Note: Sorry this is a day late. Yesterday got away from me.
Chapter Summary: Tony and Aaron have a quiet morning over breakfast after the EU&IU team wraps up their New Jersey case. Then, later the same day, Aaron interviews his new Technical Analyst.
Chapter Twenty Seven: Early Morning Chat
Hotch came in earlier than normal. He had some paperwork to get done, and he wanted to check in on Tony to see how their case was going. He knew that when he’d left the night before, they were getting close. Tony said that they were just waiting on a warrant to come in so Raven and McGee could start doing their thing. The BAU was in between cases and with Chin neck deep in computer searches for the Gideon case he’d offered up Tim to backup Raven. He was glad that he’d let Tony talk him into giving the man a chance until he could find someone he liked.
At first, Aaron had been doubtful that someone who thought like an agent could be as effective as Garcia had been. Tim had proven them wrong, in spades. The TA admitted to Spencer that Tony’s outside the box training helped improve him not only as a field agent but as a technical analyst, also.
Maybe Tony didn’t know the inner workings of computer systems and security protocols. He did though know outside of the box. He knew how to let that little seed of an idea blossom into a lead that broke cases. He knew how to forget the conventional, and see the extraordinary hiding in the shadows hoping to be overlooked.
Tim said it was those things that helped him become better at his role in the digital and intranet part of the case. Hotch even heard a rumor that Tim, Raven, and Chin were getting together now on a weekly basis to share tips and hacks tricks. All in all, Tim McGee was making the transition from Penelope Garcia to whomever their next permanent technical analyst was much easier.
Hotch did have one name that he kept coming back to. It had actually come from Emily Prentiss and Raven Ramirez together. Hotch couldn’t help but smile remembering how hesitant the normally confident agent had been in bringing him the recommendation, and now nervous the newer TA was, as well. He also couldn’t forget how many times Tony’s Birdling stressed that he was a white hat, not a black hat.
Aaron was worried at first that this thing with Garcia would hurt the girl’s confidence. Fortunately, she had strong people around her that were not afraid to remind her, and anyone else running their mouths, that she was not Penelope Garcia. It also helped that AD Evans was of the same mind, and had made sure to make his support of the girl known.
Aaron wanted to talk to the girl himself. He knew that Dave had gone and apologized with words as well as an expensive bouquet of flowers. Never let it be said that David Rossi did anything by halves. His apologies were as extravagant and passionate as his rages. There was something happening with the two teams. It was more than just his relationship with Tony, and whatever was developing with Derek and Raven.
Tony and Rossi were still more than a little cool to each other, but on the flip side, his lover had formed a friendship with Emily and Derek that seemed to be growing daily. Chin and Prentiss met on Saturday mornings to have tea at a favorite spot they’d discovered they shared by mere coincidence. Elijah’s daughter and Callahan’s niece had become friends forming a three-way friendship that included Emily Fornell. A couple weeks ago the Friday night out included an invite for both units.
There was definitely something happening there, and Aaron did not want it to be squashed by any lingering doubts that his team did not trust Raven Ramirez completely.
As he headed off the elevator and toward his office, Aaron reminded himself that he needed to call Q aka Ashcroft Roosevelt Paddington. Neither Prentiss nor Raven knew him by any other name than Q though. He needed to set up a first and final interview with the man. If he was as willing as the women led him to believe, he would be able to relocate to the states.
He’d already had Agent McGee run a thorough background check on the man, and Emily provided him some information she’d received through backchannels. Apparently, she was tight with an MI6 agent she only knew as 007. MI6 being Q’s former employer. Then, not even two hours after he’d received the file, he received a call from the new Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6, head Gareth Mallory.
They hadn’t been able to find more than a parking ticket on the young man personally. Professionally, he was a bit of a risk on paper, but all of the off the record information that Aaron had received indicated that Aaron would be a ‘bloody fool’ as Mallory put it to not hire the young man. He’d admitted that Ashcroft was being used as a scapegoat for the events that lead to the previous SIS Head’s death. Despite there being several other factors involved, they used the fact that it was the younger man who released the virus into the organization’s systems as the major contributing misstep that lead to her death.
