Chapter Summary: Tony has been struggling to find the last member of his team. Just when he thinks he’s going to have to settle for someone less than what he wants, he gets a recommendation from an unlikely source.
Chapter Twenty-Three: A Recommendation
Tony was sitting in his office reviewing the files of female FBI agents who could maybe possibly be suitable for the team. Unfortunately, none of them were really interesting him. He desperately needed something to come up before he was forced to pick someone that he didn’t really want.
Just as he was about to start reviewing the pile again, he heard a knock on his door. Looking up, he was surprised to see Dr. Reid standing there with a file in his hand looking somewhat nervous. When the genius waved to him, Tony immediately motioned him in.
“Dr. Reid! This is a pleasant surprise. How can I help you? Did you find something on the case?”
Shaking his head, Spencer perched on the front edge of one of the chairs in front of Tony’s desk. The AIC couldn’t help but wonder if he was getting ready to take flight. He didn’t think he was all that intimidating. He supposed though that considering Spencer only knew him from the Gideon and Garcia fiasco though, maybe he did come off that way.
“Actually, I am here to help you. It’s not related to the case though.” When Spencer paused and frowned not continuing, Tony felt some guilt set in.
“I’m sorry,” he offered softly.
“I know that you were especially close to Jason. I haven’t been in your exact situation, but unfortunately, I do know what it’s like to have someone you trust go bad. Even if you aren’t close to them, it’s hard to get past that kind of betrayal. I can only imagine what you must be feeling.”
“Hotch said you’d had a similar experience?” Reid asked softly.
Tony leaned back in his chair sighing and nodded.
“Twice actually. My partner at Baltimore PD Homicide turned out to be dirty. Before that, I worked for the FBI out of Philly doing undercover. It turned out my direct supervisor was on the take for the same people he’d assigned me to investigate. He was apparently hoping that I would get killed, and the FBI would back off.”
Spencer’s frown deepened as he looked up at Tony. “It doesn’t work that way. If you had died the FBI would only have gone after then all that much harder. How did he…” Spencer stopped and shook his head.
Tony smiled sadly at the genius. “Sometimes you can’t predict things like that. Good people go bad. Sane people flip their shit and go crazy.
“This job isn’t meant for everyone. It’s non-stop dealing with the worst of society. It’s dealing every day with people going through their absolute worst moment. People find themselves in situations they never expected picking options they wouldn’t have otherwise. Some people can’t handle temptation, and others can’t come back from tragedy they had a hand in. It’s not your fault, Dr. Reid. Just like it wasn’t my fault a partner and a boss went bad.”
“I didn’t say…” Reid started then stopped biting his lip, and Tony cocked his head to one side.
“You didn’t have to. I am a master at taking on the guilt of the world, Doc. I am the king of ‘Maybe if I had just’ land. It’s hard. I know. Trust me, Doc, I know. The thing is you can’t take Gideon’s actions on yourself. It isn’t your fault that something broke inside of his head that caused him to go after perfectly innocent human beings because of some twisted sense of justice on his part. It isn’t Derek’s fault that Garcia allowed herself to be manipulated, even though she should have known better. It isn’t my fault that my partner and boss chose easy money over true justice.
“We can only play the cards we were dealt. Neither one of us were given the card for predicting the future. How are things going with McGee?”
When Spencer blushed, Tony arched an eyebrow then grinned. “I meant in regards to his temporary position as the BAU Analyst while his team is filled out. Although if you want to give me all of the juicy details about your date, I am all for that, too, Doc.”
Spencer huffs and tries to hide his embarrassment behind indignation. “You are aware that I am not a medical doctor, correct?”
Tony just grinned bigger at the subject change. “I am aware. Your doctorates are in Chemistry, Mathematics, and Engineering. That doesn’t make them any less valuable or impressive, Doc, but you are trying to change the subject on me. It sounds like things went well. I am more than willing to listen to any details you would like to share.”
Spencer scowled at the man and stretched his arm out holding the folder out to Tony. “You’re as bad as Derek. I can’t believe that the FBI would hire two of you. I am not giving you details on my date, but if you must know it did go well. I think.”
Chuckling, Tony took the folder and nodded. “Good! Make sure you keep McRomance on his toes. What am I looking at?”
