Judge Orrin Travis called ATF Agent Christopher Larabee, Agent in Charge of ATF Team Seven, into his office because it was the best place to give him bad news. Not that the news he had to give the man really was all that bad, but Larabee and his team weren't going to take the information well and it was simply prudent to reinforce the fact that he was the boss. The slight blond man dressed all in black was slouched down in one of the two chairs in front of the Judge's desk. Chris could get away with acting like a schoolboy called into the principal’s office because they both knew that he respected Travis.
But Chris also knew that being called into Travis' office meant trouble. Someone, probably one of his boys, was up to something and he was going to take the heat. He had spent the time he had taken going up to the Judge's office planning on how to redistribute it depending on who had gotten him into trouble this time. "I know how you and your team feel about conferences and seminars Chris," Travis began, (it was useless to beat around the bush with him), "but there's a big one coming up next month and it's being held here in Denver. Actually, it's more than one. The convention center is going to be full of EMT's, CSI's and cops from all over; including from outside the US, for an entire week."
"Why are you telling me?" Chris asked suspiciously. He had a sinking feeling that the Judge was going to make him go or worse, he was going to make him take his boys. Team Seven was hands down the best ATF team in the nation, routinely racking up a 90% arrest and conviction rate or better. Even with all of their medical expenses and paid time off for medical leave and the like, the bean counters liked them too because their cases and convictions also came in on the bottom end of the cost scale. However, none of that changed the fact that they were the biggest bunch of hooligans and troublemakers that it had ever been Chris' misfortune to know, not that he'd let anyone else call them that. Sending them to a conference, even one here in their own home town was sure to cause trouble as they had the worst luck in the world. They had never been able to go anywhere without running into some type of criminal, which usually led to at least one of the boys being hospitalized.
"Because according to this report you gave me," the Judge picked up and rattled a paper at Chris, "if there are any other Sentinels at this conference Tanner will be able to sense them and that could cause territorial problems. The last thing I want to deal with is an overly territorial Tanner.” The quick glance between the two men acknowledged the fact that Vin Tanner, while normally an extremely laid back and easy going man, was also one of the most dangerous men they knew. There was no telling what effect having his territory invaded would be. His reaction to Sentinel Ellison in Cascade hadn’t been that bad in the beginning but he had been tense and usually when Tanner got tense, someone died.
“We have cops coming in from all over the world. The fact that Denver has a Sentinel and Guide team has already hit the grapevine, even if we have been able to keep just who it is out of the news. The departments, agencies, etc. that are sending people here are sending their best hoping that Dr. Sandburg and his partner will be here training Tanner or if not, that Tanner can identify if any of them are Sentinels and send them on to Dr. Sandburg even if they don't know who Tanner is. As there's a good chance that there's going to be at least one Sentinel coming if not more, I want Tanner there and Standish with him. Any Sentinel that he senses will be told and sent on to Dr. Sandburg if they aren't already identified, to get them out of Denver as quickly as possible. We've also got so many different types of cops coming from all over that there might be a few Dr. Sandburg has already seen. I'm sure they'll be letting Tanner know they're coming into his territory if they already know that they're Sentinels."
Chris grimaced. The Judge was right. With modern communications the way they were it had taken less than 24 hours for the news about Sentinels to travel around the world. Rumors were spreading faster than the speed of light all over the country and from exchange officers back to their home countries as well on how to spot who might be a Sentinel. While he was sure that most of the rumors were just wild speculation, he didn't doubt that any international police conference held in the US would be flooded with men and women whose bosses hoped they were Sentinels on the off chance that Dr. Sandburg and Sentinel Ellison or another pair would be there.
He nodded at the Judge conceding the point. It would be best to have Vin aware of the potential problem before it became one. Having Ezra close by would only help to keep Vin calm, both from the aggravation of knowing that his territory was being invaded and from any possible claustrophobia attacks that came from being in too large of a crowd. And if any of his men had to go through such a trying situation, he wanted to be able to run his own brand of interference. He idly wondered if he could get away with carrying more ammunition than normal.
"And no shooting people," Travis warned, with a hidden smile. He’d had decades of practice in dealing with tough men like Chris, none of them tougher than his own partner, and all of them had pouted without knowing it when faced with a situation where they couldn’t take or use their favorite weapons on people that they knew were going to deserve it.
