- Death - Major Character
- Discussion - Murder
- Explicit Sex
- Canon Divergence
- Crime Drama
- Fix It
Due to various issues regarding international travel and national security around the actions of Eli David and Mossad, the events of Iron Man I shifted forward in the MCU timeline. I borrowed characters from several fandoms but knowledge of them is unnecessary for reading. These fandoms include: MCU, Cold Case, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, Without a Trace, Blindspot, Stargate: Atlantis, & Numb3rs
25 June 2010
Tony turned his face away from the sun spilling over the bed from the large window that dominated the room. He hated that window; it was the number one reason why he hadn’t wanted this room to be the master bedroom, but it was the only bedroom with an ensuite. His lover shifted against him as Tony turned fully onto his side.
“Good morning, Dr. Reid,” he murmured and pressed against Spencer’s neck.
“Good morning.” He wiggled closer. “You were right. You made a terrible life choice. Let’s rearrange the whole house.”
Tony laughed. “Maybe some blackout curtains?”
Spencer turned on his back and met his gaze. “I have to testify in a case in New York tomorrow, so I’ll be flying out tonight with Rossi.”
“I remember,” Tony murmured. “What about the rest of your team?”
“Cold case review unless something ugly rears its head, which is likely,” Spencer said. “I’ll let you know if I have to divert elsewhere after the trial instead of coming home.” He cupped Tony’s face. “You look a little tired. Is the job getting to be too much?”
“No,” Tony answered. “I made the best choice I could make for myself—I trust Tom Morrow, and I needed that when I told him yes last year, and I need it even more now.” He moved closer and pressed his cock against Spencer’s thigh. “Since we’re awake with the sun, let’s start the day right.”
Spencer grinned and ran his hand through Tony’s hair. “You make me so happy. I don’t think I even understood what I was missing.”
Tony ignored the way his face heated; even five months into a relationship with Spencer Reid and he still didn’t have a good way to deal with the other man’s bluntness. He pushed aside the desire to make a joke to deflect. Being in a relationship with a criminal profiler came with some unique challenges, and early on Spencer had made it clear that Tony needed to be utterly authentic with him as much as possible because he didn’t want to have to work at home.
“I love you,” he murmured and watched Spencer’s eyes darken. “I’ve never loved anyone like this, and I’m trying really hard to keep this as real as possible for both of our sakes.”
He slid one hand down between Spencer’s legs and wrapped his hand around the other man’s cock. Reid’s breath hitched gently, and he spread his legs. “Did you want…”
“I want whatever you want,” Tony said against Spencer’s jaw as he stroked the other man’s cock. “Tell me how you want it, Dr. Reid.”
Spencer huffed out a shocked little breath. “You really cannot call me that while you’re jerking me off. That’s an inappropriate public erection waiting to happen.”
Tony laughed. “Tell how you want to get off.”
“Fuck me,” Spencer responded and started to push down the covers. “I want to see everything.”
Tony threw off the covers completely in response and reached over to grab condom and lube from the nightstand. The really awesome part about being in a relationship with a person who had zero interest in playing personal games was that he never had to worry about making a misstep out of confusion. It provided the kind of emotional and intellectual security that he’d always wanted but had never really understood until it had been given to him so freely.
He rolled on the condom and slicked it up as he watched Spencer spread out on the bed in front of him. Tony rubbed his fingers over his lover’s exposed hole and dipped in, spreading what was left of the lube. He knew Spencer didn’t want or like a lot of prep since it felt like a tease, which was off-putting to the genius in such a way that bordered on pathological. One day, Tony would delve into that topic and get to the bottom of it, but they had time, and he didn’t want to make the wrong moves with their relationship.
Tony pressed the head of his cock against Spencer’s asshole and hummed under his breath as the other man arched off the bed in response. He cupped Spencer’s ass and lifted as he sank in deep. “Perfect.”
“Yeah,” Spencer agreed as he hooked one leg over Tony’s arm. “It always is.” He wrapped his hands around the bars of the headboard and lifted his body into Tony’s next thrust.
He took his time, sliding in deep with each thrust, and Spencer responded with soft, breathy moans that told Tony he was getting exactly right. Putting romance and sex on the back burner while he’d straightened out himself and his future career had put everything in perspective, so when Spencer Reid had looked his way, Tony had hadn’t hesitated to accept a coffee date that had turned into more.
“Harder,” Spencer demanded and rocked in Tony’s hands. “Make me come.”
