too long, he raised one eyebrow and waved a hand in the direction of the elevator. “Well go on then, you can’t expect lunchtime to last all afternoon.”

He saw Tony’s hand begin to rise, seemingly beyond his control, until the younger man realised what he was doing and with a studied ease changed direction in an instant, and drew it through his own hair.

“On it, Boss.”

As he watched him trot to the elevator, Gibbs knew Tony’s impulse had been to touch him, to make sure he was real…

As he made his own hand relax from a fist, he could completely understand, because that was his impulse too.

*****

NCIS Breakroom 1446 – CTC minus 62 hours 57 minutes

“…And there are so few of my frat available this year we’ve decided not to take a trip this Spring Break.”

Gibbs watched with relief as Tony devoured his Thanksgiving sandwich. Before he sat down at the small table in the breakroom, he’d taken off his jacket and it was obvious from the way his shirt hung on him that he had lost a lot of weight.

In Jethro’s estimation he was almost back to just-post-plague proportions, which was not good… not good at all. He was surprised Ducky hadn’t been on Tony’s case about it, but then remembered that in his farewell message he’d mentioned not wanting to worry the old man. Gibbs hadn’t been on his case to get checked out, and he definitely wouldn’t go on his own.

So there would have been no one to notice – another negative check mark for Gibbs.

“You do that every year, go away with your brothers?”

Tony seemed surprised Jethro was joining the conversation, but smiled as he shook his head.

“No…I…I’ve had a few years where I didn’t. A couple of times we were working unexpectedly and one year I was on…erm…I took a driving holiday down the Pacific Coast Highway.”

‘On our honeymoon’, Gibbs thought. ‘And even when it was just the two of us like this you weren’t allowed to talk about it here. Well that’s gonna change’.

Jethro covered his inner monologue with a knowing nod, and decided to start the next phase. “That is a gorgeous drive. There’s a seafood restaurant in…Carmel, does great King Crab.”

Eyes wide, Tony put his sandwich down on its paper in slow motion. He reached out for his coffee and took a sip, obviously hoping to look relaxed, but failing dismally to cover his rising excitement.

“Oh, yeah. I think I know that place. When did you go, Boss? Was it recently?”

Jethro opened his mouth and then closed it again, frowning in feigned concentration.

“Not sure.”

He let out a little growl of frustration.

“Don’t push it, Gibbs. If it’s important, you’ll remember it eventually.”

He hated the tremor of disappointment in Tony’s voice. How must it feel to know your husband can’t remember your honeymoon – can’t even remember he is your husband.

“It’s like when video tape gets stretched…you know those fuzzed out sections that jump the film forward,” Jethro explained as he rubbed his eyes, more to cover how much this deception was costing him than to make that same deception look real.

“I know I went there. I can see the restaurant. But then I get the feeling I wasn’t alone. I haven’t been on a vacation for years and the last vacation I had was to Hawaii. I went to Pearl Harbour and. I was definitely alone then.”

Tony dipped his head. “Yeah, I remember you said you visited the Missouri. That must have been intense.”

‘Good boy, Tony. Just a little more, baby’. Gibbs knew he was pushing the envelope, but it was good to see his lover relaxing, and it felt so amazing to be reminiscing with him, after all those nights of empty memories – for both of them.

“So I told you about that?”

They had talked about it of course. It was during what Jethro now thought of as their first date, and the same night he had walked in on Tony in the shower.

His lover covered well, but Gibbs could tell he was startled by the way the conversation had taken on a more personal tenor.

“Well…erm…yeah. We talked about it one night, over beer and cowboy steaks.”

“I made you cowboy steaks?” Jethro made his tone surprised and assessing.

“Yeah, Gibbs.”

Tony kept his eyes fixed on the remnants of his sandwich, but Gibbs caught the bob of his throat as he swallowed hard.

Jethro got up and threw his empty coffee cup and burrito wrapper in the waste bin. When he turned back, Tony was still at the table. Their eyes met and although he locked it down quickly, Tony’s initial gaze was infused with longing and a little bit of fear. Gibbs didn’t acknowledge either emotion, but as he left the room he said quietly.

“Maybe we should do it again soon.”

He walked away, so couldn’t see Tony’s reaction. But over the earwig he heard a wet chuckle and a sniffle as Tony murmured, “God, Jet. Please, please remember…I need you, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out.”

Gibbs ducked into the head and locked the door on the cubicle. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes as he listened to Tony cry softly, knowing he could shut the receiver off, but feeling like he should suffer along with his husband.

He deserved that and more.

*****

Arlington VA: 1850 – CTC minus 59 hours 53 minutes

His house was cold and dark. He hadn’t even bothered to light the fire. It felt like too much comfort. Jethro knew he was punishing himself, but the day had been too long and too fraught with emotion for him to fight the impulse to castigate himself for his past behaviour. He had a good idea that tonight was the night Tony had made the DVD of his last requests. Had he already changed things enough that Tony would not leave a message filled with so much hopelessness?

He’d left the office after Tony and had been so out of it that he’d found himself on the road to 2447 Willowbrook, and not his own house. The temptation to just carry on driving and spend the night outside the high wrought iron gates was almost overpowering.

But he soon realised there could be any number of reasons why it wasn’t a good idea – the greatest of which was Ziva David. They had no idea just how much the Goa’uld Ba’al was involved in the scheme to keep Tony from ascending.

So he’d come back to his old house, and was sitting on his old couch, still in his winter coat and boots. There was nothing here for him anymore, and he was finding it hard to remember what had motivated him to keep it.

The generic Nokia ringtone from the burn phone disturbed his contemplative mood.

“Yeah, Gibbs,” he answered tiredly.

“Hey, LJ. Sounds like it was a difficult day.”

“Hey, Danny. And that’s an understatement.”

Gibbs rested his head on the back of the couch and felt a wash of exhaustion flood over him.

“You got anything new, Gibbs?” Jack’s greeting was less comforting, more official.

“Not really. The snake seems to be coping pretty well – in that I didn’t get shot today, although I was my usual charming self.”

“Good, that’s good,” Jack started.

“But you be careful,” Daniel interrupted. “By the time we met it in the last timeline it was pretty much insane.”

“Yeah, with all the ‘Kneel for your God’ stuff.”

“Well no, actually that’s pretty normal for them.”

Gibbs snorted and began to laugh at the absurdity of a megalomaniacal parasitical snake. Emotions he hadn’t let himself feel over the day soon turned it from laughter to strangled sobs.

“I gotta go.”

“Oh, no you don’t. LJ Gibbs you will stay on the line and talk to me!” Daniel snapped, his tone brooking no argument. “Give me one minute.”

Gibbs pressed the phone to his ear, and from the muffled rise and fall of voices there was a very one-sided, but passionate argument going on. True to his word it was only a minute or so later that Daniel came back on the line.

“Come back to the penthouse, LJ. It was stupid to expect you to cope with this on your own, especially when you’ve had to face seeing Tony, and also deal with the possibility that Ziva’s gonna blow at any point.”

“Listen, it’s just a release of tension. I’ll be fine. You guys need time together…”

The couple hadn’t had more than a few minutes alone together since Jack and Jethro had come back in time, and Gibbs didn’t need any more guilt. What he already had was weighing on him enough.

“Don’t be an idiot. I’m worried about you, Jethro. Besides, Jack has a late session in Paris with the International Oversight Advisory. The guys from France get pissed if they miss any sleep so I’m gonna be on my own most of the night anyway. Is there an overnight parking lot near to the Navy Yard?”

Jethro wasn’t sure why he needed to know, but wracked his brains for the answer.

“Yeah, about ten minutes away.”

“Can you get yourself over there in the next 20 minutes?”

“Yeah, but Daniel…”

“Just shut up, LJ and do what he says. It’s quicker and far less painful for everyone that way…OUCH! … See!”

“OK, I’m on my way.”

“Call me when you get there and the Apollo can pick you up after they beam Jack up. You can get a cab to the lot in the morning and pick up your car.”

“Wait, they’re beaming Jack to Paris, France?” Getting to the other side of the world in seconds gave a whole new meaning to intercontinental travel.

“Yeah, they do it all the time. On a positive note, it won’t be Abbott in the centre seat at this time of night, so neither of you will have to deal with his pissy, overbearing, homophobic ass. Why he hasn’t been demoted for conduct unbecoming I’ll never know…”

Gibbs had to grin as Daniel’s muttering was silenced again when Jack commandeered the cell. “He’s right though. I am considering kicking his butt planetside. Anyhoo…get your butt…your gorgeous butt Danny says…in the truck and over here, before my better half spontaneously combusts.”

“Sir, Yes Sir!”

“Oh fuck you too!”

*****

Penthouse #1 3150 South Street DC: 1925 – CTC minus 59 hours 18 minutes.

He was warm for the first time in hours, comfortably wrapped in a thick towelling bathrobe after taking a stress relieving shower, and now had a cup of the most decadent black coffee known to the civilized world…complete with a measure of bourbon.

Life actually looked much better from this viewpoint.

“You sure must’ve given some great libations to the coffee gods, DJ.” Gibbs sighed as he sipped the steaming beverage.

“Ah well, that is really a very serious coffee. Don’t tell Jack, but the beans cost…well a lot.”

Gibbs looked into the cup and inhaled the fragrant steam.

“I don’t care. I usually drink Marine Coffee, which’ll eat your spoon if you leave it in the cup. But I think this stuff could convert me to spending a little money. Anyway, according to Tony, we’re richer than Rockefeller.” He snorted. “Well maybe not that rich, but his dad left him over $15 mill in his will, the house in NoVa must be worth 9 or 10, and the Ferrari’s paid for. The real estate price rises in Virginia mean if we sold my house we could add another 1.5 to that at least. So yeah, I could afford some of this.”

He lifted his cup to Daniel who grinned back and clinked his own mug against it.

“Why have you still got your house, LJ? It’s not like you need it and you obviously weren’t renting it while you were in Mexico.”

Daniel shuffled down in his seat and leaned companionably against Jethro rolling his head against the back of the couch to look at him.

Sighing, Gibbs shrugged his free shoulder.

“I was asking myself the same question earlier today. The house…Ya see, I was married, shit, several times before Tony. My first wife and child were killed by a drug dealer. That was the house we all lived in together.”

Daniel reached across and linked his fingers with Jethro’s. It felt comfortable, non-sexual and totally unpressured, and Gibbs appreciated the gentle touch.

“I lost my wife too – it was another Goa’uld called Apophis. He made her his consort and I spent years trying to find her again. When we did, it was too late,” Daniel sighed

The knowledge that Daniel understood what he’d been through helped Jethro continue, although he felt Jackson’s sorrow through the rhythmic tensing of his hand.

“After that I married three times, all women, all red-heads like Shannon,” Jethro continued. “I don’t pretend to be emotionally aware, but even I can see that I was trying to replace her. And each of them came to live in that house. Of course it didn’t work. One of them wanted to forget Shannon and Kelly even existed; one was so busy fucking everyone else she met that she was hardly there, and the last one…well let’s say I met Tony about 6 months before we divorced.”

“So you and he had an affair?”

“No, nothing like that. I just…Oh, when you meet him you’ll see. He’s a lot like you actually. Gorgeous, funny, intelligent and brimming with life. He was never afraid of me – in that way he reminded me of Shannon. They both would stand up to me, not let me get too overbearing.”

He took another sip of his coffee, letting the rich flavour of the bourbon sooth his tight throat.

“I used Shannon and Kelly as an excuse for keeping the house and Tony let me get away with it. I’m not sure if he realised what was really going on, but if he did he never called me on it.”

Daniel turned onto his side and their faces were only inches apart. It felt intimate, and Jethro was surprised it wasn’t more discomforting, but somehow Daniel always managed to make these moments seem perfectly natural.

“What was the real reason?” he coaxed gently.

Jethro huffed out a sigh. “I was scared. And I can admit it now, although it has taken Tony dying and me getting my memory back to make me really face it. The last time I loved like this, she died…she died alone. I was deployed in the Gulf.”

A single tear rolled lazily from the corner of his eye and he didn’t move a muscle when Daniel tenderly wiped it away.

“Trying to keep our relationship quiet; almost denying our marriage? It was a defensive reflex. If I didn’t name it, then it couldn’t get taken away. Like a fucking kid closing their eyes and thinking no one can see them. It hurt Tony every minute, I know it did. I can see it in his eyes. We never had a date in this town, never kissed or held hands in public. Fuck, even our house was hidden from our friends. And never, not once did he call me out. He just let me hurt him, over and over again.”

“Jethro…”

“And then the fucking bomb takes even the miniscule amount of me I let him have,” Jethro ground out, so angry with himself. “He’s all alone in that beautiful house that screams of the two of us, and there’s only Ducky to talk to about it. If I’d just trusted in him, in us, then people would have reminded me, asked me why I was treating him that way.”

“LJ, come on…”

“And he had to fucking die, Danny. He was bleeding out at my feet and I didn’t even know to tell him he was loved. At least with Shannon I had the excuse of being 7000 miles away; at least I’d told her I adored her on the phone only the day before. But for Tony it had been months since he’d heard the words.”

He sat up, his empty cup falling from his nerveless fingers and landing with a sharp clatter on the hardwood floor. Curling his hand into a fist he brought it down hard onto his thigh.

“And all the time I was right there, hurting him with every word I said. And as he died, do you know what he said? ‘If you ever remember, then don’t blame yourself. I remembered for both of us…’ But I am to blame and I don’t know how I’m ever gonna make it up to him.”

Big, warm hands enclosed his fist and stopped its rise and fall.

“It’ll be OK, LJ. He loves you and he’s already forgiven you.”

Daniel pulled him in, wrapping Gibbs in a warm embrace that seemed to be the only thing that was preventing him from shaking apart.

And please god, Jethro hoped Daniel was right, because if he wasn’t Gibbs didn’t know how he was going to live with himself.

*****

His skin was so smooth and golden, glistening as the water cascaded down. His lips, full and pink were beckoning, luscious and soft as he bit down on them. There was nothing to do but touch, so Jethro ran his fingertips through the wet hair, down his cheek and across the plump lower lip. His eyes shone, limned with gold, his pupils dilated with arousal.

Gathering his scrambled wits, Jethro dragged the back of his finger over the slightly prickly stubble just appearing on his jawline.

“You gonna join me?” His voice was hesitant, as if he couldn’t quite believe they were finally here.

“Not sure I should.” Gibbs fingers didn’t seem to agree, as they smoothed the water across the collarbone and down over the hair covered sternum. His hand was trembling, but there was no fear, just naked need.

He took a detour around the copper coloured nipple, tweaking it gently, pulling a deep moan from above. Encouraged he moved to the other side of the broad chest and repeated the move, this time following up with a press of lips and a swipe of his tongue, revelling in the taste of clean wet skin.

“Hmmm, yeah.”

Gibbs took a step forward and the press of the wet body on his made his cock rise. “We shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not a good idea,” he murmured, even as his body betrayed that sentiment and his hand continued its journey.

“It’ll be OK. I’ll remember for us.”

The comment was random enough for Gibbs to stop his exploration for a moment and look back up into the smiling face. “What?”

“You’re not to blame for this, Jet.”

Jethro reached up to cover the mouth that was saying such confusing things in such a seductive tone. To his horror he found his fingers were slick, not with water but with blood. He took a startled step back and cried out as he saw the huge chest wound, gushing as it turned the water into a gory sheet as it cascaded over Tony’s body.

“No, no, no, no…”

“Jethro…”

“I forgive you for letting this happen. You couldn’t stop her. Be safe…Love you…

“Tony…no, you don’t have my permission to die…do you hear me…Stop, no…”

Blackness began to engulf the figure, leaving only the tear filled eyes and sad smile visible.

“LJ, it’s not real…”

“No Don’t go, please don’t go. Stay with me…Noooooo!”

The darkness was all consuming and Jethro fell to his knees, only to see Tony’s dead body, surrounded by an impossible amount of blood.

“Gunny! Up ‘n’ at’em!”

Jethro rocked up out of the dream with a shocked cry that ended in a sob. Jack’s command voice ripping through the miasma of sorrow that gripped him, even as his hands still reached out to stop Tony from leaving. He could feel the warmth of a living body behind him and he slumped back gratefully.

“Jack…Danny?” he whispered.

There was a sigh of relief and arms slid over his chest and tightened firmly. “Yeah, we’re here. You back with us now?”

He nodded tiredly, squeezing his eyes shut against the residual visual impressions. The blood had been so very real.

“Yeah, yeah,” he croaked.

“Here.” Daniel gently opened Jethro’s clenched fist and wrapped it around a glass.

He opened his eyes and saw it contained a finger of something that looked alcoholic, and he knocked it back gratefully. The smooth taste of expensive brandy hit his tongue, before the burn made him cough a little.

He looked at the two men and felt deeply embarrassed at his reaction to the nightmare. “Ah, fuck… I’m…”

“Don’t even bother,” Daniel said quietly. “I knew we should have made you sleep with us last night. How often?”

Gibbs looked at Jack for support, but all he got was a raised eyebrow that said, ‘It’s Danny, what are ya gonna do’.

He cleared his throat, feeling the brandy beginning to ease the tremors running through his body. “Every night since the shooting – except last night when I was in bed with you both.” He admitted, feeling embarrassed at admitting such weakness. What was it about Daniel Jackson that made it impossible to prevent yourself spilling your guts to him?

“You…fucking military men. What is wrong with talking about this stuff, huh? It’s no wonder your gun looked like a good idea when you hadn’t slept properly for 6 weeks. They train you guys about the results of sleep deprivation, don’t they? I mean…”

“Danny, let it be.”

“But, Jack…”

“Danny! That’s enough.” Jack snapped firmly.

Daniel glared at Jack, but stopped speaking, his lips pushed tightly together as if he had to physically stop the words coming out. Gibbs turned and smiled weakly at Jack.

“You do realise that if they employed him to do psyche reviews neither of us would have got past the first I & E mission.”

“Oh, yeah. I learned to just let him have his way and give him the yadda, yadda. It’s much easier on my ears.”

Jethro put on a horrified face, the adrenaline high from the nightmare quickly being ameliorated by the verbal byplay. “What, you mean you have to talk about everything?

“God, yeah. Anyone would think I was gay or something.”

Daniel’s irritated expression morphed to exasperation as Gibbs snorted, but there was still worry in his eyes. “See if I bother caring from now on.”

Jack moved away and stood with a pained groan. “You’ll always care – you’re Daniel.” His face went soft with affection, before he slapped his hands on his thighs and tipped his head towards the doorway. “Well if all the talking is over, I’m going to bed.”

Gibbs blew out a deep sigh. They were all situated in the centre of the guest room, the sheets making a tangled trail from where he was kneeling, leading back to the bed. Although the room was fairly warm, he could feel the clammy touch of his sweat soaked t-shirt on his back and he shivered.

“What time did you get in? For that matter, what time is it now?” he asked as he made an abortive look for his wedding watch. He fucking missed the heavy timepiece, and it was sure as anything that nothing except immersion in water would get it off his wrist once Tony had put it back on for him.

“0520. I got in about twenty minutes ago.” Jack said, and Gibbs saw just how exhausted his friend looked. “Fucking IOA – now, those guys love to talk. Perhaps they’re all gay.” He muttered as he strode out of the room.

Jethro and Daniel looked at one another, and Danny rolled his eyes. Moments later they were both chuckling, slightly hysterically.

“Come on. I’ll make some of your favourite coffee blend while you get in the shower. No doubt you’ll be wanting to go into work for some ungodly time.” Daniel stood with enviable grace and held out a hand, which Jethro gratefully took as he encouraged his post-nightmare limbs to behave normally and not like limp noodles.

“I’m usually already at work,” he grumbled. “Security’ll be calling out the National Guard.”

“Oh heaven forbid that Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs should get into the bullpen after the sun has risen. Obviously that is the first precursor to the apocalypse…” The words followed Daniel out of the room, leaving Jethro smiling. He had to admit waking up from a night terror with other people was much better than being alone.

*****

NCIS: 0802 – CTC minus 57 hours 41 minutes    

Tony and Ziva were already at their desks when Jethro strode into the Bullpen. He’d sent Tony a text letting him know he’d had to pick up the truck before coming into work because of a flat. It was a good enough excuse for being late in and would be a good cover if someone had seen him driving out of the all-night parking lot.

“What you got for me,” he barked.

“McGee and I finished the physical audit of the payroll records just after midnight. Peterson’s pay, even with his deployment bonus couldn’t cover the extra spending his wife was doing. McGee is not here yet; he is late.”

Ziva’s comment was made with malicious glee and Gibbs could feel it was aimed at him too. He didn’t rise to it. He didn’t have to explain anything to her – especially not to this possessed and deranged version of his Agent. He was actually having a little trouble separating the sharp tongued, driven, but ultimately decent woman, from the acid dipped, manic version she’d become since coming into contact with Ba’al.

“McGee is with Forensic IT until tomorrow, he’s chasing down credit card and bank payments. Not that you needed to know that, David. I knew where he was and that’s all that matters.”

He dismissed the comeback she was winding up to give him by looking over at Tony. For a second Jethro had a flash of déjà vu, of Tony’s body slick with water and blood, but he mentally shook it off. He couldn’t let himself get distracted. It was bad enough that Tony was wearing what he recognised as Jethro’s favourite outfit; charcoal pinstripe Zegna, crisp white shirt and a silver silk tie that had been a Christmas present from Gibbs last year. Clothes aside, he looked much better too. His eyes were brighter and his colour less wan. Jethro hoped he’d been partly responsible for the change and that Tony had managed a better night’s sleep than he had.

“DiNozzo?” He made sure his tone was sufficiently brusque to waylay any suspicions from the snake.

“Emily Peterson has several memberships to fitness clubs and gyms, but after making enquiry’s I haven’t found one that she actually attends. I think she could be using them as a cover – payments made out of the joint bank account would ensure the Second Lieutenant didn’t get too suspicious when she wasn’t home. One of the club owners did mention that she’s also a regular visitor to the Army Navy Country Club. She’d need to be signed in by a member and as they tend to be very closed mouthed about their membership they’ve yet to call me back.”

“Pretty swanky place for a junior officer’s wife,” Gibbs extemporised. Of course he knew that’s where she’d meet up with her lover, who happened to be a retired Admiral, but the investigation had to carry on as before, despite it going against all his instincts to let the Admiral – Peterson’s murderer – be on the loose. He tapped his pencil on the desk, seeming to think, as with a lurch of his gut he realised he had to send Ziva and Tony out to the Country Club together. It would be completely out of character, in this timeline, for him to go out with Tony and leave Ziva in the office.

He gritted his teeth against the compulsion to keep Tony close and safe. He knew he had to do it, but he didn’t have to like it.

“You and Ziva go out there and see what they can tell you, but keep it on the down-low. If our killer is a member we don’t want them hearing you were there.”

Tony was already pushing his gear into his backpack and retrieving his gun.

“I’ve got an in, as I’ve spoken to the entertainments manager there before. You remember before we decided…”

Although most would have missed it, Jethro saw Tony pale slightly and swallow hard, as he flicked a worried glance first at Gibbs and then across to Ziva. Luckily she was too busy talking over the partition to another Agent to notice his slip.

Gibbs did remember.

Tony had begun to make general enquiries about having their wedding at the Army Navy before Jethro had made it very clear there would be no public celebration of their marriage. Rather than fighting him, Tony had just smiled, and a few days later they had an appointment at City Hall. Afterwards they’d taken Ducky out for a meal at Tony’s favourite Italian restaurant. And that evening, Tony had made love with him so sweetly, before thanking him for such an amazing day.

Gibbs couldn’t hate himself enough. Maybe he could make it up to Tony somehow…on their anniversary – or even before.

Right now though, he had to play his part. “Before we decided what?” he said gruffly, with a slight frown.

“That using the pool at Bethesda Country Club made much more sense after Brad said I needed to swim to strengthen my lungs.”  Tony extemporised.

Jethro grunted and looked back down, hiding a small smile. Tony was a pro. No one who didn’t know him would have noticed the lie. ‘Best Undercover In The Business’, Gibbs thought proudly.

Ziva was still talking and Gibbs wanted them out of the office for as short a time as possible. “David, when you have finished organising your social calendar…”

She shot him a murderous glare, but was ready to leave only a couple of minutes later. She strode quickly to the elevator and jabbed at the button several times. When the car didn’t come immediately she threw up her hands and gave a yell, kicking the door viciously. She headed for the stairs, the door slamming closed behind her. The elevator arrived moments later and Tony quickly stepped in. As he turned, he rolled his eyes and Gibbs couldn’t help the small smile that graced his lips. Looking a little surprised DiNozzo gave Gibbs a searching look, and Jethro purposely didn’t drop his gaze. He was rewarded as Tony relaxed and smiled right back. He wasn’t sure if it was sensible, but damn, it felt good.

*****

NCIS Forensic Lab: 1320 – CTC minus 52 hours 23 minutes    

“Whatcha got for me, Abbs?”

“Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs. Where’ve ya been. I missed you.” Abby wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hung on him a little as he dropped her super-sized Caf-Pow! on the counter top. For a highly intelligent woman, who had a very high stress job, she could act like a little kid sometimes…make that most of the time.

“I’ve been right here; we just haven’t had anything new for you. You found anything from the stuff we brought you?” There hadn’t been much evidence at the murder site, and in the first timeline they’d quickly realised the body had been moved.

“Some. Firstly, the amount of blood in the trunk of the car shows that he was dead when he was put in there – in fact I’d estimate that he’d been dead a few hours.”

“Ducky put time of death at least 30 hours before the body was found.”

Gibbs had reviewed the file just in case his memory had failed him, but he was quite proud to say he’d remembered everything perfectly.

“I’ve just finished analysing the samples the Duck man sent me. There was an anomalous reading in the liver sample and I’m running a further test.” She grinned brightly, as always very excited when there was something unusual to investigate.

“What kind of anomaly?”

“Some kind of chemical compound. I know what it consists of, but I’ve not seen it in this combination before. It has some indicators in common with Ketamine – so it could be a new derivative. If it is, it would have some serious effects on anyone taking it.”

“Such as,” Gibbs asked, trying to tease out the information he knew she already had. It was like walking on eggshells – making sure they knew the right things without slipping up and remarking on something he should know nothing about.

“Paranoia, serious ataxia and depressed breathing. If you injected this stuff it could damage your heart and liver, and cause long term damage. And that’s just taking the constituents separately. I have no idea what other symptoms would occur when they interact with each other.”

“So is that what killed the 2Lt?”

“No, Ducky says he bled out from the stab wounds. Looking at all of the evidence so far, I think whoever killed him drugged him first to keep him docile – he was a really big guy, 6’4” and 290 lbs. Then he was stabbed; there were 14 wounds, but the one in his chest had completely severed his aorta and he bled out. There’s only minimal blood staining on the carpet in the car trunk so he’d been dead a while before he was moved.”

In the first timeline it had been Ziva who’d got this report from Abby, and Ziva whose investigation had led them to the alleyway, where her ‘informant’ had told her there were deals going down for a new street drug called KetX. Gibbs wanted to keep this to himself, didn’t want to give Ziva the links in the chain. But his gut told him that something about the information was imperative to get them into the right place at the right time – or the wrong place, if Tony had to die there. A footfall behind him told him he wouldn’t have been able to keep it from her, even if he really, really wanted to.

“I have some people I can talk to about this drug, Gibbs.”  Ziva said, somewhat eagerly.

Tony moved to stand next to Jethro and looked over the information that Abby had put up on the screen.

“I can contact the guys in Vice too, Boss, see if there’s any intel about this new drug.”

Tony smelled so good, and it was all Gibbs could do not to lean in and take a deep breath of him. His head spun with it and the idea of sending him away again was just too much to bear.

“David, follow up with your contacts, but don’t mention the murder. We don’t want to tip anyone off.”

Ziva nodded and sent a smug look over at Tony, before leaving the lab. Gibbs made a show of looking through the written reports that Abby had handed to him, but he listened surreptitiously as Tony and Abby moved to the other side of the lab.

“Tonyboy. You haven’t been to see me either. Has the Bossman been keeping you busy.

“It’s been a difficult case, Abbs and most of it has been leg work.”

Abby sighed and pouted. “Well it’s time we had a night out clubbing. It’s been ages. You’ve not had a date in waaaay to long. That’s not good for the Sex Machine’s rep.”

Tony rubbed the back of his neck. “I think I have to take a rain check, Abbs. I’ve not been feeling too good. I’ve had this sore throat and I’ve not been sleeping. The Boss has threatened me with sick leave if I don’t look after myself.”

Gibbs noticed Abby getting ready to argue and decided Tony needed a save. He pushed the printouts back into the folder and threw it back on the countertop.

“DiNozzo. You’re with me.”

“With ya, Boss.”

He couldn’t help notice how relieved Tony looked, and he wondered how many invitations to clubs and bars he’d had to turn down since they’d been together. He’d never begged off any of their plans or gone out alone at night, and Gibbs had never thought to wonder how he was managing to pass that off with his normal ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ attitude.

They got on the elevator and although he kept facing front, peripherally Gibbs could see Tony flicking a longing glance at the emergency stop. It hadn’t happened often, but there had been a few times where they’d made out in Gibbs’ ‘office’, usually when a difficult case had kept them at NCIS for days at a time.

He could empathise. There was nothing he’d like more.

Gibbs stepped off at the ground floor and looked back after few steps when it was apparent that Tony wasn’t beside him. The other man was still in the elevator, a surprised look on his face.

“Well, do ya want coffee or not?”

Shock was replaced by a pleased smile. “Yeah, coffee would be good.”

They walked in companionable silence along the street to their favourite coffee shop, which was owned by a small, round Italian woman who loved to feed everyone. Alongside coffee and pastries she also offered hot food. Due to the cold weather and the fact that lunch time was long gone, the place was pretty empty.

“Supa-large black coffee, three extra shots, an extra-large hazelnut latte with whipped cream,” Gibbs ordered as he perused the slightly depleted food display. “And two calzones – one pepperoni and mortadella, one spicy beef.”

Once again he was treated to almost open mouthed amazement from Tony, and he considered asking what was wrong, when he suddenly realised he’d made a slip of epic proportions. He’d been so caught up in the intimate familiarity of walking to the shop with Tony, that he’d ordered their favourites – both of their favourites.

