– – – –
Friday morning, Christmas Eve, Tony was fiddling around in the kitchen, prepping as much as he could in advance of lunch, but since Carter and Daniel were bringing most of the food, there was only so much he could actually do. Jack was helping by making snarky comments and groping. Tony surrendered to the groping pretty frequently and did a little fondling of his own.
As things were moving closer to lunch, Jack’s head tipped into listening pose, so Tony paid attention. It was the wrong time for guard shift change, and too early for their lunch guests.
“It’s Carter,” Jack said with a frown. “Wonder why she came so early,” Jack mused out loud as he herded Tony into the living room and the seat furthest from the door.
Jack opened the door, but had a muted conversation with Carter that Tony couldn’t quite make out. A minute later, he preceded her into the living room, gesturing for to take one of the chairs. “Carter came by early to talk to us privately.”
Tony’s brows shot up in surprise, and he couldn’t help but take the major’s emotional pulse. She felt relatively calm, a little anxious, but nothing negative. “It’s nice to see you again, Major Carter,” he offered politely.
“Please, call me Sam. Do you prefer Agent DiNozzo, Guide DiNozzo or Mister DiNozzo?”
“I’d prefer you call me Tony, but if you need to use something in a more formal circumstance, I prefer Agent.”
She offered him a faint smile. “Thank you, Tony. First thing I wanted to do was apologize for making you uncomfortable when we first met. I would never have knowingly done something like that.”
Tony nodded, not sure what to say.
“The reason I wanted to speak to you and the colonel was to explain a little bit and clear the air. Hopefully we’ll be working together and I’d rather not have that as the jumping off point for our relationship.”
“Uh… I think we’re already at a better place. I don’t want you to make yourself uncomfortable.” She didn’t even know him, so he didn’t think she really owed him an explanation.
She waved it away. “I need to say this. To both of you.” She looked down at her hands for several seconds, before meeting his eyes again. “When I came online, I made a choice not to use my guide gifts. In fact, I had my initial testing and never went back to the Center for any kind of training.”
That wasn’t the best idea ever, Tony thought. In any guide it was a bad idea to not get training, but for someone with aura projection as strong as Carter’s it was almost negligent. He had to assume they hadn’t gotten that far in her guide skills assessment.
Carter seemed to be carefully choosing her next words. “For a variety of reasons, I didn’t take my overall rating very well. Some of it was the way it was presented to me by the intake coordinator, even more was how my father reacted, plus there was the fact that I had never been a low-anything in my life. So I didn’t react well to being a low-ranked guide.”
Tony’s brows drew together. “That’s not what that means,” he began.
“I know,” Carter interjected. “I didn’t take the time to really learn about what the different skills are, or how they are rated, or what the ratings even mean. Blair’s spent a lot of time with me this week to help teach me what I should have learned then, so that I can make a more informed choice about whether I want to suppress my gifts or use them.
“When I met Colonel O’Neill, I already knew he was voluntarily inactive. In my mind there was sort of an instant kinship over our shared decision to not give into this genetic quirk that we had no control over… to not let it run our lives. In a way, I thought we both disdained the whole thing.
“We never discussed it, and if we had, I think it would have been clear very early on that we were coming from different places. I don’t pretend to know why O’Neill chose to be inactive, and it’s not really relevant.”
Tony could tell Jack was slightly tense, but generally okay. He wasn’t sure if the tension was just because someone else was in his space, or if he was leery about the topic of conversation.
After clearing her throat, Carter glanced at her hands again. “When it became clear that the colonel was going to try to be a sentinel again, I didn’t react well. I felt that the bond I perceived we had was breaking, and I knew it would mean an active guide involved with the team. That was probably the hardest part. Having someone on the team who did what I couldn’t… it seemed like it was pointing right at my inadequacies. Plus the constant reminder of what I could never have.”
When Jack really tensed up, Tony had to ask, “Do you mean Jack?”
She quickly shook her head, looking alarmed. “No. A sentinel. Not the colonel in any specific way.”
Tony considered that for a second. “You had sentinel longing?”
