- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Canon Divergence
15 July 2009
Tony sighed and looked dejectedly in his refrigerator. It was late. He was tired and kind of hungry. The trip home from The Hague had been comfortable, and now that Eli was dead, it had remained uneventful. He still felt out of sorts-like he was waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. He chuckled a little as he remembered Q tearing into Bond over his little escapade as a sniper. Seeing a 00 blanch over whatever the Quartermaster was threatening had been made of all kinds of win.
With another sigh he turned his attention back to feeding himself. He gave the milk the side-eye. He didn’t trust the eggs any longer. The lettuce was sludge. Oh no. Food poisoning was not something he wanted to die from anytime soon. He grabbed his trash can and dumped everything into it, kicking it to the side and slamming the door shut. A look through his cupboards netted some canned cream of mushroom soup. It wouldn’t be his first choice, but he was hungry now. He’d heat it up then hit the store to buy real food.
All the running around interviewing with other agencies was great, exciting, made him feel accomplished and wanted and god damn it, it was a confidence builder. But on the downside, his diet had gone to hell and he missed having the time to cook for himself.
He dumped the can in a saucepan and doctored it with some of his favorite herbs—a little dried garlic, and some dried oregano because he really couldn’t stop himself and mushrooms loved garlic and oregano anyway—while he waited for the soup to heat.
A cell phone rang in his pocket—the cell only he and a certain few people knew about—and he pulled it out. “Hey, Buddy,” he said once he glanced at the caller ID.
“Hey, Tony. How are you doing?” Harm’s cheerful voice answered.
“Can’t complain. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy or met so many people. I gotta say, I’m kinda liking it. So, what are you up to?” Tony asked.
“Oh, you know, this and that. I got a call today. An interesting one. You know, when we put you in protective custody and told you not to contact anyone, two people weren’t in that no contact list. Dr. Mallard and Jimmy Palmer.”
“Yeah, I’ve already had some contact with Jimmy…” Tony trailed off, stirring his soup as he talked.
“Yeah, I figured. But actually, it was Dr. Mallard who called me. He wanted to know if he was allowed to contact you yet. Interestingly, he’s resigned from NCIS, or it appears he has, anyway. I know the new incoming director is not happy either way,” Harm told him.
“Ducky wants to talk to me? He left NCIS? Why? I know he thought about retiring but hadn’t thought he’d actually think he’d ever do it. Tom told me he’d taken some time, but I didn’t expect him to up and quit.”
“Don’t know,” Harm answered, and Tony could hear the shrug in his voice. “So. Do you want to talk to him?”
Tony poured his soup into a bowl and found a spoon. He thought about it. Did he want to talk to Ducky? Did he want to open that door? Ducky, though. Ducky had been patching him up for years. Had looked after him for years. Ducky had defended Gibbs’ actions. But, Ducky. Tony sighed mentally. “Harm? Yeah. Tell him he can contact me,” Tony said decisively.
“Alright. I’ll give him a call. Glad you’re doing okay. You gonna fill me in about all your offers yet?” Harm teased, stressing the all.
Tony chuckled. “Not yet. Bye Harm. Thanks. For everything.”
“My pleasure, Tony, my pleasure. Talk to ya later. Bye.” Harm hung up and Tony placed his cell on the counter. He grabbed his soup and spoon and went to eat in the living room. Finding the remote control, he turned on his TV and found a news channel. He spooned some of the mushroom soup into his mouth, careful to blow on it first. He grinned remembering his mother teaching him how to eat this very brand of canned soup as a kid.
It had been on a rare family holiday, a cabin in some woods somewhere. It had been spartan, to say the least, an open fire, a few pots and pans, and a stock of canned goods. And they had happily eaten canned soup for that whole week, laughing and joking together. Him, his mother and father. There had been so much genuine love between his parents back then. No matter how they had ended, they had loved each other desperately at one time.
He finished his soup, turned off the TV he’d ignored, rinsed his bowl and spoon, and headed to bed. Tomorrow would be soon enough to hit up the grocery.
* * *
“Keys, cell, wallet. Let’s go shopping,” Tony said to himself around a whistle and a grin. He’d slept well. Being home for even the night had left him feeling energized. He threw his keys up in the air and caught them on the down swing, spinning them around his fingers and opened his front door.
He gave a sharp yelp, not an unmanly squeal—he’d deny that to the grave. A yelp of surprise—yes, a yelp of surprise and ducked the fist coming for him. He reacted without thinking and grabbed the arm, intending to force the other man into an arm lock, instead he found himself with an arm full of air as the other man slipped away from him so skillfully it left Tony gaping. That was when he realised the other man was none other than Ducky.
