First of all, thank you so much to all the readers that left a review for the final chapter of "Complex Connection(s)". I'm so very happy you liked the end.
I'm sorry I cannot reply privately, but I need to entertain some visiting relatives…which is a very difficult task with people I've not seen in at least 10 years. Plus it's cold and it's raining, so we cannot even take them out to visit the city.
However I wanted to post this short story today, because it's related to Complex Connection(s) epilogue and it's best if you read it with the other story still fresh in your mind.
By Gunnery Sergeant
8th story in the "Reconnection" AU, set a few days after the epilogue of Complex Connection(s).
Dedicated to my friend and beta Finlaure, who asked for a short fic about this theme.
Tony raised his arms over his head and let a shudder run along his body, from his fingertips to his toes, stretching like a cat on the deck chair. He smiled satisfied when none of his muscles complained, meaning that the soreness caused by five days spent working as a carpenter had left. Now, he thought with a wicked smile, the only soreness he would feel for the next week, would be caused by his enthusiastic bouts of sex with Jethro.
Still grinning, Tony turned his head to look at his partner. The older man was sitting near him, engrossed in one of those mystery novels he liked so much. He looked tanned and relaxed, even younger. But not because of his vampire nature, but because the stress caused by Colonel Bell, Miss Hart, Paloma Reynosa and Alejandro Rivera had vanished, allowing Gibbs to finally lower his guard and enjoy his vacation.
Farther down the deck, Mike Franks was sipping a beer, watching with a gentle smile as Leyla and Amira collected wild flowers to decorate the newly built house in the meadow stretching in front of the building.
Tony turned his head in the opposite side, looking for his own beer and his eyes caught a flash of black. He inwardly groaned when his gaze locked with Shada Shakarji's, and saw the disapproval on her face. Leyla's tough as nails mother hadn't taken well the notion he and Gibbs were a couple and slept together. The young man was aware the woman had been raised in a culture that was against homosexuality, so her reaction wasn't unexpected, but still her glares became chillier than a blizzard every time he and Jethro exchanged some affectionate gesture with her nearby.
Sighing, Tony sipped some beer, then closed his eyes and continued to bask in the afternoon sun.
"How do ya plan to explain that tan to Vance? Leon thinks you're in England, taking care your late aunt's business," Gibbs asked quietly, referring to the excuse Bill had used – on Jethro' own request—to convince Vance to grant two weeks of leave to Tony, and thus allow him to join his partner in Mexico.
Tony shrugged and turned his head to look at Gibbs. "I'll tell him my 'aunt' lived in some village near the coast...England can be sunny too."
"Uh-huh," Gibbs murmured lowering his eyes back to his book. However he raised them again when Mike stood up from his chair and said aloud, "Leyla! Take Amira away from there! The ground is slippery!"
Tony looked at where Leyla and Amira were and saw that they were very close to the edge of the cliff the house was built on. Mike, Gibbs and him had been building a fence to make it safer, but they had run out of timber and they couldn't complete the job until their wood supplier in town restocked.
A moment later Tony's heart seemed to stop as, as if in slow motion, he saw Amira escape her mother's hold to chase a butterfly, run very close to the edge of the cliff and lose her footing on the gravel covered terrain. Leyla jumped forward, trying to catch her, but all she managed to do was to fall over the edge with her child.
Tony stood up looking horrified at the empty space where the girls had just been, as at his side Leyla's mother gasped in shock. He felt paralyzed, unable to comprehend what had just happened, and so were Mike and Shada Shakarji.
But not Gibbs.
Using his vampire's speed, his partner bolted out of his chair and ran toward the narrow path that lead from the house down to the beach. He was gone from Tony's sight in a matter of seconds and seeing him disappear was the push the young man needed to snap out of his horrified paralysis.
He jumped down the deck and ran after his partner, vaguely aware of Mike and Leyla's mother following him.
When he finally caught up with Gibbs at the bottom of the cliff, Tony's heart constricted in his chest at the sight welcoming him. His partner's was kneeling between Leyla and Amira's still forms. Their limbs were twisted in unnatural ways, with broken bones sticking out from their bodies. There was blood everywhere and Tony had to fight a bout of nausea as he realized they were probably dead or barely hanging to life.
As if he read his mind, Gibbs raised his eyes and locking them with Tony's, he said, "They're still alive. I need your help to keep their mouths open."
Remembering what Bill had done when he had saved Gibbs' own life months before, Tony nodded and rushed to kneel near his partner, slipping his fingers inside Leyla and Amira's lax mouths, as Jethro bit down with his fangs on both his wrists. Blood poured from the deep wounds and stretching out his arms, the vampire let it drop in both the open mouths. When the gashes started to heal, Gibbs bit down on then again, one, two, three more times as Tony tried not to worry at the amount of blood his partner was losing.
