Jack O’Neill looked at the clock and decided it was time to get the show on the road. With any luck, they could bang this meeting out quickly and he’d still make it home in time to see the hockey game. Daniel said he’d TiVo it for him, but watching a recorded game just wasn’t the same.
“All right, everybody’s here, so let’s go,” Jack stated. He waited a moment for the others to settle down. It didn’t take long, since the Defender mentality usually meant at least nominal respect for authority. “It’s time to start the Defenders of Trouble Magnets Board of Directors meeting.”
As he always did, Jack winced at the name. Years in the Air Force had not thickened his skin where stuffy committee titles were concerned. It wasn’t like they were that formal of a group, meeting as they did in a back room of a bar that a friend of Jack’s owned. It was small as party rooms went; just containing a scarred, round table that had survived several bar fights and some chairs in varying degrees of repair. What it did have was privacy, an equally sturdy door separated them from the rest of the bar. Jim Ellison was there, looking as impatient as he ever did. Jethro Gibbs held himself in his chair with a military air that Jack appreciated. The fourth man was a relative newcomer, at least to this particular gathering, but his presence did provide a good meeting opener.
“First order of business,” Jack continued, “is to welcome Jack Malone to the position of Convention Chair.”
The other Jack didn’t look particularly happy to be there. “Like I had a choice?”
Jim Ellison snorted. “The Convention hasn’t been in New York in a while. Jack’s had it in Colorado and I just had it in Cascade. It’s the East Coast’s turn.”
“DC’s on the East Coast,” Malone pointed out. O’Neill and Ellison shuddered. “What?”
“We do not want a repeat of what happened when Skinner and his group were in charge,” O’Neill said firmly.
Malone frowned. “Walter Skinner has an excellent reputation in the FBI.”
“I’m sure he does,” O’Neill tried to placate the other man, but Ellison jumped right in.
“But his Trouble Magnet’s got a thing for alien conspiracy theories,” Ellison explained. “Mulder royally pissed off our extraterrestrial members.”
“It couldn’t have been that bad,” Malone protested.
“Ever seen the movie ‘Independence Day’?” Ellison asked. When Malone nodded, he continued. “The scene where the alien ship destroys the White House? Almost happened.”
“It was before my time,” Jethro Gibbs chimed in, looking smug. “That one can’t be blamed on Tony.”
O’Neill pointed at him. “Don’t get too complacent, Gibbs. Both NCIS and the BAU are headquartered in DC, it won’t be too long before the Mulder incident is old news and the convention comes back your way.”
“Great,” Malone muttered. “I’m stuck for this year.”
“One of the new Defenders is in the FBI and he’s in New York,” Jack pointed out. “Do you know Peter Burke?”
Malone shrugged. “Just by reputation.”
“Then maybe you haven’t heard that his wife’s in the event planning industry,” Jack chuckled as Malone brightened up. “I suggest you make him your new best friend.”
“Blair’s got some educational topics to suggest,” Ellison didn’t look too enthusiastic. “All of them have something to do with social networking.”
“Real men don’t tweet,” Gibbs grumbled, shifting his chair.
“We probably don’t but our TMs do,” Ellison defended Blair’s topic. “We need to know at least a little about it so we know how to protect them.”
“I’ll take topic under advisement,” Malone promised. “Martin knows more about that kind of thing than I do.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Just do me a favor and don’t approach Mac Taylor to help. He’s still having some problems with Danny.”
The expressions of all four men became mournful. It wasn’t that unusual for a vulnerable TM to be wooed by a female, but a TM impregnating a woman was rare. Since Danny was besotted with the resulting baby, Mac’d had no choice but to bow out of his relationship with his TM for Danny’s sake. TM traditional marriages rarely worked out, so Danny likely would be back, but for the time being, it would be torture for Mac to be relegated to the sidelines of Danny’s life.
“On to the second topic of business,” Jack decided a change in subject was in order. “Aaron Hotchner has withdrawn his formal protest at being labeled a TM.”
“About time,” Ellison muttered.
Jack grinned his agreement. “And has also acknowledged that David Rossi is now his Defender.”
“What about Spencer?” Gibbs asked, frowning.
“Spencer’s been with Morgan since shortly after Jason Gideon took off,” O’Neill reminded him. “He needed more immediate supervision than Aaron did.”
“That’s right,” Gibbs nodded. “Any word on where Gideon is?”
“Not yet,” O’Neill admitted grimly. “But we’re on the lookout. No matter where he surfaces, we’ll send someone over to have a 'friendly' chat with him. We’ve had several volunteers already.”
