- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Death - Major Character
- Discussion - Murder
- Hate Crimes
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Challenge Response
- Ménage or More
Chapter Six: Return to Work
Two weeks later, Tony was sitting in Ecklie’s office comparing notes with what he’d been told happened while he was gone with what had been officially reported. The Trio were scheduled to start back to work later that same day, and he needed to touch base with the Undersheriff before the beginning of his shift. There were decisions that needed to be made. Some much more difficult than others.
“Tony, thank you for coming in to see me,” Conrad said and Tony nodded smiling. He knew the reputation that Ecklie had as an uncaring hardass. Fortunately, Tony was an expert at dealing with such individuals, and because of that had so far gotten along just fine with the man.
“No problem,” Tony replied taking a sip of his coffee. “I’d planned on touching base with you anyway, and doing it before shift start makes sense.”
Conrad smiled and nodded as he seemed to settle in his chair more comfortably. “How’s the new house? Did you all get everything set up the way you want it?”
Tony nodded enthusiastically. He was absolutely in love with their new house. It was built in a Classic Colonial style, which was unusual for the area they were in, but Tony’d immediately fell in love the first time he’d seen it. The property was quite a bit larger than what they’d been looking for, but beyond their property was nothing but a vast expanse of wild desert. They were going to spend a fortune on electricity paying for the air conditioning, but it was completely worth it.
The home was two stories with a basement, and several outbuildings. It looked more like something that belonged in New England than in Nevada, but Tony had been enchanted by the building. One of the outbuildings was actually a guesthouse, and the trio had immediately declared that it would belong to Spencer and Aaron.
Thinking of the genius gave him a pang of worry, but quickly he felt soothing vibes sent along the bond he shared with Greg and Nick, which helped settle him. Their fellow Packmate was safely ensconced in Honolulu with the 5-0 team. During the day he spent his time with Aaron in the Swing’s room reading to him or just telling him what was going on in the world. at night, he was staying at Lt Commander McGarrett’s house. A member of 5-0 was with each of them at all times. it was the best solution that Tony had until they could find the right place for Aaron in Vegas. Where that was, they would not know until Tony had time to talk things out with his cousin once the Elite Protection Team arrived that evening.
“The house is wonderful,” Tony gushed turning his thoughts back to a happier subject. “I am more thankful than ever for the money my Uncle Clive left me when he died. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to get things done so fast. I hear there was an issue while I was gone between Catherine and Warrick over who was running the shift?”
Undersheriff Ecklie nodded sighing. “I appointed Warrick temporary supervisor as per our discussion over the phone given that Nick wasn’t available, obviously. By the way, he has started attending his mandatory sessions for his gambling addiction as per your order. Anyway, Catherine was less than thrilled about the decision, needless to say, and made her displeasure known. Warrick asked that I let him handle it, and promised me that he’d contact me if he couldn’t deal with the situation. There was apparently an incident at a crime scene yesterday, and he called me to let me know he wanted her sent home because she was trying to cause a disruption with the other shift members. I talked to the two of them and the officers on the scene and quickly agreed with his request. She is to be coming in today to find out what is going to happen as a result.”
Conrad sighed and took a sip from his coffee mug before continuing. “Honestly, I am highly disappointed in her. She’s letting Sam’s prejudice ruin her career. I’ve always known Catherine to be a good woman. While it is true that she’s incredibly headstrong, she’s never let it get in the way this much before. The Sherrif and I reviewed that course that you suggested we set up that your friend runs, and we agree that it would be good for not just lab members but for the PD as a whole. We also would like to see you add two more members to your team, and one of them to be your co-SIC along with Nick. Warrick advised me that he doesn’t want to be put in a lead position again, and Sarah advised me she also wasn’t interested at this time. I think that with yourself, Nick, and Greg being a bonded pairing that your shift will need extra people on it.”
Tony nodded making a note on his phone. “I will look into it, and I think you are right. Nick and I had already discussed he may need to step down from the position, but I like the idea of having two SICs long with a couple new team members. From what I have seen of this team’s case load, they are almost always running more cases per person than I would like to see. I will review the details of the incident last night, and then talk to Warrick as soon as he comes in. My initial thought depending on the severity of the incident that there be a suspension and that the training courses will need to be completed before she comes back if Warrick’s Sentinel status was a factor. That of course depends on how she handles this talk. I’ll be honest. I am done being patient with her. If she comes in with attitude, then she may just very well find herself unemployed.”
“It was,” Conrad said sighing. “Catherine basically accused Warrick of fabricating evidence because he rightly wanted to use his Sentinel abilities on the scene. It’s something that we’re authorized to do, and he’s been licensed as being ranked high enough to use his enhanced eyesight and hearing in the field. She raised such a fuss that the officers on the scene had to come in and separate them because they were afraid that she was going to attack him, Warrick for his credit had refused to engage her beyond ordering her off of the scene. Brass was there and told me that he was afraid for a second that they were going to have to physically remove her.”
Tony sighed and ran a hand over the back of his neck as he considered the situation. “This isn’t good, Conrad,” Tony commented frustrated. “Forget the Second in Command position. If she’s going to act like that, I can’t even allow her onto a crime scene. Surely this isn’t the first time that either Nick or Warrick have wanted to use their enhanced senses at a scene before. If I recall from when I reviewed their personnel files, both Sentinel CSIs have licenses to use all or part of their enhanced senses at scenes, and Hodges is licensed to use his enhanced smelling and taste both in the lab and to be called into the field as a Sentinel Specialist if needed.”
“That would be correct,” the Undersheriff confirmed. “We use the enhanced senses all the time in the field while collecting evidence or to assist with talking to witnesses and victims. Brass came to see me last night. Apparently, Catherine’s getting a lot of pressure from Sam not to give in. He’s even trying to convince her that she needs to sue, which is ludicrous, and she won’t win. So, I hope that she doesn’t go through with it. The law is very definitely on our side in this, every law enforcement agency in the country requires minimum S&G training to be hired. Frankly, I don’t know how she got in without it. I have a feeling that Grissom was involved in it though.”