And then, after what it seemed like an eternity, but was probably only ten to twenty minutes, Tony felt both Leyla and Amira's jaws try to close against his fingers, the first move they had done so far.
"Let them," Gibbs said roughly, "they are gonna be fine."
That said, his partner lowered his arms and slumped to lean with his back against the rocky wall.
"Are you OK?" Tony asked, not liking how pale Gibbs was.
"Yeah...just tired. Need to rest a bit."
"Do you need to drink?"
"Not now. Later, when we won't have an audience."
Taken by the urgency to help the girls and his concern for Gibbs, Tony had completely forgotten Mike and Shada Shakarji.
God! What would happen now? How would they react to what they had seen? Would they call Gibbs a monster? Would they move away from him terrified and disgusted?
Tony slowly turned around, already strengthening himself against the blow, but what he saw made him open his mouth in surprise.
Instead of the horror he had fully expected to see on Mike and Shada's faces, he saw... wonder. Amazement. Surprise. Joy.
Looking at them, Tony realized that neither of them had uttered a word or a protest or asked for an explanation while Gibbs did what he did...as if they had known what he was doing. Was it possible? Was it possible they knew about the vampires and the healing power of their blood?
As if on cue, Mike ran a hand along his hair and said softly, "Why did you never tell me, Probie?"
"Mike?" Gibbs asked sounding as surprised as Tony by the note of regret they had caught in the other man's voice.
"I thought I had dreamed it...and instead it was true," Mike murmured.
"What?" Gibbs pressed.
"I was wounded when I was in Vietnam, trapped behind enemy lines. Nasty gunshot in the belly. Fever was burning me alive. No chances to resist until rescue arrived. Then, during the night, a man of my unit, Corporal James Lloyd, came by my side, bit down on his wrist as you did and dripped his blood in my mouth. The pain receded, and I fell asleep. When I woke up again, I was in a camp hospital and a doctor was telling me it was a miracle I was still alive. I thought back at that night, at Corporal Lloyd, at what he had done. I looked for him when I was released. I wanted to thank him- but I was told he had died after a mine had blown him into pieces." Mike shook his head. "As time passed, I thought my fever had caused me hallucinations and that I had dreamed Lloyd dripping blood in my mouth…"
"No," Shada interjected, as she knelt down to caress her daughter and granddaughter's sleeping faces. "You didn't dream it. The 'Bringers of Life' do exist." She flashed a bright, happy, grateful smile at Gibbs.
"Bringers of life?" Tony wondered aloud, echoing his partner's curiosity.
Shada nodded. "My native tribe has a legend, which is passed down from a generation to the next. It tells of a desert traveler that one day arrived and asked for shelter from a sand storm. The village was mourning, for most of the children had fallen sick after drinking bad water, and the local healer had said there was no hope for them. Yet, despite her all-consuming grief, a widowed mother offered hospitality to the stranger. Gave him food and even walked to a distant well to bring him fresh, clean and safe water. The stranger ate and drank, and then asked to see her and the other sick children. In front of the parents' desperate eyes, the man bit down on his wrists with his fanged teeth and let his blood drip in the children's mouths. He healed all of them. Then, as suddenly as he had arrived, the stranger left. He was never seen again, but his legend was born...the Bringer of Life."
Gibbs smiled, clearly moved by her tale. /This is the nicest legend I ever heard about vampires,/ he mentally commented with Tony.
/Yes, it is./
Tony watched as Mike and Shada exchanged a glance, as they both realized his dream and her legend were both reality.
Then, as Leyla and Amira started to stir, Mike moved closer to Gibbs and said in his typical rough tone. "Well, Probie, this evening we're grilling fish for dinner, which means we've a fire to build and five bass needing to be cleaned. We can't stay here doing nothing." Then he smiled and reached out with his hand, offering it to Gibbs to help him to stand up.
Tony watched as the two men looked at each other and then nodded. He understood in that moment that Gibbs wouldn't need to erase Mike or Shada's memories of this event because, as surprising as it was, that odd couple had no problems in accepting his partner's nature—and that was more meaningful to Jethro than any word of gratitude they could ever say.
As he watched Mike pull Gibbs up to his feet and then bend down to pick up Leyla as Shada did the same with Amira, Tony was ready to bet neither of them would complain if that night he and Jethro were to get noisy in bed. For the young man had several ideas running in his mind to show to his partner how proud he was of him and of his unselfishness…and he intended to use all of them.
Well, this was short, but it was fun to write. I liked the idea of Mike and Shada reacting so differently from the team, because it's something a few would expect from them. And this also a way to give Gibbs two more members of his unusual clan that know about him- and accept him.
Let me know what you think! And remember to drop me a line if you have some ideas for new stories set in this AU!