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July 4th, 2011

Tony was standing near the back porch doorway, looking at the crowded backyard. Their guests had finished arranging the long table and they were now waiting, some patiently, some less so, for the main course to be ready.

In front of the grill, Jethro was working efficiently as his usual, pouring beer over half-cooked steaks. And hamburgers. And sausages. And chicken…added to the dishes each of their guests had brought, they had enough food to feed a small army.

Tony smiled when Ziva threatened to spray Stan with the garden hose if he didn't stop complaining about his ulcer and snorted when Abby slapped Tim and Jimmy's hands, stopping them from stealing strawberries from atop the cake she had made while Ducky looked on, indulgently. Everyone was having a good time and it filled him with warmth and satisfaction, because it has been his idea to invite everyone.

He had wanted to celebrate their first Fourth of July as couple in the traditional way, which meant with family and friends. Jethro had agreed, even if this would actually be the second time they celebrated the day as partners.

Both Tony and his lover remembered the first time they had celebrated, in a Bethesda Hospital room, with chicken sandwiches and black coffee. It hadn't been the best of lunches, but it had been very special all the same.

Unbidden, Tony's memory returned to the previous summer. He remembered his anxiety after Jethro had disappeared in Mexico and the horror of discovering his lover had been tortured for weeks. He remembered the nights he had been awoken by Jethro's terrified screams, and the impotency caused by the blows his lover had received in his groin area. He remembered Jackson's first reaction upon discovering who Tony was and his past profession and the weeks spent trapped together inside the house, waiting for Paloma Reynosa to strike.

They had been very stressful months and Tony knew the strain those events had left on everybody could have very well ruined the young relationship between him and Jethro. Instead, they had exited from those events even more certain of their feelings for each other.

Tony smiled broadly as, predictably, his mind recalled his favorite memory of the past summer and autumn.


Tony followed Jethro inside his lover's old room in Stillwater and blessed the fact that, somewhere along the years, Jackson had replaced the single bed where young Leroy had slept with a double one. While at any other time he wouldn't have any problem in sleeping in a single bed with Jethro, tonight he longed for some comfort.

They had spent the whole day down in the store, working hard to repair the damage caused by Paloma Reynosa's attack months before and now their muscles – or at least, Tony's muscles – were tired and sore. He was aching in places he didn't even know he could ache.

Since they had already showered before dinner, the only things they needed to do were to brush their teeth and strip down, both of which were done rather quickly.

Tony signed happily as Jethro spooned behind him, his right arm wrapping around his waist.

"We covered a lot of work today," Jethro murmured against his nape, as his hand slipped beneath the t-shirt to caress Tony's belly. "We should be done by tomorrow evening. After that, we'll have a couple of days to play tourists in town and around the countryside before I have to get back to DC."

Tony smiled and twisted his neck to kiss Jethro's lips. He had meant it to be gentle and brief, but his lover took control of it, turning it into a hard, passion-filled one. Despite his sore muscles, Tony felt his body responding, to both the kiss and the hand still rubbing his belly.

Jethro, of course, felt it and his hand moved down to palm his hardening cock. In automatic response, Tony first thrust against the hand in front of him and then rocked back, pushing his ass against his lover.

Tony froze in surprise. Was it…?

"Something wrong, Tony?" Jethro asked him, his voice rough.

"No," Tony teased, "I was just trying to decide if you're really happy to see me or if you brought your crowbar into bed." He reached back with his hand, slipped it between their bodies and inside his lover's boxers, and grinned silly when his fingers closed around Jethro's thick, hard cock.

"What do you want to do, Tony?" Jethro whispered, "do you want me to ignore it and let you sleep or-"

"Shhh, don't ever say anything like that!" Tony exclaimed, rising to a sitting position, his hand still inside Jethro's underwear. "It has just returned! If it feels unwelcome, it might decide to go away again, and who knows when it will be back!" He stroked the erection in his grip a bit more, just to make sure it wasn't deflating.

Jethro laughed and Tony joined him when he felt the turgid organ in his hand harden even more.

"I think we don't need to worry…" Jethro commented, his voice already breathy with need. It wasn't surprising given his inability to find pleasure in the past three months.

Had Tony had any reservation at making love that evening – which he hadn't – they would have vanished upon hearing that voice. He pulled out his hand from Jethro's boxers and quickly removed his clothes. His lover pushed back the covers before imitating him. In a few minutes they were both naked, staring at each other's body as if it was a meal they wanted to devour.

"Do you have everything?" Tony asked.

"Yep…I put it here after our arrival, in the hope we would get lucky…" Jethro answered, pulling a condom and the lube out of the bedside table drawer.