Illya had been particularly bad in the old days, but then the man had been an assassin before becoming his partner. In fact, knowing Illya he still carried his weapons with him at all times, even though it went against what would be expected for his job as a medical examiner; his choice as a retirement position. There had been an instance three years ago when a terrorist had snuck into his morgue disguised as a corpse. Illya hadn’t been armed as he’d stripped down to his scrubs to perform the autopsy and his assistant had paid the price. The Judge had spent nearly a week with his partner right after that, battling the guilt and rage that Illya had felt over his helplessness in that situation.
“If you say so Judge, but I’m not going to promise not to threaten them with it,” Chris said, his dismay growing as he contemplated needing to corral his men into this job. They’d do it for Vin and Ezra, but the results were not going to be pretty.
“Just as long as I don’t have to deal with you being up on charges for shooting someone I’ll be happy, and send Standish up as soon as you get a chance. I need to have a word with him,” Orin said before dismissing Chris. He was just glad that it was Chris’ job to organize his men. He knew that Team Seven respected him, but trying to get them to do something that they didn’t want to do took a special touch, one that usually needed to be backed up by the Larabee glare. While the glare didn’t faze him, he simply couldn’t copy it. He’d spent too many years training himself to be the one people turned to in order to escape Illya’s icy stare.
Vin looked up from his desk and cocked his head into a listening pose. “Cowboy’s comin’.” He informed the rest of his team. For once they were all in the office. They had just finished a case and were working on the modest forest of paperwork stacks. At least all of the injuries were minor this time.
“Alright brothers, who is responsible this time?” Josiah Sanchez asked. He wasn’t able to look and see if he could spot the likely culprit due to his black eye and concussion. He was mostly in the office so that Nathan, their team medic, could keep an eye on him. That didn’t stop him from trying. They all knew that Chris had been called into Judge Travis’ office, which usually meant that Chris would be calling one of them up on the carpet in turn. From all around him came denials that any of them had done anything wrong.
“Well one of you must have done something,” Nathan Jackson pointed out. Josiah and Nathan were considered to be the calmest of the Seven. It took a lot for either of them to get worked up enough to let their tempers loose and neither was a true prankster, although they did help one of their brothers from time to time. They were the least likely to be the ones who had caused the latest trouble. The medic searched the faces of the other four members of their team, but no one looked the least bit guilty - with their team that didn’t mean a thing.
“I must protest Mr. Jackson,” Ezra huffed. “I have not been present at any time within the confines of our illustrious workplace, nor has Mr. Tanner, for the last six weeks. We have been going about our duties as law enforcement officers in an exemplary manner, which resulted in the arrest and I have no doubt soon the conviction of our targets. We have done nothing.”
“Yeah, what he said,” Vin huffed as well. As one, the four members of Team Seven turned to stare at the last two men in the office. JD Dunne and Buck Wilmington immediately began to protest, trying to turn the blame away from themselves and onto anyone else.
“Ezra, the Judge wants to see you. Everyone else, finish up those reports now. We’ve got a conference to plan for and I want all of the paperwork out of the way before we get to figuring out how the hell we’re going to deal with this one,” Chris growled as he charged into Team Seven’s bullpen. A round of groans, and one artistic sigh as Ezra got up to face his doom, met his announcement.
Ezra glanced over at Vin as he got up to leave, but was reassured by his Sentinel’s slight nod. Vin would keep an ear on his and Judge Travis’ meeting. The chances that the judge was about to reprimand him were low as their last operation had gone exceptionally well, but Ezra had never been able to get into the judge’s good graces.
When Ezra reached the Judge’s office, Miss Eames waved him right on in. Entering the office he was surprised to find the Judge standing in front of the window, looking out over the Denver skyline, rather than seated behind his desk. “You wished to see me, Your Honor?” he asked quietly. Something about the man’s stance had him a bit more nervous than usual.
“Mr. Standish,” Judge Travis paused slightly to take a deep breath. “I owe you an apology.” Here Travis turned and waved away Ezra’s almost automatic declarations of denial. “I have been extremely harsh and hypocritical in your case over the last few years, unnecessarily so. I know undercover work all too well, and you are an exceptional agent. That was why I ok’d Chris’ hiring you. I never believed that manure that the FBI tried to sell about you being on the take.”
“If that is the case, sir, would you mind explaining exactly what it is that has caused your irritation with myself? While I doubt that I would be able to completely eradicate the cause, I do not doubt that I will be able to at least mitigate my irritating behavior in your presence if I know the cause,” Ezra offered. He truly did respect the elder man, both for his work on the bench and as the head of operations for the ATF in Denver. He had no wish to continue their strained working relationship.
