Title: Rider on the Storm
Fandom: NCIS, SEAL Team
Genre: Drama, Episode Related, Slash
Relationship(s): Tony Paddington/Jason Hayes, Various Background Pairings
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Major Character Death, Canon Level Violence, Canon Divergence, Character Bashing, Major and Minor Character Death both canon and not canon, Discussion – Attempted Murder, Discussion of Mental Health Issues, Discussion Child Abuse and Neglect, Discussion: Alcoholic Parents
Author Notes: Tony goes by Antony Sheppard Paddington in this. Credit to Keira and Jilly via Keira’s World for bits of inspiration here and there. Also credit to Jilly for Tony being a Sheppard. Credit to Keira for the idea of there being more Sheppard brothers.
Beta: Angel N Darkness
Word Count: 71,950
Summary: In the aftermath of Dead Air, Tony DiNozzo decides to reach out to the father he’d been mostly ignoring for the last year for help and support. What he doesn’t know is letting Patrick Sheppard in will change the course of his career and eventually lead him to family, love, and acceptance.
Chapter One: The House Comes Tumbling Down
Tony walked into his house tossing his keys in the bowl at the front door and then headed to the kitchen to set about starting water for tea to boil. Once that task was accomplished, he headed to the bedroom to get changed out of his suit. It was while he was changing clothes that the mental barrier keeping all the anger and betrayal safely locked away cracked letting it all loose. He’d been taking his pants off when his eyes fell on the book on his nightstand. It was by the same author that Ziva had been reading in the car.
In fact, it had been her talking about the novel in the office over the last week that had prodded him into buying one of the man’s books. Now, the sight of it on his nightstand made him want to puke. Forgetting for a moment that he had one leg half in and half out of the pants leg, he started to reach for it to toss it across the room, but instead, lost his balance and ended upon the floor laying next to his bed. Letting out an angry howl that was quite muted from its normal volume due to his sore throat, Tony pounded on the carpeted floor as angry tears leaked from the corner of his eyes.
Years of betrayals and swallowing down his opinions and ambitions. Years of setting aside his own wants, needs, and pleasures. Years of turning himself into a man whore because it was obvious that his life didn’t have time for a real relationship came out and by the time he got done screaming and pounding on the carpet, he was once again completely without a voice. When he was finally spent laying exhausted mentally and physically, Tony realized that he had nothing left to offer the team, and maybe even NCIS.
Not only did he not have anything left, but all he wanted was to burn the entire thing to the ground and let someone else start over who wasn’t corrupt and in the pocket of Eli David. Fighting the urge to curl up in a ball and cry some more, Tony pushed himself up, wincing when pain shot through his wrist and shifted to a sitting position. Reaching up behind him, he patted around on the bed blindly until he felt his phone where he’d tossed it, and pulling it down, sent a text to the one person he knew would get him what he needed at that moment, which was time.
Time to plot, time to plan, time to gather people around him that would go to the wall with him and for him. Time to see if there were even any of those people left in his life. Sending the text, Tony spent a few minutes in conversation finding out that no, Brad wasn’t on duty, and yes, he could come over asap with his bag. This was only after Tony promised to be honest about what was going on, but for once it was a promise that he was willing to give.
Normally, he would dodge Brad’s well-meaning questions, but for the first time since he left Baltimore, Tony felt like he had no one left to protect. Everyone around him at NCIS felt like a traitor. Ziva for telling Tim to turn off the coms. McGee for being so weak, or maybe so eager to be part of something, that he quickly complied without much of a fuss. Abby for considering what they’d done so insignificant that she hadn’t even bothered to alter the evidence but hadn’t reported it in her official report, either. Vance for not caring more about his people, even the ones he didn’t like. And Gibbs for… Gibbs for letting him down the most.
Maybe he should have gone to Gibbs, but by the time he made it out of the office, he had no confidence that the older man would be on his side. A part of Tony wasn’t even sure that his boss would care. He more than half expected Gibbs to just grunt at him and throw some line at him like what did he expect when Tony never took anything seriously. It was disheartening, to say the least.
A large part of him longed for days past when it had been just himself and Gibbs and they’d shared a friendship to go with their work partnership. At that moment, Tony understood that the gap between himself and his boss wasn’t just a small crack in the floor, but a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. Hearing the kettle whistle signaling that the water was hot, Tony stood up and after kicking off his pants, headed to the kitchen to make himself some tea with honey. His phone in his hand.
Deciding the water was too hot to drink, Tony set the phone on the island next to the tea, and then made his way back to his bedroom to put on a pair of OSU sweats and t-shirt. Normally, he’d wear them just to tweak Brad because he was coming over, but tonight it was for comfort. Sometimes he wondered if OSU wasn’t the last time, he really had the support of people that didn’t have the last name Sheppard.
At least there, he knew that his frat brothers and his teammates had his back. Now, he ached for the comfort that unquestionable knowledge gave him. It wasn’t that he didn’t know his family would do everything they could to protect him. It was that in the year he’d known Patrick Sheppard was his father, he’d thus far fought hard and loudly about keeping his work life his. He felt like a hypocrite if he ran to daddy now. Of course, a little voice in the back of his head whispered reminding him that Patrick wasn’t Senior and would welcome him with open arms. It didn’t make him feel any less like a shitty son, though.
By the time Brad arrived, he had made his way through his cup of tea, now working on a second, and was curled up on one end of his couch watching Sports Center to try and keep his mind off of everything. The decanters of alcohol had been carefully put away, so they weren’t within his eyesight. Having been raised by two alcoholics, and having scared himself after Kate died, there were certain situations where Tony just couldn’t stand the sight of booze. Moments when he was feeling extremely negative emotions were one of them.
“What’s going on, Buckeye?” Brad asked as he set down on the other end of the couch, setting his bag on the coffee table in front of them. A bag that Tony knew he’d gotten just so he could help Tony when he didn’t want to make a trip to Bethesda. Technically, Brad was not the kind of doctor that would need to carry such things. He was an infectious diseases doctor. However, after the Plague, they’d struck up a friendship and Brad was willing to help out for minor things here and there.
“I need you to get me a medical leave. As long as you can.” Tony croaked, his voice little more than a whisper.
Tony understood Brad’s surprise and therefore patiently waited for his friend to recover enough to reply. “You are asking me for medical leave? Jesus, Tony, what the hell did they do to you? You sound like shit by the way. You’re barely even whispering. I should be telling you not to talk, but I need to know what’s going on to know what I can do.”
“Did you see the stories on the news lately about the DJ that got blown up?” Tony whispered before taking another sip of the tea. The warmth and the honey soothing his aching sore throat.
“Yeah, they said something about Domestic Terrorists. Was your team on that case?”
“We were,” Tony confirmed. “It’s why I have this lovely voice. Had to go around a whole neighborhood to get voice prints to match the terrorist cell member we were afraid had done the deed. Ziva and McGee got tired of listening to me though, so they turned off the coms.”
Like before, Tony just waited sipping on his tea when Brad just gaped at him. “They’re in jail, right? How the hell could they not know what kind of danger they were putting you in?”
“They’re not even getting written up,” Tony advised making Brad shake his head as if that would make the crazy stop. “Vance says if I can’t take it then I shouldn’t dish it out. I can’t… Even I have limits, Wolverine. I need time though. I’m afraid if they don’t have a valid reason why I’m not at work that the evidence will mysteriously disappear, the case be damned.”
“So, you’re doing something about this then I take it? It’s about damned time.” Brad swore some more as he opened up his bag and pulled out an ace bandage. “I notice you’re drinking your tea with the wrong hand. What did you do to your wrist?”
“Just tweaked it when I fell in the bedroom. It’s not broken. I don’t even think it’s sprained. It’s why my voice is so bad, too. I kinda lost it for a moment like a baby.” Tony said with a shrug which caused Brad to make a face Tony recognized as frustration.
“Stop it with the putting yourself down shit. You just suffered the worst betrayal someone in your profession can experience, and for the second time. Granted it’s a different set of people and circumstances than what happened in Baltimore but finding out that your partner or partners are assholes is still finding out your partner or partners are assholes. I would be losing my shit. As for your wrist, how about you let the doctor determine how badly you hurt it. What are you going to do since Gibbs doesn’t want to do anything to them?”
Tony let loose a nearly soundless unamused huff before replying. “I’m gonna dig out my insurance file and then go see my father. I know Gibbs thinks that he’s the only one who keeps shit, but he’s not. Anyway, Gibbs doesn’t know. I didn’t tell him. Don’t trust him not to side with the Turncoat Twosome.”
“I thought you hated Gibbs’ insurance file?” Brad questioned as he finished wrapping the wrist.
“The difference between myself having insurance and Gibbs is that I don’t plan on blackmailing anyone with them and I didn’t steal anything. I’m gonna lay out the entire debacle that is NCIS to my billionaire father then let him turn it all over to a lawyer. I think he knows AJ Chegwidden and I hope the fuckin’ building burns to the ground when AJ’s done. I just need time. Last I checked everything was still in its place, but I know it won’t be if anyone suspects I am anything but sick.”
Tony watched as the doctor headed to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of water. “I think you’re right. If it swells or shows any signs of it being worse than what it is, then come to see me for X-rays. I’ll be as vague as I can in your paperwork. I’ll use the combination of the voice and the wrist as your reason for leave. I’ll even call Gibbs myself to give him the happy news.”
“That’s a little above and beyond, Bradley,” Tony teased, and Brad just rolled his eyes before closing up his bag and turning toward the TV.
“If it means that you’re finally ditching those assholes, then I’m all for it. I have files in my office for all the times you’ve been hurt or gotten sick because of what I believe is their negligence. What are you gonna do if Chegwidden says no? When are you going to see Patrick? Additionally, does this mean you’re gonna finally stop shooting yourself in the foot and let your family in?”
Tony fiddled with his sweats plucking off fuzz balls instead of watching the TV. “I’m gonna go see Patrick tomorrow. He said I can stop in at Sheppard Industries at any time. Guess I will test that out. I don’t wanna take the chance that someone is tracking my phones by calling him first to find out if he’ll be there. I mean technically I have a burner phone hidden here but I don’t know if he’ll answer an unknown number. And, if they are tracking my phones, they might freak out if they see I called him. If Chegwidden says no, then I’m gonna go to Morrow and see if Tom has a recommendation.”
Tony didn’t have to be looking at Brad to know his friend had an incredulous expression on his face. “You still trust him, huh? Isn’t he partially responsible for some of this shit? At least for not reigning in Gibbs more?”
Tony finally looked at his friend and shrugged a shoulder. “Maybe so, but most of this crap would never have happened if he’d still been there. Certainly, Ziva would never have made it onto the MCRT if she was allowed to work for NCIS at all. Everything went wrong when Ziva joined the team. If I had my way, I’d scorch the Earth of her. As far as I’m concerned, everyone else who’s jumped on the Ziva bandwagon can burn with her.”
“I’ll be honest, buddy. I am liking this pyromaniac thing you’re developing. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.” Brad promised with a quip then demanded that his friend stop talking as they turned to the basketball game that came on ESPN to watch in a friendly silence. Eventually, they’d order Thai and by the time Tony went to sleep, he’d at least be able to rest knowing he had at least one person at his back. The next morning would tell him if he could increase that count to two.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Tony knew that Patrick liked to be at the office by 7AM every morning. Then he had a daily meeting with his division heads at 8AM and was usually back in his office around 9AM. So, at 8:59AM, Tony stepped off the elevator a little surprised how easily he’d gotten this far into SI. He flashed one of his best disarming the witness smiles but didn’t even get a chance to speak before the lovely brunette at the desk was announcing him to Patrick.
“Son, this is a pleasant surprise,” Patrick greeted with such honest happiness to see him on his face that Tony’s guilt over being a crappy son just increased. “What happened to your wrist? What brings you to my office?”
Taking a sip from the tumbler of tea he’d brought from home, Tony let out a sad sigh before speaking. “I apologize now if this is slow going. As you can hear my voice is mostly gone. Unfortunately, I have too fucking much to do to not speak. I want to start off by apologizing for being a crappy son. I’ve pretty much shit on your efforts to be a part of my life, and now that I need you, I’m here asking for help like a jerk. You deserved better from me in that area, and all I did was let you down.”
Patrick frowned and tilted his head to one side slightly before murmuring his response. “Antony, give me just a moment to call out to Jody to have my schedule cleared. It sounds like you and I have some things to clear up.”
Tony nodded his agreement and shifted his gaze to the amazing view out Patrick’s corner office window. His father and the rest of the Sheppard clan came into Tony’s life about a year prior just after Tony and the rest of the team returned from Somalia. Tony had his yearly annual and there was an extra blood test that was mandatory for all NCIS agents. It was explained as a test for some kind of rare genetic disorder they were concerned about.
Somehow whatever they ran led to them revealing that his father was not Anthony D. DiNozzo, Senior, but instead Patrick fucking Sheppard billionaire industrialist, and former Navy Admiral. He also discovered that he had two older brothers, David Sheppard, who was married to his wife Charlene, and John Sheppard, who was in the Air Force and away on a classified mission that kept him mostly out of contact. He then also had a younger brother Aiden Sheppard who was in the Navy and would soon be heading to SEAL training.
The year since the revelation had been harder than it probably should have been. Tony wasn’t what you would call trusting when it came to having someone who suddenly wanted to be involved in every aspect of his life. Because of this, he had fought said involvement tooth and nail. He’d felt back about it for a while, but it was just really hard for Tony to trust that this thing with Patrick and the rest of the Sheppards was actually real. Something Brad had been trying to get him to be more open-minded about, and also something Tony deeply regretted considering what a shit storm his professional life had become.
“OK, Antony, my schedule is clear for the day. I am yours. Do you want to have this talk here, or at the house? I know the family house makes you somewhat uncomfortable.” Tony turned his attention back from the view to Patrick and bit his lip as he turned over his options.
One of the first things Tony had done when he found out that the prick calling himself The Real Tony DiNozzo was the only Tony DiNozzo was to change his name. He was invested in being Tony, and didn’t want to change that, but didn’t want to be Anthony either. At the same time, while his mother wasn’t perfect, and certainly had her flaws, Tony had loved her and wanted to honor the one person who had actually tried to be his parent while she was alive.
Then at the last minute, as he was standing in front of the judge getting the name change, he decided to take Brad’s advice and not completely ignore Patrick’s place in his life. Thus, his name had changed from Anthony Dominic DiNozzo, Junior to Antony Sheppard Paddington. Brad had been happy with the change. Team Gibbs had been assholes about it, and even Gibbs tended to still call him DiNozzo when he thought he was making some kind of a point.
Patrick when finding out, just smiled and told him how much he appreciated the honor he’d given him in recognizing his place in Tony’s life. Just one more thing that Tony felt like a jerk about considering it had been a last-second decision. He was fairly confident that Patrick deserved better.
“Can we start here? At some point, I’d like us to bring in Admiral Chegwidden, and if he’s in DC this week instead of New York, this will be closer to his office than the house.”
“Are you in trouble Antony?” Patrick asked concerned, and Tony stretched his legs out in front of him after placing the now empty travel cup on the edge of his father’s desk.
“No, but if I have my way a shit ton of people at NCIS are going to be. I know you want details, but given how horrible my voice is right now, I’d rather not have to repeat the whole fiasco.”
Patrick nodded and placed a quick call to his friend making an appointment for 3PM that afternoon since Chegwidden was in fact in DC. Once done, his father leaned back in his chair, resting his elbows on the desktop, and steepled his fingers as he studied Tony.
“At no time in the last year have I thought you to be a crappy son or associated any other negative emotion or feeling to you in regard to our relationship. I can only imagine how hard it is to find out at 37 that the man who has treated you horribly your entire life and gotten away with it by claiming parentage, is not in fact your parent at all. Not in blood, and certainly not in his actions. While I can be impatient, and I’m used to people jumping when I make demands, you are not included in that.
