Our Future is in the Stars – Chapter One

Our Future is in the Stars

Banner by greeneyesblue

 

Warnings and story information are in the Master Post

 

Chapter One

 

 

When Tony finally pulled to a stop in the driveway at Jack’s house, he placed the car in park and then took a second to just breathe in an effort to try to calm his mind. He’d known for a while that things at NCIS were getting bad. He also knew that Jack had been biting his tongue when it came to issues that Tony had been avoiding having to address. It wasn’t something that came naturally to his partner, but they had learned that it was necessary given the classified nature of both their jobs.

Ignoring the sudden darkening behind him, as Tony assumed it came from McGee turning off his car, he studied the vehicles already in the driveway with a frown. He knew the SUVs, and their owners. He’d even expected one of them to arrive at some point that evening, given that he’d asked Jack to contact the man and request that he come over asap.

What he hadn’t expected though was to see it there before he got home. Especially considering Tony knew the Navy Yard was much closer to Jack’s house than Homeland. The other though, he had no clue why it was there. After a moment to think about it, Tony decided that it was a happy coincidence, and wondered if the universe was maybe going to start being nicer to him.

Seeing movement out of the corner of his eye, Tony turned his head to see McGee lurking on the lawn looking uncertain and out of his depths. After studying the younger man for a moment, Tony pulled out the spare phone he kept in his glovebox and shot off a text to one of the few phone numbers he’d stored there.

It wasn’t one he’d texted from the device before, so he had to go through a few questions to confirm his identity before getting to the point of the conversation. Once he received a very satisfying assurance that his question would be seriously considered and an answer given within a couple days, Tony finally shut off his own car and climbed out. It was time to face whatever was laying inside the home.

“Tony, where are we?” McGee questioned, and Tony noted his eyes roaming around the yard. “Whose house is this?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, McCurious,” Tony replied as he headed up the walk and inside, ignoring Tim’s squawk of protest that he couldn’t just walk into someone’s home. Leaving the door open, so McGee could enter once he worked up the balls to do so, Tony set about taking off his shoes and emptying his pockets into the dish in the foyer designated for such things. It felt weird not to have a weapon to store.

He left his NCIS issued weapon behind along with his badge and credentials. He’d have to make time to go get himself another weapon that he could carry every day. Of course, he had a second gun that was not NCIS issued, but it wasn’t necessarily one that he wanted to carry every day. It didn’t take much to convince himself that he needed a better every day  gun. It wasn’t even a question that he would need one. Tony had been around the block more than once, and knew there was no way that Ziva wouldn’t be coming after him for interfering with her plans.

“Honey, I’m home!” Tony called just as Tim finally made his way inside. “Take off your shoes, McGee. We don’t do shoes inside the house.”

“We?” McGee questioned and Tony looked back to see the younger man still standing in the doorway with the door open.

“For fuck sake, shut the door!” Tony shot back with an eyeroll. “If you fill the damn house up with bugs, I’m gonna be pissed. The dogs hate bugs.”

“Tony what the hell is going on?” Tim asked more sharply than his previous questions, and Tony shot him a scowl just as he heard footsteps coming his way along with the clicking sound that told him the fur babies had heard him as well. The dogs of course got to him first, and Tony knelt to greet the enthusiastic pups laughing happily at their enthusiastic tail wagging and licks of hello.

“It’s about time you got here,” a new voice called out and Tony looked up from the dogs to smile at the man who held his heart. Standing quickly, Tony felt a sense of calm fall over him that he knew came from the sight of Jack. It may be a childish thought, but somehow the world felt safer when he knew his partner was there.

“Tom and George were already here. We had some work things to discuss. I hope you don’t mind them staying for dinner. I thought we could grill out. I have steaks and chops marinating, and Stella made us some salads and such for side dishes before she left. Looks like you have an unexpected visitor of your own.”

Stella was their housekeeper and sometimes cook. While Tony loved cooking, he didn’t always have time. Plus, when he wasn’t home Jack would live off of cereal and microwave dinners if not for her. Then there was the fact that neither one of them wanted to spend all of their time cleaning on their rare free time, so a housekeeper / occasional cook was the best compromise. It also helped to have someone around to tend to the dogs when they both were tied up with work.

When Jack stopped in front of him, Tony pushed McGee and the rest of his crappy day out of his mind for a moment, as he took a moment to greet the man that he was sharing his life with. After giving the dogs a quick order to sit, remembering Tim’s fear of dogs, Tony stepped closer to Jack. He wasn’t sure how active Tim’s phobia still was after McGee’s brief ownership of Jethro, but he wasn’t a big enough jerk to not be cautious until he could find out. If needed, he could send the dogs out to the back yard to run around while McGee was there.

