Title: St Augustine in Hell
Fandom/Genre: NCIS A/U
Content Rating: MA
Warnings: Canon-Level Violence. Some content may be considered blasphemous, although it will be of a fictitious religious sect. Explicit Sex.
Summary: Jethro Gibbs is a reluctant member of the congregation of St Augustine’s Church in Inell County, Virginia, after promising his dying wife that his daughter would continue to attend after her passing. Lately he’s actually been enjoying the quiet tranquil setting, as his Sentinel Gifts have been going haywire. Things get much more intriguing when the incumbent Priest is joined by a new colleague – Father Anthony. There is something unusual about the young Priest…And it’s not just that he’s a Guide.
A/N: This was written for Rough Trade’s Little Black Dress Challenge which asked writers to cross their favourite fandom with the LBD of fanfic – The Sentinel. It is also one of a series of stories with different pairings and fandoms I am planning to write, based on the songs on Sting’s album Ten Summoners Tales. When the series is complete I’ll post them as a complete series. The idea of Tony as a priest was my starting point for this story…yum!
Word Count: 15168
There was no sign that the day was going to be anything more than a normal Sunday.
He’d risen with the sun and managed nearly 2 hours of meditation in the basement, striving for a peace he could never quite reach, before he’d heard Kelly moving about in the kitchen. A leisurely breakfast was followed by the usual mad-cap half hour when they realised they were going to be late for Church – again.
Then there was the quite excruciating journey in the truck, the Jonas Brothers blasting out of the car stereo. Actually that wasn’t the most difficult part. The worst of it was Kelly’s singing. He couldn’t fault her enthusiasm, but the noise she was making was not something her doting father could put in the category of tuneful.
Although Gibbs wouldn’t call himself devout, there were things he actually enjoyed about his fortnightly stint as church-going Dad. The physical environment was a balm to his beleaguered senses. Usually it was quiet, not too crowded, and the jewel-bright colours of the stained glass, alongside the sweet, heavy scent of the incense, seemed to shut everything down for a little while.
The religion…well it had been important to Shannon and it continued to be important to Kelly. As long as that was the case Jethro would keep bringing her every other week.
But today…today there was a scent in the air he just couldn’t identify; spicy and exotic it pulled at him to follow, stretching every technique he’d ever been taught to prevent a zone as scent zeroed in on it. The struggle against his senses was making him feel off-kilter and edgy. He’d got an elbow in the ribs from Kelly once already for fidgeting in his seat and he couldn’t understand the problem he was having. He’d been a sniper for fucks sake – he’d once stayed completely immobile for eleven hours in the middle of an enemy encampment, with the corpse of his mark in a bleeding puddle only metres away, when his extraction had been delayed. But today he was like a little kid. His arms and legs felt jumpy, and he had a fizzing feeling in his gut that was a weird mix of dread and excitement.
Jethro flicked his gaze around the large room making up the main part of the church. Father Whittering was at the altar, preaching in his bland, droning voice about the power of prayer. Everything about the man was smug and superior, and Gibbs hated him like burning. He was glad Kelly’s Aunt had agreed to split Church-going duty with him, because listening to that man every week would have beyond the pale; in particular, the way he expounded the views of the Congregation of the Ascension about Sentinels and Guides.
Much to Gibbs’ disgust, the sect espoused the view that only male/female Sentinel/Guide pairings were sanctioned by God, and it had a total ban on bonding for priests who came on-line. In Jethro’s opinion it was inhumane that someone should be prevented from finding their mate just because of their vocation.
Although the Sentinel/Guide community had fought the right of the Congregation to prevent and discriminate against same-sex bonding, somehow the Bible Belt states and their right-wing supporters had managed to get legislation passed upheld the right of churches to have rules reflecting their doctrine. It was still a contentious issue that was continually being debated, but in the meantime the few Churches involved enforced their own set of rules.
Jethro had his suspicions that those very rules were the reason why Shannon had chosen this church for her worship. Her insecurities about not having the Guide gene, and the possibility that Jethro might bond with a Guide who could be male, had been hashed out quite vocally on several very memorable occasions. Gibbs found it strange that she was more threatened by the idea of a man as his bonded partner, but she’d never been able to explain herself to his satisfaction. Jethro was guessing that covert homophobia was a greater issue for her than the idea that her husband might have to take part in sex-bonding with another woman.
But Shannon was gone now, the victim of a drunk driver two years earlier, and any concerns about him bonding with his Guide had gone with her. Hell, he didn’t hold out much hope of it either. Gibbs was 45 years old, had been on line for twenty years and he still hadn’t found his match – it was highly unlikely to happen now, although deep down he longed for it.
Still he had continued to bring Kelly to the Church despite the issues he had. She loved the Youth Group activities, and the familiarity of the rituals and people seemed to help her in the time just after her mother’s death.
He gave the room one more scan. All the usual suspects were here and there was nothing he could pinpoint that was setting him so on edge, but shit it was making him want to scream.
Movement to his side alerted him to the fact that the other worshippers were rising. The service was over and it shook him a little to realise that he had been on the verge of a zone for the duration. He really couldn’t afford to lose track of his senses like that. The last thing he needed was a visit from Child Services because his daughter had had to call in the S/G centre to bring him back from a white-out.
“Daddy, you have to come meet Father Tony. He’s sooo cool. He’s teaching us to play basketball and he used to play in college and he’s talking about starting a proper team here and letting girls join.”
Jethro grinned down at his hyperactive child. “Hold your horse’s kiddo. I’m sure this Father Tony has stuff he has to do after service.”
“Noooo, Dad! You never listen. I told you in the truck this morning. You have to come tell him it’s OK for me to come to Sport Camp while I’m off school next week, because you forgot to sign the form before Aunty Siobhan picked me up last Sunday.”
“Sorry, Kells. Yeah, I do remember now.” Actually he had no memory of that part of their conversation, but it was easier to let her think he did. “OK, let’s go and meet this old geezer and then we need hit the store before we go home. Cowboy steaks tonight.”
He winced a little at Kelly’s loud ‘Hoo-rah’, which echoed painfully around the cavernous church and set his already sensitive hearing jangling. She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him along the line of chairs and up the central aisle towards the entrance foyer, where he could see Father Whittering standing talking softly with members of the congregation as they left the church.
Kelly came to a dead stop behind the old priest and the Father turned around. He gave Kelly a small, thin smile and then nodded to Gibbs disdainfully.
“Mr Gibbs, how nice to see you in church today.” He seemed about to say something else – some snide comment about Gibbs only coming every other week probably, when he stiffened slightly and his scent pile turned acrid with dislike.
Jethro turned to follow his gaze and everything in him said ‘Ohhhh right’, as he caught sight of the young priest walking towards him. Tall, green eyed, gorgeous and…Fuck his mother fucking, cock sucking, ass licking luck…Jethro’s Guide.
Drawn inexorably Gibbs took a step forward and began to fall into the aura of the other man – only to be stopped by a sharp psychic slap that felt almost physical. It made him sharply suck in a breath and become immediately hyperaware of his surroundings. Kelly, on the other hand, was completely oblivious, her smiling face making it clear that this was the Father Tony she had been raving about.
Whittering, however, was looking at him with a mixture of suspicion and confusion. Gibbs senses told him the man had some questions about what had just happened, but wasn’t showing any sensory signs of censure towards the younger man, so was pretty certain Whittering hadn’t worked out what was going on and that Jethro’s actions hadn’t outted the Guide. Gibbs leaned over and placed a hand on each of Kelly’s shoulders, making it look part of his strange stumble, and to his relief he felt the older Priest relax.
The Guide had reached them, his dazzling smile not quite reflected in his eyes, which were watchful and concerned.
‘Pull yourself together, Sentinel.’ The words were sub-vocal, with only the tiniest movement of the Priest’s mouth showing where they had come from. ‘Stay where you are and whatever you do, do not touch me.’
For a micro second there was sadness and frustration leaking out of Father Tony’s every pore, but just as quickly it was shut off and even to Jethro’s hyperaware senses the man appeared almost mundane…almost but not quite.
Jethro gave him a minute nod to show ‘message received’ and used every trick he’d ever learned to rapidly shore up his flailing senses. His inner Sentinel couldn’t understand why the stupid human part of him was holding back. This was their Guide, their mate. They should take, hold, possess, not step back. But Jethro was stronger than his primitive soul…admittedly only just…but for right now the man was marginally in control.
In the corner of his vision an enormous white lion paced in a wide circle around a nervous Colobus monkey, who was sitting on the ground, his long black tail wound tightly around him. The flicker of the Guides eyes told Jethro he had seen them too.
Gibbs watched the other man’s lips tighten slightly and then the Spirit Guides phased out of view as quickly as they had arrived and Jethro suddenly found it easier to breathe.
“Mr Gibbs, this is Father Anthony DiNardo, a new addition to our pastoral team. He’s going to be training with us here for the next six months before he moves on to his own parish.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mr Gibbs, and do call me Father Tony.” DiNardo smiled and held out a hand.
