NOTE: There are 11 fandom references in here. See if you spot them all.
Tony glared at the letter that was sitting on his desk. It was pale blue and obviously cost money. It was addressed directly to him, but Tony didn't want to open it. "Hey, McGee, you wouldn't have a steamer anywhere, would you?"
"I'm sure it's fine, Tony. It came through the mail room and after the lecture they got from Gibbs when the Pestis got through, I don't think there's anything that makes it to your desk that hasn't been screened," McGee soothed.
"Yeah, well, I'm not taking any chances. I don't recognize the handwriting and none of my friends would use good stock like this. And if it's an invitation to a wedding, I really don't want to open it."
Gibbs stopped on his way into the bullpen. He picked up the card. "No return address?"
"Take it to Abby. Have her open it under the hood *carefully*."
"Right." Tony took the letter gingerly and hurried towards the lab. "Hey, Abs, I need a favor."
"Can you open this safely?"
"Of course." She pulled on her gloves and headed to the chemical hood. She opened the envelope with tweezers and extracted two heavy bond sheets. They florid handwriting made her grin. "Some one sending you love letters, honey?"
"Considering the last love letter I got at the office nearly killed me, I hope not."
"They look clean. No powders or anything." She frowned. "Looks like Italian or Spanish."
"Oh, great. Probably some long-lost relative that wants to be brought into the country." Tony snorted. He took the precaution of putting on gloves before he took the sheets though. He read through them. The blood ran towards his feet and he sat down a little more quickly than he expected. Abby looked at him with wide eyes.
"What's wrong, honey? Bad news."
"Yes, very bad news. But impossible news too, unless this letter has been missing in the mails system for years and miraculously had the address change on it."
"Meaning, the person who wrote this is dead and wasn't around when I joined up here." His pager went off. "Damn. Hon, can you do me a favor and bag this for me? I need to get upstairs before Gibbs decides to shoot me."
"Or withhold favors?" Abby waggled her brows.
"Hey, now, be good. No one's supposed to know."
"You both told me separately. Just tell him you told me."
"He'll shoot me. Gotta go, sweetheart. See you soon."
Tony grabbed his gear and followed Gibbs, knowing he'd get a run-down on the move.
"A female JAG was found dead in Baltimore."
"That's what I heard you say."
"She was found by a dock-worker who's a little hysterical. It was his wife. You get the husband."
"Right, boss." Tony said, glancing at Ziva. There was no way he could convince Gibbs that Ziva or McGee would be a more comforting presence. Damn, he was screwed. And tomorrow was his birthday. Double damn. "And in Baltimore too. What fun."
"DiNozzo?" the detective on the scene said in surprise. "How'd you find out so fast?"
"Find out what, Mark?"
Mark Crenshaw grimaced. "Looks like that vamp tale you got stuck in."
"Where's the husband? And please tell me you called as soon as you figured out she was Navy?"
"Yeah. We did. Husband insisted on it. She was pretty particular about that sort of thing it seems."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs barked.
"Crenshaw, that's my boss. Try not to piss him off. Where's the husband?"
"Hyperventilating over there with one of the female uniforms."
"Hey, Tony, happy birthday, man."
"Thanks. Now, you want to wrap the killer up in a bow for me?"
Crenshaw grinned after him. The detective turned to face Gibbs. "I remember you, Agent Gibbs. And I remember you stealing DiNozzo before he realized he was being stolen."
Gibbs smirked. "You manage to keep your people out of my scene, Crenshaw?"
"We've just secured it and gathered witness statements. It's all yours. Have fun. Don't call me."
"Don't distract DiNozzo."
"He doesn't get distracted at crime scenes. He can be just as charming as you are." Crenshaw shook his head. "I'll pull my men out now. Just don't expect any help from us."
"I want to know what your people touched. Who they spoke to and where they moved."
"As gracious as ever."
"What?" Gibbs snapped.
"We've got more evidence at the office," Tony said as he finished up his sketches.
"Yeah. Can't be the person he's pretending to be though. He'd dead."
"Six to the chest. Two to the head."
"Okay, dead." Gibbs snorted. "So you think it's a copycat?"
"I'll wait for Ducky's read. But Mark's going to get me copies of the old cases for comparison."
"Cases? How many?"
"Fifteen before we caught him." Anger blazed in Tony's eyes when he looked up. "He was a sadistic bastard with a side-helping of sick and twisted."
"How personal did it get?"
"Very personal. I'll explain more when I get copies of the files. You have to see some of it. And I'll need Abs to do some handwriting analysis."
"Can we move her, Duck?"
"Yes, indeed. Mr. Palmer, let's take our young lady home. There's no reason for her to be exposed any longer."
"I sent the husband home with a uniform. I doubt he'll bother him, but he needs someone to make sure he doesn't go killing himself before we're done with him."
Gibbs looked down at his second. "You don't like him."
"He's more worried about not having her salary than he is about her death." There was a bitter little laugh. "At least it decreased his odds of being the killer. I don't think he's got the balls to have someone send me a copycat note while he was busy killing his wife."
Gibbs nodded. "Walk perimeter again."
"The files are here," Gibbs said, voice flat. Tony looked up. Gibbs was skimming one of them. It had to be last one. He leaned over. "Tony, why didn't you tell me about your ex the vampire?" The little boy, put-on voice and pout were for Tony's ears only. Tony flushed.
"Well, you know how it is, he's dead."
Gibbs shook his head and paced back to his desk. When Tony dared to look up again, there was a faint blush rising on his lover's cheeks. "You could sell these and make a fortune."
"Yeah, sort of makes Penthouse Letters look tame. The teasing was incredible."
"But not nasty?"
"No. He was a sick bastard. If the notes had come from a con-artist or even a prostitute, things might have gotten messy, but considering he left a dead body on my doorstep like cat leaving a mouse for its owner, no one really took it up."
Gibbs shook his head. "I don't want you going anywhere alone."
"Boss, I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. Besides, I've moved and my apartment isn't listed someplace easy to find. McGee could do it, but you can't just open the phone book and find me."
"Just start calling women and I'll find one who knows you."
"I'm just likable." Tony sulked for a moment. "Okay, I'll concede, this person might be as sick and twisted at the man who originally wrote those letters, but I can't believe that."
"What on earth are you reading, Jethro?" Director Sheppard said, staring for a moment at Gibbs' face. Tony fought down the surge of satisfaction that came from knowing that even though Jen could tell the man was aroused, she'd never see him that way from anything she'd done ever again.
"Love letters from a killer."
"Oh, read one out, boss." Tony smirked at his lover. Gibbs glared at him.
"My darling hunter, I watched you today, the moonlight gleaming off your hair, making it more part of the night, as you bent over my latest gift. I would have left her closer, but I wanted to see you near the water again. I wanted to imagine the surf crashing across your shoulders to cool you in the heat of the summer night. It's a special place, isn't it, beloved? A place between sea and land where though we meet, all evidence is washed away. Perhaps, that is why you don't respond to my gaze. Without evidence it doesn't exist. But we will live outside of time, my sweet. And when I bite gently, ever so gently, your throat will rise to meet my teeth, arching as you accept that you are mine and that we will always be joined as one. I can smell you, spicy and sweet on the wind and my mouth waters with the anticipation of tasting your skin. I want to hold you, leash the muscles I can see moving as you lift your backpack once more to your shoulder. I love watching you move as you stalk the edges of my kill, trying to catch my scent and follow my spoor. You move like a caged panther, sleek and muscled. I wish I were the cotton that so lovingly embraces the sleek lines of your body. I would wrap myself around you and cover your skin with soft kisses and softer caresses. . ."
"Okay, you can stop now." Tony was sure the nausea had turned him green when even Director Sheppard looked concerned.
"How many did he send?" Gibbs' voice was mild.
"I lost track. Somewhere close to a hundred or two. Sometimes with pretty seals done in wax. Sometimes with ribbons. A feather once along with a description of what he wanted to do with it."
Sheppard frowned in concern. "You're being stalked?"
"Was. Was being stalked. I shot the bastard. It can't be the same person."
"Don't be so sure," Abby said holding up a report. "According to my software, the handwriting matches."
"Could it be faked?" Tony asked, desperately.
She frowned. "If it were being faked, it would probably be in English so the author could be sure of the phrases. If I had to stake anything on it, your vampire lover's still alive."