He turned back to the counter to pay, trying to gather his wits in order to cover his tracks.

He took the tray from the server with thanks and walked over to a free table, making sure not to sit in their favoured spot; a booth at the back (ideal for a little hand-holding without being visible). That would’ve just been too much like a suspicious coincidence.

Tony sat opposite him, but didn’t touch his food or his coffee. Gibbs saw his opening and a chance to further his campaign with Tony while covering his slip.

“You not hungry,” he said, nodding his head at the pepperoni calzone. “We can swap if you don’t like it.”

“No…No it’s my favourite.” Tony murmured, pulling the plate in front of him.

Gibbs took a bite of his own food and hummed in pleasure. He’d forgotten just how good the food here was. Tony gasped quietly and then took a deep pull of his coffee. A quick look showed Gibbs that his appreciative noise had given Tony another, quite different reaction, as his pupils dilated and his cheeks flushed a light pink.

Jethro almost groaned as his cock jerked against his zipper. Oh he really couldn’t afford to do this – not here and really not now.

“The coffee is right too, Gibbs.”

Jethro gave a little frown and wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“Yeah, I think…I think I knew that. We’ve been here before, right?”

He noticed Tony’s hand was trembling as he pulled his food apart.

“Yeah, lots of times before…”

“Before I got my brains bashed against the side of my skull.” He gave a wry grin.

“Yeah.”

Tony kept his eyes on his food and all Jethro wanted to do was grab a hold of his hands and tell him it was all going to be alright, that he wasn’t hoping in vain. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask about their relationship before the explosion and he was formulating the wording when the burn phone in his pocket started to vibrate.

‘Damn it, O’Neill’, he thought, as he dug the phone out of his pocket, noting Tony’s surprise. ‘You have the worst timing’. Although he knew the question he was going to ask would probably have been too revealing.

“Gibbs,” he growled.

“LJ, is this a bad time?” It was obvious Jack could still read even his non-verbal cues.

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“You with AJ?” Jack sounded amused, damn him.

“You could say that. I’m going to be back in the bullpen in about 15 mins. Do you want me to call you back?”

Tony was eating steadily, but Gibbs knew he was listening and assessing everything he could hear, which thankfully was only Jethro’s side of the conversation.

“I’ve just received intel that ZD was seen in the alley about 5 minutes ago.”

This was new – or maybe it wasn’t. He didn’t have any idea of Ziva’s movements during her intelligence gathering in the first timeline, but it made sense knowing that they’d end up there in just over two days. He went cold as once again the vision of Tony bleeding out came to the front of his mind.

“Is that something I need to do anything about?”

“There has been some speculation here about her involvement with our visitor from out of town but I’ve managed to called off the dogs for a couple of days by involving T and Danny. I just have to mention SG-1 and everyone goes a little goo-goo eyed, so I’m happy to play that card. It was pretty much what happened in the first timeline, except it was Danny who got the initial call, which was why he was there on his own…Stupid Son of a Bitch,” Jack griped.

It was true he was never one to hide his light under a bushel when it came to being expedient. Jethro had used their ‘Odd Couple’ notoriety himself in the past.

“Hey LJ, with Tony being there with ya, this would probably be a good time to invite us round for tea and cake. What do ya think?”

“Yeah, that sounds great. Why don’t you and Danny come to my place tomorrow night. I’ll cook cowboy steaks if you bring the beer. About 1900.”

“Good. Now we’ll see you back here tonight and don’t think of not coming, cos you’ll have a very irritated Danny on your hands. And, while that can be a very good thing at times, given your particular circumstances I don’t think you’d be willing to use the same methods to get him out of a pissy mood as I do – although you can always watch, I suppose.” Jack chuckled evilly and then rang off, without saying goodbye – a habit he’d learned from Jethro many years before.

“OK, that’s fine.” Gibbs said to the dial tone, and then made an act of closing the call before pushing the cell back into his pocket.

When he looked back at Tony the other man was sipping his coffee and looking quite concerned.

“You got a problem, DiNozzo?”

Tony looked sheepish and dropped his gaze to the table, his fist clenching and relaxing on the napkin he had crushed in his hand. “You’re not going solo again are you, Boss. Only I don’t think I could cope with you leaving m…us again.”

‘I’m not going to leave you, Tony. It’s you who’s going to leave me’.  Gibbs had to work really hard not to let that thought telegraph to his face.

“Nah, nothing like that. Just a friend who has a really high level job, so he needs to be careful about comms.”

Gibbs could see Tony considering that information, especially as Jethro had never told him about Jack – mostly because after he became part of the Stargate program he pretty much fell off the radar. Realising they’d probably been out of the office long enough, he gathered up his trash and left his seat, with Tony on his six as always.

They were back in front of the office before Gibbs made the final move in that day’s game. “You’ve been to my place before, right?”

Tony nodded, his expression tense.

“Cowboy steaks at 1900 tomorrow?” He said as he walked through into the foyer.

“Yeah, Boss. That’d be great.”

And Gibbs didn’t have to look back to know Tony was smiling.

*****

NCIS: 0555 – CTC minus 37 hours 58 minutes 

The drive in from the Penthouse that morning had been fraught; with road works, traffic holdups and the need to fuel up the truck. It meant Jethro got in far later than he wanted to. The short amount of time left before the event they had come back in time to change, was making Gibbs feel antsy. His gut was churning with tension and even the new dark roast that Daniel had found didn’t lift his mood.

He needed to see Tony. Every moment they were apart felt like an age – not from a sappy point of view, although there was a little of that going on (not that he’d ever let on to Jack that that was the case) but from a deep seated fear that somehow the other shoe would drop; that Ba’al would catch on there was something different; that Tony would do something out of the ordinary; that the snake would lose that final screw and end up massacring the whole of NCIS.

Whatever, Jethro just wanted to be with Tony. He wasn’t sure what he’d do about it, just that he needed to be standing right next to his husband if it happened. It reminded him of a conversation they’d had once and he’d remembered just last night.

It had been a long, easy weekend, filled with minor household tasks that hadn’t got done because of a long running case. He’d managed a few hours on the boat, and now he was pleasantly sore and relaxing with a glass of bourbon on the sectional couch, with a fresh out of the shower, and still slightly damp Tony reclining against his chest. Some inane disaster movie was playing on the huge TV screen, the surround sound cranked way up, as Tony said it was the only way to watch the special effects. According to the lead actor, whose dialogue was a mixture of scientific gobbledegook and exposition, the world was going to end in just over two days.

“So, Jet, the meteor the size of a football field is gonna go make the Earth go kaboom in two days. What do you want to do?”

Tony took a long swallow of his beer, and Jethro had to take a moment to watch the bob of his Adam’s apple before he could find the brainpower to answer.

Tony often tried to engage him in conversations like this, and Jethro had to admit they’d had some entertaining discussions. He was getting better at just going with the flow as far as his husband’s flights of fancy went. 

“I dunno. Nothing much to do but wait for it to happen. Something that size is pretty much going to be apocalyptic.”

DiNozzo nodded and then chuckled as the actor on the screen said just about the same thing, except with many more flowery words. “Harrison agrees with you.”

“Well yeah, of course.” Gibbs replied, deadpan.

They watched quietly as the actually quite impressive CGI meteor, speeded its way towards the blue speck across the vastness of space. Gibbs knew he was by far the more taciturn of the two of them, and that Tony knew better than to expect him to engage in flights of fancy. But his interest was piqued by the original question.

“What about you. What would you do?”

He was almost sure Tony would want to drive the Ferrari at its top speed – something he’d often commented on. Either that, or fuck, or maybe get really, really drunk.

His husband turned to look at him, and his love was right there shining in his eyes for Gibbs to see, so much so it took his breath away.

“I was just thinking…” Tony murmured, “…I’d want to get to wherever you were, so we could be together.”

“At the end of all things?”

Tony gave him a heart melting smile and leaned up to kiss him thoroughly. “Yeah.” Then he kissed him again. “And that was for The Lord of the Rings quote – you’re just a closet Ringer really, aren’t you.”

“Nah, I just think Viggo Mortenson is smokin’ hot.”

The play fight that comment had started had rapidly turned into an intense round of passionate sex, while on screen the impossibly buff geek saved the day with a well-placed nuke.

Having now seen the Earth from space, Jethro could understand Harrison’s drive to save the Earth from annihilation. That sight had stirred something in him that he thought long dead. Rather than a national pride, it engendered a sort of global patriotism that made him want to be part of any mission that protected the planetary population, or even that of the other allied races in the galaxy. If everyone could see what he’d seen, he thought there would likely be world peace pretty quickly.

He chuckled to his reflection in the rear-view mirror as he drew into his parking slot.

“Getting kinda flowery there yourself, old man.” He picked up the extra-large travel mug of coffee Daniel had fixed for him and trotted over to Security.

“Morning, Agent Gibbs.”

“Morning Geoff. How’s your boy?” He put his wallet, coffee and gun into the basket, before stepping through the metal detector.

“He’s just finished basic and waiting for his first orders. He’s hoping to be posted away from Camp Lejeune, really just because I was posted there with 2nd Division, so he grew up there.”

“Doesn’t want to be in his Daddy’s shadow, huh? Wherever he goes, they’ll put him where he’s best placed, Geoff. And wherever it is, he’ll have a hell of a time.” Gibbs returned the proud smile the father-cum-Security Officer was wearing. “Any of my team in yet?” he asked, nonchalantly as he collected his belongings.

“No, Gunny. Not unless they didn’t go home last night.”

Gibbs nodded his thanks. Reholstering his gun and retrieving his coffee, he made his way to the bank of elevators and from there to the bullpen.

Geoff was right, none of his team were in, and Gibbs used the quiet time to boot up his computer and begin to wade through the emails that Tony had flagged for him the day before.

When he was in the depths of amnesia he’d taken all the little things Tony did to make his life easier at work for granted – actually as his right. DiNozzo was not only the best young investigator, but the best SFA in NCIS.

In the early days Gibbs had had to fend off all manner of enquiries about whether Tony wanted to move teams. Luckily, everyone had quickly got the message that it was never going to happen, otherwise he would have maybe come to his senses, remembered to get his head out his ass, and found Tony was on another team – maybe even in a whole other city.

“Morning, Boss.”

Just listening to his voice, Gibbs could tell that Tony was feeling much better. The hoarseness had gone and the indefinable indicators of stress, which any good interrogator could pick up on, were visible in their absence.

“Morning, DiNozzo.”

Ziva wasn’t in the office, so he was free to keep his tone light.

“Traffic was a real bear this morning,” Tony commented as he dropped his backpack behind his desk.

“Yeah, I’ve only just got here myself.” Gibbs looked up and caught the other man drinking him in.

Tony quickly made himself busy taking off his jacket and stowing his gun, but Jethro saw his cheeks go pink. Gibbs decided to let him off the hook before it got difficult.

“Did the guys in Vice give you anything interesting?”

“No, sorry boss. There have been a few unexplained drug deaths, which they’ve heard about through their contacts at the Emergency Rooms, but nothing specific. Ziva seemed to think she had someone who could help, although I’m not sure which side of the law enforcement fence they are on.”

“Whatever gets results.”

“Yeah, Boss,” Tony agreed, but Gibbs could tell he was concerned about the source of any intel Ziva might find, and to be honest, so was Jethro.

Still, he had to let the scene play out as it should and at the same time keep Ba’al from guessing that anything was going awry in his plans. Gibbs would have loved to be a fly on the wall at that meeting – if in fact there had been one.

Jethro had a hunch that the snake was behind the drug, and maybe even Peterson’s death, although why a 2nd Lt just back from deployment would be of interest to an alien he had no idea. Maybe it was just to get the MCRT involved.

Jack was pretty sure the whole thing had been planned to get Tony out of the picture. Gibbs wasn’t letting himself get too worked up about how exactly his husband was going to be involved after ascending. That was trouble he would wait to borrow until after tomorrow afternoon.

“You want coffee, Boss?”

He’d been so caught up in his thoughts he’d missed Tony standing next to his desk. He smelled so fucking good and a quick glance up, told Jethro that Tony had power dressed once again. As a matter of fact, Tony’s groin was right in front of Jethro’s face, and his wide stance was just stretching the fine wool of his pants over his cock. If Gibbs didn’t know better he’d say it was like the worst kind of tease.

Tony never played those games in the office though, having total respect for the rules Jethro had set at the beginning of their relationship.

Right now though, Gibbs just wanted to say fuck the goddamn rules.

What he actually said was, “Yeah, that’d be good. Bring me two, extra-large.”

Tony gave him a happy smile and loped off. Gibbs watched him leave, appreciating the long line of his back through the fine cotton shirt, and the way his ass was lovingly outlined by the cut of his pants. He shuffled in his seat, easing the tightness at his crotch with a surreptitious nudge of his hand, which unfortunately made matters worse rather than better.

He was actually considering going to relieve his ‘problem’ in the head, when he realised that he had an ideal opportunity to place another of Jack’s little surveillance ‘dots’ on Tony’s jacket. It was a much better use of his time, although perhaps not quite as pleasurable.

The nano-battery on the last one had lasted all day yesterday, and Gibbs had been able to follow the sound of Tony’s journey right back to his house…their house…after work. It had finally given out before he’d gone to bed, but there had been something soothing about hearing Tony preparing a meal while singing along with R.E.M’s, ‘Losing My Religion’.

He quickly situated the tiny transmitter, but had to step quickly away from Tony’s desk as Ziva arrived. 0630 was very early for her.

“Ah. Good morning, Gibbs, I have some information for you from my contacts.”

“You can report when we’re all here.”

“DiNozzo is not here yet? I thought he was always first in,” she stated, her tone even, but with, the seemingly ever-present, sneer on her face.

“Coffee,” he grunted in reply – no more than she would have expected, and then buried himself back in the seemingly interminable list of emails he just had to reply to, using that as an excuse not to get embroiled in a conversation that had the potential to become difficult.

Just a few more hours. It had become his mantra over the last two days. Just a few more hours and this would be over. That was a minor relief though, because it also meant just a few more hours before Tony would be shot, and would die in front of Jethro; just a few more hours before the fact that Ziva had a psycho snake in her head, would mean he’d have to pump two bullets into her brain.

It was difficult not to blame Ziva for Tony’s death in the first timeline and also for the fact that he was going to die again. She had been a bitch of epic proportions to Tony after Gibbs had returned from Mexico, and Jethro had been devastated when he finally realised just how badly everyone had behaved toward Tony while he’d been gone.

But she wasn’t a murderer. It was just that his grief for Tony was so overwhelming, there really wasn’t any emotion left for her. And if Jack and Daniel were right, she was already lost a week before they came back, and there was nothing any of them could do about that – except to make her death count for something.

If they could change the timeline so Tony ascended, and possibly save the Earth from an invasion by the Wraith, then it would have been a worthwhile sacrifice; one he had to believe Ziva would have accepted.

*****

MTAC: 12.25 – CTC minus 31 hours 28 minutes

The satellite pictures on the screen were grainy and highly top secret. The receiver in his ear was even more so. But neither one was linked to the other.

Jen had called him into MTAC with a rather far-fetched spiel about needing his input on an op. When he’d looked over the intelligence reports and mission plans, he’d seen that there was nothing he could add to what had already been decided; in fact, his own particular expertise was not pertinent to the op at all.

Jen ran her lacquered fingernails across the back of his hand, and it was all he could do not to scowl at her.

“I have a scheduled call to SecNav, but I’d like you see the op through to its conclusion.”

Director Shepard was dressed to kill in a tight-fitting dress and jacket combo, and probably the ugliest high heel shoes that Jethro had ever seen. She’d been flirting and simpering the whole time, leaning in for no reason and almost lying in his lap at one point as she reached across him for a file. He bore it all with barely concealed disdain, which she didn’t seem to notice at all.

Either she was the most oblivious woman alive, or the most tenacious. Either way she wasn’t getting what she wanted from Jethro and it was making her crazy.

Gibbs had to admit he was enjoying every minute of her irritation.

The whole waste of time had coincided with Tony and Ziva going out to collect some new evidence the LEO’s had found at the home address of their murder vic, so once again he’d reluctantly had to send them out together. He’d taken the opportunity to tune in to Tony, and had been listening to the rather stilted conversation between his two agents for the past 45 minutes. He felt better knowing what was going on when they were out of the office without him.

Knowing Tony’s penchant for being a trouble magnet, he thought he might utilise the tech wherever they ended up working, as a forewarning of anything hinkey going down where Tony was involved.

There’d been a few minutes of static over the earwig after Ziva and Tony got back in the car, and he’d felt his gut churn. But then the sound of the car radio and road noise made him breathe a little easier.

Thirty minutes later, when the op on screen was winding down, he heard a familiar voice through the transmitter, but with a strange and chilling overtone.

“Ha’shak! The Tau’ri are nothing but vermin. When I am once again on board my ship, and have reclaimed my loyal Jaffa, I will take great pleasure in razing this whole planet to dust.”

Gibbs lurched to his feet, heedlessly dropping the file on the floor. The sharp look the MTAC tech gave him reminded him he was to all intents and purposes undercover, so he dragged his cell from his belt and pressed it to his ear.

“Gibbs!”

He pretended to listen, and thanked all the deities that no one would be surprised when he didn’t speak much. He gathered together the papers that had spread out at his feet, all the while listening to the transmission.

“My Lord Ba’al, you are a man after my own heart. But there are surely more important issues to deal with right now, than the insignificant beings of this planet.”

Jethro wasn’t sure who the second voice was, but her attitude was pissing him off. He was also terrified that he hadn’t heard Tony speak at all. Where was he? He turned and dropped the file on the seat he’d just vacated, still holding his cell to his ear.

He nodded to the tech, who gave him a distracted smile and turned back to the bank of recording devices he was monitoring.

“All is going as planned. The tel’pac’rai is still isolated, although why we could not just remove him, permanently, I do not understand.”

“We do not know if our brothers and sisters of the Ancient plane would break their pact of non-interference. Dr Jackson has moved from this plane to theirs on several occasions, and has been assisted by Oma and others. I want him so beaten down that should they decide to offer him ascension, he will refuse. The removal of his lover from his life was the master stroke, and for that you have the thanks and continued support of the Ori in your quest for domination of this galaxy.”

Gibbs was already out of the room and running down the stairs, his shaking fingers stumbling as he stabbed rapid dial #1 – Tony’s cell – to find out where he was, while knowing he should really be pulling out the burn phone to call Jack.

The call hadn’t even connected when he reached the bullpen, and he almost collapsed in relief when he saw Tony exiting the elevator, looking totally pissed and rubbing his arms, which were only covered by shirt sleeves and no jacket. He snapped his cell closed.

“DiNozzo?”

He couldn’t help it, his voice sounded just as shocky as he felt, and Tony’s head jerking in his direction told him the other man had heard it too.

“You OK, Boss?”

Gibbs nodded brusquely. “Just been in MTAC with Jen.”

Tony snorted and smiled understandingly. “Difficult op…or was the Director being…?”

He pulled out his file drawer and grabbed a sweater which he quickly dragged over his head.

“Just being herself.”

Gibbs rolled his eyes, but was desperately trying to split his concentration between the conversation going on in his ear, and his overwhelming feeling of reprieve on seeing Tony safe.

“Lady Adria, I have no patience for this game any longer. I am ready to leave this cesspool. I believe there is nothing to be gained by waiting. There was an ideal opportunity only a short while ago. I had him alone, and with only a flick of my fingers he would have been ha’kor cra ter’ak shree.”

“Where’s your jacket?” he asked, wondering how Ziva had got Tony to leave the car, and how his transmitter was still there.

“Fucking Ziva decided she had to meet with her contact when we were three blocks away. My jacket was on the rear seat and she drove off before I could grab it. It was freezing. I need coffee, Boss, is it OK…” He nodded out of the bullpen.

Gibbs was loath to let him out of his sight, but he nodded. He had to keep it together until he knew what, if anything was going on. He didn’t understand everything that was being said in his ear, but the context was very clear. Jethro watched Tony as he trotted out of the bullpen, rolling his chair out from behind the desk to keep him in sight for as long as possible.

There was an ominous silence over the comm, and then the unknown female spoke again.

“It may be that you are correct. Every day that we delay there is the possibility that the Tau’ri Stargate Command may become cognisant of our plans. Very well, we will conclude this tonight. You will follow the tel’pac’rai to his abode and terminate him. Three shots of the Zat’ni’ketel will suffice to remove any trace and, then we will continue our mission to ensure the return of your vessel.”

“Very well, rok kree’nol, mak’tal, Lady Adria.”

“O’na kel has’ah, Lord Ba’al.”

Then, the sound of a car door slamming and the engine being gunned was all he heard and he surmised the ‘meeting’ was over. He picked up a pen, planning to jot down everything he’d heard, but the strange words in a probable alien language, were completely beyond him, even phonetically.

Tony walked back into the bullpen carrying two large poly-cups just as Gibbs pulled the burn phone from his pants pocket. He needed to call Jack, and they needed a watertight plan to keep Tony safe until tomorrow. He almost laughed aloud at the irony of a plan to keep someone alive just so they could be murdered just over a day later, but he knew if he let it out it would quickly become hysterical.

So he gritted his jaw and accepted the cup he was offered, with a quiet ‘Thanks’.

Not caring that Tony might see it as completely out of character post-Mexico, Gibbs waved the phone, tipped his head towards the alcove under the stairs to the mezzanine, and said, “Need to make a call.”

If Tony was surprised, he didn’t show it, but just smiled as he wrapped his hands around his paper cup and sipped what Gibbs guessed was hot chocolate. It took a great force of will for Jethro to leave him sitting there, obviously cold and right now, in greater danger than he’d been in the last timeline.

The call went through so fast it was almost as if Jack was waiting with his finger on the button.

“O’Neill.”

“Jack, we have a serious problem.”

*****

Gibbs should have known that the geeks at Stargate Command were ahead of the curve. His conversation with Jack informed him that the tech had an automatic facility in the earwig that had been recording the whole conversation. He found it hard to believe he’d been so lucky.

Daniel didn’t find it hard at all.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had good luck with this, LJ. I think someone is helping us, and frankly as long as we keep getting breaks like this, I’m happy to let them.

A gizmo called ‘Blue-teeth’ or something like that had meant the recording could be transmitted from the earwig into his phone and then to Jack and Daniel. He’d stayed on the line while they listened and now they needed to come up with some kind of contingency.

“Shit, LJ, that really was a lucky catch,” Jack breathed when the recording was finished. Jethro could almost see him slumping in his chair as his quick mind played with all the variables.

“She obviously hasn’t told him that the Ori are no more, thanks to us, and that her massive fleet of ships consists of a single shuttle. What a naughty ex-leader and now only survivor of an almighty ascended race she is,” Daniel scoffed, sounding way too pleased with himself.

I think she should be glad we’re getting rid of Ba’al for her.” Jack commented. “He can be really pissy when he’s irritated…I should know.

Gibbs thought there was probably an interesting story there for another day.

Sooo, the Goa’uld phrases are nothing special – typical hyperbolic and derogatory language like, ‘Ha’kor cra ter’ak shree’, which means ‘Banished to oblivion’, and hash’ak, which translates as ‘idiots’.  Rok kree’nol, mak’tal, is basically ‘it will be done’ and she answered with ‘O’na kel has’ah’, which I understand as ‘very good’. The thing interests me most is that they keep calling Tony, ‘tel’pac’rai’…”

“Which means?” Gibbs snapped, too stressed to be polite.

Oh, sorry, LJ. I was just mulling that over. The best translation of that is ‘falling star’. I’m not sure about the literal context, but knowing what we know I would say it’s an approximate translation from Ori to Goa’uld.

“Meaning they didn’t have a word for it,” Gibbs questioned.

So they made one up, yes exactly. Are you sure we can’t keep him, Jack?” Daniel said excitedly.

“I told you to talk to Tony,” Jack replied distractedly. “Whatever reason there is, Tony is obviously very important for whatever reason. He can’t be allowed to go home, not tonight and not tomorrow. We are meeting for dinner at your house later this evening. Can you find a reason for him to ride back home with you?”

I had some really good Italian wine put aside for tonight,” Daniel chipped in. “If we get a few glasses down him, then he might agree to stay the night, perhaps?

Gibbs wasn’t sure Tony would get ‘relaxed’ on a school night, especially after their little conversation about hangovers.

If Gibbs offers him the chance to stay overnight in the guest room, he’s gonna jump at it.” Jack interrupted, and of course he was completely right.

The fact that it would be impossibly difficult for Gibbs to have Tony in the house knowing what was going down the next day, and not want to touch him, hold him, love him…Well he was just going to have to maintain.

“OK.” Gibbs rubbed his face, wishing it was two days time and all the stress was over. “If I go down to the parking garage and make sure his car doesn’t start, then he’ll have to ride back with me. I think it’ll be better if Danny suggests he stays over, then I can shrug and agree and he won’t get suspicious. He has work clothes here at the office…”

And gentlemen, we have a plan.” Jack said decisively.

“Yeah,” Gibbs responded, but he must have sounded somewhat sceptical, as Daniel was immediately soothing.

It’s OK, LJ. You caught it. The plan will work.”

“Sorry, Danny, but all that it does is just put off the inevitable.”

I know, I’m sorry, but please trust me. He’s coming back. I always keep my promises.”

He does,” Jack agreed.

“OK. I’d better get on with phase one.” Gibbs was about to ring off when something struck him. “Does Daniel share an office with you? Only every time I call you, he always seems to be there.”

No. This is Major General O’Neill’s corner office; the Director of Homeworld Security’s office.” Jack sounded disgruntled. “He only comes here when he has official business…allegedly.

I was here on official business,” Daniel’s tone wouldn’t have melted butter. “I was officially going to suck him off under the desk.”

Despite everything Jethro couldn’t help but laugh, and the release of tension was extremely welcome.

See you later, LJ.” Daniel giggled before the call ended abruptly.

Well if nothing else, their evening was going to be interesting. Now all he had to do was ‘fix’ Tony’s car.

*****

NCIS: 1743 – CTC minus 24 hours 0 minutes

The day seemed to drag endlessly, and Jethro found himself in the unfamiliar position of needing to find things to do. Whatever Madame Director’s call to SecNav had been about she’d left the building to attend a high-level meeting as soon as it was completed, without even a look in his direction – which in itself was very unusual nowadays.

Tony had been hard at work on the evidence in the Peterson case, but Gibbs could tell from the repeated quiet sighs, and deep frown that it wasn’t going well. Part of him wanted to go over and tell Tony to give it up, that they wouldn’t be solving it.

In fact, in the last timeline, despite the best efforts of all the Agents of NCIS, the case was such a dead end it was designated cold only five weeks after the shooting.

The general consensus was that Ziva had been a part of the drug cartel, which was possibly linked to Mossad in some way, and that she’d been sampling the merchandise. Apart from the known physical effects, KetX had been proven to make users prone to paranoia, which serendipitously gave a good cover for the snake’s psychotic behaviour.

Along with Jack’s clever cover up and the fact that Ziva was never found, dead or alive, all in all it had been quickly relegated to something gossiped about around the breakrooms, watercoolers and offices of the Navy Yard.

But that was then. Now they were still deep in investigative mode, and he could do nothing but allow the dice to fall as they might.

As for this timeline’s Ziva, she had returned from her ‘meeting’ and thrown Tony’s jacket at him, warning him not to leave his ‘rags’ in her vehicle. Tony of course had responded with a long diatribe about it being this Fall/Winter collection from Paul Smith, and how the wool viscose mix made the fall of the jacket give a much sharper profile.

Gibbs had almost laughed at the smirk on Tony’s face as she flounced off to ‘see Abby’. He wasn’t going to chase her. By the time they got into work the next day it would be a roller coaster ride that none of them could get off. All Jethro wanted right now was the clock to reach a time where he could legitimately send them all home.

“You wanna come for a beer tonight, Tony?”

Gibbs had almost forgotten McGee was there, he had been tapping away so quietly on his computer.

“Can’t tonight, McBarfly. I have a prior arrangement.” Tony’s eyes flicked to Jethro and then narrowed as they came to rest on the younger agent, but McGee was too busy to notice. “Abby told you to ask me, didn’t she?”

The flush of pink on the tips of Tim’s ears told Jethro that Tony’s guess was correct. Abby’s heart was in the right place, but sometimes she tried a bit too hard to make people ‘have fun’.

“Well…I…yes, yes she did,” he admitted. “She was concerned…”

“Yeah, I know. But I really am going out tonight, so she can stop worrying.”

“You two just using company time to socialise, or have you finished all your work?” Gibbs asked, tersely.

“Actually, er, yes, Gibbs,” McGee replied timidly. “I have searches running on the FB…on an external database and I won’t be able to access the results for at least 12 hours.” The pink on his ears spread into a bright red flush over his cheeks.

Tony grinned at him, but seemed to decide to save him from any further discomfort.

“Me too, Boss. I’ve looked at these statements backwards and forwards and there is so much that still doesn’t make sense…” He bit his bottom lip as he flipped through the pile of paperwork on his desk in frustration.

‘And it never will, Tony’, Gibbs thought. ‘None of this makes any sense at all, unless you factor in aliens and the fact that you are essential to the safety of this whole galaxy, maybe even beyond that’.

“Yeah, I agree. Pack it in for the night and come back to it fresh in the morning.”

He gave McGee a hard stare. “You going down to pick up Abby?”

McGee nodded, nervously. Jethro knew they were seeing one another and actually he didn’t have anything against it. Rule #12 was really only for Jen Shepard’s benefit, even though he’d ruthlessly used it to force Tony to keep their relationship under wraps.

McGee was a calming influence on Abby and in turn she took him away from his computer gaming and into the real, if slightly whacky place that was Scuito world.

“Tell Ziva she needs to be back in by 0800 tomorrow,” he ordered.

“Yes, Boss.” McGee threw his messenger bag over his shoulder as he almost ran from his desk, obviously ready to see the back of the case for the night.

Tony was moving a little slower and Jethro could almost hear the thought processes. No doubt he was wondering if Gibbs still expected him for dinner, or if he was going to withdraw the invitation. Jethro knew he probably needed to be the one to make the first move, as DiNozzo would more than likely just leave without saying anything, unsure of his welcome.

“1900, DiNozzo.”