Jethro almost whimpered. ‘Stay with me, Sentinel,’ a sub-vocal hiss ordered, and Gibbs slammed all of his will down on his senses, dialling everything way down. ‘Now just go with it…I know you can.’ The man would have made an amazing ventriloquist, his mouth hardly moved.
Whittering was looking at him with irritation, as if not shaking DiNardo’s hand was an insult to the older Priest too.
“I’m sorry,” said Gibbs thinking as quickly as his muddled mind would let him. He gave the old priest an insincere smile to give himself time, before turning to once again look at the younger man. “Father Whittering didn’t mention it and there was no way you could have known, but I’m a Sentinel and my sense of touch has been out of whack for a few days. So I’m afraid shaking hands is out of the question.”
Anthony dropped his hand. ‘Well done.’ The murmured words were like honey and his inner-Sentinel preened at the Guides praise. “I’d hate to give you pain or discomfort. If Father Whittering had realised I didn’t know you were a Sentinel, then I wouldn’t have offered my hand. I understand it’s not done in polite circles.” His eyes flashed in temper at the old Priest, which he quickly covered up, but Jethro caught it loud and clear.
Gibbs wanted to grin at the covert reprimand the young priest had aimed at his superior. It was couched in sweet words, but it was arrow straight and just as sharp nonetheless.
“Daddy…tell him.” Kelly made her presence known with a tug on his arm and an sotto voce whisper. “Tell him you said I could go to Day Camp.”
“Oh yes, I have no problem with her coming along.” Gibbs agreed, pulling his daughter into a one armed hug.
DiNardo looked at Kelly and gave her a big smile, which the little girl returned. He’d obviously charmed the child as well as her dad. It certainly lifted Gibbs mood, that was for sure.
“Do I need to put her down on the bus pick-up schedule? Do you live close by?”
Gibbs shook his head. “We’re only fifteen minutes away, and I don’t work…I’m retired after a workplace incident. So I can drop her off and collect her every day.”
There was a slow indrawn breath from the old Father and the sound of it made Jethro’s heart sink. The sound telegraphed that something unappealing was going to happen.
“Well perhaps you’ll be willing to help young Father Anthony, Mr Gibbs. We could always do with parental support.”
He even didn’t have time to take a breath to reply before Kelly was all over him. “Yes, that would be great wouldn’t it, Dad. You were only saying yesterday that you wished we had more father/daughter time.” She swung from his arms and gave him the Eyes-That-Can-Not-Be-Resisted™.
Jethro opened his senses a little, hoping to get some kind of lead from the Guide, but the man was shut down tight. He was obviously keeping right out of this little family drama, and oh fuck, Gibbs wished he could too.
“Yay. You always mean yes when you say ‘Well, Kells’.” Her impression of him saying just that was uncanny, and he knew it was a lost cause. He should really make his excuses and get as far away from this Guide as possible, but everything in him longed to just take hold of the other man and never let go.
“Yes, do come along, Mr Gibbs…”
“Jethro, or just Gibbs,” the Sentinel grumbled, quietly.
“Gibbs then.” Outwardly Father Tony was giving him a thankful, friendly smile, but everything else about him was screaming to Gibbs just how sorry he was.
Jethro dropped his gaze, not wanting to tempt fate for much longer. He dug in his back pocket for one of the NCIS cards he’d always kept in his wallet, for those times when he was giving his details to a LEO, or to a kid who might need his help out of hours. His home number was scrawled on the back in his messy handwriting. He knew it was sappily nostalgic to keep a hold of something that was no longer part of his life, but if he was honest, his heart was still back in the bullpen with the rest of his team.
And Gibbs was brutally honest, especially with himself.
“Kelly knows all the details – I think she said you gave her a signup sheet that I forgot to send back, so we have all the times etc. That’s just for if you need to speak to me about…anything.” Gibbs knew he was being transparent, but he hoped the young priest would at least call him to talk it through.
That hope was dashed by a tiny shake of DiNardo’s head that to anyone else would have been invisible, as he slid the little slip of card into his jacket pocket. “Well I have stuff to do so I’ll say goodbye, God bless, and I’ll look forward to seeing you both next week.”
The young priest tousled Kelly’s hair, and got a half-hearted disgruntled glare from Kelly, before he gave a nod to Whittering, turned on his heel and walked away.
Hours later, Jethro still wasn’t sure how he’d left the church and got home. The whole journey was a complete blur and that was frightening as Kelly had been in the truck right with him. What if he’d got in an accident? What if, god forbid, he’d hit someone.
He knew deep down that he had driven just as well as he ever did – which meant too fast and with very little thought to the rules of the road. But he always drove safely even on auto-pilot, especially when Kelly was in the car. He’d lost one of his girls through reckless driving, albeit not his own, so he was damned if that was going to happen again.
“You OK, Daddy?” Kelly leaned against him and looked up at him with concern. Her eyes and hair colour were all her mother, but her ability to read people she had learned at her Daddy’s knee.
“I’m fine, princess.” He stroked her auburn curls gently, enjoying the feel of them as they drifted silkily through his fingers.
“Is your touch feeling all better now?”
Damn him for having a perceptive and intelligent kid who forgot nothing. “It’s fine, honey. I just have to be careful with strangers. You know I’m a high level Sentinel, so I can pick up things up through touch that other people can’t.”
She nodded sagely, her gaze way too old and knowing. “Yes, Alpha Blair told us at Training Camp last year.”
“You liked Alpha Blair, huh.” He knew she did – Hell everyone did. He knew at some point he’d have to talk to Jim and Blair about this clusterfuck. If he was bonded he’d be at least Jim’s beta or even, depending on the level of his Guide, the Prime of half the US. He was one of only three level eights in the country and the only one who hadn’t found his Guide.
“Yes, oh yes. Alpha Blair feels so good.” She breathed ecstatically.
Gibbs looked at her sharply. There was every chance she would be gifted, but she was too young to test. Although judging by that reaction it was probably a done deal. “Sweetie, are you having any sensory problems; headaches or bad smells?”
Kelly looked up at him trustingly. “No, not yet.”
His eyebrows almost reached his hairline. “So you think you will?” He asked, not sure if he really wanted an answer.
She nodded decisively. “Yes, of course.”
Gibbs pulled her on to his knee and hugged her tightly against him. If she was so sure, then it was probably true, in which case it was likely she was going to be functioning at a high level, just like him. It was funny, the idea that she might be a Guide had never crossed his mind, which if you listened to Blair – and everybody knew to listen to Sandburg – was a very good sign that his own Sentinel was picking up vibes indicating that she would be a Sentinel too.
They stayed cuddled together, quietly relaxing in each other’s company for several minutes, with Gibbs trying hard to keep his thoughts away from Tony DiNardo and the shitty luck that had befallen them both.
“Father Tony feels good too, doesn’t he, Daddy?”
It seemed he wasn’t the only one thinking about the gorgeous Guide.
He tried not to do it, but his attempts at meditation were failing abysmally. It felt profane and sacrilegious, but every time he closed his eyes he saw the face of his Guide; only this time the man wasn’t dressed in the long black cassock and white collar of a priest, perversely titillating as that could be.
No – Tony was naked, and spread out on Jethro’s bed like a feast.
There was no fighting it, so he gave in and let his hand drop to his cock, which was hot and hard. He dialled touch up a little and hissed at the added sensation, as the rough gun calluses that still marked his palm dragged against the tender skin. A desperate fumble in the drawer of his bedside table ended with the fingers on his other hand saturated with slick, which dripped on his hot skin and made him shiver.
The first finger was brutal – he hadn’t touched himself like this for years. Shannon had always thought it was dirty and he’d never been able to convince her that that was all part of the fun.
He plunged ruthlessly in and out of his tight hole while he fisted his cock roughly. He didn’t want sweet and gentle. This was almost like punishment and his inner Sentinel let his anger be known. His Guide had been inches away and so fucking beautiful in every way. Even in his wildest dreams Gibbs had never imagined a man like that as his mate. And to be so close to the dream – a dream that could change his life forever; get him back to the job he loved and the people he trusted and more than anything, bring him the unconditional love he had craved since the day his mother died. And he was to be denied it because of dogma and prejudice.
He didn’t bother going to two, he just jammed three fingers in deep and hard, unerringly finding his prostate and abusing it. His vision was white with pleasure, his breathing erratic and shallow as his arousal pierced a hole in his solar plexus and flooded him with endorphins. He could hear the throaty roar of his Spirit animal and his own voice rose to meet it as the pleasure became almost painful.
“Oh God, Tony….yes…mine…my Guide…” The clear green gaze stared right back at him from crystal clear memories and he heard that sweet baritone murmur, ‘Stay with me, Sentinel…Now go with it, I know you can.’