“Hey, Jack,” Tony offered in greeting before stealing a kiss. It seemed as if Jack was a little off, but he chalked it up to work. Tony hated that his partner couldn’t confide in him the way he needed; the way partners should be able to confide in each other. So, he let Jack hold on if he needed to, and turned his head to inhale Jack’s scent before speaking softly. “I’m really glad you’re here. I’m pretty confident that I win the who had a crappier day game. I haven’t been fired yet, but chances are good I will be suspended before we even wake up in the morning. I missed you.”

Jack had been away dealing with something out of town on one of his trips that Tony wasn’t allowed to know what the destination was or why he was going there. “I’m glad to be home. Missed you too. I hate it when you have the worse day. Am I going to have to storm NCIS and kick someone’s ass? If it means that you’ll finally accept Tom’s offer, I might not be as upset as I should be, fair warning.”

Tony let out a soft chuckle, and accepted another kiss, this one deeper than the prior one, before he pulled back and performed the introductions. “Tim McGee meet my partner in life and everything else important to me, Lt. General Jonathan J. O’Neill. Call him Jack. The German Shepard is my dog Magnum. The husky is Jack’s dog Homer. Jack, meet Tim McGee. He has chosen to side with Team DiNozzo over Team NCIS. So, try and be nice.”

“And how do we know he isn’t a spy?” Jack inquired narrowing his eyes at McGee who fidgeted nervously.

“Well, it was a spur of the moment invitation for one,” Tony admitted with a smile as he bumped his shoulder against Jack’s when the older man stepped forward to stand next to him.

“Secondly, because I know for a fact that his girlfriend, who is hands down the better half in that pairing, will neuter him if he isn’t on the up and up. She told me so herself. Are you still afraid of dogs, Tim? I know you used to be afraid of them, but I wasn’t sure how active it was after your brief ownership of Jethro. We can send the boys out into the back yard, if needed.”

“You texted Delilah!” McGee screeched, and Tony offered a smile that was miles away from friendly. “How do you even know about her? You know what, nevermind. Of course, you know. You’re worse than Gibbs that way.”

“I did McUntrustworthy,” Tony verified as he let himself lean against Jack for a moment. “I had something I needed to know, and of course I know about Delilah. Everyone I talked to says you’re totally dating outside of your class, by the way. Anywho, I had an offer of possible future employment if you will that I needed her to start considering asap. She volunteered on her own the snip-snip promise. So, be a good boy or I’ll have to start calling you McEunuch. Jack, let’s take this into the study. I assume that’s where Tom and George are? I’m not sure how much time we have to spare. Tim? The dogs?”

“No, I’ll,” Tim started, and Tony could see him straighten his back then kneel down to hold out a hand to be sniffed. Giving a silent command, Tony watched the two dogs to sniff McGee then give happy licks of greetings before wandering away. When the younger man stood and gave a shrug, Tony just lifted an eyebrow in silent question.

“They still aren’t my favorite things, but I’m not as afraid anymore,” Tim explained running a hand over the back of his hair. “After I found a new home for Jethro, I decided to see someone about it. I’m sorry if I’m being a jerk. I just… I’m sorry. Homer is an interesting name. Do you like Ancient Greek literature, Jack?”

“Nope, the Simpsons,” Jack replied, and Tony couldn’t help but snicker at Tim’s facial expression guessing he was most likely looking for a response that wouldn’t be completely insulting.

Deciding to step in and save his Probie from himself, Tony clapped his hands together to get everyone’s attention. Knowing he needed to address McGee’s almost confession of being uncomfortable and off foot, he started there. He was well aware of Tim’s strengths and weaknesses.

Surprises were definitely not something McGee handled well. “I’m aware you don’t like surprises, McGee. Just don’t be a jerk intentionally, and we’ll give you some leeway. OK then, Magnum, Homer, come! Jack let’s get this show on the road. Time that we don’t have is wasting away.”

Fortunately, Jack understood time sensitivity, and with only one last glare at Tim, turned and led the way back to the room he’d come from. Tony waived McGee ahead of him not wanting to give the younger man the chance to “accidentally” get lost and start snooping.

Once they reached the study, and another round of greetings was offered, the five men sat down. Tim obviously knew Tom Morrow but had never met the new Secretary of Defense to his knowledge. He knew that Admiral John McGee had been up for the position before his cancer was discovered. Tony hoped that there wasn’t going to be any issues there.

Tony knew that McGee and his father hadn’t been close in the past. He also knew though that since Adm. McGee revealed his health problems the two had been working on their relationships. Despite his own horrible relationship with Senior, or maybe because of it, Tony didn’t begrudge his Probie the chance at all. In fact, he hoped that the two men were able to find peace between them before the older man died.

After the introductions were done, and everyone had settled again, with the dogs laying down near Tony and Jack, Tony gave Morrow, Hammond, and Jack a rundown on what was going on at NCIS. Tony was well past the point where he was worried about what Jack was and wasn’t supposed to know about the goings on at NCIS. He figured that if SecDef didn’t think Jack should know he’d stop him. Plus, with what he knew would be coming, Tony needed his partner’s sharp mind to get them all out of his mess Ziva was dragging the agency into.

