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 Five: Moving from one path to the next
The sun was bright in the sky when Tony found himself in the kitchen alone with Patrick. There were still people outside processing things, and someone had to come out to deal with the broken window, but for the most part, things were settled down. Still too wound up to sleep, probably from a lack of having anything constructive to do, Tony decided to start cooking. Eventually, there would be hungry people that needed to be fed.
Derek and Seeley were outside involved in things there. He was glad that Gibbs hadn’t yet moved into the guest house. He knew if he had that there was no way his friend and mentor would have stayed out of the situation going on outside. The last thing that Gibbs’ recovery needed was for him to be involved in the stress of the mess Ziva had created. Deciding to do steak and eggs after eyeballing the package of steaks that needed to be used, but hadn’t been, Tony took the meat out. He then decided to chop up some fruit that looked like it needed to be used also to make a big fruit salad.
He’d just begun cutting up the pineapple when Patrick came into the room heading straight for the caffeinated coffee pot. “Going for full leaded today, huh Papà?”
“Hmm,” Patrick offered before coming over to perch on one of the stools watching Tony work. “I have people coming out to look at the window today and what can be done until that part of the house is released back to us. I’m afraid you will have to use one of the other suites for the moment, Antony. I am sure John won’t mind if you use his.”
Tony scrunched up his nose, too busy dumping pineapple in a bowl to wave his hand like he wanted. “I’m not surprised. It’s not a big deal, as long as you’re sure John won’t care that I use his room.”
“He won’t,” Patrick assured easily before grabbing a parry knife and the bananas. “I will have Jack ask him though when he calls him to let him know what is going on. I know he will be upset if they aren’t informed. I think I am going to take this opportunity to change that wing into yours. I’ve been meaning to do it but didn’t want to make changes without you being here. Since you’re going to be around, I’ll have the people that I normally use come to find out what you want to do with it.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Tony objected, stopping his cutting to look up at his father who just gave him a look that clearly said the words coming out of Tony’s mouth were nonsense.
“Antony, you are my son. All of my boys have wings here at the estate. As you’ve noticed this place is huge and we have more wings for people than we have people to decorate them for. This house has been in the family for generations and added onto and redecorated more times than I can keep track of. That wing is yours and it needs to reflect your tastes and wants even if you only use it for holidays, or not even that often. John hasn’t been in his for at least two years. It isn’t as if he’s home often. David and Charlie are normally here every chance they can. Aiden is somewhere in the middle. This is your home as much as theirs and I want you to feel comfortable in it.”
Tony stared at his father for several long minutes but eventually nodded and just quietly gave in. He had no idea what the hell he’d do with an entire wing of rooms. Maybe he could convince Seeley into letting him decorate a suite for him and Parker. It felt like his friendship with the FBI agent was shifting into something more like brothers than friends, and he wanted his brother to have a place in the house. When he mentioned it, Patrick gave him a proud smile.
“Of course, Antony. I would love for Seeley and his son to have a space here. John’s wing has been redecorated to incorporate rooms for team members that have never even been in them. If Seeley is family to you, then he is family to us. Now, I believe you were beginning to tell me something before Derek ran into the study last night. Do you remember or want to tell me what it was?”
Tony very much remembered what he wanted to say, and after the conversation that he’d just had with his Papa, he felt like it was needed now more than it had been even last night. “I just… I feel like… Fuck.”
Tony huffed and turning moved to get himself some more coffee knowing he wouldn’t be getting more than a nap or two that day. Once he got back to the island, he moved on cutting up some veggies having diced up all the fruit he wanted. It was possible someone would want an omelet instead of steak and eggs and he wanted to have the stuff for them if needed.
“I think you have to understand the family situation I came from Patrick to understand what you’ve given me,” Tony started finally deciding to stop fighting his mind and just speak.
“Even when my mother was alive it wasn’t like she was the perfect doting mother or even the kind you’d see on a modern sitcom. She was an alcoholic who liked to dress me up like she would a doll. The thing is though that she loved me and did her best to make sure that I knew how much she loved me, even if she didn’t know how to be a parent. Senior never wanted anything to do with me unless there was some business deal or something that he thought a cute kid could earn him favor in.
“Senior was more apt to tell me how stupid and worthless I was then hit me, but it wasn’t like he never backhanded me in one of his drunken moments. I’ve never considered myself physically abused, but then I’ve been told my own perceptions of my childhood aren’t the best.
“When mom died, I was devastated because it felt like she was literally all I had. Then she was gone and all there was, was this guy who couldn’t stand me no matter how much I wanted him to love me. As I grew up and went from one boarding school to another until he threw me in a military school, I was this angry, lonely kid who got picked on or just ignored because I was weird or gave off massive leave me the fuck alone vibes.”
Tony paused to take a deep gulp of his coffee hating that his voice was so husky from the emotion and tried to blame a parched throat for it. “The entire time he had me locked up, except for that nightmare trip to Maui when I was 12, I just wanted him to love me, to notice me even as I was cursing him and his very existence. In his mind, I was just some faulty carbon copy of him and had truly little use. There were times I would spend days lost inside my own head imagining this very thing that ended up being true.
“He wasn’t my father, someone else was and any minute they’d come swoop in and save me from the crappy, lonely life I was stuck in. I’d make up whole situations and shit sometimes for strangers I’d see on the street. Sometimes it would be some movie star or someone I saw in a magazine. The older I got though that seemed less and less likely. So, one day I just stopped hoping and wishing and resigned myself to the notion that this horrible person was my only living parent.”
Turning away from the island Tony moved back to the refrigerator and pulled out some eggs, then gathered the steaks he wanted for himself and Patrick before moving to the stove. As he waited for pans to warm up, he turned and looked at his Papa leaning his back against the counter and looked at this man who had made his dreams come true.
“The older I got though the more I realized just what kind of a human being Senior was. I mean not only was he a crappy father, but he’s literally a criminal despite the song he likes to sing about being misunderstood.
“He’s sexist and a misogynist. He’s definitely a narcissist and extremely manipulative. So, the more I realized about him the more I loathed the fact that I was related to him while at the same time still had this little kid inside me locked away who desperately wanted a parent. Someone I could love and look up to and believe in and who wanted to be a part of my life. I’d watch movies and tv shows where families would go see their child, sibling, whatever, and try not to long for that same thing.
“I wanted so many things that a lot of people just have and take for granted that sometimes I had to fight to keep my mouth shut when say McGee is griping about his sister and not shout at the top of my lungs that he should be happy she at least loves him and cares! Then one day I have to take this odd blood test during my annual physical and my entire world gets turned on its head.”
Tony rubbed his hands over his eyes and paced back to the fridge getting out the butter he’d forgotten and orange juice forcing himself not to pull out the vodka that he knew was stashed somewhere in the kitchen to mix in with it. For several moments he puttered around the kitchen pulling things out he didn’t need yet and tidying things that didn’t need to be straightened before he finally calmed down enough to finish his story.
“All of a sudden there was this man in my life who fucking asked questions like how are you doing son? Is there anything I can do to help? Or sent me a text just to say not trying to push I just want to make sure you’re alive and ok without pushing the boundaries I know you still need. Fuck, I mean the day I got that text I almost made a fool of myself in the bullpen, ‘cause I couldn’t believe you’d actually care. They don’t let people who fucking cry at text messages carry around guns, but I wanted to weep like a hormonal teenager over a simple checking in text.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve given me? You gave me everything, Patrick. You gave me family. You gave me brothers who fucking do the same check-in shit you do, apparently even when they’re in another galaxy. I have a home that is partly mine that apparently has been in my family for generations that you’re fucking customizing an entire wing for me to spend a few days a year in! I don’t… I don’t know if I have the words to make you understand what you’ve given me.”
Tony turned back to the stove and dropped the steaks into the cast iron skillet he’d unearthed deciding to let the filets cook and then do the eggs after. Satisfied that they were set to cook he turned back once more to finish saying what he needed to, marveling at the fact that Patrick had stayed quiet this whole time.
“You didn’t give me a father, Papa. You gave me a family. You gave an identity to a man who’s been undercover since he was 8. You gave me a name I can be proud of not because of the digits in your banking account but because of the person you are and have become.
“The fact that we’re standing here after my best friend shot a Mossad Agent, because fuck if Ziva was really ever anything else, in your home breaking a glass window and you’re just all… well we’ll just use this as an opportunity to redo your wing instead of telling me how ungrateful I am. The fact that you’re not telling the entire SEAL team outside how incompetent I am and that you’re the true Sheppard is a brain fuck on the level I am not sure I can compute.
“My former boss is about to be installed in one of the guesthouses. You’ve hired Seeley a lawyer to help him get a better arrangement with Parker. Don’t think I don’t know you bought that fucking house Derek hasn’t been able to unload. It’s like I’ve stepped into my own fucking version of Leave it to Beaver and all I can think is how fucking much I love you and how fucking grateful I am for a goddamn blood test.”
The last bit was forced out with a half sob as Tony put his hands over his face trying to calm down. When he felt arms go around him, he nearly lost the battle and gave into the urge burying his face in the crook of his father’s neck and inhaling the scent he knew would have comforted him as a child. His whole life that very moment was what he had wanted. If just once Senior had put his arms around him and said Son, it will be ok. I love you and I believe in you and together we will fix this, then Tony would have been so loyal to him that he would have told the whole world to fuck off blood test or not.
“I don’t care that you used to be not a perfect person,” Tony continued, pulling back and looking over Patrick’s shoulders because he was too scared to look at him in the eye. “I don’t care that there are skeletons in your closet. You’re rich and powerful. You run one of the most successful companies on the planet. I am not naïve. I understand what that means. I care that you’re trying to be a good man and you love us. You’re a million times the man and father that Senior ever was. So, I just… I just want to say thank you for… for giving little kid me the thing he wanted more than anything else in the world.”
“Antony,” Patrick murmured cupping Tony’s face between his hands and forcing Tony to look at him. “You are my son, my blood, and even when I was not nearly the man my children deserved that meant everything to me. I may never be the man that I want to be, but I swear on my Emma that I will never be the man who you thought was your father is. Me, this family, this house, all of it are nothing less than everything you deserve from us, and everything I will ensure that you receive. I love you, my child. I treasure you the same as I do your brothers, and I pray that there is never a time in your life going forward where I give you a reason to doubt that.”
Nodding Tony leaned in for a hug one more time and thought that just maybe this would all work out the way it should.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
It was three days after Seeley killed Ziva that Gibbs moved into the guesthouse on the estate grounds to finish his recovery. Tony had been unsure about crowding him but was too excited to have the man there to stay away. So, there he was standing awkwardly in the doorway to Gibbs’ bedroom. Technically, Tony’s former boss was eligible to leave the hospital long before he did, but no one felt it safe to put him on the estate with Ziva on the loose. Everyone knew that getting to Tony for revenge or to Gibbs for help would be her primary goal and didn’t want to increase the risk to the man she hadn’t made her primary target.
“Is this lingering in the doorway thing gonna become a habit?” Gibbs grouched prompting Tony to enter the room. “If it is, then you’re gonna have to break yourself of it real damned quick.”
Tony snorted as he moved further into the room and move to sit down next to the bed. “The lack of caffeine is painfully apparent, Boss. I’m not sure we’ll both survive this experience. I’m just glad we’re not in the bullpen.”
Gibbs just rolled his eyes at him and Tony squirmed in his seat before blurting out the question weighing heavily on his mind. “Is this whole thing my fault, Boss?”
“Not your Boss anymore, Paddington,” Gibbs grouched again shooting Tony the evil eye. “And of course, it isn’t your fault. What kind of dumb assed question is that?”
Tony shrugged and played with the edge of the quilt on Gibbs’ bed as he tried to explain. “From the start, I had a bad feeling about her. I didn’t like her being on the team, and no matter what everyone thought it wasn’t just because of Kate. Besides the obvious factor Ziva played in Kate’s death, she wasn’t qualified to be there. She shouldn’t have been touching evidence. She shouldn’t have been driving our vehicles. She had no respect for our laws or policies. The fact that a defense attorney never figured out legally she shouldn’t have been doing half the things she did makes me question the qualifications of a shit load of lawyers in this country.
“I mean not only has she torpedoed her own life she’s taken Abby and McGee down with her. The team is done. NCIS has to replace the entire Major Case team. We’ve had two corrupt directors. One of which is dead and the other one’s career is done whatever the fuck his name really is. You’ve had a heart attack and I’m the lone man standing…. Only I’ve gotten as close as I can to leaving the agency as I can without actually leaving the agency.”