He went with it, and every muscle locked as his orgasm ripped through him. He shook with the force of it and yelled out his pleasure to the room. His hand continued to milk his cock until he grew too sensitive to cope and let it slip out of his grasp, still half-hard, onto his thigh. He slowly slid his fingers from his ass and made a half-hearted attempt to wipe them on the sheet beneath him.
With a sigh he turned on his side, his eyes brimming with bitter tears. He was so tired, and the post orgasm come-down allied with the emotional and sensory exhaustion of the day had him sliding quickly into sleep, despite the pain in his soul that hurt with every beat of his heart.
Just as his eyes drifted closed he caught sight of his pure white lion, sprawled regally by the bed. And for a fleeting moment he could have sworn there was the ghostly figure of a little black monkey on his back. Just as quickly it was gone and he finally let go, all too willing to see the end of that particular Sunday.
His dreamscape was blue and filled with contentment and there, deeply asleep, he sighed in contentment, as he dreamed of a voice that sweetly soothed his soul.
‘It’ll be OK, you’ll see. Now sleep, Sentinel…’
“Daddy…Daaaaddddyyy. Come ON! We’re gonna be so late and today’s the day Father Tony promised he’d show us how to shoot hoops.”
Kelly rounded the bedroom door at a flat out run. “Doya think I’ll be able to do it, Dad? The hoop looks awful high, and the ball is real big for my hands.” There was a cute little frown line between her eyebrows and it was all Gibbs could do not to laugh aloud.
“You’re a Gibbs, you can do anything.” He promised.
He caught her under the arms and swung her up and onto his back. Even with enhanced strength, courtesy of his Sentinel heritage, she was starting to be difficult to lift. His little girl was growing up and wasn’t that a disheartening thought.
Considering the depressing week he’d had so far, he really didn’t need anything else, otherwise he’d be contemplating which high bridge to throw himself off of. He huffed at his own ridiculous thought processes and gave himself a talking to that sounded like his old Gunny.
‘Pull yourself together, Marine. You are bigger than this, and better than this.’
He jogged Kelly down the stairs and parked her on the kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice, while he busied himself with their lunches.
“Have you called Alpha Blair yet, Daddy?”
Jethro’s chin sank to his chest and he sighed. What had he done to deserve a kid that was 9 going on 90?
“I will, kiddo, I promise. But there’s an eight-hour time difference. I’ll do it tonight when we get back from Day Camp.”
Kelly’s voice was small and a little distressed and Gibbs turned quickly. She was stirring her cereal milk and eyeing him with a little worried pout. “I was scared…”
He gathered her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “I know you were, sweetheart. You did all the right things and got me out of the Zone really quickly. I haven’t been sleeping very well…”
He stopped there, not wanting to lie to his kid. He hadn’t accompanied her to the second day of camp, as they were visiting a pro team’s training courts. Tony…Father DiNardo, he reminded himself in a futile attempt to metaphorically hold the Guide at arm’s length…had warned him that it would be noisy and pretty unfriendly to an unbonded Sentinel’s senses. The sheepish look on the young man’s face had told Gibbs that the Guide was feeling just as unsettled and unhappy about their predicament as he was.
They had pretty much avoided one another all of the first day; it was relatively easy as there was a lot of parents helping out, or simply checking out the camp. It was only at the end of the day that the Priest had taken him to one side and warned him that the trip was probably a bad idea.
So Gibbs had spent the day at home, and his plan was to meditate and calm his Sentinel the Hell down, as well as catch up on the household chores he’d been planning.
So when he found himself cross-legged on the floor of the basement; muscles stiff, freezing cold, with a raging thirst and a very frightened little girl knee on his lap, it was a very unpleasant surprise. Checking his watch, he’d realised he’d been Zoned for nearly 7 hours.
The memory sent a shiver through him, as he thought what might have happened if Kelly hadn’t been able to bring him out of it.
She was his hero. The clever little thing had remembered the instructions that Blair had given them at the S/G Camp the year before. Blair had run a tiny study group for the kids of Sentinels who were level 6 and above, giving them tips for helping their Sentinel parent; everything from healthy eating, to keeping their scent pile neutral. And, thank fuck, a session on first-aid measures for everything from a hyper-sensitivity attack (when a scent or taste overwhelmed the senses), to dealing with a Zone.
Kelly had kept her cool. When he came to full consciousness again there were bags of frozen peas and beans gaffer taped to his wrists, and the white noise generator was going full blast, while Kelly was tapping rhythmically on his bare chest with the flat of her hand, while puffing minty breath at his nose and mouth.
Gibbs knew he couldn’t tell Kelly about Father Tony. The kid wouldn’t be able to keep it to herself and he realised there were very good reasons for Tony not wanting the knowledge to be broadcast, especially to Father Whittering. Also, Kelly was bright enough and – he had to face it – Sentinel enough, to know what it would mean to have found his Guide, only to be denied the chance to bond. She was a little young to understand completely what that meant but she had been around the Pride, and Alpha Blair, long enough to know it was more than just friends.
He came out of his reverie to find her looking at him with concern. “I’m sorry, kiddo. I promise I’ll talk to Blair tonight, OK?”
That seemed to be enough for Kelly and she gave him a big smile. “OK.” Then her eyes went round as she looked at the clock. “OHNO! We’re late…”
It seemed like his luck was never going to change. The morning session had been OK, but now it was just Gibbs and Tony at the side of the playing field watching as the kids blew off some steam after lunch. There was a soccer game planned for a few minutes’ time.
The young Priest had done his best, splitting the kids into groups and taking his gaggle of children to the other side of the field from Jethro’s. But it didn’t matter what he did, Jethro couldn’t stop from zeroing in on the Guide. He’d dialled down sight as much as he could without rendering himself blind, the same with hearing. In the open air his other senses were not so much of an issue, although the overwhelming need to taste the Guide was filling his mouth with moisture every time he caught even a fleeting glimpse of him.
Gibbs blew out a deep sigh. He was going to have to go back on his word and not come back tomorrow. He was sure it was for the best, but his inner Sentinel was calling him all kinds of idiot. He flopped down on the warm grass and closed his eyes. Trouble was that just ramped up all the other senses – his situational awareness just wouldn’t let him do anything else. He breathed in deeply and knew immediately it was a mistake. There was a sudden and overwhelming scent of HIS Guide and something else that set his nerves jangling. His eyes snapped open and zeroed in on the younger man, who was a few yards away. Before he knew what he was doing, Gibbs was on his feet.
“You’re wearing Sentinel friendly surgical tape. Are you hurt? What happened?” He was frantic and continued to scent as he took the two steps over to the Guide. His hands raised of their own volition – he couldn’t smell any blood but he had to find the injury on his Guide.
“Sentinel,” Tony hissed savagely, “Stop right there!”
The words hit Gibbs like a road block and he shook his head to clear the panic. He’d dialled up hearing without being aware of doing it, and now the slightly raised heartbeat of the Guide was all he could hear.
“Gibbs! Dial it down,” the younger man warned sharply.
“You’re injured.” Jethro’s voice was thick with concern.
“I’m not injured,” Tony said, lowly. “I have a tattoo. Whittering only caught sight of it yesterday and he’s insisted I keep it covered, even though it’s in a place where the kids will never see it.”
Jethro’s jaw ached, it was clamped so tight, and he was struggling not to take the final step and touch the other man.
“Oh, fuck it, Sentinel, you’re a mess.”
It was the curse word that snapped him out of his funk and made him stare, astonished, at the priest.
“Oh come on, Gibbs, I was a teenager before I was a priest. I know all kinds of words, not all of them ratified by the Congregation.”
The Sentinel huffed out a strangled laugh and rubbed a trembling hand over his face. This was a serious clusterfuck and he had no idea what to do about it.
“Sit down and let’s go over the plans for the game this afternoon.” Tony flopped gracefully onto the grass and patted the bit of ground right next to him.
Jethro’s Sentinel was crowing with joy, but the man was more circumspect. He lowered himself onto the patch of grass and looked quizzically at the priest, who was holding out a piece of paper in a plastic wallet. Jethro placed his hand on the ground between them and leaned in, looking down at the plan, but it was completely out of focus.
“You can. Now just look at it,” Tony insisted.
Gibbs did as he was bid and almost moaned when a large warm hand softly covered his. Everything snapped into place, his sight becoming pinpoint accurate. He was sure if he’d tried he could have seen the molecules making up the paper fibre. His hearing was crystal clear and he could hear the movement of the grass stalks under them, and beneath that the sound of earthworms sliding through the ground. And his cock – oh his cock thought it was Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. It filled quicker than it ever had and Jethro was almost panting with need.
Overlying everything there was Guide! and Gibbs wanted more. He was desperate to imprint the flavours and map out the contours of the other man, from the hair on his head right down to the blood flowing in his veins.
“You need to get a conservator,” Tony said, whisper soft. “You can’t keep on like this.”
“I don’t need a conservator; I need…”
The hand moved away, and Gibbs could help the whine that pushed through his gritted teeth. He’d pushed too hard and the Guide was in retreat.