“The fact of the matter is, Antony, that you are my son. I have never been a perfect father, and the fact is that I have not had John back in my life for much longer than you have been in it is because of my actions toward him. I’d like to think that with age, I have learned some hard lessons when it comes to my sons, and hope that you are reaping the rewards of those lessons. If you need my help, it is yours. If you decide at the same time that you are ready for us to try and build a relationship, I would love it and hold no ill will toward the time you needed to get here.”
Tony ran a hand through his spikey hair frustrated wishing he had more tea. “You have to understand that Senior wasn’t just a bad father, he was neglectful and at least verbally and emotionally abusive. By the time he disowned me at 12 for embarrassing him by getting caught when he forgot me in Maui, I had given up on the notion that he would ever be anything but my mother’s sperm donor. I’d become a bitter and angry kid who still missed his mother so much it felt like I had a literal hole in my heart, and didn’t have a ton of friends because I was so bitter and angry.
“The only time Senior appeared was when he wanted something. Fortunately, before you came into my life, he hadn’t wanted something for almost a decade. So, I find the idea that you actually want me for me and not for what you think I can do for you is… Well, it’s hard to trust.”
Both concern and anger were evident on Patrick’s face, and Tony hoped that while the former was for him that the latter was about Senior. “And my understanding of what kind of man he is, is what makes it so easy to be patient with you, Antony. No matter when you came into my life, you are my son, and therefore I love you. I will give you everything I have including my patience and my assistance with whatever you have found yourself caught in. Now, if you don’t mind hanging out here, let me have Jody bring you a tablet to use till we go see AJ for the meeting as well as some more tea. I’ll take the time to get some things done. That way we can spend some time together tomorrow if you’d like.”
“I’d like,” Tony said and moved to settle into his father’s sitting area waiting for Patrick’s assistant to bring him a Sheppard Mercury Tablet 4 and some more hot honey tea.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Around 3PM, Tony stood with Patrick in AJ Chegwidden’s outer office waiting for his secretary to give them the ok to go in. The woman kept giving him funny looks after stopping her flirting. Normally, Tony would be all over that, but that day just wasn’t the day. Somehow plotting the destruction of your employer put a stop to any thoughts of extracurricular anything. Besides, one of the things on the list he’d made for himself that morning had been no more settling including in his love life.
There was a huge whole part of his sexual preferences that he’d been ignoring since the Police Academy, but that was going to change. He thought that he could honestly say that he’d tested the heterosexual part enough to know it wasn’t working. He thought maybe it was time that he tested the other half of the market that he’d been ignoring. It had been something he’d admitted to Patrick previously, and was honestly shocked at how open his father was to the notion. It was only after that acceptance that he remembered his brother John was in a committed relationship with one of the male scientists on his base.
Hearing Madeline call their names, Tony stood and carrying the travel mug of tea Jody filled for him before they left SI, followed Patrick into Retired Rear Adm. Chegwidden’s office. Shaking the man’s hand, Tony then took a seat as directed at a conference table.
“What brings you to my office, Paddington?” Chegwidden asked settling in his chair. “I was damned surprised when Patrick called and said that you were asking for a rush appointment. You sound like shit by the way.”
“Yeah, it’s all kinda wrapped up in one big ball,” Tony started fiddling with the slider on the lid of his mug. His father’s presence at his side was both comforting and making him nervous. “Before we start though I have some questions for you because I am pretty much out of trust at the moment. If it was anything else, I wouldn’t bother. You’re the most by the book guy I’ve ever known though, and I know you’d never condone what’s going on. I just… Is there anything in your previous employment contracts or whatever or in your retirement stuff that would prevent you from handling a case against NCIS?”
Chegwidden’s eyebrow lifted, but the man shook his head no. “No, and as a matter of fact, I would say I might be the perfect person to do it given the position I held. What’s Gibbs done now?”
“You say that like you expect this is about Gibbs,” Tony pointed out suspiciously wondering if somehow, he’d been tipped off. This whole situation was making him paranoid and he hated it. Tony had always trusted his instincts, and he hated that they were making him doubt himself. Next to him, Patrick was sitting perfectly still, and Tony was wondering if his father was fighting the urge to squirm as much as Tony was.
“I’ve known the Gunny for long enough that I figured at some point he’d go too far. Mike Franks was a bad influence on him, and Jethro’s anti-leadership stance has never been the best mix. He, at one time, was a decent agent, but I have always questioned his suitability as a team leader. There’s a difference between being focused on justice and bullying people to get the outcome you want. From what I have heard, Gibbs has slipped into that bully territory. So, I ask again. What has he done?”
“I thought you two were friends?” Tony asked still not sure, even as he slipped his hand in his pocket to pull out a micro stick.
“We’re friendly, but I wouldn’t consider us friends. I am friendly with a lot of people. I was a damned lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t understand that most times being pleasant was easier than bludgeoning people to get what I want. Strict and bullying are not the same outcome. What’s on the stick, kid?”
It was harder than it should be. Tony wanted to trust this man. He wanted to be able to just hand over the audio files that he’d put on it, but that damned second-guessing himself was getting in the way. As he sat there watching Chegwidden, he could feel anxiety and a flight instinct trying to burst out of his chest. The only thing that was holding him back was that he really believed that this man was the best chance he had.
“You’ve come here for a reason, Tony,” Patrick pointed out. His voice calm and soothing, and Tony turned his attention toward his father.
The fact of the matter was that Tony had to have someone he could trust in the mess he’d become entangled in. He couldn’t imagine there was anyone better to offer his trust to than Patrick. Even though he knew what his father was doing, trying to calm him down, he couldn’t help but want to respond to it. Before Tony could answer though Chegwidden spoke again.
“Something serious has obviously happened, and I am guessing that a lot of us have underestimated the fucked-up-ness that is going on at NCIS. I can see you’re ready to run, and we both know if you do that none of us will ever find you. The problem with it though is you’ll be running for the rest of your life. You’ll be leaving behind your family and a level of protection that most people just don’t have access to. Frankly, that would be a real damned shame in my opinion, because I’ve never known anyone who enjoys life or deserves a family like the Sheppards more than you do.
“I promise you that whatever happened, I am on your side. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve known Gibbs. It doesn’t matter who Ziva’s father is, ‘cause there’s no way that harpy isn’t involved. The second you hire me, I am on your side first, Justice’s the second and damn everyone else.
“I have never been a fan of Leon Vance or thought that slimy prick was suited for the director’s chair, and Shepard was an even worse idea. I suggested Granger both times, but no one listens to me. Tell me what they did to you so that I can nail their goddamned asses to the wall.”
Tony’s fingers clenched around the memory stick for a moment before nodding and handing it over. “It’s not Gibbs. Not really. I mean, the fact that I didn’t even consider going to him probably says I should have examined our working relationship a long time ago. Gibbs isn’t the one who pushed me over the edge, though. There are two files on there. Listen to both and then we’ll talk.” Tony knew the wait might kill him, but he had no choice.
When Ziva and McGee’s voices came over the speakers of Chegwidden’s computer, Tony didn’t even try to stay where he was. Instead, he got up and walked to the other side of the room where he began to pace back and forth along the length of the room. At one point, he had to set his tea down because he was afraid, he would let it sail and bust something in the Admiral’s office. And Jesus he had to get control of his emotions. He couldn’t afford to be such an emotional seesaw in his profession, and he damned well intended to continue his profession. Fuck them if they thought they could chase him off.
When Vance’s voice started though, he moved to the corner window and stared out trying to force his mind to blankness. It was sickening to him that the Director’s betrayal hit him worse than Ziva and Tim cutting off the coms, but it did. He didn’t know what had made him record the conversation in Vance’s office, but he had. Even though he knew that it wouldn’t be eligible to be used as evidence, he knew it would give those he needed to trust him the full picture of what was going on.
A part of him was amazed that he’d been able to get the conversation recorded. It had been a spur-of-the-moment decision to even tell the man what happened. Tony had been at his desk late at night with the rest of the team gone when Vance stopped by his desk to make sure things had been wrapped up. Tony had been sitting at his desk contemplating carry out orders on his cellphone when Vance stopped in front of his desk.
He wasn’t sure what had convinced him to tell the man what happened, but his reaction absolutely hadn’t shocked him at all. Vance was like a saner and more crooked version of Sheppard. How the fuck someone had managed to hire two Directors in a row with close ties to Mossad, Tony had no clue. It wasn’t even like either connection was a secret. Part of his concern in all of this was Vance catching a clue and altering the evidence. Fortunately, the man had given Tony the perfect cover story saying he should see someone about his voice. He was hoping the fact that Vance had always underestimated him would work in his favor.
“Jesus Christ, Tony,” Chegwidden said, and Tony looked over to see the man had turned towards him at some point. “If you’re willing to trust me then I’m in. Those assholes have no right to get away with this bullshit.”
“I have more,” Tony said quietly before making his way back to where he’d been sitting previously. “Not blackmail files like Franks and Gibbs have, but insurance, nonetheless. Things where I think the law was bent too far. Things I suspect were covered up and the decisions made were not made by the people I was told they were. Most of it is reports and things I’ve kept over the years. The original copies before I was made to not include something or where I questioned things and it was ignored or removed.
“I even have Abby’s report where she proved that Gibbs killed Pedro Hernandez. I know it’s past the statute of limitation in Mexico, but it might help our cause.”
“You have… Gibbs did… Explain!” Chegwidden snapped, and Patrick looked ready to commit murder.
Tony shrugged and went to retrieve his forgotten tea before coming back and answering. “I didn’t know at the time all of what was going on, but a few years ago, Abby was working on a case for the Mexican Government. Some special case that they wanted her to review. I remember that she was really absent-minded and agitated at the end.
“When we had problems with that cartel that went after Jackson Gibbs, I suspected what happened, but I didn’t have proof. Then about six-ish months ago, the Evidence Bunnies gave me the wrong box when I was checking out a cold case. Just lying there on top for some reason was the report that Abby did. I have no clue how it got there, but I made a copy of it before giving the box back. It proves that the bullet that shot Pedro Hernandez came from Gibbs’s sniper rifle. The same one he uses to this day.”
“Holy shit, DiNozzo,” Chegwidden breathed before taking a drink from the coffee mug in front of him. “You could be more dangerous than Gibbs and Franks put together.”
“I’m not an asshole,” Tony protested with a scowl.
“I’d never use what I have to blackmail someone. I just… I tried to do the right thing, and I wasn’t going to have it thrown back on me someday when someone finally clued in. I’ve, I don’t know how I’ve overlooked it for so long. When I look back on it all now, it feels like NCIS is so corrupt that I don’t understand how black ooze isn’t just running down the walls. It was all more to cover my own ass than to take someone else down. However, given what they did, I am willing to turn it all over to you and whoever you think best. I thought maybe Morrow, but now I’m not sure.”
“You’ve already included Tom?” Chegwidden asked surprised, and Tony shook his head no.
“Not yet, but that was the next step in my plan if you turned down my request for help unless you think it was a bad idea. I trust Tom. Maybe I shouldn’t but he always did right by me, and he felt like he’s the only Director NCIS has had since I got there who valued me.”
“Tom’s a helluva idea,” Chegwidden approved pulling a notepad closer to himself and making some notations. “I think that you’re right that this shit at least would not have been tolerated. Let’s take a look at this evidence of yours and then we’ll involve Tom. I’d like to do that before we go after NCIS’ files, but that needs to happen quickly. I’d also like to keep this out of my office any further until we have what we need out of NCIS’s systems.
“I’ll contact Tom and see if he is available to come over tonight. I think that we should also involve FBI Assistant Director Evans. He’s as honest as they come, and technically this is something the FBI will have to be involved in I’d imagine. We’ll give them a rundown of what’s going on and then settle on our game plan. Then first thing tomorrow morning, I will go to the courthouse and make a motion for the records that we need. There are a couple judges there that I trust to help us out and keep it quiet. The last thing we need is this to get public. Unfortunately, that may limit some of the punishments, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
“The last thing I want is someone to go free because of this circus. I just can’t keep my mouth shut anymore, Admiral. I also can’t ever go back there. Dr. Pitt from Bethesda who on occasion acts as my personal physician has put in medical leave for me and has dealt with Ducky and Gibbs. So, hopefully, they won’t suspect anything.” Tony admitted and thought his father looked to be clenching his jaw so tight he was afraid he’d crack a tooth.
“Good, that’s good. We don’t want them catching wind of this before we’re ready for them to know. I don’t have words for how furious this makes me, Tony. I can assure you that once this is done, we’ll find a landing spot for you with people that will respect you. You’re going to have options. I am going to make sure of it. And, for God’s sake, call me AJ.”
Taking a deep breath, Tony nodded and took another sip of his tea as he made plans with AJ for the evening as well as giving him a heads up on what was in his files. Hopefully, by the time they were done, NCIS would be cleansed of the corruption and they could get back to what they were meant to be doing.
Several hours later, Tony found himself in the den at Patrick’s DC townhouse listening one more time to the recordings he’d provided his lawyer. This time it was being played for Director Morrow, Assistant Director Evans, and JAG Harmon Rabb’s benefits.
Morrow was the one Tony had been watching though, and the angrier the man’s expression got, the more Tony relaxed. When it was done playing and Morrow was done cursing, the man turned his intense gaze on Tony. Patrick looked just as furious this time as he had earlier in the day, and Tony just hoped that the man wouldn’t have a heart attack.
“When this is all over if there isn’t a suitable Director that Patrick, AJ, and myself approve of, then you are accepting that job offer I’ve been sending you every month since I left. I ain’t pussy footin’ around anymore. The fallout for this is going to be massive and probably extend beyond US borders with Eli’s little girl involved. He won’t like the stain on Mossad one bit, and from what I’ve heard he already isn’t your biggest fan. I’m getting ahead of myself though. AJ, we need those records now.”
Harmon Rabb, the current JAG Commander, sat up with eyes stormy from his own suppressed anger. During their conversation in the afternoon, AJ had convinced him that they need JAG involved as well since it could affect their case. It would also possibly muddy the waters enough to buy them more time.
“AJ and I have an appointment with Judge Butler in the morning. He’ll sign our warrants and keep it quiet. I’ve already told him that we aren’t sure how big it is. We need to go through Tony’s files tonight, so I have a better idea of what to look for. AJ and I agree that our best bet would be to get as much in the initial sweep as possible.”
Evans nodded looking up from the notepad he had been scribbling on. “I have some ideas for an investigative team. I was thinking of Ian Edgerton for the lead. I know it’s a little unorthodox. He’s better known for his sniper abilities, but the man is as incorruptible as they come. While he prefers to work alone, he knows how to work with a team, and he has personal knowledge of Mossad, the hating their guts kind of knowledge, I mean.
“Then, since we need some people more used to investigation and who have the skills to take on Sciuto and McGee, I was thinking of pulling some people from our Cyber team. They’ve been pulled from fieldwork for the moment because they’re going to be getting a new Team Lead. Like Ian, they all have strong moral compasses.”
Morrow nodded as he took a sip of scotch. “Ian is inspired. I personally highly approve of his place on the team. Who are the people from Cyber?”
“Elijah Mundo will be the one doing fieldwork with Ian,” Evans explained as he shifted to a more comfortable position. “He’s a former SEAL and not afraid to knock literal and figurative heads together when needed. Then Raven Ramirez and Daniel Krumitz are hackers that work with him. Krumitz has always been a white hat, but Ramirez is one of our former black hats. Honestly, I would put Ramirez and Krumitz up against anyone in the world. Between the four of them, NCIS isn’t getting away with anything.”
“And Vance?” Patrick asked pulling Tony’s attention away from Morrow and back to his father who had a rather deceptive calm expression on his face.
“Vance is going to find out that Tony has his own rather high-powered friends,” Morrow promised as Rabb growls.
“And if he’s compromised any of my damned cases, I’m gonna cut him off at the knees!”
