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Worthy

by: tejas (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 12813
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Alternate Universe, First Time, Genderbend
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: Tony meets the shifter of his dreams over a dead body in a Baltimore alley. But will his courtship be accepted?

Author Notes: Thank you to my betas, Taylor Gibbs and Green Grrl. You ladies kept me honest. :-)

I've always been fascinated by the popularity of transformational fic in NCIS fandom. I've enjoyed a *lot* of the ones I've read, it just always seemed like a very odd marriage between trope and fandom. But, as these things do, the concept kept nagging at me. Then, a couple of weeks ago, an idea hit me like a ton of bricks and Worthy was born (and basic ideas for about six more stories... and then there're the SG1 stories in the same universe). I've had a lot of fun doing the world building on this AU, not to mention writing a genderbending slash story where the genderbend doesn't turn slash into het. Sorta. (This is *me*, remember.) After all, if you're a shape shifter, where does it say you have to retain your gender when you shift?

Chapters: 1

The only thing Tony hated more than cold weather was being called out in it in the middle of the night to look at a DB in an alley. He'd lived on the East Coast for most of his life, but he never seemed to get used to it. He'd thought taking the job with Baltimore P.D. would take him far enough south to avoid freezing his ass off all winter--Maryland was below the Mason-Dixon line, after all. That meant it was in the south, didn't it?

Mother Nature had a bitchy sense of humor.

Only one of his shifter forms loved the cold, but Bengal tigers got noticed wandering around in the Mid-Atlantic. It was easier to spread his wings and let his inner macaw out for the occasional wild flight, just not in this weather. Not only was it easier to hide from humans, if seen, people were more likely to reach for their cameras than their shotguns. An escaped parrot just wasn't nearly as terrifying as an escaped tiger. But his macaw sure did get attention and what more could a fella ask for? Well, except attention from a nicely muscled bitch. He grinned as he parked his car next to the cruiser in the middle of the street.

Someday he'd find her. He'd meet a strong, powerful female who'd be unable to resist his charms. She'd sweep him off his feet and have her way with him, then insist he do the same to her. Or maybe she'd want him to prove how much he was willing to risk to have her and expect him to make the first move. Tony shook his head and sighed, shoulders hunched against the cold wind, with the crunch of ice underfoot chasing his starry-eyed, romantic dreams back to where they came from. He had work to do.

Tony heard the fed before he saw or scented him. The gruff, "Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS," followed soon after by "Don't call me 'sir,'" echoed down the alleyway, leaving-- no doubt--a confused rookie in its wake. Tony rolled his eyes at his partner and sighed. But then the cold wind shifted, and while he'd probably forget the moment of resignation when he realized they were about to lose this case to the feds, he didn't think he'd never forget this first scent of Gibbs. Even in human form, even over the stench of the dead human, he could tell another of his own kind, unmated and unclaimed just as he was. Pheromones set his pulse pounding and it was all he could do to not shift right there in the alley next to the dead body and bare his neck and belly to his future mate. At least he hoped he would be chosen. He'd need time to consciously analyze everything Gibbs' scent carried, but deep in the lizard brain his kind shared with humans something cried out, demanding this strong, powerful shifter as his mate.

No other shifter had better get within sniffing distance or he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. Three of his forms were deadly, each in their own way, and Tony had no compunction against using whatever force was necessary to discourage the competition. He knew in his gut, that Gibbs was all he'd ever dreamed of in a mate, and if it took him a hundred years, he'd find a way to win her.

When Gibbs stopped next to Tony, he couldn't resist taking a moment to just enjoy the other shifter's scent, the heat rising from her male human form. Tony had yet to meet a bitch who didn't prefer to pose as a human male instead of female. They eyed each other in the dimly lit alley while Tony cataloged everything he could detect about his future mate. Gibbs raised an eyebrow at his direct appraisal. Tony ducked his head slightly and received the shadow of a smile for his efforts.

Feeling daring, Tony turned to his partner. "Nichols, why don't you go out to the street and see if you can keep anyone else from trampling all over our crime scene. I think it's my turn to play with the Feds." In the process, Tony managed to bare his throat just a little to Gibbs. Tony hadn't flirted with another shifter in a long time. It felt so good, even if he knew he was being too forward.

Nichols slapped Tony on the back. "You sure, kid?" Nichols indicated Gibbs with a jerk of his head. "I'll take this guy on if you want, I don't think he's going to fall for your charming self."

Tony shrugged and wished, again, that he'd chosen to be older when he'd become a cop. He was tired of being "the kid," but he wasn't ready to leave and take on an older persona somewhere else. Now that he'd met Gibbs, nothing would make him pull up stakes and move on.

At least not alone.

He barely noticed Nichols leaving; his senses were too full of Gibbs--Gibbs who leaned in and whispered, "Put a sock in it, pup. You want me? Show some respect and maybe I'll consider it." Gibbs drew Tony's attention to their surroundings and away from her warm breath caressing Tony's ear and jaw in the frozen night. "Or do you think I don't deserve any better than you nipping after me in a filthy alley?" The unspoken "human" before the word "alley" brought Tony up short faster even than Gibbs' terse whisper.

Tony felt the blood drain from his face and, once again, the almost irresistible urge to shift and bare his throat and belly to Gibbs arose, nearly choking him with its intensity. "I'm sorry, Gibbs. Of course you deserve better than this, I don't know… I mean, I'm," the sharp slap to the back of Tony's head stopped his babbled apology.

"Never apologize, pup. At least not with words. Let's find who killed my Marine and then I'll see about giving you a chance to apologize properly." At Gibbs' words, Tony's shoulders slowly relaxed from their instinctive hunch. With a quick glance over her shoulder toward the head of the alley, Gibbs lowered her voice and leaned in again, "You're too pretty and too eager to ignore." With what Tony hoped was an appreciative sniff in his direction, Gibbs stepped away and back into "his" human persona.

Tony knew he was grinning, and yes, acting, like an idiot, but Gibbs' chuckle and the scent of female shifter arousal made it all worthwhile.

The case of the dead Marine corporal turned out to be fairly simple: too much to drink, an icy alley, a slip, a fall and a bang to the back of the head when he hit the pavement. Tony and Gibbs spent half the night and most of the next day questioning everyone they could find from the bar where Corporal Simons had last been seen alive. No one had a grudge against him. There'd been no fight, no argument, no reason for anyone to kill him. He still had almost two hundred dollars in his wallet and, Tony appraised, a halfway decent knock-off Rolex on his wrist. His buddies' descriptions of the evening were all the same: Simons was heading out to crash at his brother's apartment a couple of blocks away. The alley was a known shortcut for anyone going in that direction from the bar.

When he and Gibbs were around humans, Tony kept his attentions to himself. He focused solely on proving to Gibbs that he was a good investigator. That he could do the job they'd both chosen. That he was worthy.

Only when they were alone did he broach the subject of courtship.

"You're driving me crazy, Gibbs." The car swerved far too quickly around a curve. "Or you're trying to kill me!" Tony hung on to the car door for dear life. They were on their way to speak to Simons' C.O. A formality, but one neither of them would ignore, assuming they survived the journey. Gibbs drove more aggressively than any female Tony had ever known, and everyone knew females were nuts when it came to taking risks. It made riding with Gibbs equal parts sheer terror and almost overwhelming arousal. Gibbs just grinned and gunned the car into a turn.

