- Rough Draft
- Character Bashing
- Discussion - Murder
- No Beta
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
- Challenge Response
- Established Relationship
Tony DiNozzo was standing on the balcony off his bedroom in his apartment watching the sun come up. The city was just quiet enough that he could thin his shields a little to get a reading on the city. A city that would someday be his city, well his and his Sentinel’s. The two of them were supposed to have at least a month off before rejoining NCIS, but things had gotten pushed up due to circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control. Therefore, the dinner that they were supposed to have with the DC Primes, was moved up.
Both DC Alpha Sentinel Prime Malory Holmes and his husband DC Alpha Guide Prime Sam Seaborn were fierce in their own right. Anyone who thought that the Alpha Guide was anything less than ruthless and cutthroat when necessary obviously missed the fact that the man had at one time been President Bartlett’s Deputy Communications Director. To Tony, the fact that the Alpha Guide Prime had given up his spot in a President’s cabinet to support his newly discovered Sentinel, who at the time was still a Colonel in the Army, said everything he needed to know about the man.
When the pair was originally appointed as DC Primes, the expectation was that they would be in that position for a long time. However, there had apparently been some shuffling in the future planning of the East Coast Primes hierarchy, because the previous evening, the DC Primes had asked Tony and Mitch if they would consider taking over responsibility for DC from them when they move up to East Coast Primes. It wasn’t going to happen immediately. The current plan was for at least 5 years before any changes would be made, but it would give the two of them time to get settled in their relationship and become more involved in the community.
Tony had never aspired to lead anyone on that level, but he knew the second that the offer was made that his Sentinel would be hard pressed to turn it down. Despite the fact that they were still learning each other, Tony knew at least that much about the man who now made up the other half of him. The very idea that there was another half of him was still an oddity that Tony was trying to adjust to. It wasn’t necessarily the reason that he was out of bed so early, but it wasn’t not the reason either.
Mitchell “Mitch” Jason Cutler was the oldest of two children of Guide Vincent James Cutler and his wife Sentinel Margaret Virginia Cutler. He had a younger brother Kyle who was a detective with the DC PD and the reason why Tony and Mitch had decided to settle in DC rather than Seattle where Mitch had been living. Mitch and Kyle’s parents had relocated to DC a couple of years back when their father finally retired from his position at Duke University. Their mother had retired the year before from her nursing position, and the two decided to move to DC to be closer to their youngest son who had just married his wife, a Sentinel who worked in the DC Prosecutor’s office, and was expecting the family’s first grandchild.
Tony hadn’t yet been able to spend much time with Mitch’s family. They’d met once briefly over dinner after Tony and Mitch got out of their nesting period before the two had been sent overseas to work on a task force tracking down a handful of arms dealers. Tony was aware from the DC Primes that the current SAC of the Navy Yard Jennifer Shepard had wanted a spot on the task force and apparently was still holding a grudge. She’d already been upset that she’d been passed up for the Director’s chair, and hadn’t taken the news that the man who had been given what she considered her job placed someone else in the position she wanted.
Why the DC Primes were aware of all of this, or why the pair had taken the time to warn Tony and Mitch that their might be some who were less than pleased with his return to the Navy Yard was a mystery to Tony. However, not only had the pair warned them, but the Alpha Prime Guide had pulled Tony aside specifically to make sure Tony understood that if there were any issues they damned better call either Malory or Sam.
Generally, Tony was one who preferred to handle his issues himself, but he was smart enough to know that when the Alpha Prime Guide of his home territory gave an order you better damned well follow. The conversation was proof that while Sam Seaborn might be hella good looking, he was also seriously intimidating, and Tony had no problem believing that he’d been completely badass in the courtroom.
Later, when he and Mitch had returned to Tony’s apartment, his Sentinel filled him in on the fact that he was given a similar order by the Alpha Sentinel Prime. He’d also confessed that he’d been as quick to agree as Tony had been, which made the Guide feel much better about the rapidness of his own acceptance. Feeling a pair of arms wrap around his waist, Tony smiled as he felt his Sentinel’s weight press against his back as he gave his typical early morning rumble of greeting which really was all sound and contained no known or recognizable words. To say that his Sentinel was absolutely not a morning person was an understatement.
The pair had met in the aftermath of the Jeffrey White case. Tony had been sitting in the back of an ambulance getting checked out by an EMT who was not buying Tony’s claim that he was just fine thank you very much, when Mitch walked up with his Team Leader. One second Tony had been trying to convince the rather eager and earnest EMT that he was fine and the next everything was too much.
Gibbs’ anger and despair was mixing badly with Kate’s waffling between concern and disbelief and then to add in the emotions of everyone around him along with everyone suddenly looking like they’d been shit on by a unicorn with all the various colors everyone was bathed in, and it was all too much. The longer he was around Gibbs though the worse it all got as his anger got infused with disgust which Tony couldn’t help but feel how very much it was all about him. Vaguely, he was aware of someone near him giving out orders, but couldn’t process the words as he struggled to pull himself together.
Then, suddenly, just after a pair of arms wrapped around him, it was all quiet. Tony remembered wondering why, if the sound thing was supposed to be the Sentinel’s thing, the deep rumble in his ear that had a slight brogue reminding him of Sean Connery sounded so damned good. When he finally came back to himself, Tony realized that he’d practically burrowed into some stranger’s arms. Pulling back, he looked into the most beautiful blue eyes that he’d ever seen and realized that what had seemed like an impossibility had finally happened. He’d found his Sentinel. In that moment, a lot of realizations had become painfully clear to him.
The best was the knowledge that there was now a good chance he wouldn’t someday die alone because by the way the man who still had a hand on his back felt, this was a pretty damned strong match. The worst was all the rumors and whispers that he’d heard about Gibbs over the years and discarded were actually true. The man hated Sentinels and Guides with a loathing that Tony personally held only for the worst of the scumbags that he’d chased. Apparently though, as far as Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was concerned, Tony had become one of those scumbags.