“I can’t give you what you need, Sentinel. I know that felt like a tease, but I couldn’t stand to feel you hurting so much. I’m really sorry things can’t be different. But know this…everything changes.” Tony sounded so sad, that all Jethro wanted to do was console him; fix whatever it was that was hurting his Guide.
But then he realised what was hurting Tony… was him.
It was hard, but when the young man gracefully rose from the ground, he didn’t reach out to stop him. As Tony took a step away the little black monkey shimmered into being in front of Gibbs and stretched out a long spindly finger. Jethro followed the gesture and saw the slightly stooped form of Father Whittering bearing down on the two of them. Although it was very quiet, he heard the younger priest give a disgruntled huff and mumble, “Welcome to St Augustine in Hell.”
Gibbs had to work hard to stifle the snort that threatened to burst out.
“Is there a reason why you’re slacking off, while the children are unsupervised, Father DiNardo,” the old man berated, giving Tony a sour look that hid nothing of his contempt.
“They’re just blowing off steam, Father,” Tony said easily, no sign in his tone of the obvious irritation that permeated every part of his body language. “I was just going over the plan for this afternoon with Mr Gibbs, so that we are singing from the same hymn sheet, so to speak.” Tony turned away from the other man and looked down at Jethro. “I’ll call them in and we’ll get started, OK?”
Gibbs nodded and watched as Tony loped off towards the large group of children. The acrid scent of Whittering’s hatred followed him and it surprised Gibbs. He hadn’t realised the old Father detested Tony so much.
“He’s doing a good job,” he said, his tone painfully neutral, so as not to clue Whittering in to his feelings about Tony. “The kids love him.” He moved carefully to look at the Priest, while willing his nearly deflated erection to go all the way down. The last thing he, and particularly Tony, needed was for Whittering to notice.
“This is a church, Mr Gibbs, not a playground. I agreed to this camp, but I thought there would be some more… edifying activities on the agenda and definitely not unsupervised play.”
Gibbs stood, his body still singing with vitality from the touch of the Guide, but his pants, thankfully a little looser. “Ah but surely a healthy mind and a healthy body make for a healthy spirit, wouldn’t you say, Father.”
The old man gave a disgruntled growl and stomped away towards the Church building. His negativity left behind a trail of acrid scent in his wake and it made Jethro’s nose wrinkle in distaste. He dusted off the seat of his pants and was about to walk over to the group of kids when he heard a cry.
Kelly! His head whipped around and he focused in, to see his little girl on the ground on the far side of the field and she wasn’t alone. There was a stranger bending over her, his hand on her arm.
He set off at a run that was made faster by a profound adrenaline response. His training officers would have loved him to be this fast over twenty years earlier, but he wasn’t a Sentinel then.
Now though, all his focus was on getting to Kelly. As fast as he was, by the time he reached her, the man had left her on the ground and got into a black SUV that was parked near to the edge of the field.
Gibbs was torn as to whether he should chase after the assailant, or see to his kid. But ultimately the Sentinel imperative urging him to protect his child overruled his investigators head. He skidded to a halt and dropped to his knees, quickly pulling Kelly onto his lap. He focussed in on the rear of the car as it peeled away from the kerb, and easily memorised the make, model and license plate before fixing his attention back on his daughter, who was sniffling quietly.
“Sweetie, did he hurt you?” he asked, his voice rough with concern.
“I just fell, Daddy. I scraped my knee and banged my elbow. But then that man came and said he was going to help me up. And I told him…I t-t-told him you wouldn’t like that and that you were only over the field, but h-he said I should stop snivelling and get up like a big girl. I’m sorry I talked to him, I know I’m not supposed to. But Alpha Blair says that sometimes when we are hurt, if someone touches us then Sentinel Daddies and Mommies can get feral. I-I-I don’t want you to get feral, Daddy. They didn’t teach me how to stop that.” She burrowed her head into Jethro’s chest and sniffed a little more.
“It’s OK, sweetie. It’s OK…” He looked up as Tony and a crowd of kids reached them.
“Is she alright?” Tony asked as his gaze flicked in the direction the car had gone.
Gibbs was completely floored by the level of anger that was rolling off the young Guide. It was like another person in their vicinity. Jethro nodded. “Just shaken up. She fell and he was a little over zealous about getting her back on her feet. She got a little scared about my reaction to him touching her.”
Tony nodded. He’d obviously realised just what Kelly was concerned about. “Do you know who he was? Did you get a look at him?”
“No, but I got his plate.”
DiNardo frowned for a millisecond but Jethro caught it. Before he had chance to think about it Kelly was tapping his chest for attention.
“He had on a blue shirt, black pants. His sneakers were white but real old, with dark blue laces. His eyes were brown and he had a real ugly moustache.”
Gibbs smirked at Father Tony’s expression of surprise. “If anyone tries to take my kid I want all the intel I can get. She’s been trained from a very young age to be observant.”
“Ah.” Tony squatted down and ran his fingers through Kelly’s hair. Gibbs was not at all surprised that his Sentinel didn’t have any problem with that. He would trust his daughter’s life with the Guide.
“Clever girl.” DiNardo turned bright green eyes on Jethro. “I know you might want to make your own enquires about that plate, but could you let me have the plate number – just so I can keep an eye out for him hanging around here again. It might have been as innocent as it appeared, but I believe in better safe than sorry.”
The Sentinel reeled off the number and watched as Tony entered it into his cell.
“I think I’d better get her home…I’m not sure I’m going to be much use to you now.” Jethro knew he’d be hyperaware for the rest of the day and it wouldn’t do for the big bad Sentinel to frighten the kids or their parents by jumping at shadows.
The other man gave an understanding nod and looked out over the field. “I think I might get them all inside and do some handicrafts. There’s only an hour before they go home anyway.”
Gibbs gathered his little girl into his arms and they all trailed across the field, the other kids chatting excitedly about the cool way Kelly’s dad had run to her.
“They think you’re ‘The Flash’,” Tony smirked, only to receive a glare in return.
The Guide wasn’t at all cowed and simply laughed. It was a gorgeous sound that made Gibbs shiver a little. There was a little giggle from his arms and he looked down to see his daughters tear-stained face was now sporting a knowing little smile, and Jethro thought that little kids with adult brains would be the death of him.
By the time they got home, Kelly was back in good spirits. She’d also remembered that Aunty Abby was coming to see her that night so all worries about her fall were long gone. Gibbs carried her from the truck and sat her down on the kitchen counter so he could look at the graze on her knee. It was superficial, but undoubtedly painful and he decided to dab a little antiseptic cream on it just in case. Her elbow was red and would probably bruise, but all in all she was OK.
“Right you monster, you’re all cleaned up,” he said as he tickled her ribs gently. “Go wash up and change into your PJ’s, and I’ll make Mac and Cheese.”
“Mommy always said Mac and Cheese could make anything better, didn’t she?” Kelly’s smile was a little sad, but her memories of her mom were good and Jethro had never discouraged Kelly from talking about her.
“She sure did, and she was right, huh?” He went to lift her off the counter, when she suddenly made a little ‘Aha’, sound.
“What is it, sweetie.”
Kelly frowned a little and bit her bottom lip. “I’ve been trying to think…That man, he smelled really…weird.”
Jethro knew he really couldn’t continue to ignore how many times this had been happening lately. He was going to have to speak to Blair…He had a fucking list of things to talk to Blair about. It was a good job he had the special S/G tariff that allowed him to speak to the Alpha Primes for free, otherwise he’d need a mortgage to cover the bill for that call.
“What was weird about it, can you break it down for me?”
“He smelled like someone I know…but I’ve never seen him before. It was like…like fire…or…” she trailed off.
“You’re doing good, Kell. Do you mean like the smoke from a fire – or the wood perhaps.” He watched as Kelly’s eyes went a little glazed and he knew she was trying to analyse the scent. He was proud and scared all at the same time. If his baby was coming on line as a high level Sentinel, at this young age, then there were some difficult times ahead for both of them. Especially if he wasn’t bonded. Not having a Guide in the house would mean they would need a live-in conservator, and his Sentinel was growling at the idea of a strange Guide in his house.
“No…OH! I know. It’s like firecrackers…Uncle Tim! He smelled like Uncle Tim smells.”
Gibbs felt his gut churn. Cordite – which meant a gun. The guy was carrying, and for Kelly to be able to pick that up in an untrained state, it probably meant he had fired the gun recently. GSR had a very distinct aromatic make-up and the gunpowder was what would make Kelly think of firecrackers.
“Good girl. You really did well to think that through. I don’t want you to worry about this, OK. You’re safe here.” He held her tightly and she wriggled a little in his arms until he let her go.
“I’m not scared, Daddy, you always pertect me. But what if he comes back to the Church. I think he’s a bad man and Father Tony doesn’t know – I never told him. We have to tell him, Daddy, its ‘perative.”
