Tony DiNozzo stood just outside the elevator on the mezzanine of NCIS headquarters in Washington, DC. He couldn’t believe the situation he had just walked into. He had been sent away several months before by the new Director of NCIS, Leon Vance, to serve as agent afloat aboard an aircraft carrier. He had been alone and lonely, no friends on board, no real contact with those he had thought were his friends back on shore, the man he had once considered his surrogate father seemingly abandoning him to his new posting, his soul mate had no interest in finding him.
Tony spent time every day contemplating suicide, just falling off the back of the carrier and letting the sea have his corpse. But now, that utter depression was simply gone. Director Vance had recalled Tony to DC and when he arrived he had met the eyes of the man he had waited his whole life to find, his soul’s mate.
The man was tall, with heavily graying hair and deep brown eyes. He was a colonel in the Air Force based upon his uniform. Tony had already known he was military and Air Force but not his rank. And not what he looked like.
Now, the nascent bond had snapped into place as their eyes met and Tony’s emotional pain was buried under a flood of happiness and love. He knew it was artificial, a chemical reaction to the new bond, but he basked in the wonderful feelings anyway. He had spent so long in a worsening depression (for years - even before his recent posting) he needed to feel the positive emotions in life. And he needed the artificial help of the bonding hormones, pheromones, and endorphins to locate those feelings within himself.
Tony was still angry with this man in front of him. It had been decades since he had entered puberty, decades since he had left high school and become an adult. Yet this man had never come to find him. He had lived his life, served his country, married, had a family, fucked his wife regularly, been a POW, possibly retired, re-enlisted, traveled to other planets, and at some point was no longer married. And he had never come for Tony, not until today.
But Tony refused to allow his anger to overcome the bonding high. He knew he needed to feel the high after being so very low for so very long. If he fought against it, ended it too soon, he was likely to plunge back into his depression and the fight back to a normal level would be almost impossible.
The other man stepped forward and Tony’s mouth opened to speak but nothing emerged. It felt like he had been standing on the mezzanine for hours, days, but he knew it had been only a minute or so.
“Tony DiNozzo?” asked the colonel.
Tony nodded, closed his mouth, took a deep breath, and replied with a calm, even tone, “That’s me. May I have your name, colonel?”
The other man huffed. “Sorry. Colonel Jack O’Neill, two L’s.” He held up three fingers. “Technically, the birth certificate says Jonathan Jay O’Neill but it’s been Jack as long as I can remember, which is usually pretty far back, but some days, not so much.”
Tony smiled, “Birth certificate says Anthony Devon DiNozzo, but I prefer Tony. Very much. Very , very much. Don’t call me Anthony. Unless you can transform into an elderly British medical examiner. You’re not a mutant, right? No Mystique like powers? I mean, that wouldn’t be horrible. You could totally rock the blue skin. Maybe not the red hair, but it’s possible.”
Jack’s eyebrows rose. “No. Sorry. Not a mutant. Would be helpful to be a shapeshifter, even better to be a mind reader like Professor X, but no such luck on that front, either.”
Jack gestured to the room down the hall. “Can we go into the conference room? We, uh, we need to talk.”
Tony nodded and followed his soul’s mate to the conference room near MTAC. He found himself the focus of three other people as he entered. He only hesitated a moment before sliding into a seat across the table from a man he recognized from a vision several years before. Jack had stopped the man from jumping off a building and killing himself. Tony had envied the man, then and now, wanting someone to pull him back from his own personal abyss.
Jack sat at the head of the table, Tony to his left, the once suicidal man to his right. Next to him was a blonde woman in a major’s uniform, also Air Force, and beyond her was a black stone-faced man wearing a fedora. Tony had seen them both in visions before and understood why he wore the hat but it was still an amusing sight.
Jack cleared his throat. “Tony, this is my team. Major Doctor Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and um, Teal’c … Murray. Guys, this is Tony DiNozzo. Don’t call him Anthony. Ever. Trust me. Never.”
Tony nodded his greetings to the ones he received from his mate’s team. “I don’t mean to be difficult, but why are you all here?”
Teal’c spoke up, “We are to provide O’Neill with support for his morals.”
Tony grinned at Jack. “Worried you’d hijack a building? Moral support. You’re here for moral support. Okay. Big, bad, special forces Air Force colonel needs three people to provide moral support against a single NCIS special agent.”
“See, that there. That’s it. You knew I was special forces. And an Air Force colonel.”
