The below work is an offering for Evil Author Day 2020. These stories are incomplete, and very much rough drafts. There will be spelling errors, missing commas, bad grammar, incomplete thoughts, and plot holes to name only a few issues. There is NO guarantee any of them will be finished, or that the finished product won’t undergo massive changes. Do NOT bug for more, beg for details, or any other such nonsense, please and thank you.
Pairing: Tony DiNozzo/Duke Crocker, Logan/Scott Summers/Remy Lebeau
Warnings: NCIS Canon Divergence Post 7 x 01 for NCIS. I am mostly ignoring Haven canon and making Duke a Mutant instead of Troubled. Anti-Ziva. Character Death. Mutants Are Known & Accepted. Violence. Death By Mauling. Permanent Disfigurement. Mental Manipulation by Mutant/Mind Rape. Anti-Vance.
Note: I’m including this in EAD because I don’t know that it will ever be worked on again, but it was a NANO challenge fic in Rough Trade and I wanted what I have done somewhere. There are several OCs in this fic of my creation to make additional Paddingtons than what are mentioned in NCIS canon.
Summary: When Tony DiNozzo went to avenge Ziva’s death he wasn’t worried. Gibbs and McGee would be there, and his partner Duke Crocker, a registered mutant, knew where he was going. What Tony didn’t plan for was Director Vance conspiring with Eli David to get information they believed Tony had using a Mossad agent masquerading as the terrorist and a homemade truth serum. It’s too bad that the not so good Director didn’t read all of his agent’s file. Especially when a grumpy mutant from the Paddington line gets involved… claws extended with his super-secret mutant intelligence agency behind him.
Tony was sitting in a terrorist cell camp in Somalia tied to a chair with a grinning dirtbag in front of him holding a now empty needle in his hand. The idea to avenge Ziva’s death had been at least initially Tony’s mostly. It hadn’t had anything to do with the attraction that the Mossad agent thought he had for her. After all, it was well known amongst the team and anyone in the building who knew him that Tony had a long-term partner.
Ziva though always acted like his relationship with Duke was some kind of gag. He wasn’t sure if it was because of something she saw lacking in him, or something she seriously overestimated in herself. Either way, the mission he’d pushed had nothing to do with any attraction and everything to do with his loyalty to his team, even when they were assholes. Finding out she had been killed was a blow when he knew that she never wanted to be left behind in Israel.
Unfortunately, even if the fiasco with Rivkin hadn’t happened, she would have been sent packing eventually. The information she stole from NCIS and sent back to Mossad insured that. Ziva’s loyalty was very firmly to herself first, her father second, and Mossad third. Nothing else beyond those things mattered to her. Briefly, he let his mind puzzle over the notion of Michael Rivkin and wondered where he fell into that whole ball of wax, but before he could get too in depth, a slap to his face brought him back to his current reality.
Homemade Truth Serum.
It was that last item that was making him more worried than he would be normally.
When the idea was finalized, and Tony along with Tim ended up playing the rolls of kidnapping victims, the SFA hadn’t been worried about his own safety at all. In the handful of weeks since Ziva’s exit things between Tony and his Probie had improved mightily. Actually, things had begun to get better before that when Tony looked back on those weeks. Once he realized something had changed, the signs were sudden enough that he’d asked Duke if he had something to do with it.
All he got was a grin. Tony knew what that meant though.
Duke Crocker. Love of Tony’s life. Self-proclaimed purveyor of goods for the right price. Able to slip into and out of just about any port with his harmless appearing girl aka his boat called Cape Rouge. Irreverent. A man who tells it like it is no matter the consequences. Smarter than he’d like people to know, and ditto on the size of his heart. Mutant.
That last one was the item Duke hid the most. Not because he was ashamed of who or what he was. Fuck, no. Duck had no cares what anyone thought of him. He just liked to blend into places that mutants weren’t supposed to go into. So, his mutation was something he kept well hidden, and since it was basically a mental ability that could only affect other mutants, it was easily done. In the world they lived in that was a good thing.
Mutants were common enough that most were accepted. There were laws protecting mutant rights just as any other class of people. The younger generations were certainly much more open and accepting of them. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that the percentage of mutants to humans grew with every generation. It wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever was. There were still assholes who hated mutants as much as they hated women or anyone who wasn’t a white male. Fortunately, the backlash against those that hated mutants was as strong as any other prejudice. Still, there were those that kept their mutations to themselves for a variety of reasons.
It took Tony awhile, but eventually he came to realize that Duke’s reasoning had very little to do with wanting to blend in and more to do with what he did for a living… And, it wasn’t smuggling goods in and out of whatever harbor he called his home base at that time.
Tony met Duke not long after the then cop moved to Baltimore. He’d just started in the detective division and was seeking a release of his frustrations in a cold beer and a good college game. Instead he found a grin that screamed trouble, and the life partner Tony never imagined he’d be allowed. At the time, Tony chose to overlook his new boyfriend’s chosen profession as he waited to see if there was anything with this him and Duke thing. By the time that Tony realized he was completely hooked, he’d begun to suspect that Duke did as much undercover work as Tony did.
It was not long after that he’d been lured to NCIS by a grumpy ex-Marine that the Long Island native heard whispers about a secret mutant intelligence agency.
The second a suspicion formed into a real possibility though, Tony locked it all up into a steel box in his head and threw away they key. One thing he understood was undercover work, and if Duke wanted Tony to believe that he was a smuggler then there was a good reason for it. The other thing Tony understood was secrecy and confidentiality. If there was a chance that his life partner did work for this super-secret mutant organization and didn’t want Tony to know, then Tony really did not want to accidentally out him by having someone peek in on his thoughts.
If something changed that made that knowledge necessary, then the SFA could revisit the issue in his head then. After all, it was his lock on his box, and he could destroy it at any time. He refused though to put his boyfriend in danger because some unknown mutant got into his head and saw a suspicion.
What Tony was allowed to know though was Duke’s mutant powers. That was simply a matter of safety and common sense between two people who had committed themselves together in every way short of marriage, which was more Tony’s doing than Duke’s. Once the two of them decided that they were it for each other, Duke sat Tony down and had a talk with him about his mutant abilities.
Basically, Duke had the ability to permanently take any mutant’s ability from them, and could give any ability to any person who had a mutant gene, whether it was active or not. From the very careful and extremely discrete inquiries Tony made, it was an incredibly rare ability that a lot of groups, countries, and people would love to control. This enforced for Tony Duke’s reason for keeping his mutant status to himself whenever possible.