Spencer wrinkled his nose at the nickname but chose to ignore it. Tim had already told him that he actually liked all the different ways that Tony found to mangle his last name.
“I have a recommendation for your team. Tim told me that you were still looking for a female agent who could do undercover, and Aaron confirmed it for me. I wanted to give you a recommendation.”
Tony nodded flipping through the file. “Tell me what you know about Ruby Miller.”
Nodding quickly Spencer relaxed further, not remembering having scooted back in the chair. AIC DiNozzo wasn’t nearly as terrifying as he expected him to be. Spencer just needed to make sure he didn’t get on the man’s bad side.
“She is the wife of a man that I mentored for his Engineering Doctorate named Clay Miller. We kept in touch afterward and became friends. He comes from a family who owns a big name engineering company, but for personal reasons, he wasn’t willing to join them.
“So, he started his own company Winchester Engineering and has become quite successful in his own right. I know his wife less well personally, but she seems to be an intelligent and capable person. She is a near genius with languages. The FBI wanted to put her into the translator division, but she wanted to do more than that. She’s been on a team who deals with foreign diplomats who get into trouble on US soil, but she wants to do more than that. She believes that she can do more than that.”
Spencer fidgeted in his chair. “I will be upfront, and admit that Clay did come and ask for my help. That isn’t why I brought her to you though. I looked at her file, and asked both Tim and Hotch’s opinions before deciding to approach you.”
“If she wants out of where she’s at so badly, why didn’t she put in her name herself? I would have considered her. Hell her language skills put her ahead of three-quarters of this stack.”
Putting down the folder, Tony studied Spencer. “Why didn’t she put in for the spot?”
Spencer scowls. “That’s why Clay came to me. She said that she tried multiple times, but that her application would never go through. Eventually, her boss came to her and told her that she might as well stop trying, because he wasn’t going to allow it. Apparently, he feels that she isn’t qualified to do anything more than translating, which is all that he lets her do on his team. He seems to think that because she is shorter and petite that she wouldn’t physically be capable. Forget the fact that she worked in Vice for Oakland PD before joining the FBI.”
Tony arches an eyebrow. “What does he think we do? We aren’t gladiators. Besides that, it isn’t up to him to decide if she’s qualified. It’s up to me.”
Scowling Tony picked up the folder again. “I will look into it, Spencer, I promise. Let me do some of my own legwork. I see you put her contact information in here.”
The genius nodded and stood. Tony stood with him and followed him to the door. “Thank you for bringing this to me, Doc, and in all seriousness. McGee is a good guy. Be good to him back, ok?”
Spencer nodded shyly and bit his lip then waved before leaving the office. Smiling and waving back, Tony shut his door and went back to his desk to start his own check.
A few days later, Tony felt like he’d sufficiently torn apart her life, her husband’s life, and probably the hamster’s life with a little help from Chin. While researching his new prospective employee he’d run his normal courtesy check on her husband to make sure that there were no obvious skeletons that could cause a conflict of interest issue. That he’d done himself so as not to violate their privacy any more than needed. He’d found a very much unexpected connection between one Clay Miller formerly Morgan and Robert Brandt formerly Holmes formerly Morgan. He honestly was not sure how to handle the situation.
Technically speaking both husbands were outside of his purview. If he was an asshole, if he ran his team like Gibbs, he’d just hire Ruby Miller. Then he’d sit back and watch the chaos as she and Will realized who their spouses were to each other. That wasn’t him though. He wasn’t that kind of a boss, and he didn’t want that kind of inner-fighting on the team that Gibbs had fostered and almost encouraged.
Tony didn’t want that kind of team. Ohana, as Chin would say, was what he was going for. Family or something close to it was the feeling that he was after. Then there was the fact that he genuinely liked Robert, and he hated how his family turned their backs on him when he’d needed them the most. It was a pain that Tony truly understood.
So, what did he do? Did he run the hire by Will and Robert? Did he insist on talking to Clay to get a feel for what his thoughts were on his uncle? Did he throw them all in a room and see how they cohabitated? That would be more difficult since Will wasn’t able to come to Quantico. He needed advice. This wasn’t going to get worked out on his own.
