"Good evening, Leo. Welcome to my home," Enrique Smith said.
The Leo Grisham nodded. "Thanks for inviting me, Rick." His eyes were piercing blue and his hair was silver. His posture was straight and his handshake steady. The gaze swept the foyer, missing nothing. Enrique enjoyed working with military men. They were always unfailingly honest about their crimes. He led the man into the study.
"Would you like a drink?" Smith offered. The young man who'd been lounging by the bar looked up with a welcoming smile.
"JD okay?" Smith's lover asked.
"Perfect." Grisham looked to his host for an introduction.
"Leo Grisham, this is my lover, Tony."
"Hi, Leo. Dinner's on at seven." Tony smiled as he handed out the drinks.
He went back to fetch his own soda. Smith watched him carefully. "Tony," he said warningly as the young man reached for the rum. The young man pouted, but obeyed the unstated order. Tony's medication made it dangerous for him to drink. The problem was, he preferred the alcohol's effects to the drugs' effects.
"I should go check on dinner. It'll give you two a chance to talk," Tony said. "Don't be late for dinner or Rosa will never forgive me." He dropped an absent kiss onto Enrique's cheek.
Dinner was pleasant and delicious. Rosa had created a full range of foods and a perfect desert. Tony's green eyes lit up with pleasure when the apple pie with vanilla ice cream made its appearance. Jethro Gibbs hated undercover work. He hated remembering to answer to a different name. He hated lying to get the truth. Still, tonight had been profitable. They'd made subtle arrangements already and being invited over to dinner with his business partner's life partner indicated Enrique's good faith. The problem was that Gibbs had a feeling he'd been made, but couldn't point to what had set off his gut.
The coffee was sublime. "If you'll excuse me, Leo, I'm going out for a cigarette."
Tony rolled his eyes. "I thought you promised to quit."
"Tomorrow, perhaps." With a fond pat on the top of his lover's head, Enrique was gone.
The door shut firmly behind him. Tony looked at Grisham for a long moment. "What sort of evidence are you looking for? Don't deny it. You're a cop, I know. I won't tip off Ricky. If he's that dumb, he deserves what he gets. Don't tell me anything. I don't think I really want to know. Tell me something cheerful. Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Wife?"
Gibbs stared at the young man for a moment. "Divorced."
"Great. I know this wonderful lady. You like redheads?" Gibbs nodded with a half-smile. "Good. Now, she's really sweet. A little plump, but she's just perfect in all the right places, curves to absolutely die for. And she has a wonderful whiskey voice. She used to smoke, but she gave it up about ten years ago. Decent dancer. And she likes military men. You were military?"
"Cool." Tony's smile was bright. "More coffee?"
"De nada." Tony glanced around the room. "Damn, he had the decanters moved. I was going to offer you a brandy."
Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "Why?"
"Because it wouldn't be nice of me to leave you drinking alone." Tony pouted. There was no other word for it. He wasn't what Gibbs had expected when he came to dinner. The man was strong and fit. He was witty, if a little flighty. And he was interested in a wide range of topics, military history especially. "Or, we could go check out the range. Lots of fun toys down there."
"Ah, mi Corazon, what type of toys did you want to show him?" Smith asked as he settled at the head of the table.
"The range downstairs as you well know. You've been listening at the door for at least two minutes."
"Of course. How else am I to become jealous?" He leaned over to give Tony a kiss, but the boy moved back.
"You smell like cheap tobacco and tar. Go back outside and let the stink blow off."
"Such manners, Anthony," Smith chided.
"Oh, you'd rather I throw up on you. Out!"
Smith rolled his eyes dramatically. "The sacrifices we make, yes?" He sighed. "Perhaps I could be persuaded to give you back the keys to your car." Tony bit his lip. It was obvious that he wanted those keys badly. Gibbs bit the inside of his cheek to keep a straight face.
"And how could you be persuaded?"
"Just a kiss."
Tony sighed. "No, not with you smelling like a bingo tournament. I have my pride."
Smith chuckled. He took a keyring out of his pocket. It was a silver D with a single blue stone that Gibbs assumed actually was a sapphire. "Really?"
"That's cold, Rick." Smith crooked a finger. With a put-upon sigh, Tony leaned over for a gentle kiss. He took the keys without looking away from his lover's eyes.
"Go on, have your fun. Grisham and I will be talking awhile longer. Take your pills."
"Enrique," Tony began, the pleading obvious in his voice, "I don't need to take all of them."
"No pills, no car."
Tony looked ready to cry. "Fine. Goodnight, Leo. Maybe I'll see you around town. I like to shop, Rick doesn't. What about you?"
"Depends on what I need."
"Oh, I'm sure I could show you where to find almost anything." He dangled the keys. "It's a sapphire blue convertible Mustang." A wink and grin accompanied that. "I'll even find you a redhead." He kissed Rick's cheek. "Don't talk too late. You get cranky when you stay up," he murmured. The smile he graced the drug dealer with was more intimate than the kisses had been.
"Goodnight, Tony, it was a pleasure to meet you," Gibbs said quietly as the young man left. He looked over his should at Gibbs and smiled.
"He is a sweet boy," Smith said a little sadly.
"Is he involved in your business at all?"
"No! I would never allow such a thing. He runs my household, yes, but not my business. I would lose him if I tried to involve him."
"I've been made by Smith's lover," Gibbs told the head DEA agent.
"You met his lover?" Mitchell Lewis replied, brows raised. "What did you think of him?"
"Flighty but smart. I think he'd be willing to turn on Smith for us."
"He said that?"
"Not outright, but he basically told me to look for his car at the mall. I'm guessing the high end mall. He also offered to set me up on a blind date." Gibbs' lips twitched into a smile. "What do we know about him?"
"His name's Tony. He uses Smith, but everyone knows it's not his name."
"It starts with a D."
Lewis was startled by that. No one had a line on Smith's lover. The boy was adamantly private. He never used anything but cash or one of Smith's cards. He always steered clear of their plants. "How do you know that?"
"His keyring is a 'D'. Since his first name is Anthony, it's got to be his last name. Looked like real silver."
"We've never gotten a clear shot of him. It's as if he knows where the surveillance is. Why would he suddenly change his behavior?"
"Maybe he found out something about his lover that he doesn't like." Gibbs frowned. "Or maybe he can't close his eyes to it anymore. Smith kept reminding him to take his pills. I don't think he'll tell Smith I'm a cop, but I can't guarantee that."
"You're sure he made you?"
"He was blunt about it, but rushed over it. I think he knew Smith would be listening."
"How tight is his leash?"
Gibbs grimaced briefly. "Too tight for comfort."
"His or ours?"
"Both. He might slip away, but I've got a feeling that he'll always have a tail."
"Did you take your pills like a good boy?" Rick asked.
Tony pouted at him. Pouting about his pills was a habit he wasn't about to break. He hated the way they made him feel. He was always nauseous and they made his thought process fuzzy. He knew he was crazy. He knew he needed the pills, but he hated them. A light tap on his nose broke his pout.
"Yeah. I took them. Harry made sure of it. You could have gotten me a pretty nurse you know."
"Ah, but then you'd be able to get your way."
"I never get my way with you and you're pretty."
Rick chuckled at that and Tony found himself smiling. He liked making people laugh. He got a kiss for his reward. It was deep and soft. He melted. He'd never tell Rick that he'd studied magic as a kid and was good at sleight of hand. "Where is the sleeping pill you didn't take?"
"In the bottle," Tony replied with a sigh. "I took the Prozac, honest."
"I know, baby. I know." Rick stroked Tony's hair out of his face. "Where are the other pills?"
"I only need the anti-depressants. Dr. Roberts said so. I don't have to take the lithium anymore. And I don't like the muscle relaxants."
"You had a panic attack yesterday. You're going to take your pills. No pills, no car."
"Damn it, Ricky!"
"That's the bottom line, sweetheart. It's part of your no harm contract, remember?"