“Ducky? You trying to hit me?” he asked, feeling wounded.
“My dear boy,” Ducky tutted, sounding shocked. “I would never try to hit you. I was about to knock on your door, however. Feeling a little jumpy, perhaps?” Ducky answered straightening his tweed jacket.
Tony ran a hand over the back of his neck looking down, a sheepish grin and blush on his cheeks. “Maybe, ah…life, life has been interesting of the last little while. You kind of caught me by surprise. Speaking of surprise, those are some surprising moves you got there, Duckman. You been taking classes? Keeping secrets?” Tony joked.
“Ah well, there are secrets and then there are secrets. I wished to speak with you. Can I? Perhaps even broaden some horizons for you?” Ducky asked.
“Oh Ducky, you have no idea how broad my horizons have gotten recently,” Tony said with an ironic chuckle, thinking about the SGC, and Aliens or Eureka and crazy geeks, super-secret spy organisations and Knights. “But you can talk to me anytime. I was just heading out to buy some groceries. My cupboards are essentially bare, currently. Wanna come?”
“Ah, well then, it seems I am just in time. Perhaps you can postpone your shopping trip and come along with me,” Ducky said grinning.
“Are you about to kidnap me Ducky? Should I be worried? Actually, where’s Gibbs? Ziva?” Tony asked, a little worry creeping into his voice as he suddenly thought about the two. He’d been so busy lately, he’d pushed them out of his mind, but seeing Ducky again had brought them right back.
“Those two had better stay away from me, if they know what’s good for them,” Ducky snorted. “I’m sure they’ll be dealt with in due course, one way or another.” Tony could see the real anger in his old friend’s eyes. That reminded him of something.
“Hey, Ducky, I heard a little rumour that you left NCIS. True or false?” he enquired.
Ducky chuckled. “I should have known you’d hear about that. True. It’s because I am no longer in the employ of that illustrious organization that I can speak with you now about what I wish to speak to you about. So, what do you say? Can your shopping wait for a little longer?”
Tony thought about it for a second. Mind made up, he turned and opened his hall closet and pulled out a packed bag. “I always have a go bag or two, am I going to need it?” he asked hefting the bag a little.
Ducky grinned a very unDucky like grin and waggled his eyebrows. “Bring your passport too, you never know,” he said as he turned and took a couple of steps away from the door.
With a shrug and a grin Tony went to get his passport and follow the older man. As he locked his front door, he looked round him. Ducky was striding away. He quickly checked his locks, tucked the keys into his pocket and chased after his friend. “Hey Duckman, wait up,” he called out.
Ducky looked back over his shoulder. “Perhaps you should call me by my real name Anthony.”
“Real name?” Tony asked catching up. “Donald?”
Ducky laughed but didn’t say anything. “All in good time, Dear Boy. All in good time.”
They were on the street before Tony knew it and he was following the surprisingly sprightly ME. Ducky stopped beside a black town car and waited, motioning Tony to get in before him. With a shrug and a confused grin Tony threw his bag in then followed. Ducky entered and shut the door. “Airstrip,” he commanded and sat back. Tony didn’t say a word, just watched. He blinked when the older man pulled open a compartment and suddenly Tony was handed a still hot BLT roll and coffee. One sniff and he knew it was his favourite and that it was still fresh.
“I doubt you’ve had breakfast yet. So, eat. We’ll talk soon,” Ducky told him and pulled out a cup of something for himself from the same compartment.
Tony sat back and started to eat his breakfast. “Guess I should be a good boy and follow doctor’s orders,” he said grinning.
Ducky huffed and looked askance. “That would be a change,” he remarked, his voice just short of scathing.
Tony gave him a wise guy grin and chomped on another bite of his roll. It really was quite good. He sat back and enjoyed the ride and breakfast, going with the flow had not disappointed him lately. No one had any right to complain when they were being chauffeured through the DC traffic in what was essentially a very classy limousine.
They pulled into the airstrip as Tony finished his coffee. It wasn’t any airstrip he’d ever seen and definitely wasn’t one used by the military. He narrowed his eyes. “Should I trust you? No let me rephrase that, why should I trust you?” he asked the older man.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t. But I can promise you, I will not let any harm come to you, Anthony. Not while it’s in my power.”
“Nice prevarication,” Tony said with irony, but he opened his door and got out of the car. He walked around to the other side as Ducky got out, too. Ducky smiled and led the way to the jet waiting on the airstrip. “This isn’t a military strip is it?”