“Yes. It’s not horrible like I’ve heard it can be for someone like you, but it’s always been there.”
“Then you’re not low-order.”
“No, I’m not. I have a big disparity in my passive and active empathy and got a false result in my initial assessment.”
“How big a gap?”
“One passive, six active. Though the active may be a seven, but after testing Blair was only confident about a six.”
Tony’s brows shot up in surprise and he gave a low whistle. “That’s a big difference.”
Jack suddenly leaned forward. “Okay, I was tracking this whole thing until you started with the empathy thing. What are you talking about?”
Tony quickly explained about the difference between active and passive empathy, and that the overall guide rating was only based on the active score, plus that a big disparity between the two was pretty uncommon.
Jack pinned Carter with a look. “What are you going to do about it, Carter?”
Elbowing his sentinel, Tony admonished, “Way to get to the point, Jack.”
Jack shrugged and held up his hands. “What? That is where part of this is going, right?”
“You’re right, Colonel,” she replied. “It’s fine, Tony. I was going to bring it up.” She squared her shoulders a bit. “After all the testing, and getting a lot of help from Blair, and taking a couple intro classes at the Center, I’ve decided to train my gifts rather than just learn how to suppress them.”
Tony was relieved, but didn’t want her to think that he felt either choice was right. “If that’s what’s going to make you happy, I think that’s great. I’ll help in any way I can.”
She offered him a half smile. “Thank you. I had just wanted to explain why I was feeling the way I did when we met. I had just found out the colonel was not only going to keep his gifts, but already had a guide, and I didn’t react well. And I apologize to you, too, Colonel.”
“It’s forgotten, Carter,” Jack responded.
Tony shifted the conversation, not wanting Sam to continue to feel on the spot. They talked about holiday plans, and though Jack and Tony were leaving for Peru right after the holidays, they left that bit out for now. Jack planned to tell the whole team together.
It was another twenty minutes or so before Jack’s head turned in the way that Tony knew meant someone had driven up. After a couple beats, he said, “Daniel and Teal’c are here.”
The duo had most of the food for their holiday dinner. Daniel also had all of Tony’s stuff from Cascade. Evan and Solon had graciously agreed to pack everything and ship it with the proviso that Tony come visit soon for a proper goodbye.
Since Jack couldn’t tolerate a delivery driver coming to the door, Daniel had agreed to accept delivery and bring it on Christmas Eve. Tony was so ecstatic to have something else to wear, he immediately deserted everyone to get changed, only a little surprised that his sentinel followed him.
“Sorry, Tony, I’ve got to go through your suitcases. It’s making me edgy, even though I trust Daniel.”
Tony just put it down to their nesting period, but also added it to the tally of things that wouldn’t go over well if Jack tried to pull it all the time.
Dinner preparation wound up being a weird little tap dance of trying to keep everyone away from being close enough to touch Tony, but still get the food ready. Daniel was exceedingly amused by Jack’s territorial behavior. Teal’c was by far the most respectful of the distance the sentinel wanted everyone to keep. Carter seemed to forget occasionally, and Tony thought that was likely the guide thing. She already felt like Pride to him, so he imagined she was seeing him as her alpha at an instinctual level.
And wasn’t that a weird thought? Tony was an alpha guide now, forming his own Pride. He’d never wanted that kind of responsibility, but discovered his own territorial instincts coming to the fore and knew that he wasn’t letting go of his Pride no matter what.
There was a brief standoff with Teal’c over how he would address Tony. Because Tony refused to be called Alpha Guide Anthony DiNozzo or Shaman Anthony DiNozzo, or any other lengthy honorific, but Teal’c wasn’t willing to just call him Tony.
“Okay, how about Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo?” he asked with a grin.
“Is Very Special Agent your formal designation?”
“No.” Tony pouted a little, which caused Jack to start laughing. “I think there are some reasons why we wouldn’t want to tell all and sundry that I’m a guide, and especially not a shaman. So how about Agent DiNozzo when you need to introduce me formally, and just Tony DiNozzo when you are actually addressing me?”
Teal’c simply inclined his head in agreement, and Tony sighed in relief that they’d come to an agreement that didn’t wind up with him being called Anthony or anything related to being a guide.