Because of their dynamic, Tony’s immediate team plus Ducky, and Jimmy Palmer knew. The NCIS agent hadn’t ever told Ziva himself, but somehow, she’d had that knowledge when she joined the team. Because of federal laws and NCIS policy, it was part of Tony’s employee file that he had regular access to an online mutant. Also, because the Paddington line had mutants, Tony’s English relatives knew. In fact, Tony himself had an inactive mutant gene, but it was considered highly unlikely that he would ever come online. Despite this though, Tony was still careful as to what medicines he took, because even an inactive mutant gene could come online with some pharmaceutical sensitivities.
Kate had never known. She held a strong enough dislike for him based on what she called his immoral relationship. Abby didn’t know because she couldn’t keep a secret to save her life, and oddly enough Gibbs himself told him never to let her know. Morrow had known because Tony told him. He assumed that Jenny knew by they way she’d word things at times. The SFA assumed that Vance knew, but the man was good at keeping his thoughts to himself. So, Tony wasn’t completely sure. The inactive mutant status was also part of the classified portion of Tony’s file, but that didn’t mean the current Director ever read it. Leon had made quite a few assumptions before he’d even met most of the MCRT team and had moved off very few of those.
It was the odd gleam in the Director’s eye as he laid out the supposedly sanctioned plan that made Tony pause and seek out a backup security net for the Somalia mission. It was that backup that convinced Tony he was relatively safe all things considered. After all, if his partner was part of some super-secret mutant organization, then letting Duke know that Tony was going to allow himself to be captured and taken into a terrorist camp in Somalia and tortured, so they could shoot a motherfucker, seemed to be a good idea. Even if Tony was breaking confidentiality rules. Something that was more Gibbs’ schtick that Tony’s. So, he hadn’t been worried in the least.
Until the homemade truth serum.
Then Tony began to worry.
After all, hello! Pharmaceutical Sensitivities! The side effects weren’t just rashes and hives. Some drugs in the right combinations had been known to activate the mutant gene. After all, while 37 wasn’t over the hill just yet. Having unknown mutant abilities come online so late in life would be no picnic. It would also require changes to Tony’s life that the agent didn’t want to make. He was not just content, but happy with his life, at least most days. The team went through a point where they were pretty fractured after the coms fiasco during the Military at Home case. However, they’d somehow made their way through that. More importantly, once Ziva was gone, Tony and Tim were finally able to work out their issues and find common ground again.
Possibly thanks to Duke and his mutant ability giving capability.
So, there Tony sat, tired to a chair in a terrorist camp in Somalia waiting on Gibbs to shoot a motherfucker with an unknown drug racing through his veins. Since it felt like whatever the drug was had left a trail of lava and fire in it’s wake, Tony guessed that his inactive mutant gene was not so inactive anymore.
As he returned Saleem’s grin, Tony took a deep breath, noting the mass of scents that exceeded anything he had ever encountered before. Dropping his head, Tony let the terrorist pace and threw back at the jackass a ramble of what each team member brought to the table. Off to the side, Tony was glad that Tim was alive, and when he risked a glance, the younger man gave a startle, that almost made the veteran agent lose track of his ramble.
It wasn’t until Saleem drug Ziva over from where she’d supposedly been unwillingly watching that Tony understood what had caused the red alert alarm to go off in his head. The traitorous bitch’s smell was all over Saleem, and there was another smell that he was unsure how he knew was attraction on her part telling him there was nothing non-consensual about it. Unfortunately, biology took over just about then. As Tony watched his eyes transform from human to the yellow green of a tiger in the blade of the knife around Ziva’s throat, Tony knew that his next statement would be equally prophetic and ironic.
Looking up at Saleem, ignoring Ziva’s presence in front of him, Tony grinned as he felt the pain increase as the change from human to tiger overtake him.
“Monster,” Ziva breathed as she tried to scramble out of reach.
“I’m the wild card. I’m the guy who looks at the reality in front of him and refuses to accept it. Like right now I should be terrified, right? But I’m not. Because I just can’t stop thinking about the movie “True Mutant.” You know where Arnie’s a mutant in hiding, strapped to the chair, shot full of truth serum? Picks his cuffs, and kills everybody? You have 30 seconds to live, Saleem. Meow.”
Then, Tony stopped trying to cage the changes coursing through his body, and let nature take its course. He only hoped that tiger him could tell friend from foe. After all, he only wanted two dead bodies when all was said and done. He wasn’t quite done with his Probie just yet.
Gibbs stomped up the stairs and toward the Director’s office mumbling under his breath about incompetent assholes. Instead, he was still in DC instead of on a plane following Tony and Tim to Somalia. Now, because he had to find additional backup support just in case things went bad, he was out of contact with his boys. The two were essentially considered undercover the second they left the Navy Yard and had left with no way to contact anyone if things went South. It was up to Gibbs to make sure he was in place when he needed to be there and had support to get them out in place once things were finished.
It was a good thing that Vance was there, because Gibbs had been informed point blank that the cancelled order came from the Director’s office. The grumpy ex-Marine planned on making sure Leon knew what the hell he thought of his bullshit.
So focused on his irritation, he almost swept into the office like normal. Instead, he heard DiNozzo’s name come out of the Director’s lips, and stopped suddenly just shy of the Director’s eyesight. To be safe, he backed up a step to listen to whatever conversation the younger man was having.
“Yes, Eli, I am sure things will go off without a hitch. I have cancelled their backup and changed the paperwork so it looks like they went rogue. There will be no one to rescue them once your boy gets done with his job. Are you sure that no one knows that Saleem is really a Mossad plant? We cannot afford for Gibbs to sniff something out once he is over there.”
Gibbs’ eyes narrowed and his hand clenched tighter around the folder that he was carrying with the paperwork for the adjusted orders. Surely, he was not hearing what he thought that he was. “I am sure, my friend. There is no way that DiNozzo is an active mutant or has a mutant gene. I had his father’s DNA checked because the personnel files are not always accurate. His father does not have the mutant gene. While I know nothing about his mother because she died when he was a child, I do know that they are near red-blood royalty. There’s no way that they have any disgusting blue-blood in their family tree. Therefore, there is no way that DiNozzo has a mutant gene either.
“Even if he does have one though, does it really matter? Do we care if he comes online? I hope if he does he’s in incredible agony. Just order Saleem to kill him when he’s done getting the information we want. It will be worth the paperwork it will cost me.”
Gibbs’ eyebrow almost merged with his hairline at the spew of information, and by the time the Director was done he didn’t know how he felt. While there was some misinformation that was accepted by the public concerning Mutant genetics, he found it hard to believe that the Director of a federal agency wasn’t fully educated. While it was true that the father’s DNA could be a factor in passing on a mutant gene, it was not only the only one.
It was true that generally, most with a mutant gene, either active or inactive, got it from both their mother’s side and their father’s side. A father with a strong mutant gene and a mother with a weak mutant gene would produce a child with a mutant gene. However, what was mostly ignored, and those that Ducky called insecure believers male science refused to admit, was that it had nothing to do with the father’s strong gene.
