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Fate Protects Fools (Small Children, and Ships Named Valor)

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Tony Gard meandered down the length of the bar with a filthy grin. The occasional sauced patron would stumble into his path and run bobbing fingers over the spots that trailed down the sides of Tony's face and ask obscene questions about how far down they went, but with over a dozen lifetime's experience Tony shifted them off with a grin and went on his way. As a species, Trill weren't known for being particularly sexual compared to some of the other species in the Federation, (Deltans drove their partners insane, and Orions released addictive pheromones), but people found something appealing about a species that could live for a few hundred years like the Trill.


Tony roamed down to one of the, still populous, but less obvious sections of the bar and leaned into Steve McGarrett's space, pressing tight to the other man's side with a grin. Steve wrapped an arm around Tony's waist and pulled him even closer, giving Tony the perfect chance to press his lips to Steve's ear and murmur, "Your contact just walked in downstairs. He's got one guard with him and another watching the door, waiting for whoever it is they're expecting."


Steve smiled like Tony had been whispering something far different and gave a whisper of his own, "Then let’s cause trouble."


If Tony had been working this op with anyone other than Steve McGarrett he probably would've tried to distract them and handle the questioning himself, but McGarrett had a pinched look to his face, only aggravated by the creases along the bridge of his nose. That look meant Steve was one sarcastic comment away from pulling out the phaser he had strapped to his ankle that he thought Tony didn't know about and shooting people until they started answering his questions. (A surprisingly effective method for Steve, but one that didn't so much work for Tony.)


As it was, Tony wasted his breath on a quick murmur of, “Are you sure this is the right guy?”


“My handler said he was the guy to contact.” Steve shrugged, and since Steve was never one for sharing information, Tony left it at that.


Two weeks ago Steve had turned up at the Deep Space Nine space station with a magical piece of paper granting him immunity and means, and Tony's captain had been all too willing to bend over backwards to accommodate him. (Partly because DS9 was in orbit around Bajor, and Steve was one of Bajor's favorite sons, but mainly because the man was a spineless worm.) Steve's magical paper gave him the right to ask for anyone or anything on the station, but all he'd wanted was Tony. The two men had run a few operations together before, and Tony was the only person Steve trusted for whatever suicide mission he was up to now. The two of them had thrown on civilian clothes instead of their Starfleet uniforms and hitched a ride on a slow shuttle to Bajor, the favorite stomping ground of their target, a Cardassian trafficker named Sang Min.


The two of them had been slumming around Bajor ever since, trying to track down the man who had just stepped in down the bar. Steve and Tony were both tired, bored, tired, and more than ready to get back to their real lives, which might have been why , instead of tailing their target or planting a listening device, Steve strode right up to the Sang Min and slouched against the bar beside him in a way that translated as lecherous, no matter the species.


With a sigh, Tony leaned against a wall out of the Cardassian's sightline but still in easy view of Steve, ready for the whole situation to fall apart. Steve ran his eyes slowly up and down the Cardassian in question and smirked out, "Hey."


Tony rolled his eyes at Steve's inept attempt at seduction. Steve was Bajoran, the species Cardassia had tried and failed to conquer half a dozen times over the last two hundred years, and the approach Steve was taking with their Cardassian trafficker was flirting. Idiot. Sang Min loomed over Steve (no small feat given the man's height) and sneered, "Run away now maket, before I break you."


Steve licked his lips and leaned in, "I think letting you break me could be fun."


Sang Min quickly shifted his weight and put Steve up against the bar, twisting fingers through Steve's hair and bending him back at an awkward angle that exposed his throat. "Your people are for hunting, not for mating little maket."


Steve gave Tony the barest flash of a glance, and Tony got out a put upon sigh before Steve smashed the heel of his hand into the ridges that swept down the Cardassian's neck and shoulders. The alien keened in pain for half a moment, just long enough for Steve to whip around his elbow and smash it into Sang Min's nose, sending him reeling back in pain.


Tony leaned over to the next table and grabbed their thick bottle of Andorian whiskey with a bright, "Sorry about this," then turned and bashed the bottle into the temple of a Cardassian on his way to help Sang. Tony's Cardassian stumbled with the blow and twisted around with a roar to confront Tony, who just gave him a bright grin before he scampered back over the table that he'd just stolen the liquor from. The Cardassian charged and Tony kicked out at the table between them, sending it crashing forward into the Cardassian's armored stomach, which did no good at all. Except, the Cardassian looked up at Tony to mock him for the move and got a steady swing of the still intact bottle to his neck ridges, and then another to his face.


The Cardassian stayed down, probably not for long, but enough time for Tony to dart over to Steve, who was in an inconvenient headlock from another Cardassian while Sang Min pulled back his fist to pummel Steve into a blob of useless Bajoran operative. Steve tossed all his weight back into his captor, buying him enough space to curl up his legs and thrust straight into Sang Min's chest. Straight into the same armor that Tony had had trouble with just moments ago.


Sang Min laughed at Steve for the effort, distracted enough by Steve's glower that he didn't see Tony charge and smash Sang Min up and over the counter. With that the other Cardassians who'd been mildly amused at watching a Bajoran and his Trill friend pick a fight with three Cardassians decided it was time to interfere. Steve wrenched out of one Cardassian's grasp only to be punched by another, and then Tony got distracted dodging punches of his own.


Tony forced one Cardassian back long enough to shout at Steve, "I told you we should've let me do the talking."


Steve dodged out of the path of a diving Cardassian, "I can talk!"


Tony grabbed a bottle from behind the counter and crashed it into someone's head before twisting around and planting a solid kick to the face of the Cardassian who'd missed Steve with his dive. "Yeah, I can see that's going real well for you."


Steve turned to Tony with a grin before half-hopping onto the counter and kicking against one of the oncoming attackers, smashing both feet into the Cardassian's face, sending him permanently to the ground. Tony grabbed another Cardassian in mid-lunge and smashed his face into the counter, then twisted and grabbed the last attacker, still trying to struggle to his feet, and found the nerve in his neck that rendered him unconscious with a Vulcan pinch while Steve ran for the door and an escaping Sang Min. Tony listened for a moment to the scuffle and the furious hiss that meant Steve had captured his prey, then turned to the bartender and ran the ident card that came with Steve's false identity over the man's scanner. Tony grinned, "Charge all the damage to him. And I think I owe that nice table over there a bottle."


Tony stepped out of the bar and looked around for a moment before heading to the alley he assumed Steve would be interrogating in. Tony roamed into the chosen alley just in time to see Steve toss Sang Min into a wall and shout, "What do you know!"


Sang struggled against Steve's hold, "I don't know nothing!"


Tony grinned, "Whatever he does know is going to fall out of his head if you keep bashing him around like that."


Per usual, Steve wasn't really in a bantering mood when he was trying to get information and just rolled his eyes at Tony before turning back to Sang and hissed, "Tell me what you know."


"What the hell do you care? You look like a Bajoran, but you ain't one, what does it matter to you?"


"Why do I care?" Steve opined, shoving Sang into the wall, putting force on the sensitive neck ridges in a way far more vicious then he probably would've if Sang hadn't just questioned his Bajoran-ness. "You see, I care, because Tony cares. I care so he doesn't have to. Because you see, Tony does terrible things when he cares."


Sang scoffed as much as he was able and retorted, "What, he make you sleep on the couch?"


Tony smirked, something in his happy-go-lucky demeanor made Sang pause. "Sang, do you know who I am?"


Sang rolled his eyes at the obvious question, "You're the new Operations officer on Deep Space Nine. You're the bastard who's been getting in the way of business."


Tony tsked, "No, no, no, that's who Tony is. Do you know who Gard is?"


"That's your name; don't you know your own name, maket?"


Tony kept on grinning, "Yeah, but who's Gard?"


Sang rolled his eyes, "I dunno, your father?"


Tony laughed, "Did no one ever teach you about Trill?"


"Do I really need to be restrained for this?"


Tony lounged against the wall, "You see, I'm what's known as a Trill."


Sang huffed, "You got the spots, and probably got a damn snake too."


Steve slammed Sang up against the wall to stop the back talk while Tony continued with a slightly crazed smile. "First off, it's not a snake, it's a symbiote. My symbiote and I are joined, with it sharing all the experiences it has from his other hosts and me giving it new ones from my life."


"Your point?"


Tony leaned in a little closer, "Gard, my symbiote, he's had Steve's job before, for a very, very long time."


"So?" Sang spat.


Tony tutted and looked to Steve. "Why is it that none of these people can ever put the story together themselves? Really, it's embarrassing." Before Sang could interrupt Tony continued, "It means, that anything Steve can do, I can do better. Because while he was trained by the Bajoran government, who I admit have their own special version of ruthlessness after being suppressed by the Cardassians, I have been a spy, and a security officer, and an assassin, for over eight hundred years."


"If you gotta talk about it Trill, you don't have the guts to do it."


Tony grinned, something sharp and feral, and before either man could react he slipped Sang out of Steve's hold and whipped the man around, delivering two sharp jabs to his ribs to drive the air out of chest despite the armor and then pinched a point on his neck, dropping Sang to the ground while the Cardassian screamed in pain. Tony let it go on for a few seconds before he struck the same spot to stop the pain. Tony let Sang catch his breath before he crouched down beside him, "Now. How about you give us the information we're looking for and I won't do that again."


Sang hissed something foul under his breath and Tony placed his fingers back on the spot, "Don't be difficult, Sang."


"There's a meeting," Sang hissed. "Between the Klingons and the Federation."


Steve dropped down beside them, out of range should Sang decide to strike, but still close enough to listen. "Treaty negotiations?"


Sang snorted, "Knowing your maket species you're as likely to destroy the galaxy as you are to talk."


"But it's an alliance summit?"


"If anything a summit to talk about talking about a summit."


"And how do you know about this?" Tony asked.


Sang sneered, "I make money off the fighting. It's my business to know what might make it go away."


"Which means there are people out there trying to stop the meeting from happening." Tony summarized.


"Who?" Steve lunged forward and grabbed Sang to shake him. "Who's trying to stop it?"


"I don't got a name!" Sang shouted.


Tony put a calming hand on Steve's shoulder and said, "But you do know who's sending them."


Steve pulled back a little and Sang rolled his shoulders at the sudden freedom and muttered, "The Romulans want you makets shooting at each other while they try and make nice with everyone else."


"The same thing could be said about Cardassians." Tony interjected.


"Well it wouldn't be true!" Sang countered. "We like being the winners, but we ain't stupid. Cardassia wants to use you to put us back together before we put you in your place again."


"So how’s this Romulan spy plan on ruining the summit?" Steve asked.


"The way I heard it, he's on one of the boats you boys have going."


Steve smashed Sang into the wall again, "Which ship!"


"How the hell am I supposed to know that? You think the Romulans are going to tell me who their spy is?"


Steve smirked and pulled back a little, letting Sang Min have a little breathing space at just the right moment for Security to come rushing into the alley, shouting, "You there, stop!"


Steve released Sang Min immediately and put up his hands, giving the other man the chance to at least try to get away. Sang Min took the opportunity and headed for a door at the back of the alley, two Security officers chasing after him while Steve and Tony stayed put for the other two. Tony put his hands on his head and dropped to his knees when he was instructed and muttered to Steve, "Are we seriously about to be arrested by Federation security?" while Steve just laughed.




Captain L. Jethro Gibbs was two minutes away from spacing half his crew and turning pirate with the rest.


The Federation Starship Valor had known no other captain but Jethro, and though he adored every inch of his obscenely well-armored ship, he could've done without the stacks of useless crewmen lying around, taking up valuable space and doing things to his blood pressure. Gibbs had intended to captain a Defiant class vessel, something with a small crew, designed to flit around the Federation preserving the peace without concerns for diplomacy, but then he'd been shown the massive, sovereign class Valor and all those plans went out the window. Though on days like today, where he was getting angry calls from the Admiralty demanding he appoint a First Officer while the rest of his crew was rotating through shore leave, he longed for that little ship and lack of restrictions that came with it.


But he was captain of a vessel with 5000 souls, a third of those civilians, and more than a hundred of them children. This was not the time to doubt his place at command. Gibbs tossed on his jacket and went straight for Ten Forward trusting, as he did most mornings, that Danny and his coffee would manage to make the morning a bit better.


Ten Forward was the bar/restaurant/cafe on the Valor's tenth deck where most everyone spent their free time. Gibbs tended to hate being anywhere where there were people, but bartender Danny believed in grinding and brewing his own coffee and refused to replicate alcohol, and that was worth being subjected to people.