Tony shook his head. “Jack, you’re in uniform.”
Tony sighed, “Granted, I knew you were special forces when I was around fourteen, or well, I assumed. And I knew you were Air Force since about seventeen or eighteen. But colonel was new info for me today.”
Major Carter spoke up, “How did you know he was special forces so young?”
Tony stared at her with a deadpan look on his face. “When I saw him kill a man by breaking his neck and slitting his throat, I made an intuitive leap. Other events simply served to confirm that belief.”
“Things I saw him do, things that happened to him, that I saw happen to him. It was a logical assumption. And I wasn’t wrong.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Okay. Um, I’m sorry you had to see me do that when you were so young.”
Tony shrugged. “It happened. Isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen.”
Jack’s eyes widened but he didn’t speak up. Dr. Jackson took the initiative instead. “Most branches of the American military have special forces sections, like Navy SEALs. How did you determine Jack was Air Force?”
Tony sighed. “The only base near Albuquerque, New Mexico is an Air Force base. He was stationed there and living in off-base housing with his wife and son when I was still in high school.”
Dr Jackson was shocked, “How -”
“I was, I think, a senior in high school, maybe a junior, but not of age yet, and my vision that year showed him getting home from the base and entering apartment E or F with the mail in his hand. I couldn’t see the full address or his name due to how it was held but I made out enough. I was going to find him on spring break but, well, I didn’t want to break up his family. He seemed really happy. He rocked his baby, still a newborn. I wasn’t going to fuck up that kid’s life for him. Besides, I figured him not looking for me was a good thing then. I was still a kid myself. It proved that my mate wasn’t a pedophile.”
Jack exhaled sharply. “God. I could have been with you for decades? You saw my address ?”
Tony nodded. “But, you were the one with the good life. I didn’t want to disrupt it. Figured I’d wait for you to find me. By the time I graduated and thought again, you had moved to somewhere with mountains that wasn’t New Mexico. I know now it was Colorado. Found that out a few years later. Saw you reading a newspaper about a fair and saw the fairground’s name and the paper’s name when you closed it. But you were happy and settled. Almost went to find you a few years back, until I did some research. I thought you might need my assistance to stabilize your brain, thought my vision was a hallucination you were having.”
Major Carter spoke up. “Visions don’t work that way. The person in the vision trance only sees what is physically -”
Tony interrupted what seemed like would be a lengthy lecture. “I know. I researched it. That’s why I didn’t go looking. It wasn’t a mental condition. It was reality. Spun some major theories about that one. Most logical was the true one but I really was kinda rooting for time travel, ya know? You rescuing people from the eruption of Pompeii, that would have been really awesome. Instead, it was much more mundane. There were other times I thought about coming to find you, Jack. The year after the vision of you in what I assume was Iraq, if you weren’t dead or still in captivity, I was going to come if it seemed like you needed help or support. But you were doing the supporting just fine.”
“ Jack was ‘doing the supporting’?” queried Daniel.
Tony grinned slyly. “Uh huh, hands on her waist, she was having quite the good time.”
Jack blushed. “I never even thought that you might see, I mean, you saw me having sex with Sara?”
“Several times. That was the first, though. The first time I saw you with your wife, that is.” Tony’s eyes met Jack’s and the smile dropped from the Italian’s face. “I saw you before that, though. Made me worry about your reaction to me.”
Jack’s eyes dropped. Tony knew he understood the veiled reference though he could tell that the rest of the team thought what he had wanted them to think, that he had seen Jack with other women. Not that he had seen Jack being brutally gang raped while a prisoner of war.
“Okay, well that’s - okay. But back up a minute. You, uh, said something about time travel? Or theories when the truth is mundane?”
Tony allowed the change of subject. “Not sure when the first vision I had of you, um, we’ll call it off-planet, was. I think it was on the volcano world. That was the first time I saw the puddle ring. But I suppose the sandstorm the year before could have been off-planet, rather than the Middle East. The volcano world made me wonder about the different theories, once I discovered I was seeing reality. But the next vision solidified which was true. You made friends with the Roswell Greys. Their architecture was mind boggling. And why don't they wear clothes? I’ve wondered since I saw that.”
Jack closed his eyes. “Yeah, okay, Tony you need to sign some non-disclosure forms. I’ve been worried for years about what you were seeing. I guess - “
Tony huffed a bitter laugh. “That’s why you tried to find me, isn’t it? Not because you wanted to bond with your soul’s mate but because I was potentially seeing highly classified missions. I’ve been seeing them for years. And I’ve never told anyone. I know what classified means and I realized a long time ago that your classified shit was more classified than anything else in the world.”