The next time they came to a screeching halt, Tony couldn't stand it any more. He grabbed Gibbs' hand in his and ran his nails down Gibbs' palm. The effect on Gibbs was mesmerizing. Her eyes half-closed and she tipped her head back against the headrest. Her scent fueled Tony's resolve. "I don't know if I have a chance with you or not. You may have fifty suitors waiting in the wings, but I will not stand by while you kill yourself trying to prove something to me. Please, Gibbs. Please be more careful." Tony wanted nothing more than to lean over and nibble on Gibbs' exposed neck--stake his own claim on the female just as he longed to be claimed himself.

"I don't."

"Don't what."

"Don't have fifty suitors."

"Good. Though, being a tiger can be hungry work. One or two wouldn't be bad."

"Tiger, hmm?"

"Yep!

"Show me?"

"I'll show you mine, if you show me yours." Tony grinned at the surprise on Gibbs' face. "What, you think males don't get off on a bitch's forms? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a T-Rex lurking behind those beautiful blue eyes." Tony scratched at her palm again. "Whatever you're hiding in there is bound to be strong and powerful and sexy as all hell."

"Just not used to one being quite so open about it."

"Gibbs, your driving scares the shit out of me, but only because you can't control everyone else on the road. But you don't scare me at all. You make me feel… safe." Tony blinked in surprise. He hadn't had time yet to sort through all the emotions Gibbs brought out in him, but as he said it, he knew it was true. "You do. I know you'll never hurt me or let anyone else hurt me if you can help it."

Tony swallowed and ducked his head in the manner he'd been taught to use for this moment and spoke the traditional words for the first time in his life. "My name is Anthony Daniel DiNozzo of the Long Island Pack. I am 47 years old and have mastered four different forms. I am fertile, have no offspring, am unmated and no bitch has claim to me. I am of sound body and good lineage. I beg the honor of courting you until such time as you turn from me or accept me as your mate." Tony's mouth was dry as he finished. He'd learned the ritual as a cub and had scoffed at mated couples who got emotional when they heard the words. Now… now, he thought he understood. He felt as if his life hung by a thread. It all depended on how Gibbs responded. Head still bowed, he closed his eyes and waited to hear his fate.

Gibbs' hand closed around Tony's, nails digging in just enough to send a spark of arousal through Tony as Gibbs answered, "I am Leroy Jethro Gibbs, of the Southern Iroquois Pack. I am 58 years old and have mastered four different forms. I have no offspring, am unmated and no pack has claim to me. I am fertile and have been granted permission to start my own pack should I find a suitable mate." Tony sighed as Gibbs' hand stroked his throat and settled firmly on the back of his exposed neck. "I accept you as a qualified suitor until such time as you prove yourself unworthy through word or deed, or Pack authority proves you false."

It took a moment for Tony to realize the worst hadn't come to pass. She'd accepted him! It took all he had to keep from raising his head and looking Gibbs in the eye. Her hand on his neck was a clear indication that she wanted him to remain in position. His first test in their courtship. Could he accept her authority? Could he trust her to lead their pack? She would have her own tests. Could she accept his censure when she risked herself too much? Could she accept his help when she needed it? So many factors that had nothing to do with her sensual power or his devotion.

Gibbs released him and Tony raised his head, blinking to clear his eyes as Gibbs spoke, "Unless Simons' C.O. has something new to say, we're done for the night. We talk to him then we'll go to your place."

It was the fastest interview Tony had ever been part of.

Tony insisted on stopping at the grocery store. No way was he going to feed Gibbs take out. Not for the first time he fed her. He couldn't help grinning. The bitch of his dreams had accepted him as a suitor. He'd met her less than 48 hours ago, but he knew she was the one. The meal, their first courtship meal, would be simple but he'd prepare it with his own hands. He nearly dropped a dozen eggs as his mind supplied an image of him, in his native form, dropping a bloody kill at her feet. He'd never brought down prey for a bitch before. It had always been an erotic image, but now, with a particular bitch in mind, it was almost overpowering.

He headed back to the butcher's counter for something big and red and raw to go with the smoked salmon, fruit and cheese.

Then he went back again and had the butcher cube it for him. No way was he going to see Gibbs in her native form yet. This way, he could hand feed her if she wanted. Tony finally understood why his teachers had spent years teaching him to control the urge to shift. Just the thought of Gibbs taking one of the cubes of raw beef from his fingers, or, even hotter, from his lips, nearly had him shifting right there in the middle of Whole Foods.

Tony managed to get out of the store and into Gibbs' car with his human form firmly in place. Uncomfortable as all hell, but still human. He deserved a fucking medal. Tony glanced at Gibbs as she whipped into traffic and decided maybe he had a chance at something much better than a medal.

They got to his place in record time, and Tony managed to get most of the groceries put away before Gibbs joined him in the kitchen. Tony swallowed hard and nearly came as Gibbs pressed up against his back, her strong arms wrapped around him, holding him closely, surrounding him with her scent, her arousal in her male form physically evident against his ass. Tony's hands shook a little as he unwrapped the butcher's paper and showed her the cubes of beef inside.

"I, um, wasn't sure if you'd want me to cook."

Gibbs' teeth pressed gently into his neck and Tony shuddered with desire.

"Don't cook it." Tony felt Gibbs' voice rumble against his back as her breath caressed his ear. She nuzzled his neck, the stubble on her human face scratching at him like hundreds of tiny claws, and he moaned in response. "Bring it into the living room. I think we'll need the space." Tony started to wrap the meat back up when Gibbs added, "And lose the monkey suit." With that, she licked his neck and left the kitchen.

Tony leaned against the counter and struggled with the need for control. He half listened to the sounds of his living room being rearranged, and the idea of Gibbs leaving her mark on his home made it that much harder to not shift to his native form. It was too soon, much too soon and he would not insult her like that.

Tony grabbed the platter he often used for meals eaten in his tiger form and arranged the beef and salmon for ease of access for his non-human forms. Having no idea what forms Gibbs might have tucked away inside, Tony could only offer the broadest menu possible on the spur of the moment. One shallow bowl held the cheese and another now contained the apples, dried figs and grapes; very expensive, out-of-season grapes. Oh well, if Gibbs didn't enjoy them, he would. He'd filled the nut bowl in the living room a few days ago, but his macaw hadn't made an appearance since… before the Henderson case. Tony stopped in shock. He hadn't spent more than a few hours out of human form in weeks. No wonder he was so jumpy.

He stepped into his living room with their meal and stopped short. Gibbs had moved the furniture to form a large open area in the middle of the room. There, sitting up on the area rug was a large female grizzly bear who seemed to be laughing at Tony.

"Damn." It was the only thing Tony could think of to say. Unable to take his eyes off Gibbs for long, he stumbled to the coffee table sitting to the side of the now cleared area and laid out the food. Tony hurried to strip and made a half-hearted attempt to fold his clothes, eventually just piling them next to Gibbs' clothes on the sofa. Before he shifted, though, he had to touch. His human form's hands were much more sensitive than anything his tiger or macaw had. He just had to run his hands through Gibbs' gorgeous silver-tipped pelt.