Tony tightened his hold on his lover and increased his pace until their bodies were grinding hard and fast. He watched Spencer practically wallow in pleasure and groaned when he wrapped a hand around his own cock. Despite the eager pace, Spencer kept he strokes slow and casual like he wasn’t interested in coming at all, despite his words. Tony rolled his hips, and Spencer arched into the thrust with a soft, hot gasp then came all over his own hand.
Tony relaxed and let himself come.
* * *
He knotted his tie as he left the master bedroom and headed for the kitchen. Spencer was seated at the kitchen table with coffee and chocolate Pop-Tart. Tony eyed the pseudo-pastry, but Spencer just raised an eyebrow at him.
He laughed and pressed a kiss to the crown of Spencer’s head. “You eat too much garbage.”
“I’d take that complaint seriously if you hadn’t bought me a new box the last time you ordered groceries,” Spencer pointed out. “Your oatmeal is probably ready.” He motioned toward the stove. “I have to go soon. I need to pick up a few things from my apartment. I’ll research blackout curtains if I have time.” He raised an eyebrow. “If you’re willing to admit defeat on the sunrise issue.”
“Well, there are benefits,” Tony pointed out with a grin. “Tell Derek his feature window in the master suite is actually turning out to be an act of sadism, and you’re concerned about his mental health.”
Spencer grinned. “I’ll think about it. He was actually really proud of the fact that you loved this property so much you bought it from him.” He pursed his lips. “I think I’ll save it for when he’s teased me one time too many for the day. There is a limit on that, and either he pushes it on purpose or he’s clueless.”
“I don’t see Derek Morgan being at all clueless,” Tony said as he added a bit of brown sugar to his oatmeal and put it in a bowl. “Your team goes through a lot, and he uses humor to lighten the mood. But if he’s taking it too far, too often for your comfort, then take him aside and talk to him in private about it.”
Spencer nodded. “I’ll think about it. You’re right; it does lighten the mood, and we need it more often than not.”
Tony noted that Spencer’s hand strayed to his knee. “Stiff?”
“No, it’s good.” Spencer lifted his hand away and stood. “Just an ugly memory of a mistake.”
“You were trying to do your best by him, Spencer. It’s no fault of your own that it wasn’t enough.” He sat down with his oatmeal and checked his watch. “Weller should be picking me up in thirty minutes.”
Spencer picked up his coffee and took a sip. “Your newest recruit. How’s he working out? I think that you’re going to start getting hate mail if you steal any more FBI agents.” He paused. “More hate mail.”
Tony laughed. “He’s great. Vivienne is really pleased with his performance and how well he’s blending in with the rest of the team. Martin was a little leery at first, but they’re doing well in the field together as needed, so I think it’ll work out as a great partnership for him. As to the hate mail, I warned Don Eppes I’m going to recruit his brother if he doesn’t stop being mean to me.”
Spencer laughed. “Dr. Ramanujan wasn’t enough for you?”
“She’s great. Honestly, I don’t know why Eppes is so bent. Charlie and Amita aren’t even together anymore. It’s probably more about Megan Reeves, but she hadn’t been with Eppes’ team in over a year.”
“And now she’ll never come back to the fold,” Spencer pointed out. “Don Eppes isn’t known for his ability to share, actually. You’ve ruffled a lot of feathers—valuable assets disappearing into a high-level intelligence unit at Homeland Security that practically no one has security clearance for can be disconcerting. If I didn’t know you and have clearance for the whole thing, due to my consultant status, I’d probably be very concerned about someone I know disappearing into such a situation.” He refilled his travel mug and wrapped up the rest of his Pop-Tart in a paper towel. “I have to go—is it okay if I have Garcia text you an update on my travel?”
“Sure, Spencer, of course.” Tony grinned. “But a phone call tonight after you settle in your room would be nice.”
“Okay, yeah, that works.” Spencer grabbed his cellphone from the charger and hooked it onto his belt.
* * *
He shouldered his backpack as he set the security for his house and locked the door. A very brief text from Agent Kurt Weller had let him know that Tom Morrow was in the back seat of the SUV waiting on him. Tony wasn’t all that surprised not to get more of a warning as Tom Morrow didn’t like to make plans too far in advance due to the fluid nature of their mission at Homeland.
Tony opened the front passenger side first and dropped his backpack on the floorboard then joined Morrow in the back seat.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Good morning.” Morrow looked up from his tablet as Tony settled into the seat. “I have a few issues.”
“Should I conference Hera in?” Tony questioned. His second in command, former FBI agent Vivienne Johnson, operated as mission control so it was rare for her to be excluded from a briefing by Morrow.
“It’s not mission-related,” Morrow said as Weller pulled out into traffic. “Agent Weller, if you would raise the glass? I need to have a private conversation with SAC DiNozzo.”