Apparently, according to Emily’s friend that was a pile of rubbish. While Q certainly held some blame in the whole fiasco, it wasn’t all his fault, and the man had sent a glowing recommendation hinting that if they played their cards right the FBI just might gain a former MI6 operative also. Not 007, but someone who Emily had been close-lipped, but eager about. When he’d shared this note with Tony, the EU&IU Leader’s eyes had lit up. Aaron was well aware that his proposal for two more members had been approved. A former MI6 agent would more than fit the bill for the veteran undercover agent that he was looking for.
The next day after Mallory’s call, he’d received a call from an anonymous person high in the British government who suggested that they would greatly appreciate his consideration of the young Paddington. When he’d relayed the call to Emily, she once more was fairly close-lipped, but did reluctantly offer that Q’s father might be of some importance in the government. She’d then admitted that he maybe possibly had a brother who worked with this 007 at MI6.
Finally, Aaron had a visit from FBI Director Skinner himself who suggested that they would all appreciate if he would hire the younger man. While he wasn’t normally one to like bowing to political pressure, in this instance it seemed that not taking the younger man onto his team would be something akin to cutting off his nose to spite his face. So, unless Ashcroft completely bombed his interview the BAU would soon have a former SIS Quartermaster as his Technical Analyst. Not too shabby if he said so himself.
Then there was the whole Paddington part of the equation that was eating at his gut. He needed to discuss it with Tony but had received direct orders from Director Skinner not to do so until after he’d talked to the young tech genius. They very much wanted this man on their team and didn’t have authorization from MI6 to relay the familial relationship to Tony just yet.
He had kinda talked around the topic in incredibly vague terms with the AIC about how he felt about his British relatives, and if there was any ill will there. Fortunately, they’d just talked in length about the whole Clay and Robert situation, and Aaron remembered clearly that Tony said that in the end, anything would be worth it to have a relative that wanted to be his family. So, he would be definitely questioning the young cousin about his feelings toward his American relative. Should he be a jackass about it, Aaron didn’t care who wanted it. Ashcroft would not be joining the BAU.
When he walked into his office, he didn’t flip on his light as normal. After taking off his coat and hanging it on a hook, he looked to the far corner of his office. Immediately, he was glad that he hadn’t turned the lights on. Laying there on the couch under the throw that he usually kept in a cabinet on the bottom of his bookshelf was Tony. The man’s long frame was curled up on the leather, even though it wasn’t needed. Aaron made sure to get a piece of furniture that would fit his own height, which meant that it should also fit his lover’s frame.
He noticed though that Tony had the habit of doing the same thing when they shared a bed. The profiler in him said that it most likely had something to do with the dysfunctional childhood that he’d suffered. The death of his mother leaving him with only an uncaring father probably left several nights with little Tony curled up under a blanket crying himself to sleep. The friend and lover in him liked how Tony would uncurl like a flower if Aaron lay behind him and wrapped an arm around his body. It was as if the man knew that he was now safe, and it was ok to show his petals to the world.
Hotch took a moment to lean against the opposite wall from the couch and study him. Even when sleeping, he looked tired. This thing with Gideon and Garcia, and what Jason had done to Brandt had taken a toll on the AIC. Aaron suspected that his lover wasn’t getting much sleep at night when they weren’t together.
He was pretty sure there were long hours being spent turning things over in his head and worrying about decisions already made. He wished that he could change that, but he knew from experience that it was something you had to work through on your own.
Will was recovering from his ordeal. Aaron hoped that Tony would forgive himself for that soon, but he didn’t think it would happen until he could see the man for himself. Unfortunately, Will was recovering at his ranch with Robert. Not that Aaron could blame him for it.
Logically it made sense, but as Tony’s lover, he was a little upset that the man hadn’t taken two seconds to come see his boss. Instead, Tony bent over backward to get all the information he needed from Will without making the man do anything he didn’t want. Aaron knew it wasn’t really a selfish act, but it was hard to remember that with his lover suffering so much from a decision that any leader would have made.
That is what the Agent in Charge was, also. He was not just a ‘Boss’ as his people called him. He was a leader and a natural one at that. Sometimes his leadership methods may not be exactly by the books, but in Aaron’s opinion the truly great leaders were like that. They took what the books said, then used that knowledge in their own way. They didn’t use the books like a how-to manual and took each word on each line literally. That was something that Hotch himself had to learn in the beginning when he was out in Seattle.
