A/N: I haven't watched NCIS since season six, so if this contradicts any information in later seasons, my apologies.


Many small business owners had paid omertà to furnish Michael Macaluso's study. It was his favorite room in the house. It was dominated, at least when he wasn't in the room, by a great mahogany desk that had been shipped at even greater expense from the family home in Sicily. It, not the library, was where his kept his personal books: the first editions and illuminated manuscripts. Incunabula and books of hours. The dining room was where he was the Don, the Padre, an archetype of authority. It was where he indulged in clichés and threats. But in the study was where he was nothing more than himself. Michael.

Mike, to the young man who'd followed him into the room and waited while he shut the door. Not even his consigliere was brave enough to call him Mike.

"Sit down. I want to show you something," he said, opening a desk drawer.

"This isn't going to be like that thing with the picture of the saint, is it?" asked Antonio Bianchi, even as he obeyed.

"Relax, Antonio. Or I will think you don't trust me."

Antonio laughed. When he saw the small rectangular object that Michael had set on the desk, he laughed even harder.

"Tarot, Mike?"

"Don't make fun of your elders. It is tarocchi. Most people don't know that even though it is called tarot now, it was once called tarocchi by our people."

"My people are from Long Island."

Michael ignored him. "It was a game played by noblemen."

"So we're just going to play a card game?" Antonio asked.

"No. We are going to read the future."

"Whose future?"

"Yours," said Michael.

"I don't want to know my future."

"It's time you started thinking about what is to come. You will not be a soldato forever. I am going to teach you how to read the cards."

"I've never been much of a reader. Always wait for the movie version to come out. I'm a better soldato than I am a student."

Michael smiled. "Perhaps your teachers simply didn't know how to handle you. You will learn. It is mostly instincts anyway. You have to… how do you say it? Trust your belly."

"Gut, Mike. Trust your gut. How long have you been living in America?"

"I need to teach you how to read the cards so that you can read them for me."

Antonio leaned forward to watch as Michael shuffled the cards and laid the first one down on the marbleized blotting paper. Some people chose the significator from the court cards, but Michael preferred to draw it at random from the deck.

"Can't you do that yourself?"

"It is bad luck to read for yourself. Will you do this for me, Antonio?"

"Ci serto, Padre."

Michael left him to study the deck for a moment while he went to the liquor cabinet and poured them both gin and tonics, the blue glass bottle glinting under the accent lighting. Antonio would not understand the significance of the cards - the suits and the major arcana - but there was meaning to be found even for a beginner.

He saw Antonio's hand hover over the card he'd laid down: the significator. It had a picture of a pale man in a Renaissance beret carrying a white rose. It was the Fool.

"What does that one mean?" he asked.

"Not what you think. The Fool is at the start of a journey. He takes the first step, trusting that everything will turn out alright. Some may say that trust is foolish, but no journey can begin without it."

He didn't answer. Michael handed him the gin and tonic, wrapping his fingers around Antonio's for a moment. In some ways, he knew, this would be more frightening for the boy than his initiation. "That thing with the picture of the saint," as he had phrased it. Antonio wasn't afraid of the future. When it came to his own future, he was fearless in a way that broke Michael's heart. But Antonio was afraid of himself, and that was what the cards really revealed.

"Shall we begin?"

"Okay," Antonio took a drink.

"First you must ask a question."

"But you already dealt a card."

"That card represents you. It is the significator."

"Didn't Arnold Schwarzenegger star in that?"

Michael had to fight the sudden urge to cuff Antonio across the back of the head.

"Ask a question."

Antonio hesitated.

"Okay. Okay, I have a question," he said. "Are we doing Magic Eight Balls next week?"

Michael gave in to the urge.