Chegwidden snorted at his protégé before turning his attention to Tony. “I don’t know what’s going on in your head where Gibbs is concerned, but I think that we should talk to him. See where he’s going to fall. My recommendation with be to send Tom and Harm over to the basement for a chat.”
“That motherfucker,” Harm swore making Morrow smirk. He’d run across the younger man a time or two in his career and always enjoyed being in his presence. Maybe he needed to consider exploring if there was the possibility of something more there.
“So, it’s settled. Harmon and I will go visit Gibbs and not so gently remove his head from his hind end. Evans will put together the selected investigative team to see that McGee, David, and Sciuto get their comeuppance. AJ and Patrick will unleash their furor on Vance until SecDef and SecNav have no choice but to fire the man. Once that happens, we put our combined efforts into making sure Owen Granger is made NCIS Director.”
“I love it when a plan comes together,” Tony quoted with a grin, and the rest of the room just offered fond snorts and smirks.
Chapter Two: Late Night Conversations & Peril
Late that evening when he should be sleeping but was unable to, Tony had taken up his inspection of his father’s townhouse by perusing the library lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books and knickknacks. Every so often he’d pause to pull a book off a shelf or lift a picture frame or some item sitting on one of the shelves up in his hands to study it closer. He was at one of those moments where he was studying a book titled The Reaper in the Vale by Rocco Chang when he heard Patrick enter the library and felt the older man stop behind him.
“What did you find?”
Tony showed the spine before slipping the book back onto the shelf. Fantasy had never been his thing. He hadn’t pictured Patrick as a Fantasy fan and said as much only to get a chuckle from his father. “I’m not. That would be your brother John. I added some books from his wish list for when he is in town for meetings.”
“I thought John was in the Air Force on some secret assignment,” Tony questioned turning and arching an eyebrow at his father who just offered a smirk and a shrug.
“He is, but he leads the… assignment. So, at times he needs to come back to town to meet with those above him in his command.”
Tony this time tilted his head as he processed the words that didn’t make a whole ton of sense to him given what he knew about the military. Either things were handled a lot differently in the Air Force than in the Navy or Marines, John was much higher up the chain of command than Tony was aware of, or there was something about John’s assignment Tony wasn’t aware of.
“Huh,” Tony offered as he looked briefly toward the bookcase before moving back to his inspection of the library. He noticed Patrick sitting down with a tumbler of brown liquid that Tony guessed to be scotch, but he didn’t immediately comment.
“Thank you for today,” Tony finally said quietly with his back to his father, but turned, trying to keep an open expression on his face. “I appreciated your support. Given how I’ve treated you, you didn’t have to do all of that. It means a lot to me though that you did.”
“I thought we already settled this,” Patrick murmured with a sigh. “There is nothing for you to apologize for. Of course, I’m going to support you. You’re my son, and while I may not have been and probably am not always the best father, I’d like to think that I would be there for any of you when one of you comes to me directly for assistance. I hate that you think me supporting you in a time of need is anything other than what an even semi-competent parent should be expected to offer his child.”
“I just,” Tony started then stopped as he made his way over to sit in one of the chairs near Patrick. “I feel like I’m messing this all up. You deserve better than I have given you in this father-son thing. I know earlier that you said that you understood and all that. It’s just, I’m not used to my parent being so understanding, I suppose. It feels like I’m missing out on an opportunity, and I don’t know how to get from where I am to where I want to be.”
“Well, I doubt that it will happen overnight, Antony,” Patrick offered after taking a sip of his drink before setting it on the end table next to him. “It isn’t like we are on some timetable, though. We have plenty of time to learn about each other and for you to learn about your brothers.”
Tony gave another frustrated huff at the mention of brothers. That was something else that Tony had wanted but thus far hadn’t been able to trust he really had. It felt somewhat overwhelming, and Tony honestly wasn’t sure where to start at. One day he was an only child with a crappy, hateful father, and by the time he went to sleep that night he had a father who very much wanted to be a part of his life, and three brothers who were eager to get to know him. It was all a little too Twilight Zone for him.
“Tell me about them,” Tony asked as he got up and paced around the room again for a few minutes before grabbing a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and then heading back to his seat.
“Well, your brother David is the oldest and the first of my sons with my first wife Emma. David is 14 years older than you, born on December 19th at not quite 1:30 in the afternoon. He works for Sheppard Industries and will take over for me someday when I retire. I’m afraid I put a lot of expectations on both his and John’s shoulders when they were children. David though seemed to thrive on them and every time I set an expectation or goal, he took it as a challenge to not just meet but beat.
“I think you know that he is married with twins. His wife Charlene, who everyone calls Charlie, is the head of our Research and Development Department. They actually met at SI and hid their relationship for quite a long time because of our fraternization rules. It wasn’t until he realized that he wanted to marry her that he came clean about their relationship. Since then, we’ve tweaked some of our dating rules to try and be more accommodating.”
Tony nodded thinking about what he knew about his oldest brother. “The twins were named after you and Emma right?”
Patrick nodded offering a soft smile as he, Tony guessed, thought about his grandchildren. “Yes, Thomas Patrick and Emma Katheryn. Charlie’s parents’ names are Thomas and Katheryn. They both wanted to name the children after their parents. With David’s mother and Charlie’s father both having died when they were young, they found this to be a fair agreement. They are both five and I am not ashamed to admit their grandmother and I spoil them much more than either David or Charlie are happy with. Like myself though, Kathryn is determined to do as she pleases without outright going against their wishes.”
“Hmm,” Tony offered with a frown. “I met Nonno and Nonna DiNozzo once and used to see Zio Vincenzo on occasion as a kid before mom died. I think they were nicer to me than Senior ever was. I always wondered how such wonderful people could have a son or brother like Senior who is so morally corrupt that he can’t get out of his own way. I guess though that they aren’t really Nonno and Nonna or Zio really since Senior wasn’t my father.”
“He was married to your mother,” Patrick pointed out sympathetically. “Senior is essentially your step-father, thus still making them your family. Are any of them still alive?”
Tony quickly shook his head and answered as he played with the paper label on the water bottle. “No, Nonno and Nonna DiNozzo died not long after mom did. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if they’d still been alive. I don’t know as he was afraid of Nonno DiNozzo, but it seems like, looking back, that Senior at least listened to what his father said, usually. Zio Vincenzo died when I was in college. An armed robber came in during the day and shot him when he didn’t have as much cash as the junkie thought he would.
“I used to think about him a lot when I was a cop and working patrols. His death definitely influenced me when my knee got busted up and I was trying to find a new path. I hope they aren’t upset that Senior isn’t my father. I mean, I’m not a religious guy, but I’d like to think there’s something out there for good people after they died. Like, Nonno and Nonna are in a big garden, with Nonno Camille planting his flowers and Nonna Robin sipping her tea or painting. Zio Vincenzo occasionally brings them sandwiches from his butcher and deli shop.”
“I hope the same, my son. I’d like to think my Emma has found them and maybe she brings my parents with her when they go to visit them. Emma would love to help your Nonno Camille with his flowers. She loved her gardens. Was always planting things. The family estate even has several greenhouses so that she could work on her own plants and saplings in the winter to plant when Springtime came.
“I was very glad to find out that Charlie likes flowers too, and little Thomas seems to be taking after her. He already likes going out with her and helping. Although, Little Emma hates getting dirty and would rather be in the kitchen or drawing. You draw, don’t you?”
Tony nodded shyly then answered after swallowing the last of the water from his bottle. “Yes, although I don’t do it as much for pleasure as I used to. I may start doing it again now that I won’t be working so many crime scenes, or I hope I won’t be. Somehow drawing dead bodies and places that held dead bodies takes the fun out of drawing for pleasure. What about John? You’ve hinted that you two don’t get along very well? Did I interpret that correctly?”
Patrick nodded before draining his tumbler and setting it aside in what seemed to Tony a deliberate action. “I am afraid I made a lot of mistakes with John. In some ways, I wasn’t much better with John than Senior was with you after Emma died. Like you, John was closest to his mother, and I should have seen his trauma despite my own heartbreak.
“Unlike David, John always seemed to want the opposite of what I planned for him and chafed at my expectations. I should have wised up sooner, learned quicker, but I didn’t. Instead, I just kept placing more expectations on him. Hell, I am quite sure that I am the only reason he married his ex-wife.
“I’ve seen him with his Partner Rodney and looking back he was never once that relaxed or happy with Nancy as he is when he looks at McKay. I am ashamed of the hateful words I threw at him that drove us apart for so long. I think that if it wasn’t for Aiden, John and I never would have reconciled.”
“Rodney is a scientist, right? I think I remember that being mentioned at one time.” Tony questioned then got up to get two bottles of water. Handing one to his father, receiving a quiet thanks, before sitting back down.
“Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay has doctorates in Astrophysics and Mechanical Engineering along with a degree in physics also. He will tell you that he’s the smartest man on the planet, but then he disregards most sciences that he considers soft.” Patrick joked with an obvious affectionate smile on his face.
“He works for the same program that your brother John works for, which we need to get you read into by the way. I’ve been meaning to discuss it with you again, I know you weren’t ready at the time we first talked about it. I hope that you are now. I don’t like secrets like this within the family.”
“I understand secrets and classified projects,” Tony protested, but Patrick just waved a hand. “Rodney may be smart, but I don’t know about smartest. There’s a profiler at the BAU that I guarantee could give him a run for his money. Dr. Spencer Reid is certainly the smartest man I’ve ever met. I play basketball sometimes at the Y with his best friend Derek Morgan and another FBI agent Seeley Booth. Reid is scary smart and has spread his degrees around pretty well covering a lot of diverse subjects.”
“I don’t like you not knowing when all of the rest of the family is involved. Even Aiden has been read in. I’ve already talked to the man who heads up the project and I believe the background work has already been done to read you in. It was just a matter of you being ready for it. I’ll see about having that meeting soon. That way you have time to adjust while you are deciding where to go next.”
“You’ve mentioned Aiden a couple of times,” Tony pointed out shifting to settle more comfortably in his chair. “What’s he like? He’s in the Navy, right? I confess I did look him up since I had access to his records. He seems to be on a fast track to something.”
“That would be to becoming a SEAL,” Patrick quipped as he too shifted positions as if mirroring Tony. “I would like to think that you and Aiden will benefit from the things that I learned with David and John. Well, along with my grandchildren that is. Yes, Aiden is in the Navy and his mother is very much alive. She is a very sought-after lawyer. While I cared for Jordan a great deal, looking back I can see that our relationship was one of more convenience and loneliness than anything.
“I was tired of being alone in my bed every night and Jordan was beautiful, charming, and familiar. Her family and mine have been friends for generations. Things were fine until she got pregnant, and we couldn’t ignore how incompatible we were in all the wrong areas. Do not get me wrong. Jordan loves Aiden, she just had no interest in being a full-time mother to a newborn, even one that could afford a nanny.
“It wasn’t like I expected her to give up her job to raise Aiden, but she resented even the little time she’d lose from her career to have him. Fortunately, there was no question that she would go through with the pregnancy. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if she had wanted to abort the pregnancy.”
Patrick sighed and Tony thought that he heard some regret in the sound. “Once we realized that we differed in such a fundamental area as raising the child we’d created, things just mostly stopped. The good thing was that we had known each other most of our lives and were able to still be friends. We just were not made to be a couple and looking back I can see where I saw things in our relationship that wasn’t there. I don’t regret Aiden though. I love him as I do all you boys.”
“What’s he like?” Tony asked curiously and unconsciously leaned forward. “There’s quite a big age difference between him and John, right? Is he close with his other brothers? Is he the normal spoiled youngest child or is he a loner because there wasn’t anyone else his age in the house?”
“Aiden is a conundrum,” Patrick joked, and his affection for his son was obvious on his face. “John has called him Little Alpha since Aiden was just a small child, and yet despite he is not related to her in any way, Aiden has Emma’s sensitivity. He’s always had this switch he flips in his head. One second, he’s crying because a butterfly got killed and the next second he was going after some older boy or person because they upset one of his friends.
“I honestly think that if it hadn’t been for Aiden’s birth, I would have lost John altogether. Fortunately, John was fascinated by Aiden. I think it’s the only reason he ended up going to Harvard instead of Stanford where he was all set to attend.”
“It’s because of John that when Aiden came to me and said he didn’t even want to go to college, he just wanted to join the Navy after graduating that I was able to be supportive instead of destroying another relationship. I also think that Aiden is the only reason John told us about his current assignment when he got it. I am pretty sure that without Aiden we’d never have known what John was doing.”
“What’s Aiden’s relationship with his mother like?” Tony asked curiously he settled back in his chair, realizing he’d leaned forward far enough that his elbows were resting on his knees.
“It’s,” Patrick started then stopped, Tony guessed searching for the right words, then started again. “Their relationship is unique to them. I have always tried to stay out of his as much as I needed to, and only making sure Aiden wasn’t hurt. Jordan would get wrapped up in cases and would forget Aiden but since she wasn’t raising him it worked out. Frankly, she still does, but now Aiden is old enough it isn’t a big deal. I assume not having her around on a daily basis helped with that habit when Aiden was small.
“Despite not being Emma’s son, he’s always wanted to know about her and was as curious about her as he was his own mother. John says that Aiden and Jordan are more like Aunt and Nephew, while David says their relationship is what they each need, and mostly tells me to stay out of it. Aiden does have his mother’s drive, though.
“That may be why he understands her absences so well. He’s always seemed to know who he was and where he wanted to go, and he’s never been willing to let someone stand in his way. Aiden has always adored AJ, and I think it’s because of him that my son is so determined to be a SEAL.”
“AJ? SEAL?” Tony parroted cocking his head to one side, and Patrick shook his head. “That sounds awfully familiar.”
“Yes, have I not told you? Of course, I haven’t, or you would know. AJ Chegwidden, your lawyer, is my ex-brother-in-law. I am sorry Antony. I don’t know how I have neglected to tell you. I suppose I am just used to people knowing. Aiden’s mother is AJ Chegwidden’s younger sister. Our families have known each other for more generations than I can recall. David would know for sure. He is quite taken with genealogy and has traced the Sheppard family tree back as far as he is currently able.”
“That’s a little weird,” Tony murmured scrunching up his nose.
“Too weird?” Patrick asked looking concerned, and Tony gave a laugh and shook his head.
“When you’ve spent time in a frat house, nothing is too weird, Patrick,” Tony offered stumbling over his father’s name for a moment before correcting himself. “Dad. I need to work on calling you dad, not Patrick.”
“Whatever you are comfortable with, Antony,” Patrick assured his voice suddenly husky as if he were holding back a great burst of emotion.
“No, if we are going to be what I want us to be, it’s dad,” Tony argued leaning forward again. This time though he rested his elbows on the ends of the chair arms.
“I want us to be close. I want that relationship that I’ve always dreamed about. Not just with you but with David, John, and Aiden, too. I know John will be harder because he’s so far away, but I want it. I’ve never been afraid to work hard to get something. You don’t become a high-level two-sport college athlete at a big-name college, or the youngest detective in Philly PD history if you’re afraid of hard work.”
“So, if you don’t mind it’s dad,” Tony insisted with a soft sigh. “I think I will miss being able to use the Italian terms for things since apparently, I am not Italian. I may miss that more than being related to Nonno and Nonna and Zio Vincenzo.”
“Would it help you to know that two of your grandmothers were Italian?” Patrick quipped and laughed outright at the excitement that Tony knew must be on his face. “My mother and her mother were both born in Italy. In fact, they were born in the same small town. So, you most definitely have Italian roots in your genetics, my son.”
“Then would you mind Papà?” Tony questioned eagerly. “I always liked that. Vincenzo’s daughters used to call him that, and I always thought it sounded cool, but Senior hated it. Said it was common and beneath them.” Tony wrinkled his nose and let out a disgusted huff at the mention of the man who had claimed to be his father for all of those years.
