New Chapter Characters: Ruby Miller and Clay Miller
Chapter Summary: Tony calls TK for advise on the Robert and Clay situation, and his cousin points out a fact he’d overlooked helping him in his decision. Then later he interviews Clay and Ruby for the last spot on the team.
Chapter Twenty Four: Covering All Bases
Tony was in the kitchen turning over the steaks he had marinating. He had three bone in rib eyes in a gallon baggie with a bottle of Dale’s Low Sodium Marinade in it. He had about ten more minutes before he was going to put them on the grill pan he had on the stove.
In the oven, he had the pan of cheesy hash brown casserole and a dish of green bean casserole. There were couple loaves of frozen bread waiting to go in when they were done, so they had hot bread with their meal. He hadn’t felt like baking, so he’d picked up a cherry crumb pie on the way home, and a half gallon of ice cream.
Tobias was upstairs getting changed, and Tony was expecting Trent to walk in the door any second. Just as the thought went through his mind, he heard a knock on the front door. Before he could even twitch though, he heard it open and a distinctive British accent holler. “Honey, I’m home!”
Tony chuckled as he heard a thud upstairs. “In the kitchen, dear. I hope you’re in the mood for red meat.”
He felt his cousin’s presence before the man spoke, so he wasn’t startled when the man’s voice came from directly behind him. “Whenever am I not in the mood for red meat? As long as you aren’t using one of those bastard’s recipes for a marinade, then we’re fine.”
Tony snorted, and moved to the stove to drizzle some olive oil on the griddle, and put a couple pats of butter on top before turning the burners on. It would be hot about the time that the steaks were ready, and the dishes were scheduled to come out of the oven.
He nodded thanks when a bottle of water appeared next to his hand and didn’t turn around until the fond smile was gone from his face. His cousin was such a mother hen, and frankly, he didn’t know what he’d do if that ever changed.
“So, Pico, tell me what you’re fretting over. I know there’s something, and we might as well get it out of the way so that we all may enjoy our meal.”
Sighing, Tony picked up his water and turned to lean against the counter as he studied his cousin. The man had moved to straddle the chair he always took when they were in the kitchen together. Slowly he began to explain about Clay Miller and his relation to Robert explaining how he wasn’t sure what to do from there.
When Trent just stared at him looking confused at the end of the story, he wondered if he’d not explained something clearly. The question the man asked first made him sure he was right. “I’m not seeing your confusion, Tino.”
“What do you mean?” Tony asked frowning. “Robert…”
“Is you in this instance. I would think that of all humanity that it would be you who would understand best what would go through the man’s head when he finds out.”
Tony just blinked at the Brit and was glad when he continued without him having to speak. “Your pasts are remarkedly similar, Pico Tino. Surely, you have noticed this. Robert’s family abandoned him in the moment that he needed them the very most in his entire life. Your bastard father turned his back on you the second your mother died. Now, you have discovered that Robert has a relative who adores him, and has excused himself from the remainder of the family because of their unjust treatment of him. All you need to do is put yourself in his shoes, and ask yourself what you would want to be done. It really is not as complex as you are making it.”
Tony blinked at Trent once more then scowled. “Crap, how did I not see that?”
“Because you have a tendency to overthink things,” Trent replied honestly. “How would you feel, and what would you do if you were Robert?”
Tony took a drink of his water stalling for time before answering. Fortunately, the CIA agent let him get away with it. “I’d be reluctant to just take his word for it, but deep down I would want that connection badly. You’re right. Thank you, Cuz. I will schedule an appointment with Ruby and Clay Miller. Once I have assessed her competency as well as his intentions, I’ll talk to Robert.”
Turning back to the counter, he picked up the steaks and crossed to the sink to drain off the liquid. It was time he fed his advisor.
Tony was waiting at the elevators when Clay and Ruby Miller stepped off. At six four Clay towered over his much shorter five four wife. He liked though that she hadn’t tried to make up for it with heels. Sensible shoes and a smart, attractive outfit were worn for her interview. Smiling at the couple, Tony held out his hand in Ruby’s direction first, then shook Clay’s hand second.
“Ruby Miller,” Tony addressed smiling. “I am Agent in Charge DiNozzo. I lead the Elite Undercover and Investigative Unit here at Quantico. I appreciate you coming in for your interview and bringing your husband. I know it’s a little unusual. Mr. Miller, thank you for coming along. Your attendance is greatly appreciated.”
