A/N: This gets rather explicit, so if that's not your cup of tea, I'd suggest turning back now. Otherwise, enjoy some down and dirty with DiNozzo—with a side of angst, because, well, that's kind of my MO and I like to be consistent.

The hotel room door slammed shut, and Tony felt the tense body pressed against him jerk in time with his. Hands shoved him against the wall and he found himself suddenly unable to breathe.

Frantic lips were crushing his and he felt the slender young woman rise up on her toes to hungrily attack his mouth. He opened his eyes briefly before shutting them tightly again as a glimpse of her raven hair reminded him of Abby. He didn't want to think about the spunky Goth tonight—or any of his team.

He needed to lose himself tonight.

His hands abandoned their desperate grasps on her hips and fluttered up, burrowing into the long dark tresses. Her mouth wasn't nearly as soft, and his mind swirled as he tried to decide which he liked better: her soft hair or the relentless assault of her mouth on his.

Her teeth nipped his lower lip, and he groaned, all thought blinking out like a burned-out light bulb. She pulled his lip into her mouth, sucking hard until he started to shake against her taut young body.

He really needed this tonight.

"You like that, huh?" she asked, her voice smoky and sultry with a hint of a smile. "What else do you like?"

Her mouth had moved to his throat, and she unbuttoned his shirt, her small hands moving quickly and certainly until the garment was nothing more than a puddle on the floor. He didn't answer, both because he was embarrassed and because the combination of her lips on his throbbing pulse and her hands gliding up and down over his ribs was driving him slowly, wonderfully insane.

"I can't do it if I don't know what 'it' is," she murmured, straining upward against him to trap an earlobe between her teeth.


That was as far as he got as her hands moved lower, one landing on his hip, one gripping his swollen length through his pants. He collapsed forward, burying his face in her neck and moaning, the sound more pained than pleasured.

Oh yeah, he really needed this tonight.

"I want you so bad," he whispered, hoping she wouldn't pick up on the desperation in his husky voice.

Her hand was still moving, stroking him so expertly he didn't even care that there was pesky Armani between her flesh and his.

"I'm yours," she said. But her hand stilled, still gripping him tightly as she pulled back slightly. Her brilliant blue eyes were startling amid her wild dark hair as they bored into his green ones, darkened by desire. "For the night," she said, her mouth at his throat again before moving sideways to nip at his bare collarbone. "For the right price."

He shuddered lightly, but it wasn't from the loss of contact as she stepped backward, looking up at him expectantly. Shit, he thought, am I really going to do this? The broken body of the Marine's wife, beaten to death by her husband's oh-so capable hands flashed in front of him, and he decided that he needed this more than he needed his dignity at the moment.

She quoted him a reasonable price for the night, told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he didn't get rough, and asked, "Deal?"

He was still trembling from her expert touch—and the ghostly visions. But he nodded and pulled out his wallet. His mind was busy replacing the brutal images from his day with thoughts of how good it would feel to bury himself inside her hot wet softness so he almost missed the relief that crossed her pretty face when he pressed the money into her hand.

But he didn't miss it.

And it drove a stake through his heart as he realized how young she looked in the light of the room compared with the dark bar downstairs. He stood there, stunned and shamed, but she didn't seem to notice and let her silky blue dress slip to the floor, exposing a perfect body.

Perfect, except for the fingerprint-shaped bruises marring her slim hips.

For a horrifying second, he thought that his hands had put those marks there when he had desperately locked onto her as she shoved him against the wall just moments earlier. But he was an investigator who had seen so many bruised bodies—had walked around one just hours earlier, picking through the dead woman's things and wishing there was a way to apologize to her for the many violations committed against her. He knew these bruises were too old to be from his hands.

But the simple thought of his hands resting on her hips, his grip weakly mirroring whatever animal had done that to her, that made him flinch. She stilled, staring back at him with pretty blue eyes as he tore his gaze from her hips. He read shame in those eyes that rivaled his own, and he clamped a hand over his mouth and bolted for the bathroom, dropping heavily to his knees and throwing up violently.

He sat back and breathed through the lingering nausea, feeling so disgusted with himself that it hurt, like a physical ache in his chest. He whipped around at the soft words from behind him.

"Gee, thanks," she said, smiling crookedly at him. "Guess all those other guys were lying when they said I was beautiful."

The casual mention of all those other guys had his stomach lurching again, but he simply stared at her, willing her face not to morph into the broken one he had photographed in gruesome, violating detail earlier.

"I'm sorry," he said, standing, flushing the toilet and moving to the sink to wash his hands and rinse out his mouth. He felt hollow and empty, wishing she had bolted for the door, and he checked the mirror, suddenly afraid to find himself lacking a reflection.

"You could have left," he said, his eyes on hers in the mirror. "Why didn't you?"

He watched her reflection lift a shoulder, but the look in her eyes was anything but casual. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

He felt her softly concerned words like a kick in the belly, and it intensified his shame and guilt more than he had thought possible. "I'm fine," he said quietly, looking down at the sink, not sure if he could look at her anymore—or himself. "You can go. And take the money. I've wasted enough of your time."

She didn't speak. But she didn't move either. He looked up and saw her hesitation in the glass.

"Do you need more?" he asked softly, not turning but holding the gaze of her reflection. He saw her wince and look down at her stylish, strappy—but cheap, he noticed—shoes. "How much do you need? I'll give you whatever cash I have and you can go."

A tear ran slowly down her face, and he finally turned around, pausing only slightly before pulling her into his arms. He felt her go tense for a split second before melting against his body. He realized she hadn't put the silky dress back on and had donned his discarded shirt without buttoning it. He swallowed his groan at the feel of her equally silky skin against his and forced himself to concentrate on her soft sobs.

It wasn't hard. The cries, the wetness of her tears, her soft trembling were slowly tearing him apart.

"Shhhhh," he murmured against the hair he had so recently lost his fingers in. His disgust with himself almost choked his words, but he managed a soft "It's okay" before simply holding her and letting her cry, alternately relishing and despising the hotness of her tears on his bare skin.

He stood there, fighting the warring emotions raging through him. He wanted her so bad he could taste it, but he also felt oddly protective toward her, and every time his head strayed into decidedly x-rated territory, his guilt and shame tossed buckets of icy cold water over him.