The mother’s gene was the dominant genetic factor that determined if the trait could be passed along. The female gene was about 5 times as strong as the male gene. Thus a weak female gene needed the boost from the male gene to pass along her mutant genetic gene. However, a strong female mutant gene could pass along her genetics with absolutely no help from the male she was procreating with.
Gibbs knew that it was this later method that was true for Tony. Not only did Tony’s mother’s tree have what Vance labeled blue-bloods – a slur used to describe mutants because their blood changed to a blue color once the gene activated – but it was incredibly strong all through the Paddington family. It was actually the Paddingtons that were the reason Tony had to list that he had contact with mutants in his NCIS file. While most assumed that it was only because of Duke, his partner, Gibbs knew that just being related to the Paddingtons would require the information to be shared.
As for the Director of NCIS okaying Mossad to kill one of his agents….
Gibbs was almost too stunned to believe that he was hearing things correctly. “We need to know what information DiNozzo has on BoMAI. We need to know what it is and how to gain access to it. If that means using an experimental Mossad created truth serum on him, then so be it. You know I am in agreement with you. In the end, no one of importance will miss DiNozzo but his smuggler boyfriend, and I will love finally arresting him. Do what you please, Eli my friend. I want that information. If Ziva gets her revenge for Michael’s death well then… I would say justice was served. Once this is over, I will let it slip that the information was shared with my knowledge and Ziva will be welcomed back to NCIS with open arms. Shalom, Eli.”
Spinning, Gibbs headed out shoving the file with the new orders in a burn bin on his way out of the building. He’d have to go out through the basement to try and avoid being seen. Heading toward the stairwell, Gibbs pulled out his phone to make some calls. There were several things he needed to do and favors to call in. The first though would be to Tony’s partner. He could only hope that Duke Crocker was who the sniper thought that he was. They needed someone inside that camp, and BoMAI was their only hope.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Duke stood still only for a fraction of a second after getting off the phone with Tony’s boss, and then headed to the bedroom he shared with his partner to grab his bag. Fortunately, Tony’s habit of always having a go bag packed had rubbed off years ago. Thus, all he had to do was grab it, and he could head out to meet the previously mentioned boss.
The older man had agreed to let him fly over with them as long as he could get to the air field in time. This limited the number of calls that Duke would have to make so that he could get to his partner. Before he could get at it though, Duke made his way to the king size bed, and sat down heavily on Tony’s side letting his head fall to rest in the cradle of his hands.
Duke had hated NCIS for quite some time. In fact, they’d gotten into more than one fight over the years that Tony had been there over why the other man insisted on staying. The closest that his partner ever came to leaving was several months back when he found out that Ziva and McGee turned the coms off on him while he was going door to door getting voice prints as they hunted down home grown terrorists. In the end though, Gibbs persuaded his Senior Field Agent to stay, and Duke had to take action his own way. So, McGee ended up with a specialized form of Empathy that would ensure he felt how his actions affected those around him. If Tony had to hurt mentally from the betrayal of his Probie, then as far as Duke was concerned McGee should feel exactly what he’d done.
Fortunately, it seemed to work, because by the end of McGee’s first week with his new ability, the younger man was standing on Tony’s doorstep begging for forgiveness. For once, Tony hadn’t just rolled over and let things slide. He’d made it clear that his Probie needed to prove that he really meant it, and needed to change his actions. At the time of his confession, a lot of different things had come out. Tony learned that his Probie was already an online mutant, and had been hiding an ability to create storms of varying kinds and strengths. It was something the younger man saw as useless and generally found too embarrassing to share.
When Tim then confessed that his Admiral father was ashamed to have a mutant son, and admonished his only son for wanting to share his abilities with anyone. Thus, the only people that knew about Tim’s abilities before the moment of his confession were those required by law. While it wasn’t something that healed all of his wrong doings, Duke had enough sympathy for McGee that if he got his shit together the Empathy would be tweaked. For the moment though it seemed to be the least of what the young computer expert deserved.
Pulling his thoughts away from Tim McGee, Duke turned his mind back to his partner, and what was coming his way. How the Director of NCIS didn’t understand how Mutant genetics worked was something that confounded even a cynic like Duke. That the same Director was so prejudiced that he believed “a family like the Paddingtons couldn’t have blue-bloods in their line” didn’t surprise him in the least. Neither of those things mattered at the moment though because what was done was done. No one could stop things at this point. Tony and McGee were too far ahead of any of them, and even if BoMAI had someone in the area chances were they’d not get to Tony in time. His partner was too stubborn, and if he found out the truth, he’d just want to take down this camp even more.
Tony held a hatred for the David’s that rivaled Gibbs’ hatred for Ari. The only difference was Tony’s burned low and cold hibernating until the right opportunity presented itself. Make no mistake though. This, though, was that opportunity. Knowledge of what was going on would only make Duke’s partner more determined. There was no doubt in the faux smuggler’s mind that he would sacrifice himself to the agony of whatever the activation of his mutant gene at this point in life would bring if it meant he could take down Eli and add in Leon Vance as a bonus.
Which meant that Duke needed to get the correct support in place. He knew his first call should be to his direct supervisors, but there was no time to waste, and he had to make sure there were people he could trust in place with Tony’s safety. Therefore, after making his way to the kitchen, Duke pulled out one of the bottom drawers of the island and got into the safe where they kept their important information. Amongst the various papers, fake passports, cash, and other items, was an in case of emergency packet he’d been sent by Edward Paddington. Tony knew it was there, but because his partner understood that there were things Duke couldn’t share with him, the other man had no idea what was inside.
Taking out the envelope, Duke headed to the stools and broke the old fashioned seal that would give him both the phone number as well as the correct password and answer combination information for the current situation for his call to Tony’s Uncle, George Paddington Marquess of Montagu. The Marquess had done many things in his career, but one of them was heading up the British division of the Bureau of Mutant Activities and Intelligence or BoMAI. It was a highly classified organization that not many knew about, even if nearly all law enforcement agencies had run across them masquerading as one organization or another over the years.
Duke was a rather low level operative, and his cover as a smugger wasn’t far from the truth. It was just that the things he smuggled weren’t always things and more often than not he was on official business. Taking out the cell phone that was included inside the envelope, Duke took a moment to smirk at the old fashioned seal and wonder what it said about the Marquess before he placed the call.
“George Paddington speaking.”
Taking a deep breath, Duke centered his thoughts on his new mission. “This is Duke Crocker calling on behalf of your nephew Anthony.”
