Failed Connection

By Gunnery Sergeant

Sequel to "Reconnection, Tony version", "Heartland Connection" and "Secret Connection.

Set about ten days after the events of "Secret Connection".

-----

"That's all Abs," Tony said as he put a box full of evidence on the steel table in her lab. "Have fun," he teased as he moved toward the door to return to the squad room and start the investigation of Captain Leigh's murder.

"Tony, wait!" Abby called and he stopped on his tracks and turned around with an interrogative expression.

"Yes?"

"Well, we haven't had any time for one of our movie nights since your return from the Seahawk, and I was sorta wondering if we could do it this evening."

Tony narrowed his eyes as he slightly tilted his head. He could see the tension in Abby's shoulders and the way she played with one of her pigtails.

He knew watching a movie was the last thing on her mind in that moment. It wasn't the reason she wanted to see him, and while a part of him didn't enjoy the prospect of an evening spent answering questions, another part was grateful she had finally taken the first step. The tension of the past days was beginning to grate on his and Jethro's nerves.

Everything had seemed fine after Gibbs had been forced to reveal his vampire nature to Abby, Ducky, Ziva and McGee in order to save Tony's life. The team had reacted well and Tony had been moved when he had listened to their promises to never reveal Jethro's secret. He had mostly been happy for his lover, because that would mean Gibbs would be able to lower his guard and be truly himself with other people other than himself and Jackson Gibbs.

Gibbs had been pleased too, although he had told Tony he expected their friends and colleagues to need more time and a less emotional state to really digest what they had seen and been told. His lover had also alerted him to be prepared, because there would be more questions, for both of them.

However things weren't going as expected—or perhaps just hoped. Tony could feel the speculative gazes the others threw at him and Gibbs when they thought they wouldn't notice. The lovers felt observed, examined, scrutinized, and it was getting uncomfortable.

Jethro had kept his temper in check to give their friends time to adapt, but Tony knew his mate's patience was wearing thin, as was his own.

Thus he decided to accept Abby's invitation in the hope of starting to make everything right again.

"Sure, Abs," he answered with a grin, "Your place or mine?"

"Mine, 20:00 and don't be late," Abby said and Tony noticed her shoulders relax.

"Yes, Ma'am!" he answered with a sloppy military salute, "I'll be there."

-----

Later that evening, precisely at 20:00, Tony rang Abby's doorbell. She opened and let him inside with a smile and a hug, and gestured for him to go into the living room. He did and wasn't surprised to discover Ducky, Ziva and McGee there too. He greeted them with a wave of his hand and ignored the way they were all looking at him.

He sat on the couch, removed his jacket and picked up a slice of pizza from the open box resting on the coffee table. He ate it, took another, ate that too, drank from the beer bottle Abby handed him, all the while he wondering how long it would take to the others to break the silence.

Finally, since no one seemed to want to make the first move, Tony leaned against the back of the couch, spread his arms atop of it and said, "So Abs, let me guess what we're gonna watch…" he furrowed his brow, as if he was in deep thought, then added, "We're gonna watch Interview With The Vampire's… lover."

The others reacted with surprised gasps and arched eyebrows and he chuckled. "Come on guys, I know some of you have no respect of my deductive abilities, but it wasn't that difficult to guess."

"Aren't you angry?" Abby asked.

"Of course not. Jethro and I knew it was bound to happen. You're all very curious people. It was a given you'd have more questions about him and his kin. And also, well, all your staring at us these past days sorta gave you away…" he glared at them. "Don't tell me you believed we wouldn't notice?"

There was a long moment of embarrassed silence, then Tony sighed, "Come on, people, we aren't angry, otherwise I wouldn't be here."

"So you're authorized to talk…" Ziva smirked.

"Yep. Ask and I'll do my best to answer, although I can't guarantee I'll be able satisfy your curiosity if you've very specific questions about vampires. I'm still learning myself and Gibbs isn't exactly a talker…"

Ducky laughed softly from the armchair where he was sitting, "Of course, Anthony."

"So," Abby began, pacing in front of him, "how long have you two been together?"

Tony smirked, "I don't think it's your business."

Abby pouted. "We need to establish your reliability as a vampire expert," she said sounding like a lawyer in court.

"Not buying it, Abs. You're just curious. Anyway," he answered, looking at the assembled group, "we've been together for the past sixteen months."

"That's a record for you!" Ziva exclaimed and Tony threw her a dirty glare, but refused to take the bait.

"And you've known Gibbs was a vampire since…?" Abby interjected.

"Same time. He told me just before he said he loved me."

"Just like that?" inquired McGee.

Tony snorted. "Well, Probie, the boss isn't the romantic type that goes for long love declarations…or maybe he would have gone for it had I not forced his hands."

"How?" McGee asked, with a little frown.

"Do you remember when last winter we found a dead Marine in a public park in Arlington?" Tony continued.

"Yes, I remember him," Ducky interjected. "The poor fellow's throat had been slashed, he had bled out but there was no blood on the crime scene."