“Jesus Paddington,” Gibbs swore shifting on the bed to sit up straighter as he glared at Tony. “Even for you, that’s some outstanding ability to take bullshit that has nothing to do with you and find a way to blame yourself for it.”
“Gibbs,” Tony started only to be glared into silence.
“Shut it and listen. Because I don’t want to have this conversation again. Let’s start with Vance. As you obviously seem to know there is some question as to if he is really Leon Vance. That happened well before he even knew you. So, his career was corrupted before he knew any of us let alone you. His inability to see beyond his own bullshit is not on you. I have said it more than once and I will continue to say it. You were the best young agent I have ever worked with, and you have matured into the best agent at any US Federal Agency in my opinion.
“I will give you that maybe you had a hand in Abby’s downfall but it’s such a minuscule amount I don’t even know why I’m giving in to your self-blame crap. The bottom line is that she’s a grown assed woman who’s older than you are and acts like she’s about 12. I love her like a daughter, but I am not blind to her problems. She’s childish and immature. She has issues with admitting her own blame or fault. She’s so hung up on being abandoned that she can’t see how badly she stifles people or how controlling she is towards the people she claims to care about.
“Something went wrong with her after that incident in her lab when we were chasing Ari. You and I probably should have insisted she get some help, but that doesn’t make us responsible. Despite everything, she’s not actually my daughter and only she is responsible for her actions.
“The bottom line is that she made the decision to try and alter that tape. It’s only dumb luck that she got caught in the act, but I’ll take it. She then compounded her error by physically attacking a Federal Agent. Whatever happens to her from this point forward is on her. Not you, not me, but her and I will not sit by and let you blame yourself for what’s going to happen to her.”
Tony wanted to huff but resisted the urge. “She was my friend. I should have done something, noticed that she wasn’t right, and said something.”
“And you think she would have responded positively to that or even listened at all?” Gibbs argued right back. “Like I said I’m not saying you and I are without blame totally when it comes to Abby, but what I am saying is that at the end of the day she is an adult and her actions are on her, not us.”
“What about McGee?” Tony shot back not wanting to argue about Abby anymore.
“What about him?” Gibbs replied and reached out to take a drink from the tumbler next to the bed.
“McGee owes you for everything that he has achieved from the time he joined the team to now. When he joined this team, I didn’t expect him to last a month. He was a stuttering nervous mess and half the time I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t piss his pants when I gave him an order. Your training methods may be unconventional, but they worked. McGee’s problem is that he’s so stuck in this mindset of being the victim of being bullied that he hasn’t moved past it to see there’s a difference between then and now.
“Had they played a prank on you in the bullpen or anywhere other than in the field in the middle of a case, you and I both know you wouldn’t have had a problem. Hell, you would have probably been proud that he had the balls to prank you. However, there is nothing funny about leaving your partner without backup when you’re in the fucking field chasing terrorists. Not only is it not funny, but it also goes against everything that we believe in. Frankly, the fact that the son of a goddamned Navy Admiral doesn’t understand basic concepts like teamwork and the appropriate time and place for that shit astounds me.
“I’ve never been terribly impressed by Admiral McGee, but I can guaren-goddamned-tee you that he won’t be impressed by his son’s nonsense. In my opinion, this bullshit about being careful with McGee because of the Admiral is just that. It’s bullshit. His father will probably tear Tim a new one when he finds out what happened, and frankly, I don’t feel sorry for the kid at all. Tim has always made assumptions about you based on the crumbs of information that he got about you.
“Could you have shared more with him? I supposed so, but you didn’t, and frankly, him thinking you’re some kind of obnoxious jock asshole doesn’t excuse him from the bullshit that he went along with. Tim’s biggest problem is that he’s still trying to be one of the cool kids. He wants to be in the in-crowd and prove to the perceived jocks like you that he’s better than you.
“That mentality has no place in our environment, and honestly I have no intentions of going to bat for him. His bullshit excuse that he was afraid of Ziva is just that. If he’s so goddamned weak-minded that he couldn’t even try and stand up to her then he had no place being in that car or on our team. As often as we have heard Ziva threaten people, you will not convince me that she would have actually hurt him had he not turned off the sound. Done something later? Maybe. But right then, I have my doubts. That isn’t me excusing her actions either. It’s just not being willing to let him use everyone else for the reason why he did what he did.
“Just like Abby, he is a grown adult. He made the decision ultimately to turn off the sound on those coms and leave you without backup, violating the very core values of being in any kind of law enforcement or federal agent position. I saw how much you put into training that kid, Tony, but the fact that he crashed and burned, in the end, is ultimately on him, not you. If he had a problem with your teaching methods, then he had a dozen different ways of expressing that. In the end, what he did had nothing to do with anything other than he wanted to be in with the cool chick.”
Tony couldn’t stop himself from running a hand over the back of his neck as he stared at a point on the wall across the room not wanting to see Gibbs’ expression. “I just… I mean, of them all Tim was my probie. He was my responsibility and I feel like his failure is my failure. It feels like there was something major in him that I didn’t see or didn’t train right for him to think what he did was acceptable.”
When Gibbs replied, his feelings on the comment were painfully evident in his tone. An item Tony should have anticipated after all the years they’d worked together. It had been a long time since he’d needed verbal and visual clues to know what Gibbs was feeling or thinking most of the time.
“Had you been pranking him recently, Tony, I might buy that. The thing is that other than your McNicknames, you haven’t really pranked him in a while. You’d backed off because I am assuming that you saw what I did, which was that it wasn’t needed anymore. You’d moved to trying to have something resembling a friendship in the way you know how, which was learned in boarding schools, locker rooms, and in a frat house. As I said, if Tim had an issue about that, he should have manned up and just come to you instead of pulling his passive-aggressive bullshit and going along with Ziva’s orders. For all his ambitions and goals, he never had a chance to get there until he learned how to stand up to strong personalities.”
“And Ziva?” Tony asked quietly and then watched Gibbs run his hands over his face.
“Look, Ziva is complicated. There’s a lot of people responsible for Ziva, except for you. You tried to warn me when she first joined the team and I blew you off. I saw the reports you filed while I was gone and the questions you asked when you were the Team Leader, and I saw the non-responses. Jenny never should have put her on the team. I hate to think that Jenny put Ziva on the team with the general ok just to do as she pleased as long as she got the information she needed about her father, but looking back I don’t know what else to think. Especially knowing now what I know.
“Then the fact that they followed Jenny up with someone else so damned closely associated with Eli fucking David is mind-blowing. I certainly didn’t help matters by constantly undermining your responsibility. Tim actually went thru FLETC and knew half the shit she pulled was illegal and yet he just went along with it anyway. The Ziva situation is a mess, and as much as I hate to say it, to be honest, I’m not sure that her life could have ever ended any other way. The part that I hate is that Eli will never see it that way, and you and Booth will have targets on your back until someone eventually takes him out.”
“You think they’ll go after him?” Tony asked surprised looking up from the water bottle he didn’t even remember picking up. “He’s the Director of Mossad. That’s one hell of a hit.”
“Between you, me, and the wall, I don’t expect Eli to hold that position much longer. Even within his own government, there was some dissent about his leadership of Mossad, and Ziva getting killed trying to go after an American Federal Agent won’t go over well. Whatever few supporters he has left will most likely head underground and leave him holding the bag. I’d like to think that will be the end of him, but in my opinion is that will only make him all that more dangerous.”
“You think he’ll do his own Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader story arc?”
“As much as it pains me to understand that reference, yes,” Gibbs drawled, and Tony grinned proudly puffing out his chest slightly.
“What about us, Boss? Are we really good?”
“I mean, I’m laying in a bed at your family’s estate, Paddington. It isn’t like I didn’t have other options. Ducky nearly pitched a fit that I wasn’t going to stay with him until he found out where I will be.”
“I need to find a way that he can visit,” Tony murmured making a mental note to talk to his father and Seeley, who had been put in primary charge of Tony’s protection. “Jimmy too for that matter. I don’t want them to get lost in the dust, and I want to at least get a chance to say goodbye. I don’t know how much I will see them after this even though I’ll be staying with NCIS. What do you think they’ll do to Abby and McGee?”
When Tony shifted his gaze to Gibbs’ face, he noticed the older man was starting to look tired, and almost said forget it when he started speaking. “My guess is Abby at least will be gone. Possibly McGee too depending on what happens when they fill in the Admiral on what happens. I think Owen is going into this expecting Admiral McGee to claim his son did nothing wrong when I think he’s going to do the exact opposite. The man may be an asshole of a father, but he’s damned good at what he does, and he’d never tolerate that bullshit within his command.
“My guess is that they’ll both have to sign a shit load of paperwork saying that they’ll keep their mouths shut about what happened and most likely they’ll both be very closely watched for the rest of their lives. Of the two of them, as much as I hate to say it, I think Abby is the most risk. She’s gonna be a loose cannon. I don’t think she’ll take losing Ziva well and between her and Tim I think she’s the most unstable.
“McGee I am guessing will move into the private sector doing something with computers or maybe writing full-time. I don’t really see him going to the dark side as you’d say. I think he’s still aware enough to at least know that nothing good will come from that, and there’s plenty of companies that don’t have government contracts who won’t give a shit about what he did. Abby though…”
“I’ll bring it up with Seeley and Dad,” Tony said quietly rubbing his face before standing. “In fact, I better go do that now. You look like you need a nap.”
“Naps,” Gibbs grouched making Tony smile. “Feel like I’m in kindergarten again.”
“No, just recovering from a damned heart attack,” Tony chided patting the man’s shoulder. “Be a good patient, Boss. I need you to take over watching my Papa’s six. Someone needs to make sure that he stays alive, and I can’t think of anyone I’d trust to do that more than you. So, listen to the doctors, ok? I still need you around.”
“Yeah ok, Paddington,” Gibbs said softly before closing his eyes, and by the time Tony shut the bedroom door, he could already hear his mentor’s regular breathing.
Leaving the guesthouse and heading to the main house, he waved at one of the security guards to make sure they knew Gibbs was alone. Tony’s mind was on the conversation he’d just had with his former Boss. Always Boss in Tony’s mind no matter how fucked up it was and how unsupported he’d felt at times. The fact was that Gibbs had been Tony’s family before Tony knew he had a family. That wasn’t something he was willing to just set aside now that he was learning what the word really meant.
If anything, the Sheppards were showing him just why he needed to do his best to keep Gibbs in his life. Family was everything no matter if it’s your blood family or the one you create for yourself. Tony knew he had a lot left to learn there, but somehow, he didn’t think leaving Gibbs behind would support the new path that he was trying to follow.
Chapter Six: It’s Time for a Change, Again
Tony sat in the hotel room he was sharing with Seeley in Barcelona, Spain. They were investigating a case of some experimental Naval weapons landing in the hands of a warlord in Maputo, Mozambique, which was where they’d started their case. Flopping backward on the bed bare-chested and wearing a pair of his favorite OSU sweats, Tony stared at the stain on the ceiling trying to decide if it looked like it was a unicorn or goat with a horn in a weird position.
He was tired. Seeley was tired. While Tony loved his current position and knew that taking the job was the best decision he could have made, he was still dead assed tired. While the last seven years had been rewarding, he and Seeley had, had more than one conversation about their futures and how long their current positions would be sustainable. Having come to the decision that something needed to change, neither of them wanted to leave NCIS. While Tony had been as close to leaving after the whole Incident That Shall Not Be Discussed as a person could get, he had stuck with it thanks to gaining a partner that he can trust.
While the position had been a damned good decision, Tony knew, or at least seriously doubted otherwise, that he would feel the same way if Seeley Booth hadn’t agreed to come to NCIS to become his partner. While the two of them had a close friendship before their partnership, Seeley was now every bit as much a brother to Tony as David, John, and Aiden were. Seeley and Parker had their own set of rooms at the family mansion, which had been expanded over the years as Parker grew from kid to teenager.
It wasn’t just Tony either. The entire Sheppard clan had enfolded the two Booths into their midst, especially after Seeley’s brother and then grandfather died. Patrick viewed Parker as much a grandchild as he did David’s three children. Tony knew not only had an educational fund been started for him, but that he’d been added to Patrick’s will along with the other grandchildren.
David, John, and Aiden treated Seeley as just another brother and the only reason Seeley didn’t have his own wing was that frankly, he and Tony liked sharing a space. In the end, Patrick had basically divided Tony’s wing up into one for Tony and Seeley and the two men had been thrilled.
Then there was Gibbs.
Tony couldn’t help but smirking as he thought of his former mentor. The four brothers had, had this “were they or weren’t they” bet going on trying to figure out the nature of Patrick and Gibbs’ relationship. It had gone so far as to encompass David’s wife Charlie, John’s husband Rodney, and Ducky who had moved to serve as something of a medical consultant for the family when he’d decided NCIS was too much.