As he watched, Tony stirred slowly opening hazel eyes that Aaron loved so much opened. When he was spotted, a sleepy happy smile crossed Tony’s face, and Aaron found himself crossing the short distance to the sofa. Kneeling down, Aaron leaned over and put a kiss to his boyfriend’s temple.
“Morning,” Aaron greeted and followed it up with a quick peck on Tony’s lips. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
Tony shrugged and let his eyes slip back closed. “Time s’it?”
“It’s about six thirty. When was the last time you ate?” Hotch asked running his fingers through Tony’s hair.
“Bout three hours sl’p. Dunno ‘bout food. Breakfast? Y’sterday? Hungry.”
Frowning, Aaron wondered if this was an anomaly, or if he was going to have to make sure someone watched his lover’s eating habits when he was on a case. “Get some more sleep. I’ll go get some food. You can eat when I get back, then come back in here and get some more rest. Who else is here?”
“R’ven in the Batcave. Em’ly in my office. McHelpsalot in Fornell’s office.” Aaron snorted at the nickname. Even in his sleep, Tony had to mangle McGee’s name. It was one of those DiNozzo quirks that just made him the man Aaron was growing to love.
“I’ll pick something up for them that can keep then. Get more rest. I’ll wake you up when I get back.”
A little over an hour later, Tony and Aaron were sitting alone in the conference room eating breakfast skillets and biscuits while drinking smoothies. Hotch had gotten bagels and breakfast sandwiches, and put them in the EU&IU break room for the others.
Tony had a thoughtful expression on his face and Aaron was trying to let him be. He wasn’t sure if it was personal or his case, and didn’t want to ruin his train of thought if it was the case.
“I’m almost positive that I am going to be using the L word with you fairly soon,” Tony advised suddenly and nonchalantly as he continued to eat his skillet. “I am warning you now. So when I say it for sure you won’t be shocked.”
Aaron didn’t even bother to try and hold in the smile. It was just such a Tony thing to say. He saw the man peek at him, but before he could respond, the Italian barreled on as if he felt that he needed to justify himself.
“I don’t know if this is rushing or not. As I’ve told you, I don’t have much experience with successful relationships that go beyond a few weeks. I mean most of the previous ones have ended up in forest fire type flames. So, I am a little unsure of what the appropriate timeline is for expressing your almost feelings.”
Aaron smiled softly at the man sitting next to him. The more time he knew the man, the happier he was that he let Dave con him into taking a chance. “I’m not sure that there is a standard timeline for these things, Tony. I think that it’s different for every couple. I feel though that you and I are at a stage in our lives that we both know what we want. If it makes you feel any better, I am almost ready to use the L word with you, too.”
“Yeah?” Tony asked smiling shyly.
Aaron reached over and took one of his hands, “Yeah.” He picked up the hand he was holding and kissed his knuckles, making the other man grin.
“On a completely separate note, and highly unromantic, I feel like we’re never going to catch Jason.” Tony lamented, and Aaron just huffed understanding his frustration.
He didn’t mind the subject change at all. He was feeling the stress himself even though he was mostly removed from the case. Tony’s team was taking other cases while keeping an eye out for new deaths. The BAU was doing mostly consults, and doing some interviews of serial killers that had been locked up. Neither man liked it, but Aaron knew at least that he understood it. This thing with Gideon wasn’t going to end anytime soon. In fact, he was a little afraid that it would never end.
“The problem is that Jason Gideon was not just a profiler. He was a founding member of the BAU, and one of the best we’ll probably ever have. He was also one of the best at getting inside the unsub’s head. He has a huge amount of information on how to kill people and how to hide bodies. He knows all of the things that work, and all of the things that don’t work. With his knowledge, this could go on indefinitely. Unless he has a complete break and starts getting sloppy, I have my doubts that this is going to end anytime soon. How’s Chin coming with the tracking program?”
Tony sighed and rolled his shoulders trying to wake up a little more. “He got it finished. Raven wanted to make sure the back door Garcia opened was completely sealed before he started. So, that slowed things down. She, also, reworked the security on both teams’ files before he started the tracking program with help from McGee, Krumitz, and that guy she recommended to you who goes by Q.
