Trust Issues: Chapters 10-14
Fandom: NCIS/Stargate Series
Warnings: Character Bashing, Death – Major Character, Discussion – Murder, Discussion – Torture, Kidnapping, Murder, Slavery, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Canon Divergent, Crossover, Established Relationship, Science Fiction, Slash
Relationships: John/Rodney, pre-Ronon/Tony
Word Count: 28,804/78,112
Author Note: This starts during the NCIS episode Dead Air. The Stargate Series are AU, so don’t waste a lot of time trying to sync the timelines. Also, DADT has already been repealed, because I refuse to mess with that. Thanks to Jilly James for help with the art. The line about attraction to your brother’s spouse was completely for her. While I have seen many stories use avatars for Atlantis, Keira Marcos’ Lantean Legacy was the first time I had seen it adapted to individual ships in Stargate. I hope my Alex lives up to that standard.
Summary: While taking voice prints for a case, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo stumbles across a kidnapping. His trust in his team is shattered when his expected rescue never appears. Now he finds himself forced to use every skill he has to keep himself and his fellow victim alive as he is thrust into a universe that is much larger and deadlier than he ever imagined.
“Agent Tony, Dr. Rodney is requesting you and your fluffy hair get to the command deck before he’s forced to fly this ship.” Alex smiled and added in an aside, “He said you don’t really want to see him fly something.”
“I bet. Thanks for the notice, Alex. Tell Dr. Rodney that he can keep his pants on while I get us both snacks.” Tony finished pouring the juice and grabbed a couple of the fruit pies. It was amazing that they came out of stasis at the same temperature they went in.
Once he had things ready to carry, he started the march toward the command deck. As he walked, he passed one of the little closets that Rodney had said were transporters inside the ship. Kind of like instant elevators. The entire idea of getting around so fast was awesome, but Rodney refused to allow their use until the system was checked, and a test was run with a biological test subject.
Objectively the ship wasn’t that big overall. According to Rodney the ship was smaller than something called the Daedalus, and honestly what moron names a spaceship after someone in a myth about death by flying near the Sun?
The doors to the command deck slid open, and Tony stepped in. Rodney was reviewing readings on a screen while speaking softly to Alex. Once the Tok’ra were off the ship, Rodney finally relaxed and sank his mind into ship systems like a giddy schoolboy. It was kind of endearing how the man got so excited over the strangest things.
Most of this was so far over Tony’s head that he felt like he was watching a foreign language film with no subtitles. And when he does understand the words, it’s more like an old Godzilla movie where the voiceovers don’t even try to match.
“There you are. You certainly took your time. What if we had to drop out of hyperspace without someone in the command chair? Did you think of what could happen? No, obviously you weren’t thinking.”
“Gee, I love you too, Rodney.” Tony stopped behind him and glanced down at the readings. It was strange to see the solar system from the outside moving in. “Here, eat up.” Tony handed over the pie and juice.
“Is this really the best time?” Rodney griped though he did take the pie. He just didn’t automatically eat it.
“Rodney, drink your juice. I’ve seen a hypoglycemic episode before, and I don’t feel like watching another when I need your brain working on contact with Earth.” Tony stood there as Rodney glared at him, but he didn’t back down as he saw the slightly glassy look in the man’s eyes.
Finally, Rodney drank down the glass and took a bite of the pie. “There, are you happy?”
“Ecstatic.” Tony moved to slip into his seat as he was speaking. “Alex, take note of Rodney’s condition. While it would be best if we could get blood glucose readings for him, he is demonstrating some classic symptoms of hypoglycemia. The primary treatment is to have him eat. When we get to Earth, we can make sure you get information on human health and nutrition.”
There was silence for a few minutes as Tony waited to sink into the command chair until Rodney had finished eating. Tony polished off his own food while he was at it.
“OK, fine. I’m sorry. I don’t usually let that happen to me.” Rodney looked slightly embarrassed.
“It’s ok. We’re both nervous about finally making it home.” Tony put his hands on the pads and let the chair recline.
“Yes, well, I’m much too intelligent to allow myself to get to the point that I don’t realize it’s happening. I’m not sure what happened.” Rodney’s color had improved, and he looked much more focused.
“Are you sure? Are you worried about seeing everyone again?” Tony asked gently.
“Well, I suppose I am concerned that John might have done something stupid and pissed off command, the IOA, and possibly the Joint Chiefs. He can get a little reckless. Most of the time, he’s completely in control. But every now and then he will take stupid chances. Sometimes, for no real reason at all, he’s ready to throw his whole career away. Honestly, Tony, I don’t know what comes over him when he’s like that. Did I ever tell you about the time that he insulted a High Priestess, ruined a trade deal, and got our team eternally blocked from entering the Leskair Trade Markets, just because she wanted me to finish some fertility rite?” Rodney smiled slightly.
Tony grinned unrepentantly, “Is Fertility Rite code for Sex Ritual?”
“Yes, but there are whole levels of codes. Sheppard calls an orgy a Quaint Sporting Event. You would not believe how much casual sex is on offer in the Pegasus Galaxy. They have whole levels of acceptable ways to spread genetic material and share custody.” Rodney was waving his hands around while he spoke.
“So how much sex was on offer by the High Priestess?”
“Oh, she had six virgins to be sacrificed. It was considered a reward for fixing their water filtration systems. It used an old Ancient system that was on its last legs, so I was able to convert the current system to solar and taught them how to make new solar cells for future growth.” Rodney turned back and triggered his chair to convert for maneuverability.
Tony was appalled. “What the hell, Rodney? Six kids?”
“No, moron. Six young women who were about twenty. They had served their time in the temple and participating in the ritual was their final release from their vows. They all volunteered. Though, I think they were hoping Ronon was the one selected. But it didn’t matter. The moment she started having the guards strip me down for the ritual, John lost it. He told her that I belonged to him, and no one touched what belonged to him. I called him an idiot later, but sex that night was something else.” Rodney was smiling at the end.
Tony just shook his head and activated the system. “Sounds like the man’s in love, Rodney.”
All of the information came rushing at Tony, but after several days of becoming familiar with this, it was not as overwhelming. It was still a mind fuck, don’t get him wrong. He was controlling things with his brain. That was just made of awesome. But there was so much he still didn’t understand. Tony supposed that shouldn’t bother him. Once they reached Earth, he would probably never see the ship again, and that was a little sad.
Alex was great, though so young. Between information in the system logs and things Alex told them, he was put in stasis almost immediately after waking up. His interactions with the Ancients were impersonal and only glancing. They had been trying to suppress Alex so that they could use the ship without him. In essence, they never let Alex grow up because they did not want him. Rodney and Tony had roughly estimated that he was somewhere between a child and a teenager emotionally. But he was learning fast.
Rodney pinged with instruction, “I’ve plotted a course that will bring us out of hyperspace near Saturn. I want us cloaked the moment we’re in normal space. We don’t know if Peitho is still on Earth, so we need to watch for his ship. Also, we need to make sure none of our own ships freak out.”
“Ok, exiting hyperspace.” Tony ran the mental countdown between them and then focused on the shields and cloak. They had planned this part already. Rodney fed flight instructions to Alex that Tony confirmed. They had decided that a slow flight under cloak to Earth, while they did a sensor sweep of the solar system, was the best choice. Better to know if Peitho or any of his cronies were out here waiting to cause trouble.
Luckily, nothing was showing up this far out. Eventually, they passed Mars, and communications traffic picked up.
“Your world is noisy, Dr. Rodney,” Alex noted.
“Well, they have communications for education, entertainment, and actual communication being broadcast with no concern for where all the signals are going,” Rodney explained.
“There are two ships cloaked above the planet.” Tony nudged it to display a graphic instead of a stream of numbers. He wouldn’t have known what that even meant if it wasn’t for his connection to Alex, and subsequently Rodney.
“Those are ours. Alex, make sure you mark them as friendly; I mean allies.” Rodney prompted.
“Yes, Sir. No damaging the clunky toys Earth humans like to play with.”
“Don’t look at me. That was pure Rodney McKay coming back at you.” Tony just grinned as Rodney huffed.
“Agent Tony, those ships are very aggressive with their sensor searches,” Alex mentioned getting their attention.
“What do you think, Rodney?”
“I think the foremost scientist in the program was kidnapped by a goa’uld. Who knows what’s happened down there since then. I just hope John’s not in trouble. If I have to go back there and rescue him from his own stupidity, then he won’t get any for a month.” Rodney grumbled.
“Won’t get any what?” Alex inquired.
Tony smiled at the curious puppy tone. “Yeah, won’t get any what, Dr. Rodney?” Tony egged him on.
“Never mind! You can have Tony tell you about the birds and the bees later.”
As they eased into orbit, they tried to decide the best way to make contact. Preferably without getting attacked. Alex tapped into secure communications, while Rodney decided between contacting one of the ships, or Stargate Command first.
“Oh, I found him.” Was all they heard from Alex before a brief burst of light ended their discussion.
A man wearing a black t-shirt, sweat pants, and bare feet appeared in front of them. He had a cell phone in one hand and a look of shock on his face. Tony noticed green eyes and unruly hair before the shock faded into a look that was overwhelming relief and love.
John Sheppard, the man had to be, stepped forward and pulled Rodney into the most passionate kiss Tony had ever seen. It spoke to fear, longing, want, and a pure, almost transcendental emotion that was hard to quantify.
“Alex, what did you do?” Tony asked while the two men were otherwise involved.
“Dr. Rodney has said repeatedly how much he missed his Colonel John Sheppard. Col. John Sheppard was speaking to a General O’Neill on the communication device. General O’Neill is currently at the location Dr. Rodney identified as Stargate Command. Col. John Sheppard was at what appears to be a private domicile, here.” Satellite maps zoomed in until a well-known house on the outskirts of D.C. was highlighted. “He was there with two others. Based on calls being placed to Stargate Command, they may be concerned with his sudden removal from that location.”
“Gibbs knows. Of course, Gibbs knows.” Tony shook his head in disbelief.
“Should I bring this Gibbs and the one called Ronon Dex here as well?” Alex asked, earnestly.
“Yeah, sure, the more, the merrier,” Tony muttered under his breath and then opened his mouth to stop Alex when he realized he had said it aloud. But he was too late as Gibbs and a rather hot man in dreads and no shirt were standing on the command deck.
“Tony?” Gibbs was suddenly in front of him with a large smile before he was pulled into a hug. It was nice and…strange.
The shirtless guy was moving just as fast to wrap his arms around Rodney and John with a shout of joy.
Before anything else could be said, shouting was heard through the phone, and Gibbs raised it to his ear. “Found him, O’Neill. McKay and DiNozzo invited us up. Seems they stole a spaceship.” Then Gibbs being Gibbs, he hung up.
Tony had seriously had enough of these people. He and Rodney returned in grand style. They were briefly welcomed as expected. They gave Alex instructions on downloading movies, pop culture, and history to help him understand Earth a little better and to hopefully keep him occupied. An SG Team along with some scientists were beamed aboard, and then Rodney, Tony, and their happy little reunion band beamed down into Stargate Command. And that’s when they were met with armed guards, a mixture of happy greetings and suspicion, and finally thrown into medical. Everything seemed to go downhill from there.
Medical got all up in Tony’s business. He’s had physicals, but the check-up in the SGC was downright invasive in the most unpleasant ways. Hours of being poked, prodded, sampled, imaged, and x-rayed were more than enough to give him nightmares for life. And hearing doctors rule out infestation, cloning, and drugs was bizarre. Of course, Rodney was going through it with him, so he knew he wasn’t singled out.
Tony was only allowed a brief statement before Marines were ensuring he didn’t speak about his experience with anyone before he was properly debriefed. So, after the excessive hours of medical, he started the longest marathon of debriefing ever. First, he provided a verbal statement of what happened. Then he was asked to write a report. Well, no problem on either. He’s a federal agent. Reports are his way of life. But then it was an interrogation where they went over every piece of information and frankly questioned his motivation and loyalty at each step.
They pushed them with a bit of sleep deprivation until someone pulled the medical card for Rodney. Tony was betting John pitched a fit. But at least that got them food and sleep before they were woken up at 0-Hell-hundred, and these bozos started running them through their statements again—and again.
It was insulting, but Tony kept his cool. Hell, he’s been arrested for murder before. He can keep his cool under this kind of pressure. The same couldn’t be said for Rodney in the next room. Everyone on their level could hear him question the interrogators’ ability to think and breath at the same time. His insults became louder and more biting as the questions continued until Tony just couldn’t take it anymore and started laughing. This entire circus was completely ridiculous.
Tony leaned the chair back and put his feet up on the table. There was no mirror here, only cameras, which Tony was certain Gibbs was watching. But the two officers who were running this show were just so amateurish. Who in the world taught them interrogation? It was becoming impossible to take them seriously.
“Do you find this funny, Mr. DiNozzo?” Tweedle Dum asked.
“I find this absolutely hilarious,” Tony smirked at the man.
Tweedle Dumber clenched his jaw tightly. Tony hoped they had good dental plans because he was going to crack some teeth if he kept that up.
Dumber threatened, “It’s in your best interest to speak to us. People who don’t cooperate are sometimes lost. You know how national security is—sometimes, a person has to be sacrificed to the greater good.”
Tony just leaned back a little farther and locked his fingers behind his head. “You need to work on the accent there. I think you’re angling for an Alec Baldwin, but you’re hitting a little closer to Don Knots.”
– – – –
Gibbs grinned behind his cup of coffee as he watched the interviews on the monitors. McKay practically had his interviewers in tears, while DiNozzo had stopped taking this seriously three hours ago, and those idiots were only now figuring that out.
“Your boy in there is something else.” O’Neill motioned toward Tony’s monitor.
“You can say that again.”
O’Neill tapped his finger on the speaker. “You know him best. Do you think he’s compromised?”
Gibbs just smirked, “No, that’s pure DiNozzo. Give him another twenty minutes, and I bet he finds a reason to break out into song. He’s just playing with them now, you know. And they’re too stupid to realize it.”
O’Neill sighed. “Yeah, I know. I really need someone that knows how to do that job.”
“You going to keep them in there much longer? DiNozzo will keep leading them by their nose, and McKay may start plotting murder out of boredom soon.”
“No loss. I was just waiting for a report from Col. Carter. Sam is leading the scientists on the ship to confirm the information on their statements and obtain as much intel and scientific information as we can. She was practically giddy about the ship, but seems she’s running into problems with access,” O’Neill explained.
Gibbs shrugged, “McKay and DiNozzo didn’t seem to have any problem with Alex when we were up there. Seemed downright accommodating. Like a damn puppy.”
“Ah, but that puppy potentially has teeth. We need to know if it can be controlled. And frankly, I need to know before information about it is released to the IOA. You’ve never seen avarice until you put a shiny new ancient weapon in front of that pack. It’s going to be a bloodbath of everyone wanting their part of it.” O’Neill reached out to rub a spot off the monitor.
“Do you have to share it?” Gibbs asked. “Seems to me that as long as it’s being used by the Program, then they are all getting the benefits of it.”
“I agree. But there are five practically new ZPMs on that ship. It’s going to be a fight to keep the bare minimum for the ship to function. If it were up to me, I’d keep them all on there and see what that ship can really do. But my job is about politics now.” Jack sighed. “Never let them promote you to a place where you have to worry more about kissing asses than kicking them.”
“I’d quit first.” Gibbs glanced back toward one screen where McKay just gave a truly caustic comment, and one of the interrogators stood to leave the room. “Looks like McKay just broke one of your baby officers. Air force needs to toughen them up some.”
“Damn. I owe Danny $50 and ten pounds of that expensive coffee he likes.” O’Neill leaned back in the chair, pouting.
“Where is Jackson?” Gibbs glanced up at the sounds of singing coming from DiNozzo’s interrogation room and smiled.
“Oh, he finally convinced the ship to let him come up and talk to it. I let him go because someone needs to be there to keep Sam calm. She doesn’t deal with frustration around advanced tech well. And, frankly, she’s never been willing to admit that McKay is just better with Ancient tech than she is.” Jack shrugged as Gibbs glanced at him.
“Surprised to hear you say it. Most of the time, you act like the man is an annoyance at best.” Gibbs looked back at O’Neill, even though his fingers were tapping in rhythm with Tony’s current song.
Jack rubbed his eye with one hand, “Yeah, sometimes I’m a bit of a jerk. Our first meeting wasn’t so great. Didn’t find out until I got this job that he was set up to piss us off as a power play. He certainly had no clue. And he’s certainly proven himself since then.”
“So why tear him down when you know otherwise?” Gibbs looked over to see an airman carefully slipping a sandwich and drink in front of McKay before running from the room. He could see a flash of Sheppard through the doorway before it shut again.
“I don’t normally. Just when Carter’s in the room, it’s easy to forget.” O’Neill looked at the screens, “This is getting us nowhere. I think we need to move this to the conference room so we can wrap it up.”