He would have laughed at her words if they hadn’t have been so serious, and he felt some of her trepidation begin to rub off on him. She was right of course. If the guy turned up again and Tony tackled him, then the young Priest…Jethro’s Guide…would be in danger.
“I’ll call him, right now,” he promised. “And if I can’t get through to him then I’ll ask Aunty Abby to stay here with you while I go to the Church House and see him, OK.”
Kelly smiled, happy again that her Daddy would make everything alright. Gibbs loved it every time and hoped it would be a long time before he stopped being her hero.
And in all the hubbub, the need to ring Blair was completely forgotten.
“I need to come and see you…I can’t…it’s too difficult…OK, I’ll be there in five.”
Gibbs felt like some kind of psycho stalker as he sat outside the Church House listening in to Tony on his cell.
He’d called the number on the paperwork five times with no answer before Abby came to visit. She’d happily agreed to sit with Kelly and he’d left them planning their evening of Disney and nail polish.
When he got to the Church House the lights had all been off and he’d been considering driving home when he zeroed in on Tony’s voice. He’d walked around the corner of the building to see the other man talking into his cell while sitting in his car.
It was a non-descript Toyota, dark coloured and safe. Gibbs wasn’t one for flights of fancy, but it seemed all wrong. He could imagine the other man in a Camaro or Mustang, or even that fancy cherry red Ferrari that Magnum drove. He snorted at his ridiculous train of thought. Tony was a Priest, not an Investigator.
He was jolted out of his thoughts by the engine turning over on the Toyota, and before he could let Tony know he was there, the man backed out of the small church parking lot and onto the road. His head said to let the man go and that he’d catch up with him the next day. His instincts however, wouldn’t let him do that. Before he knew it he was in the truck and following along behind Tony’s vehicle. He unconsciously used all the tailing tricks he knew, although it really shouldn’t matter if DiNardo realised he was being followed. Gibbs wasn’t even sure how he was going to approach the other man once he got to his destination. Whatever happened it was going to be obvious that he’d followed him.
Still, it was too late now. He taken that course of action and Gibbs was always one to see things through to the end. The Guide being safe was much too important to worry about a little slightly-illegal quasi-stalkerish behaviour.
The journey took them into very familiar territory; a neighbourhood that Jethro was very accustomed to. While an agent with NCIS he had been here often, and also as a Sentinel; it was an important place. The Alphas for the district lived here, and likely as not, that was where Tony was headed.
As if he heard Jethro’s thought process, the young Priest turned off into a small suburban estate and sure enough turned into the driveway of the Alpha pair. Gibbs relaxed a little. Tony would be safe in there, not just because a Sentinel lived there, but because the Alpha Guide was a Fed – FBI no less. Tobias Fornell was…if not a friend then a friendly adversary, and a really useful guy to have in your corner.
Gibbs drove slightly past the house, and with little thought picked a spot that would give him good line of sight to the front door. He decided not to make himself known. It would cause too many problems – as in it would be way too easy for Fornell to make fun at his expense. So he settled in to wait for DiNardo to go home. He could talk to him back at the Church House without the young Guide ever knowing he had followed him.
He rested back on the headrest and let himself relax. Instinctively he tuned in to the sound of his Guides heartbeat and let it soothe him as he waited. The fact that he picked up the conversation too was by the by.
There were the usual greetings and offers of drinks. Then Tony began to talk, first asking about receipt of information he’d sent to Tobias, which Fornell said he’d received and that he would get on it tomorrow. Then it seemed Tony got onto the real reason for his visit.
“Gibbs was there today.”
“Tony, I know this is stressful for you, but it won’t be for long. Once the job is done, then you can move on to the next one and the problem will be solved. You know that.”
“It’s not fair on him. His shields are a total fucking mess, Toby.”
“I know kiddo, but like I said, there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to hang in there. Do you want me to talk to him? Get him into the Centre.”
“No, I just want this mess to be over with…”
Gibbs felt like his heart was ripping in two. Despite his gentle words today, it seemed the Guide was going to reject him, choosing his vocation over his Sentinel. His white lion yowled in pain from the back of the truck and, not able to listen any longer, Jethro jammed the truck into gear and manoeuvred the truck quickly from the kerb, racing away from the discussion about his repudiation by his Guide.
He drove recklessly and dangerously fast until he found himself back in his own neighbourhood. As he drew up into the driveway he berated himself for his selfishness. His little girl was inside, and up until last Sunday, she had been his life and he’d been happy that way. He could be happy again. All he had to do was find an excuse to push off Church-duty to Siobhan for the next six months and then the Guide would be gone – off to pastures and Sentinels new.
He’d survive – he’d withstood far worse.
He got out of the car, feeling every one of his 45 years, too disoriented to notice that his white lion remained sprawled on the back seat, his mane being groomed by a strange creature, that seemed to phase from one body to another, first monkey then dog then feline and back again, before fading out altogether.
“Goddamn Guides, right in front of you when you don’t expect them – but actually need to find them…and they’re like fucking smoke…”
Gibbs made another tour of the outdoor play area, this time ducking into the small storage shed holding the sports equipment. It lay open, the padlock swinging from the hasp on the door, but there was nothing unusual about that. He peered into the gloomy darkness, scanning the interior for anyone lurking at the back and found it empty.
He fisted his hands in frustration. All he fucking wanted was to find the Guide and warn him about the gun toting stranger from the day before. Then he could get the fuck away from St Augustine in Hell – and wasn’t that the truth – and try to rebuild his life.
He knew he could have left a message at the Church House and withdrawn Kelly from camp – as heart-breaking as that would have been to do, admittedly – then found her a new place to go to church and washed his hands of the whole thing.
He’d fulfilled his promise in the early hours of the morning and placed a call to Blair. But the answer phone message told him the Alpha Primes were in conference in a sensitive location, and would not be available for at least 48 hours. He knew they had contacts all over the world – that they were in fact the most powerful S/G team on the planet, so the fact that they were incommunicado was not really a surprise…It was just damn inconvenient.
He’d even surprised himself when he’d tried to put in a call to Tobias Fornell, but he was big enough to know that needed the input of the man as a Guide…and yes as a friend. There was so much that didn’t make sense about this whole situation. Gibbs knew his shields were a mess; he was on the verge of Zoning at any given moment and only his iron will and pinpoint focus was keeping him in a shaky kind of equilibrium.
The one fleeting contact with his Guide this week had been overwhelming and so bittersweet. His body still remembered how DiNardo’s touch made his whole body sing, and the way the warm caress of his voice had begun to fill the cracks in his soul. He knew he would be twice the Sentinel he was now with Tony as his mate. Knowing that the chance was going to be taken away had his Sentinel snarling with distress. He’d been bad tempered with Kelly the night before and, although she’d understood and forgiven him, he knew he couldn’t let it go on.
If Kelly was coming online, then he needed to be there for her. It would be his role to train, protect and challenge her in the years to come. The idea that he would have to do all that without his Guide was almost too much to bear.
Gibbs planned to tell Fornell that he needed to find him a conservator. He had no misconceptions that it would be an easy job. A Sentinel of his level and rarity needed a strong and resilient Guide. Coupled with the fact that he’d recently been rejected by his one match, and that the household also contained a preteen who was a burgeoning level seven or eight…Well it was difficult to know how someone would be found to fill that vacancy.
But of course, when he’d finally got around to calling the Fed, Fornell was also not available. He was running an op and wouldn’t be reachable until that was over.
Gibbs couldn’t help feeling left out on a limb, almost bereft from the lack of a support structure and that in turn made him angry at himself. He’d always been strong and self-sufficient but the fact that he’d been so close to an almost mythical happy-ever-after had left him adrift and struggling emotionally.
And then there was his gut. It was telling him that everything was not as it seemed. DiNardo himself seemed to be genuine. He had the skills of a very high level Guide but could shut down so hard that his psychic signature was almost mundane. But strange things seemed to be happening around him. Whittering’s out of proportion hatred; the arrival of a stranger with a gun, who had fired that weapon recently; Tony’s retreat to Fornell; and even the need for Tony to cover his tattoo…
Ach…Jethro didn’t know what to think, but the whole thing made his palms itch for his Sig and his team.
He took a deep breath to ground himself before resuming the search for the elusive Guide, when a faint but definite aroma of Sentinel friendly surgical tape was mixed with the unmistakable, and strangely umami flavour of gunpowder and drifted over his senses.
Tony and the stranger had both been here recently, and from the concentration of the scent it seemed the gunman had not long left.
He took a moment to centre himself, wishing he was carrying a weapon, and that his Guide was at his back. This hunt would go much more simply. He was torn between finding his child and taking her to safety, and finding his Guide while eradicating the threat.
Instinctively Jethro had started scanning for both of the most important members of his Pride, trying hard not to overstretch himself and induce a Zone. He found Kelly first; her heartbeat was tripping along at a happy rate and on the back of that he was able to catch her voice, just a little louder than a whisper, as she was talking happily to her friends at the lunch table. That was a good location. There were other parents there overseeing the food distribution, so she was surrounded by adults. Kelly was safe for now.