" 'M sorry," she sniffled an eternity later, pulling back to look up into his eyes with her own startling blue, red-rimmed ones. "I don't usually..."

He found a smile for her. "Me neither," he said, watching her grin back at him before settling her cheek against his shoulder.

"Stay?" she asked, sounding incredibly young again. "We don't have to... And you don't have to... But I just want..."

She sighed, apparently annoyed with herself. He looked down at her, keeping his eyes on her face and not on the alluringly bare skin of her breasts peeking out of his designer shirt.

He nodded, his long fingers deftly buttoning the shirt to cover her while she studied his face with wide eyes.

"Thank you," she said softly, and then she turned back to the room.

He saw her shudder as her eyes landed on the bed, and he crossed the room, giving her a wide berth and sinking into a stiff chair. She sat primly on the edge of the bed, his shirt swallowing her whole and making her look too young and vulnerable for his quivering psyche. He shot up out of the chair, almost threw up again when she flinched at his sudden movement, and went to the wet bar, intent on making the strongest drink he'd ever had.

"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked softly, and he could feel her eyes on his bare back. She said softly, "You're shaking."

He set the bottle down before it shattered in his desperate grip, and he took a slow breath. "I'm fine," he said, approaching her more slowly and offering the glass.

She reached out with trepidation and he stilled, asking before thinking, "You are old enough to drink, right?"

He knew before she raised her hand that he had used an interrogation tone, but he honestly wasn't expecting the force of the blow as she slapped him across the face hard enough to make him gasp.

Her small hands stung as she hit him open-handed in the chest and shoved him backward. He held the sloshing glasses up like useless little shields and opened his mouth to speak.

But she beat him to it. "You're a cop? You're a fucking cop?" she cried, the ugly words wholly at odds with her youthful beauty.

He thought about lying to her, but he knew she wouldn't buy it. They had talked enough downstairs for him to realize how smart she was. It was part of the reason he had allowed himself to do this.

"Not tonight," he said softly, watching for her reaction. He handed her the drink and didn't back away, figuring it was within her rights if she wanted to hit him again. He felt the stinging in his cheek and almost hoped she would. He more than deserved it, for so many reasons.

He watched her process that, watched her hand twisting in his shirt as she struggled, sipping lightly at the drink. "You bought me dinner," she said, thinking back over the evening. "I immediately let my guard down because no cop would buy me dinner. Hell, I should have known something was wrong then. No johns ever buy me dinner. Why did you do that?"

He paused, not willing to admit that he hadn't been sure what he'd wanted earlier, not willing to admit that he was lonely and had wanted more than a quick fuck to chase away the demons, not willing to admit that it had been a long time since a pretty woman had looked at him the way she did—and had continued looking at him that way even after he'd opened his mouth and let Anthony speak instead of charming Tony.

Her eyes widened as she misread his silence. "Uh, you knew I'm a prostitute, right?" she asked, slightly incredulous.

"I'm a cop," he admitted, not bothering to distinguish between that and federal agent. He saw her look around nervously. "I knew. And you don't have to worry. If this were a sting, I would have busted you once you took the money."

She just stared at him, still looking perplexed.

"I take it you've never been arrested?" he asked, retreating to his chair and downing half the drink in his trembling hand.

She shook her head slowly.

"Good," he said, feeling relieved and unwilling to examine the reasons why.

"Why did you do that?" she asked again. "Why did you buy me dinner?"

He gave her a watered down version of his brilliant smile, the best he could muster under the circumstances. "You looked hungry?"

Her eyes narrowed for a moment before she smiled back at him. "I was," she said. The grin faded and her eyes darkened slightly, and she said softly, "Best dinner I've had in a while."

"They make a mean steak here," he agreed, focusing on her face and not on the long legs she had crossed. The shirt covered her, but he swallowed hard, trying not to think about the naked body underneath.

"I wasn't talking about the food," she said, watching him closely for his reaction. She was shocked at the sadness that flooded his tired green eyes, and she suddenly realized that she had never fully relaxed during their dinner. She wondered if she had subconsciously picked up on the haunted air to him and had been silently hoping he wouldn't be one of the ones who would hurt her.

Looking at him now, seeing the exhaustion that went far beyond the physical, she knew he wouldn't hurt her—as if his offer to give her all the cash he had on him hadn't already told her he was different. For a moment, the vulnerability she saw in him was like a drug, making her wildly think about hurting him, if only to try to understand why so many men enjoyed making her suffer.

"You're a beautiful person," he said softly, wistfully. "And I don't mean your face or your body. Thank you," he said, making her feel ashamed of her thoughts.

"You're different," she found herself saying. "At dinner, you were flirting and smiling and talkative. And happy…"

She watched his eyes darken fractionally, and she realized it had all been an act—and a very convincing one at that. "And now?" he asked, tentatively, as if he didn't really want to know the answer.

"You look lost," she said, knowing he was just as aware of the irony of a prostitute calling him lost as she was. Her eyes wandered over his body, lingering on the lips she had found herself drowning in earlier. "I could help you with that," she said slowly, suddenly afraid he would reject her.

"You don't owe me anything," he said after a moment. "I meant what I said. You can go."

He misread her hesitation and asked gently, "Do you have somewhere to go?"

She nodded, looking at him warily. He thought about the bruises on her hips and asked, "Somewhere safe?"

She nodded again, and he wasn't sure if he believed her but decided to let it drop. He stood, eyeing his shirt. "I'm going to go." He plucked her dress from the floor, held it out and nodded toward the bathroom. "Trade me?"

She looked up at him with unreadable eyes.

"Stay? Please," she whispered. "Please stay."

He thought of all the reasons she might be asking him to stay and wondered if maybe she was just as lonely as he was. Hating himself for using her, he nodded and started moving back to the chair. But she reached out and took hold of his wrist, taking the dress from his hand and dropping it to the floor as she pulled him closer. Her lip was between her teeth and he felt his body's strong reaction even as he tried to fight it.

He sat beside her, one foot planted on the floor as if to ground himself and one bent leg pressing against her bare thigh. She leaned forward, kissing him tentatively, and pulling back when she felt his hesitation.