“Since we’re about as sure as we can be that Gideon’s no longer in Charleston, there is no telling where he’ll pop up again. There are no credit cards being used in his name. He doesn’t seem to have a permanent address. His pension funds from the FBI are going into an account that he isn’t touching. I talked to his son Stephen who says he hasn’t talked to him in years. If he’s using all that stuff he knows, he’s paying cash for everything, has an account under an assumed name that’s been set up for years, and traveling under an assumed name. Jesus, this could go on forever.”
Aaron nods and smiled at Tony. “He’ll mess up. They always do. It just probably won’t be as quickly as we like it. We’ve sent out warnings to Spencer’s consults, but my gut feeling is that isn’t going to end it. Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?”
Tony finished off his breakfast before answering. “I do. I umm I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. Will and Robert have invited me to come to Montana for the holiday. They uhh… they said I could bring you along if… I mean, if you want?”
Aaron frowned as he considered the possibilities. “Can we even get plane tickets at this late of a date?”
He really liked the idea of getting some alone time with Tony. Both teams needed to take a break. It was too bad that they couldn’t get a full week.
Tony nodded slurping up the remainder of his smoothie. “No problemo. One of my frat brothers is willing to drop us off, and give us a ride back. He has to go to his in-laws in California.”
Aaron arched an eyebrow amused. “Drop us off?”
Tony nodded grinning big. “Private jet. You interested?”
Aaron chuckled and then nodded. “I would love to. Thanksgiving in Montana sounds wonderful. I’ll even promise not to kill Robert in his sleep.”
Tony laughed throwing his head back. “Well, if you can’t resist the urge, Will says there’s a reason he has all that land. I am really glad I took a chance on you, Aaron Hotchner. John stopped by last night after we got what we needed to nail Sandoval, and said he was ordering down time for both teams for the full week after Thanksgiving. He said that he’s worried both teams are off their game with Gideon pulling out the rug from under our feet. He wants us to get our heads back on straight then come back ready to take on new cases while chasing Gideon in our downtime.
“He also said that he’s going to steal some empty space and create us a war room that we can use for all the information. 26 deaths is a lot of people, and while they’d like this to go away quickly, even the Director seems to understand it’s not going to go down that way. He will probably be talking to you sometime soon about your feelings on combining your area down into ours. That way we’ll all be on one floor, and you have access to the secure conference room.”
Sighing Aaron shook his head. “I can’t believe Jason’s killed 26 people. I’m fine with the combining areas. It makes sense to me, and selfishly I would be thrilled to be on the same floor as you.”
Tony bit his lip shrugging. “26 is the number that has the signature on it. Who only knows if there are more from before the first known victim in Bisbee, Arizona. At any rate, information is still coming in from all the PDs. It should all be here when we get back from our week plus off. I hate to say it, but I think John is right. I need the time to get my head wrapped around all of this shit. I would be thrilled to be on the same floor as you also. We can find a coat closet to sneak kisses in on our breaks.
“You never know. Montana may end up being the perfect place to finally use that L word.”
Smiling, Aaron squeezed Tony’s hand. “I can’t imagine anything better.”
Later that day, he was sitting in the EU&IU Conference room waiting on a video conference to start. When he’d reached out to Ashcroft, the young man had responded immediately that other than a quick appointment he was about to leave for, he had no other plans for the day or the rest of the week. Because he never knew when a case was going to crop up, Aaron scheduled the interview for later that same day. Chin had set everything up for him but promised that he would monitor without turning the sound on.
Apparently, Raven and her friend and former co-worker when she was in Cyber Division, Daniel Krumitz, were developing a software program that could monitor video conferences for certain keywords that would indicate a problem. They’d agreed upon an emergency phrase, the sky is cloudy in the valley in Brazil, and Chin entered it into the software. They’d needed something to test it on, and Aaron had agreed that this would be fine. Plus, it would get him a secure video conference without having to have a tech monitor. Since he would be bringing up Tony and his connection to his possibly new Technical Analyst that was a good thing.
