Talented Hands

by: BuffyAngel68 (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 009 Word Count: 16653
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo, Other Male Character
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Crossover, First Time, Humor, Romance
Pairing(s): Tony/OMC
Crossover Shows: CSI
Summary: NCIS/ CSI crossover. After managing to continually avoid being the one to go to law enforcement conferences, Tony is forced into attending the latest one. In Las Vegas he runs into a like minded soul, in more ways than one.

Author Notes: ' Boxed In ' actually took my imagination in two very different directions. This is the much shorter, practically angst-free version. Tony's comment about playing piano got me thinking and I had to get the monkey off my back...

Chapter 1

Dropping his bags by the reception desk with a decided thump, Tony DiNozzo gave the young woman in front of him a hard stare. Receiving a kind, sympathetic smile, his frustrated, angry expression dissolved into weariness and faint humor.

"Sorry. Long flight, long security lines... *really* long day. Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. I've got a reservation for the duration of the law enforcement conference."

"It's okay. Half the people I've checked in today are in the same boat. Here's your key-card Agent DiNozzo... and some info so you can find your way around if you have the time to explore a little." The woman told him, handing him a brochure with a map and other papers tucked inside. "You're in room 471. I'd say enjoy your stay but I get the feeling you'd rather be anywhere else."

"Perceptive. I hate these things, but I had to take my turn."

"Well, hopefully you'll find a few minutes to relax and down shift before the conference really gets going."

"Not much chance of that, but I appreciate the thought."

"No trouble. If there are any problems at all, just call down and I'll try to get it fixed as fast as possible."

"Thanks... Amy," he said, leaning a little closer to read her name tag "but I plan to go straight to sleep. Even if there is a problem, you won't hear about it 'till tomorrow." Tony told her, retrieving his bags and moving toward the elevator.

"Someone can get those for you."

"Uh, no. My suspicious cop's mind would rather keep them in my sight at all times. Thanks anyway."

Once he made it upstairs, which entailed waiting twenty minutes for a car with enough empty space for him and his luggage, he found his room fairly quickly. The card slid in, the tiny light changed and he struggled inside with his bags.

Somehow he mustered the energy to strip down to his boxers and undershirt, drop on the bed and turn onto his side and within minutes he was deeply asleep.



Tony arrived in the lobby, hands in his pockets, fully aware of how early it was and prepared to have to leave the hotel in order to find food, though he was hoping, in a 24/7 city like Las Vegas, that he wouldn't have to go far. He was pleased to see Amy at the desk again and approached when she looked up and smiled.

"Good morning, Agent DiNozzo. You're up early."

"Not my fault. My boss would kill me if I let myself get out of the habit just because I'm not working this week."

"The restaurant won't be serving breakfast for another hour or so, I'm afraid."

"Yeah. I thought maybe...."

"There are a few all night places only a couple of blocks away. They serve breakfast all the time."

Tony was about to ask for her recommendations when he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye that held enough potential to keep him busy, and his mind off his stomach, for at least an hour.

"That room... is it open to guests?"

"The lounge? Of course."

"Would it be okay if I waited in there? I can't resist a piano."

"You play?"

"Not in a long while... not since college."

Amy made a show of looking around the empty lobby then turned a sweet smile on Tony.

"I don't see anyone around to criticize while your fingers remember what to do. Go ahead. Actually, whenever the resident pro isn't on the job, it's all yours."


"Glad I could help. I can't wait to hear you play."

"Trust me, you can." Tony joked, strolling into the empty, dimly lit lounge and dropping onto the bench behind the large instrument, where the only real illumination in the room made the ebony finish gleam enticingly. Feeling playful, he mimed sweeping the tails of his non-existent tuxedo out from under him then laced his hands together and cracked his knuckles. Gazing down at the keyboard, he allowed memories of his childhood lessons to slowly return. At the time, he had known others his age who took piano as well, but could never understand why they hated it so fiercely. He cherished the hours he spent practicing, working feverishly to meet the standards of a teacher who truly cared about him and wanted him to do well. The way she showed her devotion might have seemed cruel to some, but Tony had understood. Every blow across his hands was a reminder that he had talent and unlimited potential, and that wasting even a fraction of an ounce of either one was a tragedy.

As he tentatively reached out for the keys, the thought crossed his mind that if his teacher knew about the years he'd spent away from his once beloved piano, she might well beat him into an intensive care ward. Despite the darkness of the idea, he chuckled and tried to recall one of the simpler tunes he'd learned when he'd first begun to play. His teacher's voice spoke to him, quietly, in the depths of his memory, and he held back for a moment to listen.

{The music doesn't come from your muscles or your brain, Anthony. The goal is to touch people, to move them and to do that it must flow from your heart and your soul. Your fingers know the mechanics by now. If the music is flowing from your spirit, you should be able to close your eyes and still play...}

Though he wasn't sure anything even faintly musical would happen, Tony curved his fingers over the keys and began to pick out a simple children's song. Slowly, that morphed into a slightly more complicated version of the same melody, then shifted again into a classical composition he'd created at the age of seventeen. Gradually, he stopped thinking and worrying and everything else fell away except the music and its power to lift him higher and higher. The more he played, the farther he slipped away from the world, until nothing mattered but the flow of one note into another and the long-abandoned ties to his passion that were finally being renewed.

Eventually, however, cramps in his hands reminded him that he hadn't done this in far too long. His reverie shattered, he returned to the piano, the room and the noise of a hotel that was waking up. Gradually fading the song into silence, Tony pulled away and began to massage the palms and sides of his hands, hoping to relieve the pain. When slow applause sounded behind him he whirled around on the bench, banging his knee on the leg of the piano.

"Oww! Damn... who's out there?"

A tall, lean figure rose from a love seat deep in the shadows at the rear of the room and made its way forward. As he drew closer, the figure was revealed to be a light skinned black man in khakis and a loose white shirt. A neatly trimmed beard curved around his chin and delight sparkled in his eyes.

"Sorry about that. I should've just come up and introduced myself..."

"It's okay. I just... I thought I was alone."

"So did I 'till you started playin'. I wasn't tryin' to scare you, but I had to give you props. Man, you can really work that thing."

"I haven't played in years."

"Nobody'd ever know it, bro. That was intense. Had my stomach in knots an' my heart in my throat."

"Yeah? I guess..."

"You don't take compliments too well, do you..."

"Tony, Tony DiNozzo, and no I usually don't."

"Warrick Brown." the other man responded, holding his hand out. Tony shook it firmly, but briefly. "You had breakfast yet?"

"I was waiting for the hotel restaurant to start serving."

"Stale mini-bagels an' dry scrambled eggs? Forget that. I know a great place a few miles from the strip. Half the LVPD an' most of CSI eat there, so you know it has to be pretty damn good."

"Which one are you?"


"NCIS, out of Virginia."

"The convention. Right. We'll have somethin' to talk about anyway. You comin'?"

"The meetings don't start 'till eleven. That's a lot of time to fill up and I can only eat so much."

"I'll show you around town, give you the skinny on the hot spots the tourist board won't tell you about."

"Sounds good. Okay, I'm in."


Talented Hands 2/?



Warrick gazed at Tony's plate, which was empty at last, and allowed an amused smile to curl his lips. They had switched gears on the way to Warrick's suggested breakfast place and he'd taken Tony to a buffet instead. His wallet was now grateful for that decision.

"You can only eat so much huh?"

"This? This was nothing. You should see it when I order pizza."

"Sounds like a lunch plan to me."

"Not dinner?"

"Nah. Your first night here we should go somewhere special. I'll figure it out while we're sufferin' through the meet-an-greets an' all that crap this morning."

"We?" Tony asked lightly, grinning at Warrick over his last sip of coffee.

"Yeah... we. Hey, I didn't mean to presume anything..."

"No, it's okay."

"I just thought... we kinda had a good vibe goin' in the lounge this morning an' I've never been one to turn my back on a potential friendship. I need all of 'em I can get."

"Me too. Definitely. So... what are we doing between now and the start of the conference?"

"We'll hit one'a my boss' favorite places first. Then I'll give you that 'off-the-beaten-path' tour I promised."

"Should I be scared?" Tony laughed, gathering his jacket and standing next to the table.

"If I wasn't with you, damn straight. Long as I got your back, you'll be fine."

"Okay. I can handle myself, though."

"Cops always think they can. Wait 'till I tell you about some of the cases we've seen. You'll be hidin' under the bed tonight 'stead of sleepin' in it." Warrick warned, laying out money for the check and a tip.

"I've got my own tales from the crypt, believe me."

"Later. We both need a little fun before all the boring shit ramps up."


"Keep your patience in check, bro... and unpack your sense of adventure."

As they strolled out into the warm, sunny morning, donning their sunglasses nearly in unison, Tony grinned and mumbled under his breath.

"Oh, boy..."


When they pulled up to the closed and locked gate, Tony wanted to ask the obvious question, but he was too intrigued not to give Warrick a chance to surprise him. Pulling the keys from the ignition, the darker man gazed over at Tony curiously.


"You said patience. Go on. I'm waiting to see what we're doing here."

Pulling out his cell phone, Warrick grinned and speed dialed a number.

"Yeah, CSI Brown. Can you come down and let me in? Thanks. Yeah, ten minutes. Great. Okay. Take it easy, man."

"That's it? All you have to do is ask?"

Warrick stepped out of the SUV and waited for Tony to follow suit. Staring up at the massive roller coaster that towered over the surrounding landscape, he smiled lightly.

"My boss comes down here to blow off steam when he's massively stressed... sometimes when he's not, too. He's friends with the management and the guy who works maintenance, so he set it up that any of us on his team could have access if we wanted it, long as we don't abuse the privilege."

"Whoa. Very cool."

"Coasters freak you out?"

"Me? No way. Ridden some of the best on the East coast, actually. I've read about Pharaoh 's Fever... wanted to ride it for a long time but I never got this far west."

"Yeah? It's an experience, lemme tell you."

"I bet it is."

As they waited for the man with the keys to show up, the pair talked and laughed, leaning against the front bumper of the SUV. When the gate was finally opened they climbed back in and drove just inside. The man followed, closing and locking the entrance again behind them.

