"Anthony," Dr. Donald Mallard chided, "Jethro needs to know."
"But, Ducky," Tony DiNozzo whined, sounding more three than thirty.
"'But' nothing," the ME stated. "Tell him." Their eyes met in a contest of wills.
It was broken by another voice. "Tell me what, Duck?" Special Agent Jethro Gibbs asked as he came through the door to stand next to the two men.
"Not here," Tony stated. He glanced around the metal and tile room of the NCIS morgue.
"My house then," the eldest man said firmly. "There's a fence and my neighbors will likely be too drunk to care about anything said there."
Tony nodded. "What time?"
"Now," Gibbs stated. "It's after six. I'll drive you." Tony still hadn't replaced his beloved Mustang and Gibbs didn't trust the rental he was using.
Gibbs' ice blue eyes met the softer blue-green of his senior agent. The young man held the gaze for a moment before shifting his eyes to the side. "Yes, Boss. I'll just get my bag."
"Five minutes or I'll come find you."
Tony scurried off.
"That was cruel, Jethro."
Gibbs smirked. The doctor shook his head.
The three men stood on the back porch surrounded by an uncomfortable silence. Gibbs raised his brows. "Give me a minute okay?" Tony walked to the corner of the yard. Maybe he was finally going to break down and tell Gibbs about his undercover assignment. Or maybe the girl wasn't an assignment and Tony was actually getting ready to settle down. Either way he wasn't going to let Tony back down on talking to him this time. He'd approached the subject obliquely, letting Gibbs overhear conversations and plans. This was time for a confession. He could see it in the lines of the younger man's body.
"What's the about, Duck?"
"It will be easier for you to see than hear."
The older man held up a warning finger. Gibbs bit his tongue. His senior agent crossed the lawn and stopped in the middle. Suddenly, he wasn't there. In his place was a creature about the height of a full-grown bull moose. It had wings and soft iridescent blue-green scales. Gibbs blinked. No, there was still a small English dragon sitting on Ducky's back lawn. It could have come right off the pages of one of Kelly's story-books. It wasn't exactly what Gibbs had been expecting.
"Um, Boss?" it, no, he said, ducking his head. "I think I broke him, Ducky." His wings drooped, giving him a dejected air.
"Nonsense. Come along, Jethro." Ducky crossed the lawn to the dragon's side. He patted the dragon's arm in comfort. Gibbs crossed the grass, still in shock.
The dragon nodded.
"Sure." The dragon brightened perceptibly, his wings no longer drooping.
"Anthony!" Ducky snapped.
"But I like sex. It's fun." Tony pointed out.
"May I?" Gibbs reached out slowly, recognizing Tony's uncertainty as he shifted from foot to foot. He placed his hand on Tony's snout. It was warm and he felt Tony's pulse under his fingers. Tony stilled. Gibbs rapped him on the top of the head with three fingers. "That's for lying to me."
"I didn't lie! I just avoided the truth. It's not like you ever asked if I was human."
Tony sulking was better than Tony nervous. "I needed to know. How can I cover for you, if I don't know what I'm covering for?"
"Right, Boss. So, um, Boss, I'm a dragon."
Gibbs laughed. He stroked Tony's snout as he would a horse. Tony folded himself down until he was crouched like a cat waiting at a mouse-hole.
"Wanna see my wings?"
"Sure." Tony spread his wings. They were sturdy, functional appendages in the same green as Tony's eyes. His eyes flicked down to the tremulously-proud eyes. There was no doubt that this was his Tony. He'd know the eyes he was looking into anywhere.
"How fast can you fly?"
"About fifty miles per hour. More when I'm full-grown. I haven't hit my growth-spurt yet."
"How old are you?"
"In human terms, for dragon growth, he's approximately eleven," Ducky stated. "All things being right with the world, he should be home with his mother."
Tony returned to human form in the blink of an eye. "Ducky," he said sourly.
"Fine. Inside, with something to drink."
"I have ice cream." It was a peace offering and Tony accepted it with a bright smile. He waved at the fence and there was a barely audible "pop." At Gibbs' look the young man shrugged.
"I cast a Disruption. It's a privacy spell."
Soon, they were seated in Ducky's den. Gibbs with coffee, the doctor with tea and Tony with an ice cream float of Coke and vanilla ice cream.
"Tell me a story, DiNozzo."
"My mother was murdered when I was ten. I saw her head cut off by some asshole who wanted to become a knight. I ran away to the human world when I was fifteen. I wanted to learn how to investigate so that I can track him down and revenge my mother."
"And your father?"
"Doesn't know where I am. His gifts get to me because of the spell he uses, but he doesn't like it here. I love it."
