Chapter 1: The Problem
Tony was at his wit’s end and was smart enough to reach out for help - he couldn’t do this on his own. He just needed the right leverage in the situation. As soon as he thought it, he picked up his phone.
this is a surprise.”
The mispronunciation of his name made his eye tick but he bit back his reply knowing that he wanted Tobias’ help. “Yeah, well I need a favour and Gibbs has ridden off into the sunset.”
The silence on the end of the phone told him, that he at least had Fornell’s attention. “Go on, Kid. I hear what is going on at NCIS, you know there is a place at the FBI as soon as you say the word.”
Tony sighed. “I am so close to saying word it is unreal.”
Fornell was intrigued now because he was well aware that despite his teasing most of the agencies were sniffing around DiNozzo - only they had all been ignored. He was loyal to Gibbs and that was also well known in Washington - except Gibbs had stormed off to Mexico in some type of mid-life crisis. Oh, Fornell knew all about the amnesia but he would call bullshit any time of the day.
Fornell knew enough about the circles they ran in to say. “Let’s meet for a drink. You can buy and tell me all your woes and then we’ll figure out what to do about them.”
Tony chuckled. “You’re alright, Toby, don’t let anyone tell you any different.”
Fornell finished his conversation and could admit to being intrigued. He couldn’t wait to find out what was the straw to break the camel’s back for DiNozzo. No matter how much he teased the agent, he knew the amount of crap and situations DiNozzo had managed to fight himself out of and he respected the hell out of the kid.
Tony picked a bar that Fornell recognised but it was not one where the NCIS crew tended to hang out - so that let him know that it was probably work related. Fornell sat at the bar, deciding a pint of ale while waiting was a grand idea.
DiNozzo walked in, he was not dressed in a sharp suit like at work. It was casual, well, as casual as Armani jeans could be.
“How are you?” Fornell asked with genuine concern. He didn’t need to be a trained observer to see the guy was tired.
“Exhausted, and fighting everyone to get even an ounce of work done.” Tony replied and his voice betrayed how weary he felt.
Fornell sighed. “Still under the Gibbs’ spell?”
Tony snorted because that was probably the aptest way of describing it. “Abby is acting like her favourite toy has been taken away. Ziva and McGee are being lazy insubordinate twats and are so blind to their faults that I am not sure they’re real... but when I report them I’m blocked at every turn by Director Sheppard who is encouraging them. Having been run ragged for the last three weeks, Jenny then asked me to take on an undercover mission, while still running the MCRT as normal, to go after The Frog by seducing his daughter.”
Fornell frowned not liking where this was going. “But whilst you’re not out at work it’s no secret to the higher-ups that you’re gay.”
Tony snorted because he was well aware. “Oh she doesn’t give a shit, she all but told me to lie back and think of NCIS. Only the mission is unsanctioned and she is getting unhinged about asking me. I’m worried that if I don’t do it... she will con some other poor bastard into doing it for her.”
Fornell glared. “No, hell no. You are a Federal Agent and Jenny Shepard is not your madam. She has no right to ask it of you.”
Tony sighed because he was well aware of the fact he shouldn’t have to do it. “She is reckless. I am worried she will order an operation for the MCRT where I conveniently end up dead in the line of duty.”
Fornell rubbed his face because damn, this was more than one problem. He’d figure it out but first, he would help Tony rest, Christ the man looked tired. “Okay, first thing - bartender, two whiskey’s, top-shelf.”
Tony smirked. “So any ideas.”
Toby nodded. “Oh, more than one. Here is what is going to happen and in this order, Tony.”
Tony frowned because he couldn’t recall Fornell calling him by his first name ever. He had nothing to lose and friends were in short supply at the moment, or at least that is how it felt. “Whatever you say, Toby.”
Fornell grinned, “You will be coming home with me and you will get eight hours sleep in the guest room. I will be phoning your doctor and organising a health note for a week on grounds of exhaustion.”
Tony frowned but if he was being truthful he could do with a week off. He’d worked 110 hours at least in the last week alone. “Okay. What else because it sounded like you have a list of demands?”
Fornell snickered. “I want you to take a liaison position with the FBI whilst I deal with Madam Witch. Let me tell you, you will be doing me a favour. I have wanted to go after her for a while.”
Tony sighed. “But what about the team?”
Fornell rolled his eyes. “Son, I hate to be blunt, but what team? That is not a reflection on your abilities but you cannot keep going on the way you are when you are being blocked at every turn. A real team has your back, you may have forgotten that but I will show you how it is supposed to be Tony.”
“You have a daughter Toby, you don’t need to look after me.”
Fornell shook his head. “I choose who to care about, so you let me worry about it ... besides Emily is going to take one look at you and want to adopt you.”
Tony doubted it because in his experience, children tended to hate him. “If you say so.”
“Just you watch.”
Tobias hated when good people were treated like crap. He wasn’t naive as that happened every day but if he could step in and help - he would. He dragged Tony to his taxi and took him back home. In a twist of fate, Emily was actually at home but had gone over to a friend’s house. When she got back home an hour later she studied the man sleeping on the couch for a minute then dragged her father into the kitchen. “Daddy, who it that?”
“That is Tony. He is a Special Agent I am friends with Em’.”
She sighed. “Why does he look sad?”
You had to hand it to kids they always had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. They had also yet to develop that filter that stopped people from asking those type of awkward questions. “His friends have not been kind and he needs your help Em’. You’ll help me remind him that people care.”
She nodded excited by the prospect of helping her Daddy and she hated to see how sad the pretty guy looked. “Will he be like a big brother?”
Toby wouldn’t say no to the idea. “You’ll have to ask him Em’ but I have never known anyone immune to your pout.”
She yawned. “I’m tired so I am going to bed.”
Toby kissed the top of her head. “Goodnight kiddo.”
He waited until his house was quiet before he made the necessary call to someone - it was better there were no witnesses because the mollycoddling treatment of Gibbs was over. The man had had long enough for his Mexican siesta - it was time to remember his responsibilities.
Fornell waited until the phone had connected. “It is time to come back and fix the mess your ex-redhead is causing.”
Gibbs growled. “I’m retired. DiNozzo can handle her.”
Fornell snorted. “You had a bash to the head, Jethro. You never told me you lost your guts.”
“How dare you!” Gibbs shouted down the phone but was more telling was that he didn’t put the phone down.
Still, if Gibbs though that was bad - Fornell was just warming up. “I dare because DiNozzo is your son in all but blood, and the boy has been run ragged by his supposed family as they can’t handle the fact you ran away and left them all on their own. He is practically the MCRT on his own for all the effort the other two are putting in and every citation DiNozzo or any of the other team leads attempt to write up for McGee and David are blocked by your ex-bitch.”
“Why is she trying to isolate DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked as that behaviour could only be explained in such a way.
“Oh, this is the best part. She asked him to be a part of an unsanctioned operation to go undercover and seduce the Frog’s daughter.”
Gibbs memory was shaky at best right now but the conversation had allowed some things to shake free even though they were all jumbled up. He thought he hated DiNozzo as he seemed to remember every head-slap he’d given the agent. This was a completely different conversation, he knew Fornell and the man had never lied to him and a few things were becoming clearer. As they were speaking and Fornell said that DiNozzo was all but his son - he flashed to a hospital scene. DiNozzo, no Tony, had been dying from the plague. It had terrified him, just the thought Tony might die. That was not the feelings you had for someone you hate.
As the conversation continued and Fornell mentioned the operation Jenny was trying to launch, he recoiled. “DiNozzo is gay. She is not that much of a bitch.”
Fornell snorted. “Oh, but she is, after all, Grenouille is the one who she blames for her father’s death.”
Gibbs did remember how rabid Jenny was about her Dad’s death and subsequent label as a traitor. In that context, yes he could believe she would order a relationship and operation. “She is abusing her position?”
“Almost certainly, Gibbs I just all but ordered Tony’s doctor to put him on a week’s leave. The kid has been working hundred-plus hour weeks just to keep the MCRT afloat and as the lead team.”
Gibbs snorted. “He would, not wanting to let go of the title. Is he getting no support from any of them? Not even Ducky?”
Fornell wanted to punch the man, he was stubborn but not usually obtuse. “Gibbs, they are taking their anger out on him for you leaving. He acts like a hardass, they say he is not you. If he leads his own way then they tell him, that is not how Gibbs would do it. It’s a wonder that the only thing he is suffering from is exhaustion.”
“Where is he now?”
Fornell rolled his eyes, it was a little too late for Gibbs to play the protective role. “He is asleep on my couch and Em’ is looking to adopt him.”
Gibbs sighed realising just how much could go wrong in such a short space. “You’ll look after him?”
Fornell growled. “Of course I will but it should be you!”
Gibbs growled right back. “I’m on my way but watch his six until I can.”
Fornell was not finished with his phone calls, he had one more to make, to Charlie, his boss. “Hey Charlie, so I need to make something happen and I think you will like it.”
The FBI director could hear the restrained glee in his Deputy’s voice. “What is it?”
“I need to force the issue of DiNozzo being a liaison for the FBI. You’ll love this because right now he will agree.”
He knew that would have Charlie’s attention because it hadn’t been the first time the FBI had made overtures to DiNozzo. “Why? What is going on?”
Fornell snorted. “It seems there is something rotten at the heart of NCIS, I will be investigating it but DiNozzo may end up as collateral.”
Charlie could hear the protectiveness in his old friend’s voice that was his papa bear voice. “I’ll make the phone call, in fact, he could help with the threat against Aaron Hotchner.”
Fornell would be delighted to introduce Tony to the BAU as it would be a good fit for his skills. “I will take him there myself and let Hotchner know he doesn’t have a choice.”
Oh, Fornell was about to cause a ruckus - he was going to have as much fun as possible for all the bullshit and politics he was going to have to wade through. There had to be some advantage to the situation. Oh, and that and having to watch Gibbs squirm his way back into DiNozzo’s good books. He was going to make sure DiNozzo doesn’t let the guy off too easily.
Chapter Two: Gibbs is back in town.
Tony woke up in the morning to see a curious red-head staring at him. “You must be Emily.”
She nodded her head. “And you’re Tony.”
He sat up, shaking off his covers. “Yes I am, Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo at your service. How can I help you on this fine morning, My Lady?” with a small bow.
She giggled. “Well, I am hungry and Daddy can’t cook.” She whispered the last part like it was a big secret.
Tony chuckled at the grave face. “Well, that is terrible, we can’t have that. Let’s go and see what we can cook up.”
She tugged his hand and all but dragged him into the kitchen obviously keen on the idea of a well-cooked meal. Tony just enjoyed the normal domestic nature of it, he wanted to thank Fornell for his help and this was an easy way to start. He looked in the food cupboards that the little redhead pointed at. “Well, it looks like we have the stuff to make pancakes and bacon.”
“Yay! Can I help?”
Tony loved her enthusiasm and was more than happy to teach her his special recipe. Tony knew that Emily was about ten years old so could take part in making the pancakes as long as he kept an eye on her around the stove. “Sure thing, Miss Emily.”
She shook her head. “I am Em’ to my family.”
Emily nearly squealed at the big grin that earned her. Agent Tony no longer looked sad, it was sad though, that she had to say that to get a grin. Any and all thoughts disappeared whilst she listened raptly to how much concentration was needed to make the right fluffy pancake. She couldn't wait to tell her mom, she would be so jealous as she was always harping on about her Dad not cooking her food.
Emily grinned still pleased. “Daddy, Tony is definitely going to be an awesome big brother. He can teach me to cook.”
Tony ducked his head, trying to hide how pleased he was by Em’s reaction to him. Fornell wouldn’t let him hide though. “Good. He can also help me keep all the boys away from my little girl, she may be ten but I need to be prepared.”
“Boys are icky so you don’t need help.” She said solemnly.
Tony and Toby shared a grin because as much as it might pain Tobias, it would soon change. Tony looked to Tobias and got a nod. In part, Toby was curious as to what Tony would say. The younger man leant down. “Oh Em’, that won’t be how you always think. We just want to make sure that whoever you like treats you right .”
There was a pout on her face but it soon went when she tasted the pancakes. “Daddy you have to try these. Never mind that horrible drink you drink, this is how you should wake up.”
Fornell smirked because he dearly wished he could see Dianne’s face when Emily told her this.
“Yeah, well adults need an extra kick in the morning hence coffee kiddo.”
“It tastes like tar.” She was firm and resolute on this point, she’d asked to try it wondering why her mom and dad made a big fuss about it. She had definitely not liked the taste no matter what benefits it might provide.
Fornell finished his delicious breakfast before handing Tony a piece of paper. “Oh, and this has been faxed to Ducky and Shepard to say you are having a week off effective immediately.”
Tony looked a little lost at the thought of a week off although he knew it was the way it worked. You can work off adrenaline for only so long but after that, the crash was always a bitch. “No work?”
Fornell smiled. “No work, Tony. Relax and rest because you are no good to anyone if you keel over with exhaustion.”
Tony estimated then he would have a day before the others would start to freak out and demand answers as his team was off rotation for the day.
“Do you have work today?” Tony asked Tobias.
Toby nodded, Emily was an unexpected pleasure as Dianne had work outside the city. “Yeah I do, turns out the deputy directorship comes with even more paperwork. Plus, I want to get the ball rolling on your liaison paperwork.”
Tony could see Em’s face fall at the idea of a day at the office. “Do you like sports, Em’?”
She nodded and explained. “I wanna make the girls soccer team but I need to practice ... it is frustrating as my friends think it is a boys game.”
Tony grinned back. “Well if your Dad is agreeable, whilst he deals with his paperwork I can take you to the park for some soccer practice and then we’ll find the zoo or something else you might want to do.”
Tony wanted to repay Tobias for his help last night and even if it went pear-shaped, Tony now knew that someone knew the whole story and where he stored his backup files. If the bitch was going to ice him to keep her secrets then he would bring her world down around her knees.
Toby chuckled at the twin pouts being directed his way. “It seems that Tony wants to dive into his big brother duties but Em’ - remember he needs to rest as well so if he looks tired, make him take a nap ... or something.”
Tony hi-fived Emily. “We got this.”
Fornell grinned. “I have no doubt you have, and I am going to start a modern day witch hunt. We all have our hobbies.”
Tony, knowing that a certain Madam Director was the source of the witch-hunt, decided it was more than okay with him.
Gibbs had ended his phone call to Fornell and looked in the mirror. For the first time in a month he didn’t hide from what he saw. He shaved the mustache off because it looked ridiculous. He phoned the airport and arranged the first flight out of the capital. It may take him an hour to get there but it was the shortest flight time home.
He stepped on the plane and thought back to his conversation with Tobias. They’d been friends for a long time, to the point where Gibbs had warned Fornell not to marry his ex-wife. It turns out, that he was right but their friendship seemed to grow by sharing an ex-wife. The man was gruff and took no prisoners and always fought for justice. Until yesterday evening, Gibbs had never seen that anger directed at him. Tobias was protective of his SFA, Tony, and there was a part of his brain that protested it was his job - only he had fallen down on the job hadn’t he?
He wouldn’t apologise but he would make it right. That was his way. Would it be enough?
When he landed back in Washington, he tried Tony’s phone and it was off. He bit back his annoyance at his SFA being unreachable - after all, Tony wasn’t officially required to be available while on sick leave.
Gibbs didn’t ask for help off anyone at NCIS, if even half of the things Fornell hinted at were true then he wanted to keep a low-profile until necessary. If Tony was anywhere, it would probably be Fornell’s place so he headed off for a taxi in that direction.
Tobias had a nice enough house, especially considering the amount of time he stayed at work. Still, Gibbs got it, the home was for Emily when she stayed, not Tobias. He knocked on the door which was opened by a giggling little red-head. “Hey, Uncle Gibbs, we’re cooking
Gibbs did snicker at that because he was well aware of his friend’s talents as an Agent but culinary skill eluded him. “Who is cooking?” He guessed he already knew the answer.
“Oh, Tony is, he says it is his duty as my big brother to teach me how to make pasta the right way.” She solemnly announced like it was a serious issue. Then again, Gibbs did know that for Tony, pasta was a serious business. Emily had decided she was done with the conversation and ran back to the kitchen letting her father talk to Uncle Gibbs. After all, it was more fun in the kitchen with Tony and the music.
“Well, well, look what the cat dragged back from Mexico.” Was all Tobias said by way of a greeting.
“Leave off, Tobias. I’m here, aren’t I?” Gibbs growled.
Fornell just smirked at him. “If you want people who will kiss your ass then NCIS is where you should go.”
Gibbs grunted. “No thanks, so while our kids are distracted let’s talk.”
Fornell snorted at that. “Oh, I am going to tell Tony that one.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well I need to make things right before I can even hope to have that conversation. I forgot in my grief that I had people who cared.”
Tobias nodded, satisfied that Gibbs had at the very least pulled his head out of his ass. “Good, now as long as you understand that if you hurt DiNozzo again I will let Dianne at you with a golf club for hurting Em’s big brother.”
Gibbs asked out of curiosity. “When did that happen?” His fractured memories gave him an impression that Tony was terrified of children.
“When I dragged him home after our drink.” Fornell responded, letting him realise just how quickly the two had taken to each other. He had hoped Emily would be there as a way to bring him out of his funk, not ever expecting the last two days.
Gibbs just stroked the back of his head. “I’ll bear that in mind.”
After that the evening took two paths. The first part was the dinner all the adults had with Emily, where the conversation was kept light. Gibbs got to hear about all the mad skills Tony has with a soccer ball and how much fun they had at the zoo. Tony was cool there too because he knew the answer to all the questions Em had about the lions and tigers as those were her favourite animals.
Once Emily had settled down to sleep, Tony, Tobias, and Gibbs settled back down at the dinner table to have a serious conversation, sure in the fact that no one would be able to overhear them.
Gibbs started it off. “So what is going on? Start from the top...”
Tony looked at him. “Are you sure boss, because I’ve bottled up a lot in the last few weeks.”
Gibbs quirked an eyebrow. “I can take it DiNozzo. Tell me everything.”
So Tony did, he told him how the team had taken the ringing endorsement. Tony mentioned his fury at the way Tim and Ziva were being insubordinate twats. He had no problem with them pushing the boundaries as he expected it - what was pissing Tony off, aw well as the other team leads, was the fact he was being stopped from disciplining them by Director Shepard. Tony told both of them about Deep Six and how that had been okayed.
“McGee has written a book about us?”
Tony nodded. “Yes, and the Director has said it is fine. In fact, I think she wanted McGee to publish it and do the book tour to drum up publicity for NCIS.”
Gibbs was stunned. “I’m guessing from your anger ... real cases were used?”
Tony nodded. “Not only that boss but the characters are us, well, how McGee views us. I come off looking like an idiot clown and Jimmy’s a necrophiliac just for starters. Oh, don’t worry. I’m having the book tied up in litigation hell from two different directions. The first is JAG now has a copy and they are reviewing it against the files and one of my frat brothers is married to a stunning lawyer - so she is taking the case free of charge.”