"How many times you feel like goin' around, 'Rick?" he asked as the trio walked to the coaster.

"Twice oughta do it. Got a newbie to the Fever, here. Don't know if he could handle more than that." Warrick teased, shooting a sideways grin at Tony, who gave back as good as he received. Slipping his sunglasses off and stowing them in his jacket pocket, DiNozzo tossed a gleaming smile back at his new friend.

"You just met me. You don't know what I can handle." he retorted, an undeniable challenge in his eyes. Warrick held Tony's gaze steadily, letting the other know he got the message, then moved with him up to the level where the coaster cars waited. As they slipped in side by side and secured the belts and safety bars, they didn't speak, anticipation and excitement rendering them both mute for the moment. Just before the ride jerked into motion, Warrick tried to say something, to acknowledge what he thought Tony might have been trying to get across, but he was suddenly unsure he'd read the young man right, so he swallowed his words and faced forward, giving himself over to the power and wild abandon of the ride ahead. As they whistled and shrieked down the first long descent, Warrick allowed his chin to tip back and his hands to fly into the air as he released a whoop of utter joy. Tony laughed, tilted his own face to the sky and surrendered as well, loosing his own gleeful cry into the bright, clear morning.

By the time the second run had finished and they were pulling into the small exit area, both men's throats were aching and their faces stinging from the wind, but neither cared. Warrick stood, maneuvered his long body out onto the platform and extended a hand to Tony. The other man took a minute to allow his system to settle a bit then accepted the assistance. His shaky knees failed him once in the process of getting back down to the ground, but Warrick supported him, chuckling, and they made it safely. While the manager shut down the ride and re-joined them, Tony paced back and forth a few steps, re-establishing his equilibrium, then the three men moved back toward the gate, DiNozzo floating more than walking.

"God... I forgot how incredible that could feel!" Tony shouted, spinning in place and moon-walking backwards. Watching him, Warrick felt a little high himself and he let it show. He envied Tony his easy enthusiasm, even in the face of what they both did for a living. Realizing that serious and stodgy was the last thing he wanted to become, he promised himself he would separate the two halves of his life more completely and try harder to find joy in his moments away from the lab.

"Yeah... it's too long since I've been here. I need to do this more often." Warrick agreed, echoing Tony's smile.

"Man... I feel like... champagne! Like bubbles are all shaken up inside me... and they're about to blow the top of my head off! Thanks so much, Warrick. This was exactly what I needed.... what I was hoping I'd experience before I left Vegas."

"We ain't done yet. Still got some stuff to show you before we get down to conference business for the day." Warrick reminded him as he unlocked the SUV and climbed in. Tony clambered into the passenger's seat and buckled in, goofy grin still beaming.

"Can't wait. I'm hoping the coaster was just the first wild ride you plan to take me on."

Warrick looked at him sharply, hearing another challenge and more than a hint of innuendo, but Tony was slipping his shades back into place and gazing excitedly out the windshield, so Warrick again wondered if it wasn't his imagination. Shaking his head, he started the engine and pulled slowly through the gate.

"I don't disappoint, my man. Hold on tight... you're about to get a different perspective on Vegas."



Tony and Warrick moved past the reception desk, leaning on each other and laughing. When Amy gave him a raised eyebrow, Tony addressed her concern.

"We're... we're not drunk, I swear. He just... he took me to a few of the weirder chapels on the strip... and I can't stop laughing. That got him started..."

"You're forgiven." She told them, smiling and handing each the individual information packets that would see them through the three days of the conference. "You should both hurry. Registration started half an hour ago. Meeting room 3 on the second floor."


The pair moved off toward the elevator, still occasionally giggling. While they waited, Tony pulled out his schedule and scanned it, then looked over to peruse Warrick's. "Nothing together today, damn it, except the opening meeting. We've got the seminar on insects and decomp tomorrow, though."

Warrick whistled softly and his grin widened. "What?"

"My boss is the featured speaker. I can't wait for you to meet him."

"Me either... hold it." Tony murmured, reading the paragraph on the seminar more closely. "Gil Grissom is your boss? Holy..."

"You know him?"

"I know *about* him. It must be amazing to get to work with such an incredible scientist and teacher. I mean... my boss is great, but if I could work under Dr. Grissom, just for a day..."

"We could arrange it, maybe. Talk to him after we're done tomorrow."

"Talk to him? Just walk up and... talk to him? You're serious."

Warrick laughed.

"Yeah, talk, like he was an actual human being." He teased as they stepped into the cab. "Tell you what. I'll introduce you."

"You'd do that? Man, you really are the best!"

"An' you really are good for my ego..."




Talented Hands 3/?


Lunch turned out to be just as relaxed and enjoyable as the morning had been for the new companions. This time, Tony insisted on treating, as he hadn't lied about his capacity for inhaling pizza. Warrick was once again stunned at how much food the young man was able to put away and still get up and walk back out the door

"You have to teach me how you do that, man. You got four stomachs like a cow or somethin'?"

Tony paused as he slid his shades into place then smiled lightly and responded.

"I work it off. Don't you? I mean, considering how physical and stressful our jobs can get, there's not a lot of chance for fat to build up anywhere."

"Yeah. I got a gym membership too."

"I shoot hoops for a couple hours, three or four nights a week." Tony told him as they walked back to the hotel, which was only a few blocks from the pizza place. Before he could stop himself or think better of the question, it popped out of Warrick's mouth and he instantly kicked himself.

"Four nights a week? When do you date?"

Tony grinned and began to walk backwards.

"I can't believe you just asked me that."

"I know. Neither can I. My mouth got *way* ahead of my brain. Sorry..."

"Hey, I'm not mad. I figured you'd do it long before now, that's all. You're not as jaded as I thought. Pardon while I channel Martha Stewart... but that's a very good thing."

Tony pushed Warrick lightly in the forehead then turned and jogged the rest of the way back to the hotel. The other stopped in his tracks, watching him go and trying to untangle his thoughts.

{Did he... nah, he couldn't... Ah, hell. I wasn't wrong this morning! He was flirtin' with me! This is... I mean it could really... if I take the chance an' flirt back, he just might... shit, it could even lead to...}

Groaning, Warrick looked up and handed his confusion over to the only one capable of dealing with it. {Okay, God, what am I supposed to do now?}


As Tony had noted, they had no seminars or classes together the rest of the day, and both men felt the absence of the other. Without anyone else willing to play "juvenile delinquents in the back of the class", the boring parts were harder to slog through and the appealing, fun moments were much less so because the other man wasn't there to share them. Both Tony and Warrick were enormously grateful when they were released. As agreed earlier that afternoon, they met in the lobby to talk and relax before separating again to clean up and dress for dinner.

"Hey." Warrick greeted Tony wearily.

"Glad to see you survived. Personally, I could have used a friendly face."

"I'm tellin' you, I can't wait for tomorrow. If we didn't have at least one seminar together, I'd either go crazy or be *seriously* tempted to play hooky." Warrick sighed, joining Tony on a small sofa and staring out the window at the strip.

"Hooky sounds fantastic, but it probably isn't worth our bosses chewing on our posteriors."

"No... I guess not. Lemme see your schedule."


"Let's see... besides the session with Gris, which you will *love* by the way, we've got Advancement in Forensic Techniques too. Cool. That oughta be enough to keep me from goin' insane."

Warrick looked up to find Tony staring at him incredulously. "What?"

"You... you call him Gris?"

The other man grinned brightly.

"Yeah. That's one of the many things I've called him over the years, not all of 'em complimentary. I call him Grissom, Gris, Gil... all the people on his team do."

Tony's eyes widened further.

"You use his first name?!"

"Course I do. Why? What do you call your boss?"

"Gibbs, but he's not... he hasn't..."

"Grissom has a rep, I admit that. The rep isn't who he is, though. Okay, he's tops in his field as a scientist, but he's also the guy who took me on a roller coaster an' called it an evaluation. The real Grissom is a pretty cool guy. Don't let the degrees an' all the letters after his name make you lose bladder control, man."

Tony grimaced and smacked Warrick on the shoulder.

"An hour away from dinner, that was the last image I needed."


"Yeah, sure. You're having way too much fun with my hero worship."

"So will he, trust me. C'mon, we need to get cleaned up and go eat."

"You got plans tonight?"

"Kind of. Previous commitment."

"Damn. I was hoping we could stick together beyond dinner. Have a drink, snark about our lousy days..."

"Sorry. It's a regular thing. I try not to pass on it unless it's a real emergency, you know? We can vent over a good meal."

"Yeah... yeah, I understand."

"Thanks. I'll see you back here in forty-five?"

"About that." Tony replied, trailing Warrick to the elevator and riding with him only up to his own floor. He left the cab reluctantly, headed for his own room, a cold shower and fresh clothes.



"No, no, no." Warrick laughed. "No sick stories over food. Maybe tomorrow we'll substitute a bottle of somethin' powerful for dinner... try an' scare the hell out of each other."

"I still think I'll need a shot of that before you introduce me to Dr. Grissom."

Warrick opened his mouth to once again reassure Tony, but the other man forestalled the comments. "I know, I know. Don't put him on a pedestal, he won't try to intimidate me. He doesn't *have* to try. His accomplishments do that all by themselves. He's a nationally known scientist, an amazing investigator *and* the strongest leader that any CSI could ask for."

"Where did that come from? The leader comment, I mean."

Tony flushed, looked down at his plate and responded quietly.

"Some things are big enough to even make it to the east coast on the law enforcement grapevine, no matter how hard you try to keep it in house."

"You heard about Nick?"

"Is that his name? There were no real specifics except the where and what. The story is that Dr. Grissom couldn't have handled it better... that he stayed cool and held everybody else together."

Warrick sat back, unsure for a moment how to react or how much to say, but after a minute or two of quiet thought, he finally spoke.

"The story is right. We're all so close to Nick... I'm sure at some point one or all of us would've fallen apart. Gris... he kept us hopeful, on task... an' we found Nick in time."