Dinner went well. Tony found he really liked everyone, Daniel in particular. The linguist had an exceedingly large number of ways of saying ‘Jack!’ His sentinel had mentioned that he had an inventory of the different ‘Jack!’ variants, and every time Daniel used a different one, Tony had to fight not to laugh, often exchanging a look with his bonded.
Tony didn’t quite have a bead on Teal’c yet. He was stoic to the point of being ridiculous, and never said anything extraneous. It was obvious he and Jack shared a deep bond. It was also clear that he had a profound respect for the sentinel and guide gifts, and the ‘protect the tribe’ imperative. There was no doubt Teal’c was looking forward to seeing how Jack’s sentinel gifts worked in the field.
Toward the end of dinner, Jack announced their plans to go to Peru. “The general’s signed off, but I’d ask that you not discuss where we are with anyone. Just that we’re doing sentinel/guide training.”
Carter leaned back a bit, looking thoughtful. “What will the rest of SG-1 do while you’re gone, sir?”
“There a few options, and Hammond will discuss it with the three of you to see which you’d prefer. He could assign a temporary team leader to SG-1, or take the entire team off rotation and let you work individual projects, or each of you could independently decide to work with another team until I’m back and cleared for ‘gate travel.”
“What will that entail, Jack?” Daniel asked.
“Not sure yet. Ellison and Sandburg are making the recommendation for what sentinels and guides need to be able to do to qualify for the Stargate. Thus far we’ve been testing them at the same level as other team members. Blair’s certain we need to have more than one standard, particularly for the sentinels to ensure they’re able to function properly in the field. Whatever standard they come up with for high-order sentinels, I’ll have to qualify. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why the general was okay with this trip.”
From Tony’s spirit-plane discussions with Blair, he knew that the general planned to let Jim and Blair through the ‘gate at some point so they could better make a plan for what kind of sensory training would be needed. Jim felt the high-order sentinels were going to have a bigger problem, and thus far, of that caliber, only Jack had been through the ‘gate, and he’d had a sensory meltdown immediately afterward. That could be due in part to recently onlining his senses, but it was telling that the meltdown happened right after ‘gate travel.
After dinner, they all wound up in the living room to watch a movie. Jack was in the middle of the sofa with Tony on one side and Carter on the other. Jack had seemed a little discomfited that he was most comfortable having Carter close by of the three other team members. Tony whispered that it was likely he was really most comfortable allowing another guide near his guide.
They watched one of Tony’s favorite holiday movies, and one of the few modern movies he really loved, The Ref, which he’d always thought to be very underrated and extremely funny. To his surprise no one else had seen it. He expected Jack to enjoy it, but surprisingly everyone else did as well, though Teal’c was perplexed by quite a bit of it.
After the movie, there was a brief exchange of gifts. No one knew Tony well, and Tony didn’t really know them, so there were a lot of gift certificates and wine passed around. Tony and Jack didn’t exchange anything by mutual agreement. He wound up loaning his hard drive with all his most watched movies to Teal’c, pointing him to start with the classic westerns, because that was an area he was sorely lacking in his movie education.
For some reason, just thinking about Teal’c in relation to movies, and why he hadn’t seen many, suddenly made the whole situation real and Tony leaned back to catch his breath.
“What was that?” Jack asked, giving him a concerned look.
“Aliens,” Tony replied. “It just hit me.”
Everyone looked at him in astonishment, but it was Jack who replied, “You’re just reacting to that now?”
“I’ve been busy,” Tony said defensively, which caused his sentinel to start laughing.
As soon as they were inside Tony’s apartment, Jack placed his guide in a secure corner and prowled through the residence, sidearm at the ready, only focused on securing his new territory, and not absorbing anything else. There was a locked door he had to retrieve the key for and that set him even more on edge.
It had been a difficult trip. They’d left out of Denver at 2300 hours, arriving in DC at 0430. For security reasons, they’d deliberately booked their trip at the last minute, and did not apprise anyone of their travel plans, dismissing the guards just as they were leaving.