“Jesus, what damned kind of mess has Hayes gotten me into?” Hammond grumbled and Morrow just snorted before taking a sip of his whiskey. Lt. Gen. George Hammond was a recent appointment, after the previous SecDef was forced to step down due to health issues. Jack told Tony one night as they were talking in bed that it might be the first time ever in DC that health issues wasn’t code for something else.

While Tony didn’t know Hammond anywhere close to as well as Jack did, he knew how much his partner respected the man, and therefore was confident that the SecDef’s presence was just another sign the universe had decided to smile down upon him favorably for once.

He briefly kicked himself mentally for not thinking about having Jack call Hammond when he’d asked him to contact Morrow. To be fair though, Tony knew Tom much better, and had no doubts that he could trust the older man to have his back in this. The Lt. General’s presence was just the cherry on top of the crap sundae he was being forced to consume.

A part of him wished that there had been time to fill Jack in first. He ached to know what his partner’s thoughts were without the filter that would be there with the mixed company present.

Maybe if it had just been Hammond and Morrow, he would have stood a chance at getting Jack’s uncensored thoughts right off. However, he knew that despite the clueless routine that the older man liked to pull, he knew how to play the game. Therefore, he would never give his uncensored opinion with someone present that Jack didn’t know he could trust implicitly. So, Tony would have to wait till later that evening after everyone had left to find out everything the other man was thinking.

“Is there any chance that this woman will follow orders and leave Ilan Bodnar alive?” Hammond asked, and while Jack’s snort of disbelief was probably enough to tell the SecDef what he was thinking. Tony thought actual words were probably needed.

“Not a chance, in my opinion, sir,” Tony offered, and Hammond gave a nod sitting quietly for a moment or two before speaking.

“Call me George when we’re here in Private, son,” SecDef requested and while his eyes flicked to McGee, Tony noticed the request did not include him. A fact that he both found amusing and hoped that Tim caught. “I know that my area of focus the last decade or so has not been on the Middle East, but I recall the Director of Mossad who was recently killed was Eli David, correct? Are they any relation?”

“Yes, Ziva is his daughter, sir,” Tim rushed to confirm, and if he was disappointed when no offer for him to call the Lt. General by his first name was not offered, the younger man at least hid it well. Something Tony gave him silent kudos for.

“She worked for Mossad before joining NCIS. In fact, she was a liaison for Mossad with NCIS for several years before joining us as an agent about four years ago. She… Sir, I don’t think Tony will be safe once Ziva realizes that he’s not going to Germany. She’s bragged more times than I can count how easily she can kill. I just…”

When Tim just trailed off and shook his head looking a little lost, Tony had to hold himself back from commenting. This wasn’t the bullpen and he wasn’t the second highest ranking agent in the room. Here, he was just small potatoes. He supposed that it should be comforting that at least Tim was a lower rank than him, but it didn’t. It just made him feel protective and he was too annoyed to be happy at the protectiveness.

“Are you Adm. McGee’s son?” Hammond asked, and when Tim nodded his confirmation, the SecDef continued. “He’s a good man. Tony stated earlier that you assisted Ms. David in helping determine that Bodnar was in Germany. How can we know that we can trust you? Surely you knew that what you were doing was illegal.”

Tony shifted his eyes from Hammond to Tim and back until he felt Jack’s hand squeeze his comfortingly, and Tony let out his breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding. When Magnum sat up and rested his big head on Tony’s knee, he moved a hand to scratch behind the dog’s ear as he looked back to his probie and waited for the answer.

“I messed up, sir,” Tim admitted finally, and Tony felt himself relax slightly at the admission.

“I wanted to help her, and I suppose I was just excited to be included for once. I know it should have occurred to me that what we were doing was wrong, and I guess it did. It was just… Ziva was my friend, or I thought she was, and she was upset. Her reasoning was logical, and I suppose I just didn’t think about the reasons why I shouldn’t until Tony found us and yelled at us. If I was going to defend myself, I suppose I’d lean on the fact that Gibbs has me do stuff all the time that isn’t quite legal. So, I guess I got lax and stopped thinking about stuff like that. I mean, until Tony pointed out how stupid we were and then… Well I guess all I’ve done since is thinking.”

“And do you think that Ms. David will bring back Ilan Bodnar alive?” Hammond pressed and Tim quickly shook his head no.

“There’s no way. If Ziva makes it to Germany, then Bodnar is a dead man. Whether he is guilty, whether he has co-conspirators, whether innocent people will get hurt none of it will matter to her.”

“And why are you here, Special Agent McGee?” Morrow asked speaking for the first time, and Tony flicked his gaze to the older man’s face. Unfortunately, Morrow had always been one of those people that Tony found nearly impossible to read, and this time was no different.

