The quiet knock on his front door made Tony DiNozzo wake out of the pleasant nothingness of his light doze. He peered through the peephole, then threw the door open. "Oh, my God. Get in here!" He pulled the older man inside.
Louis Jenkins smiled fondly as Tony looked him over. His hair had already been graying when they'd met, so that wasn't a surprise. A deep tan emphasized the new lines on his face. His eyes were still a bright blue. A blue stone twinkled in his left ear. "Hello, my dearest."
"I never thought I'd see you again. Come in. Sit down. You still drink bourbon?"
"No, I've given up hard liquor. Just water. Your housekeeping skills have improved."
"I have a maid." Tony poured a glass of water from the jug in the refrigerator. He got a Coke for himself. Louis settled on the couch. Tony settled next to him. "Where did you run to?"
"Europe, then Asia. Bangkok simply doesn't have the same appeal it used to."
"Couldn't find the right boy?" Tony was shocked by the strength of the jealousy that coursed through him.
"You are irreplaceable, Anthony. The world was flat and dull without you by my side. I've missed you." Louis' soft accent – so much like Ducky's – disarmed the walls Tony had placed around his heart. He snuggled into his. . . his beloved's arms and closed his eyes.
"Why did you come back? You know I have to turn you in."
"You wouldn't be my Anthony if you didn't. If I can bring his poor mother a modicum of peace by going to prison, I shall. I'll be dead within the year in any case. I don't fear prison."
"You're dying?" Tony said, voice small and wavering.
"Oh, my dear boy, I'm sorry. I've been dealing with the realization for months now. I didn't think. Forgive me."
"I'd forgive you anything." Tony pressed a series of soft kissed to the thin skin of Louis' throat. He felt the pulse – steady and strong – under his lips. He closed his eyes, committing the smell and taste of him to memory once more.
"Patrick has been busy transferring our assets into your name. you'll want for nothing."
"Except you. Designer sheets and Italian leather can't replace the feel of your arms or the taste of your kisses or the way your presence turns me into a poet. Money can't laugh at my jokes or kiss my attention away from a movie."
Louis' arms tightened. "I thought you'd find a companion."
"We made a vow, Louis. I don't break my promises."
"If we say anything else, I won't be able to do this." Tony pulled away. He didn't want to move out of the warmth of those familiar arms.
"I love you, Anthony." Louis drew him into a soft kiss. "Find someone to love. Be happy."
"How can I love when you have my heart with you?"
"Use mine, since you've had it since you first smiled in my direction." Louis ran his fingers down Tony's jaw lightly.
Tony flipped his phone open to call his contact on the local police force. "This is Agent DiNozzo. I have a suspect who's turned himself in for a crime in Ohio. Can you take him off my hands or should I just bring him in myself. Okay." He rattled off his address. "I'll see you in thirty." He hung up. "We have twenty minutes."
"Too bad I'm not as young as I once was. Twenty minutes would have been more than enough."
Tony smirked at the wicked grin Louis gave him. He gave his lover a deep kiss, trying to pour all his need, regret, love and passion into the action. It was as familiar and warming as he'd remembered. He'd never loved any one like he loved Louis. Well, maybe Gibbs, but that was different. Louis belonged to him and he belonged to Louis. Their kisses were divine experiences. "Don't forget me."
"How could I?"
They cuddled, sharing memories for awhile. Then, Tony couldn't delay any longer. He got his cuffs from his windbreaker. Louis' lips twitched. Tony winked. "I never did develop the kink. Stand up." He carefully fitted the cuff around one wrist. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law," he murmured into his lover's ear.
"I release thee," Louis whispered back.
"You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you." He brought Louis' arms around his back, locking the other cuff into place. He kept full frontal contact.
"I release thee."
"Do you understand these rights as I've explained them to you?"
"I release thee."
Tony closed his eyes, trapping all but one tear. A soft brush of lips kissed it away. There was a knock on the door. "It's Cooper," a voice called through.