Jack reached out and took Tony’s hand in his. “I’ve always looked but I never had any useful visions. Not really, not until this year. I’ve always wanted to find you. But I would see you watching TV or running on a track or at the movies. You were on a date with some girl who wore strangely large pendants, or you were delivering Chinese food, driving in your car, or you were unconscious in someone’s back yard, or eating a pizza in a dark car, or on a night solo parachute jump. And what was up with that? It almost set me on the completely wrong track. I figured you must be military or possibly CIA. No one jumps solo at night for fun.”
Tony’s eyes were wide. “Okay, I’ll start there. Wow. We had a case with a team that was going to be jumping from a plane and we caught the killer while on the plane and I got knocked out during a scuffle. The others aborted so we could take the killer in. Eating pizza in a car? Um…”
Jack nodded and pulled a notebook from his pocket. He flipped it open to a certain page and looked over what was written. “Yeah, it was raining hard and there was an older man in the driver's seat. It was pepperoni and some other meat and very cheesy. He pushed you out of the car, not like violently but shoved.”
“Okay, yeah, the older man was my boss, Gibbs, and that was during a sort of stakeout. Sort of.”
Jack flipped a few pages. “And I guess you were bringing the Chinese food here. You were driving your car, you were never a delivery boy, right?”
“Never. I was in my car for the whole vision? Did I hit a lot of red lights?”
Jack shook his head, “No. Lots of green lights, one red.”
Tony frowned, “And you didn’t see the Navy Yard?”
Tony wrinkled his brow in thought as the others waited to hear the story behind this vision. Tony’s eyes widened, “Was it the year after the parachute jump?”
Jack nodded. “Yep. How’d you know? You don’t have Chinese often?”
Tony laughed. “No. But I always get it delivered to my apartment. And the Chinese place we order from for the office is right outside the gates of the Navy Yard, about two blocks away. I was actually on the way to deliver that food to the Pentagon. I was sort of undercover. Not to the soldiers who let me enter but - it’s complicated and classified. I can tell you my cover was posing as a delivery boy and using my own lunch to do it.”
Jack nodded slowly. “Okaaay. Right. You know my clearance level is higher than yours, right?”
Tony cocked his head. “Yeah. Figured that out when I saw the puddle. Well, figured it beforehand what with the special forces stuff, but, yeah.”
“So, you can explain.”
Tony shook his head. “Not without specific clearance, Jack. It was part of a criminal case. Not about to mess up the prison sentence the perp got. Not just to satisfy your curiosity. You really want to know all of the details of all of my cases? Do it right. Get the okay from Director Vance, or better yet, SecNav.”
Jack sighed. “Fine. I can do that, you know. I can totally do that.”
“Good for you. Friends in low places, huh?”
Jack laughed and Daniel snorted. Carter put her hand over her mouth and Teal’c simply tilted his head minutely. “Fine, whatever, snark, snark, snark.”
Daniel grinned. “He’s got your number, Jack.”
Jack mock glared at the other man and then turned back to his notebook. “Okay, can you divulge anything regarding you being unconscious in a backyard with an open cellphone on the ground near your head?”
Tony hummed under his breath. “Well, I can tell you that I was on protection detail but I didn’t know at the time that the protectee didn’t really want to be protect ed and cold cocked me from behind so they could carry on with their agenda. Can’t tell you what their agenda was or the outcome, other than I was fine and it was all resolved, more or less, but that’s why I was unconscious in the backyard of the - safe house we were using.”
Daniel sat forward, a frown of concern on his face. “The person you were helping hit you?”
Tony nodded. “Wasn’t the first time. Or the last. First time I was caught so off guard. I trusted my bo - Gibbs’ gut when he said the protectee needed to be kept safe. He wasn’t exactly wrong but the protectee wanted things to go down a certain way and I was in the way of that. If I had known it was more of a protective custody of an uncooperative witness, I would have handled it differently. But, well, I didn’t. So, I collected another concussion for my medical file.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Get concussions a lot, do ya?”