Tony’s expression was a mixture of apprehension and relief.

“Yeah, OK Boss. You need me to pick anything up?”

“I made an order for the meat, which I’m picking up on the way home, along with beans and corn for making the sides.” He shrugged offhandedly.

“Beer?” Tony was standing in front of his desk fiddling with the strap of his back pack.

“I don’t have …” Jethro had to stop himself from finishing that sentence with, ‘…any of that microbrew you love so much and I have to travel half way across the city to buy’. Instead he continued with,” …a preference – if you want some then knock yourself out. Daniel said something about an Italian Red wine from a place called Bardolino…”

Tony’s eyes lit up, and Gibbs made a mental note to check whether the wine cellar at their house was stocked. No doubt Daniel would be willing to point him in the direction of the right kind of thing.

“OK, I’ll see you later.”

Jethro watched surreptitiously as Tony left the bullpen. Once he heard the elevator doors close he quickly gathered his gun and coat. He walked calmly down the stairs, suppressing the urge to run, wanting to give Tony time to get to his car and realise it wasn’t going to start – especially with the ‘snapped’ serpentine fan belt on the Mustang, courtesy of ‘Felix’ and his trusty knife.

Luck was with him as he made his way to the parking lot. No one stopped him to talk and the security officer at the exit was not someone he knew well. So he exited the building only five minutes behind Tony.

He walked into the lot just in time to see DiNozzo slam down hood of his car, smack his hands down on the unyielding metal, and then run his fingers agitatedly through his hair. Gibbs had to work hard not to let the amusement he was feeling show on his face.

“Problem, Tony?”

The other man was too irritated to notice Jethro’s slip of the tongue. And anyway it was probably time for Gibbs to throw his given name into conversation every now and then.

“Goddamn car. Fan belt’s snapped. Happened just as I turned the ignition. It’s only just outta the shop a week ago.”

Tony looked kind of devastated as he shrugged one shoulder.

“Looks like I’m gonna be here for a while waiting for Triple A. I’ll get to your place as soon as I can, Boss, but don’t wait the food for me. If it gets too late, then I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Gibbs caught the strap of Tony’s back pack and slid it off his shoulder. “Nah, you can ride with me. I’m sure Jack and Danny will be happy to get you home later and you can get a cab in the morning. Triple A can wait for tomorrow.”

Tony’s mouth made a perfect O, and Jethro had to turn away and walk towards his truck before he covered those lips with his own.

“Just a few more hours,” he muttered to himself, Tony too far behind him to hear.

‘Just a few more hours…and however long it takes them both to come home’, his spiteful inner voice re-joined.

And wasn’t that a painful truth.

*****

 

Gibbs House: 1910 – CTC minus 23 hours 53 minutes

“LJ, it’s good to see ya.” Jack was in full hail-fellow-well-met mode, and Gibbs was engulfed in a huge hug before Jack’s big hands were holding his cheeks, and O’Neill’s big brown eyes were gazing into his. His glance was searching and concerned, and it was more than a little intimate. “How ya doin’?”

They were obviously going the touchy-feely route tonight – which was probably Daniel’s doing – and wouldn’t that blow Tony’s mind. There was nothing he could do but go with it.

“I’m doing good, JJ.” He smiled as Jack let him go, and then turned and looked at Tony, whose eyes were wide and incredulous. “Major General Jonathon ‘Jack’ O’Neill, this is my Senior Field Agent Tony DiNozzo.”

Tony dragged his gaze from Jack’s hands, which were now resting on Jethro’s shoulders, and pasted on a smile that looked slightly manic.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Sir.”

“Ach, none of that ‘Sir’ stuff. Call me Jack, or JJ.”

Jack took Tony’s hand with both of his and his greeting was more of a squeeze than a shake. Then O’Neill reached out and snagged Daniel’s arm, who was in the middle of wrapping Jethro in a hug of epic proportions.

As Daniel turned towards him, Jethro saw Tony’s eyes go from surprised to slightly narrowed, as he skimmed over Daniel with a seriously assessing gaze. It looked like a little green man was rearing his ugly head, and Gibbs couldn’t help but be a little concerned about Tony’s reaction.

“Tony. It’s so good to meet you. I only met LJ a few days ago, but your name has come up several times in conversation…In a good way of course.”

Daniel reached out his hand, and Tony took it quickly, only to give a little ‘ugh’ of surprise when he was drawn into a warm embrace. To Jethro’s surprise, Tony’s hands came up of their own volition and after only a few moments he returned the hug with equal fervour.

It was only speculation, but Gibbs thought Tony was just as starved for physical affection as Jethro had been. He was sure the first time in bed with his husband was going to be explosive, they were both so skin-hungry…And the possibility of sharing all that golden flesh with Danny and Jack at some point in the future made him shiver a little in anticipation.

His thoughts were obviously not as covert as he’d hoped, as Jack knocked shoulders with him and raised a knowing eyebrow in the direction of the cuddling pair.

“Hot huh?” Jack breathed against his ear.

“Fuck yeah,” Gibbs agreed on an exhale.

Hell only knew what it would look like naked. His cock was threatening to make an educated guess, already shifting in his pants, so he decided to take away the visual stimulation before he made a spectacle of himself.

“Jack, come help me set the fire will you? You two could start the sides if you want,”

He shot a questioning look towards the two younger men, but they were already talking up a storm and wandering into the kitchen. He followed Tony’s form until he disappeared from view.

“Sorry, LJ, but you’ll feel like that for a long time.”

Gibbs quirked an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“You won’t wanna let him out of your sight, not for a minute. But if you’re not careful it starts to get too much. Danny just up and left for nearly two weeks the last time, said I was suffocating him. It wasn’t till he was gone this time that I realised how ridiculous I was being.  It doesn’t matter how hard I hold on, I can’t stop him from going.”

The idea of losing his lover over and over again was devastating, and once again Jethro had respect for his friends’ ability to cope with it repeatedly. As he mulled it over, a horrifying thought hit Jethro, skittering down his spine, clutching and ice cold despite the roaring fire they’d got going.

“Is he…is Danny immortal now?” and beneath that question was ‘And does that mean Tony will be immortal too?’

There was a shadow in Jack’s eyes as he nodded. “Pretty much, we think.”

He picked up the poker and needlessly prodded the fire. “With the way he draws trouble it’s kinda good knowing that he can’t die in the conventional way, although the actual act of dying is still as painful and traumatic for him. He’s even speculated that he could just make it happen now….Just go glowy through force of will. In some ways, knowing he could is a relief, especially with me being so much older than him. When I first met him, I fought the attraction…”

“…Thinking you were too old, too scarred, too damaged by what you’d had to do in the past.” Gibbs finished, knowingly.

They shared a look of solidarity, borne of many years of mutual experiences.

“Yeah. So now at least I know he won’t be left alone, if he doesn’t want to be. He says he can teach me to do it, but I dunno, LJ. I don’t think I can learn all that meditation mumbo-jumbo and how to ‘release’ the fuck-ton of burdens my…our lives have given us.”

“Hey, it’s gotta be worth a try.” Gibbs shrugged.

It wasn’t like him to be optimistic, but he knew would strive to do anything to spend even another five minutes with Tony.

Jack looked surprised, “You’d want to live forever?”

“If it was with Tony… then yeah.”

Gibbs stared into the flames, trying not to think about what they were both going to have to face just under 24 hours.

“Yeah.” Jack breathed out on a sigh.

*****

Dinner had been a way better time than Jethro had expected. With Jack telling all kinds of inappropriate stories about their time in I & E there was no chance for Gibbs to play the dour taciturn boss. Daniel kept Tony involved by asking him about his life and work. When he found out he could speak an obscure dialect of Italian and that DiNozzo had spent some time in Italy, he was almost giddy. They chatted so fast in the language that even Gibbs, who’d been taught a little by Tony himself, could only just keep up. It was also a bit of a strain not to join in and give himself away.

The two younger men carried on their conversation while they cleared the table and took the flatware and knives into the kitchen. Jack stood and then to his surprise, pressed a kiss to Jethro’s temple.

“Come on, LJ. Show me this boat you have in the basement, while the ladies wash the dishes.”

A joint, ‘HEY!’ floated through the kitchen door, followed by gales of laughter. The sound filled Jethro’s heart with joy. It had been so long since he’d heard that sound. A slight pull on his shoulder got his attention.

“Got any bourbon?” Jack asked ironically.

“Does a Marine have more brains than a Flyboy?”

“So that’s a no then,” Jack deadpanned as he descended the basement stairs behind Gibbs.

Jethro grinned and tipped out two mason jars of screws, before slopping a couple of fingers of the dark liquor into each of them. They clinked the jars together before taking a healthy sip. Jethro savoured the flavour, as his gaze stole back up the stairwell, while at the same time trying to hear the no longer discernible conversation going on the kitchen.

Once again Jack’s hand was on his face, only this time he was turning Gibbs’ head and pushing something into his ear.

“…what you’d do if you weren’t an Agent?”

He looked over at Jack to see the man placing his own earwig. It seemed like they were both feeling the need to be close to their men tonight. He was glad to hear they were speaking in English again.

“I’ve always been in law enforcement. I know it sounds…I dunno, ridiculously overblown, but I’ve always wanted to help people, you know?”

“Yeah. I understand that completely. When I was an academic, everything I did was dry, just words on paper. Speculation and theory, all bound up in myths and fairy tales. But when I met Jack, I was able to use part of what I knew to help him and his men in their mission to help others. All of a sudden it didn’t seem so dry and theoretical when a dialect you thought was dead, was being spoken in a village, miles from anywhere.”

Millions of light years from anywhere,” Jack murmured and Jethro gave a little huff in agreement.

“Danny…You and Jack, you’re not on active field duty anymore, right?”

“That’s right. I sometimes get called in to consult, but Jack is permanently based at the Pentagon now.”

“We…Gibbs and I…we have really dangerous jobs. Sometimes it feels like not a week goes by when we’re not getting shot at, or stabbed, or infected with Y-Pestis…”

“The pneumonic plague? Wow, that’s a story I’ve got to hear some time.”

“Yeah, OK. What I’m trying to say is…Gibbs, he’s getting there, but he’s still not…the same as he was before the explosion. The Director offered me a team of my own, two weeks ago. I might even have accepted if it was here in DC. But she wanted to send me to Rota…in Spain. I couldn’t be that far away. So I was gonna ask you both…If anything was to happen to me…Well…could you check in with him? Make sure he always has someone to watch his six. Only sometimes he goes off grid, and I know that about him so I’m always on the lookout, but if it was another member of the team, who doesn’t know him so well…”

Tony’s swallowing was so loud it was picked up on the earwig, and Gibbs wanted nothing more than to take the sound of fear and sorrow out of his voice. The fact that Shepard had tried to send his Agent, his husband to the other side of the world was something he couldn’t deal with right then – but he couldn’t help feeling grateful Tony had declined. His behaviour had been so awful that DiNozzo would have had every right to leave the US and start again.

“Of course we will. I know Jack has no intention of leaving it so long to get in touch again, and now he’s in DC permanently there’ll be nothing stopping them getting together – and heaven help Washington when that happens.

Gibbs and Jack shared a wry smile, as the two men above them laughed.

“But seriously, AJ, when are you going to tell him?”

“Tell who what?”

“Tell Jethro that you’re in love with him?”

Gibbs looked aghast at Jack. “What’s he doing? It’s too soon to do this yet.” Jethro knew this line of questioning was just too dangerous, for Tony and for the mission as a whole. He stood from his perch on the saw horse and made to go upstairs.

O’Neill patted him on the shoulder and shook his head, pulling him back down. “It’s OK. Danny knows what he’s doing. You can trust him.”

“I…Me and Gibbs, ha…That’s a nice idea. Hot even, if I wasn’t straight. But it could never happen.”

“Nice try, AJ, but I have eyes. And yours have hardly left him all night. Besides that, my Gaydar has been going off loud and proud. You’re an investigator, you worked out that Jack and I don’t just work together didn’t you?”

“Fuck. Yeah I got that. OK…Daniel, listen. You cannot say anything to him…It’s complicated…So fucking complicated. It’s different than you and Jack.”

“I wouldn’t betray your trust like that, and I know circumstances are not ideal. So I’m not saying you have to say anything right this minute. But wouldn’t it be better for him to know how you feel, in case something does happen. I think you’d be surprised at his reaction. From what you’ve said about the amnesia and his reaction to you, then his memories about his friendship with you are trickling back. Give it a few days and see whether that continues, and then maybe talk to him.”

“That’s what Ducky said too.”

“Well then that’s a plan. And you’ll be talking to me, I can guarantee that. Between us I think we can make things right.”

“That’s our cue,” Jack alerted. And sure enough there was a creak overhead as the other two men walked out of the kitchen. O’Neill pulled his earwig out and held out his hand for Jethro’s. He’d just secreted them in his breast pocket when they appeared in the basement doorway and began to come down the stairs. It appeared Daniel had been keeping to the plan, as Tony was looking a little flushed – a sure sign that he’d had quite a bit of alcohol – and they were both carrying wine glasses that were slightly over half full.

“I think that wine is going to waste,” Jack told Daniel, who in turn looked shocked at the revelation.

“Why?”

“Because I have an early call with the British Prime Minister at 0 dark 30. We’re gonna need to make tracks.” Jack tipped the last of his bourbon into Jethro’s jar and gave him a surreptitious wink.

“Damn, I forgot that.” Daniel emptied his wine glass in two long swallows that made his Adams apple bob. From the way Tony wet his bottom lip, and the faintest whisper of a whimper from Jack, Gibbs hadn’t been the only one to find it very alluring. And the twinkle in Daniel’s eye meant he was pretty certain it had been totally purposeful.

Tony placed his own, still full glass, on the workbench and gave Gibbs a smile that melted his insides. “I’d better call a cab.”

“Surely it’d be easier for you to ride in with LJ in the morning,” Jack piped up. “Seems stupid to travel across the city and pay for a cab fare when he’s going into the office in the morning.”

“Yeah,” Danny piped up, his eyes positively bursting with amusement. “You have a guest room, Jethro, right? Clean sheets and a spare pair of boxers?”

“No, it’s OK, I can just…”

Gibbs was right there, not wanting Tony to even attempt to talk Jethro out of letting him stay. “Room’s there. Bed’s clean and I’ve got boxers or briefs. Whatever you want.”

Tony looked completely bowled over by the united front. “Boxers,” he blurted before flushing and clearing his throat. “Well…if…It does make sense I suppose. That’d be great thanks, Boss.”

“Jethro…” Daniel whispered, but Tony shook his head and made not so subtle ‘cut’ signals across his throat.

“Did you used to call me Jethro, Tony…before,” Gibbs asked. The uncertainty in his voice was from his ambivalence about manipulating Tony like that, even though Daniel had reassured him that he’d come back from ascension understanding everything, but it worked to make him sound as if his memory was to blame.

DiNozzo took a sip of his wine before he answered and there was a sheen of moisture in his eyes when he finally nodded.

“Then there’s a precedent,” Daniel said with an air of finality. “Jethro, meet Tony.”

They both grinned at the other man’s mock formality, and once more Gibbs had to thank God for Daniel’s ability to diffuse tense situations. Tony stuck out his hand and Jethro took it. The warmth of skin on skin was nearly his undoing and his dick was screaming at him to pull Tony in and never let him go. And if the trembling transmitted through DiNozzo’s hand was anything to go by, Jethro’s husband wasn’t faring much better.

“So are we sorted?” Jack was already half way up the stairs, not waiting for a reply. “Good. I’ll call you tomorrow, LJ and we’ll make plans for later, OK?”

Under Jack’s throwaway remark, Gibbs heard the encrypted message. ‘I’ll call you tomorrow morning to make sure we’re on target for the mission, and then when it’s all over, we’ll meet, hold each other, and then decide how we go forward while we wait for them to come back’.

It was comforting to know that this time he wasn’t going to be alone with his grief. Because whether or not Tony ascended and then returned, Jethro was still going to have to watch him die tomorrow afternoon, and there was no easy way of dealing with something like that.

*****

Gibbs House: 0012 – CTC minus 18 hours 51 minutes

Tony drained his wine and placed it carefully on the coffee table. They’d been sitting on opposite ends of the couch, watching the fire as it died down. Gibbs took a guess that they were both fighting the same urge to slide over and take their partner in a hot and heavy embrace. In fact, the need was so great that Jethro made himself stand and walk over to the fireplace, so he was out of the reach of temptation.

Using the fire irons, he banked the last of the smouldering embers.

“I’ve put boxers and a t-shirt on the guest room bed.” He said over his shoulder. “I guess you’ve stayed in there before, right?”

Tony cleared his throat before he answered, but Gibbs made himself turn slowly and not show any emotion.

“Yeah, I know where it is.” Tony got up and stepped around the couch, resting his fists on the back. “Well, goodnight, B…Jethro.”

The shy smile he gave Gibbs almost shot his control out of the water. It gave Tony such a youthful look, showcasing his full lips and gorgeous eyes.

“Night, Tony,” he returned quietly. Not trusting himself to say anymore.

The other man smiled once more and then walked towards the stairs. Just as he was about to leave the room he looked back, a slightly thoughtful expression on his face.

“Jethro…I…” he started, but then sighed and simply said, “Thanks for letting me stay.”

Tony was gone through the door before Jethro could reply. He slumped down on the couch and watched the glowing embers as the familiar sounds of someone moving about upstairs filtered through the house.

Jethro’s heart was racing in his chest. They were so close…so fucking close. Just a few short steps – a few small words, and he could be holding his husband again.

He couldn’t help feeling jealous that Jack and Daniel had gone home together, and would share the same bed tonight. Then he told himself not to be so selfish. After all they’d allowed him to share their bed since their return from the future, in order to help him in his grief. He had no right to begrudge them a few short hours of togetherness.

And for the first time in nearly three months, at least from Jethro’s point of view, Tony was safe and under the same roof. That was definitely something to be grateful for.

*****

NCIS: 1721 – CTC minus 0 hours 22 minutes

“Can I talk to you, Boss?”

Gibbs looked up into Tony’s tired eyes. It looked as though his husband had got just as little sleep as him last night. “Fire away.”

“Can…maybe in your office?” Tony asked quietly, his eyes darting around the bullpen.

Jethro felt adrenaline rush through him, making an already tight stomach feel like it was being stabbed repeatedly. If he didn’t have an ulcer after this, it would be a miracle. His throat was too tight to speak so he simply stood and strode over to the elevator. Tony was so close behind him that he could almost feel the other man’s breath on his neck.

The doors opened immediately – of course they did, fate was bound to be a bitch all day today. Gibbs really didn’t want to have this conversation; not when it couldn’t end with long hours of lovemaking and the honey-sweet drugging kisses that only Tony was capable of giving him. It was just too painful to only have a few minutes left together.

The drive in that morning had been a strangely familiar experience, overlain with an overwhelming sense of the inevitable, and for Gibbs, palpable crushing grief. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he had cried bitter tears into his pillow last night, and in the absence of Tony in his bed, had been craving the comfort he had received from Jack and Daniel.

That in turn had made him feel overwhelming guilt, which had mutated into incandescent anger – at himself, at the Goa’uld, the Ori priestess, the Wraith, damn it at the Universe in general. By the time dawn was breaking, Jethro felt shattered into tiny pieces.

Now it seemed that Tony had spent all night deciding to talk to him, and Gibbs knew this conversation had the potential to crumble the last of his composure into dust. He was so close, so fucking close, to calling the whole thing off; telling Jack to find another way.

But in the end, this is the way it had to be…because this is the way it had been in the last timeline. Only this time Tony wasn’t going to die thinking he was alone. There was a little comfort in that – but not much.

The doors closed behind them and Tony hit the emergency stop before the elevator had travelled more than a few feet. Gibbs leaned against the metal wall, folded his arms across his chest, and then made himself look at Tony, drinking him in while he had the chance.

“Gibbs…I…”

There were desperate entreaties in Tony’s eyes, so eloquent that Jethro could almost hear the words they were screaming. ‘Please remember me, please accept me, please love me’.

Gibbs made his expression as accepting as possible, one side of him wishing he could just say the words he knew Tony wanted to hear, the other waiting for the call that would set everything in motion. They were literally minutes away…

“I want, no I need you to know something,” Tony began again. “You asked me if we were friends before the explosion; if I called you Jethro and visited your house for cowboy steaks.”

Gibbs nodded, knowing he needed to give Tony something back. “And you told me that you did. I believe you.”

Tony’s eyes were filmed with tears as he bravely reached out a hand and rested it on Jethro’s arm. “But you don’t remember anything really – don’t remember me?”

“Sometimes…” Jethro replied, his voice remarkably even despite the emotion coursing through him. “…sometimes it’s like there is something just out of reach about you. I think I have a handle on it and then you do or say something and I know there is something missing.”

He hated this duplicity. He didn’t want to lie to Tony, not about this – not about anything.

“We…we were…”

The ringing of Jethro’s phone was stark in the enclosed space, sounding louder than it should.

‘The death knell’, Gibbs thought as he unhooked the cell from his belt. He could see the frustration and disappointment in Tony’s expression, and although the other man did it as covertly as possible, he didn’t miss the way Tony scrubbed a tear from his cheek.

“Gibbs!”

“Gibbs, this is Ziva. I have a situation. I came to the alley between Fairfax and 5th to speak to my contacts about the drug in the Peterson case, but I am trapped at the end of the alley. Unknown number of assailants. They are armed.”

Gibbs had to admire the snake’s acting ability – the voice on the other end of the phone sounded exactly as it should.

“You stay put, we’re on our way. Do not engage, David!”

As would be expected he snapped the cell closed.

“Ziva’s in trouble,” he explained as he hit the button for the bullpen, freeing the elevator. It lurched a little and then settled back onto the correct floor. Just before the doors opened, Tony stepped forward and placed a soft, closed mouth kiss on Jethro’s lips.

Gibbs didn’t have to fake his look of surprise. “Tony?”

“We’ll continue this when we get back.”

And then Tony was striding away from him. Gibbs trotted past Tony and by the time his SFA had gathered his gun and backpack, Gibbs was back at the elevator, holding the door open.

“What about McGee?” Tony asked, reaching for his own cell.

“His sister is flying in so he took an afternoon,” Gibbs reassured.

Tim hadn’t been there in the first timeline, and having him there this time would make more problems. So when he had asked for the hours at short notice, Jethro had granted them immediately, feeling rather proud of himself for sending Tim’s sister the tickets in McGee’s name.

By the time he got back to work, the whole thing would be over and the fact of Ziva going missing, Tony being seconded to a secret mission, and Gibbs decision to retire, would make any questions about mystery plane tickets a minor issue.

Tony was back in professional mode again, but in his periphery Gibbs could see the younger man casting worried glances his way. Giving in to the instinct he had been fighting since the first time he’d seen Tony in this timeline, he reached out and took the big warm hand in his. He gave it a firm squeeze before reluctantly letting go, but he was gifted by a smile that made his pulse thrum a little faster.

“When this is all over,” Jethro said, still looking forward, “I promise we’ll talk.”

The doors opened again before Tony could reply and they ran out into the parking lot.

*****

Alley Between Fairfax and 5th: 1739 – CTC minus 0 hours 4 minutes.

The journey had been too short.

Gibbs was screaming inside, his hands clenched on the wheel as he drove through the traffic with even more deadly intent than usual. Now they were crouched at the entrance to the alley. Gibbs tried to peer around the corner, but could see nothing past a dumpster that was partially blocking the way. As he cast an assessing eye around the environs he noticed a large black van parked only a hundred metres away.

Jack was here.

“Do we know what we’re facing, Boss?” Tony asked, his face a mask of concentration.

‘Yes’, Gibbs wanted to yell. ‘Ziva with a fucking psycho snake in her head, holding a Sig Sauer and a bracelet that can incapacitate’. Instead they were distracted by gunfire in the alley accompanied by a scream from Ziva.

Tony didn’t hesitate. He exploded into action, bursting down the alley, pushing the dumpster in front of him, using it as a makeshift shield.

Gibbs was only a few steps behind him, and as Tony let go of the dumpster Jethro stepped up beside him, only to see Ziva with a writhing Daniel at her feet.

‘I can just shoot her’ he realised, like a bolt out of the blue, the sense of imminent reprieve making him feel lightheaded. ‘I can take her out before she can fire a shot’. He lifted his gun to do just that, not letting himself think about the repercussions, only that he could prevent Tony from dying.

But before he could get a bead on her she fired. ‘OK, it’s me instead of him’, he thought as everything around him elongated and shuddered. His sight became stereoscopic, and with a gut churning lurch he could instantaneously see both timelines in split screen as they played out alongside one another.

As the whole thing threatened to make him pass out, a dark blue blur flew in front of him. In that instant he realised that Tony had thrown himself between Gibbs and the bullet. As the bullet hit with a sickening thud, Tony gave a shocked gasp. He didn’t fall immediately, but just swayed a little before looking down at his chest. The crack of the Sig firing again seemed to echo through both timestreams.

And as the second bullet was fired the double vision snapped back into place. ‘The timeline has merged’, Gibbs thought, but didn’t feel any sense of achievement at his own insight into the science fact.

He tried to concentrate on keeping a bead between Ziva’s eyes, but despite knowing more this time, Gibbs could still appreciate how surreal it was. Outwardly she was still all Israeli assassin, standing there with her Sig Sauer held unwaveringly in her right hand and pointed right at Gibbs. But at her feet Daniel was writhing in pain while being held in place with the beam of light from the Goa’uld bracelet on her arm. The bright, golden flash of her eyes told him they’d succeeded. The snake had no idea it had been tricked.

“You will kneel at the feet of your God!”

The voice was still not Ziva’s, still distorted but this time Gibbs didn’t want to laugh.

“Put down your weapon and let me get a medic for Tony.” He tried, giving in to the futile hope that Ziva could somehow fight the parasite currently in charge of her mind and body.

He didn’t have to look down to know how bad Tony’s wound was. He could remember in vivid detail, even if the sound of Tony’s breathing wasn’t a shocking reminder.

Ziva just laughed and with a twist of her wrist the beam of light stopped, and Daniel slumped to the floor with a whimper.

There was a flurry of movement behind Gibbs, but he didn’t bother to look back. He knew there was no threat. He simply kept his aim on Ziva, wishing with all his heart it could have been him bleeding out on the slushy grey snow that was beginning to dampen his feet through his boots.

“Soon be over, Danny. Please don’t make him wait.”

Jack’s voice was a murmur this time. The banked sorrow in his friends plea to Fate resonated in Jethro’s heart. He felt guilty though, that just the simple fact of Jack being there, his voice so familiar, made him feel not so alone with the grief that was already building in his chest. It took all of Gibbs’ will not to turn and look at him, but a smirk from Ziva and a further flash of her eyes made him firm up his stance and keep his eyes forward.

Daniel blearily opened his eyes and gave a weak but heartbreakingly sweet smile that rivalled Tony’s best. He’d obviously heard his lover’s voice. Those blue, blue eyes were still a distraction, and Jethro squeezed down on the grip of his gun to remind himself of his priorities.

“O’Neill. I was just going to ask Dr Jackson here about my ship.”

“Hello, Bocce. I thought I killed you once already this year.” Jack’s voice was teasing but the honey was overlaid with steel. Even if Gibbs didn’t know the ending of their little play, he would have had no doubt of the outcome for Ba’al.

The Goa’uld’s eyes flashed gold again, her gaze flicking over Gibbs shoulder. That millisecond of inattention was all he needed, and he squeezed off a round aiming for a body shot, hoping to drop her before she realised just what the fuck was going on. The shot hit true, the .40 S&W slicing through the shoulder of her gun arm. But even at short range she barely flinched. Instead she swung down and fired twice at Daniel, with a manic grin slicing across her face. Both were head shots and he didn’t make a sound as he began to add to the gore already pooling at Jethro’s feet.

The whimper of distress behind him cut him like a knife and the need to finish this suffused his body with white hot rage. Jethro didn’t wait, just fired again, this time popping two right between her eyes. His aim was true as ever, and with a surprised look Ziva dropped to her knees, the gold light flashing once before being replaced by her usual eye colour.

Jethro let his gun droop slightly. The emergence of the Goa’uld parasite – as bleeding increased and then her mouth was forced open from the inside – was still as gross and weirdly macabre as before, and now Jethro just wanted the whole fucked up mess to be over.

“O’Neill!” Teal’c dark rich voice came from behind him, and the warning was clear as a figure darted across the back of the alley towards a doorway.

Then in a flurry of movement everything happened at once. As Jack dodged around him and moved to apprehend the unknown perp, the ‘snake with wings’ he now knew to be a Goa’uld symbiote came slithering out of Ziva’s mouth and flew straight towards him.

He dropped to his knees as Teal’c’s huge hand stretched in front of him and caught Ba’al inches from his face.

The Jaffa in black BDU’s and a thick wool cap, all 6’7” and 350lbs of very large muscle made Gibbs feel as safe as he ever had. His dark skin was glistening as he lifted the snake level with his face.

“You are a false god.” He said with a disgusted sneer.

The snake hissed back and wriggled frantically but T’s grip was too strong. With a grimace of disgust and a simple twist of his hands the thing was ripped in two and thrown to the floor.

“A dead false god.” He intoned and once again the deep, dark satisfaction in his voice made Gibbs shiver. Now knowing what he did about the subjugation of the Jaffa, Jethro didn’t begrudge him that at all.

Finally, Ziva toppled over and was still and Gibbs knew the danger had passed. He twisted on his knees and cried out with distress at the sight of Tony, surrounded by a puddle of bloodstained snow, stretching far further than it should, turning his pristine white t-shirt vivid red.

Once again Ziva’s shots had hit true, only it was the fibres of the USMC tee Jethro had loaned him this morning that were pushed deep into the wound. Tony’s usually vibrant green eyes were dull, pain filled and trained solely on Jethro. He dragged off his NCIS windbreaker and balled it up to cover the wounds. He knew it was too late, but he was still going to try, damn it.

Tony gave a small groan of pain as Gibbs pressed on the wound.

“Jethro…”

“Shh, Tony. I’m here.” Gibbs said softly. Jack O’Neill was kneeling over Daniel, his hand tenderly closing the eyelids of his fallen lover.

Gibbs’ attempt to slide Tony’s upper body onto his thighs to try to ease his breathing was met with a pained moan from Tony.