"Why?" he whispered, unsure of which question he was expressing.

Her eyes went shiny and she blinked several times before answering. "No one has ever made me feel the way you did, downstairs. Like I was the only woman in the room." Her voice broke and she winced, knowing how corny she sounded. "Like I was on a date. Like I wasn't about to sell myself for rent money."

He surprised her by not flinching. "How much of it was true?" he asked, forcing his hands to stay off her. "What you told me about yourself at dinner?"

She looked away for only a second before looking back, an amused expression brightening her face. "How much of what you told me was true?"

He smiled wryly. "Okay, we'll ignore all that," he said, offering his hand. "I'm Tony."

She blinked, knowing that if he had lied so easily about his own name that everything else he had told her was highly suspect.

"Come on," he prodded gently. "It's not 'Sunni with an i' is it?"

She smiled. "It could be."

"Nah," he said. "You're too smart. I'm sure you know that would be Sunni, as in the religious sect."

She smiled again, slyly this time. "You got me."

"Why play dumb?" he asked, unable to help himself and reaching out to touch her face. "I saw right through it, even though you played it well."

She lifted a shoulder to mask the shudder that ran through her at his touch. "Most of the guys I… Well, most of them are intimidated by smart women. I don't want to scare them off."

"How often do you do this, Su…" He stopped. "Please? Tell me your name?"

"Kathryn," she said, watching his face change subtly. "Kate."

He flinched outright at that, and she sighed. "See?" she said, wondering where the pain in his eyes had come from. "That's why I go with a made-up name, other than the obvious reasons. Mine's too common, and no one is going to have a reaction like you just did to something silly like Sunni."

"Like I did?" he asked, knowing she had seen him flinch.

She just gave him a look. "Someone named Kate ripped your heart out, Tony," she said, his name lingering on her lips. "You want to tell me about her?"

He studied her, remembering a conversation in an elevator with a different prostitute. "Do men really ask for that? A shoulder to cry on?"

She lifted her shoulder, the movement letting the fabric slip lower to reveal more smooth skin. "You'd be surprised."

"I don't want to talk about Kate," he said tightly, not letting himself focus on his dead partner—or her skin peeking out of his shirt at him.

"Kate," she said, thinking. She cocked her head at him, looking into his eyes to avoid the red mark she'd left on his cheek. "Yet you reacted strongly to Kathryn before I even said Kate. She really hurt you."

"We weren't like that," he said, dropping his gaze to his lap. "It's not what you think."

She made a breathy little gasping noise and his eyes met hers instantly. "I'm so sorry," she said, her hand over her mouth. "You're a cop. She was your partner, wasn't she?"

He just stared, not really surprised that she had made the short leap to that truth. He had sensed her intelligence during dinner despite her best efforts to come off as a flirty, mindless soul that just happened to reside in a great body.

"You don't have to talk about it," she said quickly, knowing she was right without even a word from him. "I can't imagine what that must have been like."

"Horrifying," he said without thinking. He blinked, surprised that she had made him drop his guard so easily. "I've never felt so helpless in my life."

She watched him, saw the shame on his face even though he wouldn't look at her. "Were you scared?" she asked, drawing his gaze sharply up to her. "I mean, you were in danger, too, right?"

He stared at her, as if he had never considered that before—because he hadn't. Of all the emotions he had felt on that rooftop, fear wasn't one of them. "I was shocked. Angry. Maybe a little unsure why I was still alive when she… I had no idea what to do. There wasn't, uh, anything I could do for her. She was dead instantly. But I was never worried about myself."

She was looking at him strangely. "That's odd," she said honestly. "You should have been terrified."

"Yeah," he huffed, but he wasn't really agreeing with her. "I don't always have the most normal reactions to things."

She surprised him by reaching up and touching his face gently before planting a whisper-soft kiss on his lips. She pulled back, smiling at him and seeing the wariness in his eyes.

"What was that for?" he asked, confused but desperately wanting to lose himself in her touches, her body, even though it felt horribly wrong.

"Just testing. You don't do well with kindness, do you?"

He pulled back, suddenly afraid of her and her powerful perception. He felt more exposed than could be attributed to his shirtless state. "I do just fine," he said, wanting to run for the door.

She just smiled. "Outwardly, I'm sure you do." She paused. "Nothing you said during dinner was true, was it?"

He met her gaze with closed-off eyes.

"Not a word," she said, without judgment. "But I believed it. Every word of it. You're too good at this. You lose yourself too easily."

"Sorry," he snapped, getting up and moving to the door. "Keep the shirt."

"Hey," she called, stopping him in his tracks. "Don't leave. I'm sorry. I'll stop psychoanalyzing you. It's becoming habit. I'm a student at George Washington, psychology."

He eyed her, not moving from his place near the door. "That's an expensive school," he said, studying her. "But they have scholarships. You could get loans."

She shook her head. "Not after my ex-husband trashed my credit."

He raised an eyebrow. "You don't look old enough to be married," he said, "and divorced."

She rolled her eyes. "I was stupid. Got married at twenty-one, took a year to realize he was a juvenile pig, got divorced. I had a year of college when I got married, but I quit to start a family. Thank God that didn't happen. But I knew I needed to go back. To make something of myself." She looked up at him with determination in her eyes. "No matter what."

"There's no other way?" he asked, unsure why he desperately wished there were. "Your parents, family?"

She snorted. "My family? The ones who aren't dead should be. No way in hell I'm going to ask them for help."

He blinked at that, at the vehemence and hate in her voice, and wondered what they had done to her. But he stayed silent, waiting for her to continue because he sensed she wanted to.

"I worked in a strip club for a while, and it was good money." She laughed ruefully. "But then I quit one night in a fit of rage over the cliché my life had become. And here I am, analyzing you and wanting to do something to take the pain out of those pretty green eyes of yours. That's me. Student hooker with a heart of gold. The mother of all clichés."

"You're not a cliché," he said softly, moving closer until he was looking down into her blue eyes. "You're beautiful."

"I don't want to talk anymore," she said, standing and unbuttoning his shirt, letting it fall from her body.

His breath caught in his throat at her beauty, the need in her eyes at she stared up at him. "Are you sure you want this?"