By the time Tony and Mitch got out of their nesting, Tony’s things had been packed up from his desk and were sitting in a box in the Director’s office. NCIS Director Owen Granger had taken over for the former Director Tom Morrow when he’d been tasked to help run Homeland Security. The Secretary of the Navy Philip Davenport had wanted to appoint Jennifer Shepard, the same woman whom Tony had been warned about, but the Secretary of Defense Jack O’Neill had stepped in and overrode him.
It wasn’t a very well-kept secret around the Navy Yard that SecNav Davenport was fond of SSA Gibbs because like the SecNav himself, Leroy Jethro Gibbs had none of the various Sentinel and Guide genetic markers and was proud of it. Along the same thread, Jennifer Sheppard also was in the same genetic boat, and according to Alpha Prime Guide Seaborn that was the reason she had been eyeballed to be the successor to Morrow. SecDef O’Neill however apparently hadn’t been pleased with the decision and wanted someone with more knowledge and experience considering everything going on in the world, and selected Owen Granger himself.
Granger had been serving as an Assistant Director for some time and had experience with the CIA during the cold war and also served in the Marines during Vietnam. Shepard on the other hand hadn’t even worked her way up to Assistant Director yet, and recently spent most of her time working special missions for SecNav but was most often based out of DC.
Tony wasn’t looking forward to the meeting that would be occurring later that day when he and Mitch reported as ordered to Director Granger’s office. Tony had been informed before being transferred to the Task Force that the appointment was seen as a promotion and that when they got done he and Mitch would be receiving their own team. At the time, and during most of his time on the task force, Tony had been relieved and excited at the chance to get his own team.
One thing that had happened during his time away from NCIS was Tony rediscovering the drive and ambition that led to him becoming the youngest detective in Philadelphia PD history. That reawakened ambition was one of the reasons Tony and Mitch had excepted the spot training under the DC Primes. Tony knew that his Sentinel was also looking forward to having an opportunity to find again that feeling he had when leading his team in the Marines. The stronger their bond got, the clearer it was to Tony how much Mitch missed that feeling and how much the man was made to lead men.
While they’d been nesting, Tony learned that Mitch was a former Sergeant in the Marines who was impressed when his new Guide was aware of the “once a Marine, always a Marine” moto. He was also impressed by Tony’s ability to curse creatively when needed, which Tony attributed to military school.
It seemed that it was actually Owen Granger who recruited Mitch to NCIS after their paths crossed during a special assignment Granger was working. Apparently, he had been impressed by Mitch’s insights and observations into his case. So, when Mitch told Granger he was going to be leaving active duty soon and hadn’t made plans yet, a job offer was quickly extended.
“Why are we up so early,” Tony finally heard rumbled soft and deep in his ear and couldn’t help but turn his head and smile at his Sentinel.
“I’m up because I couldn’t sleep, I don’t know why you’re up.”
“I’m up because you’re still fretting, and the bed was cold when I rolled over. So, I ask again. Why are we up so early? We don’t even have coffee yet.”
Tony snorted in amusement and turning his head gave Mitch another peck before turning to watch the skyline again. There was just enough gap between buildings that Tony could see the water of the Potomac River. “I was just thinking about what today is going to bring. If Sam’s information about Gibbs is correct, my guess is that we’re going to get tasked with taking over the MCRT, and I wanted to work out how I felt about it before the meeting.”
“Does this mean that you are finally going to tell me how someone with Gibbs’ obvious prejudices got to not just lead but build an important team like the Major Crime Response Team.”
“How much do you know about Sentinel and Guide genetics?” Tony asked in lieu of an answer and almost immediately felt his Sentinel’s confusion through their bond.
“It’s definitely too early for that conversation,” Mitch grumbled, and Tony couldn’t help but be amused. “How do you know anything about Sentinel and Guide genetics?”
“Well buck up buttercup, because the answers are tied together. As for how I know, I minored in it at OSU when I was getting my Phys. Ed. degree. I thought it was interesting. So, at any given time the Mundane to active and inactive Sentinel and Guide gene holder ratio is anywhere from 70/30 in long periods of peace to 60/40 during times of war or upheaval. Since I don’t know how much about this you know…”
“Not anything really,” Mitch admitted interrupting. So, Tony continued his explanation keeping that in mind.
“OK, so active in this case does not mean online. Active gene holder means online or latent. Inactive means a gene holder who is dormant for one reason or another. Now, of the 60 to 70 percent of mundanes, what most don’t know is that around half to two thirds of those mundanes have the gene that allows them to pass along the gene to be a Sentinel or Guide to their offspring, but do not have the gene that determines if they are going to be active or inactive.
“So, really it’s more like 80 to 65 percent of people at any given time who really can be included in the Sentinel or Guide community in some fashion. This is after recent legislation that determined that anyone with the Sentinel and Guide gene regardless if they have the other gene or not were to be protected under Sentinel and Guide legislation.”
“So, what are the rest of that…whatever is left percentage? I am not doing math before coffee.” Mitch grumbled unhappily and this time not only did Tony laugh, but he turned around and kissed his Sentinel properly before continuing.
“Well, see it’s like this,” Tony drawled in his best southern impression. “There’s more to it. See, because like 5-ish years ago the Atlantis Institute, which is basically a think tank run by Dr. Rodney McKay and his business partners Radek Zelenka and Miko Kusanagi, has a genetic biologist by the name of Dr. Carson Beckett who discovered the gene connected to the Enhanced senses of those like us who are higher than a normal high level Sentinel but not quite in the range of say a Shaman in my case.
“They also determined that this gene is in those that have been found to be psychics, mediums, telekinesis, etcetera. So, of that remaining 20 to 35 percent around half have the enhanced gene, but not either of the other two genes that are connected to Sentinels and Guides. That’s why these roughly ten to seventeen and a half percent of the world population are now not only being legitimized but also are being rolled into laws covering Sentinels and Guides.