When the screen lit up, there was a man on the screen that looked to be around Spencer’s age. He was wearing a blue suit coat with black horizontal and vertical lines. Under it, he appeared to have both a dress shirt and a sweater or sweater vest. His hair was a mass of barely controlled waves. He knew this because it reminded him of Reid’s hair. In fact, the only difference that he could see was that Ashcroft wore glasses.
“Mr. Paddington, I assume?” Aaron asked, and watched the young man nod before responding.
“That would be correct, Unit Chief Hotchner. I do appreciate us doing a formal interview, and you not just bowing to the ridiculous pressure my insane family and friends are putting on you.”
Aaron tilted his head to one side and offered a half smile. “I have not lasted this long in this position by bowing to political pressure every time it’s thrust at me, Mr. Paddington. Despite what others wish. I do have a concern before we can agree on things, and it most likely is not what you are expecting.”
Ashcroft nodded formally, and Aaron could practically see him gathering his courage. “I do realize that I made an error in judgment in my actions that caused the breach in MI6’s computers…”
“That isn’t what I was referring to,” Aaron interrupted quietly, but firmly as he waited for the man to react.
He could see, only because of his years spent as a profiler, the man startle, and the brief flicker of his eyes to a point behind the monitor. “Before I continue, I must insist on seeing whomever else is in the room with you, Mr. Paddington. What I have to discuss with you is of a fairly personal and confidential nature. I am not willing to divulge what I have to say to just anyone.”
Again, he read a brief flicker of uncertainty before it was locked down. His Unit Chief Hotchner mask persona firmly in place, Aaron just arched an eyebrow and waited. Eventually, a man came into view, and when Ashcroft scooted over, Aaron realized who it was. The man was roughly the same height as Ashcroft but had blonde hair. One side of his face showed mild burn scars that appeared to have happened some time ago. Tim was going to lose another bet to Spencer.
“Former 006, I had a feeling it was either you or 007. I don’t mind your presence. A man in your former position knows how to keep secrets. I just insist that what is said here is kept to the three of us. All of the involved parties are not aware of… the nature of what we are about to discuss. I don’t want things getting out before I have a chance to speak to him. I would appreciate your real name though, if I may.”
Alec just shrugged and leaned back in his chair crossing his arms over his chest glaring at the screen. “Alec Trevelyan is my name. How do you know I was 006?”
Aaron snorted and lifted an eyebrow at the attempt at intimidation. “I have computer people of my own. Even our current analyst is a temporary fill in, he’s still an MIT graduate and damned good at what he does. I don’t often make decisions with only the half information provided to me. Your or 007’s possible presence today is one of the reasons I requested a secure video conference. Since I wasn’t sure which of you would be there, I didn’t want to risk the active agent’s identity should someone come in, as unlike yourself, I know he’s not yet formally retired from SIS.”
Aaron turned his gaze back to the former Quartermaster and waited for the man to speak. “Is my relationship with Alec going to be an issue?”
Aaron lifted an eyebrow in amusement. “I think my boyfriend would be terribly put out if it was.”
Mr. Paddington tried to hide his shock, but the former agent didn’t even bother letting out a quiet chuckle. “Unit Chief Hotchner, how about you just tell us what it is that concerns you about, Q. I can tell you that he’s the best damned Quartermaster I ever worked with, and the only person I was willing to let handle my assignments. I know you received several recommendations as to his skill, so what could you possibly be unsure of in his competency to be your technical analyst? If anything, he’s overqualified.”
“I don’t recall saying that it was a professional concern,” Aaron pointed out. When Alec’s mouth opened, then clamped shut without speaking, Aaron flashed a satisfied smirk and turned his attention to his interviewee.
“There was only one problem with all of the references and information that I received on you, Ashcroft Roosevelt Paddington. None of it took into account my boyfriend and the leader of our Elite Undercover and Investigative Unit, whom you may be working with on occasion. So, given that, I need to know how you feel about your cousin, Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. If there is going to be animosity and ill will between you, despite your over qualification and numerous references, I am afraid I would need to pass.”
At this point, Ashcroft dropped all attempts at hiding his shock. “I don’t understand. How is Aunt Elizabeth’s son a leader for the FBI? Last I was informed, he was a member of an organized crime family in Philadelphia.”