Clay nodded frowning slightly. Tony noticed the younger man looked down at his wife before turning his attention to him. “I’m happy to help, but I’ll be honest when I say that I don’t understand why I am needed.”
Tony nodded and turned to lead them to his office. Because their conference room was so secure, he’d had a small table placed in his personal office where he could meet with someone casually. Nodding to Elijah and Chin who were watching, Tony led the couple in and shut the door behind them. The blinds had been drawn earlier, and the team knew not to interrupt him.
“Some things came up, Mr. Miller, when I ran your background information that concerned me. I wanted to talk to you both about it before I made Ruby’s hiring official.”
“Please, Agent in Charge DiNozzo, it’s just Clay, and I don’t… you ran a background check on me? I don’t understand why. I’m not joining the FBI, and what could you have found that the Department of Justice didn’t during Winchester Engineering’s last review?”
Tony nodded, understanding the man’s confusion, and appreciated the calmness the man was displaying. “I honestly understand your confusion, and I have answers for you. With your patience though, I would like to start off with a few items for Ruby first, then if she agrees I will happily address your concerns. I know things need cleared up, but given that she is the prospective employee I would like to address her first.”
Quickly Clay nodded smiling. “Yes, please. There is literally nothing more important to me than my wife and my sons. I am more than happy to be patient while you two do… whatever it is you need to do.”
Tony turned his eyes to Ruby smiling gently. “Agent Miller, thank you for your flexibility. I promise that I would not have asked your husband here if there weren’t extenuating circumstances. Firstly, on behalf of Assistant Director Evans and Section Chief Cruz, I apologize for the… well, the bullshit you had to go through just to apply for the spot on my team. We in no way approve of our female agents being discriminated against because of well… for anything. Your physical stature has no bearing on whether or not you are qualified for the position, and I am glad that your husband took his concerns to Dr. Reid. I want to start off by assuring you that, unless something goes really horribly wrong, the final open spot on my team is yours.”
Tony saw the excitement in the woman’s eyes and smiled big. “Seriously, let that squeal out! You’ll find we’re not a terribly rigid bunch around here.”
Ruby immediately squealed and bounced a few times in her chair, before her husband pulled her in for a hug, which Tony was happy to see. He may have just met the two, but it was easy to see that the love he’d heard the two shared was true. Ruby would be the team’s second married agent, which as far as balance went, Tony thought was perfect. Their strong commitment to each other could only help her succeed, and he found it amusing that the only other married agent was Will.
“Now, I need you to do some things for me before we can make this official,” Tony prompted, as the two settled back in the chairs. Ruby just nodded enthusiastically.
“Anything! I just… I really want the chance to show I can do this.”
Tony nodded glad to hear the answer.
“Ok, then first off I need to test you in a couple of areas to show that what your hopefully former boss said about your suitability was bullshit. So, tomorrow you will be working out with two members of our BAU team doing hand to hand. SSA Morgan regularly teaches hand to hand here at Quantico, and one of his teammates Emily Prentiss has volunteered to be your sparring partner. I saw your black belts in your file, and we want to make sure you’ve kept up your skills.
“Then, once you are done with Derek, you’ll actually be working out with his boss. Unit Chief Hotchner is one of the best marksmen we have here, and he’s agreed to test you on a variety of weapons, including a sniper rifle if you are willing. Once I have their evaluations, we can move forward and make things official. That is as long as this next bit with your husband turns out ok. With your permission, I’m happy to answer his questions now.”
After Ruby nodded, Tony turned his attention to Clay, who was watching him earnestly. “Just tell me what you need, Agent in Charge DiNozzo. I don’t want to be the reason my wonderful wife doesn’t get this spot. She’s worked her butt off for this chance, and I know that she’ll kill it if she’s just given the chance.”
Tony had talked to a lot of bull shitters in his life and career. He’d talked to a lot of people who knew how to use pretty words to their advantage. However, he could sense nothing in Clay Miller but honesty and sincerity.
“To answer your question, Clay, and by the way please call me Tony, yes I ran a background check on you. Just a basic one initially, because all I really wanted to make sure was that you didn’t have bodies hidden somewhere or something else that could be a problem down the road. However, when I saw your family line I ran into an unexpected snag.”
Clay frowned and straightened. His face hardening slightly. “I really don’t understand how. I don’t associate with my family. How do they factor into this?”
Opening a file, Tony took out two confidentiality agreements and slid them across the table with two pens. “In order to answer that I need you two to please sign these. They basically say that everything said from here on forward about your family will remain confidential.”