“Because I fucked up, and I want to try and make it right,” Tim confessed quietly. Tony was surprised when Homer got up and moved to sit next to Tim’s chair. Usually the husky was as distrustful as his master, but then he was also a helluva good judge of character. So, maybe it said something. “Tony told me to choose between him and NCIS, and well… I’ve come to realize that I owe him a lot. I owe him more than my actions have shown lately. Ziva messes with my head both figuratively and literally.

“It isn’t an excuse, I know. I just… it’s what I have. So, Tony told me to choose and I picked Team DiNozzo, sir. It seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, Delilah, my girlfriend, really likes Tony and says that I should listen to him more. I think she probably has her head on straighter than I do right now. So, I’m taking her advice and hoping that Tony is willing to keep teaching me.”

This time when Tony shifted his gaze, it was towards the fire, and concentrated only on how Jack’s weight, as he leaned against Tony, was the one thing holding him together right then.

Not long after McGee’s confession, Tony found himself in the kitchen helping Jack get the steaks ready for the grill as he very much tried not to think about what was going on in Jack’s study. Morrow had politely asked Jack if he would mind letting himself and Hammond speak to Special Agent McGee alone. Tony was really glad that they’d asked Jack’s permission not his own, because Tony was honest to God not sure how he would have answered. Things were too unsettled at the moment, and Tony couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to protect Tim or throw him to the wolves.

“He’ll be fine, Tony,” Jack said quietly from where he was perched at the island. Tony startled slightly, looking up from the steaks he was taking out of the marinade, not having heard his partner come back in from starting up the grill. “I’d ask if you were sure about him, but your bringing him here says it all, I’d say.”

“Are you mad?” Tony asked softly as he took the last steak out and patted it dry before putting it on the platter to go outside. “I probably should have asked if I could bring him here…”

“This is your home too, Tony,” Jack scolded gently, and Tony just nodded without speaking.  “Maybe one of the good things to come out of this will be you moving in here for good and we can quit this split life thing.”

Tony tilted his head to one side but let himself smile as he let himself enjoy looking at Jack. “I think that I’d like that. We need to find room for my mom’s piano, but, yeah, I’d like that. You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’m pissed as hell, and part of it is at the little computer geek in the other room,” Jack admitted letting his frustration show. “It has nothing to do with you bringing him here though, and everything to do with him letting you down, again.”

“Yeah, I guess I should be used to it by now,” Tony admitted with a soft sigh. “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking, except that I was losing everything else that I’d built at NCIS. I didn’t want it to be a complete waste of time, and Tim… Hell, I don’t know what to think about Tim. A part of me wants to run in there right now and protect him from them, because Morrow and Hammond aren’t just sharks, they’re megalodons. The other part of me wants to watch them devour him or drop him into a deep dark hole. Mostly, I just want it to all be over so I can figure out what comes next.”

“How would you feel if that thing that came next involved all the things that I haven’t been able to tell you over the years?” Jack asked and Tony bit his lip to prevent himself from releasing an immediate hell yes.

Tony originally met Jack in college at one of OSU’s Solute to Service events while he was still playing football. Jack had been in the area for about a month while on downtime after an injury, which left the two plenty of time for a brief affair. When Jack had to go back to his life though, Tony hadn’t been completely able to let go, and convinced the Air Force Captain to let him write now and then.

Since then, they’d communicated throughout some of the worst points of each of their lives, including the death of Jack’s son Charlie, the end of his marriage, Tony’s career ending football injury, and his bout with the plague. Through it all, Tony’s attraction to the older man had remained a steady burn in his blood that he could never quite put out. Tony supposed that it was why none of his other attempts at a relationship had worked. So, when Jack announced that he’d taken a promotion that would see him in DC permanently, Tony gave into the inevitable.

It wasn’t an easy road. Not with the two of them having to keep secrets from the other constantly because of their jobs. But maybe the fact that they both had secrets to keep was why it was easier this time than when Tony had been the only one with things he couldn’t share. Still, Tony had been hesitant to expose his relationship to his coworkers, and given the current circumstances, he wondered just how long he subconsciously hadn’t trusted the people around him.

“You’re also going to need a bigger closet because I am not getting rid of any of my suits for you,” Tony added and was happy when Jack just gave a snort of pleasure with maybe just a small eye roll. Letting himself feel the full smile that spread his own lips, Tony moved around the island to steal another kiss from his partner, before moving to get the things he needed from the fridge. When Jack shifted the conversation to the hockey game that he’d watched the previous night, Tony listened and inserted a question here and there letting the stress of the day melt away.

It was a relatively nice evening for late April in DC, so they’d decided to eat out on the back deck. Afterwards, the cigars were brought out so that all but Tony could indulge. Seats were rearranged slightly so that he was sitting upwind of everyone, and when things were situated again, the conversation turned back to business.