Defenders took the abandonment of a Trouble Magnet very seriously, let along two of them.
O’Neill moved on to the next agenda item. “We’ve also received a complaint from Dean Winchester.”
Ellison groaned. “Don’t tell me, he’s griping – again – about us not having made the decision that he’s the Defender and that Sam’s the TM.”
“Not this time,” Jack shook his head. The Winchester brothers’ status had long been undetermined and was frustrating to everyone, not just the Winchesters. “Apparently the Vampire special interest group found out that Dean was partially turned this season. They’ve been sending him all kinds of invitations to join them.”
Malone snorted. “Did anyone tell them it wasn’t a full change and wasn’t permanent?”
O’Neill shrugged. “Apparently not. Dean’s complaint reads, and this is a direct quote, ‘If one more son of a bitch sends me a Team Edward button or t-shirt, I will stake his ass so quick it will make his head pop off.’”
Ellison whistled. “Yeah, he’s pissed all right.
“Ya think?” Gibbs snorted.
“You’re the Special Interest Groups Chair, Ellison,” O’Neill instructed. “Take care of it. If the Winchester brothers start going after the vamps, it could get real ugly, real fast.”
“Will do,” Ellison promised. His facial expression matched the gravity of the situation, so O’Neill relaxed; Jim would see to it.
“Okay, next item,” Jack took a quick glance at his watch. That hockey game was looking more likely. “We have a new TM, Auggie Anderson.” There were a couple of file folders in front of him and Jack opened the top one before turning it so that they could all see the picture it contained. “He’s with the CIA.”
“Another one?” Gibbs expression as he looked at the photo was partially amused and partially irritated. “This kid’s a dead wringer for Miles McCabe or Jake Foley.”
“Are you sure he’s a TM?” Ellison asked. “He looks pretty buff and if he’s with the CIA. . . .”
“Positive,” O’Neill was firm on that. “He’s also blind.”
“A disability doesn’t automatically make him a TM,” Malone pointed out. “This kid wouldn’t still be in the CIA if he was too much of a woobie.”
Jack took the comments seriously. “True, but Auggie also has the habit of making light about his blindness, while desperately hoping to be a field agent again.”
“Ah,” all three of the other men relaxed as they realized the truth of what Jack was saying. There was more to being a TM than sheer physicality.
“So what’s the problem?” Gibbs asked.
“There’s no good candidate for Defender,” Jack told them. “His boss is a woman and her boss is her husband. That won’t work.”
“Could it be a threesome?” Ellison asked. “That seems to be working with the Burkes and Neal Caffrey.”
O’Neill shook his head. “No, the Burkes are happily married and both adore Neal. The Campbells are struggling in their marriage. They aren’t stable enough to be Defenders, even if the vibe was right, which it isn’t.”
“A co-worker?” Gibbs suggested.
“Got nothing there,” O’Neill replied. “There’s Jai, but not only is he Auggie’s rival, but he’s also got some TM tendencies of his own. Auggie’s special forces buddies are currently deployed and his best friend is a woman.”
Ellison ran a hand through his thinning hair. “That last one might do. A woman isn’t the best choice of Defender, but if there’s nothing else available, she might have to step up.”
“Not gonna happen,” O’Neill was firm on that. “Annie’s got possibilities, but she’s a rookie CIA agent and attracts trouble of her own. Having her as a Defender would be a huge blow to Auggie’s self esteem, which was already weakened by the blindness. I think it would be a bad idea on biblical proportions.”
“I hate to suggest this, but what about the other Jack?” Jack Malone asked.
“Which one? There are so damn many,” Ellison complained, glancing over to O’Neill as he did. “Jack Sparrow, Jack Harkness. . . .”
“No,” Jack Malone glared at him. “I was thinking of Jack Bauer.”
There was a moment of absolute silence and then all three of the other men started sputtering.
“You’ve got to be out of your mind,” Ellison demanded.
“Bauer’s a hell of an agent,” Malone defended his suggestion. “He’s saved the country many times, he’s a genuine hard ass and he’s in DC.”
“In case you noticed, people who are around Bauer too long tend to die,” O’Neill pointed out. “That’s kind of the opposite of what we try to do.”
“I’m in DC,” Gibbs volunteered, much to Jack’s relief. Gibbs was the Orientation Chair and had a natural gift for settling down a Trouble Magnet. “I can keep an eye on him, I’ll just have to explain it to Tony so he doesn’t get jealous.”
Ellison smirked and tapped the picture. “Just show him this; you might end up in a threesome of your own.”
Gibbs glowered at him. “I don’t share.”