“It’s nothing you’ve done, Ezra. In fact,” Travis sighed heavily. “I had no clue as to what it was that got my back up around you until Doctor Sandburg sent me more information on Sentinels and Guides.”
“Sir?” This was nothing that Ezra would have dreamed of in a million years. His status as Vin’s Guide had nothing to do with Judge Travis as far as he was aware.
“I am a Guide, Ezra and my Sentinel and I have been kept apart for too long,” Travis explained quietly.
This information floored the younger man. “And Mr. Tanner and I were both unbonded,” Ezra breathed in understanding. His quicksilver mind raced over the information that the Judge had provided. As a Guide, Travis would have been happy to work with a sane Sentinel, especially one that presented no ‘real’ problems in the way of threatening Travis’ Sentinel’s place. Vin would never have dreamed of touching another Sentinel’s Guide. An unbounded Guide however, was a threat that no other Guide would be able to stand. “Your apology is entirely unnecessary sir. There was nothing anyone could have done about the situation without the required information. Now that we are aware of both our status as Guides, is there any way that we can reunite you with your Sentinel? The two of you really should not be separated if at all possible.”
Travis shook his head. “Ducky works for NCIS in Washington, DC. He’ll be out here for the conference next month, so we’ll get together then. Our duties have taken us in opposite directions, but there is nothing that can break our bond.”
“So very true,” Ezra flashed his gold tooth with his grin. He understood as only another Guide could. “I will alert Mr. Tanner to the fact that your ‘Ducky’ will be attending the conference.”
“Please do,” Travis said. “I have no wish for either of our Sentinels to have problems with the other.”
“There should not be provided that each respects the other’s territory, meaning our personages. Sentinels are more protective of their Guides than they are of anything else. Has Professor Sandburg provided you with a primer on Sentinel and Guide etiquette?” Ezra asked, full of plans to send a copy to each Sentinel’s room after they checked in to the conference center. If Vin stood where he could see the check-in desk, it would be a simple matter to ensure that a copy was slipped under the door of anyone Vin thought was a Sentinel well before said Sentinel encountered anyone else at the conference.
“Can Tanner identify other Sentinels?” Travis asked, even as he turned towards his desk. Once there he searched for a moment before pulling a handful of papers out of a file folder.
“With a great deal of certainty,” Ezra said with another grin. “Apparently great minds do think alike.”
“Or at least Guides do,” Travis returned the grin. “Here’s a picture of Ducky so that Tanner will know which one he is.”
“Glasses?” Ezra asked in surprise. The picture was of two young men in tuxes, one sitting in a chair holding onto a pair of glasses and the other standing at his shoulder.
“Officially Ducky simply needed reading glasses as he was far sighted. In reality he only wore them because he was paranoid. You see, the work we were doing then was highly classified and the last thing that Ducky wanted was to draw attention to his abilities,” Travis explained.
“The predilection of some commanders to use their men in the most ruthless way possible is something that Mr. Tanner and I are most grateful that we need not concern ourselves with,” Ezra said, understanding completely why Ducky would have been paranoid about using his abilities. The fact that both men would have been involved with classified activities during the cold war only made the man’s paranoia all the more comprehensible.
“I’m grateful for your vote of confidence,” Travis replied with understanding. “You and Tanner have my permission to prepare for the conference in any way that you see fit, and you can get Larabee to agree to.” Travis hoped that would keep the pranks to a minimum.
“Of course sir,” Ezra said. He gave the judge a two fingered salute and left the office. He nodded to Miss Eames on his way and headed down to the seventh floor where Team Seven was housed.
“He’s skarit of the men in black, huh?” Vin asked as Ezra entered their office.
“Considering the abuses that have been uncovered in the years since the Berlin Wall fell, I do not believe that fear to be unfounded,” Ezra countered. The rest of the team looked on with varying degrees of confusion and exasperation. “Remember your own time spent performing classified activities.”
“Do you boys mind filling the rest of us in?” Chris more ordered than asked.
“Judge Travis is a Guide and his Sentinel will be joining us for the convention next month,” Ezra told them. “Ducky has spent an inordinate amount of time disguising his abilities as they were involved with classified activities.”
The rest of the team nodded in understanding. It was well known that Vin had been a sniper for the Army and had spent some time in Black Ops. It made sense that another Sentinel had been in the same situation and would have covered his ass. Vin nodded as well. He was profoundly grateful that the bonding between Sentinel and Guide was NEVER talked about and was only witnessed by a Shaman who could not see the memories that were exchanged. He couldn’t be the only Sentinel that lived under ‘If I told ya, I’d have ta kill ya.’