“I have called for assistance.” Teal’c was still standing at Jethro’s shoulder.

“Thanks, T…” Jethro stopped, remembering that they had not met before in this timeline. “That thing…?” he extemporised.

Teal’c gave a grave nod and, lifting the now familiar Zat, he proceeded to fire at the mangled corpse of Ba’al, giving it the necessary three shots to disintegrate it.

“This is fucked up.” Gibbs murmured under his breath, devastated at having to do this all over again.

“Indeed.” The other man answered with no trace of irony.

Just when Gibbs began to fear it wasn’t actually going to happen, there was a sudden shift in the light and his eyes widened as under Jack’s hand Daniel began to glow.

“I know you have to go, Danny. But you better fucking get back here quickly, you hear me.” Jack stood as the glowing form lifted from Daniel’s body. Knowing what was happening didn’t make it any less unbelievable.

“You tell them we need that intel. You tell ‘em I’ve got the last of the Ori…”

The golden light subsumed Daniel’s corporeal body and drifted upwards, leaving an empty pile of clothes. It hovered for a moment and then seemed to pass right through O’Neill, who smiled sadly.

“See ya soon, babe.”

Before Gibbs could even catch his breath, the light moved towards Tony. Gibbs leaned down and whispered in Tony’s ear, “Please listen to him.”

“Be still – there is nothing to fear from AscendedDanielJackson.” Teal’c reassured, having interpreted his move as a protective one.

Jethro wished he could feel more optimistic. His gut told him the whole thing had the potential to go badly any moment. Then the gold light that used to be Daniel moved over him, and there was such a deep feeling of love that he let his shoulders relax.

“Make him go, Danny, please. Don’t let him talk you out of it…” he pleaded sub-vocally.

The light around him pulsed softly and Gibbs would have sworn he heard the ghost of Daniel’s voice in his mind, saying, ‘Trust me, I always keep my promises’.

Time seemed to stretch as an eerie silence settled over the crime scene. The weak light of a winter evening was falling over the city, but in that dirty side-street the golden light was as bright as the sun. Jethro was aware of Jack watching from across the narrow alley. He looked far older than he should and so very sad.

His gaze returned to his own side of the alley as the light finally settled over Tony, and for a single heartbeat Jethro allowed himself the vain hope that Daniel might be able to heal him. Instead Tony seemed to stare off into some unseen distant point and gave a weak facsimile of his trademark grin.

“You don’t want me,” Tony rasped. “You only have to look to see why… And hey if that’s how it is then I can’t go, who would watch his six? Oh, well then…maybe…” Harsh coughing stopped the words and Tony’s breathing seemed to get worse.

“Please, Tony. Just listen to me. I remember…I remember everything.”

He returned a weak squeeze of his hand as the tortured rasp of Tony’s breathing and the pale cast of his skin told him this chapter of the story was about over. He just hoped it was going to be a happy ending.

“…Jethro. I’m so glad you remember now … just don’t blame yourself. I remembered for both of us…”

“I know, sweetheart. I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

It was so bittersweet to hear the younger man calling him by his given name, having it feel so right.

“I’m coming back, y’know…Danny told me.” He coughed weakly. “Who’d’a thought angels would be hot, built guys with bright blue eyes?”

Suddenly Jethro was unwillingly caught by the green eyes of his husband. It was impossible to look away and a stab of grief made his heart lurch in his chest.

“Danny is a good man; you can trust him. And when you come back – because he’s promised he’ll bring you back – then we’ll start all over again. I’m so fucking sorry…”

Tears were pouring down Jethro’s cheeks as Tony looked up at him with overwhelming love.

“Let JJ watch your six, Jet, in everything…Gonna try to look out for you, but Danny say’s there’s stuff to do, so I can’t promise…” Tony pulled weakly on his hand and Gibbs moved as if in a dream, to kneel right over him.

Tony’s free hand, slick with blood and icy water reached out to him, as a trembling finger stroked across his cheek and over his bottom lip.

“Ducky…” he started, but his breathing was a no more than a rattling wheeze.

“S’OK, S’OK. I know. You go with Danny now, it’s OK to let go. JJ and I will look after one another. I’ll be here waiting. I love you.”

Tony’s body began to glow, and Jethro didn’t know whether to scream in grief or cheer for their success. They’d achieved what they’d come to do, but the cost was so great Gibbs didn’t know how he was going to survive it.

“Love you, Jet…” Tony’s words were a whisper as the body under Jethro’s hands began to simply… disappear, while a cloud of scintillation gathered above it. The waving limbs of light intertwined with each other as the being that had once been Tony joined that of Daniel.

Gibbs felt the soft squeeze of hands on his shoulders, and stiffly he rose to stand and watch, leaning back into the comfort Jack offered.

“See you soon, love,” Gibbs murmured, as the ascended Ancients moved bodily through them, leaving a sense of peace and overwhelming love behind them.

And then they were gone.

“Come on LJ. Let’s go to the van. Teal’c will deal with clean-up.”

A glance across the alleyway showed the Jaffa tenderly folding Daniel’s clothes. He looked up at O’Neill’s use of his name. “Kel’sha, O’Neill. And remember, dal’en mek creon te shree tal’ma.

“Thanks, T.”

Jack wrapped an arm around Jethro’s shoulders, and he couldn’t say he wasn’t glad of it. His legs were shaky and he was fighting the urge to throw up.

“What did that mean…what he said,” he asked, really just to distract himself from the feel of Tony’s blood as it soaked through his pants, and clung clammy and slick on his hands.

“Oh…hang on. Danny is the real language geek, but I know a fair bit now…Kel’sha is really an all-purpose word – sorta like OK, but knowing Teal’c it would be something more formal like, ‘It shall be done’.”

His impression of the Jaffa was spot on, and Gibbs found himself chuckling, slightly hysterically.

“And the other, longer phrase,” he prodded as they reached the van and climbed in.

Jack smiled sadly. “Yeah, well I’ve heard that one more than a few times, unfortunately.”

He pulled on the collar of Jethro’s jacket and Gibbs let it slide from his shoulders. “It means ‘Your love does not end in death’.”

The two men looked at each other searchingly and found nothing but sincere affection. They had been brothers in arms before they were friends, and friends before they were on-again-off-again lovers. There was a feeling in Jethro’s gut that when Tony and Danny returned, there would be another, more profound element to the relationship between all four of them.

But right now they were both grieving widowers, regardless that their husband and partner were not, to all intents and purposes, actually dead. Their relationship was deep enough that there was nothing they could not do in front of each other, and because the release of the stress and tension was too much to fight, they both allowed the tears to flow unimpeded.

Gibbs continued to get undressed, glad that the tears blurred the sight of Tony’s blood. He tried to concentrate on logistics, hoping to save the complete breakdown he knew was coming for when he was back at Tony’s…at their house.

“What happened to that Ori bitch? I saw you go after her.” Gibbs was aware that despite the fact that the snake had killed both Tony and Daniel, and had made it necessary for him kill Ziva, Adria was in fact the one who had planned it all.

“My people have her,” Jack’s expression went flint hard, his tear filled eyes flashing with rage. “She was the leader of the Ori and is the last of her race. We managed to stop the rest from using this galaxy as a living battery. I think we, along with our allies, can find a fitting punishment for her.”

Gibbs could get on board with that sentiment.

“Sounds like a plan. You’ll do the same with Ziva’s remains as in the last timeline, I suppose. But what are we going to do about the lack of Tony’s body this time?”

Last time there had been a funeral to contend with, and Gibbs couldn’t be sad that he wasn’t going to have to cope with that this time.

Jack handed him the huge towel, a handful of washcloths and a set of BDU’s, and pushed him towards the familiar shower cubicle.

“I think Special Agent Anthony Juliano DiNozzo-Gibbs is about to be TDY to a covert mission under the auspices of Homeland Security. We have a dummy office there, and I can process his paperwork through it. If I give it a high enough security rating, then even SecNav won’t be able to check up on him. That assignment can last until they come back from glowing, then we can talk to him about what he wants to do next.”

“I think I have to retire again.” Gibbs called through the thin wall of the shower, needing to be distracted from how red the water was as it whirled away down the drain.

“Oh, yeah. And I’m gonna get myself back in the big chair at Stargate Command. Or maybe just come up with a good reason why my office should be based there. It’s only for the convenience of everyone else that I’m based at the Pentagon at all.  Really only POTUS has an excuse not to come to me, and he loves the ‘Gate. In fact, if I get him a trip through, he’ll probably sign for me to be based anywhere.”

Jack voice sounded raw with grief, and Gibbs knew they were both just going through the motions, trying to get through the next hour or so until there was just the two of them and they were able to fall apart without interruption.

“With your Super-dooper ATA gene, you can pretty much write your own ticket in the program, but my preference would be to have you as my XO. We could either re-up you or make the position civilian. I know Davis hates Colorado, and I’ll be honest, his interest in Danny was getting a little too…”

“Intense,” Gibbs offered, as he walked out of the shower cubicle with a towel slung around his shoulders. He had rough dried and slipped on the uniform pants but his hair was still dripping.

“Yeah. I wasn’t having fun with it anymore.”

“He knows, Jack. He told me in the other timeline. I think he needs to get some distance too, but you also need to talk to Danny about not encouraging him anymore.” Gibbs advised, remembering how affected Davis seemed to be by the casual nature of their association.

“When he gets back,” Jack said sadly, blowing out a sigh. “I’d just fucking got used to having him here.”

Jethro nodded in agreement.

“As far as Davis goes, I have a pretty good idea that Danny won’t be interested at all – not with you and Tony being around.”

Gibbs flashed a sceptical look at Jack.

“Hey, I’m all for it, you know that. With just the short time I’ve known Danny, and the experience with you both a couple of days ago, there is definitely something there that has the potential to be more than just a bit of fun. And I saw the way Danny looked at Tony…Fuck the way Danny looked with Tony.”

Gibbs let himself remember just how hot the two younger men looked together. Jack winked at him lasciviously and he gave a sheepish grin.

“But Tony’s had to cope without me for a long time, while I was right there, treating him like ten kinds of fucking shit. I have a LOT of making up to do, and inviting him to be part of a foursome…”

“Don’t you worry about that. I guarantee when he gets back he’ll be up for anything. If Danny is anything to go by, then being glowy doesn’t only free the intellect, if you know what I mean.”

“So Tony will be as open as Daniel? Doesn’t that scare you? I mean, no offense but we’re both older, both got bum knees and a lot of ancient history to deal with. They’re both young, gorgeous, bright, so fucking hot…The idea that Tony might come back and think I’m not such a good deal anymore, especially after the way I treated him…”

Jethro slumped down on the fixed couch and covered his face with his hands, the sadness at losing Tony crowding in with the very real fear that he wasn’t worth coming back for.

Jack slid in next to him and wrapped him in a warm embrace.

“He loves you, JJ. So much that he waited for you, even when you treated him ‘like ten kinds of fucking shit’, OK? That’s not gonna change, even if we all end up in one massive bed.”

Jethro let himself be comforted by his friend and relaxed back into Jack, who in turn sighed a little in relief.

“We have one, you know.”

“One what?”

“A massive bed. There’s one in the master at 2447 Willowbrook. It’s gotta be ten feet wide at least.”

Jack lifted his eyebrows appreciatively. “Sounds like a good start, although Daniel is a blanket hog, so we’ll need at least two Super-King comforters.”

Jethro laughed, “OK, we can do that.”

They rested in silence, just letting the tension of the day seep out of their limbs for a while. Jethro was dozing when the thrum of the van engine disturbed him.

“S’OK,” Jack soothed, his own voice dredged in sleep. “’s just T. He’s taking us to 2447 Willowbrook. That OK?”

“That’s perfect,” Jethro murmured.

And just before sleep overtook him, he swore he heard Tony say, ‘Go home, Jet. I’ll see you there soon’.

*****

2447 Willowbrook, NoVA

It wasn’t the movement as Jack left, or the quiet in the room, but the coolness of the sheets as he rolled over that alerted Jethro he was alone in the bed. He squinted blearily at his phone and read the time. 0338. They’d only been in bed just over three hours.

He rose to a sitting position and rolled his aching neck. God he was tired; bone deep and painfully tinged with emotion. He knew Jack must be feeling the same.

They’d been dropped back at 2447 Willowbrook by Teal’c, who had declined the opportunity to stay the night also. In his usual understated way, he inferred that he had someone waiting for him, so Jack just waved him off.

When Jethro had asked where he would stay, O’Neill had hinted that it may have something to do with Davis. Jethro hoped so – the young XO deserved a little happiness and actually T was a pretty good match in his opinion – more so than Daniel anyway.

After using lock picks to get in – and Gibbs hadn’t even thought about the fact that his difficult conversation with Ducky hadn’t happened – they’d eaten frozen microwave pizza standing up in the kitchen, and then dragged themselves upstairs.

Jack had been suitably impressed by the monster bed, and after taking a shower by mutual but silent agreement, they’d fallen into the ridiculously high-threadcount sheets together.

It was all about solace, as the idea of sex never crossed Jethro’s mind at all. However, he was craving the kind of comfort that only another pair of arms could give; the kind of warmth and compassion Jack had always been willing to provide. He didn’t have to play the hard-nosed Marine with JJ. Emotion and affection had always been easy between them. Gibbs had almost been unconscious before his head hit the pillow, and his sleep had been deep, and dreamless.

Now though, he was alone in the room and his gut was unhappy about that circumstance. He slid on one of Tony’s robes from the back of the door, and after revelling in the scent of his husband as it surrounded him, padded his way down the corridor in socked feet.

As he passed down the hallway, there was the sound of muted talking coming from the office. At first his heart jumped, the voice sounded like Tony. Maybe they were back already. He pushed the door open, and was disappointed to see only the slumped figure of Jack on the couch, his face pale in the flickering light from the TV.

Up on the screen was Tony, giving his last wishes. Gibbs knew the words off by heart and was a little aggrieved that his friend had invaded his privacy…In fact he was unsure how JJ had got access to the box in the first-place, as it should have been in the safe.

“It was in the DVD player,” Jack explained as he stopped the recording, not for the first time accurately reading Jethro’s thoughts. “I was gonna turn it off, but there is something…”

Gibbs dropped down next to Jack and looked at Tony’s face up there on the screen. He looked…different than he had in the other timeline. There was a lifting of the lines in the corners of his eyes, and his skin was a lot healthier colour. Gibbs chest felt heavy with emotion, but he wasn’t sure he could have named which one.

“He’s so much like Danny. They both radiate so much life, and light, and colour. You just can’t look away.”

Gibbs could hear pain in Jack’s tone. He shouldn’t have been surprised, after all the man had lost his lover too. But there had been something about the way he’d approached the whole thing that had left Gibbs feeling like O’Neill wouldn’t be affected by it so severely.

“I can’t do this again, LJ. Every time it happens, it’s like Charlie all over again, that same knife to the gut. It’s like he thinks he’s expendable – just because he can glow off!”

Jack folded forward, and it was obvious the pain was intense. A hand clawed into the upholstery of the couch, and Gibbs took it up. Jack’s grip was fierce, and his breathing hitched as he tried to wrestle his overwhelming emotions.

Jethro wasn’t about to let Jack struggle with the grief. He pulled on his captive hand and Jack willingly curled into his side. Jethro was always surprised that for two big men they could easily find a comfortable spot together – maybe it was the ease of familiarity, but he wasn’t going to complain.

“I was sitting here, trying to work out just how many times I’ve done this…Either actually seen him die; thought he was dead; seen him taken off to be killed; trapped without hope of returning; missing and not having any idea where to look; infected by nanites that sent him mad and got him locked in a fucking white room…Fuck, even one time possessed by the souls of twelve people.”

Jack rolled his head to look at Jethro with eyes that were wet with tears and dark with devastation. “Twenty-three times, LJ. I’ve had to watch that man be taken from me in one form or another twenty-three times. And I gotta tell ya, it’s getting fucking old, damn it.”

Jethro gave him a sad smile. Oh yeah, he knew that feeling.

“Tony’s been kidnapped by a serial killer, had an untreatable form of the plague, trapped in the sewer with dead bodies, shot, stabbed, beaten, drugged, stalked…Maybe it’s the punishment for our sins.”

That brought a slight smile to Jack’s lips, as he let his voice fall into the lilting Irish accent Jethro recognised as being Mama-Rose O’Neill.

“Oh, to be sure, and we’re such good Catholic boys, never miss confession, church every Sunday, rosary every night.”

Jethro widened his eyes and plastered an innocent look on his face. “Well I do! No loose women or fornicating with gorgeous men, no alcohol…”

“…except for communion wine…”

“Except that of course, and the whiskey fumes from Father O’Leary’s breath as he gets just that little bit too close for comfort when he gives the sacrament.” Gibbs agreed.

They both began to chuckle, which mutated quickly into full on belly laughs that had them both holding their stomachs and rolling around the couch. One convulsion of mirth had Jack pressing the remote with his elbow, and Tony’s soft affectionate voice murmured from the speakers,

“I don’t know how I died obviously, but I have to believe you were there – you were always on my six on the job, no matter how far away you seemed in our personal life. If I didn’t get to say it, then I love…love you, Jethro. You are the heart of me and the time we had together, first as friends, then lovers, and then husbands, were the most perfect of my life.”

“He must have recorded this last night, checked it and forgotten to take it out of the player.” Jethro wiped at his eyes, but the tears weren’t from laughing anymore.

This time it was Jack’s turn to give the comfort. “He looks a natural in front of the camera.”

Despite his sadness Gibbs couldn’t help the shiver of arousal when he thought of how Tony could look. “Yeah, he made some other recordings too.”

Jack looked at him knowingly. “Oh reaalllly?”

“Yeah, but you’re not going to see them, at least not without his permission.”

“I get that…but give me a clue.” Jack gave him a winning smile, waggling his eyebrows.

Jethro shook his head at O’Neill’s antics, but decided a tease was a good payback.

“Well…in one of them he’s making very good use of the twin of a certain 9 inches that lives in my bedstand drawer, after taking money from me for the privilege of watching.”

The audible swallow from Jack let Gibbs know he had caught his attention.

“He made DVD’s of himself as anniversary presents for me.”

“You lucky, lucky bastard.” Jack breathed. “I wonder if he could get Danny to indulge…Maybe even the two of them…” Jack got a faraway look.

Jethro chuckled at the look of lust and longing on Jack’s face. Well, Gibbs didn’t have to wonder…of course his husband could, he was Tony after all. That man could charm the leaves off the trees…The question Jethro still wasn’t sure of was, would he want to?

*****

Stargate Command, Colorado Springs: Two Months Later…

“There is no reason for you to refuse to speak about your plans, Adria. You failed. So why don’t you tell me why you wanted Dr Jackson dead?”

“The power and the greatness of the Ori cannot be denied.”

 

“The Ori are no more, Adria. You are the last. Even the priors have fallen, killed by the very people they wanted to subjugate. There is no one left to care.”

 

Gibbs watched the interrogation of the Priestess from the observation room, with a barely concealed sneer on his face. The supposedly trained interrogators had been meeting with her several times a day, but all they got in return were platitudes and obvious Ori propaganda.

As with any other investigation, Gibbs had made himself au fait with all the relevant information surrounding the case, and as much personal intel about the criminal as he could get his hands on. That included some very interesting and informative journals by Dr Jackson, which outlined his long-term and frankly horrifying deep undercover mission as an Ori prior.

He was starting to see what Jack meant about Danny’s proclivity for getting himself in the most terrifying situations, and he had to admit it didn’t give him warm and fuzzy feelings about Tony being up there in glowy land.

No, he was going to make damn sure Tony realised that any damn fool antics would only be acceptable if Jethro was right there, glued to his side, or on his six – hopefully along with a couple of dozen badass Marines.

Right now though, he was just too irritated to dwell on the amount of time his lover and husband had been gone. This jackass handling the prisoner was worse than Probie, and that was saying something. He had a little twinge at the thought of NCIS, but really there was nothing left for him there.

Once again he had retired, once again Jen Shepard had tried to make it difficult. But this time he had the very formidable figure of Lieutenant General Jonathon J O’Neill standing right beside him.

Boss? What’s happened? Neither Tony nor Ziva have come in this morning. And you were late too, so I didn’t…”

McGee had stopped babbling, as he noticed the person who had walked in next to Gibbs. The Airforce General was resplendent in full service dress uniform, complete with the requisite three silver stars on each shoulder, and a rack bursting with ribbons. Gibbs almost laughed aloud at the look of awe on young Agents face.

“We’ll be with the Director, McGee. I suggest you get your paperwork up to date on the Peterson case. General O’Neill’s people will be expecting it.”

He trusted that his steely glare would give Tim the order that it needed to be done right. Not that it really mattered, it was all going to be buried, but it would actually help McGee if he got his desk clear, after all the young man didn’t know it, but there was a Lead Agent’s job in Cyber Crimes in his very near future.

Shoulder to shoulder, Jack and Gibbs made their way up to the Directors Office. Jennifer was standing in the doorway as they entered Angela’s office, and it was obvious that Security had let her know that a three-star General was on the way.

“Director Jennifer Shepard, this is Lieutenant General O’Neill of SACP, out of the Pentagon.”

Jack had explained the night before that the acronym stood for Special and Covert Projects, but was really just a cover for the offices of HomeWorld Security.

“Director, thank you for meeting with me at such short notice.”

“Of course General,” Jen was in full Madame Director mode. She looked over at Gibbs and nodded. “Thank you for escorting the General, Agent Gibbs. I noticed the rest of your team are also late this morning. Do they have a reason?”

Gibbs was ready to read her the riot act when Jack gave him a discreet little nudge, which meant ‘Leave this bitch to me’, and biting his lower lip to stop himself from smirking, he did just that.

“Actually, Director, Special Agent Gibbs is directly involved in the issues I want to apprise you of.” Jack pointed to the conference table. “Shall we?”

Jen flushed pink with embarrassment at the covert dig as to her lack of manners. “Yes, General, yes of course. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, SecNav had not advised me of your visit.”

“SecNav will receive a packet later this morning, but this needs to be dealt with on a strictly need to know basis, and is a matter requiring the utmost secrecy.”

Jethro could almost see her preen, no doubt believing she was being read in to something very important. ‘Oh how little you know’, he thought smugly.    

“So how can my office help you, General…?”

She leant forward, showing quite a bit of cleavage, and Jethro really wanted to let her know it was a waste of effort…Big Time!

“I have already seconded the Agent I need. Special Agent DiNozzo will be on TDY to my team for the foreseeable. Your Probationary Agent…”

He looked down at his notes and Jethro stifled yet another smile. A quick flash of Jack’s eyes told him he was doing it on purpose, the bastard! This was beginning to be too much like fun.

Jen’s face clouded. “I know Gibbs holds his SFA in high regard, but there is a certain amount of, shall we say, partisanship there. I’m sure there are other eminently more suitable Agents for covert work than DiNozzo. I could have personnel files brought up, if you would like to see if there is someone else. There is also the issue that I had already earmarked DiNozzo for an undercover op, to begin in the next few weeks. The background work has already been completed…”

That was a surprise. Jethro thought that even Tony was not aware of that little snippet of information, and Gibbs wondered if her erratic behaviour after Tony’s death in the last timeline, was to do with these plans that had apparently been set in motion.

“No I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Tony is by far the best qualified and the most skilled for a duty of this kind. I was very lucky to get him. He is in fact already on assignment in an undisclosed location, and cannot be contacted.”

‘So fuck you!’ Jethro thought, wondering how often Jen had stalled Tony’s career with her prejudices against him, especially as they were all predicated on her belief that Jethro was hers, and that Tony was in the way of that. She’d never said it overtly of course, but her comments to Jack made her feelings very clear. 

“We are however very interested to know the whereabouts of Probationary Agent Ziva David. You were aware that she is Mossad – the daughter of Director David in fact?” Jack continued, not a glimmer of his usual humour and easy-going nature on his face.

“Yes, yes of course.”

“Then my office will be very interested in why she was recently allowed access to classified information on an arms dealer know as Le Grenouille, and why it appear she has skipped town, emptying all her accounts and leaving her apartment completely stripped.”

The frightened look on Jennifer’s face told Gibbs that all Tony’s concerns about Ziva’s placement had been correct. It looked like the Director had been playing games with dangerous opponents, right under the noses of her superiors.

“Other of my colleagues will be visiting you in order to go over all material involving Ms David’s movements, and her involvement in sensitive operations. In the meantime…” Jack looked over at Jethro with raised brows that said. ‘Over to you.’

“I am tendering my resignation as of today. I have over a year of vacation time owed to me. All my files are up to date, and as two thirds of my team no longer work here, there is little I need to do to wind up my employment with NCIS.”

“So you’re involved with SAPC too…”

“I’m afraid that’s need to know, Director. Any mission Gibbs is involved in will be covered by his Ultra-Violet security clearance, which you Madame, do not have…”

“I am the Director of NCIS, General O’Neill,” she said, her tone hectoring and strident. “I have a need to know where my people are being deployed. I could be read in at a higher clearance.”

“Your present position does not give you access, Director, and the questions that have been raised about your recent involvement with ‘The Frog’, make the raising of your security clearance highly unlikely. Now we have transport arranged so we must take our leave.”

 Jack held out a hand and received a rather limp handshake in return.

Jethro genuinely enjoyed the look of sheer bewilderment on Jen’s face as he held out his own hand. “Goodbye, Madame Director and good luck.”

 ‘Cos fuck are you gonna need it,’ he added to himself.

A quick trawl of his and Tony’s desks filled a couple of file boxes. He’d decided not to see Abby and Ducky that day, he was too raw to cope with their emotional needs. He’d had dinner with them a couple of nights later, the day before he left for Colorado with Jack, and had left them on relatively good terms, although they were both concerned about Tony.

‘Join the club’, Gibbs had thought.

By the time he stirred himself from his reminiscences, the interrogation was over. Adria was escorted out, the manacles at her hands and feet attached to a heavy leather belt around her waist. She was so slight and beautiful that the security looked incongruous, but Gibbs was well aware that she was a deadly adversary, and not to be underestimated.

The whole shebang frustrated him. He was sure that he could break her, but none of the team involved in the investigation seemed willing to let him in. They were all Air Force officers and he was a civilian, but Jethro had never had a problem interacting with servicemen before.

The delays made him feel antsy, especially as Tony and Danny had made no appearances as yet, even in their ‘glowy’ form and Gibbs was constantly battling the voice inside his head that taunted him.

‘They’re not coming back, it said. ‘Why the fuck would they?’

Yeah, why the fuck indeed. He rubbed his tired eyes. Sleep had not been forthcoming for days now and he was surviving on cat naps.

“How do you think it’s going?” Paul Davis asked, smiling brightly. He’d affected the same awed hero worship of Gibbs in the here and now as he had in the first timeline, and Jethro couldn’t help but find him amusing.

“They can’t interrogate for shit. She’s playing with them, and they’re letting her. If they think they can wear her down, they’re wrong. She is totally convinced of her superiority, she has absolutely nothing to lose, and she knows we won’t kill her. So what incentive does she have…?”

He made his way out of the observation room and started down the corridor, with Davis in tow.

Davis looked thoughtful. “I was reading Dan…Dr Jackson’s journals about the Ori recently, and there was a short paragraph about how being isolated, particularly from other Priors, and having no access to the book of Origin, was a real taboo. It was only used as a punishment in the severest of cases where there had been betrayal, and they were all so totally brainwashed and conditioned that it was almost never used.”

Now that was a piece of useful and constructive intel.

“Why didn’t you tell the interrogation team? That’s the kind of intel they could use to good effect.”

The XO shrugged and sneered. “Colonel Althorpe is a good man with Airmen and pilots, but he has no idea how to be flexible in his approach, especially with aliens. And how isolated could she be. I mean she’d have to be fed and allowed exercise, under prisoner protocols.”

Jethro tapped his fingers on his thigh. He knew the other man was right, but still the interrogation needed to be taken in a whole new direction.

“So why is he in charge of this investigation?”

“Because he’s CO for the SF’s on base, and was appointed by Colonel Carter.”

Which pretty much meant he could pick and choose his investigations. This was a major coup, so it breaking the case would look good on the Colonel’s file. No wonder he didn’t want Gibbs involved.

Jethro narrowed his eyes. His gut was telling him that Adria had intel they needed, intel that would bring Daniel and Tony back to this plane of existence, and he knew he could get it. There was only one person who could get him in that room.

“I don’t care how we do it, but we need to get Jack to write me in to the investigation. I want a crack at her. Tell the brig not to feed her – it’ll only be a short span, but enough to get her edgy, and limit her water to basic rations. Then I want her in the same room…say 2300, that’ll give her eight hours to stew.”

They’d reached the bank of elevators and Jethro stabbed at the button. He needed coffee, and the machine in Jack’s office was much better than the mess.

Davis gave him a bright smirk as he handed over a single sheet of paper. It was signed with Jack’s loopy writing and basically gave him carte blanche as far as dealing with Adria was concerned.

“Why didn’t you give me this before,” he asked, genuinely curious.

“I thought you’d want to watch for a while, get a feel of her.”

“Good call,” he praised, giving Davis a firm slap on the shoulder before he boarded the elevator. As he turned around, the doors closed on the XO grinning happily at the compliment.

*****

Gibbs pressed for Floor #28 and the elevator silently began its downward journey. He folded his arms over his chest and almost unseeingly watched the second hand on his precious platinum watch make its relentless circuit around the face, while his thoughts ranged around the strategies he could use on Adria to get the information they needed. Despite his experience, he wasn’t kidding himself she’d be a pushover. She was nothing like the perps he normally found in his interrogation room at NCIS.

With a jerk, the car came to a stop and Jethro looked up, expecting to see #28 lit up on the display. But there was no floor number, and the light in the car had dimmed.

“Hi, LJ.”

Gibbs heart jumped into his mouth and for a moment he was paralysed with indecision. He really wanted to turn around, and see the hope in his heart made real, but a little bit of him was scared that he was merely imagining that voice.

“Hey, it’s OK.”

Firming his jaw he turned around, and tried not to let the disappointment he felt show in his expression.

Danny looked amazing, his eyes, without the trendy glasses he always wore, were almost luminous. His cream crew sweater and chino’s moulded to his body and showed the promise of what Jethro knew was underneath.