"Yes," she said huskily. "I'm going to forget about everything between dinner and right now. I'm going to pretend I'm on a date, like I never felt your money in my hand. Are you okay with that?"

"Yeah, Kate," he said, closing his eyes in shame. "As long as you don't mind if you're Kate tonight. My Kate."

"On one condition," she said, forcing his eyes open again. "You won't feel guilty about it. I'm using you just as much as you're using me. We both need this."

He nodded, amazed at how easily he let her face morph into Kate's, specifically from that crazy night so long ago that he'd messed up her hair and stripped the strap of that insanely cute little dress off her shoulder right before she went undercover for dinner in that airplane hangar. The simple thought of that night—of her that night—stabbed a knife of pain into his gut just as her hands met his chest, and he let her think his whimper was from her touch.

Maybe it was.

He wondered if she was struggling with her fantasy as much as he was with his, and he opened his eyes, meeting hers and realizing she wasn't. A flare of male pride raced through him and he let his body take over.

He kissed her, running his hands over her body, starting at her back and then deepening the meeting of their mouths as he slid his hands over her breasts. He felt her shiver lightly as her arms came around him, her small hands rubbing circles over his shoulder blades. His tongue flicked against hers and he felt her nails slide down his back, the sensation crisp but not painful.

He stopped thinking about anyone—he couldn't do that to Kate's memory—but her as her hands moved to his belt, yanking it roughly from the loops as their kiss picked up pace. He was naked in an instant and she pressed her bare body against his as fully as she could, nearly sighing at the feel of his erection's hardness against the softness of her belly. The sweet pressure made the ache inside blossom and she fought the urge to jump up and wrap her legs around his waist.

"I…" she huffed, her voice deepened with desire. "I need you… inside me."

He pulled back, cupping her face between his large hands. She blinked as if startled to see his face, and he wondered who she was imagining. He was surprised by how used that made him feel.

Until she took him into her expert hands again and he lost all sense of thought except to know that even though he couldn't imagine her as Kate, he was still using her too.

She pulled away again, and this time he did groan at the loss of contact. She smiled as she threw back the coverlet and said, "Get the light."

He obeyed automatically but left a lamp on so he could continue to drink in her perfection, and he found her body was more intoxicating than the drink he'd poured with a heavy hand earlier. The dim lights erased the marks on her hips and he was infinitely grateful, feeling his stomach flip at the mere thought of the ugly bruises.

She was on her knees in the middle of the bed, a sinful finger inviting him to join her. He knelt in front of her, feeling her fingers grinding over his ribs on their way to his back. He felt her nails digging into his flesh as their mouths met fiercely. It was all a little rougher than he normally liked, but he didn't protest, didn't want to ruin her fantasy by speaking.

She broke the kiss only long enough to whisper, "Need you. Now. Please." She dragged him down into a heap beside her, and he found himself suddenly on his back with her between his knees. He watched, feeling drunk and wondering how many drinks he'd had with dinner as she rolled a condom onto him in the most sensual way he had ever seen.

She slid up his body, straddling him so he could feel her wet heat on his belly and looking into his molten gaze. "This okay?" she asked.

He could only nod.

She moved downward, stifling a girlish giggle when the rough hair on his stomach tickled her most intimate places. She settled onto his hardness, dragging a hand down his chest and belly in perfect time so that her feathery touch met the union of their flesh just as he filled her fully. She paused, stock-still, letting her body adjust to his size, before she rocked forward, wrenching a groan from his lips. She thought he sounded like he was in pain, and she wondered if he was thinking of his Kate.

She moved on him, her hips rocking over his, and she noticed he didn't thrust up to meet her, didn't try to change her rhythm to suit his own needs. She felt her throat go tight as she realized he was simply lying there, letting her take her own pleasure from his body. She tried not to read too much into that, knowing he was enjoying himself too, but it touched her in a way she hadn't remembered possible.

She tried to focus on the sensations, the hard muscles of his chest and belly under her hands, the little gasped breaths he was gulping. She realized his hands were on her sides and every time they strayed lower to their natural place on her hips, he jerked them back upward to avoid her bruises.

She felt tears well in her eyes and she leaned forward, burying her face at his throat, nipping at his jaw as she ground her hips more forcefully into his. She ran her tongue over his collarbone and sucked at his neck, crying out with a muffled yell as her orgasm broke over her like a wave.

She had never come with a john before, and the thought had her reeling as much as the physical sensations.

She knew he had felt the tiny explosions of her flesh because his hands tightened and he moaned as she started moving again. Still, he did not force her rhythm and she found herself coming again more quickly than she had thought possible.

He made another soft, almost pained sound again, and she grinned and whispered, "You okay?"

His eyes snapped open and she was shocked by the depth of the pain in them. She almost climbed off him, but his hands kept her in place, and for a moment, all she could feel was the union of their bodies, as if the rest of her had simply vanished.

"Come again," he whispered, his green eyes intense as he panted out a breath. "I want to feel you come again, Kathryn."


Not Katie.

Not Sunni.

Not Kate.

She went still as she realized he had abandoned his fantasy. She remembered all of his pained moans and realized he had probably given it up before it had started. He had wanted her. He had let her find the rhythm she needed. He wanted her to come for him.

Not Kate, his dead partner.

Not Sunni, the prostitute.

Not Katie, the little girl who had suffered horrible abuse from hands who should have loved her.

But her, Kathryn, the woman she was, the woman she wanted to be.

His hands came up to her face and she realized she hadn't moved in a while even though he was still rock-hard inside her. She shivered, suddenly needing to stop, to cover up, and the first fingers of fear gripped her heart as she imagined his rage when she slid from his unsatisfied body. She felt him flinch when her thigh dragged across the sensitive tip of his erect penis, but the hands still on her face were still gentle. She realized she was crying as he thumbed away her tears. She moved to bolt for the bathroom, but he pulled her down beside him, his loose grip telling her she could easily escape if she wanted to.

But she didn't want to.

She snuggled against his side, whimpering at the loss of his warmth when he reached down for the blanket, seemingly sensing her need to be covered. He started tucking the coverlet between their bodies, but she stopped him, wanting to feel his heated skin against her suddenly chilled body. He let her rest her head in the crook of his shoulder and she let her hand come to rest on his chest. She could feel his ragged breathing that matched her own and she flushed with embarrassment, her hand moving lower to grip his throbbing length.