"That things four years old!" Tony knew he was acting like a child, but he couldn't stop himself. He forced the tears away. They'd only make Rick's case for him. Maybe he should just put the gun to his head and pull the trigger. He froze, recognizing the thought as a bad one.
"Tony, look at me." He met the concerned brown eyes. "What's wrong, baby?"
"Just come to bed, okay? I really just need you with me. You haven't been here and I miss you."
A light slap across the face made him freeze in terror. He heard Rick's voice from far away. "Oh, baby, you can't lie to me about this. It only hurts you. Open up." He turned away from his lover. It didn't matter, a strong hand gripped his jaw and he opened his mouth for his pill. There were two pills and he tried to get away. He only needed the sleeping pill, damn them. Water forced its way into his mouth. He swallowed his pills and collapse back into Rick's arms. He was safe. Rick would keep him safe. He curled up to fall asleep in his lover's arms. He felt tears on his face, but didn't know who's they were.
Tony picked at his breakfast. The eggs were perfect and the bacon as crispy as he liked it. Rosa tended to spoil him.
"Baby, you have to eat something."
"I don't want to."
Rick reached over and plucked up a piece of bacon. He waved it around, turning breakfast into a game. Tony didn't really want to play, but Rick didn't ask much of him and this was such a little thing, he had to give in. He bit the end off of the bacon with a triumphant glare. "Will you eat the rest of it or do you want Papa to feed you?" Tony gave him a sly smile. "Oh, it's going to be like that is it?" Rick smiled. He picked up the fork and fed his lover breakfast between kisses. "So, are you going shopping today?"
"I don't know. I'm going somewhere. I've been cooped up in here for weeks."
"How about that group you mentioned? They meet on Fridays, don't they?"
"Not my kind of thing."
"Tony, just check them out. Roberts wouldn't have suggested something he didn't think would help."
"But I've been doing better."
"You have. Take Harry with you if you go out."
"Harry needs a day off. I'll be fine. I won't go far. Maybe I'll go chat up some pretty girls on the beach."
"I'd rather you went and spent my money."
Tony summoned up a smile. "Then, I guess that's what I'll have to do."
"Don't be angry, baby. I only do what's best for you."
"Bullshit. You only do what you think will keep me with you."
Rick cocked his head to the side. "True, but being with me is good for you."
"So, why don't you come shopping with me? We hardly spend any time together."
"Business is good, but it needs to be tended. Give it another week, my sweet, and I'll take you anywhere your heart desires."
Tony pouted. This was familiar. He could work with this.
"Don't be naughty or Papa will have to spank you."
"You wouldn't." The young man hesitated at his lover's smirk. "What the Hell am I thinking? Of course you would. I'll be good. Mostly."
"Now, I've got a meeting. You finish your breakfast. Your tea is getting cold."
"Can I come with you?"
"Be home for dinner?"
"Maybe." Tony waited until his lover had left the room to slump. Christ, why did everything have to be so hard? He didn't want to go out, but if he didn't everyone in the house would be looking at him like he was going to break any second. He didn't want to do anything, but he had to keep up appearances. The mall it was. At least he wouldn't have to deal with anyone he didn't feel like dealing with.
Gibbs glanced at the cars as he looked for a parking space. He did a double take when he noticed the Mustang. It could be just a coincidence, but he didn't believe in them. He wondered if he'd stumble on Tony when he went to find a pair of sneakers that didn't have holes in them. He snorted at his own thoughts. The boy was a material witness, one, and someone else's lover, two. He didn't need the complication. Still, that didn't mean he couldn't create a nice little fantasy in the shower later.
He wandered around the mall, with the vague sense of Kate by his side. He'd stopped seeing hallucinations of her when Cassidy had stepped in. That didn't make him feel any different. He was still going to hunt down Ari and put a bullet in his brain.
"Hey, gorgeous, want a cup of coffee?" The voice was familiar. He looked into the reflection that the store window offered.
Tony's smile brightened his eyes. "Thank God. I need someone to talk to that isn't trying to sell me shit. Come on. There's a great coffee shop downstairs. They make this incredible hazelnut mocha that's as decadent as five hundred count sheets." He glanced over his shoulder to make sure Gibbs was following. "No fair scoping me out when I haven't gotten a chance to really flirt with you."
Gibbs gave him a smile for that comment and caught up with him. The bags Tony carried were a surprise. There was one from the movie store and one from the Gap. He hadn't considered Tony the Gap type. He figured something more upscale. "Enjoying your freedom?"
"Not really. Rick expects me to shop as soon as I get my keys back, so I do." Tony shrugged. "It keeps him from worrying about me. Personally, I'd rather be home playing piano or watching a movie, but here I am and here you are. At least you give me something to look at besides pretty things without a thought in their head. You, have the intelligence to back up your pretty face."
Gibbs chuckled at that. "I'm not exactly pretty."
Tony glanced at him. "You haven't looked at yourself recently then." They walked in companionable silence after that. "What's your poison?"
"Straight up with a shot of espresso."
The younger man's brows rose. He blinked. "Got it. My usual Cindy and a coffee with a depth charge."
They settled at the table in the back, next to the fountain. Tony settled back. He gave Gibbs a thorough once-over. "So, tell me a story, Leo."
"What sort of story?"
"Tell me something interesting. Any hobbies, gorgeous?"
"I'm building a boat."
"Really?" Tony sat forward, his eyes lit up. "What sort of boat?" Gibbs talked about his boat for nearly two hours. Tony merely asked a question here or there or for clarification. They both jumped when Tony's cell-phone rang. He scowled at the number. "Hey, baby," he purred. "I'm at the mall. Where else? No, I hooked up with a cute older guy. I've learned all sorts of things about boats. Maybe if I'm sweet enough he'll take me sailing. What do you think? Well, if you spent more time with me, I might not have to look elsewhere. Oh, calm down, Ricky. It's Leo. We're just having some coffee." The green eyes rolled and Gibbs' lips twitched into a smile. "I'm going to hook him up with Cheryl. The pretty redheaded widow from down the street. She'll love him. You going to be home for dinner?" Tony's face fell. "Yeah, I know. Don't worry. Maybe I'll give Rosa a night off and order in. Be careful. Wake me when you get in. Love you too," he added, closing the phone. He looked mournfully into his empty cup. He literally shook himself. "Come on, Leo, I need to move a little bit. You shoot?"
"Good. Let's go to the range."
"You weren't military?"
Tony laughed. "No way. I used to be a cop."
The young man laughed bitterly. "Don't ask me that, Leo. Just don't. What's agency are you with anyways? DEA? ATF? You aren't FBI, that's for sure."
"Why not FBI?" Gibbs asked, falling into step next to the younger man.
"Not arrogant enough. Even their undercover agents are arrogant. You're just good." Tony winked at him. "Don't worry. I'm not going to rat you out. I'm just curious."
"NCIS," Gibbs said, taking a leap of faith.
Tony frowned for a moment. "Navy? There's no way you're Navy. Handmade boat or not."
"Ah, that makes more sense. Still, NCIS? Is there something happening I should be worried about? Last I heard, you weren't in the habit of busting for normal crimes."
Gibbs shook his head. "That's all the clues you have. Now, what's your last name?"
"Tony," he chided with a light smack to his shoulder.
"Let's see how good you are. My favorite foods are crab cakes and Philly cheesesteaks. Want to know how I hooked up with Ricky?"
"Yes." Gibbs did want to know. He wanted to know how someone with brains got sucked into playing at being a boy-toy.
"Ooooh, wait. The puzzle shop is open. Must be getting closer to Christmas than I thought." Tony darted into the shop. He chose a stack of puzzles. Gibbs couldn't help but laugh at the childlike enthusiasm. The total came to about two hundred dollars. The agent shook his head. "Relax, Leo, I spend more on shoes. Here, take a bag for me."
Tony collapsed onto the couch in his office. He pulled the coffee table closer with one foot and opened up one of his puzzles. The puzzle of Lincoln's head was actually made up of thousands of little pictures. He loved puzzles. He sorted pieces quickly and started building the edges. He never noticed the time slipping away.