"I remember too, yes," Ziva said rising to her feet and gesturing with her hand. "We discovered that other people had been killed in the same way…and you," she pointed an accusing finger toward Tony, "started talking about vampires."

"Yeh, Gibbs was pretty pissed off about it," McGee added.

"Of course he was! 'Cause there was indeed a vampire involved and he had to find a way to catch him without compromising the safety of his kin," Tony said, not hiding a bit of irritation. "Which he did, by the way, even if that murder ended among our cold cases. The killer was dealt with off record by Gibbs and a few other vampires. The murderer won't kill anyone else."

The others nodded in understanding, then Ziva said with a speculative tone, "I remember he disappeared one afternoon, saying he was going to visit the vampire community…He did it for real!"

"Yep. He did, but we all believed he was fooling us," Tony confirmed with a smile. "Boss is a sneaky one. He hid the truth in plain sight—and we didn't see it."

"What happened next?" Abby pressed impatiently.

"Well, Gibbs didn't return to the office after his mysterious errand, so, our fearless assassin, McGeek and I decided one of us had to check on him. I did. I found him in his basement with a bottle of Jack. I tried to cheer him up making a joke about vampires…He lost it then. He told me vampires existed, told me about them…and then revealed his true nature to me."

Tony closed his eyes remembering the moment Gibbs had bared his fangs. The long, sharp, pointed teeth had given him a completely different expression, making him look feral, dangerous and even more intense he usually was. The fangs also made Jethro look as sexy as hell, especially when he stared hungrily at him.

He shifted slightly on the couch and when he opened his eyes he found Ziva and Abby observing him, making him realize that something in his expression or body reaction must have betrayed his thoughts.

"What?" he snapped. "I was just remembering."

The two women smirked, but didn't say anything, and he was glad when McGee interjected, "What Gibbs told you about vampires…is the same he told us in the tunnel?"

"Yes…I learned more in the following months. He sometimes tells me things about his kin, bits and pieces here and there."

"I see…then maybe you can explain this to me. When we were blocked in the tunnel, he said that vampires need blood to stay young…" McGee began hesitantly.

"That's true."

"But, well, the boss isn't that young…" McGee's voice trailed off, as if he was afraid he had offended Gibbs or something like that.

Tony smiled. "As he explained me, once vampires reach their maturity around 25 to 30 years old, they have two main options. They can start drinking blood regularly and remain forever young, or they can drink only occasionally and get old the same as humans do. Those who choose the first option often live hidden from society, or they need to keep on changing location before people may notice they don't age. This option is mostly chosen by vampires without a companion or with mates of their own kin. The ones who fall in love with humans instead, usually prefer to get old along their partners and live a normal "human life span". Then, after their mates have died, they retire in secluded place, have a steady diet of blood, get young again and then they are ready to start a new life…" Tony's voice faltered. Gibbs' blood, which he had tasted for the first time when his lover had used it to heal him for his fatal wound in the tunnel, would lengthen his life well into his second hundred years, but then he would die too. He hated to know that one day he would have to leave Jethro alone, but he was aware there was nothing he could do to change it.

"How young can they return to in age?" Abby asked, "Children?"

"As far as I understood, they stop again when they look 17 to18. This way they can enrol at a college and start again from there."

"Cool! A mature man or woman in a college kid's body!" Abby exclaimed, clapping her hands.

"I am not sure it is very cool, Abigail," Ducky commented. "They would stand out as a sore thumb. Speech patterns, behaviour, everything will set them apart."

"Ducky, Gibbs told me his kin has a great ability to adapt and that during the period they spend in seclusion, they learn to behave again as appropriate for the age they look to be, even if they don't lose the maturity and knowledge gained along the years…or centuries."

"So this is what Gibbs is doing, yes?" Ziva asked.

"Sort of. He drinks only the blood he needs to stay at the top of his condition while avoiding starting the rejuvenating process." Tony had no intention to reveal Jethro hadn't drunk for eighteen years out of loyalty to Shannon's memory, his first love and donor. That was something too private. "He'll decide what to do next – remain like he is now or keep on aging – after he retires from NCIS."

"He certainly is in top condition!" Ziva exclaimed. "Have you seen how he trashed all those new recruits during Monday combat training lesson? Most of them were 20 to 25 years younger than him and several had military training…and yet…be beat all of them, without running into a sweat."

"Breaking," Tony corrected, smiling at the admiration in her voice. "Trust me, Ziva, you've no idea of how lethal he can be with his bare hands."

"You do?" the Israeli wondered.

"Oh yeh…When we were in Stillwater, we had a run-in with ten thugs armed with baseball bats. Winslow didn't take well his son-in-law's arrest. I can tell you I've never seen someone move so quickly or fight so efficiently, not even in movies full of special effects. Gibbs was a force of nature."

"I would have loved to see it," Abby commented.

"Me too," Ziva and McGee echoed in unison.