Tony shook his head and suspected from what the former Lead had told him that Conrad’s guess was the truth. “Well, she’s not going to get away with it any longer. You are correct that the law is on our side. One of the areas I specialized in for my Criminal Justice degree was S&G law as it relates to law enforcement. I will talk to Warrick and the Catherine. As long as Warrick’s statement matches what you’ve told me then she will be placed on indefinite suspension until she completes a series of training, which will now be added to from the original list. I feel for her. I know what it’s like to be manipulated by your father, but she’s a grown woman. I can’t allow her attitude to put cases and team members at risk because she won’t stand up to her daddy. If she walks out of the lab without a job though I also won’t be surprised. I’m going to go in hoping for the best, but be prepared to have to deliver the worst. I have to look out for what is best for the lab, and at the moment she isn’t it.”
Conrad nodded and held out his hand as Tony stood. “I agree with your assessment Dr. DiNozzo. Let me know if you need my assistance further, but I have nothing but faith that you’ll get this all worked out satisfactorily.”
Tony was in his office talking quietly with Greg and Nick when Warrick knocked on the doorframe and walked in. “You wanted to see me, Boss?”
Tony nodded and waved him in as Nick and Greg made their excuses, and then left patting Warrick’s shoulder on the way out shutting the door behind them. “Please, have a seat. I need to get your account of what happened yesterday at the scene. I’d also like to hear your thoughts on how things went while I was gone.”
Warrick let out a deep sigh as he took a seat in front of his new boss’ desk. “Man, I don’t wanna do that, again. I have a new appreciation for you and Gris after that let me tell you. Seriously man, I don’t know how you do it.”
Tony smiled as he settled back into his chair. “Leadership has its good points and it’s ‘why the hell am I doing this, again?’ moments. That is for sure. Let’s start with the issue last night so that we can get it out of the way.”
Warrick nodded and began explaining things from his viewpoint. “Catherine and I were at a scene in one of the suburbs investigating the death of the single male homeowner. It appeared that he had been killed in his living room, and that there was a struggle. As I was processing my area, I kept hearing a ticking sound from the other side of the room where Catherine was. When I would ask her about it she kept saying there was no ticking, and it must be in my head. I wanted to use my enhanced hearing that I am licensed to use on scenes to track the sound down, and I need her to be my witness that I wasn’t doing anything shady. And, that’s where it went crazy!”
Warrick shook his head in obvious confusion and disgust as his mouth turned down into a frown. “The thing is we’ve done this probably a hundred times or more. She watches me do my thing, and makes some comment about me playing games. I find the evidence, and then she finds some way to justify how it’s something other than my Sentinel senses. It’s annoying, but Nick and I are both used to it by now. For some reason though this time she chose to take serious issue with the whole thing.
“She started bitching that she knew how to do her job, and that she didn’t need me coming in behind her looking over her shoulder now that I was Team Lead. And, I needed to remember that once ‘that super freak with the degrees’ returned with Nick and Greg that I’d be knocked down to being a nobody again just like her.”
Warrick ran a hand over his mouth before continuing. “When I tried to reason with her, she just… I don’t even know, Boss. It just kept getting worse no matter what I said or didn’t say. At some point Brass and the two officers on the scene came in, and Brass ordered her to get her shit together. That didn’t help though, because given that he’s a low level 2 sense Sentinel she just accused him of being part of the conspiracy against her.”
Tony cocked his head at the last statement, and he began to worry that there was some psychological issue to the whole thing. He decided though that he’d let Warrick finish before he asked questions. “Eventually, Brass ordered the officers to escort her off of the scene, and called one of the stand by CSIs to come help me. While we waited, he watched me as I tracked the ticking sound, and found a high-end men’s watch hidden behind a table and underneath a floor length curtain out of view. We think it must have gotten thrown or something, hit the wall and landed on the table.
“There was evidence to suggest that the table was bumped at some point, because there was a lamp and a couple glasses that were turned over. I think the watch most likely at that point slid off the table and fell onto the floor behind the curtain. Where it landed, you couldn’t see it, and had to move the table to get to it. I’m sure Catherine would have gotten around to it, but…” Warrick broke off at that point, and just shook his head again.
Having decided he’d heard enough, Tony spoke up. “A couple things. First off, you and Nick should not have to ‘get used to’ someone mocking your abilities. I don’t even know how someone who works in a laboratory could not believe something that has been scientifically proven. This isn’t some theoretical mumbo jumbo like is Bigfoot real. This is actual proven fact, and the mocking and bullshit will be ending. I will not allow an environment where people are treated like that. It only fosters hidden resentment that will eventually blow up in all of our faces.
“Secondly, Brass and the two officers on the scene all complimented how you handled the situation, and I wanted you to know that you have my thanks for keeping things professional in the face of that mess. I have some questions I would like to ask you, because you know Catherine better than I. If you don’t want to answer, I will understand.”
Warrick nodded his understanding and Tony proceeded with his first inquiry. “I am concerned by the comment Catherine made about there being a conspiracy against her. Do you think that she was just throwing that out there, or does she really believe that there’s a plot in the lab against her?”
Warrick sighed. “I like Catherine. Probably a lot more than is wise, or than I should, but fortunately, not enough to act on it and make a really stupid mistake. Enough so, though, that we’ve spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the off hours. I know everyone blames her issue with Sentinels and Guides on Sam Braun, but they forget that he wasn’t around when she was a kid.
“She didn’t even know he was her father until she was a teenager and almost out of high school. While she did have contact with him before that it was only on occasion, so I can’t see how he had a huge impact on this. Not to mention that I’ve heard her tell Sam off when she feels that he’s wrong. No, personally I think this issue is more from her mother, whom she is incredibly close to.”
Warrick scratched his chin and resettled in his chair before going on. “I’ve met her mom a few times, and to say the woman doesn’t like me is putting it nicely. At first, I thought that she was racist, but lately I am wondering if this whole thing is because her mom doesn’t like Sentinels and Guides. ‘Cause while everyone knows Sam isn’t fond of them, he employs Sentinels and Guides in his casino willingly even. From what I’ve heard he won’t hire a head of security that isn’t at least a 4 sense Sentinel, and he prefers Guides to be working the tables so they can feel if someone is cheating.”