Gibbs smirked. “Now that is what I expected. So tell me about Jenny and what she is up to.”
Tony explained everything and then handed over a copy of a black book. Gibbs knew the idea originated in the Mafia but it made damn good sense for him to do it. “This is every meeting, request? Etc?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah it is. It was one useful tip I learnt while under in the Mancuso's - files are power.”
Gibbs couldn’t disagree, Jenny was so far off the deep end that it wasn’t funny. The trouble was - her being a director of a federal agency meant she had considerable means to cause trouble should she wish to. “Do you have a plan, Tobias, to keep Tony safe while I deal with Jenny?”
Tobias nodded but he was honest especially with DiNozzo’s luck. “Recent chatter picked up suggestions that Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, one of the Unit Chief’s within the BAU is about to be targeted by the Reaper. There is nothing concrete but he and Foyet have had previous dealings.”
Tony shrugged. “They are the profiling team, right?”
“That’s the ones.”
Tony smiled. “Cool, I get to use my Ph.D. studies and Gibbs gets to sort out the shrine that people have left out for him since he was gone.”
“Are you shitting me?” Gibbs demanded in horror.
Toby and Tony were laughing at the look on his face and the tone in his voice. Tobias couldn’t resist teasing some more. “Oh, I assure you, Abigail’s shrine is so very tasteful, or so I have heard.”
“I hate you both.” Gibb’s groused.
All he got in return were twin snickers so no sympathy there.
Jenny Shepard got into work to a lecture from Ducky both for her own health and for letting young Anthony get into such a state that he had to take a week off from work.
“Well, you are his primary physician, shouldn’t you have seen the signs?” She asked tartly.
Ducky looked saddened but he was an old man and long since stopped trying to hide his follies. “Yes well, I will be apologising to him in due course. I am not infallible Madam Director.”
Jenny inwardly winced because it was a stupid move to take out her frustrations on him. “I’m sorry Doctor, that was uncalled for. I just wish DiNozzo had said something to either of us.”
Jethro had seen this trick one too many times. It wasn’t quite earnest enough to be believed but it was a perfect time to announce himself back. “Jenny, I leave you my agents for one month and you break the best one of them?”
“Jethro, what are you doing here? I thought you had retired.” She said, looking as pleased as punch that he was in her office.
Gibbs sighed. “I tried it Jen’, I did, but I am bored and I need to take the scum off the street now more than ever.”
Jenny got a phone call that she had to take, you don’t ignore the Director of the FBI. Stepping away from the two men she answered “Shepard.”
“Good morning, Jenny. How are you today?”
Jenny was happier than she had been only five minutes before. “Better as an old agent is back in town.”
Charlie chuckled. “You mean to say Gibbs wasn’t quite as ready for retirement, just like you predicted.”
Jenny smirked right at Jethro. “What can I say? I know my agents.”
Charlie got right to the point as he wasn’t going to listen to the woman prattle on, or inflate her ego any further. “Well, it is fortuitous timing as I have a delicate situation and have presidential permission for this.”
Charlie chose not to waste time and said it. “DiNozzo, and I am afraid it is classified. On the books it will look like a liaison but it is a matter of national security and I need a man of DiNozzo’s skills.”
Jenny wanted to scream in frustration, she had spent the last few weeks working on DiNozzo to have it come to nothing. Then again, she could tell even with all the pressure he was facing it was still a hard sell. If he was out of the way, she could manipulate one of the others. “I see, well, with Jethro coming back it would be fortuitous.”
Charlie rolled his eyes over the phone not that she would be able to see it. “Thank you for your cooperation, Jenny. I will phone Tony directly but wanted you to stay in the loop.”
Jenny ended the phone call. Her first thought she had said out loud. “Just how the hell is DiNozzo on speaking terms with the FBI director?”
Gibbs snorted. “If you read his real file you would know that.”
She flushed. “Of course I have.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow letting her know that he didn’t believe her. “He knows Morrow, Charlie, the ATF Director, and both SecNav and SecDef.”
Jenny really wanted to pale because that was a lot of friends. He wouldn’t be wise to her plan. He’d been on the brink of collapse according to Dr. Pitt who had signed the medical note. She could rest easy, her plan had a setback, nothing more.
Chapter 3: Tony meets the BAU
Author Note: For the sake of this fic, at this time Hotchner is the Unit Chief not Morgan.
Chapter 3: Agent DiNozzo goes to the BAU
It was a week later and Tobias Fornell was walking through the BAU. He wasn’t out of place being the Deputy Director of the FBI - It was the other two agents with him that got Derek Morgan curious. One was older, ex-military from the way he still carried himself and the other agent appeared mercurial and he liked it that way Derek could guess. The second agent was gorgeous and he knew it. The agent wore suits to accentuate the fact but there was more there than what was on the surface, his eyes spoke of intelligence. Derek was itching to do a profile on the guy, or just to peel back a few layers of the surface.
“What can the BAU do for Washington today?” Derek asked, sweet as can be.
Fornell rolled his eyes, not rising to the bait of assuaging the curiosity of the agent. “Is Agent Hotchner in his office?”
Derek wisely said nothing sarcastic, just a simple. “Yes, Sir.”
Derek figured he would find out soon enough anyway.
Fornell was too old to let other people’s opinions bother him so he simply strode into the Unit Chief’s office stating. “You will accept the help I’ve brought you.”
Hotchner looked up from his papers. The BAU had a lot of cases so he hoped to deflect by asking. “Sorry, Sir. What help and on what case?”
Fornell smirked knowing that Hotchner got even more formal when he was pissed with the situation. Still, two could play at that game. “Chatter suggests that the Reaper is gearing up to come after you, and I won’t tolerate it which is where Agent DiNozzo comes in.”
Hotchner could hear an order there so didn’t bother to argue because he may be the leader of the BAU but he still had bosses. “Okay, so what is the cover story for Agent DiNozzo?” He didn’t have to ask who was DiNozzo, Gibbs was infamous because of the videos Penelope would send their group about his press conferences.
Tony smiled at the disgruntled chief. He was well aware how much agents disliked being protected themselves. He aimed for charming and hoped to make Hotchner see that it would be helping him to play bodyguard. “I am your new liaison Agent and you would be doing me a favour Agent Hotchner.”
“I see.” Aaron said, bemused because he didn’t get how this would be a favour.
He watched DiNozzo check out his environment and it was not what he would expect because those actions were that of a soldier, not a Navy Cop. It wasn’t hard to guess who had trained him to think that way with Leroy Jethro Gibbs standing by him. “How would guarding me from a serial killer be a favour?”
DiNozzo smiled at him and damn, Aaron could almost hear the women of the unit sigh wistfully already. “Well Sir, I’m presuming you won’t try to force a gay agent to seduce an innocent arm dealer’s daughter would you?”
Aaron was taken aback by the blunt response and if what he said was true, it was deplorable. “No, I would definitely not.”
Tony let his relief show. “Good to know. I won’t be a handicap, I’m ready to defend my criminal profiling dissertation for my P.h.D.”
Aaron found the phrasing interesting as it said a lot about the Agent. He also noticed Gibbs wince, ah, so he was at fault there, or at least knows of the problem and feels guilt.
Gibbs spoke up gruffly. “You were never the idiot, DiNozzo. You played a role and I forgot because of the explosion. I can’t change the past but I can fix this. Sometimes you are too damn good at undercover so that even the professionals forgot who you really were.”
Tony nodded at his boss. “I know boss and I won’t let you down.”
Gibbs sighed. “You never did Tony, watch his six.”
Tony smirked. “Serial killers don’t freak me out Gibbs, you know that.”
Fornell shook his head knowing exactly what he was talking about. He would let Hotchner find out about DiNozzo luck all on his lonesome . “Try and not get handcuffed to Foyet, just think of the rant that Em’ will give you.”
DiNozzo ducked his head. “Don’t worry, I won’t worry Em’, besides who will teach her soccer?”
The men shook hands and then Aaron was left alone with his gorgeous shadow.
Aaron chose to get down to business straight away.
“So what are your skills? I figure you will get bored just sitting around as my shadow especially when we are in the office.”
DiNozzo grinned cheekily. “I have had way worse assignments and I don’t mind being put to work, investigations are my forte... I make the clues that don’t fit come together. Or, if you need an undercover agent I am the go to guy on this coast. ”
Aaron smirked knowing DiNozzo was going to drive the team up the wall. “Well, let’s introduce you to the team.”
Hotchner watched his team file into the briefing room. He noticed Tony stand by the window looking at threats even inside the FBI. “We have two things to cover today. First I will introduce our guest and then JJ will be giving us the usual background briefing on our latest case. From what I understand we will be wheels up within the hour.”
Once he had silence Hotchner finally introduced the team. “Everyone this is Special Agent, Anthony DiNozzo. NCIS”
Tony stepped forward. “Thank you and this a liaison role so that I can evaluate how useful such a structure would be within my own agency. Personally, I think NCIS just want to make me use my soon-to-be doctorate but what can you do.”
Rossi stepped forward and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, I am Senior Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi. What is it your studying?”
DiNozzo grinned at him. “Criminal profiling, so I won’t be a hindrance and as I told Agent Hotchner, feel free to put me to work. I’d also like to thank you, Agent Rossi, as your books helped me through some of the trickier parts of my dissertation.”
“Happy to help.” Rossi didn’t get much of a chance to say anything else as Penelope bustled her way to the front to say hello.
Shook his hand next. “Penelope Garcia, BAU technical analyst. Wow. Tall, handsome and smart. We are so very lucky that you have decided to brighten up the bullpen.”
“Babygirl!” Morgan pouted which was interesting, DiNozzo would try and help them if he could. It was ironic that Morgan was concerned about him and Penelope when Derek was more his type.
Derek did introduce himself not wanting to look like an ass. “Derek Morgan. Supervisory Special Agent.” Morgan knew what the water-cooler gossip was about DiNozzo but this was not adding up with what he had just seen. He hated it when he couldn’t fit the pieces of a puzzle together. Plus, it hadn’t shaken his notice about who DiNozzo had walked into the office with. Few people could claim that Fornell liked them.
“Well, it will be nice to have a fellow football fan around, the others just do not get the game.”
DiNozzo grinned. “We played a mean game back in the day. Funny how lives can go, huh?”
Morgan took that for the subtle reminder that not everyone was as they were judged. He certainly understood what it was like to have to rebuild your whole life plan from the ground up once football as a career was over. “Yeah, it is. You have yet to be introduced to Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss.”
She shook his hand and with a wry grin added. “You are not what I would expect of a Navy Cop.”
Tony smirked. “You should see what I can look like when I go undercover.”
JJ snorted. “Don’t say things like that to Garcia as she will make it a challenge. I am Jennifer Jareau but I prefer JJ. I work as the Media liaison.”
Tony snorted. “Now Gibbs could do with his own PR team.”
JJ smiled in return. “I’ll confess that we enjoy his press conferences even if I wince in horror.”
Tony chuckled out loud at that. “And our final member is?”
Spencer looked up from his book. “Dr. Spencer Reid.”
Tony looked delighted. “Excellent, I was fascinated by your article on chemical analysis and effects on psychosis.”
The team was surprised by the grin on the new Agent’s face or the warmer smile on Reid’s face. It wasn’t personal with Reid, he just didn’t warm up to you until he knew you better. It might have helped that there was no judgement about age or looks, instead DiNozzo just focussed on his doctorates.
“Oh, thank you. What did you do your dissertation on?”
Tony smiled. “It was looking at the uses of criminal profiling for undercover agents and the similarities to profilers.”
Hotchner was impressed with DiNozzo, he’d come in, introduced himself and been friendly enough to be intriguing but as a result, no one was really questioning why he was there. He was reminded about DiNozzo’s specialities - he just hoped DiNozzo would feel comfortable enough to be whoever he wanted to be here, rather than playing a role. “Well, now we are all introduced, JJ why not bring us up to speed.”
JJ dived into the details. “Three bodies in total have been found by early morning commuters on off-ramps on the Los Angeles Freeway.”
Morgan chipped in. “So the unsub wanted them found and quickly, why has this been booted to us?”
JJ clicked on her clicker to shift the slideshow and pointed at the victim’s neck. “This.”
“Are those what I think they are?” Prentiss demanded to know.
Tony asked. “Were they hypovolemic?”
JJ nodded. “All three victims were suffering from severe hypovolemia and all three bite marks had human saliva over them.”
Prentiss shuddered. “Can I just say I hate the creepy cases?”
Hotchner’s lip twitched, Tony was sure of it. “Noted. And everyone wheels up in one hour for Los Angeles.”
Gibbs braced himself for his first day back on the job and the mess he would have to clear up. It would be lucky if he got through the day without shooting anyone. The only plus side, Fornell had promised he could come around his and bitch to him after work. Gibbs wasn’t fooled, his friend just wanted to revel in it.
The bullpen was still orange, he walked in on time for the official start of work. “McGee where is David?”
McGee fell out of his chair. “Er Boss, you’re back. I don’t know where Tony is.”
Gibbs wanted to snort because that was such a pathetic evasion technique as to be unfunny. “Did I ask where DiNozzo was? I know where he is ... I asked for Ziva because I would love to know why she is late.”
McGee frowned. “You know where Tony is? No one is telling me anything.”
Gibbs just looked at his agent. “He is on assignment with the FBI and it is need to fucking know, and you don’t need to know. You endanger him by digging and there won’t be a place on this Earth where I won’t find you. Clear?”
McGee gulped. “Yes Boss, I will find Ziva for you, shall I?”
Gibbs smiled but it was all teeth. “Do so, and now you are going to be my SFA properly or you’re off the team and not even the director will save you.”
McGee stuttered like it was the old days. “I don’t know what Tony has been telling you.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “The truth McGee, the goddamn truth and I won’t worry about citations or black marks on your file that Shepard won’t file. I will kick your ass, you see I am not nearly as civilised as DiNozzo. Oh, and I want an advanced copy of Deep Six.”
McGee paled at that request. “What? Why? Who told you?”
Gibbs quirked an eyebrow. “You really don’t know? Let’s just say I want to know whether I should know if I will also be suing you.”
“It is not based on anyone. I promise you.”
The sad thing was that McGee actually believed it. “Yeah, well I want to read the adventures of L.J Tibbs for myself. JAG was asking my opinion about the books yesterday evening.”
McGee was not liking where this was going. “Why would JAG care?”
Gibbs shrugged. “You can figure that out on your own McGee, now find Ziva.”
When Tony landed there was a file sent to him from Garcia with a note. Gift by special request of DD Fornell.
Tony opened it and smirked seeing Gibbs and McGee on it. Now was not the time but when they got to the hotel. He would enjoy watching it with sound. He wanted to watch Gibbs toy with McGee, he just knew it would be epic.
Chapter 4: Lost in Performance - Pt 1
Chapter 4: Lost in the Performance - Part One.
In all the darkest pages of the maligned supernatural there is no more terrible a tradition than that of the vampire, a pariah even amongst the supernatural - Montague Summers
Tony watched the team on the plane and even there they knew their roles. JJ was on the phone talking to the team on the ground with the police in LA. It was nice to see how a team could work with LEO’s rather than Gibb’s usual MO of bulldozing through anyone in his way.
She smiled obviously pleased by what she had heard. “There is a task force already set up and ready to help. The lead is Detective Kim, some of you might remember him from that stalking case nearly four years ago.”
Rossi nodded already expecting it, Tony guessed. “This won’t be their first rodeo. So what do we know about the victims themselves?”
Morgan spoke first. “All the victims are young women, drained of blood and the use of fang marks makes it at least symbolic. In the unsub’s mind at least, they are a vampire.”
Prentiss then added her interpretation. “The victims are strangled before they are drained which means the unsub would have surprise on their side and don’t necessarily trust their own strength in a fair fight. Plus, there is the odd message on the last victim ‘The liar’ ”
Hotchner asked a question to the group. “Why the dumpsite by the highway?”
Tony pitched in. “There was no sexual assault and the way the unsub disposed of the bodies after he or she finished with them indicates it isn’t an issue of remorse. If the goal was their blood then the body is irrelevant in the killer’s mind. It just needs to be gone, so a car and a quick shove would get rid of the body. Out of sight out of mind.”
Reid nodded in agreement. “It would be a logical assumption, also if exsanguination is the goal they are getting more proficient in their task. The first bodies had over three pints of blood left but the latest victim had only one pint of blood.”
Rossi sighed. “Perfect, so they are becoming a better vampire. At least in their own mind?”
“Okay, so how do vampire orientated killers go?” Tony asked needing more information. “I’ve worked vice and homicide before I went to NCIS but I never came across a case like this.”
Reid perked up, “Human blood consumption or human vampirism is known as Renfield Syndrome. Named after the insect-eating character from Stoker’s novel. We should be careful to separate them from the popular culture of ‘goths’ as they go way beyond it now.”
Tony watched as the team started to throw around early theories. The first one being what many would perceive as the logical link between vampirism and sadism. Reid was the one to yet again answer Prentiss’ question.
“Not ordinarily. For Renfields, the priority is the blood. This degree of the syndrome would probably be accompanied by schizophrenia and classic cannibalism.”
Rossi chuckled with what Tony recognised as the dark humour you needed if you were to survive in this job for as long as he had. “Classic cannibalism. I don’t even want to know what gets defined as aberrant cannibalism.”
If Tony had been back at NCIS he may have made an inappropriate remark. For now, he was content to pour over the files. He kept looking at the victim’s clothes and it struck a chord with him. “Have there been any performers in town that would match the deaths of our victims?”
The team looked at him so in for a penny in for a pound, he explained. “Look, I know all about how they may dress but look at the details. The make-up, the shoes, the hair - it suggests some kind of party or concert. Now, if they fit with the loner types Dr. Reid mentioned before I was thinking a gathering of some sort, maybe a show or concert of some kind.”
It was a good idea and Hotchner was glad for Tony’s outside point of view. He saw the admiring looks from the other members of the team. “Let’s find out. Get Garcia on the phone.”
“Speak to me, my lovelies.” The bubbly voice of the tech analyst came through the speakerphone connected to the table.
Morgan smiled. “Baby girl, have there been any performers in town recently? Dates corresponding in particular to the murders.”
All could hear the rapid-fire clacking of fingers on a keyboard as Garcia worked her magic. “One, Dante. He is a …. oh …. a vampire. He’s in town performing a week of concerts and ... even better, he has a new album out and would anyone like to take a guess at what the title is?”
“The liar?” Prentiss responded, having figured out now what was bugging her about the text.
Hotch knew they had their link and it would make their case easier to profile and potential victimology easier too. “Well, at least we will have something to tell Detective Kim when we meet on the ground.”
Reid spoke up. “We should bear in mind that this level of Renfield Syndrome almost always shows a degree of coveting. They will have a level of paranoia that means they will have almost certainly met their obsession.”
Tony grinned. “So who gets to meet Dante?”
