Emergence – Chapters 17-20

Title: Emergence – Chapters 17-20
Author: Jilly James
Betas: Elsa Kallan and Naelany
Emergence Main Page

– – – –

Chapter Seventeen

Tony fought waking as long as possible. Mostly because he didn’t want to deal with anything else. He wondered if he could get away with just staying in bed with Jethro all day. Thinking of Jethro gave him plenty of incentive to wake, and he realized he was cuddled up close to his Alpha, resting on his shoulder.

“Morning,” Jethro murmured softly, kissing his hair. “You ready to face the day?” He stroked his hand up and down Tony’s spine, brushing over the sensitive scales.

Tony shivered at the sensation, arm clamping down on Jethro’s waist. “No. Would prefer to skip anything that doesn’t involve you and this bed.”

Jethro chuckled. “I’d like nothing more.”

Sighing, Tony filled in what Jethro didn’t say. “But we have things to deal with, right?”

“Yep. But not yet.”

Tony found himself rolled on to his stomach, and then his spine scales were being licked. “Oh god!” he gasped, hands fisting the sheets. Several minutes of wonderful torment later and Tony was a writhing mess. Jethro kneed his legs apart, pushing one thigh up, and a moment later, Tony was breached.

He cried out, struggling to get his knees under him so he could get leverage to meet the hard thrusts, but Jethro held him down, making him just accept. All rational thought fled as he completely surrendered himself to his Alpha.

A long while later, they had resumed their previous position with Tony’s head back on Jethro’s shoulder. But this time Tony was trembling from two intense orgasms. No doubt about it, dragons had a way shorter recovery period than a human. And wasn’t that a nice bonus.

Tony’s hand was resting on Jethro’s chest and his Alpha was teasing the wrist scales. “When do we have to get up?”

“Soon. Jim called out earlier that we need to meet in Jeremy’s suite at 1200 hours. Which is in about forty-five minutes.”

“Damn.” Tony considered for a second. He had so much he needed to discuss with his Alpha, but there was never any time. And Tony was waiting for the big relationship freak out to set in. “I’ve been spinning on something. I can’t quite explain it yet, but I have a question for you.”

“You can ask me anything, Tony.”

Tony felt a start of surprise. Jethro was always so private, he hadn’t really been expecting such a blatant invitation. To be fair, the empathic connection they shared didn’t really leave them much real privacy.

Fingers gripped his chin, forcing him to look up. “Everything is different, Tony. I have nothing to hide from you.”

Tony bit his lip. For sure there was a big freak out planned as soon as he had the time. “Okay,” he whispered. His chin was released and he placed his head on Jethro’s shoulder again.

“What’s the question?”

“Before I emerged, at any time since I’ve known you, were you ever drawn to me?”

“Yes,” Jethro replied simply.

“Okay, Jethro, need more. Since when? How much?”

“Since I met you.” Jethro sighed. “I’ve always felt territorial about you, and I always wanted you. I get that it’s important to you, to know that it’s not just because of the Wyvern.”

Tony nodded. It was important, but there was a kernel of something else going on, but Tony needed a little more time to figure it out. “Thanks, Jethro.” He caressed his Alpha’s chest, knowing he could easily zone out on the sheer presence of his mate.

Jethro halted his hand, giving it a squeeze. “Before we get up, we need to work out what you’re going to call me.”

Tony frowned. “Huh? I thought you wanted me to call you Jethro.”

“I do. But I’m learning that when you say my name, it makes me want to bend you over and fuck you until you can’t move. And that’s not really practical. Maybe in a couple weeks, after the mating drive has settled, it’ll be easier to manage.”

Tony blinked in astonishment, glancing up at Jethro to confirm the truth of the statement, even though he could feel it in the bond. “Seriously?”

“Tony, the first time since I’ve known you that you said my name without mocking or discomfort, I was about to slide my cock inside you. Yes. I’m serious.”

Fighting a smile, Tony glanced back down, resting his head on Jethro’s chest.

“You know, I can feel that,” his mate said with amusement in his voice.

Tony gave up fighting the smile. “So, you want me to call you Gibbs when we’re not alone?”

He registered discomfort from Jethro, who sighed in response. “No. It feels too impersonal, and I cannot tolerate you putting distance between us.”

“You want me to call you Leroy?” Tony wasn’t sure he could do that. He didn’t even think of Jethro in those terms.

Jethro frowned, then shook his head, and Tony could feel that he was giving up on the idea.

But Tony wanted to do this for his Alpha, so his brain whirled for a few seconds. “Jet or LJ?”

“Hmm. I like either.” Jethro suddenly rolled them over so he was pressing down on top of Tony, then claimed Tony’s lips in a kiss that was consuming in its intensity.

Several minutes later, they came up for air and Tony managed, “LJ, I think. Jet may be too close to Jethro.”

“Come on.” He got another quick kiss. “Up. We only have about twenty-five minutes now.”

With deep reluctance, Tony allowed himself to be pulled from the bed and led to the bathroom.

Everyone met in Jeremy’s suite at noon, except Abby who’d gone to work. The previous night all the Wyverns had kept their bonding marks hidden under cold-weather gear or shirts, but today they were left exposed and the Betas were very curious.

Blair took on the explanation of bonding and the merging with their spirit dragons. They left out the part about the captive Wyvern until the environment was more secure.

Connelly seemed most lost in thought, shooting glances at Cassie. “Is there a bonding for Betas? And do we have a spirit dragon as well?” he asked cautiously.

Tony blinked and exchanged a glance with Blair. He was pretty sure there was, but felt this was more Blair’s area.

Blair cocked his head to the side and considered before carefully replying. “I believe there… yes. Yes, there is. It’s different. You can decide where on your arms to place your bonding marks and I’m not sure of the exact verbiage. I guess I’ll figure it out when the time comes. Also, I’m pretty sure the spirit guide is available to all dragons. The spirit merger just makes the bonding more intense. I didn’t say that well. You need the spirit dragon for a bonding to be fully complete, but you can have your spirit dragon and never bond with anyone.”

Rick nodded, obviously thinking, then exchanged a look with Cassie. “I’d like to take my mate somewhere romantic and ask her to bond with me. Will you be here long enough to solemnize a bonding for us?”

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be here at least another day, maybe longer. I’ll call if we have to cut out early. A couple things… first, let’s keep the news of bondings between us. We’ll need to sort out logistics for bonding requests. And second, I have a feeling you can’t break a bond. It’s not like being mated, which can be broken fairly easily. So talk to each other and be sure it’s what you want.”

There were a few more questions about bonding, spirit dragons, and other things before the Betas left. Rick and Cassie decided to return to work, Rick promising to keep an eye on Abby and keep her in Caf-Pows on Tony’s tab. Derek wanted to stay on to help, but felt it was more important that he return to the BAU to run things while Rossi, Hotch and Reid worked on the situation with Sewell. Kwan was headed back to the FBI as well. Henri and Rafe were formally asked by Jeremy to stay on in the temporary employ of the Council, but were excused to take the day to themselves.

No one wanted to plan at the hotel where they could be overheard, so Rossi offered up his house. There were enough bedrooms for everyone to stay and they’d have privacy to strategize. Jeremy, Richard, Jim and Blair were going to take care of the logistics of closing down the gathering, including bitching Alphas, though Jeremy had gotten a lot of the work in process as soon as Tony had chosen Gibbs the night before.

Tony and Gibbs would take care of clothes for Gibbs and a few things that had been neglected, including a stop to see Abby. The trio would head straight home. Everyone would reconvene at 1700 hours at Rossi’s.

“One thing,” Tony interjected. “I do still want to talk to Chris, Buck and Horatio. Jethro said Horatio is already back in Miami. I don’t want to keep Chris and Buck hanging around, but I’m not sure how to approach this.”

Jeremy looked thoughtful. “Can you explain what this is about so we have some notion of how to proceed?”

Tony carefully considered what to say, fully aware that privacy was not assured in the hotel room. “I think the information might be more sensitive than our other matter. It has to do with how and why Wyverns emerge.”

Jeremy made a slight choking sound. “Young man, I’m afraid your plans for the day have just been altered. You and Jethro were to go your own way for a few hours, but I’m going to be very insistent that you have more security than that.”

Before Tony could protest, Jeremy turned to Hotch. “Would the three of you accompany them to quickly gather what they need, and then all of you retire to David’s house until we can join you?”

Hotch and Rossi both nodded, staring at Tony with expressions of concern.

Tony was just opening his mouth to argue when Jethro grabbed his hand, giving it a squeeze. “It’s the right idea, Tony.”

Tony didn’t want to give in on this. He refused to be followed around for the rest of his life. “I’m capable of taking care of myself. Gun-toting agent and everything.”

Jethro leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Just trust me until we have all the information and can decide how to proceed?”

He felt his resistance fade. Damn Jethro for playing the trust card. “You know I always trust you, LJ.” The new name was a little awkward, but he could tell that he’d easily get used to it.

“Thank you.”

Rossi leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands laced together. “I know Chris. How about I invite him and Buck to dinner at my place at eight? That gives us a couple hours to go over what you have to tell us and decide how to proceed. Horatio you can talk to some other time.”

Tony nodded and flashed him a smile of thanks.

They split up shortly after. The Bureau trio had a large SUV that would fit all of them and their bags, so Tony’s and Gibbs’ vehicles were left at NCIS. Visiting Abby was shot down for today, but Tony gave her a call and promised to update her soon on what was happening. He’d also spoken to Ducky, who’d offered his sincere congratulations on Tony and Gibbs’ mating, and asked to see them soon.

There were still plenty of clothes for Tony, so they just had to swing by Gibbs’ place. Tony had felt an odd resistance to going in. He’d been here dozens of times, stayed a few times, but it finally sunk in that he was probably living here now. No way could they fit in Tony’s apartment – seriously, where would the boat go – and Tony couldn’t see them living apart. The very idea gave his dragon fits, which got him odd looks from Gibbs. Tony could tell he’d be answering questions later.

All told, they were at the trio’s residence by 1500 hours. Rossi showed them to a guest bedroom, which had an en suite. He hesitated for a few moments before asking, “Tony, you seem to have insight into Wyvern gifts. Is there information you can give us about why Spencer has such a hard time with his empathy? It’s a pretty standard Wyvern trait.”

The first thought in Tony’s head was that it wasn’t a standard gift, but he couldn’t really explain that. He puzzled on it so long that Jethro gave him a nudge. “Tony?”

“Yeah,” he said, going with his gut. “I think I can help, but I might need to be in physical contact, maybe? I dunno.” He looked at Rossi, whose expression was guardedly hopeful. “Want to try now? We’ve got time before the rest show up.”

“Yes. Come on down to the living room whenever you’re ready.”

He sensed worry from Jethro and flashed him an inquiring look.

“I’m worried,” he stated bluntly.

“Why? I’m fine.”

“No you’re not,” Jethro said with conviction.

“Seriously, Gibbs, I’m good.” He turned away to set his bag on the bed, then found himself gripped by the bicep and pulled back around.

“Don’t distance yourself from me, Tony. I don’t know what this Guardian thing entails, but I know you’re not letting yourself deal with how you feel. I’ve got your six. You can trust me to be here for you.”

Tony looked down, trying to keep his emotions under control, but Gibbs wasn’t having it, and with two fingers under his chin, tilted his head back up. “Tell me.”

“I’m not used to it. Relying on someone… telling how I feel. I don’t know how.” Tony had been refusing to count on anyone since he was a kid.

“You’ll get there. We will get you there. This thing between us is forever… it’s not going away. I’ll be patient, but you have to meet me part way and don’t try to distance yourself like that.”

Tony hesitated, trying to relax his hands, which had curled into fists. “You giving up your functional mute honorific?” He needed to lighten the mood a little.

Jethro’s lips quirked a little. “I’ll give up whatever I have to if it means you’re happy.”