“I see,” George offered, and Duke could hear the older man moving. The line was fairly quiet as he pictured the older gentleman moving through where ever he was. Every once Duke would hear someone else in the background and guessed that the man on the other end of the line was looking for some privacy. Shortly after he heard a door close and what sounded like a creak of leather, a response came. “I am wondering if you know the forecast over the Andes?”
“I hear it’s unusually stormy for this time of year. There’s some dangerous activity headed that way requiring the correct personnel if there is any hope for survival.”
“I see,” the older man offered and fell silent again for a few moments. “I will call you back at this number in fifteen minutes from a secured number.”
“I need to head to the airport,” Duke murmured noticing the time. “Am I good to move.”
“Yes,” George replied softly. “Fifteen minutes.” With that the call ended and without stopping to think, Duke closed up the safe, and hid it again before rushing out the door to his jeep. He had a plane to catch.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
After disconnecting from his initial call with his nephew’s partner, George Paddington sat in the quiet of his study mentally preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. He had a great deal of guilt and regret when it came to Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. He would always blame himself for not fighting harder to take control of the boy after his sister Claire’s death. While they’d done their best to have some contact with the boy, and ensured that he at least knew of them, he felt deeply that he never should have left him in his father’s care. If you could use the word care of what Anthony Senior gave to his son.
Now, it seemed that the same boy he’d let down so many years ago was seriously in danger. It was only a happy coincidence that his nephew had met Duke Crocker, who was already a BoMAI operative. His first impulse was to use the smuggler to keep better track of Anthony, or Tony as he liked to be called, but George Paddington hadn’t gotten to where he was in life by giving into his impulses. So, he’d done the best he could. He’d made sure that Crocker had the information and means that he needed to contact them if Tony was ever in danger. It was a precaution that he hoped would never come, but now that it had was glad he’d set in place.
Picking up his cell, George sent a text that would bring his son Edward, his daughter Maria along with her husband John, and his other nephew Ashcroft to the family mansion. There was one call though that he needed to make. Picking up the phone again, he dialed a long familiar number, and felt himself smile despite the situation. Family meant everything to him, and there was no one he loved more than the person on the other end of the call.
“George,” the man on the other end offered in that low grumble of his. When he heard an exhale of smoke, the Marquess offered a soft chuckle despite the reason for his call.
“Grandfather,” George replied insolently and chuckled again at the growl he got in return.
“I ain’t your grandfather, pup,” the other man growled, and George grinned.
“I can add a couple greats to that if you’d like. Does Uncle Scott know you’re smoking inside again?”
“What makes you think that I am smoking inside?” Came the quick reply, and George snorted.
“I am familiar with the sound of the exhale of cigar smoke and I do believe that I just dialed the house phone, Grandfather Logan.”
“Insolent, pup,” Logan offered back affectionately. “I assume you called for a reason.”
“Yes,” George said getting his thoughts back on track. “I received a call concerning Anthony.”
“You know he hates that name,” Logan drawled, and George huffed.
“Yes, yes, we don’t have time for that. It seems that he’s in some serious danger. I do not know the extent, but from the password information that whatever is happening is going to activate his mutant gene. I will be sending Edward, Maria, and John in with Ashcroft offering support from MI6. I am hoping that you along with Uncles Scott and Remy can come this way? I do believe that he will need you, and the influence of the BoMAI Worldwide Directors may be needed.”
“Of course,” Logan said immediately and George felt himself relaxing slightly knowing that his Grandfather would be there to help Anthony – Tony his mind corrected – along in whatever change was coming his way, and authorize whatever action needed to make sure that whomever was responsible for the current situation to pay.
“Thank you, grandfather,” George breathed gratefully, “I will call you back once I have more specific information.”
“Call the cell if you don’t reach the house phone. Scott’ll want to be out of here as soon as possible.” Logan growled low and dark making George shudder. Whomever was putting one of Logan’s family in danger would most definitely pay.
“Scott will, huh?” George shot back in return and got another sigh.
“Insolent pup,” Logan shot back and immediately hung up before he could hear George’s laugh.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
The second Tony turned into a full sized Sumarian Tiger, Tim figured the plan was officially busted, and for a few minutes he found himself frozen over what the hell to do next. He would like to think that his friendship with Tony was healing after his dumbass attack. While he and DiNozzo had never discussed the coms incident formally, and really it was a conversation that McGee knew he had to have, Tim knew that what he’d done had put a serious dent in the connection he had with the older man.
Tim wasn’t sure what happened. At some point after he and Ziva turned off their coms and left Tony without backup during the investigation into the domestic terrorist attack, he’d developed a new ability. One that was distinctly more bothersome than his original ability. Being able to create storms had always been something Tim found rather boring and useless. Being able to feel how people reacted to everything he did or said was very much harder to ignore. It had been this new ability that showed Tim just how seriously he was fucking up his life. While he was glad he’d finally gotten a wake up call, even as painful as it was, he just wished he had some idea why.
Tim’s mutant powers had been fairly stable since he was a teenager, even if he’d hidden them on the Admiral’s orders. He knew that his father had never really understood him even before his mutant gene came online. Once that happened it seemed though that things between the two of them were even further apart. Tim knew that it wasn’t the mutant part itself though that caused the issue. After all, Tim’s mother was a fairly strong mutant in her own right, and the Admiral’s family had mutants in it. So, all he could assume was that finding out his son had some useless power like the ability to create storms of varying types that did it.
Despite their differences though, the Admiral had ensured that his son had the best private tutors to learn how to use and control his ability. Tim had never understood then why his father wanted him to keep them a secret, but he’d harped on it for so long that Tim had just given in. It wasn’t as if he ever found reason to use his ability after all, and there were so many other things that he was prouder of that he found no reason to go against his father’s wishes. Because of this, it had been years since he really used his abilities, and suddenly McGee found himself regretting that fact. He’d remembered all those years ago being able to make storms small enough that he could affect only a single person. However, it had been a long while since those lessons, and it wasn’t something he would even consider trying now. Not with both his own safety as well as Tony’s on the line.
Plus, well, it seemed like Tiger Tony had things well in hand.
The first thing Tony had done was take a swipe at Ziva’s face that sent the smaller woman flying as she screamed clutching her face. Giving up his part of the plan, which was to fake being passed out as long as possible, Tim had set up straight, and would have moved to Ziva except for the quick growl he got from his Senior Field Agent before the other man… err Tiger… man tiger lunged to catch Saleem before he could escape the room. The next five to ten minutes after that were… gruesome.
Tim took advantage of the distraction to make sure that anything weapon like from the table was in his possession just in case. Several times he’d cast a worrying glance at the window hoping that Gibbs had been paying attention and knew that the tiger was Tony and didn’t attack him. Once the man who had been torturing Tony was in pieces, the large tiger turned his attention back to Ziva who had somehow managed to stager to her feet. Before she could get far though, Tony lunged at her again and drug her back into the room.
