Author’s Note: I am terribly sorry for the delay. RL decided to kick my ass, and I’m not sure it’s stopped yet. The plan is to still post the next chapter tomorrow as scheduled. So, not only will you get two chapters in two days, but hopefully we’ll be back on track.
Chapter Summary: Just hours after discovering Penelope Garcia was responsible for leaking Will’s identity and Jason Gideon was their unsub, Tony decides to touch base with the BAU. He’s concerned about Aaron, and DiNozzo is concerned about Hotch. Instead of taking Elijah though, he decides he needs someone a little… softer. Someone who will remind them that the EU&IU understands how they feel about their former hacker.
Chapter Eighteen: Putting Birdlings in Precarious Positions
Tony was sitting in his office staring at the ceiling. His door was firmly closed, and the shades pulled. He was hoping that his team understood the metaphorical do not disturb sign. He needed to get his head together and try and work through how he felt about the morning’s events versus how Agent in Charge DiNozzo felt about the same events.
AIC DiNozzo was furious over the events that occurred because the BAU’s Technical Analyst chose which rules and procedures should and shouldn’t be followed. DiNozzo was loudly cheering for the arrest and hoped that she ended up in jail, even though he doubted it got that far. Most likely there would be a plea bargain, and he guessed that she would end up with little more than probation. At least her job with the FBI was over though.
Tony seemed to be torn though. He was upset at the thought that his agent could be out there hurt or dead somewhere. He understood that his new friend’s confidence in Tony’s own ability to keep him safe had most likely been compromised. He also understood that it was hard to question the motives of someone that you admired.
While he didn’t know Ms. Garcia personally, from everything he’d heard, her life glasses were much rosier than Tony’s had ever been. Naiveté was costly, and unfortunately, they were all going to pay the price for hers in some way.
Tony was trying not to focus on Will, as hard as that was. DiNozzo couldn’t think of anything else. Both halves of him were tied up in guilt over what could be going on with his operative. He had calls out to both Trent and Robert. Neither of which had been returned as if yet. The reasonable side of him pointed out that Trent was most likely on a mission overseas, and Robert was most likely using what contacts he had left to try and find his husband. In fact, he would be highly surprised if Robert wasn’t already in Charleston, SC. If he wasn’t Will’s emergency backup, then Tony had seriously lost his ability to read people.
He hadn’t seen the Unit Chief since the other man rushed out of the interrogation room. Tony had personally been the one that booked Penelope Garcia. It hadn’t been his most favorite thing that he’d ever done in his professional career, but he wasn’t going to put it on someone else. By the time he was done, the BAU had sequestered themselves in their conference room, understandably. Even AIC DiNozzo was worried about UC Hotchner. So, that said a lot in his current state of mind.
Going to see him felt like the right thing to do. Going to see him as AIC DiNozzo seemed like a really bad fucking idea. Not letting himself stop to think about it, Tony stood and crossed to the wardrobe. Loosening his tie, he pulled it over his head, then quickly unbuttoned his shirt removing it as well. Hearing a hesitant knock on his door, Tony called out to come in as he pulled a green T-shirt over his head.
“Goin’ somewhere, boss?” He heard, and turning his head saw Elijah standing in the doorway.
Pulling out his leather jacket, Tony pulled it on as he nodded. “I am going up to the BAU. I don’t want this to end up being an us versus them bullshit thing. They’re mad. We’re mad. There are only two people to really be pissed off at, and neither of those people is currently a member of either team.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Do you need company?”
Tony was about to say no. It was the first thing that came to mind, but he paused and thought about the question. “Yes, but not you. Call Ramirez up here, please.”
Elijah nodded and stepped out calling out to Raven to come up to Tony’s office. He was curious to see where his boss was going with this. While his protective instincts told him to keep her out of the fray, the SIC in him had to admit that it was a genius strategic move. There would be no better way to reduce tension than reminding them that the EU&IU had their own former black hat hacker that they were terribly fond of.
Raven came in and looked at Elijah questioningly. “You wanted to see me, Tony?”
Nodding, he ran his fingers through his hair to give it a less polished look. Once he decided he was as un-Agent in Charge as he was going to get, he turned and smiled at his junior agent.
“Raven, I need a favor, and I want you to know that I totally mean it when I say you can say no. I will understand. I’m asking you to put yourself into what could be a hostile or even volatile environment. The thing is that I believe you are the best one for the job.”
