by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Many thanks to Moonbeam for betaing. Any remaining mistakes are my fault for exerting author's privilege and overruling her a couple of times.

Since this is a sequel to Awakening and that story was set pre-Hiatus, this story is also set pre-Hiatus.

Although no Tarot card appears in this story, it was most certainly inspired by and written around the concepts of the card "The World." Those concepts include:
* Fulfillment --- Completeness --- Integration --- Personal realization
* Involvement --- Peace of mind --- Prosperity --- Accomplishment
* Satisfaction --- Contentment --- Success --- Good feelings
* Finding vocation --- Happiness --- Wholeness --- Harmony

"Special Agent Gibbs?"

Gibbs reluctantly broke away from Tony's bright, living, responsive gaze to look at the doctor. A foreign spike of surprised happiness drew his attention momentarily back to Tony and Gibbs realized, with some embarrassment, that Tony had sensed his reluctance to shift his attention. He's going to be insufferable, Gibbs thought, lips twisting wryly. But it was better than the alternative. The scenes of his vision flared in his memory for a moment. Not going to happen, Gibbs reminded himself.

Tony's brow wrinkled as he tried to make sense of Gibbs's sudden progression of emotion. Gibbs left him to work on it, turning back to the doctor and nurse instead. "Doctor Leigh. Ms... I'm sorry, I didn't get your last name," Gibbs realized.

She smiled. "Carol is fine."

Gibbs nodded. "Carol. Thank you." He held out his hand and she shook it briefly.

"My pleasure," Carol replied. She smiled down at Tony, though she continued to speak to Gibbs. "I only hope all of our patients discover they have such devoted friends."

A cascade of evaluation-approval-appreciation-confusion washed through Tony as he looked up at the pretty nurse. Gibbs felt a thread of amusement--Tony had checked out the nurse first and realized he didn't understand the context of her words second. His amusement only grew as Tony's ears turned slightly pink in response to what he was sensing from Gibbs and then expanded into a full blush as their emotions locked into a momentary feedback loop.

Tony cleared his throat, as if to distract from his blazing face. "Did I miss something?" he asked, glancing from Carol to Doctor Leigh. There was a flash of chagrin. "Sorry, stupid question," Tony said, waving at the wheelchair he was sitting in and the institutional setting. "What, exactly, did I miss?"

Leigh sat back down in the chair he'd vacated when he went to fetch Carol. "Carol, you're welcome to stay," he invited. "You are responsible for Mr. DiNozzo's recovery."

She smiled and shook her head. "That may be, but I don't really have any idea what I did," she confessed. "I've got a feeling it has a lot to do with the people involved and not so much with the telepath facilitating the connection. I'll just go back to my rounds."

"All right, then." Leigh paused politely as she left and then turned back to Tony and Gibbs, who sank down into his chair again. "To start with," he began, addressing Tony, "you've missed about a month of time. You've been in a catatonic state for twenty-four days. What's the last thing you remember?"

Anxiety flowed from Tony like a river of broken glass. Gibbs tried to deepen his own sense of calm and confidence, knowing Tony would feel that, too. Tony flashed him a smile in response, though the sense of anxiety only dampened a little, and Gibbs could feel how difficult it was for Tony to turn away from Gibbs's enjoyment of that smile, a reaction he couldn't suppress. Not too many people smiled like Tony did--big and broad and free and bright, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.

"I was down in Autopsy," Tony answered at last, "with Gibbs and Ducky. That's our M.E. I think we were trying to figure out some way to tone down the...the vibration, but I don't remember that clearly. I wasn't focusing too well," Tony said, his emotions as apologetic as his expression.

"Naturally," Doctor Leigh said. "You were on the verge of overload. I'm a little surprised you can remember even that much detail." He looked down and wrote a few lines on his clipboard. "Now--"

"Uh, Doc, I wasn't done," Tony interrupted.

Leigh's eyebrows rose. "You remember more?"

"Yeah." Tony frowned, concern making him feel strangely tight around the edges, at least to Gibbs. "Why?"