It also made sense out of something that Vin had seen, but never talked about. Judge Travis wasn’t as old as he was pretending to be. The make-up job was nearly perfect, but it didn’t fool Sentinel sight or smell. Nor did Mrs. Travis smell as though she were as close to the judge as she should be. Of course, none of that was his business being very personal matters, but he couldn’t imagine that a man in his thirties was all that interested in even innocent sleeping with a woman his mother’s age.
It was a far more interesting way to hide out from someone chasing you down than most Vin had run across. Of course, the judge was a lot smarter than most of the criminals that Vin had hunted down as a bounty hunter too. “Here is the picture of his honor and Ducky,” Ezra said, handing it over to Vin.
The team gathered around Vin, peering over his shoulder to see what the judge and his Sentinel looked like. “Would you look at that,” Buck exclaimed. “The judge must have been real popular with the ladies.”
“You trying to tell us something Buck?” Chris smirked.
Buck huffed while the rest of the team laughed. “You know damned well I don’t swing that way! But I do know how to spot competition when I see it.”
“Did he just admit that he’s got competition, or am I hearing things?” JD asked.
“Who’s got a calendar handy Brothers? Because this momentous occasion should be marked,” Josiah rumbled.
“Nate, did Buck hit his head during the bust?” Chris asked. “You did check him right?”
Ezra began copying the papers he’d received from the judge. He knew that by the time he finished with the first batch Buck would have JD in a headlock, Nathan would be demanding that Buck actually let him check for a previously overlooked head injury, Josiah would be expounding upon something that Ezra wouldn’t even try to follow and Chris and Vin would be sharing a silent conversation, no doubt about Vin’s ability to handle the upcoming influx of strangers into his territory. All was right in Ezra’s world.
A/N: This Speed is somewhat taken from a tale by BJ Jones called Silent Witness. If you've read that, then know that I don't write slash so there will be no getting H and Speed together in a romantic relationship. It was BJ's portrayal of Speed’s disability in that fic that inspired me to write this story as it was the best I've ever seen. Both of my grandparents on my father's side have this disability as does my baby sister. I only hope that I can do as good a job as she has.
The day shift of the crime lab of the Miami-Dade Police Department was gathered in the stark waiting room of Mercy hospital. Frank Tripp, their favorite detective and occasional guinea pig, leaned against the door jam and winced at the sight they made. Hospital waiting rooms were never the most comfortable of places to sit for long hours and the hard plastic chairs only made it worse, but he could tell that none of the four people in front of him even noticed their surroundings. He honestly didn't think that Yelina Caine, the detective in the far corner did either but she was holding up better than the CSI's. Then again, she'd been through this sort of wait before; under far less promising circumstances.
Alexx Woods, the medical examiner and a beautiful older black woman, was holding onto Tim Speedle, the trace expert. Tim's nickname was Speed but right now nothing showed of the daredevil who loved to race motorcycles. There were only the tears of a man waiting to lose his best friend. Alexx had the scruffy white man's arms around her waist and his head buried in her shoulder. She was running her hands through his hair in an attempt to calm her adopted son but Frank could see his shoulders shaking.
Eric Delko; underwater recovery, drug identification and finger prints, crossed in front of Frank, getting his attention. Eric was pacing the length of the room. The good looks that he had inherited from his Cuban mother were marred by the broodiness of his Russian father. That part of his heritage rarely surfaced in the usually upbeat and charming man's personality but Frank had to admit that this time there was good cause.
Calleigh was the last of the four CSI's that Frank checked on. People did not expect the petite blond with a soft southern drawl to be a ballistics expert, especially to the point where at one time her nickname had been 'Bullet Girl'. But she collected guns the way some women collected teddy bears and with the same enthusiasm that most reserved for fine jewelry. She was perched on the hard plastic chair on the other side of Speed; rubbing his back as tears ran down her face.
The reason for Speed and Calleigh's tears was the one person missing from the scene, Lieutenant Horatio Caine, head of the crime lab. Five days ago Horatio had disappeared. His hummer had been found at one of the many small private marinas that existed on Miami's waterways with traces of blood in the front seat. Five days of tracking down their leader's kidnappers had taken its toll on the group but it had naturally hit Speed hardest of all.