For a moment, Tim was worried that there would be pieces of Ziva to join those of Saleem, but there seemed to be some kind of human thinking going on. Because, while Ziva ended up with some new bite marks to go with the claw marks that would probably scar her face forever, she stayed in one piece. She’d been drug by Tony into the furthest corner of the room from the door, where she lay moaning and cursing Tony in Hebrew. While Tim wasn’t fluent, he knew enough words to understand monster, abomination, and what sounded like traitor, which McGee found more than a little ironic.
While Tony and he had never discussed if Tony had the mutant gene, Tim knew for a fact, thanks to the snooping he’d done in the past through the team’s files both the public ones and the more classified ones, that Tony did have prior to that day an inactive mutant gene. Not only that, but a further hack into Tony’s life revealed that mutant genetics ran through Tony’s mother’s family, although it was absent in Senior’s family. Despite what most wanted to believe, Tim knew that all that was needed was for Tony’s mother to have a strong gene for Tony to inherit it. Thus far though, the team’s SFA had shown no signs of coming online, that was until the now very dead Saleem shot him up with some kind of homemade truth serum made up of God only knew what.
Obviously though it wasn’t one of the drugs safe to use on anyone with the mutant gene.
Tim supposed that it was possible Tony came online naturally. Stressful situations were known to cause that to happen. However, given Tony’s age, 37 was a little late in life especially considering all the things that had happened to the man. If Kate’s death, his mother’s death, watching a child burn and getting the plague didn’t do it then their current situation was unlikely to trigger the gene.
Except for that damned homemade truth serum.
Which mean that this whole thing wasn’t going to go smoothly for his friend. Hopefully they were friends or hadn’t drifted so far away from friends that they couldn’t get back there. As Tim watched Tony pace in the space between where he was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall, and the far corner that Tiger Tony had drug Ziva, he fervently hoped that he hadn’t damaged their friendship to the extent that it couldn’t be healed or rebuilt. Tony would need someone familiar by his side that had been though it before. Except…
For a moment, Tim had forgotten that Tony had a long time partner who was a mutant. Of course, Tony would have Duke by his side. So theoretically, he wouldn’t need Tim’s help and support. Theoretically. McGee was determined to give it anyway. And to have that talk. He really needed to have that talk. Besides, someone had to help keep Abby out of Tony’s new records and stuff, and that was something Tim knew he could do better than Duke. Not that he was having a competition with the man because he wasn’t.
Only, it kinda felt like he was.
Huffing, Tim filed that thought away to pick at later and figure out why and how to stop doing that because seriously… He didn’t want to be in Duke’s place. He just wanted to make up for taking the wrong path and becoming a man he hated. Once he was forced to feel the consequences of his actions and his words, he was also forced to look back at all the things he’d done prior to those moments and realize that he’d wandered off the path of a good man and down the path of a bully and jerk. Both were things that he hated, and it made him sick to his stomach to know that he’d become the people who had terrorized child him.
Regardless, he was going to do better. All he could hope was that Tony was going to let him. So far, the older man had, and Tim could only hope that it continued on like that. The last thing Tim wanted to become was another Abby in Tony’s eyes. Ugh.
When Tim first started on the team, Abby and Tony had been really tight. The two were almost like brother and sister. Then some things happened. There was the incident with the gay cowboy picture that Abby and Kate manipulated to show Tony’s face on Abby’s work computer. Looking back, Tim thought that might have been the first crack in their friendship. The picture that Tony had of Kate was genuine. It wasn’t something he’d created, and honestly Kate deserved it after throwing around Tony’s frat pledge name. Even Tim knew that was a low blow, and he hadn’t thought much of them making that picture or Kate sending it off to Gibbs.
Fortunately, Gibbs hadn’t thought much of it either. It had been the first time that Abby ever got in trouble at work, as both she and Kate ended up with verbal warnings for that stunt. They tried to get Tony in trouble also claiming him sending the picture of Kate to Gibbs was just as big of a foul, only he hadn’t. Tony send in his final reports for the case. He’d genuinely just been teasing Kate in that way of his, and again… the picture of Kate hadn’t been something fake or that she’d been forced to do and Tony mostly kept it to himself. He certainly hadn’t emailed it to their boss.
So, Abby got in trouble for using NCIS resources to make materials that HR ended up ruling were harassment and got the equivalent of a slap on the hand. Even that was too much in her opinion though, and the first blow to the Tony and Abby friendship had been made. Then Kate died, and Abby’s tongue became sharper, and she began hitting people more, which Tony also wasn’t going to take. The headslaps from Gibbs weren’t even accepted. The first time Duke found out Gibbs dated to hit his partner, he’d marched his happy ass over to the Boss’ basement and made clear to him what would happen if he ever did it again. An item that Tony more or less rolled his eyes over grumbling about not being a damsel in distress, but looking back, Tim got the idea that Tony was pleased someone had come to his defense. He got the feeling it hadn’t happened much in his life.
So, the punching of Abby’s was definitely not found acceptable, and the first time she ignored Tony’s request not to do that again, she once more found herself in trouble. Another written discipline and another crack in the friendship of Tony and Abby. And then… Gibbs got blown up.
And Abby lost her ever loving mind.
Tim could admit looking back that it hadn’t been his finest moment either. His head had expanded between Abby and Ziva’s nudges and the book he’d written getting published, and he couldn’t be bothered to listen to someone he kept hearing was inferior to him. It had been stupid, childish, and a time period he seriously regretted. Abby though… holy mother.
Between the shrine to Gibbs, the trainee stickers, and the admonishments that Tony wasn’t doing it like Gibbs followed quickly by telling DiNozzo that he wasn’t Gibbs so stop acting like him, Abby had been insufferable.
Even for Tim.
And Abby was sort of right. Eventually Gibbs came back. Unfortunately, by the time he was back, Abby had received another reprimand, and much to her displeasure that Director refused to make it just disappear. So, one more crack in the Abby and Tony friendship. However, what probably did them in was Senior.
It had seemed hard to believe at the time that Tony’s dad was really as bad as the SFA made him out to be. Especially when the man was so charming. However, then Duke showed up and made no attempts to hide how much he loathed the older man, and suddenly it wasn’t so funny. Tim quickly changed his tune. Stopped siding with the father over his son – and Tim could admit he was still being a butthead so that said a lot as far as he was concerned – and tried his best to just ignore the old conman’s antics. Abby though. Abby bought the whole act hook, line, and sinker.
Abby made an active campaign in Senior’s behalf with Ziva at her side acting like some appointed press liaison. The whole thing had made Tim sick to his stomach and that was before he could feel things from other people. Unfortunately for Abby, it also made Tony sick to his stomach, and had served as the final blow that blew up what had once been a sibling type friendship. So, Abby and Tony were currently closer to enemies than friends. Abby tried her best at every opportunity she could to make Tony look bad, and Ziva happily helped or schemed with her depending on the situation.