"Have you found him yet?" Gibbs demanded. Abby looked at him with a frown.
"Hello to you too."
"Hello, Abby," Gibbs said. "Did you find out who our boy is?"
She smirked at him. "I've got a list of thousands. You need to give me something more. Like fingerprints."
"Try Pennsylvania or Maryland police departments."
"He's a cop?"
Abby frowned. "What happened to him?"
"You tell me." He turned off the connection.
"Baby, it's past your bedtime," Ricky chided. He stroked Tony's hair.
"I'm almost done. There's pizza left."
Rick chuckled. He ran a hand down his lover's back to rest in the curve in the small of his back. Tony leaned into his embrace. They finished the puzzle together, celebrating each correctly placed piece with a kiss. "Did you have a good day?"
"I missed you."
"I'm here now."
Tony curled into his arms, placing small kisses up his cheek. Rick thought it was a shame that they were so often reduced to simply necking on the sofa. The medication that kept his lover stable dampened his sex drive. Rick wasn't willing to give up the one for the other, so he took pleasure in nights like these, when they could touch and explore each other. "Let's take a shower. You smell like smoke. I'll lather you up and stroke you clean. Then, I'll taste every inch of skin to make sure I didn't miss anything."
The drug dealer caught his lover in a hot kiss. He melted into Tony's talented seduction. "Sounds wonderful."
"Success!" Abby exclaimed. She grinned at Gibbs over the video link. She brought a picture up on her screen. "Our boy's name is Anthony DeMarco DiNozzo. The DeMarco is his mother's maiden name. His name was changed when she died. He was both Philly and Baltimore PD. He was working Homicide in Philly. Officially, he was in Homicide in Baltimore and made detective on the first shot. Aced his test. He was training in hostage negotiation when he left." She grimaced. "Seems his partner negotiated the two of them for a classroom of kids. They got twenty-eight hostages out. A little girl, a teacher, and the two cops stayed with the gunman. I didn't get details, but according to the newspapers, the girl, the teacher, and DiNozzo's partner got whacked. He left after the IAB review. He's been on disability since then."
Gibbs frowned at her. "Disability?"
"He's got a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a side-helping of BiPolar."
"Send me everything you can find on him. Do we know how he got attached to Smith?"
"No. I can't find any trace of him after four years ago. It's like he died."
"Just get what you can." Gibbs closed the connection.
Abby taped the picture she had of Tony up by her computer. "Tell me a story, sweetheart," she said to as she turned to her keyboard.
Harry looked at his charge. "Come on, Tone, just take the pills."
"I'll take the pills when you tell me what they are."
"You're paranoia is showing."
"Harry, just humor me. That's what Rick pays you for right?"
Harry Quentin was really starting to hate this job. He'd been hired by a paranoid drug dealer to play nurse to his unstable boy-toy. Said boy-toy, wasn't really. Tony was stubborn, smart, but definitely unstable. "This is Prozac. This is a multivitamin because you stopped eating lunch last week. And this is garlic to keep your blood counts stable. Now, eat up."
"What's this red thing?"
"Why do I need that?"
"You had a panic attack three days ago. You have to take relaxants for one week after a panic attack."
"Then you have to take them every day."
Tony sighed. He looked up through his lashes. Harry didn't waver. Tony took the pills with a swallow of water. "So, basketball or tennis today?"
They jogged the usual six mile route and ended up at the house. Tony stretched before collapsing onto the couch by the pool. "How are you feeling?" Harry asked. This is my life, he thought maliciously, babysitting a fucked-up kid.
"Glassy." Tony rubbed at his eyes. He was stoned. Benes will do that to a guy. Harry felt mildly guilty. He'd weaned Tony off of the lithium, but he could tell that wasn't going to work. He'd kept him mildly tranqed since he'd noticed him spiraling down. They were heading for hospitalization again. He stretched.
"You want to catch a nap?"
Tony looked at him. "I think I'm going to just lay around out here if you have something you want to do."
"I'll check on you in fifteen."
"Come on, Harry. I'm a big boy. I can go to the mall all by myself even."
Harry's lips twitched. "Just be careful. Let me know if you're going to go swimming okay?"
"Don't worry. I'll probably just fall asleep out here."
Harry watched Tony settle himself. The young man settled his sunglasses firmly on his nose and leaned back in his chair. He didn't smile, but then again, Tony rarely smiled when there wasn't someone around to charm. He just looked tired. Harry ruffled the dark hair as he passed by.
"Hi, Leo, come in. Dinner's in an hour. Would you like a drink?" Tony asked as he opened the door.
"No problem." Tony accepted the bottle of wine and raised his brows at the wrapped box. "Should I be jealous?"
"No. It's for you." Gibbs gave him his most charming smile.
"In that case, do you have a will? Ricky gets jealous when men flirt with me."
"I am not flirting with you."
"I believe you." Tony winked. He put the wine on the sideboard to rest. He rang for coffee. "Are you busy this Friday?"
"Yes, I am."
"Maybe I should be jealous. You're going to be out with my man on a Friday night." Tony pouted.
"How do you figure that?"
"Well, I was looking for entertainment on Friday night, since he's going to be out. You're his most recent business partner."
"Stop that," Enrique chided. He swatted Tony on the ass. "You're supposed to be just a pretty face remember?"
"You'd hate me. So can I open this, or should wait until later?" Tony settled onto his lovers lap with his package.
"Your choice," Gibbs shrugged. Tony opened the paper carefully. His eyes lit up when he saw the book.
Ricky chuckled. "There you have your entertainment for Friday night. Good choice, Leo."
"He seemed so pleased with the puzzles he got the other day that I figured those would keep him busy."
"Maybe we can get his nose out of it long enough to have dinner."
"You two were planning to talk business tonight anyway. Which is why you wanted me asleep."
"I never said anything like that."
"No fighting in front of our guest."
"I'll make myself scarce. Enjoy dinner." Tony kissed Enrique deeply. He gave Gibbs a wink as he left, holding the crossword puzzles to his chest. Gibbs had taken the risk of putting an email address in the front cover. He hoped he'd get Tony to act as an inside man. The cop couldn't be happy with the way he was living. He just wasn't vapid enough. Gibbs turned his mind to the op, banishing his cop thoughts and pulling up his cover.
Abby looked up as her computer dinged. There was a message from an address she didn't know. "Trying to get me in trouble?" the subject line read. She opened it. "Tell Leo I got the message."
"Yes!" She pumped her fist in the air. She dialed McGee who was handling the logistics for Gibbs' undercover assignment. "McGee, loverboy responded."
"You've got an email address?"
"A free one that bounces through Amsterdam," she informed him after a quick check. "He's not stupid."
"Okay, I'll have Gibbs call you."
"How's he doing?"
"And how are you?"
"Monitoring his wire at the moment."
Tony jotted a few email addresses and websites into the front of the crossword book to make it look less obvious to an observer that it was a clandestined contact. He sprawled over his bed and started working on the puzzles. He loved crosswords, even though he needed a dictionary for spelling sometimes. Rosa brought him his dinner. He ate it while he worked on the New York Times puzzles. Eventually, he set them aside. He was feeling good for the first time in a few weeks. Maybe it was the suicidal risk he'd just taken making the email contact with an unknown person. It felt good, freeing to do something he knew could get him killed. He decided to go to the conservatory. He emersed himself in the music, never noticing when his lover and their guest joined him.
"Good news, Gibbs. Loverboy emailed us," Abby crowed over the video link.
"What can you tell me about him?"
"He loves movies. I talked to his old captain. She was honest enough to tell me that he left partly to let the department save face. Everyone blamed him for the little girl dying during the hostage situation, even though it wasn't his fault and IAB agreed. He was suicidal. When he disappeared, she thought he might be dead. But they're still paying his disability. He recieves it through a lawyer. The lawyer refused to talk to us without his client's okay."
Gibbs grunted. "Abby? What did he say?"
"Tell Leo I said 'hi'."
Gibbs nodded. "I'll email him. Give me his address."