"Goodbye." Tony sent his lover away to face his trial. He sat for a moment, still shocked by the sight of Louis' retreating back.
Donald Mallard wasn't used to receiving phone calls in the middle of the night that weren't case related. So, when he picked up his cell-phone and saw "Anthony" on the caller ID, he began making arrangements in his mid to care for his mother. "Hello, Anthony."
"Hi, Duck." There was a choked quality to the young man's voice. "I can't reach Abby and Gibbs is, well you know, gone. I really, really need to be near someone right now. Can I come play with the dogs?"
Dead air lingered for a moment. "Oh my, I wonder what's happened." He went to the kitchen to make a late night snack and locate the hot cocoa. While not all ills of the body could be cured with food, many ills of the mind could be soothed. His preparations were not in vain. Anthony looked like death had called. He settled the young man at the kitchen table with a mug of strong cocoa and a plateful of cookies in easy reach. "What has happened?
Tony shivered. "You've known me for awhile now, Duck. You've probably figured out that I'm not exactly straight."
Ducky smiled. "Your rant on the foolishness of the 'don't ask' policy and your rather livid remarks about Caitlin's narrow-mindedness were strong clues."
A weak smiled answered the statement. "I was out in college. And in Illinois. I never really went into the closet, but I stopped being as vocal. I like women too, so. . ." he shrugged. "but when I was eighteen, I fell in love. Head over heels in love. It was like lightening. I would have walked off a cliff for him. He ended up killing a man. He fled the country. Tonight he showed up on my doorstep and I had to arrest him." The tears that streamed down the young man's face drew a strange counter-point to the press of words. "He told me he was dying and I couldn't let it go. No one would have known. We could have had out death do us part on some deserted beach, but now he's going to die in prison and it's all my fault!"
"You didn't make him kill, Anthony."
"Yes, I did! He killed him because of me. To protect me. To avenge me. All I wanted was to wake up and have him beside me. If I'd delayed an hour. A day. What harm could that have done?"
"Oh, my dear boy." Ducky gathered the young man into his arms. Tony sobbed into the soft cotton shirt. Ducky rocked him, wishing that there were words that would make the pain go away. "As Abigail once pointed out to me," he said as the sobs eased, "a cop is who you are, not just what you do. Justice is a harsh mistress and you are faithful to her." Tony scrubbed at his cheeks.
"Tell me I did the right thing, Duck."
"You did the right thing, Anthony."
Tony looked into Ducky's eyes for a long moment, searching for his seriousness. "Thank you."
"You've been subpoenaed for a case in Ohio?" Director Sheppard repeated.
"Do you have any idea how long the trial will take?"
"I don't even know if it's the defense or the prosecution that's going to call me."
"I didn't think you'd ever worked in Ohio."
"I didn't. I'm just a witness."
"Give me daily updates. Maintain contact with your team."
"I had McGee pull a rack of cold cases to look over."
"I'll put your time in for you."
"Thank you, Ma'am."
"Is this part of the Frat Boy Murder trial?"
DiNozzo winced. "If I hadn't been in traction at the time, I'd have been the prime suspect."
She stared at him for a long moment. "Off the record, were you. . ."
"I was attacked by the victim six times. I had two restraining orders against him."
She closed her eyes. That confirmed what she couldn't ask. "Call me if you need anything. Anything at all, even just to talk."
"No offense, but I'll call Abby, Ma'am."
She smiled at that. "Good luck." She nodded her dismissal. Once the door had closed behind him, she called Abby Scuito.
Tony collapsed onto the bench outside the courtroom and opened his book. He had to be bored if he was reading books Abby had given him. He groaned softly and pulled out his scientific dictionary. This was going to be a hard slog. He didn't look up when someone sat next to him. He must have registered the smell of coffee because he wasn't too shocked when a sturdy hand hit the back of his head.
"I taught you better than that."
"Always be aware of your surroundings. Rule four," Tony replied. "Hi, boss. How'd you get here?"
"Ducky called me."