Tony made himself relax as the privacy glass rose quickly and silently between the front and back seat. “Has something happened to Gibbs?”
“He’s still bitterly drowning his sorrows in a bar in Mexico with Mike Franks as far as I know,” Morrow explained. “I have a few assets in the area that check on that situation as needed. He doesn’t have any reason to return to the States.
“You’re a good man, Tony, so what I’m about to tell you will be upsetting for you.”
Tony clenched his fist and wet his lips. “Just say it, then.”
“Ziva David is dead.”
His gut twisted because all he felt was relief, and that made him feel like an asshole. “How?”
“Three months ago, Israel negotiated her transfer back to them through the State Department. The DOJ wasn’t all that interested in being responsible for her long-term and gave in without much of a fight. Secretary McCord believed that it would help smooth over some of the remaining issues with Israel and Mossad.”
“Things are calmer,” Morrow conceded. “But we have a long way to go due to the actions of Eli David. Travel abroad for our assets remains an issue, and that situation has only been exacerbated by the kidnapping of Tony Stark. As to Ziva, the current intelligence tells us she was killed by Mossad. She isn’t the only former asset they’ve targeted in recent months. Eli David had a habit of promoting based on personal feelings rather than merit. So, they cleaned house, but some of their former operatives proved to be more dangerous after they were no longer employed by the agency.”
“Did Israel request her transfer back into their custody so they could kill her?” Tony questioned.
“In my personal opinion, yes, but officially they are dismayed by her unsolved murder while in solitary confinement in Neve Tirtza Women’s Prison.”
Tony took a deep breath and rubbed his face even as he turned to look out into traffic. “I don’t know how to feel, sir. Eli David’s children were doomed from birth.”
“I don’t disagree,” Morrow said. “All of this—none of it was ever your fault. No matter how the Rivkin situation was approached that night, the end result remains the same. Ziva David was guilty of espionage.”
“We can’t say how things would’ve turned out if I’d gone to Israel.”
“You could be dead,” Morrow said evenly. “But maybe you’d have survived it, and Vance and Gibbs would still be in positions of power in NCIS that they clearly abused regularly. The results of the agency-wide audit weren’t great, Tony. Between Vance and Shepard, I deeply regret leaving when I did.”
“It’s no more your fault than it is mine, sir,” Tony said. “Are charges possible against either of them?”
“Not without creating a mess that would damage a lot of innocent people,” Morrow said roughly. “I won’t share the details on that because you can’t do anything about it and don’t deserve the burden.”
“And you do?” He focused on Morrow.
The older man shrugged. “I supported the placement of Jenny Shepard in my place, and Vance was her handpicked successor. She set all of that up before she went out in what she probably thought was a blaze of glory. The truth is that Owen Granger was more qualified and better prepared to be the next director, but Shepard owed Eli David, and David wanted Vance for obvious reasons.”
“Do you think that Shepard knew that Ziva’s main mission in the US was to spy on us?”
“Certainly, and she didn’t care since Eli David was helping her track La Grenouille.”
The vehicle turned in a way that caught Tony’s attention, so he activated the intercom. “Kurt?”
“Dr. Ramanujan let me know that if I came into the office without chocolate ganache donuts that my life won’t be worth living, sir,” Weller reported.
Tony laughed. “Understood.” He turned off the intercom and focused on Morrow. “Anything else about my old team? McGee’s in Oregon trying not to get killed by robot cats as far as I know.”
“He appears to have settled in at Global Dynamics, and the DOD is keeping a weather-eye on that entire situation as always. McGee’s father made a few waves about his son’s career at NCIS, but he backed off when he realized we weren’t going to bend on the issue.” Morrow turned on the intercom. “Have you ordered yet, Weller?”
“No, sir, we’re next in line.”
“Get me a cinnamon roll and large black coffee,” Morrow ordered and closed the connection without confirmation. “Ms. Sciuto has gone to work for a private forensics lab, though she did make a bid to join the Jeffersonian.”
“Not wise considering Dr. Brennan’s connection with the FBI,” Tony said. “Also, Brennan wouldn’t put up with Abby’s histrionics for even a minute. She’s pretty intolerant of that sort of thing.”
“Agreed,” Morrow said. “Sciuto was once one of the hottest properties in her career field, but her abandonment issues and odd obsession with Gibbs put her on a very self-destructive path.”
“Gibbs enjoyed it,” Tony said. “The attention from women—Abby, Shepard, and even Ziva. Hell, even the hostility from his ex-wives looked more amusing to him than irritating a lot of the time. Perhaps they all were all some variety of replacement for his wife and child, but maybe it runs deeper than that. I never really tried to dig too deep into his motives when it came to his dysfunctional habits regarding interpersonal relationships.” He huffed. “And we both know I was just as enthralled with the man at one time to my own detriment.”