“Neither military nor private,” Ducky told him.
“Just a few more moments, Anthony, I promise.” And Ducky jogged up the stairs and walked on into the jet, Tony on his heels.
“You’re a lot more sprightly than usual. Whatcha taking? New exercise routine?” Tony asked suspicions riding him hard.
Ducky sat elegantly in a seat and motioned for Tony to take the one opposite. He picked up the handset on the armrest of his chair. “We are ready to leave,” he said and set the handset down, then he swiped at a touch screen tablet that was sitting on a shelf embedded in the wall, tapped a couple of times and sat back. “Now we are secure. No one can eavesdrop nor can any listening devices hear us. I’ve engaged a jammer so we may speak safely. Would you like another coffee? Anything? No?”
Tony shook his head and sat back waiting.
“As you know, Anthony, I was not born in the United States, even if I have lived here basically for the majority of my life. However, I was not born in England either. No dear boy, I was born in Russia. My name is Ilya Kuryakin and in the 1960s I was recruited by an American based international organisation that was the front line of defence against agencies bent on the annihilation of freedom. We were called UNCLE, United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Once the arch enemy was defeated, we were disbanded and sent off with new identities. A few weeks ago, I was contacted and I was reactivated. UNCLE has been reassembled. I thought perhaps you might like to join us.”
“Ducky, are you trying to recruit me? And wait, are you telling me you’re a Russian spy?” Tony asked with a nervous chuckle.
Ducky laughed out loud and leaned forward in his chair, holding his hand out. “Dobroye utro menya zovut Ilya Kuryakin. Good morning, my name is Ilya Kuryakin.”
Tony couldn’t stop the grin crossing his face as he shook his old friend’s hand. “Ya rad tebya videt’ Kuryakin,” Tony responded, then he sat back still smiling.
“Oh Anthony, you truly are a surprise. Do you have any questions?”
“Oh, a million, Kuryakin, a million and one. But most of them will wait. Where are we going anyway?”
“Head office is in New York, Anthony. So, we are going there. There are introductions to be made. There are people who wish to meet you, then we’ll sit back and let you come to your own decisions about where your future lies. Mine, as you can guess, lies with UNCLE,” Kuryakin answered grinning.
“You were reactivated, isn’t that, I don’t know, high handed or something?” Tony asked waving his hand around.
“Perhaps but I can claim my own identity again. It’s as if I have been reborn. I am free. I have enjoyed being Mallard for years and being him has kept me alive and given me purpose. I can honestly say I know how someone in witness protection feels. Living a dual life. I was—I am a professional. Even when I was KGB, I was taught to be brutal in becoming what was needed to accomplish a satisfying conclusion to a mission. I am Mallard. Under my skin I am Mallard. One has to become the character if one is to survive. However, being Ilya again has allowed me to breathe. As I said, I am free,” Kuryakin told him seriously.
Tony thought about what the other man had just said. Last time this agency had disbanded, their operatives had been given false identities and let go. He’d known this man as Ducky for years. The cover had been good enough to fool the current alphabet soup, so that said a whole heap about their knowledge and resources. If a fake ID had gotten Kuryakin through life all these years as an English born eccentric ME, they knew what the hell they were doing. Tony was definitely intrigued. “How long before we land?”
“A few hours. You look tired Anthony, why don’t you recline your seat and get some rest. I’ll call you before we land.”
“I’d hate to sleep through flying in a Lear Jet,” Tony said, trying to stifle the sudden yawn attacking him.
“We’ll fly you home in one later,” Kuryakin told him as he pulled out a tablet and woke it from its hibernation. “Get some rest, Anthony. There are shadows under your eyes. If you do decide to join us, I will reserve the right to be your treating doctor. Beyond everything else, I am still an MD.”
“Cool,” Tony said, then his eyes closed and after a sigh he was asleep.
He woke to a gentle shake and his eyes flew open. “Duc-ah, Kuryakin. Damn sorry,” Tony mumbled.
The older man smiled softly and sat back. “We are about to land Anthony. That drink is effervescent vitamin B. Drink it; you’ll feel better.”
Tony chuckled and did as he was told. It was hard not to do as he was told from this man. Hell, he’d just slept here, even knowing Ducky wasn’t Ducky, was in fact a KGB trained American spy, he’d felt safe enough to sleep. What was wrong with him? But Kuryakin or Ducky, Tony’s instincts said this man could be trusted and Tony was listening to those instincts again. He dropped the empty glass into a holder and felt the jet start its descent.