Gibbs entered Ten Forward through one of the darker side doors, making it easy to pass unnoticed through the people already there, some for breakfast before alpha shift began and others just heading to bed after gamma shift. Gibbs slowed as he approached the bar, hearing the tense tone of Danny arguing with someone, staying back so he could listen properly.


"But Danny-" Cait scolded before Danny cut her off, "Absolutely not, Cait! Gibbs would keel haul me!"


Lieutenant Commander Cait Todd was ship's counselor and chief negotiator, one of the first in a long line of officers Gibbs had had forced on him, but over the last two years she'd proven herself more useful than not, despite her attachment to all things ordered and proper. Cait was a Caitian, a felinoid species and the pack mentality that came with that overrode the occasional impulsivity Gibbs preferred from a Starfleet officer.


Like right now.


Cait rolled her eyes at Danny, completely unaware that Gibbs was watching, "We're a starship, Daniel. You can't get keelhauled on a starship."


"Gibbs would be so pissed he would make Tim build him a special suit so I wouldn't explode in space, and he'd make Kono find him a particularly violent ion cloud, or asteroid belt, and then he'd keelhaul me."


Cait snorted, "He likes Gracie too much to actually do anything to you, Danny."


"The Cap does adore my kid. You know, I think the Cap adores my kid so much that after he's killed me, he'll adopt her, just so he can continue his quest to make my ex-wife wish that she'd killed me rather than divorced me."


Danny slid a drink down the bar to one of the crewmen who'd ordered his drink then smartly scampered out of the way when Cait had strode up to demand Danny's attention. "So, what you're telling me is that you're not going to switch Gibbs to decaf."


Danny tossed his hands into the air, "Ladies and gentlemen she's got it! No. I will not risk life and limb to mess with Gibbs' coffee."


"But Danny, he drinks like ten cups of the Terran stimulant a day! It's not good for him!"


Danny just stared at her in disbelief and looked down at the strange goop mix of juiced vegetables and blended leaves in Cait's own glass, "You know that right now, at this very moment, you're drinking a stimulant."


Cait snorted, "It's natural."


"It's grass from Orion. If you let it ferment it would be a hallucinogen."


Cait leaned forward and gave Danny a smirk, "Orion plants are human hallucinogens, Danny."


Danny rolled his eyes and went back to distributing drinks, "Of course, me and my human genetics, that's the problem with the Orions, that I'm not compatible with their drugs."


"You're just against Orions because you don't like Jenny."


"There's not a person on this boat who actually likes Jenny, Cait."


"I like her!" Cait denied, offended on the other woman's behalf.


"You like her because you're never on the bridge, so you never see Gibbs trying to deal with her. And, she sucks up to the women on the crew."


Cait sputtered in indignation, "Just because she's a female in a position of power-"


Ensign Kono slipped past Gibbs with a smirk and leaned around Cait to grab a bottle of her favorite juice from behind the bar and interjected, "People don't like her because she's a bitch to the Cap, her genitals have nothing to do with it."


Cait hissed at Kono, her long tail flicking in agitation. "Remember Ensign, you're speaking to a superior officer about a superior officer. Both are due some respect."


Kono just smiled in the terrifyingly Zen way that came from knowing that whatever fight Cait picked, Kono would win. Danny smirked and said, "I've got very few rules in my bar, Cait, but one of them is that there's no rank in this room. The Cap has given me leave to torture anyone I find offending this rule according to my own twisted whims. So maybe you ought to head off to sit with your friends before I have to throw you out."


Cait rolled her eyes in irritation at Danny, but walked away, her tail flicking back and forth in irritation that Danny was completely right; Gibbs had turned more than a few members of his crew over to Danny's tender mercies for breaking the rules of Ten Forward.


Kono lounged on top of the bar and waited while Gibbs slid up to the counter. The young officer turned to him with a bright grin and said, "Heya, Cap."


"Morning Ensign." Gibbs grunted back, unwillingly amused by the girl. "Where's Chin?"


"Cuz was on call for Security this morning, so he's running late."


Gibbs found Kono and Chin to be two of the more fascinating members of his crew and showed it by actually speaking to them. Chin was a pureblooded Vulcan in every sense of the phrase. He'd been slated for admission to the Vulcan Science Academy and betrothed to a girl in one of Vulcan's posher families. Everything was perfect in Chin's life until the day his cousin Kono came home from school crying.


Kono was half-Vulcan, half-Risan, making her a blend of the most uptight, logical people in the Federation and of the Federation's best pleasure planet. (The circumstances of Kono's parentage were blank on her Starfleet record, but Gibbs could only imagine what would have led a Vulcan into going on vacation to Risa and getting a girl pregnant.) Unlike his more logical brethren's apathy to the cruelty aimed at Kono, Chin had bundled up his littlest cousin and moved with her back to Risa. That moment of solidarity was the only thing Gibbs had cared about when he'd requested Chin's posting, and it had made Gibbs request little cousin Kono the moment she'd graduated.


Gibbs 'hmm-ed' in response to Chin's tardiness before Danny interjected, "Ask her why she's here instead of sleeping in until Chin's ready." Gibbs didn't even bother opening his mouth because Danny just barreled right along. "She and her insane cousin both think I'm pining and need to be distracted."


Gibbs appreciated that despite no one ever telling him things like this, Danny always just assumed Gibbs knew. "Your kid is off ship for the next month."


"Just because my Ex-Wife took my kid and her new husband to see her mother, who always hated me by the way, that does not mean I need coddling."


"Oh Danny," Kono laughed, "Any coddling I do is to protect everybody else from you."


Danny went to snark something back when Abby flopped down at the counter on the opposite side of Gibbs and groaned, "Caff-Pow Danny, I beg you."


Danny snorted, but thumbed the request for Caff-Pow into the replicator without looking, used to Abby's desperate pleas for caffeine after spending the night running experiments when she should be sleeping. Gibbs cleared his throat, but Abby didn't even bother raising her head from the counter and just patted Gibbs' hand saying, "Shh, Gibbs. No scolding before Caff-Pow."


Kono giggled and reached past Gibbs to tug on one of Abby's pigtails, "You're so tired even your pigtails are limp." Abby groaned and smacked at Kono's hand, but the girl wasn't at the helm for nothing, and her hand darted out of the way before contact and tapped Abby on the back of the head. "Come on Abs, tell cousin Kono all about it."


Abby grumbled, but blindly reached out for the Caff-Pow with one hand and for Kono's hand with the other. Abby was a Haliian, virtually indistinguishable from human except for the slight bulges above her eyebrows and the crevice on the bridge of her nose, but despite those small differences, her species had somehow developed touch empathy. Abby took Kono's hand and conveyed her exhaustion, not at the lack of sleep, but at the night of fruitless experiments in the science department. If Abby had something to show for all those hours she wouldn't be nearly as tired as the frustration at nothingness made her. Kono gave Abby a gentle smile in reply and Gibbs asked, "So, should I be scolding her for something?"


"Not unless you think she should have the ability to bend time and space to make her experiments work all the time."


Gibbs took a very long draw on his coffee and gave Abby a look that for a moment she thought he might actually demand to know why things hadn't worked out, and then he grunted, "Nope." and Abby started to laugh.


A throat cleared behind them, and Gibbs turned to see Chin waiting. "Apologies for interrupting, but I must speak with you Captain."


If you didn't know Vulcans it was difficult to tell when they were actually concerned about something and when they were just being Vulcans. Considering Chin hadn't said hello to Kono, Gibbs assumed this was the later.


Danny took one look at Chin and cursed, "He got himself in trouble again."


If Danny didn't look quite so pissed Gibbs expected Kono would've done some teasing, but as it was Chin quickly reported, "Apparently Commander McGarrett has experienced some complications while on Bajor."


"Of course he was! Because heaven forbid Steve McGarrett go anywhere without people trying to kill him!" Danny shouted.


Chin was quick to console Danny, "According to the report death seemed an unlikely outcome from the Commander's endeavors."


"And just what were the Commander's endeavors." Gibbs asked, pulling the attention right back to Chin's report.


Chin paused for a painfully long moment before he cleared his throat and replied, "According to reports from Federation Security Forces, Commander McGarrett was arrested in the company of an Anthony Gard for inciting an altercation."


"An. Altercation." Gibbs repeated, enunciating the words as his way of telling Chin that he was entirely aware there were details being left out and he didn't appreciate it.


"A bar fight."


Gibbs just stared at Chin while Abby failed to stop a giggle. "My Tactical Chief went back to his home planet and got arrested in a bar fight."


"With a Cardassian, Sir."


"That doesn't make it better." Gibbs stood, ready to storm out of the room when Danny grabbed him by the back of his uniform shirt and handed Gibbs a refilled coffee, this time in a thermos he could take with him rather than the mug. Gibbs grunted his thanks then strode out of the room and towards the transporter bay with Chin following behind. "And why in the hell am I hearing this from you Lieutenant, and not from my Security Chief?"


Chin paused for half a second, like there was no good way to answer that before he steeled himself and replied, "Commander Shepard received the call 27.36 minutes ago and informed me she would be handling Lieutenant Commander McGarrett's difficulty."


"That didn't answer my question, Chin. Shepard is Chief of Operations. She should've accepted the call and had it transferred to Security. So where in the hell is my Security Chief in all this?"


"I believe Lieutenant Commander Weston's main concern was for the welfare of Lieutenant Commander McGarrett and she believed Commander Shepard would achieve that end."


Gibbs snorted, not bothering to comment on all the things wrong with that sentence, and Chin took the continuing silence as a signal to report. "According to the Security report we received, Commander McGarrett initiated a conversation with a Cardassian soldier at a bar sometime very early this morning. Witness reports say the Cardassian proceeded to insult Bajor and Commander McGarrett swung first. Two of the Cardassian's associates went to his aid, and a Lieutenant Gard intercepted them. Witnesses also report that when it looked like the Starfleet officers were about to succeed in their altercation, two by-standing Cardassians took it upon themselves to aid their species in its defense, and they were likewise defeated. Apparently the fight ended with Commander McGarrett removing the original Cardassian from the premises and taking him outside. Lieutenant Gard used false identification that he attributed to Commander McGarrett to pay for the damage then went outside as well. All three men were discovered by Federation Security in a nearby alleyway approximately five minutes later. Commander McGarrett and Lieutenant Gard surrendered themselves immediately, while the unknown Cardassian fled and has not been apprehended."


"Are they being held at the main Federation compound in the capital?"


"Yes Sir."


"Get to the bridge and comm them that I'm beaming down immediately and I want to be shown to my men."


Chin gave a sharp nod then twisted down a different hallway that would take him to the turbolift rather than the transporter bay that Gibbs was heading for. Chin didn't waste any time asking why Gibbs hadn't bothered to call Shepard or Weston to get their reports. Gibbs' logic was ruthless in a way most of his crew didn't quite understand, a leftover in his blood from a Vulcan grandparent. Whereas most species would be comm-ing their officers to be sure they had all the details before stepping forward, Gibbs was clever enough to know without asking that Commander Jenny Shepard's distaste of Steve had colored her reaction to his predicament. She had kept Steve's call from Gibbs either in the hope that she could clean it all up and prove herself more worthy of Gibbs' esteem than Steve, or make the situation so terrible that Steve wouldn't be permitted back on the Valor. (Shepard was well aware that Steve was her main competition for the XO position, despite the Admiralty's orders to promote her and no other.) Lieutenant Commander Lori Weston would go along with Jenny's plan because, although Gibbs was her captain, Lori had orders from the Admiralty to do whatever she could to 'help' Gibbs along in appointing Shepard his first officer. It was only logical of Gibbs to circumvent all that chaos and go straight to Steve for his information.


Gibbs stepped into the transporter bay to see Doctor Donald "Ducky" Mallard already waiting for him, a wretchedly old school medical bag in his hands, chatting away at the transporter operator about one of his stories. Gibbs went straight to the transporter pad without bothering to exchange pleasantries, just, "You're not coming with me, Duck."


Ducky just snorted and stepped up onto the pad with Gibbs. Ducky was a Betazoid, a telepath with the ability to both read and speak in other's minds, uniquely helpful gift when dealing with patients unwilling or unable to articulate their pains. Straight to Gibbs' mind Ducky said, Our young Steven got into a fisticuff with a Cardassian and has gone untended for the last several hours. I am most certainly coming with you. That boy is nearly as awful as you about admitting his injuries. Besides, we need to talk and you keep avoiding me.


Gibbs rolled his eyes but nodded to the transporter tech, giving his permission to beam them down whenever the Federation base confirmed their approval. Don't pretend you haven't Jethro, that's unbecoming an officer.