Aaron frowned and cocked his head to one side. “How did you get that information, Mr. Paddington?”
Q lifted his chin slightly before replying, “A confidential resource.”
Aaron rolled his eyes at the man, then glared. “Would this confidential resource be your father that works for the British government, or more likely the brother that works with 006 and 007?”
Before Q could get too flustered, Alec put an arm over his shoulders. “How is Emily these days?”
Aaron smiled and nodded. “Doing well. What I am about to say truly is classified information, as there are still a few members of that former crime organization alive. Agent DiNozzo was undercover at the time with us to try and bring down the syndicate. Despite the fact that his boss was dirty and working for the family, he succeeded in bringing down the entire top tier. Whoever gave you that information didn’t know what they are talking about, Mr. Paddington. Your cousin is both highly respected and highly successful in what he does. In fact, the conference room I am sitting in was created for his department. A department that the Director of the FBI created for him.”
Ashcroft sighed and scowled. Aaron watched him take off his glasses and wipe a hand over his eyes before continuing. “Bloody family is filled with nothing but imbeciles. It’s no wonder the fool hasn’t been killed by now, as I’m not sure my brother has enough active brain cells to work the toaster. Please, call me Q or Ashcroft, Mr. Hotchner. When you say Mr. Paddington I feel like my father should be coming in.”
Aaron nodded and smiled. “Please, call me Aaron or Hotch then, and I understand. I have a younger brother of my own who has often made me want to bury him in my backyard, but he’s still my brother and therefore I love him.”
Q nodded his head before speaking. “My apologies, Unit Chief Hotchner. I honestly have never had contact with my cousin. When my Aunt Elizabeth married that scoundrel Anthony DiNozzo, Sr, which was all the way before my father’s first wife died, and he met then married my mother, both my father as well as my Uncle Clive cut all ties with her.
“I honestly have no opinion of my cousin Anthony at the present time. However, I would be most interested in getting to know him should we be working together. I may not be able to see my father and mother often, but despite his absolute knack for irritating me at the most inconvenient times, I rather enjoyed working with my older brother most days. I had grown used to having family so close on a daily basis, and I was not looking forward to going back to the way it was before. I am not one to let others make my mind up for me. So, whatever is between his father and mine is just that as far as I am concerned.”
Aaron nodded smiling as he flicked his eyes back to the former 006. “One suggestion. Do not ever call him Anthony. The only person that can get away with it is a friend of his who is from Scotland, and in his 70s. His father only calls him Anthony or Junior, and as they aren’t on speaking terms, he doesn’t take the name well from anyone else. He generally just goes by Tony. Alec, I do have a question for you. How retired are you? I ask because I know that Tony’s team is looking for another veteran undercover agent, and I have a feeling he would love a shot at adding someone with your experience to his unit.”
Alec’s eyes lit up, but the man turned his head to look at Q, who seemed to smile encouragingly. “I’m only bloody retired in the first place because of what the bastards did to my Q! I’m not ready to go to pasture just yet. I’d love to hear about this job. Anything elite and undercover is right up my alley.”
Hotch couldn’t help but snicker at the man. He could absolutely picture him with the rest of the bunch, but he and Robert together may just be a nightmare. “I will pass along the information. Ashcroft Paddington, consider yourself hired. My team is on stand down right now. I’d like you in place no later than the first of the year. There will be some training you’ll need to do to familiarize yourselves with American laws, and we’ll have to get your work visas settled. So, if it takes longer than that I understand. Q, email me your and Alec’s information at firstname.lastname@example.org, please, so that we can stay in contact. I will tell your cousin about all of this over the Thanksgiving weekend coming up here. So, I would guess he’ll most likely contact you at some time after that.”
The three chatted for a few more minutes before, they ended the conference. Once the screen was black, Aaron took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. He’d done it. He’d found real blood family for Tony, and himself a Technical Analyst all at the same time. Not bad for a day’s work.
Note: It’s hard to believe there are only three more chapters left. Hope you enjoy the end of the ride.
Ashcroft Roosevelt Paddington is my identity for Q the current Quartermaster in the James Bond Craig Verse movies. Alec is the 00Q Version, which is OoC from the movie version. Like Danny Williams they will, after this chapter, not be seen again until future installments.