Warrick shifted in the chair, Tony assumed to get more comfortable, as he could see the CSI stretching out. “So, it seems to me that he’s willing to put his personal bullshit aside for business, and I can’t see him wanting Catherine to tank her career over a group of people he readily employs. Now, how he treats those Sentinels and Guides is a whole other thing, and honestly, I can’t see him even wanting to be in the same room as you without his personal security there. I think to be honest that Catherine doesn’t know what she thinks or feels about Sentinels and Guides. Some days she seems almost completely on board about the whole thing, and then some days she will barely even admit they’re real and treats them like unicorns. I do think though that if she truly believed that her job was going to be in danger that she would pull her head out and at least be on board enough to be civil about it. I umm…”
Tony arched an eyebrow at the other man at the pause and what felt like a change in the subject. “After the… after Holly died, Grissom did chew my ass. So, when you brought it up again after all this time I wasn’t… happy. I want you to know though that I get it. Maybe more now after being in charge of this place at night for the last few weeks, but I get it. I won’t be giving you a hard time about it.”
Tony eyed the man on front of him thoughtfully, and after a few minutes of contemplation decided to let him in on a few things. “When I got out of college, I went directly into the Peoria Police Academy. I then spent the next six years and some change working in three different PDs. I started out in Peoria, but eventually moved to Philadelphia PD where I did undercover work. I ended up having to leave there because it was found that the Police Chief and his three most senior captains were getting paid off by the Vicca mob family that I was investigating. I had to leave Baltimore PD when I found out that my partner was dirty and taking bribes from another mob family.
“When I was at NCIS, my boss Gibbs got amnesia for a while and I had to lead the team. The director refused to do anything about the reprimands I wrote up for my team members when they came in late, left early, or refused to follow commands. She then tried to get me to work an unsanctioned undercover job at the same time, until I told her I would quit and take everything I knew straight to SecNav. My father is a conman and a criminal and I despise everything he is and represents. You are still on my team because Grissom stuck up for you. He assured me that you had learned your lesson, and asked me to give you a chance. So, I am doing that. Prove him right, and I will fight to the death for you. Pull any BS like you did that cost Holly her life and I will personally see to it that you’re put behind bars.”
After Warrick nodded his understanding, Tony asked one final question, “Are you sure about not wanting a Co-SIC position with Nick?”
“Yeah, man,” Warrick assured. “That shit is crazy. I’m not ready to be in charge of anything yet. Besides, I am hoping one of these days that I’ll find my Guide, and I think that I want to keep my options open, ya know?”
Tony nodded smiling. “I do, and I respect your decision. Should you change your mind, please let us know.”
Instead of answering right away, Warrick stood and held out his hand. “Thank you for the chance, Dr. DiNozzo.”
“You’re welcome,” Tony offered as he stood and shook the man’s hand. After the CSI left, Tony sat back down and began his review of the current case files. Several hours later, after the reviews were done, and new assignments were passed out, Tony was reviewing some cold case files when he heard someone come into his office. From the scent of the perfume, he guessed that it was Catherine before looking up to see who had come in.
“Ms. Willows,” Tony greeted, settling back in to his chair, again. “Please shut the door, and have a seat.”
“What for? Just tell me whatever bullshit punishment that you’re going to dish out so that we can get on with this,” she spat back and he forced himself to take a deep breath and hold onto his temper.
“This can go two ways, CSI Willows,” Tony began calmly but firmly. “You can take a seat, be civil, and we can have a discussion, or you can turn in your resignation, and the Las Vegas Crime Lab will wish you luck on your future endeavors. Let me make myself very clear though. I will not tolerate your attitude. You’re no better than anyone else in this lab. I absolutely will not apologize for getting this position instead of you. I busted my ass to get here just as much as you did…”
“Yeah right,” Catherine sneered. “Poor little rich boy who’s ridden daddy’s coat tails his whole life.”
“And, frankly, I don’t care if you believe it or not,” Tony continued on as if she hadn’t spoken. He wasn’t going to get sucked into her name calling game. “Sit and talk, or leave and find yourself another job. Those are your only choices here. While I have some sympathy for you, it’s really not enough that I am willing to put up with the abuse you are heaping on me and your coworkers because of your deliberate ignorance. Sit. Leave. Decide now.”
Opening a folder, he slid a piece of paper toward the front of the desk. “Should you choose to leave, please sign that first. It’s your termination papers, as well as your acknowledgement that you’ve been advised that your anti-Sentinel and Guide actions will be reported to the S&G Center. From that point they will be made available to any future employer who inquires with them about any negative actions on your part toward the Community.”
“Whatever,” Catherine snorted as she came forward and signed the paper. “You’re not the only game in town, and your threats don’t scare me. You’re nothing more than a playboy who’s sweet talked his way into this position. When they figure out what a con you are they’ll come and beg me to come back. I won’t be gone long.”
With that the woman stomped out, and Tony was left to stare after her feeling like he’d failed somehow. It was absolutely not the resolution he wanted, or even expected given what everyone had told him. Shaking his head, he put the form in the folder, and woke his computer up. He had some reports to file with the S&G Center.
After the shift was over, Tony was sitting at his desk wrapping up some paperwork. Nick and Greg were sprawled over a couch he’d brought in waiting for him so that the three of them could meet the rest of the team at a local restaurant for a team breakfast. No one had expected Catherine to leave, and Tony felt like they needed something to remind themselves that everyone else was still there.
Just as he was finishing his last report, he heard a knock on his door, and looking up saw Detective Brass standing there. “May I come in?”
Tony nodded and stood to shake the hand of the former shift supervisor that he hadn’t had time to meet yet. He knew from his talk with Grissom that the Detective was honest and someone he could put his trust in. Because of this, he had been planning to introduce himself.
“Detective Brass, it’s nice to meet you,” Tony greeted shaking the man’s hand.
“I’ve heard good things about you so far,” Brass acknowledged as he sat in front of the desk. “I wanted to come and make sure that you weren’t taking this exit of Catherine’s on yourself.”
Tony signed and as he tried to figure out what to say. Both Vallo and Caan appeared with Caan in his lap, and Greg’s spider monkey on the back of his chair. “I will admit that I feel like somehow I messed something up. Everyone I talked to said that in the end she’d come around, and yet instead I ended up having to file an incident report with the S&G Center and termination paperwork with the crime lab.”