Leigh lifted one hand palm up. "Only one other person has woken up from overload, as far as we know. He couldn't remember any more than that."

"Oh. I guess I should keep going then." Tony's concern relaxed and took on a sense of gratification instead. Tony always had taken an absurd amount of pleasure in being one step ahead of...well, anyone.

"Please do," Leigh said, oblivious.

"Right. So I was in Autopsy, and no matter what I did the vibration just seemed to be getting steadily worse..." Tony trailed off and swallowed heavily. Gibbs could feel a sense of reaching and did his best to radiate calm again.

Radiate calm? Gibbs suddenly thought derisively. He banished that emotion before Tony could wonder at it and reached out and covered one of Tony's hands with his own instead. People had communicated emotion before the Awakening, after all.

From Tony's startled glance and the sudden sense of tension easing, the simple gesture had accomplished more than all the "radiating" Gibbs could have done. Tony smiled a little and turned back to Leigh. "And then everything started to get...grayer," he said, struggling for words. "I'm not sure how to describe it. 'Gray' isn't really the right word. Neither is 'vibration,' for that matter."

"We don't have words for most of the things we're discovering," Doctor Leigh said wryly. "Just do your best."

Tony nodded. "You know when you kind of drift off into a daydream or something and you aren't really paying attention to anything? It was kind of like that. And the more I did it, the less intrusive that vibration seemed. So I kept...turning towards that sensation. Sinking into it. And then...nothing, really, until suddenly I could sense Gibbs again." Suddenly Tony frowned and glanced back at Gibbs. "Come to think of it," he said slowly, "Gibbs is all I can sense now."

Gibbs had to resist the impulse to hold his breath as he waited for Tony's reaction to that realization. Gibbs hadn't needed to discuss it with the others, but there had been no one to speak for Tony. Certainly not his family.

Suspicion rose in Tony, welling to the surface like oil, thick and black. He shot a glance at Leigh. "What did you do?"

Gibbs cleared his throat. "It's what I did, actually."

Tony blinked in surprise, the suspicion unexpectedly easing rather than growing sharper. "Well?"

"The only way anyone has found so far to bring overloaded empaths and telepaths out of it is them with someone," Gibbs explained baldly. This was his responsibility, not Leigh's. "I gather that they basically hook the overloaded one into a permanent loop with their partner, which closes them off from receiving from anyone else."

"Permanent?" Tony asked.

"As far as we know," Doctor Leigh interjected. "We've only had a week's experience with this phenomenon." His tone was reassuring, but Gibbs could have told him it wasn't necessary. Tony wasn't upset. Surprised, yes, maybe a little confused still, but not upset. Gibbs wondered if Tony even realized that he'd turned his hand in Gibbs's and laced their fingers together. He resisted the impulse to tighten the clasp of his hand, lest Tony pull away when he became aware of it.

"So I'm only ever going to sense you?" Tony asked, turning to Gibbs.

Gibbs nodded. "Yeah."

"You discovered you could see the future," Tony said, thinking out loud. "I remember that much. But I know you're sensing me, too." He brushed his thumb over Gibbs's hand.

Not so unaware of it, after all. But then, Tony had never been the one who had issues with expressiveness. "According to the parapsychologists--who are all in ecstasies now, according to Ducky--the ones like me are called precognitives," Gibbs said, pushing the thought aside. "But yeah, I can. Part of the bond, apparently."

Tony looked at him for a long, long moment. Finally, softly, he said, "Thanks."

The single word was accompanied by such a complex welter of emotion that Gibbs could barely pick some kind of affection out of it before it suddenly vanished, as if it had be buried or locked away or somehow just stopped existing. How much practice had Tony had to be able to just stop feeling something like that? Gibbs fought back a frown at the thought. "We should call the others," he said aloud, releasing Tony's hand and sitting back in his chair. "Let them know you're awake."

"While you're doing that, Agent Gibbs," Leigh said, "you should probably request medical leave for yourself. Or a few days vacation, whatever is appropriate. You're both going to need time to explore and adjust to how the bond works for you."