He gasped lightly at the contact and caught her wrist in a grip so gentle she thought she was imagining it. He guided her hand back up to his chest and murmured a soft, "Shhhhh. Don't worry about that."

"But you didn't—"

"Doesn't matter," he said, forcing his breath to even out. "Will you tell me what's wrong? Was it something I did?"

She choked on a soft sob. "Yeah," she said, sniffling. "But it was something nice you did. I guess I'm just as terrible at dealing with kindness as you are."

He wasn't sure what he had done, but he didn't question her. He simply held her close, his guts twisting as he felt her hot tears sliding down his side. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

"For what?" she asked, letting her fingers trail slowly through the hair on his chest to rest on his belly. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"For whatever happened to you to make you react like this… to whatever nice thing I did for you. I don't even know what it was so it couldn't have been that nice."

She tilted her head and looked up into his concerned eyes. "You weren't pretending I was your Kate."

"I couldn't," he admitted. "We really weren't like that, and it made me feel dirty. And you're so beautiful, and kind, and smart. I wanted you."

She sniffled again, and he realized the "problem." His heart broke for her and he pulled her closer. "Shhhh. It's okay, Kathryn. I'm so sorry."

"I don't wanna do this anymore," she whispered, her hand stilling on his belly. Her voice was determined when she continued. "I'm going to get a job. A real job. I don't care if it's flipping burgers. I can't do this anymore."

He smiled. "I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that—or why. But I like you, Kathryn. I don't want you to get arrested. And this is dangerous. Someone could hurt you."

"I know," she whispered, reminding him of the bruises on her hips.

"Someone did hurt you," he said. "Who did that to you?"

She lifted a shoulder as she began tracing a faint scar on his side, drawing a shiver from him. "Didn't get his name," she said, sighing. "Just his money."

He reached down and tucked two fingers under her chin, making her look into his eyes. "It wasn't your fault," he said firmly. "You didn't deserve that."

"I know," she whispered again, feeling almost frightened by the intensity in his eyes. She suddenly saw him interrogating a suspect and shivered. "But he's long gone, and I'm done with this life."

He nodded, wanting to believe her but knowing that the allure of easy money and the desperation of facing homeless would be serious obstacles to her goals. A naïve little part of him wanted to take her in, take her back to his place and keep her safe from the world. But he was too much of a realist. He knew they had connected but that didn't mean they would have a relationship that would last longer than a night.

"I think you're going to be just fine," he said, none of his uncertainty showing in his voice.

The hand on his belly started creeping lower and he frowned down at her even as a little thrill raced down his spine at her touch. He felt himself stir and cursed his maleness like a high schooler with a third-period sudden hard-on.

"Kathryn," he breathed, his breath catching as she stripped off the condom and gripped him, coaxing twitching flesh into almost instant hardness. He had almost forgotten about the ache that had almost consumed him the moment she slid from his body. "I told you, you don't need to do this."

She stroked him in long, lazy, slow motions, setting his mind on fire even as he tried to fight it. "I know," she said, her breath whispering over his ear as her mouth found his throat again. "But you need this."

He groaned in response.

"See? When is it ever about you, Tony? When do you ever take what you need?"

All possible chance of his answering exploded as she moved down and took his swollen flesh into her mouth, swallowing him as wholly as his thoughts. His hands scrabbled at the sheets, catching the soft fabric and clutching at it like a drowning man as she licked him from base to tip in long, slow slides of her tongue. She took him into her mouth again, sucking and swirling her tongue around the sensitive head before resuming the licking, alternating between the two techniques until he saw stars explode behind his clenched eyelids.

She drew out the sensations expertly, repeatedly taking him to the edge with the hot wetness of her mouth embracing his throbbing cock and then pulling him back, the licks teasing him and shocking his damp flesh with the chill in the air. She blew lightly over his erection, making him gasp and moan.

"I need," he panted. "Fuck, Kathryn, I need…"

She smiled. "I know."

She wrapped her mouth around him and sucked until he came with a shout, exploding into her mouth and collapsing back into a sated bliss, practically drugged by her efforts. She curled up beside him, her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close. She draped her thigh over his as his breathing started to even out, all thoughts of blood on rooftops and beaten Marine wives long gone.

He had really needed this tonight.

Tony sat at his desk on Monday morning, carefully keeping the left side of his face away from Gibbs' piercing blue eyes. He knew he would have to explain the faint bruise sooner or later, but right now, later seemed like the much better option. He wanted—no, he needed—to keep Kathryn out of his head as much as possible so he wouldn't do something stupid like call the number she had left on the desk before slipping out just before dawn.

He had followed her movements through half-closed eyes, feigning sleep as he watched her not even hesitate over the wallet he had purposely left out. She didn't touch it, instead scribbling her number and leaving the room silently.

He smiled down at his desk, imaging the shock on her face when she inevitably opened her purse and found the wad of cash he'd slipped inside before she woke.

"Good weekend, DiNozzo?"

He looked up and found Gibbs standing over him, and he watched his boss frown at his bruised cheek.

Tony smiled again. "It was just what I needed."

Gibbs just raised an eyebrow, gave him an odd look that Tony wasn't sure was because of the bruise or the comment, and shrugged and walked back toward his desk. "Glad to hear it."

"Hey, Boss?"

Gibbs stopped halfway to his desk, turning.

"I've been meaning to ask," Tony said. "I need some time off. No reason, just a week to get away. That all right with you?"

Gibbs studied his face, obviously trying to connect the bruise to his agent's wholly uncharacteristic request. "You okay, Tony?" he asked softly, blue eyes narrowing subtly in concern.

Tony felt his face flush and he shoved aside the twinge he felt at Gibbs' concern for him. "Yeah, I'm good," he said, still smiling and finding it wasn't fake. "I just need a vacation."

Gibbs nodded slowly, torn between his natural suspicion and the genuineness of Tony's smile. "Sure, DiNozzo. Fill out the request and I'll sign it."

"Thanks, Boss."

Tony grinned brightly as just as McGee walked from the elevator, dropping his bag behind his chair and gaping at Tony's bruised face.