“Now that David Rossi’s onboard, maybe he can help,” O’Neill moved quickly to diffuse the situation. “Thanks, Jethro, hopefully we’ll get Auggie sorted out before too long.”
O’Neill took a moment to pop his neck before continuing. This next one was not going to be fun. “And now for the last item for the agenda, we have a new pair that need help determining which one is the TM and which one is the Defender.”
There was a groan from around the table.
“Not again,” Ellison grumbled. “Aren’t the Winchesters enough?”
“You know, speaking of the Winchesters,” Malone spoke slowly, as though still thinking about what he was saying. “Now that Sam is soulless, wouldn’t that disqualify him as a Defender? You truly have to care about someone before you can do a good job Defending them.”
Gibbs and Ellison nodded. Just as there was more to being a TM than physical characteristics, the same could be said of Defenders. They not only had to protect their charges from actual bodily harm, but also had to ward against emotional damages as well.
“Sam got his soul back,” Ellison stated, looking a little smug for being one up on the other board member. “Jury’s still out on if that’s a good thing or not.”
“It was a good thought, Malone, but it’s too soon to tell,” Jack told the other man. “The pair I’m talking about are new and they’re Brits; Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.”
“Real Brits or Americans pretending to be Brits?” Gibbs asked. “Tony’ll want to know.”
“Real Brits,” O’Neill pulled out the second file folder and showed them another picture.
The photo featured a couple. The man on the left was tall and thin. He had a mop of dark, curly hair, wore a long coat and had a scarf wrapped around his neck. The look on his face as the picture had been taken looked like he was either stuck up or profoundly bored. Maybe both. The man on the right was considerably shorter and maybe a little older. He had short, sandy hair and looked more sturdy than his companion.
“Dr. Watson is the more obvious TM,” Jack explained, tapping on the image of the shorter man. “He’s a veteran who saw action and was wounded. We’re talking PTSD, full on with psychosomatic limp. In the three cases they’ve worked so far, he’s already been kidnapped twice.”
Ellison whistled. “A 66% kidnap rate? Why is there any question about him being a TM? That seems obvious.”
O’Neill rubbed the back of his neck. “Because John shot someone to save Sherlock from making a potentially fatal mistake and also turned down a bribe to spy on Holmes’ activities, all within hours of meeting the man. John is the one who takes care of the chores like paying rent and making sure there’s food. Holmes leaves experiments like severed heads in their fridge, has admitted to using recreational drugs in the past, and doesn’t eat when he’s on a case.”
“That,” Gibbs stated blandly, “is what Tony would call a hot mess.”
“Hell with that,” Malone added. “It’s a cluster fuck.”
“I won’t argue with either of you on that,” O’Neill agreed. “But what are we going to do about it? If ever a pair needed a Defender, it’s these two guys.”
Just then there was a knock on the door.
As one, the other three turned to Ellison. Jim’s face took an intense expression and he tilted his head as he looked at the door.
“I don’t know who it is,” Ellison admitted. “He’s a Brit, though.”
“Come on, you can’t possibly know that,” Malone protested.
Ellison shrugged. “He smells like tea and rain. He has to be English.”
“Argue about it later, girls, we’ve got company,” Jack raised his voice to call out to whomever was knocking on the door. “This is a private meeting.”
Despite Jack’s comment, the door opened. The man it revealed was average height and build, but he had a commanding expression. He was also dressed impeccably and carried an umbrella with a wooden handle. Since Jack had needed his sunglasses on his drive in, he knew the umbrella was an affectation rather than a necessity.
Jack hated affectation.
“What do you want?” Jack demanded, rather more stringently than normal because his earlier statement had been ignored. “Like I said, this is a private meeting.”
The stranger walked calmly over to them, snagged an extra chair using the handle of his umbrella and seated himself at the table. All four of the others bristled, but he didn’t appear to notice.
“If you are going to be discussing my brother, then I have a right to be here,” the stranger made eye contact with each of them in turn. “No, that’s not quite correct. I not only have a right to be present, but an obligation to be present.”
The stranger’s voice had a distinct English accent and Jim Ellison grinned at the others, despite the situation. Smug bastard.
“Are you a Holmes or a Watson?” Jack asked. He didn’t ask how the man knew who they were discussing, but planned on raising that topic before the other man left the room.”
“Holmes,” the man nodded at him, although he didn’t offer his hand. “Mycroft Holmes, to be exact. Sherlock is my precocious younger brother.”
“You have my sympathy,” Jack stated. He’d read some of the reports about Sherlock. “He must keep you very busy, looking out for him.”