Gibbs groaned and clearly thought, I haven't been avoiding you Duck, just got nothing to say.


Nothing to say! Jethro they're incompetent!


Gibbs looked to the ceiling and silently pleaded that they would beam down now, assuming that Ducky would stop this conversation when they were on planet and he had Steve to fuss over. Problems with the nursing staff again?


Problems? Ducky sputtered. One of these damn useless nurses actually fainted at the thought of having to splint something without a bone-knitter!


Gibbs smirked, sure that despite Ducky's irritation at the nurse's sensitive nature, he was more irritated about the ineptitude. Ducky didn't mind random appointments to his infirmary, though he did get touchy when people interfered with what worked, and the new nursing staff obviously didn't work. You know it can't just be you and Max with Jimmy as your nurse. There are too many injuries on this ship to go without help.


I am perfectly content to acquire more help, but I am not pleased with the help that you've had foisted upon me Jethro.


I thought your issue was that I wasn't the one doing the foisting.


It's a symptom of a larger problem, Jethro. Is this your ship or isn't it? Jethro let Ducky feel his irritation rather than try to come up with words to explain himself. Ducky just snorted, Wrath won't do you any good unless you do something with it, Jethro. Either appoint Jenny as your First Officer or find someone else to do the job. With all her efforts to prove herself a worthy successor that young woman is doing damage to the rest of us. Case in point being young Steven trapped without word to his Captain.


Gibbs rolled his eyes and ignored the drama of Steve being 'trapped'. I'm better off without an XO Duck, you know that.


No, I know you think that.


The last XO they sent me retired from the Fleet after I made him cry in front of the Admiralty, Duck.


I'm not saying your people management skills couldn't use some improvement. Goodness knows we could have less crewmen coming to me with ulcers because they happened to pass you in the hallway. But you and I both know they transferred Jenny to you because they thought you'd suddenly realize she's your perfect First.


Gibbs didn't bother to dignify that with a response, and Ducky kept nudging. So long as you refuse to choose a First, both Jenny and the Admiralty will think she's got a chance, and she'll continue make your life hell by appointing people you've never heard of to your ship and making me scold you."


The transporter tech finally looked up from his station and said, "Energizing, Captain." and with one final thought at Ducky, Gibbs said, I'm on it, Duck.



Steve paced back and forth in front of the force field that locked them in their cell while Tony muttered, "You're doing things to my blood pressure Steven."


"I hate waiting." Tony said nothing to Steve's comment, just kept staring up at the ceiling from his spot on the bench. "Why are you calm about this?" Steve asked.


"I've been locked up a few times before." Tony grinned.


"I can't imagine how you think that will make this situation better," a voice interrupted, and Captain Gibbs stepped around the corner and in to view.


Tony jumped to his feet and both men snapped off a salute. "Apologies for getting you involved in this, Captain." Steve said.


Ducky came around the corner behind Gibbs and tutted, "Nonsense Steven, this sort of thing is what a Captain is for."


Tony couldn't hold back his grin, "Captains are for bailing you out of prison?"


Gibbs raised an eyebrow at the Trill, communicating that he thought this wasn't the time for the man to think he could charm his way out of trouble, but Tony just grinned harder. Ducky had no compunction about replying and smiled, "You're going to be trouble young man, I can tell. Jethro, if you wouldn't mind?"


Gibbs huffed in irritation then tapped in the code the security officers had given him to release the force field and Ducky strode right in. "Now, you both take a seat here and let me have a look at you."


"Really Ducky," Steve interrupted, "we're both-"


"Now I'll have none of that young man, off to the bench with you so I can see for myself." Steve dropped to the bench beside a smirking Tony and let Ducky run soothing palms up and down his arms while keeping his mind out for Steve's reaction to the touch.


Gibbs stood behind Ducky, not interrupting the examination but not willing to wait for his questions. "You got in a bar fight."


"Yes sir."




"I heard some things while I was on leave Sir, things I knew he could verify. Tony and I went to the bar to ask him about it, then he insulted Bajor, and I decided asking wasn't going to be the best approach."


"But punching him was?"


Steve shrugged, "We got the information."


Gibbs turned to Tony, who seemed genuinely amused by the whole thing, and asked, "Who the hell are you?"


Tony launched off a jaunty salute while staying in his seat and said, "Lieutenant Tony Gard, one of DS9's Operations officers."


"And you got mixed up in this how?"


Steve intercepted Tony's answer and handled it himself. "We're old friends sir. We ran into one another on DS9 while everyone was on leave and I asked him if he wanted to come down to Bajor with me while I visited all my old haunts."


Ducky's head popped up at whatever he was sensing from Gibbs, and with a gentle pat to Steve's arm he slid out of the way and turned his attentions to Tony instead. Gibbs stepped into Steve's space, bracing both hands against the wall and leaned down to glower at his Tactical officer. "I'm going to pretend that you didn't just out and out lie to me, Steve. I'm going to assume you don't think I'm stupid enough that I would actually believe you'd pick up an old flame to spend you shore leave with them while Danny spent all his time on the ship missing his daughter."


"Danny?" Tony interrupted with a grin, "You haven't told me anything about Danny."


Ducky put a hand on Gibbs' arm to stop him from shouting at Tony, and Gibbs kept his attention on Steve while, in Tony's mind Ducky said, I know you mean to protect your friend, but I promise you, Gibbs won't do Steve any serious harm. Which he's terribly likely to do to you if you try to interfere.


With Tony distracted Gibbs said to Steve, "Now, why don't we try that again?"


Steve thumped his head against the wall behind him and said, “You know don't you?” Gibbs just snorted like that was a pathetically stupid question. "How long have you known I'm in Intelligence?"


Gibbs snorted, "You think there's anybody on the ship who doesn't know you did time in Intelligence?"


"Gaining my tactical experience there and still being Intelligence are two different things."


"Nope. Once you're Intelligence, you're always Intelligence." Steve tilted back up and gave Gibbs a long look, something about Gibbs' own history finally slotting in to place for Steve.


Steve gave Gibbs a smile then replied, "My handler told me he'd heard chatter about a terrorist threat, but nothing specific. While the rest of the crew went on shore leave I was supposed to try and track it down."


"Hence the civilian clothes and why someone has always been at Danny's side trying to distract him. But why Tony?"


"I had permission to take whatever supplies or personnel I needed from DS9, but you know how I feel about people I don't know." Gibbs grunted, not commenting since it was an opinion he shared. "Tony and I have worked a few ops together before and I brought him along to watch my back."


Gibbs turned his attention to Tony, who was watching with fascination while Steve confessed everything to Gibbs. Apparently Steve's trust changed whatever opinion Tony had of Gibbs, and his expression finally settled on something other than a smirk. Gibbs gave Tony a long look of his own, opening his mind to Ducky's commentary. He's a good boy Jethro. Reckless, and unflinchingly loyal, but good.


Gibbs gave a sharp nod and turned back to Steve to ask, ''Did you find what you were looking for?"


"I assume, considering they didn't tell me what I was looking for in the first place. The Federation has a meeting scheduled with the Klingon High Command." Implicit in the statement was Steve asking whether or not Gibbs knew about it, but Gibbs kept his face placid and didn't respond. "Somehow word got out and the Romulans know about it. They plan on doing something to ruin the meeting and probably send us to war."


"What?" Gibbs asked sharply.


"My contact had no clue. All he knew was that the perpetrator is supposed to be on one of the ships that the Federation is sending to the meet."


Gibbs turned his attention immediately away from Steve and asked, "How are they, Duck?"


"A few bruises but nothing a good dermal regenerator can't fix."


"Good. Time we got the hell out of here." The station's security officer, who was supposed to stop this sort of thing from happening ducked out of Gibbs' way as they left, and Steve and Tony exchanged a glance at what Gibbs must have said to the poor man. They were about four feet outside Security when over his shoulder Gibbs said to Tony, "Get your gear."


Tony stumbled to a stop, "What?"


"Get your gear. We'll be heading out inside the hour. Whatever you don't have on the ship by then is getting left behind."


"Sir, I'm an officer on Deep Space Nine."


"And now you're an officer on the Valor."




Gibbs stopped abruptly and turned on Tony, "You telling me you don't want to serve on the Valor?"


"N-No, Sir."


"Then what the hell is the problem?"


"… can't think of one."


Gibbs rolled his eyes and smacked Tony upside the head, "Then get your gear!" Before turning and heading back towards the transporter bay. Tony just stood there for a moment, baffled by the whole of the morning before a smile broke across his face and he started took off for his quarters at a dash.



Lori met Gibbs and Ducky in the Valor's transporter bay, and despite her tendencies to think everything Gibbs did was wrong, Lori was intelligent enough to know that despite her orders to the contrary, some days it was best to just give Gibbs what he needed and then get out of his way. "Captain, Admirals Morrow, Jameson, and David are waiting for you on the comm." Gibbs waived Ducky off, back to the infirmary, and Ducky took Steve with him to take care of those bruises. Gibbs headed straight for the turbolift to the bridge, with Lori following close behind.


The moment the turbolift doors closed behind them Lori added, "You should know that the Admiralty commed around ten minutes ago and Commander Shepard explained why you were unable to take the call."


Gibbs grunted, "You now, you can actually say that Jen tried to force my hand by telling the Admiralty things she should've kept to herself until she'd talked to me."


"She is your default second in command, Sir."


"Actually, if we're going by rank, Ducky is second in command."




Gibbs tapped the emergency stop button, bringing the turbolift to an immediate halt and turned to Lori, "You don't like the way I run my ship Weston, then you can request a transfer. But until you do, I'm your Captain, and you get your orders from me." Gibbs tapped the stop button and got the turbolift moving again.


"Gibbs-" Lori tried to interject, but Gibbs added, "I've got nothing else to say, Weston. Either get on board or be done with it."


Gibbs strode out on to the bridge, only to be faced with Jenny sitting in his Captain's chair chatting with the three Admirals who'd called for Gibbs. Jenny smiled at Gibbs, still in his seat and said, "There you are Jethro, we were wondering where you'd gotten off to."


"Considering you can't be bothered to do your job, I was doing it for you."


Jenny blushed, a strange shade of brown on her green skin, and with a combination of rage and mortification she smoothly rose from Gibbs' chair, shooting the Admirals a look that clearly said, 'You see what I have ego put up with?' before she gave Gibbs a polite smile and said, "My apologies Captain. I thought the matter was beneath your concern."


From the main viewing screen Admiral David interrupted, "I have to agree with Commander Shepard about that Gibbs. You ignored our call so you could bail one of your officers out of jail for a bar fight."


At the helm in front of him, Gibbs saw Kono flinch, though Gibbs was sure it was more at how angry Gibbs would be at Shepard sharing that information rather than Gibbs being cowed for his decision. Gibbs ignored the comment and fixed a glower on Jenny until she slunk away from Gibbs' chair. Gibbs didn't sit, just stood in front of his captain's chair with his arms crossed and gave the Admiralty a deadpan look like he wasn't really listening. Morrow, as always, was the Admiral who decided to play nice, trying to keep the peace between Gibbs and all his superiors and said, "We were told that you wanted to speak with us, Gibbs?"


"And I assume you're not calling us to make the black spot on your man's record go away." David snapped.


"There won't be a mark."


Jameson put a quelling hand on David's arm and asked, "And how did you manage that, Gibbs?"


"McGarrett was running an operation at the time. He was arrested in the line of duty following orders. You get medals for that."


"And what exactly was McGarrett's assignment?"


"Ask Admiral David."


David was one of the Admirals over Starfleet Intelligence and Jameson turned to him with a raised eyebrow, "Something you'd like to share with the class, Admiral David?"


"Intelligence operations are not to be shared-"


"There's an assassin going to the meeting you called to tell me to get my ship to. David wanted McGarrett to find out if the threat was real."


David looked fit to be tied, but when he opened his mouth to scold Gibbs for revealing that information, Morrow snapped, "Anything else we should know, Captain?"


"This conversation should not be held in front of Gibbs' crew!" David snapped. "Captain, remove yourself from the bridge!"


Gibbs dropped back into his chair with a smirk and completely ignored Admiral David while he asked, "Who are the other ships you're sending to this meeting?"


"Our intention was to have the Valor rendezvous with the Amsterdam and the Honolulu at Deep Space 7 in two days." Morrow replied, still keeping complete control over the conversation.


"According to the source the problem is on one of those ships."


David interrupted, "Then we'll change out the ships."


"No." Gibbs interrupted. "The target doesn't know that we're on to them. If you keep the ships the same and give me the personnel manifests for the other ships, I'll find who you're looking for."