"He would. I was afraid the director sent you. She's trying to be nice to me and it's starting to creep me out." He glanced up at Gibbs, tryin to assess his mood."
"I'm the only one who knew about him?"
"The whole story, yeah. Abby knows some of it. I don’t lie to you."
"Good because I'd hate to have to kill you. Here." Gibbs thrust a cardboard cup at him. "Half coffee, half cocoa." Tony smiled at him, touched.
"So how's Mexico?"
"Boring, but that's what I need."
"Well, I'm about to become hideously wealthy, so depending on the media coverage, maybe I'll join you."
Gibbs brows rose.
"Louis' lawyer's feeding my trust fund and rearranging his other assets into my name. There are plusses to marrying money, you know." He closed his eyes for a minute. "He wants me to find someone else."
Gibbs sighed. He put an arm around Tony's shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze. "There's no easy answer, kiddo."
"I know, Boss. I know."
"Please state your name for the record," the defense attorney, Myron brown, commanded. The court-room looked like a standard television set. There was a paneled area for the jury to sit behind. They were to the left of the stand. The transcriptionist sat to the right of the judge. The bailiffs guarded the doors. The seats were filled with silently watching, endlessly recording, reporters and a few scattered family members. There were no cameras allowed in the court room, but there were plenty of tape recorders and digital recorders to make up for them.
"Anthony DeMarco DiNozzo."
"And what do you do, Mr. DiNozzo?"
"I'm a special agent with NCIS, the Navy Criminal Investigative Service."
"You arrested the defendant?"
"I knew the warrant was still open. No matter what my opinions on the case are, he was wanted. I arrested him."
"Did you search him?"
"No, Detective Cooper did."
"Why didn't you search him?" Brown asked, eyes gentle.
"Because I. . ." DiNozzo smirked suddenly, "because if I'd gotten my hands on him like that I wouldn't have just searched him. I'd have stripped him."
Louis coughed, hiding his laughter. DiNozzo winked at him.
"Conflict of interest," the agent answered more seriously. "It was better to let someone impartial do the search."
"How do you know the defendant?"
"He's my lover."
There was a shocked intake of breath from the crowd. Pens scrabbled across notepads and the soft click of typewriter keys never stopped.
"We were hand-fasted when I turned nineteen. We're lovers until death do us part." DiNozzo's smile was soft. Brown was surprised by the warmth of it. He hoped the jury got a good look at it.
"He implied that your relationship was over."
"He released me from my vows when I arrested him, but we didn't discuss it."
"Tell me about the death of Michael Rice."
"What about it? The fact that I sand 'Ding-dong the Witch is Dead' when I heard? Or that I threw a kegger to celebrate it?"
"You knew the deceased?"
"How did you know him?"
"He attacked me. I had two restraining orders against him. I'd pressed charges every time he jumped me. I got him thrown out of the frat. I got him thrown out of ROTC. I organized protection for the other boys he attacked. I hated the son-of-a-bitch."
"You were in the same fraternity?"
"No. I brought him up on honor charged in front of the Greek Council. His money and his father's status couldn't help him there."
"You knew him socially?"
"Academically. We were both on the basketball team."
"You were rivals on the team?"
DiNozzo laughed. "He rode the bench during games. They only kept him on the team because his father donated to the scholarship fund. I made the draft." The young man shrugged.
"How well do you know Mr. Jenkins?"
"Intimately. What do you want to know?"
"Is he capable of killing?"
"Yes." There was another stuttered intake of breath at that.
"Of beating a young man to death?"
"Only if he were angry or attacked. He's a trained soldier after all."
"What did Mr. Jenkins tell you about what happened?"
"Nothing. I was still in a coma when Michael was killed and Louis left."
"Michael came after me with a baseball bat when they announced the draft picks. Broke my ankle, my wrist, four ribs, and cracked my skull. I was in a coma for a week. When I woke up Patrick Cowry brought me a letter from Louis explaining that he had to leave."
"What was his reason for leaving?"