Gibbs grimaced. "Agreed," he said, reluctantly.

"Hey," Tony protested, "haven't I been off the job long enough?"

"I don't like it any better than you do," Gibbs shot back. "But can you honestly tell me this," he waved inarticulately between them, "isn't distracting as hell? What happens if we're running down a suspect and something startles me? Do you break your stride to check on me and lose the suspect, or keep running? Do you even know?"

Stubbornness, appropriately enough, turned out to have a kind of rooted immovability about it. "But--"

"Mr. DiNozzo," the doctor interjected. "Agent Gibbs is right. You're going to need time to learn when to listen to your partner's emotions and when to focus. On top of that, you need to realize that knowing what he feels doesn't mean you know what triggered that feeling. This ability has the potential for great confusion as well as great clarity."

Leigh paused to make sure Tony was listening. "You've missed almost all of the period of discovery and adaptation since the Awakening. Certainly we're all new to this, but you're starting from scratch while the rest of the world is progressing almost in lockstep, thanks to the short time period during which the Awakening occurred and the ease of global communication and dissemination of information. Given your profession, taking a week to play catch up isn't just advisable, it's necessary."

Tony glanced at Gibbs and slumped back in the wheelchair, scowling. "Fine."

Gibbs snorted as he flipped open his phone and hit the speed dial. Sometimes he wondered how it was possible for the same man to be a complete workaholic and an irrepressible goof off.

The Director picked up on the first ring. "Jethro, you're supposed to be off the clock. Don't you ever take a break?"

"Tony's awake," Gibbs said, ignoring the question.

There was a pause. "That's wonderful," Shepard said finally. "I didn't think... How did it happen? Is there hope for other overloaded people?"

"It's a case-by-case kind of solution," Gibbs said, watching Tony watch him as he spoke. "Tony's not the first to wake up; I don't expect he'll be the last. In the meantime, I need a week's medical leave for both of us."

"Both of you?" Shepard's voice took on a sharp edge. "Jethro, what's going on?"

Gibbs sighed internally and took a moment to wish, again, that Shepard hadn't just been blowing smoke out her ass that first day, when she'd insisted that they remain professional at the office. Not that the personal connection didn't make her strings easy to pull when he needed them, but sometimes the aggravation just wasn't worth it. "Tony's awake because we narrowed down his reception to a single person," he explained.


No shit. "That's right," Gibbs said, his voice carefully even. "As a side effect, I'm now able to sense his emotions, as well. We're both going to need some adjustment time."

"Special Agent Gibbs. If you've taken some action that will impair your ability as a field agent--"

"I work for you, Jen," Gibbs broke in. "I don't need your approval for every personal choice . It's done. The connection is made, it can't be unmade, and I'll be as good an agent as I ever was if you'll just give me the God damned leave."

A moment of silence. "I'll expect you back in the office a week Monday," Shepard finally said, voice clipped.

"Understood," Gibbs responded, equally short , and snapped the cell phone shut.

"Let me guess," Tony said wryly. "Shepard didn't turn out to be an empath."

Gibbs barked a short laugh. "No. Retrocognitive."

"She sees back in time?"

"Yeah," Gibbs confirmed. "Kind of like Ducky, except he can control what he sees by touching an object and concentrating. Like me, the Director gets visions at apparently random moments, except mine are of the future and hers are of the past."

Amusement made Tony seem...light, bubbly, like boiling water. "That explains so much."

Gibbs's mouth curled up at the corners, but instead of responding he held up the phone. "I better call the others before they hear it from Jen."

Tony winced. "Yes."

Gibbs called Abby first. Her response to the good news was predictably piercing, and before Gibbs quite knew what was happening she had the entire team down in her lab on the speakerphone and Gibbs was forced to hand his cell over to the man of the hour. After a minute, Doctor Leigh leaned over to Gibbs and murmured, "I'm going to go get the discharge paperwork started."

