- Discussion - Murder
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Challenge Response
- First Time
Beta'd by Keira Marcos.
Steve stripped off his TAC vest and dropped it in his office guest chair, followed by setting his SIG-Sauer on the desk. He slumped on the couch, too drained to even consider doing something productive.
When he took this job, he didn’t exactly expect criminals to take the holidays off—he wasn’t that naïve—but it would have been nice if they hadn’t decided to be so utterly depraved the day before Christmas. A man had robbed a bank during a busy lunch hour and had secured his escape by firing wildly into the crowds as he fled down the street, causing complete chaos.
The task force had been called in as part of an all-hands-on-deck manhunt. The bank robber turned into something bordering on a spree killer as he fired shots randomly at holiday shoppers whenever the police got too close to him.
By the end of it, one police officer and six civilians had died, and eight cops and sixty-seven civilians were taken to local hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening—most of the injuries were the result of what could only be called a stampede. Chin had ultimately been the one to take the headshot to bring the crazed man down, ending a six-hour nightmare.
When they’d gotten back to the office, everyone had collapsed in horrified silence, unable to face the idea of leaving to face their families right now. Steve had been upset that Mary wouldn’t join him for the holidays, but now he was rather grateful. After a long, shared silence, Steve had left Chin, Kono, and Danny in the break room as Danny began to channel his near-manic energy into trying to cheer up the other two. Steve knew he should re-join them, but he needed a few minutes to clear his head and get some perspective. Or at least find the will to get off the couch.
His phone vibrated in his pocket, and he groaned, rubbing his hand over his face, wondering what else could possibly go wrong with this day. He considered ignoring it, but that really wasn’t an option for him.
He retrieved his cell, and the picture displayed nearly brought a smile to his face for the first time since the call-out at lunch. It was of the NCIS Special Agent in Charge at Pearl Harbor, Anthony DiNozzo, going toe-to-toe with Danny, crime scene tape frozen mid-flutter in the background. Steve had been amused and snapped the candid picture, saving it to his cell phone under the entry That NCIS Guy.
The Five-0 task force had gotten used to everyone giving ground on the matter of jurisdiction, but the new SAC for NCIS had rolled onto the island last year and had proceeded to give them all an unimpressed face before telling them to get lost. In the year since, they’d crossed paths with Tony DiNozzo on several occasions and even worked a few joint operations with him.
The man was intelligent, competent, and stunningly gorgeous—everything Steve liked. He just wasn’t sure if DiNozzo would be inclined to be the object of Steve’s interest. Steve rarely found someone so hard to read, which made Tony doubly interesting.
Steve slid his thumb across the screen then lifted the phone to his ear. “McGarrett.”
“Commander McGarrett, Tony DiNozzo.”
“Weren’t you going to call me Steve?”
“Am I still in your contact list as ‘That NCIS Guy’?”
Steve chuckled. “Yes.”
“Asked and answered, McGarrett. Asked and answered.” The sound of a car horn in the background informed that DiNozzo was driving, and Steve really hoped nothing else had gone wrong.
“And how do you know what’s in my contact list?”
DiNozzo scoffed. “Never reveal a source.”
Steve slouched down on the couch, feeling more relaxed. “What can I do for you, Special Agent DiNozzo?” He winced a little. “Please don’t tell me the island is about to blow up.”
“Nothing quite that dramatic.” There was a brief pause as horns sounded followed by some muttered swearing. “Listen, I need a favor.”
“NCIS needs a favor from me? My contacts in Naval Intelligence are good, but I’ve recently learned yours are actually better.” That’d chapped Steve’s ass for a few hours.
“No, a personal favor, McGarrett. Try to keep up.” The traffic sounds got a little quieter.
“Are you driving?”
“You got your powers of observation at BUD/s, didn’t you?”
Steve snorted. “Ass. All right, Tony, lay it on me. What do you need?”
“My…house?” he echoed.
“Yeah, it’s a long story. I’ll be there shortly to explain. Your team still there?”
“Uh, yeah, though everyone is about to—”
“Awesome! Need their houses too. See you in ten.” The line went dead.
Steve pulled the phone away from his ear slowly and stared at it, as if intense contemplation could make sense of that phone call.
Huffing, he got to his feet and went to make sure none of his team left since the NCIS guy seemed to need their help with something.
* * *
Danny paced around the main computer table, an orbit he’d been in for five full minutes. “I just don’t understand what NCIS could possibly need all of us for, Steven. I need to get out of here and get my head on straight so I’m not a disaster when I see Gracie.” He pointed at Steve. “Do you know what kind of day I’ve had?”