Tony lounged against his lover as they watched some cop show rerun that Rick liked. Tony didn't bother correcting all the inaccuracies in the procedure. "Rick," he said during a commercial, "are you sure about this deal?"
Rick's arm tightened. "You don't like Leo?"
"Oh, I like Leo, but I don't know if you can trust him. Maybe both of you are being set up. I don't know. This just seems like a bigger deal than you usually take on."
"You spying on my, Baby?"
"Of course not." Tony rolled his eyes. "But you sure seem to have a lot more going into this than usual. You're spending a lot more time on logistics. And you're meeting with Leo more often than Manuel."
"And how would you know that?" Ricky's voice indicated surprise.
"By the simple fact that Manuel's been by the house three times looking for you. He only comes around once a week on a normal week. Even when you've got a big deal going down, he's only here once. I think you've got doubts too or you wouldn't be cutting him out of this." Ricky was quiet for a long moment. "At least take some time to think about it. I don't want you distracted by a pretty face."
Tony shifted. "A little. Just, be careful. I've got a bad feeling about something and the deal's the only thing that I can think of."
"I'll take another look at the deal. Now, hush."
"Just because you've got a crush on David Caruso. . ."
Ricky put his hand over Tony's mouth. The younger man snuggled into his lover's embrace and closed his eyes.
Tony looked in at the circle of chairs. He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. There was no way he was going in there. He'd just lie when his lover asked. It wasn't like a real lie. He was actually in the building. If he stuck around the community center for an hour, he could claim to have been at the center for an hour and let Rick and Harry make the assumption that he'd gone to the group. He turned to leave the area and was confronted by an older man who smiled at him. "Get your ass in gear, kid. Seems to me that if an old man like me has to suffer through this, you should too."
"I was just going to find a basketball game or something. Sorry to intrude."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "Have we met?"
"Nope. Ernie Yost."
"Tony." The young man offered his hand.
Ernie raised a brow as he took it. "You got a family, Tony?"
"Don't be shy. We don't bite. Much. Just ask Jeannie over there."
Tony glanced over at the young woman who was huddled in what was obviously her favorite seat. Her back was the the wall. She was covered practically head to toe. "I'm guessing she's not Muslim?"
"Did they catch the son-of-a-bitch?"
Tony rubbed at his temples. "I really don't belong here."
"Loud noises don't make you jump and twitch? You don't have panic attacks? You don't wake up and look in the mirror and curse yourself because you can't sleep without nightmares?"
"Are you naturally this stubborn?"
"Learned from an old gunny who wouldn't let me get arrested for murder."
"That's a story I need to hear."
"So get in there and maybe I'll tell it to you." Tony glanced at the old man's chest and blinked. He moved his tie to the side. His jaw fell open. Ernie grinned at him. "And if you buy me a drink, I'll tell you that one too."
Jim Byron looked around his group. "I see we have a new face here today." The young man glanced at him, pinning him with green eyes. "Why don't we go around the circle and introduce ourselves? I'm Jim Byron, the group facilitator."
"Buddy Green, I was in construction."
"Billy James. CPA."
"Trisha Lawrence. I'm a teacher."
"Ernie Yost. Former Marine."
"Tony." The young man didn't elaborate, but Jim let it go.
"Fredericka Boots. Miami PD." Freddie glanced at Tony with a sly grin. He raised a brow at her. Then, blatantly looked her over. She nodded as the introductions continued.
"Louis Roderiguez. I was a social worker."
"Mary Trotter. Dancer."
"Let's get started. Louis, you were sharing when we broke up last time. Would you like to continue?"
"Tony, what brings you to our group today?"
"My shrink suggested it and heavily hinted to my lover that if I didn't go to call him." Tony grinned suddenly. "And Ernie there bribed me."
Ernie chuckled. "I did. And it was surprisingly cheap."
"Depends on your point of view."
"Which department?" Fredericka asked.
"Not in Baltimore. Homicide?"
Tony winced. "Hard job."
"So you here because you burned out?"
"I told you, I'm here because my shrink told me to come."
The detective raised her brows. "So, how is Enrique any way?"
Tony's smile grew colder. "Ernie, don't you owe me a story?"
"I said might."
"Have some guts, soldier," Tony shot back. "Hell, you were out-maneuvered by a Gunny."
"Gunnys are a tough breed."
"Thought Marines were too."
Ernie chuckled. "So which branch were you headed for, son?"
"My father wanted me to go Navy."
"I didn't agree. Which war?"
"World War II. Guadal Canal and Iwo Jima." Tony's eyes widened and he leaned closer. Jim hid a smile as Ernie gave into the puppy-dog eyes and told his story. He had the feeling he hadn't learned anything more from the young man than Tony had wanted to share, but there was time for that in the future if they could manage to keep him coming.
Jim lingered as Fredericka cornered Tony. "How did a cop end up playing house with Enrique Smith?"
"I witnessed a deal and asked if he were going to kill me. He liked my eyes." Tony shrugged.
"Why not arrest him?"
Tony laughed at that. The sound was sharp. "I love a good sense of humor in a woman."
"Listen, here's my card. Call me. I can get you out."
The young man took the card and tucked it away. "You're assumptions are wrong. Come back at it from another angle. Now, I owe Ernie a drink."
Jim folded up chairs as he eavesdropped.
"I'm not the only one who needs a change in perspective," Fred said quietly. She looked at him for a long moment. "Maybe he doesn't hit you, but is that enough?"
Tony simply gave her a smile that didn't reach his eyes and turned to go.
"Will you be back?"
"I don't have a choice."
Tony collapsed onto the couch. His lover was going out with Leo again. He should be jealous, but he knew it was just business. The chime of the doorbell startled him. He went to answer it, only to be met by Harry at his bedroom door. "No," Harry said flatly.
"You can't order me around," Tony snapped at his nurse. He was surprised to find himself manhandled back into his room. "Let go of me!"
"Sit on the bed. We need to talk."
"There's someone at the door."
"You're unavailable. I told Rosa. Now, I want you to be honest with me for once. Are you suicidal?"
Tony opened his mouth, then shut it. His jaw trembled. "Not really," he said after a long moment. "Not like it was last time."
"Do I need to scour the room?"
"Do I need to put the sleeping pills with the rest of your medication?"
"Let me check it."
Tony got his gun from the nightstand drawer and handed it over. Harry checked it with almost professional ease. "Why are you drugging me during the day?"
"What are you talking about?"
"The red pills aren't muscle relaxants. I worked Vice. I worked Narcotics. Those are reds. I've given you weeks to tell me the truth. Tell me the truth today or I'll tell Ricky to find me a new nurse."
"He won't listen."
"Yes, he will. Especially when I inform him that I called and talked to my shrink who says there's no reason for me to be on benes."
Harry looked up sharply at that. "You're spiraling down."
"You're cycling rapidly. You were up high as a kite yesterday, today you're moping."
"So, I need to be back on the lithium?"
"Maybe. I'm not your shrink."
Tony glared at his nurse. "I thought you were supposed to tell my shrink if that sort of shit started happening. Get out."
"Now," Tony said flatly. "Pack your things and get out. I'll call the doc tonight and have him make arrangements. Get out of this house. You're fired."
"You can't fire me."
"Yes, I can." Tony stalked past the nurse to the intercom. He spoke in rolling Spanish. Harry glared at him, barely understanding one word in three. The butler was there a moment later. Rosa's husband, Jaun, was burly man who'd once worked as a bouncer. Enrique had hired him away from the club.
"I'm going to talk to Enrique about this."
"You'll get two weeks' pay. Don't worry about it. Ask him for a reference if you like. I won't give you one." Tony nodded to Jaun. The butler escorted Harry out of the room. Tony was startled to see Manuel appear a moment later.
"Trouble?" Enrique's second-in-command was a whipcord thin, dangerous ex-knife fighter. His hair was cropped to almost military shortness. His face and arms bore the scars of his fights. He had a neatly clipped mustache and a fondness for tees that were a little too tight. He was also straight as an arrow and unfailingly blunt.
