Tony bounced. There was really no other word for it. Even when he was sitting still at his desk, he was bouncing. It was more of a metaphorical bounce, but even complete strangers walking by got a sense of motion when they looked at Tony. Abby had taken to comparing him to a puppy on speed.

Tony bounced because he was happy. Several weeks ago, he'd thought September fifteenth was going to be an amazingly awesome day. He and Gibbs were going to explore whatever it was that had been lurking between them since they'd met in Baltimore years ago. But all that happened on that day was dinner (cowboy steak, of course), bourbon (not as much as might be expected, all things considered), talking (more than anyone familiar with Leroy Jethro Gibbs would have dreamed was possible), and sharing a bed (platonically). All of which was, really, awesome in and of itself.

But then there'd been The Elevator Event, which came not long after The Hotel Incident That Shall Never Be Spoken Of Again… and that was all it took to convince both men to stop wasting time, to throw rule twelve out the metaphorical window, and to go for it. And they had. Many times, at length. So Tony had mentally revised the date of awesomeness to be October ninth, and the entire weekend after that.

They'd done a good job of hiding it, except for that time in the elevator (not The Elevator, but the one at work), when neither of them had known of the new directive to Building Maintenance authorizing them to override the emergency stop. The doors had opened, and Ducky and Palmer had stared in fascination at the really intense lip lock between Gibbs and his senior field agent. Ducky had shaken their hands and congratulated them, while Palmer had been speechless. Even now, two weeks later, he was still speechless.

It wasn't just the sex that made Tony happy. It was the intimacy, the connection, the being with Gibbs. Tony had Gibbs' attention now, in ways he hadn't even imagined (which was pretty impressive, given Tony's libido), and he didn't need to fight for it anymore. That didn't mean he toned things down, though. If anything, he tried even harder. He still treasured the head slaps, but now in addition to those he got tiny smiles and laughing eyes and shared glances. Others were starting to notice… Abby had been running calculations to determine the probability that Gibbs had been replaced by a pod person.

So Tony bounced. At the moment, he was bouncing in the passenger seat of the car while he and Gibbs were on their way to find the location of a petty officer's stash of illegal drugs. They were alone; Director Vance had taken Ziva and McGee with him while on official NCIS business at the LA office.

Gibbs shot Tony a look. "What are you so happy about?"

Tony grinned. "What's not to be happy about? I've got you, it's a beautiful day… what more could I want?"

Gibbs smiled and shook his head. "I'd have thought you'd be worried about us going in the field alone again, after the last two times."

Tony shook his head. "Nope. Wanna know why?"


Tony waved his arm at the windshield. "We're in the middle of nowhere, Boss. We're not in a creepy hotel, we're not in a spooky warehouse… just us and the great outdoors."

Gibbs snorted. "Since when do you consider the outdoors so great?"

"Since there are no creepy buildings anywhere around," Tony replied firmly.

That got a small chuckle from Gibbs, who reached out to squeeze Tony's hand briefly. Tony looked down, grinning at the sight, then glanced up quickly. "Oh! Left turn, just up ahead."

Gibbs moved his hand in time to take a sharp turn onto a little dirt road that meandered into the woods. "How much further?"

Tony consulted his notes. "About a mile and a half. It's a pile of rocks near a lake." Gibbs grunted in acknowledgment, and Tony looked out the window at the trees. Old growth forest, thick trunks, some leaves starting to turn, no people in sight... not exactly Tony's favored habitat, but much better than Bates hotels and haunted warehouses.

Gibbs parked the car a little way off the path, opening the door and climbing out while pocketing his keys. Tony got out and headed for the rocks near the lake, the layout just as the petty officer had described, when he noticed that Gibbs wasn't moving. He changed direction, trotting over to his partner. "Something wrong?"

Gibbs was looking at the dirt road, brow furrowed. "No tire tracks, other than ours."

Tony looked, then shrugged. "Maybe he hasn't been here in a while?"

"There should be something here, Tony. Unless you think the animals sweep up after he leaves."

Tony stared at Gibbs, grinning. "You made a joke! That's awesome."

Gibbs glanced at him, then shot him a small smile. "Seems you have an effect on me."

"More than one, I hope."

"Oh, yeah." They stared at each other for a moment, then Gibbs looked away, shifting his shoulders and taking a deep breath. "Later."

"You bet."

Tony followed Gibbs toward the lake, bumping into him when Gibbs stopped suddenly, his hand moving to his gun. Tony immediately moved sideways, drawing his own firearm, pointing the barrel down while scanning the area. "What is it?" he asked, voice low.

Gibbs shook his head. "Hear that?"

Tony listened, then shook his head. "I don't hear anything."

"Exactly." Gibbs sighed at Tony's puzzled expression. "It's the middle of the day, warm for October... we should be hearing birds, insects, sounds of animals moving around."

Tony listened again. "It's dead quiet, Boss."

Gibbs nodded, then motioned for Tony to stay put and cover him. He moved forward, then closed his eyes and stood still. Tony alternated between scanning the area and watching Gibbs, feeling something in his gut unclench when Gibbs' shoulders relaxed. Holstering his gun, Tony walked forward. "Super sniper senses?"

Gibbs shrugged. "You learn to recognize human presence when you're lying in wait for hours on end."

"That's so cool. Abby's always said that you're magic."

Gibbs snorted and moved toward the rocks. "Let's find that stash and get out of here."

It didn't take them long. The drugs were piled in a hidden crevice; Gibbs took pictures while Tony sketched the area.

The sound of water splashing made Tony look up. There were ripples on the lake surface, not far from the shore where they were standing. He watched for a moment, and the ripples faded.


"Yeah, Boss?"