He approached and dropped to his knees when he got within reach. Gibbs snuffled Tony's hair and licked his cheek, as if she knew what Tony wanted and was granting permission. Tony was tall in human form, and while Gibbs could tower over him in this form, they were more or less at eye level in these positions. Tony had never met a shifter in bear form before. He had no idea where she might like to be touched, so he started with what he knew she'd recognize; native form hot spots.

Tony gently touched her muzzle, running his nails along her whiskers. As she leaned into his touch, he increased the pressure. Slowly he explored her face, finding where she liked to be touched. Before long, he branched out, moving along her body without a word being said. What started as a selfish desire to feel her coat had turned into something almost mystical. The spaces between the pads caused her to moan and shudder when he massaged her paws. Tony stroked and scratched, rubbing here and gently tugging on her coat somewhere else. Her response was a series of grunts, moans and sighs--a language Tony was grateful to have a chance to learn. He wondered if she'd touch him like this and, if so, if she'd enjoy it as much as he did. He had no idea how long they sat on his living room floor while he explored and learned and she allowed him, accepting his touch. There was nothing even remotely sexual about this, they weren't even in compatible forms, but it was still the most intimate encounter he'd ever had. He wondered if she felt the same. She could snap him in two in this form, but what he'd said to her in the car still held. He had no fear of this bitch. He only feared not measuring up, not being good enough for her, not earning her respect.

Feared not earning her love.

Finally, Tony sat back on his heels wondering if he looked as stunned as he felt. Gibbs shifted, returning to her human male form. She lay on her back, looking almost as stunned as Tony felt.

"Wow." Tony felt stupid saying it, but it was the only word that fit.

Gibbs smiled, a warm, bright smile Tony had never seen before and when she opened her arms, Tony couldn't fall into them fast enough. "Apology accepted, pup."

That first night set the tone for them. Whenever her caseload at NCIS allowed, Gibbs would come to Tony's apartment in Baltimore and stay as long as she could manage. As summer approached, Tony found some local sources of fresh raspberries and tried to keep them on hand once he discovered how much Gibbs loved them in bear form. He enjoyed them well enough in his macaw form, but rarely touched them if there was the slightest chance Gibbs would show up. He took his role as provider seriously. He'd arrange for deliveries to Gibbs' home if he could. While they regularly made love in their human forms, they were still in the very early stages of their courtship. It was up to Gibbs to take the next step and until she did, it would be rude to move onto her territory. Tony had been raised better than that. He wouldn't shame either of them, or their birth packs, with that sort of behavior.

But he could ask.

Tony had some vacation time coming up, and, barring a serial-killer convention in downtown Baltimore, someone else could handle the next DB that washed up in an alley.

"Gibbs." Gibbs' voice on the phone was brusque, but not unusually so.

"It's Tony, got a minute?" Tony had only ever called Gibbs to change their plans at the last minute because of work. Not that they made plans all that often. Gibbs usually just showed up. A few times, she hung out at his apartment while he worked a case and they barely saw each other for more than a quick fuck and maybe a meal together. But her scent would linger in Tony's apartment for days after she left and that made it worth even the short time they had.

"Sure, what's up?" Gibbs sounded more relaxed than she had when she answered the phone. Tony couldn't help grinning at the thought that he had done that.

"It's like this. I'm having lunch in D.C. with a friend on Saturday and wondered, since I'd be in the neighborhood, if you'd like to, well, do something Saturday afternoon or evening?"

Human social mores were drilled into shifter young from birth. They rarely made much sense to shifters, but it was safer to stay hidden in the middle of humanity than to make themselves known. Asking a bitch out on a date in her own territory was walking the edge of polite shifter society as it was, though Tony thought he'd courted her long enough that she wouldn't feel insulted by him asking. But no way was he going to risk bringing down the wrath of human society by overstepping one of their taboos. So, he was just a guy asking another guy if he wanted to hang out.

Just in case.

"Sounds good. Bring a change of clothes. My backyard needs cutting." Gibbs laughed and Tony didn't think his grin could get any bigger. She wanted him in her territory! She could have suggested meeting somewhere or simply said no. But she wanted him there and the change of clothes told Tony she wanted him to spend the night. This was good.

"You know, Gibbs, they have people for that sort of thing."

"So do I. His name's Tony."

"Good one. Okay, I'll see you Saturday afternoon, then." Gibbs hung up with her customary abruptness, and if Tony hadn't been walking into the precinct he might have jumped for joy, or at least shifted and flown around his apartment a few times.

He'd taken one more huge step toward his goal and hadn't been shot down in flames.

Life was good.




Life sucked.

A boat.

Gibbs was building a boat in her basement.

Tony's sire had always told him, "All bitches are crazy, Junior. Never forget that. They're strong and dangerous and beautiful, but they're all nuts."

Tony had waited patiently for Gibbs to finish sanding. When Tony had asked her out and Gibbs had accepted, Tony thought this would be his chance to show off something other than his ability to provide a meal. Then he got here and the afternoon really was devoted to yard work. At least her neighbors on either side were gone for the weekend, so Tony had been able loll in the grass in tiger form for a while, at least until Gibbs had sprayed him with the hose. That had led to a quick game of shifter tag which Tony's macaw had won, but only because the yard wasn't big enough for Gibbs' horse to get up to speed.

As it turned out, the tried and true "dinner and a movie" was out. Gibbs didn't care much for movies and liked dressing up for dinner even less. If Tony couldn't tell that Gibbs was as interested in him as he was in her, he'd've been very depressed by this time. Movies were one of his passions and he could easily show off his extensive knowledge of the history of cinema as well as shifter contributions to same. As for a nice dinner, well, showing off is what he did best and Gibbs pulled that rug out from underneath him.

Just when he thought the evening might be moving on to the "going out" part, Gibbs decided to take the time to make more trunnels, whatever those were, for the boat.

By hand, of course.

Tony's patience was almost at an end.

He sighed and went back upstairs to wander around Gibbs' home without her constantly watching him. Not that having Gibbs' attention was a bad thing, but there was attention and then there was feeling as if he was under a microscope.

Tony wandered around the first floor, gently touching here and there, leaving a light scent that only another shifter could detect. Still, he was hesitant to leave his mark too obviously. They'd just moved into this phase of their courtship. They had yet to see each other in their native forms and Tony felt a thrill at the thought of finally getting to touch Gibbs' native fur. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. What he wouldn't give to charge down into the basement and use that damned boat as a scratching post.

Tony's aimless roaming led him to the stairs and in a daring move, he firmly ran his hand up the banister as he ascended. If Gibbs didn't want her home marked, she could pay more attention to him and give him something better to do with his hands. Thinking about what he'd like to be doing with his hands, he wandered into Gibbs' bedroom.

A spot of color stood out on the dresser. Tony stepped over to it, careful to touch nothing. He hadn't yet been in Gibbs' bedroom; they'd only had sex at his apartment. For a bitch to share her space was a huge step. Tony felt honored to have the run of the house, but this was his first foray into this room. Tony smiled when he saw what the colorful item was. The brilliant red of one of his macaw feathers stood out like a beacon in Gibbs' neutrally colored bedroom. Tony must have lost it earlier in the yard, probably when he'd swerved to avoid a bear's paw. Gibbs had given it in pride of place on her dresser.

Wow.