Pulling away, Tony took a few deep breaths and held up his hands in a warding gesture as if he could hold off his emotions. “I’ll try, Jethro. I’m just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other most of the time lately. I really am doing the best I can.”

Jethro ignored the ‘stay away’ body language, and pulled Tony close, kissing his temple. “I know,” he whispered. “I know. And you’re doing good, Tony.” He let go and headed for the door. “Let’s go downstairs.”

Tony sighed in relief and followed his mate down to the living room.

~*~

Rossi left the couple alone and focused intently on listening to Spencer and Aaron settle their things so he wouldn’t hear what was going on with Gibbs and Tony. In the master bedroom, he found them already re-packing their go-bags for the next time they were needed.

He halted Spencer’s actions and wrapped his arm around his Omega’s waist. Spence was a couple inches taller, which put Dave in good position to lean down slightly to kiss the new throat scales. He’d always been protective of Spencer but the sight of those scales woke up new heights of possessiveness.

“That is surprisingly more sensitive than my other scales,” Spencer commented clinically even as he shivered and clutched at Dave’s shoulders.

Rossi smiled against his mate’s skin. “And I look forward to finding out just how sensitive.” He pulled away reluctantly. “Tony thinks he might have some insight into your empathy.” Aaron’s head shot up; he’d been so focused on Spence that he hadn’t listened to Dave’s request, which was good. They tried to give each other privacy as much as possible. “Let’s head down.”

Spence steered them toward the library instead, which, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. It was his safe place, and Dave could feel the nerves pouring off his mate.

Spencer was perplexed at why Rossi put him on sofa, but then guided Aaron to a chair. “Tony thinks he needs physical contact,” Rossi reassured. While waiting for Tony and Gibbs to come down, he got coffee for everyone.

Once they were all in the library, Tony hesitated before sitting next to Spencer. “I’m kind of flying blind here.”

Rossi did not want Tony setting himself up to feel bad if he couldn’t help. “Don’t worry about it, kiddo. No one is going to be upset if there’s nothing you can do.”

Tony nodded, then contemplated Spencer for several seconds, which was clearly starting to make Spence uncomfortable. “I think I need to touch your wrist… maybe?”

No one had any qualms about Omegas being in physical contact with each other, so Spencer quickly rolled up his sleeve. Tony wrapped his hand around the delicate wrist, then seemed to zone out. He rubbed his thumb in an absentminded way over the scales.

Rossi could sense Aaron was hiding worry, but he was oddly confident that Tony was going to have some insight to offer that would help them. He sipped his coffee and waited. Jethro had already been through two mugs.

“Lavender a rare scale color?” Tony suddenly asked Spencer.

“Yes. About two percent,” Spencer replied, able to pull the statistics immediately.

“Anyone with nine bands?”

“No. The other two have five.”

“Yes. I think this would be impossible to live with at nine bands if you weren’t bonded.” Tony sounded like he was nearly in a trance.

Rossi took a careful breath and set down his cup. He reminded himself to let this play out.

Jethro suddenly got to his feet and knelt in front of Tony, cupping his face and making him meet his eyes. “Come back, Tony. You feel like you’ve gone far way.”

It took a few minutes, but Tony eventually seemed to come out of whatever it was and let go of Spencer. “I’m good, LJ. It’s fine.” He squeezed his Alpha’s hand. “Really… just got kind of lost for a second.”

Frowning, Gibbs got to his feet and returned to his chair. Aaron was gripping the chair arms tightly, forcing himself not to intervene. Rossi wanted information, but he was willing to be patient.

Tony rubbed his hand over his face and seemed to shake off whatever it was that was drawing at him. “Let’s see… I believe the color of the scales indicates the area of the gift, the number of bands the intensity of the gift.”

Spencer frowned. “But most Wyverns have empathy, but only two percent are lavender,” he said, and Rossi could see him trying to put the pieces together.

“Your empathy is different.” Tony held up a finger when Spencer started to ask a question. “Let me get this out. I think all Wyverns are empathic to some degree. Someone with three bands or less might not manifest their empathy unless they bond and anchor themselves to an Alpha. The flip side is true, some with nine bands won’t be able to manifest their gift without bonding because it would be too intense.

“Blair told me a little about his ability to sense what’s going on with a dragon… he said he was aware of physical distress but didn’t actually feel it.” Spence nodded his understanding. “When I feel that Hotch is worried about you, it’s more me being aware he’s worried. I don’t actually feel worried about you myself.”

Spencer blinked and his eyes widened. “Oh. That’s different.”

“Yes. I think you’re actually feeling the emotions. Like they were your own. Which in your line of work… that’s really shitty, Spence. I have a hunch most trios historically had a Wyvern with lavender scales. The gift is intense, and might require more than one Alpha to help stabilize you.”

Rossi was having a hard time holding on to his cool. How exactly had Spencer been managing this?

Tony shifted, looking uncomfortable. “I could be wrong about all this.”

“You’re not,” Spencer said woodenly. “Is there more, because this seems like a useless talent.”

“I think… well, I have more of a picture of how it’s supposed to be and I may not be interpreting it right, so bear with me. The bonding helps buffer the actual emotions until you learn how to shield yourself from them. I think you’ve been… dissociating, maybe, rather than controlling it.

“But what I see is that you can project emotions, that’s why you have to feel the real deal. You could walk into a room full of people and project anger at everyone, and start a riot. I think someone with all nine bands could calm an angry crowd. You can make people feel what you want them to. If you haven’t had any accidents with this, maybe it’s because, in general, you’re numbing yourself to emotion as much as you can.”

Spencer was looking horrified, and Rossi could tell he was near a breaking point.

Tony looked his direction. “I don’t think I helped, Dave. I’m not even sure I’m right.”

Rossi and Aaron got to their feet at the same time. Aaron pulled an unresisting Spencer up from the sofa and guided him from the room. Dave hesitated, then squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “You did good, Tony. And I’m certain you’re right. Don’t go taking on a bunch of bullshit guilt just because you’re the messenger. I have a feeling this is going to happen to you over and over again, and you can’t blame yourself every time someone doesn’t like the news.”

Hesitantly, Tony gave a nod, though he didn’t look convinced. Dave turned to leave, but Tony called out, “The wrists.”

Dave turned back, wondering what he meant.

“If he’s really upset, you can grip both wrists, covering his scales with intent, and it should trigger a calming effect.” Tony looked like he would rather not have told that. “Use it carefully… no one wants to feel emotionally manipulated.”

“Thanks, kiddo. If we’re not down by five, will you show the others in?”

Tony nodded and Rossi headed for the stairs. He could hear Spence panicking and talking about how he could hurt people. Through the bond, he could also feel how utterly freaked out his mate was.

In the room, Aaron was trying to soothe Spencer, but their mate was resisting, pulling away and pacing. “I shouldn’t have that kind of power over others. Especially me. I barely understand my own feelings half the time. Why would someone give me a gift like this? It’s a joke!”

Rossi got right in front of him and gripped his upper arms. “We need to talk this through, but you have to calm down.”

Spencer was resisting, trying to pull away. “I can’t think, Dave. I can’t think. My mind is racing so fast, but there’s nothing useful. I can’t think!”

“Do you want to calm down?”

“What?”

“If I could help you be calmer, would you want it?”

Spencer twisted a little, trying to pull away. “No drugs.”

“No drugs, Spence. I wouldn’t do that to you. Tell me yes or no.”

“Then, yes!”

Rossi quickly pushed up the shirt sleeves and enclosed the wrists, putting the intent to calm behind his actions.

“Oh.” Spencer got a little wobbly, but Rossi could tell the panic was gone. “That’s… wow. Thank you for asking first,” he said a little robotically. “I don’t believe I would like having that forced.”

He guided Spence to the bed and had him sit. Aaron climbed behind him, wrapping both arms around his waist. Rossi dropped to one knee in front, still gently holding Spence’s wrists.

“Listen to me, Spencer, I know this upsets you, but now we know. Now we can get ahead of it. If you just want to learn to block it out, we’ll support you. If you want to learn how to use it, we’ll make that happen. Whatever you want. If we have to stand between you and this gift for the rest of your life, we will.”

With furrowed brow, Spencer hesitantly asked, “Why would I want to use this?”

Feeling inexplicably sad, Rossi replied, “You could help someone who was dying to not be afraid. You could make someone who was lonely feel comforted. There are good things, Spencer, it’s not just bad.”

“I shouldn’t be manipulating people’s emotions,” he said firmly.

Aaron kissed behind Spencer’s ear. “Perhaps. I’d normally be the first one with you on that, but I have to think there’s a reason you have this talent. We should learn more before you cut it off.”

Dave squeezed Spencer’s wrists, getting his attention. “The important thing is that we know, and we have a solution for the moment. Aaron and I are buffering you, and for now that’s enough. So you can let down your walls a little and at least feel your own emotions.” He hesitated a second, then asked, “Tell me something… In the past, when we had sex, did that blunt your gifts?”

Spencer blushed, but nodded. “When we’re making love, I only feel our emotions. It was really the only time I could let my guard down completely. And it would make it a little easier for a time afterward to manage the input from others. I tried to quantify how much time it gave me, but there didn’t seem to be a set pattern.”

Rossi was reassured. At least Spencer’s goal was to feel his own emotions, not just block everything out. He lifted Spencer’s hands and kissed the insides of both wrists. “It’s going to be fine, sweetheart.” He rarely called Spencer that because it sometimes got his back up, but he also knew that Spencer secretly liked it and found the endearment reassuring.

Rossi started working on the buttons of Spencer’s sweater vest. “We’ve got a little time. Let’s get comfortable, lie down and talk.”

“I’d rather have sex,” Spencer said baldly.

Unable to stop the laugh, Dave agreeably replied, “Whatever you want.”

– – – –

Chapter Eighteen

“How can you eat that junk? It’s not even real food,” Blair asked his mate, perfectly happy to have this conversation yet again. Maybe someday he’d get it through his Alpha’s thick head.

“It tastes good, and we won’t be eating for at least three hours, Chief. I’m hungry. What else was I supposed to get while we’re on the road?”

Blair waved off the excuse. “Seriously, man, most places have these green things called a salad.”

Jim ignored his partner, and went to take the next turn indicated by the nav, but slammed on his brakes instead.

“What the hell, Jim?” Blair griped irritably.

“Something’s wrong with the nav.”

Blair glanced around and realized if they’d turned right like the nav-lady said, they’d be in that big ass lake. “Well, shit. Let me try my phone instead.”

The day had already been annoying, and now they had an annoying nav. Most of the Alphas had understood about the cancellation, but a few had raised holy hell about the lack of a real gathering. Oddly enough, Richard was the one who had snapped first. He wound up telling a couple pissed off Alphas to take their complaints to Eli David, the man who had angered an emerging Omega so badly the Omega had forced his emergence early. Blair hoped Eli got complaints. Seriously. Fucker deserved it.

Instead of being early to Rossi’s, they were ten minutes late. Jeremy and Richard were just unloading their bags from the trunk, so they all were at the front door together. Tony let them in, looking a bit stressed, and showed them to their rooms. Blair couldn’t quite sort out everything that Tony was feeling. The most alarming thing was this guilt that flashed in every once in a while.

They reconvened in the living room, the trio noticeably absent. Jethro was sitting close to Tony on the loveseat, arm around his shoulders.

“What’s going on?” Blair asked. “Where’re the others?”

Tony was definitely the more loquacious of the two, so Blair was surprised when Gibbs was the one to fill them in on what had happened with Spencer.

Now Blair got where the guilt was coming from and frowned at Tony. “Okay, you need to knock that shit off.”

Tony reeled back a little. “What?”

“The guilt shit. You didn’t do anything. You think it would have been better that he continue to not know? Seriously, man, you cannot get knotted up like a pretzel every time you have to deliver news like that. You did the right thing, no one blames you, I’m totally in awe of your gift, now let’s move on.” Blair really wasn’t gonna put up with Tony wallowing in guilt, especially when he hadn’t done anything.