Hotchner snorted. “Garcia will get us an address and as soon as we have met the task force we’ll split up. Morgan and Prentiss will go to the last dump site. Rossi, I will want you to go to see the medical examiner. Reid, JJ, I want you to dive into the victims’ backgrounds, see if we can find the unsub’s way into their lives. I would suggest starting with music as it seems like a strange coincidence.”
“And where will I be going?”
Hotch smirked. “I am going to use your style to go and visit Mr. Dante himself.”
“Style?” JJ asked. She could tell from Hotch’s voice that he wasn’t referring to DiNozzo’s sartorial elegance, although it was pretty great too. The man did know how to wear a suit.
Rossi chose to answer as he looked between Hotch and DiNozzo, there was more to their connection than either was saying. “Style. It’s a phrase used when picking undercover agents, you have to be able to blend into any environment and be believable. It requires a consummate actor who is in effect a true chameleon. Agents like DiNozzo are in high demand.”
DiNozzo nodded his head and explained. “It’s not all fun and games. In fact, at times you end up handcuffed to a serial killer for the last twenty-four hours of their life. Or, you have mob bosses calling you son and demanding you marry their daughter.”
Rossi snorted. “I thought you were that DiNozzo. Nice work on the Mancuso case. What did you say to his demand?”
Tony smirked. “I said that I would totally marry Vicenzo but Maria just wasn’t my type.”
The team stared at him in disbelief. “Don’t worry, I’d finally managed to steal the consigliere's black book. The whole upper echelon of the clan was arrested the next day. The best part was I was asked to visit him in jail, the FBI forced the issue.”
“What did the Don say?” They were all fascinated and Tony didn’t mind helping distract them from the creepier aspects of the latest case.
“Oh, he said, Vincenzo was married but if I liked the look of Roberto we could make a deal. Roberto was his heir and he would need a strong partner.”
Rossi grinned at DiNozzo. “Oh, you and I are going to share some stories.”
“Looking forward to it.” DiNozzo replied, with a pleased smile. DiNozzo’s attention switched back to Hotchner. “So who do you want me to be?”
Hotchner shrugged. “I’ll let you play it by ear, I trust your instincts.”
Back at NCIS, Gibbs was of the opinion that there wasn’t enough coffee in the world that could help him deal with this level of bullshit. McGee had gone running straight to Jenny whining about the book. He also knew he needed to deal with Abby but first he went to see Ducky.
The Medical Examiner looked up from his paperwork. “So you are back to stay then?”
“It was impressed upon me that I was letting someone down.” Gibbs replied.
Ducky just grinned, the timing was just too fortuitous. “And would that be, young Anthony?”
Gibbs nodded. “Yeah Duck, it was. Fornell blasted me and I deserved it. Have you read the book?”
Ducky nodded, pursing his lips. He hadn’t said anything about the book mainly because he was only made out to be old. He was furious on behalf of young Anthony and Mr. Palmer. “I was intending to sue until Anthony informed me had the issue in hand.”
Gibbs had to smile. “Oh, he gave a copy to JAG with an explanation of his concerns and also, his friend’s wife, Michelle Adelson has volunteered to try the case for Tony, and anyone else he cares to name on the suit.”
Duck chuckled. “Of course, he knows the most feared female lawyer in Washington. I shouldn’t have doubted it. Have you seen him?”
Gibbs nodded and he had permission from Tony to share with Ducky and Jimmy where he sort of was. “He’s working as a liaison with the FBI’s BAU. Fornell took him under his wing and is not letting go anytime soon and he threatened me with Dianne’s golf club. Little Emily has adopted him as a big brother too.”
Ducky snorted. “Oh, I have no doubt that Tony will charm Dianne enough that she would gladly hit you again.” Ducky’s phone rang and the medical examiner listened. “It would seem the Director would like to talk to you about being unreasonable.”
Gibbs smirked. “Not unreasonable. We need to talk away from here. It’s important.”
Ducky might have refused him but that tone was one he only heard when Gibbs’ was in serious mode. “Of course, we have much to catch up on.”
Gibbs stormed back up the stairs. “McGee, where is Ziva?”
“She is on her way boss. Her alarm broke.” McGee explained. “Er, the Director wants you, Boss.”
Gibbs stared at the agent. “If you think the Director can stop me from suing you, you are sadly mistaken. Tell Ziva she has ten minutes to get her butt here, or she can find another team. I do not, nor have I ever tolerated tardiness.”
“Tony has been late on more than one occasion.” McGee tried to defend his teammate.
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “And yet DiNozzo’s times show he has spent more time here than both you and Ziva combined in the last month. So are you really going to compare yourself to DiNozzo? If so, you are going to lose badly and look even more inept. Think carefully, you have until I come out of Jenny’s office. If you’re lucky Ziva will get here in time for you to attempt to get your stories in order.”
Balboa had heard it all and shook Gibbs’ hand as he walked past his desk. “Nice to see you back. Please tell me DiNozzo is on a beach?”
Gibbs shook his head. “Nope, an assignment with the BAU.”
“Ah well, at least he is away from the toxic trio. I can’t wait to see you knock them all down a few pegs. This morning has already been immensely satisfying to watch. It’s just a shame that DiNozzo wasn’t able to see it.” Balboa finished with. “Let me know if you need any help.”
Tony had more friends than he knew.
The Cop station tended to be the same no matter what state you were in. As they got to the floor housing Homicide the man in charge on the ground introduced himself. “Lieutenant Daniel Kim. I see some familiar faces.”
Hotchner stepped forward. “Yes, and these are Agents Prentiss, Rossi and DiNozzo.”
“I have a place set up for you with everything you need - case files, bad coffee and glass boards to theorise.”
Hotchner smiled. “That is brilliant, my team have their assignments. I will need to speak with the singer, Dante. He is the one thing that links all our victims.”
Kim sighed. “Understandable but it will be tricky, the celebrities around shroud themselves in privacy laws and they’re more zealous about it than a dragon with treasure.”
Aaron flipped a piece of paper open.
22423 Greenvale Circle,
Holmby Hills, CA 90210
Aaron added, “We have the coordinates but would welcome a person showing us the way.”
They were soon rolling through the LA streets and T ony looked at the community they were rolling through, 90210 really was in a class of its own. “Wow, I think picked the wrong career all those years ago.”
Kim snorted at that. “You would be bored me thinks, Agent DiNozzo.”
Tony, who still had his sunglasses on, swiveled in his chair to look at the Police Lieutenant. “You are probably right, but I could have wallowed in way more luxury.”
The house was as luxurious even for Beverly Hills. The Agents looked at the cars, “One of those cars don’t belong.” Aaron noted. The Police Lieutenant obviously agreed as he separated momentarily from them to find out.
A man came out of the mansion and looked a little different out of makeup. Hotchner asked him. “Dante?”
The man froze and Tony say a whole gamut of emotions run across his face in that brief second. “No, Paul Davies. I play Dante on stage.”
Ah, Tony understood that tone better than many would. A role could be a good thing and you would profit from it. In his Davies’ case, the role made him a lot of money; in Tony’s case, it helped him save cases. He flashed a sympathetic smile as he held his hand out. “A role can be tiresome when it’s played too long. Would you mind helping us with a line of questioning?”
Tony didn’t miss the lingering look up and down his body. Too bad he had his eye on Hotchner or he might have let the rock star chase him. The singer was quick to offer. “Let’s step inside, I am always happy to help our countries finest .”
Tony saw Hotch’s glare at the way Davies said finest. Tony could work with that as soon he settled the Reaper issue.
Chapter 5: Lost in the Performance - Part two
Chapter 5: Lost in the Performance - Part Two
Gibbs entered Jenny’s office feigning confusion.
He hadn’t expected McGee running to hide behind Jenny’s skirts
like it would make a damn difference.
“Why am I here? I have to get the team running and I need to find an appropriate SFA for when McGee bails on it.”
She stiffened at that assumption. “You assume he will fail?”
Gibbs snorted. “No, but his arrogance will be his undoing and I should imagine the lengthy court case that is about to be brought against him will consume his time... So he won’t be able to concentrate on his SFA duties and Jenny, I am not DiNozzo. I will not willingly do my job as well as the SFA’s to hide ineptitude.”
She flushed. “What have you heard?” The last bit she didn’t work hard enough to hide her suspicious nature.
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “A lot of agents here like DiNozzo and they don’t like how he was
dealing with David and McGee.”
Jenny tried to justify it and typically tried to put the blame on his shoulders. “Now see here, Jethro. Your disappearance left behind a lot of sad and grieving people.”
Gibbs nodded because he had heard it all from Tony himself. “You’re right but what I have yet to hear is a reason for DiNozzo to turn into a verbal punchbag so people could feel better. He is a damn good Agent and you better hope that the FBI don’t tempt him away.”
“It wasn’t that bad.” Jenny tried to placate him.
Gibbs snorted because if this was her definition of not bad then he would hate to see a disaster but he needed to make it clear, the MCRT was his. “Jenny, he was on medical leave and when I come back I find out DiNozzo has done twice as many hours as the Junior Agents combined. One is borderline insubordinate and the other isn’t anywhere to be seen. What am I supposed to think?”
“You can’t like it if your golden boy didn’t work out like you thought.” She finished tartly.
Gibbs would have said he was enjoying this little tete-a-tete but Jenny was too far off her game. “You know people always buy into the Frat Boy persona and forget that he is a damn good agent. I should know, I trained him. He kept exceptional notes and meticulous records so he could be in peak form if quizzed in courts. He recorded every citation and verbal warning he gave. It is not his fault if he wasn’t supported. Of course, I can’t believe that you wouldn’t back your new MCRT leader so it must have been an error.”
He got a sweet simpering smile that made him want to throw up. “Of course that is what must have happened, HR must have failed to process it.”
Jesus, that was his first piece of evidence collected. He had the tape record her stating DiNozzo’s requests were a clerical error, when the meticulous notes were Tony printing a hard copy of his emails where she herself expressly denied her permission in adding the citations. Gibbs was going to have to move his meeting up with Ducky because he felt that he would be talking to Davenport himself about his concerns. He had DiNozzo’s meticulous records, they’d been given to him by Fornell on the day he returned to NCIS.
“Is there anything else? Or, can I go back to solving cases for you?” He asked with no small amount of sarcasm.
Jenny glared at him for a second. “One last thing, the book, you have a problem with it. I cleared him on the publishing of it. It would look bad if people made waves.”
Gibbs was not the type to laugh in people’s faces but he really wanted to. “You may have cleared it, however, JAG appears to have a copy and they have concerns. And you can’t stop individual people from suing for character assassination.”
Jenny sighed. “And who feels that way exactly?”
Jethro snorted. “Oh, Jenny, McGee is a big boy. He can wait for the suit to be filed against him. If he wants to write it, he can face the consequences.”
He was done listening to this bullshit and walked out in search of his errant officer. He was on a roll so he may as well deal with all of it in one go.
Tony looked around the mansion and it spoke of wealth and music. Although, two other things he noticed, it didn’t have a reflective surface and very little of his actual personality was on display. “Nice place.”
Davies shrugged. “It is a place where I can escape. Now, how can I help the FBI and LAPD today?”
Hotchner started it off. “We would like your cooperation in a line of enquiry. It would greatly help us with the recent string of murders.”
“Anything,” Davies said and yet he was looking at Tony, not Hotchner.
Hotchner gave Tony the nod as this was going to take too long. Tony slid along the armchair so he was closer but not inappropriately close. “So you have a new album out correct.”
“That is right, my manager keeps haranguing me to perform and go to the parties. I know they are a necessary part of the job but some of the fans believe I am an actual vampire. It can be a little intense you know?”
Tony sighed and aimed for sympathetic. “I can only imagine. Has there been a fan who seemed way more intense than any of the normal fans?”
Dante looked frustrated and Aaron guessed he didn’t know the answer. Sure enough, the singer shook his head. “You would have to ask my manager, Ray Campion.”
Hotchner had a stray thought that managers would get pretty obsessive over a new album. Although, he doubted they would set off a string of murders. “Where would we be able to find him? It is important, your music is the only connection we have between the victims.”
Davies shrugged as he had no clue where he’d skittered off to. “You know what? I have no clue, but Agent DiNozzo, I have a party later tonight and your name is going to be part of the guest list so you are welcome to ask him questions yourself. I hope you’ll make some time to talk about less depressing things with me.”
Tony wanted to roll his eyes at the segue but with three murders he would take the in. He sighed because he was supposed to be playing bodyguard not dressing up. Oh well, he would make sure Rossi stuck close to Hotchner and he would circle the floor. “I will dress the part. Thank y ou for your time and I will do my best but just like the album comes first for you, these victims do for me.”
Their meeting seemed to end there and the two agents and police lieutenant left quickly. Tony waited until he got to the car and they were away from the road to shudder. “Oh damn, was that guy for real?”
Hotch smirked at him, happier for Tony’s reaction so teased just a little. “Well, he is a rock star. People like that in a guy.”
Tony shook his head. “Not this guy. There is no excuse for crap pick up lines. I have taste in my men, thank you!”
Aaron had to ask DiNozzo. “So how are you going to dress up?”
Tony sighed as it seemed he would end up undercover or at least blending in with his surroundings wherever he went. “I will play money and as a result, Lieutenant Kim, I need to stop off at a tailor who is used to rush orders as I am too damn old to play goth dress up.”
Kim wondered at that. “We have our own undercover unit with plenty of clothes.”
DiNozzo shook his head. “Thank you for the offer but if I am to be believed it needs to be genuine. Don’t worry, I needed to buy a new suit may as well be for a good cause. Financial backers in the record industry have big money as the labels need the cash flow. I will be given any and all information. It will let me have access and maybe even spot our killer but ... if I come in anything less than Armani I will be assumed as faking it.”
Kim shrugged as for all his experiences, undercover wasn’t one of them. “Okay then, let me get on the radio and find out.”
They pulled up to the tailor who was a delighted elderly Italian gentleman. DiNozzo and the tailor made quick and fast friends and soon switched to Italian. Aaron had to wonder what they were saying and knew if he asked Rossi, the man was more likely to join them then explain.
Kim stood with him. “So what did you make of Dante ?”
Hotch shrugged. “A celebrity, who is finding that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He is not the killer but they may be close to him.”
“The manager?” Kim questioned. “What can your amazing analyst find out?”
Hotch doubted there was anything electronic that could hide from Garcia. “Let’s find out. Hey, Garcia?”
“Yes, my liege?”
Hotch smiled at the friendly greeting, he was glad that their dark work had not affected her bright personality. “What can you find out about a Ray Campion, he is Davies manager. We just want a feel for the guy but apparently ... he’s been MIA recently.”
“I will find out everything there is and let you know.” Garcia promised. “Anything suspicious I will you know right away.”
Kim shook his head in amazement, he would give his first born for a tech analyst with half of her talent. “So what now?”
“We wait for DiNozzo to get his suit sorted and then we head back to the station and give our profile.” Aaron answered wondering about how they could work the party without being obvious.
Kim was surprised by his answer. “That is quick.”
Hotch shook his head. “No, this unsub is quick and I think he will strike again at the party.” As he turned around he had to blink and he tried to shake the image from his mind. DiNozzo was not shy and there was a lot of sleek, toned muscle on show with only black boxers for modesty. A part of Aaron wanted to ask him to turn around but there was no need, the mirrors around the room gave him a perfect three-sixty view of the man, instead he said. “We need to head back to the station soon.”
Tony nodded with a smile. He said something in Italian and the old man tutted giving Aaron a dirty look. Tony chuckled. “You are ruining his free advertising he says. You are a mean man.”
Aaron wanted to say so many things at this point but had to remember he was an FBI agent. “Yes, I am. Now when will you need to return to collect the suit?”
“My suit will be ready for collection in four hours, just in time to get ready for the party.” DiNozzo added with a grin as he got dressed once more. Hotch didn’t know what was worse, seeing him undressed or watching as DiNozzo put his clothes back on with infinite care and he watched his ass disappear once more.
The trouble was it was like shutting a stable door after every horse has bolted. He couldn’t unsee those images and he knew his fantasies now had ample source material to make them even better and more accurate.
Hotch took a deep breath and was glad Rossi wasn’t there, or his old friend would be giving him so much grief right now.
When Hotch and the others returned to the station, Reid was giving his profile of the unsub and it was one of the more unusual profiles they had to give. Tony read the bullets points and had to agree with Reid’s comment that the traits, whilst disturbing, would ultimately make them easier to catch - someone would have noticed this unsub.
- Serial obsessive
- Auto-Vampirism - shame and wears longs sleeves to hide cutting marks
- Long History of Animal Abuse
- Lives/Cares for older woman
- Poorly kept older home
Hotch was a good leader, he didn’t need to steal the thunder of his agents, Tony noted. Yet, once the question and answer part of the profile was over he stepped forward to add the new information. “We know the unsub is obsessed with the singer known as Dante. The message on the victims’ arms is the title of his new album. There is an exclusive party tonight and whilst Agent DiNozzo has an invite, several of you will be blending into the staff. Those selected you will be briefed in an hour.”
One of the LA officers asked. “Could it be the singer, Dante?”
Tony and Aaron shook their heads but it was the LA Lieutenant answered the question. “There was no older woman and the mansion was a sparkling modern building so he doesn’t fit the profile. Now if narcotics went down there ... it might be a different conversation.”
That got a few chuckles, no strangers to the fast and loose way the celebrities lived their lives.
The teams broke up into their own groups and the BAU went back to their room within the precinct with the case files surrounding them. Prentiss was grinning as she asked. “So how exactly did you secure an invite to the party?”
Tony shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal. “Hey, the singer offered, stating he hopes we get to talk about less depressing things.”
Prentiss smirked. “Poor you, to be a rock star's newest interest.”
Tony rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, but the trail of bodies are putting me off. I want to try and ID the next victim before they end up dead, not become the next victim.”
Hotch added in a wry tone. “Well, none of the other victims were wearing thousand dollar suits, or have Italian tailors fawning over them to wear their clothes. So you will probably not be approached.”
Tony shrugged and with a grin added. “Whatever you say Mr. Mean Man. I think my gun will settle a lot of the issues myself and if that fails I will have my marine knife as well.”
Rossi had to chuckle. “Why a marine knife?”
Tony smirked. “Gibbs, my mentor, he has all these rules for life and work. Rule 9 is you should always carry a knife. I follow that rule to the extreme, it has got me out of more than one tight situation.”
Morgan chuckled at the sass of the new agent. “So are you’re going to be a producer?”
Tony shook his head. “A money backer, the industry always flocks to them and it is not like I can’t play the part. If Davies wants to talk to me so much, I will use it to my advantage. If the unsub is as obsessive as we believe ... he will be there so watch my back?”
Rossi could tell his friend wasn’t as unaffected by their visit as he liked. Oh well, he would use their time surveilling to find out what was going on with his friend. They were going to get to see how the other half in LA lived this evening - he just hoped no one had a killer end to their night.
Chapter 6: Lost in the Performance - Part 3
Tony was dressed and ready to play the part for the party at the hotel. Prentiss wolf whistled, and she and JJ had a gleam in their eye. “Too bad that Garcia has to miss this.”