Tony looked for anything else that could be construed as a token from a suitor but there was nothing as personal as the feather. That's when he noticed the title of the book the feather sat on, My Parrot, My Friend. It was possible that Gibbs had had a parrot at some point, but shifters weren't generally known for keeping pets. Tony got a warm glow from the idea of Gibbs at least considering him a friend. That's when he noticed the rest of the title, An Owner's Guide to Parrot Behavior (Behavior Modification Techniques and Their Role in Contemporary Aviculture). He should have been insulted, but it just made him grin.

He glanced around the room again, but his eyes kept coming back to the bright red feather. His grin faded and his insecurities rose as something occurred to him. Maybe she kept the really important things somewhere else. Tony stifled the impulse to search for a hidden cache. This wasn't a crime scene or a suspect's house. Coming into her bedroom was daring, but searching her bedroom was suicidal. He tried to calm himself. Gibbs had told him she didn’t have other suitors.

Well, she'd said she didn't have 50 suitors.

Tony told himself to stop it and nearly gave himself a slap to the back of his head as Gibbs was wont to do when Tony needed grounding. Gibbs, on the other hand, was sometimes too grounded. Tony grinned and started to strip. If they weren't going out, he was going to get her attention one way or another. As soon as his clothes hit the chair next to the bedroom door, Tony headed into the hallway and shifted in mid step. A couple of wing beats brought him to the stairs and he dove down them. He took a turn around the living room, just because he could, then landed softly at the entrance to the short hall that led to the basement door. He walked as softly as he could trying not to click his claws against the wood floor until he could peer into the basement.

Gibbs was still working on the damned trunnels.

She had her back to the door.

Worst of all, she had her back to Tony.

This would not do at all. No self-respecting male would stand for this for long.

Tony stepped through the basement door and, with a flutter of feathers, hopped up onto the stair railing leading down to the basement proper. He paced along the rail for a bit while he pondered the tough shifter nut he had to crack. When in bear form, Gibbs seemed to enjoy his macaw. Tony knew he made her laugh, at least as much as bears could laugh. When they were in those forms, it was as if they were both able to throw off many of the inhibitions their human-form lives had drilled into them. These were the alternate forms that came most naturally to each of them.

It was said among shifters that the form a cub took instinctively was the clearest expression of their inner selves. Tony had never paid much attention to that sort of thing. He did know he had a lot of fun as a macaw, as well as more freedom than he had in any of his land-based forms. And he looked good in the process. Gibbs seemed to relish not being expected to speak when in bear form. She still managed to make herself understood, but she was definitely more interested in deeds than in words. Tony was still amazed at the gentleness that accompanied her raw power. In the past he'd been wary among friends who had large, powerful forms when he was in macaw form. It was one of the reasons he'd worked so hard to master his tiger.

But even in tiger form, he could be silly if it made people notice him, even if only to laugh.

If it made Gibbs notice him.

Tony launched from the railing and into flight. He took a turn around the basement, enjoying having a nice open space to stretch his wings. He kept checking on Gibbs, but she seemed to be ignoring him. Though, he doubted the trunnels she was shaping were the source of her slight smile. So far, so good.

Tony landed gracefully on the end of the workbench. He cocked his head and studied Gibbs, who seemed not to notice the three-foot tall scarlet macaw standing on her workbench.

This would not do.

Carefully, Tony started walking and hopping to where Gibbs worked, singing a parrot song of sorts. He loved playing with his voice in this form. He stopped once in a while to get a parrot's eye view of something he'd seen in passing earlier. His eyesight in this form was far superior to any of his other forms and he loved the opportunity to investigate seemingly ordinary places and things. Tony ruffled his feathers and squawked at himself. He needed to stay on task. Time enough to get distracted by shiny things later. He had a bitch to woo.

Gibbs was diligently sanding the trunnels she'd made earlier. Tony only knew they were called that because she'd told him. He was still a little hazy as to their purpose. Thinking briefly about the book he'd found upstairs, he realized his own bookshelves would soon be sporting titles on boat building and woodworking. Not to mention grizzly bears and mustangs, and didn't it just figure that Gibbs' horse would be a mustang?

Tony briefly considered hopping up on Gibbs' shoulder, but the soft, old NIS t-shirt she was wearing would rip under his claws, and he didn't want to draw blood.

Not outside a true mating, anyway.

Using beak, claws and assorted Gibbs-related stuff, Tony climbed up to the shelf that ran along the back of the workbench. He made his way to a point right in front of Gibbs and stared down at the top of her head. Tony cocked his head first one way, then the other, admiring the late afternoon sunlight shimmering off the silver in Gibbs' hair. But he wanted to see her eyes… and be seen by her. Taking a firm grip on the edge of the shelf, Tony let himself drop so he was now hanging upside down, swinging gently back and forth looking directly into Gibbs' face.

Just upside down.

"Hi, Gibbs!" Tony had been working on that for days. His macaw form handled all sorts of impressions very well, but it took practice. He watched as Gibbs struggled, but finally gave into it and laughed like Tony had never heard her laugh before. He laughed his macaw laugh with her and rocked back and forth a bit to increase his swing. The more he clowned, the more Gibbs laughed. He decided to try turning around while still upside down and ended up falling beak first onto the workbench with a strangled squawk. As he struggled upright, Gibbs' hands were there, lending support.

"Are you hurt?" Strong, human male fingers brushed gently at his feathers while he took stock, glad that blushing wasn't something he had to worry about in this form. Still, he did have her attention.

"Just my dignity, Gibbs." He bobbed his head and extended his wings to demonstrate, and what did it say about him that he already had that phrase in his repertoire. She smiled at him and ran her finger along the feathers on top of his head.

"What dignity?" Gibbs chuckled and gestured for him to get off the workbench.

Tony stood tall, owning all 36 and a half inches of his height. He'd show her. With a flip of his tail, he spread his wings, hopped up and shifted in time for large tawny paws to hit the concrete floor below. So his macaw wasn't always as graceful as he'd like. He had gotten her attention and made her laugh. He just wished he could have avoided the pratfall.

"Hey." Tony looked up over his shoulder at the word. He turned around and padded to where Gibbs still sat. Tony laid his head on Gibbs' leg and looked up at her. She stroked his coat and Tony's eyes half-closed in pleasure. "Still wanna go out?" Tony draped both forelegs over Gibbs' lap, then stood up enough to head-butt her and chuff into her face. "I take that as a 'yes'." Tony licked her face and rubbed his face against hers, blatantly leaving his scent. Then he dropped back to the floor before racing upstairs to shift and dress for their evening out.

Mission accomplished.




About halfway into the drive, Tony started suspecting where Gibbs was taking them. He should have guessed Gibbs wouldn't have let him decide where they were going. She might have agreed to his idea about going out, but in true bitch form, the details were hers to determine.

Tony decided he'd been spending far too much time around human females.

Still, a shifter club wasn't a bad idea. They could both relax and shift at will without risk of exposure. There'd be a wide range of food choices, and even if he wouldn't be able to prepare them himself, he could still serve her if she wished without having the eyes of the whole restaurant on them.

Wait.

Shit.

The eyes of the restaurant would be on them because every unmated male within sniffing distance would be there as soon as word got out there was an available bitch in the place. Tony looked at the sunset and tried to stay calm. It didn't necessarily mean anything more than Gibbs giving him what he'd asked for: a night out.