Steve was sitting in a side chair with his legs in front of him, crossed at the ankles, hands laced over his stomach. “No, Danno, your day is an utter mystery to me.”
“You just think we had the same day, but I had your day plus having to deal with you.”
“Ouch,” Steve said dryly.
Chin was seated a couple of chairs down, head propped on his closed fist, just watching Danny spiral. Kono was seated cross-legged on one of the tables, grime streaked across her cheek, looking emotionally fried.
The faint sound of whistling caused all of them to look toward the doors to their offices at the same time. As the sound got louder, Steve realized it was a fairly well-performed whistled rendition of White Christmas.
Then DiNozzo was backing through the door, wearing a white T-shirt and black cargo pants, his well-muscled arms obviously full. When he turned, he was carrying what looked like a huge laundry hamper loaded with towels. There was a big duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
“I don’t care how cute you are,” Kono said, “I’m not doing your laundry.”
“Please,” DiNozzo scoffed. “Like I’d let someone else touch my clothes.”
Steve thought to pursue that odd statement, but what sounded like little whimpers reached his ears, and he stared at the basket as if he could see through the mound of towels in various shades and patterns.
“What the hell do you have there?” Danny asked, propping his hands on his hips.
Tony stopped in front of Steve. “Hold this.”
DiNozzo flipped a bath towel at him, and Steve was so startled he nearly fumbled it. He’d barely gotten a firm grip on the towel when a tiny dark grey puppy was set in it. Steve goggled at it.
“Open the towel a little more.”
Steve pulled the towel closer, the puppy instinctively cuddling against Steve’s chest. As soon as he’d gotten the grip right, another puppy was unceremoniously given to Steve.
“Oh my god.” Kono hopped off the table and came closer. “They’re so tiny.”
Tony flipped her a towel. “Open the towel.”
Starting to smile, Kono held the towel and practically cooed when DiNozzo set two wriggling puppies in her arms. Both were darker, one nearly blue in color.
Danny and Chin were given the same treatment, but Steve had stopped paying attention because there were tiny puppies in his arms. DiNozzo herded all of them into chairs in a loose circle and started doing something at the table, but Steve just kept petting the puppies.
“What are they?” he asked without looking up.
“Neapolitan Mastiffs. They’re barely a week old. Asshole Navy lieutenant at Pearl…his dog gave birth right before he was due to ship out. I guess he didn’t want to deal with the hassle of the puppies, so he left them in a box on base this morning before catching his priority ride to Guam. Like we don’t have security cameras over the whole damn base.” Tony gave a derisive snort. “I’ve contacted his CO to make sure his life for the foreseeable future is miserable.”
Tony pulled another chair into the circle between Steve and Kono, taking one of the puppies from Kono. Steve realized everyone had three puppies except him.
“Why does everyone else have three?”
DiNozzo shot him a look. “Because there are eleven puppies, four of you, and I needed my hands free.” He settled the puppy in his arms then put a little bottle near its mouth, waiting for it to latch on, which it did almost immediately. “Pay attention, Five-0 people. They need to eat every three to four hours. I recommend feeding a puppy then putting it in the basket, otherwise, it gets very confusing. The bottles are ready, just copy what I’m doing and dig in.”
Danny glared, though there wasn’t much heat in it. “You make it sound like we’ll be taking care of these puppies.”
“You totally will be. I know the lady who runs the local no-kill shelter, and she can definitely place a bunch of puppies, but they’ll need to be fostered until they’re old enough to be adopted. However, it’s Christmas Eve, and she’s not going to get fosters until probably the 27th or 28th. So Steve volunteered you all.”
Steve threw back his head, laughing at the audacity of the lie.
Danny shot him the hairy eyeball, but Steve noticed Danny couldn’t stop petting the little wriggling bundles of fur.
DiNozzo kept up a litany of instructions, ending with, “Now, Marie says it’s best if the puppies are in groups of two or three since there are too many of them to realistically keep them all together, but they shouldn’t be alone.”
“You look like you’ve done this before,” Chin observed.
“Not even. I spent the last two hours at the vet, getting them all checked out and learning what the hell to do.”
“And why aren’t you taking care of them?” Danny pressed.