Tony could say something but he knew it was gentle teasing so showing he had a sense of humour. He gave the women a mock twirl while Emily took a few photos on her phone to send to Garcia. “So do I look the part?”
JJ rolled her eyes. “Well, you have looked in a mirror?”
Tony wasn’t naive and he did know what he looked like. “Yes, I have. So now I just have to flirt with a rock star and hopefully find an obsessive blood-drinking serial killer. Who said undercover isn’t glamorous?”
Morgan clapped him on the back. “Welcome to the team.”
Tony rolled his eyes and noticed Hotchner and Rossi talking off to the side. Tony was well aware that the whole team were not aware of the threat of the Reaper resurfacing. He hoped that Aaron would soon share it with the team, or at the very least Rossi.
Hotch took one look at him and said. “I’ll be with Rossi.”
Tony smirked. “Is the idea of being at the party that bad?”
Aaron knowing it was only Rossi with him. “I wouldn’t want to be competition for Dante now.”
Tony was delighted and noticed Rossi’s momentary eyebrow twitch. He grinned bright and true. “He, is not even in the same league as you. I will feel better knowing you and Rossi have my back.”
As Tony walked away, he heard Rossi say. “Can I be there when Haley meets him?”
Tony knew who Rossi was referring to as he’d been the one to organise a stronger witsec move for her and Jack. Well, now that sounded promising and like he had a chance. He kind of hoped that Foyet wasn’t the patient type.
Gibbs was having less fun in Washington that was for certain. He’d gone straight from Jenny’s office to Abby’s Lab. And Tony hadn’t been exaggerating - there was an honest to god shrine. He couldn’t unsee that crap and he couldn’t work on his boat for at least five hours.
“Abs, what in the sam hell is that?” Gibbs demanded, he was proud he kept his true horror out of his voice.
Abby turned around and squealed before racing at him and hugging him. He was stiff, not wanting to encourage this behaviour any longer. She was a grown ass adult. “I missed you.”
“There is a thing called a phone, Abs.” Gibbs reminded the lab technician.
She was shocked by his cold tone that much he could tell. “It was not like that. Everything changed. Tony tried to order us all around, thinking he was you. It was horrible .”
Gibbs took a step back so he had his personal space back. “Yes, I heard. You treated the Leader of the MCRT as nothing more than a toddler.”
Abs took a step back a frown on her face. “It wasn’t like that, Gibbs.”
“No? So placing a sticker saying trainee was what exactly?” Gibbs countered.
“Oh come on, like Tony hasn’t played jokes.” Abby responded and now she was defensive. She didn’t like being held to account that was for damn sure.
Gibbs sighed at Abby. “You forget yourself Ab’s, and there is a big difference between your jokes and DiNozzo’s.”
“What?” And she couldn’t have sounded more like a two-year-old if she tried. She was a little old to be pulling that act though, it just looked sad.
Gibbs sighed and was sad that he had to point this out. “His jokes never impact on a case or justice for a victim.”
Abby stood stock still and the horror and what he’d said sunk in. Gibbs had no doubt that she’d work it around to being Tony’s fault somehow. “Now Gibbs, I would never want that.”
Gibbs was done for now, although he knew this wouldn’t be the last conversation he would be having on this topic. “You ever withhold results from any agent again and I will suspend you myself. Is that clear?”
There were tears in her eyes but Gibbs wasn’t in the mood to hug it out. He was nipping this problem before it got a case thrown out of court. “Good.”
As he walked out, he sent a text to Fornell.
Beer at mine
He got an instant reply. Mine as I have Em.
“Gibbs, where did Tony go? And why can’t we see him?” Abby called out, thinking about the second half of her questions.
Gibbs whirled around. “He is on secondment to the FBI and is not to be contacted until he makes it. Abby, all of our actions led to him nearly collapsing in exhaustion.”
“What?” She said, hand in front of her mouth. That couldn’t be right. “Timmy said he was taking it easy.”
Gibbs snorted in derision. “Is that so? So tell me, how did McGee or Ziva for that matter contribute to the solve rate this last month. Check the logs, DiNozzo on his own did more hours than Ziva and McGee combined.”
“That can’t be right.”
Gibbs just stared her down. “Check, Abs, and if DiNozzo comes back you can apologise in person.”
She ignored him in favour of checking the computer logs. Gibbs took a second to phone Tony, hoping he would pick up. As much as it pained him, Tony didn’t work for him and didn’t have to obey his rules any longer.
“Hey, Gibbs.” Tony answered and already sounded less weary. “So how was your first day back in charge?”
“Why the hell didn’t anyone tear that monstrosity down?” Gibbs asked, shuddering at just thinking about the shrine.
Tony snickered down the phone. “You are the only one she listens to.”
Gibbs would have to work on that, he would tear her a new one if victims didn’t get justice because she tried to play favourites again. “Oh, did you like your video?”
“Loved it, and god help me, I now have to go and flirt with a rockstar to stop a wannabe vampire killer.”
Gibbs chuckled as he was in a stairwell and he could relax a fraction. “Sucks to be you. Watch your back, or neck in this case. Oh, and I’ll make sure your tech analyst gets a video of McGee’s reaction when he gets served.”
Tony wondered if Gibbs had consciously included Tony as an FBI agent. He wasn’t yet but he couldn’t deny the allure of working full time as a profiler.
Davies was yet to arrive at his own party but Tony knew he would hate this. This was not the party someone who hated their role would organise on the grounds it was the persona. Morgan was standing close to him to play into people’s assumptions. As if to highlight why Tony needed to go and buy a new suit, the first person complimented the tailored suit, took one look at Morgan’s and asked Tony why he kept personal security.
Tony fluttered his lashes and confessed. “Daddy insisted after the last boyfriend tried to kidnap me.”
Morgan rolled his eyes but hey if he was security - he put his shades back on. It would allow him to watch the guests unimpeded and stand close to Tony. “So, you like anyone for it?”
Tony snorted. “Not for murder, although if we’re talking about sleaze and bad taste, well, I wouldn’t have enough cuffs.”
“I hear ya man.” Morgan replied watching the way guests just ignored the serving staff like they were invisible. “Well, no one is standing out as obsessive murderer type.”
Tony knew better than to assume anyone could look like a murderer. “No, but we still have yet to meet the elusive manager, haven’t we?”
Derek adored the fact that everyone was so self-absorbed that they could actually have this type of conversation. Their conversation broke up, “You’re up, Dante has arrived.”
If you are going to arrive at a swanky party, then you should definitely do it by helicopter. Tony barely managed to avoid rolling his eyes but it was a near thing. Sure enough, Davies, in full on Dante costume slipped out of the helicopter, with a little guy to the side.
“Why are you not with the adoring fans?” Morgan asked him.
Tony snorted. “To reel a guy like that in, you need to offer something different. If he just wanted a groupie, he would take up with anyone of those who just threw themselves at him.
Derek let DiNozzo do his thing. People came up to him, asked a few questions. DiNozzo answered all of them with enough conviction that even Derek believed him and he knew the guy was an agent. DiNozzo was weaving his way up to the rooftop and the little guy who’d arrived with Dante earlier tried to block him. DiNozzo smirked and deliberately used his first name rather than his stage name. “Hey Paul, should I go? You were the one to invite me today?”
Morgan was watching at the bottom of the stairs. There was something not right with the manager but he couldn’t say what. The singer turned at DiNozzo’s far bolder challenge. “Yes, you should come up here.”
Tony didn’t say ‘I told you so’ as he was an adult but damn, he wanted to. The manager scowled but Tony leaned in close to him appealing to the one thing he was sure to be motivating - money.
“Are you sure you want to take me on? I could fund his next tour.” Tony added with a smirk on his face.
And wow, talk about an attitude adjustment. The man from went to barely repressed scowl to unholy gleam in his eye. It was impressive as it was weird if he was being honest. Campion actually bowed to him. “You should go and get acquainted and for god sake don’t let any press near him ... he is maudlin.”
Tony watched the manager almost slide down the stairs. He looked at Morgan and just got a nod so Tony knew the agent had eyes on Campion. It was a good way to cover both bases.
Dante kissed his hand and Tony got a smirk and an explanation of. “It’s what the fans expect.”
Tony was about to dismiss it and then saw several women look up at their balcony and sigh. “You are something else.”
“In a good way?” The singer asked, and there was something in that tone that Tony understood.
Tony sighed and leaned over the rail so he could keep an eye on what was going on below. “You know, you can pretend you want me but what you want is to change your life. If you don’t like the role you were pressed into ... change it.”
“I want to but Ray would freak.” Davies explained.
Tony chuckled. “Now you are just giving yourself excuses, and there will be millions of them. They need me, he needs me, the money, the people, the fans. I’m still figuring it out myself but you know what, if you want something, be selfish. We get to be happy too if we can be brave enough to take what we want.”
Davies looked at him and Tony was suddenly being kissed. The kiss broke and Davies looked sad. “Damn, you have so much passion and conviction, too bad it wasn’t in the kiss.”
Tony smiled ruefully but he knew that would be the case. “I have someone in mind. He just doesn’t know it.”
Davies smirked at him. “Remember, you have to be brave enough to take it.”
Tony gave him a playful shove. “Smartarse.”
Davies was frowning. “What is Ray doing?”
Tony had already clocked the manager’s approach to one of the serving staff. “Does he often prey on the help for a good time?”
“No.” The singer didn’t know much but he knew that much about Ray.
Tony wanted to sigh. “Do you know if anyone in his family is sick?”
Dante nodded because Ray worked so hard to pay his sister’s medical bills. “Yes, his sister has schizophrenia, lovely girl, really big fan.”
Tony knew they had their unsub and accomplice. He spoke knowing that the radio would catch it. ”Did you get all that Morgan?”
It was a good job that the radios could be only heard by the person as it was in their ear. “Yeah, now give lover boy a goodbye kiss and help me track our suspect.”
Tony rolled his eyes but he did kiss Dante’s cheek as he pressed a small piece of paper into his hand. “I gotta go and do my job. Here is my normal cell and if you want to message me you can.”
“What? What is going on?” He sounded so lost that Tony felt sorry for the singer who many would assume had it all.
Tony shook his head. “I can’t say.”
Morgan and Tony were racing to their car - The chase was on to stop the fourth murder.
Deliberate canon divergence about relationships in episode 7 season 5.
Chapter 7: Lost in the Performance - Part 4
Chapter 7: Lost in Performance - Part 4
Morgan was on the phone to Garcia as Tony drove keeping up with the car they were following. He had more experience being unobtrusive and right now the woman was safe until they reached their destination. Neither Tony nor Morgan wanted to be the ones that escalated the situation and put the woman in harm’s way.
“Baby girl, what do you have for us?”
Garcia sighed. “Well, Ray Campion has a little sister, Geena. Geena has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and lives in a home with her grandma.”
Tony knew the next part but he asked anyway. “Would that be a run down older home?”
“It would be, my Italian Stallion.”
Hotchner’s voice called over the phone. “We’re ten minutes from you.”
Morgan and Tony shared a look because they had a feeling that it would be over before then. “We’ll be here but Hotch we may have to intervene.”
“Do it if necessary. Use your own judgement.”
The green car pulled up and the girl still seemed at ease as they pulled up their own SUV half a block away. The guy was talking a mile a minute in order to distract her. Tony and Derek were relieved to have managed to reach the driveway without him looking back toward them. So he wasn’t as clever as he believed or, he was too arrogant and believed he wouldn’t be suspected. The girl’s natural instincts were starting to kick in. Tony could see the way she was stiffening and wanted to get away. Too bad she didn’t pay attention to those natural instincts back at the party - she was lucky that Derek and Tony were there.
Derek used hand signals and Tony nodded, unclipping his own service weapon. This would be dicey, it was two against two and one of them was so crazy as to be unpredictable. The door opened and a young woman looking like an unkempt Dracula's bride answered. “What? You said you’d bring Dante?”
Things were becoming clearer and Tony was starting to really hate Campion. He was a true piece of work if what he suspected was true.
Campion pulled the girl into his arms. “Look you have a fresh supply.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t need anymore ... I need Dante, and you promised!”
The girl who was stuck in the middle tried to pull away. “Look, I don’t need to be here.”
Campion’s arms gripped tighter and too many stressors were on display for Morgan and Tony to wait any longer. Morgan announced, “She’s right you know.”
Predictably, Campion turned with the woman still gripped in his arms like a shield. The sharp burrow tool now in his hand hovering over the woman’s neck.
Morgan was calm. “You don’t want to do that.”
Campion didn’t have support from the sister, she’d slammed the door shut at seeing Morgan and his gun. Still, the guy felt like he was in control. “Oh yeah, you can’t get me.”
Morgan shrugged. “Maybe not... but he can.”
Tony had doubled around the outside of the house to approach him from the other side knowing he could take advantage of the blind side if he did. He figured that Morgan’s little speech was his cue to step up and pressed his gun into the guy’s spine. He said it low and calm which from experience made it all the more menacing. “You know if I shoot you here, you’ll be paralyzed but still alive.”
Campion’s mind raced and Morgan could see it. He stood stock still and was clearly evaluating all the angles of his situation. Tony took advantage of the situation of the man not able to focus on two people and used the butt of his gun to clock him on the head. Hard enough to make Campion fall to the ground but not hard enough to knock him out. Tony was slamming the cuffs on and Morgan read him his rights as a second SUV pulled up and the rest of the BAU got out. Teamwork right there.
The woman was pulled to the side by JJ who consoled her. Hotch was demanding. “Report.”
Morgan answered. “Campion is manipulating the sister into committing the crimes. She is obviously suffering a full-blown schizophrenic episode and needs serious care.”
It was all over very quickly with four very highly trained agents but it didn’t make seeing the fridge full of blood bags and severed limbs any easier to handle.
Ziva strolled in annoyed. “Why have I been called in?”
McGee looked up relieved to see her and with a worried look in her eyes. “We’re not on cold cases and you better have a good reason. Gibbs is back as leader.”
She must have misheard. “No, Tony’s silly leave is over. That is why I arranged my hair appointment.”
McGee shook his head. “No, Tony is on secondment and Gibbs is back.”
“WHY WEREN’T WE TOLD!” Ziva hissed so loudly that she may as well have just decided to have shouted after all.
McGee looked helpless. “I have my own problems, Ziva. You need to figure it out.”
“We are a team, why didn’t you tell me?” She was furious. She was thinking of all the ways to angle this to Tony’s blame. “What do you mean on secondment?”
McGee shrugged because he wasn’t kidding when he said he had his own problems. “I’m being sued by Tony over my book and Gibbs wants to read it too. I’m screwed.”
She snorted. “Get the publishing house to fix it.”
McGee shook his head. “I wasn’t too worried until I saw who opposing counsel was...Michelle Adelson”
Ziva shrugged not knowing why that was such a big deal. “So.”
McGee chuckled weakly. “She is one of the most feared litigators in Washington, I asked around. Each time I heard laughter when I asked who would go up against her.”
Ziva sniffed. “Tony would not be able to afford her services if that was the case.”
McGee sighed if only that was the case. “Ziva, apparently she hates us and is doing this pro-bono.”
She frowned not knowing how to respond to that. “I don’t know the woman.”
McGee sighed. “No, she knows Tony and that is the problem. He has obviously poisoned her against us.”
Gibbs was actually listening to all of this just around the corner. “How can anyone be that willfully blind?”
Balboa snorted. “David has always got everything she wanted by being Daddy’s little girl. McGee, well, he is a snob who believes where he earned the degree is more important than anything else.”
Gibbs sighed thinking of all the things he needed to do - at this rate he would be sending them back to FLETC for refresher courses. “I’m going to end up with three TAD agents at this rate.”
Balboa patted his back. “Too bad I don’t have any popcorn in the breakroom.”
“You’re enjoying this way too much.” Gibbs observed.
Balboa’s smile was positively smug. “Oh yeah, the clueless duo need to be taken down a peg or two. Only, the director wouldn’t let any of us do it.”
Gibbs shook his head but decided to announce his presence. He couldn’t stand listening to this drivel any longer if he was honest with himself. “Where you been, Ziva?”
“I was delayed.” She said primly and it was hilarious to Gibbs that she thought that would be an acceptable reason.
“Oh, well, let’s see that explains nothing at all, Ziva. Where were you?” Gibbs asked with an even tone.
“I had car trouble.” She said without thinking, she’d remembered Tony using that excuse more than once. It would have to do as she couldn’t think of another reason.
Gibbs snorted. “Was the car trouble before or after your hair appointment. I want to make sure I have an accurate accounting for the citation going in your file. Oh, and you will report to work two hours early to catch up on all the work you chose not to do in the last month.”
“WHAT! That’s not fair!”
Gibbs chuckled. “I thought I was the one who had a knock to the head. I am well aware of the fact that you both played games that are beneath agents of the MCRT and if I had my way you’d already be back at FLETC doing refresher courses. As it is, I will have more fun in kicking your asses back into shape. This month you will clock in and leave later to make up for the time you missed.”
“Now see here, it is not our fault that Tony let us leave early, is it?” Ziva had the gall to try and tell him.
He was pissed Tony had to be at the FBI to keep him safe from Jenny’s machinations. “No, he didn’t let you. He kept meticulous daily notes of all your stunts. You forget ... I know the Mossad playbook so if you want to follow it then go back to daddy dearest ... Is that clear?”
She was mulish and furious, Gibbs could see the glint of fury in her eyes. “And where is Tony now?”
“Not that it’s any of your business but he’s on secondment, so you will both have to suck it up and be big boys and girls and get your reports right all on your own. Oh, and he is incommunicado, you try and contact him and endanger his life you can forget FLETC as I’ll see you fired.”
Rossi had been there and got the t-shirt but this guy sitting in front of him took the cake. He had no problem with seeing people dead. The victims served his purpose and even now, he was bragging. “I didn’t murder any of them.”
Hotchner leaned forward. “So that is your argument, your sister did it.”
“Well, she did. It is not my fault.” Campion sneered. “Even the two agents who arrested me can tell you that!”
Rossi asked the follow-up, the constant changing was done to disorient the suspect. Tony knew the tactic well, he and Gibbs had done it enough. “Do you know that the law punishes those who facilitate the event just as much as the perpetrator itself especially if they can’t be held accountable like your sister.”
“So, Paul’s album will sell like hotcakes and I will ask him to find me a lawyer.”
Tony really hated that type of greed and he hoped that Dante was smart enough to break free of his manager. The guy was bringing toxic to new levels, he was worse than Ziva for christ sake. So that was quite the judgement he was making.
“So was Dante a good kiss?” JJ asked with a smirk even as they kept their attention on the interrogation.
Tony had a wistful sigh. “You know how it is, Agent is undercover and there is just no spark... So I left him with the offer of friendship.”
Prentiss chuckled. “Hang on, if you weren’t interested that is because you have someone in mind.”
Tony had a boyish grin. “That wasn’t actually a question.”