Tony on the other hand was more difficult to find. Once again he seemed to be functioning with all his shields slammed right down, so Gibbs was going to have to use his other five senses to locate him. Sharp eyes swept the shed until he lighted on the sweat shirt that Tony had worn that morning and obviously discarded at some point. Gibbs snatched it up and pressed it to his nose. He moaned out loud as the sweet, spicy aroma seemed to spear right to the very being of him. It was only with great reluctance that he reminded himself he didn’t have time for indulgences.
Nevertheless, he folded the sweater up small and tucked it behind some equipment, where he could find and retrieve it later to take home. He knew it was pathetic and probably not his best decision but it was too much of a temptation to leave it behind.
Holding the memory of the scent in his mind he called on his white lion. The animal appeared in a flash and began to pace, growling irritably.
“Yeah, I know,” Jethro consoled, “Let’s go find him.”
Man and animal followed the scent trail across the field and around the perimeter of the outdoor basketball courts. Several of the parents were lighting a clandestine cigarette at the back of the shower block and the acrid fumes almost cost him the trail, but after a few seconds of scenting the ground, the lion took off with ground eating strides and it was all Jethro could do to keep up.
Five minutes later they were nearing the entrance to the Church. The door was closed but unlocked. Gibbs growled crossly as he unconsciously reached down for his belt holster only to find it wasn’t there – hadn’t been there for nearly 3 years. Undeterred, he reached into his boots and drew two of the three knives he always carried.
Feeling a little more grounded with a weapon in each hand, moving stealthily he opened the door and slipped inside. The foyer was cool and shaded, and the smoked glass doors through to the main room of the church made it very easy to have eyes inside without being seen. What he observed made his blood run cold then boiling hot, as his Sentinel recognised the danger to his Guide.
Tony was standing in the main aisle with his hands held out to his sides, while the stranger from the day before was leaning almost nonchalantly against the end of a row of chairs, with an automatic clutched in his hand pointing right at Tony’s chest. It took everything Jethro had not to burst in and tackle the attacker. But the strategic thinking drummed into him in the Marines took centre stage.
He didn’t have a sniper rifle, or even an automatic weapon. He had two knives and no matter how amazingly accurate his aim was, it was probable that the gunman could get a shot off at Tony before he hit the ground. Jethro quickly realised that he needed to get closer. Taking a silent step back so he couldn’t be seen by the two protagonists, he quickly checked out the other entrances to the main room. There was the entrance from the sacristy to one side of the altar, but that was too far away. Another door lead to the choir rooms, but that was on the side facing the gunman. Gibbs needed to get in behind the man if he was going to have a chance of taking him by surprise.
Finally, he noticed the door to the Sunday school rooms and remembered there was another entrance from the foyer. Moving on silent feet, he made his way to the door, which of course was locked. He slid the blunt edge of his knife up into the lock and was gratified to hear the cheap mechanism give as he levered the knife upwards. As he slid quietly into the room he realised it was probably safe to tune-in to the conversation going on in the main church, without risking a Zone.
“You really don’t have to do this. Why would you want to hurt me? I’m just a Priest…”
“You’re one of those abominations – spawn of the devil. Don’t think I don’t know what you’ve been doing here. Corrupting the children…You need to be put down…It is my task.”
“Who gave you your task?”
“But we are taught God is love, David. The commandments say Thou Shalt Not Kill…”
“Shut up, SHUT UP. He told me.”
“God told you? David does God speak to you?”
“Nononononono…I am His servant, His vanquishing hand. You are trying to trick me with your demon ways. I was told you would try to trick me by His representative on Earth – the conduit for the prayers of the faithful.”
“Who is that? Who told you, David. What does it matter if I know, you’re going to ki…vanquish me, so I will die and no one else will know who told you to do this. Your secret will be safe.”
The sound of his Guide talking so freely about dying enraged Gibbs, and he moved in an explosion of adrenalin fuelled speed. The door banged against the wall, and his first knife was buried in the man’s gun hand before the echoing sound had made its way around the room. DiNardo moved swiftly to kick the gun away as Gibbs bore the screaming gunman to the floor, his other knife pressed a hairs breadth from the perps jugular.
“Niiice,” Tony sank down onto the nearest chair, pulling a shaking hand through his hair. “But you couldn’t have waited for another minute? I needed to know who was pulling this poor bastards strings.”
Gibbs merely grunted, too far into his battle-drive to cope with more than one syllable answers. The man in his arms had stopped struggling and was now bawling like a baby, his impaled hand streaming blood all over the parquet floor.
“Time to bring yourself back, Sentinel.” The voice was gentle as a caress and it made Jethro shiver. “Dial down scent first, let’s lower the smell of the blood. Good, well done. Now start some long cleansing breaths to slow your heart and turn that amazing adrenaline response down. In…out….in….out…”
It was the first time he’d ever been talked down where every syllable made complete sense, was immediately and easily obeyed, and instantly efficacious. He let his over-tight muscles relax, just enough to give him relief without unbalancing him. What he wouldn’t give for a pair of handcuffs right now.
Making sure his hold on the gunman was still good, he turned assessing eyes on the Guide and realised with relief that he was seemingly unharmed. But the need to check, to seek out any hidden bruises or injuries was almost overwhelming. He made a tiny sound of distress.
“I know,” DiNardo said gently. “Hold on a minute or two longer.”
Jethro watched with increasing incredulity, as the priest slid a finger under his white dog collar and pulled the small piece of plastic out of his shirt. Attached to the back was a tiny microphone and Tony gave him a sheepish grin as he said quietly. “We have him, Toby, send them in.” Somewhere in the back of Jethro’s mind the link was made between the surgical tape and the fact that Tony was wearing a wire.
“No tattoo.” He muttered, a little disgruntled.
“Oh there’s a tattoo alright – behave and keep your cool and you might just get to see it.
The excitement of that teasing promise was wiped away when moments later the doors flew open and six men and women in FBI vests came flooding into the church, followed by the short and balding form of Tobias Fornell.
“Damn it, Leroy, I mighta known you’d have to get in on the fun. But you couldn’t have waited?”
“Guide in danger.” Jethro knew he sounded like a cod actor from some movie about prehistoric man, but it was all he could do not to growl at the men who were standing nearer to his Guide than he was.
“Toby, now is not the time. Everyone fall back.” Tony’s voice was commanding and it was obvious that it wasn’t the first time he’d been in charge. He turned those sparkling green eyes on Gibbs and opened his shields, just an iota. The surge of power made Gibbs shiver.
“I need you to let them take him, Jethro.” The Guide cajoled. “And then we can talk.”
With a great effort of will, Gibbs let his shoulders drop and pulled back away from his prey – the now unconscious man on the floor. He stood fluidly, the knife still firmly clutched in his fist, his gaze solely focussed on DiNardo. His higher brain functions were slowly beginning to return and he found himself remembering some of the madman’s raving.
“When he had you he said he was told by…His representative on Earth – the conduit for the prayers of the faithful.”
Tony nodded, and then frowned. “Yeah, I thought I’d heard that somewhere before, too.”
“Whittering’s sermon last week was on the power of prayer. I was in a near Zone the whole way through it, because you were in the building somewhere. But my recall is reliably 5 by 5. He used that exact phrase to describe himself.” Gibbs stepped over the assailant who was beginning to moan quietly and moved closer to Tony. He didn’t reach out, knowing it was a really bad idea right now. “His scent pile around me was always acrid, but no more than dislike. You however…you he really hated.”
The Guide was on his feet in an instant. “We’d need to cross-reference whether he’d had contact with the other victims,” he said to Tobias.
“But we can definitely bring him in for questioning while we do that – especially with the testimony of a level eight Sentinel.”
Gibbs watched as Tony’s pupils dilated and he swallowed hard. “Level eight?” The other man looked completely poleaxed by the information. “Man, we have a lot to talk about.”
“When, To…” It was just now hitting him that he didn’t know this man – at all. “Are you even using your own name?” Gibbs demanded.
Tony looked over at Fornell who simply shrugged. “Things are bound to change, kiddo. It’s completely your choice.”
Jethro’s heart sank. Was he about to be officially rejected. His hands clenched into fists as he started shutting down, pulling his senses back to normal operating levels, as he considered making a dignified retreat.
“Oh no you don’t.” Tony came to stand in front of him. “We can leave these gentlemen to collect our dear Father Whittering while we go and find Kelly. Then we should go somewhere to talk before we make any more decisions.”
Gibbs nodded, his breath sounding loud in his ears and his heart thundering in his chest. He couldn’t let himself hope, to was too painful. But he had to take a leap of faith and at least hear the Guide out.
“Yeah, we can go to my house. I have a meditation room in the basement, we can talk there.”