"Have you gone back to visit?" Gibbs tried to keep his voice even. To lose his wife and then to have his child go missing? The elder dragon had to be hurting.
"No, if I go home, he'll keep me there until I'm ancient. He won't even let me visit."
Ducky nodded sadly. "I expect you're right, my boy. Another seventy years isn't in the plans for me. Abigail and Timothy perhaps."
"Besides, I have things to learn here still. And I've learned more about honor and justice and wisdom in fifteen years here that I could in a thousand years at home. Humans live so much more fully, more quickly, more vibrantly. And there's always something new, not thousand year old family legends to recite or even older battles to glorify."
"Is your name really Tony?" Gibbs could help but ask. It didn't seem particularly dragon-like to him.
"Anthony means 'precious or priceless.' My mother called me Gem. But my name really is Anthony. Papa favors Milan and Venice when he's in the human world. I don't have a dragon last name. Everyone knows my father's house. To be technical, it's probably DiCarlo. Of Carlo's house."
"Spanish, Italian, English and?"
"Um, French and Gaelic."
"Our housekeeper speaks it."
Ducky chuckled. "Did she spoil you with treats if you spoke the language?"
Tony's grin was unrepentant and answered the question easily. Gibbs shook his head.
"What do you plan to do with him when you find him," Gibbs asked. Tony's head whipped towards him, eyes widening. "I know what you want to do, I'm asking what you're going to do."
Tony was quiet for a long moment, eyes fixed on Gibbs with a strange wariness that nearly broke the older man's heart. Somehow he'd broken Tony's trust. He needed that trust, but he didn't know how to get it back. He needed his ever-faithful Tony. "I'm going to kill him, Gibbs. He's not human and neither am I. He wanted to be a knight, but he cut corners. He found a mother who was curled in her den with a dragonlet and killed her. She never had a chance to fight back. He drugged her, then cut off her head. He chucked me under the chin and walked away with her blood splashing on the floor of my nursery. I'm going to kill him. If he's lucky I'll even make it quick."
"Can you take him?"
Tony sat straighter. "You're ten times better than he'll ever be."
"What's going to stop him from drugging you?"
"I can take weapons to Faerie. I'm not an elf. I can take a gun and bullets. I can take knives. And I can take a bullet-proof vest that's stronger than his armor. I'll track him by my mother's blood and kill him."
"What's plan B?"
"Gibbs?" Tony's confusion was obvious.
"What if you decide you can't take him and get out alive?"
"Bring him to the courts of the Sidhe. Bring him to the courts of the Dragons. Bring him to every court in the realm until he is stripped of his magic, his longevity and his riches. He broke the rules and no true knight will praise him for it."
Gibbs studied his partner. He nodded once. "Let me help you."
"I can't take you to Faerie. Once you enter you can't leave. It will break Abby's heart. She almost didn't survive you going to Mexico. I won't do that to her."
They stared at each other for a long moment. Gibbs was pleased to see that Tony didn't look away. He gave the young man a small nod. "I won't abandon her."
"Better not or I'll come find you. I can't hold the team together like that again." He put his soda down on his coaster. He looked at the Persian rug on the floor. "It was harder than it should have been, Boss. And if I hear 'you're not Gibbs' one more time, I think I'm going to lose it. Don't do that to me again, okay?" His voice was quiet.
The grey-haired senior agent was quiet for a long moment. "Not by choice, Tony. But you did do it and you did damn well. You even got praise from Fornell and you know that's nothing to sneeze at."
Tony looked up in surprise. "Fornell? The man can't stand me."
Gibbs smirked. "Because he didn't get to you first."
"Really? That's cool."
"Does Abby know?"
The young man looked at him in undisguised horror. "I'd have to buy a gag and a lot of duct tape. She'll never let me rest if she finds out!"
"I think you'd be surprised. Does anyone besides Ducky know?"
Tony shook his head. "No. I couldn't risk it. Even if Papa usually frequents the other side of the world."
Well, that was an incredibly sad way to live your life. "Thank you for trusting me."
"You're Gibbs," was all his second replied. "So, dinner? Pizza? My treat?"
Ducky chuckled. "Of course, my dear boy." The doctor stood up to get the phone. He patted Tony's shoulder as he passed. "I'm going to check on Mother. By then you should have decided on the menu. Don't forget those cinnamon bread-sticks. The dogs love them."
Gibbs waited until Tony had placed the order and reeled off his credit card to pay for it. "So, you've got questions."
"Not about you being a dragon."
Tony's brows rose.
Gibbs looked him dead in the eye for a long moment. "Are you in love with her?"