Horatio and Speed had been partners for years. They had met when Speed had transferred into the bomb squad from patrol, just as Horatio had done a few years before. The bomb squad captain had paired the two men together on a whim. It was a whim that made department history. The two men's attention to detail and calm manner on the job made them the best team the squad had seen in years, but even the best can be caught by an unstable bomb. Speed had been the one to spot the bomb first, and the fact that it was about to fall onto a concrete floor, which would cause it to explode. He had thrown himself on top of Horatio, shielding his partner from the blast. Horatio had walked away without a scratch but Speed hadn't been so lucky. His injuries had necessitated his retirement from the bomb squad and almost from the department.
But Horatio and Speed had been planning for that possibility. Knowing how dangerous bomb squad work was and the likelihood of injuries, they had both been taking classes for years to qualify for a transfer to the crime lab, with specialties in Trace Evidence for Speed and in Explosive Materials for Horatio. Horatio had taken the transfer immediately and after a year of rehab Speed had joined him.
Now Horatio was lying in the ER being treated for dehydration, malnutrition, infected rope burns and who knew what all else on top of whatever injuries his kidnappers had inflicted upon him in the first place. Frank sighed and rubbed his balding head. He wished the doctor would come in and give them the verdict. The small boat that Horatio had been stashed in for the five days he had been missing hadn't been all that seaworthy and between the seawater and crap that had been floating in it along with Horatio, Frank was very worried. Almost as though his wish had conjured the man up, a tired doctor in filthy scrubs walked into the room. "Is anyone here for Horatio Caine?" he asked rhetorically. With Speed the trouble magnet coming in at least once every couple of months, as well as the others coming in for their own on the job injuries, Dr. Paul Mullins was well acquainted with the group from the crime lab.
Frank and Eric were instantly at the doctor's side and Alexx and Calleigh were dragging Speed up and positioning him directly in front of the doctor. Dr. Mullins spoke directly to Speed knowing that he would be the one who needed calming the most. "Horatio should be fine in a week or two. His injuries from the kidnapping itself were minor."
"Chloroform," the CSI's chorused. Dr. Mullins nodded, that made sense. Getting the drop on Horatio Caine was nearly impossible. The man's favorite game was to sneak up on people. Many had tried to turn the tables on him but very few could actually do it. "Most of the blood evidence we found came from his kidnappers," Eric continued. "H got more than a few good licks in before he went down."
"His most serious problem is the infections he contracted from either the contaminants in the salt water getting into what wounds he did have or drinking dirty rain water. We're attacking these infections aggressively with IV antibiotics. We're also treating the dehydration and malnutrition. He's on liquids only right now but should be back on solids within a few days depending upon how he reacts to the antibiotics. The last thing we want is for his system to have to deal with too many stresses right now." He waited sternly staring at Speed until Speed nodded. He knew that Speed would be cooking up a storm for Horatio and the only way his patient would stick to the restricted diet was to get Speed involved from the beginning. More than once he had caught Speed sneaking home cooked meals in for one of his teammates. "Good, now he's also experiencing sensitivity to stimulus beyond what we would normally expect." Mullins addressed the one person in the room who had hung back when the crime lab group had crowded around him, although he never turned his head. "Do hyperactive senses run in the Caine family, Detective Caine?"
"Yes I think so," Yelina Caine, Horatio's widowed sister-in-law said. She was a tall woman at five feet ten and had a willowy figure that many women envied along with beautiful brown eyes and long curly brown hair. "Ray could always hear things before I could and their mother was one of those people who always knew things that they shouldn't be able to. Ray always said that she had eyes in the back of her head."
Yelina had been a widow long enough that talking about her husband Ray wasn't difficult as long as she stayed away from the circumstances under which he had died. Raymond Caine had been buying drugs undercover at a sleazy dance club when a gang member had come around the corner shooting wildly at the police officers chasing him. It had triggered a huge firefight. To this day no one knew who fired the shot that had killed Ray, although they were aware that it hadn’t been one of the police officers. It only helped a little and was something that she did her best not to think about.
"Then we are looking at the possibility that Horatio is a Sentinel. He'll need to be tested if the sensitivity he's experiencing continues. Right now I want him to rest and recover before we subject him to any more tests that we have to. He's being sent up to a room right now. Once he's settled you can go and see him. We'll be keeping him here at the hospital until he's off the IV and eating solids. Alexx, please make sure that Speed takes care of himself."