* * *
“What is that car?” Tony breathed in awe. They were disembarking, climbing down the stairs, a gorgeous sleek silver car was waiting at the bottom, a distinguished looking man around Kuryakin’s age leaning on it casually.
“This, kid, is a Piranha,” the man said, giving Tony a rakish grin.
Tony blinked at him. He gave the man the side-eye. “I meant the car, not you.”
“Touché, kid,” the man said as they came up to him and held out his hand. “Solo, Napoleon Solo. AD of UNCLE. You already know our Director of R and D. You ready to see the office?” Solo said, his voice deep and cultured.
“You remind me of my father,” Tony told him.
Solo winced. “That can’t be good. I’ve read about your father.”
Tony shrugged. “It’s the conman vibe.”
Solo grinned again. “Can’t argue there. I was a conman before the CIA. That’s why they recruited me, that’s why UNCLE wanted me. And that’s why they reactivated me. Conmen make the best spies and undercover agents.” Then he turned from Tony and pulled Kuryakin in for a hug.
Tony chuckled at the look of exasperation on Kuryakin’s face as he accepted the hug.
“He does that on purpose,” he told Tony when Solo let him go again.
“Of course, I do. So, are we ready to go?” Solo asked opening the car’s gullwing door and motioning Tony in.
Tony folded himself into the back seat and made himself comfortable. The other two took the front seats and Solo drove off so smoothly Tony barely felt it. He looked around the car curiously. “She’s gorgeous and she’s interesting,” he murmured.
“As important in a car as a lover. Inside, she’s even more gorgeous than outside. Again, as important in a car as a lover,” Solo threw over his shoulder.
“Can’t argue there. So, I know Kuryakin, tell me about you,” Tony remarked leaning back into his seat.
“Oh, not much more to tell. You read me right, almost. I started as a conman. Made a good living and kept me busy. Then, like I said, the CIA came along and before I knew it I was running legitimate cons that were called undercover operations and saving the world.
“I’ve been in semi-retirement since UNCLE disbanded, just keeping myself out of trouble until very recently. There are new threats out there and UNCLE is needed again. Ilya and the higher ups thought you’d be a good fit for our motley crew. So here you are.”
“You don’t agree with them.” Tony didn’t make it a question, it was a statement.
“I don’t disagree. I think you’re loyal. I think you’re selfless. I think you’ve got the skill. I don’t know if you’ve got the heart. The heart to run the long con and maintain. The heart to run it and not lose yourself in the process. Ilya thinks you could be an asset to us and I’ll take his word for it. That doesn’t mean I won’t be watching and doing my own evaluations kid.” Solo said it all with a grin in his voice and on his face.
“I think I like you,” Tony said despite himself. “I should be insulted, but you want to see me before you judge instead of relying on my reputation or what you read. I like that. You want me to prove myself worthy.”
“Not worthy kid. You already did that years ago. I want to know what we ask of you won’t destroy you. This line of work can be brutal. Especially fieldwork. But Ilya thinks you’d be a good fit for the labs as well. Apparently, you’re no slouch around a computer.”
“How’d you find out about…” Tony trailed off.
Solo was grinning widely. “We’re UNCLE kid. We know everything. Including about your friends under the mountain. And the Geeks with their cats and houses. We’ve even had dealings with your super-secret friends in suits from across the pond.”
Tony swallowed his surprise at their knowledge of the SGC, Eureka, and the Kingsmen. Then grinned back. “Was that a Hobbit…?”
Solo just twinkled and Kuryakin chuckled. “Welcome to UNCLE, Tony,” Solo said driving into underground car park that appeared out of nowhere and then the world moved around them. When movement stopped Solo got out and let Tony out after him.
Tony looked around. “Holy Batcave Batman!” he exclaimed. They were in a massive garage come armoury. But he’d only ever seen these weapons in sci-fi movies. “Are those lasers? And weaponised dive suits? And-and? Oh my gods? Oh-oh-oh sharks, sharks with laser beams on their heads? Do you have them? Could you do it?”
Kuryakin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do we? No! Could we? Easily? But we shall not do it. Come, we have a tour planned.” And off he strode with Tony hot on his heels, Solo grinning and bringing up the rear.
* * *
Days in and Tony still felt like a kid in a candy store. Ilya, as he asked Tony to call him, had kept presenting Tony with high tech and dangerous toys. Kept talking UNCLE up. Really kept trying to recruit him. Tony wasn’t uncomfortable, but it had to stop. A man could only take so much of his childhood fantasies before he was well and truly bowled over. So, he handed the head of R and D back his laser gloves and hugged him gently. “Thanks, Ducky, Ilya. I needed to know someone still cared. I didn’t even know how much I needed it,” he whispered.