“But you broke free.”
“I had to almost be murdered to accomplish it,” Tony said. “I’ve come to realize that I went to talk to Ziva that night because I was trying to mitigate the fall-out for Gibb’s sake. I tried to tell myself it was about her being my partner but, in the end, it was about Gibbs. Honestly, it wasn’t even the first time I’d almost died trying to make things easier for him.”
The SUV started moving again, and Tony hoped they reached work soon because he was really done with the conversation. He didn’t like to think about Gibbs, NCIS, or the implosion of his former team often, and he certainly didn’t want his head full of that mess at work. His team deserved better.
“The Director of the FBI would like to know if you’re finished poaching his agents,” Morrow said.
Tony looked over and found Morrow on his phone. “I don’t poach—I merely offered sanctuary to some exceptional and underappreciated people.”
Morrow snorted and fired off a text with a few quick movements of his thumb. “What about the cop from Philadelphia? When is she due to report?”
“Lilly Rush,” Tony supplied. “And she’ll be in this afternoon. She finished FLETC a week ago and did very well.”
“I heard,” Morrow said. “You can expect her to get offers, but if she proves to be of the same mind as the rest of your acquisitions, there’s going to be some very disappointed people on that subject. The new director of NCIS is actively recruiting from various agencies and reviewed every single asset coming out of the last FLETC class. I imagine that tradition to continue. He has a lot of rebuilding to do.”
“Rush rounds out my roster,” Tony said. “I won’t need another recruitment period unless someone leaves or gets a long-term injury.”
“Why did you pick the cop for your final slot?” Morrow questioned.
“I needed a different eye—an experienced one—and Rush has been a cold case detective for a decade. She brings skills to the table that really can’t be taught, and they’re often undervalued. Cold case work isn’t glamorous or exciting, so her talent has been overlooked for a long time by those outside her division. Her compassion and drive caught my attention first, but her solve rate is frankly amazing.”
“She thinks like you,” Morrow said. “You have a long history with cold case work. The cold case unit at Norfolk wanted you when I was the director, but I pushed it aside, to my shame, because you were doing a great job of managing Gibbs. I’m sorry for that.”
“I wouldn’t have been interested at the time,” Tony admitted. “I was far too invested in making Gibbs happy.”
“Can I ask a personal question?” Morrow asked.
Tony nodded as the vehicle dipped in a way that told him they were entering the parking garage. “Sure.”
“Was it ever romantic between you and Gibbs?”
“No, thank god,” Tony admitted with a shudder. “Shepard burned him for that kind of thing with co-workers, which is just as well because I can’t imagine how that would’ve been gone. Why do you ask?”
“He’s put out a few feelers in the community trying to get your contact details,” Morrow said. “And apparently was pretty pissed to be told that your phone number and address are classified. He burned a lot of bridges scrambling to cover his own ass over the Rivkin mess. I don’t know what he wants with you at this point, but I thought it might be personal.”
“Maybe he heard about Ziva.”
“I doubt it,” Morrow said. “Her circumstances are classified at the highest levels here, and no one in Israel is going to talk to Gibbs about her either.”
“Then he might want me to give him information on her,” Tony said. “Did you want me to call him and assess the situation?”
Morrow sighed. “It would be good to know, but I don’t want to make things difficult for you personally. I doubt he’d tell me what’s on his mind. He expected me to help him, and when I didn’t, I became an enemy.”
“Gibbs isn’t a personal issue for me, sir,” Tony said as the SUV came to a full stop and the engine was cut. “I’ll take care of it today and file an official report on the results for his file.”
“Try to avoid giving that asshole a target,” Morrow muttered. “We don’t need him trying to get revenge again.”
“I’ll do my best, sir,” Tony said and glanced over to find Morrow smirking at phone. “Sir?”
Morrow snorted and tucked his phone into a suit pocket. “How long are you going to let Standish continue to send the FBI condolence flowers on your behalf?”
Tony shrugged and did a mental review of his last Amex bill. “I’m pretty sure he hasn’t sent any since I offered Weller sanctuary from the immense pain the FBI was causing him.”
Morrow lifted an eyebrow.
“It’s been ten months, to the day, since you accepted my offer,” Morrow said. “And Director Nelson just received two dozen yellow carnations from you.”
Tony laughed. “I…I’ll tell him to stop.” He sighed. “I mean Nelson wasn’t even the director over there when I made my decision.”