"Which letters did you analyze?" Tony glared at the young woman. She grinned unrepentantly at him.
"The first five I found. I found the discussion of how exactly you'd look as you howled to be. . ."
"Abigail." She glared at him.
"Anyways, your eternal lover seems to be eternal."
"ME certified him dead. Dead. Completely."
"Well, duh, vamps don't have a pulse. So, you going to translate your new letter for me?" She batted her lashes at him. "I've got some of it from my translation program."
"Well, it's idiomatic Italian. Same region my grandmother lives in. She was married to a sailor." He smiled. "It's crude idiomatic Italian that I refuse to translate for someone as sweet as you are."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs snapped.
"Right, boss. I'll type it up." Tony took the letter from Abby. Sheppard frowned, but Tony didn't feel up to playing the usual political games, so he just went to work.
Gibbs followed the director to her office. He closed the door behind himself. "I need to put a guard on him or keep him close. If this person really is a copycat, he'd already made clear his intention to stalk DiNozzo."
She sighed. "Keep him with one of your team. A guard might throw this killer off."
"You want me to use him as bait."
Sheppard looked Gibbs dead in the eye. "Yes."
Gibbs nodded once and left the office. "DiNozzo, translation."
"On your desk. Ducky's coming up with his report. Abby's got something too."
"And I'm making you an appointment with the dentist."
"Boss?" Tony blinked at the non-sequitur.
"I'm not taking any more chances. Lojack, tomorrow, at the dentist's office. Or I'll find a vet and get you microchipped."
His young lover stared at him as if he'd lost his mind.
"How many times have you suddenly disappeared on me?"
Tony scowled. "I'm not some dog that strays away from home."
"Answer the question."
"Three times." Gibbs looked down his nose until Tony shifted uneasily. "Sacco, Jeffrey, and Ziva. That's it."
"And nothing. Kate got kidnapped and taken hostage. Not me."
"Three times too many. Tomorrow. Lojack." Gibbs stalked to his desk to make the arrangements. Tony gaped at him. "Go home and pack. You're moving into the guest room until we find your admirer."
"Boss," Tony said in a fairly even tone, "I will be fine at my own place. I don't need a guard. I've been with you for four years and I was a cop before that. I can take care of myself."
"Not your choice."
"You don't own my personal time."
"Then I'll put you on duty."
Tony gaped at him. Gibbs smirked. The green eyes narrowed. "You would too, wouldn't you?"
Ducky settled against the Jethro's desk to give his presentation. "Our young lady, was tortured before she was killed. There were bite marks up and down her body, but the dentition was not completely human, though I hesitate to classify it. I have a wildlife specialist checking the teeth marks. I remember a case several years back. The killer had literally. . ."
"Yes, Jethro. The bites were inflicted over a series of days, if not weeks. She was not sexually abused. Thank God for small mercies. She was mutilated before death and in fact, died from those wounds." He put the pictures up on the screen. He glanced around the room. Tony was frowning, staring intently at the screen. Gibbs had a similarly cold look. McGee looked faintly ill. Ziva's face was blank. That seemed to speak to her discomfort than anything else.
"How do these marks compare with the marks from the last three bodies?"
"They are similar, but not exactly the same. I'm assuming they came from different animals within the same species."
"Was there any bite with only two punctures from the K9's of a human?"
"Our copycat has access to the police records. We made very sure that we didn't let anyone know that the bites weren't traditional vamp bites near the end. The first ones had traditional bites from his caps."
"He had caps?"
"Yes, to make it look like he had fangs. They were metal and enamel so he could actually bite. Cute dentist though."
"Anything special about the mutilations, Duck?"
"They followed a very strict pattern. I hesitate to say they were perfectly symmetrical, but they were close. He traced the ribs. And he carved a very delicate pattern into her stomach. The shock killed her."
"Let's look at the pattern."
A new slide appeared on the screen. There was a shock of gasped breath. "What is that?" McGee managed to ask.
"It's a coat of arms," Tony replied. "Misha's coat of arms."
"The killer. My eternal love. Or whatever other crap he came up with."
"You recognize his coat of arms?"
"Yeah. He used it on his seal. But do you know exactly how many people in this country happen to have the same coat of arms? It's not even the last name he was using. It was his mother's and it took me some research after his death to make the connection."
"There was never a book on this creep was there?" Gibbs asked.
"No. The victims rarely had attachments who could sell the rights and I never needed the money badly enough. The department didn't like the publicity the case got in the first place. First time I voluntarily called the FBI. They wouldn't take it, though they did send me a profiler. Neurotic as hell. Had all sorts of wild theories about aliens when you got him talking about something that didn't involve the mutilation of pretty young women."<1 X-Files>
"Anything else, Duck?"
"It seems they were fed while in captivity, but not allowed the move. There were bruises on her wrists and ankles that indicate long-term restriction of movement. Abby will have the blood-test results as soon as possible. Catch this one quickly, Jethro. He's been practicing his art for far too long already."
"We will, Ducky. We will."
"And I'm sure he'll resist arrest," Tony added in a low-tone as Ducky left the area. The doctor smiled to himself.
"Tell me about Misha. Everything you can remember."
"God, boss, do we have that kind of time?"
"What's his usual pattern?"
"One girl every two weeks. Letters every few days if not daily. Presents when he's feeling especially romantic."
"He sent me a heart once."
"Yeah, cut out of a cat and neatly packaged in a plastic box. The office kept it as a mascot for awhile."
"And you wonder why I don't want you going anywhere alone?"
Tony shifted uneasily. "He was smart. Went to school for literature, but never finished it. He takes his time evaluating his victims. He keeps them for a long time. It's not a game for him. The displays aren't necessary. They aren't part of his ritual, at least they weren't. It's the killing that excites him."
"Me. He saw me working at one of his dump sites and decided it wasn't seemly enough. He put them on display and start writing letters with the next girl."
Gibbs blinked. "He saw you working one of his cases and changed his MO?"
"Just his dump MO. The rest of it stayed the same. But usually, the bodies were so far desiccated that the ritual part of it didn't show up anywhere but the ME's report. He took prostitutes mostly, then branched out into the working poor who live in the same area. Dark hair is important, but not terribly. He likes pale girls." Tony frowned. "Ziva can I use you as a model for a minute?"
The young woman blinked. "I suppose." She stood up. Tony stepped up behind her.
"Now, please don't elbow me or do anything more drastic." He put his arm around her, pinning her arms to her side. With the other hand he pulled her head to the side. "This is the classic vamp pose. The traditional bite would be here." He bent and grazed his teeth gently across Ziva's neck, his eyes on Gibbs'. He saw his lover shift minutely and cheered himself with the knowledge that he'd created the reaction. "Misha didn't bite there. He might have teased, but his bites were elsewhere. At least his traditional bites. He'd bite here," he traced over Ziva's lips with his thumb. "Or here." He lifted her wrist and brushed along the pulse point. "Or just on the inside of the elbow, here," he said stroking the area. Ziva stayed still. "Or someplace more intimate. And if I was using Abby, I might show you, but I happen to like having my balls where they belong." Ziva leaned her head back on his shoulder.
"Someday you must show me."
Gibbs nearly growled. Tony grinned at him and winked.
"Ah, Officer David, that would be unprofessional." He gave her hair a gentle tug and went back to his desk while she went to hers. She smirked at him. "Misha was convinced, truly convinced that he was immortal. He wanted me to join him." Tony shrugged. "The rest of it is in those files."
"How old was he? Did he have any family?"
"He was thirty. No family that I could find. He was a loner. He didn't party. He wasn't big on the vamp scene even. He barely had any friends. He thought that humans were, on the whole, no better than cattle on which he could feed. The only humans he had respect for were hunters of any stripe."
"Did you ever figure out why he fixated on you?"
"No." Tony's voice was quiet, almost sad. "I should have been able to, but the letters never talked about things like that. He just assumed I was enough like him to want to be turned into a vamp."
"Was that all he wanted?"
Tony smiled a little bitterly. "Oh, no, he wanted what everyone who's ever checked me out wants. Read his letters if you want a clearer explanation. He's explicit. He spent one month solid writing Shakespearean sonnets." He rolled his eyes. "It can't be Misha, boss. And I can't think of anyone who knew him well enough to pull this off."
"Then, we assume it's Misha and the guy who got shot was the copycat."