"He didn't think the justice system would help him any more than it had me. It let a monster run free because of political influence. Why would it help him?"
"Despite his wealth?"
DiNozzo snorted. "All the money in the world can't buy justice. I had access to the money, lawyers, everything we could think of and Rice still went free because of his father! The man raped one of his victims. We had semen, photos, witnesses, and medical reports. The system decided not to prosecute. That's why he left."
"Why did he kill Michael Rice?"
"As an investigator and his lover, Mr. DiNozzo is in a unique position to assess Mr. Jenkins motivations."
"Overruled. Answer the question."
"I don't know."
"Did he ever use violence during your fights?"
"Louis? Never. He never raised a hand to me."
"Prosecution, your witness."
"Mr. DiNozzo, was your relationship with Mr. Jenkins well known?"
"Yes. He came to all the games, picked me up after class, and went to formal functions on campus with me."
"He's twenty years your senior. Wouldn't the assumption be that he was a relative?" The prosecutor was Harold Markwitz. He'd been working for the DA when the decision not to prosecute Michael Rice was made. He didn't think the man in front of him would remember him. It had taken him a few minutes to connect the poised man in front of him with the enraged young frat boy who had to be dragged out of the office by his brothers.
"You greet your uncles with open-mouthed kisses? Progressive family. Oh, were you under the impression that it wasn't a sexual relationship?" The green eyes were twinkling with mischief.
Markwitz ignored the jibe. "Did you live on campus?"
"No. I just spent time there when Louis was working or I had classes or games."
"Your teammates were aware of your relationship?"
"And did that cause any conflicts?"
"Only with Rice and his buddy Parkins. They couldn't stand me. Everyone else was okay with it. Or if they weren't, I played well enough that they didn't care." DiNozzo shrugged.
"Did you mention Michael Rice to your lover?"
"Your disagreement with him was a long-term situation?"
"It escalated over three years."
"Did you ever express a desire to kill Michael?"
"Yes. I even threatened him once."
"Did you discuss those thoughts with the defendant?"
"Yes, but usually it evolved into the list of improbably ways to die. Defenstration was my personal favorite."
"You wanted to throw him out of a window?" Markwitz prompted.
"Or over a cliff. Or behead him. Or have a pack of wild dogs rend him to bits. Or strap him to dynamite. Or watch him fry in the electric chair."
"Not beat him to death?"
"Too quick. I wanted to torture him. Leave him writing in agony until he died."
"Why did you want him dead?"
"Being beaten started it, but the really violent stuff came from holding a friend who'd been beaten and raped as he sobbed in my arms because the man you were working for at the time wouldn't prosecute because Michael's father was the governor."
"And what was the defendant's reaction?"
"Usually he'd hold me until I calmed down."
"He didn't feed those fantasies? Make plans with you?"
"No. He knew that wasn't normal for me. It was just frustration talking."
"Did Michael ever meet Mr. Jenkins?"
"At games and at one of the 'parade the champions for the investor' type things."
"And there was a confrontation, correct?"
"I believe the statement was 'so this is the old faggot you're hooked up with.' Louis smiled and said he was charmed to meet them. It wasn't the time or place for a fight. I did manage to trip him into the punch bowl after he insulted my favorite investor."
"And what did the defendant do after the party?"
The young man paused. His cheek were stained a soft pink a moment later. "We spent the night, um, discussing etchings."
Markwitz heard a discrete chuckle from Jenkins. It was pointless to try for anything else. He'd have to re-call the young man later. "No more questions."
Tony slumped down next to Gibbs on the bench. "They want me to stay around until the end of the trial."
"Of course. Come on. I'll buy you lunch."
"Baliff said not to leave until three."
"So I'll bring lunch back. You can tell me more about Louis."
Gibbs moved away into the crowd. The cameras were cordoned off, waiting for scraps. Don't they have something better to report? He thought bitterly. He recognized one of the reporters from college. He laughed softly as they young man caught sight of him. Joe Reynolds waved at him. He indicated that Tony should come over. Tony shook his head. He leaned back.