“Danny?” he choked out, his mouth dry. “Are you really here?”

Daniel looked sad for a moment. “No, not yet.”

Jethro’s heart sank, and he felt tears prickling his eyes. He dropped his hands to his sides and clenched his fists against the up-swell of emotion.

“And Tony? Is he…Did he…”

“He’s not ready to do this yet.”

He seemed to notice Jethro’s wince and quickly tried to reassure him.

“He wanted to, LJ. He fought all of us, said he’d be fine yadda, yadda, but he needs a little longer on the other plane before he tries to manifest like this.”

There was nothing Jethro could say to that; after all he wasn’t going to argue with Tony being careful. So he just nodded his head and looked down at his new shiny combat boots as if they held all the answers of the Universe.

“You’re doing the right thing making them let you talk to Adria. She has some very important information.”

He looked back up sharply and saw that Daniel’s gaze was warm but uncompromising.

“But you’re not allowed to just tell me what it is.”

“No, sorry,” Daniel took a step closer.

Gibbs felt a warmth along the front of his body, but it was different from the heat another body would throw off. It seemed to suffuse his very being with fever prickles, not unlike the flush that was a precursor to orgasm. It made his breath hitch a little.

“But if we’re going to stop the Wraith then she has a very important name to give you.”

His eyes were like balls of blue fire, and Gibbs found he couldn’t look away.

“And Tony told me to say that he noticed you were wearing his watch.”

Jethro’s hands were trembling as he clasped the wrist carrying his wedding gift.

“As soon as I remembered everything I put it back on. I only take it off in the shower and to wash the dishes.”

Daniel was so close that if he’d been corporeal they could have kissed.

“He says he’ll be back soon and then you’ll be able to play the lead character in the Elflord’s game. You’ll have all the time you need…”

Daniel gave a slow wink.

Gibbs eyes went wide, as he understood this statement had more than one layer, but he made no visible sign that he’d received anything but a lover’s message.

Daniel’s smile was gorgeous as he took a step back. The car seemed to crackle with static before, with a faint shimmer Danny’s face morphed, until the ghostly features of Tony were overlying it.

His husband smiled gently then whispered softly, “I love you, Jet. A te per sempre.”

Semper Fi, baby. I love you.” Gibbs choked out. “Come home, I miss you.”

Tony was gone before he could answer. Only Daniel’s features remained discernible and he looked a little nonplussed. “He really shouldn’t have been able to do that.”

“That’s my Tony,” Jethro murmured proudly.

Taking a shaking breath, he searched the features of the man who was fast becoming more than a friend to him.

“Come home soon, Danny, yeah. Jack misses you too…we both do. Are you gonna go see…?”

Daniel shook his head sadly. “Tell him I love him, and kiss him for me, yeah.”

“Yeah.”

As quickly as he’d arrived, Daniel was gone, and the lighting in the elevator returned to its former brightness. The car shuddered and then began to sink again. Gibbs realised he was in the same position as he had been before the whole bizarre event, and as his gaze met his watch he was shocked to see that no time had passed. His mind was working at a million miles an hour as the car reached the 28th floor and he was almost running as he left the elevator moving towards Jack’s office.

Luckily Jack’s door was open, meaning he was not in a meeting, which was unusual as the man seem to never be out of them. But this time, Gibbs was in luck it seemed. He tapped on the doorway and entered, closing the door firmly behind him. O’Neill was on his feet and round the desk before Jethro had taken more than two steps into the room.

“LJ? You look like you’ve seen a ghos…Oh!”

Jethro sank into the visitor’s chair, and ran a shaky hand over his face. Jack was already at the drinks cabinet, slopping a little bourbon into two heavy crystal tumblers. He handed one to Jethro, who didn’t bother with refinement and shot the liquor straight back. Jack passed him the second glass without pausing, and then went back to refill the first, his own hand trembling a little.

“Where?”

“The elevator.”

“So it was Danny, huh? He likes to scare the bejesus out of you in there.”

He dropped down into the big leather chair behind the desk and sipped his bourbon.

“What did he have to say? Nothing about the Eye of Ra and Abydos I hope, otherwise we’re in another timeloop and I don’t recommend that shit.”

Gibbs gave him an old-fashioned look, but shook his head.

“No. But he did have a message.”

He proceeded to tell Jack the weird and wonderful tale, which seemed to take half the time it had actually lasted.

“So which part of that did you think was another message?”

Jack had his elbows on the desk, totally engaged with the story. It made Jethro feel a little more…normal. Part of him had been wondering if he’d finally lost it.

“The Elflord is the Probie you met at NCIS. He plays these on-line games with elves and orcs and shit.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow, wondering if Jack had any inkling of that kind of thing. O’Neill’s nod encouraged him to go on.

“Last time he and Tony were talking about it…well Tony was ribbing him about it…he said he had a new game called ‘The Roswell Experiment’. I remembered you said something about the Roswell Greys actually existing…”

“They’re called the Asgard. My buddy Thor is the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. His ship is actually named the Daniel Jackson.”

Gibbs knew his mouth was open, but he was too amazed to care.

“Not the Jack O’Neill?” he muttered.

“No,” Jack said sullenly. “My namesake ship got destroyed during the replicator wars.”

“Yeah, of course it did,” Gibbs answered, not quite knowing whether he was being sarcastic or not.

“It did! You can ask Thor when we see him. What I don’t get is what Danny and Tony think they can do for us.”

“Well, Tony mentioned my watch. I was looking at it when Danny arrived. So I knew what the time was. The weird thing is, when he’d gone no time had passed at all, not a second.”

“Shit, of course.”

Jack rifled through the drawer of his desk, giving a triumphant ‘Aha’ as he found an opalescent teardrop-shaped stone. He jumped up and grabbed his jacket off the coatrack.

“A time dilation bubble. Inside time goes reeeeeeally slowly, while outside it moves at the same rate.”

And then all the clues, added to the intel Davis had given him, made perfect sense.

“So, if the worst thing you can do is isolate a member of the Ori and don’t allow them a copy of the Book of Origin…”

“Then setting up a little scenario with Thor…Who the Ori are fucking shit scared of by the way…and the threat of a time dilation bubble…”

“And we may well have the leverage I need to get that important name from her. Hopefully once we know it, it shouldn’t be too hard to find out just what we need to do with it.”

Jack shrugged, “I have faith in your investigative skills, LJ. Okey Dokey. Let’s go and make an extremely long distance call, shall we?”

Gibbs followed Jack to the elevators. As they began the long ride to the surface, Jethro remembered he had a task to do. Taking Jack’s face in his hands he pulled him in for a long slow kiss, which Jack readily submitted to.

Just as the need for oxygen was getting more urgent, Gibbs drew back, planting two little pecks on the corners of Jack’s mouth.

“That’s from Danny. He said to tell you he loves you. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see him, JJ.”

Just then a breeze blew across both their faces – a breeze in an almost airtight box with no aircon.

“Oh he’s around,” Jack said, certainly, his face relaxing into a happy smile. “They both are…”

*****

Whereas his meeting with his first Goa’uld had been a bizarre and frankly puke inducing occasion, by contrast first contact with an Asgard found him trying hard not to laugh.

Tiny, and looking like some kind of weirdly deformed Kewpie Doll, with his huge eyes, miniscule mouth, and completely naked and – thank fuck – genderless body, Thor was really difficult to take seriously. Especially sitting in what looked like a huge kiddie car-seat, to the side of the conference table.

A little naked grey alien, under Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.

Fucking hilarious.

For once though, Jack was behaving like the leader he most definitely could be, but didn’t always show. He obviously had a good working relationship with the Asgard and was completely trusting of his abilities. And Gibbs had to admit, the beaming tech really was a marvel.

“What is it you require of us, Gibbs?”

Thor looked right at him, huge eyes blinking slowly.

“I…um,” He’d never been lost for words like this. What did he require?

“You no doubt know we have Adria of the Ori as a prisoner here at Stargate Command.” Jack piped up, obviously seeing Jethro’s unease.”

“We are aware.” Another inscrutable blink.

Jack leaned his chin on his hand, affecting a relaxed air.

“We would like your help to…shall we say, coerce Lady Adria into giving us the information we need. We think if she was threatened by being trapped in one of your Time Dilation Bubbles – without access to the Book of Origin or contact with any of the – very few – Priors that are still out there…that she would be more…amenable to giving us the information.”

“Why are you involved in this, Gibbs?” Thor pushed.

His features didn’t change, neither did his voice, but Jethro got the distinct feeling the alien was getting a little irritated with him for his silence. He really wasn’t sure what the Asgard wanted.

“My husband…Tony DiNozzo-Gibbs…he ascended with Dr Jackson just a few weeks ago. His death was planned by Ba’al and Adria. She is refusing to tell us why he had to die, what purpose there was to it. After all, the Ori are all but annihilated, as are the Goa’uld. But for some reason, two megalomaniacal races, who have never, to our knowledge worked together before, suddenly decided to focus on my…Tony.”

Gibbs cut a look at Jack, hoping he’d join in, but all he got was a look that said ‘Keep going, you’re doing good!’

“As far as I know, DiNozzo had…has never come into contact with any other alien race, and yet they singled him out. At the point which we decided to come back, he hadn’t even met O’Neill or Dr Jackson, so they can have made no link there.”

“When you say, ‘come back’, that is in reference to Time Travel, yes?”

Jethro was sure the little bastard knew that was exactly what Gibbs meant, and he didn’t have to stretch to hear the censure in that statement. The grimace from Jack told him that maybe he should have come at that little factoid more obliquely.

“You know I wouldn’t even have considered it if there wasn’t a good reason…” Jack blurted, with a ‘Hey look at me I’m so harmless’ grin.

“I am well aware of your ability to…bend the rules, O’Neill and oft times you do first, think later.”

“Rule #18,” Gibbs murmured. “It’s better to seek forgiveness…”

“…Than ask permission…exactly!” Jack smirked at him, obviously feeling they’d won that one.

Gibbs wasn’t so sure. The next words from Thor proved that point.

“And yet you play with the time stream with very little knowledge of the dangers, not just to you, but to the fabric of the universe.”

And now they were getting scolded like little kids…And Jethro supposed that to a race as advanced at the Asgard, that was exactly what they were.

“Hey!” Jack scowled.

Jethro felt he ought to interfere before Jack dug them in even deeper. He would’ve never thought he’d end up playing diplomat with a powerful alien, but here he was.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, Supreme Commander Thor. Tony wasn’t picked out at random. There were several quite complex plays that had to be put into place in order to get to him. I was in an explosion which left me with amnesia way before Ziva and Tony came into contact with Ba’al’s snake. We think the Goa’uld attempted to infest Tony first, but for some reason it didn’t take.”

Although it seemed an impossibility, Thor’s eyes widened, “Go on.”

“I forgot that we’d been married for nearly two years, that we’d been lovers for even longer, yet I remembered everyone and everything else, right down to the minutia of cases we’d been on before the bomb.”

Jethro clenched his teeth against the anger that was rising, both at the circumstances, and at his own culpability in them.

“Coming back in time…we found out so much about how non-coincidental it had all been. And then there was all the talk about Tony being t…tar’parc’ray? Damnit Jack, stop laughing and help me.”

“Tel’pac’rai,” his so-called friend chipped in. “Daniel translated it as…”

“Falling Star.”

Jethro hadn’t thought the alien’s eyes could get any bigger, but the evidence in front of him, and the rapid blinking told him that the phrase meant something to the Asgard.

“Is that significant. I thought it was some kind of, I don’t know, target ID.”

They’d used them during I & E to differentiate between their mark and the friendlies on their team.

“So you’ve heard that phrase before, Thor?” Jack’s expression was grave, and Gibbs started to get a really bad feeling.

“There have been myths about the tel’pac’rai since the Goa’uld began to infest your galaxy, many millennia ago. But with the Ori and the Goa’uld all but gone, there would be no imminent threats that would cause the Hexad to come into being…”

“Well I don’t know what a Hexad is, but we have a new threat, from Pegasus. They are a failed experiment by the Lantean’s called the Wraith. A part insectoid species, they live by draining life force energy from humans.”

O’Neill looked pained to have to break the news.

There was a shocked silence from the Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet, before he slipped from his seat and walked over to Jack and Jethro.

“Much like the Ori did from their worshippers.”

Gibbs watched as Jack rocked back in his seat. He was obviously considering what had been said.

“So you think that the Wraith were invented by an Ancient who then went on to become one of the Ori?”

“They were of the same species before they spilt into factions. I believe there is a likelihood that what you postulate is in fact correct.”

“But that still doesn’t answer why.”

“Indeed. Given the severity of the danger to your galaxy, and the possibility that the Hexad may be imminently formed, I am willing to help you in your subterfuge. In fact, I believe the Council of War may well see Adria’s interference as an act of terrorism, and insist that she be given over to the Asgard for punishment.”

Jack’s grin was ear-to-ear.

“Now that I can really get behind.”

*****

“Lady Adria, I think you know Supreme Commander Thor of the Asgard…”

*****

They both walked down the corridor after the interrogation feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Although Adria had finally cracked and pretty much corroborated the motives they’d inferred from their conversation with Thor, the only new snippet of information was a name.

Kendrick R Westfall.

Jethro had already made a call to McGee, who had willingly trawled the case files from a year before the explosion on the Turkish ship, right through to the present. But there had been no hits, not even when he’d widened the search to cover all the cases investigated by other NCIS teams. Jack had used his HomeWorld links to have the FBI and Interpol look through their databases, but still nothing.

“Fucking revenge. They were willing to bring a plague of unknowable proportions on this galaxy, all for the sake of revenge. It doesn’t help…Shit I could have told them that, from bitter personal experience.”

“Yeah, me too. That’s the trouble with psychopathic aliens, LJ. There’s no reasoning with them.”

Gibbs shrugged, “I guess I’m beginning to see that. Not a level of experience I was ever expecting to have I must admit.”

“Tell me about it, buddy.”

With a quick glance at his watch, Jack patted Jethro on the shoulder and sighed tiredly. “I’m gonna have to leave you and go get my glad rags on.”

“More meetings?” Jethro commiserated.

“The mother of all meetings,” Jack was almost pouting. “I had a call this morning from the President’s Chief of Staff. Apparently he has a meeting with the IOA and decided it was a good idea to hold it here. I think it was just an excuse to get a look at the ‘Gate in action, and thinking about it this is an opportunity to have that conversation about moving my office here permanently. Carter is not going to be happy, but I’m sure we can find her something juicy in R&D and perhaps the first star on her shoulder, which should go a little way to calming her down.”

Gibbs had met Sam Carter for the first time only yesterday, and he thought the beautiful Colonel was going to be a little harder to displace than Jack thought. But, O’Neill had spent nearly eight years in the field with her, so he probably knew her better.

Strangely, she bore a really creepy resemblance to Jack’s ex-wife Sara, so much so they could have been twins. Gibbs only hoped she didn’t have the same shrewish personality.

“OK, I’ll keep on the hunt for our Mr Westfall.”

Gibbs couldn’t help the tinge of despondency in the words. He wanted this solved, he wanted his Tony back, and something told him that wasn’t going to happen until this final piece was placed in the puzzle.

“Good man. Come on down to the conference room at 1500 and I’ll introduce you to Simon.”

“Simon as in Simon Wilsterburg III, the President of the United States?”

Shit, but it was a weird world when his buddy Jack who had laughed, cried, drank, fucked and bled with him all over the world, could drop the first name of the President like that, along with an invitation to meet him.

“Yeah, he’ll be stoked to meet you. He’s an ex-Marine, served in ‘Nam.”

Jack strode off and left Gibbs standing bewildered in the corridor. Just before he turned the corner, he threw over his shoulder.

“He loves to hear Oscar and Felix stories – We’re on his bucket list.”

Fuck, if it wasn’t aliens it was the President. Gibbs didn’t even want to think about what could be next. That felt too much like tempting Fate, and that bitch hated him like burning.

*****

By the time 1430 arrived, Jethro had given up ever finding anything about their mystery man. Every avenue seemed to be a dead end and he was missing Tony more than ever. He had a feeling that his husband would’ve seen something they’d all missed; that was just how good he was.

The hurt of missing him was growing harder to push into the background, to the point where his arms were actually physically aching from the want of holding Tony again. His fingers traced the bezel of his watch, the mere act of touching it making him feel closer to his lover. How he’d ever thought not wearing it was a good idea after they’d got married, he’d never know.

This time around he was going to do things differently. No hiding, no pretending. He’d done the whole denial thing and Tony had still been taken from him. They were going to have a long conversation and Jethro was going to force himself to talk about his feelings, however foreign a concept that might seem. Tony deserved everything he could do to put things right between them.

And then there was the growing swell of emotion between him and Jack. And of course Daniel, who was a whole hot, sexy, messy law unto himself.

Neither he or Jack had really spoken about it since their men had ascended, and they hadn’t had sex, although they had slept together in the same bed every night. The urge had been there, especially when one or other of them woke after a nightmare. But by mutual, unspoken agreement they just soothed with gentle touches and words that never evolved into physical lovemaking.

That wasn’t to say Jethro hadn’t thought about it. In fact, he’d brought himself off spectacularly in the shower just that morning, using the fantasy Daniel had woven when he’d played voyeur.

He had no idea whether Tony would go for something like that, although Jack seemed pretty sure Tony’d come back from glowing with a whole new perspective on sensuality. Thinking of the four of them together was very arousing, with a strange overtone of emotion that he wasn’t quite able to grasp yet. He wouldn’t say no to trying…although if he could only have Tony that would be more than enough for him.

Anything else would just be gravy.

He’d got so lost in his thoughts that he walked straight into someone coming the other way.

“God, sorry, Gunny.”

Paul Davis gave him a happy grin as he crouched down to pick up the papers that had flown across the floor.

Gibbs scooched down to help him, tapping the edges of the files to neaten them before piling them up. His gaze caught a name typed on a sheet of paper, partially obscured by a paper-clipped file card complete with a photo. He slid it over with his finger to find ‘WESTFALL Kendrick R’.

“Jack got you looking for our mystery man too,” Jethro asked Paul, who was still gathering papers. “I’d’ve thought with the President being here, you’d’ve had more important things to do.”

The Colonel looked a little lost and then looked down at the files.

“No, these are all files on the attaches of the IOA reps. Because POTUS decided he was going to be involved in this round of talks we had HomeWorld’s DC office do a background check before they arrived. They all panned out, so now these are going to the General’s confidential file cabinets.”

Gibbs jumped to his feet. “I take it the Presidents Security Team are in the meeting with him,” he said urgently.

“Well outside the room, yeah. No weapons are allowed in the IOA council room and they are searched first. We don’t have a conference room big enough for all of them plus the fuckton of guys the Secret Serv…Jethro?”

He was already at the stairway when Davis caught him up. “What floor, Paul?”

“They’re on #22. Gibbs what’s going on?”

The echo of their boots as they hit the metal rungs was loud in the enclosed stairwell. Gibbs knew it was going to be a tough climb from #28, particularly with his bum knee, but there was often a long wait for the elevators, especially to the upper floors that were shared by the administrative offices. He just dug in, and thanked god for his cardio regime.

“That name, on one of the files,” he explained to the man jogging behind him. “Kendrick Westfall is the name Adria just gave us under interrogation. His role was backup. If he didn’t hear from her or Ba’al that Tony was dead, then he was to Infiltrate and Execute. She didn’t know how he was going to achieve it; said he was under orders to do it or die. She didn’t get away to send that the Mission had been completed, so he obviously thinks it’s up to him now.”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck…He was a last minute replacement for Senator Kinkaid, who’s been pro the program since its inception. More and more recently he’s had a hard time against the other nations, who are pressurising us to go public. Someone rang from Kinkaid’s office today, said the old man had food poisoning, and made that guy his proxy on any vote.”

And Jethro was more than positive that was not a coincidence.

“Jack likes to do the initial meet and greet. You know how good he is at all that stuff, and I’m more than glad to hand it over, so I don’t even know what he looks like…”

Jethro waved the photograph he had snagged from the front of the file. “I do!”

Davis was panting a little and despite the urgency, a little bit of Jethro was quite proud that despite having nearly twenty years on the Colonel, he wasn’t even winded.

‘Stupid macho bullshit’, he heard a voice chuckle in his head, although he wasn’t sure whether it was wishful thinking that it sounded like Tony. Either way, it made him feel better to believe it was.

They almost fell through the hatchway from the stairs into the slightly more opulent surroundings of Floor #22. This was the visitor and guest reception floor, and it had the look of a mid-scale hotel. Gibbs let Paul take point as they strode quickly along the corridor, not wanting to alarm the Secret Service into doing something rash, which in turn would tip off their man inside the conference room.

“Colonel Paul Davis,” he flashed his ID. “I’m General O’Neill’s XO.” He pulled Jethro next to him. “This is Gunnery Sergeant Gibbs. He has…”

“Gibbs…Aren’t you NCIS?” The black suited Secret Service Officer.

Jethro wasn’t sure how he knew that, but he had no time to question him. At least it would give him legitimacy when it came to his intel.

“Yes, and I have information that there may be an agent of a…foreign power in that meeting, with malicious intent.”

Gibbs kept his voice low, and flipped over the card containing Westfall’s photograph. “The person he wants is not in that room, and I’m almost certain he wasn’t aware the President was going to be here today. But if he can’t get what he wants from negotiation, he may take a hostage in order to attempt to retrieve them. Which would be impossible, as the operative is dead. However, our mark is unaware of this.”

The officer frowned in concern, and then spoke quickly into his wrist radio. “We have a code Red, repeat Code Red! Mobilise SWAT, and hostage team.”

Jethro shook his head in frustration, they were doing their jobs. He knew that the security of the President was their prime responsibility, but right now everything in that room was calm. Going in there all gung ho was coming at it completely the wrong way, and they didn’t have time to waste.

“Right now, no one is in danger. I have a plan. But I’ll need to get a message to General O’Neill and I think I have a way…”

*****

The door was opened by a member of the Secret Service, and Gibbs walked in, suited and booted in blue dress uniform, complete with white belt and holster, but no gun, as the mark would be well aware that weapons were not allowed in the room. He carried, waiter style, a silver platter, complete with two jugs of ice water with lemon, and a folded note.

Jack was perfect. There was not one flicker on his face as he watched the Marine enter and walk around the huge room to finally arrive level with Jack’s shoulder. Sliding the tray onto the table, the Gunnery Sergeant came to a perfect parade rest beside O’Neill. The General took the note, read the contents and looked up him.

“Thank you Gunny Felix,” he said, his tone even. “Dismissed.”

As Gibbs saluted, the General looked down at the note on the table and with almost infinitesimal movements, tapped first three, then two, then finally one finger on the paper. At ‘1’ both men exploded into action, Gibbs sliding bodily across the table to knock Westfall’s chair backwards and land on top of him, before the man was even aware the movement had happened. At the same time, Jack had pulled the President out of his chair and onto the floor, where he was sheltering the other man with his body.

The Secret Service officers and SF’s from the lower levels poured into the room, guns drawn. The other delegates around the table made various noises; some of shock, some fear and some of outrage. Gibbs took no notice as he rolled a struggling Westfall roughly onto his stomach and pulled two zip ties out of the waistband of his pants. Quickly the man was cuffed hand and foot.

“What are you doing? I am a representative of the Senate. You have no right.”

“Maybe so, but you do have rights. Would you like to know what they are?” Gibbs growled lowly. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

He knew this was probably all for show, after all the man had been working with an alien so it was unlikely that he would be seeing the inside of a normal court of law. But it made Gibbs feel better to actually say the words, and it would placate those representatives of the IOA who were still in the room, although the Secret Service were quickly hurrying them away.

“My guys are not going to let me hang out here,” the Southern twang of Simon Wilsterburg III was all too recognisable. “In fact they may not let me out to play some time after this. So make sure you let me know what this brouhaha was all about. Soon, Jack, ya hear?” He ordered, although his tone was light.

Davis and a couple of SF’s took his prisoner off his hands, and Gibbs stood, rolling his shoulders and pulling on his uniform. He turned to speak to Jack and found himself face to face with the President.

“Gunny.”

Jethro saluted, “Sir.”

The other man put out a hand and Gibbs took it gracefully. The shake was firm and accompanied by a firm pat on the shoulder. “That was a nice takedown, Felix.”

“Thank you, sir. It wasn’t my first.”

Jack snorted and the President chuckled. “No I bet it wasn’t.” He turned to O’Neill and gave him a genuine smile. “Well, Jack. It’s been exciting as always. Figure on seeing me soon in the Oval office, the pair of ya.”

And with that little cryptic nugget he was gone, surrounded by a sea of black suits and combat assets.

“And by that he meant…?”

“No doubt some more pretties for our racks.” Jack sighed. “I’d prefer it if he’d give me a new flat screen, but last time I asked he just laughed at me.”

Gibbs couldn’t stop the helpless laughter that swept over him, joining with the adrenaline rush to become rather hysterical.

Jack looked affronted. “Hey, it’d be more fucking useful. Mind you, I’d only saved the planet…again. At least this time we saved just little old him, huh? Maybe that’s worth a TV…or maybe one of those DVD players for in the car. What do ya think, JJ?”

“I think I’m too old for this shit,” Gibbs chuckled as he flexed his back checking for pulled muscles.

“Nah, don’t be stupid. You’re in your prime.” Jack leaned in, his mouth right next to Jethro’s ear and the warmth of his breath made Gibbs shiver. “I should know, I’ve seen it all…Whoo boy.”

Gibbs picked up a fallen chair and slumped down on it, still laughing to himself.

“It was weird, I had an inkling something was wrong when Kinkaid’s aide started making noises like he was siding with the French and the Chinese.”

“Yeah? What was the issue?”

Jack frowned deeply. “Disbanding the Atlantis Mission.”

He slopped some of the iced lemon water into two glasses and pushed one over to Jethro.

“So that was his angle. If there is no mission…”

“Then we’d be sitting ducks, although it still doesn’t tell us just what Tony’s role would have been and why they felt he had to be taken out. And it would have been a long term goal. I think it was desperation on his part. We’ll know more when you do your stuff in interrogation.”

Gibbs laughed, “Yeah. At least this time there won’t be any freaky naked aliens in there with me. Put me right off my stroke.”

“Don’t diss my man Thor. He’s a fine figure of an Asgard.” Jack feigned outrage.

“How could you tell,” Jethro said incredulously. “I’ve only met two, the one in the engine room of the Apollo and Thor, and they looked so much alike I thought I’d only met one!”

“Thor has this cute little…”

Jethro threw his hands in the air and almost pushed O’Neill off his chair. “No, no, no. Don’t even go there, JJ. I’m feeling queasy enough from the adrenaline.”

Jack loosened his tie and undid his top button with a gusty sigh of relief.

“The rest of my day is free. I was expecting to be stuck in here for hours longer. Adria’s patsy can cool his heels, cos I have no idea what to do with him. How about we get the fuck outta here, find some takeout steak, a bottle of something hard, and just chill.”

That sounded like the best idea Gibbs had heard for a long time.

*****

 “Hey baby.”

“T’ny?”

“Who else. Although I see you’ve got another man in your bed.”

“S’just JJ. Not you. Miss you, wish you were home.”

“I am home.”

“Not…here.”

“Open your eyes, Jet.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Hurts when I wake up and you’re not real.”

“Open your eyes, Jet.”

“Tony?”

“Open your eyes, baby.”

Gibbs knew he was awake. He was preternaturally aware of the warmth of the comforter on his back, and the familiar pressure of Jack’s long, hairy leg against his. He could hear the faint tick tick of the dripping faucet in the en suite that he was planning to fix when he got a couple of hours. His breathing was soft and unhurried and although his eyes were closed, he knew it was still the depths of the night.

But the voice in his ear had been so real, so very tantalising.

No one would ever brand him a coward. He’d faced more dire and life threatening situations in his life than anyone should ever have to; had more emotional pain and physical hardship than most. But right this moment he would rather do anything than what that voice asked him.

And then soft lips pressed against his, and he couldn’t help but press back, a strangled sob bubbling out of his throat. The lips retreated and then there was nothing he could do to stop his eyes from flying open.

He looked up into luminous green eyes that swam with tears. “Tony?”

“Hey you,” Tony murmured. He was kneeling beside the bed and what Jethro could see of him was naked. There was a slight bloom of gold luminescence dancing on his skin, outlining him like an all-over halo.

“You just visiting?”

Jethro knew he was being ridiculous, but the thought that this was either a very realistic dream, or another visitation like in the elevator, was just about enough to shatter his sanity.

“No, I’m really home, baby.”

In one swift move Jethro was out of the bed, and gathering Tony to him, holding so tightly, so afraid he might disappear into smoke at any moment. He pressed his face into the crook of Tony’s neck and couldn’t help the tears that dripped onto his lover’s skin.

“I’m sorry, so, so sorry. I fucked up so bad. Please forgive me….so sorry…”

The out of character words spilled from his lips, all the things he’d been practising for so many months, even before he knew that he could get Tony back. During all those lonely hours of grief so deep he didn’t know how to climb out of it.

“I love you. Of course I forgive you.” Tony began to pull away, but Jethro refused to let him go. “We need to find a little privacy, Jet. Let them have their own homecoming. There’s time for us all to get to know one another better later.”

Jethro looked over at the bed. Jack and Daniel were wrapped around one another, their legs intertwined, mouths welded together. Jack’s long fingers were buried in Daniel’s hair, holding on for grim death. Oh, Jethro could empathise with that impulse.

Danny’s body was glowing brightly too, and a sudden panic gripped Jethro.

“You’re not leaving again, right….Only…You’re both glowing.”

Tony’s smile was so sweet. “No, no. We just need a little while to get it back under control. I’m not leaving you again. If I go again, you’re going with me, OK?”

Relief slammed into Jethro like a bullet and took his breath away. He’d been so sure that Tony would love it too much, or that he’d come back and find Gibbs wanting somehow.

“You’re more than enough to keep me here.”

Jethro wasn’t sure if his lover had read his thoughts, or if his fears had been written across his face, but he knew it would take him a while to really believe it. Tony’s fingers tangled with his and gave a little tug.

As they left the bedroom, Gibbs looked back and saw two pairs of eyes watching them leave, one rich brown, the other as blue as the sky, but both soft with a deep love that filled him with hope. He pulled the door closed behind him and then followed Tony along the darkened hallway to the guest bedroom.