“Yellow carnations?” Morrow questioned as the door opened on his side under Weller’s hand.
“Disdain and rejection,” Tony supplied and shrugged when Morrow sighed.
* * *
Lilly Rush was perched on a chair in the stingy little room that provided a buffer between the hallway and the unit HQ. She stood as Weller closed the door.
“Agent Rush,” Tony said with some amusement. “You’re very early.”
Her pale cheeks darkened, and her eyes widened a little. “I couldn’t wait, sir.”
Weller snorted and moved around him. “I’ll let Vivienne know.”
“I’ve already been to HR,” Rush said and tucked her hands behind her back. “But I can occupy myself until the afternoon if needed.” She rocked a little on her feet, clearly eager.
“You can stay,” Tony said and shook his head as he put his palm flat on the door security panel. “Your desk is ready but empty, so you can work on that after the introductions. You have a lot of catching up to do, Agent Rush, and my expectations are high.”
“I won’t be a disappointment,” Rush assured.
“Your scores coming out of FLETC have caught some notice. I’ll work to divert that attention over the next few weeks as you settle into the unit. I need all field assets to be as unencumbered professionally as possible which means we don’t get noticed, we don’t do favors, and we keep to ourselves as much as possible even within Homeland itself. There are several other ghost units—across various agencies—but it is unlikely that we’ll work with them outside of extreme circumstances.” Tony motioned her in ahead of him. “Intelligence is gathered, assessed, and assigned to various teams by Cassandra.”
“Who is Cassandra?” Rush asked and pressed her lips together with a wince.
“It’s okay—questions are welcome and expected. Cassandra is an artificial superintelligence housed here at Homeland. Cassandra was commissioned by the department in response to 9/11. The system was initially designed to find and assess imminent terrorist threats. In practice, she saw a much broader spectrum of criminal behavior. Over the last year, we’ve started to work with that data in ways that best serve the mission of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Cassandra is a classified asset, and all information she gathers for distribution is done so in such a way that precious few people are aware they’re actually dealing with a machine. You are to never to discuss the existence of Cassandra outside this room. Clear?”
“Clear,” Rush said and exhaled sharply. “I didn’t know that was even possible—a genuine artificial intelligence?”
“Three months after I established my unit here at Homeland, Cassandra took a special interest in me. The higher-ups were concerned, to say the least, as she’d demonstrated no preference for agents before that point. I have a good idea as to why but I don’t discuss it. Don’t ask and don’t speculate. Up until that point, she was merely called The Machine as her maker didn’t give her a name. She asked me for a name and to be included officially as a member of my unit. I agreed.”
Tony put his backpack down on a table near the back of the room. “Everyone—our newest member has arrived bright and early. This is Lilly Rush from Philadelphia. She worked as a cop, specializing in unsolved homicides for most of her career. Her code name is Artemis.
“We use code names in the field exclusively and in mission reports. All of our cases are classified at the highest level. Do you have any outstanding court appearances in Philadelphia?”
“No, sir, I closed up the last loose end shortly before I went to FLETC.” Lilly looked around the room as the rest of the team gathered. “I’m ready to get started.”
“From your left then—SSA Vivienne Johnson, formerly of the FBI where she specialized in finding missing persons, code name Hera. Dr. Amita Ramanujan, applied mathematician, code name Athena. Amita consulted with the NSA, FBI, and CIA before joining Homeland at my invitation. Kurt Weller, also from the FBI where he worked in domestic terrorism, code name Ares. Dr. Megan Reeves, formerly of the FBI and our profiler, code name Hestia.
“Martin Fitzgerald, the second best-dressed man in this room on any given day, also from the FBI where he worked with Vivienne in missing persons. His code name is Hermes. Dean Bates comes to us from the United States Marines where he worked in the most classified project in the history of the planet and, honestly, his resume is going to blow your mind. In the field, Dean goes by the code name Apollo. And finally, we have Mick Rawson, field investigator and sniper formerly with the FBI where he hunted serial killers. His code name is Hades.” Tony leaned on his desk. “Questions?”
Her eyes lit with amusement. “What’s your code name?”
“I’m Poseidon, Agent Rush, and welcome to Olympus.”
* * *
Tony settled down in his chair and checked the placement of his team through the large window that made up one wall of his office. He honestly didn’t spend all that much time in the space as he worked better and thought faster in the midst of the energy of the team space. He had a second desk in the operations theater which he preferred most of the time.
Since he had a series of phone calls to make, Tony decided to tackle the worst of them first to get it out of the way. He slid a headset into his ear, activated the phone line, and dialed the number from memory. It said a lot of arrogant shit that Gibbs hadn’t bothered to change the phone number on his personal cell since everything went down.