“That means that there’s only about ten to seventeen percent of the world population that have none of the three genetic markets connected to Sentinels and Guides. Given that so many people with a combination or even one of the three genes flock to careers like the military, law enforcement or criminal justice, health and medicine, teachers, and such for someone without those genes to have gotten as far as Shepard and Gibbs and especially as high as Davenport is especially rare.”
“So, Secretary Davenport is doing what? Skewing things so that those like him succeed above others?” Mitch asked obviously upset and angry about the idea, and Tony wasn’t sure that he had any words of comfort to offer his irritated Sentinel.
“I honestly don’t know if it was a malicious thing on Davenports part or just a weakness. Like, from everything I’ve been able to find out with my various contacts, most people genuinely like him and say that he’s gotten to where he is with hard work and deserved the appointment. But well, everyone has a weak point, and being able to clearly read those like him are one of SecNav’s. I haven’t heard that Davenport shares Gibbs’ prejudices against Sentinels and Guides, and to be honest, I have a hard time believing that SecDef O’Neill would leave him in his position if he had them. So, for now I’m chalking it up as a blindspot, but I don’t know how much it will matter if one of his little pets really screws the pooch.”
“Like Shepard,” Mitch observed, and Tony nodded his agreement.
“Like Shepard,” he repeated, and then let Mitch lead him off the balcony and toward the kitchen. The sun had fully risen on his day, and his Sentinel was promising him coffee, some croissants that they’d purchased the day before, and a breakfast casserole that Mitch had thrown together before bed. Since the casserole had to cook, they might even have time for a real good morning greeting, before they ate.
Just over an hour later, Tony found himself perched at the table sipping the coffee that had been waiting for him. Given that it was still hot but not too hot, Mitch was obviously getting the timing of Tony’s morning routine down. As he watched his Sentinel finish plating their breakfast, he considered the man and just how lucky Tony really was. Physically the two of them were pretty close in size. Tony was about a quarter of an inch taller than Mitch, but the Sentinel was slightly thicker in the chest than his Guide.
Despite how close they were though in height and build, there was something about Mitch that made Tony feel treasured, safe, and maybe even a little submissive although Tony wasn’t sure that was the right word. He didn’t mean submissive in a sexual way because their sexual relationship was completely equal in that regard. Both men loved taking turns topping and bottoming and neither one of them had much of a BDSM kink beyond some fun play occasionally with handcuffs. So, Tony wasn’t sure submissive was the right word, he just lacked the a better one for how Mitch made him feel.
Mitchell Cutler was 100% Alpha male. He oozed Alpha and control in everything he did. When they were in bed it was making love even when it was hot and aggressive, and they weren’t trying to take all night. Mitch made Tony feel like he didn’t have to be in control because he could trust his Sentinel to take care of anything that came up while Tony was being… not in control. Mitch made Tony feel like sometimes it was ok to just close his eyes and breathe and let someone else worry about the details. It was something the Guide was still learning how to do.
Mitch was everything that Gibbs was supposed to be when Tony had agreed to join NCIS and be on his team. Forgetting of course their sexual relationship, because Tony had never considered fucking his boss. Their time working on the Task Force together proved that Mitch was one hell of a leader and was not one of those assholes that thought he always knew everything. He’d listen to opinions when the time and situation was right and was more than capable of taking control when needed without being abusive. At the same time, if he wasn’t the best one to lead a situation, he was man enough to recognize it and hand over the reigns.
He was smart enough that his mind could keep up with Tony’s without the Guide having to dumb things down for him. He loved being in the kitchen as much as Tony did and had a completely different cuisine range from Tony. Where Tony loved Italian, Mexican, and Indian dishes, Mitch’s strengths were in comfort foods, stir fry and American Chinese dishes, and a variety of different kinds of barbeque. He loved making casseroles and cakes where Tony loved making homemade pasta and pies.
The first must they put on their new home search was a chef’s kitchen big enough for them both to cook in at the same time, and they’d already started making a list of cuisines they’d like to learn to cook together. Getting a new house, or rather getting a house rather than the apartment Tony owned, was one of the first things they’d be doing. As much as Tony loved his apartment, it was not suitable for two men and a dog and being downtown wasn’t really good for either of them. Plus, Jake, Mitch’s Rottweiler and Beagle mix needed grass and a yard, and Mitch promised that once Tony got used to the dog that they’d go down to the shelter and Tony could get one of his own. Tony was ecstatic.
The best part of Mitch though, the very best part that made everything else just icing on the cake, was how supportive he was of Tony and how quickly he’d encouraged Tony to rejuvenate his ambitions while not downplaying his worries and insecurities. Those rejuvenating ambitions were why Tony was feeling some nerves in his belly, because he’d made up his mind not to allow NCIS to overlook or misuse him and Mitch. Not having Gibbs around would certainly help, if the rumors were true and the MCRT Team Lead had ridden off into the sunset to drink on a beach with Mike Franks, the warnings he’d gotten about SAC Sheppard though were reawakening his worries.
“I can feel you’re upset,” Mitch commented as he put a plate in front of Tony then took his seat next to him. “Are you sure this is what you want to do? We don’t have to stay at NCIS. Between the two of us we have enough job offers that we could go just about anywhere we want. Hell, we don’t even have to stay in the US. MI5 was panting over you with your family connections there.”
“I think we have to,” Tony offered softly before stabbing a piece of his breakfast casserole that he’d cut off and chewed on it rather aggressively as he processed his thoughts.
