"Where were you Tuesday night between oh nine hundred and oh three hundred the next morning?" Agent Sacks questioned the suspect that Spencer and Gideon had been asked (as a personal favor to Sacks' team lead) to give a threat assessment on - regardless of whether or not the suspect, also a federal agent, fit the developing profile of the crime he was being investigated for. With the BAU on down time after Elle’s and his own recent involvement in the hostage situation on the train, the local ‘informal’ consultation seemed like a godsend - giving them a focus for their excess energy (and on Reid’s part an opportunity to distance himself from the event) without the hassles of mandatory paperwork, unwelcoming LEOs, and political infighting.
In the interrogation room, across from Sacks, sat a tall professionally dressed man, with sandy-brown hair, classic features, and what appeared to be a marginally-athletic build only slightly disguised by the lines of his suit. Superficially, his expression appeared open, friendly, and utterly unconcerned, but to Spencer's heightened senses, empathically, even through the interrogation room's partial shielding, he could feel the anxiety, fear, disbelief, and worried-curiosity that poured off of the suspect, only lightly offset with a feathering of uncertain-trust and wistfully-hopeful faith directed towards someone outside of the room. There was another deeper, almost-palpable sense of hopeless-longing layered with a feeling of being resigned-to-its-hopelessness that made Spencer's chest ache as he recognized it: the craving of a guide who'd either met and lost, or given up on finding, his sentinel.
"Well?" Gideon questioned, "What's your read on him? What little I'm picking up through his shields is not enough to say for certain that he hasn't been corrupted, but …"
"While Agent Sacks' emotional overtones are noisome, I’m not having any difficulty picking up the suspect’s empathic print. Actually, it hardly feels like he has any shields up… to me." Spencer commented, cutting his mentor off in surprise, "in fact, most of what I'm picking up is empathic. I realize though that you were interested in my other senses. With regard to those: his heart rate is slightly elevated, but not in the range indicative of panic or deceit. His scent profile is closer to what I've picked up from victims and cleared suspects than unsu--" Spencer reported only to be cut off by Gideon.
"You're picking him up empathically? Not Agent Sacks? You're certain?"
"Oh, I'm picking him up, too, and he shouldn't in there." Spencer snapped, increasingly irritated by the animosity he was picking up from the interrogating agent. "He's being completely unprofessional, and between the two of them, Agent Sacks’ empathic print falls far closer to the profile of someone prone to violence than the man he's questioning."
Spencer wasn't aware of it at the moment, but the expression on his face was contorting to a kind of hardened emotionless mask that Gideon suspected he'd unknowingly learned from Hotch, an expression that Gideon mentally referenced as Hotch's 'sniper mask'.
It was a shock to Gideon, as he began to realize what was happening, and not only from his clearly mistaken belief that Spencer's unique development of guide-like empathic sensitivity (that Gideon theorized had evolved in Spencer to deal with his critically unstable mother) in addition to the moderate level of his sentinel abilities had balanced each other out heavily diminishing if not outright eliminating the need for a partner bond. No, the additional seconds it had taken Gideon to realize what was happening was as much because over his many years of experience inclusive of his BAU years, consulting with the CIA, NSA, and associated agencies, while Gideon had heard of the occurrences, he had never personally witnessed a potentially-feral response inducing incident so was not prepared for how subtle the initial signs might be... Especially when regular to close working association with the young genius had inured him to seeing the sentinel aspects of his protege when Spencer's intellect and inherent youthfulness stood out in contrast to the other sentinels in the unit.
Sacks losing his temper and stalking out of the room should have been the best thing to happen; instead, the agent came out 'emoting' all over the place so thickly that even with the decades of empathic damage to and the dulling of his guide senses - courtesy of CIA and NSA affiliations (as well as the still too recent loss of his Boston team) - Gideon had no difficulty picking up the malice and repulsion that Sacks felt toward the suspect. While Sacks words were generally professional, his emotional overtones gave the words an extra layer of meanings that Gideon's long experience gave him approximate translations for what he suspected the man would have been saying if he weren't reporting to a superior.
- "This \\sick f-c \\ is implicated \\guilty as hell\\ in a homicide, and \\the bastard’s\\ making jokes.\\"
- "\\ Sick f-cs posing as\\ Federal Agents suspected of crimes \\caught red-handed for murder \\ don't get special treatment in my book. \\They get put down!\\.
While they were only mental translations, Gideon had almost immediate proof - by virtue Agent Sacks being practically lifted by his throat and slammed against the wall between the viewing room and interrogation room - that Spencer had picked something up substantially similar to them and viewed the agent as a threat to his, as yet, unbound guide… if Gideon’s suspicions were correct, which the evidence was increasingly pointing towards.
"I strongly suggest that you take the seemingly unprecedented step of attempting to actually doing your duty and investigate the 'actual' crime" Spencer warned in an icy tone that would have done Aaron proud while Sacks - seeming stunned by his attackers identity as much as by the actual attack was frozen standing on tiptoe - staring uncomprehendingly at Spencer.