"Harry's been giving me the wrong drugs. I just sacked him."
"Where's the boss?"
"Out with his new business partner," Tony said, pouting. He stopped, the thought flashing across his mind with such intensity that he couldn't help but speak it. "Is he cheating on me, Manuel? It's not like I'd blame him. I'm such a fucking mess. But I do love him. I just can't. . ." He gestured futility.
Manuel's eyes softened. "Come on, kiddo. Let's get some coffee and you can tell me all about it."
Tony felt his jaw tremble with relief. He had to tell Manuel anyway. He wouldn't out Leo as a cop, but as a possible rival? Hell, he'd do Leo in an instant, if he weren't sure the man was straight and if he were available. They collapsed in the living room with coffee. Rosa came in to fuss over her favorite boy for a moment and Tony smiled at her concern. She straightened his hair and kissed his forehead before bidding them goodnight. She was a good woman.
"Tell me about this new business."
"I don't know much about the business, but I'll tell you about the man. His name is Leo Grisham."
Manuel Spinoza closed Tony's door carefully. His boss' lover had taken a sleeping pill and laid down. He'd waited with him to make sure he fell asleep. He didn't want to have to tell Enrique he'd let Tony kill himself. He went to the front room and made himself a drink. He turned on the television and waited for his boss to get home.
"Manuel?" Enrique seemed surprised to see him. "Is something wrong?"
The fighter turned off the television. "Tony fired Harry. I didn't want him here alone." He left the unstated *why weren't you here* in the silence.
The older man frowned. "Damn. I'll make arrangements in the morning then. Thank you for staying."
"Why didn't you tell me about Grisham?"
"There is nothing to tell. He has provided some small scale distribution." He shrugged. "Tony thinks it's more involved than that, but it is simply two businessmen learning to work together."
"Tony is afraid you're cheating on him."
"You reassured him?"
"He tried not to cry, but," Manuel shrugged. Tony was a broken toy. He couldn't blame him for crying. He'd been there when Tony asked to be killed the first time. The young man had sat down, practically on Enrique's lap. He'd smiled sweetly and promptly informed them of every deal he'd seen going down at their table throughout the night. After that, he asked bluntly, "are you going to kill me know?" He'd asked with such innocent hope that Manuel had laughed. Enrique had been charmed and simply taken him home.
Enrique's lips pinched down and the wrinkles in his forehead stood out. He was getting older. Not any less ruthless or dangerous, but older. "I will talk to him in the morning. Grisham is business."
"And why haven't you told me anything?" Manuel asked.
"There's nothing to tell." Enrique shrugged eloquently. He was lying through his teeth. "There have been promises, but I want to see results before I involve you and the rest of my men."
"You need someone to guard you. Tell me what you think is wrong?"
"He has no reputation. I find myself trusting him." Enrique poured himself a drink and came to settle in the arm-chair across from his second-in-command. "He reminds me of Tony in some ways."
"You think he's a cop?"
"No. He's military. It's something in his eyes. I trust him with this deal. I don't trust him with my organization."
Manuel nodded slowly. "Do you want me to look after Tony tomorrow?"
"I'll take care of him. We'll talk tonight, so we don't have to meet tomorrow."
"The men need to see you. Bring Tony, it's not as if he doesn't know us."
That made his boss laugh. It eased his worry lines. He raised his glass in acknowledgement.
Tony pulled on his tee shirt and then a hooded sweatshirt. He was wearing loose jeans and sneakers that had seen better days. It was his comfort outfit and Ricky wished he could hug him tightly enough to erase his need for it. He tucked his pill bottle into his pocket. "I don't know where Harry kept the reds," Tony stated. "I don't really want to go off of them, but I've only been taking them for a few days. I usually palm them."
"I'll get a nurse with better observational skills this time."
"I don't need a nurse. I can manage my meds. I can talk to the doctor. Honestly, Juan and Rosa can keep an eye on me."
His lover looked at him with haunted eyes. "I need to try," he said after a moment. "I'll talk to the doctor. I'll go to the group. I'll take whatever meds the doc tells me to. And I'll sign a new contract."
Enrique considered the statements for a long moment. This could mean that Tony was getting better, or it could mean that he'd end up in the hospital again. He gave him a small smile. "Okay, baby, we'll try it. I set up a meeting with the doctor this afternoon. I want the contract before the end of the day."
"Si, Ricky." Tony rolled his eyes. He grabbed the backpack that was a remnant of his college days.
"You could get a new bag. Something more elegant."
"I'm used to this. I'm just carrying something to keep myself busy anyway. You won't tell Leo what I said will you? About the cheating thing? I know you wouldn't and he wouldn't. It's just that when I'm in the middle of being down logic doesn't work."
Ricky placed a finger over Tony's lips. "Shh. I know." He glanced down. "You brought your gun?"
"Just in case. It's not loaded. I brought a clip. I thought we might be able to go to the range later. I can pretend the target is Harry's face."
"Tony?" Ricky blinked at that. Tony's temper was never sharp.
"He lied to me. I trusted him to look out for me, but he lied to me and he drugged me. I'm allowed to be pissed. And the range helps me keep from having flashbacks when I hear a gun go off." The young man seemed nervous. The older man let it go. He didn't want to push Tony when he was so obviously on edge. He recognized the babbling as nerves.
"Will being with me cause a panic attack?"
"I don't know! It's so random. I'm not manic or anything. I just have some energy today. Let's just go and not waste it, okay?" Tony darted forward and gave Ricky a quick peck. "Please?"
The older man smiled. "Come on then, baby. Let's go."
Tony was restless. He roamed the warehouse where Ricky headquartered his gang. Eventually, he tired of that and settled on a shipping crate. He located his sketch-pad and a mechanical pencil. He'd started drawing with crime scenes and then decided to take a few courses in it once he was at loose ends. It was one of the few things he'd managed to complete since the PTSD and Depression had taken over his life. He picked a gang member at random. He was pretty sure the man's name was Andres. He had an incredible collection of jail-house tattoos that had been woven together by a very talented tattoo artist. He chose one arm and started to copy the design. It was mostly to see if he still could.
He shifted uncomfortably on the crate. He looked around him, trying to figure out why he was so disturbed. He hunched into his hood a bit more. He wasn't cold, but he could feel someone watching him. He put it down to the drug withdrawal, but he didn't think he'd last it out. He shifted until his back was up against another crate. He propped his pad up on one knee. He frowned as Andres crossed his arms. It didn't really matter, he already had the main outline of his arm, but it did change the angle of the tattoos. Tony turned the page to match the new view.
He listened with half-an-ear to Ricky's pep talk and assignments. It was like every meeting he'd ever attended. There were a few nuggets of useful information surrounded by a bunch of bullshit. The warehouse was open, but the corner they were in didn't echo. There were a bunch of old folding chairs and a few long tables. Manuel was sorting bags of product for each man. Tony abandoned his attempt at the tattoo and turned over a new page to go for the quicker style of drawing that he'd need to catch the action. It was more like his crime scene drawings and the familiarity comforted him.
Eventually, the meeting broke up and the men when to collect their product and go back to their downstream. "Hey, Tony, haven't seen you in awhile," Ernesto said. He was a young man with an easy smile. They'd played basketball together before.
Tony shrugged. "You know how it is. Enrique keeps me busy." Most of the men didn't know that he spoke the same gutter-Spanish they did and he wanted to keep it that way. He didn't like this side of his lover. He didn't like turning a blind eye to it all. He was still half-way hoping Enrique or Manuel would take him to the beach and put a bullet in the back of his skull before dropping him into the water.
Ernesto smirked at the implication. "What are you drawing?"
"Whatever catches my eye." He showed the last drawing off. It was just a rough sketch of Manuel parcelling out kilos, but there was enough detail to know exactly who he was.
Ernesto looked impressed. "Good eye. That's my package. See you for hoops sometime."
"I'd like that."