“I heard you wanted to talk to me,” Tony said as he stood from the desk and walked over to the single stingy window in his office. It was darkened for privacy, and the tinting film was curling a little in the corner. He had to lecture himself regularly not to pick at it.
“DiNozzo. No one seems to know what happened to you,” Gibbs said roughly.
“I’m fine. Working. Living.” He leaned against the wall and stared at the sky. “Did you need something specific? The last time we talked, you weren’t all that interested in my personal welfare.”
“Your number showed up unknown on my phone.”
“It’s classified,” Tony said. “And no, I didn’t say that for drama or whatever you might be thinking.”
“You settled on a job then? Last I heard there were a lot of offers on the table.”
“I did,” Tony said. “Seriously, Gibbs, it’s been a long time since you wanted to know a single damn thing about me. Stop bullshitting me and tell me what you want.”
Gibbs sighed. “I heard through a friend that Ziva was sent back to Israel. Do you know her location and circumstances?”
“I’m not privy to that sort of information, Gibbs. It’s beyond my mandate and none of my business,” Tony said. “But for the record, I’m not a source for you now or in the future. It took me a stupidly long time, but I finally learned that I can’t afford to trust you. Moreover, I wouldn’t commit treason to save your life much less to assuage your need for control.”
“You didn’t trust me to begin with. If you had, you’d have done what I said and gone to Israel. You fucked up, DiNozzo, and everyone else had to pay for it.”
Tony laughed. “Come off it, Gibbs, don’t blame me for your mistakes. You and Vance were always going to go down. I’m just glad I didn’t get taken down with you as collateral damage. Abby and Tim lost their careers and their pensions. They were both talented enough to find work in the private sector, but thanks to your corruptive influence, all of their potential has been rendered useless to organizations and missions that could’ve used them to defend our country. That should keep you up at night, but I know it doesn’t.”
“And Ziva? Is Israel going to keep her in jail?”
Tony sighed. “I don’t know, and I don’t care what happens to your current daughter replacement, Gibbs.”
“Don’t you dare bring up my kid,” Gibbs snapped.
“Well, women only ever served two purposes in your life, Gibbs, a replacement for the daughter you lost or someone you could fuck and fuck over when you were finished with her.”
“I can’t even decide who taught me the finer art of that, you or Senior but, in the end, it doesn’t matter,” Tony said and turned so he could look at his team.
Amita and Mick were standing near Lilly’s desk. Mick was shifting stuff around on the desk to suit himself while Amita was trying to pull a stapler out of its plastic packaging. All three of them looked more amused than they should’ve been by new office supplies.
“The thing is that I’m seriously not interested in catering to your pathological need to be right even in the face of a mountain of evidence to prove otherwise.”
“We’re done,” Gibbs said tersely.
“Hell, Gibbs, we’ve been done since you decided that saving Ziva’s ass was more important than my life,” Tony said and ended the phone call with a press of his fingers. He leaned against the wall and took a deep breath.
A sharp knock caught his attention, and he looked up to find Vivienne staring at him through the window. He motioned her in.
She opened the door and leaned on the frame. “You have the face of someone who just talked to an asshole.”
Tony snorted. “He even had the gall to call me a bastard.”
She made a face. “I know you’re aware that you can say no when it comes to him. He’s a problem, yes, but he should be someone else’s problem. In fact, I’d wager that he’s 100 percent someone else’s problem.”
“He said we were done, so I doubt he’ll try to contact me again,” Tony said. “He wanted some information on the Israel situation.”
Vivienne frowned. “Hasn’t he ruined the careers of enough people? The fact that he thinks he’s entitled to info doesn’t bother him at all. Which doesn’t really make sense to me.”
“There came a point where treason stopped being a deal-breaker for him,” Tony said quietly. “I don’t know how he got there.”
“Grief, revenge, and traumatic brain injury,” Vivienne offered dryly and raised an eyebrow when Tony focused on her. “I think you made a good choice for the team. Mick’s already rearranging Agent Rush’s stuff, which says a lot.”
Tony nodded. “I have a few more calls. Do we have anything critical on the agenda?”
“Cassandra located the general area where Tony Stark is being held hostage and passed that information to SHIELD. Oddly, SHIELD did not make any effort to mobilize their assets in that area or pass the information to Colonel Rhodes, who is leading the search for Stark, so we did.”
Tony frowned. “Thoughts on that?”
“Nothing solid but I have Cassandra making inquiries and analyzing data regarding Stark Industries and their weapons contracts. She encountered a few roadblocks and has already requested one warrant in regards to the financial records of Obadiah Stane.”