Tony turned so he could study Gibbs' profile as she drove. Tony idly wondered what her human female form looked like. She'd brought him into her territory; that had to count for something. She wanted him. Tony knew she did. She wasn't going to the club to check out the other males in the area. Tony turned back to the view outside his window. And if any of those males got too close to his bitch, he'd rip their throats out.

The wheels crunched on the gravel drive as they pulled up to the club. Tony had heard about this one, but had never been here. It looked like it had started life as a warehouse or light manufacturing building. The company logo had been sandblasted off the side and the windows had been boarded up. The gatehouse they'd passed with a wave had held two bitches who seemed to recognize Gibbs. Tony had tried to read a little possessiveness into Gibbs' simmering annoyance, but maybe she just didn't like them.

"Ever been here before?" Gibbs sat staring at the building once she parked the car and not for the first time Tony wished he could read her mind.

"Heard about it. But no, you didn't ask me that. No, Gibbs, I've never been here before." Tony smiled his best smile, trying to hide his nervousness.

"Manager's from my birth pack. My mother's uncle. Mate died a few years back. Probably never take another one." Gibbs glared at Tony. "Do not give him a hard time if he shows up. He's not competition no matter what he says or does." She softened her glare with that little half smile that drove Tony mad. "Besides, he's not nearly as pretty as you are." Tony all but glowed with pleasure at her compliment. She paused then started getting out of the car. "Anyway, we're too closely related for the Council to ever go for it."

If he hadn't already decided she was the one for him, Tony might just have to kill her one of these days.

The interior of the club was fairly ordinary. The sounds and scents of shifters hit him first. The place sounded about half full and the sheer number of his own kind in one place both warmed and worried Tony. He sidled closer to Gibbs, determined to keep any other interested males away from her.

Just off the front door was the locker room. Patrons were encouraged to leave their clothes and belongings in a locker before entering the restaurant. It not only made shifting less cumbersome, but also precluded carrying human weapons into a place where tension often ran high.

Human weapons were not allowed past the locker room.

A bar ran along one wall and a buffet ran perpendicular to it. Tables of various sizes, with their accompanying chairs, were scattered across two-thirds of the concrete floor. A door at the other end of the bar led to what was likely the back rooms. Shifters didn't have any taboos regarding public sex, but any couples planning to spend the night would likely want to retire there for sex, too. Screwing in the dining room was one thing, but sleeping in the dining room was definitely frowned on in polite society. There were various perches, lounges and even a pool to accommodate whatever forms patrons might choose for the evening. Large pots contained live trees that could also be used by any of the mid-sized to small avian or arboreal forms that might be present. This particular club didn't seem to be equipped for large aquatic forms. The buffet included everything from a fresh kill to a bale of high quality hay. A menu tacked to the wall listed cooked options available before the kitchen closed at ten P.M. in addition to several more exotic foodstuffs preferred by some forms--nectar and live ants being two of the most ordinary. Carrion eaters would have to go into one of the side rooms for their meals or choose another form.

Against the far wall was a cleared space that in a human club might be a dance floor. In a shifter club it had one use and only one use.

A Challenge ring.

Tony studied it while waiting for Gibbs to finish signing them in. Name, pack and mastered forms were always required. It not only helped the Council keep track of where shifters were at any given time, but knowing what forms might make an appearance helped the managers provide the necessary amenities.

Tony felt the hair rising on the back of his neck. He'd never fought for a bitch before, not seriously. Mock fights were common during adolescence when young shifters made the transition from hermaphroditic cub to fully gendered adults, but they rarely resulted in serious injury.

Tonight it would be the real thing.

Tony turned back to Gibbs and met her eyes. She stared into his with her usual intensity, though Tony thought she might be a little more intense than usual. He breathed in her scent, noting her arousal, and then checked to see who was watching. A full dozen males in various forms watched her, sniffing the air to catch her scent. And one by one they recognized her for what she was; a powerful, unmated bitch just hitting prime fertility. He turned back to Gibbs and smiled at her.

"I'm not going to let any of them near you. You know that, don’t you."

"I know you'll try."

Tony realized this was the moment. This was the test. This is when he proved his ability to help protect his mate, their young, their pack. This is when he proved his worth. He stepped into Gibbs' space and was rewarded by a heightened awareness of her arousal. She wanted him in her space. Tony ran his hand through her short hair and gently cupped the back of her neck. He couldn't believe he was doing this, but it felt so right. He pulled her to him and kissed her. It was hard and wet and messy, and hotter than he'd imagined. The stir among the males behind him faded as he focused on the bitch now in his arms. Never pliant--no bitch ever was--she was, however, cooperating with him in his claim on her.

"I'm going to mount you tonight." Tony jerked his head to the side, indicating the restless crowd of males wanting their shot at his bitch. "Nothing they can do will stop me." Tony's breath caught at the thought of it. If, no when, he succeeded in winning her tonight, he'd also win the right to mount her for the first time. It was still too soon for them to come together in their native forms--that wouldn't happen until the Pack Council approved their mating and rubber-stamped her request to form her own pack. They wouldn't risk endangering unauthorized young. It was, from what Tony had been able to learn, a mere formality, but a formality they would observe for propriety's sake. After tonight, it would take the Council denying their mating to take her away from him. Even her pheromones would change, signaling that while unmated, she was also unavailable.

But first, he had to run the gauntlet of prospective suitors.

Tony had no intention of fighting over a dozen other males tonight. He had no idea what forms they might bring to bear. Fortunately, one thing being a cop had done for him was to hone his shifter-born ability to psych out someone bigger, stronger and much better armed. Dealing with the political machinations of his birth pack had taught him to control his emotions and thus control what others could learn from his scent.

Game on.

When he and Gibbs entered the dining room after leaving their clothes in the locker room, fourteen males stood in various strategic places around the room. They were in a variety of forms, some were human, a few had large hoofed forms. There was one spectacular eagle whom Tony couldn't help but admire. He decided to keep his macaw in reserve until he'd sized up the eagle as a possible opponent. Tony didn't want to let out that he was skilled in flight himself. It could give him an advantage at a critical moment.

Time to thin the herd, so to speak.

Several of the males were looking at the others in the group and already smelled half-defeated. Tony glanced at Gibbs and then back to the small group of foxes, small wildcats and something he thought might be a stoat. Then he put his arm around Gibbs' shoulders and laughed as they passed on their way to the buffet. He knew he was putting out nothing but confidence in himself and derision toward them. Several prospective suitors faded into the background before Gibbs and Tony had filled their plates. On their way from the buffet to the table Gibbs had chosen near the ring, Tony alternately smirked and glared at the remaining interested males. By the time they'd settled into their seats only a human male, human female, a very large moose and the eagle were still displaying their interest in Gibbs.

Tony suspected the large plate of raw meat he'd selected for himself might have had something to with the smaller field of opponents.

The two humans were likely the most dangerous, simply because they were smart enough to keep their weapons hidden. The eagle would be some challenge, but ultimately, he was no match for a tiger. The moose, now, the moose could be useful. He'd met a couple of other shifters who had a moose form and heard of others. They'd all been blowhards, more adept at intimidation than fighting.

Tony pretended to ignore them as he paid attention to Gibbs. He fed her from his fingers and ate from hers, suckling fruit juices from her fingers, licking her palm clean. He knew it was setting the other males on edge, but he had to wait for one of them to make the first move. As it was, if any of the other male patrons passed too close to their table, Tony glared and even snarled at one who almost stumbled into Gibbs. Tony's display was less part of his calculated psyching out of the others than an instinctive need to keep males away from Gibbs.