Enrique watched his men like a hawk. He knew that he'd been infiltrated by someone. There was always a new cop trying to get into the game. He'd known most of these men for years, but there were four new men. It wasn't the best time to let Tony come with him, but there was something about Tony that made the moles tip their hands.
He considered and dismissed Ernesto. He'd trained the young man since he was fifteen. Next to Manuel, he was the most trustworthy of his gang. Tony trusted him, which was unusual. His eyes roamed over the rest of his men. Andres was definitely not an officer. His tattoos were genuine. His record was confirmed.
The four newest were Ramon, Nico, Tomas, and Geraldo. Of the others only Ernesto and Ronaldo had never been to prison. Ronaldo was a suspicious little man with sharp black eyes who always reminded Enrique of a pet rat his sister had when she was nine. He didn't like Ronaldo, but the man was too suspicious to work with or for a cop.
Nico was watching Tony from the corner of his eye. The other three men were simply gathering their bricks, joking with the other members and talking about women. Nico would bear watching. "Ronaldo, a moment." The sly man neared, caution in every motion.
"I want you to have your men watch Nico. I want to know who he talks to."
Ronaldo nodded once. "Of course." Then, he was gone. That piece of business settled, he went to collect his Tony.
"What have you been doing, baby?"
"Drawing." Tony drew the word out to indicate the stupidity of the question. He packed his sketch pad away. He didn't bother to move from his seat though. "What time is the meeting with Dr. Roberts?"
"At two. We have time for lunch."
Tony shrugged. "Okay. Can we go to Wish?"
Enrique smiled. "Of course." If Tony's appetite was up to Wish, by all means that's where they'd go. Getting the young man to eat anything that wasn't pizza or something Rosa had made for him was a challenge. He got a quick smile. There were times that he saw flashes of a bright young man inside the shell of depression. The intelligence, the caring, those never left, but the laughter and joy? Those were fleeting moments.
"And I can have a glass of wine?"
"Don't push it, Tony."
Tony sighed. He climbed off the crate, practically into his lover's arms. The older man gave him a gentle kiss. "Goodbye, Manuel!" Tony called.
Manuel shook his head and made a shooing motion with one hand. Tony let himself curl into Enrique's embrace as they walked out of the warehouse. He settled into the passenger's seat of the Ferrari. He put on his sunglasses, a custom order pair he'd had since they'd met. Enrique reached over and tugged on the hood. "Come on, baby, let me see you."
Tony ducked his head. He pulled the hood off and ran a hand through his hair. His knee jiggled. "Ricky, can we just go. I'm really tense and I think maybe lunch will help."
Enrique started the car without a word. Inside, though, he was cheering. Tony hadn't been this open with him in over a year. For him to actually express himself was a good step towards finding the man he'd been trying to seduce since he'd dropped drunkenly into a bar booth and asked to be killed.
"Smith brought his boy-toy to the warehouse today," Agent Barcley said conversationally. He was one of the DEA agents. The inter-agency team was small, but filled with some of the best. "He hasn't done that in months."
"Any indication as to why?" Lewis asked.
Gibbs didn't bother to sit up. He was leaning back in a corner of the room, eyes closed. He wasn't in charge of this operation, as much as that stuck in his craw, and didn't have to take reports from the other officers on the case. McGee and Abby were all his though. He was waiting on a full background report from McGee.
The DEA agent shrugged. "Rumor has it that he uses Tony as a mole-spotter, but there's never been any indication that Tony's blown an under-cover officer's cover. I talked to the Miami PD and the only ones that have ever seen him say he's nervous as a cat and twice as shy. He stays close to his lover and out of the business. Until Gibbs here, no one ever managed to get a name from him."
Gibbs smirked. He knew they were still trying to figure out how he'd found Tony's last name. Tony DiNozzo: only son of a New York banker who had more money than he needed, a brilliant detective by all accounts, and if Smith was to be believed, suicidal. He pushed himself to his feet. He needed coffee.
Dr. Roberts was a stern, middle-aged man with sharp cheekbones and a pointed chin. Tony thought that if he'd just wear a pair of horns he'd make an excellent devil. He was paternalistic, authoritarian, and sometimes downright mean. Perversely, it was exactly those qualities that made Tony trust him. "You fired Harry?"
"Yes." Tony kept his answers as calm and even as he could. "I had Juan escort him out of the house."
"And this is the result of your call to me asking if you were ever prescribed benzodiazipam because you didn't remember it."
"We won't be able to reassess your meds for six weeks. I don't want you without a nurse for that amount of time."
"I said I'd sign a new contract," Tony argued. "What's the point of the meds if I can't take care of myself?"
"I can call the hospital."
"No! I'll be fine." The young man was slightly desperate and he knew he'd given up more of an advantage than he normally would, but he didn't want to be back under twenty-four hour supervision.
"I'll make arrangements," Enrique broke in. "Perhaps not someone all day like, Harry, but most of the day." He put a finger over Tony's lips. "Hush."
Roberts frowned in disapproval. "Conditions of the contract, then. First, you will not harm yourself. If you feel that you might, you will either call Enrique or me."
Tony nodded. That was part of the original contract.
"You will attend the weekly group meetings that I told you about."
That wouldn't be too bad. He could learn more about Ernie and maybe Fred could get the word to someone that Nico was going to be killed if he stayed undercover. He bit his lip to draw out the agreement. "How about every other week?"
"Every week," Roberts repeated. "It's that or a private counselor."
"Tony," Enrique said quietly, "if the doctor thinks it would help..."
"You could have helped by putting a bullet in my brain the day we met," Tony snapped. He closed his eyes. "Sorry," he muttered. "Fine. Every week." He ran a hand through his hair. He shifted in his seat.
Roberts caught his eyes. "Excuse us for a moment, Enrique."
Tony's lover bristled, but he left them alone in the room. "Anxiety attack?" His voice was calm, mildly curious. Tony nodded. "Bad one?" He shook his head. Roberts lips quirked up. "Feel free to speak at any time."
"Just generally jumpy today. Like there's a target on the back of my neck."
"Sounds as if you don't really want to die."
"Snipers are so impersonal." Tony hunched his shoulders. "I haven't been really suicidal for a long time. I've had a couple of thoughts, but nothing like a plan or anything."
"The anxiety is likely a result of going off of the medication. I've only seen you manic once."
Tony managed a weak smile. "Yeah, well."
"Are you certain you don't want to go back to the hospital for a few days?"
"I don't need it. It's nothing like last time. I didn't even have Ricky take my gun."
Roberts frowned. "If you were any one of my other patients, I'd have that gun locked up in my safe here." He held up a hand to keep Tony from talking. "And any time you need me to take it, I will. I know you want to do this alone. Harry abused your trust. I understand that. You don't want your lover to choose your companion. That tells me that you've made great strides since the first time I met you. Right now, today, you need to compromise on this. You will have someone with you at all times."
Tony shifted in his seat. He stared just over Roberts' left shoulder. "Okay. Anything else, oh my lord and master?"
"I like it. I think I'll adopt it instead of doctor."
Tony snorted. Roberts called Enrique in and they finished writing the contract. Tony read over it before he signed it. It was a habit he didn't plan to ever give up on. His hand shook as he handed the signed copy back to the doctor.
"Maintain your current doses on everything else except the sleeping pills. Take those only when you need them."
"Yes, sir," Tony said quietly. Exhaustion pulled on him. Roberts' eyes softened.
"Make sure he gets a good dinner. And I'd recommend a cuddle. I think it would do both of you good."
Tony rubbed at his temple. Rosa was fussing over him because he wasn't eating up to her standards. "Rosa, I'm fine," he soothed. "I'm just not hungry. But since I'll be haunting your kitchen and getting under foot all day, I'll be able to eat when I am hungry."
She shook her head and pinched his cheek. "Idiot child," she said fondly. "If you are in my kitchen, you get to work, not play your games."
"Maybe I should tag along with Juan then."
The small Spanish woman put her hands on her hips. She gave him a look to rival any of the men he'd worked for. He held up his hands to show his innocence. She shook her head and shooed him toward the kitchen.