Tony flashed a meaningful look up at Warrick then buried his face in his coffee cup. When he didn't respond within a few minutes, Warrick prompted him gently. "Whatever it is you decided not to say... you can trust me with it."

Staring into Warrick's intense gaze once more, Tony hesitated, but eventually decided that he could take the risk.

"Gibbs... he saved me the same way. I got dosed with a powder in the office... turned out to be pneumonic plague. They put me in isolation. I got really sick... I'm talking ' white lights, tunnels and seeing dead Uncle Frank ' kind of sick. They tried to tell Gibbs I was on the way out, but he wouldn't give up. He let everybody at the office worry... but he never let them sink too far down, you know? In the end he got to the person who made the disease and found out it had a natural kill switch... meaning it wasn't meant to be fatal."

Unconsciously, Warrick stretched his hand across the table and covered Tony's, which had begun to tremble slightly.

"But the damage had been done."

"Yeah. Gibbs... when he realized I wasn't contagious anymore, he came in and stood by my bed. I was close to letting go... closer than I've ever let on, even to him. He... he does this thing to let me know I'm being an idiot..." Tony chuckled, though the sound was slightly broken and clearly spoke of how hard he was struggling to keep his emotions under control. Taking a deep breath, he paused and made himself relax before continuing. "When he needs to focus me or just get my attention, he smacks me in the back of the head. It sounds bad, but he'd never really hurt me in a million years. It's just..."

"It's okay. I get it. Gris has this look... it's disappointment, shame and a chewing out, all wrapped up in one glance. Practically burns right through to your soul, man. You earn that, you know you've really screwed up. Makes you scramble to fix it an' show him you can do better."

"Absolutely. So... I was laying there and he couldn't get to his usual spot, so he popped me, really gently, on the top of the head. Then he said my name... and told me I wasn't going to die. He made it an order..."

"Somethin' you couldn't refuse."

"Yeah... and he knew it, the bastard." Tony replied, laughing more genuinely and easily.

Locked into the other man's deep green eyes, Warrick took a breath then took a leap of faith.

"The SOB who took Nick, he left him his gun before... before he buried him. When we found him an' finally scraped the last bit of dirt off the lid of that damn plexiglass box... Nick had the gun under his chin. I could see in his eyes... he was about to use it. It took me, like, two or three minutes to convince him I was real an' that we were gonna save him, but... it felt like years. I've never in my life known time to go that slow..."

Everything within Tony burned to reach out and lay the back of one hand along Warrick's cheek, to show he understood with something more tangible than mere words, but he retained awareness of the public forum they sat in the middle of. All he could do was hope that the other man could read his desire and empathy in his eyes. A moment later the dessert cart rolled slowly toward the table and Tony used its fortuitous appearance as a welcome distraction.

"Chocolate! Just what I need."

Warrick smiled and slowly began to pull back the hand he had only just realized was tightly gripping Tony's, but his companion didn't let him go immediately. Instead he gave Warrick's wrist a lingering squeeze, once again trusting to his face to speak for him, then Tony made the first move to pull away. "So. Chocolate?"

"Nah. In the mood for something fruity. I'll have that lemon meringue tart." He requested, addressing the young woman pushing the cart. Tony chose a thick slice of Black Forest cake and topped off Warrick's coffee cup before refilling his own. The Vegas native sipped carefully at the steaming dark liquid, then forked up a bite of his dessert. Glancing at Tony from under his lashes, Warrick finally resolved his dilemma from earlier in the day, deciding God wasn't about to help him choose whether or not to flirt. Swallowing the morsel, he breathed deeply, then spoke, curiosity and hope coloring his tone.

"Mmm... solid, nice tart bite to it... but the sweetness balances that. It's got depths you wouldn't guess just by looking."

Swallowing his own forkful, Tony grinned broadly, inordinately pleased that the other man had taken the chance and determined to see how far he could push. Lifting his fork, Tony licked the residual frosting off the side, then let his tongue circle his lips briefly.

"Dark, smooth... richness and lightness in just the right proportion. God, and the cherries... I never can resist a beautiful cherry." He said, sliding a bit of the dripping red stuff into his mouth with his fingers, then sucking those fingers clean.

Warrick's eyes flew open as the message Tony had sent sank in and, though he tried to respond, his voice abandoned him suddenly. "You *can* blush. That's so cool." Tony chuckled.

Finally the CSI cleared his throat and forced out a reply, though he croaked slightly.

"You... are a wicked tease."

"Wicked, I admit to, but I'm no tease. What I promise... I make good on. How are you on time. Do we need to go?"

Warrick glanced at his watch and realized he did.

"Yeah... yeah, I do. Sorry to cut this short... you don't know how sorry."

"Oh, I do... I totally do."

The two men split the bill and tip between them, left the cash on the table, then rose to leave. On the way out, Tony launched one last torpedo.

"I can wait if you need to use the restroom."

"Nah. I had half a glass of wine and one cup of coffee. I'm good."

"I wasn't asking if you had to piss." Tony tossed back casually, throwing a brief, heated glance at the relevant area of Warrick's body.

"Man, I'm startin' to wonder if wicked was too mild a word for you." Warrick laughed, shoving Tony gently in the middle of his back to get him moving out the door.

"You're not the first to think so..."



Tony was drifting around the lobby, bored and missing his new friend, who'd dropped him at the hotel and driven away two hours before. He'd scoured the brochure rack already, but gambling didn't appeal and he wasn't in the mood for any of Vegas' more dubious forms of entertainment. At last, Amy took pity on him.

"Looking for something to do?"

"I'm obvious. It's a character flaw."

"I'm about to go off duty. Why don't you join me in the lounge? Our resident pro will be playing tonight. It's not to be missed."

"Yeah? Huh... why not? It's a better idea than getting into trouble, which is what I was contemplating."


Settling in beside the young woman, Tony found he was anticipating more music. Since renewing his acquaintance with the instrument that morning, he found the need to hear it had built over the day until the longing was almost overwhelming. A few moments later the M.C. walked out into the spotlight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, those of you who are regulars here know the man I'm about introduce and you know what a treat you're in for. Any newcomers, all I can tell you is to strap in and hold on tight because this guy... will literally blow you away. Please welcome one of Vegas' finest and one of the most gifted musicians it's ever been my privilege to know... Mr. Warrick Brown!"

"You sneaky, devious little... oh, will you ever pay." Tony vowed gleefully under his breath before relaxing into his seat to enjoy the show.




Talented Hands 4/?


Tony delighted in both forty-five minute sets Warrick played, as the selections varied somewhat from one set to the other and even the tunes he repeated were done in a different style or given a new flair. Once the final song was beginning to fade out and the whistles and applause had died away, Warrick turned to go, catching and returning Tony's broad grin just before he headed back to the large dressing room the management provided him, acknowledging that he was a reliable and popular entertainment draw for the hotel. Amy nudged Tony in the ribs gently, smiling at him.

"Well, wasn't I right?"

"He's amazing. It would have been nice if he'd mentioned that at some point today."

"He didn't tell you?"

"Not a word. I'm guessing he decided it would be fun to surprise me."

Amy maintained her smile, but it had become slightly wary.

"He's in trouble isn't he? I can see it in your eyes."

"No comment. Can I walk you to your car?"

"I appreciate the offer, but one of the security guards always goes with me. Thanks anyway."

"No problem. I'll stop at the desk and see you sometime tomorrow."

"Not if you're in jail." She teased.


"Don't kill Warrick, okay? Don't damage his hands either. The hotel depends on him to play at least a couple nights a week." Amy requested, laughing as she rose to her feet

"I promise, no damage... nothing he can't recover from by tomorrow, anyway."

"Good. Have a good rest of the night."

"Oh, I will. Night."

When Warrick emerged a few minutes later, showered and dressed in his street clothes again, he found the rest of the patrons gone and Tony still in his seat. The appreciative smile he recalled had now shifted into a grin that sent a cold shiver down Warrick's spine and caused a brief, tight knot to form in his gut.

"Put that lethal weapon away, DiNozzo, before I arrest you."

"Come again?"

"The Norman Bates ' Me? I wouldn't hurt a fly. ' smile. Dangerous and scary is *not* a good look on you."

"You saying you don't deserve it? ' I have a previous commitment.' is a long way from
' Not only do I play piano too, but I'm a virtuoso in jazz, blues *and* classical forms. ' I should be really mad at you."

"Nah, that's not me, man. I play... I'll admit I play well, but you'll never see me at Carnegie Hall or anything."

Tony rose and walked to where Warrick stood, confronting him almost nose to nose. Reaching out, he picked up the CSI's left hand and studied it, then did the same with the right before gazing intently into Brown's eyes once more.

"You've got a gift of God in here, Warrick. Why the hell would you hide that?"

"I would have told you, but I wasn't sure how you'd react... what you'd think. If people find out on their own, okay, but as a rule I don't bring it up. I'm not somebody who goes around beggin' for attention...

Releasing one of Warrick's hands, Tony lightly and slowly caressed the other man's brows with his index finger.

"With eyes like yours you shouldn't have to beg."

Warrick shook his head, pulled away and actually backed off a step

"Man... how do your friends deal with this multiple personality thing? One minute you're a little kid, next you're so open an' honest it rips my heart out... then you get this seduction thing goin' an' it's all I can do not to..."

"Not to what?"

"I don't know... God, I wish I did, but I just don't know..."

Using the grip he still maintained on Warrick's fingers, Tony tugged him back to where he'd been sitting during the show and gently pulled the other man down to sit beside him.

"I need to apologize to you."

"For what? You've been great..."

"No, I've been messing with your head practically since we met. The first time I flirted I could tell you weren't used to it... not coming from another guy, anyway. I should've backed off right there, but... I didn't and I'm sorry for that."

"Nothin' to be sorry for. Okay, so it took me a little while to understand what you were gettin' at. Once I caught up an' decided what I wanted to do about it, though... I think I did okay. I even got up the guts to give you some a'your own medicine at dinner tonight, didn't I?"

"Yeah... yeah, you did. I swear, when you threw out that comment about the pie... I was doing cheers and cartwheels in my head. I was so afraid I'd come on too strong and scared you away."