They’d flown first class because there was no way Jack could handle the press of coach, and Tony had to keep a hand on him the entire trip, frequently using his empathy to bring Jack down a little. Fortunately 0430 was a good time for a sentinel to be at an airport, so that was not as awful as it could have been.
Once he was sure they were alone in the apartment, he gestured for Tony to help him ground his senses. He had his second hearing dial turned way up and was minutely adjusting it to try to filter through the electronic static that seemed to fill the air the way he and Tony had been practicing.
Finally he found the frequency he’d been listening for. Not that he wanted Tony’s place to be bugged, but by finding something, at least he could be sure he didn’t just miss it entirely. They found four bugs and two cameras.
With a disgusted expression, Tony placed them all in a Tupperware container in the fridge. To be on the safe side, Jack went over the apartment with a scanner to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. When it was all done, Tony talked him through dialing down and coming off high alert, then skillfully maneuvered Jack through a quick shower, then into bed for a few hours.
Tony blanketed him with a soothing aura, whispering in that honey-sweet guide voice until Jack was relaxed enough to finally rest. Maybe this hadn’t been the best idea ever, but Jack didn’t want to deny Tony seeing his brother before they left for Peru. Although, the presence of all the bugs meant he planned to take Gibbs and Martin up on their offer to stay at the other pair’s house. Another sentinel seemed liked a good idea.
Finally, more of his surroundings penetrated and he groaned. “This bed is obscene. You sure we can’t take it with us?”
Tony started laughing, even though he kept up the slow, measured, gentle strokes along Jack’s arm and chest, practically pulling the tension out of Jack’s muscles. “We need a king-size bed, Jack. But I promise we’ll get the same type. You haven’t met them, but the Alpha Primes from New York, Kyle and Scott, called me after only being here a couple days and asked where to buy it.”
“You’re going to buy these sheets, too, right?” Jack asked, because his sense of touch was way happier with these than anything he had at home.
“Yup. Daniel offered to be there for any furniture deliveries, so I’ll make sure the bed is there by the time we get back from Peru.”
“You’re a hedonist, aren’t you?”
Tony just smirked at his sentinel, then called Gattino and Gretzky. “We’re going to sleep for a few hours. You guys keep watch, okay?”
Jack instantly felt more relaxed knowing that the spirit guides were prowling around the apartment. He maneuvered Tony a little closer, then let sleep pull him under.
When Jack woke, it was going on 1000 hours and they’d slept for about four hours. Tony was still asleep, head on his pillow, but one arm and one leg slung over Jack. Gretzky prowled into the room and chuffed at Jack, which made him smile. The big Siberian usually only chuffed at Tony. He dialed up his hearing, taking in the morning sounds of Tony’s neighbors, and finding nothing suspicious in the day after Christmas hubbub. Gretzky gave another little chuff, then vanished.
Now that he wasn’t on high alert, and was a little more rested, he took in the details of the apartment. He and Tony had a lot in common, but apparently this wasn’t one of them. What he recalled of the rest of the apartment fit with the bedroom, elegant and fairly restrained, which seemed somewhat at odds with Tony’s personality. Jack figured there was a story to this place.
The locked room had been a surprise and it was something he planned to ask Tony about fairly soon, because it was something his guide hadn’t mentioned at all. Not even a hint of it. And the closet… Jesus. He glanced toward the door in question. Jack was mentally reorganizing his house to accommodate that many clothes.
“It won’t be as bad as you think,” Tony rasped in a sleep-roughened voice as he adjusted his position to rest his head on Jack’s shoulder, pressing a kiss behind Jack’s ear.
“And why’s that?” He lightly massaged Tony’s head, getting a moan for his efforts.
Eventually, Tony managed a reply. “A lot of it doesn’t have any applicability to what I’ll be doing in the future. There are a lot of suits in there, what am I going to do with Armani in Cheyenne Mountain?”
“Point. What are you going to do then?”
“Get rid of some, store the rest. I won’t take the time to do it here. I’ll probably have it all moved and go through it when we get back.”
“You sure you don’t want to bring any of your furniture?”