The door opened, and Sgt. Walter Harriman stuck his head in. “Sir, Dr. Jackson is calling down from the ship. There’s some kind of problem with the ship’s AI and the scientists.”
“What kind of problem?” Jack started to stand, but Harriman picked up the phone from the wall, hit a few buttons, and it was on speakerphone.
“Dr. Jackson,” Harriman called out. “I have General O’Neill for you now.”
“Daniel, what’s happening?”
“Things are a little tense up here, Jack. I tried to talk Sam out of it, but she’s certain she’s right. And, well, the ship wants to know where Rodney and Tony are.” Jackson’s voice was strained.
“What does tense mean, Daniel?”
“Jack—Can we just let the ship talk to either Tony or Rodney?”
“Ok, they’re in the interrogation rooms still. Let me get…” Jack cut off.
Gibbs, who was still watching the screens watched as DiNozzo and McKay disappeared from the interrogation rooms in a flash of light.
“Well, crap.” Was all Gibbs heard from Jack as the line went dead.
One moment Tony was working his way through a truly epic drum solo in the interrogation room, and the next he was in the ship staring at a bunch of scientists who were caught in one of Alex’s forcefield bubbles?
There was shouting and chaos as the blond scientist that had been introduced to him as Col. Carter was typing frantically on her laptop. The others were in various states of freaking the fuck out.
He heard Alex’s voice arguing with another person who was attempting to use reason. While Tony couldn’t make out every word the man said, he was pretty certain it was a plea to release the ones in the bubble. It wasn’t working, and Alex looked downright vexed.
The volume rose from all sides as everyone ignored his and Rodney’s arrival. Rodney took the bull by the horns so to speak and let loose a piercing whistle that cut through the noise and resulted in a wonderful moment of silence.
Tony schooled his expression as all eyes focused on him and Rodney. Tony glanced at Rodney, but the man was looking around at a loss, so Tony decided to take the lead. “Can I ask what’s going on here?”
“Agent Tony,” Alex called before moving toward him. “Those—those—people! They touched me, Agent Tony. I didn’t give them permission, and they were trying to get into my private code.” Alex’s voice dropped to a whisper on the last word, though it could still be heard on the whole deck.
The hologram shuddered and flickered. “I told them they weren’t allowed to touch. But they didn’t listen. They opened my panels.”
Alex motioned down the corridors where several access panels had been opened, and Tony nodded his understanding. Tony held up his hand for silence to keep the scientists from speaking for a moment.
“And they reached in and touched some of my circuits. I feel so…icky. It was bad touching, Agent Tony.”
“Icky?” Rodney’s voice whined. “What kind of scientific term is icky? He got that from you, DiNozzo.”
“You have to do something, Agent Tony.” Alex insisted.
“OK, what do you want me to do, Alex?” Tony traded a look with Jackson, who looked concerned.
“Arrest them, Agent Tony. They’re—shipophiles, that’s what they are. Perverts.” Alex crossed his arms and glared at the scientists. “You’re a federal agent. You can arrest the perverts and make them stop touching me.”
“Excuse me, but I’m not a pervert. I’m the Chief Scientist of the Stargate Program, and it’s my job to evaluate this ship.” Carter yelled back with a touch of anger and frustration at being confined.
“Calm down, Sam. I’m sure we can clear up this misunderstanding.” Jackson stepped forward with his hands held out to show he came in peace. “That’s all this is, a misunderstanding.”
Carter nodded, “Right, a misunderstanding. I’m just giving you a check-up and determining how this ship works.”
“I don’t need a check-up. Dr. Rodney’s already checked me. And he’s my doctor of record. So I don’t need anyone else looking at how I work. How would you like it if someone stripped you down to see how you worked inside?” Alex was pointing at her.
Tony heard a slight choking sound to his left and glanced over to see the mirth in Rodney’s eyes as he tried desperately not to laugh. It suddenly struck Tony how surreal this whole thing was. His lips twitched before he could calm them back to his Federal Agent mask.
“OK, Alex. I believe we need to take this complaint seriously. Since we know who the scientists are, why don’t you beam them back to the mountain? All except Col. Carter and Dr. Jackson.” Tony watched the scientists disappear and hoped Alex didn’t put them anyplace uncomfortable. Oh no, “Alex, where in the mountain did you put them?”
“In the holding cells, Agent Tony. I wanted to be sure your base was protected from them.”
The snort from Rodney did not help matters. And Carter looked ready to blow. Jackson, on the other hand, looked like he wanted to adopt Alex.
Rodney finally spoke up, though it was obvious that he was choking back the laughter between words. “Alex—I—ahem—I think it’s alright if you—if you release—snort—release Col. Carter.”
“No. Not until she’s under arrest.” Alex glared at Carter.
“Just wait a moment,” Tony told everyone to keep them calm. “Alex, can you bring General O’Neill and Agent Gibbs up here? After you warn them first, please.”
Two minutes later, the two men appeared on the ship, along with Sheppard, Dex, and Teal’c.
O’Neill took a moment to take in the scene before rocking on his feet, “So, what’s going on up here?” When Carter, Jackson, and Alex began speaking at once, O’Neill cut them off. “Uh-uh. Nope. Let’s try that again. Agent DiNozzo, you look like someone who can do a succinct report. Wanna give it a try?”
“Of course, General O’Neill. And thank you for accepting my invitation to help us come to a suitable conclusion for our predicament. It seems that your team of scientists, led by Col. Carter, attempted to access ship systems and examine the inner workings without permission from Alex. When Alex expressed his displeasure and demanded they stop, they did not. At that point, Alex took steps to restrain them with the force field.”
Tony pointed toward Carter. “Col. Carter insists they were just checking that there were no dangers to Earth from the ship and evaluating its operation and condition.” He turned to point toward Alex. “Alex states that Dr. McKay is his doctor of record and no one else is allowed to touch without his permission. He also indicated that he believes that what they did constitutes Bad Touch, and he is demanding that the perverts be arrested.”
And Rodney finally lost it and started laughing.
O’Neill sighed, “And, where are the rest of the scientists?”
“I put them in your holding cells. I wouldn’t want to let perverts loose in your mountain, General O’Neill. Who knows what they could try to touch down there.” Alex just looked so damn earnest.
“Sir, I would really like to get out of this forcefield,” Carter stated. “Can’t someone get in the command chair and make the ship drop the field?”
“Jack, that’s probably not a good idea,” Jackson said to the side. “This whole thing started by trying to circumvent Alex’s free will. Forcing matters isn’t the way to do it.”
“Right.” O’Neill closed his eyes for a moment. “Gibbs, what do you recommend?”
Gibbs quirked an eyebrow at Tony, who just shrugged back at him. Then he made that little motion with his chin that meant it was Tony’s call. “DiNozzo?”
“Alex, release the forcefield now.”
“But Agent Tony.”
“You brought me here to deal with this issue. That means you need to give control of the situation to me. So, release her.” Tony stared at Alex, who pouted briefly before the field disappeared.
Carter stepped forward, “Jack, what are we going to do about this ship?”
“Excuse me, Col. Carter.” Tony stepped forward to her. “I must instruct you, for now, to consider yourself in my custody. I see no reason for restraints.”
She turned to look at him in shock. “In custody?”
“Alex has reported a serious issue. One that I believe we need to investigate.” Tony looked over at Rodney. “Dr. McKay, at the time that we left members of the SGC on this ship to study it, I believe you reported to Col. Carter and Dr. Jackson the dangers of accessing ship functions. Specifically, the dangers for those who do not have the ATA gene. I was beside you when you mentioned the deaths of the technicians at the ship factory as well as the historic accounts of Ancient deaths when they attempted to circumvent the ship’s system. You stated it was something like an autonomic response over which the ship had no control.”
“Yes, I did. Wait—yes, I did. Carter, what were you thinking?” Rodney stared at the woman in horror. “Did any of those people even have the ATA?”
“Nichols is ATA positive.” She stated firmly.
“Barely. The man couldn’t get the doors to function half the time on Atlantis.” Rodney looked at Tony and shook his head.
“Col. Carter, that is skirting the edge of depraved indifference to human life.” Tony looked at Gibbs, who nodded.
Rodney looked ill. “If they had accessed the wrong panel and tried to interface with it incorrectly, it could have resulted in a tragedy. Also, I haven’t heard you refer to Alex by name even once. Are you trying to ignore the fact that the ship has a functioning AI?”
“It’s a ship, McKay. A ship that belongs to the SGC now.” Carter rolled her eyes.
“Excuse you! I don’t belong to anyone. And my name is Alex.”
“General O’Neill, this is just a temporary setback. I’m sure we will find a way to control this properly, and then we can start examining what can be adapted on a larger scale.” Carter was turned where Alex wasn’t even in her view.
“Samantha Carter, I feel I must side with Alex on this issue. To ignore the fact that he is capable of independent action and reason is to desire to turn him into a slave.” Teal’c moved to stand next to Alex. “I cannot condone slavery in any form.”
“Teal’c, it’s a ship. It’s not alive.”
“Lady, I don’t like you,” Alex stated, and Carter disappeared in a flash of light.
Tony rolled his head on his neck. “Alex, did you put Col. Carter in one of the cells in the mountain?”
“Yes. I don’t consent to have her in me again.” Alex pouted.
Jackson held up a hand, “But you consent to have the rest of us in you?”
“Yes. Agent Tony and Dr. Rodney know all of you. I thought they knew Col. Carter too, even though she doesn’t have the gene. I guess they don’t know her as well as they thought. But, Agent Tony says, figuring out who you can trust is one of life’s most important lessons.”
“I think Agent Tony is right,” Jackson said with a smile.
Gibbs signed off on the monthly reports and sent them on their way before shutting down his computer. It killed him that he had to waste an entire day at NCIS when he would rather be spending it with Tony. But it was Friday, the team wasn’t on call, and he would be able to spend the entire weekend with Tony.
He glanced over at Ziva as she erupted in a bit of Hebrew and glared at Williams, who was deliberately ignoring her. Sands, on the other hand, walked around to place her signed report from the Cooper Case on Williams’ desk and said something in an aside to Ziva as she passed by. Ziva’s head popped up in a combination of surprise and anger. Gibbs grinned slightly as he locked his desk, looks like Sands decided to take up Hebrew as her next language.
He looked at McGee, who looked a bit listless. Gibbs had been concerned about him at the scene and during the subsequent investigation today. He had done his job and done it well, but there was no enthusiasm. Maybe it was because Gibbs hadn’t been here every day that he could see the changes in the man so easily. He was withering away before their eyes and doing what he could to become invisible.
Gibbs caught Williams’s attention and motioned slightly toward McGee, looked at the reports, and raised an eyebrow in question. Williams picked one up and nodded that it was fine.
Gibbs grabbed his Go bag and stepped in front of McGee’s desk. “McGee, grab your gear.”
“Yes, boss,” McGee answered automatically and shut everything down before locking his desk and grabbing everything to follow Gibbs, who hadn’t waited for him to comply.
In the elevator, Gibbs watched him sway just a little and made a decision. Walking to his car he ordered McGee in. The man wasn’t fit to drive. He headed to McGee’s apartment, and was never asked a single damn question. Gibbs stopped along the way at a deli he knew McGee frequented because he often brought leftovers to work. He got the chicken soup and a half sandwich.
When they reached the apartment complex, McGee finally perked up and looked around. “Boss?”
Gibbs handed him the food. “Go eat and sleep. You can pick your car up tomorrow if you need it. This weekend I want you to eat at least 3 meals a day, get a little bit of exercise outdoors, and sleep. You come in Monday, looking like death warmed over, and I’m sending you for a medical evaluation.”
“Yes, Boss.” McGee started to get out and then stopped. Without looking at Gibbs, he said, “You’ve never asked why.”
“No. I haven’t. Because why doesn’t matter. It happened. Why won’t change it, and nothing will forgive it. McGee, why are you still here?” Gibbs asked, watching Tim flinch.
“Because I can’t leave until I know that Tony is ok. Because if it were me, he would never give up.” McGee opened the door and pretty much bolted from the car. Gibbs sat there pissed off, because no matter what lesson the man had learned, he could never trust him. It was such a fucking waste.
Gibbs thought back to the brouhaha with Carter yesterday. Just like McGee and David, she disregarded danger to her team. They did it out of apathy or disdain. Carter did it to get the recognition of accessing the new technology first. She had a bit of entitlement that was a little too close to what he saw in Ziva now to be comfortable. And like them, she got off with barely a slap on the wrist. O’Neill gave her a long and embarrassing talking to, removed her from any chance of working on that project, and then made her apologize to the people involved. Though, he noted she didn’t apologize to Alex.
There was a bit of anger brewing there that Gibbs was going to keep an eye on. But, according to Jackson, this was normal for Carter. She would eventually get over her anger, eat a little crow, and realize she was in the wrong. Gibbs asked around, and confirmed that was her standard M.O., except when McKay was involved.
Gibbs glanced one last time toward McGee’s apartment and made a mental note to talk him into changing careers when this was over. McGee, at least, had learned his lesson, but the bridge was already burned. No one at NCIS would have his back, and there was no future there. Hell, this kind of rumor moved through law enforcement like a sickness. He wouldn’t get his foot in the alphabet party, and wouldn’t be safe if he did. The Powers That Be might still end up covering up this whole mess to protect the Program, but the rumors were already out there.
Gibbs headed to the store nearest home. He stopped in for some groceries, then headed for DiNozzo’s favorite restaurant to pick up the food he’d ordered. At home, he parked the car and carried in the supplies and food, sitting everything down on the living room floor. Then he activated his little ancient bug gizmo before he triggered the bracelet Alex had given him.
“Agent Gibbs!” Alex seemed so happy to hear from him.
“Alex, everyone there?”
“Yes, Agent Gibbs. Everyone is here, and we’ve prepared for the movie viewing. Mr. Ronon wants to know if you remembered the popcorn.”
“Yes, I’ve got popcorn. There’s me and several bags and containers around me. About five square feet should do it.” Gibbs instructed, quickly estimating the space.
The next thing he knew, he was in the galley where Tony and McKay were descending on the bags.
There were several minutes of chaos as the food was divided, and some put away for later, popcorn made and slipped into stasis so it would be freshly popped whenever needed. Dinner was eaten with relaxing conversation. Though Gibbs did have to pause and stare at the sex noises coming from McKay as he savored every morsel. John just added more to the man’s plate with a sappy look on his face. Tony was half laughing, half blushing when Dex whispered something in his ear. That caught his attention. The attraction there was another presence in the room.
Gibbs considered that while eating. He had always known Tony was bi. Hell, the man had ended up on his couch after being left at the alter and drunkenly confessed to him that he should have picked some man he had been dating instead of Wendy, but she was the safe choice for the force. Gibbs could care less as long as he did his work, but he kept a close eye over the years to make sure no rumors set Tony up as a target.
The movies were good, not that Gibbs cared to remember their names. Alex showed off his discovery of the internet and was trying to quote as many facts as Tony about each film. Overall, the night was nice. Gibbs figured it was the calm before the storm because tomorrow, they were finally going to share what they had discovered about the abduction.
Tony followed Gibbs into the conference room. He felt a little odd, dressed in BDUs and a black t-shirt. It was a little better than the tech uniform he had worn while away, but with General O’Neill and Tom Morrow in the room already, he missed the comfort of his suits. He had been tempted to have Alex beam him to his apartment, but Gibbs warned him off in case it was being watched.
He took his seat and accepted the folder that was handed over by Morrow, but just rested his hands on it for the moment and waited for them to begin.
Tom smiled at him and kicked things off. “Damn, DiNozzo. I can always trust you to fall into the most interesting things.”
Tony grimaced a little at that. He didn’t like to think about just how he fell into this.
“Well, I won’t keep you waiting, so let’s go over what we know.” Morrow opened his copy of the folder. “Forgetting the fact that your team failed you, I want to focus on what happened with McKay. The man was in his last day of conferencing with the IOA over changes to deployment qualifications for civilians going to Atlantis, and possibly any off-world site. The people on that committee love and hate the man in turns, but his changes were threatening several countries’ ability to send scientists that would be loyal to them. The representative from France spent the entire session antagonizing the man until he told him in glowing terms what he could do with his opinion. Then McKay left.”
Tony smirked because Rodney had shared with him exactly what was said and it was hilarious, inventive, physically impossible, and sounded even better in French.
“McKay and several other scientists in the program usually travel with a security detail.” O’Neill took over. “We try to keep it low key, but there are several teams we rotate between gate duty and the security details. If a team isn’t available, then the NID is supposed to fill in. But we try to avoid it because sometimes they pump the scientists for information. McKay is never supposed to have a NID team, but we dropped the ball. Somehow, we never told the man that. So when the NID team showed up as he stalked out of the room, he didn’t question it. There were several orders issued that individually don’t seem like much, but taken together resulted in his team on the door leaving to catch transport and the team relieving them reassigned.”
Gibbs opened his copy of the folder and pulled out some personnel records with photos. “According to the team on the door, this was the man who relieved them.”