"Geez, Tony," McGee said. "Who'd you piss off?"

Tony opened his mouth, but McGee held up a hand, cutting him off. "You know what? I don't want to know. It was probably some incredibly hot chick and you probably said something incredibly juvenile…"

"She was a hooker with a heart of gold, studying to be a psychiatrist."

McGee laughed out loud, drawing a half-hearted glare from Gibbs at their banter. "Right, Tony," McGee said. "What movie did you steal that cliché from?"

"Not a cliché," Tony said, his voice going soft as he remembered her words. "Kathryn."

McGee stared at him, debating whether or not he was serious, and Tony felt a flare of panic when he found Gibbs watching him just as intently.

Tony laughed. "Ha, no, I'm kidding. You were right the first time. Pretty girl, my stupid mouth."

McGee smiled, but he was still looking at Tony with intensity in his eyes. "You scare me sometimes, DiNozzo."

Unnerved by the look, Tony joked, "I scare you all the time, Probie. It's in my job description."

McGee rolled his eyes. "I mean I hate it when I can't tell if you're lying. You're almost too good at it."

"Ah, knock it off, McGee," Gibbs said, drawing a surprised look from Tony, who wondered if his boss had sensed his distress—especially when Gibbs gave him an odd little smile. But then Gibbs was Gibbs again, saying, "He's already got a big enough ego. Don't go telling him he's too good at anything.

"And where the hell is Ziva?"

They got the call three months later. It was just like always, Gibbs hanging up the phone and telling them to gear up.

They even fought over who got to drive.

They made their way to the crime scene and Gibbs filled them in, letting them know this would likely be a quick one, considering there were MPs on the scene with both the body and the suspect, a Marine who had apparently beaten a prostitute to death.

The word "prostitute" barely registered with Tony, his memories of Kathryn faded by the routine of life, the horrors of his work, and a fantastic week on a beach spent sipping drinks with little plastic umbrellas.

So he barely registered the name McGee read off the ID they had found on the badly beaten body, her face so bloody and broken that it was unrecognizable.

"It's a GW student card," McGee commented.

And Tony's stomach dropped through the floor.

"What?" he asked, drawing everyone's eyes with the choked hoarseness in his voice.

"It's a GW student ID," McGee said, watching the blood drain from his partner's face. "Are you okay?"

"What was the name?" Tony asked, feeling the world tilt as his subconscious recalled it before McGee could verbalize it.

"Kathryn Phelan," McGee said. He smiled sadly. "Huh. Her middle name was Sunni, with an i."

Tony stopped breathing and looked down, his head jerking back up again as a hand landed on his shoulder, pushing him into a chair.

"Sit, DiNozzo," Gibbs said gruffly, his concern burning in his eyes like twin gas flames. "Breathe."

Tony obeyed automatically, gulping in air and fighting the sudden dizziness. He was glad that Gibbs was still touching him; he was sure the reassuring weight of that hand was the only thing keeping him from flying off into space. All Tony could see was her broken face, her torn lips. I kissed that mouth, he thought wildly, feeling nausea roll through his gut.

Gibbs' knees popped as he crouched in Tony's line of sight, blocking the corpse from his dazed green gaze.

"Did you know her?" Gibbs asked, his voice impossibly gentle, a reaction to the paleness and tremors wracking his normally unshakable agent.

"Yeah," Tony breathed, his voice barely above a whisper as memories of that night assaulted his senses. He saw her bloody lips again. She kissed me with that mouth. I came in that mouth. "Oh shit, Boss."

He lurched to his feet, a hand clamped desperately over his mouth as he fled for the bathroom. He almost laughed as he realized this was the second time he had thrown up in a hotel room with her—until he remembered she was dead.

An image of her shattered face popped into his head—along with her voice promising him that she was going to make something of herself, that she was done selling her body—and he heaved again, gagging harder until his stomach muscles burned as badly as his throat.

He felt the hand on his shoulder again, and he felt his cheeks burn with shame as he realized he, very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, was puking at a crime scene in front of his hard-as-nails, Marine Corps Semper Fi boss.

"It's all right, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, sounding a little unnerved himself. "You're okay."

Gibbs pressed a wet cloth into his hand and hauled him to his feet, pushing him gently back down on the closed lid of the toilet and reaching around him to flush it. Tony wiped his mouth, staring back at Gibbs and wondering how the man hadn't choked him yet out of frustration. But all he saw in those icy blue eyes was concern.

"Your student hooker with a heart of gold?" Gibbs asked, shocking Tony by remembering that months-ago conversation.

Tony nodded. "Guess your memory's better than your eyesight," he joked half-heartedly, feeling sick for even having tried.

Gibbs just frowned at him. "I'm not going to smack you, Tony. Even if it would probably make you feel better."

They stared at each other.

"Because you'd probably puke on me," Gibbs said, stepping out of range and tapping him lightly on the back of the head. He handed over the keys to the sedan. "Take the car back. I'll catch a ride with them."

Tony took the keys mutely.

Gibbs watched him stare at them, dangling from fingers stalled in midair. "You okay to drive?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," Tony said, shaking his head. "And I haven't seen her since that night."

Gibbs nodded. "Didn't think you had. Go home, Tony. Get some rest. You look like you need it."


Tony finally answered the phone that had been ringing at irregular intervals for the last hour or so—or six. Honestly, he was feeling a little fuzzy on the time and had no idea. He was on his couch, still in his work clothes, an arm flung over his face, his third drink on the coffee table beside him.

"Hell, Tony," came McGee's relieved voice. "I've been calling for hours. Are you okay?"

"Never better, thanks for asking," Tony slurred and hung up the phone.

It dropped from his shaky hand onto the floor as he sat up, one hand going immediately to his temple as dizziness swept over him. He looked at the half-full glass on the table and realized his three drinks had been a bit larger than standard bar-issue size.

"Go big or go home," he announced to the empty room before downing the drink.

His phone rang again and he picked it up. "DiNozzo's House of Pain, how can we hurt ya?"

"You're drunk, Tony," McGee said, sighing.

"And you're a damned fine investigator, McObvious."

McGee ignored him. "Really drunk. At three in the afternoon. On a Tuesday."