David snorted, "The best Intelligence officers in the Federation have gotten nothing more than a whiff of this plot and you think you unravel it all in under two days?"


Gibbs raised an eyebrow at David like he was an idiot for asking the question. David huffed and said, "Your ship will still be permitted to attend, but you'll turn the matter over to your Chief of Security to handle. That's what Security is there for."


Jameson gave a slight nod, "Admiral David has a legitimate point, Captain. Perhaps Lieutenant Commander Weston should be heading the investigation."


"While we're on the subject of proper division of labor," David added, "Why don't you officially appoint Jenny as your First and let her spearhead this as her first assignment. She's got background in Intelligence; she should be excellent for this."


"No." Gibbs calmly interrupted.


"No?" Admiral David asked almost amused.


"No. To both."


Jameson stifled a sigh and said, "Perhaps you could clarify."


"No, I am not now nor am I ever appointing Shepard to be my XO. No, I am not turning this case over to Weston. After this morning both women have proven themselves unreliable on the issue. It's my ship and my investigation, and I'll situate my officers where I want to."


"That sounds ominous."


"I found Shepard's replacement today and had him transferred to the Valor." Half the bridge crew turned immediately to look at Jen, and the shock on her face made it clear she wasn't aware of this development. The shock quickly faded into fury as Gibbs went on, "I can't trust Commander Shepard to do what's best for the Valor when she's busy doing what's best for her. Either she can take the demotion, or she can request a transfer, but I don't want her as my Chief of Operations."


Gibbs was a hard commander, everyone knew it, but there was a difference between knowing Gibbs only wanted your best and watching him reprimand an officer in the middle of the bridge with everyone watching. Morrow ignored the tension of everyone around him, from Gibbs' crew to the way David looked ready to snap, and instead pulled up the Officer listings for the Federation base on Bajor and Deep Space 9, and one had been flagged for transfer inside the last hour. "Lieutenant Tony Gard, I presume?" Gibbs gave a nod, and Morrow briefed the other Admirals. "Trill. Graduated middle of his class with polarized recommendations. The same sort of reviews that seem to have haunted him his entire career. Apparently people either adore him or think he should be cashiered out of the Fleet."


Gibbs said nothing in reply, just leaned back and impatiently waited for their confirmation that Gibbs could have the officer rather than just abducting him. "You can't replace a Commander with a Lieutenant, Gibbs!" David snapped.


"I appointed Abby to my head of Science as an Ensign."


"You promoted her!" David shouted.


Gibbs just quirked an eyebrow like that was exactly what he intended to do. "Gibbs-" David started, but Morrow slammed his hand down on the table to cut him off and in a final tone declared, "Jethro, you will be in charge of this investigation, with the authority to handle it however you want, and with whomever you want. However, this is not the time to deal with your personnel issues. Keep Commander Shepard in her post and we'll deal with it all when the current situation is handled." Gibbs gave a sharp nod in reply then cut the transmission.


"Kalukaua." Gibbs said, and the girl quickly replied, "Coordinates for DS9 inputted, Captain. At warp factor 4 we should bet there in 46 hours, arriving one hour before the Amsterdam and three hours before the Honolulu."


"Head out, Kono. And tell the command crew I want them all in the conference room in five minutes."



Gibbs took three of those five minutes to officially file the paperwork for Tony's transfer and to log that he intended to file the paperwork for his promotion at the end of the mission. Then, despite the fact he was two minutes early to his own meeting, the entire command crew was already there waiting. Gibbs went straight to his chair at the head of the table without bothering with preliminaries, "We're being sent to rendezvous with the Amsterdam and the Honolulu at DS7 where we'll be vetted by Klingon Intelligence before we head to an as yet undisclosed location in Klingon space for treaty negotiations."


Gibbs dropped into his seat, giving the command crew a moment to wrap their heads around the mission before he moved on. Jenny was at his right hand, managing to look calm and composed despite the way Gibbs had lost his temper with her on the bridge. Jenny would let him have it later for his words, and Gibbs would be reaffirmed in his decision that he and Jenny weren't meant to work together in so close a capacity.


Next to Jenny was Lieutenant Ziva David, the Valor's Chief of Intelligence and Admiral David's daughter. Gibbs hated Starfleet intelligence, hated being lied to by his own officers, and had only allowed Ziva on board as part of a bargain to call David off his campaign to see Jenny promoted. Next to Ziva was Lieutenant Commander Lori Weston, who wisely seemed to be avoiding Gibbs' gaze this afternoon after failing to inform him of Steve's imprisonment and the reprimand in the turbolift. And next to them was Steve, who looked dangerously excited about this whole thing. On Gibbs' left was Ducky, who Gibbs could feel wanted to scold him for his blunt approach to things today. Next to Ducky was Abby, far more perky after mainlining caffeine not an hour ago, and beside her was Timothy McGee, the painfully young but brilliant Head Engineer. Cait took the spot next to Tim where she could could calmly observe how everyone was handling the day without adding to Gibbs' irritation.


Gibbs paused a little longer than necessary while he realized what was wrong with this situation and tapped his comm badge to demand, "Gard, where the hell are you?"


There was a slight pause on the other end of the line before Gard responded unsurely, "I'm in operations, Captain."


"Why in the hell are you there when you're supposed to be here?"


"I, uh. I'm not a command officer, Sir."


Gibbs just huffed, sure that despite only announcing it minutes ago most of the operations staff already knew Gibbs' plan for Tony and Tony knew it as well. "Get your ass in here, Gard."


Steve, good, dependable, Steve who never questioned Gibbs' orders no matter how strange they may seem (probably more because Gibbs usually let him make war on the galaxy since Gibbs wasn't supposed to that sort of thing anymore than out of any sense of loyalty) pulled out an extra chair from the conference room closet so when Tony stepped into the room thirty seconds later he already had a spot waiting. Tony dropped down at the end of the table between Cait and Steve and Gibbs snapped, "Don't assume things."


Tony should've flinched at Gibbs' tone, it's what any sane person would've done, but instead he stifled a smirk and replied, "Yes, Captain. No assuming."


Tim looked horrified, but judging from the stifled smiles of Abby and Ducky they'd just met their new favorite crewman. Gibbs ignored them all and continued, assuming Gard would be able to put the pieces together for himself. "We're to meet with the Amsterdam and the Honolulu at DS7 before we go together into Klingon space, probably Archanis IV just over the border. There we'll have a meet and greet with the Klingon emissaries, and if they decide the Federation is honorable enough to talk to then we'll go from there. As if that's not going to be dangerous enough, the Romulans have a spy in the game who plans on ruining the whole thing and sending us to war. This spy is somewhere on one of the three ships heading to this meeting. All this is to say nothing of the fact that the Klingons are trying to re-establish themselves as a conquering, warrior race, there's a good chance they might use this meeting as a chance to blow us out of the sky and declare war on the Federation. I've got next to no information about what the Klingons demands might be, what border security looks like, or how our fellow ships are faring. Cait."


Cait answered, anticipating what Gibbs would ask of her, "Review Klingon negotiating protocol and get everyone up to speed so we're not the ones who ruin this, then compile profiles on our fellow command crews and the Federation's ambassador to anticipate their blind spots in the negotiations."




"Run constant high depth sensor sweeps looking for tech so no one catches us with our pants down."


"I also want a lock on every member of this crew when they're not on board the ship. I want to be able to pick up and get the hell out of there at a moment's notice. Tim-"


"Help Abby with the scanning and try to expand our sensor net to cover everyone Federation, not just our crew."




"Get more complete information about this mess and ready the crew for everything about this situation to go wrong."




Lori looked genuinely surprised her name had been called, but she stumbled together quickly, "Go through every last person on all three crews and compile a list of people who look suspicious."


"Rely on Chin to help you go through the personnel files, and anyone who trips your warning sensor get Ducky to have a chat with them. Shepard-"


"I'll liaise with our fellow ships to go over security arrangements and protections if the worst does happen."




Everyone in the room froze, not wanting to draw Gibbs' ire. "Gard will liaise with the other ships and figure out what they know." He paused for a long moment, taking in the way Tony quickly hid his surprise and finished, "Shepard, you'll do what it is you usually do."


"Jethro-" Jen tried to object, but Gibbs went straight on, "You're nothing but basic operations for the next few days since Tony will be too busy with the others trying to handle this problem. If there's any slack in other departments while the others are dealing with the problem, you pick it up but stay out of their way."


Gibbs waited half a moment for anyone to pose a question, not that that had ever happened before, and Gibbs sent them all off with a nod.


Jenny serenely waited for the rest of the command staff to filter out of the room, leaving her to deal with Gibbs without an audience. Gibbs had to give that to her, Jenny always knew how to keep her game face on when she had to, but the second the door closed behind Ducky, who sent Gibbs an emotion torn between solidarity and irritation, Jenny grated out, "That display was unnecessary, Jethro."


"You're the one who's been making our fights more and more public Jen, how long did you think I was going to sit there and take it?"


"Taking it is entirely different than humiliating me on the in front of the Admiralty!"


"I humiliate you in from of the Admiralty; you humiliate me in front of the crew. Now we're both humiliated in front of the people we want to respect us."


"It was uncalled for, Jethro!" Jenny snapped.


"Jen, you can't call me out in front of my crew and expect me not to respond.” Jenny muttered something under her breath and Gibbs prodded, "What was that Commander? Speak up."


Jenny whirled on him like a fury and shouted, "I said you always have before! Whatever prodding I've done you've-"


"Prodding? You mean letting you re-arrange my crew, and question my orders, and mock the people I actually chose for their positions?"


"Yes! You've borne it all with no upset! I thought…"


"You thought I was just playing hard to get?"


Jenny gave him a coy smile, "That's the way you've always been with me. Playing difficult to disguise your wants."


Gibbs grunted, but didn't quite deny it. He'd met Jenny when he was assigned to mentor a younger student at the Academy. Gibbs had always prided himself on his self-restraint, and he'd somehow managed to keep himself from touching the pretty Orion co-ed until she was no longer in his care. They'd had a good weekend at the end of it, and then said nothing to one another until Jenny was appointed to the same ship as Gibbs a few years later; though thank heavens not in the same department. He'd held out for a few more months until he'd finally caved and they'd begun the affair anew until Gibbs transferred and ended it again. They'd started and stopped their relationship half a dozen times over the years, coming back together whenever fate or conniving brought them to the same ship. But this time Gibbs had been adamant in his refusal, and had stood against Jenny and her tempting Orion pheromones for almost two years. Jenny sauntered closer to Gibbs, "We always were good together Jethro."


"No Jen, we never were together, we just had good sex." Jenny went to put a hand on the back of Gibbs' neck, but he darted out a hand and caught her before she could touch him.


Jenny sniffed, "Admit it, I make you feel alive."


"Shouting at each other isn't the definition of alive, Jen."


She leaned forward, brushing her lips against Gibbs', "It is if you're an Orion."


Gibbs leaned in, accepting the pressure of one kiss before he pulled back and breathed, "We're done."


Jenny ran her fingers through his hair, "Oh Jethro, we'll never be done."


Gibbs caught her by the shoulders and pushed Jenny back, "No, This time we're done. I'm not doing this again."


"But Jethro, this time we don't have to stop."


"The hell we don't Jen. I don't want a war for a relationship."


Jenny all but slithered in to Gibbs' lap and muttered up against his lips, "Oh Jethro, I really think you do."


Gibbs caught Jen by her hips and hoisted her back to her feet, "Commander Shepard, I don't sleep with my crew."


Jen snorted, "You don't sleep with your crew, yet. I'm an Orion Jethro; you honestly think I didn't see the way you looked at that pretty little Trill you brought on board?"


"Is that what this is about? You're pissed because you think I've got a crush on someone else?'


"Not think, Jethro. All of sudden you just meet this stranger and trust him implicitly? That's not like you."


"No Jen, I didn't trust you implicitly, and Tony's got nothing to do with this."


"Tony. Jethro you don't like calling your crew by their first names, or have you forgotten that in the wake of Tony."


Gibbs rose from his seat and forcefully said, "He's a good officer with plenty of experience-"


"Experience," Jen scoffed, "He's been alive for a few hundred years, I'm sure he's got plenty of that."


Gibbs stared at Jen in disbelief, "Are you really impugning someone else's sexual history, Jen? Because I thought when you belonged to a species that's known to kill sexual partners with pheromone overloads you weren't allowed to scold other people for the amount of sex they might have had over a dozen lifetimes."


"I just assumed that since you used to get so angry at my romantic exploits-"


"I got angry because you were sleeping with other people when we were supposed to be in a relationship!"