Blair got up and moved to the loveseat, nudging Gibbs out of the way so he could sit by Tony. He stuck out his arm. “Here, do me. Believe me, I want to know, even if I’m not gonna like it.” Tony blinked at him a few times. Blair just wiggled his fingers at Tony. “Hopefully you’ll only have to do this once for each color of scales. Now get your Guardian gifts going and tell me what I’m in for.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “You can be so damn bossy. Are you always like this?” But he was reaching for Blair’s wrist, so Blair considered it a win.

“Yes,” Jim replied with dry humor.

Tony was focused on whatever he was getting, and he seemed kind of distant. “Fairly uncommon color, but not as rare as the lavender?”

“Yeah, about ten percent.”

“You’ll have help with the bondings then. The silvery cast to your scales is fairly unique?” Tony’s thumb continued to rub over Blair’s scales, and he still seemed kind of gone.

“Yes. To my knowledge, no one else has that, but there are a lot of subtle color variations.” Blair was really intrigued by Tony’s ability to get this information from wherever the hell he got it.

“Blue is spirit gifts. I think you’d need at least five bands to spirit walk, nine bands has the ability to be a spirit master. The silvery cast is what marks you as the ‘shaman’, as you call it. I think the ability you have to know what’s physically going on with another dragon, is actually you unconsciously interacting with a dragon at a spirit level.” Tony abruptly let go of Blair’s wrist and seemed to shake himself. He seemed more focused when he met Blair’s eyes again.

“Huh,” Blair grunted. “So do you need someone with spirit gifts to do a bonding?”

“My gut says no, but only someone with spirit gifts can summon the dragon spirit guide.”

“Well, that makes sense. Instinct seemed to cover the bonding once we got started. I could see that Ome- um, Wyverns pass down the trigger phrase, which has to be said by the Wyvern, and the rest is instinct. And it’s logical that you’d need someone with spirit gifts to call forth a spirit. Hmm.”

Tony eyed Blair cautiously. “So you’re okay with this?”

“What? Having phenomenal cosmic powers? Hell no. It’s like I told Precious – and we really need to come up with something better to call him – I don’t think anyone should be that powerful. But these are the circumstances we find ourselves in, and I’ll suck it up and shoulder the responsibility of it. Just like you’ve had to. Guardian.”

Tony’s lips quirked, and Blair made a mental note to never beat around the bush with Tony. He preferred it straight up.

Blair considered one thing he still had a question about. “Do you think it’s important we keep the bonding phrase knowledge to Wyverns only? The mated Alphas will know it, but they’ll keep quiet if there’s good reason to.”

“Oh yeah. The Wyvern chooses, the Wyvern initiates bonding. We don’t need anyone getting coerced into a partial bond like that poor dragon being held by Sewell’s father.”

Blair nodded, fully agreeing.

It, by the way,” Tony said, flashing Blair a smirk.

“Huh?”

“Precious is an it. I asked about it while we were visiting, and Wyverns were neither male nor female. Precious said it could be argued they were both or neither.”

Blair gaped at Tony, and everyone else was looking a little wide-eyed. “So why are we all men?”

Tony’s good humor seemed to be coming back. “Because they had to pick a gender, they could only pass the trait to one or the other. Considering where they were in history, politically and socially they felt it would be disadvantageous to choose to be women, so they picked the male form. So all Wyverns now are men, but Precious and Its two sidekicks are Its.”

Blair understood why Tony was in better spirits about that information… it was obtained just through conversation and had nothing to do with anything unique about Tony.

“Tony,” Richard interjected, “would you object terribly to telling us what my color scales means? I’ve never particularly felt inclined toward any gift but empathy.”

Tony nodded a bit stiffly and Blair and Richard changed places. Richard rolled up his sleeve immediately. Tony wrapped his hands around the pinkish champagne wrist scales. “How many bands? Oh, never mind. I think I know somehow that you have nine. Okay, um… Wow, I’m not sure what that means.” All of a sudden Tony started laughing.

Richard looked a little taken aback, but Tony made a vague gesture. “I’m sorry. It’s just unexpected, not really funny. I’ll bet your empathy is quite strong, though different from Spencer’s.” He abruptly released Richard’s wrist and sat back. “Your gift is teaching, or maybe guiding is a better word. You should have a natural affinity for helping Wyverns, and in some cases Alphas, learn to use their gifts. The strong empathy is helpful because it should help guide you with your students.” Tony cocked his head, looking perplexed. “I’m kind of surprised you haven’t noticed that you instinctively know how someone should go about using their gifts.”

Richard flushed, and Blair immediately got why.

“Richard!” he blurted out.

“Well, it’s not polite, Blair!” Richard defended hotly. “I had no way of knowing that it was a gift and not just an inclination to meddle.”

Tony snorted.

Blair was busy glaring at Richard. “Well, do feel free to offer advice and not worry about my feelings, okay?”

“What’s going on?” Spencer’s voice came from the doorway.

Blair quickly got to his feet and gave Spencer a hug, which was awkwardly returned. Spence looked better, and felt better, too. “Tony was just giving us the rundown on our gifts. Come on… sit.”

They rearranged until Spence, Rossi and Hotch were on the couch, Tony and Jethro on the loveseat and the other four in chairs. Richard and Blair got the trio up to speed on what had happened while they were upstairs.

Spencer was looking at Richard with a little bit of dread. “I’m probably not the only one thinking that it’s fortuitous that I’m having problems with my gift, and you have the gift of teaching, but I really don’t want to right now.”

“No, no, dear boy,” Richard was quick to assure. “I’m in full agreement that the best thing for you is the nice respite your Alphas can provide while you get emotionally back on an even keel. Your own emotions. But I will make myself available to you if you should desire to change the status quo.”

They all chatted for a few minutes before Jeremy called the meeting to order. “Anthony, I’m sure you’re tired of being on the proverbial hot seat, but I would like to get this discussed before the two agents from Denver arrive.”

Tony’s hand clenched into Gibbs’ thigh for a moment, before he nodded. “I have a sense about what causes a Wyvern to emerge. But first, I know we’re on a bit of private land here, but do you think it’s fairly secure from prying ears?”

Rossi nodded. “I have a security system on the property and there’s no one around. Plus we have some white noise generators built into the external speakers, which I flipped on before we came down.”

“Okay. Well… one of the things Precious told me was that a Wyvern wouldn’t emerge unless it knew there was an Alpha Drake. And I think there’s like a biological trigger that is flipped when the unemerged Wyvern physically touches an Alpha.”

Blair’s brow furrowed. “But I never touched Jim prior to emerging. I’d remember that.”

“I didn’t say your Drake. Any Alpha Drake would do it, I think.”

“Oh. Alex.” Blair’s eyes shot to Jim’s, nearly cringing at the sadness he saw there. “Yes. I did, but it was so quick… it was just the tip of her tail and for like a second. I hadn’t even considered it because I’d seen Jim in dragon form many times, but had never touched him. I mean, I was always curious but he was really fussy about anyone touching him.”

Tony looked to Richard, who looked thoughtful. “Like Blair, I’d seen many Alphas in my day, but as I recall there was an incident. It wasn’t Jeremy, but it was the briefest brush of an Alpha’s scales against my arm.”

Everyone shifted their attention to Reid. “We were in Texas, and JJ, Prentiss and I were pressed up against a building with several civilians, and an Alpha between us and a bomb. Like the others, it was a barely a touch. And I’d seen many Alphas, too, so hadn’t made any connection.”

Jeremy was frowning. “Let’s say you’re right. This would be information we would not want to be released. Even to the dragon community. I think most Alphas would behave responsibly, but there would be some out trying to come in contact with as many humans as possible. It could be a disaster. Is that the only method?”

Tony frowned and considered for a moment. “I think physical contact with me would have the same effect.”

That made sense to Blair… that the Guardian could trigger the effect, too. Richard was nodding in agreement.

“But I actually think there will be another way, something I have to do as Guardian, other than just physical contact. I just don’t quite have a handle on it yet. But to get to the reason why I want to talk to those three Alphas… I think there’s another side to this. I think an Alpha knows when they meet a Wyvern.”

Blair was the only one not looking at Tony like he was crazy, because Blair instantly grokked what Tony was saying.

“Question for all the Alphas who knew their Wyvern in advance, were you inexplicably drawn to them? Protective, or possessive in some way, lusting, whatever? Something that drew you. Maybe even wished they were a dragon?” Tony turned his attention to Gibbs first.

“Yes. From the moment I met you, Tony.” He squeezed Tony’s hand, who shot him a grateful look.

“Yes,” Hotch and Rossi said simultaneously.

Jim exchanged glances with Blair. “Yes. I found him annoying and impossible and he turned my life upside down, but I was pretty obsessed as soon as I met him.”

Blair smiled gently at his Alpha. Oh yeah, he was so getting lucky later.

Jeremy shook his head. “I didn’t know Richard prior to the gathering. But I see what you’re aiming at. What does this have to do with the three unmated Alphas?”

Tony looked like he was struggling for words, so Jethro nudged him and reminded him to go with his gut. “For lack of a better way to describe it, with those three, I sensed a connection to a Wyvern already. I felt strongly that they shouldn’t be at the gathering. Now that I’ve emerged, I sense a bond to a Wyvern in each Alpha here, and what I felt from them was like a shadow of that, like a pre-bond. I’m fairly certain there’s someone each of them is close to who will emerge as a Wyvern if they ever touched an Alpha Drake.”

Blair’s brain was spinning. He was certain this was correct, but how could they act on it? They couldn’t just tell the unmated Alphas to shift in front of anyone they felt inexplicably close to. The risk of Wyverns winding up in captivity was huge.

Richard was leaning forward a bit in curiosity. “So you think the Alpha is choosing the Wyvern in some way?”

“No. I think the Wyvern still chooses. Precious said I chose Jethro the day I met him, but until I had physical contact with him in his shifted form, I didn’t have the biological trigger to emerge. But I’m pretty sure the spiritual and emotional side were already locked in.”

This time it was Blair and Spence’s turn to nod in agreement. Blair had been fascinated by Jim the moment he met him.

Richard tapped his chin in thought. “I didn’t meet Jeremy until my gathering, but I did live in London at the time and knew of Jeremy. He was the Alpha Prime for Europe then, and I was so intrigued by him. I was in my late twenties… anytime he was on the news or in the paper, I was riveted. When I was at the Center and was told I was an Omega, I prayed Jeremy would come to my gathering. I wanted to choose him.”

Jeremy was frowning. “You never told me.”

“I felt like a ridiculous fanboy, Jeremy. It wasn’t something I wanted to share.”

The two exchanged a long look, and Blair knew this discussion would be happening again behind closed doors.

Jeremy eventually turned his attention back to Tony. “I’m not usually at a loss, Anthony, but I’m very much afraid that in this circumstance I am. How would we prove your theory?”

“I think anything we do is fraught with problems. We can’t just tell the Alphas to go home and shift in front of their best buds and see what happens. We could talk to who we suspect to be Wyverns, and see what they want to do. But even that has problems with it. If they say they don’t want to be a dragon, then what? They carefully avoid being around any shifted Alpha for the rest of their lives?

“The thing is, they already are a Wyvern, they just haven’t been exposed to the emergence trigger. If any kind of information leaks out, they’re at as much risk as if they had touched the Alpha and started the process.”

“But there’s no way to know unless we perform the experiment,” Jeremy challenged.

Tony shook his head. “I’m pretty sure one of the things that comes along with my and Blair’s gifts is the ability to spot a Wyvern at a hundred paces.”

Jethro suddenly clamped down so hard on Tony’s hand, he winced. “Ow!”

“That cannot get out, Tony,” Gibbs ground out

“What the hell, LJ?”

Blair caught a near panicked look from Jim, and suddenly he got it. Shit. “Tony, what’s better than a Wyvern? A Wyvern-sniffer. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“Oh, hells bells,” Tony muttered, rubbing his forehead. “That’s messed up.” He indulged in being freaked out for a few moments, then he squared his shoulders and sat up a little straighter. “Part of this duty we have is to ensure that the Wyverns return. We can’t just hide all the information and hope something happens without any direct intervention. I don’t think it works that way.”