For awhile there, Tim had been a part of their little bullying group, but… then things changed.
The day that he felt, literally felt like it was his own, the deep hurt that Tony felt at the things being thrown at him, Tim had been forced to run to the bathroom. Otherwise, he would have puked all over the carpet. Jesus, he was a monster. Some of Tony’s teasing might have hit home harder than the other man understood, but Tim had never felt like Tony when Abby and Ziva called him a useless clown who only held favor with Gibbs because of the older man’s sense of loyalty and Tim had laughingly agreed. In the moment, it felt like Tim was being stabbed in the heart and punched in the stomach at the same time.
And Tony had at that point undergone almost a year of their attacks. What the fuck.
So, Tim took a little time off. He thought about who he had become, and when he returned excused himself from Abby and Ziva’s little… group. By the time he got back, things were escalating with Ziva and Michael Rivkin, and there just hadn’t been a good time since then to have a private conversation with the SFA. Something he currently regretted not making time.
Before Tim’s thoughts could spiral in another direction, the door to their cell slammed open and what could only be a wolf mutant leapt into the room followed by what looked like one of Saleem’s men. While Tim had been watching Tony pace, the other man’s form had morphed repeatedly from tiger to cheetah to Maine coon cat to panther and currently Tim thought he was an African wild cat that looked like a domestic cat but lived in the wild. Tim knew it was the newness of the change mixed with the stress of the situation that was most likely causing the change. Not knowing how to help though, he’d been just watching until Gibbs came in from his sniper perch. However, it looked like it was time to stop waiting and start doing.
The first thing Tim noticed was the wolf. It was obvious, at least to Tim, that the wolf was a human mutant who could shift into a wolf form. The animal was simply too big to be purely an animal especially since it appeared to be a European Wolf or the now extinct English wolf. The thing was snapping and snarling at poor Tony though and because of his worry for Tony’s safety, it took McGee a few moments to realize that the terrorist seemed to be trying to contain the animal.
“Damnit, John, get ahold of yourself you bloody wanker!” The terrorist snapped finally making Tim’s head whip around in his direction at the surprise of the voice seriously not matching what he’d imagined by the person he was seeing.
“Now, Eddie, you know he can’t help it,” came a voice seemingly from nowhere, and by now Tim was beginning to wonder if he was losing his mind. Ignoring them for a moment, he turned his attention back to Tony to find his friend had morphed again.
This time his normally fearless friend had taken on the shape of a very scared looking snow leopard cub. One thing that had stayed during the various morphs was the blood around Tony’s mouth and on his front paws from his attacks on Saleem and Ziva. Somehow, the sight of the blood on little snow leopard cub that was Tony only made him worry about the older man even more.
“Leave him alone!” Tim snapped angrily suddenly remembering the knife he’d plucked off the table. Stepping away from the wall, he held out the knife as the man turned toward him.
“Easy, we’re only here to help,” the man said holding his hands up.
“Really?” Tim asked mockingly, “Well, you’re doing a bang up job. You’ve scared the shit out of him, and I think he’s having a rough enough time at the moment, whoever the fuck you are.”
“Maria, you gonna help out here?” The man snapped and Tim found himself distracted for a moment as he felt a tug at his pants leg. Looking down, he saw that cub Tony had run to him and was currently scaling his pants leg trying to get to higher ground. The fact that in his fear, Tony ran to Tim for safety did something to the younger man that maybe even McGee’s new ability hadn’t been able to settle. The computer genius could feel his resolve to stay by Tony’s side throughout whatever new journey he was on strengthen. Reaching down, Tim plucked Tony off with one hand bringing the cub to his chest taking his eyes off the man and wolf for a moment.
“I promise I will make up for being a shithead,” Tim swore, and hoped that Tony could hear the sincerity in his words. “Whatever the fuck Saleem did to you, I swear I have your six. We gotta talk, Tony, but I swear… no more being an asshole. It’s all your Probie from here on out.”
Tim could tell that cub Tony was watching him and could practically see his friend’s familiar expression when he was trying to determine the truth in your words. When the little cub finally reached up and gave Tim’s cheek a lick, the younger man let out a brief huff of happiness, and pulled Tony up higher before turning his attention back to the others. Only now, there was a pretty older red headed woman with them, and Tim guessed that she was the voice he’d heard earlier. So, obviously another mutant, which made him wonder if the terrorist was actually a terrorist.
“I’m so sorry for this,” the woman said stepping forward as the man watched as the wolf wandered around the room sniffing at the various parts of Saleem before making it’s way toward Ziva. “We encountered more resistance getting in here than we expected and John’s a little wound up. He’s always more animal brain than human brain when he’s shifted anyway. I’m so rude. I haven’t even introduced myself. I am Maria Sweeney-Paddington. The wolf is my husband John Sweeney, and the other is my brother Edward Paddington.”
“Wait, Paddington?” Tim repeated as Tony rested his cheek against Tim’s while his little body shook. “Like Tony’s mother, right? Are you related to Tony’s mom?”
“We are,” Maria offered smiling as she looked to Tony briefly then back to Tim. “Poor thing. Tony and I are only a year apart, but it’s hard to remember that right now, isn’t it? I just want to hug him. This must all be so traumatic for him. Duke is going to be on a tear I imagine when he finds out what that bastard did. Not that any of us care, other than how hard it will be on Tony to change at his age. Obviously, we have no room to talk being mutants ourselves. Listen to me prattle on. You are Agent McGee, correct?”
“Yeah,” Tim agreed with a smile. “Prattle away. It reminds he of Tony. He does it when he’s tired or nervous. So, I’m used to it. If you start throwing out movie references I won’t even blink, I promise. Just to be clear, I don’t care either. I’m a mutant too.” Briefly, Tim looked down to Tony who had turned his gaze toward Tim with a little cub frown.
“The Admiral didn’t want me to tell anyone,” Tim tried to explain. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I feel like we have so much to talk about and I have so much to make up for.” When Tony just gave his cheek a pat with one of his little cub paw’s Tim smiled.
“Seriously, he’s precious,” Maria cooed drawing Tim’s attention again. “John only has this form, and Alec says that Tony has gone though quite a few before this one.”
“Maria, can you come settle him?” Edward called from where he was standing between John and Ziva. “I’m afraid he’s going to attack her, and that will be hard to justify. Tony’s attacks are one thing given what’s been done to her and the things we know about the manky slag and Saleem. John though needs to leave her alone. So, come over here and I’ll finish talking to them. Tony actually knows my voice after all, even if he won’t recognize the face currently.”