Tony snorted, filling the glass again from the bottle conveniently located on the coffee table. He decided it should be called the liquor table since he never had coffee on it. A drop sloshed onto the glass surface and he swiped a finger at it and licked the stinging alcohol from his hand. An image of his hands on Kathryn's body flicked through his head and he started talking to drown it.

"Drunkest I've ever been was at 11 a.m. on a Friday, McSaturdayNightOnly."

McGee sighed again. "Do I even want to ask why?"

"Kegs and Eggs, my friend," Tony slurred. "Kegs. And. Eggs."


"Are you alive in there, McSheltered? How can you live in the District and not know about Kegs and Eggs? Bar opens at 7:15 on a Friday morning. Good beer, good music, hot girls. You McSuck at life, Probie. I have to go now because drunk-me is starting to really want McNuggets."

He hung up the phone again and dropped it back onto the floor. He noticed his drink was gone and set about fixing that small problem, only to have the ringing phone interrupt his task. He picked it up, intent on setting it to vibrate, because, after all, Rule No. 3 still was in force, dead hookers notwithstanding.

"We could go this year," came the Probie's soft voice, and Tony dropped the heavy bottle from startled, already shaking hands, sending it crashing through the glass top of his liquor table.


"Tony?" McGee called loudly from the handset. "Are you okay?"

"Too late," Tony whispered.

"What?" McGee sounded frantic.

"Too late for Kegs and Eggs this year, Probie," Tony said softly, watching the expensive alcohol drip from the broken table top onto the carpet. "Too late for Kathryn. Too late for Kate. Too late for a lot of things. But you're a good guy, McGee. Never listen to a word I say, okay? You were right, I'm too good a liar."

He dropped the phone again and stepped on it like it was an annoying bug, making sure it wouldn't be bothering him again. DiNozzo's new Rule No. 98: Fuck Rule No. 3. The crunch of the plastic was satisfying and he stepped on it again with a small smile. Much better. He glanced at his landline, and it rang as if on cue.


Crossing the room in three swaying strides, he pulled the cord from the wall with another oddly satisfying yank that snapped crisply through the suddenly silent room. Had he been sober, he might have taken the time to look around at the destruction he'd caused and been worried. But all he saw was the broken table so he sighed and moved to start picking up the shattered glass. His drunkenness stripped him of coordination and he ended up with more glass in his hand than in the trash, but he smiled in satisfaction at accomplishing the task even as a shard took up residence in his palm.

He frowned down at the bloody new accessory and thought, Now I know what they mean when they say "not feeling any pain." I think that should hurt.

It didn't.

But the blood had him suddenly seeing Kathryn's broken face again and he thought about throwing up. But the bathroom was far away and the bottle was close, so he grabbed it and took a pull from the undamaged container.

It burned.

Like his hand.

Shit, that hurts, he thought, wondering how time had reversed itself and he felt less drunk than before he started drinking straight from the bottle. It made him wonder how long he had been sitting there. Long enough to make a bloody little pool in my hand, he thought—or said out loud to no one. He wasn't really sure.

He was sitting on the floor with his back to the couch, holding his hand up and letting the blood swish gently back and forth when the knock on the door made him jump. He spilled the blood as his body jerked at the sharp rap, sending rivulets cascading down his wrist.

"Well, crap."

The knock came again, and he hauled himself up, staggering toward the door and calling, "Bloody hell, McAlAnon, I'm coming. Didn't Gibbs teach you to pick locks yet?"

The door opened before Tony touched it and he found himself staring at Gibbs, whose mouth tightened as he took in his agent's obvious intoxication and bloody hand.

"Not yet," he said, shaking his head. "But I will after this."

Tony just stared, not moving to let his boss in.

"You scared him," Gibbs said.

Gibbs' soft tone made Tony feel a sudden wave of shame that was luckily followed by a wave of dizziness that erased the emotion from his swirling head. Gibbs reached out and grabbed his arm to steady him, pushing him none too gently toward his couch and making him sit. Glass crunched under Gibbs' boots and he sighed.

"What the hell, DiNozzo?"

Tony heard the disappointment in the words and felt like crying—as if he hadn't felt that need all afternoon. "Sorry, Boss," he whispered, hanging his head only to have to look up sharply to stop from throwing up, passing out or falling over.

Or all of the above.

Gibbs just eyed him before settling onto the couch beside his agent. "Not my table, Tony," he said softly. "Let me see your hand."

"Uh-uh," Tony said, his shame returning and manifesting itself as petulance as he tucked his damaged hand away from Gibbs' grasp.

Gibbs pulled patience from some rainy-day store and said, "You're bleeding on Armani."

Tony smiled despite himself. "It's Zegna."

Gibbs rolled his eyes and reached out again, catching Tony by the bloody wrist and sighing at the shard of glass wedged in his palm. He studied Tony's face, especially his glassy eyes, and turned to the mostly empty bottle on the broken table. He really hoped it hadn't started out new. "How much did you drink?"

Tony glanced at his palm. "Enough that that doesn't hurt."

"Shit, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, reproving again but softening at Tony's shamed flinch. "Should I be worried about alcohol poisoning or just blood loss?"

"Neither," Tony said, uncomfortable with Gibbs' gentle grip on his wrist and trying to pull away. "I'm fine."

"Nope," Gibbs said crisply, locking his hand around Tony's wrist. "You're not starting that shit with me. You need stitches. And the rest of this glass out of your hand. And you're calling McGee to tell him you're alive. He was really shaken when he called me."

"McTraitor," Tony muttered, kicking at his broken cell.

Gibbs ignored the word but not the motion. He shook his head again and held his phone out, holding it just out of reach. "You break it, I'll break your fingers, bleeding or not."

Tony nodded and took the phone in his left hand, grateful Gibbs had dialed for him since the numbers all ran dizzily together in his blurred vision.


"Nah, Probie, it's me," Tony said, his slurring almost obliterating his shame. "I'm alive, I'm fine, and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."

"Are you mad I called him?" McGee asked, reading Tony's embarrassment and actually feeling bad for him. Dealing with Gibbs sober was scary enough.

"Nope. Thanks, Tim."

Tony hung up the phone and handed it back to Gibbs, who was looking at him oddly. Or at least Tony thought it was oddly—it was hard to tell since he had to close one eye to see only one boss.