“The S&G Center contacted me about your report because I am a Sentinel and was listed as a witness. I agreed with your assessment that there was some outside stress and possibly parental manipulation contributing to her actions. I also saw that her paperwork listed her as having left voluntarily, and that she was eligible for rehire under certain conditions. Catherine is a good woman and was Grissom’s right hand for years. She knew how to play the political game better than anyone, and would absolutely not be driven off any path she’d chosen to follow. This was not your fault, so cut out the bullshit guilt. You’ve done everything you could to do the best for both her and your team. Frankly, you were a hell of a lot kinder to her than I would have been.”
“We’ve been trying to tell him that for an hour, Brass,” Nick pointed out, and Brass just shrugged keeping his eyes on the new Team Lead.
“Doctor DiNozzo and I had a common friend,” Brass admitted offering a sad smile. “And, if I know Leroy Jethro Gibbs, which I did, I am guessing the good Doctor here will respond best to the blunt approach.”
Tony straightened eagerly upon hearing the name of his mentor and brother in every way that really counts. “You knew Gibbs?”
Brass smiled nodding once more. “I did. We went through Basic Training together, and served together on my first tour. He was a damned good man, and the world lost one of its greatest protectors that day. Some morning after shift we’ll go out and raise a glass to a hell of a fine Marine.”
“And you’ll tell me Gibbs stories?” Tony asked eagerly, and Brass chuckled nodding.
“Only if you do the same,” Brass negotiated, which Tony was happy to agree to. Without speaking further, the grizzly detective stood and headed out leaving behind a man much happier than he was when the older man arrived.
Chapter Seven: Help Arrives
When the three mates reached their new home, with Nick driving, the car hadn’t even been turned off yet when Tony felt other people on the property. Frowning he looked out both the front window and the various side windows, but didn’t see any other vehicles.
“Do you guys,” he started to ask and was immediately cut off by Nick.
“Yeah, you have your weapon on you, right?”
Tony nodded as he slipped out the door on his side as Nick and Greg did the same. He wanted to be irritated at the way Nick seemed to want to protect him as if he were some helpless civilian, but there was something inside of him that not just accepted his Mate’s protective instinct but welcomed it. He wasn’t sure how he felt that his normal instinct was seemingly being overridden by some weird mystical predisposition. It wasn’t the first tendency that he noticed that was counter to his normal personality, and knew that at some point he’d have to examine the changes and decide how he felt about them.
“There’s something about one of them,” Greg offered quietly as he stood next to his Sentinel to help anchor him as he spread out his senses over the property. “I just can’t quite…”
“Yeah,” Nick agreed as his eyes scanned the desert area behind their property. “Almost feels like…”
He stopped speaking when a man came walking around the far side of the wraparound porch at the front of the house. Tony saw his two mates raise their weapons, but he was already putting his in his holster as he began moving across the lawn in long strides.
“It’s ok!” He called back, as the man on the porch stepped off and headed his direction. Tony knew the wide grin on the man’s face would match the one on his own. “Edward, thank God that you’re here.”
The two cousins met midway across the lawn with a hug, and Tony felt himself relax. Having someone familiar there, like his cousin, helped make him feel more secure. When the two pulled apart, Nick and Greg had moved to stand near them, and two other men were coming from the direction of the out buildings.
“Edward, these are my mates Sentinel Nick Stokes and Guide Greg Sanders.”
He got distracted from the introductions as he heard Brando making a grumbly greeting to someone. Turning his head to find the animal, he saw the large grizzly checking out a smaller sun bear. Dwight was sniffing at what Tony recognized as Edwards polecat Agent P. He heard the roar of a bobcat as it made its presence known before trotting over to size up Brando. Vallo must have determined that Agent P was OK, because he’d appeared to look for bugs to pick from the animal’s fur. When he felt Caan twining himself between his legs, Tony belt down to give the cat a scratch behind the ears before it strolled off to sniff at Agent P.
As the two strangers reached their little group, Edward began introductions. “Tony, Nick, and Greg, this is Sentinel Moss Dougal and his bonded Guide, Christian Robertson. We typically just call him CJ though. The other half of the team is in Hawaii getting Aaron transferred to Bennington where Dr. Reid’s mother is located at. We felt it was the most secure place for Aaron although we may want to revisit that once everyone is settled. When they come back, Dr. Reid will be accompanying them. It seems that karma is on our side, as two of Dr. Reid’s former BAU team members are part of this team. So, Guide Emily Prentiss and Sentinel Derek Morgan have gone to Hawaii along with Sentinel Jasmine Mirandez to escort them back here to Vegas.”
“Let’s go inside and get comfortable. Then we can lay everything out.” Nick suggested feeling prickly about hanging out on the lawn. Feeling his Sentinel’s unease, Tony looked to him but saw that Greg had already taken his hand. As they approached the porch, Tony noticed a pile of bags hidden behind the row of bushes, which the protection team picked up on their way inside.
Nick led the newcomers upstairs to show them their rooms, as they indicated they would prefer to stay in the house than be separated from their charges by taking the guest house. Tony and Greg followed them up only long enough to change, and then the two men headed downstairs to get drinks and settle into the study/library combination room. There was a mini fridge in there with water, tea, pop, and beers. Tony grabbed a bottle of peach tea, while Greg grabbed a water for himself and a tea for Nick when he came in. Greg then settled on the couch, while Tony prowled around the room with Brando and Dwight following closely behind him. Caan had stayed outside with Agent P, the Sunbear which was apparently called Yogi, and the cougar which was named after James Dean, but normally just called JD. Vallo had followed them into the library and was bounding between bookshelves and other perches they’d put in there for him, Archimedes, and Aaron’s bald eagle Sam, when the Swing woke up from his coma.
By the time the others made it to the room though, the two animals had herded Tony to a chair near where Greg was with Dwight resting at his feet and Brando sprawled over one side resting his head on Tony’s chest.
“Shouldn’t the cat be on your lap?” Moss asked coming into the room before heading straight for the windows to keep a watch outside.
“There are drinks in the mini fridge there,” Tony offered before answering. “We’ve found that Brando thinks he’s a lap dog and likes to sprawl out all over whomever he thinks needs cuddling. Caan thinks he’s a mini-lion and is probably stalking something outside.”
“Leave it to you to have Spirit Animals with identity issues,” Edward quipped as he came in followed by CJ.
Tony arched an eyebrow at his cousin when the man took a chair across from him. “And where is Agent P?”