Tony blinked, sitting up sharply. Gibbs regarded him calmly. "Oh, Christ."
"It was a justified shoot. I read that report. Until this case cropped up, there was no reason to suspect anything different. You are not allowed to second guess yourself on that."
"Right." Tony hated the sarcastic edge that the word wore. He closed his eyes and turned to his computer. "If it's Misha, where has he been for five years?"
"And suddenly he's decided that he wants my attention. I don’t buy it. If he went underground and set someone up in his place, it was for a reason."
The phone rang with Abby and what Tony hoped would be a positive interruption. "Come on down, kids. I've got the results."
Abby grinned at Tony. She winked. "Well, first, there are no animals who's jaws match the bite marks. Nothing in my databases and nothing that Ducky's pretty little friend found. There was human saliva in the wounds. I'm running it, but it looks to belong to more than one person right now." She grinned as her team regarded her with varying levels of suspicion. "Okay, so there was this not-so-good boy-toy that I dated, and his cutie-pie of a little brother. His car was sweet. A '67 Impala with this great back seat." <2 Supernatural> Tony opened his mouth, then closed it at Gibbs' glare. "They're experts in this sort of thing. And when I first met him he declared that vamps were extinct. Didn't exist. Not found in this century. Imagine my surprise when I got a call recently saying he was wrong and they do exist and he'd just found a nest of them. Operative word, nest. They run in packs."
"Vampires aren't real."
"Non-human teethmarks with human saliva? Sounds like something not-normal to me. Anyways, I think our girl was caught by a nest of vamps. It explains the multiple bite marks. Unless your boy was fond of changing his jaw every time he bit or had a girlfriend?" Abby waggled her brows. "But he wouldn't make you jealous would he?"
"Can you check the bites against the previous cases? See if it's the same teeth?" Tony asked. His eyes were fixed on the screen where test results were running. "We didn't have samples of saliva before. He washed the bodies."
"Maybe he thought that leaving her at the docks would destroy the evidence for him."
"He left one on the beach. Tied her to stakes so that she wouldn't float away. That destroyed evidence. He left this one in the same place as the first one."
"Do you think he's going to recreate all of them?" Gibbs asked quietly. Abby frowned at her boys.
"God, I don't know. Despite everyone's belief, I don't have a line on this jerk. I don't know anything but overblown poetry and exactly how his blood splattered when I shot him. I don't know why he turned out the way he did or why he believed he was immortal. I don't know what he's planning and he has never seen fit to tell me. All I can tell you is that he gets progressively more and more violent. And he was killing women long before he started leaving them like art projects. I wanted to look back through the cold cases for girls who matched the descriptions, but things went crazy and there was a dead midshipman in the middle of hotel lobby and then I was being transferred and had no idea why."
Gibbs frowned. "Do you think he's had other kills in the area that we don't know about? Maybe something outside of Baltimore?"
"Yes." The word was spoken without hesitation and Abby's eyes narrowed.
"Why?" Gibbs prompted.
"Because if he's been alive all this time, he couldn't live without it. It's an addiction. He needs to have that power. He needs to feed that addiction with blood and pain. Maybe he fell in love with some other lucky bastard. Maybe he killed him. I don't know. Something changed and he's decided to display them again, but I don't believe that he hasn't been killing. It isn't in his nature. Unless this is one damned good copycat. Someone who studied the files and the scenes and the newspapers. Someone who's spent five years rehearsing for this moment. In which case, they'd still have been killing for five years. You can't do this sort of thing right your first time out. Especially with the coat of arms being done while she was alive."
McGee shifted uneasily. Ziva looked thoughtful. "We can find those rehearsals, yes?"
"Yes," McGee answered.
"Do it," Gibbs ordered and the two left the lab. It was the three of them, the way it used to be before any of the craziness of the first few years. Gibbs turned Tony to face him.
"If you were going under-cover as Misha where would you start?"
"His name. Misha Conners. He's not Russian. He changed his name because he liked the way it sounded. Michael was too generic for him. He changed it as a teenager. I checked." Tony's smile was tight. "Part of my wrap-up report. He didn't want to be famous. He never contacted the radio stations or the news stations. He ignored the press releases that the task force put out." Tony stiffened his spine and tipped his chin arrogantly. "He's better than those cattle he feeds from. He would never submit to a human. But he had to submit to become what he was. He gave himself to a dark master and was birthed into the world as a hunter. He took his pretty prey from the ones that wouldn't be missed. He was just one, but he wanted companionship. He wanted it badly, but he couldn't lower himself for anyone unworthy of his attentions." Tony shivered and shook his head. "I refuse to go any deeper into that role, boss. I refuse to say half the things he writes in front of Abby."
"Tony," she rolled her eyes. "I'm from New Orleans. I've read every vamp book out there. Hello, I know about the sexual overtones. I mean, think about it, opening scenes of the book you can't stand because you don't like Brad Pitt." <3 Interview with the Vampire>
"It's not because I didn't like the movie. It's because I think she's a crap writer. There's better things to waste my time on." He smirked at Gibbs who had to look away quickly. Abby giggled.
"You are so cute," she said. "But I'm not an innocent, Tony. I know damn well what goes on in the world."
"Then maybe I'm trying to remain blissfully innocent myself. I think, I think I better go home and pack a bag. I'll be back in an hour or so."
"Be careful. Call me when you get to your apartment and when you leave."
Tony left, muttering about over-protective bastards and living hells. Abby looked at Gibbs. "You're worried about him."
"This one's personal, Abby. The first case was personal. He feels guilty. And if there's a possibility that he didn't kill the right man, then this is going to get very bad, very quickly. Get me everything you can on the case that was in the papers."
"Sure thing, bossman."
Tony paused inside the door of his apartment. There was something that shouldn't be there - candlelight and soft music. He racked his brain for an explanation. He'd been seeing Gibbs for more than a year. He didn't have any girls who'd come back to the states recently. This isn't something Gibbs would do. And honestly, there just wasn't time. He hit his speed dial.
"I'm here. I'm not alone."
"Damn. I'm on my way. Get outside."
The sword point that was suddenly under his chin made him freeze. "Not an option. See you soon." He hung up and put his phone back in his pocket. He couldn't let whoever this was see him shaken. He looked up and met midnight blue eyes. "Hi," he said with a smile. "New in town?"
The man holding the sword chuckled. "Come in, my darling." Tony moved the sword blade away from his throat carefully.
"That's an antique."
"I noticed. Very good quality. Civil war?"
"Yes. And it's still sharp, so if you don't mind terribly?"
Misha chuckled. "I'm glad to see you in good humor, lovely. Come, sit down with me."
"Actually, I was thinking you'd look pretty good in handcuffs. Want to test my theory?"
Misha moved too quickly for Tony to register. He caught the younger man in a fierce grip and nuzzled at his throat. He ran the sharp points of his metal fangs over the pulse point and Tony fought back blind terror. His hands fisted. He wasn't going to let this just happen. Misha's hands on his wrists tightened in response to his tensing muscles. "Don't fight me, my love. We'll simply sit and talk awhile. Unless you have a white knight riding to your rescue. It wouldn't surprise me if your new master did. He seems to keep a tight hold on your leash."
"I'm not a pet." Pain shot up his arm as his wrist bones ground together. "Let me go," he snarled. He kneed the man in the groin. Misha's jaws clamped down on his shoulder, drawing blood. It didn't give Tony any leverage. Misha lapped at the blood.
"My sweet, sweet Anthony," he purred. "You will come to me, or I will take you, either way, you will be mine." He placed a chaste, bloodstained kiss on Tony's cheek. "But, you've cut our time short. Enjoy dinner, mine-own." He spun, throwing Tony across the room and leaving the apartment. Tony dashed after him. He snarled in frustration. Gibbs found him pacing in the hallway.
"I'm going to kill him again, Gibbs. I swear, I'm going to kill him. I'm going to get his head on a pike in front of NCIS. As soon as the evidence is collected, I'm packing and moving. I'm not staying there. Not now that I know he's been there. I need to burn the sheets on my bed and get a new comforter. God knows what he did." Gibbs caught Tony in a gentle, restraining hug as he called McGee to bring Ziva.
"Ducky," he said, "come to Tony's apartment and bring your bag. He's bleeding."
"It's just a bite," Tony muttered against Gibbs' shoulder.