Tony was on the fence about the “are they or aren’t they” debate. While it felt a little weird that his father could be knocking boots with his mentor, at the same time all Tony wanted for either man was for them to be happy. As far as he was concerned if they found that happiness in each other then it was worth it.
Tony and Gibbs had worked hard over the last seven-something years to build their former boss and SFA relationship into actual friends. Patrick had flat out demanded that Gibbs continue his therapy and it seemed to have done a lot of good for the older man. So much so that despite the family debate, the three original brothers considered Gibbs as much a part of the family as Seeley. It was to the point that when David and Charlie had their baby girl two years ago, they’d named the red-headed blue-eyed bundle Jaqueline Shannon Sheppard in honor of Gibbs’ father and his first wife.
Gibbs had ended up taking over responsibility for Patrick’s personal security and eventually oversaw security for the entire family and family estates. According to David, there was nothing more amusing than watching Gibbs try and handle Patrick when it came to their father or Papà’s safety.
Hearing a ping from his computer, Tony looked over to see his laptop had finished its search, and with a sigh abandoned the stain on the ceiling to see if it found anything. Rolling off the bed, he plopped down in the chair and frowned at the screen and the little blinking dot indicating that there was something waiting for him to review.
“We got something?” Seeley asked stepping back into the hotel room from the trip to the communal bathroom he’d made. “Our current case or The Case?”
The Case being the continued FUBAR of The Incident That Shall Not Be Discussed. While the case itself was wrapped up, for the most part, there were unfortunately still lingering issues that were not. Abby and McGee had both in the end been booted out of NCIS and banned from ever holding a position with a government agency or with any company holding government contracts as Gibbs predicted. Leon Vance had similar restrictions put on him with an added agreement that he would never seek public office. The last bit had been suggested by Patrick who quietly suggested that a man that ambitious would get stupid ideas if allowed to, and none of them wanted to see that man in a position of power, again.
McGee and Vance’s every move was closely watched, and while neither of them was happy about it, in the end, McGee took the whole thing better than Vance had. When the dust settled, McGee shifted his sights and talents to the gaming industry and after going back and taking some classes, had joined a fledgling company that had a moderately successful First-Person Shooter game.
Vance was much less tolerant of his restrictions and oversight than McGee, but to everyone’s amusement was kept in check not by anyone in the Federal Government but by his wife Jackie. Tony had always thought of her as a woman of formidable personality and she was someone whom Tony had actually liked a lot.
Granger had a rough beginning after having a second NCIS Director leaving the position in questionable circumstances, even if it was only a very small circle who knew that. The current director hadn’t been fazed though and certainly had lived up to the praise those who recommended him had heaped on him. It was because of Owen Granger that Tony believed in NCIS again and was as loyal to the agency as he was to his family.
In the aftermath of Ducky’s retiring to work for the Sheppard family, a new ME had been hired that had been less than stellar. Dr. Isha Murillo had looked good on paper, but in the end, hadn’t been up for the position or the immense responsibility that Ducky had made look so easy. Once Ducky left, Jimmy had buckled down on his schooling, going so far as to take a temporary absence from NCIS to finish it, and eventually replaced Dr. Murillo when he left for a less stressful position elsewhere.
That left Abby, who was the reason for the blinking dot on the screen. While no one had expected Abby to take her punishment well, no one had expected things to go as off track as they did. At first, there was a lot of hacking, and crying, and demanding that someone, mostly Gibbs, fix her life. When that hadn’t happened, she’d gone quiet claiming that she was going into a retreat with the Sisters.
While initially, that was true, through some trickery, by the time they all realized that she’d been too quiet for too long, she was missing. At first, Gibbs had been worried that she’d been the victim of Eli David’s rage. She had been a bone of contention between not just Tony and Gibbs but Patrick and Gibbs for the first couple years of his employment with SI.
It wasn’t until a random picture had been taken by CIA officer Vostanik Sabatino popped up that Gibbs was forced to admit that things were as bad as everyone else had claimed. Sabatino was hunting down an arms dealer that showed Abby in the company of not just Eli David, but Anthony DiNozzo, Senior laughing and looking like anything but a victim. The following handful of weeks had been dark for the older man who took hard what he saw as a betrayal of the woman he viewed as a daughter still despite her issues. Ironically, it had been Seeley who talked the man around and convinced him to leave the woman to others to deal with.
While Gibbs had backed off, Tony hadn’t fully. While he was trying to stay out of the whole thing as much as possible, he just couldn’t fully let it go. Had Abby done literally anything other than what she had done, he would have just let her live her life and probably pushed her out of his mind. Instead, she’d thrown her hat in with the two people that Tony hated more than anyone on the planet in some pathetic attempt at retribution for something that she did to herself.
He wanted to look at the bit of information blinking on his screen, but the agreement was that if he found information that he’d just sent it immediately to the team working on the issue. “You know you have to send it off, brother. Just push the button and let’s get back to Giorgio Rosas and his band of merry thieving petty officers. I’d like to get home sooner rather than later. I need to get things started for taking custody of Parker. Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
Tony tapped the keys on his keyboard sending the blinking dot of information off to Raven Ramirez to inspect then shut the top of the laptop harder than necessary. “I mean, there’s only one choice, Seeley. Unless you’ve changed your mind, they’re gonna have to find a place for both of us. Maybe it sounds whiney and repetitive, but I’m too old to start over with either a new agency or a new partner. Not to mention you’re family, and frankly, anyone following in your shoes would be hopelessly outclassed. I think the only option we have is to go see Owen and see if he has something for the both of us where we can stay home more.”
“You miss Patrick,” Seeley said in more statement than a question, and Tony nodded.
“I miss Patrick. Hearing that he’s retiring was… I don’t know what the right word is. Eye opener makes it sound more dramatic than it really was, but I don’t know what a better word would be. I just know I’m tired of being tired, Seel. I want a home. I want a life partner to go with my partner on the job. I want people that I can teach and lead and mold. I like what we do, I just am tired of all the traveling and shit. I wanna sleep in the same bed every night, and I can’t do that here. Hell yes, I miss my Papà. If that makes me sound like a child well, fuck it.”
“Knock that shit off,” Seeley scolded walking away to sit down on his bed.
“It’s not childish at all. You and Patrick are incredibly close. Then there’s the whole where Patrick goes, Gibbs goes, and you aren’t much less close to LJ than you are to your Papà. I mean the man isn’t even my father and I would like to be able to spend more time with him. It’s odd. I’ve spent most of my life despising my own father and scoffing at the notion I needed one, and now between Patrick and LJ I practically have two. Parker adores his Nonno and Gramps. He cried as hard at Jackson Gibbs’ funeral as he did my grandfather’s.
“So, let’s get the evidence we need to prove Rosas and his fellow asshats did this shit like we think they did and go find ourselves a new position.”
Nodding Tony turned back to the laptop and opening the top again, started to review their evidence again looking to see what they had missed. It was time to alter his path to something new and maybe find someone to love to go with his new position.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Master Chief Jason Hayes and Senior Chief Ray Perry were sitting in Lt. Commander Eric Blackburn’s office going over some AARs and other paperwork from their last mission when a knock was heard on the office door. “Adam, come on in,” Blackburn greeted as Jason and Ray stood to shake hands with their friend.
“You get your new list of victims?” Jason joked to Master Chief Adam Seaver who led Green Team. The final step for the newest Tier One SEAL candidates.
“I did,” Adam confirmed coming in and after giving Jason a pat on the shoulder moved to lean against the wall behind Blackburn’s desk. “Saw an interesting name on it, too. You stop pissing off McNeil yet?”
“It isn’t my fault that guy is a dick!” Jason spat angrily, as he plopped back down in his chair. “Not even Beau likes him. So that should say all that needs to be said.”
Ray snorted from his chair eyeballing his best friend before shrugging a shoulder. “Beau is definitely much more by the book than Jason, and when even he thinks the guy should loosen up and remove his lips from Harrington’s ass, I’d say there’s an issue.”
“Marek McNeil takes his job seriously,” Eric tried to insert but then side-eyed Adam. “The boys might have a point though. Seems like the guy has it in personally for Jason. Don’t think we didn’t notice that dodge of Jason’s question by the way. You’re not as slick as you think you are.”
“Yeah, well just stay out of Marek’s way. I heard there have been enough complaints Harrington demanded that someone look into it. As to the recruits, most of them are the same thing I am used to seeing. There was one name that stood out though. Eric, Clay Spencer is one of the recruits.”
Eric turned physically around in his chair to stare at his friend. “That kid’s old enough for Green Team? No way is he almost 30.”
“He’s not,” Adam’s lips twitch as he looks at his friend and former teammate. Both men had been on Bravo together at one point along with the legendary Ash Spencer. Although Spencer was more infamous than legendary lately thanks to the books, he’d taken to writing spilling SEAL secrets that should have stayed in house. “Not almost 30 that is. Clay just turned 25. Younger than even Jason was when he went through Green Team.”
“Bah, no way do I want Ash Spencer’s kid on Bravo. Kid’s gonna be nothing but a spoiled entitled brat. I am not dealing with a Junior version of that asshole.”
“Nice Jase judge the kid unworthy before you even meet him,” Ray chided, and Jason just gave his friend and 2IC the stink eye. As Bravo Team leader, aka Bravo One, Jason had the final say on who would be their newest member. That being said, he would take Ray’s opinion under strong advisement as he had done since he took the lead of Bravo.
“Ray’s right, Jason,” Adam said quietly rocking back and forth slightly so his back bounced lightly off the office wall. “As you know Ash, Eric, and I all served together on Bravo. Just so happened to be when Clay was a little kid. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t write the kid off before he even has a chance. Enough people do that.”
Jason rolled his eyes but kept his mouth shut for longer than any of the other three men thought he would. Especially with his arms crossed over his chest indicating how annoyed he was. “No one just shows up and earns a spot on Bravo Team.”
“No one is saying he should, Jason,” Eric scolded as he leaned back in his chair with a frown on his face. “However, you’re closing your mind to a kid before he even has a chance. All Adam and I are saying is that we were there for some of Clay’s childhood, and what I want to know is why, if you think Ash is a poor excuse for a SEAL, that you think he was any better of a father?”
“Seems to me, Jase, that if you close your mind off to a candidate before he’s even shown up for his first day that Bravo could be losing out on someone we need. You and I both agree that while the team is damned good, we’re still missing something.”
Jason grunted giving all the indication that he heard them and would take their words under advisement. Now standing still, Adam just shook his head at the stubbornness of his fellow Master Chief. “How’s everything else going? Sonny talking to Nate yet?”
Jason just ran a hand through his hair his annoyance just growing. “Those two are going to be the death of me. Why in the hell they can’t get along for two damned seconds, I don’t know. Why can’t they be more like Trent and Brock? Those two never argue.”
“If they were, Bravo would certainly be the quietest SEAL team that’s for sure,” Eric joked making even Jason’s lips twitch.
Bravo Team was a Tier One SEAL Team and considered the best of the Navy’s DEVGRU SEAL Teams. While the team had been at the top of the SEAL team listings for quite a while, Jason worked hard to make Bravo the best version that they’d ever been.
Being the longest current member of the team, it wasn’t his longevity that had earned Jason Hayes the title of Bravo One. The man was well known for his hard work ethic and his drive. While there were a lot of people who didn’t like him, and thought that he didn’t deserve his position because of what they viewed as his habit of rule-breaking, there were just as many who respected him and looked up to him.
Jason Hayes was passionate and stubborn, both traits that helped and hurt him. He was quick to anger and could stubbornly hold onto something. At the same time though, he was also man enough to apologize when he was wrong and open to listening to the opinions of others. Newly divorced from his childhood best friend and sweetheart, Jason had two children that he regretted not being able to spend enough time with but didn’t trust anyone but himself with their and the nation’s security.
Jason proved he was the best by doing. He may argue and attack when needed, and some said that he drove his team too hard, but he didn’t hold his teammates to any standard he wasn’t willing to meet himself. In fact, the standards that he held himself to personally were even higher than what he expected of anyone who wore the Bravo patch. Jason knew he was hard to work for, but he also knew that it was his drive and standards that had put Bravo on top of the SEAL heap for so long.
Deep down there were a lot of people that knew that best of the best standing was the real reason most hated Jason Hayes. As much as they bitched about him and said he was unfit, they couldn’t argue that he got results. He might not have been as young as Clay was when he hit Green Team, but he’d been damned close. He’d known that he had to work harder and longer than everyone else, and he hadn’t changed his mindset since.