“In the morning, Special Agent McGee, you will need to be at the Pentagon at 9AM,” Hammond began with his sight locked on Tim. “There are some serious questions I want answered before I am willing to make a decision on what to do about your actions. We also will be looking at your security clearance. We have an issue that Jack believes Special Agent DiNozzo will be perfect for.

“Tom believes that you can be reigned in if you’re put with the correct people. I’m not fully convinced yet, but I am willing to be persuaded. Tomorrow will determine if we let you assist Special Agent DiNozzo with his upcoming assignment or if I drop you in a hole somewhere. I can promise you that if I tell someone it was necessary there’s no one including the President who will question me.”

“Tony,” Tom started drawing everyone’s attention after Tim finished stammering his understanding of the order. “You know that I’ve been trying to get you to come onboard with me at Homeland since I left. Something has come up that I need your help with. The timing is a little coincidental, but I assure you that this offer would have been made even if this evening’s events at NCIS hadn’t happened. A situation came up last Thursday evening, and we’ve come to realize that Jack’s… department doesn’t have anyone qualified to investigate the situation.”

The wording seemed normal enough, but the pause between Jack’s and department told Tony that there was more than what was being said. Tony knew that Jack was a Big Damned Hero, capitol letters and all. Just like he suspected that whatever his partner did it was a little more serious than chasing your everyday terrorist. What exactly it was, Tony didn’t know, but a not so small part of him had always hated the idea that Jack was off somewhere that Tony couldn’t be. So, it wasn’t exactly unwelcomed that just maybe Tony’s career and Jack’s could finally intersect.

Tony watched gazes connect around the table and nods being given before Jack turned to look at him. “Sam’s dead,” he said softly, and Tony forgot to breathe for a moment.

“Jesus, Jack,” Tony whispered before standing and wrapping his arms around Jack’s shoulders. He hadn’t met many of his partners friends, mostly because it seemed that a large portion of them apparently worked for him. Of the ones that he’d met, Daniel Jackson was the one that Tony knew the best. The archaeologist had spent many a night in one of the guestrooms and loved to indulge Tony’s interest in Ancient Greece and Greek mythology.

Tony only met Colonel Samantha Carter a few times. Most of them were because she was in town for some Air Force event that she needed to attend. Even if Jack hadn’t already confessed that there had been an attraction between himself and Sam that might have become something if it weren’t for Tony, the NCIS agent would have known within minutes of meeting Col. Carter. For starters, she didn’t hide her feelings about Tony very well.

There was an air of jealousy to her standoffishness that screamed “you took my man” to him. There was also the way that she interacted with Jack both when she knew Tony was there and also when she didn’t. Tony had never been worried about Jack’s faithfulness. Once they got together, it was forever. He also didn’t get the vibe off Sam that she was trying to do something shady like lure Jack away. Tony understood the complications of feelings, even those that you knew were unreturned. He’d always hoped that Carter would find someone who would love her as much as she deserved. It made him sad that she’d never get the chance.

When Jack stood and shoved his chair away before storming out into the back yard, Tony waited only long enough to make his thoughts clear to Morrow. “Whatever it is, I accept. Whatever you need me to do to investigate this make it happen. I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign. Just… make it happen, Tom. Please?”

“Plan on going in with Jack tomorrow,” Morrow ordered not looking the slightest bit surprised. “Paul will have you sign all the necessary paperwork, and then we’ll get you caught up on the situation. Tell Jack I said if he needs time, I’m still willing to give it to him.”

Tony nodded and then hurried off after Jack. Whatever had happened could wait till morning. Jack needed him more right then than they did.

Tony expected that when he found Jack, the older man would be sitting on the dock hanging over the pond at the back of their property. His partner had argued like hell to get a home with water access. There had been a gorgeous estate that backed up to the Potomac River. It had been a little big for what the two of them needed, but Jack had fallen in love with it.

The access to the river had been both a large reason why he wanted the property so bad and why he hadn’t been able to buy it. The water access had been determined to be a huge security risk that no one felt like they could properly guard. So, Jack hadn’t gotten the house. When this house had come up for sale, Jack insisted on it even before seeing it. It was really a whole lot more land than they needed at just over 10 acres, but the pond was well stocked with fish. There was no way that Jack was backing down and, in the end, got the house that was probably actually perfect for him.

Tony found it amusing that as much as Jack loved water, he’d gone into the Air Force instead of the Navy. There was a widow’s peak on top of the house that just happened to be the perfect size for Jack’s telescope and some chairs though and Tony knew that the one thing that Jack loved more than fishing was looking at the stars.

When he reached the pond, Tony found Jack exactly where he’d expected to see him, and quietly sat down next to him, curling his feet up underneath himself as he waited for Jack to start speaking.