Gibbs nodded his thanks, but most of his attention was on Tony. He'd always known that Tony was a vibrant, irrepressible man, but feeling all that energy and emotion was exhilarating. Not to mention that Tony got even more pleasure and gratification out of actually hearing how much he was liked and missed than Gibbs had thought. Gibbs wasn't acclimated to such a flood of positive feeling. He felt like he was floating, or like he had a good buzz going, or both.

How am I supposed to stay professional around him now? Gibbs wondered. Tony's attitude had always invited the kind of personal relationship that had always backfired on Gibbs at work. It had been a daily effort not to enjoy his sense of humor too obviously, to share personal details, to indulge him, to watch him... How much more careful would he have to be now?

At length Tony managed to extricate himself from Abby's electronic embrace, but only by promising to call her once he got home and got settled in so that she could appear and reassure herself of his condition in person. When he finally managed to hang up, he grinned brightly at Gibbs. "She missed me."

There was no part of Gibbs that could stand to dampen all that positive feeling. "We all did," he admitted.

Tony's smile turned a little shy, of all things. "Yeah?" he asked softly.

"Yeah," Gibbs said, and if that wasn't joy lighting Tony up inside, Gibbs didn't know what joy was. Sensing it like this, it was almost like it was lighting him up inside. He wanted to wrap that warmth and happiness around himself. Before he quite knew what he was doing, he'd reached out and brushed his fingers over Tony's cheek. "I'm glad to have you back."

The sense of warmth grew and took on a new thread of feeling. No, not quite new, he'd tried to pull this thread out of Tony's confused emotions before... As curiosity grew in Gibbs, Tony's emotions dimmed, that thread of feeling vanishing again. The rush of disappointment Gibbs felt was startlingly intense--to both of them.

"Gibbs--" Tony began.

"Special Agent Gibbs? Mr. DiNozzo?"

Gibbs looked up to find Doctor Leigh standing over them with a pair of clipboards and let out a silent breath. "I have your discharge papers," Leigh informed them, holding out the clipboard to Gibbs.

"You don't need to be discharged, do you?" Tony asked Gibbs as he uncapped the pen attached to the clipboard.

"No." Gibbs flipped through the papers, finding all the places to sign and initial. "But I need to sign off on yours. You were admitted on my authority."

Tony's sharp stab of pain had a disturbing edge of familiarity to it. "Well, I didn't figure my parents would be falling all over themselves to see me taken care of." Tony dropped his eyes and put all his concentration into levering himself to his feet, though it wasn't like he'd been confined to the wheelchair for the past month. A catatonic would stand when prompted and walk where they were led, they just wouldn't exert volition, not even to stop themselves from falling over when someone bumped them.

"They surrender custody over the phone?"

"Fax," Gibbs said. He handed the clipboard back to Doctor Leigh and rose to stand next to Tony. When Tony swayed Gibbs curled his hand around Tony's upper arm to steady him. Not that he really needed steadying, not physically, but Gibbs's sense of him warmed up a little at the touch, which was what he'd been going for. "Come on. We've got some clothes to pack up and then I'm taking you home."

Tony looked up at him. "Your place or mine?"

Gibbs started to answer "Mine" and then hesitated. Maybe Tony would rather go to his own apartment with its familiar surroundings and try to find his equilibrium again. No one had said anything about whether or not they needed to stay together. Gibbs supposed it hadn't come up with the husband and wife. "You got a preference?" Gibbs asked after a moment.

"Yours," Tony said, and hesitated. "You've got a guest room."

There was something strangely exploratory about that comment, but when Gibbs reached after the sense of it, it vanished again. Tony was far better at burying emotions than Gibbs would ever have believed.

They packed Tony's things and got his discharge processed, which went faster than it otherwise might have, since they knew exactly why he'd been admitted and why he was going to be okay. It helped that he was going to be staying with the man who had had legal responsibility for him anyway.

They called Abby on the way to Gibbs's place to let her know that Tony wouldn't be at his apartment. Gibbs was less than surprised to find her waiting for them in his living room when they arrived, for all her protestations that she'd leave Tony time to settle in.