The bed was almost as big as in the master, but his husband didn’t seem in any hurry to get into it. Jethro stood silently as the younger man walked around him, Tony’s fingertips trailing over his bare chest and back.

Jethro’s cock was rising slowly, beginning to tent the soft cotton boxers he’d taken to wearing in bed. With surprise he found he was trembling, not with cold but with anticipation. He felt sixteen again, excitedly nervous before being intimate for the first time.

“I’ve only made love to you in my memories,” he whispered, thickly. “I remembered, but it all seems so unreal.”

Tony pressed against Jethro’s back, touching his body from toes to hair, his arms softly tracing patterns through his chest hair.

“Then let’s make it real.”

In one move, Tony bit down gently on the junction of neck and right shoulder, whilst tugging on Jethro’s left nipple. A shock of electric arousal sparked along his nerve endings and Gibbs moaned lowly, his cock coming to attention immediately. It was ridiculous how close to coming he was with just that one touch.

“Gonna be fast, this time,” Jethro breathed, feeling the need to apologise. “Dreamt about long and slow. Wanted to show…Oh god…to show you how…you…fuck, Tony…are loved.”

“Every breath tells me that.” Tony whispered. “Let’s just feel…”

Then, there were a series of snapshots, kinda like one of those flicker books he’d had as a kid. It could have lasted minutes or hours; he was too far gone to tell.

…On his back, Tony plastered over him, after ripping his boxers away like paper …

…The first spark of arousal as their cock’s clashed, pre-come smearing as they kissed and kissed and kissed, until they were breathing one another’s air…

…Trailing trembling fingers along washboard abs, down, down, down to final circle Tony’s hard cock, sense memory making him whisper, ‘Yes…yes…really you’

…Hearing his lover moaning, ‘Jethro, Jet, my Jet’, in time with his strokes along the iron hard shaft…

Hottightslick as his fingers sank deep inside, while Tony undulated wantonly, fucking himself…

…Desperate pleasure/pressure all around him as he buried himself over and over…

…The almost unbearable intimacy of their tongues meeting in a direct mimic of their bodies…

And then soon, ‘Oh Jesus Fucking Christ too soon’

I’m coming, fuck, Jet, I’m coming!”

…the unmistakable feel and scent of Tony’s come smeared all over them, pulling Jethro’s orgasm…

“Yes, Fuck, Tony…love you loveyoudon’tleaveme.”

….out of him so hard it was almost painful, as bright spangles lit the edges of his vision…

Then the tears came. Tears of pain; of loss; of remorse; of forgiveness; of relief; of fear of the future. Tears for the times they were alone even when they were together; for never having to say goodbye ever again.

Until in a complete exhaustion built of catharsis, their bodies wound tightly around each other and they slept.

*****

Morning came almost too soon.

The weak light entering the room through the open curtains gave no recognition of the life-changing events of the hours before. Jethro breathed in the scent of his husband and a shiver of arousal made his whole body erupt in goosebumps, his cock rising.

“You finally awake.” Tony’s voice was amused.

“Only if this isn’t a dream,” Jethro murmured. “If it is I’m staying asleep.”

Tony slid on top of him, the sheer presence of that familiar body pressing down on him, pulled a long, low moan from Jethro. Tony rolled his hips, crushing their dicks together, the motion gorgeous in its roughness.

“Wanna fuck you,” Tony growled and every nerve ending in Jethro’s body seemed to light up, zinging messages of ‘yes, fuck yes…That…that…’ all around his body. Tony didn’t want this often, but when he did it was always spectacular.

“Yeah,” he managed to sigh, even though the breath had been taken from his lungs. His eyes fell closed and he relaxed into the mattress, spreading his legs in a lewd and obvious invitation. “Love…”

His words were swallowed by a dominating kiss that stole his mind. All he could feel was Tony, his skin resonating with the sense of him. There was a tingle of static charge and as he opened his eyes to look over his husband’s face he realised that Tony was haloed with golden light.

“So beautiful…like an angel.” Had he been more coherent Jethro might have been embarrassed by the sappiness, but there was nothing else that fit.

Tony’s weight lifted slightly and Gibbs moaned in disappointment.

“Shh, S’OK. Gonna make you feel good,” Tony promised.

The next moment there was a finger at his entrance, slick and cool enough to make him shiver. But only a moment later the cold was but a memory as he wallowed in the missed, but never forgotten feeling of being invaded and owned by Tony’s long fingers.

“Not too much,” he begged hoarsely between panting moans. “Need to feel you…know you’re really here.”

Tony’s eyes sparkled with arousal as a second finger joined the first, unerringly finding Jethro’s prostate and working it until the curl of pleasure behind his balls seemed ready to explode.

“Gonna come, T-Tony.”

“No, no, no, baby. You’re waiting for me.”

The removal of Tony’s fingers dragged a pitiful cry of negation from Gibbs, only to be followed by a groan as Tony rubbed the head of his thick cock around the loosened entrance. The tease was everything and nothing and Gibbs tried to push down, only to find himself trapped by the press of Tony’s forearm across his chest.

Seeming to be teasing himself as much as Jethro, Tony’s eyes were fogged with arousal, his pupils almost overtaking the green, his neck flushed with passion. With one last pass from Jethro’s balls over his taint and back to his hole, Tony pushed inside.

The pressure was perfect, the stretch inexorable and as the length slid past his prostate a scream of pleasure was pulled from Jethro’s throat. He was going to come, untouched, and every muscle in his body clenched in preparation.

There was a brief lacuna as Jethro teetered on the edge. Tony pulled back and then fucked back in, hard and fast. There was no way Jethro could have prevented the rush of his orgasm as it tightened his balls and arched his spine.

Tony fucked him through it, his gaze never leaving Jethro’s face. Gibbs could feel the thick cock battering at his pleasure centre, making the ecstasy of each spurt of semen feel like a whole new orgasm. Over-sensitised and limp with pleasure he could do nothing but watch as Tony’s strong arms encircled him and pulled him up to sit in his lap. Weakly he slid trembling arms around Tony’s neck.

“Ready,” Tony panted.

Gibbs could only nod, although he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to be ready for.

Moments later he found out.

Tony fucked up into him like a battering ram, his hips and thighs bouncing Jethro on his lap. Jethro’s cock decided despite belonging to a fifty-year-old man, that it perfectly acceptable for it to behave like it was 15 again. It began to rise, frotting him against Tony’s belly with an almost painful stimulation.

“So close,” Tony breathed in his ear. “So fucking close.” He slid his hand up Jethro’s sweat soaked spine and cradled the back of his skull, pulling him in to meet Tony’s lips in a passionate kiss. Gibbs lost track of everything but the taste of Tony on his tongue and the feel of his husband’s treasure trail as it tortured the head of his cock. Gathering every last ounce of energy, he tightened his thighs around Tony’s waist, and clenched his internal muscles hard.

It was enough to bring Tony over, and Jethro’s whole body shuddered as they came together, the synchronicity causing a feedback loop that had them both coming longer and harder than should have been possible.

Finally, limp with satiation they flopped to the side, Tony still inside Jethro. There were no words. Last night had been about desperation, but this morning had been all reconnection.

“Per te a sempre, my Jet,” Tony whispered, between kisses.

“Semper Fi, Tony.” Jethro’s hand automatically went to the opposite wrist and traced the bezel of his platinum watch. “Tony…I…”

“No. We’re not doing that, Jet. I know it all. I know Daniel told you what it’s like up there. You see everything – past, present, possible futures. The past is just that…”

“‘Don’t bookmark pages you’ve already read’.” Gibbs traced Tony’s full lips, revelling in the rasp of his morning beard against the gun calluses on his palms. “I thought I’d never have this again.”

“God, Jet. I’m sorry you had to watch me…let me die. But I always knew, even before this, that somewhere locked in your brain, was the knowledge of what we were.”

They kissed softly, their heavy limbs entwined, just enjoying the freedom to be together. Tony finally managed to retrieve a pack of wipes from the bedside draw, which hung precariously where Tony had wrenched it open to get the lube. Jethro had been so far gone that he hadn’t even noticed. They wiped down thoroughly, teasing each other a little, although they were both too sated to do anything about it. Feeling fresher and more comfortable they snuggled together quietly, neither wanting to break the almost charmed silence in the room.

The sunlight was slightly stronger when Gibbs woke from a half-doze, to find Tony gazing at him as if he was something precious and rare. The sweet lethargy began to lift, to be replaced by the heavy pressure of guilt that Jethro had embraced as his due, and he knew there was something he needed to say if he was going to be able to move on – to leave it behind.

“I heard what you said about going back, but there is something I need to say.” He pressed a firm finger to Tony’s lips as the younger man looked about to speak. “Please, I’ve got the second chance I asked for. I made so many mistakes, even before the explosion. I had a few months to think in the first timeline, to recognise why I behaved the way I did. So I’m making you a promise, to go along with my vow,” Gibbs tapped his watch. “No hiding, Tony. I don’t care who knows about us. Your ring…” Gibbs frowned as he realised the platinum band was missing. His heart sank, fearing that it had been lost and angry with himself that he’d let Teal’c be the one to deal with Tony’s clothes.

“Fuck it, I should have remembered,” he growled as he rolled to sit on the side of the bed, his head in his hands.

He felt the mattress dip as Tony knelt up behind him. Warm hands rested gently on his shoulders, but Gibbs felt like he didn’t deserve the comfort. “Jethro…”

A tap on the door interrupted, and a moment later, before either could speak, it was pushed open by a smiling Daniel, who was followed by a rather sheepish looking Jack.

“He fucking insisted you’d be awake.” Jack grumped, but there was little heat in it.

“I thought you might want this…” Dangling from Daniel’s fingertips was a very familiar chain.

Tony slid to sit behind Jethro, his long legs either side of him, his soft cock pressed against Jethro’s lower back. Rather than being erotic, it made him feel warm, comforted…loved.

“There, I knew Jack would look after it,” Despite the words, Tony sounded more than a little relieved.

Jethro snagged the chain and quickly detached the band. It should have been incongruous, two of them naked and two in just light cotton robes, but somehow in that moment it really didn’t matter. Jethro pulled on Tony’s arm and his lover slid over, coming to rest beside him.

Gibbs placed the wedding band at the tip of Tony’s ring finger, before glancing up, the question clear in his expression. Tony’s smile was broad and his eyes soft with love, as he murmured, “Yes, of course.”

The ring slid easily onto his finger, and Gibbs let out a deep sigh of relief.

“You can’t have thought he’d say no, LJ. Not after all this.” Daniel stepped over to the bed and pushed on Tony’s shoulder. With a smile and a nod DiNozzo moved across the bed, lying down on his back, completely unashamed of his unclothed state.

“I never assume anything,” Jethro answered, a little breathlessly, as he watched Jack slip off his robe and walked around the bed and out of his view. His heart was hammering in his chest, as the implication of what was going on hit him.

Daniel’s smile was slightly sad. “He’s always been yours, LJ,” he said softly. “And he always will be. The question is…”

“Are you willing to share?” Tony’s hand feathered up Jethro’s arm and onto his shoulder.

Gibbs turned his head and looked over at Tony. “Are you?”

Tony’s eyes flickered over Jethro’s shoulder. Looking back, Jethro breath caught in his throat, as a very naked Daniel stood in front of him, his beautiful cock half-hard and his skin sparkling with the strange glow that seemed to have followed both men back from the ascended plane. Simultaneously Tony pulled back on his shoulder and Daniel stepped forward, placing a knee on the mattress either side of Gibbs.

He watched with a slightly open mouth, as Daniel leaned over his prone body and took Tony’s mouth in a deep kiss.

“Gorgeous,” Jack husked.

“Jack?”

Although he knew the other man had already said he was up for this, but that was before they’d had to watch their lover’s leave for who knew where. Hell, for that matter, he’d only just got Tony back. Was he ready to share his lover so soon?  Gibbs dragged his eyes from the kiss to look over at Jack. His friend was watching the younger men with an unconcealed expression of want. He was stroking the big beautiful cock that Jethro knew so well, and it made Jethro’s stomach tighten when a pearl of pre-come formed in the slit and rolled down the swollen head.

He licked his lips.  From the sounds Tony was making, there was nothing in the scenario that concerned him. If he was honest, right now his hind-brain was yelling, ‘Hell yeah, that’s fucking hot’. He’d have time to angst about it later.

Daniel seemed to have a precognitive awareness of Jethro’s thought processes, hell who knew, maybe he could read his mind, for as soon as Gibbs had come to a decision, Danny broke the kiss and looked back at him.

“Let’s get comfortable.”

Less than a minute later Gibbs found himself on his side, face to face with Jack’s cock. He looked across the circle of their bodies to see Jack already nuzzling Tony’s balls. His husband gave him a heated look and then swallowed Danny’s cock in one slow slide of his lips. Jethro felt Daniel gasp against his thigh.

A little thrust of Jack’s hips told him without words that he should get with the program and he willingly used the point of his tongue to gather the pre-come streaming freely from Jack’s slit. He heard Daniel groan before he felt the other man begin his assault on Jethro’s already iron hard dick.

Soon his awareness devolved to an onslaught of the senses. The lewd sounds of sucking and moaning; tasting the bitter/salt tang of Jack’s cock in his mouth; feeling Daniel’s tongue as he expertly teased and wound Jethro into a frenzy of arousal, while Jack’s huge cock stretched his mouth; seeing Tony’s face as he deep-throated Danny, while his green eyes seemingly gazed into Jethro’s soul; his nose filled with the musky scent of Jack, and the pheromones all four of them were throwing off.

There were hands everywhere. Jack had one in Jethro’s hair – giving just a little pressure asking for a little more, a little deeper, while the other traced random patterns on the flawless swell of Tony’s ass cheek. Jethro was circling a fingertip, wet with saliva around Jack’s hole, while his other hand traced the outline of his cock as its bulk rounded Daniel’s cheek. Tony teased his own nipple with his palm, while circling Danny’s cock with the other, adding a wicked twist at the apex of each bob of his head around the thick erection, and the addition of two of Daniel’s fingers. Daniel’s other hand had Jethro’s balls in a grip just the right side of painful, tugging down as he sucked hard.

It was all too good to last, despite having come twice already that morning. Gibbs could feel Jack’s cock swelling in his mouth, and the flush on Tony’s chest was a clear indication that he was close. With everyone’s mouth full there was no real warning, but none needed to be given. Like a chain reaction, started by Jethro, they came, bucking and sucking, moaning loudly around their partner’s cocks. Jack filled his mouth and Jethro drank it down, almost too overwhelmed by the pleasure of his own orgasm to pay proper attention to the cock in his mouth.

Finally, they all lay back, panting and sated. Tony was the first to move, crawling across the bed to kiss first Jethro, then Jack and finally Daniel.

“This would have been even better on the big bed in NoVA,” Tony muttered, as they somehow found a comfortable way to be, everyone in contact with everyone else.

“We’re gonna need to remodel.” Jack piped up. “If we’re staying Colorado that is. This place only has two bedrooms and we’re not gonna want to sleep together every night.”

Daniel gave an ‘Umhm’, of agreement.

Jethro was a bit taken aback by the nature of the conversation. It seemed as if they all thought this wasn’t just going to be a fun thing, but was actually going to be a lifestyle thing.

He flicked a worried glance over to Tony, who gave him a reassuring smile, before piping up, “Slow down, guys. We’ve got a little talking to do first, otherwise we’re going to scare Jet.”

“Sorry LJ, it just feels right.” Daniel intertwined his fingers with Gibbs on one side, while Jack did the same on the other. Tony, who was draped almost completely over him just pressed a closed mouth kiss to his lips, and Jethro had to admit it did indeed feel pretty damn right.

“Anyhow…” Daniel started again.

“Oh no.” Jack covered his eyes with his free hand. “This is gonna be bad.”

Tony started to laugh and Gibbs looked at Jack in surprise.

“Don’t believe me?” the other man groused. “You wait…here it comes.”

“We have to go to Atlantis.”

“What? No way!”

“Yeah. I told you.”

“We have to.” Tony sat up and all eyes were on him. Gibbs wasn’t the only one whose gaze was appreciative as well as questioning.

“The Ancients let us see a lot of what was going on, but there was something hidden.” Tony looked over at Daniel who frowned, seemingly irritated.

“I think, no I know there is something on Atlantis that only we…And I think that means all four of us…Can activate. Tony has a particular role to play, but we’re not quite sure what it is.”

“How can we possible go on a mission like that with so little intel?” Gibbs flicked an irritated glance at Jack. Surely the military leader in his friend wouldn’t allow this to continue without more in depth information.

“I know, I know. But that’s the way it is with the Stargate. We’ve walked through that fucking thing so many times not knowing what was on the other side. We’ve always come back…well most times…well nearly all of the time…Sometimes we didn’t get to bring Danny back…”

“Fuck it Jack, there are energy sucking insectoid vampires there. I’ve only just got Tony back. You may be able to cope with Danny going glowy every five minutes but I…I can’t…Fuck it!”

He knew the words were unfair, hurtful even, but he couldn’t find it in him to regret saying them. Gibbs tried to get up, his anger threatening to burn away every feel-good factor of the last hour, but Tony held him down, pressing calming kisses to his face and neck.

“You’re not being very fucking helpful here, Jack.” Daniel groused, slapping Jack’s shoulder with the back of his hand. The squeal Jack gave would have been more in keeping with a six-year-old girl than a Lieutenant General. “I know enough to say that whatever it is we need to find or do, it will happen quickly once we get there.”

“And there is our first problem,” Jack said seriously. “The only ZPM with even remotely enough juice to open a wormhole to Pegasus is powering the weapons platform in Antarctica. There’s no way I can give permission for that to be pulled. It’s one of the major reasons the other nations in the IOA allow us to be lead in the program. I suppose the first order of business…”

At that moment Tony’s stomach growled loudly. “…Is breakfast! We can talk the logistics to death over ham and eggs. Now go. Get washed up and I’ll cook.”

With an enthusiastic smile from Jack, and a shrug from Daniel, they rolled off the bed and wandered out of the room hand in hand. Jethro could hear the soft murmur of their voices as they moved down the hall. It was strangely comforting.

Once they were alone, Tony grabbed Jethro by the cheeks and kissed him long and deep.

“It’s going to be OK, baby. Yes, Atlantis is a dangerous place. But so is DC. And you’ll be right there with me. I told you, I’m not going anywhere without you, not even up there…” He fluttered his fingertips above his head in such a Jack-like way that it made Jethro smile.

“What’s this ZMP thing Jack was talking about?” he asked as they made their way to the bathroom.

Tony turned the dial for the shower and then leaned against the counter. “ZPM, or Zero Point Module. It’s a power source. Small but with the power of god knows how many atom bombs. The Ancient weapons platform in Antarctica is powered by one that is nearly depleted. It probably only has a couple of centuries of power left in it.”

“And fully powered,” Jethro asked, awed by the potential.

“About three thousand years – depending on how much you ask it to do.”

A mixture of awe and fear made Jethro feel a little sick and he followed Tony into the shower. With all that power, there was no limit to what could be achieved. If however, they got into the wrong hands…

*****

The table was littered with the remnants of the best breakfast Jethro could remember. Tony’s ham, eggs and homemade biscuits were epic. It was amazing how much better the food tasted for having Tony sitting across from him while eating it. He couldn’t remember the last meal he’d really enjoyed. Still the meal was finished and although he’d rather not, he knew they had to carry on talking about what looked to be a mission into hostile territory.

“So back to our power problem.” Jack began.

“Does the Stargate run on ZPM’s?” Jethro rolled his juice glass in his hands as he looked over the table at Jack.

“Not usually, but normally travel through the gate is only in this galaxy.” Jack explained. “Pegasus is a lot, lot further away.”

Daniel took up the story. “When we sent the Atlantis mission through the gate, we had a ZPM at 50% charge to use.”

“And that’s all used up now?” If a fully charged one lasted thousands of years, then Gibbs was starting to see that gating to Pegasus was a bigger deal, power wise than he’d anticipated. The fact that he was even considering the power levels needed for intergalactic travel through a wormhole was just a little freaky.

“Oh yeah. It took over a year for them to get back in touch. We hoped they’d find more when they got there, but it seems the Ancients took all but a few with them when they left the city, along with any information on how to make or charge them. Atlantis itself only has one fully charged module and she’s meant to run on three. If the Wraith got their act together and worked as a team, then a continuous bombardment would burn through their shields in less than a day. Because of that we limit travel through the gate. The last time Sheppard and McKay came back, we had some freaky surge. We ended up with only just enough power in the original module to send them back through the gate, and that was only because McKay rigged up some trickle charger gizmo. He warned us it would take more than a year for it to charge enough for us to send supplies. We just sent as much through the gate with them as we could. They send regular micro-bursts through the gate to keep us apprised of the situation there, but that’s a far as it goes.” It was obvious that leaving the men and women on Atlantis so isolated went against everything Jack believed in.

Given everything he’d heard, Jethro couldn’t help feeling that the whole idea of going to Atlantis was just too ridiculous, and he said so.

Both Tony and Daniel looked grave. There was a tense silence and then Tony sighed. “If we don’t go…the Wraith will be here in less than six months.”

Jack went pale. “I don’t know what to tell you. Even if I could get the IOA to agree, McKay reported there wasn’t enough juice in the Antarctic module to dial Pegasus and keep a wormhole open.”

“We still have the plans for the booster module you made to get to Othala.” Daniel leaned forward.

“The geeks have spent nearly ten years trying to decipher those.” Jack ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Carter only has a single physicist working on it, now and they pretty much think it’s a dead end. It’s decades ahead of us, maybe more.”

“I can build one.” Tony said calmly.

Jethro’s stomach clenched. Oh this was not good. “If the powers that be realise you can build a power source capable of getting us to another galaxy…” He glared at Jack with hard eyes.

“LJ, it’s OK. We have people doing all kinds of research that the Pentagon knows nothing about. I can keep him safe.”

Jethro could see the military commander in his friend as he began to mentally juggle the logistics necessary to make this happen, and happen safely. He felt bad for not trusting Jack, he’d never had any problem doing so in the past. But Tony was more important to him than anyone or anything else. If it was in his power, he wasn’t going to allow anything to threaten him. He’d die to make sure nothing did.

His fierceness must have shown in his expression as he found his hands held by both Tony and Danny, who squeezed his hand firmly. “We have a job to do, LJ. You included. I’m not saying it won’t be dangerous, shit, Pegasus is dangerous even without the Wraith. But we will take every precaution. And the team out there are good…very, very good.”

Jethro made himself relax his shoulders. He squeezed their hands and turned back to Jack, who smiled reassuringly. “We’ll have their six, LJ.”

Jack tapped his fingertips on the table for a moment. “Right, so we do have power. Danny and I are members of the program and although I’ve been flying a desk for a while, I can always blag a trip…maybe to do appraisals on Atlantis.”

Daniel snorted, and Jack looked affronted. “I do appraisals.”

“When I make you.”

“Sounds like you, Jet. Only I did the appraisals and you just signed them,” Tony smirked.

Gibbs snorted as the others laughed.

“There’ll be no problem taking Gibbs as he happens to have almost as strong an expression of the ATA gene as me…” Jack continued.

“What?” Both Daniel and Tony looked amazed and surprised.

“Oh so there were somethings you didn’t see while you were flying around the universe,” Gibbs teased. “I touched that time travelling mini-van, and the damn thing lit up like Fourth of July.”

Tony looked pleased and sort of proud, and it made Jethro warm inside.

“So it’s just a question of getting Tony included in the mission.”

Daniel shrugged and gestured towards Tony. “I’d like you to meet AJ Gibbs…Dr AJ Gibbs, PhD. He is lead scientist for a new translation project, and the husband of our newest gene carrier.”

“How would we get that past the Colonel Carter,” Jethro wondered. “She’s not stupid.”

“I thought I’d arrange for her to do some…on the job training. I’d already decided I hate DC. She’ll be great at all that hand shaking and boot licking.” Jack grimaced, and Jethro wondered how he’d been conned into doing it in the first place. “I’ve already run it past Simon and being as we sorta saved his life a few days ago…”

Gibbs grinned. “I like him. He’s a Marine.”

Tony chuckled, “Oh Jet, you do realise, if he wants to give you a medal you won’t be able to send me instead.” He laughed even louder as a grimace of distaste crossed Jethro’s face.

“OK, so we need to get AJ some ID and a fake academic resume.”

“Having ascended, I speak fluent Ancient now, so if anyone tries to test me I’ll be fine.” Tony grinned and looked smug at Jethro, who couldn’t keep the surprise off his face, at all the new skills his husband had come back with.

“Also, if I’m going to build the booster, I’m going to need the power sources from about a dozen or so staff weapons, and an elliptical titanium casing roughly 2540mm by 877mm. About a mile of fibre optic, and gold, silver and platinum tape – an ounce of each should do it, 20 microns thick.” Tony reeled off.

Jethro just looked at him, his eyes getting wider with each requirement. “You can’t even hold a hand saw the right way round,” he grumbled.

“I probably still can’t. All this stuff has just been stuffed in my brain, Jet. I’m not even sure how much of it I’ll retain after this is all over.”

“The first time they sent me back I forgot everything,” Daniel said, with a sad look at Jack. “And everyone.”

Well Jethro knew how that felt. It pissed him off that they could all be played like pawns in a giant chess game. What with the Ori, the Goa’uld and the Ancients, all of them around the table had been dry-fucked every which way.

The sound of Jack’s cell shook him out of his reverie. Jack frowned at the number and answered the call.

“O’Neill!” His face went stony. “How long? Who does she have?” He jogged out of the kitchen and into the master bedroom and they all followed. “Is the Apollo in orbit? Damn it. OK. We’ll be there ASAP…Ten at the most. Keep everything locked down. Alpha Red protocols on my mark…Mark!”

He snapped the phone shut. “Adria has escaped the brig. She’s holed up in one of the labs on level 26 and has a couple of geeks called Folger…No, Felger and Coombes.”

Daniel groaned. “Fuck, I’m gonna fire those clowns. They won’t be any help at all. All they’re good for is getting into trouble and expecting everyone else to get them out of it. We’ll be ready to go in three…”

“No, Tony’s not…” Jethro was stopped as the man in question simply turned and left the room at a trot. There was no way he was letting Tony near that psycho bitch and he followed him to tell him so.

Tony was already half dressed, and he threw a set of black BDU’s at Jethro, before sitting on the bed to tie his boots. Jethro began to speak only to have Tony frown at him. “No.”

“NO? What do you mean, no?” Even though he was madder than he could ever remember being, he began to strip off his robe and don the uniform.

“You can’t do this, Jet. I’m going. I there’s anyone who can understand how her mind works it’s me and Danny.”

“Then let Danny go,” Jethro bellowed, aware that he was being irrational, but too angry and afraid to care.

Tony stepped right into Gibbs’ face, arms folded tightly across his chest. “And if something happens to Danny because I wasn’t there, or to Jack, or fuck it to YOU? Then what?”

Jethro’s hands were trembling so much he couldn’t button his pants. Tony was right, but he didn’t know how he could let him go anywhere where there was considerable risk. As suddenly as it had risen, the anger just drained out of him. “I just got you back,” he whispered brokenly.

“I know. But I made you a promise. Together. Whatever happens we do it together.”

“Even the glowy stuff.”

“Yeah, even that. OK?”

Taking a shaky breath in, Gibbs nodded. “Yeah, OK.” He had to trust Tony wouldn’t leave without him; had to pull back from this militant need to cuff him to a chair and make him stay put. Otherwise he’d just risk pushing Tony away. He was a good shot, an intuitive and often dirty fighter, and an even better undercover man. Tony was good – one of the best, and right now Gibbs wasn’t treating him like as if he believed that.

Danny appeared at the door, giving them both an apologetic look. “Jack’s starting the truck.”

Gibbs tucked his bootlaces inside his boots, grabbed the uniform jacket and they both followed Danny out of the house.

Jack gunned the truck and they left the driveway in a spray of gravel. As he watched the suburbs of Colorado Springs speed past, Gibbs snagged Tony’s hand from his lap, entwined their fingers and held tight.

Whatever they faced when they got to the mountain, it was going to be side by side.

*****

Five minutes after arriving, it was blatantly obvious that the lockdown and hostage procedures at the Mountain were overarching and thorough. They were required to show their ID no less than five times as they descended the levels, beginning at the security station at the entrance and ending with a rather apologetic looking Paul Davis.

“Sorry, Gunny, but I need…” he gestured towards the ID dangling from his fingers. Jethro hadn’t bothered clipping it back to his belt after the second time he been asked for it.

“It’s OK, Colonel. I understand completely.” Gibbs handed the card over. Paul checked it against his clipboard and it was returned a few moments later, along with an M9 Beretta, complete with a waist holster and two extra clips from a pile on a small table near the checkpoint.

Tony had been signed in at every checkpoint by Jack. No one seemed surprised that the General was bringing in a civilian scientist. What was extremely surprising to Gibbs was the way everyone took Daniel’s reappearance completely in their stride. A few comments along the lines of, ‘They throw you out again, Doc?’ and ‘Good to have you back, Dr Jackson’, even ‘Was he butt naked again this time, General?’ was about as out of the ordinary as it got. Once again Jethro was overwhelmed by the way these people were able to cope with all the freaky shit the program threw at them. He wasn’t sure any of it would ever become normal to him.

A frowning Colonel Carter came striding down the corridor. The blonde, statuesque woman really was beautiful, and from everything Jack had told him a formidable soldier too, as well as being hyper-intelligent. Her only downfall seemed to be her longstanding crush on O’Neill, and with that her inability to realise that the man was not interested…at all. Hopefully the new role in Jack had planned for her in DC, her promotion, and their imminent sorting to Atlantis would cool her off once and for all.

It was strange, but since he’d lost Tony in the first timeline, Jethro had been feeling a new bond with Jack. They had been friends for a long time, and that friendship had come with some sexual benefits, but up until recently Gibbs would have said that his feelings for Jack were more filial than romantic. Now though…Just the idea that Jack might be interested in someone other than the three of them…

He shook it off, He couldn’t think about it right then, as Carter was obviously wanting to brief them, while giving Tony some rather searching looks. As usual, his husband was turning on the charm, but for once it didn’t seem to be impressing the Mountain’s CO.