"Not a chance. Well, okay there was a small chance, right at the start. Guys just don't... do that with me, not even the ones you'd think would. It was a shock to realize you were... comin' on to me. Eventually, though... I figured out what you wanted."

"And what about you?" Tony asked, running the pad of his thumb up Warrick's jaw to his ear and gently stroking the lobe back and forth.

"I, uh... I want the same thing."

"Which is?"

"This... whatever it is."

"Whatever... that doesn't sound very exciting."

"Gimme a break, man, okay?" Warrick laughed brokenly. "I told you I've never d-done anything... with a guy. Tell me what to say... I'll say it."

"Uh-uh. This isn't about me. I want you very much... but you need to tell me what *you* want to happen."

"Anything... everything." Warrick pleaded softly, his dark eyes seeking an answer in Tony's gold-green ones. All he found was unshed tears glistening in the soft lights.

"Damn... I could really fall for you, Warrick Brown."

"God help me... I can't believe I'm sayin' this, but I don't think "could" is an option for me anymore." Warrick whispered, reaching out hesitantly to lay a hand over Tony's heart. "What the *hell* is goin' on here? I don't do this... I never have..."

"Me either."


"No. I know what you're thinking, but no worrying about the future right now, okay? We only have two more days together, so all that counts is what we do with that time. I'm willing to leave it where it is, or we can make love... or anything in between. I need to know what'll be easier on your heart when I'm all the way across the country again."

"As a wise man once said... what about you?"

"I'll deal. Somehow... I'll deal. Answer the question. What do you want, Warrick?"

"I'll take sweaty, messy sex for a thousand, Alex."

Tony threw back his head and laughed and just that easily the emotional tension was broken. The physical pressure on both of them, however, was something they'd been fighting since dinner and Tony wasn't waiting any longer to shatter that as well. Rising, he tugged Warrick up with him and strode to the back of the lounge, where the lighting was almost non-existent now that the show was over.

"Wait, what are you..."

"I'm taking the only option open to me at the moment. Sit." He ordered, turning one of the chairs away from its table so that it faced him instead. Warrick warily dropped into the seat, knowing what was coming, but terrified of what would happen if they got caught.

"And why is this the only option?"

"To tell you the truth, I'd rather take you upstairs and slam into your ass until we're both too tired to move, but you'd be standing instead of sitting all day tomorrow... and that could raise embarrassing questions."

"Damn... okay, but we could still take this somewhere less... public."

"We could. I guess I can wait through an elevator ride. C'mon..."

The minute or two it took to make it up to Tony's room was, in fact, almost unbearable for both men. By the time they were inside with the door shut behind them, Tony's self- control was hanging on by a thread, but he forced himself to be calm, knowing he had to go slowly.

Warrick breathed deeply, reminding himself that he'd experienced this before, even if it hadn't been with another man. Walking to the bed, he sat on the edge and reached for his zipper, but then hesitated.

"Do you wanna..."

"Yeah. If you don't mind, I'd love to." Tony replied as he dropped to his knees. His mouth was already watering at just the thought of what he was about to do, but he looked up, needing to ask a question. "Ummm... I have a way I usually do this. If it's okay with you..."

"Yeah. Yeah, go ahead."


Reaching back and extracting his wallet, Tony retrieved a condom then replaced the wallet in his pocket. "It's for me. Saves clean up."

"You mean... you can get off just from..."

"Usually. Hang on.... I'll be with you as soon as... there... God, that's better..."

Staring down, Warrick suddenly began to reconsider the wisdom of letting Tony make love to him.

"Good Lord..."

"It'll fit when the time comes, don't worry." Tony responded as he finally reached through the now wide-open zipper of Warrick's jeans and gently released his thick cock. "I'll go slow, stretch you out really well... when I slide in, you'll barely feel it. Until I start thrusting, of course... but by then, you'll have forgotten pain ever existed. I promise, once you adjust... having someone inside you is pure joy. A caring, patient lover... thinking only about your pleasure and what feels good to you... it doesn't get any better."

"Ahhh... Tony, please... do it."

"Do what?"

"Use your mouth! Please... lick me now! I need it..."

"Your wish, my command, beautiful..."

A moment later, wet heat surrounded Warrick's aching cock and he sighed. Tony grinned around the flesh sliding in and out of his lips and proceeded to slowly drive the other man crazy with need that grew and grew but was never fulfilled. Over and over, Tony licked and sucked, swirled and breathed, always grasping firmly in the vital spot at the absolute last minute and stalling Warrick's release. Finally, he deep-throated his new lover and allowed him to achieve orgasm, swallowing until every drop was consumed. Panting, Warrick slid off the bed to his knees, wrapped both hands behind Tony's head and kissed him deeply and passionately. Tony reached out, clutched the bedspread and groaned incoherently as he exploded into the condom.

"Hell..." Warrick breathed as they pulled apart at last.

"No... heaven." Tony murmured, kissing Warrick softly on the forehead.




Talented Hands 5/?


Seated somewhere near the middle of the large conference room, Warrick turned his eyes away from his boss and toward the man sitting beside him. He'd been doing this every few minutes for the duration of Grissom's lecture, but couldn't help himself, even knowing that the older man had to be noticing his inattention by now. For the last hour, Tony had basically ignored the fact that anyone except himself and Gil Grissom still existed in the universe, never mind the stuffy, crowded room, and it was vastly amusing Warrick. He had witnessed Grissom's beginner entomology address many times and the usual reaction was either complete disgust and nausea, or utter boredom. Tony was riveted, taking notes in perfect shorthand at tremendous speed, and his companion was both floored and entertained by the sight.

Finally, Grissom wrapped up the talk and opened the floor to questions. To Warrick's surprise, Tony simply ducked his head, dropped his notebook into the plastic bag at his side and sat on his hands while others stood and took the opportunity the speaker had offered.

"What's up? I can read a little shorthand, bro, an' I know damn well you had at least ten questions written down."

"I can't..."

"What? We've been through this, Tony..."

"I can't!" Tony hissed. "Now will you be quiet? I'd really like to hear..."

Once the group started to break up and head for a late lunch, Warrick tried again, but Tony still adamantly refused.

"Okay, okay. I gotta go inflate his ego a little. You gonna wait for me?"

"I'll be here."

"Good. I'll treat you to the best Chinese buffet you ever saw."

"Sounds great. Hurry, alright? I'm starving."

"Yeah, yeah. Why do I think that's a permanent condition with you?"

"You learn fast. Go..."

While Warrick talked briefly with Grissom near the front of the room, Tony retrieved his notes and began skimming them again, making connections between what he'd heard and things the ME back home had unintentionally taught him at various crime scenes and during reviews of autopsy findings at which he'd been present. Just as he was sinking deeply into the pages and his own thoughts, Warrick returned, but, to Tony's dismay, he wasn't alone.

"Hey. Study time's over, man. Time to feed the body 'stead of that massive brain."

"Just a minute. I had a minor epiphany here and I need to get it down on paper before it goes up in smoke..."

He was scribbling frantically, once again in the old secretarial code, when a new voice spoke up, causing him to lift his eyes. The identity of Warrick's companion made Tony's jaw gape open and sent his notebook and pen tumbling to the floor, dropped from suddenly trembling fingers.

"Shorthand? I haven't seen anyone use that in years... and never that neatly. I'm impressed."

"Uh... uh..."

"Don't mind him, Gris. He's a little star-struck is all. Tony here's an admirer of yours." Warrick teased as he lifted a shaky Tony onto his feet by one elbow.

"Really. I don't have many of those. Always good to find another. Nice to meet you, Tony."

After a long pause, Tony finally managed a weak smile and reached to grasp the hand that was being held out to him, though his grip was feeble and the handshake didn't last more than a few seconds.

"Dr. Grissom... it's such a... I mean... it's so amazing to meet you in person. I've followed your work, read all your articles and papers... I never thought... this lecture, it was... I learned so much... I really did understand it, despite what an idiot I look like right now." Turning he whispered desperately in his friend's ear. "God, can we please get the hell out of here, Warrick, before I make good on that little bladder control prediction of yours?"

"You just hold on a second, okay? I told you he's just a person; a human being like the rest of us. He's not gonna rip you to pieces. Go on an' ask him."

"What? You're insane! I can't!"

While the other two argued, Grissom bent and picked up the notes that had slipped from Tony's hand. Flipping quickly through two or three pages, his eyebrows slid up his forehead and he grinned lightly.



"Am I invited to lunch?"

"Absolutely. You wanna pick the restaurant?"

"No. Whatever you two decided on is fine. This is intriguing to say the least, Tony." Grissom commented, handing the notebook back to its owner. "I'd really like to discuss some of your ideas and I'll be glad to answer whatever questions you have."

"You read shorthand?"

"Well enough. Your skill in writing it made it easier. So?"

"Are you serious?"

"Most of the time."

Tony laughed despite his nervousness.

"Uhhh... yeah. Please. I mean, I can't pass this up..."

"Good. Give me a few minutes to gather my things and we'll go."

As Grissom walked off, Tony's shaking doubled and Warrick, chuckling, restored the hand under his elbow and slid one around his back, hoping to calm him.

"Easy... don't black out, now. You'll miss the egg-foo-yung."

"Food?! You expect me to be worried about food?! I'm about to sit down and have a conversation with one of the top criminalists in the country... who actually wants to hear what I think! Food is the last thing on my mind!"

"Has that ever happened before?"

"Only when I'm on a tough case... and during really spectacular sex."

Warrick blushed again and Tony relaxed slightly within his embrace, shifting more toward his normal, easygoing smile. "Still cute. If just the mention makes you blush, I can't wait to see what actually *having* spectacular sex does to you..."

"Damn... I told you I'm into the flirting, but don't go there around my boss, okay? He'd be fascinated an' start askin' questions. No *way* am I ready for that."

"Understood. Sorry, but ever since last night..."

"I know."

"So it is going to happen?"

Gazing at Tony, Warrick found a trace of uncertainty in the other man's eyes. He tried to reassure him, but the indecision he felt was far more than a trace.