Speed rolled his eyes but didn't deny the unspoken assumption that he would be spending his time in Horatio's hospital room and would have to be pried away from Horatio's side. He wouldn't leave his partner alone in a hospital any more than H had ever left him. Not only had H spent every minute of every emergency room visit with him, he had spent every minute he could at Speed's side during the year Speed had spent in rehab. The Mercy Hospital staff had learned years ago not to try and separate them.
There was an agonizing half hour wait before the group was allowed to see Horatio. Slipping into the room, Speed went directly to where Horatio was lying in the hospital bed with his hands covering his ears. Ignoring the nurse who was attempting to tell him something, Speed knelt by the bed and after catching Horatio's pain filled eyes, brought his partner's hand to his chest. Then he placed his own hand on Horatio's chest.
Horatio sighed and made a face to hide his relief at the contact, the one thing currently in his world that didn't hurt. They stared into each other's eyes, matching each other’s respiration and eventual heartbeats. 'Just another bomb', was the thought that ran through Horatio's mind. It had been their pre-bomb ritual, and was still the perfect way to calm him down. After a moment Speed pulled back. ~Better now?~ he signed.
Horatio remembered pushing his partner’s body off of him and seeing the blood running from both his ears and from his leg in the aftermath of the last bomb they had worked on. The memory still gave him nightmares from time to time. He had thought that Speed had been killed. The fact that the only physical reminders that Speed had of the incident were a slight limp and being severely hearing impaired was a miracle that he thanked God for every night. ~Yes,~ Horatio signed back slowly. ~What's going on?~ The injuries he had from the restraints used on him made it difficult to move his wrists.
~First off, we got the ones who took you. They're headed straight for jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.00,~ Speed signed. His snarky attitude towards the perps got a muffled snort from Horatio and a set of giggles from Eric, Calleigh and Alexx who were standing by the door. To make things easier at the lab, and because they had become a family, all three of them had taken sign courses and were now as proficient as Speed and H.
~Didn't doubt it for a moment,~ Horatio signed.
~Good!~ Speed signed firmly. ~Now we're going to have a little talk about you and heroics!~
~Not my fault!~ H signed back. ~There wasn’t any way I could give them Gloria!~ Gloria Murphy was a witness for a case the crime lab had recently processed. She was also only ten years old. All of the crime lab team members had a soft spot for children and had done their best to close the case as quickly as possible to protect her. H had even helped her and her mother settle into a safe house, which was why he had been chosen by the kidnappers.
Alexx, Calleigh, and Eric moved into the room, satisfied that they weren’t going to hurt H with their presence. Alexx placed her hand on H’s hospital bed where Speed could see it as the group came around to where H could see them. She didn’t want to startle Speed by approaching him from behind and touching his shoulder, and making any sort of noise from a direction Speed’s hearing aids could pick up was out of question at the moment as H was still flinching at the slight noises that the nurse was making.
~You didn’t give her to them. She and her mom are fine. Gloria testified yesterday and the scum that your kidnappers worked for is already on his way to his eventual appointment with a lethal injection. The trial took all of four hours. We got you back this morning,~ Eric signed as he moved into H’s line of sight.
Alex gently moved the nurse out of the way so that she and Calleigh could be seen clearly. ~Horatio, everything is fine. All you need to worry about is getting well enough to get out of here. Let us take care of the rest,~ Alex signed. Horatio looked back at Speed who had turned around to follow the conversation.
Speed smiled at Alex and turned back to find H watching him. ~Don’t worry, partner. We’ve got it handled.~ And they would handle it, no matter what it turned out to be.
A/N2: American Sign Language and Signed English are two different languages. The primary language used in this fic for normal, everyday communications is ASL. When technical terms are needed (or when Speed is being snarky by being very proper) Signed English is used. The reason for this difference is that ASL is a conceptual language. Many words used in English such as: a, the, and: are dropped and single signs can be used to express an entire concept. For instance, the sign that most hearing Americans are used to seeing is ‘I love you’ which is signed with one hand outspread and the two middle fingers folded down. Signed English is a much more rigid language that can be directly translated into spoken English. Most of the deaf people that I know only used Signed English when it is required for some reason. Admittedly, most of these people are my grandparent’s age or in my family and they are all much more comfortable with ASL.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Doctor Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard was extremely knowledgeable about a large number of subjects, as anyone who had ever been in his presence for more than a day could attest to. He had a habit of telling long stories about things that had gone on in his long life. Most people did not want to sit around and listen to long winded tales, which was the real reason that he told them. Saying ‘I once knew a man’ was a good way to guarantee that his audience would either leave quickly or tune him out completely. His favorite former assistant had even gone so far as to wear ear plugs whenever he thought that Ducky was likely to be in the mood for expounding.