Tony spent a moment completely unhooking the wire, which he handed off to a hovering Agent. Then they walked towards the handicraft rooms to retrieve Kelly. As they paced along the corridor they were suddenly joined by Jethro’s cat and a rather cheeky looking Coyote.
Gibbs frowned. “Is there another S/G pair on your team?”
Tony shook his head, with a quirked eyebrow. “Only Toby and Sacks.”
“Well whose is the Coyote? TC has an arctic fox and I know Sacks is a Grizzly.” Gibbs watched as the canine trotted jauntily around his lion, who was watching it with leonine amusement.”
“He’s mine.” Tony said quietly.
“But, you had a black and white monkey – a colobus.”
“Yeah, well you see that’s one of the things we have to talk about. He’s not just any Coyote – he’s Jamul the trickster, a changeling spirit from Native American myth. There is a creation myth about him and his companion Silver-Fox or Kwahn. Blair says I’m the only Guide alive with a Spirit Animal like him…What?”
Gibbs looked at the Guide in amazement. “Abby, my friend….one of my former colleagues at NCIS – She used to call me that…Silver-Fox.”
“Wow…just…OK.” Even Tony’s irrepressibility seemed overwhelmed by that little bit of serendipity. “You know Blair would say there is nothing coincidental about that.”
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Gibbs stated, feeling more positive.
“Sandburg is gonna cream his pants.” Tony crowed and they both burst out laughing.
“My name is Anthony Marco DiNozzo Jr. I’m 36 years old and I’ve been on line since I was 10. I was in the car wreck that killed my mother and they think the trauma pulled me on line. My dad was a drunk and a con man, so S/G Child Services took me and I was made a ward of court. I lived with Blair and Jim and was trained by them for a while and then, when they realised that Jamul was my Spirit Animal, I spent nearly ten years on the Achumawi reservation, fostered and apprenticed to their shaman. I walked the path at 23 and then he sent me out into the world. He died two months later.” Tony gave a sad smile. “He still comes to talk to me on the Spirit plane. I imagine he’ll have a lot to say when I see him next.”
Gibbs took a sip of his black coffee and then smiled. They were in his safe place in the basement, next to the skeleton of the boat he’d been building since Shannon died. Kelly had been collected by her Aunt Siobhan and had gone happily off for an extended stay, once she had accepted she would not be allowed to stay to observe her Daddy bonding with his Guide. She was absolutely over the moon that Tony was going to be her new papa. They didn’t have the heart to tell her that they still hadn’t made the final decision, but deep down they both knew it was a done deal.
Now Gibbs was slouched in a low armchair while Tony sat cross legged on the meditation mat, probably an arm’s length too far away to touch. They had decided they needed to talk…well Tony had. Jethro could feel the jittering of his muscles as he used all his will not to just spread the other man out and make a meal of him. But he knew it was important that they clear the air between them. After all, everything Jethro knew about Tony up till now was a fabrication.
“When I left there I wandered for a while, unsure of where I wanted to be. I went to college on a Sports Scholarship and after that I finally ended up in Baltimore…” He took a big swig of his mineral water. “When I checked in at the Centre, as was usual in my life, the next person to come along was significant. He was a recruiter for the FBI and I was snapped up for undercover work. This latest op was to find who’d been murdering male Sentinels and Guides who were either priests and members of the Congregation of the Ascension. I would imagine Whittering was using that poor guy’s delusions to fulfil his own sick prejudices. The twisted doctrine of that sect just helped him to find and target his marks. The psycho guy did all the dirty work and Whittering got away scot free. Until now.”
Gibbs hunched forward in his seat. “Why undercover. To risk an unbonded Guide like that is criminal.” He was angry that his Guide had been put in such dangerous situations without his Sentinel for back-up.
“I was the perfect choice. I have an eidetic memory, my ear is so good I can mimic any language and sound like a native speaker. Jamul’s influence allows me to ‘change’ myself right down to the roots on a psychic level, so it’s difficult for even a level eight Sentinel to sense that I’m anything other than I appear.”
“So is that why you had a different Spirit Animal when you were Tony DiNardo?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, he becomes whatever suits the person I’m playing. He also can dull my empathic signature so that my true level doesn’t show.”
“And what level are you?”
The Guide blushed and gave a little huff. “Blair seems to think I’m higher than the scale goes – so more than 10.”
Gibbs sat back heavily and rolled his empty cup in his hands. “I’m only an eight…does that mean…”
“You measure as an eight unbonded, Gibbs. Who knows what extensions they’re going to have to add to the scale when we…” The young man stopped, blushing again. “OK, your turn…Tell me about you.”
“OK,” Gibbs glared, but without heat. “My full name is Leroy Jethro Gibbs, but only my dad ever called me Leroy, and I’m 45. There were no known Sentinels in my family, so when I joined the Marines I somehow slipped through the usual testing they do during Basic Training. I came online during a firefight while in the Marines in Afghanistan. I was 28. I emerged straight into a feral episode, killed several enemy combatants and injured two friendlies, before they tranqed me to high heaven and shipped me home. I was already married to Shannon by then. The Marines wanted to keep me, but I was unbonded and found working with temporary lower-level Guides very difficult. Add to that my record of seriously hurting our own during my emergence and well…let’s just say it wasn’t going to work.”
Gibbs dropped his chin and thought for a moment. “It was an old buddy who got me into NCIS as soon as I had my senses under control. They were a great team and I soon became lead for the MCR S/G Team. I loved every minute of it.”
Gibbs stood and walked over to the ever-brewing coffee pot on his workbench. A raised eyebrow from Tony told him that would be more of a treat than a necessity in the future. He smirked at the Guide who retaliated by opening his shields just a touch. The empathic push left him in no doubt that this man was strong enough to fight him on the small stuff as well as the big.
“Might as well enjoy it while I can,” he griped as he sat and let out a deep sigh. “Kelly was born just over 9 years ago and it felt like everything was going well. Of course I always wanted a Guide; my high level, the constant need for grounding, and the difficulties I had with temps eventually got me to the notice of Jim and Blair, and I was called up to Cascade for a consult.”
He scrubbed his hand across his face. “I thought I was going to lose Shan and Kelly over that. She was so angry at the thought that I might have to bond to stay healthy. She actually screamed at Ellison – I mean can you imagine. She was 5’4” in her socked feet and she went head to head with him – accused him of trying to split us up with his new-age hippy shit.”
Tony roared with laughter. “You do know that’s what Jim accused Blair of doing when they first met.”
Gibbs nodded and grinned. “We came away still not knowing what was going on with me. Eventually I was able to manage my own senses. I just have to make sure to meditate at least two hours a day.”
“Well…We’ll work on that if necessary, but I think you’ll find you don’t need it anymore,” the Guide looked down at his hands.
They both knew they were getting close to crunch time, the pull to bond was getting harder and harder to resist, but Jethro still had a little more story to tell.
“Five years ago I was out on an investigation, when we found a paedophile in a room full of kids, some who had been abused for nearly a year. I just blew and I shut that motherfucker down empathically. They still don’t know what I did to him and neither do I. My team got me back to the Navy Yard, but the Sentinel Doc’s said it was touch and go. I nearly fell into total empathic shut down, and that’s when they finally told me I was an eight. They tried to take me into involuntary custody at the Centre with an enforced court order, but Ellison and Sandburg fought in my corner as did my boss Tom Morrow, and they finally agreed to let me go home.”
Gibbs stood and walked over to a workbench. He pulled out a drawer, took out a framed photo and handed it to the Guide. It showed a slightly younger Gibbs with a pretty redhead and toddler Kelly. “We never got back to the great relationship we’d had at the beginning, and then just over three years ago she was killed outright while out running, by a hit and run driver. I’ve been caring for Kelly on my own ever since.”
Tony gave him a long intense look and then placed the picture reverently down on the mat, before rising to his feet with the kind of grace that made Gibbs feel old and decrepit.
“We should go and get cleaned up. Show me to the bathroom, then you can start to organise the room how you want it. I’ll do my stuff when you shower, OK?”
Tony’s voice was soft and trepidation was overlaying the bonding pheromones he was putting out. There was a hitch in his voice that Gibbs found very sexy.
“OK…my room’s this way.
They showered apart, but Jethro was finding it harder and harder not to just grab a hold of Tony and rut. He knew it was different for a Guide, their part was more…cerebral, less grounded in the physical. There was also more involved in cleansing for the Guide this first time – although Gibbs was not at all against switching off roles. Tony was taller and heavier than him and he thought it might be exciting to be underneath all that golden skin and muscle.
He’d pulled the mattress off the bed and, after a little thought, used the screwdriver on his Swiss army knife to unscrew the wooden frame before hauling it out into the hallway. He wanted to give them as much room as possible and he was guessing that they’d both be wanting to nest in the truest sense of the word. He’d collected every blanket, pillow and comforter in the house and piled them in haphazardly. His instincts told him that his Sentinel would have very strong views about what was to happen.