Enrique introduced his second-in-command. Gibbs shook the man's hand. They chatted lightly over lunch. Smith was withdrawn, which was unusual. "What's wrong?" Gibbs asked bluntly.
The man blinked. "My apologies. I am worried about Tony. He needs a companion to look after him for a few weeks and I have been trying to rearrange schedules to make that happen."
Gibbs frowned. "How many weeks?"
The dealer blinked again. "Six weeks, give or take. Until he can start his new medications."
"Does this companion need to be able to protect him, or just be there with him?"
Manuel's brows rose. "You have an idea? He likes you, but I think that Enrique would object to your sitting with him. Especially given that Tony finds you attractive."
That made Gibbs pause. "Really?" He couldn't help the surge of pleasure that came with that thought. It really had been too long. He shook his head. "No, my first ex-wife's daughter by her first husband just lost someone close to her. It might do her good to come down here. Free room and board and I'll get her on the plane. Tell her she gets to baby-sit a pretty young man and I won't be able to stop her." Gibbs couldn't help the smile that grew on his face. Abby and Tony would get along like a house-afire. If they didn't kill each other first. "And one of the things on her resume is a medication aide certification. She can read prescriptions, in other words. She picked it up when she was working as a camp counselor one summer."
After considering the offer for a long moment, Enrique laughed. "I would have to meet her and Tony has informed me that he will make the decision this time. A woman would be a nice change. Bring her down and if it doesn't work out, I'll pay for her ticket. If it does work out, she'll get the same salary that Harry was getting."
"It may take a couple of days to make arrangements."
"That is no problem. Tony is staying close to Rosa and I can have people check in on him for the next few days."
Gibbs nodded. "Now, about that shipment," he began his next series of questions.
Tony stared at his lover. "Leo's step-daughter? Why?"
"Because she is mourning a friend and needs to get out of town. It is a perfect fit. She only needs a few weeks to start healing and you don't want another nurse."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "And there's no other reason, like you want to cement your working relationship with Leo?"
Enrique shook his head. "No, my paranoid beauty. No other reason. He thinks you will like her."
"And she's coming when?"
"About half an hour from now."
Tony poked his lover in the arm. "You could have told me. It's not like I'm going to run away."
The older man chuckled and pulled Tony closer to him on the couch. "But if I had told you, you would have spent all your time convincing me that having a woman here would be a bad idea because I would get jealous."
"You will, you know. You don't like women around me except for Rosa. No matter how often I tell you I'm just flirting."
"But I want you to only flirt with me."
Tony shook his head. "Whatever." He settled into Enrique's embrace without any fuss. The dealer smiled into the soft black hair. Tony was doing well this week. He was better than he'd been in over a year. With luck they'd be able to bypass the suicide attempt this time. Tony getting better usually meant he'd figured out a way around Dr. Roberts' contract. The last suicide attempt was simply not getting out of the way of a rival dealer's second. It was the last time he'd let Tony near that area of Miami. "I should call Rosa then, and warn her to have coffee ready."
"I assume she's coming with Leo."
"Coffee." Tony didn't move though. He closed his eyes. "We need a vacation."
"When this deal is done we'll steal a weekend," Enrique promised. "We'll go sailing."
Tony hummed his agreement, eyes still closed. "You're letting me keep my gun, right? Roberts didn't talk to you or something?"
"No, you keep your gun until you need me to take it."
Tony nodded. "Okay then. I'll go talk to Rosa. Our guests should be here soon."
"Hello, Leo. Come in." Enrique ushered their guests into the parlor. The young woman set her black lace parasol by the door. She was petite, but wore platform boots with her black nurse's dress. She had pigtails and a little black nurse's cap with a red skull on it. Tony was leaning against the wall. He blinked at the young woman.
"Hi, I'm Abby!" she said brightly.
"I'm Tony." Tony walked straight into her personal space. "Freddie or Jason."
"Duh. Freddie. He can kill you in your dreams."
"Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart?"
"You're going to make me choose? Um, Grant. Gotta love Charade."
"Have you seen the latest Hellraiser?"
"Yup. Got it on DVD too."
"No. I'll watch you though." She gave him an appreciative once over. "I'll also watch you in the pool. Especially if you're in a Speedo."
Tony gave a mock growl. "I like her. Can I keep her?" He looked at his lover with innocent eyes.
Grisham's mouth was twitching in an attempt to tamp down his smile. "Abby? Do you want to stay?"
"I get six weeks of Miami to hang out with a really cute guy who isn't going to try to put his hand up my skirt? Let me think. Oh yeah."
"Do you want me to put my hand up your skirt?" Tony asked sweetly. "Of course, my lover's a jealous bitch sometimes, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him."
Grisham shook his head. "Sorry, Smith."
"No! Don't be. I haven't seen him this playful in months. And if she does sleep with him, I'll just have to kill her. You understand, of course?"
"If she sleeps with him, I'll kill her before her mother finds out."
Abby stuck her tongue out at Grisham. "He's such a bastard some times."
Her step-father snorted. "You love me anyway."
"Duh. So, tell me, cutie-pie, what brings me down to Florida?"
"My shrink says I need someone with me 24/7. I think he's wrong, but I agreed to it." Tony shrugged. "And you get to keep track of my meds for me. I lose track of time."
Abby nodded. "We need to get you a PDA with an alarm. Or a pager to set for intervals." Her face was set in a thoughtful frown.
"Why don't you show Abby the house, while Leo and I finish up some arrangements. I'll arrange for dinner," Enrique said. He smiled at his lover's obvious pleasure at finding his companion to be a playmate as opposed to a guard. Tony rolled his eyes.
"No business over dinner. Come on, Abby, I'll show you your room." Tony offered his arm and she took it. "Then, I'll show you the media center."
"The media center's much more important. I can always crash there," Abby replied.
"You're telling me that you have an inside man now?" Barcly demanded.
"Inside woman. She's not an agent, but she has loaded a computer program onto Enrique's computers that will let my agent in. She's got Tony talking to her and will pass on anything she finds out. She's also planted bugs in Smith's office, the dining room, and the living room. We're now receiving copies of every email he sends and receives." Gibbs couldn't help the smug smile that grew on his face. He'd told them he should take over the operation, but the director told him to play nicely with the other organizations.
"We'll get a patrolman to help with the scut work." Barcley frowned. "And you're sure she's safe?"
"She's there as my step-daughter. It's safe enough. And I trust that Tony won't try anything. Despite all the issues, he's still a good kid at heart." Gibbs shrugged. "Anything I need to be aware of?"
"Freddie, tell them to pull Nico out. Ricky's got him under surveillance."
Fredericka blinked at him. "You made a vice cop?"
"Ricky did." Tony ran a hand through his hair. He shifted so that his back was more firmly in the corner. There were circles under his eyes today and he looked as if he were about to throw up.
Freddie took a breath. "Do you need to sit down?"
"Yeah. Good idea. Until my ride gets tired of scoping out basketball players." He sank down to the floor, one hand on the cinderblock wall.
"Left or right?"
He patted his left. Her shoulders relaxed as they touched the cool stone. "Will you warn them? No one listens when I call in tips."
"Might be the company you keep."
"Yeah. Well, if Ricky'd get with the plan, that wouldn't be a problem."
"He's supposed to kill me." Tony's lips pulled down into a scowl. "Instead he tortures me with psychotherapy." He pulled his knees up and rested his arms on them.
"So, Nico is a cop. You're sure."
"Positive. Ricky's having him watched by a psycho-cockroach named Ronaldo."
"How do you know?"
"I was the best undercover cop in the Philly PD. I know one when I see one. The problem is, they seem to notice me. I don't know if Ricky gets jealous or angry or what, but it's like they see me once and then disappear. I know at least one of them showed up dead."
A young Goth skipped into the room. She focussed on Freddie for a disconcertingly long moment, then turned her attention to Tony. She crossed the room. "Lap," she stated. Tony lowered his legs to the floor. She settled on his lap and wrapped an arm around his neck. "So, a girlfriend. Finally. You need one. Where's your other sugar daddy?"