“Because taking care of two or three is manageable, but eleven would mean no sleep. Ever.” He set the puppy in the basket and plucked one of Steve’s two out of Steve’s arms. Before Steve could protest, Tony passed him a bottle. “Feed her.” DiNozzo looked back at Danny. “Besides, my condo doesn’t allow animals.”
“So, I guess you’ll be coming to my place to help out, right,” Steve said, not making it a question.
DiNozzo winked at him. “If you say so, Commander McGarrett.” He looked back at the others. “There are carriers for them, lots of towels, hot pads, and plenty of puppy pads. I got enough formula to get through the next couple of days, and hopefully, the foster situation will be sorted before we run out. There’s a recipe enclosed for an emergency substitute, but never use human infant formula, okay?”
DiNozzo glanced around, and Steve noticed everyone was trying to feed the puppies. Chin seemed to have been consigned to holding all the puppies due to be fed while the full and sleepy puppies went in the towel-lined basket. DiNozzo took over puppy holding so Chin could practice feeding.
Steve set the puppy he was feeding in the basket, noting the basket was warm because there were hot pads under the towels, which explained the cords running from the basket to the wall. He took another puppy from Tony and set about feeding her.
An hour later, everyone was mellow, the puppies were fed, and DiNozzo was passing out printed instructions and his contact info, along with multiple reiterations of the most vital points of puppy care. All three of Steve’s team each took two puppies, leaving five for him and DiNozzo to juggle. Steve figured he’d see Danny and Grace at some point tomorrow with Danny’s puppies in tow, and it was likely Chin and Kono would be getting together tomorrow as well.
When it was just he and DiNozzo in the Five-0 office, Steve set the last sleeping pup in the basket, checking the temperature—DiNozzo’s instructions had been thorough.
“You got your gear?” Steve asked from where he was squatting by the basket, stroking the backs of the puppies.
“Everything you need will fit in the duffle, and it’s warmer outside than it is in here.”
“I mean your gear.”
“Oh.” DiNozzo blinked. “It’s in my car.”
Steve picked up the basket. “I’ve got the puppies. Follow me to mine.”
“You sure got bossy all of a sudden.”
Steve grinned then went out to the truck to take care of transferring the puppies into the portable carrier they’d be safe in for the ride to his house.
* * *
Steve sat on one of the deck chairs on the lanai, a lapful of sleeping puppies a pleasant weight in his lap. They’d managed to fit in showers and dinner before the puppies had started to show signs of hunger, and they’d just finished the second feeding.
DiNozzo was reclining on another lounger, sipping a beer and watching the ocean. He was stupidly beautiful in a way that made Steve ache and, for the first time, he thought there might be a chance for something between them. It wasn’t even about the puppies but, rather, about the way Tony had been with him since they’d arrived at Steve’s house. How close he was willing to be, his body language, tone of voice. He hadn’t spent much time around DiNozzo outside of a crime scene, so this personal view was a revelation.
“You didn’t need us to help with the puppies, did you?”
DiNozzo snorted. “The base CO thinks I walk on water, McGarrett, which means there’s an entire military base of people at my disposal.” He glanced over, smiling at the puppies. “Besides, they’re cute as hell, so, no, I didn’t need your help.”
“Why the ruse?” Steve fiddled with the ear of one of the bigger puppies, a female that he was becoming rather attached to after only a few hours. He’d started calling her Annabelle.
“Because I know what kind of day you had. I know what it’s like to have the worst the world has to offer in your face right before you’re supposed to put on a pleasant mask, smile, and pretend like nothing is wrong. Normally, the best I’d have to offer is a case of beer and some pizza, but then I overheard a couple of my guys talking about a box of abandoned puppies…”
DiNozzo sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I wouldn’t normally think of abandoned puppies as ambassadors of holiday cheer, but then I thought… You don’t have to put on a happy face for a puppy, their needs are simple, affection unconditional, and while we can’t always fix everything, this holiday, the six of us are gonna save eleven Neapolitan Mastiffs.”
“Well, it sounds like Grace is a part of the Williams deal.”
Steve smiled. “That she is.” He stroked his hand over the back of one of the male puppies that Tony had taken to calling Toby for some reason. Some of the puppies were darker and some lighter, but Toby was the lightest and almost silvery in color. “It worked, you know. We were all pretty miserable, and the only reason no one had left yet was because they didn’t want to face their families with the job hanging all over them.”
“I have good ideas sometimes.”
“Tell me another of your good ideas.”
Tony took a drink from his beer, and gave Steve a look that could only described as assessing. “I think we should go on a date. And have sex. I’m not too fussed about the order.”