“I know that one of the common goals we agreed on while we were working on the task force was that we wanted to be more involved in the Sentinel and Guide Community. It’s why it was so easy to say yes to Sam and Malory when they approached us about taking over for them when the time comes. The thing is though, well… I guess it’s just there’s no time like the present. I mean…
“Our area, which will include Virginia and Maryland as we found out last night, may be less populated than places like New York State, California, and isn’t that far above Illinois considering Chicago is the third larges city in the country. However, it will probably be the area that has the most political scrutiny from both Mundane and Sentinel and Guide government officials. Not to mention that every major law enforcement agency in the country is based within our area, and several off the books agencies.
“I guess what I’m getting at is that shit isn’t going to get easier. If Senior Agent in Charge Shepard is even half of what Prime Guide Seaborn warned us that she would be, then I’d say she’ll be a good testing ground for what our future will hold if we stick to this course we’ve selected.”
“And I agree with all of that,” Mitch assured just before standing and gathering their empty plates to take to the sink to rinse off before putting them in the dish washer. Before sitting back down, he’d gathered up their coffee cups and topped them off making sure to put more of Tony’s flavored creamer in his before sitting back down.
“I just don’t like you feeling so unhappy before we’ve even found out the truth of the matter for ourselves. Just because we want to be in DC doesn’t mean that we have to do that at NCIS. My main concern, the one that will override anything else in front of us, is your physical and mental health and wellbeing. So, tell me what you want in general and specifically with your career, and we’ll go from there.
“We’ve already discussed what I want back when we were in Europe. I want to help people again, and I won’t deny missing being in command or having that team is a family feeling I had in the Marines. Somehow though you always manage to dodge when it comes to your turn to make lists, but no more. What do you want, Tony? That and that alone will determine what we do from this point forward.”
Tony sighed softly and was just getting ready to take a sip of his coffee when he felt a press of weight against his leg. Looking down, Tony ran his hand over his Spirit Guide Bagheera’s furry head as he bought himself some time with his answer. When he heard the click of Jake’s nails on the tile floor as Mitch’s dog padded his way into the kitchen, he earned himself some more time while the beloved animal was fed and loved briefly. When his Sentinel came back to the table though, Tony knew it was time to make his wants and needs known.
“Personally, it’s pretty easy. I want you. I want a house with room big enough for my mother’s piano and a yard big enough for Jake and the new puppy. I want to know that I am the most important thing in someone’s life and that you aren’t going to leave me the first time something happens.
“At the risk of sounding like a hormonal teenager whose life revolves around drama and angst, I’m tired of being left behind when people get tired of my baggage. I can’t change my past, and I try really hard, but some things just won’t stay in their boxes. I’ve had enough counselling over the years that I’m pretty in touch with who I am and what my weak points are. I’m not some blubbering mess, but it would be nice to know that when I need someone to be there, they will be.”
“You have all of that except for the house and the puppy. The first one we’re going to start looking for no later than this coming weekend, and the second we will get as soon as we find the first. The rest of it… If you think I don’t have my dark moments or weaknesses, then you have me on a pedestal I don’t want to be on. That whole being there for each other is what this is about.
“Bonding only makes perfectly unflawed people in the movies and cheap romance novels. Real multidimensional people have flaws and times when they need someone else to lift them up or sit with them in the dark. That’s really what bonding is about. It’s knowing that you’ll never go a moment in your life again where you have to suffer alone, or when there isn’t at least one other person who knows exactly what you’re feeling.
“We’ll fight like any other couple. Hopefully it will be more sniping and quick arguments that are easy to make up from in the aftermath. I don’t think either of us wants a life full of knock down drag out arguments that leave mental and physical wounds. Thus far, we’ve spent a lot of time worrying about other people and their needs and not nearly as much about ours. That changes immediately.
“If the local Primes are to be believed, and I got all the same warnings about SAC Shepard that you did from Malory, then our professional lives are about to become really damned complicated unless we move to another agency in the DC area. That means our personal lives need to be as uncomplicated as possible. So, from this point forward in our personal lives we are committed to each other first and every other person on the planet comes in some random order next. Now, tell me about your professional wants. I can tell it includes NCIS, I just don’t know as I understand why.”
Tony gave Mitch a smile and let his Sentinel twine their hands together across the table as Bagheera gave a supportive chuff. “I know that it would seem like with all the shit that went down with Gibbs that I should want to leave. The thing is I’ve done a lot of leaving in my career, and at this point I am forced to come to the realization that leaving only solves the short-term problem. The next place seems all wonderful and all “this is so much better” at first, but then the issues that are inherent to that job rear their ugly heads and sooner rather than later you’re moving on constantly and caught up in a cycle resembling a hamster on its wheel.
“I mean, I heard the rumors about Gibbs and his anti-Sentinel and Guide thing almost immediately when I joined NCIS. I hadn’t given up yet on finding a Sentinel, but it wasn’t something I was counting on either. Gibbs was decent to me though, and we actually worked together really well at first when it was just us. None of the temporary people put on the team ever lasted. Vivian Blackadder was the longest, and it was pretty obvious almost from the first day that she wasn’t going to last. Then Kate came along, and things changed almost overnight.”
Tony felt Mitch squeeze his hand on a gesture of comfort and gave him another honest if not weak smile before finishing off his coffee and taking his story back up. “I probably should have wised up after I got put in a damned body bag and eventually thrown out of an FBI coroner’s van and left right then, but… I didn’t want to move again. My personal life was shit. I had a close call with someone who was supposed to be a good match according to the center, but Wendy couldn’t take all of the things that came with being with someone in law enforcement, and our careers really didn’t jive so… I guess I just sucked it up and ignored the shit that I didn’t want to see.
“Then you came along, and while maybe I should be at a point where leaving seems reasonable, I still don’t want to do it. Like I said, if I’ve proven anything it’s that leaving isn’t a cure-all and NCIS feels… right. It feels like this is where I am supposed to be. It feels like the people at NCIS are my people, my responsibility. So, what kind of leader, what kind of person would I be to run off and leave them to fend for themselves again just because it sounds like the SAC has some kind of vendetta against me?