Everyone started talking, nearly arguing at some points, but they weren’t really getting anywhere. Finally Rossi let out a piercing whistle, causing Jim to visibly flinch, and Blair noticed none of the other Alphas were quite so affected, though Jeremy reacted almost as strongly. He’d have to get into that with his Drake later.

“I have a proposal,” Rossi started. “I think we should do a discrete test case. Or cases, since Buck and Chris are coming together. I realize we could do Horatio, but I think the other two are a better bet, because Chris has a ranch with a lot of private space. I’ve known Chris for a long time, and he’s rock solid.

“If Chris is amenable, I suggest Tony and Gibbs go to Colorado with them. Tony’s face has been very much in the news, but they could take Jim’s plane and stay at Chris’ ranch. They should be able to stay completely off the radar. Meet with the supposed Wyverns at Chris’ and see what happens. Tony and Gibbs need time together anyway, and they’d have Chris’ workday alone.”

Jeremy looked thoughtful. “And if the Omegas start to emerge?”

“I say we throw policy and tradition out the window and keep it secret. If some Omegas really pre-choose to that degree, why force a gathering on them? The gathering could be for Omegas who don’t know who they want. Chris has plenty of land to handle an emergence. And we can iron out the details later. If it happens, we’ll have at least three weeks’ notice.”

“And if the Omega doesn’t choose?” Jeremy prompted.

“Then we hold a gathering,” Rossi replied simply.

“Hmm. I see the wisdom of the approach. And we make no plans beyond these first two people. I believe we have another Alpha/Omega pair in Colorado?” Jeremy directed to Jim.

“Yes. I can alert them that there’s something major happening that’s confidential, but that they may get called in if there’s a problem. They understand all about classified material, so that won’t be an issue. They’re about an hour south of Denver.”

Everyone looked to Tony and Gibbs, who had been silent. Gibbs didn’t look happy. “I want to meet Wilmington and Larabee before we decide. I’m not sure what our cover story will be if I decide not to tell them, and I don’t care. If I don’t feel I can trust them, it’s a no.”

Blair was starting to think he didn’t know Tony all that well, because he expected Tony to chafe at that, but he totally accepted it. He felt absolute certainty from Tony, which was even weirder.

All the Alphas conceded that the final call on Tony’s safety was Jethro’s, and all the Wyverns were looking at Tony, no doubt wondering about the certainty Blair was sure they could all feel.

Even Gibbs was even flashing Tony a funny look. “You know something I don’t, Tony?”

Tony shrugged. “You’ll know whether or not to trust them.”

Gibbs brows drew together. “There’s something you’re not saying.”

“I… maybe we should discuss it in private first.”

“Is it relevant to this situation?” Gibbs prompted.

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“Then let’s get it out. What else do you know?”

“Well, it’s not really what I know, it’s what you know. Precious said some Alphas get specialized skills as well. I didn’t get a rundown from It on what all they can be, but we talked about you in particular. Precious said you had a gift called knowing. That you’d had it since you became an Alpha, but it would get tremendously stronger after we bonded.”

Gibbs still looked puzzled, then suddenly his expression cleared. “My gut.”

Tony nodded. “Your gut. So, if your gut tells you to trust Chris and Buck, I won’t have any doubt about it.”

“My gut can’t take the place of common sense, Tony.”

“I’m not saying it should. But if we have a viable plan, your gut is a final check I’m happy to have faith in. Just like at work.”

Gibbs sighed, but looked thoughtful.

Jeremy also sighed. “This mission to bring down Rupert… I’m now inclined to think we’ll want Jethro’s participation. I had hoped to leave you two out of it to give you time to settle in your bond. Also it’s somewhat suspicious to bring you to England so soon after your mating.”

Blair interjected before they could get too far down that path. “Well, let’s talk about that situation before we re-plan Colorado. When are we going to be ready to act? If we do it fast, we could go to England first, and maybe there’s only a few days before they could go to Colorado.”

Jethro held up a hand to get everyone’s attention, but he was focused on Tony. “I think you have something to say about this.”

Tony didn’t look like he wanted to be put on the spot first, but he reluctantly said, “I think Blair has to be able to spirit walk before you confront Sewell. I don’t think he’s going to give up the location of the Wyvern, no matter what you threaten him with. And I have a hunch it’s not going to be something straightforward like his family home.”

Blair finished Tony’s thought. “So, I may have to spirit walk for the location. Which means, I need to get some practice in before we do anything to tip our hand.”

“Why don’t we try this,” Rossi started. “Here in DC we’ve got a couple top-notch computer people who might be willing to help us do some preliminary investigation without tipping off Sewell: Garcia and Abby. I feel confident they can be trusted. We lay some groundwork for whatever plan we come up with, Tony and Jethro go to Colorado, Richard and Blair work together on the spirit walking, and as soon as he has that locked, Tony and Jethro return and we go to England.”

Blair noticed that Hotch had been fairly silent, seemingly mostly interested in keeping Spencer close, but he was obviously considering the plan. Out of the blue, he faced Jim. “What do you think about Brown and Rafe doing an observers’ week with the ATF out of Denver? Team 7, maybe?”

Jim considered for a few seconds, then nodded. “They have no connection to Tony and Gibbs, so they’d make good choices. We know we can trust them and they’d be additional on-site security already read-in if there are any problem with emerging Wyverns or with Tony.”

Blair was probably the only one to see Tony roll his eyes. Okay, maybe Jethro caught it too.

When no one said anything for several seconds, Rossi added, “Jeremy, Richard, Jim and Blair can stay here. We have plenty of room and we could make this home base for the mission in England. If Abby and Garcia are willing to help, they can work from here whenever they have time.”

Jeremy nodded. “Events from the past several days have me concerned about trusting this to the computer technicians on the council payroll. I don’t doubt any of them, but we have some people in other positions who I am more cautious about. Yes, if the young ladies are willing, it would be most helpful to keep this operation contained to as small a group as possible. We will not be able to stay more than a week without arousing suspicion, however.”

Blair nodded. “I hope we can train me up quickly, because I hate leaving that poor Wyvern there a moment longer than necessary.”

Jim got up and hunkered down by his chair. “We all do, Blair. I’d say go to England tonight if I thought it would give us the best chance of getting the Wyvern out alive. But I really don’t think that’s the case.”

Blair nodded again, even though he was feeling heartsick at the prospect of delay.

Rossi got to his feet. “Our guests will be here in forty-five minutes, and I need to do something about dinner.” He eyed Tony. “You any good in the kitchen, Tony?”

Tony gave him a cocky grin. “Who do you think you’re talking to, Rossi?”

“You want pasta or sauce?”

“Pasta,” Tony said, hopping to his feet. He squeezed Blair’s shoulder on his way into the kitchen.

“Don’t let me down, DiNozzo,” Rossi challenged. “Pasta is serious business.”

“All the reassurance you need is in the name, my man. Hey… you put eggs in pasta, right?”

– – – –

Chapter Nineteen

Tony wiped off his hands and left the kitchen to a more than capable Rossi. The pasta was made and ready to drop in the water as soon as their guests arrived. They were late, but had called to say something about their nav trying to put them in a lake, which had made Blair and Jim laugh for some reason.

Everyone was still discussing minor details and plans for the upcoming trips. Part of Tony wanted to be involved in figuring out what they were doing next, but he wanted to talk to Blair even more, and who knew when he’d have another opportunity.

He tapped Blair on the shoulder, getting his attention. “You got a minute?” Gibbs was watching closely. “Be back soon,” he tried to reassure his mate.

Without demur, Blair followed Tony upstairs to the bedroom. Once the door was closed, he asked, “What’s going on, Tony?”

Tony tried to think of how to phrase his question, but couldn’t think of an intro. Abruptly, he blurted out, “I should be freaking out.”

Blair’s lips quirked in amusement. “It kind of seems like you are.”

“Actually, I’m freaking out because I’m not freaking out.”

A full smile formed, and Blair asked, “What do you think you should be freaking out about?”

Tony started pacing, hands moving in agitation. “Everything! I mean, I basically got married last night. More married than regular married, even. I’m commitment phobic, and it doesn’t even bother me that I’m tied to Jethro for the rest of my life. That’s not normal.” Tony hesitated. There was one other big thing, but he really didn’t want to say it out loud because he was pretty sure at least one Alpha was listening to this conversation.

Cocking his head to the side, Blair paused to consider for a few seconds. “I feel like you’re not saying something.”

Feeling a sudden burst of inspiration, Tony pulled out his laptop and woke it from hibernation. “Give me a sec. I know we only have a few minutes before Chris and Buck arrive…”

“Hey,” Blair lay a hand on his arm and looked closely at him. “You’re important. If we need more time to talk, we can pick it up afterward, okay? Or they can all just wait.”

Tony blew out a breath. “Yeah. Thanks.” He sat at the end of the bed and gestured for Blair to sit next to him. “Just look over my shoulder.” He pulled up a blank document and started typing. He’d just have to be blunt and try to get this over with quickly.

–I think I should be having some big gay freak-out. I’ve never done any of this stuff before, and I sure as hell have never bottomed. And LJ has fucked me at least a half dozen times in the last 24 hours. Held me down for it. And I liked it. And I’m not bothered by it at all. And that’s really not like me. It should be bothering me. Really. It should.–

Blair had an odd mixture of humor and sympathy on his face. “And it’s mostly bothering you that it’s not bothering you?”

“Yes.”

“Here… hand me the laptop.” –That’s your inner Wyvern. Your dragon is practically purring in contentment when your mate is dominant. It wants to be shown that the mate is strong and virile. It’s not like your personality has changed. But your new instincts say ‘hold me down and fuck me.’ Tell me this, if you’d have been in a relationship with Gibbs as a human, do you think you’d have been the dominant partner?–

Tony burst out laughing. “No. Never even crossed my mind. I was willing to go there for him… anything for him. But I couldn’t imagine it with anyone else.”

Blair started typing again. –Your Wyvern was giving you clues before you ever emerged. This has always been a part of you. So, you see, you haven’t really changed. You were never gonna roll over for anyone else. The instinct was always there, but now you can act on it.– Blair flashed him a wicked grin. –Or let it be acted on you.–

“Smartass,” Tony retorted without rancor.

Blair’s fingers started tapping away again. –I think we all go through that moment where we have this epiphany that we’re not bothered by the changes. It’s just most of us spend at least a week immersing ourselves in our mate before we have to deal with real life. That week allows some gradual acceptance to creep in, so the freak out is minor. You had to mate, then get married, and a few hours later you had to trek to the spirit realm. And you’ve had barely any time with your mate today. It’s not the way we’re built. You’re getting too much time to compare what it was like before, when you should be glutting yourself on Jethro.–

Tony considered that for a minute. It was true that all he wanted to do was be with his mate, but there were all these things that needed to be done. When he was with Jethro, none of the stuff really bothered him, so he could completely see Blair’s point.

Blair nudged him and pointed to the screen. –Half a dozen times already? Really?– Tony rolled his eyes at Blair’s smirk. The laptop was set aside. “Tony, I think you’ll probably have some transition issues with suddenly being in a relationship and getting to know Jethro in a completely new way. And you may have a major freak out coming, but there’s a lot going on for you right now. Maybe you could give yourself permission to freak out about the changes some other time and just enjoy the good parts?”

Tony couldn’t help but laugh. He’d been telling himself that all day. Maybe he just needed someone to agree with him.

“Anything else you’re freaking out about? Or think you should be freaking out about?”

“The list is long,” Tony said with some self-deprecating humor. “But it’ll keep.” Just as Blair was about to open the door, Tony stopped him. “Thanks, Blair.”

“My pleasure, Tony. There’s a lot we didn’t get to, and we’ll need to find time to catch up. You’re important to me, so don’t hesitate, okay?”