The green eyes widened in panic. Tony bit his lip. "Yes," he said finally, voice just a hint above a whisper. "Not like I love you, I'll never love anyone like that, but I want her to be happy. She won't be happy with me."
Gibbs leaned forward. "Why not?"
"Because she doesn't know me. She knows someone she thinks is me. She's the first woman I've ever fallen in love with."
The senior agent felt his heart clench. "And she's an assignment." He lifted his hand to his mouth for silence. "You haven't mentioned her once. You've let me hear you, but you haven't said anything. You need me to know, but you can't tell me. I understand." There was relief in the younger man's shoulders at that. "Just be careful, Tony."
"I don't break cover," the younger man said softly. "I want to so badly. I don't want to lie to her anymore."
"Oh, Tony." Gibbs looked into his glass. He looked up. Ducky was hovering in the hall to give them this time. "I wish I could make this easier for you."
Tony laughed bitterly. "I wish you could too. I'm going to break my heart aren't I?"
Gibbs gave him a small nod. He'd never protected Tony from hard truths and he never would. He got a short laugh in response. They descended into silence, but it was familiar. Tony picked up his soda. "So, how much of what Ducky says is true?" Gibbs glanced at the doctor who was just coming back into the room.
"About me being a kid?" Tony shrugged. "In theory, I shouldn't be here until another seventy years down the road. Dragons leave home for their first taste of the human realm at about one hundred. Say, about twenty-five in human terms. But I left home at fifteen, Gibbs. It's not the same. I've grown up here on a human scale. I'm mostly an adult. I will admit to wanting to pounce on moving things sometimes, but even Papa does that sometimes. I'm a prodigy. I went to college at like six or so. There's no real direct correlation between the way time runs here and the way time runs there. There's also no direct relationship between human and dragon development."
Tony took a moment to gather his thoughts. Gibbs simply sipped his drink and waited. He was good at interrogation and this was the same idea. "Dragons are predators, Boss. We're hatched from eggs. When we get out we can walk and hunt almost immediately. Takes a few days for our wings to work, but that's it. The rest is acculturation. If the world was perfect, I'd have stayed with my mother in her den until I was twenty. After that I'd be given my own space in the compound, but I'd still spend most of my time with her. My father would start to become more important in my life and I'd spend more time with him as I grew older, but it would still be lessons and training and learning, and playing. I'm still young enough that if I pounced on an older dragon's tail, even if we weren't related, he'd either ignore me, smile indulgently, or twitch it to play with me. I wouldn't be allowed out of the compound alone until I was fifty and then only with a pixie watching me and a strict curfew. The Sidhe, like the one that killed my mother, are known for kidnapping dragonlets. They train them as attack mounts."
"Really?" Ducky asked as he entered with fresh drinks.
The young man paused, thinking. "I don't know. They do kidnap dragonlets. I've seen the reports, but the stories could be exaggerated to scare kids into doing the right thing. It's not like Sidhe aren't evil." Tony seemed unsure. "Tales are still handed down verbally. I could be basing that on hearsay and my own experiences."
"What would you be studying if you'd stayed?" Ducky prompted.
"Law, I guess. Or art. Or history. Probably law. Dragons are tribal. There is a main court, but it's made up of the leaders of each tribe and the Ancient."
"The ancient?" Gibbs asked, frowning. "Like a god?"
"No, the oldest living dragon. He's at least 8 thousand years old. I've seen him, but I was still in shock. He came to help when they discovered Mama's body." Tony's eyes were haunted. "I knew she wasn't going to wake up because she didn't have a head. Rabbits and goats don't after all, but I was still hoping she would. I didn't want to leave her. The Ancient carried me out. I bit him, I think." He shook off the somber mood. "So, suggestions on how to tell Abby?"
Gibbs let him change the topic. He wanted to gather Tony into his arms and tell the rest of the world to take a flying leap, but he couldn't. He was still Tony's boss and Tony was still seeing someone, even if it was just an assignment.
Tony settled on the floor of Gibbs' basement, snout settled on his paws, wings folded down. He looked miserable. "She hates me. I think her father might actually approve of me. How messed up is that?"
"I'd have let you date my daughter," Gibbs said. He didn't look up from the board he was sanding. "Yeah, but would you let me date Abby?"
"Hell no. She's too wild for you."
Tony laughed at that. "Still, it would be one heck of a night."
"Are you going to tell her?"
"Yes. I'm going to tell her. Here, if I can?"
"Of course." Gibbs didn't give that a moment's thought.
"Good because I keep looking at Ducky's dogs and thinking 'snack'."
"He might season them for you."
"His mother loves those things."
"Not an animal lover are you?"