"Tony!" she cried out, flying across the room and colliding with him hard enough to send him stumbling back a step. Gibbs automatically put a hand on Tony's back to steady him.

"Abs," Tony greeted her, a little breathlessly. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her back. "Didn't I tell you I was okay?"

"Hearing and seeing are two different things." Abby's voice was a little muffled where she was buried against Tony. After a long moment she pulled back and bestowed an equally enthusiastic, though briefer, hug on Gibbs. When she stepped back she beamed up at him. "Thanks for bringing Tony back, Bossman."

Gibbs glanced at Tony automatically and found himself sharing the younger man's smile. That amazing emotional warmth was back, full of unabashed affection now, and Gibbs couldn't help but respond to it, even if it had been Abby, not himself, who'd inspired it. "My pleasure, Abby."

Tony's eyes crinkled. "I knew you liked me."

"Not much of an accomplishment for an empath, DiNozzo," Gibbs said dryly.

Tony laughed, a real, full-throated laugh, instead of a just a chuckle. Gibbs drank in the sound, a little surprised at how much he'd missed it. Christ, but Tony looked good when he laughed, his throat stretched out into a beautiful line, eyes bright with the emotion Gibbs could feel rushing-- Oh, shit.

Belatedly, Gibbs stepped on the little surge of desire. Keeping those moments under the radar had become instinct over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, his instincts apparently hadn't registered that the 'radar's' sensitivity had changed--as evidenced by Tony's widening eyes and the surprise that had displaced his amusement.

"Tony?" Abby asked uncertainly. "Is everything okay?"

Gibbs couldn't help feeling a little relief at the interruption. "Everything's fine," he assured her. "Tony and I are just still getting used to this...connection."

Abby glared at the two of them suspiciously for a moment. "Okay," she said eventually. "Speaking of which--"

"Abs," Tony interrupted her suddenly. "It was really great to see you and I promise we'll hang more tomorrow, but Gibbs and I really need to work a couple of things out now."

Gibbs grimaced.

Abby pouted. "But--"

Tony laid a finger across her lips. "Remember what you and I talked about when these gifts first started cropping up?"

At that cryptic statement Abby's eyes suddenly went wide and fixed on Gibbs for a long moment before she broke into a wicked grin. "I want details," she demanded of Tony.

"There might not be any details," Tony insisted.

"There'll be details," Abby said confidently.

The way she wished the two of them good night only increased Gibbs's trepidation. "Tony," Gibbs began as the door clicked shut.

"Gibbs," Tony said. Nervousness fluttered within him, a strange contrast to the core of determination. "I may not have as much experience with these gifts as everyone else, but I know what I felt. What you felt."

Gibbs considered lying, or at least trying to, but the longer he considered it the more determined and the less nervous Tony became, his confidence that he was on the right track obviously feeding off of Gibbs's uncertainty and wariness. "Feeling that doesn't mean I want to do anything about it," Gibbs said. His voice was quiet and firm and he got the feeling that it would have done the job if his voice had been all that Tony had to go on. But that wasn't all Tony had, and as hard as he tried to keep it locked behind barriers where he couldn't even feel it himself, just talking about this brought the longing forward.

"It doesn't mean that," Tony agreed, but the nervousness was gone now. All Gibbs could feel from him was solid confidence and the growing tingle of anticipation. It took more self-control than he'd have thought to hold himself aloof from that solidity. "But you do want to do something about it," Tony went on. "I can feel it, Gibbs. I know it. I just don't know why you're hesitant about this."

"I'm not hesitant," Gibbs said, battling the longing back. "I know exactly what I'm feeling and what to do about it, which is nothing." Tony's confidence didn't waver and Gibbs clenched his jaw. "It's against every rule and regulation I know, DiNozzo, including my own, and there are damn good reasons for those rules."

Tony stepped forward, into Gibbs's personal space. "The rules have changed, Gibbs," he said quietly. "The whole world has changed."

"Not that much," Gibbs denied.

Tony's eyebrows flew upward. "Gibbs, there are people in the world now who can see the future, who can read each other's thoughts or emotions, who can speak to the dead. You don't think that's a big change?"