“My fair share. Not unheard of in my line of work. And it isn’t like you didn’t collect your own share of injuries, Jack. Just from things I saw, not even counting Iraq, you knocked yourself unconscious jumping from a plane. Training exercise, I’m pretty sure. And I’m sure that you’ve gotten hit by weapons fire over the course of your career. Maybe ray guns are different than bullets but it still counts. I may still have you beat with weird medical files but considering your current posting, I doubt it.”
Major Carter sat forward. “Why would you say that, Tony?”
Tony sighed. “I have a vivid imagination, Major Carter, and have watched lots of movies. I’m betting that Jack has been exposed to things more exotic than Y-pestis in his travels through the Great Puddle.”
Jack started to laugh, “Gre - great p-p-pud-puddle. Great p-p-p-pud-dle. Great pump-pumpkin, Ch-ch-charlie Brown. Oh, God, ‘The Great Puddle’, that’s awesome.”
Tony smiled but it changed to a frown when Daniel leaned forward once more. “Y-pestis? How did you get exposed to that, Tony? Are you all right?”
Jack frowned and abruptly stopped his laughter. “Wait. Wait. What's y-pestis?”
Daniel opened his mouth but Tony beat him to the explanation. “Y-pestis, formally known as yersinia pestis, is more commonly referred to by the layman as plague. The strain I was exposed to was the pneumonic plague. It was a genetically bio-engineered strain that had been created to be resistant to antibiotics and other treatment. An insane woman sent an anonymous letter to the office, the bug protected from irradiation through some smart handling, and I was the idiot stupid enough to open the envelope and get a face full of the powdered form of the bug. I fought through it but it left its mark on me. My lungs are scarred. But I survived. It didn’t beat me. I beat it . But I’m sure that Jack has better stories than that.”
Jack reached a hand out and laid it on top of Tony’s on the table. “Tony. I - God. Plague?”
Tony snorted. “Yes. The Black Death itself. And my life was saved by the very man who changed the course of my life when I was in college. Crazy story. Dr Brad Pitt, no relation, broke my leg in college and killed my chances of going pro in a sports career. And I was being scouted by a few teams, too. But he tackled me hard, I landed badly and thus I fell back on my fallback. When I opened that envelope, Brad was the doctor at Bethesda who specialized in infectious diseases and he saved my life. Life twists in odd ways, I’ve found.”
The team just stared at Tony for several seconds, no one seeming to know what to say. Then Teal’c spoke. “The saying is: Fate works in mysterious ways, Agent Tony DiNozzo. I, too, have seen this in my lifetime, many times.”
Tony smiled at the large man. “Truer words are rarely spoken. And really, you can just call me Tony, if that isn’t an insult or taboo where you’re from.”
Jack looked at Tony. “Tony?”
Tony raised his eyebrows. “What? I’ve seen all three of them over the years, Jack. I know why Teal’c is wearing a hat. I know about the gold thing. I assumed he was from - out of town. You know I’ve seen stuff. I’ve mentioned a few of the things. I saw you all running for the puddle set in the middle of a cliffside and being shot at by ray guns and flying ships, I’ve seen you pull Daniel back from trying to kill himself on the side of a building. I don’t know everything but I’m a fairly bright guy. And like I said, I have a vivid imagination. I can extrapolate. I can figure things out.”
Jack nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t - I’m not good at this, talking, emotions, yadda yadda. I don’t think you’re stupid but I didn’t think it through that you probably recognized my team from seeing them on missions and things.”
Tony smiled lightly. “No problem. I’m just - well, I’ve got issues, too, you know. Baggage. I’m used to being underestimated. Stock in trade.”
Jack grinned. “Playing down the smarts isn’t a bad strategy.”
Teal’c spoke once more, his deep voice perfectly even, as he delivered his hit, “O’Neill would know this well.”
Jack waved his hand in the air, brushing the zing aside. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, back to my soulmate. You’d been dating lately, though. Or did ya give it up for Lent?”
Tony frowned. “I’ve been on an aircraft carrier surrounded by sailors who basically see me as a narc. I haven’t dated in a while.”
Jack shook his head. “No, before that. I saw you in a restaurant. On a date. With a girl. She wore really big clunky jewelry. Ugly stuff. And clumsy.”
Tony frowned in thought. After a minute his eyes widened and he laughed. “Nope. Never dated her. She’s FBI and we were undercover on a stakeout at the restaurant. Looking for a - bad guy.”
Jack smiled lightly. “And the rest is classified?”
Tony nodded. “Yep. Sorry.”
“Well, at least -” Jack broke off as the conference room door swung open and hit the opposite wall.