Edward’s lips twitched with amusement as he admitted, “Most likely stalking behind Caan.”
“Hmm,” was all Tony offered in response drawing a snort from his English cousin. “So, let’s get down to business, shall we?”
“Agreed,” Edward replied nodding for emphasis as he placed a tablet on his lap. “Let’s get all our cards on the table, and make sure we all have the same information. T, give us a rundown of things on your side, if you will?”
Tony sighed and then nodded, but didn’t respond right away. Instead, he spent several moments running his fingers through Brando’s fur and scratching behind his ears trying to decide where to start. He often found it amusing that the Spirit Guide that supposedly represented his Sentinel side was the cuddliest of the two, and the Spirit Guide that supposedly represented his Guide side was more prone to wanting to claw your eyes out before he devoured your face. But then, he’d always been one big mass of conflict and confusion. So, he supposed that it made sense his Spirit Guides would be as well.
“I guess it started just after Director Shepard died. Ziva David and I were assigned to be her protection detail on a trip she was taking to LA for a funeral. Everything went according to plan until the funeral ended. At that point, Director Shepard told us to take the rest of the trip off and asked for the keys to the vehicle.”
Tony paused to look down at his water bottle. Jenny’s death would always be what he considered his greatest failure. He knew that he’d never be able to completely bury his guilt over not being there. It probably didn’t help that it was the very subject that he was arguing with Gibbs about when the older man died, and that he now knew he’d been able to feel the disconnect between the older man’s words and how he was really feeling when he was shot.
“At some point after that, she met up with Mike Franks and ended up in a shootout at an abandoned diner in the desert. Ziva and I were sent home while the NCIS LA team investigated her killing. I could tell that Gibbs was upset with me when I got back, and since I knew that I was at the very least partially to blame, I gave him a few days before I was going to go to see him. Looking back on things, I think Spencer is correct in that some of my Guide abilities had started to appear and I could faintly feel the difference between what he was saying to me and how he actually felt. Before we could get things settled though, we got called in for a case. We were hurrying across the parking lot to our car to head to the scene, and I was trying to get him to talk so that we could clear the air. I knew that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to a crime scene with us not on the same page. He kept telling me that he wasn’t mad, but given his past, with Jenny, I found that hard to believe I just didn’t know why I didn’t believe what he was saying at the time. We were arguing about it when…”
Tony stopped and ran a hand over his face feeling Nick’s hand on his arm to offer some comfort. Turning his head, he smiled weakly at his Sentinel and felt a burst of comfort come through the bond from Greg. He took an unsteady breath to try and settle his nerves before he continued. “The last thing that he said was my name. I don’t think I’ll ever get that out of my head. That and the feel of his blood on my face. That’s the second time I’ve experienced that and I hope to God that I never feel it again. First Kate and then…”
At that point, Edward cleared his throat seeming ready to offer what he knew. Tony knew that his bond with his cousin was changing in relation to Tony’s own change from Undetermined to Swing, and actually looked forward to a closer connection with the family member that meant the most to him.
“We have evidence that shows Jennifer Shepard was part of the organization that we believe is responsible for Gibbs’s death. We also have evidence that she was to have brought you to the diner so that you could be killed before coming online. We don’t know why she didn’t for sure. Ashcroft’s theory is that she had a moment of clarity. In that moment the person that she was rose above her illness, realized what she was doing, and knew that killing you was wrong. We’re not sure why she didn’t call off the whole thing, or if Mike Franks knew what the truth was, but we believe that it had something to do with Svetlana Chernitskaya. We also have evidence to show that Ziva David was involved somehow. We just don’t know her exact role.”
“So, she was…”
“Unlike the US Government who likes to stick its head in the sand and pretend uncomfortable facts they don’t know how to deal with just don’t exist. The British Government recognizes Swing SentinelGuides as do many of the international allies of the US. Unfortunately, we also recognize just how much danger these citizens are in for various reasons that are backed up by numerous historical events, and therefore have chosen to stay silent on the subject. In my opinion, this allows secret factions more power. I also believe that it just puts Swing SentinelGuides in more danger because they don’t have access to various services the Community could offer them. It also leaves them disenchanted and feeling as if the rest of us that are recognized see them as second class to us.
“Jenny Shepard was a part of an international secret faction that targets all in the Community, but specifically Swing SentinelGuides. She specifically participated in a plot that would have resulted in the murder of an offline Swing SeintinelGuide. To be clear, that person who was targeted was you. At the last minute, she had a change of heart, possibly because of her impending death. At a later date, the same faction was responsible for the death of Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Aaron Hotchner being shot in front of his Guide.” Edward said firmly waiting for his cousin to connect the dots for the death that would truly haunt him forever.
Edward nodded carefully and tilted his head to one side knowing he had to continue, but that this was the one part of the story he didn’t want to share. “We believe that you were the true target. Gibbs was concerned that you would be in danger and theorized that whoever was behind the deaths of the Swing SentinelGuides was tracking the Undetermined statuses. We believe he heard something and… Tonio, we think he was saving your life.”
Tony felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on him. Jenny Shepard had been out to kill him, and Gibbs had died saving his life. He was responsible for Spencer and Aaron losing their Sentinel.
“There’s more, T.”
“Jesus Christ, Eddie!”
“I don’t know how familiar you are with Spencer and Aaron’s team or their original True Sentinel, but the BAU tangled with a serial killer named Frank Breitkopf. He was a psychopath serial killer and abductor who liked to make people watch as he cut them open and remove their rib bone. We have evidence to suggest that he had targeted previous potential Swings. Ashcroft himself found evidence that shows he was paid off to prevent Jason Gideon from changing his mind about his True Mates. He had informed a few people that he was regretting his previous decision just before Frank popped up onto the BAU’s radar.”
“What are you saying?” Greg asked speaking up for the first time since they’d moved inside.
“We believe that Breitkopf was hired by this group to drive Jason Gideon to the point where he would no longer be able to bond with Aaron and Spencer. The bonding would have already been difficult due to the extent of damage done during Jason’s first breakdown. At this point, it’s impossible. Jason Gideon is now Dormant, and unable to form any kind of bond with a Guide or a Swing SentielGuide.”