"I want to. The way we kissed after you... that should've proved how I feel, but I don't know enough about how the rest of it works. I'm just not sure..."

"I know. It's okay. Let's get me through lunch with one of my idols and the rest of today's seminars. After that, we'll find somewhere quiet... and we'll talk about it."

"Not your room. I get near that bed again... *somethin's* gonna happen, no matter how unsure I am." Warrick retorted gently, grinning himself, now.

"Right. Not my room. We'll figure it out. Here he comes. God, I'm in trouble..."

"Chill, T. You'll do fine."


"Oh. Just came out, I guess. You don't like it?"

"I didn't say that. Give me a little time to get used to it... I could love it."



True to his stated intention, Tony had refused to eat when they first arrived, wanting to focus all his energy and attention on anything more he might be able to glean from Grissom's vast store of knowledge, but the older man had refused to discuss anything of the sort until Tony agreed to put something in his stomach. In fact, Grissom had spoken only to Warrick, stoically enduring DiNozzo's patented pout, and Tony had finally surrendered.

Now they were all sipping hot tea as they let their meals settle and Tony had gotten all of his questions answered. The table was pretty much silent now, due to the fact that every time Grissom tried to re-engage either man on a topic, the effort fell flat. The younger men seemed to prefer covertly studying each other over their china tea-cups to doing anything as strenuous as speaking. Finally, Grissom went into supervisor mode and drew the immediate and total attention of his companions.

"Warrick. I noticed you weren't really into the lecture earlier."

Warrick flushed and grinned ruefully.

"Yeah, well... I've heard it, what, ten times now? Besides, I've never seen anybody take notes in shorthand like T was doin'. Sorry, boss..."

"It wasn't a reprimand, Warrick. I just wanted to confirm my hypothesis."

"You did... and which hypothesis would that be?"

"That you'll probably hear about one word out of ten if I make you go through the rest of the conference schedule today. Take the afternoon off. You and Tony go do something fun."

"You're serious?"

"Why do people always ask me that?"

"Okay, okay. I just had to be sure." Warrick responded eagerly, reaching for his wallet.

"No, no. I can get the check. Go play hooky. I expect you to attend every event tomorrow..."

"I will, I swear. Thanks, Gris. Next double you need somebody to work, I got your back."

"I know you do."

"Thank you so much, Dr. Grissom... for everything. This has been the most incredible day for me." Tony managed, smiling as Warrick dragged him out of his seat by the hand. The other tried to then haul him out the door, but Tony dug in his heels a little, not wanting the encounter to end. "You were so patient and so willing to listen... I really appreciated you taking the time."

"You're welcome, Tony. I wouldn't mind spending another meal talking to you... if you can squeeze me in before you have to leave."

"Are you... right, don't ask that, of course you're serious. I'll try, I really will..."

"T, will you move your ass before he changes his mind?" Warrick pleaded, tugging sharply on Tony's captured hand.

"Hell, it is *so* not fair when you look at me like that... lead on, MacDuff..."




Talented Hands 6/?


As they moved outside the restaurant, once again donning their shades to ease the effect of the harsh Las Vegas sun, Tony grinned, leaned against the building's façade and breathed a long sigh of relief.

"What? As if I didn't already know." Warrick asked the other man.

"You don't get it. You work with him all the time so it's no big deal to you. For me... it's kind of like being a mathematician and having Einstein tell you he's interested in hearing your theories. I mean... maybe Doctor Grissom doesn't faze you anymore, and I can understand why, but I haven't built up immunity yet and I'm not sure I ever will."

"Yeah, you will. It might take time, but the hero worship is gonna wear off eventually. It has to. You'll never really get to know the real Gris 'till it does. Trust me... havin' him as a friend is worth way more than keepin' him up on the pedestal. Okay, he's an amazing scientist, but he's an even better human being."

"He really let you in? He opened up to you about personal stuff?"

"Not for a long time. I screwed up an' around... nearly screwed myself out of the only job I ever wanted. I had to prove I was worth his time, effort an' trust. Once he was sure... yeah, he opened up. Not all the way, but a lot more than I ever thought I'd get to see."

"I want that... to prove myself to him. I could learn so much more if he just knew I was worth sharing his knowledge..."

"If that lunch was any indication, you don't have far to go to get there. He was seriously impressed."

"You mean it?" Tony asked, coming off the wall and gripping Warrick's hand tighter. "Impressed enough to let me work with him... for him?"

"No guarantee, but probably. You'll have to bring it up, though. Middleman is *not* my favorite game to play. Enough with the shop-talk, okay? Gris said go do somethin' fun an' I never disobey the boss' orders. Well, not anymore."

"Speaking of favorite games..." Tony teased, moving closer until he and Warrick were nearly touching, chest to chest.

"We said later. Someplace quiet, remember?"

"No, I said after lunch and the rest of the day's lectures. Lunch is over and we've been given permission to blow off the conference for the afternoon..."

"I hear you, I do. It's just... when we make love, it's gonna be serious for me... serious and awesome and intense. I wanna have some more laughs with you while I've got the chance. I know it feels like we've got all the time in the world, but we don't, an' there's so much more I'm dyin' to show you. Over a quiet dinner at the hotel... I promise we'll talk. Okay?"

Tony breathed deeply, gazed solemnly into Warrick's eyes and finally nodded.

"Okay. Let's go..."

Back in Warrick's truck once again, they headed out, eventually arriving back at the amusement park, which made Tony grin wildly.

"Yeah! Roller coaster!"

Warrick glanced at his companion briefly then looked back through the windshield.

"Okay. If you want to." He responded quietly, his voice just the tiniest bit stressed. It only took Tony a few seconds to figure out the source.

"Yesterday morning was pretty special. Sharing another ride with a bunch of other people would make it... less, wouldn't it?"

"Less. That's a good word for it." Warrick replied, smiling and looking suddenly relieved that Tony not only understood, but seemed to agree.

"There has to be more to this place than one coaster."

"Oh, yeah. Way more."

"Let's hit it, then."

"Right behind you, T."

"I'd prefer you on top of me... of course under me works too. We'll work that out over dinner." Tony teased, delighted when he succeeded in drawing another blush from his soon-to-be lover. "God, you're so easy." He laughed as he stepped out of the truck.

"You only think so." Warrick retorted, smiling mischievously as he emerged and locked the vehicle. "I'm not one to roll over an' play dead for anybody. You gotta earn the right to see this beautiful bod, my man."

"Oh, do I? How, pray tell?"

"Midway games, T. Most of which I'm the local champ on."

"You mean ring toss, pop the balloon, knock down the bottles..."

"You got it. I win more than you do, I get to pick the movie we go to between here and dinner."

"And if win more... I get you?"

"Yeah. All of me you don't already own." Warrick confirmed, his expression once again somber and closed down. Tony moved closer and gently stroked the other man's face.

"I feel the same way. I hope you can believe that. I don't know how or why... I just know I do." He confessed, echoing their words of the previous night. "I don't want you agreeing to anything just because we have this... bizarre, incredible connection, though. Don't say yes just because you think you have to honor something neither of us really understands..."

Warrick grasped the hand laid against his cheek and pulled it down to cover his heart, as he had done to Tony in the lounge the night before.

"I don't have to understand an' I'm shit-scared to over-think it. If I do that... if *we* do that it'll shrivel up an' die before we know what happened. We need to grab on an' go where it takes us. Can't you feel that?" Warrick murmured, shocked at the near desperation he heard in his voice. Unconsciously, Tony curled his fingers in a little against the shirt under his palm, as if seeking the handhold that Warrick's words implied. When he responded, his voice was equally as rough and quiet.

"Yeah... Hell, I suck at leaps of faith, Warrick... I'm terrified to fall short, crash and burn... but I do feel it. It's like the coaster..."

"Throw your hands up, scream for all you're worth an' enjoy it while it lasts?"

Tony burst out laughing and dropped his head against Warrick's shoulder and the CSI's free hand came up to cradle the back of his lover's head.


"This ride's goin' around a lot more than twice. I feel that too. Can you handle that?"

"Like I told you last night, I'll deal somehow." Tony assured him, straightening up and tugging on Warrick's hand. "C'mon, let's go hit the midway. I am *so* gonna kick your ass..."

"Keep talkin', T. God loves to show up a braggart..."



"Last shot, T. You make it, you get the prize. You don't..."

"I get the prize either way." Tony reminded him, smirking at Warrick around the mini basketball he held close to his jaw.

"True, but you miss this an' you'll have to sit through a chick-flick *and* dinner before you get to open the treasure chest."

Tony lowered the ball, and made a disgusted face at his lover.

"Chick-flick? We said nothing about a chick-flick..."

"You agreed I got to choose the movie if I won. My favorite retro theater on the strip is playin' "Titanic"."

Tony rolled his eyes, but he was still grinning.

"Fine, fine. I miss the shot, I suffer through "Titanic"."

"And no comments, jokes or any of that for the whole three hours."

"Oh, c'mon, what fun is that..."

"That's the deal."

"Okay, whatever. I'll keep my mouth shut." Tony conceded. "Doesn't matter, since I'm about to win this contest anyway..." he finished under his breath.

"Righhht. Throw the ball, hot-shot."

Lining up with the hole in the back wall of the booth, Tony inhaled, held the breath and tossed the ball at his target.

"Damn! I had it perfectly set up!"

"Oh, an' it looked like it. I mean, it was only eight inches to the left..."

"Hey, be nice, or I won't buy you popcorn and ice cream at the movies."

"So you concede? I win?"

"For now. Later..."

"Later we both win. Least I hope so." Warrick whispered in Tony's ear as he passed him then returned to full voice for anyone close enough to hear. "Let's get goin', T. The movie starts in about forty minutes an' I want two of the good seats up back."

Tony smiled wickedly and followed.

"Dare I ask why?"

Warrick deliberately mumbled his response then tried to speed up his stride, but Tony wasn't about to let him get away with that. He gripped Warrick's arm lightly and halted his progress.

"One more time?"