"Ernie's at the doctor's. This is Freddie. She works sex crimes."
"Harsh. I'm Abby." She held out one lace-covered hand.
"Nice to meet you. Little sister?" the cop guessed.
"Babysitter. I just make sure he's fed and watered." She studied Tony for a moment. "You didn't sleep last night. Pill tonight."
"Yes. You need to sleep or I'll tattle."
Freddie's laughter caught her unaware. "I like her. Now, do you think he should leave Ricky?"
"Yes. He deserves better. So much better. And all he has to do is ask and I'll whisk him away from it all."
"Your step-father will maim me."
"Nah. He'll just lock you in the basement for a few weeks."
Tony squeezed her to him as if she were an oversized doll. She laughed and ruffled his hair. Tony didn't smile, but he didn't look like he was ready to pass out anymore.
"Come on. Let's go for coffee. My treat." Freddie pushed to her feet. She offered Abby a hand. The younger woman popped to her feet. She held her arms out for a hug with her brows up. Freddie gave her a quick hug.
"I encourage touch therapy. Even for gloomy I-swear-I'm-not-suicidal-boy-toys and especially for cops. It's very important." She kicked Tony's sneaker. He rolled his eyes at them both. He got to his feet.
"A conspiracy already, isn't it?"
"You betcha." Abby's grin lit up her face. She was just adorable.
Tony curled up under the blanket. He pushed the alarm clock off of the table. It didn't break, but it thumped suitably. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Hey, boy-toy," Abby said softly. She knelt down by the bed. "Pill time."
"God." He took the pills and thrust the glass back at her. He curled the blanket over himself.
"Burrito day, huh?"
"I dig it." She ruffled his hair, then left him to close his eyes and relax. He felt the bed dip. He didn't turn over, but he heard the click of keys. Abby had brought her laptop with her. She settled closely enough for him to feel the heat from her body, but she didn't touch him. That was good. His body felt over-sensitive, like every nerve was aching. He focussed on breathing. He closed his eyes and tried to summon up one of his favorite black and white movies. It didn't work. He couldn't concentrate.
It was almost an hour and a half later that Abby spoke for the first time. "I'm going to get some breakfast and coffee. You want something?"
"No, thanks." His voice was soft. "It's going to be one of those days."
"I'll bring something that will keep in case you feel like nibbing later." She tried to leave the bed without jostling him. Her laptop continued to whir even as he heard her moving across the room. "Will your man mind if I bring a blanket in here and take a nap next to you?"
"Nah. He's not really that jealous." He turned onto his other side when she returned. He stayed snuggled in the blanket. He was wearing nothing but sweatpants. He wasn't really cold, but he wasn't warm either. Abby was wearing pajamas with little bats on them. Her hair was pulled back into a loose braid. She wasn't wearing any make-up. There were circles under her eyes. Several bags of chips and a couple of apples littered the foot of the bed. He reached a hand out to set it on her knee. "What's keeping you up at night, Abby?" he asked.
She slid down so that they were eye to eye. "Leo told you I lost a friend right?"
Tony frowned. "I vaguely remember that. I didn't get any details."
"She was shot. It was a sniper. She was trying to protect someone. She even took a bullet for him, but she was wearing a vest. It was after we all thought she was safe." Abby blinked rapidly. "I still keep waiting for her to talk to me or to show up for a spa weekend. She understood me, even though we were really different. She was Secret Service."
"Oh, Abby." Tony wrapped his fingers around hers. He could tell she needed it. Her shoulders curved in. She made a hollow little sound.
"At night, I see her sometimes. Like a ghost, but not really. She's not dressed at all how she ever was. But she talks to me. Tells me that I have to let her go and keep moving. But I don't know how to do that until the bastard who did it is found."
Tony's fingers tightened. In his own mind he saw the blood of a little girl splattered across his pants and the dead body of a teacher laying in a crumpled heap against the wall. He could smell the cordite in the air and the copper of the blood. He resisted the urge to wipe his face. There was nothing there now. Abby was crying now. He pulled her to rest against his chest. It had only been a couple weeks, but he now considered her his little sister. Whoever had hurt her had to pay. Bright, chipper Abby should never have to deal with this sort of grief. She was warm and alive in his arms. Her hair smelled of gunpowder and shampoo. He tightened his grip as she wrapped her arms around his middle.
She cried herself out and they fell asleep that way. When they woke up they found that someone had put a blanket over Abby and put her computer on the side table. The little tray of sandwiches and cookies made Tony think it was Rosa. He huffed a little laugh to himself. Seems she had another child to adopt now. That could only help ease her more mothering tendencies.
"But I don't understand why you stay, Tony," Abby said quietly. She'd gone for a lolita dress today with more ruffles than was strictly sane.
Tony had dragged on actual jeans and a tee-shirt. He leaned against the window and stared out at the water. "Where else would I go?"
"I don't know. DC?"
"That's no place for a fucked up cop. My lawyer enjoys making BPD pay and pay." He managed a sharp smile at that thought.
"You could stay with me," she offered. "I've got a guest room. Or you could share the coffin."
"You actually sleep in a coffin?" He looked over his shoulder at her. She smiled brightly and nodded. "Wow. Leo's your step-dad though. I'm pretty sure he'd cut off my balls, no matter whether we did anything or not."
She considered that for a long moment. "True. But it'd be fun while it lasted."
"But the question stands." They were quiet for a moment. "No, a better question. Why did you agree to come with him?"
"I thought he was going to put a bullet in my brain on the beach. I didn't expect to be here." Tony bit his lip. "But he saw, Abs. He saw me. He didn't blame me for the death of three people. He didn't tell me I should be better than I was or that I should rot in Hell because I let a little girl get killed. He didn't shun me because my partner was dead. He saw that I flinched at sharp noises and that I was still in here somewhere." He tapped the side of his head. "He didn't tell me I was crazy or messed up when I told him that the sniper killed the little girl not our captor. I saw the bullet rip through his rib cage and into her head. And I heard the cover-up say that she'd been killed by the poor bastard first. He saw that I was still wiping my face to get rid of blood and brain matter that wasn't there off of it. Rick saw." Tony choked on tears.
"And?" she prompted.
"And he was supposed to kill me. I chose him because of his reputation. He's a harsh man and willing to destroy people for looking at him wrong and he was supposed to be the easiest one. It wouldn't have hurt him and I might have a chance of getting to heaven if I weren't the one to pull the trigger. He was this shining figure in the middle of a dark bar. He was color inside something dark and grey and I thought that it would be the end of this. End of endless days where I couldn't get up the will to say something bantering to a pretty girl or take another dance. I was just another fucked-in-the-head burn-out hiding in a tropical bar because I thought maybe something there would make me stop being numb. That I'd be able to stop feeling cold and the days would stop stretching out in front of me like a bad French art film."
He turned to face her. "So that's why I stay. Because he saw. He decided there was something in me worth saving. And if someone I know could put the bullet into the back of his best friend has decided there's something real in me, even if it's just that I can banter without thinking, then I have to believe he's right. My so-called friends never bothered to reach out. My frat brother's the only one who bothered with anything. My partner is dead. My career was in shambles. They fed me to the god damn paper and I just can't find it in myself to rise above anymore. So, I'm sorry, Abby. I'm sorry, but I can't just go find a lab job somewhere. I can't go back to school again. I don't have it in me anymore. All I can do is make it one more day without loading my gun and pressing it against my head or picking a fight in a biker bar or jumping off an over-pass or just walking into that ocean and not stopping." He sank down to sit on the floor and hugged himself tight.
Abby bit her lip. There were tears in her eyes. "Oh, Tony," was all she said. She came to sit next to him. He could feel the heat from her body, but he felt cold. Fire and ice battled in his stomach. They sat there, staring into the room until eventually, she put her hand on his hand.
"McGee, get me the file on DiNozzo's last case. Not the crap in the newspapers," Gibbs said flatly.