"Instead of accusing the first person, who -all too conveniently- comes to the top of your suspect list by virtue of finding 'perfect evidence' because you are too lazy to question how a trained investigator with in-depth training in evidence retrieval, clumsily, left not one but three pieces of 'perfect' un-contaminated, un-blurred, and un-smeared personally identifying - easily discoverable- physical trace evidence in pristine condition at a dumpsite, which just happens to be on military-controlled grounds- and did not make any attempts to retrieve, mislay, or contaminate them after he and his team went to the effort of collecting them, but was conversely careful enough to leave no trace or erase all traces of his presence in any of the cameras, sign in logs, and scanners at any of the gates." On the way over, they had called Garcia to double check the contradictory fact that had jumped out at them during their first read through of the case.
At the same time that Agent Sacks seemed to get over his shock, Agent Fornell seemed to grasp what was occurring and muttered, "Oh for Christ's sake…" before glancing at Gideon and asking, "sentinel or guide?" which -in Gideon's opinion- should have been quite obvious. After glancing at Sacks, still struggling under Spencer's surprisingly strong grip (given that the other agent hadn't broken free of it yet), Fornell seemed to come to the same conclusion and muttered, “right."
"Ron, stop squirming and keep your mouth shut. Sentinel Reid, I promise you, I have no intention of railroading your guide, but you must realize how carefully this needs to be investigated? With DiNozzo being a Federal Agent, we don’t want to give any hint of a cover up, and it’s as much for his protection as our agencies. Neither of you will want something like that overshadowing his career."
Gideon was impressed, considering the circumstances and the fact that Spencer was essentially in the middle of practically assaulting his subordinate, Fornell’s tone was more than reasonable and utterly logical, which would have a far better chance of reaching the young genius than any warning about the consequences of threatening another agent or ramifications for his own career.
Spencer's nod was a weak reassurance - given that he hadn't let go of Sacks' throat - but at least, he was still able to hear them and wasn't sinking any deeper into the instinct to protect his guide. Taking the stalemate as a chance to shoot a text to Aaron, Gideon sent a text requesting his immediate presence at the Navy Yard/NCIS offices, with the SG tag to underlie the urgency and issue of his request.
"What the ?!? Are you crazy? That scum isn’t a guide anymore than this geek is a sentinel? Wh--” Apparently, given the way Sacks' words choked off slightly, Gideon wasn’t exactly accurate on the prospect of whether Spencer was succumbing to his protective instincts.
“Get Agent DoNozzo out here, now!” Gideon ordered, recognizing the need to keep his distance from his protege. Sentinels could be particularly ‘prickly’ about dealing with other guides in this state - due to instinctual concerns that their own guide might be offended or put off by the interaction.
“Damn it, Ron. Do what you’re told and keep your mouth shut.” Fornell snapped, even as he hurried over to unlock the door to the interrogation room. Thankfully, he was utterly polite when he asked, “Agent DiNozzo, could you join us?
Startled as much by the sheer courtesy of Fornell’s request as by the fact that the older man had actually pronounced his name right, Tony was completely caught off guard and frankly knocked back into his seat before he could fully stand up by another completely unfamiliar sense - a sentinel… his sentinel. In the other room.
~~~No! It wasn’t possible. He didn’t have a sentinel. He’d come to terms with it. Before Philly even. Everything in his life up to this point had taught him time and time again that Anthony. DiNozzo. Jr. Did. Not. Have. A. Sentinel!!! He. Was. Too. Messed. Up. For. One. And. Would. Only. Screw. Up. The. Life. Of. Anyone. Who. Tried. With. Him!!! Wendy, Danny, and Pacci were sufficient proof enough of that, surely? ~~~
~~~ It was not possible; although, the timing was perfect for it, wasn’t it. To be discovered by a potential sentinel, just in time to ruin the sentinel’s life by having his guide framed - and probably put away for life - for a murder he hadn’t committed, but couldn’t prove otherwise. Yep, that sounded just about right. ~~~
So caught up in his own thoughts that he wasn’t able to even recognize the tension in his body, Tony was already hyperventilating by the time that he’d reached the realization that, once again, fate seemed to have a hate-on for him. The greying out of his vision was hard to even notice due to the too-familiar panic woken by any constriction of his lungs. He didn’t wake up with ‘plague’ nightmares anymore… or at least not recently, but the feeling of any constriction of his breathing was nearly enough to cause flashbacks… ~~~Which Seriously? Did he need anything more to freak out about?!?~~~
The dizziness, though, THAT he noticed. It’s hard not to when he was having a hard enough time staying upright in the chair and dealing with the fact that he was almost certain that he’d FELT the shift in HIS sentinel’s attention from anger towards someone --probably Sacks because as far as Tony was concerned, in his slightly biased opinion, Ronald Sacks was currently the person most likely to get on someone's nerves -- to surprisingly deep concern for him, Anthony DiNozzo, Jr., the universally acknowledged screw-up, which - while it felt … fabulous… to have someone’s undivided, un-conflicted attention and concern - was wrong on so many levels that Tony couldn’t even mentally articulate the surge of panic it caused him.