“Just the piano. It belonged to my mother and I don’t want to part with it.”
Jack nodded, not sure how to ask the next question. “Are you going to be comfortable without your stuff?”
“It’s fine, Jack. I love your place.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Then what do you mean?” Tony asked, tilting his head back to meet Jack’s gaze.
“Your place is really different, Tony, and I want you to feel at home.”
“Ah. Look, don’t worry about it. I really like your place. Well, for the most part. You know that big spoon and fork on the wall don’t work for me,” Tony said with a smile.
“Yeah, I know,” Jack replied with a chuckle. “Listen, I realize we’ve known each a whole week and we’re both adjusting, but it has to be our place. Not mine. So, if you want a different couch, or a different bed, or a different TV, I’m fine with it. Okay?”
Tony nodded and gave him a soft kiss. “You know, mostly I don’t care. I’m not lying about that. There are a few areas I’d like to meld things a little, but I’m mostly comfortable as things are. This place represents a really solitary period in my life where I kept people away. I’m not going to miss it, all right?”
“Got it.” But Jack felt there was one more issue. “What about the studio?” Tony stiffened, and Jack immediately started rubbing his guide’s back. “What’s wrong, Tony?”
“I don’t really talk about it… no one’s ever been in there. I don’t even let my housekeeper in there,” he replied in a flat tone.
“Hey, it’s okay. I just want to know if we’re moving it.”
“Yes. I can have it all put in storage, so it won’t be in the way,” Tony said now clearly on the defensive.
Jack rolled them so he was braced above his guide. “Whoa, slow down. I’m not asking you to do that. I just want to know if you’re moving it.”
Tony looked away, and then eventually said, “I’d prefer to.”
“Tony, what’s going on?”
Jaw clenched, Tony continued to look away, eventually he forced himself to relax a little and met Jack’s stare. “I just don’t ever talk about it with anyone, except a little with Martin. It’s been private my whole life.”
Jack felt like he was on shaky ground here. There were big issues lurking under this surface. “You don’t have to talk about it. And I’m not going to discuss it with anyone. I just don’t want you to give up something you clearly have a passion for. We’re together for the rest of our lives and if art is important to you, you should keep doing it.”
Tony was quiet for a long time, then finally said, “Thanks, Jack.”
He gave his guide a thorough kiss, feeling him gradually relax. Eventually, he pulled away. “Come on, we’re due at your brother’s in a couple hours and I want you to lay out your moving plan before we go.”
They got dressed, including Jack’s holster and Beretta because he was away from his home base, and his guide could be in danger. Tony hadn’t been carrying since he left for Cascade, but he would be while they were in DC.
Martin had considerately left food for them, and Jack put it all through a sentinel sniff-test to make sure whoever bugged the house hadn’t tried to drug Tony. Then Tony fixed them something to eat using odd kitchen gadgets Jack mostly couldn’t even identify.
Afterward, Tony walked him through the apartment. “We don’t really have to do much. I hired movers that are experienced with pianos and packing art, so the plan is to have everything they’re supposed to pack moved into the studio. So, I’ll need to rearrange things in there and move in my clothes and various personal items and a few things from the kitchen. Martin will oversee the movers, and I can call for delivery after we get back.”
Jack was idly going through cabinets and drawers as Tony pointed out the things he planned to take. It really wasn’t much until they got to the DVDs. “Holy crap, Tony, there must be a thousand of them.”
Tony snickered. “Don’t worry, I have a plan. I’m going to pick up some big binders and move the disks into them, and throw away the cases. So, we’ll have ten big binders, and that’s as good as you’re gonna get, buddy.”
Holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender, Jack thought he was lucky that Tony was really very flexible about this stuff. “No complaints.” He continued looking around, noticing only a few pieces of art on the walls. All paintings, all signed Dominic. “These yours?” he asked, going for casual.
“Yes,” Tony replied, keeping his focus on his desk.
“You taking them?”
Tony blew out a breath and looked up, glancing around the room. “I don’t think so. I did them just for this place and they belong with the apartment. If I sell, I’ll probably ask Martin to do something with them.”