Once the agreements were signed, and the two were holding hands both looking equally confused and concerned, Tony began his explanation. “This whole situation actually started off with my own family. When I was hired for this position, I was given free rein to hire anyone whom I would like from either within or outside of the FBI. I don’t communicate with my own family, Clay, any more than you do yours. My mother died when I was a child, and my father has hated me my whole life. The only person who ever really gave two shits about me is a cousin on my mother’s side, whom I call TK.
“You will meet him at some point because he is very protective and determined to make sure that every member of my team meets his approval,” Tony offered smiling fondly thinking about his cousin, and the advice he gave that led him to this meeting.
“TK works with another intelligence agency and had a co-worker that he was concerned with. He felt that he didn’t… fit in with the environment, and wanted a better place for him. That agent’s name is William Brandt, and he indeed became the first official member of my team. Now, Will is married to a man whom currently works as mostly an artist named Robert. When William and Robert got married Robert took his husband’s name so it is currently Brandt. However, prior to marriage, his last name was Holmes, a highly made up surname chosen because of his affection for the Arthur Conan Doyle character Sherlock Holmes. He was forced to take that name when a secret operation that he was on went belly up. He was taken hostage, and after being rescued, by Will coincidently, it was determined that it was not safe to go back to the world under his real name.
“At first he fought things, but when his family turned their backs on him, he willingly chose the last name Holmes, and made sure that his former relatives would never, ever be able to locate him. That former last name, his birth name, Clay, was Morgan. William Brandt’s husband Robert is your father’s older brother that you have been searching for.”
Leaning back in his chair, Tony quietly watched the emotion roll over Clay’s face. Relief, anger, excitement, and even grief flitted across his face before he covered it when his hands. Quickly Ruby stood, and moved to put her arms around his shoulders. Excusing himself for a moment, Tony got up and left the office to give them some privacy.
Heading over to Elijah’s office, he was raiding the fridge his SFA had when he heard someone in the doorway. “I thought you had your own fridge, boss.”
Pulling out a bottled tea, and a Mt. Dew, Tony turned smiling and held them up to show Lijah. “I need these for the Millers’, but really I just needed an excuse to give them a moment together.”
“He not taking it well?” Elijah asked concerned, and Tony turned the question over in his head before shrugging.
“It’s a lot to take in, Lijah. He’s been looking for Robert since he left the family. Hell, Robert is the reason he did leave the family. I think I’d be emotional of my spouse’s’ new boss offered me up the thing I want the most in life beyond the health of my wife and babies.”
“Point,” the SFA acknowledged. Heading out of the office, Tony patted his shoulder before heading back inside of his own office and crossed to set the bottles on the table. He wasn’t surprised when Ruby took the tea, and Clay took the Mt. Dew.
“I’m sorry, Ag… Tony,” Clay started, but Tony just held up a hand to stop him.
“Please, no apologies. I can’t even imagine how I would respond if someone presented me with family who were decent humans being other than TK. I don’t mean to be insensitive or rush you, Clay, but I had Ruby bring you because I need to make sure of why you have been so diligently trying to find your uncle. Not only is he still basically hiding from the bastards who kidnapped him, but he and William are my friends. While I’m not saying that I think you have ill intentions, I need to know the truth.”
Clay shook his head fast as he wiped off his eye, and patted Ruby’s hand resting on the table. Once more taking her much smaller hand in one of his bigger paws, the man started speaking. “My grandfather is some piece of work. He comes off as this wonderfully caring person, but in the end, he’s just a judgmental prick. My father is often too scared about reputation, and what other people will think of the family, not to mention what grandfather will think of him, to stand up to him and really make waves. I have two older brothers who basically just keep their mouths shut, and avoid making waves with just about anyone. If things get too tense, they disappear for a while until things cool down, again. Which is all fine, but it always left me to deal with everything, and be the one always in father and grandfather’s eyes.
“I remember my Uncle Robert. I was about ten years old when my grandfather announced that from that moment forward he didn’t exist, and none of us were to speak his name again let alone see him. My father just stood there nodding like a fucking puppet! I was devastated. I loved my uncle. He was my hero. He was the one that always told me that it was ok to just be me. It was ok to be sensitive. It was ok to be shy. It was ok to view the world through my own eyes, and not everyone else’s. What made it worse was that they wouldn’t say why. One day he was a member of the family, and the next he wasn’t even a memory.”