His Second in Command Senior Chief Ray Perry was not only his best friend but the person that Jason depended on to keep calm when Jason wasn’t. Whereas Jason was emotional and stubborn, Ray was calm and flexible. Ray was Jason’s perfect complement in almost every way. When they’d first joined the team together, their friendship had been formed amongst battles on the field and in the bars. That was until Ray Perry met his wife Naima in an ER one night and fell hard for the compassionate woman whose religion was as much a part of her as the blood in her veins or the air she breathed.
As Bravo Two it was Ray’s responsibility to watch out for Jason while Jason was trying to watch out for everyone else. There were times when the man surely wondered what the hell, he’d gotten himself into, but as his wife taught him, he put his faith in his God and believed that He had put Jason in his life for a reason.
While outside the team most attributed Jason as the person most responsible for Bravo’s success, Jason always said the Team’s victories were because of the Team and that started with Ray. Jason knew that he couldn’t do what he did without being able to trust in the person watching his back, and for a long time that person had been now Senior Chief Ray Perry.
Bravo Three was a mostly hotheaded Texan whose team life was 100% Bravo all the time and whose private life was an endless series of short-term relationships and one-night stands. Where Jason was passionate, Percival “Sonny” Quinn was most definitely short-tempered. Hailing from Texas the barrel-chested man wore his heart and his love for his home state on his sleeve. One thing you never had to worry about with Sonny was not knowing what he was feeling.
Despite his obvious love for his home state, Sonny was almost mum about his family. It was only because of their years together that Jason and Ray knew that Sonny’s mother died when he was around fifteen. They also knew that he and his father’s constant headbutting was what drove Sonny to the Navy. Sonny was the eternal bachelor of the team if you believed Sonny, but both Jason and Ray thought that there was a world of pain beneath the Texan’s boisterous claims, and suspected that if the right woman came along, he’d give her as much as he gave his team.
Bravo Four was Nate Massey, and almost the complete opposite of Sonny, which was a large reason why the two didn’t get along. Nate was a mostly easy-going man who, while he worked hard for his spot on the team, believed that his family always came first. Married with a son, who was Jason’s godson, Nate openly despised Sonny’s carousing and hotheadedness.
Where the Team was Sonny’s life, for Nate it was his actual family that was his life and preferred them to the team in his downtime. In Nate’s mind, his family was his wife and son, and Bravo were just the people that he worked with. He was close with Jason and Ray, but not so much the others. Besides his never-ending feud with Sonny, he mostly didn’t pay much attention to the two team members beneath him.
Bravo Five Trent Sawyer was the first of those two SEALs. Sawyer was the team member with the most medical training and often acted as an unofficial medic in the field. When there was a medical emergency in the field, technically all of them had the basic training they needed, but Trent had gone out of his way to learn some extra things the rest of them didn’t.
The team’s fifth member had suffered quite a serious injury before joining Bravo, and for quite a while there had been only a very small chance that he’d return to active duty. Not one to let others decide his fate though, not only did Sawyer put extra effort into his recovery, but he asked as many questions as he could along the way.
His intention was that when he returned, hopefully, he could use his new knowledge to help his brothers. Not only had he managed it, but in the handful of years that he’d been on Bravo, he had used his knowledge to save his brothers’ lives and careers more than once.
The last current member of Bravo was a K-9 Handler Brock Reynolds and his canine companion Cerberus aka the Hair Missile. Cerberus was a Belgian Malinois and had quickly become an asset to the team both in and out of the field. Brock and Cerberus had only been with the team for under two years, but by the end of the first six months the pair had been with them, Jason couldn’t imagine the team without a K-9.
It didn’t hurt that Jason loved dogs, and quickly bonded with the pooch often helping Brock out with training and such when needed, and his schedule allowed. The best part was that other than Nate, the rest of the team loved Cerb, also. Since Brock and Cerb weren’t the only ones that Nate didn’t take to, he didn’t push things.
Of course, Jason wanted his whole team to be close. It was what he had always envisioned in his mind, but they’d just never found the correct combination to manage it. As he tried to picture the Spencer kid on the team, Jason couldn’t help his mental flinch. He just couldn’t picture Ash fucking Spencer’s spawn fitting in with the rest of the team.
Of course, Jason had to admit, if only to himself deep, deep in the far corners of his mind, that maybe he was making some assumptions about the son based on his father. Saying Ash and Jason didn’t get along was a vast understatement.
Even before the fucker wrote that damned book and revealed secrets the two hadn’t gotten along. Ash was on his way out of the Navy and off Bravo by the time Jason joined the team. Ash didn’t like the new young stud alpha male and Jason made no bones about disliking the narcissistic slimy veteran.
“Just, please for me keep an open mind, Jason,” Adam asked pulling Jason back to the present, and eventually the Master Chief gave a short nod. Shortly after that, Jason headed off with Ray to begin their daily routine, and Clay Spencer was pushed out of his mind.
Chapter Seven: Finding a New Landing Spot
Tony stepped off the elevator and marveled at the improvement a paint job made. His partner Seeley Booth was a step behind him. Gone was the obnoxious orange from the walls and in its place was a nice restful green that looked like mint to Tony, but he wasn’t a color expert or artist. It wasn’t often that he and Seeley had to come to the Navy Yard anymore. Most of their conversations with the Director were done via video conference, and his reports were submitted digitally from whatever town or city they were currently located in.
The last roughly seven years had been spent mostly living out of their suitcases as they roamed the country and sometimes the world putting out fires for Director Granger. While for Tony it had been exhilarating and helped him not only find his passion for his job again but also helped him hone a new skillset in intelligence gathering, they both had grown tired of it.
The last two years had been especially hectic, and they’d been on the road more than off of it. While they both understood, it felt like the fires were getting greater in number, and yet were still trying to be handled by just two people. Something had to give. Tony missed his family and wanted more in-person contact than he’d had. Seeley wanted more time with Parker than he was currently getting.
While trying to build a relationship with a newly discovered family while constantly being away from home hadn’t been ideal, Tony thought that maybe it might have helped considerably. He could have contact when he wanted or needed to have contact and didn’t constantly feel the pressure of being a bad son, sibling, uncle, etc. if he needed a day or several for himself.
It also allowed him to learn about his family over time and grow comfortable with the idea of sharing himself with them. He could let out little bits here and there and be ok with them knowing those bits without being forced to sit down and have a long chat about his life.
What he’d learned was that Patrick really was everything that not just Senior wanted to be, but Tony always wished Senior was. While no parent was perfect, and Tony was sure that there were things in Patrick’s past that would make his gut twist, the man seemed to genuinely care about him. For Tony, that was a huge improvement over his previous male parental figure.
David was awesome, and Tony enjoyed just calling him to chat with no particular goal in mind. David was snarky and could tear someone apart with his sharply edged tongue but loved his family and adored his wife and children. Tony was treated with the same love and concern as the brothers that David had grown up knowing and that meant everything to the man who’d grown up mostly alone.
John was still in large part a mystery. Their conversations were almost entirely reliant upon email conversations. While they had gotten some in-person time over the last 7 years, it wasn’t as much as either of them would like, but it was what it was. Tony and Seeley had spent some time on Atlantis but hadn’t been there a lot. John ran a tight ship when it came to the military members under his command, and therefore there was little crime on a level that needed Tony and Seeley’s involvement.
Neither Tony nor John was going to get bent over the fact that their jobs needed them as they both seemed to understand they had a lifetime to get to know each other. While it may not be perfect, it was what they had, and Tony knew that if something happened, John would have his back just as fiercely as David and Aiden would.
Aiden was the baby, and while you could tell it at times when the pampered youngest child came out, he was also loving, compassionate, and alpha. Aiden was an experience and Tony had enjoyed getting to know his younger brother. Being the third of the four sons, Tony loved the fact that he not only had older brothers but a younger brother as well. Being a SEAL, Aiden wasn’t that much more accessible than John was, but unlike the brother stuck in the middle of another galaxy, at least Tony could have phone conversations with Aiden.
David was the one who shared the nickname Li’l Alpha that John had bequeathed Aiden as a baby and initially Tony didn’t get it. Aiden came off as the most laid-back person that he’d ever seen. He was a man who was completely comfortable in his own skin and had not a single concern that his family would always have his back. Then, one day Tony’s job and Aiden’s job intersected, and Tony walked into a meeting where his youngest brother was tearing into someone for something.
The Team’s Commanding Officer had hurried over to explain the sailor getting chewed out had neglected to do something that could have resulted in a serious injury had Aiden not caught it. Tony had taken great pleasure in assuring the man that he had no issue with the dressing down, he’d just never seen his little brother in Alpha mode before. “Suddenly the Li’l Alpha thing makes much more sense,” Tony quipped and got an understanding smile from the CO. “Don’t share that or tell him I shared that though. He’d kill me.”
The CO had just smiled and promised to keep the nickname to himself. “Yeah, Aiden is one of those Alpha types who are completely chill until he isn’t. There’s this switch in his brain and it’s dizzying how fast he can go from calm and compassionate to in-your-face Alpha male. We’re working on finding more of a middle ground, but honestly, I think it just is what it is.”
By the end of the visit, the Petty Officer Aiden had been dressing down ended up being responsible for more than just the lax way he kept the team’s weapons clean when he was assigned the task. Tony had enjoyed watching Aiden tell the younger man just exactly what the hell he thought of him before Tony hauled the moron out of the room in cuffs. A quip from Tony about how effective his little brother would be against criminals in an interrogation let said brother on the path to a Criminal Justice degree that Tony was rather proud of.
It was Patrick though who had led Tony to his need for a shift in his job. Unlike Senior, Tony longed to be able to spend time with his father. So, when the man announced that he was retiring from day-to-day oversight of Sheppard Industries, leaving things in David’s capable hands, Tony took it as the sign he believed it to be. So, the second that he’d wrapped up his current operation, Tony had requested a meeting with Director Granger to discuss his future job options.
Tony thought that the best decision he’d made for himself in the last decade was his decision to let himself be a part of the Sheppard family and accept the idea that he maybe should give Patrick a chance. Over the 7 years that Tony had been traveling for work, his true father hadn’t let that separation from being a part of his son’s life. The two talked over the phone and sent text messages quite regularly via the Sheppard Messaging app.
Patrick was even known to travel to wherever Tony’s current operation was located at for a day or two when Tony was going to be between cases just so the two could have dinner together or spend a few quiet moments in each other’s company. It was a surreal experience having a father who actively sought out a chance to be a part of Tony’s life.
“Tony! I heard you were going to be in the building!” He heard and paused at the entrance to the MCRT’s area in the bullpen.
Seeley moved to stand at the bottom of the steps waiting but still give Tony some space. It was still odd, and a tiny bit heartbreaking, to stand in that area and see people who weren’t his team there. Despite how it ended, and how painful and aggravating the betrayal had been by his various teammates, they’d still been his team, and having a team was something he missed.
Through the course of his job, Tony had interacted with a lot of NCIS’s teams. While he’d enjoyed most of them, none of them were his team. One of the things he’d rediscovered during his time acting as Granger’s troubleshooter, was his ambition. However, unlike previously, where he just wanted to get to the top of the pack, this time his goals were different. He wanted this own team. He wanted a chance at building something with a group of people he didn’t know.
He wanted a chance at guiding a probie or even his own Senior Field Agent and get the pleasure of seeing them achieve their goals, watching them become the agent that he believed they could be. Watch them achieve the goals that they’d always dreamed about. He wanted to create roots.
Tony wanted to put his footprint somewhere and know that it would last, not watch it be erased by the next strong wind. He wanted daily physical contact with the same people and know that they were his. He also found that the more he found himself again, the more he wanted someone, the same someone and not various different someone’s, in his bed, his life, his heart every day and night.
He didn’t know as he wanted or even could tolerate being the Director of something. However, Senior Agent in Charge or something similar felt right. He wanted to put his hands into something and create something good and beautiful out of it. He’d spent enough time alongside Seeley as Granger’s troubleshooter that he knew he would never be able to achieve that in his current position as it was currently made up.
“Morning, Rick,” Tony greeted with a smile as his fellow Supervisory Special Agent came to greet him. Despite having no one to lead, Tony’s current position had come with a promotion due to the nature of the cases that he was working on and how either sensitive or classified the situations were.
“Here for your next big adventure?” Rick quipped as the two men shook hands where Tony stood still on the edges of the bullpen.
“I’m actually looking for a change I think,” Tony shared with his longtime work friend as his eyes drifted over the seats noting that the only person present other than Rick wasn’t familiar to him in the slightest. “We both are. Seeley still enjoys traveling on occasion, just not full-time like we do now. Plus, he is getting Parker full-time starting here in a couple weeks. So, changes have to be made. I just hope there’s a place for us here to do that.