It looked like someone had been murdered and butchered just to get at Tony, and even if Tony, Gibbs, and the team managed to prove he was innocent, which was a seriously monumental 'IF', what would happen if it got out that there was someone who could be hurt to get back at him, whose welfare would mean more to Tony than his own life?
~~~God, the list of possible suspects who might have wanted to frame him had been so long, before they’d even gone in to the interrogation room, and those were the ones they knew about or at least could guess about, and who knew how many more there might be? ~~~
“Oh, For Christ’s Sake!” Fornell’s voice faded as Tony finally gave up his struggle to sit up in the chair - finally noticing the greying of his vision as it darkened completely. His hearing only lasted a moment longer as he heard Fornell yell for someone to get Gibbs.
Spencer was hard-pressed not to tighten his hold on the agent’s throat as he felt his guide’s confusion immediately transform to disbelieving panic and from there almost straight into terror with an unhealthily-high dose of guilt… not for the reasons that seemed to be making Sacks smirk smugly as the man no doubt picked up at least a trace amount of his guide’s guilt - and completely misinterpreted it. Without the admittedly low level shielding, Spencer and Gideon - despite his diminished senses - had no difficulty discerning that the entirety of DiNozzo’s guilt was directed at Spencer and was laden with equal amounts of internalized self-loathing and disbelief. He had been entirely correct in his earlier assessment that DiNozzo… Anthony… no… that didn’t ‘feel right’... Tony… yes… it was Tony… Tony had given up on finding his sentinel… and more. From the waves of shocked self-loathing that Spencer was picking up, he didn’t think it was to far out of the range of possibility to speculate that his guide had convinced himself that he was unworthy of a true match, or had from a young age had been indoctrinated in the belief by others, which - given the strength of his guide’s emotions - seemed the more likely probability.
“Spencer, leave him, your guide needs you,” Gideon argued persuasively - his case supported by the fact that Tony’s breathing had sped up and grown shallow in the milliseconds that passed as Spencer had contemplated this shift in his anxiety to panic and fear.
Carefully letting his grip go, Spencer turned toward the interrogation room, even as the SSA Fornell cursed and rushed into the room. Only seconds behind him, Spencer reached the door just in time to watch his guide drop sideways from his chair and lowered to the floor by the senior agent who’d barely made it in time.
“Get Gibbs in here,” Fornell shouted past him, before turning to meet his eyes directly, with apology. “I’m sorry, kid; I know this is probably stepping on your territory in a big way, but if there’s anyone that can get a handle on DiNozzo, it’s his boss, Senior Agent Gibbs.”
As much as Spencer wanted to deny the statement, it radiated with utter honesty, and Spencer forced himself to decide that for -Tony’s sake- he would put up with someone encroaching on his claim to Tony, if it would help his guide come to terms with Spencer’s existence.
In the meantime, though… Spencer fumbled with the phone case on his belt to pull out his phone. Thankful, once again that Penelope Garcia had programmed several important numbers into his phone, Spencer punched third number on his speed dial and was relieved when Hotch immediately picked up.
“Hotch,” he began before his boss could do more than say his name, “I’ve just discovered my guide, in the suspect we were sent to assess, who's being framed for murder, and in the middle of an empathic fugue. It’s completely against protocol, I know, but I need to team’s help to prove he’s innocent - as at least one of the lead investigators seems inclined to cooperate with the frame up.” Spencer explained, sparing his attention to shoot a warning-glower at Sacks.
As Hotch was answering that he was already on the way, Spencer looked up to see Gideon smirking at a tall, almost silver-haired agent, who was standing in the doorway, staring at Spencer with an expression of utter shock. Not wanting to waste the man’s time getting to Tony, Spencer waved him to go past and into the interrogation room, while he tapped another number with his thumb.
“Hey, Spence, it’s been ages since you’ve called, I was beginning to feel forgotten…”
“Blair,” Spencer cut his friend and former mentor off, repeating, “I’ve just discovered my guide, who is in the middle of an empathic fugue, being framed for murder, and radiating a nauseating amount of self-loathing and disbelief in the possibility of having - much less being worth - a ‘perfect match’. I know it’s against the standard protocol of going to the nearest S&G center for bonding, with the extenuating circumstances, even once he’s proven innocent, we’re going to need your help: his shields were strong enough to interfere with Gideon’s reading him.”
Closing the phone after getting Blair’s agreement, Spencer looked up and was caught utterly by surprise at Gideon’s amused and impressed expression. “What?” he finally asked feeling self-conscious. Gideon never looked at him like that.
“I can’t decide whether I’m more impressed with your willingness ‘to call out the big guns’ so to speak, or the shock value of your sitreps… No. Let me retract that. While those were sitreps to ‘sit up and pay attention to’, calling in the top sentinel and guide pair in the continental US still trumps them.”
For some reason, Gideon looked unaccountably smug as Agent Sacks’ jaw dropped and he gaped at Spencer. Spencer’s calls were finished though, and he had someone of much greater import to focus on: his guide, Anthony DiNozzo, Jr.