Tony nodded, feeling a little stunned. He didn’t often feel important, so Blair’s words were kind of a punch in the gut.

They had just made it downstairs when the doorbell rang and Rossi called out, “Get in here and drop the pasta, DiNozzo!”

One of Tony’s rules was if he made the pasta, he cooked the pasta. Rossi might get stabbed with an olive fork if he tried to cook Tony’s tagliatelle. He headed straight for the kitchen. Once the cooked pasta was drained and in Rossi’s hands, he was kicked out of the kitchen to gather everyone in the dining room.

He quickly greeted Buck and Chris. Buck was obviously overwhelmed, Chris a little less so. Tony figured it was the surprise of four Wyverns present. Tony almost offered his hand, then paused to consider. “Are we still on the no touching thing?”

Blair nodded, and Tony could feel that Gibbs didn’t even like the question. Tony just rolled his eyes. “Seriously, this is stupid. But I’ll wait until the honeymoon is over before I start fighting with my Alpha about it. Come on. Everyone in the dining room. Dinner is like two minutes out.”

The seating wound up a little out of the ordinary based on Tony’s non-dragon experiences. Buck and Chris got the head and foot of the table, with mated Alphas on either side, and the Wyverns all toward the center of the table. Territorial Bastards, Tony thought with a hint of annoyance. Jethro and Jeremy were sitting by Chris, wanting to sound him out during dinner. Hotch and Jim were seated by Buck.

Tony went back to help Rossi, and within a few minutes, everyone had wine and dinner was served. They kept the conversation fairly light through most of dinner. Buck and Chris both congratulated Tony and Gibbs. They seemed perplexed by the fact that the two of them weren’t isolating themselves for the usual week, but were too polite to say anything out loud.

Buck in particular had a hard time not staring at the necks of the Wyverns, and his brows would draw together in confusion.

Tony decided he was done with the tiptoeing portion of the program. He’d wait until Jethro gave the go-ahead to tell them anything major, but it wasn’t like they could hide the bonding. They were effectively wearing collars, for fuck’s sake.

“The neck bands are kind of confusing, huh?” he interjected as soon as there was a break in the discussion. Tony could feel the mild exasperation coming from several people.

“Uh, yeah,” Buck said. “I’ve met an Omega before, and seen a few on TV, but that’s somethin’ new.”

“After we,” he gestured to Jethro, “mated, we discovered there’s an additional bonding that can happen. It’s sort of the dragon equivalent of marriage. It leaves a mark on each other in the form of the partner’s scales.”

Jim obligingly pushed up the sleeve of his Henley to show the pale blue scales on his forearm.

Chris didn’t really react, and Tony mostly felt curiosity from him. Maybe a bit of longing? But Buck was really intrigued and looked closely at Jim’s scales.

Tony picked up the thread of the conversation. “It’s been a crazy few days, and there’s a lot of changes still shaking out. That’s part of why I asked if we could meet with the two of you.” He looked at Jethro, to see if he’d made any kind of determination. Jethro gave a short nod. “Anyway, we’ll fill you in on the whole deal after dinner. But in the meantime, if you have questions, just ask.”

“Okay.” Buck leaned his elbows on the table and gave Tony a speculative look. “Rumor around the hotel was that some Alpha pissed you off into emerging early. Truth or BS?”

“Sorta true,” Tony hedged. “It’d be more accurate to say he pissed me off enough to get tired of the crap I was going through and take the actions that led to me emerging early.”

“Well, that was clear as mud,” Buck retorted, smiling. “Heard it was the head of Mossad who got ya riled up.”

“That’s true. One hundred percent. He and I may actually be mortal enemies, and it was really in poor taste for him to come courting.”

Blair and Rossi both nearly choked, but Buck laughed outright. “Well, if he’s your mortal enemy, least he coulda done was brought ya flowers.”

Now Tony started laughing. He really liked Buck.

“Have ta tell ya, Tony, your Alpha meetings were the most fun I’ve ever had at one of these things. Never played poker at one before.”

“And you were a shark about those peanut butter M&Ms.” He decided to get in his own question. “Let me ask you and Chris a question, do you think those meet n’ greets do anything? Or would you rather just show up a day ahead of time for the gathering?”

Surprisingly, Chris was the one to answer first. “I’ve never thought there was much purpose to it. The gathering seems like that should be it.”

“Yeah, neither of us really held with the idea that talking to an Omega for five minutes ahead of time was going to make much difference.” Buck winked at him. “On the other hand, I might come just for the poker.”

Tony suddenly tuned into the fact that Jethro was really agitated, though nothing was showing in his mate’s expression. Blair, who was sitting next to Tony, flashed him a concerned look. Tony decided he’d handle whatever this was before the evening advanced any further. “I’m about done, but I need to talk to LJ real quick.” He glanced at Rossi. “Can we meet you in the living room in a couple minutes?”

A minute later, he closed the door to their bedroom, and turned to Jethro. “What’s going on?” he asked softly, not wanting to draw the attention of the other Alphas. Though, in theory, Buck and Chris wouldn’t be able to hear around the white noise field in this house. Tony sure couldn’t hear past it.

Jethro’s expression was stony. “Nothing, Tony. We should be back downstairs.”

Tony wasn’t having any of that shit. “No. You told me not to be distancing myself from you. I’m not starting this relationship built on a blatant double-standard.”

Jethro’s jaw muscles worked for several seconds, before he finally said, “He was flirting with you.”

“Who, Buck? Jesus, Jethro, he was flirting with everyone. The man is a natural flirt.”

“Tony, so are you,” Jethro said almost tonelessly, expression blank, but his emotions were all over the place.

“Ah. So two positives make a… what?” Tony sighed and pushed down any irritation. They were really too new into their mating for outside interference like this. Instead he stepped close and cupped the sides of his Alpha’s neck, playing with the black scales behind Jethro’s ears and down the sides of his neck. “I have been gone on you for nearly a decade. I finally have you. And I assure you that I am all yours. I sense no desire from Buck whatsoever. The flirting is meaningless. I will try to tone it down, but I don’t even think about it half the time. It’s almost a reflex.”

Jethro’s arms went around his waist, pulling him close. “I don’t want you trying to be someone else, Tony. My instincts are telling me to keep you away from other Alphas. Especially unmated ones.”

“I think that’s because we should still be on our honeymoon.”

Jethro snorted in amusement. “We should. And my instincts are telling me to bend you over the bed right now and fuck you till you can’t walk. But we have to go back downstairs.”

Tony groaned and dropped his head on Jethro’s shoulder. He really wished Jethro hadn’t said that. He was in physical contact with his Alpha and now he was turned on, which meant his body was getting geared up for sex. Forcing himself to pull away, Tony took a few deep breaths and thought of really unpleasant things.

“Seriously, don’t say things like that if we can’t do something about it.” He huffed out another breath. “Okay. Before we go back, have you made up your mind about those two?”

“Yeah. I think we should tell them everything.”

“Everything, everything? Or just Wyvern everything?”

“The whole deal.”

“Oh. Okay. Um, let’s jot down a note for Jeremy so he isn’t blindsided.” Tony scribbled out a quick note, then nimbly evaded Jethro’s arms again. “No! My body has already started the getting turned on stuff. No more stimulation right now, buddy!”

Jethro’s laugh followed him as he sped back downstairs. Everyone was assembled in the living room, a couple extra chairs added, the loveseat left empty for them. He handed the note off to Jeremy as he passed.

Jeremy read the note, then immediately left to intercept Jethro.

“Everything okay?” Buck asked carefully.

“Oh yeah,” Tony replied glibly. “Newly mated… have to grope each other every five minutes. Everything’s fine.”

Buck barked out a surprised laugh. “I meant with Jeremy and Gibbs.”

Tony blinked innocently. “So did I.” He waved his hand dismissively when half the room sounded like they were going to have a fit. “Don’t mind me. Just pulling the Alphas’ tails.”

“Everything is fine,” Jethro said as he entered the room, glaring at Tony, who smiled broadly in return. Normally, he’d get a head slap for something like that, but instead he just got fingers running through his hair, followed by a gentle tug which felt really nice. Oh yeah, he was going to misbehave frequently if that’s what he got for it!

Jeremy seated himself, still looking a bit concerned. “After discussing it with Jethro, we have decided to fully brief you both on the current situation. I do expect everything said here to be kept in the strictest of confidences. There have been many issues with information leaks, and communications intercepted, so I ask that you refrain from even discussing it with one another unless you can be absolutely certain you are in secure environs.”

Buck and Chris exchanged a look before they nodded to one another. Chris eventually said, “As long as that promise doesn’t jeopardize anyone’s safety, you have my word.”

“Mine, too,” Buck said.

“Very well,” Jeremy relented reluctantly. Then everyone turned their attention to Tony.

“What?” he asked, affronted. “You want me to tell it?” Jeremy just raised a brow and Tony huffed a little. “Fine. I guess I’ll give you the highlights of the last…” Tony thought for a second. “Dear god. Has it only been four and a half days?” Gibbs arm came around him and gave a comforting squeeze. “This is going to make me old before my time. Okay, I guess I’ll start with the weirdo dreams.”

As Tony told the tale, Chris was fairly stoic, letting nothing slip by him, but Buck was like a kid getting told a bedtime story. But when he got to the part about the imprisoned Wyvern, both were visibly upset.

“How can we help?” Chris asked, not missing a beat.

“We’re still sorting out the plan… Blair is going to learn to spirit walk first so we can get a bead on the Wyvern before we confront Sewell. But I think if we need more manpower, it would be good to have more people we can trust who are read-in?” Tony looked questioningly at Jeremy.

“Quite,” Jeremy replied with a nod.

“But, there’s another reason why I wanted to talk to the two of you.” Tony took a deep breath before going on. He really didn’t want to get the hopes up of these two and then turn out to be wrong. “When I met you, I had the immediate thought that you shouldn’t have been at my gathering because you were already taken… in a manner of speaking.”

Both the Alphas looked confused, not even Chris managing to mask what he was feeling.

“Now that I’m bonded, my perception is more acute, and I know what a mated pair feels like. And what I feel from you two is like a shadow of that feeling. I’m interpreting this as you two have already been chosen by a Wyvern.”

Buck reared back a little. “I think we’d know.”

“Unemerged Wyverns,” Tony clarified. “Someone in your life that you’re perhaps inexplicably drawn to, or perhaps who really gets on your nerves, but you still feel protective of. It could be just one person who has chosen two mates, like Spencer, but I kind of get the sense that it’s two different Wyverns.”

Both men had actually paled, but neither was saying anything.

“I’ll take it that someone fits the bill?” Tony suddenly had a thought about what the problem might be if they both knew both Wyverns. “I think you might feel kind of protective inexplicably of any unemerged Wyvern you meet. Like maybe you want to be sure they’re safe, or something. But I’m specifically speaking about someone who has chosen you. You may have even found yourself wishing this man were a dragon so you could pursue him?”

When neither man replied, Tony sighed. “Come on, guys, you’ve got to give me something to work with, or I’ll just have to meet everyone you know until I figure it out.”

Cautiously, Buck said, “Ezra.”

Chris actually sagged in relief. “Vin. I’ve always been protective of Ez, Buck, even though he drives me up a wall most of the time, but it’s Vin.”

Buck looked at Tony. “I’ve always felt protective of Vin, too, especially with this crazy place he lives, but as soon as you started describing, I knew we were talking about Ezra for me. I was just afraid Chris was fixed on him, too.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “So you’re saying they could become Omegas?”

“I’m saying they already are otherwise they wouldn’t be creating these tentative bonds with you, and the first time they come into physical contact with a shifted Alpha Drake, they’re going to start emerging.”

“You really think they’re going to pick us?” Buck asked hesitantly.

“They already did.” Tony said emphatically. “In fact, what we’re proposing is that if they agree to emerge, that we keep it completely secret and not hold a gathering.”