Ten minutes later he found himself knocking on Fornell’s open door. Once Tobias gestured him in, he walked in and took a seat in front of the desk. Bouncing his leg Tony went over the information that he’d found in his head, as he waited for Tobias to finish speaking on the phone.
He honestly didn’t know what he should do in this instance. He knew what he wanted to do, but he was pretty sure that there were some personal feelings involved there. Some of his natural need to fix things was bleeding into his decision. So, his only choice was to get an impartial opinion.
When Tobias finally got done, Tony tossed the folder onto his desk and made a face. “I don’t know what to do.”
Tobias arched an eyebrow and pulled the folder closer to him. “Hello to you, too, Agent in Charge DiNozzo. Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for asking.”
Tony waved a hand in the air. “I don’t have time to be pleasant. I’m having a crisis.”
Tobias snorted and opened the file. “What am I looking at?”
“SSA Dr. Spencer Reid recommended her for my final spot. I want her for the team.”
Tobias waited to hear the problem and scowled when nothing came. “And? If you want her, take her, DiNozzo. I know you’re aware you have the authorization to do so. What’s the deal?”
Looking over at the open door, Tony stood and closed it before returning to his seat. “She doesn’t have as much undercover experience I wanted, although she does have some. It’s mostly limited to Vice work from her time with Oakland PD. Same with her investigative experience. She has some but again it’s limited to what she did with the PD. Her boss says she’s physically not capable of doing the job.”
Tobias frowned and looked at the folder again. “I don’t understand Tony. If she doesn’t have as much investigative or undercover experience why do you want her on the team? As to the physical issue, does she have some disability?”
Tony snorted and scowled. “She’s short and petite, and according to the moron who is her boss that prevents her from being able to do undercover work.”
Tobias’ jaw dropped open, and quickly he flipped to the page that listed her current team’s details. “Oh, yeah he’s a dinosaur. I mean, he’s a bigger dinosaur than Gibbs is. I’m not worried about her height and weight. Tell me why you want someone who doesn’t have as much experience as you wanted to join your team.”
“DiNozzo’s reason, or Tony’s?” The AIC asked and Tobias’ eyebrow arched higher.
“Start with DiNozzo,” Tobias ordered. “We’ll discuss your personal reasons later.”
Tony nodded and took a deep calming breath before continuing. “I think she’s getting a screw job on her current team just because she’s got some genius ability with languages. Just because she can speak like half the languages on the planet, doesn’t mean that she can’t be good at anything else. Her deductive reasoning scores at FLETC were off the chart. When I called her lead instructor, he told me that she could do anything we asked of her. She just needed to be given a chance.
“According to her college applications, she was a black belt in three different forms of martial arts at that time. Who knows what more she’s done since then. She also took drama in high school and did community theater in college. The guy that ran the theater back then told me that she’s got natural talent. He said that his heart nearly broke when she told him she was going into the academy. She apparently was one of the few people that came through his doors whom he actually thought could have made it in Hollywood.”
Frowning, Tony tapped his fingers on his knee that he’d crossed over his other leg. “Undercover work is about acting and masks basically, and it isn’t like she’s a complete novice to UC work. Sure there’s more to it than that, but if you can’t act, then you can’t do undercover work. Investigation is about following the clues, and her deductive reasoning scores are all I need to tell me she’ll have that covered.
“I called Morgan, and he said that he’d be willing to work her out and give an unbiased opinion with Prentiss’ help. Elijah is going to get her to the gun range and see what she can do, and what she needs to improve in. For some reason, the fuckard she works with now won’t even let her carry.”
“My team is made up of people who were told they couldn’t do it, weren’t good enough to do it, or hadn’t done it right. Seems to me like she’d fit right in.”
Tobias snorted and had to admit the kid had a point. “Now tell me the personal shit that’s making you doubt all of that perfectly sound logic.”
Tony ran a hand over the back of his neck nervously. “She’s basically Will’s cousin in law in law? Cousin in law’s wife? Cousin… Fuck, her husband is Robert’s oldest brother’s youngest son’s wife.”
“Mailman’s poodle’s barber’s IT guy’s third cousin four times removed? What the fuck, DiNozzo! Can you try that in English?” Tobias scowled and threw a binder clip at his employee who snorted.
“OK, but this doesn’t leave this office, Boss.” Only when Tobias rolled his eyes and held up his first two fingers pressed together saying ‘Scout’s Honor’, did he continue.