“I mean, it isn’t like I won’t be able to see right off the bat if there is something fundamentally wrong with her. I may not be an expert yet at this Aura reading thing that came with coming online and my 6th sense kicking in, but I at least know how to tell when something is seriously wrong with a person. The long and the short of it I guess is that I want to stay at NCIS and fix whatever needs fixing and make it clear that it is our home and anyone who tries to mess with it will have to deal with the two of us.”
“Alright,” Mitch eventually agreed giving Jake one last pat. “Then I say we finish getting ready for work. I’ll take Jake here out for a last-minute potty break before we leave, and then we can go and see what needs fixed at NCIS first.”
Tony accepted a kiss from his Sentinel before he watched the man and his dog head to the front door. After taking a couple minutes to breathe, not quite believing that all the soul letting had really gone as well as it had, he stood and took the mugs to the sink. After rinsing them off, he grabbed his jacket and tie and finished what little tidying he needed to do in the apartment. When the man and animal came back, Tony was ready to leave and after watching the man grab his leather jacket, followed his Sentinel out for the meeting that would signal just how rocky his professional life was going to get.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Tony stepped off the elevator behind his Sentinel and was pleasantly surprised to see that the walls were in the process of being panted a nice light teal blue instead of the obnoxious orange that he was used to. “Turn your sense of smell down, babe,” Tony warned putting a hand on Mitch’s back. “I don’t want you to get a headache or zone out from the smell of the paint.”
Mitch grunted his agreement as he stepped to one side to let Tony lead the way up to the Director’s office. He’d been warned about the orange paint and was more than happy to suffer with the lingering fumes from the paint if it meant getting rid of the horrible color. It smelled like whoever picked the paint had chosen a Sentinel friendly one that reduced the toxicity of the smell for anyone who was online. Whoever picked orange for the original color obviously missed the memo where it was only to be used in small amounts, like for an accent wall or secondary color. No one wanted to work inside a room that made them feel like they were caught in a fairy tale rhyme.
When they got up to the secretary’s area in front of the Director’s office, Tony pulled back a little mentally letting Mitch take charge of the interaction. While Mitch took care of greeting with Cynthia, Tony worked on thinning his shields enough that he could get a good aura reading once he got inside the office. On the drive to the Navy Yard, the two of them decided that it would be beneficial for Tony to use his Aura reading ability to get a feel for those in the office if there was more than just Morrow inside.
While rumors and passed along conversations and observations couldn’t be completely trusted, even from the DC Primes, Tony’s aura reading could be trusted. It was using skills honed through generations of people and passed down automatically as new Guides with that Enhanced Sense came online. So, unlike the other Guide abilities that had to be taught and learned, the Enhanced Senses that certain Sentinels and Guides had access to came with an almost immediate expert level of understanding. It was also one of the rare Enhanced Senses that worked on everyone, including mundanes without any of the three Sentinel and Guide genetic markers.
Since the information came directly from the person being read and was broadcast openly there was no intrusion on the individuals mind. Unlike when a Guide did a reading of a person’s emotions or mental landscape that required penetration of the person’s mind, auras were not something people could hide and therefore under law were not protected from being read like emotions and mental landscapes were. Now, there were rules about what can be done with that information. While under most circumstances’ auras couldn’t be used to initiate an investigation into someone, it could be used to aid or direct an ongoing investigation, whether that be criminal or an internal investigation. It could definitely, and often was, used by individual Guides and their Sentinels to make personal judgements on the people they would be interacting with daily.
Once the two of them were given permission to enter the office, Tony followed Mitch in letting his Sentinel once more guide the conversation as he did his readings of the room and its occupants. Along with the Director, there were two women that Tony was unfamiliar with. The first was a diminutive, older woman that Tony guessed was under five-foot-tall with brown hair and an air about her that suggested she’d seen just about everything there was to see in life and the world. The second was a red headed woman who was about average height for a female and was trying to project an appearance of power that she didn’t have.
After offering a polite hello when the Director introduced him to Consultant Hetty Lange, who was apparently a Sensitive, and SAC Jenny Shepard whom Tony already knew was supposedly a mundane with none of the three genetic markers, Tony turned his attention back to his aura reading glad that it wouldn’t take long. Starting with the person that he knew, Tony studied Director Granger and wasn’t really surprised by anything that came to him. Owen Granger was a strong Sentinel who had never found a match good enough about to bond with, had been a part of the CIA, and before that fought in the Vietnam war.
The first two colors that jumped out at him were a deep red bordered by an orange red that together spoke to his natural self confidence and a strong will power. There was also a combination of colors that suggested he was slightly manipulative and secretive along with a black ring that suggested he’d caused death. The white and light positive colors connected to honesty and a sense of justice suggested to Tony that those deaths had been nothing out of the ordinary for someone who had spent as much time in Intelligence and the military as Owen Granger had.
All in all, Director Granger seemed to be someone that could be manipulative and secretive when he had to, but for the most part was an honest man who was comfortable in the power that came naturally to him. That power would most often be used to protect the people who were closest to him or those within his care. So, nothing was found that Tony wouldn’t want or expect to see in someone who was in charge of running NCIS.
Deciding to leave SAC Shepard for last, Tony next turned his attention to Consultant Lange, and having heard Director Granger mention that he’d met her during his time with the CIA, wasn’t surprised to see some similar colors suggesting she’d caused the death of someone while seeking justice, a tendency toward manipulation and secrecy that were both much more prevalent than that of the Director and her honesty aura was muddier suggesting to Tony that he wouldn’t always be able to trust what she was saying. She also had a very strong sense of self that told him that she was someone very comfortable in her own skin and would not deviate from her personal morals to conform to someone else’s.