“I’m sure you saw dad announced his retirement from day-to-day activities at SI. I kinda took it as the indication it was time for me to try my hand at staying in one place again.”
“You thinking of coming back here?” Rick asked and Tony quickly shook his head.
“No, I don’t think I could work at the Navy Yard again. Plus, I think dad wants to get out of the DC area, which I can understand. We both know what a toll this town can take on you. No, while I want my own team again, I think, I don’t want it to be here. I just don’t know what options he has for us.”
Rick nodded, signaling his understanding. “Well, wherever you end up, I have no doubts that you’ll kick ass at it. You’ve always been the best of us, Tony. There are a lot of people around this building that are happy seeing you be such a success. I know that personally when everything went down, I was worried that you would break ties with NCIS and we’d lose you. Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d left, but I was happy to see things work out so you could stay with us.”
“Well, I guess it came down to them picking the right man in the end,” Tony confessed with a shrug. “Honestly, if they hadn’t picked Granger, I think that I would have left. The few people I had at the time that I thought I could trust all agreed that he was the perfect man to sit in that chair. So, I thought I owed it to him and the agency to give him a chance. I appreciate the words though, man. You’ve always looked out for me. I was glad when they gave you the MCRT. You deserved it.”
Rick glanced toward his team member replying to her quickly before turning back to Tony. “I admit that it was a little nerve-wracking at the time having to follow in not only such big shoes in you and Gibbs but recreate a whole new team after such a colossal mess that had blown up the last one. I think we’ve done some pretty good things over the years though.”
Tony gave Rick’s shoulder a pat before he turned toward the staircase. “I better go before I’m late for my meeting. Keep doin’ a bang-up job, Rick. I’ll see you around.”
After getting his own well-wishes from Rick, Tony followed Seeley up the staircase as they made their way to the Director’s office where Cynthia informed him that Director Granger was waiting for them. Heading inside, both SSAs greeted Owen with a handshake before taking seats in the chairs in front of the man’s desk. “Director Morrow called to thank you for your assistance with the Henderson case. They just got their conviction yesterday, and the evidence you helped them find was what put them over the top.”
“Just doing my job, Director,” Tony replied with a shrug as he settled more comfortably into the chair. “I appreciate you making time for us this morning. I know you have a busy schedule.”
“I am always happy to make time for you both, Paddington,” Director Granger replied easing back to sit more comfortably in his own chair. “I admit I’m a little apprehensive about this meeting though.”
“Nothing dire, I hope,” Tony promised, waving a hand in the air.
“We were just thinking it was time for a change of pace. I miss having roots, Owen. I miss having a team and seeing familiar faces every day. Seeley is going to be getting full-time custody of Parker and needs a home base where he can be at more often than not. I think he is still willing to travel though when necessary.
“I think what we both want is the ability to form a team instead of it just being us. It’s just become too much for two people. I don’t know what you have that would fit us, and not to sound like a married couple, but I think we both would prefer to keep our partnership intact.”
“You know, when I saw Patrick’s announcement, then got the notification about the change in Seeley’s custodial status over his son, I wondered how long it would be before I saw your faces. I’m glad though that this is just a change of scenery request and not you telling me that you’re leaving us for another pasture.” Tony watched Owen pull some folders out of a stack at the corner of his desk before the older man held a stack out to each of them.
“Just in case, I checked to see what I had available right now. I’ll be honest, I don’t have anything to offer you at the moment that in my opinion is on par with what you deserve. I did find a couple places though that I thought would intrigue you. Personally, I think the job on the bottom is the best fit for you both when you factor in the changes I would like to see made, with what I know about your situations. I’ll leave the decision to the two of you though.”
Tony nodded and opened the top of the four folders offered to him seeing Seeley already looking. The top file was an Assistant Special Agent in Charge position in the LA OSP location. The plus was that he’d get to work with Callen and Hanna and their crew all of whom he liked and enjoyed working with. The downside though was that he’d have to work closely with Hetty Lange, whom he didn’t particularly get along with, and frankly, no matter how much he worked at it he didn’t see himself changing his opinion. Then there was the fact that LA probably wasn’t the relaxing atmosphere that his father was looking to retire to.
Tony knew that he’d have to be somewhere on the East Coast. Patrick would still at times have to attend meetings and want to be close enough that he could go see David and the grandbabies whenever he wanted. Briefly, Tony wondered if moving in with his father at his age was odd but quickly shoved the question aside. Frankly, he didn’t care what it looked like. He had a whole childhood that he’d been robbed of with Patrick and intended to make up for it now.
The second folder was a team lead position at the CNFO office in Illinois leading the cold case team, which filled him with a whole load of nope. While he liked working cold cases, he wasn’t really interested in only working cold cases. Plus, he couldn’t picture Patrick settling there even if he could maybe live in Chicago. There was an opening in the Southeast Asia office in Singapore that might have held some interest if Patrick wasn’t going with him. However, the grandbabies were not in Singapore and while it might be a beautiful and exciting location that Patrick could probably be happy in, it wasn’t really practical.
While Tony could go without his father, he didn’t want to. So, Southeast Asia was also off the list. Feeling a little discouraged despite Granger’s claim that the bottom folder would be the best, Tony opened the final folder and froze for a moment when he saw the location. Little Creek, Virginia. Holy mother of perfect locations. Little Creek was where Aiden was currently stationed living in the huge assed family beach house by himself. It was close enough to DC and David’s family that Patrick could drive up whenever he wanted to or needed to for work purposes.
Scanning the papers, Tony noticed that it was a Residential Unit location, but also noted the note written at the top of the page from Granger about expanding the team. Lifting his eyes from the paper, Tony looked to Owen who was watching him with his hands resting on top of the desk.
“I take it you got to the Little Creek position,” Owen guessed with a smirk, and Tony nodded but remained quiet waiting for additional information.
“I have thoughts about that one. If I remember correctly your youngest brother is stationed there. While normally, I would be unwilling to lose you to a Residential Unit, I think we can make it work. I was thinking of combining your current position with the Residential Unit position and thus expanding the team that is already there.”
“Combining how?” Tony asked tilting his head to one side and looking toward Seeley who had leaned forward with that excited smile on his face Tony enjoyed so much. “I really don’t want to do any more constant traveling, Owen. I’m pretty firm on that.”
“And you wouldn’t have to,” Granger promised, holding up a hand as if asking for patience. “My thought is you lead a team larger than we would normally place at an RU. You both get promotions. Tony because you have more experience at NCIS and time here in a leadership role running your own team would be bumped up to Senior Agent in Charge. Seeley would be promoted to Assistant Senior Agent in Charge. Say four or five people in addition to the two of you.
“Tony would oversee the cases at the RU with Seeley overseeing the troubleshooting cases and each one handling the paperwork for your specific operation. The two of you would remain based in Little Creek and send whoever you feel is best suited for my troubleshooting needs. You’d have a full support staff of Forensics, Investigative Computer Analyst, and ME. Therefore, you can stay home-based, and still oversee my troubleshooting needs. If Seeley sees a case that he thinks needs his direct attention, then he can go, or if not he can send whatever team members he thinks are best suited for the operation. Thoughts?”
“It sounds too perfect to be real, to be honest,” Tony admitted scanning through the papers. “The shift to Senior Agent in Charge seems like a big jump. Aren’t I skipping a step?”
“I’m mostly going with the “it’s my agency and I do what the hell I want” theory, within reason obviously,” Granger admitted before taking a sip of what Tony guessed was coffee.
“I did run this by SecDef and the Committee at the last poker game and everyone thought this would be a good idea. You’d have had more responsibility than your average SSA even had I not given you a promotion because at that location you will be responsible for overseeing your support staff. Basically, though I’m adding a whole new team, which justifies the need for a SAC. Essentially Little Creek would be more than a simple RU now.
“We’ve already hired some additional people and shifted out some that were already there but didn’t get replaced. So, two of your team members are already set as well as all of your support staff. One of those existing team members has been promoted to Team Lead. The other was hired to go along with one of the support staff as they are life partners. You’d need to hire or recruit at least two maybe three people from other teams. We can open the listing up if you don’t have ideas on who you want to take with you.”
“Dean Winchester and Emily Prentiss,” Tony said immediately knowing his partner would agree, making Owen’s lips twitch and Seeley cough to hide his laugh.
“Emily is ready for a promotion and wants to get out of the DC area and Dean wants to get back to the states. His situation is similar to mine. He has a brother that he misses and wants to be closer to. Sam just transferred to a law firm in DC. I think he’d jump at the chance to be so close to him. I don’t have ideas on a third, but from looking at the makeup of the investigative team, I think I would like to add another female. That way we can have one on the troubleshooting operation and one on the RU operation if needed.”
When Owen quietly handed him another folder after digging it out from a pile on his desk, Tony took it handing back the three positions he was turning down. When he saw Seeley hand over three folders as well, Tony hoped that they were the same three. The folder he’d been given was for an Ellie Bishop who was finishing up some refresher courses at FLETC. She had most recently been with the NSA but moved to NCIS due to personal reasons.
“Why’s she leaving the NSA?” Tony questioned looking up at Granger as he handed the folder to Seeley as the Director sighed. “Why did she choose NCIS?”
“I met her on a case the MCRT worked and I assisted with. She was unhappy at the NSA and was looking for someplace new because she caught her husband cheating. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was with a co-worker and happened multiple times on operations the two had been assigned together. She saw the whole thing as a betrayal by not just her husband but felt let down by the agency. I told her that if she came to NCIS I would find a good spot for her.”
Tony nodded as he looked back through her file again while Granger continued. “She’s a bit of an odd duck, but that’s not unusual for the NSA. I have been worried about finding her the right team leader who could encourage her without breaking her spirit or trying to make her into something she isn’t.”
“It would be nice to have a probie on the team. I mean, while Stokes is a transfer into NCIS also, his previous experience with the Las Vegas PD Crime Lab makes him practically a veteran, especially since I know their CSIs do a lot more investigative work than is normal. I can already see some perfect combinations of people in the personalities I am familiar with. I’ll take her. When do we start? That is of course dependent on Seeley being on board. I have no interest in breaking up our partnership.”
Seeley quickly nodded his agreement before handing the folder back to Granger. “Yeah, it honestly looks perfect. Tone, I don’t know if you remember, but Little Creek is where my cousin Jason is stationed at Little Creek. He and his wife Alana have been split forever. Honestly, it’s only a matter of time before one of them takes the final step and files for divorce. I’d love to be closer to him if that happens, plus it would be nice to just live close to each other again. So, I’m in. Parker loves the beach. I say we do it, Tone.”
Tony sees Granger glancing at his computer and guesses he’s checking a message or the calendar. “Let’s give it two weeks to get yourself moved down there and settled in. I want to have another meeting with you about the situation down there ahead of you beginning your new post. Things are a bit of a mess right now. The previous RAC didn’t work well with some of the Navy personnel there and it became something of a toxic environment. It was mostly a clash of personalities in my opinion, but in the end, things were bad enough that I made quite a bit of change.”
Granger’s eyes shifted from Tony to Seeley and lingered on his partner long enough that Tony couldn’t help but wonder what was up. Eventually, he decided that if it was something Owen thought was important, he would mention it. So, he let it go.
“Well, I’m not worried. I worked with Gibbs for years, I can work around personality issues whatever they are. Thank you for this spot, Owen. It’s really what I needed.” Tony stood with Seeley soon following and they each took some additional folders from Granger.
“Those are personnel files that I have on your existing staff. Matt Simmons will be your Team Leader. Nick Sanders-Stokes is the new hire that is finishing up FLETC currently. His husband Greg Sanders-Stokes is also at FLETC with him, as is the new ME Mae Jarvis. She’s transferring to us from the FBI and is used to doing some investigative work beyond her ME operation as needed. She was previously with a profiling team but needed something with less traveling if she can get it for family reasons.
“I will contact Special Agent Winchester and Special Agent Prentiss with the offer of the position transfer. Once I get a response, I will let you know what they say. I look forward to seeing you in you both in your new positions, Seeley and Tony.”
Shaking the Director’s hand, Tony followed Booth out of the office with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. There was a time in his life where he believed that things would never look up. These days the skies were almost always sunny and the road smooth and clear.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Tony’s stepped into the office of the base commander wishing that Seeley weren’t going to be late in the mornings. It was his first morning in the office, and while he expected that he’d have to talk to the Base Commander he hadn’t thought it would be the second that he got in. After shaking Captain Harrington’s hand, Tony turned his attention, and still outstretched hand to the other man in the room.