“I need you on this,” Jack said with a voice husky enough that Tony wondered if his partner had been crying while they were apart. Sitting down next to his partner close enough that their shoulders touched, Tony curled his fingers with Jack’s and just listened.

“They won’t let me work this. I tried. I fucking threw every card I have at them, and repeatedly they told me no. So, I need you on this because I need someone I know and trust to find who killed her.”

“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, Jack, but you shouldn’t be working this case. Not just because you are way too close to this to be objective. Hunting down the killer of someone you loved is exactly the situation that I just left, and how’s that going for Leon Vance? You also don’t have the training to conduct a proper investigation into who killed her and put them in prison. While I know you have killed people, there’s no way you could go after the person who did this and settle for a life behind bars. Killing in a battle type situation is completely different than killing for revenge, and I don’t want to see you cross that line.”

“If it was just Hammond, he would have let me go after whoever did this,” Jack snapped angrily, and Tony almost sighed, but held it in. “It’s that fucking Morrow who’s being difficult. I already know who killed her. I don’t fucking need an investigation to tell me. Not to mention, if I am right about who it is, that person isn’t going to prison. It will make more sense to you tomorrow, but trust me when I say if I’m right, this person’s life expectancy is counting down in days not years. So, you need to make sure you can handle that.”

“And comments like that are exactly why you can’t be involved, Jack!” Tony bit back and then took a deep breath to calm himself down. The timing of this whole thing sucked, and Jack deserved more than to have Tony take his frustrations over NCIS out on him when he was probably drowning in guilt and grief over Sam.

“Morrow, unlike Hammond who is as emotionally compromised right now as you are, has led an investigative agency. He knows what he’s talking about, and he knows that you being involved in this in any way will get this thrown out of court before we even have a chance to put this scumbag behind bars. You say you know who killed her, but do you know this for a fact or is this some kind of gut thing. Because if you had actual evidence none of you would need me, and the second part of that gets innocent people convicted or turns you into Gibbs. I’ve already told Morrow to do whatever he needed to get me on this case. I’m going to find out who actually did this. I’m going to do my best to put whomever is responsible behind bars for the rest of their life.

“I know you’re upset. Hell, I’ve been where you are. When Ari killed Kate, I wanted blood, and trust me when I say Gibbs was onboard with that. The thing is though that everything just became worse chasing the man who killed her, and I think Morrow and Shepard allowing it is one of the points where Gibbs turned from a good agent who sometimes bent the rules to a bully who did whatever the hell he pleased because he knew he could get away with it. I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening to you.

“As for the last part, I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to comment on that when I have a full idea of what’s happening. I can assure you though that while I’ve never been involved in it before I understand there are times when the checks and balances of justice are a little murkier. I get the concept that some people are too dangerous or know too much to put in prison, even if it was a high security prison. That being said, I still want a full investigation done. If there’s a chance that we’re going straight from what the evidence says to you’re dead, I will insist on it even more. The bottom line here is that I’m not willing to compromise anymore or look the other way when I suspect things aren’t on the up and up. Look  where that’s gotten me.”

Jack didn’t immediately respond, and when the older man turned his gaze away from the pond to look at him, Tony calmly looked back trying to convey all the love and understanding he had in him over what Jack was going through. He genuinely understood where Jack was at mentally, and he hated that his love had to go through this. No matter what else happened in the investigation, Tony swore to himself that he would find the answer to who killed Sam. Even if he had to spend the rest of his life looking.

“I hate Gibbs,” Jack offered and Tony being aware of this just nodded his understanding. “I sure as fuck don’t want to be anything like that asshat. I kinda forgot about Kate for a moment and the fact that Morrow’s dealt with a situation very much like this before. I think as long as I know you’re heading up this thing then I will do my best to stay out of it. I trust you. I just don’t trust a stranger to understand not just what Sam meant to me, but what she meant to all of SGC and frankly the planet, too. It’s more than a suspicion about who did it. I just can’t say anything more right now. I trust you. Hell, you may be one of the few people in the world I do trust with this.”

“I take back what I said earlier, you definitely had the worse day,” Tony admitted and when Jack snorted, Tony felt relieved. He hoped it meant that they were past Jack’s frustration. Tony hated when they fought, even if it was just bickering. It was probably a product of his childhood and all the fights he had to endure between Senior and his mom, but Tony hated it when he and Jack were at odds. Fortunately, the two of them were pretty harmonious and full-blown screaming arguments didn’t happen often.

“Your day was absolutely the worst, Sam died like almost a week ago. I had the worse day then; you just didn’t know it. We didn’t even talk that day. Selfishly, I am really glad that I can finally tell you everything now. While I trust Paul and the rest of the other people around me, you have the ability to see things from a different perspective. There ‘re times when I really wish I could get your opinion on things, and now I can. Hammond is making sure that your new security clearance is one so that we can discuss everything. I don’t like the secrets between us.”