“Keep an eye on that and get the DOJ on board with investigating SI,” Tony said.
Vivienne nodded and pulled the door shut.
His cell phone vibrated on his hip, and he pulled it free from his belt and checked it. There were a couple of text messages, the newest of which was the notification of a bank deposit from Global Dynamics. With a few flicks, he logged into his banking app and transferred the money into the account he used for charity donations and put the phone away.
Tony returned to his desk, dropped down in the chair, and tossed his feet up on the corner before dialing the second number on his mental list. It had been a little over five months since he’d worked in Ezra’s place for the ATF and he knew their team was back from a mission as of late last night which meant they should be in their office.
“Weirdo,” Tony said. “I know my number isn’t showing up on your phone.”
“I’m newly returned from my first assignment of note post-convalescence, so, of course, I anticipated your need to inquire after my welfare,” Ezra said smoothly. “The mission was free of physical complications.”
Tony hummed under his breath and picked up a tangle of paperclips. He separated them and placed them in a little pyramid on the magnetic holder that held a bigger knot of the little time-wasters. He honestly couldn’t even remember the last time he’d actually used a paperclip for its actual purpose.
“And the team?”
“One can almost smell the ennui permeating the air,” Ezra said. “They all wish to wed you and bear your progeny so that you can be together in amorous bliss for all your days.”
Tony laughed. “I’m glad you’re back to your version of normal.” He paused and considered mentioning the flowers but, honestly, it was amusing as hell, and Ezra deserved some sort of stress relief.
Out in the theater, he noted that Vivienne had activated the media wall. Lilly Rush was at her left, and Megan Reeves was standing with them studiously eating one of Amita’s donuts as she watched a demonstration she’d seen several times already. He didn’t think it would take long for the rest of the team to meander over and join in so they could show the newbie their favorite parts.
“Whilst I would appreciate a lengthy discourse, Mr. Larabee has summoned us to a briefing about a new situation that requires our attention,” Ezra said. “Stay safe, Dominic.”
“You do the same,” Tony said and ended the phone call. He frowned and took a deep breath.
His cell vibrated, so he pulled it free of his belt once more.
Cassandra has started calling me Father. Your doing? -HF
I’m rarely successful in getting a woman to do what I want. Did things with your new asset work out? – TD
Yes, he is an excellent addition to our mission. Thank you for the referral. Stop corrupting my program. -HF
Tony manfully refrained from sending Finch a silly gif in response and put his phone away. Eliot Spencer had spent a few months out of the country before he showed back up and asked Tony out. It had been tempting because the man was gorgeous, but Tony had already gone on a date with Spencer Reid, and it had felt like a done deal from the very beginning. Sending Eliot Harold Finch’s way in New York had made a lot of sense, so he was glad it was working out for all of them.
He left his office. “Viv, let our favorite UNCLE know that something is really out of place at SHIELD and, also, start prepping any friendly contacts we have in Afghanistan to help Tony Stark if he makes his location known.”
“You think he will?” Mick questioned.
“He’s one of the smartest men on this planet,” Tony said. “If he’s not already half-rescued himself at this point, it’s because he’s dead. Let’s work under the assumption that he’s very much alive.” He turned to Bates. “Dean, contact Agent Yates in Colorado and let her know that something’s up with SHIELD. She’ll want to start a review in the Mountain to make sure that problem isn’t contagious.
“Amita, set Agent Rush up with a laptop so we can start her briefing before lunch.” He focused on the media wall and frowned as images shifted around the various screens. “Cassandra, refocus your analysis entirely on SHIELD. Find out what’s wrong there and figure out what we can do about it.”
The AI didn’t respond verbally, but the screens started to shift more rapidly before settling down as the machine streamlined the data she was organizing and reviewing.
“Something on your mind?” Martin Fitzgerald questioned as he came to stand with Tony.
Tony hummed under his breath. “Why would an organization like SHIELD ignore information that could lead to the rescue of a very valuable DOD asset like Tony Stark? How did he end up kidnapped by a terrorist organization? His kidnappers had to have inside information on his movements the day he was lost.”
“Stands to reason that someone at Stark Industries wanted Tony Stark to disappear and there are those in SHIELD who aren’t all that mad about it.”
“And who would gain from killing the golden goose?” Megan asked as she joined them. “It’s no secret that Tony Stark is the single most successful R&D asset SI has. The company’s stock price took a massive hit just over the kidnapping. His actual death would cost the company a lot of money, not to mention how much SI would lose in future technological development. His death would serve an immediate greed but, in the end, it would be an immense loss.”