“Jesus, you were a scout too, Boss? I didn’t know they were around in the Dark Ages. Anywho… So, Robert’s last name was not Holmes prior to marrying Will. Without giving you specific details, he got thrown out of the family because someone FUBAR’d, and his old man is an asshat. Coincidently Jason Gideon was involved in that FUBAR although not directly, but it was one of the reasons I don’t have Will working the Gideon case.
“Robert’s older brother didn’t believe him when he said that he was innocent. From what one of my frat brothers told me, basically Clay, Ruby’s husband, found out the truth somehow, told the family to go fuck themselves including grandpa who was depending on him to take over the family company.
“Clay then started his own company and met Ruby in college. Not in that order though. Robert doesn’t know Clay exists as far as I know. It seems to me that he deserves this kid in his life, but I don’t know how it would affect the team, or if it’s even allowed. I don’t know about the whole springing someone on Will that his husband doesn’t know exists.
“Do I talk to Will and Robert before I hire her? Do I pull in Ruby, Clay, Will, and Robert and see what happens? Do I just say fuck it and let shit fall where it may? I just… my gut says she belongs on our team, Tobias. I don’t know what to do.”
Tobias ran a hand over his eyes as he considered all of the possibilities. “The thing about this job, Tony, is it’s all about what you can justify. Have her meet with Morgan and Prentiss. Don’t have Elijah work her out, ask Hotch if he’ll do it. It gives you a little more objectiveness. Talk to Trent, and feel out the Robert thing.
“Talk to Clay before you hire her. Find out for yourself what the kid wants. Don’t worry about her boss. I am gonna go feed him to the fuckin’ sharks, or better yet, I will feed him to AD Evans and let him deal with the moron. I know for a fact they’ve just been waiting on the SIC to be ready before they retire that fuckard.”
“I’ll smooth the family relation thing out with Evans while I am in his office. I think it would be fine anyway, but the whole fact that they’ve technically never met, and we are discovering the connection is going to probably seal the deal in your favor. So, go see lover boy about the tests you need them to conduct, and leave me in peace to do your bidding.”
An hour later, Tony was leaning against the doorjamb of Hotch’s office with a bag of Penn Station, and two lemonade’s watching the man do some paperwork. Their relationship was progressing. It might even be going more smoothly than Tony’s confidence, or lack thereof was comfortable with. It felt right. It felt like it was meant to be, which worried him even more.
Somehow he’d gone from being played by Gibbs to finding Mr. Right in Aaron in only a matter of days. It shouldn’t be so easy. There was no way that they should already be slotting together so almost seamlessly. The thing was though that he didn’t want to change it. He didn’t want to stop or slow down what was happening. He didn’t want to be rational or cautious. He didn’t want to let that prick Gibbs change him like that.
When it came to love, he’d always trusted his gut. He dated so much because he was always looking for the right feel. When he found someone that felt right like Wendy or Paula or even Jeanne he let himself commit to it. When he didn’t get that right feel in his gut he moved on. No one had ever felt more right in his gut that Aaron. He wasn’t going to allow one spectacular crash and burn to change that. Especially when he could after some time and distance see the mistakes he’d made with his former lover.
The Jeanne affair left longer and deeper scars and wounds than he’d understood. Jenny’s death and his self-punishment for his failures that allowed it had added to those scars and wounds. Being exiled by the new director to a place of such isolation amongst thousands set him on a path of vulnerability that he’d been too hurt and proud to acknowledge. When someone that he’d held such respect and affection for, even though it was at the beginning more friendship than attraction, turned a romantic eye on him, he’d been helpless to do anything but fall.
He’d deliberately ignored the doubts in his gut because his heart had been screaming ‘it’s Gibbs!’ If he’d been thinking clearly, the same argument was exactly why he should have questioned what was going on. But, he didn’t and the ending scorched everything but those two old, worn, and scarred roots. When he looked at the formerly blackened ground though he could see life coming back.
Grass had grown back thanks to his reconnection to the FBI. Flowers were beginning to poke through the dirt thanks to Director Evans and Section Chief Cruz who had made their support of him quite clear and well known. It was something similar to the respect that he’d felt from Tom Morrow, and hadn’t felt since the man moved to Homeland. Maybe the most positive sign was the trunk growing back thanks to his team, new friends like Robert, and his relationship with the gorgeous and intense man in front of him.