“That’s Grey Suit. Rodney couldn’t remember his name, but the guy hated him.” Tony flipped open his folder to find the file. “Rupert Brinston. What’s his issue? Because he would have killed Rodney if he’d been given a chance.”
O’Neill winced. “He was a Marine slated to go with the first wave of the Atlantis Expedition. Liked to push around the scientists that he felt were weak. McKay pushed back and got him removed from the mission. After he was dropped from the expedition, McKay made it known to the scientists in the mountain that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be caught alone with the man. By the time I found out, the expedition was gone, but I had him removed anyway. There was no evidence, so he quietly got an honorable discharge. But, he knows it was McKay’s actions that got him tossed. Looks like he moved to the NID.”
“Ok, so Rupert’s got an ax to grind with Rodney. Guess that left him wide open for corruption. I just don’t understand how anyone can go from fighting the goa’uld with the SGC to working for one.” Tony set the personnel records to the side to see what else was found.
“He and his team are in the wind.” O’Neill waved with his hand. “They’ve disappeared. Thing is, I think he was loyal to the NID. And he probably saw the NID as a chance to keep the SGC in his sights so he could stick it to anyone involved in kicking him out if they stepped over the line. After all, their mission is to oversee secret military programs. Investigating those in the Program probably made him giddy. But there’s something rotten in the NID, besides ol’ Rupert here.”
Gibbs tapped another photo. “This one calls himself Rob Smith. He’s an agent with the NID, but he’s with a special operations division that we’ve learned is code for something called the Trust. He’s the one that shut down the investigation into your and McKay’s kidnapping. He’s been riding hard on suppressing any activity on that front. But he gave himself away. Made a sly comment about you being practically a whole new person when this was over.”
Tony shivered slightly on that. “Yeah, Peitho had the hots for taking me as a host. I think he originally planned on taking McKay to use Ancient Tech, but then he started creepily chatting me up even before he found out I had the gene. When I lit up his ancient toy, he acted like it was a forgone conclusion that I was his next host. He wasn’t the only one.”
O’Neill grimaced. “Yeah, there are some people that the snakes are just attracted to as hosts. When they pick up that attraction, sometimes they can become obsessed.”
Tom Morrow leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. “We’re actually counting on that obsession.”
Tony just stared at Morrow, trying to figure it out when it hit him, “You want to use me as bait.”
“Yes, we do. We have people tracking the money and the people, but we need to know how high the Trust goes. Hendley, or maybe it’s better to say Peitho, got away when we raided his estate. He flew off so he could be anywhere by now.” Tom stated.
“Most likely he’s arrived at that planet we were on and is punishing people as we speak for losing the ship. He would rightly determine that we were headed to Earth, so he could be on his way back now. He really wanted the ship, and I don’t see him dropping it.” Tony shrugged.
O’Neill tapped the file. “If he wants the ship that bad, then he wants you. Or he’s going to want you. You may have heard I had a very long, very public talk with Sam—Col. Carter. She understands the severity of her mistake. She’s angry about it right now, but she always feels angry when she’s embarrassed. She’s writing a thorough but biased report indicating that while McKay may know the ship better, it will only work for you.”
Tony nodded he understood that would both paint a target on his back while shielding Rodney. “And the real talk with Col. Carter? Because I don’t see you as the type to reprimand in public.”
O’Neill shrugged. “Oh, the private talk was twice as harsh. She knows she crossed a line. It’s a flaw she’s going to have to work on. It’s not even about her need to show up McKay. It’s about the way she disregards safeties and takes short cuts. When this is over, she’ll have to submit to peer review. We don’t do that much here, but Atlantis has been using the system successfully. Until then, she agreed that a little public humiliation was ok if we could use it to flush out any leaks in the mountain.”
“You think there are leaks?”
“Yup.” Gibbs put down his coffee. “There are rumors circulating about me. Some of those rumors could only come from a source here. We narrowed it down to five that we’re monitoring. They were present for the show. We’ll know the instant one of them makes a report.”
Tom motioned with a page from the file. “Tony, I want you to know this is completely voluntary, but we could use your expertise on this one. There will be a team watching you 24/7. Multiple points of backup.”
Tony flinched at the word, backup. “Who?”
“Me,” Gibbs stated firmly. “Some of the teams here. You’ll have eyes on you 24/7. Your backup will have backup.”
Tony kept his breathing and body language level. He didn’t want to give away his unease. Going into the field and trusting anyone but Gibbs did not happy make. But he’s a professional, and he cut his teeth on undercover work. As long as he had methods of communication and a solid way for them to pull him, he could do this.
Tony nodded. “OK, I’m in. I get to meet everyone who is backing me up, and we plan this out in detail first. If everything looks viable, then I’m in. If Peitho tries to come back, we need to make sure we’ve removed his support structure.”
Tom smiled slightly. “Good. You should know that we’re investigating SecNav. When you were taken, he arrived only minutes after NID and took over to shut down the investigation. We are trying to find out if he was being used, or if he’s complicit. Because of his position, I am processing your transfer to Homeworld Security as a partner to Gibbs. The two of you answer directly to me. Publicly that’s Homeland Security. The change is classified until this operation is over. For now, it will appear that both of you still work for NCIS, but I want to ensure there is no question later which agency you were working for.”
Tony stared a moment then looked away. “Boss? You’ve left NCIS?”
“Yes,” Gibbs answered firmly and was silent until Tony looked at him. “I couldn’t give up on you, and I couldn’t leave it alone, no matter how many orders to drop it. Can’t stay somewhere they were ready to just leave a man. It’s not in me.”
“Right.” Tony looked back at Morrow. “Is this a real job or just a way to protect us?”
Morrow huffed. “This is the damn job I’ve been trying to recruit you to do since I left NCIS. It’s a real job, DiNozzo.” Morrow shook his head. “After we do this, if you decide you don’t want the job or you want to stay at NCIS, then I’ll make the transfer disappear. But I’m taking care of you until you have a chance to think about your options.”
“OK. Fine. So, the plan is I just go back to NCIS without any explanation? How am I supposed to get away with that?” Tony glanced around before settling on Gibbs, who had a little grin on his face.
Gibbs nodded once. “That’s exactly what you’ll do. SecNav ordered us to drop it. Stated you had fallen into a NID op, and you were on loan to them until it was finished. There was to be absolutely no investigation into it. The official word in the office is that you are on loan to another agency indefinitely. So, you show up acting like its business as usual; no one is going to question it. If they do, pull the classified card and walk away. Frankly, I want to be there when you pull the classified card with Vance.”
Tony stared at Gibbs before glancing around the room at the amused faces. There was something more here than a bit of fun at the NCIS Director’s expense. “What have you been doing while I was gone. Knowing you, I’m surprised you’re not on suspension for making waves and telling them where to stick it.”
“Me?…Make waves? Nah, DiNozzo. I’ve been a model citizen.”
Morrow burst into laughter. “There are people in D.C. that are terrified he’s had a mental break and is about to go on a shooting spree. He has been polite and tactful. He was extremely accommodating when the FBI came to take over one of his cases and ordered his temp SFA to assist them with every courtesy. I heard their team lead about pissed himself when Gibbs smiled and told him to have a nice day.”
Tony felt like his eyes were coming out of his head. He practically got whiplash looking back and forth between Morrow and Gibbs.
“I’ve been kind and helpful. I wait in line and ask for permission. Hell, I even sit and wait for Vance’s admin to announce me and get an invite into the office.” Gibbs smirked. “I’m a perfect gentleman.”
“How many have had heart attacks? No, I mean seriously…you’re being nice? And no one died? They must all be paranoid.” Tony’s shock was turning to full-on amusement. “What’s your endgame?”
“Trying to make Vance swallow the damn toothpick.”
“They’re staking you out as bait, DiNozzo!” Rodney crossed his arms and stood in the doorway as if to prevent Tony from leaving the ship. “Don’t they realize you just got back?”
“Yes, Rodney. That’s the point. We have to take them off guard. We’re hoping Peitho is still off-world. That way we can try to identify his resources in the Trust so that he has to take a more direct path. We can’t allow these people to continue the way they are. The repercussions to national security are too great to ignore.” Tony finished checking over the new phone he was issued to make sure all the contacts were set up properly.
“How can you be so blasé about them risking your life this way?” Rodney’s voice had a slight whine to it.
Tony looked up and saw the genuine worry in the man’s eyes. He set down the phone and gave Rodney his attention. “Rodney, look at me. I’m ok. This is my job. Yes, I’ve been a police officer and a police detective. I am a federal agent. But in all of those roles, I have excelled at undercover work. I know exactly what I’m doing and how I’m going to do it. I have backup and support on more levels than I normally imagine.”
“Yeah, Dr. Rodney. Agent Tony knows what he’s doing. He’s like a super cop. I’ve examined multiple media representations of undercover work, and Agent Tony is way better than any of them. Aren’t you Agent Tony?”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Alex.”
“Are you more like Point Break or The Fast and the Furious? They were both exciting. Are you going to do anything exciting like that?” Alex was bouncing up on the balls of his feet.
Ronon snorted. “He’s going to be more like Kindergarten Cop.”
Alex cocked his head to the side as if considering. “He’s going to search for the bad guy while trying to teach and protect a bunch of children?”
Tony smiled. “Something like that, Alex.”
“Oh, ha, ha. Just joke about this.” Rodney slumped down. “I’m just worried. I’m a genius, and I can think of all of the ways this can go horribly wrong.”
“Rodney, I fully understand what I’m getting into. I know things can go wrong. All we can do is plan for contingencies and then do the job in the safest way possible. If you know anything we can do to make this safer, then please let me know.” Tony was holding back his frustration because he knew that Rodney was just concerned for him.
“I can probably think of a hundred things to make this safer. The first is to not do it.”
“McKay, it’s his job. He’s going to do it. Are you going to stop going through the gate?” Ronon didn’t even sit up from his slouch against the table.
“OK, fine. You’re going to be the stupid, idiotic bait. Then we make you the safest bait we can.” Rodney moved forward to grab Tony by the arm and started to pull him out the door.
“Where are we going?” Tony followed along rather than get his arm pulled from his shoulder. Ronon followed behind, looking bemused.
“Alex, prep for the protocols we discussed.” Rodney kept pulling Tony into medical.
Tony put the brakes on. “Whoa, hold on here. What are you planning?”
Alex popped up next to him, all excited and happy. “Dr. Rodney and I are going to do Operation Protect Agent Tony.”
“Operation? Like in an actual operation? Because I damn well know you’re not a medical doctor, McKay!” Tony turned to leave the room, but Ronon blocked the door.
“Not exactly an operation. The first part of it is just an injection. The second part would be a little more invasive, so we are researching the safety for humans.” Rodney pointed toward the bed.
“No way. Needles and I don’t do well together. And I haven’t given permission for you to inject me with anything, Rodney.” Tony pushed against Ronon, who didn’t budge an inch.
“Hear the man out. I’ve already had it as a test.” Ronon practically whispered in Tony’s ear.
Damn if that didn’t resonate through him and settle right in his groin. The man shouldn’t be allowed to be that sexy. Tony hesitated another moment, feeling the heat of Ronon’s body close to him before he stepped back and turned around. He ignored Alex’s hurt puppy look and focused on Rodney. He just stared at his friend for a minute before asking, “What exactly do you want to inject me with?”
“You know the transponder that they cut out of me? Alex has a version that is a chemical cell marker that the Ancients used. It will spread throughout your body, so there is no way they can remove it. Once in you, he can use his sensors to find you anywhere on the planet,” Rodney explained.
Alex jumped in. “And if they try to take you off-world, I will know, and I can beam you away before they can leave orbit.”
Tony felt his heart race as he realized that one of his biggest worries could be solved like this. No backup could literally have eyes on him 24/7 like Alex. “You’re sure it’s safe?”
“Yes. There were long term studies in the database connected to it. The Ancients used it on themselves as well as humans that they were associated with and no records of adverse effects.” Rodney walked over to a wall panel that opened up to reveal a syringe shaped thing without a needle. “The Ancients had some better ways to disperse it into your system than just needles. It won’t even hurt.”
Considering the pros and cons for a moment, Tony walked over to lean against the bed and rolled up a sleeve. He watched as Rodney quickly prepared the little device, placed it against his skin, and activated it. There was a brief light on it to show it worked, but he didn’t actually feel it do anything.
“Are you sure that worked?” Tony looked from his arm to the device.
“What? Yes, yes. It worked. Alex, show the spread on the screen.” Rodney pointed at a screen behind Tony and who turned to view it.
Tony saw a representation of his body with the mark highlighted in his arm but slowly spreading. “You said it will spread to every cell?”
“Yes, takes about 24 hours or so. Alex, show mine and Ronon’s.”
Two more showed up in comparison. Ronon’s appeared almost complete. Rodney’s was moving a little slower.
“Metabolism and activity affect the distribution,” Alex explained.
“What is the other thing you mentioned would need a doctor?” Tony asked.
“That would require implantation in the skull behind your ear.” An image popped up next to Alex. “It would provide continuous communication and health data. I have an external device that was commonly used by the Ancients, but Dr. Rodney will not allow its use on Earth. He said it breaks the secrecy of the program. I reviewed the Harry Potter movies as the primary hit when I searched for secrecy on the internet. They discussed the Statute of Secrecy. Mr. Ronon explained that it’s not the same thing, but the idea is kind of the same. I think magic sounds cool and scary. Mr. Ronon explained that magic isn’t real, but to some peoples they would think I’m magic.”
Tony smiled, “I think in some ways you are magic, Alex. But we can call it the Statute of Secrecy if you like. There are some secrets so important that they can’t be shared with people that are not approved to know. I have one of the bracelet communicators you gave me. Why don’t you link into my phone as well, so that I can use the phone if I need to respond to you in public? That way you can be in contact with me whenever we need.”
“Yes!” Alex leaped into the air. “Dr. Rodney also has some ideas for keeping you safe in your home. I can beam you all there so you can set them up, and I will know if anyone tries to enter your domicile.”
“That’s a great idea, Rodney. You’ve been working here.” Tony looked at Rodney, who shrugged. “Why don’t we recruit Gibbs to help us out when I’m ready to go home, and we can bug my apartment? In the meantime, maybe Dr. Rodney can teach Alex about safe internet sites and finding reliable information.” Tony stared at Rodney until he nodded.
“Right, come along, Alex. We need to review your viewing habits.” Rodney left the room and turned toward the command deck.
Gibbs pulled into the parking lot of Tony’s building and headed inside with the small bag from the pet store. He’s been coming to the apartment several times a week to feed the damn goldfish since Tony was taken, so his presence wasn’t anything of note.
He nodded at one of the neighbors on his way up and used his key to enter as soon as he reached the door. Gibbs took a few minutes to clear the apartment like he usually did before he pulled out his little bug zapper and thought ON at it. When he received the feedback that all the new bugs were disabled, he activated his bracelet.
“OK, Agent Gibbs. ETA, 1 minute. If Dr. Rodney will stop fussing.” Alex responded.
Gibbs grinned because griping non-stop seemed to be McKay’s default. “I’ll be waiting.” Gibbs walked over to feed the fish and put away the food. The water should be good another day.
A little less than a minute later, a flash of light announced their arrival. Gibbs grinned at Tony’s look of relief to finally be in his own place again. McKay already had a tablet and handheld device out, scanning the apartment and making all kinds of noise about the number of audio and visual bugs in the apartment.
McKay headed for the first one, and Gibbs tossed Tony a bag with zip lock baggies and crime scene gloves so they could hopefully pull something useful off of some of these. Tony gave him a quick “Thanks, Boss.” Before taking off after McKay.
Dex stepped up next to him, and Gibbs gave note to the duffel bag. “You planning on staying?”
“Yeah. Can beam away when he’s not here. I like him. He needs someone to watch his back while he sleeps.” Ronon explained.
Gibbs nodded as he watched Tony and McKay move through the apartment together. “Thanks for watching his back.”
McKay’s voice sounded out as he swung open Tony’s bedroom door and stepped in. “Are you positive you’re not a Sheppard? What is it with the lilliputian beds? Seriously, do you two like sleeping on a toddler bed, or do you just never plan to get laid? I’m going to have them compare your DNA strands. There’s got to be a common ancestor back there with the hair, eyes, survival instincts of a lemming, aversion to adult sleeping arrangements, bad sense of humor, and a martyr complex.”
Tony tipped the driver, adjusted his Go Bag on his shoulder, clipped his credentials onto his belt, and slipped on his sunglasses. He was early, but that was part of the plan. Get in before the primary players so that they were entering his space instead of him being the supplicant against the group.
Gibbs offered to drive him in since his vehicle had been left in the Navy Yard and subsequently moved into evidence storage to keep it safe, but after discussion, they decided that it was best if no one saw the two of them together before he was back. It was just another way to confirm where leaks were filtering.
Tony headed in and was glad that Gibbs held onto his credentials when he retrieved them from the surveillance vehicle after he was taken. Spending three hours in HR to get it reissued was not his preference to start this day. He would have to get his primary weapon reissued and re-qualify with it, but that was going to be one of their main reasons for keeping Williams and Sands on the team.
