Tony looked up from pouring himself a stiff drink when he felt Sam's presence. The angel always seemed to create an odd stillness in the air, like everything had frozen for just a moment. As a child he hadn't quite been able to describe the sensation, but as an adult it reminded him a lot of scenes from the Matrix movie.
Tony smiled slightly, setting the bottle of single malt on the kitchen counter. "Hello, Sam."
"Hello, Tony." The angel's eyes were a soft blue. "You look tired."
"I am." Tony sipped his scotch and sighed. He wanted to relax but just couldn't seem to. It felt like forever since he'd stopped moving. Glancing at his watch Tony tried to wrap his mind around the fact that it had really only been a few days since he'd gone back to work after contracting the plague.
"You take him?" There was no need to identify who Tony was asking about.
"I did." Sam tipped his head.
Tony raised an eyebrow. "Didn't take long." Gibbs had only called him half an hour ago letting him know he was fine and Ari was dead.
Sam's smile reminded him of a wolf baring its teeth. The angel's incisors were disturbingly sharp. "Time moves differently on the other side. What is only a moment here is a lifetime there." Sam's eyes went black with a reddish hue. "I took him on a scenic tour."
Tony nodded, feeling a sense of savage satisfaction. "See all the sites, did he?"
"All." The red in Sam's eyes glowed like a burning ember. "Dante was not entirely wrong in his descriptions. Hell has many, many levels."
Sam had told him years ago that his job was just to ferry souls to their ultimate destination, that he didn't mete out punishment or reward. But Tony knew Sam was just as apt to push the line as he was. And there was no prohibition about taking his time to get his charges where they were supposed to be nor was there a specific route he had to take.
Tony grimaced. Shooting Ari in the head, while poetic, didn't really seem sufficient to him. He wanted the bastard to experience real torment. He wanted him to appreciate a little of the pain he caused by killing Kate.
"He suffered?" Tony asked quietly, putting the tumbler on the counter near the bottle. He was no longer interested in the drink.
"Yes." The tone implied Sam had made certain of it.
"Good." Tony didn't want or need the details. He trusted Sam. More than he trusted anyone else, with the possible exception of Gibbs. The angel had never lied to him, never avoided giving him the truth no matter how much hurt.
Tony took a deep breath and released it slowly. He didn't really need a preview of Hell. Tony had a feeling he'd see a level or two when his time came.
"No you won't." Sam smiled warmly, his tone reassuring as his eyes shifted to violet. He raised a hand to lightly touch Tony's cheek in a gentle caress. "You are a good man, Anthony Michael DiNozzo."
"Kate is still dead." Tony whispered, his voice cracking, eyes closing in pain as he tried to block out the image of her in the morgue drawer. He hadn't saved her. Wasn't that the same as killing her?
"No, Tony, it is not the same." Sam kissed his forehead. It was an act of benediction.
Tony nodded, not sure he really believed Sam, but he wanted to. He leaned into the angel, letting Sam support some of his weight, his head resting on Sam's shoulder. It felt good.
"Thanks for taking care of Kate." Tony murmured.
"It was the least I could do."
Tony knew Sam hadn't wanted to take her at all, but rules were rules. Death was inescapable. It was one of the constants of life Tony came to understand at a very young age.
"You'll be there for me?" Tony asked, suddenly needing confirmation of his belief.
"Do you really need to ask that?" Sam's hand cupped the back of his head, fingers lightly brushing through his hair.
Tony smiled softly. "Just making sure."
"I will be there for you." There was no mistaking the promise in Sam's voice.
"That's what those glowing bars are for, aren't they...to mark me as yours?" Tony asked. He had a good idea that's what they meant, but had never sought out confirmation before.
"I was not sure you could see them." Sam sounded chagrined. Tony wondered if he looked up if he'd see a blush form on Sam's alabaster skin.
"Saw them years ago." Tony shrugged one shoulder. He had realized immediately no one else saw them, the same way most people didn't see Sam. It hadn't bothered him then, and it didn't bother him now.
Tony unconsciously relaxed further when Sam's arms came around him, hugging him. He felt the brush of feathers, and knew the angel's wings were around him as well. It was nice, warm and comfortable. He could feel tension draining out of him, leaving him feeling heavy and even more exhausted.
Tony sighed. "Bars around Gibbs are new." He had noticed them the other day. At first he'd thought it was just because Gibbs was in close proximity, that the older man was lit by his own, but the light blue bands remained even when his lover was across the room from him.
"He is important to you." Sam shrugged, feathers rustling in response to his movement.
Tony smiled and shook his head. It was like Sam to try and help, to offer what he could. He thought he'd seen something around his other teammates as well, but they were much fainter and harder to see than the ones around him and Gibbs so he couldn't be sure. He asked if McGee, Abby and Ducky were also marked.
Sam nodded, rubbing his cheek against Tony's hair. He seemed to hesitate for a moment. "I can take them down ifÃ¢â‚¬"
"Leave them. I like knowing it will be you and not some....stranger." Tony lifted his head to lay his cheek against Sam's. He was surprised by how smooth the angel's skin felt and how warm he was to the touch. The air around Sam always seemed to radiate a faint chill. Tony had long ago chalked it up to the whole enigma that made up what Sam was.
"You won't get in trouble, will you?" Tony pulled back to make eye contact, suddenly worried Sam had overstepped some boundary, had risked more for him than he should.
"No." Sam smiled ruefully. "I have already spoken to Gabriel about them."