Tony was glad that the case wrapped up relatively quickly as thanks to Campion’s arrogance he’d confessed to everything to be prosecuted for kidnapping and murder. He was the murderer for all intents and purposes - just used his poorly sister as the tool by which to commit the murder.
Dante had come down to the station looking lost. He knew that there may be a few comments from the BAU. “Hey, what can I do?”
Tony wished he could give the singer some more concrete answers. “Ray is going away and there is no remorse there. A jury will not connect with him and he doesn’t see it.”
“I’d like to help Jenna too.”
Tony clapped him on the back. “You know, you could donate, or pay the bill.”
“Yeah, I will do that.” Davies said, and he still sounded like he was far away. “Thanks for the advice, I think I will work on it. You should too, you know.”
Tony could see the bags were packed so the team was ready to go. “I will get there... Sometimes the best things are ones you have to wait for.”
Davies smirked looking at the team leader, he could tell that was who Tony wanted. The longing looks when they thought no one was looking were sweet and bordering on adorable. He could tell that when they stopped repressing their feelings - it would be spectacular. “Make sure he does some of the chasing.”
Tony smirked. “Oh, I will. Don’t be a stranger.”
Tony wondered what the next case would bring ...
Chapter 8: The Play as it Stands
Chapter 8: The Play as it stands
Fornell was as good as he promised and opened the door to Gibbs. “So how is operation unfuck going?”
Gibbs' eyes rolled at Fornell’s nickname at his return to NCIS even if it was perhaps the aptest way of describing it. “Abby seems to now think she is a teenager, not a lab technician, McGee is worried and fretting over his upcoming court case, and I had to let David know that she either shapes up or ships out of the MCRT.”
Fornell cackled. “And I missed it, I was going to ask Garcia for her to find the video evidence. She has already sent me the video of you taking down McGee.”
Gibbs shrugged not even the least bit bothered by it. “He deserves it for that drivel masquerading as fiction.”
Fornell snickered in a way unbecoming of the Deputy Director of the FBI. “So you were not a fan?”
Fornell chuckled as he put the pizza in front of him. “You know Tony is doing brilliantly. By all accounts, he has slotted into the BAU like he has always been a part of it.”
Gibbs sighed. “Is there a point you’re making?”
Fornell looked at his old friend. “What? Was I being too subtle for you?”
Gibbs shook his head. “Well, let me make NCIS safe for him too before he even needs to contemplate the future.”
“And how is that going?” Fornell asked, wondering if Gibbs needed or wanted help.
Gibbs shrugged because he had some evidence already but if he was going after the director of a Federal Agency then he wanted an air tight impeachable case. “I have the notes from Tony, I have her on tape trying to blame HR which is in direct contradiction to her emails that Tony has also printed. I’m meeting Ducky too, I think he knows something more.”
Fornell was intrigued. “Like what?”
“No idea, now any ideas on how to keep dumb and dumber from getting out of hand?” Gibbs asked because his current preferred method kept circling back to shooting them.
Fornell shook his head. “You are on your own there but I have a beer.”
It should be noted that as the beer flowed - the suggestions got wilder and wilder.
Aaron had told everyone that tomorrow they had the day off. Tony grinned up at him after the others had left. “So you are not going to be doing anything stupid are you?”
Tony did not look impressed with him. “You know - like leave yourself a target for Foyet.”
Aaron sighed. “Honestly? My plan was to sit around my apartment and read and try to relax.”
The bit left unsaid was the part where he would sit around and brood. Tony could see it in his eyes even if he was trying to deny it. Tony asked him. “Are you worried about Jack and Haley?”
Aaron looked raw at the moment because that was exactly the problem. Tony explained it to Aaron hoping to alleviate the stress. “She and Jack are in WITSEC and are currently being shadowed by the scariest CIA agent I know.”
Aaron let out a sigh of relief and Tony could see the tension somehow leave his shoulders. “Thank you.”
Tony shrugged. “Happy to help.”
Aaron smiled. “You are more than just a bodyguard you know. Your assistance in the last case helped us before there was another victim.”
Tony smiled and left it at that, he wasn’t all too used to praise for his job and as a result - it made him feel awkward. “Thanks, well, if that is all ... I have to go. Emily is demanding I teach her all the soccer skills I know.”
“Fornell, Tobias dragged me to his when I needed advice and I was adopted the next day apparently.” Tony explained.
Aaron was sure it didn’t register to DiNozzo that he had some very high-placed friends. He smiled at the unsure tone. “It doesn’t sound like it was unwilling.”
Tony shook his head. “Nah, Em is a great kid.” His phone ringing broke the conversation and Tony had to smile. “Speaking of Em, excuse me.”
Tony knocked on the door to be met be a powerful thud, which was little Em running at him. “Hey Em.”
“I’m so glad you’re here. Daddy and Uncle Gibbs are arguing over the bbq.”
Tony chuckled. “How about we let them argue and go watch a DVD, I have a few new movies for you to try from our last conversation but I think you might want to watch this.”
It was a good job that Tony knew an ear-splitting squeal was a positive thing. “You found Adventures of Lavagirl and Sharkboy.”
Tony nodded. “I did. You’re welcome.”
“Tony?” Fornell’s voice filtered through the house.
Em was tugging on his hand. “Please let’s go and watch the movie. You don’t want to be bored do you?”
Tony chuckled. “Why don’t you get the movie started? I need to speak to your Dad first.”
She huffed sounding like a teenager already. “Fine.”
Tony could see Gibbs and Fornell gossiping and had to smirk because not many in Washington would believe the scene. “Hey, so LA was warm.”
Fornell snorted. “I heard you had a bit more than fun in LA. Congratulations, on reviving Dante’s career.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I had a rockstar kiss me but I can’t shake someone from my head. Plus, all credit has to go to his spectacularly unhinged manager.”
Gibbs was intrigued. “Who would that be?”
Tony played it obtuse. “Ray Campion was the unsub’s name.”
Fornell wanted to grin at the way he was already using the BAU lingo rather than NCIS. Gibbs just stared at Tony. “You know what I meant.”
Tony shrugged. “Maybe but I promised Em I would watch a movie with her. So suspicions will have to wait.”
Fornell was visibly shaking with laughter finding it that funny. “Oh, your face is a picture, Jethro.”
“Do you know?”
Fornell smirked at his old friend. “Well, I have my suspicions.”
“And you’re not going to tell me?” Gibbs said already knowing the answer.
“That is correct.” Fornell responded. He had absolutely no intention of ruining Tony’s trust the way the others had. “Now, you can tell me what is phase two of operation unfuck?”
McGee was sitting with his lawyer explaining just how screwed he was. “So is this going to trial?”
His lawyer, Aidan, shrugged. “That depends on how much you want this book published.”
McGee wanted to scream. “It was cleared by the Director so what’s the problem?”
Aidan looked at him as if he was questioning his intelligence. “Well, it is not the Director you needed to worry about. It’s JAG and you have Harmon Rabb himself looking at it.”
McGee groaned knowing what happened. “Tony helped clear his name and he would feel he owed Tony one.”
Aidan didn’t care why. “It doesn’t matter why he was is looking into it but you have the Head of JAG corp reviewing your book.”
“It was not written on people or cases!” McGee insisted stubbornly.
Aidan shrugged. “Look I will defend your case but if there is an ounce of truth to these claims you do realise you could lose your job? Are you that sure of success?”
McGee frowned. “Why would I lose my job?”
“Well, we aren't the British with their official secrets act but your contract did mention an expectation of confidentiality.”
McGee paled as he understood now. Christ, he needed to find Tony and make him drop this ridiculous lawsuit. He knew that Abby would be able to find Tony and if she did, well, it’s not like Gibbs would shout at her, was it?
Em could hear her Daddy talking and teasing Uncle Gibbs. Did her Tony like someone? It would be cool if he did. He deserved to be happy. She didn’t want to disturb the movie as it was one thing her and Tony agreed on - the sanctity of the movie.
Still, she was too curious for her own good. “Is Uncle Gibbs right? Do you like someone?”
Tony sighed. “I do Em, I know I like him a great deal and respect him but I have a job to do.”
She could understand that and she loved the way Tony explained it to her, didn’t treat her like a baby. “And when the job is finished?”
Tony smirked. “Then I will ask him out.”
“Good.” Emily replied. She wouldn’t be deterred from her mission and would remind him if he forgot. She just knew he would talk himself out of it.
The next day Tony headed straight to the BAU having ended up falling asleep on the couch. He’d woken up to a cup of coffee and a bagel. He was glad he had the foresight (order from Fornell) to bring a change of clothes.
The team was arriving at the same time. “Morning.”
Rossi smiled. “Morning. Good day off?”
Tony smirked as he tried to explain his day in a way that would make sense. “Well, I made a promise to a ten-year-old to watch a movie and did my best to stop two of the most stubborn men in Washington from plotting too much.”
The team frowned but Hotchner gave them some small insight. “Well, good luck in keeping Agents Gibbs and Fornell from any type of plotting.”
Tony shrugged. “I failed anyway. Emily informed me I was to leave the boring adults and watch a movie with her, it was my duty as her designated big brother.”
There was no doubt though, from the fondness in his voice that he was more than okay with it.
JJ breeze down the stairs looking paler, which was quite the feat in itself considering her complexion. “We have a serious case coming through, we need to be in Hampton, Virginia and soon.”
Hotch knew this was going to be a bad case. “Okay, wheels up in thirty. We will brief on the plane. Get a message to Reid about where to meet us and have Garcia forward the relevant files.”
“Where’s boy genius?”
Tony was glad that Morgan asked because he was curious. JJ was the one to answer. “He is at the conference on neuroscience and profiling.”
Rossi was sad the for the genius as he knew how much Reid had been looking forward to the course. “Well, class time is over.” He’d read the first file and knew what they were dealing with. “We need to hurry this is a family annihilator.”
Hotchner finished his thoughts. “And they are just getting started.”
Chapter 9: To Outfox the Fox - Part One
Chapter 9: To Outfox the Fox - Part One
The team had arrived at the murder site. It was a normal family neighbourhood, no different to any other and yet, for some reason the night before someone chose to murder this entire family. Tony clocked the field agent standing on the lawn. “Army CID dead ahead.”
Rossi quirked an eyebrow and Tony replied with a smirk. Still, as he liked the elder Italian he also explained. “It’s like Fed’s and Cops, we can tell each other apart.”
Morgan snorted as he had also experienced the issue from both the cop and Fed side of the issue. “Too true.”
The woman turned around with the slamming of the SUV door. “Agent Hotchner.”
Aaron stepped forward. “Agent Hudson?”
“That’s correct, we’re really glad you’re here.”
It was never a good thing when the BAU were wanted on a case, sadly - they just hoped they could help solve the crime. Aaron took charge of the situation. “So what do we know?”
Hudson sighed. “The father is serving in Iraq. Three nights ago the neighbour came to find out why the dog was barking and no one had quietened him. When they came over, what they found was a shallow grave where the whole family had been buried. The eldest girl, Lucy, was still in her bathing suit.”
Tony had empathy with the father and asked. “How much does the father know?”
Hudson explained. “Not a lot. He was out on patrol when we got through so it took a while to find his unit. He’s due back on base today.”
Rossi knew he would need to talk to the man but asked the more pertinent question. “Why was the BAU called in?”
Hudson handed over another case file. “This was the William’s family who were murdered a year ago. Also a father overseas, the wife and sons were shot, whilst the girl was drowned. There is a lot of heat coming down on the local police who have no idea how to handle this.”
Morgan looked around the neighbourhood. “Nice community, guessing with the proximity, officer families?”
He got a nod. Morgan spoke up as this was one of his more specialised areas. “So we know he is a family annihilator, we know he feels remorse. Why drown the girl?”
The CID agent was grave. “We would like that answer too.”
JJ had to add. “We will have to keep an eye on the media, they are already dubbing this the work of a serial killer.”
Hotch wasn’t flippant when he said it but he had to say it. “He would be right.”
There were too many parallels to Carl Arnold for Morgan to ignore it . He looked at his group. “Remind you of anyone? A family annihilator, who takes the wedding rings ... the only difference is the fathers were killed too .”
The older members of the BAU all nodded and Tony spoke up. “How about filling in the newbies?”
It was Derek who explained especially as he had made the point . “Carl Arnold was a psychopath that slaughtered eight whole families that we knew of. He stalked each family, learnt everything he could about them and then when the time was right, he would kill the whole family, using their love against them ... it was fuelled by his anger towards the fathers. He wanted to show them what happened when he believed the fathers were not strong enough. In his own words, wives whither and children perish .”
Tony shuddered for a second and that put it away because sometimes you had to put aside your own emotions to catch the bastards. The phone ringing broke into all their thoughts. “Hey Garcia, you’re on speaker.”
“I got a phone call from the head of Red-Onion, Supermax. It seems Carl Arnold has been sent two packages in as many days, with clippings of the two murders signed by an admirer.”
Hotchner knew what he would have to do. “Okay, thanks, Garcia.”
Emily shuddered with revulsion. “It’s disgusting how men like that have fans.”
Hotchner shrugged because right now he would take any advantage he could get in catching this killer before they struck again. “So I will need to talk to Arnold. The rest of you split yourselves between the two families and find the connection, or have a working theory about why the girl is always suffocated rather than shot. If we can crack that ... we can crack this case.”
Tony followed Hotchner to his SUV. Tony could see the frown mar the Agent’s face and Tony felt that was a tragedy. “Don’t frown Hotchner and it is not negotiable. You heard Toby, if you are going to SuperMax you can bet you will have your shadow.”
“Foyet won’t be waiting for me in the prison.” He tried to argue as the chatter had so far been unconfirmed and not substantiated which is how he’d managed to evade having a full security detail .
Tony shook his head. “You said it yourself, serial killers have fans. What’s to say there isn’t a surprise waiting for you at the SuperMax? You have watched the Following, right?”
Aaron had almost forgotten that the Deputy Director got him a model bodyguard with how well Tony had worked in the team. The other awkward part would be the long drive with the very attractive agent. Aaron was divorced, not dead. The plus side was that with their bold first meeting he knew Tony was gay - as an added bonus, Haley would pitch a fit when she found out.
He shook all those thoughts aside because he had to ask. “You’re okay with going to a Supermax holding the worst scum on the planet to have a chat?”
Tony shrugged it off. “Yeah I am, Hotchner, I was a cop before I became a fed. Remember Fornell’s comment about not getting handcuffed to a serial killer? I was handcuffed to Jeffery White for the last twenty-four hours of his life.”
Tony saw the widening of Hotchner’s eyes as he understood what Tony hadn’t said. He could tell the Agent was brooding and he had only the briefest facts of the previous encounter between Hotchner and Foyet - he had no idea what it was like between him and this Carl Arnold, aka the Fox. “Well, while you drive and brood I have some case files to read.”
An hour later, Tony closed off his iPad and sighed, he was no stranger to deviants. “When I was on the force in Baltimore I had a run in with the Creeper and managed to bury him with one conversation. Do I have permission to play my own games if I think it will yield results?”
Aaron switched from impressed to astonished at just how quickly DiNozzo managed to adapt to any situation. “How do you play it? The interrogator, the seducer or the friend?”
Tony gave him a blinding smile. “I think you know the answer to that, don’t you?”
Gibbs had managed to find time to grab a lunch with Ducky away from the NCIS building. It had been harder than he could think - it seemed like every time they tried to eat dinner, Jenny would interrupt.
“Hello Jethro, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
Gibbs smirked as he sipped his coffee, it wasn’t a tragic cup at this cafe, part of the reason he had chosen it. “You assume I want something.”
“I am old, not senile.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “Yes, I do. Jenny - is there something I should know?”
Ducky froze in taking a drink of his tea, confirming there was something for him to know. Gibbs nudged. “Ducky?”
Ducky sighed, “You are asking me to break patient confidentiality.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “Ducky, Tony is at the FBI for his safety. He is playing bodyguard for a unit-chief as that was safer than staying on the MCRT because of Jenny’s actions. Now, I am building the case against her that I will take to SecNav. Thing is, this is not the Jenny I know ... so I am asking if there is something I should know especially considering the person is a Head of a Federal Agency and is misusing resources.”
Ducky looked stricken. “What has she done?”
Gibbs replied. “She tried to isolate Tony and ensure he took an unsanctioned operation against a personal enemy with no thought to his personal safety. Now, Tony was too smart to accept the operation and said as much but he became so concerned with a few incidents that he asked for my help.”
Ducky spluttered. “Good Lord, that stupid woman. She promised me, Jethro.”
“What did she promise you?” Gibbs was insistent.
“At her monthly check up she queried certain symptoms to the point I referred her to an oncologist specialist. She said the tests were negative but the day you came back I got the doctor’s notes to add to her file. I was confronting her when you walked back in. She asked me for a week to put her affairs in order. I agreed but was monitoring her closely to see if I would have forced the issue. I thought with all of her years of service she deserved an exit of her own making.”
Gibbs wanted to shake his head because she’d used it. It was clear that some of her more irrational behaviour may have a source but he found he didn’t care. She had a duty to leave far quicker that she had, she was trading on Ducky’s friendship. Well, no more, it seemed he needed to have a chat and introduce SecNav to the meeting.
Tony walked through the supermax hearing the leering calls and the several suggestive cat-calls. He could see Hotch next to him tensing up and wanted to remind him that he was more than okay handling the nasty deviants of the world. “Hey, it is reinforced glass and I know what I look like but Hotch ... all they have left are bitter dreams and fantasies.”
Aaron nodded. “Let’s go talk to Arnold and get out of here.”
They stepped into the conference room and Tony just sat down. He didn’t even bother with the niceties or let Hotchner introduce them. He saw the fascination on Arnold’s face - it was clear that he was not expecting Tony. “Agent Hotchner you didn’t tell me you were bringing me a gift. I thought it would be Agent Prentiss but this one is prettier. ”
Wow. Life goals, right there, to be considered a gift for a serial killer. There were bigger problems right now and Tony’s unease was growing. How would Arnold know about the inner workings of the current BAU team as he’d been locked up for nearly five years.
Hotchner was a skilled interrogator in his own right but during the next half hour he saw a tour-de-force. He decided there and then he didn’t want Tony just as a guard, or liaison. He wanted him in one of the units, even if it wasn’t his own because he was too good to be wasted at NCIS. Arnold was a sexual predator of the worst kind and yet Tony came in and sweet talked him into revealing everything they wanted. Arnold was also so sure of himself and smug, wanting to take control of any meeting. So of course, Aaron knew that at some point Arnold was going to try and poke at him - the lack of wedding ring being the obvious route.
“Yeah I took the wedding rings and you seem to have lost yours.” Arnold finished with a smirk on his face.
Aaron didn’t get a chance to comment as Tony smiled sweetly at Arnold as he placed a proprietary hand on Aaron’s. If you looked at Tony in that moment you would believe him a man infatuated. “Yeah, it was a deal breaker before I said yes.”
Aaron would have to say he would treasure the shocked and horrified face on Arnold for a long time to come. The serial killer lived to control his environment and while there were many things that Tony DiNozzo may be, controllable wasn’t one of them. Hotchner, who liked rules, control, and orderliness, was finding that idea more and more appealing.