"I've spent fifty years learning how the world works," Gibbs said hoarsely. "I can't start over now."

"You don't have to start over," Tony murmured, stepping even closer. "Just...take things as they come and adjust the rules as needed."

Adjusting the rules defeats the point of having them, Gibbs thought, closing his eyes and shaking his head. God, Tony's warmth, the familiar, easy sense of acceptance, it made Gibbs ache to reach out, but he couldn't. He couldn't see another rule broken, another basic element of his world cast aside, but then he didn't have to because Tony was leaning in and covering Gibbs's mouth with his own and Gibbs was letting him, was sliding his arms around Tony's waist and kissing him back. It was all warmth and pleasure and triumph and need and hot, slick caresses and happiness and hunger and under the onslaught of all that emotion something cracked and broke inside of Gibbs. Entrenched control gave way and relief and desperation and bewildered, aching need joined the storm and if it was any one thing it was overwhelming.

Gibbs slowly realized that he was clutching Tony to him, so tightly that it couldn't have been comfortable, but Tony didn't seem to mind. He was just holding on to Gibbs right back, though not as tightly, and kissing him with slow, rich kisses that eased some of the ache inside of Gibbs.

"I'm not going anywhere," Tony murmured against his lips. "I'm not going anywhere."

No, Gibbs had made sure of that, hadn't he? He'd bound Tony to him in a permanent, intimate way and he hadn't even talked it over with anyone else, hadn't even thought about it for two minutes. Gibbs was chagrined, and a little ashamed, to realize that he'd demanded this bond as much because he'd wanted Tony for himself, to keep him from others, as because he believed it was the best solution.

Tony pulled back from Gibbs a little, frowning, his own emotional tone cooling off a little. "You're ashamed of this?"

Shit. Now he knew what Leigh meant about confusion. "Not of this," Gibbs said. "Tony, I didn't even ask anyone--"

Tony relaxed inside and stopped Gibbs with a brief kiss. "You went with your gut," he said. "And you were right. Gibbs..." Tony swallowed heavily and met Gibbs's gaze with a tangible effort. "There isn't anyone I'd want this with but you."

There was no room for uncertainty, not with the two of them swimming in emotion they couldn't hide from even if they wanted to. Slowly Gibbs lifted a hand from Tony's waist and slid it tenderly into his hair, caressing his scalp, just taking the time to enjoy the soft slide of the strands between his fingers and under his palm. The thread of emotion that had so eluded Gibbs before rose to the surface again and Gibbs knew it now. Knew it, and echoed it, even if he couldn't say it aloud. Yet. "I want you," he said instead.

"Me too," Tony said, grinning. "Let's go do something about that." He took Gibbs by the hand and dragged him to the bedroom and Gibbs found himself laughing and drinking in the glow of emotion pouring from Tony. He basked in the tingle of Tony's anticipation, though he had to wonder if he'd be up to the younger man's standards.

"Worried?" Tony asked as they stepped into the bedroom. "You?"

Gibbs shrugged and turned to face Tony. "I've got sixteen years more mileage on me than you do," he said matter-of-factly.

Tony was just amused. "I drive a '66 Mustang, Gibbs," he said. "I like the classics."

"Call me a classic again and you might not get laid tonight."

"Liar," Tony said, eyes twinkling, fingers already working Gibbs's shirt buttons.

Gibbs snorted and reached for Tony instead of responding. They stripped each other quickly, spurred on by the growing desire that ricocheted between them, building into a feedback loop so intense that by the time Gibbs knelt to pull Tony's boxer briefs off his feet he was actually shaking. He let out an unsteady breath. The warm air puffed over Tony's skin, prompting a surge of desire that made Gibbs moan. God, he needed. Needed to touch, to taste, to feel Tony with lips and hands and body. Gibbs could only give in, wrap his hands around Tony's hips and take the head of Tony's cock between his lips.