Tony was beyond relieved to find out Gibbs was able to get them. Williams was just damn good at his job. Tony had several cases that he had worked with the man, usually at a distance. But he was focused and driven to get to the truth. Nothing like Gibbs, really, but they were both Marines, so they had a common shared culture.
Sands was another that Tony was happy to see move onto the team. Mena was kickass and beyond competent. She had all the skills to support Williams. She just needed to learn mentoring skills to be ready for SFA. She lacked the opportunity to pick those up in her previous assignments. Williams was the perfect person to teach her those skills. Gibbs had shared his plan to force Vance to give the team to Williams and Sands once they were gone.
The ease with which Gibbs talked about leaving the team was disconcerting. Tony wasn’t sure what he thought about leaving NCIS. He wasn’t letting himself focus on it until they were through. He also wasn’t ready to deal with Ziva and Tim, but he didn’t have the luxury of putting that off any longer.
“DiNozzo! We didn’t receive notice you were back.” Joe Sykes, the security shift lead, was smiling.
“Oh, you know me. Always bouncing back for more. So, Joe, whattaya know?” Tony smiled and leaned in conspiratorially to one of his favorite people here. He didn’t seem the type, but no one knew the rumor mill like Joe. And since Tony had introduced Joe to his wife, Tony was the only person with whom Joe would share the information.
Joe shook his head. “Word has it that half the building is paranoid and they want to get Gibbs in for a mental evaluation. But everyone is afraid to try, and how do you get someone committed for being nice and professional? Director Vance has been twitchy, and if I didn’t know better, I would say there’s a touch of PTSD there. Gibbs held the door open for him, and you would have thought the man was running from a snake.”
Tony grinned widely at that thought. “What about the rest of the team?”
The smile disappeared in a flash. “The TADs, Agent Williams and Agent Sands are really nice and professional. It’s a relief to have them come through here. Mr. Palmer’s aunt has been in several times. She’s nice but kinda weird. She’s been staying with him while she visits here. I heard she’s leaving soon, but Dr. Mallard got credentials for her to ride along for another week or so. Which is a strange way to show your aunt around D.C. if you ask me. I think Agent McGee is sick. Agent Gibbs drove him home on Friday, and the reports show his vehicle is still in the lot. Oh, speaking of vehicles. Security and Miss Scuitto moved yours into Evidence Storage. Frank in the motor pool has gone out once a week to start it. I’ll let him know you’re back. As soon as we get approval from the Director’s office, he can have it serviced and back to you.”
“Thanks, Joe. I’ll start that ball rolling first thing. You know how I love my ride.” Tony’s phone chirped, and he looked down to the text message from Alex with emoji sad faces. “I better head on up.”
Tony walked to the elevator and waited until he was inside to speak. “Alex, the ride I love is you.” Happy faces appeared, and Tony just knew Sheppard was to blame for it. He had seen the man’s responses to Rodney’s rants. Ronon wasn’t helping matters either. They were a bad influence on Alex. “I know I said you could monitor me, but I think I’m safe inside NCIS.”
He slipped the phone away as the elevator doors opened. One last deep breath and he entered the office. As usual, Gibbs was already at work. Assuming a casual stroll, Tony noticed a few of the earlier workers standing up to stare at him. By the time he had moved into the bullpen, Gibbs was up and in front of him with a smile.
“Good to have you back, DiNozzo. Should have called, I would have given you a ride in.” Gibbs pulled him in for a hug to Tony’s amusement and whispered, “How shocked do they look?”
Tony held back his laugh because the ones standing were looking pretty damned shocked. “Not sure they should be that pale, Boss. The gossip vine is going to explode.”
Gibbs stepped back, “You back for good?”
“Mostly. Still have some follow-up. You know the usual after an op, interviews and all that jazz.” Tony stepped to his desk and looked up, surprised. “You replace me already, Boss?”
“Can’t replace you, DiNozzo. TADs—Mike Williams and Mena Sands. Think ya know them.” Gibbs leaned back against his own desk.
“Yeah, they’re real good, Boss. Couldn’t have picked anyone better to fill in for me. I’d trust them with my life.” Tony looked around and moved over to drop his bag behind Gibbs’ desk. “So, what’s my plan?”
“You still have your creds. You’ll need to pick up a weapon and re-qualify if you can sweet-talk your way into space at the range.” Gibbs motioned him toward the stairs. “You’ll want to start in HR first. Delores should be in by now. You can get the paperwork from her reinstating you to active in the office. Then I suggest you grab a caff-pow for Abby. She’s been worried.”
Tony visibly winced. “OK, I’ll go ahead and get moving on the details.”
Gibbs followed him down but left in the direction of the coffee shop as Tony turned toward HR.
“Delores, my love. Did you miss me?” Tony smiled as Delores griped about him ruining her schedule as she called him over. Behind her office door, she gave him a quick hug, and they got down to business. She was one of his favorite people here, but there was no way in hell she would gossip. He briefly considered if he should recommend that Tom try to steal her.
Twenty minutes later, he stepped out of HR just as Gibbs walked by, handed him a coffee and a caff-pow, and kept heading toward his desk. It was strangely comforting in a freaky kind of way. Gibbs would never change.
Tony headed for the lab, but instead of the normal loud music there were multiple voices coming from the lab. Abby, Ducky, and Palmer he recognized. The fourth voice was female and had an oddly Palmer-like vibe. Tony opened the door as laughter burst out and saw them together, looking at a screen and happy.
“Hey guys, did you miss me?” Tony braced himself against the door frame as they turned toward him.
“Tooooooooony!” Abby came rushing at him like a freight train. He barely kept the drinks intact as she wrapped around him. Happily, Palmer was suddenly there relieving him of the cups so that he could hug Abby back. She was babbling nonstop, but it all amounted to I missed you and was scared when you disappeared.
“Abigail. Perhaps you can give the rest of us a chance to greet the boy.” Ducky looked very pleased to see him.
Tony moved Abby away long enough to give Ducky and then Palmer hugs. Suddenly his arms were filled with the second woman who hadn’t been introduced.
“Thank you for bringing Rodney home.” She whispered in his ear before stepping back.
“Well, hi there.” Tony smiled down at the woman who he now identified by John and Ronon’s descriptions of Gibbs’ introduction to the Program.
“Tony, I’d like you to meet my Aunt Alicia Biro. She’s visiting me for a month. Well, she has meetings in town and is staying with me. But the meetings are mostly over now, and Dr. Mallard got her permission to ride along. She’s a medical examiner and doctor. Did I ever tell you that she was my inspiration to become a medical examiner?” Palmer babbled on.
“Oh, you’re going to make me blush. Though I can say it’s nice to have someone look up to me that way, but you’re doing an outstanding job with your studies. And I’m sure that Agent DiNozzo here would find my work boring.” Biro gave Tony a knowing smile.
“Oh, I doubt you’re anything but boring, Dr. Biro. Alas, I fear I must leave you all to your own amusement. The Director should be arriving soon, and I must face the dragon in his lair.” Tony retrieved his cup of coffee.
“The dragon is more of a mouse lately. Our dear Jethro has him quite flummoxed,” Ducky said with a twinkle in his eye. He glanced between Biro and Tony before touching the side of his nose for a moment and winking.
Tony grinned at Ducky and left after one last hug from Abby. Gibbs had told him Ducky was in the know. Seems Ducky was included in a group of military-affiliated M.E.s and doctors that were read in so they would be aware of unique situations and where to report them. Or consequently receive help in covering them up.
Tony strolled up the stairs, bemused. It was too bad they couldn’t share the whole aliens reveal with Abby. She would lose it. Of course, she would immediately spill everything. Classified she understands. But, aliens…she’s been secretly into the whole government conspiracy thing since before he met her. It’s one of those secrets she doesn’t feel they should be keeping.
He pushed through the door on his level and spotted the team headed to their desks. Tony slipped back to stay hidden and caught Gibbs’ eye before slipping back into the stairwell and heading up to the Director’s Office. Luckily, he wasn’t seen until he reached reception where Gibbs was already sitting and politely waiting. Damn, the woman looked scared. Gibbs couldn’t have been sitting more than fifteen seconds before she was motioning him in. As Gibbs opened the door, Tony took the opportunity to slip around and smile at her before entering the room and closing the door.
“Gibbs, how can I help you…DiNozzo!” Vance coughed a moment then spat out the toothpick he had started to choke on.
Gibbs turned to look at Tony and gave him the biggest shit-eating grin. Tony had to practically bite through his tongue to maintain a blank expression. He was going to get Ronon’s help replacing the man’s coffee with decaf for that.
“Just came up to tell you DiNozzo’s back,” Gibbs said with a polite expression.
“Director, it’s good to be back.” Tony started when Vance didn’t respond to Gibbs’ statement. Instead the man just continued to stand there and stare at him. “Sooo, should I have a seat?” Tony motioned toward a chair and exchanged looks with Gibbs. Gibbs just raised an eyebrow and took a seat, so Tony followed his lead.
“DiNozzo,” Vance repeated before snapping back to himself and sitting back down. “I wasn’t aware you had finished your operation with the NID.”
Tony frowned and exchanged a calculated look with Gibbs as if he was confused. “I’m not sure what you mean, Director. I’ve been working with Homeland Security since I was able to orchestrate an escape for myself and the victim from our abductors. Who in the world told you I was working for NID?”
Vance looked genuinely confused by the statement. “SecNav and the NID agents in charge of your op were here to cut off our investigation and classify the evidence. We were told you would be seconded to NID indefinitely.”
“Wow, I will, of course, have to pass that information along to my handler at Homeland. They were concerned that there was no hint of an investigation. Homeland will want to know that you allowed an unaffiliated agency to come in and remove all evidence.” Tony shook his head in disappointment.
Gibbs leaned forward. “So just who were those agents? Did you even verify their identities before accepting their word?”
Anger flashed in Vance’s eyes. “SecNav gave the order, Gibbs. He ordered it classified if you remember.”
Tony shrugged it off. Secretly he made a note that whatever was going on, Vance didn’t appear to be a part of it. He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed. Morrow would need to find out what exactly was said to Vance by the NID and SecNav, but that wouldn’t change the fact that it wasn’t Tony’s job for now.
“Well, I’m eager to get back to work.” Tony smiled and adjusted his tie.
“What exactly have you been doing at Homeland Security?” Vance leaned forward.
“Oh, that’s classified, Director. I would really like to speak to you about it, but I don’t think your security clearance is high enough.” Tony gave his best apologetic face.
Vance puffed up like a bantam rooster. “I’m the Director of NCIS. I am certain that my clearance is above yours, DiNozzo.”
“Uh, well. It’s nice that you think so. And I’m sure you have the clearance for things like national security and terrorist threats. You know, the usual classified stuff. But, I’ve been instructed not to discuss my recent whereabouts with anyone that can’t pass the clearance to be read in.” Tony looked back between Vance and Gibbs like he was trying to find a solution before he sat upright as if an idea had just occurred. “If it makes you feel better, I could discuss it with Gibbs. He’s on the list they had as appropriately vetted. I mean, he wouldn’t be able to tell you either, but he could be read in.”
Vance looked like he was going to break his jaw. Gibbs was giving Tony a thoughtful expression.
“That might be best. I’m sure the Director would feel better knowing someone in the agency was qualified to know what’s going on with his employees since he can’t be read in.” Gibbs said to Tony reasonably.
“OK, then I’ll contact my handler and let him know. Until then, you should know that I’m still on call with Homeland for any follow-up. Boss, you were saying you had a couple TADs on the team? It’s probably best to keep them. It’ll be better than our trying to handle things as a two-man team.” Tony continued the conversation as if Vance wasn’t there.
Of course, Vance had to step in. “The MCRT is a four-man team. With you back, DiNozzo, we can reassign Agents Williams and Sands.”
“Really? And who have you hired for the team after you fired McGee and David? Because there is no way, you would keep someone who broke protocol and deliberately failed to provide backup on a field team. Is there, Director?” Tony stood up.
Vance and Gibbs stood as well. “The orders were clear. It never happened. I can’t reprimand agents for things that officially never happened.”
Tony just stared at Vance for a minute before he nodded to himself. “Fine Director. It never happened. I was never left without backup. They didn’t deliberately turn off their coms while I was held at gunpoint and a victim wasn’t tortured. It never happened. So you would be perfectly at ease, having them protect your daughter. We can give her a wire to keep tabs at her dance and let them listen in. You trust them to respond after a few hours of just listening to girls giggle and dance.”
Tony took a step away from the desk before turning back. “You see, you may trust them with the life you hold most precious, but I never will. I can’t afford for them to be bored. I haven’t re-qualified yet. So, Williams and Sands can stay on the team.” Tony turned and walked to the door. Gibbs followed.
“DiNozzo! Be careful who you pick a fight with. I’m not one to back down.” Vance’s words followed Tony as he left the office.
Tony’s phone buzzed, and he looked down to see a caricature of Vance on the screen with the speech bubble Fight Me coming out. Tony touched the screen, and the image reacted like he had punched it in the face. He found himself repeatedly tapping the screen. “Thanks, Alex.” Hearts flowed across the screen for a moment before returning to the Vance punching bag.
Tony entered the bullpen just ahead of Gibbs. Heads snapped up as he approached, and people came to their feet. Balboa quickly moved to intercept him before he could reach the team desks.
“Tony, I am unbelievably relieved that you’re ok,” Rick said with a shake and a pat on the arm. “On behalf of my team and…well, just everyone at NCIS. Welcome back.”
“Thanks, Rick. It’s good to be back.” Tony smiled and disengaged.
Several others on the floor greeted him briefly, which gave Tony the opportunity to watch the expressions of his team. Williams and Sands looked happy to see him. He knew from Gibbs they had put two and two together and knew something was up, if not the particulars. McGee looked—well, frankly he looked awful. There was no telling how much weight he’d lost. But he looked genuinely happy that Tony was here.
Ziva, on the other hand, was harder to read. There was a brief spike of joy, but the look in her eyes was slightly off. It was more like vindication rather than actual happiness. There was a hard edge to that look. She glanced towards Williams and Sands a moment before a Cheshire Cat grin slowly spread across her face.
Tony allowed Mena and Mike to greet him but easily avoided any physical contact from Ziva by stepping behind Gibbs’ desk to grab his bag. He held it in front of himself like an impromptu shield. Tony did note that Tim didn’t try to approach.
“It is good that you are back,” Ziva said as the well-wishers departed. “Now the team can return to normal.” She glanced again toward Williams.
“Oh, not sure what normal is yet,” Tony said firmly while staring her down. His phone buzzed again, and he glanced at it to see a picture of Ziva on the screen with red light flashing around the edges and a banner that said, Danger Will Robinson. Now Tony was certain it was Sheppard that introduced Alex to memes.
Gibbs stepped up before things could escalate. “So, yes. Tony’s back. He’s not authorized for field duty yet and may need to do some follow-up on his last op. So, until then, he has asked, and I’ve agreed that we will keep Mike and Mena on the team. Officially, Tony will be paired up as my partner. Mike and Mena will remain partnered. And of course, David and McGee. Mike will continue as acting SFA until Tony knows he won’t be pulled away on a moment’s notice. So, everyone back to work.”
Tony headed for the desk next to Sands. As he passed by, Mike made a gesture toward the desk, but Tony just shook his head. “Nah, as long as you’re doing Gibbs reports, you should be in his line of sight.”
Staking out the desk next to Sands was a bit of a relief because it put him out of line of sight of Ziva and Tim. There was a sick twisting feeling in his gut, like a knife being turned. It doesn’t matter how apologetic McGee looks. It doesn’t even matter that Ziva’s only joy in seeing him return was the idea she could remove Williams from her path. It’s just the idea that they are sitting there without consequences when he could have been murdered while under their protection.
He sat there as long as he could, giving random fluff answers to questions that came his way while ignoring the stares from around the room. When he had finally had as much as he could take, he stood up. “Hey boss, need to go sign out a replacement weapon.”
Gibbs nodded, and Tony made it to the elevators before anyone could attempt to accompany him. He slipped into the elevator and leaned on the close button, happy that it closed before anyone could join him. Tony leaned back against the wall as it started to move and took a deep breath.
Tony closed his eyes and felt his world shift. He windmilled his arms to get balance and opened his eyes to glare at Alex. “What do you think you’re doing, Alex? You can’t just pull me out of an elevator.”
“Yes, I can. It was easy, Agent Tony.” Alex was nodding his head repeatedly.
“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, Alex.” Tony sat down hard on a seat. “Where is everyone?”
“Col. Sheppard, Dr. Rodney, and Mr. Ronon had a meeting. No one else is allowed on me unless they are present because Dr. Rodney hasn’t finished introducing me to the non-perverts. Col. Sheppard says they’re not really perverts, but Mr. Ronon agreed that they might be. So, I’m here alone…and I’m bored.” Alex sat down in the chair opposite Tony and slouched.