Raven thought about it, turning wide eyes to Elijah. Her friend though just shrugged and offered a supportive half smile. So, she turned her attention back to her boss. “What do you need me to do?”
“I am going up to the BAU, and I want you to come with me. I don’t know what the reaction is going to be. My guess is that at least one person is going to be upset that I am there. I am hoping that with you at my side someone will remember we aren’t the enemy.”
“Because I am like Garcia?” Raven asked quietly looking down at the floor. Tony moved over to stand in front of her and lifted her head with a finger under her chin.
“No, not because you are like Penelope Garcia. I want you to go because you and she have things in common. You, however, have an important difference from her. You and she started off in similar places. You were both angry, lonely, and hated the world. You both blamed society for the crappy life that you’d had. So, you both used your technical knowledge to get back at it.
“You both got caught, and then chose to go with the good guys to avoid jail. The difference between you is the person that you each became after that. Garcia seems to have stuck her head in the sand and tried her best to forget all of the bad that she did. She almost forced herself to become this… innocent and naïve person that she wasn’t. Honestly, she couldn’t be.”
Tony sighed as unwillingly thoughts of Sciuto entered his mind, but ruthlessly he forced them away. “You can’t do the things that she did, and really be that… clueless for lack of a kinder word. She literally made herself be a completely different person. The problem is, in doing so, she cut herself off from all those life lessons that she should have been using in her new world.”
When Raven bit her lip, Tony gently pried it out from between her teeth. “You, on the other hand, my Little Bird Probie, went a different and in my opinion better route. You don’t pretend to be anything other than who you are, and who you’ve always been. The only changes you made were ones that allowed you to remove yourself from your old life, and grow as a person. You opened yourself up to the things Avery wanted to teach you. You opened yourself up to the idea that maybe the world as a whole wasn’t as bad as you thought. It’s just that you got a really crap stick.
“From what Lija tells me, you are still the same cynical, ambitious, take no crap chick that they busted. That, my dear Raven, is why you will not fall into the Penelope trap. You have retained enough understanding that people are basically all assholes to prevent you from doing something that is wrong, just because a friend asks you to. You also have a healthy understanding of watching out for yourself first. Another thing that Ms. Garcia deliberately forgot. So, I am asking that you help me, Little Bird. Are you up for it?”
When Raven took a deep breath and then nodded, Tony proudly patted her shoulder. Heading toward the door, he advised Elijah to keep an eye on things. Determined not to let her boss down, Raven followed him promising herself that she would have his back no matter what.
Tony stepped off of the elevator with Raven trailing directly behind and off to his left. He took great pride in the fact that she seemed to naturally pick that spot. He was coming to understand just how truly amazing his team was a little more each day.
With his chin held high, Tony walked confidently through the glass doors to the BAU, and up the ramp toward Hotch’s office. He didn’t see the team at their desks, and Aaron wasn’t in his office. Looking toward the conference room, he noticed that they were still gathered in there, but the door was now open.
He hesitated outside of the UC’s office door as he tried to decide what he was going to do. Unfortunately, the few seconds he stood there were all that he needed to be spotted by David Rossi.
“YOU!” He heard shouted and sighed as the irate older Italian came storming out of the room with Hotch and Morgan hot on his heels. Quickly Tony motioned Raven behind him, hoping that it wouldn’t get physical, but not wanting to risk her safety if it did. He had no intention of getting his Probie caught up in a brawl.
“Whatever you do, Little Birdling, DO. NOT. RESPOND to him.” Tony warned but didn’t have time to say anything else before the veteran profiler was on him.
“Haven’t you done enough damage for one day? Then to top it off you bring your little wanna-be hacker bitch with you? Neither one of you is classy enough to breathe the same air as Penelope Garcia!”
“Rossi, man stop!”
Tony braced himself, quickly changing his mind about the possibility of a physical altercation, but was determined not to react. Forcing himself to stay calm and open. Tony held his hands out to his sides letting Hotch and Morgan do their thing.
“DAVE! ENOUGH!” Hotch hollered and looked at Tony, who fortunately read his mind. Ushering Raven ahead of him, he retreated inside Aaron’s office so as to remove themselves from Rossi’s sight and shut the door behind them.
Once inside, he moved toward the back of the office and sat on the couch studying Raven who chose one of the chairs. “OK?” He asked.
He was proud when she just lifted her chin, and said, “No sweat, boss.”