“Yeah,” Tony breathed and leaned harder against Jack. When his partner wrapped an arm around his shoulders Tony sighed happily and looked out at the forest beyond the pond. The morning would start his new life, and even though he hated how things were ending with NCIS, he was ecstatic over the possibilities of things to come from his future.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Spencer pulled his Amazon up outside the house that Morgan was finishing up. After turning the engine off, he sat and considered the last few months since he and Derek quit the FBI. After leaving the conference room, Spencer headed to his desk to gather some personal items that he didn’t want to lose. Then, he stopped in Derek’s office to see his friend brooding angrily behind his desk. After advising his best friend what his intentions were, Spencer then headed up to Assistant Director John Evan’s office with a somewhat confused Derek trailing after him.

Spencer was aware that Derek was confused by the decision to go to the AD. His friend obviously didn’t know that Spencer had a personal connection with the man who also held a role as his Sponsor. So, because of that fact, the meeting with AD Evans was an eye opener for Derek. John had been much more open to Spencer’s complaints and concerns than Morgan expected. When Spencer laid out what he was going to do in Derek’s office, Morgan was sceptical that the AD would either listen or care.

Not only had AD Evans listened, but he’d taken Spencer’s complaints about Strauss seriously. Then, when he gave the AD his resignation, John was openly disappointed but understanding. Afterwards the two had a late lunch, and it was Spencer’s turn to be surprised when Derek accepted that the older man had helped him out over the years, but Spencer couldn’t go into more detail about it.

When Aaron found out that they’d both quit he hadn’t been happy but like Evans had been supportive and in the end he’d decided that maybe it was time he looked for something new himself. Thanks to an inheritance that he’d been sitting on from his mother’s estate, Hotch didn’t have to work, and had plenty of time to wait for the right thing to come along.

Getting over Maeve’s death had been harder than anything Reid had done before, and Spencer had talked to both Hotch and a therapist to get his head back in order. Lately though, the genus had been itching to get back to work, so when Tom Morrow called with a job offer, Spencer had quickly advised that he’d listen as long as Derek was included. The two were to be meeting Morrow at the Pentagon for some reason that Spencer was unclear of, and thought he should touch base with Derek before then. While they’d talked quite a bit since they’d both quit, this decision had been made by them each separately.

Derek had told him to just come in when he’d texted the address. So, when Spencer reached the front door, he went inside and after calling out to Derek followed the sound of his voice to the kitchen. “When do the floors go in?”

Derek looked to be putting in the backsplash tiles, but he turned to flash his friend a grin before he turned back to what he was doing. “Next week. I got the painting done early, and thought I’d start on the backsplash since I have time.”

“This is going to look amazing when it’s done,” Spencer observed as he wandered around the kitchen and living room area that had an open concept to it.

“Yeah, I’m seriously thinking of keeping it for myself and moving,” Derek replied as he fit another tile into the pattern on the wall. “I think I need something new. Ya know, a new home to go with the new job and all that.”

“That sounds awesome,” Spencer offered as he moved forward closer to examine what Derek was doing. “I’m thinking of moving myself. Too many people from the FBI know where I live, and I’d like some of them not to. About the job part though, have you decided if you want to keep doing this or are you interested in another law enforcement job? I have a meeting tomorrow about a potential position, and they’re interested in having you on the team as well.”

Derek finished tiling what he had started before turning to rest his back against the counter and give Spencer his full attention. “I dunno, man. I’ll be honest in that I have been enjoying not having to get into the heads of scumbags all the time. Who is the job with? What would we be doing?”

“We would be moving over to Homeland Security. I don’t know exactly what the position is except that we would be reporting directly to Director Morrow. He’s been trying to recruit me for a while. I guess they have a pretty serious case that they need some help with and would prefer it not fall to the FBI. I don’t quite understand how they can stop that but I said that I’d listen. He said that they have someone else though that they’re eyeballing for one of the leadership spots. So, I don’t know how you feel about that. I just… I feel like I cost you your job and I wanted to make up for it if you’re interested.”

“OK, hold up, Pretty Boy. Stop that nonsense right now. You didn’t cost me anything. Erin Strauss cost me my job when she thought she’d tear up our team while you were grieving and Hotch was struggling with his own memories. I’ll be honest, a little time away has given me some perspective, and I’m not sure I want to lead anything. I mean it sounds great, until you find out all the paperwork and political stuff that comes with it. That part just ain’t me. So, the leadership part I wouldn’t care about. I don’t know much about Homeland though. Don’t they mostly chase terrorists?”

Spencer listened to Derek and nodded occasionally as Derek made a statement that he agreed with. The question about Homeland was one he’d asked himself not sure that he wanted to go from chasing serial killers and the like to terrorists. It sounded like it would be more stress not less, and Spencer wasn’t sure he was up for a more stressful job.