Tony licked his lips and murmured, "My last blood tests, the ones I took just to be extra careful, came out negative. I'm clean. So if you want…" he tilted his head to indicate the condom. He had dreamed of being taken by Jethro without any barrier between them, but didn't want to force the issue if the older man was uncomfortable with the idea.

Jethro's eyes darkened with lust as his cock seemed to grow even harder. Without saying a word, he threw the condom back in the drawer and pulled Tony closer.

The room seemed to get hotter when their chests brushed each other's and their lips met in a forceful kiss, which ignited every nerve in Tony's body. Jethro groaned softly and the sound left Tony desperate for air.

They both pressed closer, and Jethro wrapped one arm around Tony's shoulders, tugging on the back of his neck, pulling him in for another kiss.

Jethro's body was trembling, a fine, almost unnoticeable thing - or perhaps it was his own body trembling, Tony couldn't be sure. The only thing he knew was that he was reaching the precipice far sooner than usual and that he and his lover needed to move on or Tony would end up coming just from kissing.

Jethro seemed to sense it and rolled him onto his back on the bed. He covered Tony's body with his own and began to explore him with his mouth and his hands, as he wanted to make sure he still remembered all of the younger man most sensitive places.

And he did, oh how well he remembers them, Tony thought, his hands moved restlessly along Jethro's back. A moment later, the older man pinched both his nipples at the same time, with just a hint of nails, and Tony cried out, nearly coming.

"Stop... too much... Can't..." he reached down between their bodies and, finding his cock, he squeezed hard at its base, staving off his orgasm.

"Need you now, Jethro..." he panted, caressing his lover's cheek. "Right now or I won't last..." And just to make sure Jethro understood his urgency, he pumped the older man's cock hard with his other hand. One, two, three times in quick succession, something he knew never failed to stroke Jethro's fire.

His lover grabbed the lube from where he had put it before and squeezed a generous amount of it on his fingers.

"Yes..." Tony whispered. He brought his knees up and spread himself widely, wantonly. "Please,"

"Patience..." the older man replied, but by the way his hand was shaking and by how much his cock was leaking, Tony knew Jethro was reaching the end of his own endurance. As things were, it would a miracle if they didn't both come the very moment Jethro pushed inside.

The younger man lay, sprawled wide, watching with hooded eyes as Jethro worked his opening, stretching it. And finally, his lover raised Tony's hips and with a well aimed thrust he sunk in to the hilt.

Tony cried out and grabbed the sheets with his fingers, struggling not to come. Jethro pumped slowly, his eyes watching the play of muscles across the broad chest as Tony moved restlessly against the rhythm of his strokes.

"Love you..." Tony panted out, his eyes locking with Jethro's.

"Love you too..." Jethro whispered back, his movements speeding up.

"Come in me...fill me...make me yours..." Tony urged, as he started to stroke his own cock, unable to resist a second more.

Jethro groaned aloud and pumped harder, faster and Tony applied the same rhythm on his cock, all the while keeping his eyes locked on Jethro's face, watching it grow tense with pain-need-want and then go slack with pleasure as his body shuddered in release.

A few seconds later Tony's world went white and exploded as he joined his lover in ecstasy…

"Hey, dreamy head, the doorbell just rang! Do ya plan to open it or must I go?" Jethro's chiding voice recalled Tony to the present and he smiled bashfully, embarrassed by having been caught daydreaming.

"I'll get it. They must be my friends from California," he answered.

Jethro nodded, winked, and returned to mind the grill as Tony crossed the house to the front door. His smile became a full grin when he saw Cassie and Rick's older but familiar faces look at him from beyond the glass portion of the door.

He swung the door open and embraced Cassie before she was able to say a single word. She had been more of a mother to him than any of his stepmothers, and he would always be grateful for what she did for him all those years ago.

When they separated Tony took both of her hands and said, "Cassie, sweetheart, you look wonderful."

"And you still are a very handsome and convincing liar," she retorted playfully.

"You wound me," Tony replied, putting his left hand over his heart, as he used the right one to greet his other guest, "Hey Rick, good to see you again, man."

"You too, Tony," Rick answered. He was now completely bald, but he looked very well, just like Cassie. They had both aged well.

"Come inside now," he gestured with a hand. "Lunch is almost ready. We were waiting for you."

"Sorry for the delay," Cassie commented as she stepped inside, looking around herself with keen, curious eyes, "but we...I wasn't sure this was the correct place."

Tony laughed at her look and comment. "I get it. You think this house isn't my style...You're right. But you see, its owner, my partner, he is exactly my style, and he didn't have to work very hard to convince me to move in with him. As a matter of fact I was already nodding while he was still at the 'Tony, would you consider to-'..."