“I wouldn’t mind Papà at all,” Patrick assured with a smile. “My mother used to call her father Papà and I always liked it myself. I always wished one of the boys took more of an interest in their Italian side, but all three of them were more interested in other things. As to us being close, I would love that, Antony. I meant it when I said that I was happy to have whatever type of relationship you want.”
Sitting back happily Tony drained his bottle and set the second one next to the empty first bottle. “Then Papà it is, and I look forward to the journey we will undertake to that relationship.” Leaning back, Tony let out a deep breath and wondered if it was only his imagination that somehow the load on his shoulders felt lighter than he was used to.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Gibbs was sitting at the bench in his basement holding a block of wood in his hands, but not actually working on it. His mind was turning over all the things going on at work as he tried to figure out where the disconnect was between what he knew about Tony and the things the Director and the rest of his team were claiming.
When he’d found out that Tony would be off sick, he was immediately concerned, because Tony had never taken as much sick leave as he needed to. Even after the damned plague, he came back quicker than he should have. Yet, with what everyone else claimed was just a simple sore throat, he was taking an undetermined amount of sick time?
When he’d gone to check with Director Vance about the call from Dr. Pitt informing him that he’d put Tony on mandatory sick leave, Leon was outright dismissive of the effect it would have on the team. For some reason, every time Tony was gone the man acted like it was no big deal, and then acted confused and usually irritated when things didn’t get done either as quickly or as efficiently as when Tony was around.
It was like the man had some damned mental block that was preventing him from recognizing Tony’s worth and importance to the team. If he thought more about the Director himself, Gibbs might spend more time trying to change the man’s opinion of the best agent he’d ever worked with. The thing was though that he didn’t care about Vance’s opinion on anything, and thus just let the pompous ass stew in his own ignorance.
Abby, Tim, and Ziva though were the puzzling part of the whole thing, with Abby being the one that confused him the most. Tony had never really warmed up to Ziva, and more than once over the years she’d been on the team, Gibbs wondered if he should have listened to his SFA’s protests when she joined the MCRT.
McGee was a lost cause of a hopeless follower. For someone who had his sights set on the big chair, the man did little to cure himself of his habit of being led around by his nose by whatever pretty woman or strong personality was near. People always accused Tony of being a lapdog, but if there was anyone who resembled that or a yes man it was McGee. There were times where Gibbs was tempted to demand x-rays be taken and make sure the man had a spine at all.
Again, like Ziva, it wasn’t the first time over the years that Gibbs had wondered if bringing McGee onto the team had been the best idea. Along with that, he wondered how good of an idea it had been to assign Tony to mentor the younger man. Looking back Gibbs could see that Tony’s teaching style didn’t mesh well with McGee’s personality and insecurities. And Abby…
Abby seemed to have had a sudden complete change of mind where Tony was concerned. Gibbs expected her to be more worried and thought he’d see more handwringing when he informed her that he’d be out sick. Instead, she’d been dismissive and almost cruel in her claim that he was just playing things up for attention and was being a big baby about the whole thing.
As if that weren’t odd enough, she’d then gone on to hint that Tony was all of a sudden completely incompetent and claimed that if it hadn’t been for Ziva the case never would have been closed. Now, while Gibbs was willing to admit that Ziva had helped wrap things up, he hadn’t forgotten that the reason Tony had to take time off. He was forced to go around that whole neighborhood getting voiceprints, while McGee and Ziva sat on their asses in the car. Something that Gibbs still didn’t understand.
He’d expected that the three of them would split things up and take turns getting voiceprints. Instead, Ziva and McGee claimed Tony was “selfish” and hogged the limelight for himself leaving them to sit in the car bored all day. The whole thing was hinky as Gibbs was used to Abby saying and couldn’t figure out why the word wasn’t coming out of her mouth now.
Gibbs was drawn from his thoughts at the sound of his front door opening, followed by what sounded like two people entering before it was closed with a bang. Curious as to who his visitors were, Gibbs set the block of wood aside and turned toward the stairs just in time to see first Tom Morrow and then Harmon Rabb come down his basement steps. An odder couple might have never visited him there before.
“Tom, Harm,” Gibbs greeted cocked an eyebrow at the glower he was getting from the young JAG leader. “Something I can help you two with?”
“You are a complete jackass,” Harm seethed making Gibbs’ eyebrow arch further. “And if that woman jeopardizes any of my cases, I’m holding you personally responsible.”
“Harmon,” Morrow chided with a sigh as Gibbs turned his attention from the JAG to his former Director. “Gibbs, we’re here to see if you’re part of the problem or if you’re just blind to what is going on around you.”
Gibbs was quickly convinced that hinky was a perfect word for whatever was going on. He wasn’t sure if he hoped that this odd visit had something to do with the weirdness at NCIS or not. He wasn’t sure that he could handle two odd things happening at once, but at the same time, Harm’s words were extremely concerning and seemed to hint that Abby was involved in whatever was going on. Although he supposed he could mean Ziva, also. Somehow the thought that it was her and not Abby didn’t make him feel any better.
“I assume this means that something has happened?” Gibbs finally asked, directing his question to Morrow instead of Rabb who still looked to be trying to glare holes through Gibbs’ skull.
“After you and Vance made that idiotic trip to Israel allowing Tony to be questioned by Mossad, you told me that Ziva forced you into choosing between herself and Tony,” Morrow started, and Harm let out a sound that was half huff and half growl that only added to Gibbs’ confusion.
“I need to know if that has changed. Are you still on Tony’s side? If it came down to it, and you were forced to choose between Tony and Ziva who would you pick?”
“Picked Tony once,” Gibbs pointed out confused, “nothing has changed since then, Tom.”
“I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t choose him the second time. Wouldn’t say I’d like it, but I’ll always pick Tony.”
“What about Abby?” Tom questioned, and Gibbs stilled at the words his concern over what was going on forming a cold ball of anxiety in his stomach. “If you had to choose between Abby and Tony, who are you choosing?”
“Something happen that I don’t know about?” Gibbs shot back in lieu of answering. “This got something to do with why everyone was weird today, and Abby acted like Tony was NCIS’s suspect #1?”
“Just answer the question, Gibbs,” Tom insisted firmly reminding Gibbs that things at NCIS had run much smoother and the atmosphere had been much calmer under his reign. If you have to choose between Tony and Abby, who are you choosing?”
“Depends on the situation most likely,” Gibbs said honestly trying to buy himself some time as his mind worked its way through the possibilities. The fact was that while Vance had always disliked Tony, and underestimated his value, Tom Morrow had always highly valued Tony’s worth to NCIS. There seemed to be an edge to Morrow’s words today that Gibbs couldn’t put a word to the feeling he got. He just knew it hadn’t been good.
Abby was the real clue here though that things weren’t what Vance and his team wanted him to believe about Tony. Along with her insistence that Tony was suddenly incompetent and dragging the team down, she had also been rather concerned with reminding Gibbs, and that he understood, she was not just his favorite, but that NCIS needed her. Not just needed her but going so far as to claim that the agency couldn’t get by without her.
Turning his attention away from his visitors, Gibbs studied his workbench top as he thought back to a visit that he’d gotten from Patrick Sheppard not long after they’d discovered he was Tony’s real father. The man had been rather scathing in his opinion of Gibbs’ leadership abilities along with his review of the people placed around Tony. While at the time he’d written the visit off as the words of some out-of-touch billionaire control freak, Gibbs couldn’t help but think of some of the accusations the man-made.
At the time Gibbs had wondered where the man was getting his information. Tony claimed, and Gibbs had believed him, that he’d basically been holding his new family at an arm’s length, not comfortable with trusting them yet. Now he wondered if two, or at least one, of those people providing Sheppard with information, wasn’t standing in his basement. If Morrow had given Patrick Sheppard such a scathing review of Gibbs’ team, the former Marine couldn’t help but consider his words now.
As much as it had pissed him off at the time, Gibbs couldn’t help but admit that there had been times over the past year that the words had come back to him. Especially when he noticed what appeared to be two or even at times all three of a combination of Ziva, McGee, and Abby ganging up on Tony. Every time though it had seemed like Tony had been rather unphased by it, brushing the whole thing off as a joke, or throwing something back some zinger of his own.
“They did somethin’ didn’t they?” Gibbs asked turning his attention back to Morrow who seemed to have just stood and quietly watched him think. “Abby, Ziver, and McGee I mean. The three of them did somethin’ on the last case.”
“They did,” Morrow confirmed, and when Harm started to speak, Tom just put a hand on the younger man’s arm making Gibbs wonder if somethin’ wasn’t going on there.
“To answer your question from earlier, I’d pick Tony,” Gibbs insisted with a frown and unconsciously rubbed his chest at the pain the thought of turning his back on Abby brought. “Wouldn’t like it. Everyone knows Abby’s like a daughter to me. Haven’t exactly hidden it. Thing is though that Tony’s strongest quality is his ethics. He may sometimes skirt right up to that line, but he’s steadfast in his determination not to cross it. The others….”
“Yes?” Harm asked seeming calmer and Gibbs noticed Tom still had a hand on his arm. “What about the others?”
“McGee’s a follower. He’ll let Abby and Ziva lead him around by the nose until a stronger person, more likely than not another woman, comes along who expresses interest in him. Abby, I used to think was the same way, but somethin’ happened a while back that she handled in a way I didn’t expect. Ziva’s, well, she’s exactly what I’d expect Eli’s little girl to be.
“As much as I want to believe that she wouldn’t betray me, I’m not blind to the fact that she’s daddy’s little girl. Plus, I’m fairly certain that Abby and Ziva have somethin’ goin’ on that violates Rule #12. Didn’t expect them to be the two that hooked up, but I’m not blind to the signs. So, what did they do?”
Gibbs watched Tom and didn’t fail to notice how Harm was also watching the current Homeland Assistant Director with something more than just expectation in his gaze. Briefly, he wondered if Tom was going to finally get his man and then shoved the thought away to examine later.
“Ziva and McGee turned off the coms on Tony while he was getting voiceprints. When Abby found out she laughed at him and told him he was being a baby. When he went to Vance, he was told that maybe he shouldn’t dish things out if he couldn’t take it.”
Gibbs rubbed his chest again, this time the pain came from the thought that Tony distrusted him so much he hadn’t even tried to come to him. Feeling suddenly exhausted, Gibbs picked up a nearby rag and wiped off his forehead.
“I pick Tony, Tom. I’ll always pick Tony. I fucked up, didn’t I?”
“While I’m pretty sure your prior actions led to Tony not being willing to come to you, I wouldn’t say this was your fault,” Tom advised with a frown as the older man looked his way. Gibbs rubbed his chest wishing it would make the ache there go away, but it only seemed to be increasing.
“Gibbs? You feeling ok? Chest hurt? I can see you’re sweating, and it sounds like you aren’t breathing right. You have any heartburn? Feel dizzy?” Rabb asked as he came forward looking concerned.
Gibbs just blinked at the younger man as his head swirled with thoughts about how badly it seemed that he’d let down his former partner and one-time friend. His therapist had been hinting that he needed to make changes in both how he handled Tony as well as how he ran the team. It had been a goading comment from Patrick Sheppard that led him to go to see the shrink. He’d been meaning to reach out to the younger man, but the more he was faced with the bullshit he’d either let happen or turned a blind eye to over the last five-plus years, the harder it was to seek him out for that talk.
Blinking he looked up at Rabb who seemed to be passing Morrow his cellphone. The two men’s words seemed muffled and miles away even though they were now both right in front of him. He heard enough though to get there was something else wrong.
“Tom… call 911… Heart attack.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Sitting in the ER wasn’t what Tony had planned for his evening. He and Patrick had been sitting in the library talking college sports of all things when they’d gotten the call. Hearing that Gibbs was the reason they were contacted, and for something as perfectly common as a heart attack, wasn’t even close to being on the list of things he expected to hear. It was certainly messing with his head and making him question things he’d been perfectly certain of.
He was sure that his relationship with Gibb was mostly over and that fact was carved in concrete. The concrete might have been drying, but Tony was as certain as he felt he could be in his current situation. Suddenly though the thought that his friendship with his boss and sometimes mentor was going down in flames with the rest of the blaze consuming NCIS made him sadder than he expected it to.
While logically he knew that Gibbs wasn’t invincible, hearing he’d had a heart attack was a reminder that the man was, in fact, human. It was a reminder that Tony was wondering if he hadn’t maybe needed. The second confusing moment had come when he found out that somehow, he was Gibbs’ Legal Next of Kin and Medical Power of Attorney. The last Tony heard, Ducky was Gibbs’ selection for both, but apparently at some point, Tony had signed paperwork for both and not realized it.
Knowing that Gibbs trusted him enough to put his life in Tony’s hands was infuriating and simultaneously humbling. “I don’t know what to do, Papà,” Tony admitted quietly to his father seated by his side.
“Don’t worry, Antony. I’ll call the family physician and see about getting a recommendation for a cardiologist, the best if necessary.” Patrick promised patting his hand, but Tony just shook his head.
“That isn’t what I meant,” Tony confessed as Rabb came back into the room with coffees, handing everyone their choices. “I don’t know what box to put Gibbs in now. I mean, Jesus, Papà. He trusts me enough to literally put his life in my hands, and I didn’t trust him enough to even tell him what McGee and Ziva did. Apparently, I’m not only a crappy son, but I’m a shitty friend, too.”
Patrick gave him the stink eye, which Tony ignored promising himself that he’d work on the crappy son thing. Even if it was only stopping saying it out loud so it stopped aggravating his father.
“Just because Gibbs was smart enough to trust you with his life does not mean that you should have done the same,” Morrow commented calmly sipping his coffee from where he stood nearby.
“While I don’t claim to be able to read Gibbs’ mind, I’d say something has changed. It’s been a couple of years since I have had a face-to-face conversation with the man, but he was much calmer about the whole discussion than I’d expected.”
“Yeah, it was odd I have to say,” Rabb admitted from where he’d set next to Tony. “I mean I kept waiting for him to start bellowing or break out the scotch, but instead he was quiet and almost introspective. I mean, at one point he actually waited to speak, and I am guessing he was considering Tom’s question before replying instead of just giving a knee-jerk answer.”
“Huh,” Patrick commented, and Tony’s head whipped toward his father as his eyes narrowed.
“Something you want to confess?”
“Well, I will admit to going to talking to the man not long after I found out about you. As you are aware, I did a check on your team, and I found out some things I wasn’t pleased with. So, I went to see Gibbs and we had… words.” Patrick admitted not looking in the least bit sorry about it.
“I may have made a goading comment about him needing his head examined but not thinking he was man enough to do it. I didn’t actually think he would do it though.”
“You see a shrink?” Rabb asked sounding surprised, and Tony almost snorted coffee out his nose at the way Patrick’s arched eyebrow relayed just now unimpressed his father was with the question.
“I lost a wife, and then almost lost a son because I was a dumbass. It was either see a shrink or lose my family. I will have you know I may be stubborn, but I am not stupid. So, yes. I saw a shrink and if Gibbs was willing to see one so that he could be a better friend to my son then I am willing to do whatever I can to support him.”
“Noted,” Rabb said quickly, and Tony just smirked in amusement as he looked at Morrow who was smiling fondly in Harm’s direction.
“So, what did you find out tonight?” Patrick pressed leaning back and stretching out his legs. “Did you learn anything before the heart attack?”
“Not as much as I’d like, but enough to believe that Gibbs will be on our side,” Tom explained. “As the only person here, who knows Gibbs as well as Tony does, I can honestly say I was surprised by the reaction we got tonight. I also believe that something happened recently, possibly even today that had Gibbs already thinking things with this over. I am confident that we can put our trust in him.
“I also wonder if he’ll stick around if Tony leaves the team. I’ve never looked at Gibbs and thought he looked old, but there was something about him today that just made him seem confused, maybe a little defeated.”