“How do you have all of this information?” Nick asked scratching behind one of Brando’s ears absentmindedly as he tried to process what he was hearing. He was seriously concerned about the emotional feel of his Swing that Greg was relaying to him through their bond. Everything that came before the information about Gibbs’ death was bad enough. However, to find out that he was in some way responsible for the death of the man he called brother was too much. Unfortunately, because their bond was so new, Nick wasn’t sure that he knew how to help.
“I have been working on the Swing SentinelGuide deaths since I moved from MI6 to join the S&G Center after my friend Alec Trevelyan was mentally manipulated and then killed by this group. Tony and I’s cousin Ashcroft is the Quartermaster at MI6 and works on this with me along with their top agent 007. My current team was formed exclusively to put an end to what is going on.”
When Tony moved to get up, Brando made a sound of worry but moved regardless to allow the Swing to stand. The others watched as the former NCIS agent left the room. When the front door slammed, Moss hurried to follow the Swing outside. When Greg got up to follow, Edward shook his head slightly looking sad.
“I would give him some time. I am not trying to interfere in your relationship, and there will be no hard feelings if you feel that you need to follow him anyway. Anthony generally needs some time alone to lick his wounds before he is willing to receive any kind of comfort. Especially when he feels he was in the wrong and caused the ill deed. This revelation about Gibbs will hit him hard. I wish I hadn’t had to tell him that bit of information, but to hold it back would have put him in a greater danger.”
“So, do you think that these people are still targeting Tony?” Nick asked as Greg scooted over to curl up into his body when Nick slipped into the seat Tony had vacated.
“I do,” Edward confirmed as CJ moved to the window where Moss had been so that he could watch the front lawn area.
“In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I have had CJ and Moss here in Las Vegas since the day after Anthony came online. They have been watching the three of you when you were all together, but their primary responsibility was Anthony.”
“Have they seen anything?” Greg asked softly. His words filled with concern.
“Not thus far,” Edward admitted reluctantly, “however, one thing that I did hedge the truth on was Ms. David.”
Edward shifted in his seat and took a drink before continuing. “We believe that Eli David and his children are not just heavily involved with this scheme, but that Ziva was placed with Anthony’s team to keep an eye on both Anthony and then Gibbs once Aaron came online and they bonded. The biggest question is where they are getting this list of Undetermined statuses. The list of people who have access to this information is quite… small.”
“Suddenly, I’m not sure this really is the best place for Spencer and Aaron,” Greg admitted softly.
Edward gave a sigh and nodded his understanding of the feeling. “Believe me when I say that it was heavily debated. However, Blair was concerned with Spencer’s mental health, and how Anthony would react should Aaron not be brought here. Blair feels that Anthony is the future of our community, and doesn’t want to do something that will impede his growth and faith in the SS&G Family.”
There was something in that statement that caught Greg’s attention. He wasn’t sure what it was though, and for the moment filed it away until he could discuss it with Nick and Tony in private. Unable to wait any longer, he kissed Nick on the cheek and then headed outside to find Tony. He had a mentally tormented Swing to soothe.
Once he got outside, Greg headed toward the outbuildings. Besides the former guest house that was being given to Spencer and Aaron, and their new Sentinel if they found him, there were two other buildings. One was being used as a large man cave slash home theater where they could watch various sports events or one of Tony’s many movies. The other had been given to Tony to set up as a workshop. After their Swing had told them just what Gibbs meant to him and admitted to wanting to take up woodworking as a tribute to the man, they encouraged him to bring the tools to Vegas and try his hand at it. Tony had confessed that Gibbs’ basement had been something of a sanctuary for him and he hoped to find something soothing to hold onto by creating a similar environment.
Tony had been reluctant when he’d first heard the idea insisting that he would be no good at it and they could find a better use for the large building. Nick though had pointed out that no one is good at something when they first try it, and that if that was how he wanted to honor Gibbs than he should. Eventually, after a few hours spent curled up on their bed with a room full of Spirit Animals, Tony agreed to accept the offer. Tobias Fornell had personally seen to the packing up of the basement in exchange for an invitation to visit whenever he’d like. Tony admitted that he missed the older man, and when he heard his fellow Italian was kicking around the notion of retiring quickly made the invitation. He’d even set up a college fund for Emily Fornell, Tobias’ only child, so that the cost of her continued education wouldn’t be a factor. He’d used part of the money he’d inherited from Gibbs’ estate to do it knowing it was something his friend would have approved of.
Nodding to Moss who was pacing around the area like his bobcat Spirit Guide, Greg went into the barn and was unsurprised to see Tony sitting at the work bench. He was a little surprised though to see him sketching something out.
“Whatcha workin’ on?” Greg asked softly as he walked over grabbing one of the stools Tony bought for when he and Nick came out to watch. Before he sat down, he peered over Tony’s shoulder seeing some kind of a box being drawn with what looked like the Marine logo in a corner.
“Making a box for Gibbs’ flag and his metals to display out here,” Tony finally admitted. The way he quickly peeked at Greg supported the nerves that the younger man could feel along their bond.
“That’s a great idea!” Greg responded enthused, and took a seat on the stool giving the Swing some space. “Does he have a lot of them?”
“Seven Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Awards from NCIS, plus a purple heart and his various other awards from the Marines. He has a silver star also, but… I don’t have that one. He gave it to someone else.”
“Wow!” Greg considered that for a moment before replying. “He must have been a hell of a man.”
“One of the best,” Tony said hesitantly. When it looked like he was trying to make his mind up about something, Greg just remained quiet waiting to see if he’d continue. Eventually, his patience paid off when Tony continued speaking softly with equal amounts of pain and reverence in his voice.
“Gibbs was one of the biggest bastards I have ever met in my life. We used to tell people that the second B was for bastard, and they’d laugh like it was some joke. If they spent more than 15 minutes around him though, especially when he was in case mode, and they would figure out that it wasn’t a joke. We’d have to earn basic things like the right to eat or take a break when working a case. He constantly played the team against each other. Even though I was his Senior Field Agent he never treated me like I was anything more than another agent on the team.
“He was forever going off all halfcocked by himself or keeping secrets that weren’t necessary making it nearly impossible to watch his six. Some days I would go home and question whether I had brain damage because it was the only thing that would explain why I stayed. But then…”
Tony trailed off for a moment, and Greg once more remained quiet as he waited to hear what he was hoping were the positives. There better be positives coming because at the moment Greg wasn’t feeling too supportive about Tony’s former boss.