Arnold reared back in surprise. “I don’t believe you.”
Well, that sounded like a challenge to Tony but he had his opening and went for it with ruthless efficiency. He spoke in vivid detail about all the things he did to Aaron and all the things that Aaron did to him. Aaron was a professional so he wouldn’t give anything away but he could admit to a few of those images flashing through his mind.
Arnold sneered not realising he’d fallen into Tony’s trap . “You know he will find out about your pretty boy and kill him to make you hurt.”
Tony had to laugh because it was as he suspected. This was less about their current case and more about Foyet. There was a key component missing when comparing the two sets of killings. He ignored that for a brief moment to work on his assignment. He turned from the flirt to a serious man. “Will he? So Foyet is in contact with you then, Carl.”
Arnold petted his hand and it took everything in Tony not to recoil. He would react when he had what they needed. “I’m sorry you will be involved but Foyet feels like Agent Hotchner has emasculated him so he seeks retribution.”
Tony leaned forward, “Will he come for me, or his family? Come on, tell me. I deserve that much don’t I?”
Hotchner looked through the book Carl had brought with him and the symbols and the letter meant the threat just became substantiated but he knew the answer and said it . “He knows about my family ... he doesn’t know about you unless Carl tells him.”
Tony could see the vicious predatory grin and Tony decided to stack the deck in his favour. “Do you know what Hotchner? Carl here can’t help us. It is all about the focus, Carl here committed the murders to kill his father over and over again, with the amount of self-loathing maybe even himself. Our murderer though, there is no sexual assault and it is all about the young girl. Huh? Think for a second, it would explain why the profile has been so different.”
Hotchner sighed because there was the missing piece of the puzzle and it made such a huge difference but it was so rare. He pulled out his phone to send a text. Morgan, we think the murderer is a woman. She is trying to save the girl from the pain of life. We need to find her stressor before she kills again.
Aaron stood back in control thanks to DiNozzo drawing all of Arnold’s attention on him. “You know what, I’ll find Foyet just like I found you.”
Arnold chuckled. “No, Hotchner, he will find you and your delicious new love I think.”
Tony shrugged it off. “Bring it, Foyet wouldn’t be the first serial killer to have a go and none of them have been successful yet.”
Arnold grinned and it was sly, Tony wanted a wash at just that looked being directed at him. “Oh, but the challenge will just turn Foyet on.”
Tony leaned in suggestively to get Arnold close enough and then he used a classic cop move and Arnold didn’t even see the slam against the desk coming. “I may be pretty but I only bend over for Agent Hotchner.”
“HE WILL COME FOR YOU!” Arnold shouted as they left.
Aaron was impressed with how calm DiNozzo was but had to ask. “Do you often bait serial killers?”
“I have to get my kicks somehow,” Tony replied with a smirk.
Aaron’s frustration was growing. “He will go after Haley and she is in Federal Protection.”
Tony rolled his eyes because he’d already planned for Foyet’s potential avenues of attack. “I’m an all action guard and your ex-wife and son are enjoying a holiday at the beach with the scariest CIA agent I know. I can’t promise miracles but Agent Kort will make Foyet severely regret challenging him.”
Aaron huffed. “You already guessed this might happen.”
Tony shrugged it off. “I have a unique point of view, I am a cop and I worked inside the Mob. I asked myself what Don Mancuso would have done and then made plans accordingly.”
Aaron found himself asking. “What level did you rise to?”
Tony played it cool but answered him honestly. “He called me son and to this day considers me his heir. I am apparently more ruthless than his biological sons and therefore most likely to succeed and it was because I put him in prison. Strange guy really.”
Aaron just knew Tony was going to cause trouble and disruption in his life but he figured maybe it was what his life needed. “Why did you make Foyet come at you?”
Tony smiled hearing the worry in Hotchner’s voice. “I chose this life and its dangers - I can take care of myself and by focussing his interest on me, there’s less chance of him going after your family. Plus you know I’ve set a trap, don’t you?”
Aaron rolled his eyes with sarcasm evident. “Yes, I caught that. I could have done without all those tantalising fantasies though, we have to concentrate on this case.”
DiNozzo chuckled but finished suggestively. “Oh Hotch, they are only fantasies until Foyet’s behind bars and then I fully intend to make them a reality if you’re game.”
Hotchner had to think of every unappetizing image he could think of to keep his body under control. “I will hold you to that.”
Tony smirked but he was phoning Fornell. “Toby, I need guards to be rotated around Hotch’s house.”
There was a pause before Tony carried on. “Yeah, well that is before Carl Arnold and Foyet became pen-pals.”
Hotch looked at Tony as he took control with natural confidence. It was unusual for him being the Unit-Chief. “Do I get a say?”
Tony shook his head. “No, I have a vested interest and keep in mind that I don’t want extra agents lurking around your home overnight when we finally relieve this tension between us .”
So there it was - a tacit understanding that they both felt the same. Whatever was between them would happen: it was a question of when, not if. Hotch said his comment reflexively. “Why.”
Tony couldn’t resist. “Goodness me Agent Hotchner, what if one or both of us are too loud? We have our reputations to uphold after all.”
A raised eyebrow was his only response mainly because Hotchner couldn’t shake the idea planted in his mind. It was a good job they were experienced professionals as by the time they reached Hampton they were the perfect Agents they needed to be.
Chapter 10: To Outfox the Fox - Part Two
Chapter 10: To Outfox the Fox - Part Two
Tony was glad they were still alone in the car as they needed to have this conversation in private. He didn’t want to test Aaron’s authority or show dissent in front of the others but he wouldn’t tolerate Aaron endangering himself. He knew it would be hard for him to accept the protection though, as it would go so against the grain.
“So are you ready for me to tell the team?” Tony asked Hotch.
“No. No, I am not but I know it is necessary.” Aaron responded.
Tony let out a sigh of relief. “Oh good, I was ready to argue but I am glad you are sensible.”
Aaron snorted. “I have it in me, to be sensible. Let’s go find this unsub.”
It was fitting as they had rolled up in front of the local police department where the team had set up. They had the case files on board and they had tried every trick to find the link between the families - it was very rare in a situation like this that there wasn’t some connection. After all, their killer had targeted these families and there was a reason for it so they needed to find it.
Tony and Hotch walked into a discussion and theory session seeing if the team couldn’t unpick something new especially in light of the idea that it was a female unsub.
“What is the connection?” Morgan asked rhetorically.
Prentiss answered wearily. “We know it is the absent father. We know it holds significance to the killer and the fact the girl drowns. We just don’t know what significance.”
Rossi tried to take the conversation down a different line of thinking. “So the fathers are thousands of miles away, right?”
JJ nodded. “Yeah, they had emails, photos and scheduled skype sessions.”
Garcia’s voiced piped through the speaker. “You know that is military grade protection on their privacy and that is some serious juice.”
JJ groaned. “I’ll call my contacts and see what I can do.”
Tony announced himself back. “Which database and what do you want to know?”
The group looked at him with dawning realisation. “I forgot.”
Tony chuckled. “I’d almost forgot but technically I am on loan.”
Rossi smirked because he saw the look of everyone on the team and had no doubt that they would try to change the loan to a permanent deal. Any more theories were put on hold as Agent Hudson came back looking grave and the team knew what she was going to say before she said it.
“There has been another family murdered.”
McGee slid down to Abby’s lab mentally replaying the arguments he had in his head. He was shocked when he noticed the lab was more modern. “Abs?”
She poked her head up from a spectrometer. “What do you want?”
McGee was immediately on the defensive. “What have I done to deserve that tone?”
She sniffed. “Your stupid book has ruined everything.”
McGee frowned not understanding that point of view. “I disagree and it is not my fault.”
Abby looked up incredulous. “So Tony reads your manuscript and the next day he is gone. And you don’t find it strange?”
Tim shrugged because he’d been too focussed on the chance to shine as SFA without Tony stealing his glory. “No, I didn’t care. It’s not like he adds much but comic relief to the team.”
Abby’s jaw dropped to the floor because that wasn’t just a throwaway comment, it was dismissive in the extreme. “You don’t mean that.”
“Of course, I do. He is mean and always playing jokes.”
Abby wished Gibbs was here to listen to this but she would tell him. She had no idea that his world-view, not to mention his memory, was so distorted. She could admit that without Gibbs’ chat with her she might have been swayed and that scared her. “You weren’t here when the team was just Gibbs and Tony, Timmy, so don’t talk about things you don’t understand. And have you forgotten just who trained you to be a field agent?”
McGee huffed. “Look, I just need you to find Tony for me, Abs. He’s causing all kinds of problems and might sue me.”
She stared at him unimpressed with his attitude. “Oh really, and since when are you, Gibbs?”
She smiled sweetly. “Then get out of my lab, right now before I make you a science experiment.”
Abby hadn’t forgotten Gibb’s promise to suspend her if she withheld information from an agent. She figured as the information she was withholding was about DiNozzo then she would be safe.
The latest crime scene was almost an exact replica of the other two houses with the mother and sons murdered and the daughter suffocated, probably due to the lack of a family pool. The bodies were in a pit but they were not buried - this sets off several things all at once.
Rossi was the one to say it. “If they are not remorseful, what are they?”
It was a good question but there was an even more pertinent point which Morgan raised. “Why have they killed only three days later, that points to a major psychological break.”
Hotch agreed. “So what could it be?”
Morgan shrugged because a psychological break was personal to the individual. “We know that such a primal response is usually triggered by a sense of smell.”
“Or sound,” Prentiss interjected.
Tony looked up at the passing jets . “Like aircraft. Were there any maneuvers going on when the first family was murdered?”
Hudson nodded, “Yes the annual air show, big but not this big.”
“We have a few ideas then, let’s head back and run down the leads.” Hotch ordered. He noticed that Tony was still staring at the grave. “What is it, DiNozzo?”
Tony sighed. “It’s the grave, the scene reminds me of something but I can’t think what.”
There was nothing else they could gain from the crime scene so they want back to their base of operation, they hoped Reid and Garcia had managed to make some headway on their research.
The team went straight to work upon arriving back at the Police building. They knew they were on the clock, the major psychological break meant that the unsub could strike again at any time. Tony put the photos of all three burials together and asked Reid. “What do you see?”
“Mass burial grave. Oh.”
Tony sighed because as soon as he said it, they both independently came to the same conclusion - the unsub was not American.
seeing the confused looks on the other members of the team
. “It reminds me of the mass graves but none of them have been seen on the mainland since before World War Two.”
The implications were easy to arrive at but were frightening at the same time. Tony had seen mass graves during some of the international work he’d done as an Agent at NCIS and it never got easier. “If so, then the unsub is likely to have been born outside of the United States.”
Rossi took the idea and slotted it together with the other information. “So we are looking for a woman in her mid-twenties to thirties. She will probably have little to no English and suffered a massive trauma involving mass graves.”
Reid ran the dates. “Then the trauma probably was as a result of the Serbian conflict in the early 1990’s.”
“Jesus, a psychopath born from that conflict, that is a scary thought.” Prentiss noted.
Hotch posed the question to the group. “So if we worked on the assumption the unsub has little to no English then how are they picking their victims.”
Tony looked at the photos once again, he’d always been leery of photos - with his stints undercover, photos could literally kill him if they were the wrong ones. “So many photos, everyone puts their whole lives online these days.”
Tony shook his head. “I am an undercover specialist - it would be a rookie mistake to do that.”
Garcia shouted down the phone. “Stallion, you are a genius.”
Garcia snickered. “Yes, you caught the link - it is the photos, specifically the site where all photos have been uploaded.”
Hotch asked immediately. “Can you get their employee list and see if any employees would fit the profile?”
“Already on it, boss. I have one name that fits the bill, sending you the address and file.”
Derek grinned. “Thanks, Baby girl.”
Meanwhile back in Washington, Gibbs was sitting down in the office of SECNAV Jarvis. “What can I do for you, Jethro.”
“We have a serious problem that needs fixing.” Jethro explained.
Jarvis quirked an eyebrow. “And you can’t shoot it.” He wasn’t being flippant, he knew his agent’s style. Jethro prefered a direct route to a solution so if he was coming to him for help, it was more than likely going to be giving him a headache instead.
Jarvis would have loved to remind him who he worked for but it was pointless. He did as asked knowing it was more than likely vital. Oh, Jesus. This wasn’t just a headache, it was a clusterfuck in the making. “What is she playing at?”
“Dying and vengeance while she still can.” Jethro answered.
Jarvis huffed. “I don’t give a shit about her vengeance but she does not get to use the United States to fund a vendetta. Where is DiNozzo?”
Gibbs sighed. “He is currently serving as a liaison to the FBI, working on an assignment for Deputy Director Fornell.”
Jarvis wanted to bash his head on the desk. “So whilst you were on medical leave she managed to ruin the MCRT and drive away DiNozzo?”
“That would be my assessment, we’d be lucky if he comes back.”
“I really want to throw her in the brig.”
Gibbs wanted to do a hell of a lot more than just see her land in jail. Still, he knew with the medical angle and the potential PR disaster in the making. “Hey, I would be the one losing the key.”
Jarvis rubbed his face and pressed the intercom for his assistant. “I want Director Shepard in my office within the hour!”
Jarvis looked at his most steadfast agent. “Do you want to stick around for the conversation?”
Chapter 11: To Outfox the Fox - Part Three
Chapter 11: To Outfox a Fox - Part 3
The name Garcia had sent them was a perfect fit for the profile they’d given. A refugee who had been part of the Srebrenica massacre. The saddest part of all of these murders in many ways was that in her mind she was protecting the young daughter that she drowned or suffocated - she didn’t want them to suffer what she had.
Hotch knew they had their unsub, this was now time sensitive. “Right. We better get moving then.”
JJ began. “I’ll stay here and update the public.”
Morgan added. “I’ll head to the unsub’s address with Rossi. We should probably get the local LEO’s to back us up in case it get’s ugly.”
Rossi turned to Tony. “You wanna come along? We can always use another good agent in situations like this.”
Emily knew what her and Hotch’s task would be. “I assume we are getting started on trying to identify a next potential victim.”
Hotch was so proud of the way his team was so well trained and used to working together that they could predict what needed to be done. “Exactly. If she feels threatened or cornered then I fully expect her to lash out and take out one last family.”
Tony was already preparing for a raid. He turned around to Hotch and gave him a hard stare. “Do I need to say it?”
Hotchner shook his head. “No.”
The team wondered what was going on and why the liaison seemed to be able to communicate with their leader without words. They would find out soon enough once they had tracked their unsub down. They just hoped they got there in time before she killed another family.
Tony knew the team wanted to know what was going on and they would share it with everyone but now was not the time to split their focus.
Jarvis and Jethro had discussed the best path through the following meeting. They were in perfect agreement that she had to go and they needed her to see reason and go quietly. Jarvis sighed. “Will she listen to reason?”
Gibbs shrugged. “She isn’t making rational decisions at the moment so who can say?”
Jarvis agreed. It was going to make this meeting interesting but he was smart enough to record it, should it need to go to prosecution. “Now go and be a good spy and hide behind the curtain.”
“Are you kidding me?” Gibbs had to ask.
Jarvis smirked because this was turning into a shitty day and the only bright side was teasing Jethro. “Well, she isn’t going to say anything if she thinks you’re here and listening.”
Gibbs didn’t have much of an opportunity to say anything else as his assistant informed him though his telecom that Shepard was already here. So he did as he was ordered and hid behind the curtain, certain he’d left this shit behind him. He wondered what Tony would make of all this, he would probably laugh at the cliche and quote a dozen movies with this same scenario. Thinking of a couple made him look down to double check his shoes weren’t visible beneath the curtain hem.
Jarvis watched his Director of NCIS swan in. She didn’t even have the grace to look worried despite being called to an impromptu meeting. Still, Jarvis greeted her cordially. “Hello Jenny, thank you for being prompt.”
She was beginning to look a little nervous but not as much as she should be. Her response wasn’t the smartest either. “Yes, well, when you are ordered to a meeting with your boss you attend.”
“Yes, you do.” Jarvis answered her in a tone that said she watch her own tone.
Jenny sat down carefully. “Why am I here, Mr. Secretary?”
Jarvis smiled at the question but Gibbs had to smirk from where he was hiding. There was no warmth in his grin, it was - to be blunt - a little sharkish. “Let’s talk about Rene Benoit, the Frog.”
“Why would we need to talk about him?” She answered in return, aiming for clueless but Jethro and Jarvis didn’t believe a second of it. She couldn’t hide that initial flash of hatred that marred her features upon hearing the name, there was no way you would respond that way to someone you didn’t know.
Jarvis wasn’t in the mood to play twenty questions so he asked her. “Why do you think, Shepard? And this time drop the clueless act, it doesn’t suit you.”
She flushed in embarrassment knowing that she had been caught out. “I am assuming you already know.”
Jarvis gave her a run down of all the things she should have informed him about. “That you attempted to coerce your MCRT leader into an unsanctioned operation and that after turning it down, he felt in danger for his life. Or, how about you have a terminal illness and you have failed to inform me or step down from the agency.”
She shook her head, stubbornly trying to refute it. “No, it was the wrong diagnosis. I am seeking a second opinion.”
Jarvis snorted because that wasn’t just denial this was something far deeper. He wondered if he had missed the pathological craziness. He would so be beefing up the psych requirements for NCIS. “Well, you will have all the time in the world to seek a second diagnosis as,” and he slid the piece of paper and the pen across the desk, “I want your resignation before you leave the room.”
“You can’t do this!” She hissed. He couldn’t . She was so close to setting the operation up. She would happily step away to the side once she had her revenge.
“Why not Jen?” Gibbs asked, glad that he could step from around the curtain like the cliche he was embracing right now.
“This is you, you’re responsible.” She couldn’t believe that Gibbs would betray her.
Gibbs smirked. “No, I was on medical leave. For the record, Jenny, this was DiNozzo, it is not my fault you bought into the mask he wears at work.”
She sneered. “He was always your boy even when you threw him away.”
Gibbs shook his head. “No, he is his own man.”
Jarvis smirked because he was well aware of the scuttlebutt. DiNozzo was closer to Fornell than many realised and had been seen in the company of his little girl, who by all accounts treated him like a big brother. Jarvis was in no mood to pander to anyone trying to irrationally justify their choices so he cut her off. “You have one chance to go quietly.”
She sighed. “I will be gone by the end of the day.” She would go from NCIS as it was clearly time but she would keep her gun. There were less refined ways to get justice but as she was dying anyway it hardly mattered if the CIA shot her afterward.
She wrote the letter as quick as possible, after all, it was a mere formality. “Benoit is dangerous and should be taken out.”
Jarvis rolled his eyes. “Leave decisions like that to people rational enough to make them.”
Gibbs watched her storm out, he’d stayed as a witness so he could verify everything said. “So what now?”
Jarvis knew he wasn’t going to like his next order but it was tough luck. “You will be taking over, overseeing NCIS whilst I have the leadership of NCIS scrutinised and decide on a successor.”