The man was shorter than Tony by at least a couple of inches with dark hair and a full beard and mustache combination. “Lt. Commander Eric Blackburn, Bravo Team,” the man introduced himself as and Tony smiled. Before he could comment though, the CO motioned for them to sit and started speaking.
“I just wanted to make sure that we were not going to have a re-occurrence of the last NCIS RU leader here,” Captain Harrington began, and Tony forced himself not to smirk. He’d worked with enough military commanders in his career to know that it wouldn’t be received well. Instead, he disguised his smirk by taking a drink of his coffee. A part of him desperately hoped that Seeley did make it in earlier and was able to meet him for this meeting just for the chaos factor of it all.
“While I want it clear that in no way do I expect Bravo Team and especially Master Chief Hayes to be given preferential treatment, I want and expect things to be fair,” the commander continued, and Tony just nodded ignoring the suspicious look Blackburn was giving him.
“Master Chief Hayes has a certain reputation around here, and honestly with everyone that has probably ever met the man. He’s a perfectionist, a control freak, and it isn’t unheard of for him to do as he damned well pleases and expect everyone else above and below him in the chain of command to just go along with it.”
Tony nodded and hid another smile in his coffee. When his phone beeped notifying him of a message, he almost choked seeing Seeley’s message that he was there and on his way to the meeting. When Seeley suggested surprising both Aiden and Jason, Tony thought it was a wonderful idea. Patrick had warned that possibly it could backfire on them, but in the end, they’d all agreed it should be a safe surprise.
Now he was equally torn between horrified at the train wreck that he could foresee unfolding in front of him and gleeful at the unintentional chaos he was about to cause. “Gentlemen, let me assure you that while I am aware that Master Chief Hayes has a certain reputation, I’m not worried. I worked for about a decade under Retired Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs, second b is for bastard. We got along well enough that when he fully retired, he went to work for my father, and I consider him family.
“That being said, I have a reputation of my own. Some of it is accurate and some isn’t. I don’t tend to let other people make up my mind about something for me. So, knowing that I don’t anticipate any issues with dealing with the Master Chief. We already have plans and contingency plans for what to do should an investigation involving Bravo team or Alpha Team come up involving who will be in charge of it depending on the seriousness of the issue.”
“Why would you need contingency plans on handling Bravo or Alpha Team investigations?” Blackburn asked speaking for the first time and sounding like he suspected a trap. Tony really wanted to reassure the man that he had no intention of going after the Navy’s top Tier One team when a knock was heard on the door.
“I believe that will be my partner Assistant Senior Agent in Charge, Seeley Booth,” Tony advised and stood as the CO called for the person to enter. As he suspected, chaos hit the second the two men laid eyes on him.
“Hayes what in the ever-loving fuck?” Blackburn snapped as Captain Harrington shot Tony a glare.
“You know I heard all about you and your unprofessionalism, DiNozzo, but for you to pull this kind of bullshit prank,” Harrington was ranting, when Seeley stepped fully into the room letting the man behind him, unnoticed before that, step in behind him immediately quieting the two officers.
“It’s Paddington, Captain Harrington,” Tony advised smoothly not bothering to hide his smirk now that the asshole had called him unprofessional. “Some years ago, I found out that my previously thought father was in fact not any kind of parent at all. So, I changed my name. Fortunately, my real father, Patrick Sheppard, understood my need to honor my deceased mother’s name. If I may, gentlemen, as I was saying when he knocked. My partner and current NCIS Assistant Senior Agent in Charge Seeley Booth. He’s the one in the suit. I believe you both are familiar with his cousin, Master Chief Jason Hayes. He’s the one not in a suit.”
“Jesus God there’s two of them,” Harrington cursed before sitting heavily in his chair.
Tony forced himself not to eye-roll hard enough to give himself a concussion and turned his gaze toward Blackburn waving a hand at the two cousins sporting matching grins. “Like I said plans and contingency plans. As to Alpha, while I have no identical twin cousin, I do have a younger half-brother on Alpha team, thus making me ineligible for investigating any issues involving that team. Therefore, any cases where one of those team members is either a victim or suspect will be handled by SSA Matt Simmons. The same for Seeley and Bravo team. Then in those cases, Matt will report to the Director instead of one of us.”
Tony then turned to the Captain and lifted an eyebrow. “I would rather not start our working relationship off on the wrong foot by trading jibes. I do however need to make sure that you understand I got to my position because I can both play the political game when needed or call people on their bullshit when needed.
“I would hope that like myself, you are a man intelligent enough that you would rather base your opinion of someone on your own experience and not rumors started by people possibly fired from NCIS because they broke a basic rule at any level of law enforcement. I was told Admiral McGee was an old friend of yours. You should have talked to him not his son.
“I’d also like to point out that while they aren’t here anymore, I am. I’ve been here now for closer to 20 years than not. ASAC Booth is a former decorated Army Ranger Sniper. He had a long and equally decorated career with the FBI before he did me the honor of switching to NCIS to watch my back.”
Tony huffed and considered his next words, and eventually decided to just speak his mind. “Since I’m being frank, I’m going to continue to do so at the risk of coming off like an asshole. Quite frankly, Captain Harrington, I don’t give two shits what Master Chief Hayes’ reputation is, and it has jack squat to do with Seeley. It’s because I took the goddamned time over the last two weeks to read the files of every commanding officer on this base from your level down to the individual team leaders.
“I did that because I want facts, not someone else’s personality clash. I get it. It sounds like Hayes expects a lot of his people, the people around him, and anyone that should cross their paths. He’s probably grouchy, bitchy, and opinionated. At the risk of repeating myself, I know a Gunnery Sergeant just like him. I don’t give a fuck. Does he break the law? That’s what I care about.”
Tony narrowed his eyes and glared at the Base CO as he turned his mind away from this Hayes fiasco and to his partner. “As to your “there’s two of them comment” I want to make it clear since ASAC Booth is my responsibility, in my chain of command, and in no way even close to being in yours, that I expect him to be given the courtesy and respect due to his position until such time that he shows he doesn’t deserve it. Just because he looks like Hayes does not mean he is Hayes. They are cousins and they both have military experience. However, last I checked Master Chief Hayes has never been in the FBI and doesn’t have the long history of investigative experience that Booth does.
“They are not the same person any more than identical twins are exactly alike. I can assure you that anyone who thinks they are going to get away with pulling some bullshit on my ASAC because they hold a grudge against his cousin is going to find out why I worked for 7 years as a troubleshooter for the NCIS Director and was promoted to SAC to clean up the shit show that has been this RU office. I don’t wish to make war with you on day one, Captain Harrington, but I will if I have to.”
Tony ignored the softly whispered holy shit from behind him and had to assume it was Hayes because it wasn’t like it was the first time Seeley had heard him take on someone much higher up the political power ladder than Harrington was.
“You’re right,” Harrington finally conceded with a nod.
“My apologies SAC Paddington and ASAC Booth. I’m not afraid to say that Hayes is one of the biggest pains in my ass I’ve ever had to deal with. He’s also the best team leader that I’ve ever had the honor of watching work, and I hope that when the day comes that he steps out of the field, that we can get him to join us on this side of things. We need good, passionate, and honorable men like him doing this job.”
“As long as we’re starting off with a blank slate, and not one filled up with someone else’s grudges then I think I can safely say we’re good,” Booth offered quietly from behind Tony and Harrington gave a nod. Tony could see his eyes flicker to Hayes then back to Tony as the SAC stood waiting quietly.
“I believe Alpha is on base if my memory is correct. If Master Chief Hayes is willing, I am sure Senior Chief Scott would be fine with you saying hello to your brother.”
“That uhh,” Tony started and cleared his throat before continuing. “He doesn’t know we’re here. It’s been a few years since our schedules matched up enough to be in the same place for any length of time. Seeley and I wanted to surprise our family. I’ll be honest, neither of us expected this much chaos though. I didn’t know that Granger wasn’t filling you in on the family connections.”
The Captain waved a hand at a pile of folders on his desk. “Son, I am sure he tried, but it’s probably buried under that pile of dung. No hard feelings on my part. I apologize again for my inappropriate comment. I am glad to hear that both Hayes and Sheppard will have family close by.
“It’s always easier on my men when their family can be part of their day-to-day lives. I’ll be honest, Paddington. You’ve already impressed me more than your predecessor ever did. That ass-kissing, uptight, and too by the book prick wouldn’t have stood up to me like that for any reason. Sometimes a man needs an ass-kicking to know he was a moron. I look forward to working with NCIS. Dismissed, gentlemen.”
When the group shuffled out into the hallway, Tony watched the cousins hug and couldn’t help but grin at the sight. Tony knew how much Seeley had hated being so far from Jason who had lived close enough as a kid and was close enough to his age they were more like actual twins than cousins who looked alike. Both of their fathers had been horrible human beings, and while their mothers had done their best, the two young boys had often had to find comfort from their cousin instead of a parent.
“So, that’s why you were smirking,” Blackburn offered and when Tony turned to look at him, he caught the soft smile on the Lt. Commander’s face as he watched his Master Chief.
“Yeah,” Tony confirmed looking back to the cousins who were now chatting excitedly. “I knew there would be some chaos. I probably should start listening to my father more. Hopefully, we got it all straightened out. If I’d thought that Harrington was going to pull us in first thing, I would have made another decision. I honestly intended to call or email him this morning to explain the two connections.”
“He’s a good CO,” Blackburn assured and motioned down the hall. “Why don’t I take you to Alpha’s cage room? They’ll probably be a while. Bravo doesn’t have anything scheduled to do for another hour, and I think today is mostly working out and the like.”
“That would be appreciated,” Tony thanked the other man and they paused at the cousins long enough for Tony to be formally introduced and for Seeley to assure that he’d meet him at the Alpha cage room in a bit.
As they navigated the hallways, the two men chatted about the typical introduction topics and by the time they were at Alpha’s cage room, Tony was excited to find out the two had quite a few things in common. He’d been a little worried about fitting in and making quality friends. While it was very early, Tony’s gut told him that Blackburn was good people, and when the Lt. Commander offered his first name for use, Tony offered the same.
“Let me go get your brother,” Blackburn said patting Tony on the shoulder before stepping up to the heavy door pounding on it, and then stepping back to wait. Trying not to fidget he studied the hallways and marveled at how all bases were so similar, and yet it still took Tony forever to find his way around when he spent any length of time on them. The same thing happened when he was on a ship. It was embarrassing, but he’d yet found a way to speed up the learning process.
Hearing the door open, Tony ignored the conversation as Blackburn asked for Aiden to be given time to come out and welcome someone. Instead, Tony turned his thoughts toward Master Chief Hayes. The man was quite frankly sex on legs. He and Seeley were actually different enough that Tony didn’t think he’d have any issue telling them apart even if they were dressed identically. Just due to their job descriptions there were enough physical differences to tell them apart.
While Seeley had kept himself in tip-top physical condition, he didn’t have the muscle mass that Hayes did, and instead he was more lean muscle. Their coloring was slightly different just because Hayes had a tan from spending more time outside, whereas Seeley was most often stuck in an office or vehicle somewhere either investigating or heading to an investigation. There was also a slight difference in their hair color and cut with Jason’s being lighter and spikier.
There had always been a hint of something on his side when it came to Seeley right from the first time Tony met the FBI agent. However, in the beginning, Tony had misread Seeley’s sexual preferences and by the time he realized that Booth was in fact not the straightest man on the planet, but bent just enough to make things fun, they were fast friends. While Tony had hundreds of people that he was friendly with and excelled at making people feel comfortable around him, he didn’t have a ton of people that he considered a true-blue friend. To him, an honest to god friendship that he could depend on was loads more valuable than a quick fuck.
So, when it came to a choice between having Seeley in his life as one of his closest friends and spending a weekend of wild sex that would probably make their friendship weird and awkward from there forward, well there was really no choice. Now though, there was this Seeley look-alike that would be hovering in his space full time with just enough physical differences that Tony was taking notice.
“Tony?” He heard called in wonderment, and Tony turned his head just in time to see his little brother before he was wrapped up in one of Aiden’s massive bear hugs. “What the fuck dude? Is everything ok?”
“It’s fine Aiden,” Tony promised after patting his brother on the back and leaning backward. “Seeley and I took over the RU spot here. Today is our first day. I just got out of a meeting with the Base CO, and Blackburn offered to bring me over to say hello.”
“Holy shit!” Aiden exclaimed before hugging him again. “So, you’re moving here then? Are you guys moving into the house? Please tell me you’re moving into the house.”