Jen went to shout something back, but Gibbs threw up his hands and shouted, "This is why we have to stop! Because we always end up doing this! I can't have an officer who screams at me every decision I make."


"Not every decision Jethro, just the stupid ones."


Gibbs puffed out another breath, stopping himself before they descended into another argument and said, "I'll do what I can to get you a good transfer, maybe as someone else's First, but we can't keep going like this, Jen. We'll kill one another and break the ship between us. I'll get you transferred some place that's not a step back, and maybe even find you a spot as someone's first officer, but you can't stay here."


Jenny leaned over the table in a way that forced her cleavage forward in a way that used to make Gibbs smile and said, "I've spent two years on the Valor Jethro, I'm not leaving until I get what I came for."



Gibbs strode into the main Science lab and called out, "Whatcha got for me, Abs?"


Abby rolled out on her chair and replied, "A ridiculously long list of names Cap-man, and not much else."


He followed her back behind a bank of computer screens to find Chin standing painfully still, as though meditating, and watched as she re-arranged the piles of information back into their original personnel manifests. "Chin and I started with the complete rosters of all three ships, thankfully the Valor is the only one large enough to have a civilian contingent to try and keep track of, so that helped a little. First, we narrowed down the list by people with advanced weapons or technical training; because we can assume that anyone else wouldn't be able to pull of blowing things up or killing a Klingon on the first try. Which narrows us down from our 6,452 original suspects to 3,746." Abby tapped the screen and a bundle of names from each list went zipping off screen as the lists were pruned down.


"From there we assumed that whoever plans on causing the trouble, they intend to actually join the Klingon conference rather than just hang out on the ship." Abby continued.


"Because if they just wanted to cause problem on the ship they could plant a bomb or virus." Gibbs questioned.


"Yup. Also, we figure whoever is doing this doesn't intend to die with the ship. So from here we can pull out people who are unlikely to join the conference party." Abby tapped again and there was a massive expedition of names off the screen. "That narrows us down to higher ranking crewmen, as well as security and tactical officers that might be brought along for the ride. Now we're down to 527 suspects. And this is where Chin and I hit the wall. We could reduce the numbers based on who we think has the training and capability to send a message to the Romulans undetected, but I would assume that if they've gone under the radar this long they're probably likely to be hiding that skill set as well. We also could narrow down the list with people who have any obvious ties to Romulus, but the same problem applies."


Gibbs flicked a look over to Chin and Abby explained, "He's calculating variables about the various search patterns and their benefit to drawback ratios."


"And where's Weston in all this?" Gibbs asked.


"Lori? She's with Steve trying to hunt down more information to help us narrow down the list."


The Science lab door pinged with someone ringing the bell and Abby called out, "Come in!" Danny strode in with a smile and a tray with a large Caff-Pow, coffee, and something that smelled like spiced Vulcan tea. Abby smirked, "Danny, you know you don't need to ring."


"You've got Gibbs in here trying to find a Romulan spy. Today is a day I knock."


Abby laughed and Danny moved to hand out his drinks, setting the tea down beside Chin where he stood in silent contemplation, while Gibbs asked, "When does Chin think he's going to be done figuring out whether or not this list is going to do us any good?"


Abby snorted, "If I ask him that then he's got a whole other set of math to do before he can figure out this one for me."


Danny paused, tucking the tray under his arm before he cocked his head and stepped closer to the screens. "Is this your list of suspects?"


"Possibly." Abby said. “Chin’s trying to figure out the probability of them actually being worthwhile."


Danny 'hmm-ed' for a moment and Gibbs grunted, "Spit it out, Williams."


"It's just, if I'm reading Abby's strange shorthand right, then you're splitting these people up based on whether or not they've got the skill to pull off the potential crime."


"Yup." Abby replied.


"But, you have no idea what the crime is going to be, do you?"


Abby paused, "We know it'll be something disruptive at the meeting."


"Yeah, but what does 'disruptive' mean? Is there a bomb, or a shooting, or someone just making the Klingons thinking we're too dishonorable to talk to? You don't know what the crime is going to be."


Abby stepped closer, looking at Danny while he looked up at the screens. "So you think we're dividing them wrong?"


"I think you're starting from the wrong place. You know the 'when' of the crime, but you don't know the 'who,' or the 'why,' and you don't have the info you need to figure out the 'what'; there are too many options. You can't narrow people down based on a crime that could be committed half a dozen different ways in half a dozen different degrees."


Gibbs leaned back against the counter where Chin was standing and sent a brief and quiet comm to Tony requesting his presence in the Science lab. "But Danny," Abby continued, "It would never be something simple like that; it's got to be something big."


"Nah Abs, the Romulans aren't like the Klingons. Klingons will walk straight up to you and smack you in your face; Romulans will sidle up from the side and somehow talk you into smacking yourself. The Romulans have nothing to gain from plunging the galaxy into war again; they're more scarred from the last war than anyone."


Tony had walked into the room for the last bit of conversation, and added, "Steve's contact said they've been making money off of the Klingons and the Federation not getting along."


"Exactly!" Danny said, "The Romulans don't gain from any of the treaties that come from us at peace, but things only get worse if we're all at war. The Romulans don't make money if the Klingons close their borders and the Federation starts distrusting everyone again."


Tony nodded his agreement, and to prod them both back into thinking Gibbs asked, "So we know the 'why', but if we can't know the 'what', then how do we figure out the 'who'?"


Tony took his spot next to Danny as Abby tapped the screen to restore the crew lists to their original entireties. They both stared at the screen for a moment before Danny declared, "We need a list of people who have clearance to get into the conference. The best way to subtly ruin this thing is to actually be in the room."


Abby tapped out the new parameters on her screen and thinned the herd to 557 people. Tony cocked his head, "It's got to be someone who could actually do irreparable damage to the talks. A trashing talking Security Ensign can be fixed, so it needs to be someone with some weight."


Abby shifted the lists again and a three fourths the names vanished. Tony nodded and said, "That's our list of suspects."


"I'll take the list to Steve and see what he's come up with." Danny offered.


Tony gave Danny a grin while Abby uploaded the list to padds for easy travel, and from his quiet spot behind them Gibbs asked, "Why in the hell did you resign from Starfleet Security, Williams?"


Danny shrugged. "My ex-wife took the kid and Starfleet refused to let me transfer to the Valor as a security officer. So I stopped being a security officer."



Danny took the padd to Steve's office with a grin, and strode in without bothering to knock, only to be surprised by Lori bent halfway over Steve's shoulder pointing at something on the computer on his desk. Danny stumbled to an embarrassed stop, "Whoa, sorry guys I-"


Steve looked up at the sound of Danny's voice and his smile brightened as he exclaimed, "Danno!" like the big kid he really was.


"Hey babe, am I interrupting?"


Steve gave him the same look he always did when he thought Danny's question had been ridiculous and replied, "Of course not, what's up?"


"I was just going over the suspect list with Tony and we decided to compare it against your list."


"Excellent." Steve stuck out his hand for the padd to compare the lists while Lori gently, but pointedly asked, "You and the Operations officer went over the list of suspects?"


"Oh no, 'cause you see, somehow retirement means I've forgotten all my practical skills in security so when I saw Chin and Abby trying to apply science to the security list, I said, 'why I don't just play delivery boy with this extra-long list of suspects and hope everything works out."


Lori had enough common sense to know that the only people who could defeat or diffuse Danny in a rant were Steve and Gracie, so she asked, "You were Security?"


Danny rolled his eyes and stepped around the table to help compare lists. "I was Chief of Security on the Jersey before Rachel up and took my kid."


"Rachel? You mean Mrs. Edwards?"


"What do I mean?" Danny scoffed. "Rachel Edwards nee Williams nee Evans, my ex-wife and mother of my child." Danny looked at Steve incredulously, "Don't you people do background checks anymore?"


"Don't look at me Danno; it's my job to stop the guys outside the ship, not inside."


Lori interrupted, "It was my opinion that if Gibbs cleared them to work they belonged here."


Danny snorted, "And look how well that's turning out. We might have a spy running around."


Steve just smirked and handed back his padd with the pertinent names highlighted. Danny put up his hands and stepped back, "Oh no, please, you wouldn't want to contaminate the case file with someone who's not in the Security department anymore."


"You can't be mad at people for what they don't know, Danny." Steve snorted.


"Yes, yes I can. Because Security officers are supposed to know everything that goes on on their ship. That's the point of Security."


"I thought that was the point of Intelligence." Steve asked.


Danny scoffed, and with the sort of viciousness that came from suspecting but not knowing about Steve's background he replied, "Intelligence can't see past their damn noses."


"Intelligence is our most valuable resource, Danny. They're a Security officer's best source of information." Lori interrupted, scolding him for his opinion.


Danny snorted and said, "Good luck with that." and headed for the door.


"Danno," Steve cajoled, and Danny snapped, "What Steven?"


Steve turned back to Lori with a conciliatory smile, "Why don't you run down those names and I'll catch up to you later?"


Lori smiled back at Steve like she was sorry he had to put up with Danny like this, and strutted out of the room.


The second the door sealed shut behind her Danny whirled on Steve and shouted, "Don't even think about it, Steven." Steve leaned back in his chair with his most placid expression and settled in to let Danny rant himself out. "Because, honestly, if you've got me planted in this damn office so you can scold me for telling your girl she's wrong, I will damage you."


Steve's eyebrows shot up but Danny was too busy tossing his hands around to notice. "I mean, I was a Security Officer for a long time Steve. I planned on being one for the rest of my life. I'm a very, very good Security Officer, Steven. Very good. So when I tell your girl she's doing it wrong. She's doing it wrong."


"Wait," Steve held up his hands, "Go back to the beginning, Danny."


"What do you mean go back to the beginning!" Danny shouted. "You mean back to you dragging me in here like you're my superior officer or something? Or the part where I told your girl she was screwing up an investigation!"


"Your girl?" Steve asked.


"No, your girl."


"What girl?"




Steve laughed, "She's not my girl."


Danny just stared at Steve for a moment before he put his hands on his hips and said, “What in the hell are you talking about, Steven?"


Very clearly, which was the only way to talk to Danny when he looked this tense, "I am not dating Lori."


Danny furrowed in confusion, "You called me in here to shout at me on her behalf, Steve."


"Danny, when have I ever shouted at you?"


"Then why in the hell did you make me stay?"


"Because I've been off ship for two weeks, Danno!"


Danny instantly deflated. "Oh."


"Yeah, oh."


The both of them slunk back in their chairs and stared at anything that wasn't the other. But because Danny was never ever meant to be quiet he muttered, "How did it go?"




Danny waited a moment before he burst out, "Oh yes Steve, thank you for that stunning recap, lots of useful information there."


Steve slouched deeper into his chair, "Danno."


"Seriously Steve, lots to go on there so I can watch your back."


"Danny you know I can't talk about it."


"I swear to you Steven, I will tear you limb from limb. What in the hell happened?"


"Why are you so riled up about this?"


"Why am I so riled up? You disappeared for two weeks, Steven. Two friggin' weeks of shore leave and I never heard hide nor hair from you. For all I knew you'd gone and gotten yourself shot, or joined one of those monasteries, or- or anything!"


Steve cocked his head to the side and stared at Danny for a long moment, something slotting into place for him. "Danno, did you think I spent my leave running around Bajor with Lori?"


"I don't care what you do with your leave Steve," Danny muttered, very obviously not looking at him.


Steve leaned over on to his desk, "I was on assignment, Danny."


"It's your life Steven, go, run around your home world blowing things into small pieces, it's your call."


Steve just smirked, pleased with the way Danny couldn't quite look him in the eyes. "Hey Danno." Steve sat in silence until Danny finally looked over at him, "If it was your investigation, who would you talk to?"



"Hey Danny boy! It ain't time for your weekly delivery!"


Danny's 'source' was a giant Bolian, a surprisingly bright blue for his enormous size. Steve turned to Danny with a grin, "Delivery?"


Danny shrugged, "What, you think I get my own liquor?


Kamekona laughed and waived both the men into the garden he'd made in one of the ship's storage compartments. "What can I do for you fine Federation gentlemen on a day like today?"


"You do realize," Danny couldn't help but interrupt, "that Bolia is a part of the Federation, whether or not you think its existence hampers business."


"Hey I got nothing against the Federation so long as it’s got nothing to say about my freedom of enterprise."


Danny sighed, "So many jokes I could make of that sentence. So many. But instead, I am here to prove to Steve that he is inept and ask you who you've been helping contact the Romulans."


Kamekona shrugged, "Shoot brah, who'd do a thing like that?"


Danny leaned forward, "You and I both know there's someone on this ship who's been talking to the Romulans."