"I will, Duck." Gibbs turned urged his lover towards the wall. "Sit down, Tony. Tell me exactly what happened."
"It was him. It can't be him, but it was him. I know those eyes and that voice. I've got tapes from him. Poetry mostly, but he'd call every once and awhile. Abby, tell me it wasn't him."
Abby patted Tony's hand sympathetically. "Sorry, honey. It was either your Misha or a clone with the same fingerprints."
"Clones don't have the same prints," he said absently.
"Ah, well, there was this detective I worked with who was really into that sort of thing. He moved up to New York after the shooting in the bullpen, but he swore that clones couldn't have the same fingerprints since twins don't." <4 Homicide: Life on the Streets 5 Law and Order: SVU>
"True." Abby considered. "I never thought of that. The same genetic material." She cocked her head to the side.
"But he's dead Abs. I even checked his eyes. They were that same blue."
"The fingerprints match, honey."
"This is wrong. Completely wrong." Tony rubbed at his neck. The adhesive of the Band-Aids was starting to bother him. His wrists had bruised nicely, but he was ignoring that.
McGee came in just in time to see Abby pat Tony on the head like a puppy and send him to her desk to retrieve a file. Tony glared at him. "There's some more bad news that you don't want to tell me, isn't there?"
McGee nodded. "The body was never autopsied."
"The ME called time of death, but never did an autopsy. He's dead now, so we can't ask him why."
"I know why," Tony said a low voice. "Money. God, this is wrong. What else went wrong with this case that I didn't notice?" He ran a hand through his hair. "He didn't have a pulse. I emptied a clip into him!"
"Maybe he really is a vampire. There's no reason why there couldn't be a vamp or two on the night-shift, right?" Abby soothed. "And they could cover things up." <6 Forever Knight>
"Sun allergies aren't that common."
"And court cases take place during the day."
"Well, my expert contends they just get a nasty burn. They don’t combust."
"The one with the car that didn't think they were real?" Tony shot back. "See? Even the ghost hunters don't think vamps are real. I'm justified."
"Then who would you trust hearing it from?" Abby demanded.
"There was this lady I met in Connecticut who was a consultant for the police up there in things not mainstream." <7 Diana Tregardi Mysteries>
Abby blinked. "Then let's call this chick and she can tell you what you need to hear."
"She's a lady, Abby. And I'm not going to disturb her with something like this. I don't know her well enough."
"How far out of your league is this woman?"
"Stop smirking at me. She was involved. And I could not compete with him. She helped develop that moon and zodiac pattern software you were cooing over."
"The one that lets you plot dates against any sort of calendar that exists? That was groundbreaking," McGee stated.
"That's the one." Tony paced. "There was a lady out in St.Louis that swore she was an expert, but she thinks she can raise the dead too, so I'm pretty sure she's nuts." <8 Anita Blake>
"Necromancy has been practiced for centuries," Abby said primly. "So pretend this is all just a massive cover up and they messed with your head to make you think he was dead."
Tony paced back and forth. "I need some air."
Gibbs caught Tony's arm and hustled him to the car. "We're going to be late. Get in."
"What? Where are we going, boss?"
"I told you, Lojack." Tony settled into the passenger's seat with ill-disguised impatience.
"I'm not a child."
"Never said you were. I just don't want to lose you. He was in your apartment, DiNozzo. I'm not taking any chances." Once they were on the road, Gibbs reached over and gave Tony's hand a squeeze. "I know you hate it when I turn into an over-bearing bastard, but I'm not changing my mind about this."
"I hate it when you treat me like a child."
"If I treated you like a child, I'd have sent you to the corner for language a long time ago."
"I could require it as your boss."
"Think you'd get the agency to buck up for this?" Tony laughed a little bitterly. "Oh, I know, get Abby to write it up as a pilot tracking program. As if we aren't considered expendable pieces of equipment already. You have no right to do this."
"No, I don't." Gibbs paused. "But I also didn't hear you going to the director to protest it either."
"Tone of voice indicated that wasn't an option." The young man rubbed his neck. "Besides, I knew you were possessive before I took up with you. As long as we keep your paranoia at the Lojack level versus GPS in my boxers level, we'll be okay."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Didn't you hear? There's these new panties that transmit GPS location, pulse, and body temperature levels back to the tracker. It's a sick and twisted way of being a possessive asshole."
"Might have to consider that." He managed to keep a straight face, but Tony punched him hard in the upper arm. "Feel better now?"
"Oh stop it. I'll admit you have a point about the Lojack. With the way my luck's been running, we might need it. But I refuse to let you interfere in all of my life decisions. Last I checked, you stopped being the boss when we leave work. And don't give me that Mona Lisa smile and a half-shrug. That's not an agreement, that's a 'I'll let him think that' action."
"I'm not going to stop making you do things for your own good."
"Like getting a tracker in your tooth and eating breakfast before you come to work."
"I eat breakfast. I eat five meals a day. You are Mr. coffee without a meal. If I don't feed you, you get snappish."
"Did you miss your snack?"
"What?" Tony seemed thrown off by the abrupt change in topic. "Well, yeah, actually. Abby was trying to convince me that he's really a vampire or an immortal or part of a government conspiracy and I just didn't have the time."
"There's a granola bar in the glove box."
"Is this a subtle way of saying I'm being bitchy?"
"I don’t do subtle, DiNozzo."
"Right." Tony rolled his eyes, but fished out the granola bar and wolfed it down. "I have never hated anyone the way I hate him. I've never actually wanted to kill someone as badly as I want to kill him. Ari was your obsession and since I'd follow you into hell, I was more than ready to kill him. But I want to hurt Misha, not just put him down like a rabid dog. And I want my sword back. He took it with him. With my luck he'll use it as a murder weapon."
"Tony, try not to think things like that. They have a bad habit of coming true for us."
"Yeah, guess they do." Exhaustion dripped off of the young man. "I thought it was over, boss. It was hell. Fifteen women. Hundreds of letters. I knew him better than anyone I'd ever dated. It was a year of hell. I had other cases. Things came up and went away, but like clockwork, his letters came and his kills showed up. I found killers. I worked on task forces. But he was always there, commenting on my life. It was like he had nothing else to do. He followed me sometimes and I'd almost be able to figure out who he was, then he was gone. I tried so hard not to spend the night at my own house that my reputation slid into whore territory. I stayed at work whenever I couldn't get a date. They didn't really want me working the case because I was 'emotionally involved' but they couldn't take me off of it either. So, I gave press conferences and studied crime scenes. I can't go back to that."
"Is that why you were burning out," Gibbs said softly. "I never wanted to ask."
"Yeah. I nearly drove myself into the ground because of him. Then, bang-bang, and it was over. IA cleared me and I was free. Next thing I knew I was running around as your agent and loving every minute of it. Well, most minutes of it. I still don't like being dressed down, but it's just you being you and I'm usually more than willing to give you that. I like it. It's so you." They pulled to a stop at the dentist's office. Gibbs gave Tony a brief kiss to the temple.
"So let's try to *not* give the impression that I'm beating you, okay?"
Tony pouted. "Damn. There goes half the fun of the relationship." He pulled Gibbs into a hot, open-mouthed kiss. Gibbs looked suitably dazed when Tony let go. He grinned.
"Okay, let's go."
"And people think I'm a bastard."
Tony poked at his numb lip. "Thought this was supposed to clear up in a couple of hours," he said quietly. Gibbs shook his head.
"I would have arranged for laughing gas if I'd known you'd bitch this much."
Tony flipped him off. McGee cleared his throat. "Just spit it out, McGee," Tony snapped.
"DiNozzo, rein it in!"
Tony sighed. "Not you I'm snapping at, Tim."
"I know. Abby's found more evidence of the bites coming from the same source. And Ducky called some guy at the British Museum who's made a life study of vampires. He's sending what information he has." <9 – Buffy: the Vampire Slayer – Giles>
Tony closed his eyes and dropped his head. "So, do we have any missing Navy personnel who fit the victim profile?"
"The search is still running."
The mail guy dropped off the mail and scurried out of the tense area before anyone could snap at him. Tony glared at his retreating back. He pulled on a pair of latex gloves and found Misha's letter. He opened it and scanned through it. It was in English this time. "Boss, someone translated that last letter for him. He hasn't miraculously learned Italian."
"Good. That means he's probably been in the states."
"He's been underground though. McGee hasn't found any trace of him."