Her strongest aura though gave him a sense of ease because it suggested that like Granger she wanted to take care of those around her, but unlike him suggested that she also had a nurturing aspect that would extend that protection to anyone she saw in need. So, overall, while Tony wasn’t sure that they would always be able to trust the things she would be telling then, and would have to watch out for her being overly secretive, he could trust her to want to help the people that needed it sometimes to her own detriment.
Once the others were done, Tony turned his attention to SAC Shepard, and instinctively reached out for his Sentinel, glad when the man slipped a hand under the back of his shirt so that he could touch his back. The grounding was needed to keep him on his feet in the face of all the wrongness that made up SAC Shepard’s auras. The first thing that stood out to Tony, and the one that concerned him the most, was the large grey blotch that covered the top of her head and suggested to him that she had some kind of serious brain disease or mental illness. Since Tony wasn’t a healer, there was no way for him to be able to tell much beyond that, but it was definitely something he would need to mention to the Director in private as it would need to be checked out.
Along with the grey blotch though, there were a number of other troubling indications in SAC Shepard’s aura that suggested this was not a woman who could be trusted. The most prevalent color was a dark muddy red that suggested anger along with a murky pink that suggested a dishonest nature. Next to that was a dark muddy green that suggested a few things including jealousy, resentment or insecurity.
The next troubling item was also a large amount of black that suggested not only death but in combination with other colors indicated someone who held grudges for a long period of time and was prone to seeking revenge. Anything positive looked to be either fading or appeared to be slowly getting overrun by the numerous negative auras. Tony couldn’t help but shudder and lean toward his Sentinel for comfort. He couldn’t help but miss the burst of disgust and anger that the woman released making Tony wonder if she was as completely mundane as she claimed to be.
“Is there a problem, Senior Agent in Charge Shepard?” Mitch asked his deep brogue giving away the protectiveness he was feeling toward his Guide.
“Since you asked,” SAC Shepard started snidely, and Tony couldn’t help but miss how both Director Granger and Consultant Lange narrowed their eyes almost in unison. “I would appreciate it if you would contain yourself and at least attempt to uphold some level of professionalism while you are on NCIS time. Just because you are behind closed doors, does not mean that you should be able to just paw your… partner whenever you feel like it. It’s disrespectful to both myself and Director Granger.
Tony was so shocked by her words, that he almost didn’t have time to strengthen the shields he had covering both himself and his Sentinel when Mitch got so angry so suddenly that not only did he growl, but his Spirit Guide Hades, a large lion, made a rare appearance and loudly voiced his displeasure with a roar that made even Tony flinch. It wasn’t a surprise though when Bagheera quickly appeared next to his Spirit Guide companion laying low to the ground as he stared at Shepard as if she would be his next prey. When the woman screeched, signaling that she could clearly see both Spirit Guides, Tony wondered again if she was as mundane as he’d heard. While on very rare occasion a Spirit Guide could become visible to everyone around it, including complete mundanes, it took a considerable amount of power. Thus, they typically wouldn’t bother unless the Spirit Guide felt their charge was in some kind of danger.
“How dare you unleash those vile creatures on me!” Shepard shouted and before either Mitch or Tony could speak, Director Granger stood and stepped in to take control of the situation.
“SAC Shepard, what in the ever-loving hell do you think you are doing? Have you completely lost your mind? Not even two days ago we sat in this very office with not only the DC Primes but the East Coast Primes as well promising that there would be no more outbursts by you toward our Sentinels and Guides. You were put on probation and it was made very clear to you the consequences if you didn’t shape up your act. SecNav himself was part of that meeting and was very clear in his expectations for you in this matter. So, again, I ask what in the hell are you doing?”
“Director, if I may?” Tony interjected before Shepard could get over her wordless vocalizations of insult and actually speak. While he’d planned on keeping his reading private, the situation had escalated much more quickly than he’d imagined. “I think I can offer some information that may lend some insight toward this specific situation as well as SAC Shepard that the two Prime pairs may not have had.
“Please, Guide Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo,” Granger almost pleaded sounding at the end of his rope. “Any information you could have to explain this would be appreciated.”
“Before I get into my observations, I want to share some information to make sure everyone has the same knowledge base. Mitch and myself are an Enhanced Sense pair, which means that not only are we have the highest level of rating in the commonly shared senses or abilities for a Sentinel or Guide, but we also have an extra sense.”
“So, you’re extra freaky,” Shepard bit out snidely, and this time it was Consultant Lange who spoke it.
“I think that it would be in your best interest to just remain silent, my dear.”
Not wanting Shepard to have time to speak again, Tony barreled on deciding that he would just ignore any comments from the woman for the moment. “When you introduced Consultant Lange you identified her as a Sensitive but did not do the same for SAC Shepard indicating that she is not currently identified as a either a Sensitive or Empath. Is that correct?”
“That is correct. SAC Shepard is listed as being a mundane.”
Tony nodded at the Director’s confirmation and took a deep breath as he strengthened his shields trying to keep out the negative emotion that the SAC was letting loose. “As I was saying earlier, I am an Enhance Sense Guide, and my enhanced sense allows me to read auras. When Mitch and I went through our training after bonding, it was determined that I would actually have the highest raking for Aura readings in North America, including all of the Primes from Prime Sentinel Ellison and Prime Guide Sandburg on down. Reading Auras is also one of the rarer Enhanced Sense abilities a Guide can have. There is only one other in the US, and she can only read the dominant aura whereas I can see them all.
“What I am leading to is that when I read the auras of those in the room, I was troubled by what I saw in SAC Shepard. There was an abnormal amount of negative auras and an indication that there may be an existing mental health issue or brain disease causing it. I had planned on bringing it up privately with you Director, but with what just happened, I am concerned what will happen if it isn’t checked out immediately.”
“Why couldn’t DC Prime Guide Seaborn or East Coast Prime Guide Jennings sense that there was something wrong with her?” Consultant Lange asked and Director Granger spoke up before Tony could as the man moved back to his chair.