“What if they don’t choose?” Chris asked, revealing nothing, even his emotions locked down tight.

“They will,” Tony replied. “But if by some weird chance they don’t, then we can set the damn thing up.”

Buck rubbed his chin, lost in thought. “So what’re y’all thinkin’? Seems like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now.”

With help from the others, Tony spelled out the tentative plans, with the proviso that Chris and Buck could veto them, and also that Tony and Gibbs could get called away at a moment’s notice.

Chris agreed to have Tony and Gibbs stay with him, and let Tony talk to Vin and Ezra at his ranch as soon as it could be arranged. “When are you planning to arrive?”

Jethro leaned forward bit. “We’d like to get there ASAP, but it’s important that no one know we’re there. Jim is loaning us his plane, so we can land on a private airstrip, and it would be best after dark. So tomorrow night would be ideal.”

Chris nodded. “We’re leaving first thing, but I can pick you up and take you to the ranch.”

Conversation continued for a few minutes, but it was clear the ATF agents’ thoughts were elsewhere. Jim mentioned the idea of having Rafe and Brown do a stint with the ATF as observers if there were Wyverns emerging. Chris agreed, and a few minutes later they were gone.

It had already been a long day, so the group broke up pretty quickly and headed for their respective bedrooms.

The minute the door was closed behind them, Jethro had Tony up against the wall, mouth taken in a fiercely possessive kiss. Tony scrabbled at Jethro’s shoulders, trying to get impossibly closer. Then his neck scales were being licked and nibbled and he bit into his hand to keep from crying out.

Sudden coolness against his back brought Tony back to awareness enough to realize his clothes were gone, his skin and scales rubbing tantalizingly against Jethro’s clothed body. “Clothes,” he moaned, tugging at Jethro’s shirt.

“Shhh,” Jethro whispered against his ear, while lifting Tony’s legs, guiding them around his mate’s waist.

Tony was still reeling from the casual display of strength, when he was abruptly filled with Jethro’s thick cock. Gasping, he arched his neck, banging his head against the wall. After several hard thrusts, Jethro hooked an arm under one knee, pushing the leg up and opening Tony wider. At the new depth of penetration, Tony had to bite into Jethro’s cloth-covered shoulder to keep quiet.

The fucking was hard and deep. Tony could barely move, pinned against the wall, speared on Jethro’s cock. The orgasm when it came was so intense, Tony nearly blacked out, only vaguely aware of the erratic thrusts of his Alpha as he climaxed as well.

Tony came back to himself, nuzzling against Jethro’s Alpha mark, and trying to get his breathing under control. Suddenly, the room spun dizzily, then he found himself flat on the bed.

A moment later, his now naked mate joined him, pulling him close. “You okay?”

“Ask me again later. Right now I can’t feel anything below the top of my head,” Tony retorted.

Jethro chuckled, kissing the top of said head. “Not even this?” Warm fingers traced his throat band.

Tony squirmed. “Evil. Abby says you’re black magic, but I say you’re just evil.”

Outright laughing, Jethro rolled Tony onto his back, hovering over him. “You saying you want to be left alone?”

Smirking, Tony teased the scales behind Jethro’s ears. “Hell, no.”

Jethro dropped down for a quick kiss. “Good, because you’ve got these ten bands, and I’ve only gotten really familiar with one of them.”

Tony’s eyes widened with a mixture of excitement and apprehension as Jethro lowered his head to Tony’s bicep. Oh fuck

Two hours later, Tony was coming down off of yet another orgasm, and praying that Jethro didn’t touch even one more scaly bit, because he didn’t think he could take any more. Did the man never run out of energy?

His Alpha was curled up behind him, running a soothing hand over his chest. “We’ll have to try that again when you don’t have to bite things to keep from screaming.”

Tony groaned and said nothing, because he’d learned that saying anything just seemed to challenge his Alpha to keep going. Sleep claimed him seconds later.

He woke in the middle of the night to his mate once again sliding into his pliant body. Tony shuddered, sleepily moving to meet his Alpha’s thrusts.

“You still freaking out?” Jethro whispered in his ear, and Tony wondered just how much he had figured out about his typed chat with Blair.

“Fuck no,” he managed between whimpers. “Now, do that thing with your tongue again.”

– – – –

Chapter Twenty

“Tony,” Jethro whispered, pulling him gradually to wakefulness. “We’ll be landing in twenty. Time to wake up.”

Tony forced himself to open his eyes, swinging to a sitting position before the plane had even come into focus.

Jethro’s expression was concerned. “You okay?”

“Mmm,” Tony grunted noncommittally. He hadn’t had the best day ever. He’d woken up feeling tired and vaguely on edge, which seemed to translate to easily irritated.

In the morning, he’d sat through meditation exercises with Richard and Blair, since he needed to be able to spirit walk himself, but hadn’t made any progress. Which had raised the question, how had they managed it the first time? Precious had implied it had something to do with the sort of power or energy released during the bonding and spirit merger. Now they had to figure out how to do it the hard way.

Abby had taken the afternoon off to come to the house, meeting up with Garcia to get briefed on the situation. And really, those two together was the stuff of nightmares. Derek was right, the world might indeed stop spinning. Tony had the oddest impression that Garcia was a Beta, which was weird because she didn’t have any scales. He’d decided to ignore it, assuming it was a figment of his imagination brought on by the kooky way he’d been feeling.

The two ladies had both been excited to be involved at all, but horrified at the situation of the Wyvern they were there to help. In the end, Abby had decided to get a sub for a couple days and work on it full-time, while Penelope was going to come by in the evenings. They had both eagerly gotten to work, so Tony had missed his window to spend some time alone with Abby.

Tony had been unable to hide his edginess. All the Wyverns could feel it, and Jethro could as well, but he didn’t know what was wrong, so all he could do was try to cover as best he could. Whenever it got too bad, Jethro would haul him to the bedroom and fuck him stupid, then he’d take a nap and the cycle would start again.

That had persisted until it was time to leave for the airport at 1530 hours, for a 1630 departure. Tony loved flying on private planes, but was too edgy to really appreciate the experience this time. Considering the time change and short duration of the flight, they’d be landing at 1800 hours at a private airfield close to Chris’ ranch.

Jethro’s arm came around him, so he rested his head on his mate’s shoulder. “I wish I knew how to help, Tony.”

“I’m not trying to be stoic, LJ. I don’t know what’s wrong.”

“I know,” Jethro whispered. Tony felt a kiss pressed to his head.

As soon as they were on the ground, Tony turned on his cell and immediately got a text from Blair to call as soon as they could. He decided to wait until they were in the car since the plane was already coming to a stop.

“Go meet Chris and I’ll get our bags.”

Tony wanted to protest, he wasn’t fragile, but he could feel his mate’s resolve and, in truth, he was too tired to fight about it.

Fucking hell, it was cold in Denver, and completely blanketed in snow. Chris was waiting ten feet from the plane with a huge black Dodge Ram four-door pickup. He shot Tony a concerned look. “Tired?”

Tony nodded. “I’ll take the back. Lets me stretch out once we get going, maybe sleep.” Chris actually held the door open for him, which Tony thought was taking things a bit too far.

Within a couple minutes, they were leaving the airport, and Tony remembered to call Blair.

The phone was answered on the first ring. “Tony! Thank god. I should have thought of it sooner, and Richard’s smacking himself in the head, too. It dawned on us after you’d already shut off your phone. But it’s an easy fix and you’re going to be in the perfect place, so it’ll all work out.”

Tony wasn’t sure if Blair actually wasn’t making sense, or if Tony was just really tired. “What are you talking about?”

You need to shift. Spend a couple hours in your dragon form and you’ll be fine. The first week after emergence, we tend to spend about twenty to thirty percent of our waking time shifted. It’s necessary to settle the dragon. There were eight other dragons here… one of us should have thought of it. It’s just that so much of your emergence is fairly unprecedented, we forgot the obvious. I’m really sor

“Blair!” Tony nearly yelled to break the rambling. “No worries. I’m serious… don’t worry about it. Thanks for the info… I’m sure we’ll fit it in.”

Jethro flashed him a glare.

“And judging by my mate’s steely-eyed glare, we’ll be taking care of it ASAP. I’ll send you an email later to let you know if that solved the problem.”

Okay. But listen, I know there’s a lot going on, but if anything is going weird for you, we need to take time to focus on it and figure it out. I’m serious about that.”

“Got it. And judging by the expression on LJ’s face, you’ll hear about it from him if not from me. Things going okay there?”

Abby and Garcia are going to take over the world, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to let them,” Blair commented wryly.

Tony laughed. “I gotta go. Give Abby a hug for me.” They signed off, then Tony shoved his phone in the front pocket of his jeans, before lying down across the backseat.

“Any reason he can’t shift at your place as soon as we arrive?” Jethro directed to Chris.

“No. There’s space on the opposite side of the house from the barn. It’s a big clearing. The other dragons on the team use it when they want to shift. If you get too close to the barn, the horses will go nuts.”

“Surprised the horses tolerate you even in your shifted form,” Jethro observed.

“Wasn’t sure it’d work at first, but they got used to it. Should mention I asked Ezra and Vin to come out for supper at eight. That’ll only give him about ninety minutes, or I can cancel dinner for tonight.”

“No,” Tony chimed in before Jethro could decide to cancel. “I’d like to at least get started on the conversations so they can get to thinking about it.” At Jethro’s glare, he added, “If I need more time, I’ll shift again after I talk to them. We could get called back to DC at any time, LJ, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity.”

With reluctance, Jethro gave in, and a few minutes later they were pulling onto a long gravel drive up to a moderately sized ranch-style house. Tony was pretty sure the house would be barely visible from the road, if at all, and the clearing behind the house was completely obscured from view.

They dropped the bags on the porch, then followed Chris around to the back of the house. Jethro pinned him with a look. “Stay with Chris. I want to check out the clearing before you shift.”

Tony returned the look with one of his own. The one that said fully trained federal agent. But Jethro ignored it and a few moments later was in his dragon form, prowling around the perimeter of the clearing. If it weren’t for the contrast of the white snow, he’d be hard to see. The matte scales reflected no light.

The moon was up enough for the clearing to be fairly well lit. Tony sighed and muttered, “I’m going to light up like a disco ball out there.”

“You silver?” Chris asked in low tones.

Tony laughed, realizing he’d had his wrist scales pretty well covered last night. “No. White.” Chris shot him a look, and Tony answered the unasked question. “Guess we didn’t mention the color thing last night. Guardians are always white.” Jethro turned and Tony pointed to what he’d just noticed. Shiny white scales on his Alpha’s foreleg.

“Hn.” After a pause, Chris jerked his chin towards Jethro. “A new mate, an unfamiliar place… his instincts are riled up. He knows you’re capable.”

Tony considered that for several seconds, then decided to cut his mate some slack. He nodded his thanks to Chris as Jethro headed their direction. When he was almost right on them, he shifted back.

“Okay, you’re up, Tony.”

Tony suddenly realized there was a problem. “Uh. How exactly do I do this? I haven’t done it on purpose before.”

Jethro took his hand and led him away from the house. “The first few times, just close your eyes, take a few breaths and try to reach inside for your dragon. When you feel like you’re in touch with your nature, want to be in that form and pull.”

Tony frowned, not quite getting it.

“Just try it.” Jethro stepped away to give Tony room to shift.

“You’re not gonna just sit out here and watch me the whole time, are you?” he called out to his retreating mate.

Jethro gave him another look. “Just try to shift, Tony.”

Not convinced it would work, Tony followed the steps, then suddenly his vision was different, sharper, and he was taller and the cold didn’t bother him anymore. Well, that was easy. The edgy feeling he’d had all day was instantly gone.

“Shiny,” he heard from Chris, and Jethro chuckled.

Tony huffed and glanced down at his foreleg. Yeah, he was reflecting every bit of moonlight. How was this at all reasonable? It was no kind of defense to be nearly visible from space.