When the door opened, Tony forced himself to remain seated, and with a hand, gesture kept Raven in her seat as well. Fortunately, it was only Hotch and Morgan. Leaning forward, Tony rested his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands together as he looked up at the two men approaching them. They both looked wrecked.
“AIC DiNozzo… Tony,” Hotch greeted, “Technical Analyst Ramirez, thank you for retreating. I am beginning to wonder if there is something more to this whole Dave being upset about Penelope than just simply defending a co-worker.”
Tony slowly stood nodding to Raven who quickly rose to stand next to him. “Aaron, Agent Morgan,” Tony greeted softly.
“I’m sorry if our presence caused upset. It wasn’t our intention. Personal feelings for her that go beyond that of a teammate would certainly explain his hair-trigger temper.”
“It’s not your fault, Tony. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. I’d already made it clear to the team and Dave that the line was not to be crossed again, and he did it anyway. I can assure you that there will be some time off coming to SSA Rossi for his lack of personal restraint.” Aaron admitted, and Tony relaxed slightly at the use of his first name. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Rossi getting a suspension but then decided that he wasn’t going to let it get to him. If he was in Aaron’s shoes, he would do the same thing. No matter how much he’d hate it.
Turning to Derek, Tony tried to let his facial expression relay his regret. “Agent Morgan, I know you and Technical Analyst Garcia are close. I can honestly say that we never imagined this was even a possibility when we started this investigation. We were just worried about Will, and Raven was doing nothing more than double checking her own work to ensure she hadn’t missed something.”
Derek shook his head clearly angry. “This ain’t on you. There are two people responsible for this. As much as it pains me to admit it, one of those is my Baby Girl. I love her to death, and I will stand by her as much as I can. That doesn’t mean though that I don’t recognize that she did wrong. She knew what she was doing was against regulations, but she did it anyway. All for that bastard Gideon. He’s the one I’m really pissed at. He’s obviously gone off the deep end, and he doesn’t seem to give a shit who he takes with him.”
Derek turned his gaze to Raven and stepping forward lifted her gaze to meet his. “Ain’t nobody on this team blamin’ you. Anyone in this building gives you shit about this, and your team ain’t around Sweet Thang, you come and get me. You just keep workin’ your groove and prove them all wrong, you hear me? Don’t worry about Rossi. He’ll get over whatever’s crawled up his ass, or Hotch’ll pull it out.”
Derek looked at Tony and smiled. “You mind if I take her out to meet the others? I am sure you two have… case things to discuss.”
Raven snorted and rolled her eyes. “Just remember the walls around here aren’t soundproof, Boss.” She said sassily, and Derek laughed as Hotch and Tony blushed.
“Come on, Sweetness, let’s leave the lovebirds alone,” Derek snickered and pulled her out of the office.
Once he was gone, Tony and Aaron looked at each other before Tony stepped forward and put his arms around the other man. “I am so sorry, Aaron.”
He felt the other man’s arms go around his waist, and tucked his head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, too, Tone. Jesus, we all hope Will is alive. I can’t even imagine what you must be feeling with this being your first case. What a goddamn clusterfuck. Karma must have it in for us, or maybe she’s just testing our resolve.”
Tony swallowed thickly and nodded resting his cheek against Hotch’s. They stood there losing track of time, each taking comfort in the other. Tony’s sick worry over Will’s health, and Aaron’s bone weary betrayal by one of the people he trusted the most in the world. Jason Gideon wasn’t just someone he worked with.
Jason was as much of a mentor as Rossi. He was someone that Aaron had considered a friend and almost family. When he’d disappeared, Hotch felt hurt, but in his heart, he’d known it was the best thing to do. He couldn’t stop wondering if there wasn’t some sign of this break from reality that he missed before the older man left them without warning.
Tony, on the other hand, wondered how he’d managed to get his new highly experienced deep undercover specialist hurt on his first mission. Will was someone that he’d quickly bonded with. Robert was someone that Tony found that he could relate to, and his wit and sarcasm were things that Tony understood. When Tony had been sitting in his office, he’d been scared to death that the necessary actions of AIC DiNozzo would cost Tony, someone, he was considering for a part in his future.
Tony wasn’t sure how he felt about Penelope Garcia. His two halves were still torn on the subject. Both of them agreed though that Jason Gideon was an evil bastard, and would be taken down no matter how long it took.