A/N: Italics equal mental conversation.

Tony's Salvation—Chapter 23

Tony wakens gradually the next morning, and as he stretches, he blinks in surprise. He's still wrapped around Laurie, who is watching him wake up. His surprise is the way that he feels; there's no pressure to get to work, no rush hour traffic and no concerned glances from his friends.

He sighs and exchanges kisses with the lady in his arms then looks at the wolf still sleeping on the floor.

"He's how old?"

"I don't really know. At least ten years that I know of."

Tony slips off the bed and slowly approaches the wolf. The animal doesn't move and Tony wonders if the beast has died during the night. A soft nip on his fingers brings his gaze back to the furry face in front of him. A quick slurp of the canine's tongue brings a shout of laughter from the man and the two quickly engage in a playful battle. Laurie watches from her perch on the bed and smiles at their antics. She doesn't see a pointed finger or a shaggy nod of a furry head before she's attacked by both man and beast.

Ten breathtaking minutes later, Laurie emerges triumphant as she leans against both Tony and Thunder.

"You two behave for the next few minutes so that I can get some breakfast going."

Both males immediately quiet down. Tony looks up at her, "Can I help?"

"Not with breakfast, but you two could check on the rest of the house and make sure we don't have anymore surprise guests."

Tony turns to Thunder, "Would you expect anything to come in the middle of that storm?"

The wolf tilts his head as if thinking then shakes it negatively. Tony sighs and stands up. He hasn't seen the rest of the house yet and takes the opportunity to look it over. Thunder pads along beside him, a silent yet welcome companion.

To Tony's eyes, the house is quietly welcoming. The hallways are wide and all the rooms have plenty of windows or skylights. There's an office/den that has a computer sitting on a desk. The desk is old and Tony can tell that it's a beloved fixture due to the slightly polished sheen on the surface. There is a futon on the floor near the window that is immediately behind the desk. Tony looks down at Thunder silently asking if she sleeps in the office a lot. The wolf gives a silent nod and takes Tony's hand in his jaw. Tony follows his guide to what he soon realizes is Laurie's bedroom.

Tony looks at the wolf who gives him a steady stare, silently telling the man to see what is in front of him. Tony does a complete circuit around the room wondering just what it is that Thunder is trying to tell him when he looks down at the bed. It's still made, complete with the pillows neatly tucked under the comforter.

"She doesn't sleep in here." Tony looks at Thunder for confirmation and the wolf nods. Tony sits on the edge of the bed as he looks at the walls for answers. The room as a whole is painted a soft lavender/blue and reminds Tony of the sky at night just after sunset.

Some handcrafted shelves are bordering the window on the wall to his immediate right. The shelves are lined with more of the crystalline figures that he'd seen downstairs the night before. Right in front of him is a doorway that leads into the ensuite bathroom. To his left is the door leading into the room. The walls beside both doors are covered with more hand drawings. Tony stands up to look at them, absently noting the signature in the corner. As Tony turns to leave he freezes as he stares at the picture directly above the headboard.

Downstairs, Laurie turns off the stove and is preparing to call Tony and Thunder when she feels the shock coursing through Tony's part of their bond. She immediately heads for the bedroom and finds Tony staring at the picture above the bed. Thunder nudges Tony's hand, trying to snap him out of his shock. Laurie sits Tony on the bed then kneels in front of him, grasping his hands as she links with him mentally.

Tony's mentally sitting on a desk, wondering just when he'd met this woman. There is no way anyone knows about this particular part of his past. Hell, he'd forgotten about it until he saw the picture.

"Tony? Tony, what happened? What's wrong?"

"Who are you? Why do I know you and how do you know about that?" he points abstractly towards the picture. The picture is of a martial arts tournament and two little boys, obviously twins, are proudly showing their trophies and new belts to their mother. Tony and his brother had been involved with the martial arts as small children; after their mother died, their father refused to let them participate anymore.

"I participated in the tournament. It was the one of the few times I was allowed to do so."

"I don't remember seeing you there."

"Tony, we were kids. You were seven or eight years old in that picture. I'm sure that you and Rick, Richie were more concerned with making your mother proud than you were in meeting other kids from overseas."

Now she has his attention. "Overseas? What do you mean?"

"I grew up in a martial arts compound in Japan."

"Which is why you are a ninja/samurai and not just a ninja?"

"Yes and no." She smiles at the look on his face. "We are all given the choice to do one or the other or both. I liked learning new things, still do, and that's why I became an n/s."

"So why were you at the tournament?"

"We learn all the martial arts, not just one. That way we're not limited in our thinking and can defend against most things thrown at us. We also choose to learn how other countries train in the martial arts."

"So do you know Ziva?"

"It is possible that we've met. After all I've had several cross-trainings with Mossad over the years."

"Still, I would think that I'd remember you or something about you from that time period. I mean, it was one of the few times I remember being happy."

She looks at him and he stares into her eyes, wanting to find answers that she's not handing to him on a platter. "You want me to go look for myself and find out when or if I saw you there."

"I know one thing Tony; I saw you there, all three of you or I wouldn't have been able to sketch that picture. That's one thing that the bond does limit us on; I can only see the same angle that you do. For me to have drawn that particular picture, you, me, Rick and your mother all had to have been there."

Tony sighs and delves deeper into that particular memory. He does have a fondness for it, particularly because it was one of the last things he'd done with his mother prior to her death. As he thinks about it, he realizes that it's possibly the one memory that he does retreat into when he needs to isolate himself from work.

He finally finds what he's looking for and runs back out to where Laurie is waiting for him.

"You need to see this."

Laurie walks beside him, smiling slightly at his excitement. She's not sure if his memory of that day will echo her own. Then again, he'd had a brother and a mother to share his victory with. She'd had a taciturn master who'd gone from proud to worried in less than thirty minutes. She knows the reason behind Takezawa's worry now, but at that time it had put a little rain on her day.

Then she sees what Tony remembers; two little boys standing beside a girl with blonde hair and bluish/purple eyes. The two boys had been animatedly talking about the tournament; Richie is thanking her for some tip that she'd given them regarding their stances. "Thanks to what you told us, we took first and second place in our class!"

Tony remembers now, wondering what caused a faraway look to come into the girl's eyes. She'd told them congratulations in accented English and started to take her leave after bowing to both of them. Tony had tried to grab her hand, to shake it in thanks, but she'd escaped with a slight twist of her wrist. Then Mrs. DiNozzo had stepped forward and both boys had turned to greet her. Tony remembers seeing a faint glimmer of tears as the girl walked away from them.

"Why were you crying?"

"I was jealous. I didn't then and still don't have any memories of my real parents. I've searched for years and not found anything. It's as if they never existed. That or I was found under a cabbage leaf after all."

Tony hugs her, and smiles at her wry attempt at humor. He escorts her to the edge of his mind as he says "come on, I smell something delicious coming from the kitchen. What did you make anyway?"

"Food." At the saucy answer, he knows that she's on the rebound from the memory, same as he is. He taps her on the nose and watches as she leaves.

When he physically opens his eyes she's still kneeling in front of him, holding his hands, giving him that physical anchor if he still needs it. Thunder is watching from a pillow under the window. Tony helps her to her feet then stands up. He looks at his companions and says,

"Come on, lady; let's go eat that food you prepared for us."

Thunder woofs his agreement and leads the way out of the room.

A/N: End of another chapter but not the story…thank you to all who are still reading this one…as you can see I didn't completely forget about it…just been working on other projects and trying to get closer to completing Rising Knights. And for those reading all my other incomplete stories…I still intend to finish those too…eventually ^_^