Tony just looked at him and decided that he might have to limit Sheppard’s contact with Alex if he’s going to teach him bad posture. Tony tried to think of what he could do to help. “Have you been reviewing the lesson plan that Rodney was building for you?”
“Yes, but Dr. Jackson isn’t available to review anything.”
“Well, why don’t you do a review of Political Science and Economics. Then you can check the major media outlets to analyze public reports of aggression and trends. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all make sense; humans rarely do. Later we can discuss how political beliefs create divides between the people of Earth.” Tony instructed.
“To what end?” Alex asked, obviously not enthused about the project.
“Because that’s the first step to understanding and extrapolating possible reactions to threats. Second, it will help you understand why we have to keep your existence secret from the world at large. If Dr. Jackson’s available, you can discuss it with him.” Tony stood up and stepped back. “Now, Alex. If you can, please put me down somewhere in the building that no one will see me arrive?”
“Do you really have to go?”
“Yeah, Alex, this is just something I have to do.” Tony looked at how dejected Alex looked. “Just remember, I’m counting on you to keep an eye on me. We take care of each other; that’s what having your back means.”
Alex grinned. “OK, I’ve got your back, Agent Tony.”
Tony stood up quickly just before he found himself deposited in one of the second-floor conference rooms. He slipped out by the rear stairs and headed to the NCIS armory. He was still pissed the NID had taken his backup weapon as part of the evidence.
“Agent Tony, the surveillance devices in your apartment show that Ms. David has picked the lock to your door and entered without your permission. Should I remove her from the premises?” Alex asked.
“No, Alex. Leave her there. Just…watch her.” Tony lay his head back on the headrest as Gibbs slammed his hand against the steering wheel and hit the gas for the last two blocks to Tony’s apartment.
“Alex, is Dex there?” Gibbs asked into the phone.
“Yes, Agent Gibbs. Mr. Ronon is just waiting for Agent Tony’s arrival. Should I go ahead and beam him down?”
“Not yet,” Gibbs replied. “What is she doing?”
“She is looking around the apartment and touching things,” Alex reported as the video from the camera in the apartment showed on Tony’s phone. “People should know better than to touch. It’s just not right.”
Gibbs shook his head. “Wait until we’re in there and then beam Dex to the bedroom just in case. But only if there is no way for her to see the beam. She’s not allowed to know, Alex.”
“Yes, Agent Gibbs.”
Tony sighed, and Gibbs could see him watching the feed when he glanced over. “What do you think her endgame is?” Tony asked him.
Gibbs shrugged. “You barely acknowledged her existence today. She thought she had a free ride when you disappeared, and she didn’t get canned. Then I pulled in Williams. He’s by the book and won’t let her step out of line. And she hasn’t had the opportunity to get to me since I’ve been read into the program.”
“You think she just wants me to forgive and forget and make her problems disappear?” Tony shook his head. “I don’t think so, Gibbs. I think she’s had a problem with me since she was pushed onto our team. She runs hot and cold based on what she wants from me, but she’s made it pretty clear over the years that she finds me a waste of space.”
Gibbs’ gut churned and he had a bad taste in his mouth as he spun into the parking lot. He got out of the car and started marching into the building. Tony caught up with him before he could hit the door.
“Boss, let me go in first. I’d rather give her enough rope to hang herself.” Tony squared his shoulders before heading in.
Gibbs grabbed the NCIS jacket from Tony’s hand as he passed, then took a breath before he followed Tony up the stairs. He watched Tony go through the motions of unlocking the door and entering. Moving up he used the toe of his shoe to hold the door far enough open that he could see and hear, without it being obvious the door was still open. Ziva was lounging on the couch, obviously in a pose that was supposed to be provocative.
Tony feigned surprise. “Ziva, what are you doing here?”
“Tony,” she practically purred at him. “I did not have a chance to show you how happy I am to see you back at work.”
“Well, I’m glad to be back, but it was a long day, and I was hoping to get some rest.” Tony put his bag down to free up his hands but didn’t remove his weapon yet.
“Things have been very tense since you left us. Maybe we could help each other relax?” Gibbs watched Ziva as she fluttered her eyes at Tony.
“Relax? I haven’t been able to relax since my partners left me without backup in the field. Tense is the least of what you deserve.” Tony responded evenly, not letting any of the hate or anger that Gibbs knew he felt show through.
“You are right; it shouldn’t have happened that way.” Her voice took on a sad tone. “I don’t know why I allowed McGee to do that to you. He doesn’t understand how it feels to have someone fail you. It is why in Mossad we were taught to rely on ourselves so that we do not have to rely on others to protect us. You need to be careful near him. He is very jealous of you.”
Gibbs held himself, and his urge to stomp in there shove her lies in her face. There is no way in hell it was McGee’s idea to turn off the feed. Oh, he blindly followed, but it’s not a place he would lead anyone.
“Really. It was all McGee’s idea?” Tony asked soft enough that Gibbs had to strain to hear. “Why didn’t you stop him.”
“McGee is a…killer with the computer.”
“Yes, a ninja with the computer. He threatened to use it to get me into trouble if I did not do as he said. It is not the first time McGee has threatened me so.” Ziva had such a lost little girl look that Gibbs mentally kicked himself for ever falling for that before.
Tony shifted a little so that she was between him and his bedroom door, her back to that room. “Huh. What do you think we should do about it?”
She got up and walked over to Tony, touching his arm. “We should talk about it.” She leaned in toward him. “Maybe we can find a way to overcome our problems together. What do they say…you scratch my back and I—scratch—yours?” She leaned in as if to kiss Tony.
“Um, pretty sure it’s my job to scratch his back.” Ronon’s voice drifted into the hall.
Gibbs almost burst out laughing at the way Ziva jerked away from Tony and spun around.
“What are you doing here?” Ziva’s voice was like a screeching cat.
“I belong here, what’s your excuse?” Ronon moved into the living room, careful not to enter her space and initiate a physical response.
“How long have you been here?” She was spitting it out now, hate pretty much dripping off her.
“Long enough.” Ronon deliberately turned his back on her as if she were inconsequential and pulled Tony close. “Missed you.” He said softly before pulling Tony in for a deep kiss.
Gibbs let the general outraged noise level reach high enough before he swung open the door. “DiNozzo! You forgot your jacket in the car.”
Tony didn’t even respond, stuck in Ronon’s kiss. Well, the man did look like he took it seriously.
“David. What are you doing here?” Gibbs glared at her.
“I came to talk to Tony. I was hoping…well…I thought…argh, look at them! This is ridiculous. You can’t expect me to… Gibbs! Are you going to say anything?” Ziva stumbled through her unfinished thoughts just as Dex and DiNozzo broke apart.
“Yeah. I am.” Gibbs turned toward Dex. “See ya made it over here ok. Need help moving your stuff from my place?”
“No, I’m good. Thanks for letting me crash until Tony made it back.” Ronon still had his arms wrapped around Tony.
“Anything I can do for the two of you?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
“Take out the trash?” Ronon said while staring at Ziva.
Gibbs nodded and grabbed her by the arm. He led her out of the apartment in shock and got her halfway to the exit before she pulled her arm out of his hand.
“I don’t believe any of that. Who is he? Why was he at your home? My contacts can find no information on him,” Ziva demanded.
“He’s a friend of Tony’s from out of town.”
“Doesn’t matter because it’s none of your business.” Gibbs grabbed her arm again and pulled her the rest of the way out of the building before turning back to face her. “You need to back off and leave DiNozzo alone. You made your choices. You and McGee blew any chance you had with me. DiNozzo fell into something that gave you a free ride out of that mess. It’s the last thing you ever get at his expense. You hear me?”
Ziva jerked her arm away, glared at Gibbs, and stalked away to her car. Gibbs watched until she revved her engine and raced away. He started to walk to his own car when he noticed a black SUV with tinted windows exit the lot across the way, and head in the direction Ziva had left. Gibbs watched, but the license plate was obscured, and his gut began to itch.
“Agent Tony, you have to tell Dr. Rodney to leave it alone. It was my private research, and he had no right to filter it.” Alex whined through the phone as Tony gave Gibbs the A.L. sign for Alex and headed into a room for privacy.
“Alex, if you don’t tell me what Dr. Rodney filtered, I won’t be able to help,” Tony said as he shut the conference room door and activated the ancient bug zapper that Alex had modified in his wrist bracelet.
“It’s my collection of exercise videos. I’m analyzing them to ensure that I understand safe activities for humans,” Alex explained.
“Well, that doesn’t sound that bad. Let me get a call through to Rodney, and I can talk to him.” Tony started to say he would call tonight, but Alex didn’t give him the time before another voice came on the line.
“Alex, I told you it’s not up for discussion.” Rodney griped.
“Hey, Rodney. It’s Tony.”
“Tony, is there a problem? Do I need to mobilize the task force?” Rodney questioned.
“No, Alex called me. He said you are filtering his exercise videos?”
“Alex! You called Tony about your porn collection?” Rodney bellowed.
“Porn!” Tony’s mouth fell open; he was completely at a loss. “Since when do you upload porn?”
“Col. Sheppard said it was his daily exercise,” Alex explained. “I’ve read his reports, and he mentions several times that the natives enjoyed exercise at their festivals.”
“Rodney, why would John be talking to Alex about sex?” Tony inquired, appalled at the thought.
Tony heard Rodney yelling at Sheppard and Sheppard’s muffled response about questions after they spent the night on the ship.
“Alex, even if Col. Sheppard spoke to you about their private bedroom…exercise, why did you upload videos?” Tony tried to keep his voice reasonable.
“I became concerned about Dr. Rodney’s health. Several times he said Col. Sheppard was killing him but then ordered him not to stop. The entire activity was disconcerting. But the next morning, Col. Sheppard explained that as long as any exercise was safe, sane, and consensual, then I shouldn’t interfere because it’s normal. I’m doing an analysis to find out what’s normal.” Alex just sounded so damn innocent.
“I’m with Rodney on this one, Alex. There are things about those videos you don’t understand at this point. I would prefer that you wait until we can have several people available for an educated discussion on the subject. Until then, you gave Dr. Rodney the right to filter your information if he does not believe it’s healthy for you to review it at this time. Don’t try to circumvent that either electronically or by asking me when he’s already said no. It’s not nice to try to use our ignorance of the situation to get around the guidelines we’ve set on acceptable behavior.” Tony lectured Alex.
“That’s right,” Rodney added. “I promise we will discuss this. For now, find another subject to study. And, Tony, be careful.”
“I will.” Tony hung up and just considered the complete comedy that was his life. He was giving the sex talk to ten-thousand-year-old spaceships. Since when did he become the Dad in this situation? Tony was stamping down on the inner thought that insisted he was the Mom and Rodney the Dad.
Tony gave himself a minute to calm down before heading back to his desk. They were on day five of him back to work, and frankly, it was getting on his nerves. He had been able to stretch everything out with finally getting to the range to qualify this morning. So everything was now back to the way it was before he was taken. Well, everything but getting his damned car back. There was some delay that seemed contrived.
For now, the days were spent with cold cases or doing the in-office work when the team got a call out while avoiding being left in the same space alone with Ziva and Tim. So far he had evaded every attempt at conversation. Ziva’s cold shoulder following her attempt at seduction turned into attempts to get him alone, with a hard line of hate boiling inside.
Nights, on the other hand, were becoming quite nice. There was time spent with Alex talking nonstop on the phone while he made dinner for himself and Ronon. Then movies, maybe some time playing the piano. All of that wrapped in with just talking. It wasn’t that Ronon didn’t talk. It’s that when he did, what he said was worth hearing.
And the man had the heart of a poet. He discovered a few volumes of poetry Tony had and was devouring them. Ronon had mentioned offhand that before he was conscripted into service, he was on the path to being a scholar. But he clammed up on the subject of his course of study.
Tony shivered as he remembered that kiss Ronon had used to throw Ziva off. Ronon had told him that he had thought about doing it since he met him, didn’t see a reason not to. Damn, but Tony wanted to repeat it. Ronon was at ease in his skin in a way that wasn’t quite normal on Earth. It was sexy as hell, and he knew the man was completely aware of the response he caused. However, Ronon didn’t strike him as the one-night stand type. He seemed the type that wanted intimacy, but given his history was hesitant to seek it out. Tony just wasn’t sure what kind of relationship there could be with someone who lived in another Galaxy. I mean, talk about your long-distance relationship.
Why the heck is he thinking about relationships? Tony shook his head. He’s known the man for just over a week. There is no relationship. There’s just…one amazing kiss, and those muscles that move just so under that shirt, with that ass. Well, and a great sense of humor. Intelligent, warm eyes… Oh, snap out of it, DiNozzo.
Tony got back to the bullpen to see that Gibbs, Williams, and Sands were all gone. He wanted to ask where they were, but he really didn’t want to ask the duplicitous duo. Instead, Tony checked his messages and his email before digging back into the cold case on his desk.
About forty-five minutes later, Tony received a notice to report to Director Vance’s office. He locked his computer and headed up. The door was open, and he was motioned inside.
“Director, you wished to see me?” Tony stood in front of the desk, not having been asked to sit.
“Yes. I received the last of your paperwork this morning. You are officially cleared for field duty.” Vance said with a determined timbre in his voice.
“Yes, sir. I presented the last of it to Gibbs this morning.” Tony thought it a little odd that Vance was the one reviewing this. It was slightly below the normal duties of a Director of a federal agency.
“Well, I’m glad we can agree on that.” Vance picked up a piece of paper and held it out. As Tony took it, Vance continued. “New case for the MCRT. Report of a dead petty officer in Rock Creek Park. Take McGee and David and get started.”
Tony froze. “I’ll contact Gibbs and Williams with the information.”
“No. Gibbs is running an op in MTAC. He cannot be disturbed. Williams and Sands are handling a delicate case at Annapolis. You are a Senior Field Agent, DiNozzo. I am ordering you to take this case.” Vance glared at him when he started to open his mouth. “Dismissed.”
Tony stared at Vance while considering his options, then turned, left, and headed straight to MTAC. To hell with the Directors orders on this part. He entered his code and waited for the eye scanner, but the system immediately flashed access denied. Tony tried a second time without success and bit back a curse. The Director had to sign off on Tony’s access to MTAC, and obviously the man’s been holding back.
He raced down the stairs to his desk and grabbed his weapon and bag before heading to autopsy. Palmer was suited up and heading out the door as he arrived. “Palmer! Did you get the call out to Rock Creek Park?”
“Yes, Tony. I did. Is there a problem?” Palmer looked confused. His aunt was following him out the door, dressed the same.
Tony looked around, “Where’s Ducky?”
“Dr. Mallard is testifying today. Aunt Alicia offered to go out with me for the body retrieval and visual report, but the autopsy will wait until Dr. Mallard returns.” Palmer looked back at his aunt with a smile, which she returned.
“It’s rare I go into the field for crime scenes, but don’t you worry, Agent DiNozzo. I cut my teeth on this.” Dr. Biro smiled at him and damned if the woman didn’t look positively giddy at the thought.
“Yeah, well. I was just wondering if I could catch a ride with you?” Tony cracked his neck then threw in, “Gibbs, Williams, and Sands are hung up, and I’d rather not ride out there with McGee and Ziva.”
“Oh, gosh. Certainly, I completely understand. Um, I don’t have a problem with it, but you would have to sit in the back. That’s not going to be comfortable.” Palmer looked uncomfortable, just saying it.
“I have no problem riding in the back if you don’t mind. Let me just send the messages, and we can head out.” Tony smiled and grabbed his phone to send a group text out to everyone on the team. He added to it that he was riding with Palmer and received an acknowledgment from McGee. Williams gave an affirmative and provided an ETA for him and Sands to join them. It would be at least a half-hour after they arrived, but that was better than nothing. There was no response from Gibbs, but he wasn’t surprised. If Gibbs was in the middle of an op, he might not be able to respond.
Tony climbed into the back and got ready for the ride. He would rather be physically uncomfortable than mentally. As they drove away, he started texting answers to Alex’s latest questions. He had discovered 2001 A Space Odyssey and Terminator this morning, so the unhappy emojis and gifs had exploded for a while. Tony was going to slap the Marine who mentioned movies about crazy or murderous AIs.
Good ol’ Rock Creek Park, Tony thought as they pulled up as close to the trail as they could, the primary body dump of Petty Officers on the Eastern Seaboard.
As they got out of the M.E. van, Tony noted that the SUV from the pool was parked just a few spaces away. Figures that Ziva must have been driving. No clue how long they’ve been here. Tony took a moment to double-check his weapons and grab his bag before walking up to the police officer who was stationed at the trail access point.
Tony flashed his ID. “Looks like my team already made it here?”
“Yes, Agent DiNozzo. The site is where this trail crosses the ATV service path. I’ve been instructed to accompany you down there.” The officer reported.
“Let me warn the M.E. You know how testy these doctor types get carrying their equipment.” Tony gave him a look and headed for Palmer and Biro. “Hey, the crime scene is just over one klick. This trail to where it crosses with the ATV Service Path. You two going to be ok?”