“When I was laying in the isolation unit at Bethesda sure I was going to die from the plague, he stormed in, gave me a pat on the top of my head, and ordered me not to die. Not even a minute before I’d been sure I was toast, but the second his order came I knew that there was no way I could disobey. I’d never let him down by outright disobeying an order and I wasn’t starting then. When I met him in Baltimore I’d already had to leave one PD because of corruption, and by the end of that investigation it was apparent that it would be happening for a second time. Gibbs swore to me that he’d have my back if I came to work for him. Rule #5: You don’t waste good. There might have been times that I hated his guts, but I always knew that if I was in trouble he’d scorch the earth to find me.”
Tony paused at that point, and Greg gave into the urge to touch. After scooting his stool closer to the older man, he reached out and placed a hand on the man’s upper thigh. Squeezing slightly he hoped the Swing could feel how much Greg already cared, and that he wasn’t alone to carry his pain anymore.
“When my father made an appearance last year in the middle of a case, after mostly ignoring me for about 30 years, Gibbs did his best to help me keep my head on straight. Even when I was fucking up, he stood by me and tried to get me back on track. When he was all done, he ordered me to his house and cooked me a cowboy steak and let me vent. He understood that no matter how much I hate my father for how he’s treated me that a part of me will never be able to stop wishing that he’d love me. Whenever I felt lost or had something in my head that I couldn’t work out, or even if the walls in my apartment just felt too small, I’d go over to his house and sit on the bottom step of the stairs down to the basement.
“Sometimes I’d talk and sometimes I wouldn’t say a word. Sometimes I’d bring food, sometimes I’d bring beer, and sometimes I wouldn’t bring anything, but he never bitched. He’d just sit there and work on the boat or whatever project he had going on and let me be. He was my first safe haven. He was the first person who made me feel like I belong, like I could mess up and it was ok. He might get pissed, and he might head slap me into the middle of next week, but he always forgave me and always wanted me to be the best me I could. We didn’t agree on everything, and sometimes I just wanted to tell him he was being an ass, but he was my big brother and my best friend and every fucking thing I had… And he died because of me.”
“No,” Greg said softly but firmly making Tony look up. “He died for you. He died because some asshole wanted to kill you because you’re different and you’re special and that makes them feel threatened. He died because he took an oath to his country at the very least, but more likely he died because he loved you and wasn’t about to let some asshole steal you from the world because we need you. He died a hero, and I will give my thanks every night for the rest of my life that you had him to watch your six. We’ll find these motherfuckers, and we’ll take every last one of them down and we’re going to do it for Gibbs because he deserves that. At the very least, he deserves that much.”
When he got done, Greg held Tony’s gaze until the older man nodded and went back to his sketch. There wasn’t much outwardly change in his expression, but he could feel the change through their connection. It felt lighter than it had since he and Nick walked into Grissom’s old office and met the last part of their whole.
Interlude: Happenings in Hawaii
Spencer sat next to Aaron’s bed holding his hand, and recited Stephen King’s Dark Tower series to him from memory. Aaron loved to read horror books for pleasure, and had a copy of every one of Mr. King’s books. Reid knew that The Dark Tower books were one of his favorites, and because of that this was their second ‘reading’ of the series. In the corner of the room was Jasmine Mirandez from the team sent to protect the two of them, and outside the door today was Officer Kalakaua from the 5-0 Task Force, who refused to give up their protection detail as long as the two men were in Hawaii.
When Spencer arrived in Honolulu, Tony was by his side not allowing him to travel alone. This despite Tony’s new bond, and the fact that Spencer was a grown adult fully capable of navigating an airport. Of course, Tony pointed it out that it wasn’t getting lost at LAX while he transferred planes that he was worried about. So, Spencer had given up his argument about not needing an escort. When they reached Hawaii, Tony only took long enough to introduce him to his friend Danny and Lt. Commander McGarrett before heading off to the check-in desk for his return flight to Vegas and his mates.
At first, Spencer wasn’t sure how he should feel about the verbose blond Guide who seemed to never be happy and had a complaint about everything. The blond, along with the intense looking dark haired SEAL, quickly ushered him to baggage claim to get his suitcase. They then escorted him out to a Camero that turned out to be Guide Williams’ even though it was driven by Sentinel McGarrett. The entire way back to their headquarters, he listened to the two of them bicker. Quickly though he picked up the thread of teasing that lay under the words that sounded harsh and biting.
Over the remainder of the day he observed the blond that Tony called a friend, and soon he realized that the New Jersey native used words as a shield the way Tony and Greg used inappropriate jokes. Once he’d had time to dissect the man’s personality, he could easily see the worry and other emotions balled up underneath the bitching and complaining. He also saw enough fond eye rolls and affectionate smiles from his team members, that it didn’t take him long to relax.
In fact, once he got to know the man, he actually grew to like his sharp wit and ornery personality. Soon the two men were engaging in wild debates that left them both waving their arms over the place as they argued their points. The rest of the team often watched them baffled as they smiled indulgently. Spencer liked the man so much, he’d made sure that they exchanged email addresses and phone numbers so that they could keep on contact after Spencer went back home to Vegas. Detective Williams wasn’t the only one he thought that he’d made lifelong friendships with though.
Detective Kelly was almost the polar opposite of Detective Williams. Spencer found himself drawn to the other man when he needed moments of peace, but didn’t want to be alone. There was something about the man that inspired a feeling of safety and security. The two of them could sit in a room talking quietly, or not speaking at all, and when Spencer left he always felt better than when he went in.
He didn’t know Chin’s cousin Officer Kalakaua as well, but what he had seen reminded him a lot of Emily. Similarly, Lou Grover reminded him a great deal of Rossi, and Spencer found himself missing his talks with the veteran profiler. Mentally, he made a note to himself to reach out to the older man once things calmed down. The man was a good friend to Aaron, and he deserved to know what was going on once Spencer was allowed to talk about it.
Maybe the best thing that had happened, though, since coming to Hawaii was when Emily and Derek showed up. Despite how much he hated being touched, the first thing he did when he saw Derek was wrap his arms around him and refuse to let go. Derek Morgan was more brother than friend, and Spencer hadn’t realized just how very much he’d missed the older man until he was there in front of him. If his face was a little wet when they finally pulled apart, everyone had the courtesy not to mention it.