"I said... I wanna know what you taste like... all by yourself. That kiss... I know part of what I tasted had to be me. You know, my... Anyway, I wanna kiss you again... learn the difference when it's just you. The back two rows are the only place they turn a blind eye if you feel like makin' out..." Warrick explained quietly, praying none of the people passing by had heard him. Tony stared at the other man's lips for several seconds, unable to tear his gaze away until he'd forcibly calmed the sudden need blossoming in his chest and gut. He desperately wanted to clamp his hands around Warrick's ears and plant one on him right there in the midway, paying no heed to the mass of strangers eddying around them, but he held himself in check by sheer force of will.

"... and if we don't go now, those seats will be taken. You've got my vote. Let's move!



As they left the theater, Tony kept his head slightly ducked, fully aware that his swollen lips and the ear-to-ear grin he was sporting would announce to the world that he hadn't seen much of the film.

"God... who could've known sharing candy could be so much fun?" he chuckled as they strolled through the lot toward the truck.

"Yeah... I've swapped spit a hundred times, but that's the first time I ever swapped a half-chewed Tootsie Roll with anybody."

"Hey, it was a fair trade. You gave me part of your Starburst twenty minutes later."

"I didn't *give* it to you, you stole it. That's a hell of a talented tongue you got, bud."

"You already knew that. Hah! Knew I could make you blush again."

"Long as you don't do it around anybody I know, we're good." Warrick returned good-naturedly.

"Deal. I'd much rather do it in private..."

"You're hopeless, I swear. You were born flirting, weren't you?"

"Probably. I was also born hungry, so if you could start the truck..."

"Yeah, yeah. I got one short stop to make first."


"Jeweler. My watch needed new batteries and the crystal replaced. It's been waitin' on me to come get it since Tuesday. I'm lucky the owner knows me really well or it might be in a pawn shop by now."

After a short drive, Warrick pulled up in front of a small, brightly lit shop. Tony debated briefly, but decided to follow his lover inside and look around while the other man conducted his business. He walked around slowly, gazing without much interest at the various display cases, until one item caught his eye. He drew in a surprised breath and moved closer to get a better look at the small rose quartz heart nestled in a mound of dark blue velvet. Minutes later, he was still in the same spot when Warrick approached, sliding his newly repaired watch onto his wrist.

"Hey. Tony? What's up?"

"Hmm? Oh... it's nothing, I guess. Just... that is so beautiful." He responded vaguely, pointing out the item that had him so enthralled.

"Wow. It is gorgeous. Not too pricey either. 'Course, most things here aren't. It's not one of the real upscale places like in the casinos." He said, already looking elsewhere. "You ready to go?"

"Go? Yeah... yeah, I'm starved. Let's hit it..."

On the way out, Tony noted the store name and phone number and committed them to memory.




Talented Hands 7/?



Dinner had been spectacular and decadent, both men having indulged in the high-calorie foods they loved but rarely allowed themselves. Now Tony was playing with his dessert fork, Warrick was using his to scrape the last miniscule bits of chocolate and crumbs off his plate and neither one could look the other in the eye. They both knew significant stalling was going on, but the fact wasn't acknowledged until they finally caught each other's gazes and burst out laughing.

"I have no idea why I'm hesitating this way. I've wanted you since I first met you... I'm the last one who would've said whoa. Now..." Tony admitted, shaking his head.

"Yeah. It's been so long my body's screamin' at me to hurry the hell up..."

"... but you're scared?"

"Terrified. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate what you said last night... tryin' to make me believe it'll all be easy. I know it won't."

"Most of it will. I swear, I'll do my best to go slow and make you feel every ounce of pleasure you possibly can, but... God, I'm dying to get you alone, Warrick... get you stripped and laid out on a bed so I can taste every inch of your skin and drive you crazy for hours. Even with all the foreplay either of us can stand, though, you're right that the last step might be a little tough on you. You saw me at full mast last night..."

"I did."


"The only thought in my head was whether I could get my mouth around you the way you did me."

"Damn, I hope so, but I'll never press for that. I know my measurements."

Warrick's brows lifted slightly and he grinned.

"A braggart twice over."

"Bragging is like teasing."

"If you can back it up, it ain't. Point taken."

Tony smiled back, but it faded as he gazed at Warrick soberly.

"You still want this?"

"Yeah. Hell yeah, I want this, T. Pain an' all, I want you to make love to me."

"That's what it'll be, too... love. Not ships that pass, not sex, not bodies slamming into each other. I'm pretty sure I already love you, Warrick... but if we go upstairs, that's gonna seal it for me."

"I'm already sealed, not to mention signed and delivered. I wanna be with you, Tony, but I don't need it as proof of what I already know is real and true."

"Okay. Let me pay the check... and we'll go."

"Meet you by the elevators."


Once the pair made it to Tony's room, Warrick's confidence suddenly began to desert him. Tony was moving casually around the room, setting things up for a shower later on and shuffling various groups of papers around in preparation for the final set of seminars and lectures the following day. Warrick, however, could only focus on the bed and the spot where he'd knelt on the floor and initiated a powerful kiss, inhaling his own scent and savoring traces of himself on his lover's tongue.

He recalled being shocked at himself while driving home that night. Making moves wasn't his normal routine in the bedroom. He tended to be more passive and relaxed, allowing the pleasure to find and follow its own path, but something about sex with Tony was utterly beyond anything the Vegas native had ever experienced. This man had Warrick desiring things he wasn't even sure he could visualize, never mind articulate, and that frightened him.

In the depths of Warrick's mental meanderings, Tony stepped in front of him and touched his face gently, breaking his visual vapor-lock on the bed.

"How far away are you?"

"Hmmm? Oh. I'm not. I... I was remembering the kiss. I did taste myself... my come."


"I didn't hate it. I wanna... I wanna know you that way."

"You will. Once I really get flowing... I'll feed you some, okay? You can suck it off my fingers..."

Warrick's eyes slid half shut and he moaned quietly.

"Good Lord... who taught you to talk that way..." he responded, tilting his head to the side and giving Tony more of his throat to nuzzle and lick.


"You kiddin'? I wanna send 'em a thank you card..."

"Whoever it was... is in the past. I'm here with you right now... nobody else matters... and as far as I'm concerned... they'll never matter again. It's you today... tomorrow... and forever..." Tony vowed softly, nimble fingers working on one button after another until Warrick's shirt was hanging open.

"That sounds so good... sounds perfect... ohhhh... yeah, T... more... I'm really sensitive there..." Warrick murmured, one hand fluttering upward, but stopping just short of gripping the back of Tony's head and pressing the younger man's mouth more firmly against the nipple he was currently lavishing attention on. Seeing the aborted motion from the corner of his eye, Tony pulled away and spoke to capture Warrick's attention.

"Hey... I love knowing how I make you feel, Warrick. Please, don't ever censor yourself when we make love. Show me... do whatever you want. Even scratching and gentle biting are perfectly okay in the heat of the moment. Matter of fact, anything short of chaining me to the bed and using medieval torture devices is acceptable..."

"No thumbscrews, no whips. Got it..." Warrick chuckled, gazing in mild awe at the man who would soon become his lover. "Can we discuss the tying up thing, though? I promise not to use chains..."

Tony laughed brightly, leaned in and dropped a brief, but heated kiss on Warrick's lips.

"That settles it... I'm definitely a bad influence on you. I need to get you to bed and shut your mind off before you come up with anymore depraved, indecent ideas."

"Hey, I like those ideas..."

"So do I, but making them real is *so* much fun. C'mon... come lay down with me..."

"Don't we need to... get undressed... or something?" Warrick asked as Tony tugged him toward the bed, kissing him over and over.

"We will... I said I'd take it slow, remember?" Tony reminded him as he gently pressed Warrick backwards into the softness of the mattress.

"Slow is good, T... just don't make me too crazy, okay? I really want you... want you touching me all over... suckin' on me like last night..."

Tony gave his shivering lover an intense, head-to-toe visual examination, then pulled back, stripping his clothes off with a casualness that made Warrick ache and moan under his breath. Once Tony was done, he moved around to the foot of the bed and calmly removed Warrick's shoes, jeans and briefs, leaving him in his socks and open shirt.

"I loved tasting you, I hope you believe that... but right now I need to know what you feel like... I need to know every single inch of you, Warrick Brown." Tony responded quietly as he crawled up the bed and laid his ear against his lover's chest. "Your heart's beating so fast... fear or excitement?"

"Some of both. I'm nervous, yeah... but it's in the background. I'm way more excited than scared."

"I know. I can feel how hard you are... can't wait to actually watch you come... watch you push your body up off the bed, desperate for something to thrust your hard cock into... and I'll come even harder, wishing that something was me..." Tony purred as he sat back and reached down, firmly gripping his lover's solid flesh. After taking a moment to savor the texture and heat, he began to stroke slowly up and down.

"Keep talkin' like that... and I'll be done... before we even get started... God, yes, that feels so good, T... just like that... mmmm, yeah... harder..."

"Not so fast, love. Be patient. I promised all the pleasure you could stand... that's what you get. You're so beautiful... what an incredible body."

"I work hard for it. You're not... so bad yourself... T, I'm beggin' you, just a little faster..."

"Easy... relax. We'll get there, okay? Just let go of the anxiety, forget about staying in control... feel, Warrick... nothing but sensation. This is about freedom and passion and ecstasy. Let go, baby... just let go... that's it... good..."

Once he saw the tension in Warrick's face easing, Tony sped up and firmed his strokes.

"T... hell, almost... can't hold off!"

"Then don't. It's okay... come for me, Warrick... so sweet... yeah..."

Just as Tony had predicted, Warrick arched away from the bed as his orgasm blasted through him. Shuddering and crying out, the CSI frantically gripped the sheets beneath his fingers as he gradually tumbled back down from the peak of rapture. As his lover began to recover and breathe more normally, Tony used both hands to gently massage some of the creamy fluid into Warrick's dark skin, persisting until the other man was able to open his eyes and meet the gaze of the man kneeling above him.

"Why? Why'd you let me..."

"You needed it... I wanted to see it. Does there have to be a better reason?"

"I guess not." Warrick conceded, grinning. "You're still hard, though..."