The other man hugged him back, fiercely. “I’m sorry I wasn’t of more help to you before, my dear boy. You deserve so much more than what had been handed you. You, Anthony DiNozzo, are eminently worthy of all the good there is in this world. I feel I let you down at NCIS. I am resolved to not allow this to happen again, whether you join us here or not. Little gets past UNCLE. Wherever you land, even and especially if it’s top secret. I do enjoy Q’s antics, not his responsibility of course, however 007 is not that dissimilar to Solo. Regardless, if you need me, I shall be there, on your six. I might even ask those friends of yours under that mountain to check Jethro and perhaps Vance for a parasite or two. They have the technology to do so. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but…”
Tony chuckled and took a step back. “You’re something else, Ilya. So, what would be my code name? I already met the new Kuryakin and Solo. They’re as pretty as you and Napoleon, those two. What about me?”
Ilya grinned wickedly. “Code name Dancer. Always underestimated. Deadly when needed. A pure Chameleon. I remember her fondly, she was one of our best.”
Tony felt his brows raise then he huffed a chuckle. “Well, nothing wrong with that. Most female characters are kick ass in video games. So, do you always recycle names?”
“No, not at all. Only a select few are given the opportunity. Most will choose their own, why?”
Tony grinned and looked at the 7-foot behemoth walking towards them. Tall, broad, strong and with his teeth in braces. “’Cause he has to be code named Jaws.”
Ilya laughed and patted Tony in the shoulder. “Anything you say, my boy. I’ll make the suggestion. Now I believe it’s almost time for you to go home. I shall ensure the jet is ready when you are, shall I?”
Tony ducked his head and grinned. “Yes, please. Maybe this time I’ll actually stay awake and enjoy being flown in a Lear fucking Jet. I can’t believe I wasted the flight in by sleeping.”
“You were tired,” Ilya shrugged.
“Hmm, more than I realized, and in more ways than I realized too. Oh, by the way, the Lear, the fancy cars, the sci-fi toys and gadgets. Are they…?” Tony left the rest hanging.
Ilya chuckled. “There are many, many agencies bent on the protection of our way of life in this world, we all have our little peculiarities. UNCLE, in many ways like Kingsmen, enjoys doing things in style. So, the jets, fancy cars and sci-fi toys and gadgets, as you say, are all a part of the UNCLE agent’s arsenal.”
Tony giggled like a child, running a hand over an actual lightsaber. “Oh damn,” he sighed. “Oh ahh, I guess Jimmy has no idea? That you’re not returning to NCIS?”
Kuryakin shook his head. “Do not worry about Mr. Palmer. I already have my eye on him.”
* * *
His flight home was smooth as silk and remarkably luxurious. A Lear Jet was hard to compete with after all. Taking stock, he felt lighter. Inside. His heart felt lighter. He hadn’t realised how he’d needed to resolve at least some of his past. Hanging out with Ilya had helped. Speaking, at least a little, with him about the past had helped put everything into perspective and shown him he hadn’t been wrong. Whereas his head had always known, taking one for the team had been a bat shit crazy idea, doing what he had by calling Harm, had always felt in many ways a betrayal. But his discussions with his old friend had absolved him of the majority of that guilt. And the dregs of guilt left behind would be dealt with in time, when he was ready for them.
* * *
He disembarked the plane to see the same limousine and driver from the week before waiting for him, the door open. He got in and gaped. The back seat was full. Full of paper bags and crates. When he looked, they were full of groceries and organic fruits and vegetables. “Ah, what the hell?”
“Courtesy of Dr. Kuryakin and a perk of being an UNCLE agent these days. A personal shopping and even cleaning service. No agent should come back from a mission to an empty kitchen and dirty home. I’m James, by the way. If you join us, I’ll be yours,” the chauffeur told him from the front as he smoothly pulled into traffic.
“Huh?” Tony gaped at him. “What!”
James chuckled. “Think of me as your military trained and very well armed Personal Assistant. I’d make sure you always have a home and life to come back to. I’m also your full-time driver. You’d choose your preferred car of course.”
Tony leaned back in his seat and grinned. “Okay. Great. Then I just have to say this. Home James,” his tone imperiously pompous.
Both men cracked up laughing before James gasped out, “As you wish.”
Tony groaned, still smiling. Yeah, he felt better.