Gerald had never known that Ducky was well aware of his little trick, or that he approved of it. It wouldn’t have done for the man to actually listen to what Ducky was saying, as most of it was still classified. Very few people knew that he had once been Illya Kuryakin, KGB assassin, Naval Intelligence Officer for the Soviet Navy, and United Network Command for Law and Enforcement Section Two field agent, with doctorates in both the medical and physics fields. He told those stories more to remind himself of who he had been and just why it was that he was in semi-hiding, as well as for his own amusement, than it was to actually educate anyone. Of course he did have enough experience with truly strange and astonishing things that it could on occasion be helpful to the senior investigation team of the NCIS.
Of course, the fact that his and his partner’s son was the second in command of that particular team probably had a great deal to do with the unusual circumstances the Major Crimes team sometimes found themselves involved in. Anthony had inherited his fathers’ trouble magnet status, not that his sister Abigail was much better. That fate had put them both on the same team, along with one of their biological fathers, was almost guaranteed to insure that strange and unusual cases would be popping up at the most inopportune times – which fact, suitably edited for Madam Director’s hearing, Anthony was trying desperately to use to get out of their team attending the conference she had just told them they would be attending.
“You are going Agent DiNozzo,” Director Sheppard glared. “According to the records, of all the NCIS agents currently in the field, you are the one who is most likely to at least be a carrier of the Sentinel genes. Personally I seriously doubt that you’re a Sentinel yourself as you are far too frivolous, but I was over ruled on sending you.” She turned to Gibbs, ignoring the looks from the rest of the team as well as ignoring the large, apparently dull-witted man that Ziva had been handcuffed to for the last two days. She knew what that was about and was very pleased that U.N.C.L.E. would owe N.C.I.S. for letting Ziva do her training here. “While you have the attitude that a Sentinel should have Gibbs, your scores as a sniper didn’t qualify you.”
“I could have told you that,” he said mildly, sipping his coffee. “I’ve been in enough situations that if I had been a Sentinel, I would have gone on-line a long time ago.”
The very fact that he wasn’t glaring at being sent off to a conference was enough to send alarm bells ringing through the minds of those who knew him, but it was Tim McGee who knew why that was. “I’m sure the conference will be very educational, ma’am,” he said, trying to distract her from Gibbs’ mellow attitude.
“See to it that all of you pay attention,” she said. “If my best team is going to be out of circulation for a week, I want something to show for it.” With that, Sheppard left the bullpen, storming up to her own office.
“Educational, McGee?” Tony growled.
“Very,” Tim said with a smug grin.
“Where exactly are we going?” Ducky asked. He had been delivering a report to Ziva, and checking on her latest attempt at a partnership, when Sheppard had thrown her bombshell at Gibbs’ team. Conferences tended to be the same, a needle in a haystack search for good information among speakers who were either boring or idiots. It had to be the location that was bringing out the little boys in Jethro and Timothy.
“Denver,” Tim and Gibbs chorused.
That one word was all that Ducky, or rather Illya, needed to hear to understand exactly why the two men looked like a particularly satisfied cat. Tim must have figured out who his partner was and tracked him down. He and Gibbs were setting things up so that he and the twins could have a clandestine family reunion. “Educational is one way to put it,” Illya said, hiding the smirk that wanted to creep out at the thought of introducing Napoleon to the twins that they had given up, and placed into hiding all those years ago, especially Abby. “I shall inform Abigail of our impending doom.”
“You do that, Duck,” Gibbs said. He turned to his team. “I want all of our paperwork done before we leave. McGee, check our flight arrangements, and the cost of ticket upgrades. Tony and I are not going to be turned into pretzels again if we’re going civilian.”
Tim shuddered. “I’ll get right on it Boss,” he promised.
Illya patted him on the shoulder and whispered, “I’ll pay for the upgrades, my boy. I don’t want to have to deal with that again either,” on his way to Abigail’s lab. He was determined that the last time they’d had such a flight would be the last one he would have to endure. Between watching Anthony suffer from being stuffed into a too small seat, Jethro’s horrendous mood that not even getting him good coffee had managed to lift, and all of the small irritations that modern air travel brought to his own heightened senses, he’d been seriously tempted to go into a still sleep. Only the thought that Napoleon wasn’t there to bring him out of it had allowed him to resist the temptation. Although anyone could bring him out of a doze, a deep still sleep required his own heart brother. Illya stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the level that Abigail’s lab was on.