“Having the resources of the British government at my disposal helps,” Mycroft inclined his head regally. “But despite the American tendency to think you’re responsible for the world, my brother and his companion do not need one of your Defenders. They already have one.”
“You?” Ellison asked.
“Me,” Holmes qualified, “and several divisions of the British government.”
Given the scrapes that the younger Holmes and Watson had been reported to gotten into and out of, relatively unscathed, O’Neill was inclined to believe that the several divisions of the British government were necessity and not overkill.
“Both of them?” Gibbs asked. Knowing that Dr. Watson was ex-military obviously had his protective dander up.
“Of course,” Holmes looked offended that Gibbs had asked the question. “John Watson is worthy of protection in his own right, but I’ve discovered that he is also necessary to my brother’s continued sanity. If anything, I am more concerned for him than my brother, since it’s John who often has to deal with the fallout of Sherlock’s shenanigans.”
“That’s all well and good, obviously we can leave Sherlock and John in your capable hands,” Jack leaned forward and pinned Mycroft Holmes with an focused look. “But how did you find out about us and about this meeting?”
For a moment, Mycroft’s genetic connection to his brother was obvious, he had the same superior and bored expression on his face as Sherlock had been wearing in the picture.
“You’ll find that I know a great deal of things,” Holmes told them. “I have the highest security clearance in my country. I know, for example, all about your Stargate program and your little gray friends.”
Jack kept his expression blank by the slimmest of margins. “Do you, now.”
“Yes,” Holmes turned his gaze onto Ellison. “And I’m aware of your heightened senses, Detective Ellison. In fact, I would like to set up a meeting with you and Dr. Sandburg sometime in the near future. My brother’s powers of observation are so keen that I’ve wondered if he might be a Sentinel as well. If John were his Guide. . . well, it would explain some things.”
Ellison narrowed his eyes. “We’ll see. I need to know a whole lot more about you before I let you in the same room with Blair, let alone talk about Sentinel stuff.”
“Please, gentlemen, there’s no cause for alarm,” Mycroft rose gracefully to his feet. “I’ve been privy to your secrets for years and no harm has come to you or yours. Unless it impacts the safety of Britain or its subjects, you’ll find that I’ll not act on anything. My motive for coming here today was simply to inform you that you need not concern yourself any longer over the safety of Sherlock and John Watson. I assure you that they are well defended.”
With a curt nod, he walked out of the room and the four Defenders let out a sigh.
“What the hell was that?” Ellison demanded.
“I don’t know,” O’Neill replied, frustrated. “But I’ll see what I can find out.”
“Maybe he’s just what he says he is, a guy looking out for his little brother,” Gibbs shrugged. “How would you feel if a group of strangers from across the ocean suddenly decided that your TM needed protection?”
As one, the other three bristled and Gibbs chuckled. “That’s exactly what I mean. We probably never would have heard of this Mycroft character if his brother wasn’t a TM.”
“Maybe,” Jack thought about it and then rubbed the back of his neck. “Probably. Okay, I’m still going to look into him, but we can officially take Sherlock Holmes and John Watson off our list of TMs.”
Ellison grimaced. “Unless they visit the U.S.”
Malone groaned. “Don’t say that, Ellison, you just jinxed us.”
“If that happens, we’ll deal with it, just like we always do,” Jack assured the others. Internally, he hoped it was something he never had to worry about. He did not want to consider the magnitude of trouble that the likes of Holmes and Watson could find in the States, especially if they happened to run into Danny or even Sandburg. “Okay, guys, that’s it for the night.”
The others were no more eager to hang around than Jack was and quickly dispersed. After all, they’d all traveled with their TMs and had left them alone during the meeting. Well, not entirely alone. Teal’c was watching over Tony DiNozzo, while Sam had an eye on Blair Sandburg and Cam Mitchell was hanging out with Martin Fitzgerald. As for Danny, he was in the safety of the Cheyenne Mountain itself. The four TMs had wanted to socialize with each other while their Defenders had their meeting, but not a single Defender would agree. Jack’s colleagues were trusted, but no one was comfortable with them dealing with the concentrated effect of four TMs in the same room - especially when two of those TMs were Jackson and Sandburg.
All in all, Jack was in a good mood as he headed for his SUV. The TM organization was running smoothly, with the small problems that had cropped up since the last meeting identified and plans of action in place. Mycroft Holmes was a bit of a worry, but not too much so. After all, Holmes might have several departments in the English government in his back pocket, but Jack had the Asgards. He’d like to see that stuck up Brit deal with Jack’s ‘little gray friends.’
Chuckling, Jack headed back to Cheyenne Mountain and to Danny. . . where he belonged.