Not that the displays hurt. The male in human male form drifted away to the bar and didn't return.

Finally, the moose made his move. He approached the table and shifted into human male form as he got there. His human form was also very large, but neither form would be much of a problem for a tiger. Tony thought he might be a bit older than Gibbs, but not by much. He was attractive enough, and, under other circumstances, Tony might have propositioned him himself.

But not tonight.

"This table's taken. Take off." Tony's hand paused reaching for the dish of raspberries he'd gotten for Gibbs. The other male didn't budge, just smirked at Tony and then concentrated on Gibbs. On Tony's bitch. This was it. The first true confrontation.

"No one's interested in what you have to say, pup." Moose Boy had a smarmy smile as a human, and at that moment, Tony wanted to rip it off his face and feed it to him. "Looks to me like this bitch is bored with you, cub. I think she wants to trade up. A fine strong bitch like this deserves more than one ungendered pup at her table." Tony'd been furiously trying to decide on his next move, but then Moose Boy did the unforgivable. He leaned on the table with both hands and sniffed Gibbs. Tony had no memory of shifting. The next thing he knew he was standing with his forepaws planted on the table, nearly touching Moose Boy's hands as he roared into the other male's face. At the end of it, he snapped his powerful jaws shut millimeters from the interloper's shocked face.

The ensuing silence was deafening.

When Moose Boy continued to stare at him in shock, Tony started to growl until the other male stepped back, his head ducked to the side to expose his throat. His submissive gesture calmed Tony enough to stop growling, but he stayed in tiger form. Everyone had already seen that particular ace in the hole. Now he just had to convince them that nothing they had hidden away could beat him. Still, he snarled at any male who caught his attention. The eagle shifted into human form and with a submissive bow, left the room. Tony tracked his progress to the locker room and then dismissed him.

Now there was one.

Sometime in the future, Tony suspected he'd be insulted for Gibbs that none of them thought she was worth the risk.

Gibbs stroked Tony's shoulders and down his spine. Blood still running high and hot, Tony whipped his head around and snarled at her. She said nothing, just stroked, calming him. Hers was the only touch that could reach him under the circumstances. Finally he head-butted her and chuffed at her. He carefully got his forepaws off the table without disturbing anything on the table. He was pleased to note that he hadn't done more than knock over a couple of dishes of fruit when he dealt with Moose Boy. That and his chair, of course.

Then again, maybe he wouldn't be insulted. Maybe he was just that scary.

Go him.

"Tony, try the beef." Gibbs gestured at the heaping plate of raw meat Tony had used to help scare off some of the other males. She reached over and pulled another chair up to their table since Tony's was now on its side and several feet away. "Table's a little high to stand on the floor to eat."

Tony licked her hand and settled his forepaws on the chair. He made eye contact with the last male as he started in on his meal. The amount he'd gotten was little more than a light snack for a tiger, but it would get the point across without weighing him down for what came next. I am tiger, hear me roar. Tony chuffed into his plate. He wondered how many of the males he'd so easily intimidated were tri-forms with no other form to fall back on in a battle.

The meat was good, probably fresh killed yesterday. Tony let the smell, taste and texture of it sink into his consciousness. He thought back to his first kill in tiger form. He still craved venison from time to time. Fresh, still warm and dripping blood, ripped from the carcass with his own teeth. Tony bared his blood-streaked teeth at the other male and growled. His tail began to whip as he studied his rival. Only Gibbs' hand on him kept him from leaping over the table to let his teeth and claws remove this last competitor. He had to keep better control. Letting the tiger take over could be useful sometimes, but he had to be the one to let the beast loose.

"Looks like you've got a live one, there, Leroy." Tony listened with half an ear to the conversation between Gibbs and the new, mated male who'd joined them while he'd been caught in the battle between tiger and self.

"Yeah, I think I do, Uncle John." Tony heard Gibbs answer as he swallowed the last of the beef and gave the plate a couple of swipes with his tongue to get a last taste of the blood.

"Leave him be, Leroy," Uncle John scolded, "Don't distract him none, he's got things to do now." Tony broke eye contact with his rival and turned to see the older male sitting with his bitch. "Don't you worry, pup. I'll sit right here and keep an eye on her for ya. You best go take care of business."

Tony glanced around the rest of the dining room, checking to see who else might have come in while he was distracted. His need to fight a rival was growing, but the need to keep others away from Gibbs was just as strong.

"No one's going to horn in on a bitch during a challenge. Not in my place. This here ain't the backwoods. Now you get up there and get on with things before you do yourself an injury." Uncle John put his arm around the back of Gibbs' chair. "'Sides, can't see Leroy letting another male horn in that easily."

Tony dropped to sit on the floor. He carefully groomed his paws, displaying his long claws in the process, and then used paws and tongue to wash the blood from his muzzle, occasionally making eye contact with his rival. A few swipes of his tongue to his chest and he decided he was clean enough. Even among other shifters, some of the traits drilled in during the period when a shifter mastered his forms were difficult to ignore. A shifter never knew when he might have to blend in with one of his forms' native species.

Catching his rival's eye again, Tony casually strolled to where Gibbs sat and blatantly marked her with the scent glands on his face. Uncle John slapped his head and pointed to the ring. Tony laid his ears back, but acknowledged the elder male's order. With a flip of his tail, Tony turned and bounded into the ring where he began to pace, a low growl never ceasing as the instinct to fight for a chance to take a mate overshadowed everything else.

With every turn of the ring, Tony kept his attention on his rival, who remained outside the ring, watching. The other male's human female form was petite and pretty, for a human. Under ordinary circumstances, Tony would have happily slept with a human female who looked like that, but he'd always felt it presumptuous for a male shifter to adopt a female form as a matter of course. Mimicking both genders was required to truly master a form and it was useful to have available when necessary to blend in or for variety between shifter lovers, but for a male to walk into a shifter club in female form was in questionable taste.

It pissed Tony off.

Maybe it's supposed to.

Tony roared his frustration as the thought broke through the haze in his mind. The other male was taunting him. Tony, as the male accompanying the available bitch, had to prove able to take on any challenger. The ring represented what he was there to protect. It was up to the challenger to join him in the ring or withdraw his challenge.

There was no required time limit.

Tony's rival could keep him waiting for hours if he chose. Such a tactic wasn't without risk, of course. The bitch in question could see the delay as cowardice rather than patience and reject the challenger even if he won. Custom dictated she'd have to reject the loser, too, though there were steps he could take to try to reinstitute the courtship. They rarely succeeded, but males still tried.

That assumed the loser survived the challenge. The days of mating challenges all being to the death were long over, but social mores could only deflect instinct, not completely overcome it.

Just as Tony considered breaking protocol by launching an attack outside the ring, his rival moved and moved fast. One moment he was watching Tony from safely outside the ring and the next he'd shifted and a large male African lion charged into the ring, roaring his challenge.

Tony answered with a roar of his own and moved to the side, forcing the less agile lion to pivot in order to protect his back. Now that his rival had made his move, Tony's mind cleared, his senses sharpened and he felt invincible. This is what he'd been born to. This was the essence of what it meant to be a shifter male. For all the power and responsibility a bitch held, she would never know the rawness of this moment. Tony felt more alive than he ever had before. For just a moment, he and his rival were one--they shared this intimacy that no bitch could ever understand. This was theirs alone.