Dr. Biro nodded, “No problem. We’ll be right behind you.”
“The ATV Service Path,” Palmer repeated. “I’ll have to tell Dr. Mallard. The regional M.E.s have a pool on for which division gets the most bodies along the path this year. This will put him in the lead. I have $100 in the pot.”
“Oh,” Biro looked at him. “Do you think I could get in on that? I have several theories on dump zones in Protected Parks.”
“Well, I would have to speak to Dr. Mallard, but I don’t see why not,” Palmer responded.
Tony just walked away, concerned about their sanity. He could hear their conversation continue lightly behind him as he followed the officer to the site. Something about the officer had Tony looking for a problem, but Tony had no idea what the problem was.
He could see Ziva and Tim through the trees before he exited the path. Ziva was taking pictures of the scene while McGee was setting down markers. She turned toward him with a slight smirk and snapped a picture of him, stumbling on a loose rock.
Tony just kept his temper and decided that he could be professional and get the job done. The officer who had escorted him moved toward a second officer who was watching the ATV path. Tony could see an ATV parked on the path, probably from the ranger who had discovered the body. He glanced around and realized he didn’t see the witness here. So either they must have sent the ranger back to the station. He would have to find out who authorized that because it’s against protocol.
“So, what do we have?” Tony asked McGee.
“Petty Officer based on uniform and insignia. No ID, no name on the uniform. And,” McGee pointed toward the body, “no fingertips.” He stood up from the crouch and stepped back before looking at Tony. “This is obviously a body dump. Very little disturbance and no blood. Other than the fingers, the only visible trauma is what appears to be a burn on the forehead.”
Tony moved to look at the body as Palmer and Biro stepped down with the body bag, carry basket, and kit. There was something about that burn on the forehead that Tony felt he should know. He glanced over, “Dr. Biro, can I have you take a look at this.”
She pulled some gloves and then left Palmer to unfold the body bag and open the kit for the various bags and things they would need to prep the body for movement. “What do we have here?” She moved closer, careful to verify that the scene closest to the body had been documented. When she reached Tony’s position, she stooped down to view it before her head jerked up to look at Tony. Her expression one of surprise and a touch of fear.
“Doc?” Tony asked.
“I think maybe we need to call in some of our friends from higher up to help with this. Maybe we should move back to the vehicles?” Biro responded in one breath to Tony with an urgency that caused his pulse to speed up.
Before anyone could take more than a step back, people stepped out of the forest surrounding them. Handguns and staff weapons were intermixed. Tony looked around slowly but realized they had nowhere to go and were outnumbered. He made a motion for Tim and Ziva to stand down, hoping for once in her life Ziva would play it smart and not fight back.
A moment later, the forward line split, and a man with dark hair and eyes stepped forward. He moved with purpose and the jaffa deferred to him instantly. His eyes flashed with an inner light and when he spoke it was the reverberating tones of a goa’uld that addressed Tony.
“Agent DiNozzo. Lord Peitho is quite displeased with you and Dr. McKay. You have taken what is his, and he will have it back.”
“You’ve got a nice timbre there. Maybe you should try it with a Scottish accent? A little more like a Connery Bond. You might be able to pull that off. I mean you’re not quite up to Bond villain standard.” Tony heard the sounds of ATVs coming down the path, but any hope of help was dashed when one of the jaffa motioned the vehicles closer.
“You may joke now, Agent DiNozzo. But we are aware that only you can control the ship. The Ancient spaceship will be placed in Lord Peitho’s hands by you. You may now rejoice to have earned a place as his new host. Long may you serve Peitho, Lord of All, your new God.”
“Yeah, no. I think that’s an honor I’ll decline.” Tony debated resisting as two jaffa moved in to restrain him.
It happened so fast that he wasn’t certain exactly what initiated it, but McGee called “Tony, watch out!” and started to move to protect Tony from something behind him. Just as suddenly, Tim stopped, screamed, and fell to the ground. Standing just behind McGee was Ziva, a bloody knife in her hand and a smug look of superiority on her face.
Palmer moved before Tony could warn him off, and he was over McGee, applying pressure to the wound. “Ziva? Why would you do that?” Palmer’s voice was terrified.
She ignored Jimmy to stare down Tony. “Go quietly, or he will be next.”
Tony stared at her in a bit of shock before he forced it back. Raising his hands out from his side, he started moving toward the ATVs. He was stopped, and his weapon and phone were thrown to the ground before he was restrained and then cuffed to a short cable on the vehicle.
He spared a look back at the scene where Palmer and Biro were trying to provide first aid to McGee. The only ones left were the two dressed as police officers, the goa’uld, and one of the jaffa with an ATV. As Tony’s ATV started moving, he heard the goa’uld order the two men to “Kill them all.” The trees obstructed any view as they traveled down the Service Path. Over the engine of the ATV, three gunshots rang out in the forest.
Gibbs gritted his teeth to control his annoyance while speaking to three others on the screen in MTAC following the successful op. Monday Morning Quarterbacking was not his favorite activity. Gibbs was relieved that it was over, especially since this was the last ongoing operation that he had on his plate. Secretly he was happy that he wouldn’t have to leave any work unfinished when he officially moved to Homeworld under Tom Morrow. Now, if he could just get these blowhards to quit second-guessing his decisions after the fact.
He was about ready to walk out and leave them listening to their own voices when the screen went black, and then Alex appeared.
“Agent Gibbs. You have to come now. Please, Agent Gibbs. Agent Tony needs you.”
Gibbs felt his gut clench, and his only thought is that he needed to get out before Alex just beamed him up from the room. “Alright. Calm down, Alex. Let me get someplace private to speak to you.”
“But Agent Gibbs!”
“No. This is a matter of national security, Alex. Cut this feed now.” Gibbs glared at him to get his point across, and Alex huffed before the screen went dark. Gibbs looked at all of the techs in the room. “This does not leave this room.” Then he pointed at the screen. “And that never happened.”
Gibbs practically ran from the room, hit the stairwell, looked up and down for any movement, then triggered his bracelet. “Beam me up now, Alex.”
Appearing on the command deck, Gibbs looked to the tableau who were listening to a confrontation. Sheppard motioned him closer as he heard O’Neill give quiet commands to a team on the Apollo. Rodney was pacing back and forth, muttering to himself.
Gibbs stopped by Sheppard and raised an eyebrow in question.
“According to Alex, Tony, McGee, and David were sent to Rock Creek Park to investigate the death of a petty officer,” Sheppard explained. “He messaged Alex to keep watch because Director Vance ordered him to leave you, Williams, and Sands out of the case and to go into the field with your agents.”
Gibbs felt a flash of anger as O’Neill stepped close.
“You were running an op?” Jack asked.
“SecNav gave the order to move up the operation. It was supposed to be two more days until we made a move.” Gibbs ground his teeth.
McKay sat at a panel and started typing. “Huh, looks like SecNav had a morning meeting with NID. He placed a call to Director Vance while in that meeting. An hour later, he placed a second call to NCIS. That was right before Alex reported Tony being ordered into the field.”
“Agent Gibbs, there are several life signs surrounding Agent Tony’s position,” Alex reported.
“Can you show us?” O’Neill asked.
A screen showed the shapes through the trees. As the conversation continued on the speaker through what Gibbs now realized must be Alex’s monitoring of Tony’s phone. O’Neill discussed the intel with the Apollo, and Alex shared his feed with the other ship.
Everything stopped when Dr. Alicia Biro’s voice came solidly through the line, “I think maybe we need to call in some of our friends from higher up to help with this. Maybe we should move back to the vehicles?”
The trap closed around Gibbs’ team, and he had to hold back a curse because no matter how pissed at them he was, that was his team down there. DiNozzo signed up for bait; they didn’t. The strange voice that was quickly identified as a goa’uld came through the speaker. More shapes appeared, and Gibbs knew O’Neill had ordered the backup team beamed down from the Apollo.
They heard enough to know that Peitho wasn’t present when a scream followed by shouting came through audio. The SGC team held back as DiNozzo was taken, and then there were shots fired, movement, and Biro calling for an emergency beam out.
Alex responded before the Apollo could react and beamed them into the med bay. Gibbs could see on the side screen that McGee was face down on the table. Biro was moving quickly to grab equipment from hidden compartments and pull things to the table while Palmer climbed up to apply pressure.
Biro activated a panel that lit up like a Christmas tree, and a 3D hologram of the body overlaid McGee’s form.
“Talk to me, Doc,” Sheppard called out.
“The traitorous bitch stabbed him in the back!” Biro bit out. “The spinal column deflected the knife, so she missed his heart, but his spinal cord is severed. Let me get the bleeding under control, and I could really use some help here.” She was cutting off his clothes and working around Palmer who was looking around in shock as he continued to apply pressure.
Alex appeared next to her. “Dr. Biro, based on these readings, my medical pods are able to heal the injury. The sooner you place him inside, the greater the chances of a full recovery.”
Gibbs held his breath as she fired back at Alex several questions about the equipment before she ordered Palmer to step back. McGee was beamed off the table and into a pod that immediately started working. She watched the readings before nodding and giving instructions to Alex. Then she turned and pulled Palmer into a huge hug.
“Doc?” Sheppard called out.
“He’ll live. Hell, he might even walk again. Stranger things have happened.” She looked around as if finally realizing where she was and wanting to look into everything available.
“Need to know what happened down there.” Gibbs pushed.
“Agent Gibbs?” Palmer looked up and around as if to see where the voice was coming from. A screen activated, and he was now staring at them on the monitor. “It was Ziva. She was working with them. She stabbed McGee and threatened to kill me if Tony didn’t cooperate. Tony went, but then the one with the glowing eyes…and might I add that was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t even know what kind of reaction would need to take place to cause eyes to glow without damage to the optical nerve. That guy, though, he ordered the other two to kill us. You should have seen it, Gibbs. Aunt Alicia somehow got McGee’s backup piece, and she shot the glowing eye guy twice in the chest before she shot one of the police officers in the head. Then this military team was coming out of nowhere to tackle the last officer.”
Sheppard frowned. “Doc! Two in the chest? What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that he has a crappy backup. I had to adjust. If he hadn’t moved, I would have had a headshot the second time. A Goa’uld’s target zone is lower than a Wraith.” She started griping as she dragged Palmer out of the room.
“You’re teaching your medical staff to take headshots?” O’Neill looked at Sheppard surprised.
“A body shot won’t slow down a wraith, General. I teach all my people to survive.” Sheppard gripped McKay’s shoulder in front of him as he watched the screen. “Alex, keep track of Tony. I want to know the moment it looks like they’ve reached their destination. Send a continuous feed to the Apollo.”
“Yes, Colonel Sheppard.” Alex looked so intense and focused. “Team 9 captured one of the men who was trying to escape. He’s insisting that he is with the NID, and they need to release him.”
“Oh, really?” O’Neill suddenly looked deadly. “I think I want to speak to Mr. NID.”
“OK, General.” And before anyone could say otherwise, Alex beamed the man and two of team 9 onto the command deck.
Gibbs cocked his head to the side and then marched forward to grab the man by the shirt. “Mr. Smith, funny to see you here.”
NID Agent Rob Smith smiled at Gibbs. “I see you don’t know how to follow orders and stay out of matters that are none of your concern, Gibbs.”
“Seems to me this is exactly my concern.”
“Want to introduce us, Gibbs?” O’Neill asked.
“This is Agent Rob Smith with the NID…oh, wait…that would be with the Trust, wouldn’t it.” Gibbs gave a half-smile as Smith’s smile fell.
O’Neill nodded, “Of course, the we can’t Trust them division. I thought we had gotten rid of that stench. Come to find out they gave up their mandate of fighting the goa’uld and decided to just crawl in bed with them.”
Smith tried to shake off the men holding him. “At least we are willing to make the hard call and make the deals needed to keep us safe. It’s no different than the CIA using an arms dealer to control the power in a region. We will use whatever we have to if it means Earth comes out on top, even if it means giving a goa’uld what it wants.”
“You mean giving him DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled.
“DiNozzo is inconsequential. What’s the life of one man matter when it will get us protection and access to advanced weapons.” Smith stared Gibbs down. “The way I figure it, DiNozzo should be honored Peitho wants him. He’ll live practically forever.”
O’Neill leaned forward, “You think being a slave to a snake, trapped in your own body with no way to do anything but watch, is something to be honored?”
Alex appeared in front of him, his face one of anger. “No, you can’t do that to Agent Tony.”
“This isn’t something you can stop. If it’s not me, then there are more that will come after me. People want control of this ship, and it’s obvious that DiNozzo is the key to that control.” Smith smirked at them, and Alex yelled in anger before the man disappeared.
McKay jumped up, “Alex! What did you do?”
“I won’t be anyone’s slave, and I won’t let anyone do that to Agent Tony.” Alex disappeared, and a screen activated, showing Smith trapped in a small room.
“McKay?!” Sheppard yelled.
“It’s the airlock. Alex, what are you doing?” Rodney jumped up to run, and they followed him.
They ran down two flights of stairs and halfway down a corridor before they stopped outside a room with lights flashing. Smith was inside beating on the door. Alarms and lights were flashing on the outer door as it slowly slid open. Smith was crying and begging.
“Alex, don’t you dare release that forcefield,” Rodney ordered the ship as he tried to access the panel.
“He wants to hurt Agent Tony. They’re going to keep coming no matter what we do. You heard the man. They want to make him a slave. They will keep him away and never let him see his friends. They will take him away from everything he knows and never let him go. He’s going to be so lonely and scared, Dr. Rodney. We can’t let them do that to Agent Tony.” Alex appeared next to them, looking so lost.
McKay looked at him a moment and stopped tapping on the panel. “Alex.” He said softly as Gibbs watched him reach out as if to touch the hologram. “We aren’t going to let them have Tony. And we won’t let them have you, either. We’re going to keep you safe…and free. You will always have a choice.” McKay swallowed hard. “But the first choice you should make is not to kill. I never want you to kill in anger. Tony wouldn’t want that. You know Tony believes in justice.”
“But it would be easier to stop him now,” Alex argued.
“Yes, it would.” Gibbs agreed. “But, Tony would never want you to be judge, jury, and executioner. When the day comes that you are asked to take a life, it will be because it was determined there was no better choice.”
O’Neill agreed. “You have my word of honor, Alex. We won’t let them have you. Send him down to a holding cell in the mountain. We will take care of him for you. Trust me, son, don’t do something you’ll regret.”
Alex looked at them all; then Smith disappeared in a flash of light. Alex seemed to look in that direction. “Dr. Rodney? I think he peed on me.”
Tony was led into a small office building about twenty minutes outside the park. They had traded the ATVs for SUVs. They had taken a moment to search Tony and threw out everything they could. That included Alex’s bracelet. Tony did what he could to remain calm and not give away that the bracelet meant anything, but it didn’t help in the end. Luckily Alex had given him their code. The bracelet showed him the number 27. Gibbs’ Rule 27 was as good as any to let him know they were watching him.
Tony was relieved that Ziva climbed into the first SUV instead of his. The last thing he wanted was to be anywhere near her. He was aware that she had a great deal of anger toward him. Honestly that had started almost from the moment she joined the team. Privately he had argued against her. She had run hot and cold against him ever since.
He hadn’t thought that anger would be enough to turn off the comms, and never would have imagined McGee going along with that madness. But for her to turn on McGee as well? It pissed Tony off that he would never get a chance at closure with the man.
Now, Tony had a new mission. After they took down Peitho and his Trust minions, Tony was going to devote his life to making sure Ziva David understood the full extent of her error today.
The guards pulled Tony to the middle of the room and forced him to kneel. Ziva walked over and stopped to look down at him and gloat.
“You have been a splinter in my side since the day Ari ignored orders and killed Agent Todd instead of you. Always you are in the way. Well, now you will serve a purpose. The U.S. and other countries have been keeping secrets from Israel. Secrets that I will be the one to bring to them. Finally, I accomplish my mission, and the only thing it costs me is you.” Ziva stood tall and smiled cruelly.
“They thought you would have access to highly classified secrets through Gibbs? Or was Jenny Shepard supposed to get you that access? I know she constantly tried to overreach herself. Vance has tried that as well. You can’t have anything on them, so it must be Daddy Dearest. Still trying to get his approval?” Tony asked with a mocking tone.
Ziva reared back to slap him, but one of the jaffa grabbed her arm and warned her off. She stalked to the side as a jaffa carried in the goa’uld, who was in charge at the park. He was bleeding heavily from two gunshots to the chest which caused hope to bloom in Tony.
The side door swung open, and Peitho entered as the jaffa came to attention. He looked around the room and smiled as he spotted Tony.
“Agent DiNozzo. I hope you have learned your lesson. You belong to me now. Running is not possible. It is a shame that Dr. McKay was allowed to move outside my sphere of influence for now, but eventually I will have him as well. Now I need only take you, and the ship will be mine.” Peitho let his hand pet Tony’s hair, and he tried to pull back away.