"Oh, God," Tony gasped, his hands going to Gibbs's head. Gibbs wasn't even sure whose shock of pleasure he felt, he only knew that it was good and not enough at the same time. He let his eyes close, immersing himself in their mingling emotions. Relaxing carefully, Gibbs let Tony's cock slide in and out of his mouth, swallowing a little deeper each time. The scent of musk filled his nose, thick and dark and everything he'd wanted for so long. Gibbs sucked a little harder, luxuriating in holding Tony like this, in driving the whimpers and pulses of pleasure. God, that pleasure. Tony's enjoyment, Tony's emotions sliding into Gibbs's heart and mind, forcing open places that Gibbs had cut off long ago.

Gibbs let Tony's cock slip from his lips, his head falling back as he hung onto Tony's hips. For all that he'd removed the source of the pleasure, Gibbs could still sense Tony moving through him and the gentle invasion of warmth and light made him so hard that his cock ached fiercely. "Tony," he moaned, hips pushing into empty air.

Tony pulled Gibbs back to his feet and Gibbs went, pulling Tony back against his body and kissing him, deep and intense. His hands slid down to stroke Tony's ass, enjoying the firm, tight muscle and pushing between the cheeks to brush lightly over Tony's hole. He wanted to slide as deep into Tony as it seemed Tony was inside of him. "I want inside of you," Gibbs said aloud, struggling not to rub himself off against Tony's belly.

Tony's gaze was a little dazed. "You are inside of me," he said, licking his lips. A surge of lust went through Gibbs at the sight and Tony shuddered in response.

It goes both ways, Gibbs realized. As deeply as Tony had invaded him, he'd claimed Tony in turn. Mine! Gibbs thought fiercely, pulling Tony a little tighter against his body. Neither of them were telepaths, but that thought must have translated into emotion clearly enough, because Tony gasped, "Yes. God, yes."

"Let me," Gibbs said hoarsely. "" He directed Tony with his hands, pulling him onto the bed and pushing him down on his back, urging his legs to spread wide, making space for Gibbs.

Gibbs got the lube from the nightstand, but set it aside for a long moment, just stroking Tony's thighs and the crease of his groin, not quite touching his cock, enjoying the buzz of anticipation he could feel building within Tony. "You done this before?"

"Yeah," Tony managed. "But Gibbs, condom?"

Gibbs slicked up a finger and pushed it inside of Tony, shuddering in pleasure at both the tight heat and the wave of pleasure that coursed off of Tony. "In the past month everyone on the planet has been tested for everything you can imagine," he answered aloud. "Trust me, we're clean."

"Works for me," Tony said. He moaned as Gibbs pushed a second finger into him and bent his legs, bracing his feet flat against the bed and pushing against Gibbs with his hips. "Jesus, Gibbs, you know how much I want this!"

"Yeah," Gibbs said roughly. "But your anticipation feels so damned good. Like energy crackling over my skin."

"Yeah? Try this." Tony closed his eyes, his mouth open a little as he sucked in a deep breath.

Gibbs didn't know what Tony did, but suddenly the sense of anticipation swelled and grew thick and heavy with lust and Gibbs had to clutch at his control to stop himself from coming right there. "What the hell was that?" he gasped.

Tony chuckled. "You feel what I feel. A little fantasy can go a long way."

"Fantasy, hey?" Gibbs twisted his fingers. So fucking tight, but he was almost ready. "What fantasy was this?"

"Pretty close to reality," Tony said. He back against Gibbs's fingers again, taking them a little deeper inside and gasping with pleasure. "Your cock at my hole, slowly pushing inside, forcing me open while I shudder and gasp underneath you. I'm trembling, but you keep going, filling me up with your cock, stretching me so that my ass aches something fierce, but I love it, love having you inside me like that, taking me--"

Tony broke off with a startled cry as Gibbs pulled his fingers abruptly from Tony's body. Gibbs was shaking as he lifted Tony's legs to his shoulders and carefully but firmly pushed his cock inside. His eyes slid closed and he paused there, just the tip of him in the grip of Tony's velvet heat, his mind immersed in the transformation of all that anticipation into ecstasy.