“You’re so bloody demanding,” Maria threw back as she threw a grin at Tim before wandering away. “Can’t even control one cute little wolfie.”
“Daft woman,” Edward muttered once they’d switched places. Tim used the distraction to look at Ziva and was surprised to see she was alive. He could hear her moaning, most likely from pain, and hoped that they’d get her help before she died. He may not like her, not even a little bit any longer, but he didn’t want her to die. McGee thought it just might be more fitting for her to have to live with the scars from Tony’s attack, and knew that depending on what the investigation that would follow found, they could be permanent. It wouldn’t be the first time the courts ruled that way, and there had even been instances where injuries from shifters were unable to be hidden by makeup or plastic surgery. No one understood why, except that it was one of the things about mutants that were unknown.
“We really are sorry for scaring him like this,” Edward said pulling Tim away from his thoughts again to find a tall dark-haired man standing in front of him. “Nothing with this has gone the way it was intended it seems. Edward Paddington.”
“Tim McGee,” Tim offered in return as he tucked the knife he forgot he was still holding into the back of his jeans and took the hand the older man was holding out. “I’m just glad Gibbs didn’t shoot your brother in law, but then I guess he probably knows about you, huh? Stupid, Tim.”
“Actually, Gibbs isn’t here,” Edward corrected smoothly with a kind smile as he held out a finger toward Tony. Looking down, Tim noticed that cub Tony had stopped shaking, but while he was leaned forward to try and sniff the finger, wasn’t making any attempt to leave his spot. “Things got complicated for him it seems after the two of you left. So, other arrangements were made. When Duke found out that Alec and myself were already here plans were changed. Duke and Gibbs should be at the manor by now, along with some others. Hello, cousin.”
Tony gave a little huff, and licked the end of Edward’s finger before pulling back to rest against Tim and close his eyes. “He’s probably exhausted,” Tim guessed bringing his other arm around to cradle Tony better. “You said you were already here? Who is Alec?”
“Alec is my backup who is acting as the sniper. I would imagine he’ll be in here any minute. Once things fell apart, he stayed in his perch long enough to get us inside the building, and then planned to head this way. He would have just taken out Saleem, but could never get a clear enough shot that he was confident wouldn’t hit Tony. And, yes. He and I were both here investigating some claims of mutant trafficking being done by this organization. I have to say, we were rather surprised to find out that the man running things was Mossad, and the director’s little girl was his mistress.”
“Ziva was with Saleem?” Tim asked shocked as he shot a glare in her direction. Even with what he knew about her, he was surprised that she would take up with someone like Saleem Ulman, although thinking back Michael Rivkin wasn’t exactly the picture of honesty and stability. Maybe he should be more shocked that this whole thing was a Mossad set up, and then quickly wondered if Director Vance knew.
“Yes,” Edward confirmed as a blond man with a sniper rifle on his back hurried into the room. “I must say that she quite reveled in the power she had here. She was definitely not some innocent victim, more like willing participant. Time to go, Alec?”
“If we bloody want to get out of here, yes,” the other man said, “are we taking the woman or leaving her here?”
“Bring her,” Maria ordered firmly, “I want to see the bitch rot in prison for the things she’s done. John, do be a luv and turn back so you can help Alec with her, will you?”
It took a moment, but soon the wolf was transformed into another blond man who briefly shot them an apologetic smile before the two men gathered Ziva up. Then the small group was hurrying out of the room and beginning their journey to England. Tim wasn’t sure what they would find there, but the only one that would be able to pry him from Tony’s side was Tony himself. There were still things to work out, but as he looked down at the now slumbering cub that was his friend, Tim knew he wouldn’t lose his path again.
George Paddington Marquess of Montagu sat in his study watching his various guests briefly wondering if he was losing some of his sharpness in his old age. George had been played various roles in his lifetime serving both Queen and country, and because of the time in various positions and with varying agencies thought that he had become one of the best in the world at reading someone. However, Leroy Jethro Gibbs was a conundrum that was making him question everything he thought he knew.
To say the man was stubborn was an understatement. However, to be fair, there seemed to also be an equal amount of loyalty and dedication to George’s nephew Anthony in the man that could not be ignored. When the NCIS agent found out that Ziva David was alive, he had immediately demanded that she be rescued safely, so that she could be returned to the team. With the information that they already had available to them, George was well aware that Ms. David was no captive, and instead had helped run the terrorist camp as if it were her own private kingdom.
Despite that both of George’s children as well as two of the Marquess’ siblings were mutants, George himself had only ever been human. He didn’t even have the mutant gene but hadn’t minded. He’d never considered himself inferior to anyone and used his knowledge of mutants to serve justice to both humans and mutants alike. Because of this, he’d spent a great deal of his life around mutants and had been given access to information that most pure humans weren’t. He’d also seen the effects that the use of certain mutant abilities left on their victims when misused, and especially pure human victims, who with some of the abilities were more susceptible to be influenced. The longer that he watched and listened to Gibbs, the more George became convinced that the man’s somewhat erratic behavior and thoughts concerning his former subordinate was more from the aftereffect of ill-used mind control and less about George losing his edge.
While Gibbs also was a pure human, from everything that George had been able to find, that didn’t mean that the American didn’t have a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately, it did mean that while he could be influenced, it would take great skill to do so and not cause negative side effects. Skill George was beginning to guess that Ms. Ziva David did not have. There was no doubt in the Marquess’ mind that she was a mutant, had one of the varying mind control abilities, and had done a piss poor job of completing her objective.
Everything had been going fine in the debrief that George had been giving his Grandfather Logan, his Grandfather’s companions Scott and Remy, Anthony’s life partner Duke, and Special Agent Gibbs. Until they got to the part about Ziva David that was. Up to that point, Gibbs had been irate that he’d been rerouted to England instead of his original destination and hadn’t been shy in making his displeasure known. It was clear though that his concern was about not being there to back up both of his agents as was planned, but more specifically in not being there for the man that George called nephew, and Gibbs clearly considered some sort of family at the very least, and possibly even son. Therefore, George had been more understanding and patient than he normally would when faced with someone’s ire.
When Gibbs found out that Ziva David was alive however, his entire demeanor changed, as did how he spoke of Anthony, or Tony as it seemed his nephew preferred being addressed. It was such a drastic and sudden change that it appeared even Duke, who had admitted to George privately in a phone call while they’d been waiting to leave the States that he didn’t think much of the man, had visibly appeared confused at the change. Not long into Gibbs’ confusing change, Duke had gotten up and left the room with no explanation. George assumed that it was to get himself under control, but when the man in question walked back into the room with George’s wife Olivia following serenely, the Marquess thought that just maybe things were beginning to clear up.