Looking back over his life, Illya realized that he had been incredibly lucky that it had been his babushka that had raised him. She had been a Watcher herself, and between her and her heart sister, his training as a Watcher had begun from before the time he could walk. By the time he was the only survivor of his family at seven years of age, he had been in firm control of his abilities and never permitted himself to slip into more than a doze and more importantly, thanks to his babushka he knew why it was so vital that he avoid the condition.
Illya had watched as his babushka and her heart sister had confronted the Nazis when they’d come into the small village, hidden under the steps of the head man’s home. He hadn’t realized until years later that the group was only a small patrol, and quite possibly hadn’t even had permission to leave the main group. They’d wanted food and were demanding it from the crippled head man at gun point. Most of the men and older boys of the village had already gone to fight, so the only ones left in the village to defend it were the elderly Sentinel and her heart sister. Bows and arrows were just as deadly to the soldiers as they were to what little game that the women could hunt to supplement what little could be gotten from the abandoned fields and the surrounding forest.
Three of the Nazis had fallen to the women when one of them shot and killed his babushka’s heart sister. Immediately his babushka had fallen into a deep still sleep, and he had watched as the two remaining men had beaten the unresisting old woman to death. Those two men had died at his hands, his arrows hitting them directly in the eye. It was the first time he had ever killed, but the lessons of that day were burned into his mind. A Watcher was willing to risk death to do their duty, was willing to kill a man to protect what was theirs, and that a deep still sleep meant death.
For years afterwards Illya had kept his senses suppressed to a certain extent, never using them to the full extent that they were capable of…at least, he hadn’t until the first time Napoleon had been in danger. He had accepted his assignment to attempt a partnership with the brash and suave American with reservations, mostly because the man’s personality clashed with his Soviet upbringing. Three days into their trial, three days full of what Illya later admitted to himself had been pointless alpha posturing, an idiot had accidentally discharged his weapon in the men’s locker room. The bullet had passed far too close to Napoleon and Illya had reacted instinctively – his senses had flared with the adrenaline rush and he had broken the idiot’s hand disarming him, and all without so much as mussing his partner’s hair. That was the moment that Illya had known that Napoleon was his heart brother and the man he was destined to share his soul, the same one that his superiors (all of them atheist, party members, and proper servants of the State, who would never admit to anything that did not agree with the dictates of Communism) would have been horrified to learn that Illya believed in, with for the rest of his life.
Illya had been appalled.
Looking back on that day from the experience of more than forty years, Illya chuckled at himself as he left the elevator. To say the least, neither of them had made a good impression upon the other at first, but their respective nationalities and ideologies hadn’t been part of that; unlike most of those who didn’t like either man. No, they’d simply been far too opposite in personality (and Illya hadn’t wanted yet another ladies’ man for an immediate superior after the one he’d left behind in Russia) to take to each other easily.
Illya reached Abigail’s lab and looked through the glass wall. She was bouncing on her stool in front of her monitor, a sure sign that the music in her lab was up as far as her little boom box would go. Frowning, not wishing to subject his ears to the blast of sound, he pulled out his cell phone and rang her number. How he could never be sure, but Abigail always knew when the phone was ringing. “Abby’s house of mysterious substances, Abby here,” she answered cheerfully.
“Would you mind turning down your music so an old man might join you in your lab, my dear?” he asked, amused as always by his daughter’s irreverence.
“Sure, Ducky, just gimme a second,” Abby said before she hung up. She jumped off of her stool and ran over to her radio. As she turned it down the door to her lab opened and the elderly ME entered. “Hey, Ducky!” she said as she threw her arms around him.
“Thank you Abigail. I’m afraid my old ears aren’t up to that level of sound,” he said, falling back into his role as Ducky with the practiced ease of many years. “I am afraid I have some rather bad news.” He took her hand and led her back to her main computer station. He set her down on her stool, fished another stool out from under the table and sat down next to her.
“What is it?” Abby asked, uneasy. Her birth father was a professional and nothing that he did not want to ever showed up on his face. She had no idea how bad this was going to be and tried to brace herself for it.
“We’re being sent to Denver for that large conference next week,” Ducky told her seriously. “The two of us and Jethro’s team.”
“We’re doomed,” Abby said, fighting an evil grin.
Babushka is Russian for grandmother.