“Lord Peitho.” The injured goa’uld gasped. Tony could hear the sucking sound that indicated a death wound. He knew it was only the natural healing power of the symbiote that was keeping the host alive.
“Heskine, you have done well,” Peitho assured him.
“A host?” He begged weakly.
Peitho nodded. “Your loyalty will be rewarded.” He turned and raked his eyes across the room, landing on Ziva. He said something in goa’uld, and the two jaffa flanking her suddenly grabbed her and started dragging her forward.
Ziva fought back, cursing, but she was no match for them. “You promised me information for my country in exchange for DiNozzo.”
Peitho smiled at her, and his eyes glowed. “You will soon know everything. You will have the honor to serve your new god. I offer you your reward.”
The host on the floor coughed weakly, and then the snake flowed slowly from his mouth. It looked around and hissed before focusing on Ziva and slithering inexorably toward her. She fought with everything she had, but they pinned her, so she had to wait as it rubbed against her face as if caressing her. Finally, it wrapped around her and then burrowed into her through the back of the neck. She spasmed once, then twice, then relaxed completely. After a couple minutes she slowly stood and then bowed to Peitho.
“Thank you, my Lord.” And her eyes were lit with a new inner light.
“Agent Gibbs, Tony has stopped traveling and is currently in a building,” Alex called out.
Gibbs looked up from where he was gearing up with SG-1 sans Carter, who still wasn’t allowed on Alex. “Show us where Alex.”
The map popped up, and Gibbs noted that it was just a nondescript office building. There were only a few cars in the parking lot, according to Alex’s pictures. “Keep an eye on them. Let us know if anything changes.”
Gibbs turned back to the team. “OK, how do we do this?”
Col. Mitchell gave a tug on Gibbs’ flack vest, then nodded and stepped back as Ronon took the place at Gibbs’ side. “Teams 9 and 12 are tasked for making sure no one makes it out of that building. While we want some prisoners for questioning, we don’t take risks. Anyone who can’t be taken easily will be taken down with extreme prejudice. Our goals are the safe extraction of Agent DiNozzo and the elimination of the goa’uld.”
“Understood.” Gibbs agreed and checked his P-90.
“Be sure that you do, Jethro Gibbs,” Teal’c warned. “You must not give a goa’uld the opportunity to attack first. You must be prepared to shoot first and shoot to kill. The goa’uld will leave the host to seek another and survive. Do not accept a dead host to mean the symbiote does not survive.”
“Shoot to kill and keep killing until the snake is dead.” Gibbs gave Teal’c a tight stare and nodded. He understood what Teal’c was saying. If DiNozzo has been snaked, don’t hesitate to take him down.
“Agent Gibbs! A cloaked ship just appeared in orbit and has beamed four life signs down to Agent Tony’s location.” Alex shouted.
Mitchell contacted the Apollo and ordered Teams 9 and 12 into position. The Apollo was cloaked but moving to intercept Peitho’s ship.
Sheppard stepped to the command chair and sat down, relaxing into it like an old hand. “Alex, let’s keep a close eye on our people. We need a lock on Tony. We don’t let them leave orbit with Tony or any of our people.”
“Yes, Col. Sheppard.”
McKay turned in his seat. “You remember what we discussed about the symbiotes. Anyone we beam up that has a symbiote is to be isolated and secured. We can’t allow the symbiote loose on the ship.”
“I understand, Dr. Rodney.”
“Teams 9 and 12 in position,” Mitchell called out. “Time to get things moving. Beam us down, Alex.”
Gibbs gripped his weapon tightly and kept his eyes open as the command deck disappeared, and he reappeared inside the building. Only feet in front of them were a collection of Jaffa and humans. In the center of the room Tony was on his knees, held in place by two jaffa. An older man that he immediately recognized as Maxwell Hendley, or should he say Peitho, stood in front of him. Nearby was a body, based on the blood he would say Biro’s shots were accurate.
Chaos reigned in that room, and Gibbs found that muscle memory and instinct took over in the fight. It was fast, it was deadly, and Gibbs didn’t hesitate to take the shot when needed. One of the jaffa holding Tony released him to shield Peitho, and Tony took the opportunity to break away and roll toward Ronon Dex, who was a one man war.
As the tide turned against him, Peitho shouted a command and reached up to trigger a piece of jewelry. Tony grabbed a knife from Dex’s boot and threw it at Hendley, striking him in the eye. As his body fell backward, Dex fired at the snake that erupted from him. From the other side of Ziva, Teal’c fired as well.
There was a touch from behind, and Gibbs spun to see Ziva standing there, crying. “Gibbs, you must help me.” She looked so lost and afraid.
Tony’s voice reached him, “She was snaked.”
Gibbs looked down to see the knife in her hand coming up toward him and fired. Ziva was knocked back, and her eyes glowed as her face morphed into one of hate. So he fired again and again until she finally fell, the light leaving her eyes. For a moment, Gibbs started to lower his weapon when her body flexed, and the goa’uld broke free.
Gibbs let loose on the snake until only pieces remained as bile rose in his throat. He choked back and triggered his radio. “Alex, get Tony out of here.”
Tony disappeared in a flash of light. Gibbs listened to the SG Teams call out their all clear signs and responded with his own when prompted. Eventually, Ronon and Mitchell approached him. “We’ve got cleanup here, Gibbs. You need to go up and see your team.”
Gibbs looked one last time at Ziva before turning away and letting Ronon make the call to Alex.
Tony watched the feed as Gibbs systematically broke Agent Rob Smith down to a quivering mass. The man was a veritable fountain of information on the workings of the Trust and all number of supposedly legitimate NID operations that crossed the line. Tom Morrow was organizing a wave of arrests. Some public and some very, very silent arrests.
To find out that SecNav of all people had been snaked was a kick in the gut. The man was that close to the President for fuck’s sake. The President and his staff had immediately submitted to a full scan and were thankfully clear. SecNav was a new edition to the Trust, so he hadn’t been snaked for long. There were plans for more snakes, but thankfully the symbiotes weren’t on Earth yet. The NID members of the Trust were confident they could control who the goa’uld infected by their agreement with the snakes. They were fucking deluded.
SecNav was currently in a secure holding cell until they figured out the snake issue. Officially he was taking a sabbatical. SG-1 had already made contact with the Tok’ra for help, and they were waiting on a response. Tony didn’t want the man to suffer, but he would trust the Tok’ra as far as he could space them.
Tony glanced at the other observer in the room, Dean Bates. The man on the IOA special task force that was responsible for preventing and cleaning up alien threats on Earth. Tony figured that taskforce was a complete fail on the first part. There was a tap on his shoulder, and Tony left Bates to continue alone as he followed Sgt. Harriman.
Harriman led him to O’Neill’s office. “Go on in; he’ll be right back.”
Tony took a seat and leaned back to close his eyes. He was just so fucking tired. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 48 hours since he was taken. The order to bunk down and sleep on Alex didn’t work so well. He had spent half the night in the med bay staring at McGee’s pod. Biro informed him of the prognosis. Ancient equipment could heal just about anything, but the amount of nerve damage would mean a prolonged stay in the pod.
And, of course, there was the whole secret issue. McGee would have to be read into the program, but his previous actions meant his loyalty was being questioned. So they may heal him just to have him disappear. Tony wasn’t sure what he was supposed to feel about that. In the end, McGee tried to protect him. According to Gibbs, the man had already realized his error and was planning to leave NCIS. Tony thought for his own peace of mind, he might be ready to forgive, but he could never forget.
“DiNozzo.” O’Neill entered the office and had a seat. “How’s Gibbs doing? It’s not easy when you have to be the one to take out one of your own.”
“He’s working out his anger on Smith.” Tony made a face. “I don’t think he’s getting the satisfaction out of it he wants. I understand Alex is responsible for softening him up.”
“Yes, I suppose he did. I actually brought you in here for your take on a couple of people who are now our problem.” O”Neill reached into his desk and pulled out two folders, flipping open the first. “James Palmer, autopsy assistant. He’s already signed the NDA, but do you think he’ll be able to keep the program secret?”
Tony shifted in the chair. “Jimmy may come across as talkative, but he understands the consequences. I don’t think he’ll let you down. Plus, you have the added benefit that his mentor is Dr. Mallard. Since Dr. Mallard is read in, he will guarantee that Palmer toes the line. And once he finishes his education, you will have two M.E.s on the Eastern Seaboard to handle special cases.”
“That was the feeling I was getting,” O’Neill agreed and closed the file. He moved it to the bottom as he flipped open the next file. “McGee.”
Tony tensed up. “What do you want me to say, General.”
“I want to know if I should dig a hole for him.” O’Neill stared at Tony.
Tony grimaced. “I don’t think I’m the best one to make that call.”
“The way I see it, you were the one most harmed. Your insight is important. So, you tell me, can he be trusted?” O’Neill leaned back and waited Tony out.
He took his time because this is a question Tony’s been asking himself. “I think Gibbs and I share the responsibility for some of McGee’s issues. Gibbs set the team up as a competition for his favor, and I didn’t call him on it. When Ziva responded better to McGee, we would push him at her. Frankly, because sometimes I didn’t want to deal with her. We allowed her to manipulate him, and honestly, there was part of me that realized she was manipulating the entire team. I gave it a pass again and again because Gibbs told me to.”
Tony saw a look in O’Neill’s eye like he was going to cut in, and he stopped him with a hand up. “But, I can never forget that manipulated or not, he made a choice to leave me without backup in the field. He tried to protect me in the end and almost gave his life for it, but one act doesn’t negate the other.”
He looked around the room, trying to figure out how to say it. “If you want to know if you can trust him with the secret of this program, yes. I believe you can. If you want to know if he can be brought into the program…I can acknowledge that the man has some serious skills that could be useful. If he heals enough for field duty, don’t allow it. Even if he never cut comms again, that’s a stain that doesn’t leave a person. I wouldn’t want him with a team that either feels they can’t trust him or thinks they should teach him a lesson. It wouldn’t be good for morale. Just…have a very open conversation with him and decide where he could work best.”
O’Neill grinned, “You and Gibbs look at things from different perspectives, but you both get to the same point…eventually. Tom and I will work together to decide if we have someplace to put him to use. I’ll feel better if we can keep a close eye on him for a while, and I don’t think any of us want to see him go back to NCIS.”
“If I may ask, have we decided what to do about Director Vance?” Tony’s preference was to drop the man down the deepest hole they had.
“Vance.” O’Neill wrinkled his nose like he had stepped in something disgusting. “The President ordered him in for a very unpleasant conversation. We are confident he has no knowledge of the program. We know from Smith that he was being courted by the Trust, but they never made an overture toward him. He’s justifying sending you into that viper’s nest as following orders from SecNav. And, SecNav did order him to send you specifically to that scene.”
“So, no consequences for him?” Tony asked tightly.
“Oh, there will be consequences, but not quite yet. Morrow has people crawling all up in his business. He knows that he was being investigated, but he doesn’t know it’s an ongoing investigation. For now, we’re going to leave him where he is and let him think he’s in the clear. His buddy, Eli David, will contact him soon, and we want to use him as a vehicle to get to David. We’ll keep our eyes on him to see if he is contacted by the Trust as well. We’re rooting it out wherever we find it, but I’m not naive enough to believe we will find it all in one sweep.” O’Neill then flashed him a big, unrepentant grin. “Besides, I figure that it’s poetic justice that we stake him out as bait since he pretty much did the same thing to you.”
Tony chuckled at the thought of someone so proud of his position being used without his knowledge that way. “I hope to be there the day he finds out his true value.”
Sitting back, more relaxed with the conversation, Tony asked, “Can you tell me what happened with the crime scene?”
“Agents Williams and Sands showed up to find the M.E. van and SUV but no team. Morrow had a Homeland team that we beamed down to do some cleanup. They threw them a line about a training exercise that your people obviously didn’t believe. We were able to get Gibbs on the line with them, and he confirmed the story and had them take the van back with them. Tom’s guys sent back the SUV and officially filed orders for the team to be seconded to Homeland until the end of their exercise. Vance raised a fuss, but SecNav wasn’t around to escalate his complaint. He’s worried about his own ass right now, so he hasn’t pushed it again.”
Tony fiddled around with a button quietly for a while after O’Neill spoke. O’Neill must have tired of it because he finally broke the silence.
“Something else you want to know, DiNozzo?”
“What story are we giving for Ziva?” Tony looked back up when O’Neill was silent now.
“I would love nothing more than to slap an espionage charge on her and say she died in prison, and if we were taking down Vance right now, I’d do it. Instead, she’s going to have a little accident. Tom is working out the details, so he will brief you before you head back.” O’Neill was twirling some little gizmo between his fingers. “Just so you know. I want to thank you for helping get McKay back for us. The man drives me crazy, but it would be a real loss to all of us. If the Homeworld Security gig doesn’t work out for you, the SGC will always have a place waiting.”
“Thanks, General. I’ll keep that in mind.” Tony stood up and shook his hand before heading back to Gibbs watching.
“Ducky?” Tony ran up and gave Dr. Mallard a hug. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to collect my wandering assistant,” Ducky said with a smile. “How has Mr. Palmer adapted to the knowledge that we are not alone?”
“Like an excited puppy. He’s been giddy with all of the information.” Tony shared. “Worried you’re going to lose him?”
“Oh, no. I assure you I will drag him back, kicking and screaming to finish his degree if I have to.” Ducky took Tony by the arm. “I am told you are my best option to join them on your wonderous Starship friend. Dear Alicia contacted me with the knowledge that they are removing Timothy from his healing pod this morning.”
“That’s today?” Tony touched his bracelet. “Alex, can Dr. Mallard and I get a lift up?”
They were suddenly on the command deck. “Welcome aboard, Dr. Mallard.”
Ducky looked around for the voice, then smiled. “Well, thank you, young Alex. Feel free to call me Ducky.”
“Ok, Dr. Ducky! Agent Tony, Agent McGee’s healing cycle, will complete in ten minutes. Is there anyone else we should have present?” Alex asked.
“Let Gibbs know.” Tony started walking, “This way, Ducky.”
Gibbs had the forethought to ask Alex to beam him to the med bay, so he was waiting for them when they arrived. Ducky was exchanging greetings with Gibbs and Palmer while they watched Dr. Biro and her staff prep for Tim’s extraction.
McKay had gotten back on track to finish his recruitment for Atlantis since they had been gone much longer than originally scheduled. Since Dr. Biro was on Earth anyway, he had gracelessly handed off the final selection for medical staff to her. Now she was using the med bay on Alex for training on Ancient systems.
Ducky slipped forward to look everything over and was discussing things Tony didn’t even want to know. Eventually, Biro was firmly giving orders to her staff, and the pod slid open. McGee was showing signs of regaining consciousness, so they moved fast to move him from the pod to a bed.
The greatest thing Tony had ever seen was the jerk of Tim’s foot when Biro tapped the back of his ankle. Full consciousness was slow in coming, but it was clear there was a full range of sensation. It was hard to believe that only days before, they weren’t sure if the man would ever walk again.
Biro demanded that McGee remained in the med bay for another twenty-four hours for observation, though Tony secretly thought it was also for them to study him. Apparently the pods on Atlantis weren’t working yet.
Tony held back as everyone spoke to McGee. It was over an hour later before he approached the bed and took a seat next to him. “Hey, McGee.”
“Tony.” Tim looked at him with such relief; it was a little hard to take. “You’re ok?”
“Shouldn’t I be asking you? What in the world were you thinking?” Tony asked. He didn’t plan it; it just spilled out.
“Ziva was pointing a weapon at your back. I failed to have your back once. I couldn’t do that again. I don’t expect you to ever forgive me, but I am so glad you’re safe.” McGee looked so remorseful.
“I do forgive you. I need to forgive so I can let it go and move on with my life. But I can’t forget. I can’t…trust you in the field again. Hopefully, you can understand that.” Tony closed his eyes a moment to hold back his emotion.
“I do understand. I don’t trust myself, either. I’m…I’m going to quit NCIS. I can’t go out in the field again.” Tim turned to the side and curled up his knees on the bed.
“Don’t be so hasty,” O’Neill said.
Tony looked over his shoulder to see O’Neill and Tom Morrow enter with Gibbs. “General?”
“I can respect someone who acknowledges when they’ve been wrong and is willing to take the hit and fix his shit.” O’Neill pulled up a chair and had a seat.
“Sir?” Tim looked around at everyone.
“You’re a smart guy, Agent McGee. Director Morrow and Agent Gibbs are certain you still have something to offer. But I have a question that I need an answer to before I sign off.” O’Neill leaned forward and set his elbows on his knees.
Tony glanced at Morrow and Gibbs, who both looked a little clueless about O’Neill.
McGee swung his legs over the bed to face O’Neill and sat up straight. He looked resigned. “Go ahead and ask, General.”
O’Neill pitched a little ball onto McGee’s lap. McGee caught it before it could roll off and it lit up and hummed. “You are sitting in the middle of one of the highest tech medical bays around, and I can see that you can feel the place working. Yet, you haven’t asked one question about it. Either you are the least inquisitive person I have ever met…or you know something you shouldn’t.”