Their Spirit Animals had been roaming restlessly while they were separated, but as Tony walked into the bedroom, dressed only in a robe, they settled down in the corner of the room and began to groom one another.
He slowly walked over to Jethro and held his hand in front of him, palm out, indicating the Sentinel shouldn’t touch him right away. Gibbs could see he was trembling.
“There’s one more thing I need to tell you, Jethro.” His face pinked across his cheekbones. “I’ve never been all the way with a guy, so I need you to be aware of that. I think I always knew I would bond with a man, and it was probably a subconscious decision…that I’ve been saving it for you.”
Jethro’s Sentinel howled with joy at the information and his lion joined in with a bloodcurdling roar.
“I can see you’re both happy about it,” Tony grinned. “I know what’s supposed to happen – I just don’t have any hands on experience.”
“Neither of us have bonded before, Tony, so it’s new to both of us. But I promise I’ll take care of you.”
Gibbs reached out and slid gun callused thumbs across Tony’s bare collar bones. He shivered as his Guide whimpered in reaction. He pulled at the ties on the robe and encouraged the edges to fall apart. His first sight of his Guides body had him growling sub-vocally, and he thrilled as the sound made Tony’s skin ripple with goosebumps.
He dragged a covetous gaze across his Guide. DiNozzo was like some Classical marble statue from a museum. Every muscle was outlined in firm golden flesh with not one hair anywhere but on his head. Broad shoulders narrowed to solid ripped abs and continued to legs that went on forever. And his cock…oh Jesus it was gorgeous. Bigger than anyone Gibbs had been with before, it was thick and straight and a good eight inches, with beautifully proportioned balls hanging beneath. At the sight of him, the Sentinel could feel his own bonding imperative beginning to overtake the civilized man and he knew they needed to get situated soon, otherwise he’d have a hard time giving the Guide the bonding experience he deserved.
“Lay down,” Gibbs said lowly. As Tony turned, Jethro kept hold of the robe and it peeled away, giving him a glorious view of the Guides back and ass. High and tight, the cheeks were the perfect shape and Jethro knew he’d never grow tired of that view.
“I need to stretch you…” he started, as he pulled a large tube of lube from his own robe pocket.
Tony cleared his throat. “Already done…I’ve been wearing a plug since we got here. You don’t need to hold back Sentinel. Do your imprint – its time.” He sank down onto the nest of fabric and pillows and made sure he was centralised before opening his legs to show the flat end of the matt black silicon plug.
Gibbs threw the lube to the side of their nest and pulled off his own robe quickly, too hyped up to play. He was gratified by the sharp intake of breath from his Guide.
“Happy birthday to me,” Tony breathed, the scent of his arousal matched by the rising of his cock.
Gibbs knelt between the other man’s legs and reached beneath him. He pressed a finger into the centre of the plug and Tony whimpered at the pressure on his inner walls. Jethro gently pulled out the plug and the long moan he got in response was like aural sex. He threw the plug off to the side. After their first full imprint and bond they would be fucking for the next two to three days. There were energy bars and water in a cooler in the corner to keep their hydration and blood-sugar levels up as they wouldn’t move from the room until their bond was completely saturated with their pheromones, and the link between them was lifelong and irrevocable. They wouldn’t be needing the plug for a while.
As he began to concentrate on his imprint, a concern that had been buzzing away in Jethro’s mind suddenly came to the fore, and he couldn’t continue until he knew the answer.
“Is this the real you, Tony. Not the Priest or the Fed, not the sportsman or the trickster.”
Tony flung his arms out to his sides, his legs slid apart and he opened up his shields completely. It was a brave and totally trusting move. It told Gibbs that Tony was willing to lay himself completely open without physical, emotional or spiritual protection and that he had total belief in his Sentinel. It was a gift that Gibbs was ecstatic to accept.
Their mouths met in a voracious kiss that not only immersed the Sentinel in taste, but touch and scent too. Tony didn’t taste of toothpaste, but his flavour was clean and crisp like spring water. Gibbs moaned into his mouth, pressing his tongue deep inside, testing the textures, from the smooth enamel of Tony’s teeth to the ridges on his pallet.
There was an almost audible click as taste was set in the bond and Gibbs moved on to the next sense. He pushed his nose deep into the hollow of Tony’s neck and breathed in deeply. The scent was familiar of course, he’d been imprinting it for almost a week, but now he could glut himself, overloading his olfactory system until the only scent there was, was Guide.
Tony’s moans and whimpers fed into the Sentinels hearing and that in turn ramped up his need to possess. He knew his Guide was willing, as Tony lay liquid and submissive beneath him, allowing his limbs to be turned and scented, tasted and tested, without demur.
Their empathic senses were being stimulated to extreme too. The feel of another being inside his mind – his soul – was making Jethro pant with need. It was unbelievable to feel the force of the other man’s arousal, not solely through his cock or his ass, but through his mind and his emotions. And to know that he was desired, not just sexually but as a partner, an equal…it was like Jethro’s every fantasy come true.
The need was reaching critical mass as Gibbs felt his shield bleeding away at the onslaught of Tony’s empathic strength. The bond was already crackling and thickening until it was an almost physical entity between their writhing bodies.
Gibbs was so far gone into his bonding frenzy, that it was a surprise to feel a slick hand sliding over his cock. He looked down his own body and almost came at the sensory stimulation of seeing, hearing and feeling the lube being slathered all over him.
Finally, Tony seemed to think he was lubricated enough. He slid over onto his belly and knelt up on hands and knees, presenting himself wantonly. This time the growl Gibbs gave was audible and there was a flash of white as his huge lion began to pace the length of the room. Jethro buried himself in one long slow thrust that had Tony crying out his pleasure/pain. There was no way the Sentinel could stop now.
“Ugh, Guide…can’t…Ugh.” He struggled against the tide of lust and passion and love and need and want…and the pressure to bond and take and fill and dominate and love and hold and need…
The Guide seemed to understand completely, as he reached back and grabbed hold of his Sentinel’s thigh, pulling him inwards in a brutal thrust that in turn forced a deep moan out of Tony.
And then there was nothing but the bond…It was cool blue water and burning sun, the sharpest bitter orange and the sweetest honey; it was pain and pleasure and two becoming one, in an inexorable, unrelenting joining.
Then like a chrysanthemum firework, it burst around them as flashes of the other’s pleasure augmented their own and they were coming, hard and long and together until they both shook with the force of it. And at the zenith their Spirit Animals leapt and joined above them, disappearing in coruscating blue flame.
“Sentinel…my Sentinel.” Tony’s voice was hoarse with overuse.
“Mine, my Guide.” Gibbs replied as he soothed his lovers quivering muscles, rubbing his hands down the long, lean lines of him, in smooth strokes, like one would a racehorse after a long hard run.
They held each other tightly, touching from forehead to toes and slowly they came back to their bodies.
“Can you feel that?” Tony asked.
Gibbs could and he was overwhelmed. It was as if his previous levels had been a lie. His dials were on a minimal setting and yet everything was almost too much.
“We’re really going to have to work on your control for a while and my empathy is off the scale. I’m gonna need to put up some extra layers of shields before anyone else can come in the house. In fact, we may well have to think about building somewhere new. If Kelly really is as powerful as you, if not more, then she’s going to need some serious protections.”
Gibbs nodded, breathlessly. “I think we need to call Blair.”
“Oh yeah, too fucking right we need to call Blair…” Tony snorted. “Jim’s gonna hate us, you know.”
“Yeah, more fucking tests!” Gibbs’ impersonation of the leader of all Sentinels on Earth was uncannily good.
They both fell about, howling at the certainty that the Alpha Sentinel Prime would no doubt be roped into the testing phase of their new bond by his bossy Guide.
When they’d settled back down with only a few stray giggles creeping out, Gibbs gazed raptly at his Guide, absently tracing the shape of his eyes and lips. “Do you really think Kelly might be a higher level than me?”
Tony nodded and kissed away the frown that appeared on his Sentinel’s brow. “But she’ll have us, and her beloved Alpha Blair. And you know that man would search all over the planet for the knowhow to help her. She won’t be alone in this, Jet.”
A mischievous glint came in Tony’s eye that had Jethro’s pulse racing and set his cock rising. He rolled on top of the Guide and began to roll his hips luxuriously. He moaned at the arousal that blurred his Guides eyes.
“What are you planning in that devious, trickster mind of yours.”
“I was thinking, that if we play it right, we might be able to get Blair to give Kelly the little Sentinels talk.” He raised his eyebrows and nodded as realisation hit Gibbs.
“Yes! That’s a great idea…although she’s not gonna need the practical application till she’s at least thirty.” Gibbs snarled, pressing his weight down on the other man and glorying in the sounds he was pulling from him.
“Well I’m thirty-six and I could really do with applying some practical knowledge.” Tony panted.
“Hmm,” Gibbs growled. “Good thought. Why don’t I help you with that…”