Finally, muscles clenched tight with need, Gibbs let himself slide deeper into Tony, stopping only when their bodies were pressed tightly together, the curve of Tony's ass fitting snugly into Gibbs's groin. "God, you feel good," Gibbs groaned. If he'd been floating on the good feeling before, now he was flying. The real, physical pleasure of having Tony's body wrapped around him was like an anchor for the sweet sense of Tony's emotions running through him, easing the rough places and reinforcing the good ones.

Gibbs knew without asking when Tony was ready for more. Tony's emotions had filtered through him so thoroughly that anything that lessened Tony's experience lessened his own and anything that enhanced it enhanced his own, the two of them locked into a real, tangible synergy.

Responding to that need which almost seemed to be his own, Gibbs slowly rolled his hips. Tony moaned and pressed his head back into the mattress, his heels digging into Gibbs's back, the hot rush of his pleasure over Gibbs's senses a perfect counterpoint to his movements.

"Gibbs," Tony breathed, and there was so much more in his name than Gibbs had ever imagined was possible. Love and need and a kind of reverence, and he didn't have to imagine any of it. He could feel it.

"Tony," Gibbs responded quietly. Slowly he began to build his pace, his eyes fixed on Tony, drinking in his every reaction.

Both of them grew damp with sweat, until Gibbs could watch beads of it roll down Tony's body, dampening his hair and making his skin shine. He pistoned into Tony's body steadily, panting a little but hardly noticing his shortness of breath, not while he could stare down at Tony beneath him. Tony's eyes were clenched shut, his neck arched, his body shifting in response to Gibbs's steady thrusts, a slowly rocking against the bed that mesmerized Gibbs.

"Tony," Gibbs said roughly, not sure why he even needed to speak.

Tony licked his lips, a move that made Gibbs's breath catch, and slowly opened his eyes. His gaze was even hotter than his body. "Yeah?"

Gibbs opened his mouth, not even sure what would emerge. "I love you." He froze, buried deep inside Tony, hardly able to believe he'd said that.

Tony reached up with both hands and pulled Gibbs down for a kiss, for all that he had to fold himself in half to do it. Gibbs fell into the kiss, drawing Tony's tongue into his mouth and then following him back, slick caresses and warmth and tenderness. Their lips drew slowly apart and Tony turned his head to brush his over Gibbs's ear. "Me too," he confessed, a bare breath of air.

Gibbs's heart seemed to clench for a moment. When the tightness of the revelation eased, a sense of fulfillment rolled through him, so rich and multidimensional that he knew he shared it with Tony.

He pulled back with a brush of his lips over Tony's cheek and reached down, cupping the back of Tony's head in his hand, stroking a thumb over his cheek as he began thrusting into Tony's body again. Their eyes remained locked together until the very moment Tony's body tensed and his eyes fluttered shut as he came. Gibbs let go and followed Tony into completion, unable to restrain a long, shuddering moan of release.

It took all of Gibbs's remaining strength to ease down next to Tony on the bed. When he'd settled himself he reached over and massaged Tony's thigh muscles, which were a hair away from cramping after being strained for so long.

Tony turned and gave him a smile of thanks. There was something different about him, Gibbs realized. Stupid thing to think, Gibbs admonished himself, considering the events of the past month. But the perception remained. Gibbs found himself examining Tony, trying to pin it down.

"Problem?" Tony asked. He blinked, the lids of his eyes drooping a little lazily. He didn't seem too unsettled by any potential problem.

That was it, Gibbs realized. Tony wasn't unsettled. There had always been a hidden sense of shakiness to him, as if he didn't have a solid foundation to stand on even when he was holding his ground, even when he felt completely certain. That was gone now. Instead he seemed...grounded.

"No, no problem," Gibbs said. He smiled a little, feeling lighter, more relaxed than he had been in years. "Just enjoying the view."

Tony chuckled and scooted over to sling an arm over Gibbs. "Take your time," he murmured, sliding easily into sleep.

"I think I will," Gibbs whispered.