Chapter Summary: A friendship between two longtime friends is near an end, and Tony feels guilty. It’s up to Toby to make sure he knows it’s bullshit. Then the team gets their first official case, and one of them is sent undercover finding himself or herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Chapter Fifteen: Guilt Trips, The First Case, & An Unexpected Meeting
Tony was at home one night washing dishes after dinner. Tobias had stopped on the way home to get Chinese. Neither man had been in the mood to cook, even though neither had had a particularly hard work day. Tony was getting stir crazy without an actual case to work on though, and Tobias had gotten into another shouting match with Gibbs that he was refusing to talk about.
Tony was trying not to bring it up because he knew that Tobs would just get mad. He couldn’t help but feel like it was his fault. “Knock it the hell off, kid.”
Tony frowned and turned around to see Tobias glaring at him. “Seriously, does mind reading come with the gray hair?”
“It doesn’t take a genius or a psychic to read your mind, Tony. You’re practically oozing guilt. We are going to address this, and then we’re not talking about it again. So get us some beers, and come out to the living room. We can finish the dishes tomorrow.”
Tony nodded, and after grabbing the cold beer bottles as requested, followed the older man into the living room. Handing Tobias his bottle, Tony settled in the rocking chair that he’d picked out as his. It was oversized, leather, and extremely comfortable.
“It’s not just you,” Tony admitted quietly and shamefully. “I know I am not supposed to give a shit about him anymore. I know I am supposed to hate him. For the most part, I do, but… I mean.”
Tobias sighs. “You are a good man, Tony. You worked and cared about him for a long time. You can’t just turn that off. You aren’t one of those vindictive people that would wish ill will on someone that hurt you. Not for long anyway, not for real. You may say angry words, but in your heart, you won’t mean them. It’s ok, kid, if you’re worried about him.”
“I feel like I destroyed your friendship,” Tony admitted so quietly it was an almost whisper.
“You didn’t ruin anything! He did this. He made bad decisions. Then he made it worse by hurting someone I consider a friend and family. Then, when he was confronted he refused to take responsibility for his actions. He lost another employee because they lost faith in him, and he still can’t admit that he’s in the wrong. He’s on agency mandated psych leave because they’re concerned about his mental state, and all he can do is bitch about how it’s everyone else’s fault.”
Tobias shook his head and leaned forward in his chair. “Now I don’t know about you, kiddo, but that isn’t the kind of person that I want in my life. Do I feel sorry for him? Yeah. I think that he wasn’t always like this. I think that somewhere along the way, most likely when his family died, something broke in his head. The thing is that he refuses all offers of help or even the suggestion that he needs it.
“It isn’t as if either of us have been left out in the cold. He still has his enablers Sciuto and Ziva. I have friends and my family. I know it’s hard, but you have to absolve yourself of thus guilt over what they did to you. You are building a new life for yourself. The bullshit from the old life has no place in it except as a lesson for the future.”
Tony took a deep breath and nodded. “You… you know that I don’t have a relationship with my father, Tobs. I’ve always wondered what I was missing. What would it feel like to have that type of connection to someone? What was it like to have a dad? Then my life completely fell apart. The man I thought I loved was justly using me for a cheap thrill. The woman I thought if as a sister was nothing more than a self-absorbed bitch with a daddy complex.
“When the trust tree burned down, I found out that there were only two roots left. One was TK, who has been there since my mother died. The second was you. I built this team that feels more like a family already than my old one maybe ever did. I have a man in my life that makes me realize the old feelings were more the idea of love than love itself.”
When Tobias lifted an eyebrow at him, Tony sighed. “Trust me, I can’t believe I am contemplating the L word either. I mean I’m not there, but… yeah. Where I was going with this though was… I think… I think that maybe I know what it’s like to have a dad now. I mean I know I shouldn’t just assume or throw all of that on you, but…”
“Tony, figlio stop. I am honored to have you as a son. I couldn’t love you more if I’d created you myself. Your father is as big of a moron as Gibbs. I’d be proud to be your dad.”