Clay took a drink of his pop, before taking a deep breath and continuing. “The older I got, the harder it was to just accept that. Like I said, I was the one always left to have to deal with everything while my brothers, Richard and Rob, always just hide until it’s over. Because I was so smart, I was a few years ahead in school and got to college early. By then I was angry almost all of the time, and wouldn’t take ‘we’re not talking about it, Clay’ as an answer any longer.
“When I first got into college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was two years younger than everyone else. So, at first I just took a bunch of general classes, but kinda had my thoughts on being a lawyer. Growing up, there were always all these people around. Contacts of my grandfathers. One day, I saw that a law lecture was being given by Admiral A.J. Chegwidden who was a JAG lawyer. I remembered him as being someone who was kind to me at grandfathers’ parties and decided it would be interesting to go listen to. Afterward, I went to say hi, and he offered to take me out for dinner.
“He basically confirmed for me that I was right in believing that there was more to this thing with my uncle. He told me that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding, but that when they’d tried to get things straightened out, my grandfather and father refused to even listen to the truth. He told me that while he couldn’t tell me exactly what happened for confidentiality reasons, that my uncle wasn’t guilty of anything, but being a hero. When I heard that it basically was the metaphoric last straw. I cut most all ties with my family. I changed my last name to Miller after my mother and decided to go into engineering. My goal was, and always will be, to be a better engineer and better man than my grandfather.
“Last month, we stole a third government contract from him. He only has one left, and it will be mine. My brothers come around occasionally for dinner and such, but I would certainly not call us close. I know you don’t know me, Tony, but I swear on my life I just want my uncle back. I want Uncle Robert back, and I want to introduce him to Uncle Dean.”
“You’re Uncle Dean?” Tony asked frowning. He hadn’t seen anything that indicated Robert Morgan, Sr. had a third son in his research. Clay nodded frowning angrily and ran a hand through his hair before answering.
“Half-uncle I suppose, but he’s only like four years older than me. Grandfather apparently doesn’t want the world, and more specifically my grandmother, to know that he does more than look at the girls at the so-called ‘gentleman’s club’ that he attends. So, he’s hidden him pretty fucking well, and basically ruined Dean’s mother to make sure that he never came to light. We mostly met on accident. I mean, we knew each other at college prior to me talking to the Admiral, but A.J. clued me in on Dean’s real identity. Dean actually works for me as basically my right-hand man. He runs my R&D division officially and helped me come up with the name of the company. If it helps, he and I had our DNA tested in college, and have the official papers showing that he’s my uncle. I can show you a copy.”
Tony nodded carefully and considered his options. “I will have to confirm this, but as long as it checks out then it should be ok. I believe you, Clay. I’ve been doing this a long time, and frankly, it’s rare to meet such an open and earnest individual. I’m going to talk to Will and Robert and tell them what I have found out. Will was recently injured on a case, so they’re at his ranch. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I need you to be patient for a little while longer. This isn’t really a conversation I want to have with them over the phone, and it might be Thanksgiving before I can go see them. I think they deserve the same courtesy of a face to face conversation as I gave you both.”
Ruby and Clay looked at each other, and Ruby smiled before she answered for them. “I think that will be fine, Tony. We’ve waited this long. We can wait a little longer. Clay and I met when he was in college, so I feel like I’ve been waiting to meet this uncle forever myself. Does that mean I will have to stay at my old job until then?”
Quickly, Tony shook his head. “As soon as we find out you’re qualified you can begin. Worst case scenario we’ll find a new home for you if this Robert Clay thing is a huge issue. I’ll be perfectly honest though, and say that I really don’t anticipate that happening. So, go kick ass at those tests tomorrow, and show me what you have. Once the results are on my desk, I will call you in, this time just you I promise, and we will go over everything. In the meantime, I have to remind you two that mum’s the word. No discussing anything we talked about with anyone including your Uncle Dean. I promise, Clay, that I will personally let you know once it’s ok to let him in on the secret. He may have to sign a confidentiality agreement too though, just so you’re prepared for that. Now, get outta here, and enjoy the rest of your day.”
The two stood. Ruby shook his hand, while Clay pulled him in for a hug, which drew a startled laugh from Tony, but he returned it nonetheless. Walking the two to the elevator, they chatted about the rest of the team, until it came to take them down to the ground floor. As he walked back to his office, Tony couldn’t help but hope that just maybe he’d found his friend some family worth having.