“The man was on the brink of a heart attack, Tom,” Harmon pointed out, and it was only Tony’s undercover skills that kept him from arching his eyebrow at the use of Morrow’s first name in a tone that was… more familiar than he’d expect.
“I know it was hard to see if you don’t know Gibbs well, but I am telling you something had him shaken today, or at the very least contemplative. Something happened today that already had him thinking. Gibbs isn’t one for sitting around and waiting for answers to come to him. So, I don’t think he’d been contemplating what happened for very long. I don’t know what happened, but I think we need to work Gibbs into our plans both current and future.”
Before anyone else could comment, Brad wandered in with his hands shoved in his jeans. The first call Tony had made after hearing that Gibbs had a heart attack was to his friend to see if he would be able to help get any information, despite it not being Walter Reid Hospital.
“Brad, how is he?” Tony asked standing immediately.
“It’s gonna be ok, Buckeye,” Brad assured, and it was only Patrick’s arm wrapping around his waist that kept Tony standing. “I mean, he’s gonna have some work to do, lifestyle and eating habits will need to change, but he’s gonna be fine. It wasn’t as serious as it could have been had JAG Rabb and Asst. Dir. Morrow not been present. Honestly, I don’t know if he’ll make it back into the field. He’s had quite a few medical issues now, but he’ll be alive.”
“Whatever he needs,” Patrick promised, and Tony saw his father look first at him before looking toward Brad. “I have no doubt that we can find him a place somewhere in Sheppard Industries. If nothing else, David has been complaining I need some kind of personal security for years. I can hire him to make sure people don’t shoot me.”
Tony narrowed his eyes at the sound of people being angry enough with Patrick that David thought he needed some personal security but pushed that thought off to discuss later. “Dad’s right, Brad. Whatever Gibbs needs. Maybe it’s time Gibbs lived his life for himself and not NCIS.”
“Hear, hear,” Morrow agreed toasting Tony with his coffee and sitting back in his seat letting his head hang. The SFA, for the moment anyway, let himself come to grips with the fact that he was getting a second chance at a friendship he thought gone forever.
Chapter Three: The Advantage of Friendship
When Saturday came, it was decided that it was too risky for Tony to go to the Y and play ball like normal. So, instead, FBI agents Seeley Booth and Derek Morgan were invited over for a lunch cookout. They were the ones Tony wanted to see the most, and there was an offer that needed to be made to first Seeley, and then Derek if Seeley turned it down anyway. Things with the case were heating up, and there was a growing concern that an extra level of protection needed to be added for Tony.
Hearing the doorbell, Tony moved to the townhouses’ inner courtyard, which was off of the kitchen, where they would be hanging out. Tony wasn’t allowed to answer the door. The security risk was, again, determined to be too high. So, instead, Patrick or David, who had come up for the weekend to help, would do it. Wandering into the kitchen, after determining that the grill was hot enough, Tony was trying to decide between the chicken breast and a burger for Derek when he heard said friend call his name.
“In here!” He hollered turning slightly. “Der, burger or chicken breast today?”
“Chicken breast, man. Thanks.” The BAU profiler answered leaving Tony to decide if he should just cook everything that way it was ready for Patrick and David when they were ready to eat or not. Having decided to just cook it all and make dinner prep easier, Tony was just putting the needed meat on a platter when he felt his friends enter the room behind him.
“Hey guys,” Tony greeted and turning gave his two friends fist bumps before grabbing the platter and heading out to the grill. “There’s beer, bottles of tea, water, and pop in the fridge. Feel free to grab what you need and come on out. We’ll eat at the patio table.”
Tony put the chicken breasts on the grill first knowing that they’d need to cook longer and placed the burgers in the outdoor mini fridge before wandering back over glad to see Seeley had grabbed an extra bottle of tea for him.
“I guessed,” Seeley mentioned, and Tony gave him a nod of thanks as he sat down between them at the round table.
“So, what the hell is going on over at NCIS, man?” Derek questioned, and Tony smirked at how Seeley just rolled his eyes at their friend’s impatience.
“Way to let him bring it up, Derek. I thought we came to an agreement.”
“You came to an agreement,” Derek shot back with a laugh. “I don’t see any need to treat him like a delicate flower when we don’t even know it has anything to do with him.”
Seeley huffed and Tony just snorted again as he just barely managed to swallow his tea instead of spewing it all over the table. “I’m afraid it has everything to do with me,” Tony replied before Seeley could making Booth look smug and Derek pout.
“So, what’s going on then?” Seeley asked leaning forward, resting his forearms on the table edge looking concerned. “Can you say?”
“Yeah,” Tony assured, as he started picking at the label on his bottle with his thumbnail, “but only because I have an offer for you two.”
“Well Seeley first, because he’s the easiest to pull from his normal routine. Derek is the second choice if Seeley says no. I mean, Der will be the backup if Seeley says yes, anyway. I mean, not that I think Seeley will say no, but he could, and I mean I don’t blame him. It’s a huge mess. But…”
“Tone, you’re rambling, man,” Derek pointed out leaning back in his chair trying to look calm and collected as opposed to Seeley who just looked more intense.
“Ok, so I assume you two heard about the DJ that was killed in a shooting during his radio broadcast? He’d been talking about the Navy when he was killed? Well, MCRT was called in to investigate. For a while, we thought we were dealing with a terrorist cell, which I mean it was. It was just a home-grown terrorist group, not a foreign terrorist cell that had gotten into the country.
“So, I was in Royal Woods getting voice samples because we’d managed to trace the call to that neighborhood. Ziva and McGee were supposed to be in the car as my backup listening in.”
“Wait, you did all of Royal Woods alone?” Derek interrupted at the same time that Seeley butted in as well.
“Wait, you said supposed to.”
Tony huffed at them both and waited till his friends had held up their hands in apology before continuing. “Yes, alone. Yes, I said supposed to. At some point early into me getting voice prints, Ziva got tired of listening to my voice. When she told McGee to do something about it because she didn’t wanna listen to me and ordered him to turn off the sound, he did it.”
“They turned off your coms while you were in the field alone getting voice prints of possible terrorists because that bitch was tired of your voice?” Morgan growled as Booth just looked at Tony narrow eyed.
“Tony,” Seeley started then stopped, took a drink of his tea, and tried again. “That’s… I don’t have words for how corrupt that is! Please tell me you’re leaving that jackass agency! What the hell are they doing about it?”
“What he said,” Derek growled, and Tony played with his tea bottle making water rings on the tabletop glass, wishing he had a glass of ice and considering getting up to get one. Saying he’d be right back, Tony got up and headed inside getting three glasses of ice along with more bottles of drinks before coming back and distributing things before sitting down.
“When I went to the Director about it because I wasn’t sure Gibbs would believe me even with evidence, he told me that maybe I shouldn’t dish it out if I couldn’t take it. Abby told me to suck it up and stop being a baby. I don’t know what McGee thinks. I was too worried that big brain of his would start thinking about me pushing things and then the evidence disappearing before someone could get their hands on it.
“So, I just finished the case. Fortunately, thanks to getting upwards of 43 voice prints my voice gave out and I was pretty much desk-bound for the rest of the case. Which of course didn’t bother Ziva any because in her mind she got to take what she perceives as her rightful place at Gibbs’ side, while Ducky had me confined to my desk with orders not to talk.”
Pausing, Tony poured his tea over the ice watching the brown of the tea combine with the little bit of water that had gathered in the bottom of the glass as the ice melted. “You didn’t go to Gibbs?” Seeley asked gently as Derek had moved to mirror Seeley’s position leaning his forearms against the table.
Laughing humorlessly Tony rubbed his face vigorously then clenched his hands in his hair as he tried to wrap his mind around the whole Gibbs thing. “No, and given what has happened since then with Gibbs, I am not sure if I am happy or aggravated that I didn’t go to him first. Papà says that it’s not something to fuss over but…”
Seeley and Derek both started to ask questions but stopped when Tony blew air out his lips pressed together making a frustrated noise as he tried to settle his mind and emotions. “I know you have questions, but seriously. I need you two to listen and just… I gotta get through this.
“The day the case ended I talked to Abby and Vance right away and as I said basically got told to suck it up buttercup. So, that night when I went home, I called Brad because my voice was still shot. As both of you know, he acts as my general physician at times for things I don’t wanna take to my normal doctor despite the fact that it isn’t his normal field of practice.”
Tony shifted in his chair, and wanted to get up to pace, but instead settled for letting his knee bounce as he played with the label on the empty tea bottle. “I explained the situation to him, and he put me on sick leave to buy me some time. So, the next morning, I went to Patrick and just admitted to being a crappy son and asked for his help. I want you both to know he basically told me to stop it and we’re working on being closer. I assume you’ve noticed I’ve taken to calling him Papà. It seems I have two Italian grandmothers, one being his mother. So, he likes it.
“Yes, there will be consequences. We’ve hired AJ Chegwidden to be my attorney, and apparently, he’s also my uncle. So, he’s like my Attorney Uncle. Asst. Dir. Evans has this whole team put together to investigate. They’ve already served NCIS with subpoenas for the evidence, and Abby was caught red-handed trying to alter the voice file to take out the incriminating bits by Ziva and McGee. Not only that, but she punched Ian Edgerton when he stepped in as she was going off on Raven. So, Abby’s been arrested for Assaulting a Federal Agent on top of whatever else they find.”
Deciding he didn’t give a fuck, Tony stood and paced to the grill where he flipped the chicken and added the burgers. When done, he moved into the kitchen and poked at the salads he’d made stirring the anti-pasta salad and the potato salad before putting them both back in the fridge. He then checked on the strawberries for the shortcake and decided they were looking perfectly juicy before placing them back in the fridge.
Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Tony threw a half-smile at Seeley before moving back into the courtyard noticing Derek on his phone texting someone. Taking a deep breath and thanking Seeley for the extra ice he’d brought and added to his glass, Tony topped off his tea and started back in to finish off his crazy tale.
“Ziva is in the wind. We don’t know where she is. As far as we know she’s still in the US. Apparently, she and Abby were having some kind of sexual relationship. They found her alone at Abby’s apartment, but since they weren’t expecting her, she got away. Elijah has a huge knot on his head from where Ziva hit him with something. We’re damned lucky he only has a mild concussion. McGee is… McGee.
“He bitched and of course protested saying he didn’t do anything wrong but didn’t hit anyone. So, he’s been ordered to stay at home. Vance is fuming and is probably in deep shit. He’s under investigation for several things including the possibility that he isn’t really Leon Vance. I don’t know what’s going on there. I just know it’s pretty hush-hush and it’s all a big FUBAR. Gibbs umm…”
Tony stopped and took a deep breath letting it out slowly before he started and when Derek put a hand on his forearm, he flashed his friend a grateful smile. “Turns out Gibbs was the one person I should have trusted. Morrow and Rabb and your Asst. Dir. Evans are all involved in this fiasco. Morrow and Rabb went to see Gibbs to figure out if we could trust him or not, and Boss had a fuckin’ heart attack while they were confronting him. Sonofabitch apparently made me his Legal Next of Kin and Medical Power of Attorney.
“So, he trusted me with his life when I didn’t even have the faith to trust him with my co-workers’ betrayal. Papà says that I need to let it go but…”
“He’d be right,” Seeley confirmed equally as gently as Derek had, resting a hand on Tony’s other forearm, joining the profiler’s sign of support. “I’m glad to hear that you finally feel comfortable enough with Patrick you could go to him, but despite the fact that he’s your father you and Gibbs have nearly a decade of history. A lot of that being really good with the two of you sharing a close almost brother-like relationship. No matter what things have been like recently, there’s a lot there to unpack and sift through. I can’t imagine anyone blaming you for being conflicted over Gibbs. I assume there’s more though?”
Tony nodded and after offering a quick thanks proceeded. “Gibbs basically told Morrow and Rabb that he’d pick me every time before they had to take him to the hospital. So, he’s on our side. I haven’t actually been able to go see him yet because they think it’s too risky. I was there the night he had his heart attack, but they herded me out as soon as we got answers, which means I never got to see him.
“Eli David is already making quiet threats, and AJ doesn’t expect it will stay quiet much longer. So, I am being moved to the family estate that has a lot more security, but they still want me to have some kind of bodyguard. With everything going on, they let me give opinions, and I said you two. Asst. Dir. Evans thought that it would be easier to pull Seeley. So, Booth, you’re first on the list, but Derek they said you’ll still be needed so Seeley can get days off and stuff. Plus, if things get worse, they might do a rotation thing. I just… I know you guys have your own cases and things. I don’t…”
“Nothin’ to decide man,” Derek quickly assured with a shake of his head. “In fact, in my opinion, two would be better from the start. It isn’t like I don’t have a whole team that I work with. I mean, I know Seeley has his team at the Smithsonian, but strategically I think two right from the start would be better and then add more if needed. Either way though, I’m in.”
“I agree with Derek,” Seeley agreed throwing in his support. “Two would be better than one. What is the family estate’s security like? Like Derek, though I am in, either way, man. It’s good timing, too. Things with Bones have been, well let’s just say I’m ready for a break. Been thinking of a change of scenery myself.”
Tony arched an eyebrow but remained quiet. The subject of Seeley’s relationship with the archaeologist was touchy on the best of days. Tony had something of a love/hate feeling going on when it came to her. He honestly didn’t think she meant to keep Booth all twisted up inside. That didn’t help the fact that it kept happening though. Frankly, as far as Tony was concerned, if he needed a change, so did the former Army sniper.
“Well, you know how I feel about that situation. So, I’m not going to poke on what seems to be an open wound. You know I am happy to have you throw your hat into the ring with me man. Derek? How are things at the BAU.”
Derek held up his hands with a grin. “Sorry boys. I am perfectly happy where I am. I wanna help with this situation though, and I know Hotch will get it. He understands how important friends and family are. I think maybe we need to talk to whoever is in charge here about both me and Seeley being placed on your security detail. Then go from there. I’m not taking any chances with your life QB1. Mossad isn’t anything to mess around with.”
Nodding, Tony closed his eyes and let the emotions run their course as he tried to breathe deeply and calm himself again. Frankly, both Asst. Dir. Evans and Asst. Dir. Morrow had wanted a minimum of two people if not more assigned to Tony’s protection, but he had argued otherwise not wanting to be such a large disruption. The move to the family estate and staying away from Gibbs’ hospital room were the compromises he’d agreed to, to get the single protection.
This whole thing was a mess, and much more than Tony wanted to have to deal with. Gibbs’ heart attack had taken some of the wind out of his sails and in its place left him frustrated and hurt. It would be nice though to have his friends with him. He trusted them both with his life, and at the moment the list of people he trusted in that area was much smaller than it normally was.
“OK, but I want you both to know I need you to figure out a way that I can get in to see Gibbs before we move to the estate. I just… I don’t think any of them understand how much I need to see him.” Tony finally agreed looking first to Seeley and then Derek who both nodded.
“We’ll figure out somethin’ man. No worries. We’ll get you in to see your Boss, then get you the hell out of dodge before fuckin’ Eli and his evil spawn find you.” Derek grumbled with Seeley nodding his agreement.
Settling back in his chair, Tony ran his hands over his face and went along with the topic change as Seeley shifted the conversation to the upcoming weekend’s college football games. At some point, Tony asked about how Seeley’s cousin, who was a Navy SEAL, was and the talk shifted to the team’s latest exploits. Apparently, the team had recently gotten a hotheaded rookie from Texas that was getting on Jason’s last nerve. Seeley though found the whole thing hilarious and enjoyed his favorite relatives’ misery at being assigned responsibility for the newest member.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
It was around 3AM as Tony made his way through the hospital corridors on his way to Gibbs’ room. Along with Seeley and Morgan were a couple of Morrow’s most trusted agents from Homeland, which everyone involved agreed would probably be the best temporary addition for the visit. NCIS was out of the question for obvious reasons. No one knew who they could trust at that point, and while Hotchner had offered his assistance, he had a young child at home. After the Unit Chief’s bout with Foyet, Tony was reluctant to run the risk of Mossad setting their sights on Hotchner.