Tony nodded shyly and pretended that he wasn’t wiping tears off his face. “I umm… I suppose that this is a good time to tell you I added you as my emergency contacts, and my lawyer has power of attorney papers for you in case shit happens. I suppose at some point in the future if things work out with Aaron, I will add him, too, but…”
Tobias got up and moved over to Tony putting a hand on his shoulder. “Figlio, I am honored. I promise you that I will not make you regret this decision. Em’s gonna be thrilled that she has a big brother.”
Tony blushed and shyly put his face in the other man’s chest letting the warm happiness fill him as his dad put his arms around him. It was a feeling he never imagined that he’d experience.
Tony was sitting at his desk when Tobias came in and shut the door before sitting down. Tony arched his eyebrow as he put aside his meaningless busy work.
“Please tell me you have something for us to do. I can only assign so much busy work when we don’t even have cold cases to go through.”
Tobias smirked and held out a folder. Tony arched his eyebrow further but took it. Immediately he began reviewing the information but didn’t get very far before he stopped, and looked up. “NCIS? I’m not working my first fucking case with Gibbs, Tobias. There was an agreement!”
Tobias holds up his hands. “And you won’t. Vance made it clear to me that Gibbs will not be interfering, and has in fact been ordered to stay away from both you and McGee from here on out. Vance said that you should call him. In fact, he provided his direct number so that not even Cynthia would know you called. He thinks that this case would be perfect for your team, and the local FBI branch is more than happy to turn it over to you guys. Show everyone what you’re made of, kid. I have no doubt that you will make me proud.”
Tony nodded and stood to shake Tobias’ hand before his boss left the office. Staring at the file, he had a moment of panic. Before he could think twice about it, he picked up the phone and dialed a number that was still new to him.
“Hotchner.” Came the response when the line was answered, and Tony leaped right into his panic.
“What in the bloody hell am I doing?”
“Tony?” Aaron questioned, leaning back in his chair in his office. On the other side of the desk, Rossi frowned at him making no move to give him any privacy.
“Take a deep breath, and try again. What are you talking about?”
“We got our first case. What the hell am I doing? The last time I led anyone, they revolted and became horrible employees! Now I think I can keep someone safe when they’re undercover? Seriously, Aaron, what the hell am I doing?”
“Your job,” Aaron replied simply, and turned away from Dave to try and have some semblance of privacy.
“This isn’t NCIS, Tony, and whatever happened there couldn’t have been all on you. This isn’t some whim or gift you were given. The FBI doesn’t work that way. While, yes, there can be some nepotism, no one gets put in charge of a brand new division by the Director himself, and his most trusted AD on a lark. You’re doing this because someone’s life is at stake in some way, and right this second, you are the best person to save them.”
When he heard Tony take a shaky breath, Aaron continued. “Tell me about your case.”
When he heard papers rustling, Hotch leaned back in his chair, happy when he heard Dave finally get up and leave.
“Two murders South Carolina and Georgia. Petty Officer Third Class Steven Laughlin from Charleston, SC was the most recent victim. The other has no Navy ties that they were able to find. Name is Scott Levy in Atlanta, GA who was the first victim. He was the owner of Jersey Bowery, which is a bar. No connection has been found to each other.”
“Why do they think the murders are related then?” Aaron asked frowning, getting caught up in the case.
“How did they connect the two cases if they are from different states? That doesn’t happen often.”
“Coincidence actually led to the connection. Brother in laws were discussing cases. One works for the field office in Atlanta, and the other for NCIS in the Charleston area. The FBI agent in Atlanta was apparently frustrated by a lack of leads, and the NCIS agent was a little stumped by an elaborate temporary tattoo on his victim’s back. Once they compared notes they realized that the deaths must be connected. Laughlin’s CO confirmed he didn’t have or want a tattoo. Levy’s friends and co-workers advised that wasn’t planning on tattooing his back, and if he did it would be a raven, not a hawk. Apparently, the victim was a fan of the bird. Also, the final act for both victims is a slash to the throat after they were already dead.”