Jack nodded, still looking at the paintings. They were all abstracts with a lot of flow to them, and despite being different colors and compositions, they made Jack think of storms. He didn’t know anything about fine art, but thought they were all quite good.
“You can look at the rest, if you want,” Tony offered.
“I don’t want to intrude on your space,” Jack replied carefully.
In response, Tony took him by the hand and dragged him to the studio, practically shoving him in. “I’m not gonna hide from you, so look if you want to.” His guide looked a little uncomfortable, but nodded decisively and added, “I’m going to be poking around the kitchen to figure out what gadgets I want to keep.”
Jack blinked at the empty space where Tony used to be. He didn’t consider himself the most sensitive of guys, but he thought quiet acceptance was best in this situation.
He started looking through the canvases stacked against the wall. He really didn’t know how to describe art, but it all seemed turbulent to him. He knew that someday he’d understand what this room represented to Tony, but for now he’d be patient and make sure Tony had space to continue to be Tony.
The scrape of a key in a lock caught Jack’s attention. He listened closer because it sounded like it was the lock for this apartment. As soon as he dialed up, he knew someone was coming in and the sentinel slammed forward in his mind. He made it to the living room to find his guide staring at a woman in the doorway of the now open front door.
He was just about to reach his guide to pull him back when the woman slapped Tony. Hard. Growling, he yanked his guide away with one hand, and shoved his Beretta against the woman’s temple, causing her to issue a startled shriek, pale eyes huge and rounded staring at him in shock.
Part of him catalogued the black hair in ponytails, the long black cape and platform boots. He knew this woman from Tony’s description and his anger amped up another notch. She’d caused his guide hurt already, and now she’d attacked him.
“Jack,” Tony whispered, staying behind him, but soothingly rubbing the sentinel’s shoulder. “Jack, you have to calm down. I’m okay. Come on, you can’t shoot her.”
“I can,” he growled. She’d attacked the guide of a nesting sentinel. He could get away with it. Her terror registered strongly in his senses, but he didn’t care at that moment.
“Jack, I need you to come back from wherever you are in your head. Please don’t shoot her. Please.”
His guide’s pleas drew him back from the edge. He lowered his weapon, but reached out and grabbed the woman by the upper arm, marching her across room and shoving her on the couch, keeping his Beretta in plain view.
She started to say something but he growled at her and lifted the gun a little. He registered the faint smell of blood on his guide, but he knew if he focused on that, he’d lose it again. If the smell were any stronger, he wouldn’t have been able to stay in control.
“Call Gibbs,” Jack ordered, slowly getting in better control. “I’ll give him first crack at handling this, but if I’m not happy with it, she’s going to jail.”
Tony gave him a concerned look, but stepped away to make the call. He was glad his guide knew when not to push.
“You can’t do this,” she said with a lot of bravado and poised to get to her feet.
Jack took a step forward, tapping his Beretta against his thigh. “Actually, I can. Now, you will sit there quietly or I’ll put you in handcuffs and a gag.”
He kept half his attention on the call Tony was making, and half on Abigail Sciuto, who didn’t have the sense to be really scared of him.
Tony returned from the kitchen. “They’re on their way. His place is twenty-five minutes away, but knowing Gibbs he’ll be here in fifteen.”
“Tony,” Sciuto directed to his guide, “tell him to stop with the threats. Gibbs isn’t going to stand for him treating me like this.”
Jack interjected before Tony could reply. “I assume you’ve got handcuffs?”
“Yes,” Tony said on a sigh.
Tony went into the bedroom and whispered for sentinel hearing only, “Jack, she’s spoiled and manipulative and right now she’s being a little shit, but she’s not a criminal. Please don’t escalate this any further.” A moment later, Tony returned and passed Jack handcuffs. In return, Jack passed Tony his Beretta, then was on Sciuto before she could react.
She tried to fight, but he had her cuffed and shoved back on the sofa in under a minute. “I don’t make idle threats,” Jack warned. “Speak again and there will be a gag.”