At some point in the process, SecDef had gotten involved, and General Hamilton had assigned a team of SEALs to do the outside protection at the family estate while Tony was there. Seeley had been a little disappointed that his cousin’s team wasn’t the one chosen but they were one of the Navy’s top SEAL teams. Tony wasn’t surprised that they were needed for a more serious situation somewhere else.
Tony was personally horrified and embarrassed that a team of SEALS had been assigned to his protection and thought it was overkill but got outvoted when he voiced his objection. Seeley eventually pointed out that there was a hell of a lot of ass-covering going on at the moment. He also pointed out that no one wanted to be blamed for something else happening to Tony. Derek had also pointed out that with this fiasco wrapped up in a domestic terrorism case, surely someone had voiced the question as to if they were sure what had happened wasn’t in some way connected to the Military at Home group responsible for the shooting.
As they stopped at Gibbs’ hospital room, Tony waited for one of the Homeland agents to check the room before Tony headed inside with Derek and Seeley. The two Homeland agents would be left outside the door to check anyone trying to get in. The nurse at the desk assured them that none of the staff should be trying to enter as they’d just finished their rounds. That was unless one of the alarms went off signaling their patient needed their attention.
Once inside the room, Tony stood looking at the bed not surprised to see tired blue eyes watching him. “You gonna just stand there and stare at me, Paddington?” Gibbs finally bitched quietly prompting Tony to move to his bedside.
“Sorry, Boss,” Tony offered once he’d stopped to stand resting his arms on the bedrails. “I mean, I know I’m a pain in the ass, but I never thought I’d give you a heart attack.”
Gibbs just rolled his eyes, and Tony saw one of his hands twitch he guessed longing to head slap him. “This ain’t your fault. None of this is your fault, Tony.” Gibbs insisted quietly and obviously tiredly.
“Both my regular doctor and Ducky have been bitching at me for years to make changes. Less coffee and more vegetables. Less stress and more sleep. That sort of shit. I just was too damned stubborn to listen, and it caught up to me.”
“Well, Patrick is already working on converting one of the guest houses at the family estate for you to recover in,” Tony informed and watched his boss frown at him.
“Don’t have to do that, Paddington,” Gibbs objected looking away for a moment then back to Tony. “Don’t deserve it.”
Tony huffed quietly when he heard a muttered, “Jesus does that sound familiar,” from behind him and took a second to flip off Derek before continuing.
“Look, can we just not do this thing where we both spill blood in an attempt to prove who fucked up the worst? The fact is I could have complained more to you over the years about the BS. I also could have and should have come to you directly instead of going to Vance. You could have backed me up more and supported my role as your Senior Field Agent instead of treating me like just another member of the pack. We didn’t though. So, here we are and all we can do is move forward.”
“When’d you get so smart?” Gibbs joked, and Tony just smirked as he offered a slight shrug.
“Patrick isn’t one for pulling his punches much, which you will find out for yourself.”
“I’m already well aware,” Gibbs grumbled, and Tony grinned remembering they’d already met.
“I forgot! You already had the Patrick Sheppard Lecture experience. Well, I doubt that this will be your last experience. I am sure he’s already working one up in his head about how you ignored your health issues. I mean, he would have been where you are if he hadn’t listened to his doctors. So, he’s pretty unforgiving there. Sucks to be you, Boss.”
“I think I liked you better when you hated me, Paddington,” Gibbs grumbled, and Tony just grinned at him.
“No such luck! So, look, I’m worried about Mossad and specifically Ziva realizing that she could use you as a target against me. We can’t really move you out of the hospital yet though. So, until you’re ready to move to the estate, Tom’s picked some of his top agents and they’re gonna rotate on a protection detail at your door. For once you’re gonna just accept it and not bitch about it. I can’t…
“I have a million things going on right now, Boss. I mean, it isn’t like I made my association with the Sheppards a secret. It was a really big deal when we found out Senior wasn’t my father, and Ziva and Abby are still giving me shit about abandoning the asshole. So, I had David to get protection for. Charlie has to have a protection detail, and the kids had to be removed from their private daycare thing and they have to be kept at home until further notice and how do you explain that to five-year-olds?
“Dad took a leave of absence from SI to stay at the estate and if he leaves it, he has to take some of the SEALs assigned to the protection detail with him. The person over John’s assignment had to be read in, whoever that is. They decide he and his Rodney just aren’t allowed to come home until things are settled. Aiden’s CO had to be informed and they’re talking about whether it’s safe to let him start his SEAL training. Even though it’s all he’s ever wanted. I’ve roped two of the closest friends I have into protecting me. So, if something happens one of them could die and it’ll be my fault.”
“Paddington!” Gibbs barked then let his head drop to the pillow, eyes closed. Eventually, he opened them back up and looked at Tony with a glare. “This isn’t your fault. Don’t make me say that bullshit again. This is on Ziva and McGee for turning off the coms. It’s on Abby for trying to cover shit up and punching a damned FBI agent. It’s on Vance for disregarding all agency policies to try and cover it up. None of that in any way is your fault.”
“I’m not even surprised you’re up to date on everything going on,” Tony sighed ignoring the grumble from Derek that they’d only said the same thing like 12 times. “Ok, I get it. I’ll work on letting it go.”
“Just, promise me you won’t fight the protection detail, Gibbs. OK? Ziva’s out there loose somewhere. While everyone has her picture, I don’t trust her. She has a history of running to you for help if daddy can’t get her out of her jam. I’m not risking you when it looks like we have a chance at resolving this mess between us. I mean, just because I found out I have an actual family doesn’t mean that you aren’t part of it suddenly. Unless you don’t wanna be.”
“Of course, I want to be,” Gibbs protested quickly. “I hate to ask because it sounds like you have too much on your plate already, but I’m concerned about dad being used against me if Ziva can’t get to me for help. I mean we just went through that bullshit with the Reynosa Cartel. I don’t want someone else going after him, and Ziva now is very well aware that he’s a vulnerability for me.”
Tony looked to Seeley who nodded before turning his attention back to Gibbs. “I’ll bring it up. I should have thought about it. My first thought is that he’ll be ok, but I’ll talk to the powers that be about sending someone or two down to protect him until this is over. If needed, I’ll call him and make sure he understands the threat is to me and that we’re just being careful. Jackson is awesome. I don’t want anything to happen to him.”
“Do you still have that sweater he gave you?” Gibbs asked, and Tony nodded smiling shyly.
“I do. I have it in this cedar chest I use to keep important things in I want to not lose. Does he know about the heart attack? I’m surprised he isn’t here.”
“Don’t wanna worry him,” Gibbs grumbled, and Tony rolled his eyes looking to the ceiling for patience.
“It’s recently been pointed out to me that good fathers love and worry about their children no matter what their relationship status is, Gibbs. You two may have fought, and I’m not taking sides in that. You both had your reasons for what happened at your girls’ funeral, but I’d say your dad cares about you a hell of a lot.
“At the very least he needs to be informed. Since I’m already calling him about the protection, I will fill him in on your heart attack and make sure he knows not to worry too much. You can’t just not tell him though, Gibbs. I mean, Jesus.”
“Fine, just do what you gotta do,” Gibb grumbled as his eyes fell shut before slowly opening again.
“You need your rest,” Tony observed and reaching out patted Gibbs’ arm. “We’re gonna go. Listen to your doctors and don’t give the nurses a hard time. Your protection detail will introduce themselves really quickly once we leave so you know their faces. I’m leaving those details to him. I’ll see you again once you’re moved to the estate. Until then, take care Gibbs, and you don’t have my permission either, damnit.”
“Got it,” Gibbs said slowly and tiredly but with a smile that said he understood the reference.
Tony then let himself be led out of the hospital noting the two Homeland agents slipping into the room as they left just as he’d expected. As he followed Seeley and Derek out of the building, his mind swirled like a whirlwind with all the things and people he was responsible for. He only hoped that he hadn’t forgotten anyone else.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
When Tony woke up later that day it was almost lunchtime. Given that it had been nearly dawn before they’d made it to the sprawling Sheppard Family Estate in Carolina County, Virginia by helicopter, he didn’t feel too bad about getting up so late. Yawning and scratching his stomach, he wandered out of his bedroom wondering where his friends were but didn’t get very far before spotting Seeley at the end of the hallway.
“Hey man, where’s Derek?” Tony asked motioning for his friend to follow him downstairs noting the gun on Booth’s hip.
“Sleeping,” Seeley explained as Tony made his way toward the kitchen to see what he could dig up to eat. “He took the first shift. We decided to each take a one man 8-hour shift and one shared 8 hour shift but rotating that way no one is always stuck with the whole overnight shift. Please tell me there’s coffee.”
“In this house, there is always coffee,” Patrick said as they stepped into the kitchen. “I even used the Keurig this morning for my decaf so that the rest of you can make full pots of caffeinated. Matilda made some chicken salad this morning, Antony. She also picked up some croissants on her way in for you to use for them. Special Agent Booth, there is some other lunchmeat if you do not like chicken salad.”
“Seeley, please, Mr. Sheppard,” Seeley asked following Tony to the refrigerator and peeking over his friend’s shoulder as Tony popped the lid off on the Tupperware bowl. “As for chicken salad that’s fine. That looks amazing. I expected grapes, which would have been a no.”
“Don’t like fruit in my chicken salad,” Tony muttered putting the bowl on the counter before going to the pantry to dig out the croissants and a bag of chips. When he came back, Patrick had put out some plates for them to use and the two set about making lunch before going to join the elder Sheppard at the kitchen table.
“Tell me what’s in this,” Seeley demanded before taking a bite.
“Frozen peas thawed, bacon, shredded cheddar jack, chicken breasts, then mayo with dill,” Tony explained before taking a bite and letting out a happy moan. Once he had swallowed, he went on to explain. “How Matilda knew my recipe for chicken salad I don’t know though. I’ve never eaten here before.”
“You mentioned it once over the phone,” Patrick explained quietly as he set down the tablet he’d been reading from. “When she asked this morning what you liked for lunch, I remembered the recipe and mentioned it to her. She was worried she put in too much dill weed. But I told her what you said.”
“Put in enough so that it looks like it’s way too much then add a little more,” Tony finished with a grin popping a chip in his mouth.
“This is awesome,” Seeley praised just having swallowed his second bite. “I’m gonna have to remember this. I bet Parker would like this. He’s like you, Tone. He hates fruit mixed with meat. Jason, too, now that I think about it. Oh, did I tell you? He got his promotion to Master Chief!”
“Yeah?” Tony confirmed with a grin. “That’s awesome! Tell him congrats for me the next time you talk to him.” Tony then looked from Seeley to Patrick and back arching his eyebrow in question but waited to explain who Jason was until Seeley gave the nod of approval.
“Papà won’t tell,” Tony said with confidence. “There’s generations of military service in our family. Jason is team lead over Bravo team. I’ve never met him, but I guess he and Seeley are practically twins.”
“Aah, something to be proud of indeed,” Patrick offered with a nod and a smile.
“Yeah, we’re pretty close in age so we were close growing up. Grew up close enough to each other that we could see each other when we needed to. We took turns hiding out at each other’s houses.” The last bit muttered quietly and Tony was glad that his father let it slide without asking questions. He knew how much his friend hated talking about his family outside Jason and guessed that the only reason the last bit slipped out was because he was most likely tired and distracted.
“Well, it will be nice to have a resource for Aiden if needed, that is if you think your cousin would be open to such a thing,” Patrick mentioned, and Tony grinned at his father.
“Aiden still not letting you help, I take it?” He questioned and Patrick just shook his head with a frown on his face, which made Tony let loose a chuckle.
“Have they decided if they’re going to let him into SEAL training?” Tony asked worried and was relieved when Patrick nodded.
“It was determined that it might be the best place for him. The commanding officers have been made aware of the threat though just to be on the safe side. I worry, but I would worry anyway. It isn’t fair to hold him back because of my concerns, and before you say it again this is not your fault either, Antony.”
“More mine than yours,” Tony said churlishly, and Patrick just rolled his eyes upward as if asking for patience. “Ok, ok, I give. I can’t help but feel bad though. You said that all Aiden has ever wanted was to be a SEAL, and now all this shit with Mossad is interfering with it.”
“Extra precautions are not a hindrance though,” Seeley argued before Patrick could respond. “And when you think about it, it may be good training for the rest of his group. See who takes this seriously and who doesn’t. I would imagine that they’ll have to say something to the others. Probably not the whole story, but something so that the people around him are aware of a possible threat. It’s a situation that none of them would get experience with otherwise, and probably not something their CO’s can easily replicate.”
Tony wasn’t sure how he felt about his life becoming a baby SEAL training exercise, but he got the point and kept his opinion to himself. “Any word on how long they think this whole thing is going to take? I mean, I know investigations take time, but I’m gonna go nuts if I have to sit around here for weeks or months with nothing to do.”
“Tom mentioned that would be an issue,” Patrick quipped with a slight smile on his face. “I told him I was familiar with impatience. It runs in the family, except for Aiden. I think he takes after AJ in that regard. It certainly isn’t his mother. Jordan is even more impatient than I am. At any rate, some people are coming to see you today, as well as Supervisory Special Agents Booth and Morgan. They will be briefing you three on your brother’s project Antony.
“Initially it was going to be just you, but once John heard that SSA Booth was considering a move, also, Tom thought it would be best to read in all three of you. The project could certainly use men of SSA’s Morgan and Booth’s upstanding reputations. Once they are done with that, I do believe that some cold cases are being brought for the three of you to work on together. Ones that had ties to NCIS and the FBI, I believe.”
“Oh, thank the Gods,” Tony muttered then shared a grin with Seeley knowing his friend hated being bored as much as Tony did.
“I believe Asst. Dir. Evans mentioned that Unit Chief Hotchner is even providing a couple of their cases that had Naval or Marine ties to see if you might be able to provide some insight they did not have.”
Tony offered a shrug but was inwardly excited at the thought of being able to try out his psychology degree. It was just a master’s degree, but he’d worked hard to get it and was excited to have some practical use with someone who did the job on a daily basis.
“Of course, Asst. Dir. Evans was not pleased that SSA Booth was thinking of leaving the FBI, but needs must and all that. I do believe there is a plot with the NCIS Interim Director, Morrow, and Asst. Dir. Evans as to a landing place for you both.”
“And just who is the NCIS Interim Director?” Tony asked curiously noticing the gleam in his father’s eye.
“Why Owen Granger, of course,” Patrick said smugly, and Tony just gave his head a shake not knowing why he even asked. With Morrow, his father, and Chegwidden all plotting together SecNav didn’t really stand a chance. Especially considering some of his choices were being examined in this whole situation making his own seat rather warm.
Tony thought maybe he should argue, but frankly, if they found a way for Tony and Seeley to work together, then Tony wasn’t going to complain. It would be hard to trust someone to watch his back for a while. That is unless that person was already one of the very few people he still trusted after this betrayal. Now they all just had to make it out of this alive to find out just what the three men had in mind for his future.
Chapter Four: Making Plans for the Future
Tony felt more than a little dazed and was glad that both Derek and Seeley’s faces looked as overwhelmed as he felt. He wasn’t sure if it was just his imagination or not, but Tony swore that he could still hear General O’Neill’s cackle as he’d been beamed back to his office at the Pentagon by you know… their spaceship. Aliens were real. The US and who knows who else had real spaceships. His brother John was stationed in another galaxy with his partner leading a fight against space vampires.
“Fuck me,” Derek muttered, and Seeley lifted a hand to point at their friend.
“What he said.”
“So, why were the three of us really read in?” Tony asked turning his gaze toward the only person remaining as Gen. O’Neill had taken Dr. Jackson with him when they’d beamed, holy fucking shit Scotty, out of the study.