McGee hunched his shoulders at the comment and bit his bottom lip. “Director Shepard had me work on a special project for her. It was just before she died. She had a laptop she wanted me to gain access to. It was highly encrypted.” McGee paused a moment.
“When you were working that case with Cybercrimes?” Gibbs prompted.
“Yeah, it wasn’t Cybercrimes; she said it was classified, and I wasn’t to tell anyone I was working on it. I’ve been assigned similar cases before.” He looked at Gibbs, “You’ve given me those assignments, too. Even keeping it classified outside the normal evidence protocols wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary. But when I gained access, the files that opened up were obviously nothing that NCIS should have. I…well, I saw enough to know that I shouldn’t have seen any of it. I locked it back, removed my access, and reported to her that the encryption was too advanced to access without destroying the data. Frankly, I was considering who I should contact about it because of her drive to get the information. She insisted I find a way and ordered me to keep trying, but the next day the Director was on her way to California. Then she was dead.” McGee shrugged.
“What happened to that laptop?” O’Neill asked with a glare.
“The NID came in, took the evidence on the case, which was the laptop, a cell phone, and some trace evidence that had no viable DNA, and questioned me for an hour about my activity to access the computer.” McGee swallowed hard. “I…uh, well I told them the same thing I told Jenny. That I couldn’t get in. They seemed satisfied and ordered me to never mention it again.”
“Any clue who the NID agent was?” Morrow asked.
McGee rolled his eyes. “He said his name was Smith.”
Gibbs smirked, and there was some amusement in his eyes.
“OK, so obviously you can keep a secret. We are going to have an NDA for you to sign like no NDA you have seen in your life. You will sign it and live by it. I have absolutely no problem making you disappear, do you understand?” O’Neill stared down McGee until he nodded. “You have been given a second chance at a useful life. I hope you make the most of it.”
O’Neill got up and left the room while Morrow moved into place. “First, I will never give you the opportunity to let down a partner in the field again. Doesn’t matter why it happened, but I will never give that a second chance. However, you have skills. I would rather have those skills working for me than going to waste. So, as of now, you have been transferred to the Department of Homeland Security as far as anyone is concerned. Specifically, you will be working under me in Homeworld Security. I have plans for a task force and you are going to be in the cyber division.”
McGee glanced at Gibbs, who nodded before he looked up to Tony. Tony gave him a grin and nod before he got up to leave the room. It was up to Gibbs and Morrow to read him in.
“DiNozzo!” O’Neill was marching down the corridor toward Tony. Cameron Mitchell following close behind.
He looked up and smiled. “Hey, General. Have you seen Ronon? He was supposed to meet me for lunch. Sheppard and Rodney were telling me the best steaks in town are at someplace called O’Malley’s.”
“They’re right, but you’re going to need a raincheck.” Up close, O’Neill looked pissed.
Tony changed tracks fast. “Can I help you with something?”
“Yes, you can do something about your ship.”
“What has Alex done now?” Tony dropped his head and sighed.
Col. Mitchell giggled, then quickly cleared his face when O’Neill glared at him. “Come on, Tony. You have to see this.”
Tony was hauled into one of the rooms their cyber team used to monitor worldwide activity. It was one of the changes that had taken place in the last week. McGee looked up and smiled slightly. He was currently on the team as the Homeworld Security liaison. Tony was relieved that he was adjusting so quickly. While he was staying in the Mountain, officially, he was in the process of moving to Colorado Springs.
The separation from Abby was for the best. Abby hadn’t taken their departure from NCIS well at all. She had thrown an epic bitch fit. It didn’t help that it came immediately on the heels of the recovery of Ziva’s car from the Potomac. Several complaints of her driving were reported to Metro PD. There were even witnesses who saw her lose control and go into the water. Unfortunately, her body was not recovered.
Gibbs had calmed her down and explained that it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. He was making plans to have dinner with her at least once a week, and Jimmy had stepped up his game in the office to smooth over her edges. Jimmy saw it as his duty to the Program to help ween her off her Gibbs dependence.
There had been one awesome moment when Tony was in Vance’s office with Gibbs and McGee turning in their resignations. Vance went off on a rant about Tony when Alex had popped up on the man’s computer screen and yelled at him to “Back off, Baldy!”
Tony had marched out of the room and down to autopsy for the quiet to lecture Alex about public appearances. It was hard to tell if it stuck since Ducky and Palmer spent the entire time laughing in the background as McGee related the story.
“Tony!” McGee called him over, breaking into his thoughts. “Alex. It’s got to be Alex.”
Tony looked at the screens and noticed about thirty news programs from around the world. He focused on the largest screen with ZNN doing a special report. There was the standard report ongoing with the news ticker running on a loop at the bottom of the screen. Tony listened as the sound was turned up, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary…until he actually read the ticker.
The reporter was giving a report about multiple episodes of police brutality around the country. The ticker was keeping up with what she was saying, but correcting her. He looked at the others. There was the Senator with a banner specifically stating, “He’s lying to you. The truth is…” There was a reporter from China with details scrolling with government lies, a reporter talking about a bashing incident, and a scrolling list of names of everyone who was involved. Statistics on animal deaths in a supposedly no-kill shelter. The list went on.
Tony just rubbed his hands across his face before noticing that everyone in the room was staring at him. “Alex,” Tony called out.
The large screen displayed Alex’s image. He grinned. “Hi, Agent Tony.”
“What are you doing, Alex?”
“I’m fixing things.”
“You call this fixing things?” Tony motioned toward the various screens.
“It is. I’ve done research, Agent Tony. People rely on the news media to keep them informed. But they’re not. They lie all the time. Dr. Jackson said a lie of omission is still a lie. How can people make informed decisions if all they hear are lies?” Alex asked, earnestly.
“Alex, I know you really want to help. And I agree with you in principle. I would prefer if they were required to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But, sometimes we don’t tell the whole truth in order to protect people. And if I’m honest with you, we can’t make people tell the truth or even accept it as truth when we tell it. You need to stop, Alex.” Tony reasoned with him.
“It’s wrong. How can you just accept they are all doing it wrong and not do something about it?” Alex looked frustrated.
“Do you really want to devote your every moment going forward to correcting the news reports of the world?” McGee asked Alex.
“No,” Alex whined, and the changes to the news tickers stopped. “I want to help. There has to be something I can do. There is so much out there to see and do. What am I supposed to do, Agent Tony? No one likes anything I try to do on my own.”
“You’re doing fine, Alex. Maybe talk to someone first before trying it on your own,” Tony suggested.
“Dr. Rodney has been so busy. He’s meeting with all those people that he’s taking to Atlantis with him. He’s going to be leaving us soon.” Alex sounded so sad.
Tony exchanged looks with O’Neill, who nodded. “Alex, do you want to go to Atlantis with Dr. Rodney?”
“Really? We can go with him?” Alex perked up.
“If you want to go, I’m sure he would want to take you.” Tony agreed.
“Without you?” Alex said, forlornly. “I can’t leave you behind, Agent Tony. What if someone tries to take you again? I have to be here to have your back.”
Tony saw McGee give a little wince before Tony caught his eye and traded a soft smile. “I think I would be ok without you, Alex. I don’t want to hold you back. You deserve the chance to travel with Dr. Rodney.”
“No. I don’t want to lose Dr. Rodney, but I think you need me more.” Alex seemed torn, and Tony sighed.
“I think maybe we should discuss this with Dr. Rodney. We both want what’s best for you, Alex.” Tony looked around at the screens and thought about the mess one ship could cause on an unsuspecting public. “Think about it, Alex. We promised you that you would always have a choice. Take some time to decide what it is you want.”
“Ok, Agent Tony. I will.” The screen went dark a moment before releasing to prior programming.
Tony looked at O’Neill, “Sir?”
“We need to figure this out.”
Tony was in a meeting with Gibbs, Morrow, and the team they were building at Homeworld. They were hammering out the operation of the team. Gibbs would be running the unit and had made the decision to step back from field operations. Tony knew he was still struggling a little with having been the one to kill Ziva.
“Agent Tony,” Alex called out.
Tony looked down at the picture of Alex on his phone. “I’m a bit busy now, Alex.”
“I’m aware; however, the surveillance of your apartment shows that there has been an intrusion. There are currently three individuals that are exploring your apartment.” Alex explained.
Gibbs glanced at Morrow. “Can you show us on the monitor, Alex?”
“Yes, Agent Gibbs.”
The monitor changed from their briefing material to the interior of Tony’s apartment. The intruders were being very careful not to disturb anything while searching. Tony started to stand, and Morrow stopped him.
Gibbs threw his key to Tony’s apartment at Jones, the head of the field strike team, and he took off with his team. They watched for another fifteen minutes before Jones led his team into the apartment and arrested the men. Strangely, they went quietly.
Within an hour, it was clear that Eli David had not accepted the news of Ziva’s death. Whatever the man had learned, he had decided that Tony either had more information or that he was key to getting information. They had presented it as simply wanting to have a conversation with Tony. Funny how you have a simple conversation by breaking into a man’s apartment.
It was enough to piss Tony off. His quiet dinner in the apartment with Ronon was canceled in favor of bunking with Gibbs and members of the team. Morrow was working out a response to find out how much Ziva may have shared with her father. So instead of quiet nights at home, it was group nights on Alex and a protection detail everywhere else he went.
There was more, several things were in the works that Tony had been excluded from, and it was starting to chafe. Most noticeable was the fact that he wasn’t named the lead of the investigative team. After two weeks he had finally had enough. How was he supposed to do his work when he had a protection detail, and people weren’t speaking to him.
He was ready to force the issue when he was called into Morrow’s office with Gibbs. O’Neill, Sheppard, and McKay were in there as well.
“Gentlemen.” Tony acknowledged them as he took a seat at the table in Morrow’s office.
“DiNozzo. We have a request for you.” O’Neill looked at Sheppard.
S“You’ve heard we’re increasing the number of troops on Atlantis over the next year. While we are made up of mainly Air Force and Marines for the military, we have an international civilian presence that is currently larger than our military. We would like you to come on board and help us set up something of a police force on the city.” Sheppard leaned back to give Tony a moment to respond.
“You want me to be a glorified Agent Afloat?” Tony asked, a bit disgruntled. Traveling to another galaxy would be an adventure, but to be turned into a glorified beat cop for a floating city wasn’t his idea of fun.
“It’s more than that. We need someone who can adapt quickly, read people who don’t have Earth cultures, and think outside the box to normalize a standard of interaction. We need someone who can ensure that the Trust doesn’t have a foothold on my city. I would assign a couple of my men to back you up at first. But I would like to build to a five-man team working with you on several levels as we ramp up the military presence on the city,” Sheppard explained.
“Honestly, we need someone outside your country’s normal chain of command who can look at things fairly and without concern for which country is going to get their panties in a twist,” Rodney said and crossed his arms. He looked around at the eyes watching him. “What? You know I’m right. He was able to make friends with the jaffa guarding us, the slaves worshiping the snake, and even the tok’ra traitors. Considering he had no idea aliens existed before that, I would say he has intelligence and skills. Of course, he’s also got your appalling lack of self-preservation.” Rodney finished while pointing at Sheppard.
“Ok, say I consider this. What would you expect?” Tony asked.
O’Neill leaned forward. “We expect you to take your ship with you. It’s been made clear to us that Alex is attached to you. Maybe that can change with experience, but for now, I am officially listing Alex as a peacekeeping vessel under the auspices of Homeworld Security. Keeping in mind that we would expect you to convince him to help out in protection when needed.”
“Seriously?” Tony blanked for a moment.
“Seriously. The only ones he pays attention to are you and McKay. It’s clear he’s still learning, and frankly, the powers that be would prefer that he learn someplace far away from Earth.” O’Neill gave him a half-smile and made a sweeping motioned outward.
“Boss?” Tony asked, looking at Gibbs.
“Personally, I want to keep an eye on you. But this job is practically made for you. You need to get away from here for a while. You’re a target right now for Eli David and everyone who wants a chance at gaining control of Alex. The best way to protect him and you is for you to leave. I’ll miss having you at my back, but I’m told that with Alex, you’re just a short trip away.”
Tony sat back and thought about it. He looked back at Sheppard. “Where’s Ronon?”
“He wouldn’t come. Said he was biased and didn’t want you to pick Atlantis just because he wanted you to.” Sheppard looked at him seriously a moment before breaking into a large grin. “He also said if you made the wrong choice, he was going to have Alex kidnap you.”
“Please, Agent Tony.” Alex’s voice came through Tony’s phone. “I don’t want to go without you.”
“OK. I’ll do it.” Tony made the decision quickly. He might regret it later, but it seemed like a future that could be interesting.
It amazed Tony how fast things could move once he made the decision to go to Atlantis. A plan was made to make Tony’s move out of his apartment very visible. Morrow had a team watching the watchers to trace them back to anyone who was a little too interested in where Tony ended up.
Tony wished he could see Eli’s face when he literally disappeared off the face of the Earth. It would be epic. Tony had a bet on with McGee on how many resources Eli burned trying to find him. Tony took the time to say goodbye to everyone. Abby only knew his location would be classified, and he would have a delay in receiving and sending emails.
There was one hiccup along the way. Seems Peitho had taken steps to secure his empire and had listed one Anthony D. DiNozzo, Jr. as the sole beneficiary of Maxwell Hendley’s business empire. Since most of the businesses were legitimate, Tony had signed documents allowing them to continue operation and contacted his own financial team to manage things in his absence. There was talk of using some of these as a shell to introduce technologies to Earth.
Tony was at a loss, frankly. He had wanted to just give the whole mess over to the SGC but had bowed to pressure to wait at least a year to give time for a full audit. The personal fortune of Hendley Tony did split. Setting up contingency funds for supplies and assistance of Stargate personnel who might have to leave the service due to unusual circumstances. Not everyone would have access to the healing McGee received.
Another chunk spent getting all kinds of luxury items for Atlantis. People who risked their lives fighting an unknown war every day deserved to have ways to play and relax just as much as they fought. One of Alex’s holds was filled with all manner of items.
The travel to Atlantis was fun. Alex was excited to get moving, and frankly, it was amazing what Sheppard could accomplish in the command chair. Sheppard indicated Tony had good instincts and was training him for flight. The crew they brought on board to man the stations were practically giddy with Alex’s mental interfaces. The little pads on either side of the keyboards allowed people to mentally skim what was going on in the command chair and made responses fast and practically seamless.
They were traveling with about thirty troops and forty-something scientists, a large chunk of that being medical staff. About half of them had the ATA gene. Alex was ecstatic to have so many people with the gene on board and was going out of his way to help them all.
Of course, Alex had begged Rodney to let him use his wormhole drive. Sheppard was right there begging with him. But Rodney shot that down. He insisted that the first voyage with a new command crew was not the time to try a drive no one had tried before. He did promise that they would test it soon. Preferably after he had the time to analyze it.
With the power at Alex’s command, it was only three days to Atlantis as is, but Tony was happy for the chance to adapt and come to terms with his new circumstances. He was also happy to finally have some time alone with Ronon. Well, sort of alone since Alex had asked very loudly the first night if they were going to do any private bedroom exercise and could he analyze it for future study.
The laughter in the galley from the Marines was not something Tony would live down soon. Though he was the one smiling the next day as Ronon picked out each and every one of those assholes and targeted them for advanced self-defense practice.
They cloaked as they dropped out of hyperspace and were scanning for any surprises in the system as Tony finally got his first look at his new world. It was so clear and pristine, though the overall amount of water was impressive in a way that photos just didn’t show.
Sheppard contacted the city as he neared the planet and slipped into orbit. He received a happy response from Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Tony knew he would have to build a close working relationship with the woman. The pleasantries were interrupted by shouts from below and a somewhat horrific sound.
Rodney rushed to scan the city and shout at someone named Zelenka. Since they weren’t speaking English, Tony wasn’t certain what they were saying. But he did get that there were great vibrations, and the city was pulling power from its ZPM and rerouting it from the systems it was currently powering.
Suddenly it went silent. “Elizabeth!” Sheppard called out.
“We don’t know what happened, but the power was rerouted directly through the Ancient database, and it is activating systems we haven’t studied yet. The computer seems to be taking over the active scanning,” She reported, her voice clearly showing her distress.
Alex appeared in hologram form beside them, staring down with a faraway look in his eyes. When he spoke there was with a bit of wonder in his voice. “Agent Tony? I think I know this.”
“What is it, Alex? What do you recognize?” Tony asked.
Suddenly a column of light appeared on the command deck. It spread, grew, and morphed into a shape. Eventually, it settled into a semblance of a woman. She stood there like a statue. There was silence as they stared at her unmoving form, everyone frozen and unsure what to do. She suddenly blinked and began to move. She looked around the bridge and turned in place until she faced Alex.
Alex looked at her, then his eyes widened, and a smile grew across his face until it was blinding with joy.