Kamekona roamed off down one of the aisles "Brah, why would someone who wants to talk to the Romulans bother going through me? Wouldn't they have channels for that sort of thing?"


Danny strode around and cut Kamekona off, "Because they're not a spy, they're an idiot. Hey, hey, hey," Danny put up his hands to stop Kamekona, "We just want to talk to them. That's it."


Kamekona heaved a sigh, "You swear you just talk Danno? ’Cause this guy, he's not doing nothing wrong."


"You have my word, nothing but talking."


"There's a guy, he asked me about talking to some Romulan scientists, but it's nothing but talking brah.

“What guy, Kamekona?”


“Max. The pipsqueak doctor who looks like a turtle.”


Steve was out the door before Kamekona even finished his sentence, and Danny offered a hurried thanks to Kamekona before running after him, shouting, "Steven! What are you doing?"


"I'm gonna go talk to this Max."


"No Steve, you don't understand, Max is a good kid, painfully awkward. You go after him guns blazing the kid is gonna cry and you're never gonna get anything out of him."


"Crying people can talk, Danny."


"I'm telling you Steve, Max isn't your spy."


"You heard Kamekona say he's been acting suspicious."


"Yes, because heaven forbid that you actually listen to me when I talk to you Steven. Only horrible things could happen then."


"All I'm saying is we talk to him, Danny."


“And all I'm saying is you're an idiot."



Steve strode into the infirmary with a furious Danny on his heels, only to find Tony there already, chatting with Max. Steve rolled his eyes at Danny for thinking Tony would be a mediating force on him. Danny stepped in front of Steve and strode up to Max with a grin, "Hey Max, how's work?"


Max gave Danny a pleased but restrained smile, "Work continues to exist, and in that it is going well."


Danny just grinned at the Zen-like response and said, "You know that's not what I was asking."


"But Commander, the question you always ask is one based upon the unquantifiable 'good' and 'bad', as such I cannot give you an answer."


Danny rolled his eyes, "I'm not a commander anymore, Max."


Max cocked his head to the side, "I do not understand that either. You still walk as a Commander, you still hold all the knowledge and skill of a Commander, and the other Security personnel on board this vessel concede to your experience. In every way that truly matters, you are still a Commander."


Danny steeled his shoulders in a way Steve knew meant that Danny was about to refuse to give in, and there would be an argument that might go on forever since Max was Rigellian, and thus pre-programmed to debate until truth had been found to aide in his search for enlightenment. Steve stepped around Danny, putting himself in between the discussion of enlightenment and their goal and interrupted, "Max, right? We have a couple of questions for you."


"Questions Commander? Given your reputation I assume they are for something tangible rather than esoteric?"


"Right." Steve slid past all the possible tangents Max's sentence could take them on and stated, "We've received intelligence that you've been talking to the Romulan Star Empire."


"Your intelligence is incorrect."


Steve huffed, "No, I don't think it is. I think-"


Danny put a hand on Steve's shoulder and hauled him back from where he'd been advancing on Max and hissed, "Wrong technique Steven."


Tony laughed at them both from his spot lounging on one of the medical tables, "Sorry Max, Steve doesn't know how to have a conversation with a Rigellian."


Steve twisted on Tony, "Are you apologizing to my suspect?"


Tony rolled his eyes, "You're asking the wrong question, Steve."


Steve tossed his hands in the air, "Seriously, what is with you all questioning my ability to talk to people today? What's the right question!"


Danny held up a hand and turned to Max, "Max, have you been exchanging communications with someone in the Romulan Star Empire?"


"Yes, Danny."


"What the hell, that's what I asked!"


"No, Commander. You inquired as to whether I have been speaking with the Empire, a feat which is theoretically possible because the Empire has an official spokesman, but which is not applicable here because neither have I been in contact with the Empire's spokesperson, nor have I talked to anyone. However, I have communicated with a person inside the Empire."


Steve went to toss his hands in the air and demand more of an explanation, but Danny clamped his hand down on Steve's shoulder and asked, "What did you discuss?"


"I have been doing research comparing and contrasting Romulan meditation techniques against Vulcan techniques."


All three of the men just stared at Max in bafflement before Danny asked, "Why?"


"I have a theory that the evolution of their disparate meditation techniques stems from more than simply the embracement or non-embracement of logic, but to substantiate my theory I need direct information from a first person source."


Danny looked at Steve, "Sadly enough that sounds a lot more plausible than him being a spy."


Steve rolled his eyes and said, "We'll need to see all the messages you sent and received to make sure."


"Of course, Commander." Max stepped over to his desk and grabbed a padd on the top of pile and handed it to Steve. "That's the entirety of my research, including all communications and the contact information for the scientist with whom I was discussing."


"You just had this all on a padd, right there. Convenient."


Max furrowed his already wrinkled brow, "That is the point of research, is it not? To be accessible?"


Steve huffed and headed out of the room, leaving Danny and Tony to give Max bright grins before following after Steve. Danny jogged a little to catch up to Steve's long legs and teased, "You probably want to take that information to Chin, since he's better than you at that whole computer thing."


“I am perfectly capable of operating my own computer, Danny. Besides, I should send this off to my contacts and get their input anyway.”


“Oh, input of your contacts, that doesn't sound dubious.”


Tony laughed, and before the two men could argue too much he said, "I'm gonna go update Gibbs." and got out of the way.



Gibbs' door rang out with the annoying chime that meant he had company and called out, "If you're coming in then get the hell in and stop pressing the damn button."


The door swished open and Tony stuck his head around the door, "I'm pretty sure shouting at people doesn't make them want to talk to you Cap."


"I can't be yelling loud enough, because you're still here."


"Oh, you're yelling plenty; I'm just good at bobbing and weaving."


Gibbs fought back a smirk and said, "Did you plan on standing in the doorway and watching me do paperwork, or are you here for a reason?"


Tony ducked into the room with a grin and quickly got to his explanation. “We narrowed down the list of suspects and spoke to the most likely of them, but that turned up nothing. We're going over the rest of the list to see if anything pops."


Gibbs nodded, and then sat in quiet for a moment, ignoring the questions he should be asking about the investigation and instead asked, "Can I talk to Gard?"


Tony quirked an eyebrow, "Just my symbiote and not me?"




"What makes you think we can separate like that?"


"I've been thinking about someone the things you said at the meeting this morning, some of it sounded wrong, and that's because it wasn't you."


Tony paused, "Sure it was."


Gibbs didn't bother looking up from his paperwork while he replied, "No, you like to draw fire away from other people, protecting them from their own stupidity."


"And why should I do that for Shepard when she hates me?"


Gibbs set down his stylus and looked at Tony like he was an idiot for asking. "That's not the sort of man you are."


"Didn't you just say you wanted to talk to my symbiote because you think it controls me?"


"I don't know if it controlled you, or if it was just the symbiote's experience taking over, or if you ceded control."


"Are they all really that different?"


"To me they are, and I'd like to ask the symbiote about it."


Tony looked to the side for a long moment then turned back to Gibbs, his smile smoothing out into a level stare and straightening out his posture. "Tony has a vibrant personality and we have a strong bond. To completely take control would be painful for both of us, but we're still separate enough that we have our own root identities, if that's what you would prefer."


If Gibbs was surprised by how smooth the transition was between man and symbiote, it didn't show. "Why did you take control from Tony this morning?"


"Do you have a best friend, Captain?"


Gibbs quirked an eyebrow, "Of course."


"Doctor Mallard I presume?" Gibbs grunted something indistinct, and Gard gave the slightest of grins, a flash of Tony on his face before going straight back to Gard's placid expression. "Sometimes you protect Doctor Mallard from himself. And sometimes I do the same for Anthony. I never completely take control, or take a decision away from him, just nudge in his defense. We're a partnership, completely. And sometimes the junior partner needs counseling."


"And what makes you so sure your counsel is best?"


Gard looked at him like Gibbs was terribly young, "I have spent thirteen of my fifteen lifetimes as a spy in some capacity. Half of them I spent my whole life as part of the Trill Intelligence Committee, and in the other half it was simply part of my career before I ascended the bureaucratic ranks of my various governments and helped lead my people. I know how to take care of him."


"The other two lifetimes?"


"My first and Anthony."


Gibbs leaned back in his chair, "And what were you then?"


A gentle smile flashed against Gard's face, wholly and entirely Tony's expression, "My first bond was with a man named Logan. He was a sculptor. We were happy together for several years before he was murdered."




"It was the early days of Trill bonding, and there were segments of society who though bonding with a symbiote was a curse on their people. They killed him for bonding with me."


"That's what drove you to public service."


Gard couldn't quite meet Gibbs' gaze, the memory too much, "I adored Logan. I swore to myself I would do all in my power to keep such a thing from happening again."


"Why not be a spy with Tony?"


"Because Anthony didn't want to be."


"And your grand plan to protect hosts?"


Gard glowered at him, "Anthony is more important than them."


"More important than the ones you had before?"


"Tony will be my last host. When he dies, I will go with him."


Gibbs was shocked by the statement. A Trill symbiote could live forever, bonded to one Trill host after another, and to willingly lay down their life by refusing to bond again was almost sacrilege to the Trill. Gibbs didn't know quite how to respond, so he grumbled out, "The Trill Symbiosis Commission can't be happy about that."


"Unhappy barely even begins to describe it. They send me lists every few months of all the new students they think I might like to bond with and updates on the old ones, and at least once a year they ask me to come back to the planet so that I'll cave under all the hopeful expressions."


"Is that how you met Tony?"


Gard smirked, "Heavens no. Anthony is far too lively to ever have been considered a suitable host. I met Anthony when we were both on Risa. I was there for a conference, and when I checked in to my hotel I came across Anthony in the hall picking up his room service. His father was off somewhere doing 'business', and let me tell you Antony was not happy to have the memories about what his father was actually up to. I spent the next few days with Antony, taking him to see all the good things on Risa, and by the time we were done, I'd decided that he was who I wanted for my next host."


"But why your last?"


Gard tapped his fingers on the desk a random pattern that Gibbs had caught Tony thrumming when he was thinking, and that more than anything convinced Gibbs that Tony had had some sort of impact on Gard. "It would be cruel to all my future hosts to take another on another after Tony. He is, a light in the darkness, and I feel like for the first time in fifteen hundred years I've been living." Gard smirked at Gibbs like he knew something Gibbs did not, "He has that effect on people."


Tony's comm badge went off, interrupting whatever reply Gibbs might have had, and Gibbs watched, fascinated, as Tony's expression morphed from Gard to entirely Tony. He tapped the badge with a grin and said, "Gard here."


"Tony!" Danny's frazzled voice exclaimed, "Get your ass to Abby's lab, I need you to counteract Steve's crazy."


Tony just laughed back, "I'm on my way," and smirked when Gibbs came along with him.



"Just shut up Steven. Seriously, you're trailing stupid all over the place and it's giving me allergies."




"No Steven, stop talking! Right now!"


Gibbs and Tony walked into the room to the sound of Danny yelling at Steve, which Tony realized was the usual state of things.


"All I'm saying is-"


Danny whirled to face the door, "Tony! Get in here and save me from Steve's stupidity."


Tony laughed and joined Danny and Steve in front of the list of suspects while Gibbs took his spot at the back of the room. Tony patted Steve on the back and asked Danny, "What's the problem?"


Danny tossed his hands at the screen, "There's nothing here! I've got this list of names and none of them pop. Nothing about any of them stands out to me as someone we should be looking at."


Tony cocked his head and stared at the list for a long moment before something bright and brilliant flashed across his face and suddenly he turned to Danny with a grin. "You ever watch those old school holovids?"


Danny stared at him, "What does that have to do with anything?"


"In those stories all the Security officers say that people only commit crimes for two reasons: love and money."


Danny flicked his hand at Tony, trying to usher him along, "Your point?"


"We've been looking at this like it's about money, like they've been bribed or blackmailed into acting, and what if it's not?"


Danny furrowed his brow, "You think we've got a Federation officer who's doing this for love of the Romulan Star Empire?"


"No, the Romulans don't need to set us to war against the Klingons; the seedy underbelly of the people just wants it. Really, war between the Federation and the Klingons just hurts the whole alpha quadrant. It kills trade, makes us both jumpy enough to attack them for no reason, and sets us right back to the Dominion War when we're still recovering from it. So why do this? What's the point?"


Steve huffed, "Well, what is the point?"


Tony looked excited, "What if they're doing it for love of the Federation?"


Danny caught on instantly, "Or maybe even for hatred of the Klingons."


"What are you both talking about?" Steve interrupted.