Eyes welling, she looked imploringly to Tony who just shook his head. “You’ve stepped in it, Abby, and I’m not in control of this situation right now. Even if I were, I wouldn’t have anything to say to you after that.” He looked at Jack. “Are you okay?”
Jack reached out and took his sidearm back, putting it in the holster since Sciuto was in cuffs, then turned his attention to his guide. There was a thin slice along Tony’s cheek and his face was bright red. The bleeding had been minimal and was already stopped, and Tony had already cleaned it up. Jack lightly stroked Tony’s face, feeling the heat coming off the reddened cheek. “She doesn’t pull her punches. How’d you get cut?”
“Either she’s got a ring on backward or she clipped me with a nail. The cut is really fine, so I’m thinking ring,” Tony replied in an even tone of voice, keeping his aura and his demeanor neutral to help ground Jack.
“I know you’d prefer I let her go and send her on her way, but I can’t do that, Tony.”
His guide looked away for a moment. “I know, Jack. I just hate that it’s come to this.”
“You got some ice you can put on your face?”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Every time I see it, I’m gonna go a little nuts, so ice it, Tony. Please.”
Tony nodded. “Frozen peas, coming up.” He turned and headed to the kitchen, whispering sentinel-soft, “Please don’t actually shoot her.”
Jack wasn’t going to shoot her. At least, he didn’t think so. Just thinking about her striking his guide made him feel near homicidal. So he tried not to focus on it. As long as she behaved, she’d leave here without any extraneous holes in her body. He mentally ran through things he could use as a gag in case she couldn’t keep quiet for fifteen minutes.
Tony was dead on about how long it would take Gibbs and Martin to arrive. He felt the other sentinel and guide coming when they arrived at the building and immediately tensed. Really, Jack was in Gibbs territory, but things were a little upside down at the moment.
Jack asked Tony to wait in the kitchen as he heard the alpha pair coming down the hallway. He heard a soft voice call out, “Jack, this is Jethro Gibbs. My guide Martin Fitzgerald is with me.”
Softly, Jack responded, “I don’t recognize your voice.” They’d never spoken, but he’d heard Martin talking on the phone with Tony that one time. “Have Martin say something.”
A moment later, Martin called out, “This is Martin. I know you heard my voice when I talked to Tony. I have a key. If you want to step away, we can let ourselves in.”
“That’s fine.” He backed up until he was in sight of the door but not in a position to be taken by surprise by anything coming in.
Gibbs entered first. Jack knew the man by sight because he’d done a background check on those closest to Tony. The other sentinel quickly took in the situation, expression stony as he surveyed the room.
“Gibbs!” Sciuto immediately exploded. “This guy put me in handcuffs and he held a gun on me and-“
“Shut up, Abby,” Gibbs growled before he stepped further into apartment and gestured his guide in.
Jack ignored whatever was going on with the woman on the couch as long as she stayed on the couch. As soon as the other pair were inside and the door closed, Jack nodded to them both. “Colonel Jack O’Neill, USAF. I know who you both are. Tony and I will be in the bedroom. Give you some time to talk to Ms. Sciuto. After, we’ll need to discuss a satisfactory resolution to this situation.”
Gibbs nodded, but didn’t say anything, jaw clenched tight and Jack had no idea what was going through the man’s mind.
Martin just looked pissed. “Tony okay?”
“Yeah,” Jack said shortly. “I know you want to say hello, but this isn’t the best time.”
Martin and Gibbs both looked toward the kitchen doorway where Tony was standing. Everyone nodded, but the other alpha pair respected the boundary Jack had set and didn’t say anything.
Jack gestured for Tony to precede him to the bedroom. He could sense his guide’s reluctance, but Tony went along with him.
As soon as the door was shut, Jack again touched an ice-cold cheek. “I’m sorry, Tony. I literally can’t do any better than this.”
Tony looked sad, but nodded. “I know, Jack.” He let his guide maneuver him until they were seated on the bed.
He kept his hearing up to monitor the situation in the other room.
“You will answer my questions, and only my questions, are we clear?” Jack heard a granite-hard voice ask, and he was surprised. Because that wasn’t Gibbs, that was Martin.
– – – –
USAF – United States Air Force