The moment of connection came and went, and then the lion charged. Tony had sparred with a shifter in lion form before and expected it. Tony used his tiger's greater agility to twist out of the way. He tried to rake his claws along the lion's flank, but only managed a glancing blow. He needed to be sharp with this one. The lion would try to use his heavy shoulders and forelegs to get Tony down. Tony's tiger form outweighed the lion, but his weight was more evenly distributed giving him better mobility.

There was still the question of what other form the other male might have at his disposal.

The two growling cats circled, each looking for an opening, a weakness to exploit. Tony feinted to try to elicit a reaction from the lion, but the other shifter didn't fall for it. He proved to be as patient in lion form as he had been in human form. The only thing that had stirred him to action was Tony's roar.

Had he been in human form, Tony would have laughed his head off.

You can take the shape out of the shifter, but you can't take the shifter out of the shape.

He'd wondered how experienced the other male was and thought he might be considerably older than Tony, given the patience and foresight he'd already employed. Or he might just be very, very smart. Aside from the strength, power and flashy coat, there was another very good reason why Tony had chosen the tiger for his fourth form. A tiger's roar very effectively attracted young shifters. Something in the sound struck a chord deep in the immature shifter's mind and drew them to the source. The only reason there weren't more male shifters with a tiger form was that tigers were solitary. The idea of spending two or more years living in the wild as a tiger to prove mastery of the form, with little to no company or attention, was more than most shifter males were willing to contemplate, no matter how useful the form was.

Shifters with a tiger form were highly prized by shifter schools.

Tony surged toward the lion, roaring as he stopped short and pivoted to the side. As if shot from a cannon, the lion charged, swinging one heavy paw at Tony's head. This time, when Tony struck, he landed a solid blow to the lion's side, hooking his claws in his rival's flesh leaving four long bloody gashes. The lion roared in pain as he turned and sank his teeth into Tony's shoulder. Tony growled more in anger than in pain as he buried teeth and claws in the lion's mane, missing skin, but getting enough of a grip to drag the lion to the floor. Tony raked his back claws against his rival's belly, leaving more bloody gouges. Just a little more force and he could gut his opponent and offer the bloody carcass to his bitch. Tony fought down the image and the impulse. The two rolled, locked in frenzied battle, leaving bloody tracks in their wakes, each seeking the advantage and neither gaining it. Young the lion-form shifter might be, but he was very good.

Tony bit down on the lion's foreleg. Hot blood spurted into his mouth, and the taste and smell of it fed the feral side of shifter nature. They kept it bound in tradition and ritual but it was always there, just under whatever skin they wore. Tony wrapped his forelegs around his opponent, ripping and tearing whatever his claws touched, hind legs alternating between trying to gain purchase against the floor and gouging at the lion's belly. He growled and bit, sometimes getting nothing but mane, but other times rewarded with a mouthful of hot blood. Tony's bloodlust drove him hard, but it frightened his rival. Tony smelled his fear as the lion struggled to get out of Tony's grip.

Finally the lion halted their joined motion as he got his feet under him. Tony scrambled to his feet, too, and they were back to circling. Bloody, limping, but still bound together, with one major difference--each now knew how the fight would end, and that realization started to clear Tony's bloodlust. Both knew Tony outclassed the challenger. Now it was just a matter of how to end it without disgracing either of them. The youngster had shown a great deal of courage to challenge Tony, and his fighting skills, while immature, were still formidable. Tony owed it to him to let him go down with his dignity intact. Tony, on the other hand, couldn't afford to look like either a bully or a wimp, so while he had to put the youngster down and keep him down, he had to do it without it looking like he was either going easy on him or being too hard on him.

Maybe he could teach the pup something in the meantime.

Tony stopped dead and faced the lion less than three tail lengths away. He crouched as if to spring, tail whipping, ears back. When his opponent began to back out of range, Tony sprang as high as he could into the air, shifting at the peak of his leap. Tony's wings caught the air and pushed him up out of the lion's range. He circled his shocked opponent, screeching at the lion and diving at him, while never coming within range of his massive paws. After a few more dives to make sure he had the lion's attention, he switched back to circling, leading the lion in tighter and tighter rings. Eventually, the lion stopped and shook his head as if to clear it and Tony struck. He dove for the lion's back, shifting back into tiger form just as he hit at an angle. The lion went down on his side like a ton of bricks with Tony on top of him. Tony's powerful jaws locked onto the lion's throat through his mane in a symbolic killing bite. Had this been a battle to the death, Tony's rear claws would have been more effective. Now that Tony had him immobilized, he could easily disembowel the lion. Fortunately, for both of them, a symbolic "death" was all that was required and Tony had his feral nature firmly under control again.

"Does the challenger yield?" Uncle John's voice rang out through the room.

Tony growled quietly around his mouthful of lion's mane and throat while he waited for the pup to take the next step. Slowly, the lion under him began to relax and roll so he could display his belly for all to see and offer his life to the winner. Tony shifted his position and placed his hind paw against the exposed belly, ceremonially accepting the life offered.

Until such time as they met in a challenge ring again, and Tony lost, Tony would always outrank this shifter on a personal level, no matter where their lives or packs took them.

Tony released the lion and stepped away from his defeated opponent. He roared his triumph and challenge to the room. The adrenaline pumping through his veins blocked the pain he knew he'd feel later, but for now, he felt strong and powerful and aroused from his victory. He'd defeated a challenger for his bitch and won. He couldn't decide if he wanted to shift and fly until he dropped, or shift and go bend Gibbs over the table and mount her before taking her back to her house and mounting her again. Tony shivered at the thought that the first time they had sex in her territory he'd be the one mounting her.

Tony stood in the ring as the lion limped off. Once out of the ring, the lion shifted back to his previous human female form, still bleeding from multiple wounds. Two club workers approached and at his nod, help him sit then began cleaning and binding his wounds well away from Gibbs. Tony stood panting and bleeding from the battle, waiting to see if any other challenger approached. He roared again then let his eyes settle on his bitch where she sat, still in her human male form. Her scent was driving him crazy. He could tell she'd made the small alteration to her form that would make mounting her when she was in human male form easier. While frowned on, technically, he knew no one who didn't do it when fucking outside of an intentional conception.

Tony licked blood off his muzzle then tore himself away from the sight and scent of his bitch to check for other challengers. It was getting harder and harder to wait with Gibbs so close. He wasn't sure how much longer he could wait before he claimed his bitch. Dimly he heard a familiar voice calling out something, but his attention was focused on Gibbs again.

Waiting be damned.

Tony was halfway to their table before he realized he'd shifted. Just as with the lion, his human form bore wounds from the battle. The worst was the bite on his shoulder, but unlike the other shifter who required medical care, Tony had experienced enough wounds in his adult life to have learned how to speed their healing. It would cost him in energy, but right now he didn't care. Right now, all he wanted was his mate. His mate who grabbed him as soon as he was close enough and pulled him into a hungry kiss. Tony pushed away and for the first time put his hand on Gibbs' throat.

"Mine." He barely recognized his own voice. Low, rough, heavy with emotion.