"You done?"

"Just about."

"Gonna take this to the car, then we'll check the area for any other contraband."

Tony watched as Gibbs bent over to grab an armful of the drugs and headed for the car. He closed up his sketchbook and moved to help, stopping and turning when he heard the splashing again. This time there were small waves hitting the shore.

"That's weird."

He walked over to the lakeside, peering down. It took a moment, but he saw movement, what could be a large fish. "Cool!" He moved a little closer, then gave a startled yell as a shape erupted out of the water, grabbed him, and pulled him under.

Tony's arms flailed as he tried to move back to the surface, but whatever was holding him was too strong. He could feel how fast they were moving, and he knew they were pulling away from the shore. Then the water stopped flowing over his skin the way it had been, and he was face to face with his attacker.

She was beautiful. Long dark hair swirled thorough the water. Dark eyes – completely dark, no whites – stared unblinkingly at him. Her body was barely covered with some sort of thin, translucent material that moved like her hair. He glanced down, but there were normal legs there, not the fish's tail he expected.

He felt fingers in his hair; they gripped tightly and brought his face up to hers. The image in his eyes wavered, and he knew he was about to drown. She dragged him closer and kissed him; he struggled weakly against the cold and emotionless touch. She held firm, and his struggles slowed as he realized that somehow she was delaying his death. He felt more alert, and he could see her clearly when she finally pulled away.

She stared at him again, her face expressionless, and some remote corner of his mind registered the fact that she had no eyelids. Other than that, her face was flawless, like one of those airbrushed pictures of models in magazines. Their eyes met, and a rush of images flooded his brain.

The two of them swimming, dancing under the water, both naked, having sex… freedom from worry and stress and danger, never having to wonder, never lonely, together forever…

He shook his head abruptly, trying to clear away the enticing fantasy. She was still staring at him, beautiful and remote. She reached up to run her fingers through his hair; he guessed it was supposed to be seductive, but it felt impersonal, like his hairdresser using a comb. The need for air was building up the pressure in his chest, and once more he tried to move toward the surface. She yanked him close again, kissing him and pressing the full length of her body against his. She felt cold, and he suddenly flashed on a memory of him and Gibbs in bed, twined together, laughing, Gibbs' body warm and relaxed against his own.

A sharp, stinging pain on his face brought him back to the present. He reached up to touch his cheek, and his fingers came away red. He looked at her face; it was just as impassive as before, but a glance at her hands showed claws where her fingers had been. She pulled away, and he watched in fascination as the claws morphed back into fingers. She floated in front of him, beginning a writhing, twisting dance, and he couldn't help but watch her body as it appeared and disappeared from behind its translucent cover. Their eyes met again, and he was assaulted once more by images of the two of them locked in a passionate frenzy.

He moved toward her, almost involuntarily, overwhelmed by the lust that suddenly surrounded him. The look on her face turned from impassive to triumphant, and he caught a glimpse of sharp teeth as she smiled. The cuts on his face abruptly burned, and he stopped, suspended in the water, staring at her while a new set of images flashed through his mind.

Gibbs' smile that first day at the precinct in Baltimore, the shock and sorrow on his face when Kate died, the pride he didn't quite hide when Tony solved yet another case, the almost hesitant affection just before they made love for the first time.

Tony stared at the thing masquerading as temptress, and shook his head firmly. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was a mouth full of fangs as it rocketed straight at him.

"Tony! C'mon, Tony… open your eyes… Tony… please, Tony – don't do this!"

Gibbs said please?

Tony blinked his eyes open and stared up at Gibbs, who was clearly angry, scared, and soaking wet. "Boss? What –" Memory came flooding back, and Tony sat up abruptly, scooting backwards on his rear end, putting distance between him and the lake.

Gibbs reached out to grab him. "Tony, you're alright, it's okay…"

"No, no, it really isn't." Tony looked at the quiet surface of the water, then at Gibbs. "There's something in the water, Boss."

Gibbs nodded slowly. "Yeah. I found a bunch of human skeletons near where you went in. Looked all scraped up."

Tony thought of the long sharp fangs and shuddered.

Gibbs stood quickly, grabbing Tony by the arm and hauling him up to his feet. "Come on, you must be freezing. I know I am." He half-dragged, half-carried Tony to the car, putting him in the front passenger seat, then went around to the driver's side, turning on the engine and blasting the heat right away.

The heat seeped through their wet clothes and they slowly relaxed. After a few minutes of silence, Gibbs turned to Tony. "At least we're even now."

Tony glared at him. "No way. You got two for one."

Gibbs' lips twitched into a slight smile. "True."

"How is Maddie, anyway?"

"She's fine. Tony – what the hell happened?"

Tony closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and went over the entire experience for Gibbs, staring out at the lake the whole time. Gibbs took his hand once Tony was done, reaching up to gently turn Tony's face toward his own, and leaned in to kiss him lightly on the lips.

"Thank you for choosing to stay."

Tony stared at him. "You think that's what happened? That it couldn't take me unless I gave in to it?"

Gibbs shrugged. "Sounds like it to me. How else do you explain the fact that you're not just one more pile of bones under there?"

Tony shivered and deliberately turned his back on the lake. "Gibbs… why do these things keep happening to us?"

"I don't know. Wish I did."

"Might make it worse."

"Yeah." Gibbs stared at the lake, then turned to Tony and gave him a warm smile. "I'm taking you home to get cleaned up. And I'm calling Ducky over to look at those cuts on your face and listen to your lungs."

Tony nodded and put his seat belt on while Gibbs got the car turned around and headed back to the main road. He leaned back and closed his eyes, smiling when he felt Gibbs take his hand and hold on tightly.