"Anything from the paper he's using now?"
"Standard stock you can pick up at any local Hallmark." Tony went still as he read the letter to himself: My dearest, The rage that suffuses you and creates emerald fire in your eyes, excites me more than I would have guessed. I can hardly wait to contain it and tame it down until we can hunt together. I want to run my hands through your hair and hold you for kisses until you gasp for air and beg for more. I want to taste the sweetness of your skin and your blood as you writhe in my embrace. I will glory in the feel of your muscles as you strain against me, fighting the restriction of my grip, even as you submit to my kisses.
The papers were taken from his hand and slipped into an evidence bag before he could protest. He looked up at Gibbs. "You really don't need to read this crap anymore."
"Boss, I need to know what he's planning."
"This isn't a plan, it's a collection of statements he sent to mess with your head under the assumption that you're his lover or will be. I need you with a clear head."
"Then you shouldn't have taken me to the dentist." That earned him a smack to the back of the head and the world righted itself with a thunk. Tony pouted, but managed to focus on the case they had as opposed to the one he'd had in Baltimore.
Abby hummed to herself as she worked at matching bite mark pictures. The music pounded through the room as more and more matches came through. There were two new ones on the latest body. And three had not appeared after the last victim. The phone rang. "Abby Scuito, NCIS," she answered sweetly. "Do you have a moment, my dear? I need you to send some photographs to a gentleman I know in San Francisco who may be able to identify our beast." <10 Poltergeist: The Legacy>
"Okay, coolness. Who?"
"A gentleman of varied interests. Mostly his organization handles antiquities of an unusual nature. I do think you'd like his security officer. He was a Navy SEAL once." Ducky read off the email address.
"Got it. I'll send him copies. And this SEAL, is he available? Any body art?"
Ducky chuckled. "I'll check, my dear."
"Thank you, my darling." She hung up and turned back to her latest group of pictures. "Yes! Got another one."
"Another what?" Gibbs asked. She jumped.
"Don't do that!"
"Turn down the noise and you might be able to hear me."
"Right. You still sneak up on Tony and he's way more paranoid than anyone else."
"I like how he jumps. What have you got, Abby?"
"Well, I've got another match on the bite marks."
"Anything we can use?"
"I've got plenty for comparison when we catch this guy." She bit her lip. "Is Tony okay?"
"Bossman," she said warningly.
"His jaw is sore, but I've got the Lojack number for you to keep track of." He winked at her.
"Oh, you are so bad."
He handed her a card. She stared at it.
"You seriously got Lojack for Tony? This isn't a joke?"
He gave her a lop-sided smile. "It's cheaper than replacing him."
"Report on my desk in half an hour." He left the lab.
Tony paced through Gibbs' house, feeling like a dog that had been crated. He knew his anger was completely irrational. He sighed. Bottom line was that Misha scared him and Tony didn't do scared. Nervous, worried, or frantic about something that might happen to his team, yes, he could handle that. He was scared to stay in his own apartment and that pissed him off. Gibbs caught him as he paced by the cellar door again. The older man wrapped his arm around the young man's waist. "Let go of me," Tony snapped.
"You're driving me crazy, DiNozzo."
"You always were, Jethro."
"Come downstairs, baby," Gibbs soothed. Tony bit his lip. He looked into his lover's calm, blue gaze. He slumped against him, wrapping his arms around his neck. Gibbs held him, rocking gently and stroking his hair. "It's okay, Tony," he murmured. "Come downstairs. I need a hand with the planks anyway."
Tony shivered. "Avoidance is not my best coping mechanism."
"Not avoidance, just using up nervous energy."
"There's other things we could do."
"Is that what you want?"
Tony shivered again. "No, not really," he murmured. He let Gibbs lead him into the basement. He settled on the table under the boat to watch as Gibbs worked. The droning noise of the local news station drifted to the back of his mind. Tony leaned against one of the smooth ribs. Gibbs ruffled Tony's hair as he passed by.
"I love you, Tony."
Tony smiled. "Love you too."
"Hold this here." Tony held the plank steady. Gibbs finished his measurements and took the wood over to his bench to hand-drill it. Tony smiled. He was ridiculously happy with his life right then.
"So tell me more about her. Tell me about what you're doing."
Gibbs glanced over his shoulder. "You really want to know or are you just bored?"
"I need to know. I need to fill my head with something new."
His lover nodded once. "Okay. Right now I'm drilling the peg holes."
"But, Boss," Tony began.
Tony slumped into his chair. He poked listlessly at the keyboard. "It's not like I'm going to do something stupid," he muttered.
"What did I tell you?"
"I'm not allowed to go anywhere alone. It's just right down at the end of the street. I'll be there and back in a flash." Gibbs didn't reply, just pinned the young man with a sharp gaze. Tony shivered under the regard. He knew he was pushing, but he couldn't help it. "I can take care of myself."
"Get to work."
"Christ, boss, this is busy-work."
"It needs to be done."
"Just shoot me. I'll even give you my gun. Gibbs, I'm going crazy like this."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs' voice was even sharper this time and Tony flinched away from it. He sat sullenly in his seat. He didn't look up when Ziva returned from the lab. McGee was in court today. "There's a budget meeting at one. Since you're bored, why don't you go for once?'
"Because the director hates me?" Tony straightened his tie and put on his suitcoat. He glanced at his watch. "I'll go get lunch then."
"I don't think so."
"Gibbs, last time I checked I was over eighteen and armed. I'll just go to the cafeteria. I won't even go out of the building."
Tony sighed. "Not that hungry. Vending machine again, I guess. He won't come after me during daylight hours."
"I'll go pick up lunch," Ziva offered. Tony glared at her. Then, his gaze softened.
"How about if Ziva and I go to get lunch? You just said I couldn't go alone, not that I had to stay in your line of sight," he pointed out. He was grasping at straws and he knew it.
Gibbs nearly growled. "Fine. No longer than an hour. Do you hear me?"
"Yes, boss." Their eyes met. Tony looked away first. This wasn't the right time for this fight.
Ziva smirked at Tony. He glared at her. "Where are we going for lunch?" she asked.
"You are going wherever you want. I'm going to the corner diner."
The Moussad agent paused. "Gibbs will shoot me if I let you out of my sight."
"Then come on." Lunch with Tony, she found was rather pleasant. He'd turned on his charm for the general public and it was a relief from the snappish young man he'd been at the office. All too soon it finished up. "We'd better get back before Gibbs decides I'll look better without a head." He paid the bill without saying anything more. They were on the way out the door, when he paused. He glanced around the street. Ziva did as well, out of habit. She didn't notice anything out of place. "I. . I think we need to get inside, right now," he said, placing a hand in the small of her back.
"What is it?" she hissed as they got closer to the building.
"Instinct. Glint of light off of a scope or camera lens. Can't tell which."
It was twenty minutes later when the flowers arrived. Tony plucked the card out. "Soon, baby," he murmured. "Damn it." He put the card into an evidence bag. He took out a pair of scissors, obviously planning to cut up the flowers.
"Don't let him get to you," Gibbs ordered.
"Better I take it out on flowers than McGee."
Gibbs snorted. Tony snipped at the flowers, shredding them into his waste-basket. No one disturbed him and his mouth had turned to a furious frown. Ziva took a breath and turned back to the research she was doing. The vase hit the basket with a loud thunk, drawing her attention. Tony was very carefully cleaning moisture off of the scissors. He turned to his computer and started to type something in. She didn't say a word, but her mind spun with the possibility that she'd misjudged him. He was more dangerous than she'd first deduced.
"Jethro, I'm going for a run."
"Let me change."
"No, I need some time alone. I can't stand this. I feel like I'm in a damned cage."
"Maybe I should try that," Tony's lover teased lightly. Tony glared at the unrepentant man. "I've got cuffs, which would be simpler. And you still haven't gotten lock-picking down." Gibbs tapped a thoughtful finger against his lips.
"Jethro, stop it. I'm going for a run. I'll call you every fifteen minutes and let it ring twice. I shouldn't be gone longer than an hour and a half, okay?"
"No. I'm not going to let you go out alone tonight."
"I need some space!"
"So sit on the damned couch and read a book!"
"You can't lock me up."
"Watch me. Tony, you're in danger. Until we catch him, you're going to stay with someone at all times. How hard is it for you to get that through your head?"