Oddly enough, Gibbs was the one to answer, "They think that our spy isn't trying to cause problems in the negotiations to aid the Romulans, but because they think it's best for the Federation not to get in bed with the Klingons."


"But my source said the spy was working for the Romulans." Steve corrected.


"They might be getting support from the Romulans, or they might just be spreading the rumor so we'll be looking in a different place."


Danny went back to the board, "So what we need is someone who'd be likely to make it to the planet, and who's got a reason to hate the Klingons."


Gibbs started for the door before Danny even got the words out, and Danny turned to shout, "Where are you going Gibbs?"


Over his shoulder Gibbs called, "To see someone who's got a reason to hate Klingons."




"An Orion."



Gibbs strode down the hall to the Operations center where Jenny would be working this time of day, and he was so wrapped up in getting there it took him several minutes to notice that the computer panels were beeping at him as he went past. When one finally hooted at him, not in the regular tone but in one of the loud songs Abby always played in her lab, Gibbs stopped and started at the flashing panel that demanded his attention. Gibbs tapped the screen and quickly took in the information scrolling past that Abby must have tracked down in the few minutes Gibbs had been away from the lab. According to the information Abby had easily found a money trail that proved Jenny was getting payments from a third party.


Gibbs stepped into the Operations offices, and all the Operations crewmen took one look at him and found reasons to be someplace else. Jenny however, remained in her seat and raised one perfectly manicured eyebrow at Gibbs and said, "I thought you said you were looking to avoid drama, Jethro?"


Gibbs shrugged, "I'd say it's less dramatic that your people know to get out of the way instead of sitting around to watch."


Jenny snorted, "Then at least you think me capable of something."


"According to my intelligence you're capable of lots of things."


Jen snorted, "And what is that?"


Gibbs sat down in the chair across from her desk and casually leaned back before saying, "That you're planning on ruining our meet with the Klingons."


Jenny sputtered, "What? Why in the hell would I do that?"


"Because you hate the Klingons and because you're getting paid."


Jen just stared at Gibbs like she didn't understand the words he was using, before she shouted, "Jethro Gibbs, you think I'm on the take?"




"…but you said..."


"It was easy to find your payoffs."


"I'm not getting any payoffs!"


"I know. You would do a better job of hiding the money if you were on the take."


"Then why in the hell did you come here accusing me of working for the Romulans?"


Gibbs shrugged, "Because there's a mountain of evidence against you, and if I'm going to say it wasn't you I need to say I actually talked to you about it."


Gibbs left Jenny gaping and went back to Abby's lab. Gibbs walked in the door and demanded, "Pull up the list again, Jen didn't do it."


Steve tossed his hands in the air, frustrated with Gibbs and demanded, "All the evidence leads to her, Gibbs! She's got payoffs in her damn bank account!"


Gibbs stepped into Steve's space, the two of them squaring off in the relentless, alpha male way that they preferred. "Doesn't it strike you as odd that Jenny would be stupid enough to get payments from Romulans to her own bank account? Don't you think she'd be more clever about it than that?"


"I'd also assume that Shepard wouldn't be selling us out to the Romulans. But the evidence says she does."


"No, the evidence says someone wants us to think she does, but they didn't do a very good job of it."


"Abs," Tony interrupted, "Where's the ambassador?"


"That what?"


"I'm looking at these lists and somewhere on here there should be an ambassador, or a negotiator, or someone who can make nice with the Klingons." Tony pointed to the top of the three complete crew manifests, where the highest ranking officers were located, "But I don't recognize any of these names as official negotiators."


Steve asked, "Aren't the negotiations just going to be done by the Captains?"


Danny snorted, "No, the Fleet may like their captains but they don't trust them with this sort of thing. It's too big. If it goes wrong, you don't want the rest of the Federation wondering why in the hell they trusted a Captain and if it goes right, then it's made the Captain's whole career."


Gibbs stepped up to the screen, wheels turning and waived at Danny to scroll through the lists down to the civilians at the bottom of each column. "You think they contracted it out?" Danny asked.


"Nope, but I thought we should check before we start demanding the information."


When none of the civilians listed were negotiators either Tony said, "So, somewhere on the Amsterdam or the Honolulu we've got a negotiator who's flying under the radar, who's actually going to throw the whole summit."


Gibbs hmm-ed, then snapped, "Danny."


Considering Danny wasn't officially part of Security or even one of Gibbs' officers Tony didn't quite know how the man knew what Gibbs was looking for, but Danny replied, "Pull up a list of the Federation's approved negotiators and track each one of them down."




"Get in contact with people I trust on the Amsterdam and the Honolulu and see if they can tell me who they're hiding."




"Figure a way to get a Federation Ambassador kicked out of their own negotiations."


"I want proof that they planned on selling us out." Gibbs added.


Tony snorted, "Proof that they intended to blow the peace talks without actually causing a war? I'll get right on that."


Gibbs strode out of the room and waived the other two off, giving Steve a glare that meant he should follow his captain. Gibbs waited until they stepped into the turbolift before he slammed the emergency stop button and asked, "You wanna tell me why you panicked in there?"


"I didn't panic." Steve denied.


"You stopped breathing when we turned to the ambassador. You only do that when you're trying to keep yourself from going in to fight mode."


"I've got a hunch Sir, but I'd like to run it down before I talk about it."


Gibbs gave Steve a long, hard look like he was deciding whether or not to just space Steve and be done with it before he said, "I'm not a stupid man, McGarrett."


Steve snorted, "No shit, Sir."


"My lack of stupidity means that I know that if we survive this whole damn thing, then I'm going to be in a position to ask for whatever I want from Command. Now, either you can keep skirting the fine line between protecting Intelligence and protecting the Valor, or you can finally figure out who it is you're working for."




"I've seen the way you look at Danny." Steve swallowed his own tongue and didn't quite have a response to that. "I see the way you play with his kid, and the way you grin when Danny starts to yell at you, and when you're about to go off the edge Danny's the only guy who can bring you back."


"I assume there's a point to this, Sir?"


"The Admiralty has made it painfully clear that they want my formalized command staff the moment this mission ends, and I want you for my permanent Tactical Chief, with direct control over Security and Intelligence." Steve just started at him in disbelief. "I know the moment this is handled Intelligence intends to take you back and set you on something else, but if I ask for you after paving the path to peace with Klingons, then Command will tell Intelligence to go away. The choice is yours, Steve. Are you going to hide our suspect because those are your orders, or are you going to save the day and get what you finally want?"



Steve turned to face the fully-assembled room of Command staff, and people he assumed Gibbs intended to become his Command staff when this was all over. "Our suspect's name is Joe White." Joe's image flashed up on the screen, bald, confident, and in the straight black of a high-ranking Intelligence uniform. "He's an Intelligence Admiral, one of the best at running black ops. He served as an attaché to the Klingons in the Dominion War, and he's on the Honolulu coming in for the meet."


Danny crossed his arms and huffed, "And how do we know him, Steve?"


"I can't tell you that, Danny."


"Screw that, Steven!" Danny launched forward in his seat and started to hammer away at the air with his hand gestures, "We've got a damn spy coming and all you can say is, 'I can't tell you'?"


Gibbs smacked Danny on the back of the head, pulling him back from the full scale rant he was about to fall into. "If Steve tells you he gets shot and dumped in a melting pit, Williams. Move on."


Danny snorted his disgust with that, but kept his mouth shut so Steve could explain. "He's the one who tipped me off to the potential spy in the first place. So when I contacted him back and updated him on our progress looking for a little more information, he said he was coming to the meet and he'd help me cage our spy without the Klingons knowing we'd gotten that close to messed up."


Danny tossed his hands in the air, ready to rant about proper procedure, but a glare from Gibbs shut him up. "He fits the profile that Tony and Danny came up with. He'll be on planet for the negotiations, he's in a perfect position to hamper our relations with the Klingons without actually causing a war, and, well… he thinks Klingons pose a threat to the future of the Federation."


Danny couldn't hold himself back, "And you didn't think a spy with a grudge against the Klingon Empire was something you should mention to us Steven? What is wrong with you?"


"I've worked with him before." Steve barreled over the top of Danny. "He's given his whole adult life in service to the Federation. He's completely loyal, and right up until Tony said none of the ships were carrying an official negotiator I just assumed he'd be coming in as part of the negotiator's security detail, not the actual negotiator."


Danny pinched his lips in frustration, "Are you sure that this guy is the negotiator?"


"Yeah, I contacted him after we finished our last meeting and told him I had the identity of the spy and proof of conduct."


"Did he ask why in the hell you didn't arrest your spy?" Danny snarked.


"That's not how it goes Danny. He told me to sit on it until we could handle it together. You don't move until you have orders move."


"You? Who is this you, Steven?"


"This," Gibbs shouted, carrying his voice over any more arguments, "is what we're going to do. We'll be arriving at DS7 in one hour, and the Amsterdam and Honolulu will be arriving shortly after that. I'm putting out a call to the other captains to insist on a security briefing before we even get to DS7. Denning from the Honolulu is farthest out, so Vance on the Amsterdam and I are each going to hop on a runabout and meet up at the Honolulu. We'll have about two hours for the meet before we come together at DS7 and return to our own ships where we'll put the security plan in place and proceed with this negotiation like the last two days never happened.


"However, I'll take Jen, Steve, and Tony with me to the security briefing and we'll have those two hours to either find incriminating evidence, talk White out of his plan, or shoot him and be done with it. Any questions?" Everyone frantically shook their heads no, no one wanting to challenge Gibbs when he was in the mood to shoot.



Steve had a mental countdown going from ten the moment the left the room, and at four (dangerously fast as an indicator of Danny's mood), Danny grabbed Steve's arm and hauled him into one of the empty labs and immediately called out to the computer to lock the door. Steve crossed his arms and leaned back against one of the counters, "You know that I'm letting you haul me around, right?"


"Shut the hell up, Steven." Danny stuck his finger in Steve's face, "You're Intelligence. No, that doesn't even, you're not just Intelligence, you're one of those damn black ops Intelligence officers who thinks they don't need to follow the law like the rest of us! Why in the hell didn't you tell me!"


Steve quirked an eyebrow, "Really Danny? You're about to poke my eye out with that finger and you wanna know why I didn't tell you?"


"I'm poking your eye out because you didn't tell me, you ass!"


"You know that I'm not allowed to tell you things like that, Danno."


"It's not things, Steven; it's that you're a freaking deep cover Intelligence Officer! That means something!"


Steve cocked his head in the way that mean he was still parsing whatever it was Danny was yelling about, trying to force something about Danny's words make actual sense. Danny kept pacing, shouting about consequences and due process, and suddenly everything snapped in to place.


Steve grinned at Danny, bright and very nearly feral compared to the usual restraint he showed with his emotions. Danny stopped mid word and asked "What the hell is that. What are you smiling about?"


Rather than explain Steve took a long, predatory stride forward, straight into Danny's space. Usually Danny stayed put and glowered right back, but this time Danny must have seen something disconcerting, because he stepped back out of the way, which just made Steve grin brighter and press forward again. Steve backed Danny into a table and before Danny could start talking again he pressed a kiss to Danny's lips, slow but fierce.


Danny didn't know quite how to respond and leaned in to Steve before his mind came back to him and he pulled back and sputtered, "What are you doing, Steve?"


"You like me, Danno." Steve grinned.


"Not at this moment, no."


"Sure you do. That's why you're freaking out that I'm Intelligence."


"I'm freaking out because you lied to me Steven!"


"Nah Danno, you're freaking out because you think that means I'm gonna leave."


Danny waited for a long moment, and then with courage that impressed Steve he asked, "Aren't you?"


Steve ran his fingers through Danny's slicked back hair, something he'd wanted to since the first moment Danny had shouted at him (which was about two minutes after they met). "Gibbs is requesting that my transfer be permanent."


Danny started in surprise, "And he thinks Command will let you stay?"


"We're about to save the day, Danno. Now's the time."


"So, you thought you were going to leave…"




"And now, now you're staying."


Steve ran his fingers through again, "Yup."


"Then why the hell are we still talking?"


"No idea, Danno." Steve grinned, and pressed forward for another kiss.



Tony mentally prepared himself for a painfully awkward flight to the Honolulu. Being trapped in a confined space with Steve sounded like an excuse to make trouble, and being trapped with Steve and Gibbs sounded like fun and fodder for a few dirty dreams, while trapped with Steve, Gibbs and Shepard just sounded like hell. Tony was ready to keep his eyes forward at the helm and ignore the sniping that was bound to go on behind him, then Steve stumbled on to the shuttle with a dopey grin and suddenly the trip looked so much better.