“Are you going to come in, Agent in Charge DiNozzo?”
“Work lunch? I come with a work request and a bribe.”
Aaron leaned back in his chair and smirked. “I am not easy to bribe, AIC DiNozzo.”
“I got you two chocolate chunk cookies,” Tony replied knowingly and laughed when Hotch quickly stood.
“We can go to the conference room,” the UC shot back blowing past him excited to get to his treat. Once they were inside with their sandwiches and fries spread out in front of them – Hotch being more than a little smug that he wasn’t the only one who had the cookies – Tony delved into the favor he needed.
“Let’s get the favor out of the way. I don’t know if Morgan told you, but I need him and Prentiss to test out an agent’s physical capabilities for a spot my team. Her boss is trying to say she isn’t able to do the job because she’s short and petite.”
Hotch stopped eating and scowled at his lover. “Who is this prick, and I hope you reported him to Fornell.”
Tony nodded shoving fries into his mouth and finished chewing before answering. “A Graham Nelson? I don’t know him. Tobias said he’s a bigger throwback than Gibbs, which just… Jesus. Yes, I also reported the fucker. Toby’s gonna tell AD Evans so he can snack on the moron then fire him. I am telling you that part in confidence though.”
Prentiss peeked her head into the room smiling. “You guys got room for Morgan and me? Or is this a date for two?”
Hotch snorted and waved her in, and Tony laughed holding his hand out to her. “It’s nice to get to know you outside of the case. I’ve heard interesting things about you, Emily Prentiss.”
Emily grinned big as Morgan settled down next to her giving Tony a fist pump on his way past. “My reputation precedes me, huh?” She joked, and Tony laughed again.
“I heard all about you, Emily Prentiss,” he teased, and she laughed herself.
“Morgan wrote my number on the bathroom wall with ‘For a good time call…’ next to it, again, didn’t he?” She quipped, and Tony was a little afraid he was gonna suffocate he laughed so hard.
“You, Emily Prentiss, are a keeper. You ever get tired of the BAU, I am happy to have you with EU&IU.”
“Hey! No recruiting my people, DiNozzo,” Hotch mock growled, and Tony grinned making a face at him.
“Ah, ah, ah UC Hotchner, I have a free pass to pillage and plunder from wherever I’d like remember.” Tony reminded, and laughed as Aaron threw fries at his head.
When the all finally calmed down, Derek just shook his head at Tony pointing at him with a big grin on his face. “Man, DiNozzo, you are one crazy motherfucker.”
Tony shrugged happily and dug back into his sandwich. “Sanity is overrated.”
“Tony was just asking permission to use you two to test his potential recruit,” Aaron explained, and Tony nodded.
“Not just them though, Hotch. I’m hoping you’ll agree to test her on a variety of guns, as well. There isn’t much in her background, but her file says that she grew up on a horse ranch in Idaho. Technically speaking, I only need her to be proficient with her service weapon, but if she is even passingly capable with say… a sniper rifle… it would give me, even more, reason to ignore her weak points. Considering her weak points are only ya know Undercover and Investigation… I need all the help I can get.”
Aaron paused with his sub halfway to his mouth. “You… why do you want to hire someone without experience in the two most important aspects of your job?”
“Well,” Tony started taking a drink of his lemonade. “She has some experience, but just not as much as I would prefer. Mostly because of her boss. She has a Reid level genius with languages but doesn’t want to be stuck translating for the rest of her life. I know what it’s like to be stuck with people who aren’t willing to see your potential.”
“Aah,” Hotch replied, and Tony frowned.
“Aah?” He repeated, and Derek snorted.
“She’s another of your Misfit Toy’s, QB1,” Derek explained, and Tony blushed, but shrugged not in the least offended.
“Yeah, I suppose that she is. Us Misfits need to stick together, man.”
“Here, here!” Emily cried out holding up her soda, and Tony grinned tapping his glass into hers.
“Here’s to the misfits! I mean, shit, they saved Christmas after all.”
The room broke up into laughter again, and somewhere in the back of Tony’s mind, he remembered what friendship and belonging were.