“Supervisory Special Agent Morgan really is mostly because he’s here,” Granger conceded as he smugly sat in a chair near the table the three men were using to work their cold cases.
“Although it’s been pointed out that having a profiler of SSA Morgan’s reputation in the know isn’t a bad thing. If something happens then he can be quickly recruited to help without having to go through the hoops to increase his confidentiality level and read him into the program. There is some talk of reading in either Hotchner or Rossi so that he would not be the only asset, but that’s not my concern.
“As for you and Booth, well I have a proposition, SFA Paddington. I’d like to give you a promotion to Supervisory Special Agent. In my opinion, as I’ve read your file since getting the Interim position, the title never should have been taken away from you when Gibbs came back from his amnesia under Director Sheppard. Then, I’d like to bring SSA Booth over from the FBI to join NCIS.
“There would be some FLETC classes he’d need to take to get acquainted with the differences between NCIS and the FBI like legal differences and such. With his background as an Army Ranger though I expect he has at least some familiarity with the Military Code of Justice. So, I believe they’re going to give him some pre-testing to see just what he needs to take and doesn’t. Then, once he’s done with that, I would like you and him to serve as something of a troubleshooting team for me.”
Tony straightened and looked at Seeley who he was happy to see looked interested at the prospect. Both looked to Derek who looked happy for them before they all turned their attention back to Granger.
“I will warn you that there will be quite a lot of traveling, but most of it will be similar to what your friend SSA Morgan does with the BAU team. Cases will be assigned to you at my discretion and my discretion alone. You will report directly to me. I have been around a long time, but most of it has been spent in Southeast Asia and Russia. No ties to Mossad or frankly any other foreign agency.”
Tony looked to Seeley trying to judge what his friend was thinking. “My mother’s family works for SIS. Both sides I believe, but I don’t know for sure. I only know that because an NCIS case crossed paths with my cousin Edward’s once when I was assigned a solo assignment. We aren’t close in any stretch of the imagination despite me taking Paddington as my last name instead of Sheppard or DiNozzo.
“At the time I wasn’t close enough to Patrick or any of my brothers to take Sheppard, and while I wasn’t close to the Paddingtons I had been close to my mother before her death. Despite her issues, she loved me the best she could. It’s always felt like at times she was maybe the only one who did. It’s only fair that I warn you that I’m not sure I can trust you.”
“It’s completely fair,” Granger assured as Patrick came in with two glasses of tea and handed one to the Interim Director before he sat in a chair near him. “You’ve been subjected to a horrible betrayal. One that I can’t even fathom going through, and I worked with the CIA during the Cold War. I can tell you that you have impressed Asst. Dir. Evans quite a bit. I think it’s the only reason that he’s so willing to let SSA Booth go. Although I do believe if you turn me down, the next pitch is coming from Unit Chief Hotchner.”
While Derek looked excited at the prospect, Tony tried to imagine chasing serial killers all the time and found he could only think about Jeffrey White. Letting loose an involuntary shiver, Tony quickly shook his head before shooting his friend an apologetic smile. “I don’t think I could do that. I just… Der, I can’t chase people like Jeffrey all the time.”
“It’s hard when the unsub isn’t an obvious monster,” Derek agreed with a shrug. “I get it. To be fair though, there are other teams who chase things other than Serial Crime. You and Seeley both would do well in the Counter-Terrorism unit.”
“That might not be so bad,” Tony murmured, but still didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of excitement at the prospect. “I will be honest, the thought of working with Seeley is probably the thing that I like the most. So, if it’s possible for the two of us to end up at the same place, then I’d like to do that. I don’t honestly know how I feel about staying at NCIS. On one hand, I’m tired of changing jobs completely. I think part of why I have tolerated the bullshit as long as I did was because I really don’t want to start over somewhere new from scratch.
“On the other hand, I really don’t know as I can remain at an agency where McGee, Sciuto, and David are employed still. I know people see Abby and Tim as integral to NCIS, but if those are the kinds of people that the agency wants around, I want no part of it.”
“Well, let me fill you in on some details then,” Granger offered after swallowing the tea he’d taken a sip of. “Regardless of what else happens, the Mossad Liaison position is being terminated. Officer David will no longer be welcomed at NCIS, and frankly, given what we’ve already discovered on her computer she’s probably going to be spending quite some time in jail before she’s allowed to go back to Israel.
“As to Miss Sciuto, while no formal decision has been made about her yet, it is my preference that she is no longer employed with NCIS. Since I get to make that decision, I don’t see her employment contract being retained. Not only was she attempting to tamper with evidence in a domestic terrorism case, but she physically assaulted a federal agent. Neither of which I am willing to tolerate, and that’s not even accounting for the mess that is her lab.”
When Granger fell silent, Tony took a moment to push away his knee-jerk reaction to Abby being in trouble and examine why in the hell he’d feel bad. Somehow, over the time he’d spent with her and Gibbs, this façade that Abby was somehow fragile and needed to be protected had taken over around the time Kate died.
While it was true that Abby had gone through a traumatic event when Ari had shot up her lab, it wasn’t as if she’d been the only one there. Tony himself had been involved in that situation, and Kate was his actual partner. While there was no “my grief is more relevant than yours” as far as Tony was concerned, it was almost as if they’d wrapped Abby in cotton and ignored how the whole thing had affected them.
Or maybe it was just the knee-jerk reaction that Abby could have died too that made them change how they treated her, and the Forensics Analyst had certainly never complained about the extra attention. In fact, it was just the opposite. She’d not only reviled in the extra attention, but eventually expected it, and even demanded it when she felt that she wasn’t getting it.
Whatever the reason though, Abby had gradually changed from an intelligent and loving woman to this selfish, greedy, bitch who thought it was ok to demand rewards for just doing her job. Not just that but she also saw no problems with punching someone when she didn’t get the response she wanted as quickly as she expected. Along the path of her transformation, Gibbs and Tony had just gone along with it.
Gibbs because of his habit of turning every young woman of the appropriate age to be Kelly into a daughter substitute. Tony because, well frankly, he had fallen into the habit of just doing what Gibbs told him to. Gibbs wanted Abby to be treated like a special goth princess, therefore Tony treated Abby like a special goth princess. There hadn’t been a single person along the way who objected to how things were run.
No, Tony had to remind himself that wasn’t the truth. Maybe the only slightly good thing Director Sheppard had done was to try to make changes where Abby was concerned. Unfortunately, she’d selected the worst possible person to be Abby’s lab partner, and therefore when things blew up in everyone’s face almost landing Tony in prison, Abby got her way. Cementing the president that what Abby wanted, Abby got.
“As to Special Agent McGee things are a little tougher,” Granger continued, and Tony forced himself out of his own head so that he could once again pay attention to the conversation. “While I in no way want to downplay the severity of his actions, compared to what we have to deal with where the two ladies are concerned the list is certainly shorter.
“Although, in addition to the com’s incident, we are investigating claims about he and Ms. Sciuto just willy-nilly hacking their way into any database they wish without even attempting to get the correct warrants and other legal paperwork. While I would guess that some, or most of that, was done at Gibbs’ orders, Special Agent McGee should be aware of the ethics of what he was doing, and if he doesn’t have the stones or the intelligence to stand up and say we can’t do that, then he’s on the wrong team. Hell, he’s in the wrong profession as far as I’m concerned.
“All that being said though his father being a decorated and highly respected Admiral will make things more delicate when it comes to finding the consequences everyone can live with. While I am not one to bow down to anyone no matter what their rank is, I do have to weigh my options and find the one that best suits everyone.”
“So, boot him back down to Junior Agent, make him completely retake FLETC including all of the ethics and any related courses that you can find, and then put him someplace he won’t see it as a reward. That means no LA because he’d love to go out there and work with Hetty and all their toys. Of the three of them, McGee is the one I am the most ambivalent about. As long as I don’t have to work with him but know that he’s being supervised by someone who isn’t going to let him just go on doing as he pleases, I could live with it.”
“He needs someone watching over his shoulder,” Seeley murmured, and Tony looked toward his friend to find both him and Derek watching him.
“Something like the Drill Sergeant I had in basic training. A complete asshole who was only there to make sure I didn’t get someone killed, wasn’t afraid to call me a dumbass or spare my feelings, and whose ethics and morality was rock solid. I hated that prick, but I’m not afraid to admit that he’s at least partially responsible for me turning out to be the man I am today.”
“That’s genius,” Morgan threw out with a grin and held his fist out receiving a bump from Seeley back.
“You know, I do believe that you’re onto something,” Granger agreed, tapping his lips with two fingers he had steepled together in front of his face. “My first thought while Paddington was talking was to put McGee down with Pride once he’s done with FLETC. I’m not 100% confident that Pride doesn’t at times fall into the same cowboy tendencies Gibbs does thanks to Mike Franks. Also, I’m not confident that McGee would see New Orleans as a punishment.
“I do though have an opening at a small RU in a place confidential enough I can’t tell you where it is because you don’t need to know. I can’t keep another agent in the position because well to be honest the former Marine Force RECON Team Leader named Bear Brett has no fucks left to give anyone and honestly needs someone with McGee’s computer skills. Now, initially, McGee may see it as a reward, but if that last five minutes I’ll be surprised.”
“This isn’t putting him in John’s program, is it?” Tony asked looking from Granger to Patrick and back frowning. There was no way in hell he wanted McGee on Atlantis or anywhere else near his brother.
“Atlantis?” Granger asked before shaking his head. “No, I’d never allow him to get a reward like that. Besides, that’s what you three are for. While you might not be McGee, Paddington, I’ve been assured your computer skills will get the job done. I’ve seen that list of college courses and degrees of yours.”
“I like this guy,” Seeley threw out with a grin, and Tony just rolled his eyes at the lot of them.
“You all suck,” he shot back before thinking over everything he’d heard. “I mean, I will want a chance to talk all of this over with Seeley before anything official happens, but my first thought is I like the sounds of the job you’ve offered, Dir. Granger. My biggest concern right now is Seeley’s son Parker. Booth is an awesome dad, and I don’t want our job to hurt that relationship.
“I am completely on board with what you’ve laid out so far for the terrible trio. Frankly, I just want Ziva and Abby to stay as far away from me as possible. I don’t know what I’m going to do once Abby gets out on bail or whatever. She’s gonna hack all my shit, and it’ll take forever to get things straightened out.”
Granger snorted as Patrick shook his head commenting before the NCIS Interim Director could. “I do believe that Ms. Ramirez dared her to try. McKay threatened a good number of consequences should Abigail try and Raven ran out of ideas. I am not concerned about that part. It’s Ms. David’s whereabouts that I am concerned about.”
“They still haven’t found her?” Seeley asked concerned and Patrick shook his head obviously unhappy. This time it was Granger who replied though.
“They’re looking, but we all know with her training, it’s going to be near impossible to find her if she doesn’t want to be found. Fortunately, Special Agent Edgerton is the best in the country at the job, and now has a personal reason for wanting her found. I believe Asst. Dir. Evans has added to his team to provide them more manpower.
“Both Special Agents Granger and Betancourt have been brought in from the LA office to assist and SSA Dr. Spencer Reid was brought into the team to assist Special Agent Edgerton in his hunt. I believe he’s doing not only a traditional profile but also a geographic profile as well to aid him in his hunt.”
“They’ll find her if Pretty Boy is on the case,” Derek said proudly. The obvious affection and brother-type relationship he shared with the younger man clearly heard in his voice. “He’s the best geographic profiler I’ve ever seen.”
“I just want her found without anyone else being hurt,” Tony admitted running hands over his head and felt Seeley pat him on his shoulder.
“I’m in, if Tony is. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I think that I need a change from the FBI. Things with Bones and I just… It can’t go on the way it is, and I’m ready to just move forward. I miss having an actual partner who is trained to do my job. Honestly, it’d also be nice to have someone watching my back who wasn’t gonna denigrate my service time and dismiss my religious beliefs. I made some mistakes in that professional relationship that it’s becoming clear aren’t going to be resolved without me making a separation.
“As for Parker, don’t worry there. Right now, his mother is being difficult, and I don’t get to see him much. He knows I love him though and I won’t just give up, but I can’t live my life around what-ifs and maybes either. I won’t be the only person who travels and has kids. I mean Hotchner does it, and I know there are other people on the BAU teams who have kids too that travel. If I have to, I will take her back to court to get something worked out. I’ve just been avoiding it because I don’t want to put Parker through that.”
“If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know,” Patrick offered surprising not just Seeley but Tony and Derek as well. “SSA Morgan, that goes for you as well. If I can ever be of assistance to you in any way, feel free to reach out. You are both my son’s friends, and I take that seriously. In my book, that makes you family, and this family watches out for each other.”
Tony heard Seeley blowing out a deep breath slowly and wondered what was going on in his head. “Thank you, Mr. Sheppard. I appreciate the offer. I may end up taking you up on that. The last time we went to court, I don’t think my lawyer did me many favors. He let them run all over me with my gambling addiction, and even at that time I’d been getting help for quite some time.”
“No parent is perfect, Booth, and everyone has their flaws,” Tony pointed out gently. “You and I are both very well aware of how bad parents can be, and you aren’t even close to being on the bad parent list. Your gambling never harmed Parker, and it’s bullshit that it’s still being used against you.
“You’re a good man, one of the best and most respected agents I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, and a highly decorated member of the military. Parker deserves his time with you. He needs you in his life. You and I both also know what effects not having a positive male influence can have on a kid. If she is being unreasonable then you need to do something, if for no other reason, then for Parker.”
“He’s right, Seeley,” Derek interjected reaching across the table to put one of his hands on Booths. “You need a character witness or somethin’ you got my number. Parker deserves more of your time than he’s gettin’. Everyone has things in their past they aren’t proud of. You worked on yours and continue to work on it. That’s all anyone can ask.”
Tony watched Seeley take a deep breath and let it out slowly before his friend nodded. When Granger spoke, Tony turned his attention to the man having forgotten for a second, he and Patrick were there.
“For what it’s worth, SSA Booth, should you go ahead and join NCIS, I can tell you that I consider family commitments a high priority. Obviously, your schedule will not be a typical 9 to 5 one, but as far as I am concerned, when you two are not on assignment, if you need time for your son, it’s yours. I am guessing Paddington will be taking more time off than he did on Gibbs’ team to spend time with the Sheppards, and I see no reason why you can’t do the same with your son.”
When Seeley nodded and rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyes, Tony turned his gaze away to study Granger and give his friend some privacy. “On second thought, I think I will uhh, I’ll take you up on that offer Mr. Sheppard. Tone, if you’re interested in this position, I say we do it. We probably should discuss things but well, sometimes you just know when something’s right. Ya know?”
Tony could feel Seeley’s leg bouncing and knew his friend needed a break but took a moment to make sure there wasn’t some major objection that he was missing.
“I do,” he said eventually patting Seeley’s shoulder once more. “Interim Dir. Granger, we’re in. I know we’re going to have to wait till this mess is cleared up, but I’m not interested in changing jobs. As long as there are no more hiccups from here on out that changes things drastically, I’m in.”
“Excellent,” Granger replied with a smile. “SFA Paddington, I will get your promotion paperwork and a new contract drawn up. SSA Booth, I will contact Asst. Dir. Evans and let him know your decision. I’ll look into the training classes you need and see when you can do the pre-testing. Welcome to NCIS. Paddington, I thank you for giving us another chance.”
“SSA Booth, I will contact the family lawyer and get you some names. I will make sure they are willing to work within your salary needs. I think it’s the least they can do for someone who has served his country as long as you have first in the Army and now with the FBI and NCIS.” Patrick promised.
Tony only listened with half his attention from there on out as Granger made his excuses before leaving, and Patrick offered to walk him out. Instead, he thought about his friends and what a difference a good father could make in someone’s life. He couldn’t help but wonder how differently his life would have turned out if he’d been raised by a man like Patrick Sheppard or Seeley Booth who so obviously loved their sons as opposed to Senior who had at best only ever seen Tony as a means to a gain.