Steve grinned and carefully got to his feet. After setting the puppies in their basket, he went to the other lounger and straddled Tony’s lap. He didn’t waste any time in bringing their mouths together, relishing the firm press of the other man’s lips. Tony’s hands settled on Steve’s hips, pulling him closer.
“I vote we get right on the sex,” Steve murmured against Tony’s mouth.
“Before the kids wake up and need to be fed again?” Tony asked, eyes bright with amusement.
“Definitely that. And when they’re older and out of the house, I’m gonna date the hell out of you.”
“Is that right?”
Steve kissed him again, licking inside and shuddering and how quickly the desire surged in him. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“Well, let’s get this holiday started.”
Steve got up, pulling Tony to his feet then grabbed the basket of pups to take upstairs with them. After he’d set the puppies in the bathroom with their heating pad plugged in, he pressed Tony up against the wall and leaned in, sealing their mouths together.
When they broke apart, both breathing heavily, Steve pulled back enough to meet Tony’s gaze. “I’m serious, you know that, right?”
“Dating you. I was in lust with you from the moment you muscled your way onto my crime scene—”
“Whose crime scene?”
“—but what you did today…” He rubbed his thumb over Tony’s cheekbone. “I want to know everything about you.”
Tony’s cheeks got a little pink, and he pulled Steve back in for a kiss that shorted out Steve’s ability to think.
* * *
Steve woke when he heard a faint, unfamiliar alarm, and then he felt Tony get out of bed. A few minutes later, Tony came back smelling of mint and carrying the five puppies in a towel. He set them on Steve’s chest then gave Steve a quick kiss. “I’m going to go get their bottles.”
Steve rubbed his hand over his face, trying to wake up. “Having kids is exhausting.”
Last night had been the best sex of Steve’s life. In his experience, sex with new partners just did not go that well. Which made him wonder if he’d survive how good it’d be once they got to really know each other’s hot spots.
After the first round, they’d taken a break, eaten some food, and talked. Then they’d gone for round two, which had been even better than the first time. Steve had been pondering if it’d even be possible to get it up again, but the puppies had demanded to be fed.
Then there’d been some mutual blowjobs followed by a few hours of sleep. Then feeding the puppies in the wee hours of the morning. Now it was 0900 and Steve felt kind of hungover.
He left the puppies wriggling on the bed while he went to get his toothbrush, keeping an eye on them from the doorway while he brushed his teeth.
When Tony returned, they settled into the rhythm of getting the puppies fed until all five were full and fast asleep. Steve responded to a grumpy text from Danny about being up all night, and then a sweeter text from Gracie, expressing her excitement about getting to help take care of the pups and wishing Steve a Merry Christmas.
“Is my name still ‘That NCIS Guy’?” Tony asked where he was propped against the headboard. He’d gotten the puppies back into their basket to sleep off their breakfast.
Grinning, Steve opened his contact list and changed it to Tony DiNozzo.
Tony snagged the phone and fiddled with it. When he passed it back, Steve saw it had been changed to, “My Super Hot Boyfriend.”
Steve laughed and tossed the phone on his nightstand. He pulled his new super-hot boyfriend close and got busy figuring out just what made him moan the loudest.
* * *
Grace persuaded Danny to let her keep a female she named Fred. Rachel was unamused, which made it better in Danny’s mind. Somehow, Fred spent as much time at Steve’s as she did anywhere her humans actually lived.
Chin kept one of the puppies, but Kono insisted on joint custody. Their dog, which they’d named Super SEAL, wound up the biggest of the lot and routinely intimidated anyone who came near. He punished interlopers with a thorough tongue bath, complete with extra slobber. Steve figured he should have been named Marshmallow.
Seven puppies were adopted out to people who had been hurt or traumatized by the bank robbery aftermath, and Tony paid for professional service animal training for five pups who were well suited to it. All seven dogs helped their humans deal with the PTSD issues related to the shooting.
Steve wound up keeping Annabelle, and Tony kept Toby. Though Toby had to live at Steve’s house because Tony’s condo really didn’t allow pets. Steve managed to get Tony to move in after only three months, claiming that Toby was pining. Really, it was Steve who was losing his mind not having Tony to come home to every night. Besides, no one needed to put up with a dog-hating condo board.
Profilers for Christmas is an anonymous crime drama Advent Calendar featuring both art and stories. Author/Artist reveal is on the 25th. Additional information about the challenge can be found here.