"Yours." Gibbs ran her hand through Tony's hair and pulled him close enough to whisper harshly. "Here. Now."

Tony might get to mount her, but she left no doubt about who was in charge.

Just as it should be.

Without thinking, Tony manhandled her into position. Neither of them were thinking any more. He ran his hands and tongue over whatever he could touch, almost as frenzied as during the battle. Moving on instinct, he marked her with his touch, his scent, his blood. She stood in front of him, braced against the table, looking back at him over her shoulder, her blue eyes nearly black with arousal. He wondered what color her eyes were in native form and that thought brought up the image of him mounting her one day in their native forms, mounting her to create their first cub for their pack. With that image running through his mind, Tony covered her, sinking his cock deep into her welcoming body as he sank his teeth into her shoulder, just as he would someday bite down on her furred shoulder when they came together for the first time in native form.

Nothing would stand between him and that moment. Not their packs, not the Council, not even Gibbs herself. Then he was coming with a howl. Tony collapsed on her strong back and buried his nose in her hair. That's when he noticed it.

Her scent was changing, her pheromones adjusting to her acceptance of him inside her. It would take days before her body completed the transition, but already the usual siren call of an unmated, available female was muted. Tony whispered her name then used shaky arms to push his weight off her.

Mounting her wasn't the only need to be satisfied here and now.

He stood and waited for her to face him. He knew he had that stupid, just-fucked smile on his face. He'd seen it enough times before to know. Tony was just glad Gibbs had already seen it before this.

Gibbs faced him, a soft smile on her face. She stepped close, touching, tasting, biting. Marking him with her scent, her teeth, her blunt nails. Her cock was hard and full and ready for him.

"Down, pup. I want you on your knees." Gibbs' voice was lower and rougher than Tony's had been, and the sound went straight to Tony's cock, which was reminding him that he was a young shifter and always ready when his bitch was.

Tony ignored his body's demands and sank to his knees, looking up at Gibbs, exposing his neck to her. She stroked his neck, then ran her fingers along his jaw and to his mouth. Tony sucked them in, licking and suckling as he'd done during their dinner. Too soon she pulled them out, but they were quickly replaced with the head of her cock. Tony eagerly took it, opening his throat as she held his head still and fucked his mouth with more control than he'd had when he'd fucked her ass. Even the taste of her cock was different now. She fucked him in hard controlled thrusts. Small moans and sighs were the only sounds she allowed to escape. The more she used his mouth, the more the feeling of belonging sank into Tony's bones. Yes, he'd finally fought for the right to show her he was worthy of mounting her; of taking their courtship to the next level, but now she reminded him that she was his anchor, his roots, the core of his being. They would be two sides of the same leaf, muscle and bone, earth and air. They would be alphas of their own pack.

Damn, he loved this bitch.

With a deeper moan, she came and Tony swallowed what she gave him, licking her clean and letting her fall from his mouth. Her rough thumb caressed his cheek and only then did he realize his face was wet with tears. He blinked the moisture away and stood to taste the tears on her face. Human form had the most unusual ways of expressing emotion.

Gibbs wrapped her arms around him and held him close. "You smell different, Tony." Tony smiled against her neck.

"So do you, Gibbs."

"Good."

"Yeah."

Tony's eyes were growing heavy as the evening's exertions, not to mention the sex and emotional release took their toll. He yawned.

"Can we stay here tonight, Gibbs?" Tony snuggled in closer wondering how feasible it would be to fall asleep on his feet and if that would be considered rude in the dining room.

"Yeah, I can't see either one of us being in any shape to drive home tonight."

Tony's eyes slid shut as he nodded. An elbow in his side woke him up and he was embarrassed to realize he had managed to fall asleep standing up.

"C'mon, now, pup, let's get you both to a room for the night." Tony nodded and let Gibbs' uncle lead him, but the third time he stumbled, the older male laughed. "Shift, pup. Macaws don't weigh near as much as a human." Tony shifted and allowed himself to be picked up. His claws found purchase on something that wasn't flesh, but just as he started to wonder what it was, he automatically tucked his head under one wing and the world went away.




Monday morning came much too soon. After waking up at the club Sunday morning, they'd stayed for breakfast. Some of the others who'd acted as witnesses for the Challenge and Acceptance were also still there, which gave them all a chance to get to know each other. It also gave Tony and John a chance to talk. John would report back to their pack with his impressions of Tony and Tony got a chance to hear about Gibbs' birth pack. Soon, he'd have to take Gibbs to meet his pack. Even though they'd given him permission to live out of pack, Gibbs had to officially petition the pack to release him to her. Tony couldn't see any problem with that. He was from a large pack and there were easily a dozen other young males more highly placed than he was. On the other hand, Gibbs' pack, while smaller, was old and well respected. Tony's great aunt would probably grant Gibbs' petition without a second thought. Maybe with a second thought, but it would revolve entirely around how Tony had managed to land a top-notch bitch and help found a pack.

They'd gotten back to Gibbs' place and Tony mounted her again, as he'd hoped to, though this time it was in her bed and she returned the favor right away. His plan to go back to Baltimore late Sunday afternoon was delayed by sex, then his early evening departure was postponed due to dinner. Leaving late in the evening went by the wayside when Gibbs wanted a massage.

So when five o'clock in the morning came, there was no more room for delay. If he waited much longer, it could be midmorning before he got there. They stood in Gibbs' dining room kissing.

Tony had reduced the lip swelling and cleared the whisker burn on his face three times already in preparation for leaving without being actually able to get out the door.

"Baltimore's too far away."

"Gibbs." Tony knew he was whining, but what could he do? If Gibbs told him to stay, he would. He didn't think he could disobey almost any order she gave him now. At least none that didn't endanger her in some way. Those he'd always be able to disobey.

"I know, Tony. But it's too far away. I want you here where I can look after you." Gibbs looked rather pleased with herself.

"What, you want me keeping the den in order? Should I hunt every couple of days? We could bury what we don't eat the first day in the backyard. Let it get nice and ripe." Tony knew he was being sarcastic, but what did she expect at five fucking o'clock in the morning. The headslap was no surprise at all.

"Resign. Come work for me."

Oh.

"Resign. Just like that? Just walk in today and give the captain my resignation?" Gibbs just stared at him in that way that made him feel like a complete idiot for not seeing what was blindingly obvious to her.

"Sure. Why not. Okay. But I need to work out whatever notice they want."

"You damn sure will."

Tony blinked at her. This couldn't be that easy.

"Um, Gibbs, how can you be so sure NCIS will hire me?" Tony felt his shoulders hunching as he thought of his less than stellar work history.

Gibbs sighed and rubbed her face. Tony loved the sound of her hand against her stubble, or his hand against, well, any part of her. He started to relax in the flood of intimate memories.

"Tony, I'd been watching you for months before we met, since the Brady case. I've already got approval from the director to bring you in if I can lure you away from Baltimore. Someone from Human Resources will send you… stuff."

Oh.

"It wasn't until Simons that I knew you were one of us, though."

Oh.

"Wow. I've never been head-hunted before."

"And you won't be again. Now, get the hell out of here. I need to get to work and so do you."

"On it, Boss."

Tony grinned as he drove the forty miles from D.C. to Baltimore. Maybe moving to Maryland had been a good idea after all.

The End

Chapters: 1

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MTAC - NCIS Fic