"Fine." Tony stalked into the front room. He grabbed a book without looking at the title and slumped onto the couch. Gibbs dropped a kiss onto his hair. "I'm not trying to be bitchy, really. It's just getting to me."
"I know. Just don't do something stupid, like setting yourself up to be bait."
"If I go onto the back porch, will you freak out?"
"If you go out of the house, I'll drag you back and lock you in the guest room. Clear?"
"Crystal, boss." Tony twisted the honorific into a snide hiss. His lover looked at him for a long moment. Tony couldn't meet his eyes. His shoulders slumped. "I'll be good."
"Good." Finally, he was alone. He waited until he heard the soft drone of the television set and the rasp of the wood-working tools.
"Please forgive me," he whispered. "Just come find me." He slipped out the front door and stretched. His heart clenched as he looked out at the inkiness of the night. He turned to go back inside. Sharp pain in his side froze him for an instant. Then, he was scrabbling for the door as his eyes blurred.
"Hush, my darling," Misha said softly. "Hush."
"Goddamned, stubborn, idiot!" Gibbs muttered when he heard the front door close. Then, he heard it slam open. He didn't think, simply grabbed his weapon and bolted up the stairs. He found the door open. He heard a car peeling off. He ran for the road, knowing he'd be too late. He dialed. "McGee, Tony was just kidnapped off my front porch. I want a team here yesterday. Get Ziva up and get Abby to the lab. Tell Ducky to be on standby."
Gibbs hung up. He was furious at his lover, but he'd known that forbidding Tony to leave the house would get his back up. He sighed. And Tony had tried to get back in just a few moments later. Gibbs shook his head. He'd find him, hug him, then smack the back of his head so hard he'd see stars.
Tony tried to take a breath. His ribs burned. They were broken, no question. Heavy shackles bound his wrists and ankles. He was wedged between the back and front seats of a sedan. The shackles on his wrists were connected to something he couldn't see. His eyes crossed when he tried to move. Concussion or drugs? He couldn't quite decide on his self-assessment. Gibbs is going to kill me, he thought wildly. But it'll have to wait until I've killed Misha. "Don't try to move, beautiful. Can you feel the rope around your throat?"
"Yeah," Tony said, recognizing the soft material as silk.
"If you move, it will tighten. If you pass out, I'll have to restrain you more tightly and I don't want to have to do that."
"Is this your idea of seduction?"
"No, my sweet, no. This is punishment for being with another man. You're mine, Anthony, and I will not tolerate you cheating on me."
"I'm not yours!" Tony spat. "I'll never be yours, you. . ." The car slammed to a stop, knocking the wind out of Tony's lungs.
"I didn't want to have to do this. You have a beautiful voice." Regret tinged the man's words and Tony felt fear cramping his stomach. Misha moved quickly, too quickly for Tony's peace of mind. He struggled against the hand that pulled his head back. The cloth that filled his mouth was bitter. He choked on it. More silk rope held the cheap gag in place. "If you take it out or yell at me anymore, I'll have to do something more strict. Do you understand?" Tony nodded, retching a little bit. Misha stroked his hair. "Be good, my dearest." The car started up soon after and Tony lay still, feeling more stupid and pathetic every moment. "I do hate punishing you. But making love to another man? Did you really think I'd let that go?"
Gibbs paced the lab waiting for Abby to arrive. When she did, she didn't look like herself at all. She wore no make-up and her hair was down. She wore black jeans and a concert tee-shirt. "You lost him already?" she said acerbically. "You sure he didn't just walk out on your over-protective self?" He glared at her. She raised a brow.
"He was trying to get back into the house, Abs."
She joined the team in collecting evidence then, still glaring at him occasionally.
"Jason, this is my Tony." Tony looked up at the man from where he'd been forced to his knees. He wasn't particularly tall. He was slender, with blond hair and dark brown eyes. The muscles of his arms were firm, but not overly defined. His face was plain, but there was power behind his eyes. This was a dangerous man and Tony wasn't going to underestimate him. Misha he could possibly control with some flirting and sweet words, but this man would be immune to that. Misha handed over the silken leash. Tony's head snapped toward him. "Will you watch him for me while I go hunting?"
Jason smiled fondly. "Of course."
"Thank you." Misha lifted Tony's chin carefully. "Be good. I'd hate to have to hurt you for upsetting Jason." He placed a gentle kiss on the young man's nose. Then, another to his lower lip. He was gone a moment later. Jason looked down at his captive. His eyes were flat, predatory.
"So you're the one Misha wants. His darling hunter, the officer of the law. He's been stalking you for so long, Tony." Jason shook his head. "Get up. Follow me." Tony obeyed, not thrilled with the situation. He took in his surroundings. It was an old warehouse. He would have said it was abandoned, but there were people all around. He saw a group of women chained to a wall. He glared at the back of his captor's head. A sharp jerk of the rope made him choke and stumble. "Misha swears you are his mate. I will not kill you, but I will punish insubordination. Do you understand?" Tony loosened the noose around his throat, nodding. He chewed at the cloth in his mouth. He didn't dare remove it. Misha would freak out if he did. Jason gave him a direct look, then started moving again. He led Tony up to an office which looked to be a bedroom. Tony found his wrists attached to a ring imbedded in the wall. He sat down heavily, suddenly lightheaded. Jason removed the rope that was around Tony's throat and his gag. Tony breathed in the air he didn't know he'd been missing. His lungs burned. He felt like he was back in that damned ward, fighting for his breaths.
He became aware of Jason's hand rubbing his back. "It's okay. Hush. Breath slowly," the man murmured. Jason frowned at him. "Misha didn't state that you had breathing troubles."
"Probably didn't know," Tony wheezed. "New."
"Hush. Don't talk. Just breathe."
Tony embraced the dizziness. If this man underestimated him, that was definitely in his favor. His breathing finally righted itself. He hadn't had an attack like that in months. He leaned his head against the rough cinder-block. Jason stroked his hair. "What does he want from me?"
"You'll be joining us. We can use someone with your skills."
"He made a big mistake."
"He warned me." Tony looked up through his lashes. The man snorted.
"Shall I tell you what exactly to expect or would you rather it be a surprise?"
"Should I tell you exactly how hard you're going down?"
"Your pack won't find us. What is it Misha calls you? Ah, yes, hunting cat."
"You don't understand my pack."
Jason leaned back. He sat next to Tony, not moving his hand from between the agent's shoulder blades. He continued to stroke soothingly. "Misha claims you're his mate. I'll respect that and his wish to turn you himself. However, I will destroy anyone who attacks this nest."
Tony nodded, acknowledging that. He'd kill anyone who attacked his team. "Mate?"
"Vampires mate once for life."
"I've already got a mate and it's not Misha."
"Human attachments fade."
Tony rubbed at his wrists, the restraints moved enough for a little bit of relief, but they were too solid to get off without doing himself serious damage. "And where's your mate?"
"She was murdered over a century ago."
"What happened?" Tony turned at the word murder. No matter how insane he thought these people were, there was always something that set them off.
"She was killed by a hunter. He beheaded her." Jason's voice was full of sorrow. "He regretted that for the next two months of his pathetic life."
"You killed him?"
"Slowly. It's no more than he deserved."
Tony didn't address that. Oh, Gibbs, get me the hell out of here. "And Misha's girls? They're innocents."
"Not all of them," Tony snapped back. "He'll take any woman he's attracted to."
"You put nine bullets into him, as I recall."
"You have to put rabid animals down." He wouldn't have recognized the small feral smile that graced his lips if he'd seen it in the mirror. Jason's hand stroked the young man's back gently. "He took my sword. I want it back."
"He took my sword. I want it back."
"Do you fence?"
The jump in tone should have been surprising, but it wasn't. "I'm into most sports. I fence saber and epee. Want a match?" The question was genuine. Tony hadn't gotten a chance to fence in ages.
"After you join us," Jason replied. "Get some rest, little hunter. Misha will be home soon." Tony closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the shackles that bit into his wrists.
"I have a deal for you. Give me Misha and my sword. Then clear out. I won't follow you or let my team follow you."
"I don't think so, Tony." Jason moved to his desk and computer.