"I love animals. They taste great. Especially rabbits." When Gibbs looked over after a few minutes of quiet, Tony's eyes were closed and his breathing was steady. He drank in the sight of the dragon form. He thought he should be repulsed by the idea that the man he wanted to bed wasn't human, but he wasn't. Tony was Tony and that's all that mattered to him. He smiled and shook his head. At least he'd been able to find a use for all those comforters his wives insisted on buying.
Abby looked around Gibbs' basement. It was the first time she'd been invited when her life wasn't in danger, she wasn't mourning someone, or having her apartment fumigated. The boat was brand new and she had no idea what he'd done with the last one. There was a pile of blankets and pillows in the corner making it into something like a large day bed. "So, you're finally going to take me up on that orgy idea?" she asked brightly. Gibbs and Tony and her? Oh yeah, she was totally down with that.
"That doesn't mean no," she informed Gibbs.
Tony snickered. "No, Abby, he's not sleeping with you. Ever. I'm a jealous bitch."
Abby punched the air. "Yes! You finally did it." She flung herself into Tony's arms. "Congratulations!"
Tony grinned. "I know. It was hard, but I finally wore him down. Breaking up with Jeanne might have had something to do with it, I guess. He's known I'm in love with him since before Kate. Stubborn bastard."
Gibbs smirked. He kissed the back of Tony's neck as he unwrapped Abby's arms. "And that actually isn't what we asked you here to tell you either."
"There's more? You're getting hitched? You're retiring and becoming a consultant? You're too happy for it to be something bad. You want me to be your surrogate?" She was surprisingly okay with that idea. Gibbs loved kids and Tony would love and be fine with his own kids. And she'd have the baby, but she really didn't want to raise one.
"Nope. Not that either." Tony leaned back into Gibbs' arms. Abby disengaged herself from the hug. "Okay. I'm going to show you something. You can ask questions, but if you squeal and call it adorable, I'll bite your pigtails off."
"Tony," Gibbs growled.
"It hurts my ears when she squeals."
"But you are adorable," Gibbs countered, batting his lashes.
"I hate that you look good doing that." Tony went to stand by the blankets. Suddenly, he wasn't standing there. There was a small dragon in his place.
"Oh, my gosh!" Her voice trilled up at the end, but she couldn't help it. She bounced across the room. "This is so cool. You are so cute." She reached out to touch him slowly, half not-believing it wasn't an incredible illusion. Tony stayed still under her touch, folding down to make it easier for her to stroke his snout and touch his horns. She kissed his forehead. "So, can you breathe fire?"
"He can, but he will not be breathing fire in this basement."
"But I could heat up your irons and things instead of you needing to use the coals."
Gibbs raised a brow. "If I were going to use those irons right now, that would be a point."
"Yes, I breathe fire. I can breathe fire in human form. No, I'm not going to light your bunson burners."
Abby smirked. "Yes, you will. You just haven't caved yet. I have so many questions that I don't know where to start."
Tony snorted. He curled up on the blankets, and wow that made sense now. He left her some room. She cuddled up next to him, the warmth of his skin through the protective armor of his scales was soothing. "You know that you can't tell anyone right?"
"Well, der." He was pleasant to lean against, warmer than a snake and not furry, but still and solid. She tapped a scale, wondering what it was made out of. "So, tell me the good stuff."
"Dragons are hard to kill. We're predators. We have long-term relationships and enjoy long walks in the mountains and art museums."
"Don't BS me, mister. I'll have Gibbs spank you."
Tony looked at Gibbs and cocked his head. "Really?" he sounded intrigued.
"Tony. Focus. Give me the lowdown."
"Give me a topic."
Tony glared at Abby. She simply smiled sweetly at him. "Please?" she begged.
He rolled his eyes. He made a fist and held it up to his lips. As he breathed a touch of fire through it he opened his fingers like a magic trick reveal. That way the now lit bunsen burner wouldn't look too odd on the cameras. "Do not get used to that." He tapped Abby's nose with his index finger.
She bit at it and he let her catch it between her teeth and shake his hand as though she were a puppy. She didn't do any damage after all. "I think I need to get you a cape and a top hat. We'll put on shows in the cafeteria."
"Can you even imagine Gibbs' face if we did that?"
"I would totally wear an assistant's outfit."
"Do I get to pick it?" Tony cocked his head to the side. "I'm thinking green with spangles."
"Just for that I'm not wearing my cheerleader outfit for Halloween this year."
Tony pouted at her. "You are so mean. We're going for milkshakes tonight barring any horrible cases that come our way. You're paying."
She laughed. "Go on, out of my lab, you."
Back to the NCIS Bedroom