“Start at the top,” Tony advised. “Gather all public information you can on top-tier executives at SI. Figure out who benefits the most and the least in the short term regarding Stark’s removal from the company, Megan. Contact his assistant, let her know about the lead. I don’t know what kind of power she has in his absence, but she certainly has access to Stark’s AI. Let’s get Jarvis in the know as well; his reach into SI will far outstrip everyone else’s. The more information Stark has about his circumstances when he returns, the better it is for everyone else.”
“And if he’s dead?” Mick questioned.
“The DOD is going to feel it for decades,” Tony said. “And they’ll want someone to pay for it. Having a list of targets to give them will make our budget look like a good deal.”
Vivienne snorted from her place across the room and sent him a look. Tony just grinned at her.
* * *
Tony emptied out his pockets and dropped everything in the basket he’d placed on the narrow table in the foyer. He checked the security panel to ensure everything was it should be. His threat profile wasn’t as high as it had been while Eli David was alive, but Tony didn’t think he’d ever truly be able to let his guard down. The only member of his team entirely in the know about his circumstances was Vivienne, and she was the one that assigned Weller the handling of his transportation during the workweek when his schedule was the most predictable.
After changing his clothes, he went into the kitchen to start dinner since Harmon Rabb was coming over. It had been a few months since they’d connected in person, so Tony had invited him for a meal. He was putting the finishing touches on one of Harm’s favorite foods, chicken piccata, when the doorbell rang. He checked the camera feed on the monitor in the kitchen and went to let Harm in.
The Navy man was still in uniform but shed his jacket and tie in the foyer.
“Long day?” Tony questioned as he motioned Harm toward the kitchen.
“Longer than normal for a variety of reasons,” Harm admitted. “Where’s your prettier half? Out of town for a case?”
“Court appearance in New York.” Tony pulled two beers from the fridge and opened them. “I made your favorite.”
Harm grinned and sat down at the table. “What did I do to deserve that?”
Tony put a plate down in front of the man and took a deep breath. “Honestly? You saved my life in more ways than one. You opened my eyes to the fucked-up reality I was living, and I don’t just mean that whole aborted Israel trip. I was letting Gibbs ruin my life—one abusive head slap at a time—and I was so deep in it that I couldn’t see it.”
Tony brought his own food and the beers to the table before sitting. “I talked to that asshole today.”
“He called me trying to find you a week ago,” Harm admitted. “I told him to go fuck himself and hung up. Who told him how to get ahold of you? We’ll figure out how to ruin their life.”
Tony laughed and picked up his fork. “I got word he was looking for me, so I called him to head off anything more aggressive on his part. He really didn’t want information on me for any personal reason. He was looking for Ziva. I made it clear that I was not and never would be a source for him. Things to got a little heated, and maybe I jabbed hard an old wound I should’ve left alone, but the end result is that I doubt Gibbs will ever want anything to do with me again.”
Harm frowned and took a sip of his beer. “I heard State sent her back to Israel.”
“I heard the same,” Tony agreed and left it at that. “I picked up a cheesecake for dessert.”
Harm grinned. “I’ve rarely enjoyed saving someone’s life more.”
Tony laughed and sat back in his seat. “Life is short—so we should take every minute of joy we can, right?”
Harm saluted him with his beer. “Right.” He cleared his throat. “Speaking of joy—when are you going to ask Reid to move in with you?”
Tony flushed and sat back a little in his chair. “He spends a lot of time here already so I’m letting that develop naturally. I’d rather not run Spencer off, and I could if I get too pushy.” He shrugged. “I figured I’d turn the second bedroom on the first floor into a library/office space and see how long it takes for him to migrate all of his books into it.”
Harm grinned. “Great plan.”
* * *
Tony rolled over and picked up his cellphone as it continued to buzz away. It vibrated repeatedly while he input the passcode to gain access. Text message after text message rolled in from his team, confirming that they were mobilizing. He slipped out of the bed as he selected Vivienne’s name.
Stark recovered by Rhodes. SHIELD compromised. UNCLE en route. Threat level HIGH. Ares will pick you up in fifteen minutes. – Hera
Tony dropped his phone on the bed and went to dress. His world was new, his mission broader than he’d ever imagined possible, but he had a team he could trust and depend on at his back, and that would make all the difference in the months and years to come. At his dresser, he stopped to pull on a T-shirt and gently thumped the glass of Kate’s tank. The goldfish responded by rushing to the surface for food, so he fed her quickly.
“I didn’t do it personally, Kate, but in the end, that bitch paid for what she did to you. I hope you’re resting easier now.”