"Tony! Tony! Tony!" Abby called, skipping toward him as he stood. She bounced into a hug. "You look tired."
"I am tired. They're trying to say it was premeditated murder."
"Oh, sweetie." She hugged him more tightly. They sat down together.
"How'd you get here?"
"Director Sheppard thought you'd need moral support, since it's gone total media circus on you. He's a British citizen."
"I had realized," Tony said sarcastically.
"I know. I reported him on my security check, but I hadn't seen him in years. Gibbs is here too."
"That's so sweet."
"Sweet? Gibbs? Nah. Ducky told him to come. Louis isn't MI5, that's just a media thing. What's he going to spy on in Ohio? I miss traveling with him. He always made the world seem so alive."
"Well, maybe they'll find him not guilty and you'll get him back."
"If he hadn't run, there might have been a chance, but now? I just don't know."
"A chance with you or a chance to win?" Abby's eyes narrowed.
"I'd run away with him right now. I regret arresting him. I despise this trial. Louis wouldn't commit murder."
"Are you going to visit him?"
"If they'll let me in." Tony blinked rapidly, feeling tears threaten. Abby wrapped him in a hug, settling across his lap. At any other time he'd have made a comment that would make her laugh. Today, he just wrapped his arms around her and held tight. Her smell was familiar. "He's dying," he whispered into her shoulder.
"Oh, honey. Does anyone know?"
"Just us. I'm going to lose him."
Gibbs cleared his throat. "Are you two done making a scene?"
"Aren't you married, DiNozzo?"
"Yeah, I am."
"Whoa. Really?" Abby asked, sitting back just enough to see his face.
"Handfasted. It was the only tradition willing to do the ceremony back in the day." He smiled at the memory. "I'll take you two to dinner and tell you all about it. Did I ever show you college pictures, Abs?"
"You mean you with the perfect eye shadow?"
"Oh damn. You've seen that picture?"
"I've been through your photo albums. I recognized his face in the tabloids. You really fell for him, huh?"
"Head over heels."
"That's the best smile ever," Abby informed him. He tugged on a ponytail. "Your eyes just light up."
"Happiest memory I have."
"Eat," Gibbs ordered.
"I want to visit Louis," Tony stated. Gibbs looked at him for a long moment.
"Are you sure?"
"We'll wait for you."
Tony wended his way through security. They let him take over the lawyer's room. He didn't know if it was because of his badge or some arrangement their lawyer had made. "Can you take the cuffs off?"
The guard frowned.
"Man, I arrested him. I'm not going to let him go."
"He's charged with murder."
"He's no danger to me."
"I would never harm Anthony." Louis' voice was filled with dismay. "I'd die first."
"I hope it never comes to that." Tony stepped closer to his lover, distracted form the issue of the cuffs. The guard's brows rose. They rose higher as Tony caressed Louis' cheek.
"Well, since you are a fed," the guard stated, unlocking the cuffs.
"Thank you, young man."
"Thanks. I owe you one." The door closed behind the guard with a sharp click. They were locked in. "It's a shame there's a camera in here."
"Since when has a camera ever stopped us?" Louis asked with a smirk. Tony laughed. Louis brushed his fingers along Tony's jaw and up into his hair. He drew him into a soft, sweet kiss. "I didn't think you'd come to see me."
"I've hurt you so badly over the years."
"Did you think I didn't understand? Patrick told me you were alive, but nothing more. I missed you so badly. But I never blamed you."
Louis settled in the nearest chair, looking every inch the gentleman, even in a prison jumpsuit. Tony perched on the table facing him. "I missed you every day of every year. Patrick kept me apprised of your activities, your movements. He even tried to panic me into returning by saying you had the plague."
"I did have the plague. I was infected by powders spores. One of the scariest times of my life."
"Dear God! I thought he was simply blowing smoke. I never considered that you were actually in danger."
"I'm a cop, Louis. I'll always be in danger."