Jethro approached in his human form, then cool hands patted Tony’s neck, which made him shiver and hiss a little. “Pretty black band around your throat,” he whispered. Then his mate shifted and nudged the side of his neck.

Tony nudged back, then plopped his head on his foreleg and promptly fell asleep.

He woke some time later to find his mate still pressed close. Even though he was sleep fuzzy, he felt a lot better. He glanced around and realized there was a man he didn’t recognize standing near the edge of the clearing. The man had light brown hair and looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, dressed in jeans and a battered leather jacket with a long scarf. He was simply watching Tony.

Tony felt oddly drawn to him, so squirmed away from his mate and slowly approached. The younger man looked cautious but held his ground. Tony stopped when he was only a couple feet from the man, and settled down again, peering at the stranger.

The man took a tentative step closer, then reached out tentatively and touched Tony’s snout with his bare hand. His eyes suddenly widened and he dropped to his knees, hands reaching behind him, clawing at his back.

Tony stared horrified at the man gasping and writhing in front of him. He shifted back just as he heard footsteps pounding across the porch. Chris was almost on them, when Tony instinctively called out, “Don’t touch him!” Chris caught himself at the last second.

Jethro appeared by his side in human form just as Tony was reaching for the man who was still gasping in distress. “What happened, Tony?”

“He touched me. I think he’s emerging, LJ. I don’t know what to do.”

Chris gasped and Jethro swore. “Just go with your gut, Tony. Chris, since Buck is here, get him. There’s room, so both of you shift and get to the far edge of the clearing.”

Working on impulse, Tony forced the young man to meet his eyes, and instantly the man stopped clutching his stomach and settled down. It seemed like something passed between them. “What’s happenin’ to me?”

“You’re emerging,” Tony whispered. “I’m so sorry… I didn’t know it would happen like this.”

“What kind?”

“Omega. The real name for our kind is Wyvern.”

The man actually looked hopeful. “Chris?”

“Is that who you choose?”

“Yes,” the man said with confidence.

“You must be Vin. Come on,” Tony said, getting Vin to his feet, supporting him with an arm around his waist. “We need to get away from the house. I think this is happening soon. If you care about that jacket, leave it behind.”

With Tony’s help, Vin quickly struggled out of his coat and scarf, grousing about it being too cold. Once they were a little away from the house, Tony faced Vin, staring into the startlingly bright blue eyes again. “I’m pretty sure this is going to happen fast. And something tells me it will help you if I’m shifted. Plus I think I can keep you warm.”

Before shifting, Tony realized he needed to give Vin one piece of information, because he didn’t think he’d get another chance. “Listen, when you’re ready, either before or after you mate, find me. There’s a bonding to do.”

Vin was looking a little glazed over, but nodded. Without even thinking about how, Tony shifted again, nearly curling around the emerging Wyvern. Vin leaned heavily against his side, absently stroking Tony’s scales. “Sorry I touched you like that. Never heard of a white dragon… in the moonlight, you’re one of the prettiest things I ever seen.”

Tony snorted in faint annoyance. Pretty? Gah. He looked around and spotted two shifted Alphas about fifty yards away. In the moonlight, they both looked black. He swiveled his head around again, spotting Jethro by the house in human form, preventing another human from running out to Vin.

He felt a building pressure in the air, kind of similar to the way the bondings had felt. Suddenly there was a pale blue dragon practically in his arms. Tony barely knew anything about Vin, but he wasn’t surprised at the spirit gifts. And Tony suspected he had nine bands… another spirit master. Something about the man was peaceful and kind of Zen and practically screamed out for a connection to the spirit plane.

The new dragon, which was a little smaller than Tony, lifted its head, sniffing. Tony knew that the new Wyvern was running purely on instinct. Tony disengaged himself and started to pull away. The dragon blinked at him with blue eyes and made a faint whine of distress. Instinctively, Tony understood the new Wyvern was hesitant to separate from him. Dear god, he was turning into some sort of maternal figure. He put that down on the list of things to freak out about later, really freak out about, and gave the new dragon a little push.

Vin got up and faced him before pressing the side of his head against Tony’s. Letting instinct reign, Tony nuzzled the dragon briefly before retreating. The pale blue dragon blinked at him a few times before looking around, then started sniffing the air. Suddenly, it was off like a shot bounding right up to one of the dragons and nearly knocking it over with its enthusiastic nudge.

The un-chosen dragon came back to join Tony, shifting back to human form. Unsurprisingly, it was Buck. The new arrival standing with Jethro briefly looked relieved before his face went expressionless, and then he turned on his heel and went inside. Buck immediately went after him.

Tony shifted, briefly glancing at the two dragons who seemed to be nearly wrestling near the tree line. He was glad to see that Vin wasn’t exhausted by his sudden emergence.

Jethro wrapped an arm around him and pressed a kiss to his temple. “You okay?”

“Fine. That was all very weird. I take it the other man is Ezra.”

“Yeah. You have any idea what happened out there?”

Tony sighed, resting his head briefly on Jethro’s shoulder. “No, but it all felt very…” he trailed off, not wanting to say it.

“What?” Jethro prompted.

Sighing, Tony muttered, “It felt very paternal.” He refused to say maternal, but it definitely had a mommy vibe to it. Ack!

“You think this is more midwife or mommy?”

Tony shoved his mate, trying to get out of his arms. “You just had to go there.”

Jethro grinned and pulled Tony toward the house. “Let’s go inside… you have some explaining to do.”

“Why do I have to do it?” Tony groused, but followed his mate.

Inside, they found Buck and Ezra on opposite sides of the room not talking. Ezra was about 5’10, had piercing green eyes, and short meticulously styled brown hair. Instead of jumping right into the talking, Tony looked around a little, getting the lay of the house. There was a den with doors that could be closed, which would probably be a good thing; it would enable them to give the newly mated pair privacy.

He was really feeling out of his depth, but there was no Blair here to manage things, so it was on Tony to step up. “Buck, would you get the door to the master bedroom open, stick some bottles of water or something in there, and pull the blankets off the bed? They’ll be in a hurry. If you can think of anything else they might need, go ahead and take care of it. I don’t know how long they’ll be outside. After you finish, we can shut ourselves in the den.”

Buck seemed relieved to have something to do and disappeared into the kitchen.

Tony turned his attention to Ezra. “I’m Tony DiNozzo. You sort of met the strong silent one outside, his name is Jethro Gibbs. I take it you’re Ezra Standish?”

Ezra nodded shortly. “I’m fully cognizant of your identity, Mr. DiNozzo. One would have to be oblivious to miss your visage on the news in recent days.”

Tony blinked at the man. “Um, yeah. You’d be doing me a real favor if you’d call me Tony. Mr. DiNozzo puts me in mind of my father, and that’s never a good thing.”

The man just stared at Tony.

“If you must be formal, maybe just Anthony?” When he got no response, he rolled his eyes. “Okay, then. Would you join us in the den? We can explain, and be out of the way of the new dragon pair.”

Ezra arched a brow. “Ostensibly to discuss Mr. Tanner’s change in circumstance?”

“That’s certainly part of it.”

With a tightly clenched jaw, Ezra preceded them into the den and settled himself in an armchair, crossed his legs and picked at a speck of lint on his shirtsleeve. His clothes were somewhat casual, but Tony knew his designers, and Ezra liked the European stuff.

If Tony hadn’t come into a fairly healthy amount of empathy, he’d think the man didn’t have a care in the world. But he felt an odd mixture of confusion, longing, fear and an odd sense of betrayal. Tony puzzled on that last one for a minute before he thought he understood where it was coming from.

“I take it Vin is a friend, as well as teammate?” At Ezra’s sharp look, Tony continued. “He didn’t know he was a dragon. He hasn’t been hiding it from you,” he commented idly as he took a seat on the sofa, Jethro immediately sitting close.

Ezra’s eyes narrowed slightly. “That seems improbable. Dragon emergence is well documented at one month to maturation, with increasingly troubling physical symptomology as the process progresses. He could not simply ‘not know.’”

“It’s a complicated tale. One of the reasons I’m here was to fill in you and Vin, but things got a little out of control.” Tony took it as a win when Ezra’s brow furrowed. He had a hunch getting the man to show any emotion was a chore.

Buck entered, closing the door behind him, his eyes intent on Ezra. “They’re still playin’ around out there. Not sure how long they’ll be, but they’re melting all the snow. Gonna create a damn ice slick out there once it freezes again.” He seated himself, but seemed poised for something, a posture somewhat at odds with the normally relaxed demeanor.

After staring at Buck for a few moments, Ezra leaned forward a bit and shifted his gaze to Tony. “Rather reluctantly, I must concede that I am somewhat nonplussed by recent developments.”

Tony had to fight down some amusement. He got masks and he understood armor. This man used formality the way Tony used humor. Though he suspected that if Ezra sensed amusement from Tony in this circumstance, it probably would not go over well. “I’m going to just lay it all out for you and then you’re free to ask questions.”

So he spilled the tale of his emergence, the dreams, the truth of Wyverns and Drakes, Tony’s role as Guardian, and his sense that Buck and Chris were already connected to Wyverns. “I came here to meet both of you and determine how we should proceed.”

Ezra’s expression was totally blank. “Sir, am I to infer that you are laboring under the impression that I am an Omega?”

“Yes. I didn’t know for sure until I met you, but yes, you are.”

Standish blinked. “I assure you, I have no dragon genetics. It has been exhaustively validated.”

Tony shrugged. “Neither do I. I’ve been tested multiple times in my life. But the tests are for Drake blood, not Wyvern. You and I are rare in that we have no Drake blood, while most Wyverns have at least some dormant Drake in them.”

“And your supposition is that I will choose Mr. Wilmington if your assessment of my status is correct?”

Tony noticed a slight flinch from Buck. “I feel a preliminary bond between the two of you, yes.”

Ezra stared at his clasped hands for several seconds. “What are my options?”

“Ah, well, you could choose not to do anything and try not to come in contact with an Alpha. I think that’s problematic at best because you already are a Wyvern. It’s not the same as with Drakes. It is what you are.” Tony paused a second, then plowed on. “The second option has two possibilities inherent in itself. You could touch an Alpha in their shifted form, and we wait for you to emerge, either here in Denver, keeping it a secret, or take you to a Dragon Center and let you emerge there. The third option is a new one, you could touch me in my dragon form and it seems you’ll emerge immediately.”

“I have very little utility to my team if I were to choose emergence,” Ezra stated flatly.

Perplexed, and feeling a lot of conflicting emotions coming from Ezra, Tony paused to consider, noticing Buck’s face had gone white.

Buck sat on the edge of his seat, elbows propped on his knees, staring intently at Ezra. “Tell me you don’t really think your only value is going undercover?”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Seriously? If you’re doing mostly undercover, that’s a senior position, so you’re fully qualified to take on a more conventional role.”

Stiffly, Ezra countered, “Mr. Larabee may not concur.”

“Then to hell with Chris!” Buck retorted hotly.

As if summoned by Buck’s comment, the front door crashed open and then quickly slammed shut. There were some muffled thumps from the next room. Buck suddenly flushed and Jethro leaned over and whispered in Tony’s ear, “They didn’t make it past the living room.”

Tony almost groaned with exasperation. Great. On the plus side, he’d been worried about Ezra taking off before they were finished, but now they had a captive audience.

Taking a deep breath, Tony decided to go on the offensive. “Look, Ezra, you can’t BS me. I get you. Even if I weren’t an empath, I’d understand you. Fuck, I am you. You use formality and indifference to keep people away, I use inappropriate humor and misdirection. But I know what it’s like to long for something you think you can’t have.

“I spent nine years in love with this one,” Tony jerked his thumb at Jethro, “thinking there was no possibility. I know you want Buck, you formed a bond with him while still locked in human form, you chose him. You can’t lie to me and tell me the lack of hope you felt wasn’t tearing you up. But you can have what you want, you just have to choose it.”