“I’ve set up a field command station in a large storage bay about seven doors down from Felger’s lab,” she began, leading the group along the corridor towards the elevators. She looked back at Daniel and Tony, once again giving DiNozzo a hard look. “I suggest your guest stays here with you, Daniel. Adria’s armed and he’ll need to go through armourer’s protocols before we can issue him with a weapon.”

Neither man looked pleased with her views, but she wasn’t to know that Tony was a better shot than anyone at NCIS barring Gibbs, and his back story wouldn’t let them tell her. After a short stare down, Daniel eventually gave a reluctant nod and grabbed Tony by the arm, saying they’d be in his lab.

Jack winced both at the look on Daniel’s face, and the information they’d been given. “How the fuck did she get a hold of a weapon. For that matter how did she escape the brig in the first place?” he barked, pulling on the mantle of a three-star General.

Carter frowned and stabbed the call button. The elevator doors slid open immediately, and Jack, Gibbs and Davis followed her into the car. “One of the guards was found with a book of Origin under the mattress of his bunk. He was a member of SG-11. They were the team who brought in the Prior for negotiation purposes a couple of years back.” She glanced over at Jack who looked furious. “Psych team say he was already a devout Christian before he was introduced to the Ori, so he just took that and ran with it. He told them Adria was like Jesus – despised for her devotion and persecuted, that she was the second coming. Needless to say he’s on his way to All Saints Psychiatric Unit.”

They reached level 26, and disembarked into a scene of controlled chaos. The corridor was lined with Marines in full battle dress, complete with Kevlar armour. The command station was a large room, where hastily set up trestle tables and monitors lined the walls, and techs wearing headsets were mixed with military wearing guns, all peering at a bank of monitors.

“Sit-Rep, Fletcher,” O’Neill snapped, and a tall, muscled man, wearing the rank insignia of an Air Force Major was immediately front and centre.

“We managed to tap into the security feed in the lab for a few minutes, but after making demands for a shuttle and unimpeded access to the ‘Gate, she shot out the cameras. We’ve heard nothing else from her, although Coombes managed to enter the code that allows us to monitor via the Webcam’s on their laptops. There are three on the counters around the lab, so we have a pretty good view, with only one or two minor blind spots, and we can hear everything that’s being said inside. Unfortunately, the hostages are sitting on the floor somewhere near the doorway…right in the centre of one of those blind spots. We’re really not sure just how near the door they are and we haven’t heard a thing from either of them since she first burst in the lab.” He received a sheet of paper from one of the techs and after glancing quickly at it he sighed. “We’ve been trying to call the phone in there, but after testing the lines, the techs have just ascertained that she’s probably pulled it off the wall.”

“How about ingress from other areas,” Gibbs asked as he assimilated all the intel. It wasn’t the worst hostage situation he’d been involved with, but the nature of the complex and the fact they were under nearly a mile of rock, made things a little more difficult than he was used to. There’d be no drilling holes through the walls to get mini-cams in, that was for certain.

Jack nodded as the Marine looked uncertain. “This is Gunny Gibbs. He is ex-NCIS and will be taking lead alongside me.”

Jethro heard Carter take in an irritated breath, but with a hard glance behind him at the Colonel, Jack continued, “He has a great deal of experience in this kind of hostage situation, and despite the fact that Adria had some freaky mind powers in the past, since the fall of the Ori she is nothing more than an intelligent woman with a gun and a couple of hostages, which is right up the Gunny’s street.”

“Yes sir,” Fletcher barked, and turned his attention to Gibbs. “It’s an honour to work with you, Gunny,” he said earnestly, and Gibbs just knew his legend had preceded him. In this case it wasn’t a bad thing, and might just smooth the way a little.

The Major pointed them to the board on the wall which had a blueprint of the whole level, including water, air and exhaust pipes for fumes from the labs. “All the labs on this level are either physics or chem. Lucky for us, Coombes and Felger are not working with anything that could have offensive potential.”

“As if we’d let those two clowns anywhere near anything that was dangerous,” Davis snorted.

Fletcher gave him a quick grin, and then sobered. “We do have a problem in that there is only one entry point, the door to the lab. It is solid steel, has no view window and is keypad locked.”

“We can override it,” Carter joined in, “but the locking mechanism on the older type doors is really noisy, and the door will slide open immediately. We’ll lose the element of surprise.”

Gibbs tapped a finger on the blueprint. “There is some large ducting here, could we not get some kind of tear gas…”

Fletcher shook his head. “Because of the nature of the experiments undertaken on this level, each lab is isolated to prevent cross contamination. There are special filters where each duct meets the ceiling. They can filter out gases to one part per billion. With the kind of alien artefacts and organics we deal with here, sometimes even that isn’t enough.”

Jack bit down on his lip and narrowed his eyes in thought. “The only way to get her out of there is to set up some kind of diversion that can be activated at the same time as the door lock override.”

They began to discuss what could be used to divert Adria’s attention, when the Major’s finger went to his ear. He listened for a moment and then went a little pale. “Sir, I’m not sure that’s a…yes sir, I’ll tell him.”

Fletcher glanced at both Jethro and Jack, and Gibbs’ gut gave an uncomfortable lurch. “That was Dr Jackson.”

“Oh no, tell me he fucking didn’t…” Jack yelled, throwing a conveniently placed coffee cup against the wall, spraying those nearby with the dark liquid.

“He and someone he called…”

“Tony,” Gibbs growled, knowing that if there’d been a cup anywhere near him it would have been sacrificed too. He stepped over to the blueprint and followed a line with his finger. “They’re in the major ducting above the lab, right?”

“Right,” Fletcher agreed, as he joined Gibbs. “Air duct seven dash three, junction niner.”

Jack found the exact location and circled it with a red sharpie. It was right above the lab, just forward of the back wall, opposite the doorway. “Give me an earwig,” he demanded holding his hand out imperiously.

Techs bustled around them and both O’Neill and Gibbs were quickly fitted with the little communications devices, tuned into the correct frequency. “You and me are going to have a conversation when this is over, Danny,” Jack murmured quietly into the tiny mic.

“Yeah, I know,” Daniel’s voice was clear in Jethro’s ear, although it was obvious he was speaking quietly. “But I knew you’d need a diversion, and those labs are pretty isolated. We found the blueprints on the server and realised we could get to them via my lab.”

“And what the fuck do you think you’re doing, Di…Gibbs,” Jethro snapped, only just remembering the cover story.

“Dr Jackson gave me this nifty ray gun, hon. I’m just here as backup.” Tony sounded as if he was having way too much fun, and Jethro wasn’t sure if he wanted to laugh at him or punch him.

“You’ve never shot a Zat, Tony.” Jethro grit his teeth. The fucking idiot was throwing himself into danger again. He’d only just come back. “This is not a game.”

A big hand squeezed his shoulder. “They’re there now,” Jack said resignedly. “So let’s get this show on the road.” He looked over at Samantha Carter. “How long to override the locks?”

“Ten minutes.” She frowned deeply at Gibbs, as if Daniel and Tony’s idiotic move was his fault. Eventually she stepped over to a computer terminal and began to tap away at the keyboard, her fingers too fast to follow.

“Davis, I need a three-man team to join the Gunny and me. We need Kevlar and the Gunny will want a M4 Carbine with a laser pointer. Have everyone sorted at the end of this corridor, ready to move out in six minutes.” Paul left with a sharp nod, and then Jack lifted his finger to his ear.

“Danny, we’re going to be moving in approximately zero niner minutes. You need to give us some kind of diversion, preferably something loud, so we can cover the door locks disengaging. Be advised, Adria has both a handgun and a Zat.”

“What! How did she get a Zat?” Daniel sounded beyond irritated, despite his whispering tone.

“A member of SG-11 was taken over to the Dark Side and decided she was the second coming or something.” Jack growled, seemingly pissed that one of his men had done something so idiotic. “I swear I’m going to have anyone who even saw a Prior through the window go through Psych after this is all over.”

Gibbs heard Daniel give a gusty sigh. “OK, Jack. Were in position and we’ve got an idea what to do. We’ll be ready on your mark.”

“You be fucking careful, you hear me? Both of you,” Gibbs hissed, hoping his angry reprimand at their impetuosity came over despite having to be done quietly.

Tony voice came over the comm. “On it, Boss.” But behind the, oh so familiar words, Gibbs heard, ‘I Love You’.

*****

Six minutes later they were waiting in the corridor outside the lab, depending on the sit-reps from the command post as to the situation in the lab. Jethro hated this, having to go in blind. He had the Carbine snugged up against his shoulder, the red laser dot shining rock steady on the grey metal door. The Kevlar felt lighter than he was used to, and he was starting to fall into the almost meditative, battle ready state that came from long experience. In the back of his mind, though, was the very real danger Tony and Danny were in above their heads. Why the fucking idiots couldn’t just stay put…

All they were waiting for was for Adria to settle in one place for just a minute or so and then they could proceed. According to the techs, she was apparently walking up and down, ranting at her two hostages about how ‘The power and greatness of the Ori cannot be denied.’ There was still no sound from Felger and Coombes.

“I fucking denied their asses when I blasted their fleet to Hell,” Jack mumbled, getting a muted chuckle from Paul Davis and a whispered ‘Hoo-rah’ from the Marines around him.

The plan was for Daniel and Tony to make a diversion as the door lock was nullified. Gibbs was going to take her down, if it was possible without risking the scientists. Otherwise they were going to distract her with non-lethal fire so that either one of their group, or the two in the ducting, could immobilise her. Jack had made it clear that he was not particularly bothered if she didn’t survive the encounter, they’d got everything they could from her.

Word came across comms that Adria had sat down on a lab stool. Jack tapped his earwig consulted his watch and whispered. “Ten seconds on my mark, Danny. Mark!”

He gave them a 5 second countdown with his left hand, and right on time there was an almighty bang from the lab. The lock clicked and the door slid open…

Only to show their way blocked by the bodies of Felger and Coombes. The men were breathing, but had either been Zatted or knocked unconscious. Their position caused the corridor team to stall for a second and that gave Adria enough time to move out of Gibbs sight line. His shot missed her by a hairsbreadth and the .22 shell passed straight through a piece of lab equipment and disappeared into the wall.

The sound sent Adria into a panic and she began to fire randomly, aiming the pistol vaguely in the direction of the doorway, which sent the team back into the corridor. The Zat in her other hand sent a beam upwards, disintegrating a large section of ceiling. Immediately there was a loud yell and a body fell through the hole the Zat fire had left.

Jethro heard Daniel yell, “Tony!” in a weird echo both in the room and through his earpiece. With a manic grin Adria swivelled on one foot and fired once…twice…three times at the crumpled form on the lab floor.

And Tony was gone.

Time slowed to molasses for Jethro. As Daniel’s arm came through the hole in the ceiling, he could almost see the rounds as they left the pistol. Adria seemed to dance around the shells as they exploded various pieces of equipment, throwing shards of metal, plastic and Corian into the air.

All he could think was, ‘If there’s no body left how can he ascend?’ and in the back of his mind was a voice screaming ‘He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone’.

He knew Jack was saying something, but the words didn’t make sense. His nerveless fingers wouldn’t hold the rifle any longer and it was dangling from the strap clipping it to his armour. In the distance he felt someone take the Beretta from him. His knees gave way as his eyes didn’t leave the spot where Tony had fallen, been killed and then…erased.

Moments or hours later, he wasn’t sure, he was being dragged to his feet and a voice in his ear was urging him to pay attention. “…at her, LJ. Look…” He was shaken roughly.

He made himself turn his head and watched as the pale and frightened woman backed up from a swirling mass of gold that was rising from the floor. His hearing phased in and out, as his frozen brain tried to process what he was seeing.

“…No! You can’t be…It is not possible…Get away from me. GET AWAY!” She was screaming hysterically.

The ascended being, for that’s what it was, ignored her screams and the concentrated fire of the Zat as she attempted to stop its inexorable advance. As it reached her, the weapons simply melted away, and she threw up her hands as if to ward it off. The long shining tentacles of light wrapped around her and the being passed right through her body, recoalescing behind her. She slumped, seemingly unconscious as the aureate being became semi-corporeal.

And recognisable.

Jethro breathed, “Tony…” It was almost a sob.

There was no movement of Ascended Tony’s mouth, and no audible sound in the room, but in his mind Jethro heard, ‘I’ll be right back. I promise’.

Both people began to glow, giving off a coruscating blaze of light. Then they elongated into beams that pierced through the ceiling and shot away, until nothing of either of them was left.

Gone.

Gibbs felt Jack tuck in close beside him and Jethro turned to stare at his friend, his jaw solid with tension. “Did you know?”

“Jethro…” Jack said quietly, as he dragged him away from the rest of the team, who were moving purposefully to clear the room, get medics to the unconscious men, and help Daniel down from the ceiling ducts.

“Did. You. Fucking. Know?” Jethro bit off, his anger obvious.

“I…had a good idea.” Jack admitted, his gaze firm but sad.

“And you didn’t think I needed to know that they were not really here. That they were still ascended?” Gibbs didn’t wait to hear his reply. He tore his arm from Jack’s hand and strode off, the sound of Daniel’s worried voice shouting his name following him down the corridor.

*****

Jack was really lucky to live here, Gibbs thought as he watched the sunset paint Pikes Peak ochre and red, as the sky became banded from brilliant gold to deep indigo. The trees lining the property were a mix of pines, still deep green and fragrant, studded with cones, and the bare skeletons of deciduous varieties that wouldn’t be clothed for a few months more.

A chill breeze seemed to sweep in as the sun disappeared, leaving just a dim glow to outline the mountain. There was the twinkle of the first star in the darkest part of the sky and Gibbs wondered just how far away that star was. However many million light years it was, it was still closer to the Earth than the Pegasus Galaxy. That they could take a single step through the event horizon of the Stargate and be all those billions of miles away…It took his breath away.

“How long have you been out here?”

He’d heard him arrive of course, the sound of his footsteps was as familiar to him as his own heartbeat. He wasn’t able to formulate anything to say, so he kept his mouth shut.

“I’m sorry, Jet.”

Perhaps he did know what to say after all. “Sorry for what? Sorry for lying to me? Sorry for telling me to trust you and then not trusting me back? Sorry for dying in front of me again? Sorry for leaving and not taking me with you?” He turned slowly and gave his husband a long hard look.

Part of Jethro wanted to throw his arms around him; hold him tight and then perhaps the pain in his heart would ease. But the other part – the part that was so very fucking angry – wanted to knock Tony down and pummel him until he bled red blood, if only to prove that he was still real, still human.

Suddenly he knew what he needed to ask. “Are you my Tony anymore, or just some ascended facsimile?”

Tony flinched as if slapped, and took a deep shaking breath. “Of course I’m your Tony. I’m real…” He grabbed at Jethro’s hand.

He allowed it unwillingly, as Tony took Jethro’s clenched fist and beat it, none too gently against his chest. “Feel that? I’m here. Just because I can move from one state to another without really thinking about it, doesn’t mean I’m not still the same person. Yes, I have some different experiences now, some new skills and talents. But essentially I’m still the same cop you dragged off the street all those years ago. The same man you honed into a good investigator. The same man who fell in love with you from the minute I landed on top of you in that alley in Baltimore.” Tony peeled back the stiff fingers of both hands and insinuated his own into the gaps, squeezing Jethro’s hands hard.

“Please, Jet. I’m sorry I didn’t explain. I really didn’t think it would be an issue so soon. I promised you I wouldn’t leave and I did. I know that makes you think you can’t trust me. But I had to take her somewhere where she couldn’t hurt anyone else. The Others have her now and there is no way she can escape. She’s being punished for everything she did, for the millions she killed – for what she did to you, to us.”

Gibbs blew out a frustrated breath. He knew Tony was right. While ever Adria was at large, then innocent people were in danger, and also Tony was in danger. “I saw her face when she hit you with the Zat. She was so triumphant. And all I could think…was that I didn’t know if you could come back from that. If you’d just told me…”

He tried to pull his hands away but Tony wouldn’t let him. Instead he pulled him in, wrapping their still joined hands around Jethro’s back. He leaned in for a kiss, but Gibbs pulled back, not willing to let go of the anger and fear of losing Tony all over again.

“I only just got you back you fucking bastard,” he spat. “What did you think, I would just toss it off. ‘Oh Tony’s just died in front of me again. Hey that makes three times now. Isn’t that fun!”

He started to wrestle against Tony’s hold, intent on leaving for a while, maybe finding a bar and a bottle of bourbon to ease the ache in his heart and the churning of his gut. But Tony wasn’t letting him go, and he found himself slammed back against the trunk of a big Maple tree. Tony’s tall, strong frame was pressed against him, from toes to lips, as Tony took his mouth in a rough, angry kiss.

Gibbs bit his husband’s lower lip, hard, wanting him to hurt just like he was hurting, and he tasted the copper tang of blood on his tongue. But still Tony didn’t relent, demanding that Jethro yield, his body and his anger.

As quickly as the rage had risen it disappeared again, subsumed by the realisation that Tony was here, warm and vital and alive. He relaxed back onto the tree and Tony let go, bringing his hands up to frame Jethro’s face. The kiss was filled with promises; of love, of fidelity, of permanence. And finally Jethro let himself believe that his husband was here and real.

After several minutes they gentled the kiss, Jethro laving Tony’s bitten bottom lip with his tongue, making the other man moan.

“Danny is working on something inside. He told me you were an important part of it.” Tony murmured against his lips.

He didn’t want to let go yet, but something told him that what Danny wanted him for would include more of the same. He let Tony lead him back into the house, through the darkened kitchen and along the hallway to the Master bedroom, where a myriad candles lit the interior.

Danny and Jack were already on the bed, and the picture they made was a sensual, erotic delight. Jack was on his belly over a pile of pillows that pushed his ass up, while keeping pressure off his knees. He’d obviously been given a massage with oil, that made his skin shine golden in the candlelight. Danny was kneeling between his thighs, four fingers languorously pushing into Jack, whose head was turned towards them, his closed eyes and slightly open mouth showing his enjoyment of what his love was doing to him.

Tony wrapped his arms around Jethro from behind and watched over his shoulder. “So fucking beautiful,” he whispered, his breath against Jethro’s neck making him shiver.

The gaze of blue eyes turned almost black with arousal, swept across Jethro’s face. “We have a promise to keep to Jack,” he husked. “Remember?”

“Yeah,” Jethro agreed.

Jack’s eyelids raised lazily. “Wha..?” He was obviously too far gone to remember their first sexual encounter, before Tony had ascended, when Jethro had played voyeur.

“What did you promise him, Jet?” Tony was sliding Jethro’s jacket off his shoulders, his mouth never still as it pressed tiny bites and kisses over the sides and back of his neck. Gibbs’ eyes slid closed as his arousal began to ramp up at the thought of what they were about to do.

“Four cocks, O’Neill…” Jethro quoted, the memory as fresh as if it had been only a few minutes earlier. “…maybe we’ll slide two of them in your ass while one more is fucking into the one on top.”

Tony groaned, and Gibbs could feel the hard swell of Tony’s erection as he pressed it up against Jethro’s ass. “How?” he asked. “Who goes where?”

With difficulty, Jethro opened his eyes and looked straight at Daniel. The other man just smiled, and Gibbs knew it was going to be his show. “Danny on his back, Jack riding him leaning forward, you taking him from behind and me inside you.”

Jack moaned loudly and pressed his hips down, obviously searching for friction. Danny slapped his ass hard, which only served to make O’Neill groan deeply.

“You’re such a kinky bastard, General.” Danny goaded.

Jack was getting Daniel’s thumb now, only the widest part of Danny’s knuckles preventing his whole hand from sliding inside. Jethro thought he’d never seen anything more erotic in his life.

Not wanting to waste time, he and Tony stripped themselves, leaving their clothes where they fell. Making sure they were touching with every step, they walked over to the bed. Reluctantly dropping Tony’s hand, Jethro watched as he walked over to the other side of the bed and slid onto it next to Jack.

Gibbs copied him on the nearside, until Jack was sandwiched between the two of them. They ran their hands over his back, tangling their fingers when they got close to each other, stealing kisses over him, before pressing lips teeth and tongues to Jack’s skin.

The oil tasted vaguely of cinnamon, and mixed with the dew of perspiration, Jethro decided it was delicious. Danny reached for his hand and pulled him towards Jack’s ass, before encouraging him to insinuate another finger beside Daniel’s.

Jack cried out in obvious pleasure and Tony smiled the most sensuous smile. He leaned over and whispered in Jack’s ear. The older man turned his head and submitted to a deep and sexy kiss that had Jethro’s cock lurching, a little jet of pre-come spurting from his slit and onto the swell of Jack’s ass cheek.

“You ready, Jack,” Tony asked him.

“Fuck…yeah,” Jack moaned.

Daniel gently slid his fingers out of Jack, encouraging Jethro to keep up the stretching. Standing gracefully, he moved around the bed, stopping first to kiss Jethro, and then placing little bites around Tony’s full lips, licking over the tiny wound Jethro had left there earlier.

He pulled out the drawer of the bedside table and retrieved a jar. As he passed Tony again he snagged his hand and pulled him up, prodding him to the end of the bed.

“No condoms tonight,” he stated firmly. “Tony and I will never have anything to worry about again, and both Jack and Jethro have been tested recently at the Mountain.”

Jack was too far gone to care, but Jethro and Tony nodded their agreement. Daniel opened the jar and scooped out a good amount of a very thick clear lube, before passing the jar to Tony. He walked over to Gibbs and pushed on his shoulder with his dry hand. Gibbs turned to face him and bit his lip against the overwhelming sensation as Daniel proceeded to slather his rock hard cock with the thick gel.

Meanwhile, Tony was smoothing his own handful of the slick over his very impressive erection, as Jack watched. The older man was panting now, his hands clawed in the sheets as he held himself back from rutting into the pillows under his cock.

Gibbs moaned as Tony used the same hand to press a couple of fingers inside himself.

“Not too much, huh, Jet,” he murmured huskily. “Been a while, wanna feel you.”

Jethro wet his lips at the promise and then took his lead from Daniel and held out his hand for the jar, before coating Daniel with the slippy stuff until his cock glistened with it.

“Up you get, Jack.” Tony instructed, and after wiping off his hands on the sheets he helped a trembling Jack to his knees, making sure a pillow was firmly placed under each leg to lift him a little higher, and support his weaker knee.

Daniel quickly insinuated himself under Jack, and slid into him in one long slow push. Tony and Jethro watched the sensual display, both panting with arousal. After only a minute or so, Daniel pulled Jack forward, opening his entrance for Tony, and pulling him in for a deep kiss.

Jethro helped Tony, holding his cock in place as the other man got in position, before pressing in slowly, until the guardian ring gave enough to allow the head of his dick to move inside.

Jack’s moan was loud and long and Jethro could see Tony’s thighs trembling as he fought not to push in too fast.

Eventually Jack groaned out, “Yeah, Tony. Do it.”

Gibbs watched in amazement, as Jack’s hole swallowed Tony, the rim stretched impossibly around the two not insubstantial cocks filling it. By the time Tony was balls deep, Jack was panting and all three of them were trembling with the effort of taking it slow.

Finally, Tony looked over his shoulder, and his expression was full of sexual need. “I think we’re ready for you, baby.”

Jethro pressed his thumbs each side of Tony’s cleft and pulled his cheeks apart. The bed was just the right height for him to stand at the end and press in. The feeling of Tony’s heat around him was old and new at the same time. He didn’t wait, didn’t slow down or speed up, just pressed in long and slow. When his pelvis hit Tony’s ass, it pushed his body forward, which in turn pressed Tony into Jack. Both he and Danny moaned as the pressure translated through.

The tight hold around Jethro’s cock was driving him crazy. “Gotta…” he panted. “Wanna fuck him…” he begged.

“Yeah, Jethro,” Daniel encouraged. “Do it.”

The first few strokes were uncoordinated, but soon they built a rhythm, Tony and Danny hardly needing to move at all, as the long hard strokes of Jethro’s cock moved them inside Jack and against each other.

Jack was incoherent, his grunts and moans almost animalistic, while Danny had one hand on the back of Jack’s head and the other pressing two fingers into Tony’s mouth.

It was too much, all pressure and heat and Tony, Tony, Tony…Here and alive and wrapped around his cock. And Jethro couldn’t last any longer.

“Coming,” he managed to yell as his vision greyed around the edges and his cock jerked over and over, pressing spurt after spurt inside his Tony. He was vaguely aware of Tony tightening vicelike around his softening cock, and the jerking of the three men beneath him as they all found their release.

It was all he could do not to flop down on Tony’s back, but he knew Jack’s poor abused ass wouldn’t cope, let alone his bum knee. So once he felt he had his equilibrium back, he withdrew slowly, relishing the feel of leaving his husband’s ass, as much as he had entering it.

He wobbled his way around the bed, casting an exhausted eye on the other three men, who were still in place, panting. By the time he returned with several warm damp cloths and a dry towel, they were all disengaged from each other and lying side by side, Jack almost draped across the other two, completely fucked out and emotionally drained by the whole experience.

As Jethro reached the side of the bed, he was met by blue and green eyes, both blurred with tiredness and satiation. He held out the cloths and they gratefully cleaned up, moving an almost comatose Jack between the three of them.

Finally, they were clean, dry and under the covers. Jack in the centre of the bed with Daniel spooning behind him, while Jack in turn spooned Jethro. Tony was the last to slip into bed, rolling to face Jethro. He pressed a soft kiss to his willing mouth. “I love you.”

“Love you.” Jethro agreed, glad to have shed the anger that had hurt so much earlier.

“Love you, Jack. You too, AJ, LJ…” Daniel murmured, followed by what sounded like an affirmative grunt from Jack.

Tony reached his hand over Jethro and was met by Daniel’s as they both rested on Jethro’s hip. Tony smiled and Gibbs knew he had received one in return from Danny.

Jethro could never have imagined this, not in a million years. But somehow it felt right.

“Love you both too,” he said.

And knew it was true.

*****

Every muscle was aching, there was a major bruise coming up on his ribcage, and he had a cut lip from a lucky hit. But God, he felt good.

Jethro relished the hot water beating down on his back as it eased the tiredness in his bones. The latest sparring session with the Marines had been tough, but he’d held his own, using the mix of hand to hand, martial arts, and down and dirty street fighting he’d learned over the years.

The new kids came in to the Mountain, spunky and full of excitement – not only for their first real posting, but because the posting involved real, honest to god aliens. Trouble was they also came in with a sense of being indestructible and immortal, and in the past that had led to a higher number of casualties than there should have been.

The last three months had seen a lot of changes. Carter had got her first star and been shipped off to DC as Jack had wanted. The President was only too happy to indulge his favourite General, and so Jack had moved Homeworld to Colorado and Samantha was charming everyone in DC.

Her role as liaison kept everything flowing smoothly, her intelligence and manner giving a professional front to the Program. She never played on her looks, but she also knew it was as much of an asset as any other part of the package that made up Brigadier General Carter.

Jack was more than happy to leave all the glad-handing to her, and although she fought him a little at the beginning, she seemed to be settling in to the role and relishing the challenges it brought. She was still able to keep her hand in with the science side of things, as she was also overseeing the new R & D section in Nevada.

It had been Tony’s idea to move out all the geeks who weren’t directly involved with the Program. He had rightly pointed out that the whole issue with Felger and Coombes would never have come up if either of them had been one of the scientists trained for a ‘Gate team.

Which in turn left more room in the Mountain for the soldiers they needed to protect the ‘Gate, and by turn the Earth, from invasion or infiltration.

And that had been when Gibbs had opened his big mouth.

He’d been watching a few of the new recruits, listening in to their conversations, chatting to them over coffee in the mess. What he’d heard had worried him. Most of them were young, green and way too sure of themselves. Under the old system, when there just wasn’t room for too many resident troops, the Marine platoons were cycled over a two year posting, with the best of them kept at the Mountain and trained up for off world teams. Those posts were coveted keenly, and competition was tough.

However sometimes, when combat took out one member, or sadly a whole team, there often wasn’t someone immediately available to step up and fill the gap.

Gibbs had brought his thoughts to Jack…One morning in bed, after a rather spectacular double blowjob from their partners…and the General had immediately tasked Jethro with organising and implementing a training program that would take those raw young men and make them into efficient team members.

That of course had led to Gibbs spending the first month off world, and he had never had so much fun in all his life. The teams treated him like royalty, the planets and people were interesting and challenging by turns, and for the first time in a very long time he felt his work really meant something.

So he was teaching these kids how not to die; how to be aware of everything in your surroundings; how to take the basics they were taught in SERE training and evolve them until they were steely-eyed ninja’s; how read a situation and listen to their gut. Word had got around and already three months in he was beginning to notice his sessions often had faces from the established teams alongside the new recruits.

And that was why he was trying not to wince as he soaped the fist sized red patch on his side, as he listened in to the conversation in the locker room beyond.

“You got the Gunny good, Edwards.”

“Nah, it was a lucky shot. I turned my ankle on the edge of the mat and threw my arm up to stop me fallin’, like a kid on his first time out on the ice. He had me, don’t you think otherwise.”

Edwards was Canadian, and outside his weapon, and his girl (in that order) his favourite thing was Ice Hockey. Gibbs was sure that was why he’d been given a spot on SG-9. Jack loved anyone who could talk about his favourite sport. It had to be that, the guy didn’t have that much ability.

“You’re already on a team, man. Why’re you coming in to training just to get your ass kicked?”

“There’s always something new to learn kid.”

“You know he’s married to Dr Gibbs, right? Now there’s one…”

“I don’t know where you’re going with this kid, but you’d better not be going to bad mouth…”

“No, sir! I was just saying.”

“Yeah, well watch what you’re sayin’, and who you’re sayin’ it to. Otherwise the Gunny won’t be going easy on ya like he was today.”

“Easy…Fuck, you think that was him going easy.”

“Oh, yeah…”

Jethro heard the door slam as he shut off the shower. Well it seemed Edwards wasn’t quite the Probie he thought. He would work with anyone who was willing to learn, and Edwards had obviously learned Gibbs Rule #1 – Stargate edition. ‘You never mess with the Gunny’s man’.

He wandered out into the main area with a towel wrapped low on his hips, and unlatched his locker door to find his street clothes.