“Maybe they did. The did suggest that she go for a medical evaluation and gave her a month to get it done.”
“While I can’t override a Prime, for the sake of SAC Shepard’s physical and mental health, I would recommend that she be taken immediately to a hospital to be checked for some kind of brain disease or disorder like cancer or some kind of lesion that could be effecting her. I also strongly recommend that she be tested while she is there to determine if she has some kind of Empathic ability. Those are the most difficult to detect in a mundane and since the discovery of that gene is very recent most agencies, including I believe NCIS, don’t have mandatory testing for it even for new recruits let alone existing agents and staff.
“So, as upsetting and distasteful as I find her words, I highly recommend that she receive a full medical, mental and genetic work up before we proceed. The last thing I want is to find out too late that she had some kind of illness that could be causing her actions and we all overlooked it because we find her words distasteful.”
“Agreed,” Director Granger concurred and picked up his phone asking someone to come to his office immediately before addressing the SAC.
“Jenny, you have two options right now. The first is that you can agree to go to Walter Reed immediately for a full range of testing as Guide Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo recommended to see if we can’t determine if there is some factor in your actions beyond your control. The second is that you remain stubborn, I suspend you and don’t allow you back into your position until you have the testing that was recommended.”
“It seems to me that you aren’t really giving me an choice since both lead to unwanted testing that I don’t feel is necessary,” Shepard spat angrily, and Tony was glad that his Sentinel had finally stopped reacting now that he had an idea of what was going on.
“I don’t know as it will matter, since I doubt SAC Shepard will trust my senses either, but I’ve smelled something off about her since I walked in the door. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but a serious illness would definitely be one of my first guesses.”
“My dear, there is the old saying of cutting ones nose off to spite one’s face,” Hetty pointed out frankly but compassionately. “I know that you are angry and upset. If I can feel it certainly Guide DiNozzo can feel it. I also know that the way you’ve acted since we have become reacquainted is significantly different from the passionate and driven but caring and justice seeking young woman that I met all those years ago in France. I know that one of the things that split up you and Jethro all those years ago was your significant differences of opinion on the subject of Sentinels and Guides. So, to hear things coming out of your mouth that I am not confident even he would utter greatly concerns me.”
Tony watched as SAC Shepard flipped her hair over her shoulder in an attempt to try and hide her face, but he could feel the emotions that she was projecting change from anger to despair. Hearing a knock on the door, Tony turned just in time to see Doctor Mallard, the ME at the Navy Yard come in. After a quiet conversation between Hetty and Ducky, the elderly ME moved to SAC Shepard’s side.
“Jennifer, come. Let’s take you and see what we can find, hmm? I will gladly accompany you and stay by your side during the various testing. Would it not be better to find out for certain if there is something to be concerned about? While it has been more than a year since I have been able to speak with young Anthony, I find it hard to believe that his bonding would change him that much from the honest and noble young man I knew as Jethro’s SFA. Why don’t you and I go get your things from your office and we can head out now. I will call ahead to a friend who works there and get some arrangements started to quicken the process. How does that sound, my dear?”
“OK, Ducky,” Shepard finally agreed sounding subdued from the angry woman she had been merely moments ago. Stepping out of her and Ducky’s way, Tony watched the two leave. Then, with the Director’s urging, Mitch and Tony both moved to the seating area Shepard had been in choosing the couch for himself and Mitch with Granger and Lange choosing the chairs.
“Well, that wasn’t the beginning to the meeting that I had anticipated, but I appreciate your assistance Guide Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo. It certainly makes some parts of what I was going to tell you easier. Hetty will actually be stepping in as SAC. We have future plans for an Office of Special Projects on the west coast that she will oversee, but until that time she is going to work out of the Navy Yard here. Once she moves, I would like the two of you to take over the position with Guide Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo being the primary SAC due to his longer tenure not only with NCIS but also in a management position due to his time as the MCRT Senior Field Agent.”
“Until then, we would like the two of you to take over leadership of the MCRT,” Hetty continued when Director Granger stopped speaking to take a drink. “It will be a similar structure to our future plans for you. As far as the team will be concerned the two of you will be of equal ranking. Technically, because we do have to have one person ultimately in command, Guide Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo will be the primary Team Lead. Right now, the team has a bonded pair as the SFAs with the primary being Sentinel Special Agent Cassie Yates. They have about 6 months before they can be considered to take over their own team, and Director Granger and myself think they should be ready at that time.”
“At that time, you’ll have some options on who to replace her with,” Granger said taking over again. “I know that Special Agent Todd will be expecting to be put in charge. She certainly thought that she’d get the position in place of the current SFAs and even thinks that she should have the Team Lead position despite not having spent any time in the required SFA position needed to move up. I had Hetty observe the team over the last month at various times, and it was her opinion that Todd isn’t ready for the promotion.”
“I think that she certainly has the potential, but she needs some work before I would feel comfortable putting her in such a position. She needs to stop calling herself a profiler. I have not found any indication that she has the schooling or experience to make such a claim, and her time in the Secret Service certainly doesn’t qualify her. She also needs to learn how to separate her personal beliefs from case facts. She too often allows her religious beliefs to cloud her judgement. I have advised the Director that I would like to mentor her to see if I cannot get her beyond her hurdles, if you feel comfortable with that, SSAs DiNozzo and Cutler.”
“I’m good with it,” Mitch quickly agreed, “as for the SAC position, this is probably a good time to let the two of you know that the current plans are for Tony and I to take over for the DC Primes when the East Coast Primes retire and Malory and Sam move up. It might be easier to balance both jobs once we are in a position that will require less constant field time.
Tony echoed his statement soon after and then went on to expound on it. “Frankly, I have very little belief that Kate will reach her potential if either Mitch or I try, SAC Lange. Unless something has changed, she has a tendency to take any kind of criticism or even orders she doesn’t like from male counterparts as sexism even when there is proof that it isn’t. So, I don’t mind it as long as it isn’t going to lead to Mitch and I being required to select her as our SFA. I like Kate, I do. We have even had moments of sibling rivalry, but I have my concerns and doubts that she’ll ever respect me the way that is needed for her to be our second in command.”