Tony stared at the cinderblock wall. Gibbs would get him out of this mess. Then, once he was safe, Gibbs would probably beat the crap out of him in the gym. Still, thinking of Gibbs kept him warm and calm. He closed his eyes and brought Gibbs' face to mind. He saw him frowning and concentrated over a case file. That little frown of concentration was the same frown that graced his lips when he was holding himself back to make his lover writhe and beg. I'm sorry I was stubborn, boss. I just couldn't stand the cage.
Gibbs paced across the floor of the lab as Abby worked. "Damn experimental technologies," he muttered.
"I just have to get the software working, bossman," Abby replied. She sucked on her Caf-Pow. "Next time, try a leash. Wonder if vamps have clans? I mean, that was a big thing for awhile. Clans and alliances and politics and crap." <11 Kindred: The Embraced>
"Focus, Abs," Gibbs snarled. He was grumpier than usual and no one wanted to cross him. Abby and Ducky were the only ones who would put up with this sort of mood, and Ducky was still at home. Gibbs stalked from one side of the lab to the other once more. Abby turned up her music. Gibbs glared at her, but she ignored him. She had work to do.
"You're the one who lost him," she muttered under her breath.
Tony woke when he heard the door of the office open. He turned to face Misha. He wanted to get to his feet, but he was pretty sure that the chains would only allow him to his knees and there was no way he was going to do that. It was better to stay seated then to look submissive. "Take off the shackles."
"No." They glared at each other, deep blue meeting green. Anger sparked in Misha's eyes. "You're thinking about him again, aren't you?" he hissed. Tony jerked back and away at the sudden harshness. Everything in his body told him to run, not attack. He wasn't armed for this fight. Misha crossed the distance. He looked down at the young man. Suddenly, he sank down to straddle Tony's thighs. Their faces were inches apart. "You don't understand yet, gorgeous, but you will." Misha stroked the dark hair out of Tony's eyes. The gentleness underscored the violence of what was going to come. Tony started making contingency plans in the back of his head. He didn't dare bite, who knew what sort of diseases the bastard might have. He wasn't in a position to fight yet. If Misha tried to push blood into him, he'd well, probably be in trouble that he couldn't get out of. "Now, give us a kiss, sweetheart."
"No." The refusal garnered him a hard slap that split his lip. He was frozen when the killer leaned forward to lap at the trail of blood. Tony whimpered, trying to get away. The gentle, lapping tongue followed him.
"There's nowhere to go, baby. Just relax. I want you willing, but I won't let you leave. You are mine now, Tony. You don't think about anyone or anything else right now."
Tony swallowed hard. "I want my sword back," he stated quietly. Misha's eyes lit up.
"Of course, I should have realized you'd feel odd without a weapon. It's not as if you can harm me." The fond smile made Tony shiver. He had to get free. He'd burn this place to the ground and salt the earth underneath. Misha stroked his cheek, then kissed him gently. "I'll get your sword for you, sweetling. I want you to come to me willingly, but if it grows too late, I'll simply take you. If I have to take you, I will punish you."
"You don't want me willingly. That threat makes it very clear. You want me to say yes to my own rape."
Misha looked at his captive for a long moment. Then he calmly backhanded him. "I didn't want to have to hurt you, my hunter. I'll give you a moment to think while I get your weapon." He leaned forward to talk softly into Tony's ear. "Please don't make me hurt you again." Tony closed his eyes. He let his head drop when he heard the door close.
"Please, boss, hurry up," he whispered. He pulled his knees up to his chest. The chain dragged against the cheap press-and-stick tiles on the floor.
The door opened. "I see Misha hasn't convinced you yet," Jason said. Tony opened his eyes. The man was leaning against the desk. "The thing is, with children, that sometimes you have to take care of their problems for them. If you don't agree within twelve hours, I'll bring you into the fold myself. And if you bring your pack down on us, I'll kill all of them." Their eyes met for a long moment. Tony didn't doubt anything the man said. The unshakable belief was enough to make the agent shiver.
"You really believe you're vampires."
"We are." Jason frowned. "Misha was under the impression that you believed that." Tony shook his head. Jason smiled, eyes lightening. "That explains much of your resistance." He crossed the room and unlocked the shackles from the wall. "Let me show you my nest." The strong fingers that caught Tony by the nape of his neck tightened briefly. "If you try to run or hurt any of mine, I will hurt you. Do you understand?"
Tony was shocked by the tour. Not the women who were tied down or the pack of people bedded down in the back of the warehouse, but by the lack of security. If he could get free of the shackles, he could get out of the warehouse. He watched with rising rage as one of the women was tortured. Her screams didn't make it past her gag. He forced the rage down and away. He couldn't blow this. He made sure his hands stayed open and loose. "What the Hell are they doing?" he asked in a low voice. It was nearly a growl and Jason looked at him with an amused smile.
"They're feeding. Lena, show our guest how you feed." The woman raised her head from her feast, showing a row of ugly teeth. Tony took and involuntary step back. She winked and went back to feeding. Jason's hand tightened on the back of Tony's throat. "Come along, little hunter."
"I won't run if you take the shackles off," Tony said quietly. "I give you my word." It was the truth. He wasn't leaving until he'd captured or killed every one of the bastards involved in this. Jason caught the agent's chin, looking into his eyes.
"I believe you. If you break your word, you are simply fresh meat."
Jason nodded. He led Tony back to the office. He undid the shackles. "Stay in this room. You're Misha's toy, but if you wander out there, not everyone will respect that."
"He lives here as well?"
"But he stores things someplace else?"
"He has something of yours?"
"An antique sword. I don't want it damaged."
Jason shook his head. "Stay in this room. Misha will come to you. Remember, if you haven't agreed within eleven hours, I'll take matters into my own hands." He left, closing the door, but not locking it.
"I've got a signal," Abby signed. Gibbs broke away from his discussion with the director.
"Where?" he signed back.
"Get me the coordinates, I'll get the team." He turned back to the director. "She's got a signal from Tony's tracker. I need a team."
Director Sheppard nodded. "Fine. Just remember to bring the killer back."
Gibbs felt his eyes harden. He nodded once, respectfully, then turned to bring his agent home. He gathered McGee and Ziva and a group of agents for the assault. No one stole his agents. And no one touched his lovers with impunity. If Tony didn't take care of the problem, Gibbs would.
Tony rubbed at his wrists and ankles. He stretched. He needed to be ready to fight as soon as he got the chance. He glanced at the desk. In the mean-time, he might as well see what he could without disturbing the papers on the desk. He raised a brow. This was fascinating. Given their living conditions, he didn't expect them to be well funded, but they were. The door opened. Tony looked up. Misha's brows rose. "You convinced Jason to let you off of your lead? I'm impressed. Still, I know you're charming." He stepped closer to the desk. He set the sword down. Tony took it up immediately. He pulled it from its sheath, checking the blade for stains and nicks that hadn't been there before. There were none. He was satisfied that it hadn't been used. Misha watched with an indulgent smile. "Do you know how to use it, pretty?"
"I do." Tony smiled down at the sword. One of the pluses of hanging out with re-enactors was that they had the sort of skills that most people didn't. After the disastrous Civil War Hell his father had forced upon him, Tony had almost given up on history. Then, he'd found an excellent teacher at the Military Academy. He'd been introduced to a different world. He gripped the handle of the sword. "Thank you," he said quietly. That's it. Come closer you stupid son-of-a-bitch. Misha did step closer, with a smile. In a surface way, Tony understood the attraction. His hair was a silky deep mahogany brown and his eyes were naturally royal blue. His face was beautiful, but Tony could see the lines on by his eyes and mouth that spoke of cruelty. No, Misha was a sick predator. Tony was going to put him down for good this time. Misha stroked a finger down Tony's cheek.
"You look so beautiful when you're feral. I can see the calculations in your eyes. You know that the sword is too long to use effectively in here. And you know that if you harm me, you'll be hunted down. Just give in, Anthony, there's no way out of this."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "Convince me. If you want me willingly, convince me. Don't threaten me. Convince me."
Misha cocked his head to the side, sending a ripple of movement through his hair. He smiled, blue eyes lighting up. He gestured to the couch. "Come, sit with me."
"I'll stay here, by the desk," Tony replied. "I'm not that easy. I need to know what the Hell you want."
"I've already told you. I want you to be my mate."
Tony took a deep breath and felt his ribs burn. He did his best not to let that pain cross his face, but Misha's head cocked to the side. His nostrils flared.