“Hey gorgeous.”

He grinned but didn’t turn around. “Hey yourself.”

“You done for today, only Tony and Jack have already been gone a couple of hours and I’ve given up trying to finish the translation of the tablet SG-2 found on M28-050.” Daniel ran a cool finger down Jethro’s spine and then around his side.

Jethro hissed as he hit the hot bruise that was starting to throb. He looked around at Daniel who winced sympathetically. “Lucky hit by one of the guys from SG-9. And yeah I’m all done. Pizza and beer would go down real well right about now.”

“Then Pizza and beer it is. We’ll call it in when we get topside and then pick it up on the way back.”

Daniel sat on the bench and watched with undisguised interest as Jethro stripped off his towel and began to dress. They were never inappropriate at work, even canning the flirting around the other men and women. But Danny’s frank and appreciative appraisal was more than a little arousing, and Jethro’s cock decided that it wanted to get in on the action. He was glad of the looser cut of his civvie pants, as his combat trousers would have made his bulge very obvious and difficult to button down.

He grabbed his jacket from the hook at the back of his locker and turned, to find a smirking Daniel looking up at him through his lashes as he nodded at Jethro’s groin.

“Want me to do something about that, Mister?”

Oh, he was ruing the day Tony had spilled the beans about his hustler fetish. “Can it, Danny.” He grumbled half-heartedly. “Let’s get outta here.”

*****

“How’s the booster coming on?”

“Tony’s pretty much finished the translation.” Daniel drove the way he did everything else. Smooth, accomplished, brilliant.

They were on their way back to the house from the pizza joint and Jethro was really enjoying the sun coming through his open window. Summers longer days meant they got to see the daylight. It was one of the only downsides to working under the Mountain as far as Jethro was concerned, that and not having a boat to build.

“We think he should be ready to move into the new, secret lab in about two days. If Jack’s experience is anything to go by, it’ll take him about a week to build the thing. Then we have to wait for the 911 supplies to come in for Atlantis.”

Gibbs glanced back out of the window, “I thought the Apollo was taking that stuff out.”

Daniel looked concerned. “No, the IOA and the President decided the situation was too volatile out there. Until the new ship is ready to launch, she’s our only battlecruiser and the recent run in with Ba’al and Adria has got them all a little antsy.”

“That makes no strategic sense at all. The Goa’uld are almost wiped out. The Tok’ra we met on my last mission through the ‘Gate, said they estimate there are no more than three major players out there, and with the only surviving queen being on ‘our’ side, there are very few symbiotes available. Tritonin has given the Jaffa freedom from needing to incubate the baby snakes, so the risk from them is at an all-time low. Whereas, the risk of conflict with the Wraith is the highest it’s ever been. Have you read the latest reports from John Sheppard?”

Daniel rapped his fingers on the steering wheel and huffed out a breath. “No, but Rodney has kept me up to date. They need us, LJ.”

He reached across and placed his hand on Daniel’s thigh. The other man dropped a hand from the wheel and covered it, squeezing gently.

“We’ll be there soon. I just hope it becomes obvious what we, or rather you, need to do. Otherwise according to you, Tony and Sheppard, the Earth is going to be at risk of invasion in less than two months. They need supplies, and they need troops if they’re going to mount any sort of defence. You would think those cowardly paper pushers would want to send them, if only to save their own lousy skins.”

“Well no one ever said they were clever cowardly paper pushers,” Daniel chuckled.

*****

The house was quiet as they entered through the garage, with no sign of the other two men anywhere on the ground floor.

Jethro put the oven on low heat, and slid the pizza boxes in to keep warm, while Daniel filled the fridge with beer. They’d all been a little frazzled that morning, overtired, overworked and worried about the Atlantis mission and their task. So they’d agreed to kick back and relax that evening.

A low moan sounded from a room above, and with a mischievous grin Daniel darted up the stairs, Jethro close on his heels. When they reached the master they both stopped in the doorway to admire the view.

Jack and Tony were fucking and had been for a while, if the sheen of sweat on both of them was anything to go by. The huge bed, which had been retrieved from 2447 Willowbrook only a few days before was being used to its fullest potential as they were lying across it side to side, rather than top to bottom. The whole scene looked like they had been in too much of hurry to get on the bed properly.

What it gave Jethro and Daniel was a perfect view of Jack’s cock, sliding at a leisurely pace in and out of Tony. The flex and bunch of Jack’s glutes was in perfect counterpoint to the deeply erotic moans Tony was making. The whole picture was beautiful and so fucking arousing.

Daniel pressed against Jethro’s shoulder, pushing him against the wall by the side of the door and, turning Jethro’s head with one hand so he could continue to watch, began kissing his throat, his jaw and behind his ear.

“You wanna join them?” he breathed. “Or do you want to watch.”

The idea of watching two of his lovers – for they had all acknowledged they’d become a foursome on the trip to DC – made Gibbs moan with arousal.

“OK, let’s watch, huh.”

Gibbs nodded and with his eyes still fixed on the tableau on the bed, he sought out Daniel’s lips with his own. Danny’s tongue was wicked. He could use it sensually with same eloquence as he could use words; lightly touching his palette, tasting him, using the tip to excite nerves he didn’t even know he had.

They kissed until they ran out of breath, while across the room, Tony was crying out for Jack to let him come.  But the older man had him trapped on the bed, holding him down with his body, using his hole, but not giving him anything in return.

“Beautiful isn’t he. He’s a hustler you know, name’s Juli. How much did Jack pay him do you think?”

Daniel was casting an erotic spell around Jethro, weaving a fantasy with his words, and he could hardly breathe.

“He picked him up at a club, just down the block. Dressed like the whore he is, ripped black jeans, mesh shirt, a little bit of kohl under his eyelashes…”

Jethro slid his hand over his shirt, letting the cotton scuff his nipples, bringing them to tight little peaks, while Daniel’s fingers slowly made their way to the waistband of his pants.

“Jack wanted him the moment he saw him. Juli offered him a blowjob in the back of the car, but Jack knew he’d be gorgeous under him like this, all desperate and pliant, begging to be fucked, long and slow.”

Clever fingers had already opened Jethro’s belt and fly buttons, and he scrabbled at the front of Daniel’s pants, desperate to return the favour. He was surprised to find them already open, Daniel’s thick length already free and leaking.

“When Juli caught sight of that big, gorgeous cock of Jack’s he almost gave it him for free, but he’s got a living to make, so he asked for $300, thinking he might get half that. As soon as he saw that hot piece of ass naked, Jack emptied his billfold for him.”

Jethro’s cock was hot in Daniel’s hand and they began to jerk each other, keeping time with the two on the bed. Tony’s voice broke when a deep thrust from Jack must have hit his sweet spot, and Jethro knew it wouldn’t be long before all of them were too far gone to stop. There was something so deliciously tawdry about it; like they’d just walked into an open room at a sex club. And just the idea of that made Jethro’s cock stiffen even more, and leak freely.

“He’s only ever been fucked better once since he started hustling. He was another guy just like Jack, an older, Military type. The guy wanted to watch, tell him what to do. He even gave him a nine-inch dildo to fuck himself with. But he was so wanton, and the whole scene made the guy so horny, that he slid that long piece of silicon out of him and replaced it with his own thick prick. Juli came so fucking hard that night. The guy spoiled him for any other John.”

The sound of the words, the pictures Danny’s fantasy made, the memories of Tony’s DVD, the sounds from the bed were overwhelming. Gibbs balls tightened and his cock swelled in Daniel’s hand. He could smell the scent of sex from the bed, and the hot gusts of Daniel’s breath as he stopped talking and speeded up the movement of his hand on Jethro’s cock.

On the bed, Jack had pulled Tony onto his hands and knees, and was holding him tightly by his hips, slamming into him while Tony reached underneath and jerked himself furiously. With a sharp cry Daniel came hard, his come coating Jethro’s fist. Jack gave one last deep thrust and moaned his release, his hips jerking as he came inside Tony.

Jethro was not quite there. Daniel’s hold on his cock had loosened a little as he shook with his own orgasm. Jethro reached down and covered Danny’s hand with his own, matched by Jack who did the same for Tony. They were almost in synchrony as they stroked, until with a simultaneous cry of completion they both came hard.

The panting from the four of them was loud in the quiet house.

“Wow,” Danny breathed, shakily.

“Yeah,” the other three agreed together.

*****

“The first test of the booster will have to be undertaken late at night when the power drain won’t affect the ‘Gate schedule.” Tony was reading from a printed document that was several pages long and a very small font. He lifted a glass of water from the conference table and took a long sip.

“I’ve been asked if the techs can schedule diagnostics in two days time, as there’s an unexpected break in the mission roster.” Jack scribbled something on his own copy of the print-out. “Do we need to do this before that?”

Daniel considered for a moment. “Actually I think it would be the perfect time. The booster needs to be attached to the power to the ‘Gate, but we don’t want to actually activate it. We were lucky to find that cache of Staff Weapons at Ba’al’s deserted stronghold. There were enough to make three of the boosters, but we’ve just about used all the power cells.”

“Why do we need three?” Gibbs wasn’t happy that they’d depleted all their resources.

“One to get us out there, one to leave here, and one to come back if everything goes FUBAR.” Tony looked over at his husband, his expression grave. “If we can’t work out what I…or we have to do there, then the only way to prevent the Wraith’s imminent arrival is to blow the ZPM on Atlantis – hopefully with as many of the Wraith Hives overhead as possible.”

Jack looked a little sick at that scenario. “That needs to be worst case.”

“Oh definitely. The Ancient in me is screaming at the idea that Atlantis would have to be sacrificed.” Daniel said off-handedly as he scanned the last sheets of the supply manifest.

“That isn’t going to cause any problems once we get there is it. I don’t want a horde of glowy bastards on my ass because they don’t want their city blown to high heaven. They should’ve thought of that when they grew the Wraith in the first place.” Jack’s gaze was sharp and no nonsense and Jethro could see that he had serious concerns about Daniel’s seemingly throw away remark.

Tony shook his head. “They’re completely on board with whatever we have to do, Jack. Otherwise they would have never let us back.”

Gibbs head shot up sharply. The idea that Tony and Danny could have been kept on the ascended plane was not a new one, but the fear that if they ascended again they wouldn’t be allowed back was very real. He and Jack had spoken about it between them on many occasions, both going so far as to agreeing that a conversation would be had with their lovers very soon. Maybe this was the time. He caught Jack’s gaze and a slight nod told him he was right.

“LJ and I…Me and Jethro we wanted…” Jack scrubbed a hand across his face, frustrated that such a simple thing should be so hard.

Jethro reached out and squeezed Jack’s forearm. “We need you teach us what we have to do to ascend.” He said baldly. “We can’t be on your six if we can’t get to you.”

Their younger lovers gave each other a look that Jethro couldn’t decipher. “What?” he asked, irritated at the silence from their side of the table.

Daniel took a deep breath and Jack groaned. “Not a lecture, Danny, please. We don’t need the metaphysical down-low, just the CliffsNotes.”

Tony chuckled and reached out, just managing to snag Jethro’s fingers across the wide table. Daniel did the same to Jack.

“You’re already coming. This…bond we have between the four of us, it’s more than just sexual or emotional,” Daniel began.

“We’re linked on a spiritual level too,” Tony picked up. “Even if one of you was to die while the rest of us were light years away, we…” he gestured between himself and Daniel, “…would know immediately and would be there to help you ascend.”

“All you have to be sure of is that you are willing to leave everything behind.” Daniel finished. “Because any ties here would make it impossible for you to let go.”

“With you, Tony.” Jethro murmured.

“At the end of all things.” Tony answered with a sweet smile, his eyes a little glassy.

“Viggo Mortenson is hot,” Jack muttered under his breath, causing Jethro and Tony to laugh loudly.

“So are you convinced?” Daniel questioned. The older two nodded and everyone seemed to breathe a little easier.

“So we test the booster during the ‘Gate diagnostic cycle – Jethro you’re gonna need to keep everyone away from the power room.” Tony ticked off a point on his list.

“How long for?”

“Probably 15 minutes at the most.”

Gibbs nodded. “That’s doable.”

“Danny is organising the science 911 supplies, I’m doing the administrative, Jethro has the military – to include weaponry, uniforms, etc., and Jack has food and ancillary supplies.”

“I’ve already set the ball rolling with the powers that be for me to be travelling off world in the next week or so, for inspections etc. I just haven’t given them an itinerary.” Jack shrugged. “They’re really not interested where I’m going as long as I have adequate support.”

“And no one could call us inadequate,” Tony quipped.

“Oh you’re more than adequate; I think your appraisals would read Exceeds Expectations or even Outstanding.” Jack grinned.

Daniel groaned and gave Jethro a pained look. “I knew I shouldn’t have let him read Harry Potter.

Jack raised his eyebrows, stood and with a flurry of waving arms shouted, “Expelliarmus.”

“Do we have to take him with us, LJ. Can’t we leave him here,” Daniel begged. Gibbs just snorted, as Tony joined Jack in a conversation about whether being infested by a Goa’uld was the same as being cursed with Imperius.

*****

The test went without a hitch, the only hiccup being a rather strange blip in the first run of diagnostics. The techs called in the geeks and they stripped back the dialling computers, much to Daniel’s dismay and Jack’s glee. It meant the diagnostic took almost three days to complete, but that helped in its own way.

The huge influx of supplies had been difficult to cover up and eventually they’d had to pull Teal’c and Davis into their little cabal. Rather than being a problem though, it had proven to be a great benefit.

Teal’c was in charge of punishment detail on the base. He was firm but fair, and Jack had always trusted him not to be partisan in a way members of the different branches of the service might have been. Everyone respected him, and he was big enough and badass enough to face off with the most obstreperous soldier. If nothing else, they would suffer an epic beat-down which was never forgotten. As soon as any new member of the Program set foot on the Mountain, Teal’c’s legend was soon imparted, and woe and betide anyone who didn’t heed the warnings of their compatriots.

Once he had been apprised of their intentions, Teal’c used his punishment details to clean out the huge, unused warehouse spaces that had originally been intended as bomb shelters during the Cold War. Once that was completed, the same teams were used to sort the supplies onto carts that would be easy to push through the event horizon. Having done this for the original disembarkation of the Atlantis Mission, both Teal’c and Paul had no problem understanding what was required.

Teal’c was also going to be responsible for setting up a guard on the power room. Although the booster was based on Jack’s original design, Tony’s knowledge had allowed him to make tweaks that would ensure it was smoother running and didn’t overwhelm the breakers. It also meant that they would have a full 38 minutes to get supplies through the ‘Gate. He wasn’t happy about being left behind, but in true Teal’c style he recognised his duty and was willing to do it. Gibbs respected the hell out of him for that.

Paul had tried to encourage them to take troops with them, and Jethro had been in full agreement. Jack had been less than happy with the idea, as they had no idea when or how they’d be coming back, if at all.

“Then ask for volunteers,” Jethro urged. “You’ve gotta know your men would follow you anywhere.”

“Mobilising troops without Presidential say so, is probably a bridge too far, even for me,” Jack explained. “And this is not some run of the mill rescue mission, LJ.”

Tony rapped his knuckles on the table to get their attention. “We’re going to be taking another booster with us. I am positive I’ll be able to hook it up at the other end. We’ll have at least one, maybe two opportunities to open a wormhole back to Earth. That will give us more than enough time to evacuate the people on Atlantis as well as anyone we take with us.” He pressed his palms against the table and looked down at them. “The only problem I can see is keeping this under wraps. Rule #4, Boss.”

“Goddamn rules,” Jack muttered under his breath. “OK, I give, what does Rule #4 say.” He lifted one eyebrow at Gibbs who smirked back.

“The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person – if you must. There is no third best.” Tony cited. “It only takes one loose pair of lips…”

“Are there not men in the reserves, O’Neill, who would be willing to join you? They are seasoned warriors, like yourself and GunnyLeroyJethroGibbs. They have proved themselves trustworthy, and we can pick from those without family ties.”

Tony got up and hugged Teal’c hard. Gibbs was almost sure his already ebony skin darkened even more. “You my dear friend,” Tony enthused, “Are a fucking genius.”

And so it was that all the supplies were ready, and tightly packed on wheeled trolleys. Four full squads of Marines and a few assorted Air Force officers and enlisted were on board, and counting Jack and Jethro who were by far the strongest, they had seven gene carriers.

And in three days they were going through the ‘Gate.

*****

Jethro and Tony had decided close up the houses in DC. 2447 had some very happy memories, but there were others which were bittersweet. They weren’t even sure they were coming back from Atlantis – Jethro had a gut feeling they would return, but not for a while. So the big house in NoVA was going to be rented out, while Jethro’s old house was going up for sale.

So as soon as everything was organised at the Mountain, they hitched a ride with the Apollo and began the onerous task of sifting through their houses for the things they wanted to keep.

Most of their precious pieces like Marmar’s table and their photographs would be put in specialist storage. The main issues were clearing out the office and safe at Willowbrook, and packing up the workshop.

They’d brought along a couple of burly Marines and Teal’c, who made short work of dismantling the skeleton of the boat, while Jethro busied himself with the tools. He was surprised to find a matching set of 15 wooden tool chests, the size of small dressers, had been delivered to the house that morning. They were beautiful, craftsman-made in cedar and finished with the kind of brass fittings Jethro would have used on the boat.

A small smile from his husband told Jethro where they’d come from, and he snogged him thoroughly before setting to the task of putting everything away safely.

The chests and the larger tools were rolled up into a lorry and taken off to storage by a professional team, and Jethro couldn’t hide how sad he was to see them go.

“I understand that the Athosian people, who found refuge on the City of Atlantis, are expert woodworkers, GunnyLeroyJethroGibbs,” Teal’c assured him. “There will be many opportunities to practice your craft. And do not forget, Atlantis is a city surrounded by water. A sailing vessel would be of great benefit there.”

That was the thing about T. He had a way of interpreting concepts that succinctly captured their importance to a person. Gibbs was really going to miss him.

Finally, just Jethro and Tony remained in the house, a few boxes of personal items around them. Some of them would travel to Atlantis with them, while others would be placed in Jack’s safety deposit box in Colorado Springs.

Tony was sitting on the leather couch in the family room, turning the pages of a photo album that Jethro had never seen before. It had been hidden away in the false bottom of a dresser draw, a victim of his inability to be proud of his relationship with Tony. They were all candid shots of their wedding, he assumed taken by Ducky as the old man wasn’t in any of them.

“I’m sorry, baby,” he murmured quietly, as he sat next to Tony. “You should never have had to hide these.”

“Some days, they were the only thing that kept me going.” Tony murmured. “I got to the point where I thought this was all I was ever going to have of you. The explosion made me frantic, but once we knew you were going to pull through, I let myself relax.”

He turned the page and ran his finger down the side of a shot of them kissing under a large tree. The plastic coating was slightly worn in that area, no longer shiny like the rest of the leaf. The investigator in Jethro knew that it wasn’t the first time Tony had made that particular motion.

“I couldn’t be with you all the time, even though legally there was no problem. At first I didn’t give a fuck, I was by your bedside night and day. But then you were getting better, and starting to come out of the coma. Ducky knew of course and so he wasn’t surprised to see me there. But McGee and Abby began to make little comments, and I didn’t want you to resurface to find I’d outed us to our friends.”

Gibbs didn’t think he could feel any worse than he did right then. He knew that if it had been the other way around, he would have blown it completely, caring only that his own selfish need to be with Tony was fulfilled. But here was Tony telling him that he’d dealt with his own grief and concern and still thought about keeping to his promise to Jethro.

“When you woke up and didn’t know who we were…I still didn’t let myself worry. I kept telling myself that you’d remember me. What we had was just too important for us to let it go.” Tony’s eyes were swimming with tears.

Pulling Tony into his arms, Jethro kissed him softly and sweetly, hoping to erase the sadness the memories had dragged with them. “Never again, sweetheart. I’ll never ask you to deny us again. It was cruel and selfish and I have no excuses.”

They sat together quietly enjoying the peaceful silence, relishing the last few hours of contentment before the chaos of their trip through the gate.

After a while, Tony rubbed his cheek against Jethro’s. “I miss Jack and Danny.”

They’d only been here a few hours – less than a day, but Gibbs had to agree.

Tony pulled away a little and traced a line across Jethro’s eyebrow, around his eye, along his cheek and over the bow of his lips. “Do you think they have polyamory in the Pegasus galaxy?”

“Poly as in many, and amory as in loves or lovers?” Jethro questioned and was smugly pleased to see Tony’s surprise. “I’m not totally uneducated you know.” He snarked. “And the answer to your question is…we’ll find out when we get there. Why, would you want to bond yourself to them too?”

He saw worry flicker in Tony’s eyes at the question.

“I wouldn’t be against it,” Jethro continued. “Perhaps it’s something we need to talk about together.”

Tony nodded, still frowning a little. “The idea keeps flitting through my mind. But every time I think about it…it’s like I’m missing something.” He shrugged. “It’ll all work out.”

“Yeah,” Gibbs agreed, his gut telling him they were both right.

*****

Gibbs watched from the control room as the last of the supplies were wheeled into the ‘Gate room.  The whole area was thrumming with energy. Heavily armoured SF’s lined the walls, while the squads who were coming to Atlantis stood in loose groups, all of them seasoned men with hundreds of missions through the Stargate. All around them were stacked cages and trolleys filled to overflowing with supplies and hardware, computers, ancillary goods, a couple of thousand pounds of really good coffee and even a few cases of Jack’s favourite beer to name but a few.

The whole room seemed to hold its breath as the Stargate began to turn. They were waiting for the scheduled data burst from Atlantis. Jack was not going to send them into a warzone if there was a battle underway, no matter how much they wanted to save the Mission. After the eighth chevron locked, signifying a wormhole from another galaxy, all eyes turned to the window above them.

Over the speakers the tech was heard to acknowledge receipt of a data burst from Atlantis and then there was a hiatus where the highly compressed information was converted to an intelligible form. Finally, after a hurried conversation with the tech, Jack opened the comms.

“OK, people, Atlantis are reporting a code Green. They had a single Hive on their long-range sensors a few days ago but it didn’t come anywhere near them. We are clear to dial Atlantis.”

There was a loud ‘Hoo-rah’ from the floor, and then each man moved to his assigned place in the queue, standing ready beside whatever supplies they were to transport.

Jack gave him a tight smile. “OK, LJ. Let the boys know to deploy the booster.”

Jethro clicked his earpiece and let Tony know they were good to go. Moments later there was a split second surge of energy that brightened the lights in the ‘Gate room to almost blinding proportions before it settled back down.

At a terse ‘Dial Atlantis’, from Jack, once again the Stargate began to spin. Jack and Jethro made their way down into the lower room and were quickly joined by Tony and Danny, both of whom were flushed with excitement. Jethro couldn’t help imagining them as little kids on Christmas Day.

As the tech above intoned ‘Chevron seven – encoded’, Tony grasped Jethro’s hand, interlocking their fingers. He leaned back and whispered in Tony’s ear. “Not going without you.”

“Wouldn’t let you, Jet. Nowhere without you, never again.” Tony replied, and Gibbs nodded his total agreement.

“Chevron eight – LOCKED!” the tech called out. He began to give their identity to the Atlantis base and they waited for a reply.

“Stargate Command, this is Dr Peter Grodin speaking from Atlantis base. It’s good to hear from you. Dr Weir and Colonel Sheppard are on their way.” The speaker was English, his voice almost trembling with incredulity.

“We have troops and supplies ready for transit, are you clear to receive?”

“Stargate Command this is Dr Weir. We would be overjoyed to receive your incoming personnel and stores. Our Gate shield is open.” The female voice sounded assured and in control.

Elizabeth Weir was the civilian lead of the Mission. Not everything Jethro had heard about her was good, but he was willing to suspend judgement until he saw her in action. The military commander John Sheppard on the other hand, was a soldier’s soldier. His actions during the Genii siege had been above and beyond the call, and Gibbs wanted to shake his hand.

Suddenly everything was happening at once. The iris opened on the Stargate and the troops and supplies were already moving smoothly through the rippling event horizon.

“Be safe out there, General,” Paul Davis said with a smart salute. “And you, Gunny. The newbie squad is gonna miss you.”

“Just keep to the training schedules I’ve laid down. Teal’c knows what I expect.”

He gave Davis a smart salute, which the Colonel seemed surprised to receive. He returned it and then turned to Daniel and Tony. Both men hugged him hard, and it wasn’t a surprise to Jethro to see Teal’c step up behind the Colonel, his large hand on his shoulder giving him unashamed emotional support.

Gibbs knew he had a lot still to learn from the Jaffa warrior, and his salute to the big man held every ounce of respect he could show.

“Ral’tora kree, GunnyLeroyJethroGibbs. May we meet again soon.”

“Good luck to you too, T. It has been my honour and privilege to fight alongside you.”

And Gibbs meant every word.

Less than thirty minutes later the Gateroom was empty except for the four of them. With a salute to the SF’s and techs Jack led the way through the event horizon.

*****

As they stepped out the other side, billions of miles from where they’d started, Jethro was overwhelmed by the feeling of welcome and joy that permeated his mind and body. He glanced over at the other three and they all wore expressions that said they were feeling the same.

“Hello, old girl,” Tony said as he turned on his heel to look around the beautiful room. Compared to the dirty grey functionality of the Mountain, Atlantis was a work of art.

A woman was standing on a mezzanine overlooking the room and Jethro recognised her as Dr Weir. She seemed poised to make some kind of speech, to declaim like a Roman Emperor. Her expression when she saw Jack was less than welcoming and immediately Jethro began to get the feeling she could prove to be difficult. She quickly smoothed it out into a more diplomatic front, but the damage had already been done as far as Jethro was concerned.

Before she had chance to speak a tall, dark haired and strikingly handsome man strode out from a door to one side of the gate. He wore black BDU’s with a rather stylish black leather jacket, which sported a set of silver eagles on the collar.

So this was Sheppard.

His salute was crisp and respectful. His smile was stunning and out of the corner of his eye, Jethro could see Tony giving him a very thorough once over, while Danny simply looked on, amused.

“General. You don’t know how glad we are to see you.” Sheppard’s voice seemed to resonate for Jethro, hitting him right in his solar plexus and making him shudder a little.

After giving and receiving the salute, a smiling Jack put a hand on the Colonel’s shoulder and made the introductions.

Sheppard held out his hand to Gibbs, which he took.

And then everything happened at once.

The three-way connection between them seemed to buzz with electricity. Around them the walls began to pulse with light and a hum of energy. In the centre of the room a small round podium, around ten feet in diameter rose out of the floor.

For the life of him Jethro couldn’t let go of Sheppard and it looked as though the other two men felt the same. Behind him he heard Tony yell.

“Yes…Oh yes, I get it now! But where is he, Danny?”

Jethro could hear Weir shouting at techs and troops, ordering them to cover the newcomers until they found out just what was going on. He wanted to tell her it wasn’t necessary, but right now he was too involved in the strange and not unpleasant connection he had with John and Jack.

A very loud voice overrode the others, and suddenly a broad shouldered man, with the brightest blue eyes was standing in front of the podium.

“John, what the fuck is going on? I was in my lab and I suddenly start getting alerts that the ZedPM recharge unit is powering up. I didn’t even know we have a recharge unit, and I’ve been researching the fucking ZedPM room since I got here.”

He was immediately joined by Tony and Daniel. Jethro got a brilliant smile from Tony and he saw Sheppard cast an appraising look over his gorgeous husband.

In the back of his mind a voice he’d never heard before was telling him that if he would just think for a moment, then he would know what was going on – that he knew what questions he had to ask. There was nothing that could have stopped the compulsion.

“Have you ever ascended,” Jethro asked the new man. For a moment, the man looked nonplussed and then wary, before he settled on a look of deep irritation.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes… momentarily, at least.”

Tony and Daniel grinned at Jethro.

“You’re a clever bastard, LJ.” Danny complimented.

Tony grabbed Rodney with one hand and then Danny with the other. Immediately there was a major increase in the ambient light. Tony dragged them both by the hand to the raised platform. “Come on, Rodney, Danny. Let’s charge some ZedPM’s.”

Jethro realised this must be McKay, the lead scientist. As he realised Tony was holding his hand, a change came over Rodney’s expression, his face softening to become sweetly handsome, h those big blue eyes shining excitedly.

“Oh…I know you,” he exclaimed, wonderingly.

Tony and Daniel gave Jack, John and Jethro a heated look, (and it was a measure of how much influence Danny’d had on Jethro, that he mused for a moment on how synergistic it was that their names all began with J), before they began to snog the life out of Rodney, who after only a few moments of frozen surprise, joined in with great vigour.

The room around them seemed to be buzzing with static and there was a definite thrumming under their feet.

They watched the other three with a rising interest, both mental and physical, until Jack grasped John by the back on the neck. Sheppard shuddered and tore his gaze away from the sensual sight.

“Three ascended Ancients – Three super ATA gene carriers.” Jack stated. “Is he yours, John?”

Sheppard looked at them both wide eyed. His gaze was dragged back to the three men kissing. “Yeah…” he replied hoarsely. “…from the moment we met in Antarctica.”

And then Jethro heard the voice again, only this time he knew what it was. Atlantis rejoiced in his head, telling him that her conduit, ‘The Falling Star’ had returned, and that The Hexad were welcome in her halls.

Hexad,” Light bulbs went off in his head.

“And then there were six,” Jethro said overwhelmed, wondering just how big the bed was going to need to be.

As if rehearsed, the three soldiers stepped up onto the platform. Jethro stood close behind his husband, curling his right arm around his waist. Tony leaned back into him while still standing in the centre of the platform, holding onto Rodney and Daniel. Jack and John took up similar positions, before they reached out and place their left hand on their counterpart’s shoulder.

As soon as the new six-way connection was complete the platform flared with colours from burnt orange to white gold that seemed to make their skin almost translucent. There was a huge rush of exhilaration, from his toes to the top of his head, as intense as the best orgasm, and Jethro knew – right down to his soul – that the six of them would live, and love, and be together forever…on this plane or the next.

The Hexad would charge the ZPM’s.

The Hexad would defeat the Wraith.

The Hexad would make Atlantis the jewel in the Universe that she was always meant to be.

And around them Atlantis sang!

Finis

 

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