"Forgive me, my love. I should never have abandoned you. I should have faced my trial with the same bravery you used to face him every day. Then, we would have had more time together." Louis laced their fingers together. "Even if we win this fight, it will be too late."
"Stubborn old man."
"Foolish little boy." Tony tightened his grip. Louis chuckled. He tugged a little and Tony blinked rapidly. "My dearest boy, my love. I wasted so much time."
"Tell me why you're convinced you'll be dead. It's not the price on your head. That's ceremonial."
"I have a brain tumor. The doctor assumes that it will kill me within the year. Any day might be my last."
"Then why aren't you partying on the beach in Monaco with a pretty young thing on each arm?"
"Why haven't you found a lover?"
Tony bit his lip and was quiet for a long moment. "I won't let you go. I said until death and I meant it."
"You still love me after all I've put you through?"
"I wouldn’t' hurt this badly if I didn't love you. I forgive you for running. I understand why you did." He brought Louis' hand to his lips. "Don't waste any more of our time on regret." He looked deep into the bright blue eyes. "I bind thee. I bind thee. I bind thee."
Louis' eyes glittered and Tony knew the emotion mirrored his own upon hearing the ritual words they'd shared so long ago repeated back to him. They kissed to seal the deal. "I have to go."
"Anthony, I have always loved you. Come see me when this is over, my love. Don't torture yourself for my good."
"I'm not doing this for you." Tony kissed his lover's temple. "Now remember to fight. You're mine."
"And you are mine."
A knock on the door broke the quiet reverie that had fallen between them. "Agent DiNozzo? Time's up."
"Okay. Come in."
"You are in so much trouble for not telling me you're married, mister!" Abby informed Tony as she took his hand. She and Gibbs were quiet as they snuck out of the back of the courthouse. They were caught by the only report Tony had worried about.
"Hey, little bro."
"Big bro." Tony smiled warily at him. "Hi, Jack. What's up?"
"An exclusive interview."
"Not only no, Hell no."
"Tony, come on. I know how much you love the old man. Better me than someone on Rice's side."
"Like they won't edit the tape to have me saying all the things they want me to say anyways?"
"Give me some credit, Tony. There's a whole fraternity that knows the truth."
"What will you give me in exchange?"
"I can't be bought. I'm Louis'."
"I'm a cop. I don't want notoriety."
"I'll let the rest of the outlets know that you signed an exclusive contract with me. Video and print."
"Deal. Call me later."
"Can we do this tonight?"
Tony wavered. Abby squeezed his hand.
"Your body-guards are welcome too. I'll buy you drinner."
"Sabrina's still in business?"
"You're going to soak me."
"Expense it. Your editor will be overjoyed."
The interview was surprisingly painless. Jack was thrilled. "Bro, this is the scoop of the month. Let me run this to my editor. Don't move. I'll track you down if you skip out, SM."
"We'll be right here."
When Jack got back to the room, Tony was being snuggled by his pretty Goth. The older man, Gibbs, was watching them with fond amusement as they argued over some piece of trivia. Jack watched them for a moment to determine what their relationship was. Brother and sister, he decided. Gibbs was studying him.
"How did you meet Tony?"
"I was his big brother when he pledged. He just struck me as the kind of guy I'd like to spend time with. I stood up for him at the hand-fasting. Come on, SM. Editor said he'll even kick in alcohol.
Tony grinned at him. "That's okay. As long as the coffee flows free, these two'll be fine."
"You owe me a beer."
"SM?" Abby queried. "Oh, duh. Sex Machine."
"Yep," Jack confirmed. Jack slung an arm around Tony's shoulder. "It was a great joke. All the people who met him thought he was a slut."
"You mean he wasn't?" Abby pinched Tony's ass. He grabbed for her. She hid behind Gibbs.
"Nah. He was in deep with Louis."
"Let's go eat. You can probe him for stories at the restaurant."
"Oh, I'll be sure to ask deep, probing questions like, did he bleach his hair before he dyed it purple?"
"No, that was spray on color."