Even Emily, whom he wasn’t as close to because of their rocky beginning, got a hug. It wasn’t that he wasn’t aware what the team had meant to him, but more like he hadn’t realized just how much he depended on others until he was all alone again. He’d gotten used to having someone there when he really needed them, or at the very least, only being a phone call away. Now that he’d reconnected with Emily and Derek, he was desperately missing the others, namely JJ and Garcia. And, his Godson Henry. He couldn’t forget Henry, and he was terrified that the little boy had forgotten him. He’d have to make sure he talked to Tony to see if it was safe to make contact with some of the others from his old team.
When Emily and Derek showed up to protect them, Spencer had been surprised, but relieved to see his friends. He knew he could trust Aaron’s safety to them. He’d been relieved when Lt. Commander McGarrett insisted on 5-0 remaining a part of the detail until the two were off the islands though. Fortunately, Emily had been happy for as much help as they could get, and quickly agreed to the request.
Spencer hadn’t been sure what to think of Agent Mirandez, who was the third member of the protection detail from the S&G center and unfamiliar to him, when he’d first met her. He quickly discovered that she was very laid back and accepting of his quirks. She was also very dedicated to her job, which was something that won her big brownie points with Spencer. When he saw how easily Derek and Emily interacted with her and how much his best friend trusted the woman who was unknown to him, he relaxed further and took the leap of faith to trust her with Aaron’s safety.
At night when he was forced to leave Aaron, one of the protection detail was always with him at Steve’s home, which had given him more time to get to know the woman. He’d found out that she was a former Marine and had been recruited for the team after saving a High Level Guide who came online in the middle of a combat situation. While her dedication to Aaron’s safety was what won him over professionally, the enthusiasm with which she was willing to debate Dr. Who with him and Steve was one of the things that had won him over personally.
Lt. Commader McGarrett reminded him a lot of Aaron, and because of that Spencer hadn’t gotten to know him as much as he probably should have. Or, maybe it was just that what he’d gotten to know he’d firmly kept behind a barrier. The same part of Spencer that missed his Swing SentinelGuide and his Sentinel so badly, longed for a connection to the Lt. Commander that Spencer knew wouldn’t be a good idea.
Spencer’s, and eventually Aaron’s, lives were very firmly in Las Vegas with Tony. Lt. Commader Sentinel Steve McGarrett’s life was very definitely in Hawaii. Therefore, a matchup between the three men would never work. Once he’d quietly explained the problem to the Commander, Steve graciously understood, and did his best not to push the issue.
When the door opened and Emily came into the hospital room, Spencer waved to her, but continued on with the story until he came to a good stopping point. Thankfully, Emily was used to his quirks, and knew not to interrupt him unless it was an emergency.
“Any news?” Spencer asked knowing that she and Steve had been working with the doctor on the best way to get Aaron to Vegas with as little stress to him as possible.
“Steve managed to get a spot for all of us on a Medical Transport heading east. They’re going to drop us off in Vegas on their way to Bethesda. So, we should be out of here this afternoon.”
Spencer couldn’t help but release a sigh of thanks. He missed his Chieftain, his Champion and his Madge terribly. As soon as the words entered his head, they echoed a bit making his mind stutter. As far as he knew, that terms hadn’t been used for more than 100 years to refer to the Community. As he examined them though, they felt right. There was something that made the words feel like home, and at the same time, make him question why now?
He had enough interaction with Blair and Jim over the years since Gideon turned his back on them to know that the two Primes had never commanded that word. Chieftain, Champion, Mage were, when combined, something traditional and ancient that the Sentinel and Guide society had gotten away from. However, there was a part of him that, now that he’d had the thought, longed for those connections. They felt safe. Like, as long as the three of them were around, then not just he, but the S&G Community as a whole would be OK.
“You look like you’ve just had a revelation,” Emily said drawing Spencer away from his thoughts as Detective Williams came into the room. “Usually I see that look when we’ve been chasing an unsub for three weeks without making any headway, and you’ve just discovered the piece we needed in that big brain of yours.”
Opening his mouth, Spencer quickly shut it, and looked to Jasmine. “Jas, can you give us a second? I… I think this needs to be… I don’t…”
“It’s cool, Doc,” Jasmine said calmly. “I’m familiar with the concept of keeping bursts of inspiration to a limited number of people. I’ll go chat with Kono outside. Just let me know when you’re done.”
Once she’d left the room, Spencer looked to Danny, who was watching him expectantly. “Tell me how you feel when I say to you that Tony is your Chieftain.”
Spencer watched the Detective straighten, and interestingly enough, even Emily seemed to become more alert.
“I feel like I immediately want to call him and check that he’s safe,” Danny admitted frowning. “Why? What just happened?”
“I don’t know,” Spencer admitted turning over the facts as he knew them in his head. “I was just thinking about going home to Vegas, and got a random thought that I missed my Chieftain, my Champion, and my Mage in my head. And, it just… I don’t know. It felt… more. It felt important. It felt… right.”
“For what it’s worth, Spence,” Emily offered. “I don’t know who you’re talking about, but the second you said the words I felt like I needed to find them and ask them not to go away, again.”
“What does this mean, Doc?” Danny asked, but Spencer stayed quiet. Shaking his head, he turned his gaze to Aaron wishing his mate was awake as his mind began turning over the possibilities. While Spencer had sometimes what felt like a limitless amount of facts and details in his head, he didn’t always understand the social and emotional implications of those details. Over the hears since they’d connected as something more than superior and subordinate, he’d come to depend on the older man to understand what the information he was offering meant and to relay it in such a way that Spencer understood the emotional and sometimes spiritual side of things.
Somewhere in the background, he heard Emily explaining quietly to Danny about him solving puzzles in his head. Then, at some point, they left as Jasmine came back, but Spencer didn’t comment. Instead he tried to figure out what was happening to the Community, because it was painfully obvious to him that something important was changing. No matter how he turned the ramifications over in his head, he couldn’t help but feel like it was a good thing in the end. Now more than even just a few moments before he longed to go home to Vegas and be surrounded by the safety and the comfort of his Pack once more.