"You're the one who did it. Didn't you notice?" Tony felt a wave of heat run up his face. Oh, he was going to be in bad shape if he didn't get out soon. "How can you think I'll join you when you've never done anything but cause me pain?"
"Sweetness, I had to take you. I couldn't let you sit there and pretend that loving your boss was a good idea. You're my one and only. His memory will fade. We'll have centuries of love."
"But I don't love you. What is so hard for you to understand? You're a monster and I want to put you down like I would any dangerous animal."
"My darling, you can't harm me. Put all your rage onto me and I'll still love you as I do at this moment."
"As a pet or a possession. You're arrogant. And you're sloppy. Do you really believe that my team won't find me? You're pathetic. McGee will track you down through the money you use to pay for the storage unit."
Misha's eyes narrowed. Tony noted the moment the muscles of his shoulder tensed. He raised his sword instinctively. He caught Misha across the throat. A wordless cry of anger bubble from his slit throat. Tony didn't hesitate. He pulled back and swung again and one more time until Misha's head was separated from his body. Misha lay on the floor. His eyes didn't look cloudy. His blood was thick and dark, almost clotted.
It was wrong. It looked days dead.
Tony didn't contemplate that for too long. He gathered Misha's head in one hand. Fuck it. Tony was going down fighting. "Hey, Jason. I've got a present for you!" Tony lobbed Misha's head down the stairs.
"Teams 1 and 2, move out," Gibbs ordered. He lifted his head at the first crack. That wasn't a gun-shot. It was metal on concrete. His eyes narrowed. "Team 3 and 4 move out."
"Team 1, in position." The other teams checked in.
"All teams. Move in. Now." Gibbs rushed across the terrain. He could smell the smoke now. The place was on fire. "Teams, beware of smoke."
"Roger." When Team 3 entered the door, three very battered and bleary-eyed women greeted them. Balboa took over ushering them out to the waiting ambulances. There were shackles still on their wrists and blood running down their arms. Gibbs snarled at the look of them. He followed hard on team 3's heels into the building. He found two damaged women of his own. He secured three live suspects and had Ziva and McGee escort them out.
"Just kill them," came a familiar, if smoke strained voice. He looked up the stairs and found Tony standing there. He had a sword in his hand that was covered with blood and matted hair. Blood splattered the front of his Ohio State shirt.
"How many more?"
"Those were the last three. The rest are dead. I've got six more victims who were dead by the time I got to them. Ten dead vampires. Misha's head is on the floor there. I used it as bait." Tony's eyes were wild. His smile seemed more like a baring of teeth.
"Are you hurt?"
"Broken ribs, sprained my ankle. I have a bite on my upper arm, but I don't think I got any of their blood inside of me. There's bank records up in the office."
"And the fire?"
"I'm going to burn this place to the ground and salt the earth so nothing every touches it again."
"No, you're going to see the paramedics while the teams put out the fire and bag and tag the scene."
"We need evidence."
"There's a mass grave outside that door. And one of the dead is a thirteen year old. I don't give a flying fuck about evidence right now."
"How about a shower?"
Tony wavered in place. The adrenaline was draining from his body. He sat down heavily, letting the sword drop. "I'll want that back."
Gibbs just nodded.
"There we go, my dear boy." Ducky taped the clean bandage into place. He patted Tony's shoulder. "Looks clean. I'll pull blood just in case."
"So, is it an infection?"
"Yes." The ME sighed. "Of course, the CDC has demanded our samples to keep the contagion contained. And I hear that Jethro's had to turn over the three suspects he had to the FBI. They're wanted in conjunction with multiple crimes."
Tony shrugged. "I wouldn't know." He allowed Ducky to take two vials of blood. "I want them dead. I think that will happen in prison. Or maybe it would be more likely if the CDC took them." He held the cotton ball in place for a moment. Then, he dropped it into the biohazard bag next to the table. "Are you having fun with your dissections?"
Ducky gave him a fond smile. "I won't bore you with the biological details. Sufficient to say that I should be able to get one or two interesting papers out of it. If anyone cares to believe it."
"Misha said he was a vampire. I'm going to believe him." Tony bit his lip. "Gibbs is mad at me. I ignored a direct order."
"I don't know what to do to make him stop being angry. Since I'm not allowed to apologize."
The Englishman shook his head. He patted Tony's knee. "Anthony, simply tell him that you understand his anger. Perhaps if you regretted the final action that was taken, there would be more to say. But as I understand it, you aren't ashamed of anything that happened in that warehouse."
"No. I'm not." Tony nodded. "I'll think about wording." He hopped down from the cold metal table. "Thanks."
Ducky shooed him out with a gentle smile.
"Jethro," Tony said quietly. Gibbs looked up from the rib of the boat. He pinned the younger man with a glare. "I understand why you're upset. I know that I disobeyed an order. But I do not regret killing Misha. I do not regret burning the nest. I do not regret those actions. I do regret scaring you. I do regret putting you and the team in danger. Will you forgive me?"
Gibbs took a deep breath and held it as if he were siting his rifle. He released it in time with his heartbeat. "If you ever pull a stunt like that again, I will beat you within an inch of your life."
Tony snorted. "Well, that's better than killing me, I guess."
Gibbs put down his sanding block. He crossed the basement floor and met Tony at the foot of the stairs. "I regret that the order had to be made, even though I know you'd ignore it." His lips quirked up. "But at least we know that the tracker in your tooth works."
"Ha. Ha. Very funny. I know there's a tracker in my watch. One in the heel of my boot. And now one in my tooth."
Gibbs smirked. He pulled Tony into a gentle kiss. "I like to know where you are." He cocked his head to the side. "Want to help with the boat?"
"I'm heading to my apartment." He shifted from foot to foot. "Mind if I take over the guest room. I can still smell him there." Tony shuddered. "I know it's not real. It's just..."
The older man held up a hand. "The room is yours whenever you want it. Just remember. I don't lock the doors unless there's a viable threat."
"Right. So, lock down the TV. Got it." Tony smiled and ducked his head. He looked up through his lashes. "Should I tell personnel that I'm moving in?"
Gibbs snorted. "Might as well."
Tony darted in for a quick kiss before he bounded up the stairs. "Love you too." He called over his shoulder.
NOTES: There were 11 fandom references in this one. See if you noticed them all.
1. First time I voluntarily called the FBI. They wouldn't take it, though they did send me a profiler. Neurotic as hell. Had all sorts of wild theories about aliens when you got him talking about something that didn't involve the mutilation of pretty young women." (X-Files)
2. "Okay, so there was this not-so-good boy-toy that I dated, and his cutie-pie of a little brother. His car was sweet. A '67 Impala with this great back seat." Tony opened his mouth, then closed it at Gibbs' glare. "They're experts in this sort of thing. And when I first met him he declared that vamps were extinct. Didn't exist. Not found in this century. Imagine my surprise when I got a call recently saying he was wrong and they do exist and he'd just found a nest of them. Operative word, nest. They run in packs." (Supernatural)
3. "Tony," she rolled her eyes. "I'm from New Orleans. I've read every vamp book out there. Hello, I know about the sexual overtones. I mean, think about it, opening scenes of the book you can't stand because you don't like Brad Pitt." (Interview with the Vampire)
4. & 5. "Ah, well, there was this detective I worked with who was really into that sort of thing. He moved up to New York after the shooting in the bullpen, but he swore that clones couldn't have the same fingerprints since twins don't." (Homicide: Life on the Streets & Law and Order: SVU – Munch)
6. "Maybe he really is a vampire. There's no reason why there couldn't be a vamp or two on the night-shift, right?" Abby soothed. "And they could cover things up." (Forever Knight)
7. "There was this lady I met in Connecticut who was a consultant for the police up there in things not mainstream." (Diana Tregardi Mysteries)
8. "There was a lady out in St.Louis that swore she was an expert, but she thinks she can raise the dead too, so I'm pretty sure she's nuts." (Anita Blake Books)
9. "I know. Abby's found more evidence of the bites coming from the same source. And Ducky called some guy at the British Museum who's made a life study of vampires. He's sending what information he has." (Buffy: the Vampire Slayer – Giles)
10. "Do you have a moment, my dear? I need you to send some photographs to a gentleman I know in San Francisco who may be able to identify our beast." (Poltergeist: The Legacy)
11. Wonder if vamps have clans? I mean, that was a big thing for awhile. Clans and alliances and politics and crap." (Kindred: The Embraced)