"You made a pass at him." Tony grinned.


Steve dropped down in the other helm chair and smiled back, absolutely genuine, "I did."


Tony smacked him on the shoulder, "Look at you, my little spy is all grown up."


Steve shrugged off the hand with a grin, "Yeah, yeah."


Tony nudged him again, "How'd it go?"


"I'm smiling, aren't I?"


"Details McGarrett, details!"


"When have you ever known me to hand out details?"


"Unless these details are about the mission," Gibbs interrupted, "stop talking."


"Yes Cap, sorry Cap, no idle banter here, Cap." Tony muttered.


Gibbs smacked him on the back of the head and replied, "We have forty-five minutes together on this shuttle Gard, don't think I won't spend every last one of them tormenting you."


Tony gave Gibbs a ridiculously bright smile, "Gibbs, you and I both know you won't be the one doing the tormenting on this little trip. I'm sure we'd have quite a bit more fun if you were."


"I know I would." Steve interjected.


Gibbs smacked both of them of the back of the head, but lighter this time, almost affectionate, before he went to his seat. Moments later Jen stepped on board and didn't waste any time in stepping right up to peer over Tony's shoulder and declare, "Did you remember to adjust for the excessive gravity of Antioch's sun? If you don't we'll get pulled off course and lose valuable time."


What Tony wanted to say was, 'Of course I adjusted for Antioch's sun. I wouldn't be sitting at the helm if I wasn't certified, and you don't get certified without knowing how to check your route for that sort of thing. And even if I missed it, the extra gravity would only cost us an extra five minutes of traveling time.' But he didn't. Instead Tony said, "Yes ma'am."


"Yes you adjusted, or yes you'll do it now?" Jen demanded.


"Yes I adjusted, but I can run the calculations again to make sure." Tony replied in his most level tone.


Shepard huffed, "There's no need to take that tone with me, Mr. Gard."


Tony gave her his most bland and pleasant of smiles and replied, “Apologies, ma'am. I didn't mean to be disrespectful."


"Whatever you might be in the future, remember that now you are one of my staff, Mr. Gard."


There were so very many things wrong with that sentence that it took every fiber of Tony's being not to snap at Shepard, starting with the fact it was considered the height of bad taste to refer to a joined Trill as Mr. or Ms.. Instead Tony just replied, "Yes ma'am." and waited until Shepard had her back turned before fixing Gibbs with a look that said, 'you see what I mean?'.


Gibbs, the bastard, smirked like the whole thing was hilarious and Tony was hard pressed not to smile back. Gibbs took mercy on him and updated Shepard on the plan, and how they'd gotten there, going into far more detail and using far more words than Tony suspected Gibbs would've used otherwise. "So, as far as the target is concerned, McGarrett is the only one who 'knows' I'm a spy, and he wants to help McGarrett bring me in, while you and Tony are none the wiser."


Under normal circumstances Gibbs would've grunted something that translated to 'do you really need me to explain this to you?', but since he was being effusive today he actually said, "Exactly."


"And why exactly do you think it's logical for you to bring your head of Operations along with one of the lesser Operations Officers and your head of Tactical to this meeting rather than bring your Security or Intelligence Chiefs?" Jen asked snidely.


"Because anyone with the right access, which our target has, would know that I don't trust my Chiefs of Security or Intelligence. If I didn't know about you being a spy Steve would've maneuvered his way onto this mission to deliver you to the target, and you would've demanded it was your right to come as my supposed First, and Steve would've talked me into letting you come along since you're what he needed."


Jen snorted, "You've never let anyone talk you into anything in your life Jethro."


The shuttle jumped, and Gibbs turned in time to see Tony frantically adjusting their heading. "What's going on over there?" Jenny demanded.


Steve replied, "Nothing ma'am, just a minor disturbance," since Tony was too busy biting his bottom lip to answer.


"Anything you'd like to add, Gard?" Gibbs prodded.


"No Sir. I am over here devoutly not reacting to anything."


Steve snorted out a laugh, but kept his eyes forward on the viewscreen. Tony giggled at Steve's laugh, but quickly bit it back and cleared his throat, like it never happened. "What are you laughing at, Lieutenant?" Jenny demanded.


Tony giggled again, like he couldn't help it, and Steve twisted away to keep from looking at Tony before he lost it as well. "I'm sorry, it's just-" Tony giggled again, "Jethro," he finished with emphasis.


"Are you saying there's something humorous about your captain's name, Lieutenant?"


"Yes ma'am." Tony grinned.


Before Jenny could object with something about superior officers and respect, Gibbs clarified, "Actually it's Leroy Jethro."


Tony laughed brightly and twisted around in his seat, "Seriously? Did you parents just decide to ignore every last trace of Vulcan in your DNA?"


"My father was purely human and my mother was half, but she never embraced her Vulcan side."


"Really?" Tony asked curiously, but still gently, not wanting to scare Gibbs off answering questions.


"She was born and raised on Earth." Gibbs shrugged, like that explained everything.


"Yeah, but…" Gibbs quirked an eyebrow to prove Tony along, "You got a whole Vulcan vibe going on. I mean, you do half your communication through eyebrow twitches."


"Lieutenant!" Shepard burst, but Steve added, "You do, Cap."


“Gentlemen, return to your duties.” Jen snapped, and Steve and Tony turned back to their stations with a smile, neither one of them catching the twitch of a grin on Gibbs' face.



Captain Denning of the Honolulu was not the sort of man to pass up the chance to hobnob with another captain, especially one of Vance's standing, so they were met at the transporter room by one of Vance's Security Lieutenants, a young Benzite officer named Kaye who's tendrils were practically quivering at the chance to talk to Gibbs. She ushered them all down the hall towards the main conference room where the other two captains and their officers were already waiting.


Steve faded to the back of the group and wasn't at all surprised when Joe stepped up alongside him and murmured, “I wasn't expecting you this soon.”


“Gibbs insisted on a security meeting,” Steve explained, and I figured handling this now would be better than handling it later.”


“Smart move kid, but the trouble is I don't have all the evidence complied that you need for an arrest.”


Steve stopped, letting the group get further ahead of them, too entranced by Kaye's rambling to notice Steve's absence. “What do you mean we don't, Joe? We've got motive, we've got opportunity, and we've got the payments from the Romulans in the suspect's account.”


Joe put a calming hand on Steve's shoulder, “Payments aren't enough, Steve. We need something more solid if we're going to go after a Commander. I was planning on waiting until the conference so we could catch them in the act.”


Steve tossed his hands in the air, his frustration growing more obvious, “Why!”


“Because if we don't have the evidence then we don't get the conviction, kid.”


“Do we even need the conviction, Joe? Isn't it more important that we save the summit? If I just tell Gibbs what I suspect-”


“Get that thought right out of your head, kid. Sure, Gibbs will bench her, but any accusations Gibbs makes without support from hard evidence will get ignored by the Admiralty. Gibbs' dislike of Shepard is too well known for anyone to take his bad opinion seriously.”


Steve sighted heavily and all the tension in him drained away. “Dammit, Joe.”


“Steve, what's wrong?”


“I never told you who my suspect was.”


Joe leaned back and laughed, subtly putting himself out of range of Steve's more obvious blows, “I suppose there's no point in pretending I came to the same conclusion?”


“If it was easy to fool me then you wouldn't have trained me.”


"No, I suppose not. Pity you didn't wait until we got to the meet, you would've been able to set me up as a spy and destroy my career."


"You weren't trying to start a war. In your own messed up way you thought you were helping. That’s enough for Gibbs' mercy, and it's enough for mine."


"You don't have enough to arrest me." Joe grinned.


"No, but we have enough to confine you to quarters on the Valor for the rest of the trip while another negotiator handles the job."


"And if I choose to be difficult?"


From where he had silently been standing behind Joe, Gibbs reached out and Vulcan Pinched Joe on the nerve that dropped him unconscious to the floor. "Then you'll be asleep for the rest of the trip." Steve slouched against the wall and Gibbs said, "I know you wanted time to get his reasons."


The statement was just that, a statement. No apology for interceding and no explanation. "I know why he did it; I was just hoping he'd have something to say that would make me accept it."


"He did it because he thinks we shouldn't be getting in bed with the Klingons."


"If the Admiralty asked him that's what he'd say, and half of them would agree with him. But really, I've never known Joe to have less than five reasons for doing something, and that was just one."


"What about the others?"


"We'll never know for sure, but I think one of them was my permanent appointment to your ship. And even though he didn't ruin the talks, he'll still consider this a win because of that."



Together Gibbs and Steve escorted an unconscious Joe to the brig, and it was a mark of how well thought of Gibbs was that none of his crew asked what Joe was doing there. Steve turned to part company with Gibbs and head for his own office when Gibbs smacked Steve upside the head flicked two fingers at him to signal that Steve should stay right on following.


They went to the bridge, and Kono twisted around in her chair to greet them with a bright smile and announced, “I've got Admirals Jameson and Morrow waiting for you, Cap.”


“No David?”


“Sorry Cap, can't seem to get ahold of him.”


Gibbs snorted, but nodded to Kono to open the channel. “Admirals.” Gibbs greeted pleasantly.


Morrow smirked, “Jethro, you look like the cat that got the cream.”


“Not far off, Admiral.”


“I assume that means you've caught the spy.”


Gibbs grunted in the affirmative and when he said nothing else about it Morrow slumped in his chair, “You're not turning them over.”


'They turned themselves in.” Gibbs shrugged as if to say, 'what are you gonna do'?


“Gibbs!” Jameson snapped, “They tried to sell us out to the Klingons!”


“No. They were stupid, not traitorous. And their life shouldn't be ruined for it.”


“Agreed.” Morrow replied before Jameson had the chance to object. “I assume you're also calling about your command staff.”


“Of course, sir.” Gibbs replied, his ton implying that he expected less stupid questions from Morrow.


Morrow snorted, “And what have you decided?”


“First off I want Steve to be a permanent posting at Tactical.” Gibbs had been expecting an objection, but both Jameson and Morrow looked pleased by the request, so Gibbs moved on. “I plan on promoting Lieutenant Chin and promoting him to head of Security. Weston is more than welcome to stay on as a junior officer.”


“That seems a bit hasty, Gibbs.” Jameson interrupted.


“No, ma'am. Chin ran this investigation, he earned his place. The only only other person I'd want is Danny Williams, and that man refuses to come out of retirement.”


The two admirals shared a look, then Morrow asked, “If you'd like us to entice him out of retirement?”


Gibbs tipped his head to look at Chin with a raised in eyebrow in question and Chin replied, “I believe it would be better for everyone involved if we convinced Danny it was his own decision.”


“Probably true.” Gibbs added. “We'll let you know when we've brought him around. The only other thing that requires your approval is the appointment of my First.”


The whole room stopped at Gibbs' announcement and Morrow took a long look around the fully assembled command crew Gibbs had on his bridge. After a moment he gave a polite nod to Steve, “Commander McGarrett, I assume congratulations are in order?”


Steve looked frantically at Gibbs, who just quirked an eyebrow in amusement before Steve replied, “I don't think so, Sir.”


“Really?” Morrow flicked his eyes over to Jenny, thought judging by her mortified expression it wasn't her either. Then Morrow saw Tony, standing safely at the Ops station at the back of the bridge with an expression of absolute horror on his face. Morrow sighed, “You didn't tell the boy you were promoting him, did you?”


“Where's the fun in that?”


Jameson looked between them, completely confused while Morrow continued, “I assume you intend to make him your Chief of Operations too?”


“Might as well.” Gibbs shrugged.


Morrow just rolled his eyes and replied, “I expect promotion paperwork inside the next week.” Morrow looked past Gibbs to an ashen faced Tony and smirked, “Good luck.” before he cut the comm feed.


Gibbs looked around the bridge at his stunned crew and called out, “Shouldn't all of you be preparing to enter Klingon space right about now?”


They all scrambled back to work, even the people who weren't really supposed to be on the bridge but didn't want to miss anything. Tony stumbled down to Gibbs' chair and croaked, “Uh, Cap...”


“Out with it Gard, I've got things to do.” Gibbs snapped, holding back a smirk.


“Alright them, are you out of your mind!”


“You have a problem with being my first officer?” Gibbs demanded, surging to his feet and into Tony's space.


The crew assumed Tony had the self preservation instincts of a Lemming, because he stepped right back, unmoved by Gibbs' tactic. “It's not that I'm upset Gibbs, it's just that a girl likes to be asked.”


Then, in a moment Gibbs' terrified crew would remember for the rest of their days (even the people who pulled up the security feed later to watch the moment), Gibbs started to laugh.