Cassie smiled broadly and pulled Tony in her arms for a hug. "I'm so happy for you, kid!" she exclaimed as she patted his back. "I feared for a long time you would never get over your crush for that Marine. I'm so relieved you finally managed to get over him and find love again."

Tony stepped back from her arms and gave Cassie a little grin. Oh lady, you've no idea of what kind of surprise you are in for...he thought amused. "Come on, I want to introduce you to my man," he said as he started leading them toward the backyard.

As they walked, Cassie stepped near him and commented with a I-told-you-so tone, "I guess you finally got rid of that tattoo, uh? I bet it hurt like hell to have it removed."

Tony didn't answer; for he was too busy biting his lower lip to avoid bursting in laughter.

When they reached the backyard, Tony led his friends to meet his other friends that were now all sitting around the long, sturdy wooden table that had been one of Jethro's first carpenter works.

"The one sitting at the end of the table is Doctor Mallard, but he goes by Ducky. He's NCIS chief Medical Examiner, and has an encyclopedic culture and can go on talking for hours. Near him, there is his faithful assistant, Jimmy Palmer. He still needs to work on his story telling skills, but he is progressing well. At his right, there is NCIS Special Agent Ziva David—don't make her angry, 'cause he used to be a Mossad operative and claims she can kill a man using a paperclip in eighteen different ways. In front of her there are Special Agents Timothy McGee, who moonlights as a novelist, and Stanley Burley, who today will eat only salad, for he's nursing an ulcer he claims has been caused by working with his boss. One would guess he should have an iron stomach by now, since he has been working for the same man for the past twelve years. At last but not least, we've our Mistress of the Dark, Abby Sciuto, NCIS Forensic and Ballistic specialist, another woman you don't want to cross, 'cause she could kill you without leaving any forensic evidence. This is the bunch of people that busted me, but they're now all great friends," Tony completed with more than a little pride.

As he had said to Jethro the evening they first had dinner together, he hadn't had many friends. Despite a line of work that had put him in contact with many, many people, he had been lonely for most of his life, because, ultimately, he had been able to trust only a few people. Cassie, Rick and Holly Snow, the DC Madam that had taken him under wing when he had arrived from California with a broken heart. Now, instead he had several good friends, men and women that had first accepted him in their circle because of Jethro, but now loved him for just himself.

Tony watched as Cassie and Rick shook hands and exchanged introductions with all the persons sitting around the table, and noticed how her eyes kept darting toward Jethro, who was still busy in front of the grill, his back turned toward them. He could see Cassie was dying with the desire to meet his partner, so decided to indulge her—and himself, because he couldn't wait to see her expression when he realized who the man she was staring at was.

"Come," he said, taking her by her arm. "Let's satisfy your curiosity."

As they crossed the backyard toward the grill, Tony asked idly, without looking at her, "Remember I didn't answer to your comment about my tattoo?"

"Yes, I do," Cassie replied, curious.

"I haven't had it removed 'cause my Gunny here wouldn't like if I got rid of it." Tony said as he put an arm on Jethro's back and whispered in his ear, "Look who is here."

Jethro turned around and Tony watched, delighted, as Cassie's mouth opened in a silent, surprised, "Oh".

"Cassie," Tony murmured, wrapping his arm around Jethro's waist. "Let me introduce you former USMC Gunnery Sergeant and NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs."

Cassie and Jethro shook hands, and then his lover returned to the grill and whistled loudly, "All right people, the food is ready. Come here with your plates and we'll fill them."

The group sitting at the table rushed toward them, talking, laughing, and arguing who should be served first and act as guinea pig for Jethro's cooking. That, of course, earned them a glare from the cook, but nobody minded it...aside, perhaps, Jimmy Palmer, who smiled nervously.

Since Cassie was already near the grill, Tony filled her plate first and gave it to her with a wink and a cheerful, "Buon appetito."

He helped Jethro to fill the others' plates, grinning at their appreciative comments when they tasted his partner's 'steak a la beer'. Then finally, when everybody was served, Jethro and he filled their own plates, and joined the group, sitting close to each other on the bench at the end of the table opposite of Ducky.

As he ate, Tony observed the happy, smiling people around him, his partner and his friends, both old and new, and for the first time in his life he felt completely at peace with himself.

Tony would never repudiate his past, for it had made him meet the love his life, but he was so very glad he no longer was just Gunny's whore, but Jethro's love.

Then Tony shook himself out of that maudlin mood and, as he stood up to propose a toast to the cook, he thought this was really gonna be a wonderful 4th of July.




Well, this is the end of my journey in this AU.

I hope you enjoyed the journey...Let me know what you think and let's see if this story can break the 300 reviews barrier! :)

Thanks so much for your support.