"I have really good control... and I'm not wasting my orgasm out here." Tony replied huskily. Leaning forward, he braced himself on his fists, kissed Warrick deeply and lingeringly then dropped lower to whisper into his ear. "When I come it'll be inside your tight, beautiful ass... I'm gonna move inside you so slow... you're gonna feel every inch of me, baby... in the same breath you'll beg me to thrust harder and scream for me to hold still so the feeling will last forever..."

"Yeah... yeah, T, I want that... make love to me, Tony... I need you so much..."

"Me too... want you so bad it hurts... but there's a bit of wish fulfillment to deal with first..."

Abruptly, Warrick's lust fogged brain slipped back into drive and he remembered asking to taste Tony's essence. For a moment, uncertainty reared its ugly head, but it was swiftly vanquished by another sensory flashback to their first kiss.

"Do it. Wanna taste your come, T... gimme, babe..."

Tony laughed and slid a hand between their bodies. When it reappeared, the fingers were dripping and shiny. He nudged them into Warrick's open mouth one a time, producing a few quiet moans as his lover avidly licked his hand clean.

"That... was one of the hottest things I have *ever* felt..."

"And you... put the chocolate pie I had tonight to shame."

Myriad come-backs ran through Tony's mind, but he sensed Warrick drifting into the serious mood he'd warned about at the amusement park, so he kept any further teasing to himself and reached into the night-stand drawer for the lubricant he'd stored there. "When the hell..." Warrick questioned.

"It's been in my luggage. When we split before dinner last night, I got it out and put it in reach. I had this crazy thought that maybe... maybe you were feeling the same way I was. Thank God my instincts didn't fail me this time..."

"They damn sure didn't. You got more protection in there too?"

"I do... seems kind of a moot point after last night."

"Oh. Damn... we were both so jacked up, we didn't even think about... I'm so sorry, T."

"Not your fault. I should've been responsible for that. You are clear, aren't you?"

"I get checked every three months per Gris' orders. Last I knew... yeah, I'm okay."

"Gibbs has us on the same schedule. I was fine as of a month ago."

"Then why don't we go for it?"



"You don't know how I'm dying to say yes... but I can't. The condom's a lot smoother than my skin, Warrick. I can't take away all the pain, but this much I can do. I love you. Your first... *our* first time, let me make this as easy as possible for you, okay?"

"Okay. But someday..."

"Definitely. Someday." Tony agreed, running his hands over Warrick's abs and up his ribcage. "You alright with turning over?"

"I'm good with it. I don't have to see... I trust you." the other man replied, beaming a smile of reassurance up at Tony just before he flipped onto his stomach. Tony swallowed hard, unsure if he was worthy of the look or the man who'd graced him with it, but he forced the negative feelings aside and slid his hands up Warrick's back, bunching the shirt up around his neck so he could bend and place a soft kiss between his shoulder blades. Tony then sat back once more, dripping a small amount of lube onto his fingers and cautiously beginning to massage it into the crease of Warrick's ass.

"You're so strong... so incredibly brave... spread your legs just a little more... there, that's the way... I just know being in you will be like nothing else I've ever known... we're about to become part of each other..."

"Shared souls..." Warrick whispered, reaching up on either side to tightly grasp the pillow under his head.

"Yeah... shared souls is exactly what we are... here we go, babe. I'm not going in right away... just gonna touch..."

"Mmmm... good... feels so good... damn, I'm gettin' hard again... never happened so fast before..." Warrick groaned, instinctively pulling his knees slightly up under him as Tony continued to caress and stroke his entrance, gradually encouraging the guarding muscles to loosen and relax.

"You're opening up so beautifully... I wish you could see how hot you look. I'm going inside... just the tip of one finger. You can handle this... stay relaxed, babe..."

"Ohhh hell... how... how can it... feel so amazing..."

"That's nothing. Just wait 'till I get a little deeper... I'm gonna slide this finger in and out for a minute... just to start the real stretching. Good... you're doin' really well. Stay calm... that's right..."

"Wh-what's deeper? Show me, T... push in more... I can take it..."

"I know you can. Almost... there it is. Check this out, babe. Magic carpet... makes you fly right off the bed..."

Warrick gasped loudly and crowed with joy.

"Whoa! T, that's... ah, shit... I love it, but..."

"I know. I won't do it too much. Just a little FYI..."

"How about some FYM! As in..."

"I get that too, and I'll wash your mouth out with soap later. For now..."

Eventually, Tony managed to push three fingers into his lover, though the process was so careful and slow it required incredible patience of both men.

"T... for God's sake, if you don't get in me soon..."

"I hear you... this has been torture for me too, but I had to be sure I wouldn't do any damage. I promised... and I'll always keep my promises to you." Tony replied gruffly, running his palms up and down Warrick's back in an effort to calm him then pulling away to complete his own preparations. Rolling the condom down over his cock, Tony doused it liberally with lubricant and rested one quivering hand on the other man's hip.

"We're there, babe. Showtime... take a deep breath and let it out slow..."

Tony waited for Warrick to begin his exhale and, on that cue, guided the tip of his erection into the sheath that was waiting so eagerly for him. Shocked, despite all he'd been told, the man below him hissed and whimpered faintly.


"It's okay... stings a little... but I'll adjust... go on..."

"Not until you're ready."

"I am! Please, T, I'm not gonna break. I need you now!"

"Okay, okay... hang on and breathe..."

Closing his eyes, Tony began exerting steady forward pressure, driving himself into his lover's body bit by bit until he could go no deeper. Engulfed in sensation, the line between pleasure and pain a distant, hazy blur, Warrick shouted, sobbed and trembled. Tony waited as long as he possibly could before he finally surrendered to his body's demands and began to thrust. At first his movements were shallow and gentle, but as his orgasm drew closer, his control broke down. Barely able to hold himself up anymore, Warrick strained his neck back and screamed encouragement.

"God... oh God... T... I'm gonna... I'm comin'... comin' right now! Hurry up! Push harder, damn it... need more... need it faster!"

"Love you... love your heat and your strength... so perfect... coming, babe... coming inside you... can you feel it? Yeah, push back... that's it, be with me..."

Minutes later, Tony slowly collapsed onto his left side and Warrick fell with him. Soon a hand tangled itself in his and a soft kiss slid across the sweaty nape of his neck.


"I can't move, T... never mind walk all the way in there... or stand up long enough to wash..."

"Morning... shower in the morning..."

"Much better idea..."




Talented Hands 8/9



Sitting with legs crossed and notebook in hand, Warrick went back over the last two or three hours, smiling and ducking his head to hide it. Waking up beside Tony had been a revelation and an amazingly joyful feeling; one he wasn't looking forward to giving up. Once both men had cleaned up, dressed and eaten a simple room service breakfast, they had ridden down in the elevator together. Once they exited into the lobby, Tony had pulled him into a discreet corner, kissed him briefly and vanished.

Now Warrick was continually glancing from the speaker at the front of the room, who seemed ready to begin, to the door. Tony should have been there twenty minutes before, but had yet to show up, and his new lover was getting worried. He considered defying Grissom's edict and going out to find him, but just then the other man slid into the room and dropped into the empty seat Warrick had saved for him.

"Where you been? The lecture's about to get goin'."

"Sorry. Had to call the boss back home and get an idea what I'll be walking back into Tuesday."

"Makes sense."

"You look comfortable." Tony smirked.

"Yeah, thanks to you and that Preparation H you let me borrow."

"I did say I'm sorry, right?"

"And I said quit it. I wanted... hell, I begged you to do it that way an' it was the best feeling I've ever known. I don't regret one damn minute."

"I love you."

"Love you too. C'mon, get your notebook out, man. You'll wanna get some of this down..."

As the session progressed, Tony realized Warrick was right. Much of the information presented was novel to him and he quickly became engrossed in both the words he was hearing and the notes he was creating. The ninety minutes sped by and, once again, he was still scribbling while everyone was filing out. Warrick laughed quietly and nudged his shoulder.

"Hey. Lunchtime, man."

Tony blinked, looked up from his notes and grinned.

"I did it again."

"Yeah, but as long as I'm here to drag you back into the outside world..."

"Okay, okay. So where are we going for lunch? Italian sound alright with you?"

"Yeah. How about you, Gris?"

"I haven't had Italian in a long time. That's fine."

Tony startled, cried out and nearly fell to the floor as he twisted his head to the right in response to Grissom's voice. Warrick fought off a severe urge to laugh wildly as he grabbed Tony from the other side and held him up.

"Warrick, you're a dead man..."

"What, for not tellin' you he was there? Not my job, T."

"Still a dead man." Tony insisted, pulling away and grinning sheepishly in Gil's direction. "Good morning Dr. Grissom."


"What are you doing here? I mean, not that you don't have the perfect right to be anywhere... I just wondered about this seminar, really. You must already know all this, so you don't exactly *need*..."

Tony's nervous rambling was muffled mid-sentence by Warrick's hand over his mouth.

"He's still a little star-struck, Gris. Pay no attention. Ow!"

The other pulled back, shaking the finger Tony had lightly bitten. Grissom watched the silent message of extreme irritation Tony sent Warrick and had to laugh.

"Manners, gentlemen, or I won't be seen with either of you in public." He told them, rising to his feet. "Come to think of it, I should've asked if you minded me tagging along again."

"No problem, not at all." Tony instantly responded. "If we could talk like yesterday... that would be great."

"I'd love that. I do have a specific topic I'd like to discuss at some point..."

"Yeah, of course. Anything you want." Tony said, rising as well. Warrick followed suit and the three ambled out of the room in a loose group.

"Good. I know the perfect restaurant. They do a pasta Bolognese that will make you weep..."


Sipping at his glass of chardonnay, Grissom carefully watched the other two interact and tried to figure out what had changed from the day before. Their ease with each other hadn't lessened; if anything it was deeper and they seemed more connected, to the point of finishing each other's sentences. When Warrick squirmed slightly in his seat and grimaced, his boss suddenly understood and his heart ached for the pair. Part of him wished he could witness the scene at the airport the following morning, but for the most part, he was glad he wouldn't have to. Suppressing the sorrow weighing down his heart, he cleared his throat and spoke up, hoping the plan he was considering would ease the minds and hearts of both men.