It felt nice to know that finally, he was getting a chance to find out just what a good father was. Now if he could just get through this mess Ziva and Co. had created to do it.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
By Wednesday of the following week, Tony wasn’t afraid to admit that he was slowly losing his mind. The thing was that he knew Derek and Seeley both were, too. None of them were solitary creatures, and while they at least had each other for conversation, it was hard to admit that they could all use a break from sleep, eat, work on cold cases, discuss the current FUBAR situation, and repeat.
They couldn’t even take advantage of the various amenities on the grounds because while it was true there was a SEAL team outside, the estate grounds were huge and not completely fenced in. So, they couldn’t even go outside and burn off some energy by running, swimming, hiking in the nearby hills, etc. While the mansion did have a gym, one could only run on a treadmill for so long before one got bored.
Brad came over Monday night and watched Monday Night Football with them, and they’d played hours of video games. The cold cases all came with the same problem in that they could see things that needed to be researched, but since Tony couldn’t leave the grounds, none of them could follow up on them. They had spent some time helping the BAU with their current case, which Tony found interesting, but ran into the same problem due to being confined inside.
That day everyone had seemed to be on edge. Seeley and Derek had gotten into an argument about orange juice at breakfast before Patrick sent Derek to bed and Seeley to do a sweep of the inside of the house. After eating, Tony had followed his father to his study and spent the day learning about Sheppard Industries and what they did.
Tony worried about his friends arguing, but Patrick pointed out even those on the best of terms would be short-tempered when confined inside, even in a mansion as big as the Sheppard’s and in the same company days on end. By the time that they all met up at dinner, Seeley and Derek both seemed to have calmed down. Each man issuing an apology before they shook hands to end the dispute.
Tony wasn’t ashamed to admit, at least to himself, that his shoulders had relaxed somewhat at the sight. The last thing he wanted was for this bullshit to come between their friendship. Ziva had caused enough trouble with her inability to do her job. She shouldn’t be allowed to come between two good men, too.
If he’d hoped that the end to the fight would lighten up the atmosphere, Tony had been wrong. The fact that he couldn’t figure out what was going on didn’t help him relax, and he’d gotten to the point where he thought maybe it was all in his head when his father commented on having an ominous feeling. Deciding that they needed a distraction, Tony headed to the mansion’s movie theater to watch Jonah Hex that had just recently been released on DVD and Blu-Ray with Seeley in tow because his friend said he wasn’t tired yet, leaving Derek to watch things inside the mansion.
That led to watching Nightmare on Elm Street because Tony decided that he needed some fun scares and Seeley heading off to bed claiming he didn’t need nightmare material right before he went to sleep.
“Jesus, I’m bored,” Tony yawned as he wandered into the study where Patrick was reading having notified Derek that he was changing rooms. “This shit needs to be over. I have a life to get back to. Hell, everyone has lives to get back to. Eli and his spawn just need to accept that she was a lousy agent and frankly I am not convinced that she was any better of a Mossad agent.”
“These things take time,” Patrick reminded using his finger as a bookmark as he settled his book on his lap. “I agree though that things are becoming difficult. Hopefully, something will break soon. We haven’t had a good chance to sit down and chat just the two of us since you found out what the rest of the family is involved in. Tell me your honest thoughts on the Stargate Program.”
Tony sighed and flopped down in one of the armchairs staring up at the ceiling as he tried to gather his thoughts. “I feel like it’s such a huge mind fuck that I haven’t even really tried to process it with everything else going on. I mean, the fact that other than Aiden the rest of the family are all directly involved in this thing in some way, or another makes me feel like I need to reconsider my life goals here.
“I mean, John is off fighting space vampires, and remind me to send Rodney a thank you letter for all the nightmares I’m getting from all the info he’s sharing with me, and what am I doing?”
“You’re keeping the country safe the same way that he is, and Aiden is,” Patrick said sternly. “This wasn’t shared with you as another way for you to convince yourself that you aren’t doing enough. I am as proud of your career and Aiden’s as I am John and David’s. Just because John is fighting space vampires as you say, and David is overseeing the building of space ships does not mean you are contributing less to the world than they are.
“Your career is every bit as vital and important to the health of this country as theirs is. Without you, bad people would just be running amuck. And now that we have you read in, you and Seeley can help us with the more critical situations that come up. Jack told me that you agreed to help him form a team for everyday situations?”
Tony nodded before lowering his gaze to look at his father. “They asked if we would be interested in joining the program full-time but I just… I dunno Papa it feels like that isn’t where I am supposed to be. I’ve always tried to follow my instincts and it feels like I am meant to be somewhere else. I know that sounds horribly mystical and crap, but it’s just how I feel.”
“If that is how you feel, Antony, then I don’t care how it sounds to outsiders,” Patrick chided gently. “To me, it sounds perfectly sane when you consider space vampires are part of my everyday life knowledge. I had a similar conversation with Aiden when he decided to join the SEALs as I am having with you now. He was torn up inside because he felt like he wasn’t contributing to this family enough and almost didn’t put in for SEAL training at all.
“It wasn’t until John came home and told him that this family wasn’t centered around Stargate that he started to let himself be happy he was on the roads to his lifelong dream. John then went on to warn that if Aiden gave up the dream he’d had since he was practically a toddler just to join a program he very well could end up in any way, that he’d kick his Li’l Alpha ass.”
Tony snorted and pushed up to get himself a bottle of water from the wet bar, grabbing Patrick one at the last second before coming back. “I’m sure that went over well. I hope someday John and I have the opportunity to spend more than a handful of days here and there together. I feel like he’s the one that I really know so little about. I don’t know as I really even understand why the two of you don’t or didn’t get along.”
Patrick nodded his thanks as he accepted the bottle before letting out a soft sigh. “You have to understand Antony that power and money really do bring out the worst in people. I would like to say that I am the exception to the rule, but I am not. While Emma was alive, I was probably a much better man than I am even today. Mostly because she would not tolerate anything else.
“Then she died, and I lost my moral compass, finding myself a single father with two young children and this company to run that I was just beginning to learn. So, I hired nannies and people to help with the children and threw myself into my job because that’s what I thought I could control. I spent years going from one pointless relationship or short fling to another never letting myself set any roots because it was almost like I had suddenly become allergic to the concept.”
Patrick paused to take a drink and Tony briefly thought how he could hear shades of Gibbs’ story in his father’s. The difference was in Gibbs’ case there was no child to keep him at least a little centered in a personal life, and therefore he got lost in NCIS letting it become his entire identity.
“You are the product of one of those wild weekend flings, I am ashamed to say. Your mother was a breathtakingly beautiful woman, who left a mark on me at a time where I didn’t bother remembering names most of the time. For all that I know, there are more like you running around in the world because I certainly wasn’t making much of an effort to be safe until the 80s hit and AIDs made us at least consider the idea that we might have to practice safe sex.
“I’d like to say that I had some kind of moral awakening at that point. Unfortunately, it took several years and a lot of bad personal decisions before I feel like I started becoming the father my children deserve. David mostly goes with the flow of it all. People always assume that he just kisses my ass, but I wouldn’t hand the future of Sheppard Industries over to a yes man. He just chooses to confront me behind closed doors when it’s just the two of us.
Patrick paused to chuckle softly and shook his head before he continued on. “See the problem was while I was busy building SI into what it is today, I was making all these plans for my two boys as I went along. Fortunately, I lucked out and my plans for David mostly or usually coincided with what he wanted for himself. The problem with John was that my views for his life and his views for his life were near polar opposites. He had no interest in the business world with a wife and two kids that I was planning for him.
“Instead, he wanted to fly planes and protect his country. The fact that he was really good at math was just a coincidence and he had no intention of making a living off of it in the way I wanted him to. Then when he dared to suggest that he wasn’t interested in the wife part of the equation either, I am afraid that my father’s prejudices came to the surface.”
“You had an issue with the fact that he was… gay? Bi?”
“Gay,” Patrick confirmed with a nod. “John is gay. David is straight. You are Bi, and Aiden hasn’t decided yet. He says he’s leaving his options open and he’ll let me know once he decides.”
Tony snorted and couldn’t contain a grin, silently thinking that his little brother might be his favorite of the three. Looking at the fond look on his father’s face, Tony guessed that Patrick secretly might think the same, but doubted that he’d ever admitted it.
“Yes, I guess I had an issue with it. I mean, I said enough hateful and vile things to him when he announced that he was divorcing Nancy because the closet had gotten too deep and dark for his tastes to make it seem like I did. Looking back, I am not sure what I thought or felt. Somewhere along the way, I hired this genius advertiser out of Pittsburg named Brian Kinney to head up the advertising division for SI. Between him and his partner, Justin let’s just say they didn’t tolerate my bullshit.
“So, eventually I was forced to admit that I had mucked up the entire situation. That the reason my son hated me was my own damned fault, and that if I wanted things to be different that I had to get off my ass and do something about it. Brian and Justin are very open about their sexuality. One night at a restaurant when we were celebrating, Justin asked me why if I had been so good to them, had I not gotten off my ass and done something about John, I realized I was just wasting time. Justin is a bright young man, incredibly talented artist. In fact, he is the reason we found Brian.”
Patrick paused to wave a hand in the air and take a drink of water before continuing. “Anyway, I’ve ventured way off the path of your question, I think. The bottom line is that John and I didn’t get along because I was a vile asshole and not the kind of father that I should have been. Fortunately, he has decided to give me a second chance. I am pretty sure that the reason for that is 100% about Aiden. I just hope that at least you and Aiden will benefit from the past mistakes I have made.”
“I mean,” Tony started and stopped to think about what Patrick had said. He had never at any point since he’d found out about Patrick thought that the man was perfect. Tony had been doing his job for too long not to know how corrupt the rich and powerful were. Tony was fairly certain that there wasn’t a single person in his father’s tax bracket that didn’t have a closet full of skeletons. So, finding out that he’d cursed his son with homophobic slurs at one point before someone hit Patrick with a clue stick wasn’t really a surprise.
“That sucks, but I’m glad you told me. I’m also glad that you’ve made an effort to make up for it. I know that Sheppard Industries and your charitable foundation are heavily involved in LGBTQ issues. I know that doesn’t always equal w good person, but in your case, it seems like you’re at least trying. Personally, I would be a hypocrite if I held all of your past misdeeds against you. I certainly don’t have a flawless past myself. All I really care about is the kind of man that you are now. There doesn’t seem to be any of the huge deal breaker skeletons in your past.
“I’m pretty adept at sensing people like that at this point in my career, and I don’t get any hints of shady from you. You certainly don’t give off any Senior vibes. So, I think I can live with whatever comes up. I’m just thankful that…”
Tony was cut off by Derek running into the room and slamming the study doors shut before immediately engaging the security protocols which would lock down the room.
“Der, what?” Tony asked standing from his chair as he watched Derek tap his earpiece.
“Unicorn and Pegasus are locked down,” Derek advised over his comms before turning to look at Tony and his father. “We have an intruder. We don’t know who it is, but the SEALs are on it. Mr. Sheppard, you said you had weapons in this room?”
Patrick nodded and moved over to one of the bookcases, pulled out one of the books then stepped back. Tony watched as the bookcase swung open revealing a safe behind it. He’d known it was there and even had access to it with his palm print, and retina scan like Patrick was offering now. It was just the fact that it was hidden behind a bookcase that made it feel very 007 and therefore never failed to fascinate him.
Tony knew that he and Patrick being armed should something happen had been a point highly debated, but Tony flat out refused to pretend he was something other than a highly trained federal agent. He’d very frankly stated that he refused to go into any situation of danger unarmed, even if he was spending it locked in a secure room in the house. Fortunately, everyone eventually came around to his viewpoint once he promised he’d be good and allow himself to be put somewhere safe.
“Do we know if it’s Ms. David?” Patrick asked as he held out a handgun to Tony, who shook his head to clear his mind of his wandering thoughts. This was not the time to be woolgathering.
“Don’t know, Sir,” Derek said, and Tony couldn’t help but add on a silent I hope so to the statement even if it was in his own mind. He was more than ready for at least part of this to be over.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
As Morgan locked himself into the study with Tony and Patrick, Seeley clicked his headset echoing Derek’s statement. “Protection One to Delta Team. Both packages have been locked into the study with Protection Two. Security protocols have been engaged. I am going to look for our target.”
Slowly, the FBI agent made his way through the house, weapon in front of him searching for his target. He was trying not to make assumptions as to whom it was, but his most likely guess is that it was the missing woman who had made Tony’s life hell for so long. With the security system down, he didn’t have a starting point for where she could be. For not the first time since he’d agreed to protect Tony, he thanked the SEAL team that was placed as protection outside. He knew if not for them that they might have no idea she’d managed to make her way inside.
As he searched the house working his way from the study toward the front of the mansion, he quietly relayed his positioning as the SEAL team entered and started assisting him with the hunt. He was at the end of a hallway having searched the bedrooms there and was making his way back toward the SEAL team member sent to assist him when a petite figure stepped into the hall.
The window at the opposite end of the hall let in enough moonlight that the person’s height and size were easy to pick out. The smallest person on the SEAL team was 5’10”. This person had to be at least 4 to 5 inches shorter, and probably around a hundred pounds lighter.
“FBI, freeze!” Seeley called out, and could just make out the arm movement as the individual seemed to be lifting a gun. Not taking the time to think about it, Seeley let off a series of shots sending the intruder back and into the window behind her. He was unsure if one of his bullets hit the window, but instead of just falling back against the glass, the body fell through the window crashing down the two stories to what Seeley knew to be lawn or hedges beneath.
“Shots taken, intruder shot and fell backward through the second story east wing window. Moving to the end of the hallway.” Seeley called over the mics, acknowledging the SEAL sent his way who advised he was near his location and would be there in no more than 2 mikes.
Stopping in front of the window, he looked down to see the body laying with its feet in the hedges and its head on the grass. He watched as 2 bodies spilled out from the house. When they reached the prone figure, he saw the gun laying clenched in its dead hand was kicked away as the other reached down to pull away the black mask.
When Ziva David’s face was unveiled, Seeley was neither surprised nor upset. While taking a life was never easy or something to be enjoyed, he wasn’t sure that there would ever be a kill he regretted less. Pressing his earpiece, Seeley relayed the information that he knew everyone else was waiting for.
“Intruder has been killed. I want the house thoroughly inspected though to ensure she didn’t have an accomplice. Someone helped her get that security system down. The immediate threat to the primary package has been taken out. I repeat. Ziva David has been located and is dead. Someone needs to call this in. I’m on my way down.”
Fifteen minutes later, as Seeley stood on the lawn looking at the dead body of Eli’s little girl, he felt someone stop to stand next to him. When he saw Tony standing there, he wasn’t surprised in the least.
“It’s done man,” Seeley advised slapping Tony’s back then putting an arm around his shoulders. “She’s gone. She can’t torment you anymore.”
“Yeah, maybe not,” Tony agreed and when his eyes turned Seeley’s direction, he knew what the NCIS agent was thinking. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t both put bigger targets on our backs. If Eli David was pissed before, imagine what will happen now that his little girl is dead.”
Tony sighed and turned his eyes back toward his dead former co-worker. “I hate it had to come to this. I don’t think I will ever understand people so full of hate. This game is nowhere over, my friend. Neither one of us will be safe until Eli is caught and put somewhere, he can’t hurt anyone else. He’s managed to destroy his whole family without even purposefully trying. Imagine what he’s going to plan for us.”
“Bring it on man,” Morgan said from his spot on the other side of the body. “No one is gettin’ near either of you. He’s just gonna have to learn to be disappointed.
As cars came to an abrupt halt in the nearby driveway, Seeley couldn’t help but guess that disappointment wasn’t something the former Mossad Director did well.