Ezra looked like he wanted to run, but maintained his mask as much as possible. “I would not choose to impose myself on Mr. Wilmington.”

Buck was about to say something, but Tony waved him off for a second. “When I described the indicators of who their Wyvern was, the first word out of Buck’s mouth was your name. You’re nuts if you think he doesn’t want you.”

“Ez,” Buck said softly, “I’ve always been head over heels about you. I just thought there was no chance for us.”

Blinking furiously, Ezra stared at his hands. “I would not know how to be an appropriate companion.”

Tony took the reins again. “I swear, Ezra, you and I are twin sons of different mothers. It’s been five days since I found out about this. I had every doubt in the world, I was terrified I wouldn’t be me when it was all said and done, and I sure didn’t think LJ really wanted me.

“We’ve been bonded for about forty-eight hours now, and everything is different. You think I’m not still reeling from the changes? I’m still neurotic and scared of commitment, but I know in my soul he wants me, and I know it’ll be the same for you. The bond wipes away any doubt. And I wouldn’t go back for anything.”

A hand on his cheek turned his face to Jethro’s, and he found himself meeting an intense stare, then his lips were abruptly taken in a hard kiss.

He was released, gasping for air and fighting arousal he did not want to become visible, clutching his mate’s shoulders while he got his bearings back.

Ezra and Buck were both carefully staring at their hands. Then Ezra looked up, but not at anyone in particular. “I am in need of a moment of contemplation.”

Looking a little sad, Buck cocked his head toward the door. “We can’t exactly leave yet. They’re still busy in the living room.”

In response, Ezra simply leaned back in his chair and stared at the window, clearly exempting himself from further conversation. Tony sighed, wishing his empathy gave him a clearer picture of what was going on, he just felt an odd jumble of emotions. But he could also understand the jumble, because that’s how he felt when he was given the news.

Silence would have actually been fine with Tony, but the moans and groans from the next room were a background tune he could live without. Since he and Buck were naturally gregarious, they easily kept up an idle conversation to provide cover noise. Ezra never contributed.

Suddenly the doors from the living room opened and Chris and Vin were both standing there, Chris in jeans, and Vin in Chris’ shirt, the smell of sex fairly overpowering. Vin’s hair was totally mussed and his throat was covered in love bites. “What else is it that needs doing?” Vin asked in a husky drawl.

Tony caught on fairly quickly and got to his feet. “Do you wish to bind yourself to one another?” When they both nodded, Tony had them face each other. “Hold your arms like so, and now Chris, clasp his wrists covering the scales.” Tony felt that it wasn’t entirely appropriate to have an unmated Alpha witness this, but decided to make an exception because of the situation.

He looked around for something to write the bonding phrase on, found a pen but no paper, so scribbled it on his hand and showed it to Vin.

Chris and Vin stared at each other for a long time before Vin whispered, “I surrender myself to you.”

The bonding went just like the others Tony had witnessed, yet each bonding stuck out in his memory as unique. Vin wound up with a band of black scales low on his throat, and he placed his band of pearly pale blue scales on Chris’ forearm. That odd bubble-popping sensation occurred at the end of the vows and a sense of energy and well-being swept through him.

Chris started to pull his mate from the room, but Vin resisted, looking to Tony. “There’s somethin’ else.”

Tony thought they might need to wait for Blair, but Vin was looking at him expectantly. Maybe his spirit gifts were telling him something. Tony was certain he couldn’t summon dragon spirits for any dragon who asked, but perhaps just the spirit masters?

“Just try,” Jethro whispered in his ear.

“Vin, by my right as Guardian, I summon your dragon spirit.”

And there it was, a pearly blue Wyvern standing in front of Vin. The merger went the same, then Tony instructed Vin to summon Chris’ guide. Afterward, Chris seemed to lose all patience and slung Vin over his shoulder and left the room, headed toward the master bedroom at a rapid clip.

Tony looked for Ezra and found him standing in the corner of the room, watching everything with wide and somewhat fearful eyes, before his gaze settled on Buck. “Are you certain you wish to have such a bond with me?”

“Ez, I can’t think of anything I want more,” Buck replied with gentle earnestness.

“Hmm. And if Mr. Larabee has no further need of my services?” Ezra asked without inflection.

“That’s not gonna happen.”

“But if it does?” Ezra insisted.

“Then we both find somethin’ else to do. You’re first, Ez.” Buck was emphatic.

“Very well then, I accept.”

Tony blinked. “Um, Okay. Great.”

Ezra shifted his gaze to Tony. “I’d rather the accelerated alternative.”

Part of their task here was to test Tony’s assertion that an Alpha Drake could start the emergence process. If Tony drew out both Wyverns, that wouldn’t happen. But he didn’t think Ezra could stand a month of uncertainty. “Okay. When do you want to do this?”

“Now, if you would.”

“Huh. Well, okay. The more the merrier. Let’s go outside. If you’re wearing anything you care about, leave it.” Ezra looked perplexed, but just followed Tony outside, leaving a very expensive-looking cashmere coat behind. Tony thought about all the things Blair and Spence had taught him in advance of his emergence. He should slow this down and make Ezra listen to all the details, but he went with his gut and said fuck it.

Outside, the clearing looked like it has been stampeded by a herd of elephants. Tony went to the center with Ezra, who was shivering already. “Touch me whenever you’re ready, try to keep eye contact until you feel settled, then just stay close so you can keep warm.”

“Will there be discomfort?”

“Some, but if it’s like mine, it’s not real pain, just a lot of pressure and a burning sensation on the back. Rather intense stomach cramps, too.”

Ezra nodded but looked really unsure. Tony shifted and settled down to let Ezra approach when he was ready. There was a long wait as Ezra stared at him, and Tony got waves of fear and uncertainty from the man.

Maybe his gut was wrong on this one? Tony was about to shift back and tell Ezra he didn’t have to rush into this, when cold hands made contact. Ezra was able to keep eye contact and there was definitely some sort of exchange between them that prevented the collapse. When Ezra had settled he moved closer to Tony, pressing up against him for warmth.

Tony was aware of Buck shifting and moving closer to the trees, but Tony kept his attention on the emerging dragon. Long minutes later, Tony had a pale green dragon pressed into his side, hiding its face under a foreleg.

This dragon seemed more hesitant to leave Tony, so he waited patiently until it was ready. Eventually, Ezra lifted his head and sniffed the air, and then he did the funny little Wyvern goodbye ritual that Vin had done – pressing the side of his head against Tony’s.

It was a matter of seconds before Buck was being nudged in a way that was pretty damn demanding. And then there was the weird dragon-wrestling thing that he and Jethro hadn’t had a chance to do.

He huffed out a breath and returned to the house, shifting back immediately. Jethro was waiting for him with a faint smirk. “Two babies in one day.”

Tony scowled at his mate. “Seriously, do you want to get laid again? Ever?”

Jethro outright laughed and reached up to stroke Tony’s throat scales. “I think my chances are pretty good.”

Tony slapped the hand away. “That’s probably true, but if you want your life outside the bedroom to be happy, I suggest you nix the mom shit,” he replied grumpily.

Resisting a little as Jethro pulled him close, Tony still surrendered fairly quickly to the fierce kiss. “Okay, Tony. Whatever you want.”

Grabbing his mate’s hand, Tony dragged Jethro inside. “Let’s get the second bedroom ready for them. I think we’ve just been bumped to the den. Maybe the couch is a foldout?”

The couch in the den was indeed a foldout and they shut themselves in the room. “You know,” Tony mused while digging through his bags, looking for something to sleep in because he had a hunch they would not go undisturbed, “considering the rarity of Wyvern emergences, we’re likely in the middle of a situation that has never occurred before.”

His sweats were unceremoniously pulled out of his hands and tossed who knew where as Jethro manhandled him onto the sofa bed. He found himself with his Alpha lying on top of him, framing his face with gentle hands and staring intently. “I love you, too, Tony.”

Tony had to blink away the sudden moisture in his eyes, feeling the emotion from Jethro as well as hearing it. He hadn’t expected a response to his confession earlier, and felt nearly undone. He tried to speak, but Jethro placed a finger over his lips. “Shh. Just accept it.” Tony suddenly remembered what Precious had said about letting his Alpha love him, so he simply nodded.

Jethro stripped him slowly, teasing every scale band that was revealed. Tony was vaguely aware of the new couple entering the house, but then his Alpha was sliding into his body and nothing else mattered.

Someday, he wanted to be able to explore Jethro, too. But for now, his mate seemed to have a strong need to assert his control and overwhelm his Wyvern’s senses.

They were jolted from sleep at 0300 by a knock at the den door. Tony groaned into Jethro’s shoulder. “I think someone wants to get married.”

Jethro rolled out of bed, then tossed Tony his sweats. “Vin and Ezra seem more aware of and impatient for the bonding.”

“Maybe it has something to do with how they emerged?” Tony mused, pulling on his sweats and a t-shirt. Once they were dressed, they opened the door to Buck, who had a dazed looking Ezra clamped to his side, both in pants only. “You want to bond, I take it?” At their nod, he continued. “We need the other two. Vin needs to summon your sp– uh, never mind.” Vin and Chris had just appeared.

The bonding went as expected, though Ezra seemed more overwhelmed than the Wyverns Tony had seen so far. Buck pulled Ezra close as soon as possible. They broke apart a few moments later and looked to Vin to summon their spirit guides. Then Buck immediately grabbed Ezra and disappeared down the hall.

The whole process had again left an energized feeling buzzing through them, and four dragons now stood in the den wide awake.

Vin extended a hand to Tony. “Vin Tanner, we didn’t exactly meet yet.”

Tony’s lips quirked and he shook the younger man’s hand. “Pleasure. Anthony DiNozzo. Call me Tony. Sorry for springing that on you. I really didn’t know it would happen.”

Vin just shrugged. “Sometimes things just happen. Ain’t no point in frettin’ about it. ‘Sides,” he looked right at Chris, “I like the result.”

“Coffee?” Jethro suddenly interjected and Tony figured it was half invitation and half plea.

Chuckling, Vin headed towards the kitchen and started a pot. Chris pulled out a French press and a kettle, mumbling about how Vin made his coffee like tar.

Vin leaned against the counter and glanced at Tony. “Chris filled me in, but I’m not sure about a few things.”

Tony nodded. “How about I explain the spirit master bit, and save the rest for when Ezra is available?” He’d definitely need to fill Ezra in on his gifts.

“Fair enough. Also, we’d like to have the rest of the team out some time tomorrow to try to explain this, if you’re agreeable.”

Tony looked at Jethro, who shrugged. “Sure… we can do that.” Tony also had to call Blair first thing. He wondered if Blair would even believe him.

– – – –

Chapters 13-16  |  Emergence Page  |  Chapters 21-24

6 Comments:

  1. Poor Spencer…. he’s damned lucky to be bonded to such strong, loving and good men. I do love Jethro having a few issues with Tony just saying his name. *G*

    • Yeah, I amused the hell out of myself with the idea that Gibbs gets a hard on when Tony calls him by his real name. *snicker*

  2. Great chapter! I’m so glad you’re reposting this both here and on AO3.

    I am curious, though, why you changed from Jet to LJ? (I didn’t imagine that, did I? It was Jet in the previous draft, right?)

    • Glad you’re enjoying it!

      You did not imagine that change! When I wrote that chapter, I literally flipped a coin to decide which name Tony would go with. As I wrote, I discovered Jet was too close to Jethro, and it was harder for me to spot when I was using the wrong name. And you can’d do a global search for Jet without getting Jethro. It was just a change to make my life easier.

  3. Christy Vandiver

    Ok, I don’t know if you’ll answer this since this is an older story but I just have to ask…Chapter eighteen. Do you watch Doctor Who? That beginning scene makes me think of ATMOS.

    • I haven’t seen Dr. Who in years. Do you mean the nav issue scene? If so, that was directly from my own experience where my nav tried to have me turn into the pacific ocean. LOL

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