“I have a suggestion,” Hetty offered and the three men turned their attention her direction. “Let’s swap Special Agent Todd from the MCRT with Special Agent Langer from the team led by SSAs Pacci and Cassidy. Honestly, after reviewing Kate’s file, I think that it was a mistake to let Jethro put her on a premier team like the MCRT. While I do not discount her time with the Secret Service, the work that she was doing there was not anywhere close to the work that she is doing now. The agents on the MCRT should be the cream of the crop unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.”
“Where does that leave Tim then?” Tony asked knowing that McGee had less time as a field agent than Kate did. “If he stays and Kate is forced to move then I guarantee that she’ll scream sexism to anyone that will listen.”
“Special Agent McGee was a case agent with NCIS prior to his time as a Field Agent, and his specialty on the team goes back to his time as a case agent. The MCRT needs someone with his level of computer skills dedicated to assist them. If Special Agent Todd had those skills this would be a different conversation. Frankly, the only specialty that her time prior to NCIS lends her to would be a protection detail, which is something assigned to the MCRT only on very rare instances.” At that Hetty paused and made a face but soon continued.
“As for her possible claim of sexism, I will have that conversation myself, and I plan to be quite frank with her as to the reasons why not only she is being removed from the team, but also why I don’t plan on approving any application from her for an SFA position at any time in the near future. No, just leave her to me. I will take care of that switch. So, if everyone agrees, that just leaves one position to fill. While normally I would say we need to pick the best person available, given that the rest of the team is compromised by men, I think our final member needs to be a woman. There are instances and situations where you will need one to relate to a witness or in an interview with a suspect.”
“Agreed,” Mitch said quickly, and Tony nodded his approval before his Sentinel continued. “I don’t have any names off the top of my head. Although I vaguely recall someone in my office wanting to move to an East Coast office to be near her parents due to their age. I couldn’t tell you the name though, I’m sorry. Unless Tony has a name, I am happy with whomever you recommend, SAC Lange.”
“Absolutely,” Tony agreed quickly. “I like the idea that it will be a veteran agent to be honest. Given the current landscape of the world, I only envision the MCRT’s cases getting more difficult and political as time goes by. So, veteran NCIS agent or someone from another agency with a lot of experience under their belt. Mitch and I have some plans for the team to try and make it the family that Gibbs has always claimed it was but in reality, wasn’t. I umm, I also want to bring up something that I don’t know how it will go over…
“I don’t want our cases to be handled by one Forensics Tech any longer. I know that Gibbs always demanded that we use Abby exclusively, but I think it’s a mistake. I can’t imagine that she’s going to take any of this very well, and I’m not saying that she’d deliberately sabotage a case, but I just, well, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I will be totally honest in that it’s working with Abby that I am concerned about more than having a dedicated tech. I know how attached to Gibbs she is, and I guess you can say that my time away gave me some clarity on how unhealthy that relationship was.”
“Agreed,” Director Granger offered. “In fact, the New Orleans Residential Unit needs a new Forensics Tech. Gibbs won’t be coming back to the MCRT or even NCIS. He was officially retired due to injury before he left and informed that he would be ineligible to return unless he could pass all the physical and mental testing. Given the bullshit he put this office through in the year while you were gone, I don’t see that happening. His last supporter is on his way out. I got word this morning that the President asked the Secretary of the Navy to step down, and that Retired Admiral AJ Chegwidden who used to head up JAG was being put up for confirmation as the new Secretary of the Navy.
“Going back to the Forensics position, I had an applicant that I was getting ready to hire for the spot, but maybe I will offer it to Ms. Sciuto and see if Mr. Lund would like to join the Navy Yard instead as the dedicated Forensics Tech for the MCRT team. I am comfortable with his all-around knowledge level that he could do the job. With the MCRT’s cases being always a high priority, I don’t know how comfortable I feel running them through the other lab with everyone else’s cases. I’d rather leave it as is giving one person for the MCRT who can assist with the other teams when they have time and leaving the other techs to share responsibility for the other teams in the Yard.”
“So, gentlemen, does this mean the MCRT has two new leaders?” Hetty asked smiling with her hands folded on her lap.
Tony looked at Mitch, who apparently had given up trying to appear stoic and instead was clearly showing his excitement. Tony couldn’t really blame him, because he really wanted to jump around the room letting his excitement loose, but he was pretty sure neither the Director nor the new SAC would be impressed by such a move. This was better than anything either of them had imagined.
The two still had the MCRT, which in Tony’s heart of hearts was a dream that he had been afraid to admit to even himself let alone Mitch. SAC Shepard was given as good of an exit out of their lives as could possibly happen. Tony had no doubts that they were going to find some serious illness along with a previously undiagnosed Empathy gift that had gotten stronger recently due to said illness. Kate was moved to a team better suited for her needs, but within the same agency and location allowing her to get the training she needed but would never accept from Tony or Mitch.
McGee was still on the team. So, Tony still had one probie that he could grow into a real full-sized agent as long as Kate and Gibbs hadn’t poisoned his mind too badly in the year that Tony had been gone. Abby was going to be moved to another lab within NCIS putting her closer to her family that could hopefully help her get over the fact that Gibbs wouldn’t be returning to NCIS.
If Tony remembered correctly, the agent in charge of the New Orleans RU was a good friend of Gibbs’, so maybe that would also help her to get over losing him to Mike Franks’ beach house. All in all, the day had started out much better than Tony could have ever hoped it could. Maybe it was a sign that staying with NCIS really had been the right decision.
“Yeah, it does,” Tony finally replied and graced the room with an authentic DiNozzo smile.