Gibbs groaned but knew it was a consequence of his own making. He just knew that Tony and Fornell would get a kick out of this. Still, there was one good thing he could get out of this. “On one condition, block the publication of that trash that McGee is calling fiction.”
“What is this fiction?” Jarvis asked confused, he’d not heard anything about any of the agents publishing a book. “Has it gone through the panel to check it’s up to code?”
Gibbs snorted. “Let’s go with no.”
“I want McGee, JAG and that book in here within the day.”
“Sure thing.” Gibbs had never had a problem with following orders if they suited him. He had no intention of being in charge for too long but he would use it to his advantage while he was.
The suspect’s place was a mess, and not in the usual I’m-a-slob way, it was more trashed than that. Sadly, despite having searched each crevice there was no sign of their unsub, Miranda Kercja.
“She’s not here, Hotch.” Morgan reported.
“Understood, see if she left a hint.” Came the order.
Rossi, Morgan, and Tony scoured through her meagre belongings to see if they could gain a clue. She was feeling trapped and was looking to hit out. They had to hope she left a clue in her agitated state.
The mirror broken by a gunshot was damning, “She is now showing her psyche is fragmented.”
Tony nodded, “Agreed but by shooting the mirror is she trying to save the girl victim or trying to destroy what’s within her?”
Rossi shrugs because there would be now way for sure. “Difficult to say.”
Tony huffed. “So I speak little to no English, I am angry, I want to stop the demons in my head.”
Rossi nodded. “So I probably have a list, right?”
Morgan joined in. “So it’s probably on my work computer as it is the only thing I can translate into my own language and understand easily.”
As he said it, he was flipping his phone open ready to ask Garcia to work her computer magic, if anyone was going to know a computer algorithm for translation it was her.
“Garcia, I need to know where she is heading. Here is her computer IP address.”
They could all hear the sounds of Garcia’s fingers whizzing over her own keyboard. Tony knew that McGee only wished he had the skills of Penelope. “I got it - 922 Winwood Drive.”
Hotch’s command through the radio was simple. “Go.”
Rossi simply said. “You heard him, let’s go.”
The team was quick to prep before they arrived at the address as they knew it was likely a lively situation. They heard the scream as they pulled up and knew they didn’t have long to act.
Derek took lead with Rossi and Tony serving as his back-up and cover. The mother was tied up in the living room and by silent agreement, Rossi stayed to free her. Morgan and Tony kept on moving silently up the stairs as it was from up there they could hear the disturbance.
Derek entered first, swiftly followed by Tony. It was in that split second that she rushed Derek from the cupboard she was hiding in. The distance being too close to get a safe shot off, the child was too close. So Derek found himself wrestling with the unsub on the floor with the gun trapped precariously between them.
Tony reacted to the threat, he quickly moved to disable the unsub. He had factored in the gun between Derek and the unsub so cold clocked her with his own gun. The other scenarios ended with Derek potentially shot. She slumped almost immediately and Tony watched as Derek quickly shoved her off him, breathing heavily. Tony wasn’t judging, he had no doubt the guy was trying to get his adrenaline under control.
Other officers streamed through the bedroom door but it was all said and done. Tony waited until they had taken her out of the bedroom before he went over to Morgan. “Hey, are you done lying down on the job?”
“You’re a funny guy, you know that?”
Tony smirked. “Maybe I am.”
Derek took the hand held out to help him up off the floor. “Let’s finish this.”
With the capture of Kercja, the case had closed fairly quickly. Tony had been on the phone to people in Washington and the BAU members had all listened in shock to his genuine laugh. It was beautiful and whatever news he’d just heard was apparently seemingly mirthful in the extreme.
“Everything okay?” Derek asked wondering just what was going on.
Tony grinned. “Oh yeah. Gibbs is running NCIS for a few days whilst they appoint a new director.”
Rossi snorted. “Okay, now I see what is funny. He doesn’t have a political bone in his body.”
Tony smirked at that accurate assessment, after all, it was well known among the federal agencies. “I don’t know - the first thing he did upon agreeing to take over was to make sure SECNAV blocked a stupid book from being published.”
The team hadn’t left it there and sure enough, the whole sordid affair of Jenny, as well as Deep Six fiasco, had come out. JJ smiled in awe, to be honest at his resilience. “So her ego was our gain but why would Director Fornell place you with us, not that I am complaining, you’ve been a great help.”
Tony smiled at the compliment but he looked at Hotch and got the nod. It was high time the team was told. “As you may have guessed, you’re profilers after all, I am close to Agent Fornell and his daughter ... and just as I came to him with my problem, there was a problem developing for Agent Hotchner.”
Rossi frowned. “Like what?”
Tony explained it thoroughly as he didn’t want the team to ask extra questions. He knew Aaron was a private man and liked to keep it that way. “There was, at the time, an unconfirmed threat against Agent Hotchner made by the Reaper.”
Prentiss ever the language expert picked upon his word choice. “You said at the time unconfirmed?”
Tony nodded. “When we went to visit the Fox, ubercreep by the way. I never want to be hit on by a serial killer again for the record. We had it confirmed as the lead was not to do with our case but rather Foyet had been messaging him in prison.”
“Son of a bitch.”
Tony shrugged because to him it was neither here nor there. He had a job to do and he intended to do it. “So official story is I am here to play liaison ... in reality, I am overseeing the Foyet operation. It wouldn’t be the first time that I have baited and caught a serial killer. If I can end up not handcuffed to this one, it will be a successful operation.”
Reid had done his reading. “You are talking about Jeffery White?”
Tony nodded. “Yep, undercover about stolen antiquities and end up handcuffed to a nutter.”
“You have the worst luck.” JJ remarked.
Tony smirked. “Or is the best luck? I am not too sure.”
Hotch gave perhaps the best answer. “You have interesting luck.”
“I will take it.” Tony said as that wasn’t a bad thing to have especially in law enforcement. “So if you all see me sticking close to the boss, you know why.”
Hotch found himself smiling at DiNozzo and the easy way he’d managed to break the news, alleviate the concerns of his team and distract them from the news. He was good at his job and he had no doubt the man was excellent undercover.
He found himself wanting the rumours to be true ...
Chapter 12: Baiting the Trap
Chapter 12: Baiting the Trap
Tony reached the office and groaned, realising he wanted to stay with Hotchner tonight but he didn’t have a change of clothes. Great. Oh well, needs must and all that. He was greatly surprised by an agent waiting at their office holding a familiar bag.
Tony took his bag. “Um …. Thanks?” He wasn’t sure who he should be thanking.
The agent looked a little unnerved but explained. “DD Fornell told me to collect your belongings as he knew your operation had stepped up a gear.”
Tony chuckled. “Thank you Agent Ramirez and I will pass on my personal thanks to Fornell.”
Rossi smirked. “Pops being good to you.”
Tony shrugged. “It was probably Emily bugging him but I’ll take it. The last thing I needed was to do the equivalent of a walk of shame, having spent the night at the boss’.”
Hotch looked at him. “Why would you be spending the evening?”
He said this to distract from the idea of why Tony would be doing a walk of shame.
Tony rolled his eyes. “I have it now confirmed, admittedly by a serial-killer but
said that the Reaper wanted to play pen-pals just to get a message to you.
I won’t let him get you while you are sleeping
The fact he’d be most vulnerable when you were asleep and potentially unaware went without saying.
Hotchner didn’t want DiNozzo to exhaust himself . “I thought you have a guard rotation set up?”
Tony nodded to acknowledge a valid point . “I do, and it’s not how I wanted to be invited over to your place but I would prefer to be on site. Killers have way too many tricks for us to think that we’ve closed every security loophole possible.”
Derek smiled. “Paranoid, I like it.”
“I am not paranoid, just prepared.” Tony responded with a faux pout.
Prentiss added a little wryly. “It isn’t paranoia if they actually are out to get you.”
Hotch gave in when DiNozzo pressed on because
Tony was perfectly willing to play dirty if it got the results he wanted.
“I would sleep better knowing that you’re as safe as can be. Besides, I don’t want to make Jack fatherless.”
“You play dirty.” Aaron had to observe, filing this information away for the future.
Tony shook his head. “No, I play to win and survive. Plus, I am selfish, I want you to survive so I can seduce you.” He added with a wicked grin. “I won’t be able to do that if you are dead.”
Tony smiled angelically. “Good.”
He didn’t make a comment about giving in not too gracefully as he didn’t want the stubborn man changing his mind. No one said anything when they left the office as they all just wanted Hotch safe.
Back at the apartment, Aaron was wondering how this would work but Tony settled it. “I’ll take your couch. It looks comfy.”
He finished not sounding too convincing. It wasn't in reality. Aaron hadn’t spent much on the couch as he was rarely home to enjoy it.
Hotch snickered. “I thought you were good at pretending?”
Tony shrugged. “If it’s uncomfortable it’ll at least keep me on my toes which is good. I don’t think he will strike tonight but I w ant to be prepared for the eventuality .”
Hotch didn’t know what to say so instead settled for. “I’ll go and make us some hot drinks.”
Tony’s phone rang and Tony had to admit he’d been eagerly awaiting this conversation with Gibbs . He asked a little too gleefully. “So how was your first day in charge, Gibbs?”
“Full of politicians.” Gibbs responded in such a tone that was only reserved for criminals.
Tony’s smirk grew. “Well, that is what sitting in the big chair involves.”
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you?” Gibbs asked, not upset as he knew he didn’t have a right to be.
“Yeah, I am.” Tony said with complete honesty. “I mean Karma can be an awesome but horrible thing to people. So how are Ziva and Timmy taking the changes?”
Gibbs snorted. “We need two new members
on the MCRT
“What?” Tony had expected many things but not that. “How did that happen?”
Gibbs shrugged not that Tony would see it. “I met with Jarvis. He spoke, I spoke. Ziva was reassigned to language translation. She threw a snit and told myself and Jarvis that Eli would hear about it.”
Tony wanted to laugh because he could just picture the scene. “Seriously? She said to SECNAV -
Wait ‘till my daddy hears about this?
” Unable to hold the snicker in by the end.
Oh, that was typical Ziva whose arrogance was always going to be her undoing. She’d never learnt diplomacy and it showed when working.
“She did.” Gibbs confirmed with his own chuckle. He’d been there and he couldn’t believe she’d said what she had. It was like she’d forgotten she was still a Mossad agent. It didn’t matter now as Ziva had made her bed and would have to suffer the consequences. Still, Gibbs wanted to be the one to let Tony know exactly what happened. “As a result, she was packing up her apartment with a guard in tow and on a plane before night fell. In fact, the plane just took off before I phoned you.”
Tony sat back on the chair because this threw everything up in the air. He’d been unconsciously decoupling himself from NCIS, so sure that it was time to leave. If the MCRT was in such disarray he wasn’t sure how he could. “So how did McGee end up off the team?”
“Well, Jarvis and I had a meeting to discuss his book. It didn’t go well for him and in his anger, he was sent back to FLETC for training.”
“Jesus, he got busted back down to trainee agent? Is he stupid? What happened to all his supposed intelligence?” Tony said, disbelieving that anyone can be that dumb.
Gibbs snorted. “It started with his refusal to stop the publication of the book, even though we have Rabb’s review that it did indeed have sensitive case material in it.”
Tony was shaking his head and he could feel Aaron standing on his periphery listening in but not so close as to be hovering. It was comforting without being overbearing which was an impressive feat. “So he was stupid enough to refuse an order from SECNAV based on the JAG’s report?”
Gibbs carried on his tale. “Oh, it gets better. He then goes on to rant that it’s all your fault and you just needed to get over it. During the rant he lets it be known that despite being told you’re undercover, he’d asked Abby to find you.”
“Is he trying to kill me?” Tony asked horrified but at the same time not too surprised.
“No,” Gibbs responded but it did give Tony a sense of relief. “He also didn’t understand or was willfully ignorant of the potential consequences. Your fake file was breached today. Abby informed me, worried she was the cause.”
Tony sighed. “No, it’s a serial killer falling for the bait. I’m trying to set him to come after me rather than the young family we’re expecting him to choose.”
“Be careful, I can’t be there watch your six.” Gibbs responded.
Tony had to blink because admittedly it was a phone conversation but he didn’t think he’d ever hear that again. “I know but don’t worry, the team here watch each other.”
“We’ll get it back. We’ll choose carefully. Together.” Gibbs assured him.
Tony hoped they could but he wasn’t naive. “It will depend on the new boss unless you want the chair permanently?”
Gibbs snorted. “You’re a funny guy.”
“Why do people keep saying that?” Tony said with a smile on his face having enjoyed the conversation with Gibbs despite the heavy subject matter. “I gotta go but feel free to vent to me anytime.”
Hotch waited for the phone call to end. “Are you okay? Things sound complicated.”
Tony was caught by the suggestion. After all, he solved problems but not many helped him. “Are you sure you want to hear about all my problems?”
“Why not? It is not like you aren’t helping me with mine.” Was the logical response.
So Tony took a chance and shared his issues at work. He felt lighter after he did much to his surprise.
Aaron could tell something had eased in Tony and for that reason, he left it alone not wanting to ruin the moments they had shared.
A new routine quickly established after the first day. Tony kept a watch on Aaron’s ass (he had to enjoy perks pun intended where he could) and the team found him very useful and nearly every member of the team had appealed to Hotch to see if the liaison position could be made into a full-time deal. However, as keen as Aaron was to make it a reality he knew the twin pulls Tony suffered from. He would give him the option but ultimately Aaron knew he would support Tony whichever option he took. Dave was hovering in his doorway so Aaron wondered if it was Rossi’s turn to say his piece.
“Can I help you, Dave?”
“Your gorgeous Italian shadow has disappeared,” his old friend commented in the way only an old friend can comment.
Aaron looked up from his paperwork. “Well, I am informed that he will be staying until Foyet is caught.”
“You didn’t deny my comment about his looks,” Rossi noted.
Aaron snorted. “What response do you want to hear?”
“A truthful one.” Rossi replied intently.
Aaron sighed as that was a loaded question. “He is tasked with my protection, Dave.”
Dave smirked, knowing what to ask. “So what will you do when he is no longer tasked with your protection?”
Aaron stopped writing and for a second he let himself want. He hadn’t done that since Haley had walked out of the door. He had work and Jack, and he told himself he was okay with that - it had to be enough. That was before this gorgeous Federal Agent was dumped in his office and Aaron realised that he still wanted a relationship and ever since the interview with Arnold he could not shake the images at night that Tony had used to put Arnold off his game.
Hotch revealed to his old friend. “We’ve agreed to go on a date. Happy?”
Rossi grinned as he believed that he would have to do the heavy lifting or nag Aaron way more. Haley had certainly done a number on his confidence, and his love-life. “Best news. Don’t wait too long, you could be good together. You ready to run the gauntlet of Gibbs and Fornell?”
Hotch rolled his eyes. He thought he was done with meet-the-family dinners. He would face the wrath of the infamous agents on the grounds they could be happy. Whilst they had kept things professional, during the evening they had started to talk more about all kinds of topics.
“You are enjoying this too much, you know that?” Hotch couldn’t help but observe.
Rossi’s smirk grew. “Oh, I’ve said it before. I can’t wait for Hayley and Tony to meet. She won’t like the fact your new partner is prettier. Women never like that.”
Hotch quirked an eyebrow he could hardly say anything about looking at their liaison - after all, he wanted to do more than look. “And people assume you’re straight.”
Rossi rolled his eyes. “I am Italian in my soul and we are taught to look for beauty in all forms. Just, I know better than to go after someone who is pining and that man wants you.”
Hotch huffed not willing to think about it more than necessary while he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. “Get out of my office.”
“Sure, do let me know when you are inviting dinner guests around.” Rossi said, just having to get the last word in.
Tony was working well with the BAU and enjoyed the job even with the heavy toll that these types of criminals can cause. There was something wrong with Aaron because he’d been acting squirrelly since he answered the phone call. It had set Hotch on edge and as soon as it ended Aaron was tearing out of the BAU. Tony was having none of that so he phoned down to security and asked them to stall Hotchner until he got there. The man was not allowed to get himself killed before he could even get him on a date.
Morgan queried. “What are you doing?”
Tony sighed because how best to answer the question without exacerbating the situation. “Something stupid. Send backup to my position but keep them at least a block away for now.”
That got Derek’s attention and Tony had to placate him quickly. “Look, sometimes less is more and until I know what we’re dealing with ... more people could spook the situation.”
In his heart Tony knew what the situation was - Foyet was playing his hand. The question was, what was he bartering with to get Aaron’s attention. Was it Jack, Haley or both?
Chapter 13: Finale: Home is Where the Heart is
Chapter 13: Springing a Trap
In the foyer, Tony took one look at Aaron and he knew the answer to his internal query - Jack. Foyet must have grabbed Jack and/or hurt Haley in the mix. It was the only way he would get a trained Agent of Aaron’s calibre to walk into a situation blind and without back-up. After all, even the strongest people have their weaknesses and like any good father - Jack was Aaron’s.
Tony could see his anger and fear in just the way he prowled the entrance. “Why am I being kept here?” Hotchner demanded to know, asking the guard, not having seen Tony yet.
Tony didn’t react to the demand as he knew why but instead, answered him calmly. “I asked him to keep you.”
Aaron whirled around in surprise, almost as if he’d forgotten Tony. “I have to go, he has Jack.”
Tony rolled his eyes annoyed by the idea he would leave Jack with the psychopath. “I would never stop you going after Jack. I just don’t want you to go alone ... That is a sure-fire way to end up dead.”
Aaron took a deep breath and nodded, still visibly rattled by what he’d been told but obviously starting to think a bit more clearly now. He spoke honestly from his heart when he said. “Thank you.”
Tony shook it off, he didn’t need thanks - it was the right thing to do not to mention his job. “Don’t thank me yet, let’s make sure we all survive.”
Aaron nodded and they went to his car. Tony was on the phone, he wanted to know how the protective custody got broken - and why the hell he wasn’t informed! If he’d been informed, he could’ve planned for it but now he would be reacting to a volatile situation with a crazy psychopath and those were his least favourite days.
“I need a trace on Haley Brooks and her son now!” Tony ordered.
Tony did not like what he was hearing and said as much. “Kort, you promised me they were the best so why does a serial killer have Jack Hotchner?”
Aaron clutched the wheel and put his foot down on the gas. A part of him had been hoping that the killer had been lying even though he knew better. “He has him?”
Tony sighed because it was a clusterfuck of the situation. “Your wife and son went out shopping today and they were in a Target store when Jack was snatched.”
Aaron softly corrected. “Ex-wife and where is she? Is she alive?”
Tony informed him. “She is receiving treatment and demanding updates apparently.”
Aaron had to focus on the matter in hand. He would not get into a conversation about Haley as she was no longer a part of his life. The end of their marriage had hurt but it was her actions that caused it. “Foyet wants to make me hurt ... taking Jack would do it.”