“So, that isn’t what kills them?” Hotch asked, and Tony didn’t reply immediately looking at both ME reports.
“No,” Tony finally responded. “Both died of other causes, and then had their throats cut.”
Hotch nodded, an early profile forming in his head. “Why do they want your team? That requires an undercover aspect right?”
“The base commander is worried that this is connected in some way to Laughlin’s previous issues. Apparently, he was accused of something recently, but let off. They aren’t being very forthcoming at the moment. The only way they’d agree to give us access to the files we need and cooperate with an investigation is if we put someone down there undercover for protection. Why a Navy base needs the FBI’s protection is beyond me. The man didn’t sound like any base commander I ever dealt with at NCIS that’s for sure.”
Aaron tried not to chuckle at Tony’s obvious disgust that the man wasn’t living up to standards previously set in his mind.
“Feel better?” Hotch asked softly and heard Tony sigh.
“Yes, you sneaky bastard.”
Hotch didn’t even bother to apologize, as he wasn’t the least bit sorry.
“Let me know if I can do anything else. I would wish you good luck, but you won’t need it. You are a born leader, Tony. Don’t let what happened at NCIS detract you from that.”
“Thanks, I… you mean a lot to me. It’s conversations like this that are convincing me I’ve made the right decision. Both in choosing the FBI, and you.” When Tony hung up without saying goodbye, Aaron just smiled and hung up his receiver. Some days it was good to be him.
Will was walking around the town near base trying to familiarize himself with his new temporary environment. Maps and GPS were all good, but if there was an emergency, he knew that he wouldn’t have the time to stop and search Google Maps to see where he was going.
He’d arrived the day before, and had immediately investigated the base itself. Now, as he walked around town, various escape routes were forming in his head. Spotting a small café across the street, he checked for traffic before jogging across the road.
The business was in a long building which had been broken up into smaller stores. To the left of the café was Al’s Barbershop. He nodded politely to the group of elderly men out front playing checkers, while the others watched. He knew though that more gossiping about town events would be happening than checked playing.
To the right of the café was McCormick’s Gifts and Drugs. Deciding that he needed a magazine was something to take to the café with him that would help explain why he was lurking there for an hour or more. As he passed the café entrance, the door opened, and someone stepped out into his path. Stopping short he heard a muttered, “excuse me.”
Pausing to declare no harm no foul, will had to fight to keep the pleasant expression on his face when he spotted an unexpectedly familiar face.
“Agent Brandt, what an unexpected surprise. Whatever is the CIA doing in a little town like this?”
Fighting the urge to check the street knowing that he was too close to the barber shop crew and surely at least a few of them were listening in.
He had no idea what the man was doing there. There certainly had been nothing about him in the briefing. Last time that he checked, the man wasn’t even employed by one of the Federal agencies any longer. So, what the hell was he doing lurking around the town where a serial killer had just murdered someone? Questions began to form in his mind, and none of them were making him feel good about the situation. Deciding to play dumb and retreat, Will flashed a confused smile.
“I’m sorry, sir. You must have me confused with someone else.”
Them before the man could speak again, he hurried off. The case suddenly became more complicated. He needed to make a few calls to check into the man on his own before he let Tony know what was going on. It was a decision that he would come to regret later.
Behind him, the man watched the escape narrow-eyed. He wasn’t buying the mistaken identity for a second. Taking out his phone, he decided to call his unwitting mole. He needed to know how close they were to finding him. He had one more target and needed to know if he had the time to complete his mission. He’d hate it if he had to leave immediately, but he couldn’t risk getting caught. He could always swing back around and get rid of the other one later.
Justice needed to be served, and he was not opposed to taking out the CIA agent if needed. Everyone knew that they were little more than government sanctioned criminals anyway. The world would not suffer from losing one of the government’s monsters.