"You gonna yell at me?" Tony asked, noticing Gibbs was still holding his wrist, elevating it to apparently try to stop the bleeding.

Gibbs shook his head slowly, releasing his grip and standing. "Nah, I'm sure you feel bad enough," he said, eyeing Tony's bloody palm again. "Or at least you will once you sober up."

"Boss, I'm—"

"I know, Tony," Gibbs said softly. "I'm gonna call Ducky. I don't think you really want to go sit an ER all day piss-drunk."

Tony flinched.

"Listen, DiNozzo," Gibbs started, trailing off and unsure of what to say. He wasn't sure he had ever seen Tony look this miserable.

"You can say it. It's okay. I know I'm pathetic."

Gibbs looked at him in surprise. "No, you're not. You're upset. I'd rather you didn't drink yourself blind and decide to juggle shattered glass, but I understand, Tony."

Tony didn't speak. He just stared down at his hand, wishing it hurt, if only for a distraction. This is what you get for needing things, a voice whispered in his head. Kathryn's pretty face popped up again and he swallowed hard, trying not to throw up. Because puking was never fun, but puking on Gibbs would be much, much worse.

Gibbs saw him go bone-white and said, "Stop thinking about her. There's nothing you could have done."

"I could have helped her," Tony said bitterly. "She said she wanted out of that life, and I didn't do anything to help her."

"She wasn't your responsibility," Gibbs said.

"Yeah," Tony said, disgust coloring his tone. "That ran out when the meter did."

Gibbs winced, wondering why Tony had been with a prostitute in the first place but not about to ask. He tried to think of something to say to ease his friend's guilt, but he knew Tony's stubbornness, his immense capacity for self-loathing. He found Tony looking up at him, looking suddenly rather sober.

"You're wondering why I was paying for it."

Gibbs didn't lie. But he didn't speak either.

"Well, I…"

Tony trailed off.

Gibbs just shook his head. "You don't have to explain yourself to me."

Tony snorted. "Good. I'm not sure I can explain it to myself."

"And it wasn't your fault, DiNozzo. I mean that. I wouldn't lie to you."

Tony was silent, hating himself for his relief at receiving Gibbs' absolution. Now if only he could find his own.

"And it's not a movie, Tony," Gibbs said, thinking he hadn't gotten through Tony's drunken, guilt-ridden haze. "You couldn't have taken her in and saved her. You know that."

" 'Pretty Woman', Gibbs?" Tony asked, raising an eyebrow. "Didn't think you were into chick flicks."

Gibbs lifted a shoulder. "I let an ex talk me into it. Julia Roberts is a redhead."

Tony laughed, but the grin faded quickly into a wince, and Gibbs saw it.

"That hurting yet?" he asked.

Tony shrugged. "Not really." He glanced at the bottle. "Better than painkillers. Gibbs? Can you not call Ducky? I have some tweezers. I'll just pick the glass out and it'll be fine."


"Please, Boss? I don't really want to face anyone else right now," he admitted softly.

Gibbs turned and walked down the hall without a word, returning a few minutes later with full hands. Tony wondered briefly how many of his cabinets Gibbs had gone through to find the tweezers, gauze and medical tape he found. Considering the dust on the box of gauze, he thought it might have been from a previous tenant. He made a mental note to do some spring cleaning.

"Couldn't find any antiseptic?" Tony joked, eyeing the first-aid supplies with suspicion.

"Knock it off," Gibbs said back, mock-sternly, "or I'll pour the rest of that bottle over your open wounds."

Tony shuddered, almost feeling the threatened sting that mirrored the one in his mouth that was slowly turning stale. "You wouldn't do that to good bourbon."

Gibbs looked at the bottle again, trying to read its shredded label. "You don't even drink bourbon."

Tony blinked. "Well, shit. Not only did I get wasted mid-afternoon, scare the Probie and make glass kebabs out of my fingers, but I apparently also drank your Christmas present."

"It's April, DiNozzo."

"So Santa got an early start?"

Gibbs smiled and turned his attention back to Tony's hand, picking slivers of glass from his fingers as gently as possible. Tony didn't seem to notice and Gibbs asked, "You can feel this, right? You're still conscious and upright and making some sense so you're not that drunk."

Tony shrugged, making Gibbs grip his wrist tighter and give him a look. "It kinda hurts. I guess. Why?"

Gibbs frowned at him. "Well, first, I don't want to hurt you," he said, expecting the flinch that had nothing to do with the glass in his hand. "And second, I'm kind of worried about nerve damage. I need a senior field agent, and you need this hand to shoot."

"Don't need things, Boss," Tony said seriously. "It only causes trouble."

Gibbs saw the pain in his eyes, but tried to play it off lightly. DiNozzo had had enough heaviness for one day—for a lifetime. He lifted Tony's hand. "Ya think, DiNozzo?"

Tony laughed. "I can feel it, Boss," he said after a moment. "Don't worry so much about me."

"Sometimes I wonder if I worry enough," Gibbs murmured, not surprised when Tony pretended not to hear him.

Gibbs pulled the last of the slivers from Tony's palm and turned his attention to the shard embedded there. He was thinking he really should have called Ducky as he grasped it and wiggled it free, drawing a little yelp from Tony and causing fresh blood to pool in his cupped hand.

"You really need stitches, Tony."

"I really need to just sleep this off."

Gibbs just stared at him, then pressed a gauze pad into Tony's palm and brought his hand up. He squeezed tightly to stop the bleeding, debating whether to drag him to an ER or call Ducky.

Tony was thinking only of Kathryn, her beauty, her pain, her hope for the future.

"She didn't deserve to die, Gibbs," he said softly.

"No," Gibbs agreed. "But you didn't kill her. And you couldn't have done anything to save her."

"I just don't know what to do now," Tony admitted.

"The only thing you can do," Gibbs said.

"Get drunk and impale myself with the bottle?" Tony offered wryly.

Gibbs gave him a gentle swat across the back of the head. "Learn from her, Tony. Learn from the experience and move on."

Tony nodded, his mouth twisting into the beginnings of a smile as he reached up and rubbed a hand over his hair.

"Thanks, Boss. I really needed that."