Tony couldn’t even predict what was going through the man’s mind. He knew Aaron loved his son with all his heart. Every conversation with Jack mentioned had reinforced the fact that Aaron was a good father. Tony found himself trying to reassure him. “We will find Foyet and make him regret ever taking your son.”
Sadly, Tony wasn’t naive enough to make any promises about getting Jack back alive. Tony was clinging onto the fact that Foyet wouldn’t try to kill Jack until they were on site - Foyet would want to maximise the psychological pain for Aaron. It was a slim chance but if there was something Tony excelled at - it was maximising the slim chance.
Tony knew where they were going even if it wasn’t where Aaron was currently staying. This was the Hotchner family home. It would be a perfect place to strike him, where his memories were the strongest.
“Stop here. We don’t need to announce we’re here. Let’s keep some element of surprise.” Tony said firmly. He was thinking every angle, he knew Aaron had been SWAT at some point - it was in his file. “You know the rule book ... Where is the silent entry point that Foyet won’t know?”
Aaron smiled. “It’s through the garage, it connects to the kitchen but it is a hidden passage. Haley used to joke that it was a smugglers house.”
Tony could appreciate the irony considering Aaron’s position. “Well, let’s be grateful so if you go in through the front door and serve as a distraction ... I will enter quietly.”
“He will hear your gun when you cock it.”
Tony smirked and it was feral suddenly there was a knife in his hand - Aaron had not even seen it appear. “Rule 9, always have a knife, and I was trained by a marine.”
Tony shrugged, replying honestly. “It has got me out of a few jams during my time. Are you ready?”
Aaron’s wasn’t sure but he was an FBI agent and this was what he was trained to do. He pushed back his fear and feelings to focus on the goal - the safe return of Jack. “Yes.”
Tony gave him a fierce look. “I will see you soon and you better be alive.”
Tony whispered asshole as he disappeared through the garage. Aaron covered his entrance by loudly knocking on the front door. After all, he was the distraction so he would do it properly and keep Foyet’s attention on him to give Tony the best chance.They would use the obsession Foyet had against him to take him down - It was almost poetic.
“Do come in Aaron,” the nightmare voice ordered. Aaron bristled at the way the psychopath was inviting him into his own home. Walking in he noted how Foyet had positioned himself against an alcove in the hallway with Jack held in front of him. Damn it. The way he was situated made it impossible for Tony to get to Foyet without being seen.
Aaron couldn’t freak out at seeing his son in the killer’s arms even though that is what he wanted to do. “Your quarrel is with me.” He said, far calmer than he felt.
Foyet snorted in disbelief at the gross simplification. “My quarrel? You emasculated me!”
Jack was sobbing and Aaron wanted to make Foyet pay for every tear or every bit of fear he’d made his son feel. Jack was innocent so Aaron did his best to appeal to the killer’s ego. “You want me, not Jack ... there is no challenge in hurting a child.”
Foyet thought about the words but the glittering hatred in those eyes didn’t conceal any of the Reaper’s madness. “Challenge, no ... but the potential for your misery, well, then he is just a means to an end and will suit my needs.”
Foyet was saying that if he had his way, Jack would die quickly followed by Aaron himself. Aaron watched as Tony stood to the side, just out of the eye line of Foyet. Aaron couldn’t believe that Foyet hadn’t heard his approach. He was guessing that Gibbs had taught more than using a knife to Tony but right now - he would take every bit of luck.
Tony’s voice rang out loud in the silence. “Hey, douchebag. He is just a kid.”
Foyet’s head whipped around with a grin. “So this is the new love interest, is it Aaron? Oh, now he is pretty isn’t he? Hurting him would cause you more pain than killing your ex would. That is why I didn’t kill her, you know. I figured you would be rid of the bitter ex-wife and you’d probably thank me.”
Tony hated serial killers, they were crazier than a box of frogs so of course, he couldn’t help but bait Foyet. “We haven’t even got to first base yet as I have been protecting him from your crazy ass.”
Yep, he was so getting another Gibbs’ lecture about how it was a stupid idea to taunt the serial killer. On the plus side, at least there would be no head slap this time - it wasn’t Hotchner’s modus operandi.
Foyet sneered, “Oh but he wants to go further than that . Just look in his eyes.”
Tony smirked at Foyet showing his natural confidence and with a wicked smirk added. “And you think you will get in the way of my life? Sweetheart, you are barely a blip, just an inconvenience.”
Aaron saw it, the anger and the desire to prove Tony wrong. The gun moved away from Jack and Tony threw a knife straight at Foyet. The knife hit Foyet dead centre in the middle of his eye. Sadly, Foyet got one shot off at Tony before he fell back dead. Tony fell back with a grunt but he would take the searing pain he could feel in his shoulder - for a dead serial killer.
Jack scrambled over to his Dad relieved that they were all okay and they had stopped the bad man. He didn’t know the pretty Agent but Jack could see he was worried. He leapt for a hug wanting the comfort of his daddy but had to ask. “Is he going to be okay?
Tony smiled at Aaron’s son grateful for the concern he could hear. He didn’t know the boy and he was worried for him but he was getting weaker and woozy from his blood loss. He hated getting shot, he had to check. “Did I get him?”
Aaron who was hugging Jack both for comfort and to keep him away from the sight of Foyet. “Yeah Tony, you got him.” He reached for his phone to call an ambulance but it was unnecessary. The gunshot had triggered the waiting forces to burst through the door. As much as Aaron hated having to move to the side, he wanted Tony to be healed so he moved out of the way so Tony could receive treatment.
Still, throughout the treatment Tony kept his attention on Aaron, choosing to ignore the pain from the gunshot by focussing on Jack and Aaron. He was glad that they were both safe from Foyet. If he was thinking a little clearer then he would have realised the second implication - he was now free to pursue Aaron.
He ignored the temporary stitches by ranting. “Good god, what an asshat ... How could he want to hurt Jack? He’s awesome.”
Jack giggled into his Daddy’s chest. “He is funny.”
Aaron smiled at his son’s laughter and agreed. “I think he is in shock but he is getting the help he needs.”
Tony nodded knowing the drill. “Hate painkillers, they will make me loopy and spill all kinds of things. Stupid Foyet bringing a gun to a knife fight.”
Aaron understood what he meant. After all Tony had done, he could protect Tony whilst he was feeling vulnerable. “Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone near you.”
Tony started to lose his battle to stay awake. “It’s your oh so fine ass I am worried I will speak poems about.”
Aaron didn’t smirk because he had a reputation to maintain but he did notice a few of the looks he got from the team who had spilled through the door with the EMT’s. He had a few explanations he would need to give but not until Tony was on the mend. Christ, he better phone Fornell as he knew how close the man was to Tony.
Aaron stood over Tony’s bed as he slept. This beautiful, stubborn man had killed his personal nightmare and all because Foyet dared to threaten his son and him. The more time he spent with Tony the more enamoured he became. There was a cry of Daddy disturbing his vigil.
Aaron didn’t think, he just picked his son up and kissed his forehead, grateful that he would get a chance to still do the simple things. Aaron could admit that he was glad to have Tony and Jack in one room - it was his turn to look after Tony. He liked the appearance of his ex-wife far less. Aaron could tell this wasn’t going to be a fun exchange due to the scorn on her face. He didn’t need bitterness, he needed Tony to wake up so he could see those beautiful green eyes and thank him.
“You are standing a little close for a co-worker, Aaron.” She said by way of greeting.
Aaron could not believe she wanted to play that game here but he was up to the task. After all, she should be at least grateful toward the man who’d saved their son. He didn’t let the disrespect go. “He is not my co-worker, Haley and the divorce let me see who I like. At least I was decent enough to wait until we divorced.”
She flushed but her anger was stronger than her shame. “Yes, well your new love got hurt by your job too.”
Now that was an arrow to the heart. It was the one part of his job that he could never reconcile with, the idea of his loved ones or those closest to him being at risk. Still, at least Tony understood duty and the job and he was quick to dispel Aaron’s darker thoughts.
Tony may be injured and sleepy but he’d awoken upon hearing the unfamiliar voice, reacting to what could have been a potential threat. There was no way he was going to let this woman hurt Aaron any further. “Lady - I had the damn plague and survived, so a douchebag serial killer won’t scare me.”
Jack giggled. “He’s still funny Daddy.”
Aaron’s relief showed on his face and he didn’t even try and stop the smile. “Yes, he is.”
Tony frowned as he didn’t quite understand the scene. He knew who the woman was, it was the ex but she seemed jealous. It didn’t make sense as she was the one who had divorced Aaron. Then it hit him, regret was a terrible thing, she was bitter he was moving on. Well. Tough. Unlike her, he knew a good thing when he saw it and he would fight to keep it. He was awake enough to mess with her, grabbing Aaron’s free hand and squeezing it.
Haley’s gaze went frosty seeing their linked hands, she huffed. “I don’t need to see this. I’ll go down to the coffee shop and be back in an hour.”
Jack peeked at Tony from his Daddy’s shoulder seemingly not too worried about his mother storming away. Instead, the little boy asked. “Will he be okay, Daddy?”
Aaron smiled because his son had such a big heart. “Yeah, the doctors want to make sure the bad man didn’t hurt him too badly.”
Jack motioned to be put down and Aaron allowed him, watching with eagle eyes as Jack approached Tony’s bed. Aaron knew the gunshot was a through and through and the hospital was demanding an overnight stay so they could monitor his plague-scarred lungs. His son approached Tony very carefully and, mindful of the monitor, hugged him.
Aaron could see the caution on Tony’s face but watched as he sunk into his son’s hug. Finally the look of awe as Tony listened to what Jack whispered in his ear. Aaron would love to ask what was said but it was clear it was a secret between the two people on the bed. He felt a bit left out until Tony patted the bed. “Come join us.”
Tony grinned at Aaron as he sat on the bed. “I won’t break.”
Aaron shook his head. “Let me stay worried for a bit longer.”
“Why should you?” Tony said with a grin. “Foyet is gone and you and Jack are safe. I’m happy.”
Jack giggled. “The good guys won Daddy.”
Tony pulled him in, if he wasn’t to move from the bed then he would pull Aaron closer. He wasn’t going to let him close himself off from him in fear. “We did, Jack, we did. Now let’s talk important things. What’s your favourite movie?”
Jack animatedly told him all about a fish and another about an ohana and how awesome the movies were. The talking and the excitement meant that little Jack fell asleep. Aaron stroked his son’s forehead seeing how calm and relaxed he was - a miracle considering everything that had gone on. Aaron had to say it once. “Thank you.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Not necessary.” He said but he couldn’t stop the yawn from escaping his mouth.
Aaron didn’t care. “Sleep, you need it. I will stay awake.”
Tony, showing just how much he trusted the agent, fell asleep once more.
A little while later, the door slid open and Aaron had his hand on his gun. It was unnecessary as it was Fornell and Gibbs, they stopped short seeing a sleeping Tony and the young boy also sleeping.
Gibbs was pleased to see how taut the Agent was, and how quickly he’d gone for his gun. He needed someone good watching Tony’s six. “Foyet is gone.”
Hotchner nodded. “Knife to the eye, it was almost biblical.”
Gibbs smirked to Fornell. “And you told me that I shouldn’t encourage his knife fascination.”
Aaron could admit that he was slightly weirded out. He understood that despite there being nothing more than friendship between Fornell and Gibbs, this was close as he would come to meeting the family.
Fornell rolled his eyes. “I just don’t see what is wrong with a SIG.”
Gibbs had a big smile. “Well, you get into a fight with less than twenty feet between you and see who comes out on top.”
Aaron had to agree with the NCIS director, having seen exactly that. “He will be okay. They are keeping him overnight to check that his lungs haven’t been overtaxed.”
Gibbs nodded and staring at him intently asked. “Do you know how significant that is?”
Aaron was confused by the lack of explanation. “Significant?”
Gibbs snorted. “Tony sleeps like an active Marine and is twice as paranoid. If he is sleeping next to you then that speaks of trust. Don’t break it like so many before you have.”
Aaron didn’t need to be a profiler to know that the briefest flash of pain he saw on Gibbs' face suggested he was one of those who’d broken that trust. “I won’t.”
There was tension in the room and it all focussed on the resting Agent sleeping contentedly on the hospital bed. There were many choices ahead for Tony in the next few days and they would have far reaching consequences.
Epilogue: Home is Where the Heart is
The BAU had been visiting throughout the afternoon and all had been startled by the presence of Fornell apart from Rossi. No, Rossi had just chuckled and shook the man’s hand. “You gave us quite the liaison, not too keen on his psycho-baiting ways though.”
Gibbs snorted. “Sorry, that would be my fault.”
Tony pouted. “Hey, right here and now I won’t cook my special lasagne.”
Rossi clutched his heart in faux outrage. “You can’t take food hostage!”
Tony grinned. “I work with all the tools at my disposal.”
Rossi sighed. “Okay kid, you grew on me.”
“I’m a grown man.” Tony said but his pout made him look younger.
“True but still younger than I, so hence, kid.” Rossi explained with a triumphant smirk.
Tony shrugged and it made him wince as he’d forgotten for a second about the bullet hole that was repairing in his shoulder. “Can you out stubborn Aaron into going home and resting? Feeding him would be good too.”
“He is a grown man.” Rossi said, using his own words against him. There was a reason that he and Tony got on so well.
Tony rolled his eyes. “I currently have the temporary director of the NCIS with me. I can’t get much safer.”
Rossi chuckled. “Fine - but you can deal with the ensuing argument.”
Rossi got a picture of the relationship developing when Tony managed to miraculously out argue the trained lawyer and Hotch went with him.
Tony looked sheepish at the look Gibbs and Fornell levelled at him. “What? You said to stop Foyet and I did that, you stopped McGee and Shephard... I wasn’t planning on Ziva but I can’t say I’m unhappy.”
Gibbs looked shocked at that summation. He knew things hadn’t always been rosy between Ziva and Tony but hadn’t realised that it was this bad. “We’ve lost our entire team ... and Fornell seems to have lured you over to the dark side.”
Tony grinned. “Nah boss, I have your back always, besides as fun as it was to work with the BAU ... I want to do entirely inappropriate things that I am sure their frat regs frown upon.”
Fornell quirked an eyebrow. “Is this the good stuff speaking?”
Tony shook his head. “No, it is the repressed glory of Aaron Hotchner. I want to break down every wall plus you saw him with Jack. If I had ovaries ... they would have exploded.”
Gibbs did chuckle at that. “Okay Tony - you should sleep now and we’ll hope you forget this.”
Fornell watched as Tony did as ordered. “Is this why he doesn’t like painkillers?
Gibbs nodded. “Yes.”
The next time Tony woke up Fornell had gone but the SECNAV was with Gibbs. “Hello, Sir.”
SECNAV nodded. “Well done on the Foyet case, Agent DiNozzo.”
Tony nodded as that was one thing that didn’t hurt. Foyet’s lucky shot had got him in the sinew cartilage of the shoulder making it the most painful type of injury. “Thank you, Sir. Sorry if I’ve caused you any headaches in the last week.”
Jarvis shook his head amused. “On the contrary, there has been great amusement and I should thank you for helping me rid corruption from the agency before it became a scandal.”
Tony was glad to have helped but self-preservation was the most important thing. “You’re welcome. So what’s next?”
Tony was asking because he knew what he wanted to happen with Aaron and given the way they’d cuddled on the bed with Jack between them - well, he was pretty sure Aaron wanted the same thing.
Jarvis smirked at the direct question, he appreciated those who got straight to the heart of the matter. “I have a proposition for you both and I think you will like it.”
Tony was curious. “We’re listening.”
Gibbs was ready to accept even a teaching position if it meant that he didn’t have to sit in the big chair and listen to one more boring meeting. He hated paperwork generated through his job, now he was considering setting fire to it.
Jarvis grinned. “I need special investigators and you will be my trouble shooters. If there is a hot case or a delicate case, you will take the lead. If there is suspicion of corruption or I don’t like the reports ... you will go in and audit the situation for me.”
Tony was intrigued by the idea. “What do you say, Gibbs?”
Gibbs shrugged. “There is no one else I trust on my six, and partners again. Sounds right.”
The smile on Tony’s face could have powered the Eastern seaboard with how powerful it was. “Then yes, I’ll take it.”
Dates - they could be such a daunting thing when there were genuine emotions behind them. You want them to go well, to go smoothly, to be the best thing. You want them to be memorable so that you see the other person again and again. Aaron was no such stranger to those feelings so he was torn right now.
He’d planned it all. He had the meal, not Italian as he wouldn’t even try to compete. And then Haley was at his door, dumping Jack like he was a sack of potatoes. Aaron’s eyes glittered with anger for how she was treating Jack and his kid should never look that sad and forlorn. He’d forgotten for a second that Tony was even in the apartment with all the drama Haley was bringing to his door.
Tony had stood in the hallway just out of sight as he was well aware that Haley was hardly his biggest fan.
“You are unbelievable.” Aaron said, letting his disgust show through.
“He will be better off with you Aaron.” Haley said, trying to justify her reasons for dumping Jack with them so she could go on a cruise with her new lover.
Tony hated the look he could see on little Jack’s face. He could remember feeling and possibly looking like that when he was a little kid and he’d been left with the help ... again. He stepped up no longer caring about her feelings.
“Hey, buddy. How are you doing?”
“Tony!” Jack screamed with joy and ran at him.
Tony was usually no good with kids but it was different with Jack. He scooped him up with an exaggerated swoop to pull him in for a hug. “Hey buddy, let’s go in the living room while mommy and daddy have a chat. You can tell me about these movie characters that you think are just the best.”
Aaron sent him a look of intense gratitude and love that Tony blushed. It didn’t matter, Jack was awesome and didn’t deserve this bullshit. He was more than happy to distract Jack whilst Aaron had a chat with Haley.
Aaron knew Tony was a keeper because when he was finally done with Haley’s bullshit - he found Tony engrossed in Lilo and a Stitch, letting Jack tell him all about the characters and as he entered he heard Jack telling Tony the best quote. “Ohana means family and no one ever gets left behind or forgotten.”
Tony had shiny eyes because after today he could imagine why such a quote would resonate. “You know Jack, your Dad and I, we will never leave you behind.”
Aaron nodded sitting close to pair. Jack seemed to morph from Tony’s lap into the space between them.
Jack bit his lip. “Do you promise? Mom has.”
Tony and Aaron shared a look of anger but squashed it down. After all, now was not the time. Aaron answered. “No son, we won’t.”
Tony let himself be as vulnerable. “You know what I say, Home is Where the Heart is.”
Jack smiled brightly. “That’s right here though.”
Aaron started to relax and he looked at Tony and could see the understanding and the truth in his eyes. This may be new and if Tony hadn’t run screaming for the hills by now then he knew they would last - they would make it work. If nothing else, he had a secret weapon - Jack.
He was right because they did last - after all, your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are. Aaron knew that evening, for him it was where Jack and Tony were - for Tony, it was with the Hotchner’s as he never understood why they let him in but he was smart enough to hang onto this gift and cherish it with every fibre of his being.