Tony laughed and finally stepped backward. “We are, and not just me and dad either. Seeley and Parker are moving in, too. So, no more wild keggers for you, mister.”
Aiden snorted and shook his head as someone poked their head out and got waved over by his brother. “Tone, this is my team lead Senior Chief Scott Carter. Metal, this is my brother Tony. He works for NCIS and is taking up the RU here.”
“Well, I hope he’s less of an asshole than that last fucker who was convinced Jason was… Holy fucking shit!”
Tony turned in the direction Scott was looking and then almost fell over laughing as the twin cousins came down the hall. “Jesus I’m gonna enjoy the shit outta that,” Tony commented as Jason and Seeley grinned at him.
When the cousins stopped in front of the small group Jason gave his hellos to Scott and Aiden before turning Tony’s direction. “So, you’re not worried about dealing with me, huh?”
Tony just snorted and gave Seeley a look who didn’t look ashamed in the least before shrugging at the Master Chief. “The day you can out bastard Gibbs in his prime, then I’ll be… well not impressed. Actually, that would be the exact opposite of impressed. One go-around with Second B is for Bastard was enough. Let’s just say this is one area you need to appreciate being second best in and leave it at that.”
Tony watched Hayes arch an eyebrow at Seeley who just nodded at his cousin. “Words of wisdom, Jase. Words… of… wisdom.” The group chatted for a little while longer before the SEALs had to get their daily activities started.
“Yeah, we probably should head over and meet the new team or at least the ones that are there,” Tony agreed before shaking Jason and Scott’s hands and giving his little brother one last hug.
“You, I will see tonight, L’il Alpha,” Tony said with a smirk as Jason and Scott’s eyebrows lifted.
Aiden glared resting his hands on his hips, but Tony wasn’t worried in the least. “Before you get your knickers in a bunch, I have three words for you. “
“Crap,” Aiden cursed not bothering to wait to hear them. Instead, he immediately turned and stomped toward his cage room with Scott following along behind happily heckling him. Jason for his part just grinned and rubbed his hands together before bouncing off as Seeley and Tony headed in the opposite direction.
“You know, that’s gonna be all over the base by the end of the day, right?” Seeley said with a laugh and Tony just shrugged.
“Fucker shouldn’t have messed with my online movie database. It took me three months to get that shit back in the correct order.”
“Agreed,” Seeley offered as they made their way out of the main building and toward the secondary building set aside for the bigger team. “So, you’re gonna do more than make sex eyes at him, right?”
“Holy shit,” Tony cursed as he stumbled and shot Seeley a glare as his friend laughed. “You’re a fucker.”
“Come on, Tone,” Seeley said as he poked at his friend. “You know we would have ended up in bed had we not become such good friends. I’m glad we didn’t though ‘cause it would not have been a long-term thing. Having a brother is more important to me than a short-term fuck. Plus, Jason is more your type than I am. I mean sure physically we’re nearly alike, but it’s the personality that’s gonna get you. I know how much that Alpha thing heats up your blood. Trust me, you two would be perfect.”
“Isn’t he married?” Tony asked frowning as he tried to remember because he was sure that Jason Hayes was married to his childhood best friend.
“Nah,” Seeley offered as their building came into sight. “I mean, they were, but they’re divorced now. Finally, thank god ‘cause that shit wasn’t making anyone happy. He just told me in the hallway. Alana constantly felt like a failure ‘cause she wasn’t happy and couldn’t make herself to be content with him never really there. Jason felt like he was constantly torn in two between her and the team. I just want him happy. I guess she met this guy she’s wild about and Jason actually likes him. So, it was a friendly break.”
“And you think I am that person?” Tony asked tilting his head to one side as they paused on the walkway outside their building. “Not to have a repeat of you, but if he’s been with Alana his whole life then do you know for sure he’s into guys?”
“First off,” Seeley said hands on hips. “Yes, I actually think you’d be perfect. You’d understand his job and would understand his commitment to his team. Alana would love you, frankly. The kids are older, so you don’t have to worry about your little kid phobia.
“Secondly, they’ve known each other since they were kids. They actually got together for good well after high school. They dated a couple times in school but would go their own way and then get back together. I mean, they’re best friends and they love each other they just… they need different things. They kinda always have but something happened I’m not fully aware of and then the next thing I know they’re getting married. Anyway, Jason dated guys in between. Very discretely dated guys, but yeah… Jason’s about as straight as you are.”
“Which means he’s open to just about anything,” Tony laughed, and Seeley rolled his eyes before they made their way into the building to meet the new team.
Chapter Eight: Settling In
That night when Tony got to the stupidly big beach mansion that the family was living in, Tony was happy to see his father’s BMW there. Bounding excited up the stairs, Tony found his father in the kitchen standing at the stove. “Papà!”
“Antony,” Patrick replied turning and stepping away to give Tony a hug. “It’s nice to see you, Son. Where is Seeley and young Parker?”
“Seeley picked him up from school and they were gonna explore the town. I’d guess they should be here soon, though. Parker was excited to see you again. He wanted to show you that science project that he got second place on.”
“I look forward to seeing it. How are you? How was your first day on base?”
“Interesting,” Tony quipped moving to the fridge where he pulled out a jug of tea, filling a glass of ice before putting it back. “I definitely should have listened to you about the surprise thing though. Things were hairy for a sec when Seeley stepped into his office.”
“Oh, imagine. Your father knowing what he’s talking about.” Patrick said lifting an eyebrow before turning back to what looks like the Beef Stroganoff he was cooking.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony waved away moving to lean near his father facing them so they could talk. “It worked out in the end. Harrington was happy that I stood up to him and made it clear they won’t be pulling BS on Seeley just because some people don’t like Jason. I uhh, I also met Master Chief Jason Hayes.”
Patrick turned his head from where he was stirring the food in the pan obviously expecting more.
“He’s, Jesus Papà, they’re nearly identical. Hayes is a little stockier because I am assuming, he spends more time in the gym building muscle. I think Seeley is just a hair taller, but I mean… Hayes is…”
“That impressive, huh?” Patrick asked his lips curled into a slight smile as Tony huffed out a puff of air.
“He definitely has a presence. He practically oozes Alpha Male. I mean, for looking so much like Seeley he’s… So much not Seeley. We ended up eating with him and his team by coincidence. We were gonna just get something and run, but the team was there and invited us to eat with them. Or Jason did. I think the others were still a little dumbfounded by the fact that Jason has an identical twin cousin.”
“Did you get to see your brother?”
“Yes, and he will not be ever reorganizing my movie listing again.” Tony threw out with a grin.
“I sense mischief, Antony,” Patrick tried reprimanding, but the smirk on his face and the twinkle in his eyes contradicted his comment.
“Nothing he doesn’t deserve,” Tony protested holding his hands up as if surrendering. “I just called him Li’l Alpha in front of his Team Leader.”
Patrick just laughed and shook his head. Tony heard a door slam, and looked toward the staircase, assuming that someone came home. Expecting either Seeley and Parker or Aiden, Tony was a little surprised to see Parker come running into the room with both Aiden and Seeley following.
“Grampa Patrick!” Parker shouted excitedly and immediately, Patrick stepped away from the stove leaving Tony to take over. When Aiden came to stand next to Tony giving him a mock glare, the older of the two just grinned.
“Actions have consequences, Aiden. Get the egg noodles from the pantry, huh? I think we’ll need two bags.”
“You’re a bitch, but I still love you,” Aiden said quietly enough Parker wouldn’t overhear then headed off as Seeley came over already rolling up his sleeves.
“Can I help?”
Tony nodded and thrust his chin in the direction of the refrigerator. “Check in there and see if Papà made a salad yet? If not get stuff out? Also, could you see if there’s some garlic bread or rolls in the freezer? I like some bread with mine.”
Nodding Seeley headed over and ended up unloading a loaf of garlic bread and some rolls before pulling out vegetables and setting everything on the island. Tony checked the pot of water that Patrick must have turned on earlier and was happy to see a nice rolling boil. Staying at the stove, Tony listened to Patrick and Parker join Seeley at the island. After Parker and Seeley washed their hands the trio began working on the salad. When Aiden came back from the pantry, Tony had him dump the noodles into the waiting water. The brothers then stood and chatted quietly catching up on the goings-on in each other’s lives.
Tony found out that Aiden had recently been seeing someone from town, and from the almost shy way he talked about her, Tony could tell his little brother really liked her. Apparently, Aneesa Giles was a Speech Therapist who had her own practice but also had a contract with the local school system where she assisted with some of their more challenging cases. Knowing his little brother’s type Tony guessed that she was petite, probably under five foot five inches.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to have her meet everyone yet,” Aiden murmured chewing on his thumbnail and Tony moved away briefly to get bowls for the food before coming back.
“Does she know who you are?” Tony asked carefully. Being a Sheppard he knew that it was hard to find someone who wanted his little brother for himself and not because his family had a shit ton of money.
“Yeah,” Aiden said grinning big.
“Told me that my daddy’s money didn’t impress her, and she didn’t need some Richie rich playboy in her life. I told her I couldn’t help my family had money, and while I spent a lot of time in the sand it was usually in the middle of the desert not on the beach. I told her that currently, I wasn’t doing anything that would earn myself a shit ton of money, but serving my country was what I’d wanted to do my whole life. So, if she could live with my daddy’s money, I’d like to take her out.”
Tony chuckled quietly and grinned proudly over at his baby brother. “I take it she didn’t turn you down.”
“Apparently, her dad used to be the medic for Echo Team and still works on base. He showed up one-day last week and told me if I made his daughter cry, he had people who would help him make me disappear.”
Tony whistled as he turned off the burners watching Aiden drain the pasta water before putting it back on the cooling burner. He then watched his little brother pull out the butter and parmesan cheese to doctor it up the way he liked it.
“How’d that go over.”
“We were in the mess hall. Metal said that if I made her cry that they’d help him kick my ass, but they knew me to be a good dude. He then said that if she was just playing with me that they’d have words.
“I told Dr. Giles that I wasn’t playing, and I’d never thought my father’s money made me anything. I explained how many generations had served the Armed Services, and that my Uncle AJ had been a SEAL before becoming JAG. Then I told him that while every couple fought and hurt each other, I’ve never been the type to hurt intentionally, and my father would tan my ass if I did it.”
Tony patted his brother’s shoulder grabbing one bowl and letting Aiden carry the other as Seeley got the rolls and garlic bread out of the oven. “What’d he say to that?”
“Dr. Giles said dying counted as breaking her heart, and that he looked forward to getting to know me.”
“I’m happy for you Aiden. I can’t wait to meet her whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks,” Aiden smiled, and the brothers sat, changing the subject as they got to the table and listened to Parker tell everyone about his new school. Gibbs came in from wherever he’d been, and Tony spent a quiet moment looking around the table, marveling at being with his family once more.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Tony had just walked into his office and was turning things on when a solemn-looking Matt Simmons came in. Matt was the Supervisory Senior Agent and would be working with Tony on the RU cases along with their rookie Ellie Bishop until Tony was confident, she was suitable to switch between the RU cases and their Special Operations from the Director’s Office.
Tony and Seeley had considered assigning people to each task, but after talking with Matt and the rest of the team, they decided to just assign people on a case-by-case basis, other than Ellie. The team consisted of 8 people including himself and Seeley. None other than himself and Seeley had been read into the SGC stuff yet as everyone was still being vetted. They all knew that there was a special operation that the office would be helping out with, but that was it.
In addition to the immediate team being vetted, Tony had insisted that their extended team positions be included. There had been some issues with Raven due to her past, and Greg because of his claims of being a medium. Not only had Tony and Seeley both argued on Raven’s behalf, but she’d received glowing recommendations from her former leads within the FBI that was easing the way.
The issue with Greg was absurd in Tony’s opinion, and he pointed out it was a little hypocritical of sneering at someone because they said they were a Physical Medium for a project that dealt with aliens. After the two-hour meeting, Tony went home feeling like he’d talked them around on both his people and had a beer to soothe his nerves.
Mae Jarvis had fortunately been a no-brainer. The young woman had a spotless past and reputation and had easily been vetted. In fact, she and Matt Simmons had been the first two through the vetting process. Tony was hoping that it wouldn’t take long, because it made him itchy not having anyone other than himself and Booth if something happened in the SGC.
“What’s up?” Tony asked, and arched an eyebrow when Seeley entered, and Matt closed the door. Looking from one man to the other, Seeley just shrugged and both of them looked to Simmons.
“Bravo Team lost a member last night on their mission,” Matt said quietly. The emotional weight of his words could almost be seen. For a moment, Tony’s world narrowed, and he forgot how to breathe.