“I had the same hesitation, but Director Morrow says that it’s not what we’d expect, but he couldn’t go into detail without us signing some Non Disclosure Agreements and stuff. So, if we’re interested, he said we should meet him at General Jack O’Neill’s office over at the Pentagon tomorrow morning. I don’t quite understand how this General is involved, but I think I would at least like to hear what they have to say.”

“Alright, Pretty Boy, I’m in,” Derek agreed and then turned back to what he’d been doing. “How are you doing otherwise? I’ve been tryin’ to give you your space. I know Hotch has been comin’ over. He’s been checking on me, too.”

Spencer frowned at the question and tried to ignore the surge of pain as he thought about Maeve. “I don’t know anymore, I think. I’ve been seeing the doctor that Hotch went to after Haley died. The thing that he made me realize is that the relationship with Maeve maybe wasn’t what I’d made it out to be in my head. Even if she hadn’t died, I don’t know what would have happened. I mean, I cared for her, but she’d spent years in hiding, and would have needed time to become comfortable with not having to do that anymore before jumping into a relationship.

“And, while I know plenty of people these days have relationships online before they ever meet, our relationship wasn’t even that. It wasn’t like I could just text her anytime I wanted. I could only call at certain times and there was always this air of danger in it that clouded things, I think. The further I get away from it, the more I don’t know if I was in love with her or the potential for what she represented. I do know though that I want something real now. I want someone in my life. I just haven’t figured out how to accomplish that. Can I… I need to ask you something.”

“OK,” Derek acknowledged and looked over his shoulder at his friend. “Can I work and listen too? I’m not in a spot that I can stop right now.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. It’s just… When I met… I’m not as innocent as you all think I am. It’s just that you all focus on the wrong gender or maybe not wrong just that you only focus on one gender. I have almost no experience with girls, but I mean, I had a boyfriend when I met Gideon. It wasn’t like forever serious, and we both knew that at some point our paths would go separate ways. He was older than me and was starting his own business.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone this before, Spencer?” Derek asked having abandoned his tile work having decided the conversation was more important. “Do you think any of us would care?”

“Gideon said you would!” Spencer defended himself, and then took a deep breath to calm himself when Derek just watched him. “Gideon said that if I wanted to be part of the FBI that I’d have to hide that part of myself. I mean, I consider myself pansexual and gender doesn’t really make a difference to me. It’s just that all of my past experience has been with men. I didn’t…

“At first, I didn’t know any better and I went along with it because I was young and foolish and thought Gideon hung the moon and the stars. Then, by the time I figured things out, I didn’t know how to say anything, and there hasn’t been a situation come up where I needed to tell the truth. So, I’ve just been keeping it to myself. Lately though… Well my relationship I had in college came up in counseling and ever since then I haven’t been able to stop thinking that maybe I made a wrong choice somewhere along the way.”

Spencer watched the anger flash across Derek’s face and he worried that his friend was upset that he’d kept his sexual preferences a secret for so long. Fortunately, when Morgan did speak, his first words made clear that it wasn’t Reid he was upset with.

“The more distance we get from Gideon the more I hate that motherfucker. Man, I hated the way he messed with your head, and this just takes the fuckin’ cake. What a goddamned hypocrite. I probably shouldn’t be talking out of school, but it feels now like you should know. Did you know that Jason and Max had a fling? Rossi told me one night when we ended up at the same jazz club. Apparently, it could even have been part of why Jason and his wife got divorced. Dave thinks they may have even been messing around while they were both married. That fuckin’ bastard.

“To be clear, I don’t care what gender your sexual partner is, Spencer. All I care about is that they make you happy. While I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I would be really shocked if anyone else on the old team cared either. I don’t like the thought of you hiding things like that to try and fit in. It’s bullshit. You’ve had to hide enough in your life. I’m not sayin’ you should drape yourself in a gay pride flag everyday if that ain’t your thing. I’m just saying that you should be able to be you. If we take this new gig, then I want you to promise me that you won’t hide that part of yourself if something comes up.”

“OK,” Spencer agreed and flushed happily as Derek crossed the room and pulled him into his arms.

“Hotch and I just want you to fuckin’ be happy, Spencer, and if a guy is it then a guy it is. Fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. I’m happy to kick their asses any time any place if they fuck with you.”

Spencer snorted as Derek pulled back and tucked a lock of hair behind his ear. “My own personal bodyguard. I promise though. I won’t hide if I find a guy that I am interested in. It would be nice not to hide to be honest. I hated having to keep that part of myself a secret from you all. You aren’t the only one who thinks that we’re better off without him the longer Gideon is out of our lives. I don’t want to think about him anymore though. Do you need help? I mean, I don’t know much about what you’re doing, but I’ll help if I can.”

“Yeah, man, that’d be great. Le’me show you what I’m doing.” Spencer moved over to the counter with Derek and for the rest of the afternoon talked nonsense with his friend trying not to think about either his future or his past.

 

Next Chapter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s