"Tony. How are you getting along with Vegas so far?"

"Fantastic. I've had a great time. If Warrick ever quits the department, he has a definite future as a tour guide, by the way."

"That's good to hear, because I'm hoping you'll come back."

"You are? I mean... I'm not sure I understand."

"I'm impressed with your intelligence and your drive to learn... and I'd like you to come work with me. Not permanently, of course. Just for a few months. I think it would be a tremendous experience for both of us."

Warrick's hand gripped Tony's shoulder powerfully and he replied when the offer seemed to have left Tony shell-shocked.


"Don't worry, Warrick. It's clear how close you two have become, but I didn't make this decision based solely on that. I'm intrigued and I want a chance to see what kind of investigator Tony really is."

"My God..." Tony croaked, finally reviving "... you mean that? You... you're saying I could... this opportunity is something I've wanted for so long... but I never thought I'd actually..."

"Is that a yes?"

"What? Yes, yes! Absolutely! Thank you so much, Dr. Grissom!"

"Two conditions. One, you have to get your supervisor's approval."

"That's no problem. He values his team, but he'd never hold any of us back if we got a chance like this. What's the second condition?"

"Drop the title and just call me Grissom."

"I.. I couldn't do that. You deserve more respect..."

"It's a deal breaker."

Tony looked torn until Warrick murmured close to his ear.

"Hey, remember what I told you? You won't get anything outta workin' with him if you keep him up on that pedestal. You gotta loosen up to find out who he really is... trust me, T, it's so worth it."

Tony breathed deeply once or twice, grinned and made his decision.

"Okay. Thank you, Grissom."

"Much better. Now let's get some food on this table..."



Warrick stepped out of the elevator into the lobby, searching for Tony. The younger man had skipped the last half of the conference's final seminar in order to call home and get the required approval for his return to Vegas. It took a few minutes, but Warrick spotted him at last, huddled on the floor in a corner, cell phone against his ear and a distressed expression twisting his face. As he approached, he caught the end of the conversation and realized what the look was all about.

"Gibbs... no, I understand that, but... this is Dr. Gil Grissom! Getting a chance... okay, then you can understand... you have to be able to do something. Weeks, okay, but... no. No, I get that. Thanks. That doesn't help a hell of a lot, but thanks. Yeah... right. I'm back tomorrow afternoon, at work Tuesday morning just like we said. Okay. Yeah, me too. You don't know how sorry... else? Why would something else be wrong? The wait is enough. Tell Abs I missed her and I'll bring her present in with me when I get back. Okay. Bye."

Slamming the phone closed, Tony made a move to throw it against the wall, stopping only when Warrick dropped down next to him and grabbed his wrist.

"Easy. It's okay..."

"No it's not."

"How long?"

"Six months. Damn it..."

Warrick dropped his head down onto Tony's shoulder.

"We're not goin' to the banquet tonight."

"Room service."

"An' if they're too busy with the convention we'll bring in take-out."

"I don't care if we eat Doritos and convenience store hotdogs as long as I don't have to spend tonight with anyone but you."

"Yeah. Just you an' me..."



Warrick and Tony spent the evening barely talking, simply reveling in each other's presence and making the most of the hours they had left. In the end, there had been no room service due to the banquet, so they had returned to the pizza place and taken dinner back to Tony's room. Once they'd eaten, they sat on the bed holding hands and sharing occasional details of their lives.

Tony heard about some of the other people he'd be working with, commenting that the overnight shift DNA tech Warrick described would likely get along very well with their own lab tech back in Virginia.

Warrick heard more about Tony's work and the agents he shared it with, but when he pressed for more about his love's early life, he was firmly, but sweetly, shut down.

Now, they lay fully dressed on top of the comforter, quietly holding each other and so determined not to look at the bedside clock that they had unplugged it and stowed it in the dresser with Tony's remaining underwear.

"Hey... you okay?" Warrick asked softly, kissing Tony on the neck.

"Stupid question."

"Yeah, I guess it was."

"This sucks. It just completely sucks..."

"If you want more contact... you know I'm up for it."

"That wasn't what I meant... but I really don't. If that's okay?"

"You don't have to ask. Whatever you need tonight is good with me."

"Then just keep holding me."

"You even wanna get down to our boxers?" Warrick chuckled.

"Not if it means you have to let go of me... even for a second. Don't let go..."

"I won't. I promise. Go to sleep, now, T. I'll be right here. Sleep, baby..."




Talented Hands 9/9


In fresh clothes and having gone over the room several times to be sure he'd forgotten nothing, Tony stood at the window and gazed out over the scenery as he waited for Warrick to emerge from the bathroom. For the first time in over three years he found himself ambivalent about NCIS and his home, wondering if he could make a life somewhere else. Confused and sad, he ran a hand through his hair and tried to sort out his feelings. He knew they stemmed not only from having to leave behind Warrick and the love they'd begun to build, but because he now knew how much he would learn when he came back to work with Grissom and he craved that knowledge and experience immediately instead of waiting for the time-frame he'd agreed to.

{Great. So I understand the source of the conflict I'm feeling. Doesn't help me resolve it... damn, I need to stop thinking about this.}

Smiling, he reached up and smacked himself in the head and heard a chuckle from behind him as Warrick joined him at the window.

"What was that for?"

"It's what Gibbs would've done."

"Okay... but what for?"

"Stupidity. I'm seriously thinking about skipping the flight home."

"You know I wouldn't mind... but you can't. Six months won't be as long as it feels right now."

"God, I really hope not. Warrick... you sure?"

"About what?"

"C'mon... you know damn well what I'm asking."

Warrick smiled, caught Tony's gaze and held it powerfully.

"No regrets. You?"

"Only about getting on that plane alone."

"Hey... I got a great idea. Why don't we head down to the lounge and play one more time before you go?"

"Me for you, you for me..."


Tony's eager smile warmed the other man from head to toe and broadened a grin that had started to fade on hearing Tony's regret.

"I love it. Let's go."

Tony grabbed his bags and raced out to the elevator, Warrick close on his heels. Once they made it downstairs, both moved straight into the lounge, which was once again dim and empty, just as on the morning they'd first met. Dropping his luggage, Tony slid onto the bench, grinning and flexing his fingers to limber them up. Warrick moved around and sat on his right. His fingertips drifting just above the surface of the keys, he glanced at Tony, expression slipping towards melancholy.

"Can you improv a baseline?"

"Gimme a few bars to feel it... yeah, absolutely."

"Cool. Jump in when you're ready."

Tony closed his eyes as Warrick began a slow, minor key jazz melody. The inherent sadness of the piece twisted the invisible blade that was already tearing at his guts, but he refused to let it show, realizing how unfair that would be to the man sitting beside him. Opening his eyes, he smoothly inserted a bass note or two then a few more, shifting a little closer to Warrick as he did so. Before long the two parts were flowing together seamlessly, as if the song had been written that way, and both men were responding to the emotional pull, suffusing their performance with pain and loss, as if that would draw the real thing out of their hearts.

When they brought the piece to a close at last, Warrick and Tony looked at each other, laughed quietly and reached out to wipe away each other's tears. When a soft kiss landed on his cheek, Tony startled and turned toward the lobby entrance to find Amy grinning at him and crying as well. She then walked over and did the same for Warrick.

"What was that for?"

"I'm not sure. The song... restoring my faith in real love. Thanks guys."

Turning she quickly walked away, swiping at her own face. The pair at the piano simply stared into each other's eyes.



Silent, the two new lovers sat tensely side by side in matching plastic chairs, waiting for Tony's flight to be called. Earlier, Warrick had once again bought them both breakfast, this time in the small airport restaurant, then they'd worked through the myriad complications of modern air travel together. Now they were left with silence and the harsh, swiftly approaching reality of being parted. Finally, Tony spoke, but a single word was all he could produce at first.


"Yeah, I know. All these clichés keep runnin' through my mind, but... I don't wanna say any of it 'cause what I feel deserves so much better than that crap. I can't think of anything else to say, though..."

"Don't okay? We both know this separation isn't forev... I mean, six months and I'll be... Damn. Looks like I have the same problem you do."

A moment later the speakers above and around them blared an announcement and both men felt the loss really begin to impact.

"Flight 496, non-stop to Richmond, Virginia is now boarding. Once again; Flight 496, non-stop to Richmond, Virginia is now..."

Warrick tensed and wanted to curse vividly, but he held it together, even though he refused to watch as Tony rose and gathered his things.

"You gotta get goin', I guess. Got everything?"

"Yup. Oh, I did leave one thing behind."

"You did? Is it still in your room? I've got your address, so I can have it shipped back to you..."

"It's okay. I know it'll be safe 'till I can come back for it."

"This is Vegas, man. You can't be sure of that."

"Yes I can." Tony countered, pressing a small cloth bag into Warrick's hand and folding his lover's fingers over it. "No looking until I'm gone, alright? Keep it a secret until I'm off the ground. Promise?"

"Yeah... yeah, I promise. You better keep yours too."

"Call the minute I get back. I remember."

"You better or your ass is mine when you get back here."

"It's yours anyway." Tony leaned in and whispered just before he strode away, stopping briefly to have his paperwork checked then moving off down the long boarding corridor. His heart threatening to shatter at the slightest provocation, Warrick still forced himself to move to the bank of windows where he could watch Tony's plane reverse away from the building, taxi onto the runway and lift itself into the air.

Eventually, he turned his back to the expansive view of the outside world, leaned against the wall and finally opened his hand. Carefully working the drawstrings loose, he tipped the bag and slid the contents out into his palm. What he saw there made him gasp and crumple slowly to the floor, vainly fighting off tears. Tony had left him the exquisite rose quartz heart both had seen and admired on their brief visit to the jewelry store. The symbolism was not lost on Warrick and he feared it would be a long while before he would feel strong enough to rise, leave the airport and make his way home.

"Damn it, DiNozzo... damn you..."


END.... for the moment. (I'm shooting you an evil grin right now. Can you feel it? HeHe.)

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