Tony chuckled. "Before or after they went up?"
Tony snickered. "Always pushing the line, aren't you?"
Sam rolled his eyes. They were once more a light shade of blue. "It was you, if memory serves, that told me it was easier to get forgiveness than permission."
"I'm a bad influence." Tony shrugged one shoulder. It boggled the mind that he had any power to influence any one at all, much less an angel of death.
"Bad?" Sam laughed. "No. Not bad." He hugged Tony to him again.
Tony yawned. His eyes drifted closed. He wasn't sure it was possible for him to sleep standing up despite his boasts about being able to sleep any time, anywhere.
"Will you put up some of these bars around the new girl?"
"Do you want me to?"
"Probably should." Tony rubbed his face against Sam's shoulder, instinctively settling in to where he felt safe and secure. He was so damn tired. "Gibbs...said she...shot Ari. Killed her own...brother." He shivered. "If she's anyone I'm going...to want to work with...that's a level of hell all on its own. Shouldn't have to...take the long way, Sam."
"No scenic tour." Sam promised, lightly patting his back. "I think you would be more comfortable lying down."
"Probably." Tony mumbled. That would mean moving. He just didn't feel like doing more than leaning on Sam.
Tony always knew Sam could walk through walls and vanish in blink of an eye, but he never knew he could take someone with him. He had to be able to because there was no way for Tony to find himself lying down on his couch otherwise. He didn't remember moving, that was for sure.
"Neat trick." Tony grinned.
"Thank you." Sam lightly stroked Tony's cheek with the knuckle of his first finger. "I think you should go to sleep."
Tony shook his head, yawning wide enough to pop his jaw. "Gibbs is supposed to be here soon."
"I don't think he will mind, Tony." Sam smiled softly.
Tony blinked owlishly. When Sam started to sing, he gave staying awake up as a lost cause. He wasn't sure what it was about that damn lullaby but it worked every time.
Sam ran his fingers through Tony's hair. "Fair, like time, is relative."
Tony wasn't sure if he just drifted or if he'd really fallen asleep lulled by Sam's singing and fingers in his hair. The next thing he was certain of was the sound of Gibbs voice calling his name. He blinked and smiled up at his lover.
Gibbs smiled. "Hey yourself."
Tony rubbed at his eyes, still feeling heavy and slow. He wasn't surprised Sam was no where in sight. The angel seemed to actively avoid having to say 'good-bye' to him.
"What time is it?"
"Late." Gibbs sat on the couch, leaning in to kiss him. "Very late."
Tony framed Gibbs' face with both hands, green eyes searching blue. "You okay?"
Gibbs sighed, looking every bit as tired as Tony felt. "I will be."
"You should have let me back you up."
Gibbs frowned. Tony could feel the muscles in his jaw flexing under his hands. "I couldn't risk it. Couldn't risk him getting you too."
"Can take care of myself, Boss." Tony stated quietly. He wasn't angry, not really. It was more that he was disappointed. He hated being left out.
Gibbs turned his head to place a kiss in Tony's palm. "I just couldn't ...If I was wrongÃ¢â‚¬""
"Yeah." Gibbs took a deep breath. "But I could have been."
"Could have, might have, should have...don't mean a damn thing." Tony snorted. "All that matters is what is."
Gibbs chuckled dryly. "I think I might have said that at some point."
Tony grinned. "You did." His grin faded as he studied Gibbs' face once more. "Thought you were going to kill him?"
"I was." Gibbs sighed. "She needed to do it more than I did." Gibbs closed his eyes. "I knew exactly what he was. I needed her to know it too. She really cared about him and he lied to her, used herÃ¢â‚¬""
"Betrayed her." Tony finished. In the hierarchy of revenge and need for vengeance, in Gibbs' world, betrayal ranked number one. And it suited Gibbs' sense of justice to have Ari taken out by a woman since he'd spent the last few days threatening the women who were important to Gibbs.
"Doesn't matter who killed him, just as long as the bastard is dead." Gibbs' eyes hardened to glacial ice. "And I got to see him go down."
Tony nodded, accepting that. Results mattered. Something about means and ends came to mind but he was too tired to sort it out.
"Let's go to bed." Gibbs patted his chest. "We can talk more in the morning."
"Sure." Tony struggled to sit up, ignoring the hand Gibbs offered, pride making him want to prove he was man enough to get to his feet without help. He ignored the feather lying on the coffee table too. He'd add it to the collection later.
Once upright, Tony leaned into Gibbs, much the same way he had leaned into Sam earlier. Unlike Sam, Gibbs leaned into Tony so that they supported each other as they headed down the hall to the bedroom.
"Glad you're home." Tony whispered. He'd forgotten to say it earlier.
"I'm glad to be home." Gibbs placed a butterfly soft kiss on his temple.
When they finally lay down together, Tony savored the feeling of all being right with his world for the moment. He snuggled in next to Gibbs, content to be close to him, warm and comfortable. The steady, familiar heartbeat beneath his ear lulled him to sleep again.
He didn't see Sam appear in the shadows. He didn't see the angel smile and retrace the glowing bars. He didn't hear the quiet whisper, "Sleep well."
He thought the next morning he heard Sam singing the lullaby again at some point during the night. And the bars looked a bit brighter than they had before. But he didn't bother to dwell on it. Gibbs was already yelling at him to hurry up; they had a case. Yeah, Tony thought with a smile, everything was definitely right with the world.