“Who?” Seeley choked out, and Tony leaned forward, feeling like it was taking forever for the SSA to answer.
“Bravo Four, Nate Massey,” Matt finally offered, and Tony let his head fall to the desk as Seely turned and looked at the wall.
“In the future, Simmons, I would suggest that you lead with the identity of who the deceased is when it comes to Bravo or Alpha teams, ok?” Tony advised once he sat up and saw the moment his Team Leader remembered both of his bosses had connections to SEAL Teams on base.
“Shit! I am so sorry. I can’t believe I forgot that. Damnit. Sorry, no as far as I know Hayes is ok. I mean, as ok as a Team Leader can be when one of his men dies.”
“Do we know how it happened?” Tony asked buying his friend and brother time knowing that if his heart was still racing then Seeley’s had to be.
“No. We probably won’t hear the details till they get back. I only know ‘cause Mae gets notified when any of the men on base dies. We’ve set up a system where she immediately emails me. I think you two are copied on it, but I wanted to tell you before you got into your PCs. I knew there was a reason why I just couldn’t remember it. I am sorry.”
Tony waved a hand in the air watching Seeley, who finally looked like he was starting to breathe normally again. “We’ve been here like 3 days. There’s been a lot of changes. It’s gonna happen. Thank you for letting us know in person not by email though. I know we both appreciate it.”
Simmons nodded, hearing the dismissal, and turning, left the office closing the door again behind him as he left. Tony watched Seeley drop wearily into a chair on the opposite side of his desk. “Jesus, I think I lost 10 years there. If something happened to Jason now that we’re finally back in each other’s daily orbits, I don’t know what I would do.”
“I understand, I mean I’ve only known the man like 3 days and my heart stopped. If it was Alpha Team, I don’t think I would have been able to be as calm as you were. Speaking of Jason, did you get to his apartment to see whatever was up?”
Seeley nodded frowning as he tossed the paper coffee cup, he’d brought in with him into the trash. “Broken water pipe under the sink in the bathroom. It’s a mess. I don’t think anything of his is ruined, but the landlord is being an asshole trying to make it like it’s Jason’s fault. From some of the bullshit he was spouting, I’d guess he’s one of those anti-military assholes. When he dropped the baby killer bullshit, I told him Jason was neither old enough to have been in Vietnam or in the army. Nonetheless, I think we need to move him out of there, ASAP. I don’t trust that guy.
“I know Jason gets home soon, probably today, but…”
Tony waved a hand frowning. “No, by all means, I agree. Do we even have any proof the broken pipe wasn’t helped along? Do what you think is best. In fact, there is plenty of room at Casa De Beach Mansion. I know the mere 97 million bedrooms isn’t a lot but I think we can squeeze him in.”
Tony smirked then grew serious thinking about the asshole landlord. “In fact, take the rest of the day off. I’ll cover things. If needed, drop Papà’s name. In fact, if you really wanna make the guy piss his pants, take him along. Let him deal with the shithead while you get Jason out of there.
“Give Jason one of the bedroom suites with an ocean view in my wing. I am sure there’s one left on the third floor. I know it’s huge, but it’ll make him feel like he has his own space that he doesn’t need to leave unless he has to. The last thing I want is for Jason to come home and that dirtbag has messed with more of his stuff.”
“You’re amazing, Tony,” Seeley breathed out looking relieved. “This is above and beyond.”
Tony waved a hand in the air making a face. “It’s the least of what we can do. Jason is gonna have a hard time, and maybe this is the best. Sometimes things happen for a reason.”
Seeley just gave Tony a too observant look before heading off saying he’d tell Simmons he was leaving. Taking a deep breath to brush off the heaviness the news had cast over the morning, Tony turned his attention to the open files that he’d been reviewing, and the priority list he was creating from it.
Two days later, Tony walked in, took off his suit coat and tie laying the first over a chair in the kitchen and rolling the second up, tucking it in a pocket, before heading to the fridge for a beer. One-handed he opened the first three buttons on his dress shirt as he poked through the freezer with the other. His mind half on the Moesha Anderson case and the other half on the asshole landlord who owned the apartment Jason had been renting.
Seeley had not initially taken Patrick, but after having to deal with the asshole who didn’t believe he wasn’t Jason, he called in reinforcements and started packing up what little his cousin had in the place. While Patrick’s first thought had not been to move Jason out, not more than 10 minutes into the conversation, he’d changed his mind.
The man pissed him off so badly, that by the time Patrick got done with him, the jerk was not only refunding the deposit, but the rent Jason had paid that month. Tony knew without a doubt that there had already been a call made to the local housing commission to have Karson Kent and all of his properties thoroughly investigated.
Pissing off Patrick Sheppard was never a good thing, but Tony knew that pissing off his Papà by mistreating any member of the military was taking your life into your own hands. Patrick was ruthless in business in general, but he was especially so when it came to military members not being treated properly.
Moesha Anderson on the other hand was an altogether different matter. It was one that Tony disliked the most about his job. Sexual assaults in the civilian world were horrible enough to investigate and try to get prosecuted. The way the military handled them though made his stomach turn and always left him feeling like he’d failed in the end, no matter the outcome. This case was unfortunately one of those instances where he’d done his best, got the best possible outcome, and still felt like he’d failed.
“That was a heavy sigh.”
Turning quickly, Tony let the freezer door swing shut behind him to see Jason sitting at the island watching him.
“I’m guessing that your thoughts are equally heavy since you didn’t see me here when you came in.”
“Fuck, yeah,” Tony offered absentmindedly as he opened the freezer and pulled out a package of frozen hamburger patties.
“You have an objection to burgers and fries?”
“Never,” Jason promised before taking a swig from the beer in front of him. When Tony noticed it was almost empty, he opened the door and pulled out a new one putting it in front of Hayes.
“I am sorry to hear about Massey,” Tony offered quietly leaning a hip against the island counter.
“Thanks,” Jason said softly finishing off the first bottle and pushing it across the island. Tony immediately nabbed it and put it in the recycling bin in the pantry, then returned.
“Tomorrow I have to go see his wife. I tried to go after landing but… Her mother said she wasn’t ready to see us yet.”
“I can only imagine what she’s feeling,” Tony sympathized. “I’ve had co-workers die, but not someone so close to that I had to plan funerals and such. If we can do anything, let one of us know. Papà has a whole foundation for military widows and orphans. The last thing they need to worry about right now is money bullshit. That offer of help goes to Bravo, too. If we can help any of you, just let us know.”
Jason nodded running a hand over the side of his face. “I don’t wanna talk about it. Don’t wanna think about it, but my brain won’t stop. Change the subject and distract me for a second, huh?”
“How do you like the view from your suite?” Tony asked nabbing the first topic that he could think of. “If you need any help unboxing things, holler. We tried to put as much away as seemed logical, clothes in dressers or the closet, alarm clock by the bed, etc. I’ll be honest, Parker has over the moon to find out you’re moving in. You might need to lock your door if you need privacy.”
“Parker is the man,” Jason objected with a grin. Tony guessed he was thinking of his nephew. “Li’l man can come to see me anytime that he wants. I uhh, I saw there are two empty rooms on the same floor as mine. I know maybe it’s a lot to ask but…”
When Jason trailed off Tony took a sip from his bottle to give the Master Chief time, but when he didn’t continue answered what he thought was the question. “We already have those rooms set aside for Emma and Mikey. To be honest, the only people that will be in my wing are you and Seeley. So, as you’ve seen there is room for any of your guys if they need a place either permanently or temporarily. You’re also welcome to have them over whenever. I think Alpha uses the entertainment area on the third floor regularly. Did you see the elevator?”
“Elevator?” Jason echoed, his lips twitching, and Tony nodded.
“It’s big enough to fit a hospital bed. Dad had it enlarged and changed after Aiden joined the SEALs. So, I don’t know how many single people you have, or even not single I guess, but the point is, our stupidly big beach mansion is your stupidly big beach mansion.”
Jason just blinked before rubbing a hand over his eyes. When he pulled it away, they were suspiciously red, and Tony was a little worried that he’d gone too far.
“This is a little bit of a mind fuck,” Jason admitted quietly running a hand over his mouth before taking another swig of his beer.
“I mean, it’s no secret, so I might as well tell you now, that I suck at being alone. I think it’s the thing I hate more than anything in the world. I really haven’t ever done it much in my life until Alana and I got divorced and then all of a sudden, I had all this time on my hands without anyone there to share it with. I think I was going quietly mad alone in that apartment by myself so much.”
“Seeley said that he wasn’t awfully impressed by it. He said that it kinda looked like a crash pad, or that you were trying to punish yourself with it.”
“It’s not like I’m home a lot, or at least I didn’t think I was until all of a sudden I was home alone when I was stateside. I guess that I hated the thought of living alone so much that I just took the first place I could find that I thought that I could afford. Now though, I’m here in this… Beach mansion is the best way to describe it, I think. I have this space that’s mine, but there are all these other people in it, too. Your dad was here when I arrived, and he was showing me around. I can’t believe how generous he’s being. It’s… odd.”
“You have to understand that the Sheppard family has served the military in some branch or fashion going back to the Revolution. They can directly trace their lines back to someone who served under Washington. To say that he has a deep regard for our Servicemen and Servicewomen is an understatement. Whatever you need isn’t just lip service. We mean it. I know it’s gonna take some time to get used to, but I hope someday you come to believe us.”
Tony watched Jason open his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the thunderous sound of footsteps running up the steps followed by an irritated bellow forewarning them who was coming.
“Parker! Slow down!”
“Uncle Jason!” The six-year-old cried as he ran into the room and flung himself at his beloved Uncle who just barely had time to stand and catch the little boy. Knowing the conversation had come to an end, Tony moved to the wall where the oven was, turning it on, then went back to the refrigerator. This time staring in the fridge to see what kind of vegetable he could make to go with the red meat and fries.
The heavy conversation would be shelved for the evening. Tony having sensed that Jason had enough. What he needed now was little boy cuddles and happy, easy conversation to try and help him ease his pain.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
That night, Tony lay in his bed in his suite, the doors to the balcony open to let in the cool Spring air. He was staring at the ceiling, listening to the painful cries coming through the open doors. He guessed that it was Jason, and as much as he wanted to go check on him, he battled with whether it was his place. Restless and knowing that he wouldn’t sleep, even after Jason had quieted, Tony got up and decided to roam the house, maybe find something to read in the library in his father’s section of the house.
Pulling on a t-shirt to go with his boxers, Tony padded out of the room and headed across the mansion, pausing at the entrance to the library, hearing a soft almost intimate sounding chuckle from inside. Not sure what to do he had almost decided to leave when he heard a sigh from within.
“I thought we’d broken you of your doorway lingering problem, Paddington.”
Wincing, Tony wandered in with a sheepish smile on his face. “Sorry Boss, Papà, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No interruption, Antony. We were just reading. Is everything ok?”
Deciding that he might as well take advantage of the chance to get some advice, Tony made his way inside curling up at one of the ends of the couches.
“Someone was having a nightmare, or it sounded like it anyway,” Tony offered as an explanation with a small shrug of his shoulder. “I assume it was Jason. I couldn’t decide if I should go down and check on him or not. Then before I could decide he quieted down.”
“And by then you were awake, and decided to come to seek some counsel,” Patrick guessed, and Tony gave a nod of confirmation.
“It didn’t feel like my place, you know? I mean, Seeley is here, and they’re super tight. But then I’m leaving everything on Booth’s shoulders and that isn’t cool either. Especially if Jason and I decide to do something more than flirt, but we aren’t past that flirting only part yet. So, I don’t know…”
“I see your rambling skills are still in full force,” Gibbs interrupted earning himself a glare from Patrick, which he completely ignored.
“Sounds like things worked out, and maybe you just need to mention it to Hayes to see what he wants. Having a near-stranger appear in your bedroom at night would be unsettling, but if you two are working your way to something real then maybe it wouldn’t be and might be welcomed. Only way to know is to talk to the man.”
“Master Chief Hayes has had a few big blows recently with his divorce, losing his team member, then having to move out of his apartment because the landlord was an anti-military asshole. Just one of those things is enough to give someone nightmares, let alone all three of them together. I agree with Jethro, Antony. The best course of action might be to just speak with Jason to see what he wants. I certainly don’t see a downside to it. Hayes might be uncomfortable for a moment discussing it, but I think in the end it will help you both.”
Tony spent a few more moments chatting with his Papà and Gibbs before finding himself yawning again. Excusing himself, Tony slipped out of the room, and when he was snuggled back in his bed, he found himself hoping that someday he could be the one to comfort Jason’s nightmares.