"Well, I could try and convince him to give a demonstration, using you two as sparring partners." Tony snickered as McGee paled and Ziva looked suddenly very nervous. "Just joking, Probie, don't look so scared. You too, Zee-vah." She glared at him but then relaxed.

"Are there many vampires in America?" McGee asked when he recovered from his fright.

"I don't know. Gibbs told me vampires are about .5 to1percent of the world populace, so you can do the math and calculate how many are supposed to be in the US."

"That would be quite a low number…" Ducky commented.

"Unfortunately, only a small percentage of vampires are able to have children; all the others are sterile and it keeps the numbers down."

The others nodded, and he was pretty sure all of them were thinking about Gibbs and his late daughter.

"So," Tony said after the silence had stretched for a few minutes, "any more questions?"

"Just one Anthony," Ducky replied, and his serious voice, so foreign to the relaxed mood that had reigned so far, made a shiver run along Tony's spine.

"Yes?"

"From whom, exactly, does Jethro drink?"

Tony smiled, "I thought it was obvious: he drinks from me."

"And does it hurt?" Abby asked, her expression suddenly very sober.

"What?" Tony asked back stunned.

"When he bites you and sucks your blood," she clarified.

"Yeah, it hurts a bit, but it passes soon and before you ask it, Ducky, he always heals my wounds after he is done."

"Yes, I'm sure he does, since he caused them. But the point is has he the right to inflict them in the first place?"

Tony frowned, "I don't think I understand."

"Why doesn't he drink from someone else? Or, even better, why doesn't he drink from a blood bank?" Ziva asked pointedly, and suddenly Tony realized that this matter, these questions were the real reason he had been asked to be here tonight.

He could sense the unease that had fallen over his friends as they had started talking about the bites, but he couldn't understand the reason beneath such tension.

"Vampires are predators. They're hunters in the core of their being, and they need to appease that part of their nature by drinking from living donors," he explained. "As for why Gibbs drinks from me, he considers the act a very…personal one…and he doesn't want to share it with strangers. And to be perfectly frank, I like when he drinks from me. It's a very intimate moment."

"But it's unnatural," Ziva sentenced.

Tony whipped his head around to look at her, surprised. "How can you say something like that? Don't tell me you have never given or received a bite during sex, 'cause I can't believe it!"

"Love bites are one thing, vampire bites are another!"

"Not if they are given with love," Tony shook his head and spread his hands in frustration. "What the hell is happening here? Why are you so interested about Gibbs' bites? I told you he doesn't hurt me. He would never, ever hurt his donors and he certainly would never kill one by draining all their blood."

"Of course Jethro would never do it. He's far too honourable. But we are concerned about you, Anthony." Ducky stood up and walked to stop in front of him as he continued, "My dear boy, having our body pierced by animal's fangs is one of our most primal fears. This is why a lot of people are scared by needles-- you included. Yet you just told us you enjoy having your body pierced by Jethro's fangs…Don't you see there is something strange in it?"

Before Tony could answer, Abby interjected, "Tony, we're concerned about your relationship with Gibbs. I mean, we all see how you strive to please him at work. You worship the ground he walks on. You even enjoy his head-slaps. As for him, his track record with relationships isn't good and we-"

Tony couldn't believe it. "Are you suggesting he is abusing me in some way?" he sputtered and interrupted her.

"Abuse it too much of a strong word, Anthony. We're concerned that Jethro's domineering personality, combined with your desire to please him is making you accept a situation which is far from normal."

Tony was stunned. He and Jethro had known that their friends would have had some difficulties in accepting that vampires existed and that Gibbs was one of them. They had known Ducky, Abby, Ziva and Timothy would need time to change and adapt the beliefs and prejudices instilled in them by society and myth but this…this was unthinkable.

Yes, he liked Gibbs' domineering personality. It grounded him and made him give his best on the job. It was the reason he had remained at NCIS even after the two-year mark had passed and he had started building a real life in DC.

He also knew that, no matter the good job he had done as a team leader while his boss was in Mexico, he preferred to be the second in command, not the skipper. There were fewer responsibilities, but he didn't like responsibilities, unlike his lover who enjoyed them.

As for their relationship, yes, he was a bottom. It had always been his preference when he had male lovers. But from that it was a long stretch to arrive to say he was letting Gibbs coerce him in doing something unnatural as if he wasn't able to decide what was good for himself. It was an insult, to him, to his lover and to the absolute trust that was the basis of their bond.

Tony stood up and looking down at Ducky, he answered the question he had been asked earlier.

"No, Doctor Mallard, I don't see anything strange. What I see is that my friends – and my partner's – can't understand me and what there is between me and Jethro. I see that just because they can't understand it, they think there is something wrong. They are saying the man I love is exploiting me—and that, guys," he said looking at the assembled group, "is what is really wrong here. Now, if you forgive me, I've had enough for this evening. I'm still willing to answer your questions, if you can just stop insulting us and throwing shit on the best thing that ever happened to me."

Done trying to explain, Tony grabbed his jacked and walked out of the room and the house, without turning to look back even once.