While George was nothing more than pure human, Olivia Paddington, formerly Olivia Spencer whose line traced all the way back to the Tudors themselves, was an extremely strong empath and healer. It was actually Olivia that had drawn George to BoMAI where they both still served as a consultant even though the two of them had been retired since the cold war ended. It was also Olivia who had been the Director of European Operations up until the day of her retirement. Something that George was unquestionably proud of. While he had his own success including a seat in the Director’s chair at MI5, George Paddington was not one of those men who would be cowed by the thought of being married to a woman equally or possibly even more powerful than himself. In the Marquess’ mind, it was only a source of pride, and something he only wished he could brag about more freely.
Olivia had been there when the pair from the States arrived, and it was only his familiarity with her that clued George into the fact that there was something about Agent Gibbs that upset her. Given that Logan, Scott, and Remy had arrived not long after that, though, George had not had a chance to question his wife to see where her upset lie. Having watched things unfold though and now that he had developed a theory of his own, the Paddington family elder could guess at what unsettled her so.
Turning his attention away from Gibbs for a moment, George checked on the other occupants in the room to see how they were fairing. Logan was seated in his favorite leather chair by the fire. It was not surprising to see one of the man’s favorite cigars in his mouth, or to see Remy perched on the arm of the chair speaking quietly enough that only Logan would be privy to whatever he was saying. There was a card flying around the younger mutant’s fingers, and it was the only sign of the Cajun’s unhappiness. Had George been able to see his eyes, there might be some indication there, but Remy had his sunglasses on hiding them from the rest of the room.
Scott was leaning against a wall on other side of the room from where Logan and Remy were seated. His arms were crossed over his chest and his legs were crossed at the ankles, making him appear somewhat harmless, if you didn’t know that one blast from the red lensed glasses on his face could kill you. Duke had immediately crossed the room to lean next to Scott, for which George was grateful. To say the youngest member of the room was unsettled and tightly wound was an understatement. George had firsthand knowledge of what the young agent posing as a smuggler was going through, and he also knew that Scott was the best one to keep him from going off halfcocked. Normally, it would be a task that Remy would be given, but Duke’s personality was too close to that of Remy’s and thus the New Orleans native’s normal tricks didn’t work on the New Englander. It was actually the straight-laced Summers that Duke seemed to be drawn to and most likely to listen to.
George had a suspicion that had the youngest member been able to spend more time around Logan that he would have been the refuge Duke sought out. However, the Marquess was aware that his gruff Grandfather was not one who took to people quickly, or that strangers quickly saw as a safe haven. Nonetheless, Scott was doing just fine, and George was happy for it as it let him put Duke out of his mind and focus his attention on whatever was going on in Special Agent Gibbs’ mind. Given that Olivia had sat down in the window seat near where the NCIS agent was pacing, George thought that answers would be coming soon.
“Special Agent Gibbs, please come sit with me,” Olivia asked politely patting the padded seat next to her.
“What?” Gibbs asked more sharply than George liked, but he knew better than to object out loud. His wife could and would make her displeasure known if she took offense to someone’s tone.
“It must be incredibly draining and confusing to have such a battle going on in your head all the time,” she continued on as if Gibbs hadn’t stopped to glare at her.
“What in the hell are you talkin’ about?” Gibbs replied back obviously agitated.
“I mean the war between your natural morality and compassion and the mess that someone, I would guess Director David’s daughter Ziva, has made of your mind. More specifically, the effort she seems to have taken to turn you against my nephew. I must say it aggravates me greatly, and I do hope she survives this encounter so that I will be able to share my thoughts with her.”
When a snort came from Logan’s direction, George looked to see his Grandfather watching Olivia with obvious affection and amusement.
“Ziva ain’t no mutant,” Gibbs snapped but had taken a couple steps closer to the seat that Oliva once more patted.
“Sit down, Gibbs,” Olivia requested again, “you are giving me a crick in my neck forcing me to look up at you.”
“It has been whispered for decades that more of Mossad’s agents were mutants than not. It’s also been whispered that Eli David chose his sexual companions for the strength of their mutant genes and abilities and less for any affection he had for them. Did you know that the female mutant gene is stronger than that of a man’s? Did you also know that women don’t need their male partners to have a mutant gene to pass on their abilities? Unfortunately, men cannot say the same.”
“If that’s so then why are there so many strong male mutants, and why are most of the well knowns one men?” Gibbs asked as he sat down although as far away as he could get on the narrow window seat. “If what you say is true, I doubt that Eli David is the only man to marry a woman for the strength of her gene.”
“It’s still a male run world, Agent Gibbs,” Olivia pointed out with a shrug. “In the past when we’ve tried to make our strength known, men called us witch and burned us at the stake. We’ve learned there’s something to be said for being underestimated and being able to operate in secrecy. Besides that, my husband’s Grandfather is proof positive that men can be quite strong mutants and that they can pass that ability along. You are also right in that Eli David isn’t the only one. In fact, my husband as well as his brother Clive sought out strong mutant mates. However, they married because they loved us, not just for the mutant sons they were hoping for. Eli David procreated only to get the strong male heir he wanted, but only got a willful medium strength mutant daughter. His only son had a weak gene that was more useless than helpful and is possibly why the man was quite unhinged when he died. But then you know all about Ari. Lately, Eli has turned his sights to Ziva and hoping that she can give him a grandson to take over for him. My guess though is that she won’t be given the chance.”
“Ziva,” Gibbs started only to be cut off by Olivia.
“Is a traitor. I am afraid my nephew Ashcroft has been studying her quite thoroughly since our operatives in the Terrorist Camp your agents are at found that she was helping run things. I’m afraid that it appears that you have been played on a number of levels, Special Agent Gibbs. It’s quite regretful, but I am confident that at least your mind can be healed despite that willful child’s attempts to manipulate it. You were quite concerned for Anthony when you first arrived, Special Agent Gibbs. Do you remember that?”
“Tony,” Gibbs murmured looking down to where Olivia’s hand was covering his own in the space on the seat between them. “He hates being called Anthony. Or Junior. I recruited Tony you know. Saw somethin’ when he realized what Danny was doin’. Kid needed a place he could call home, and people who would believe in ‘im. Ziva…”
“Manipulated you,” Olivia said confidently as she continued to speak soothingly. “Now, I will admit that at this point I don’t have hard evidence, but I have many years of experience. It also helps that I just spoke with Ashcroft who finally got through to Eli’s private servers to confirm that Ziva is indeed a mutant with some medium level ability at manipulating one’s opinions of a situation or person. She doesn’t seem to be strong enough to be able to manipulate multiple people at one though. So, it seems from her communications with her father that she chose to use her abilities on you, as she found she could manipulate some around her with the right words or stroke of the ego.”
“McGee and Abby,” Gibbs murmured, and Olivia nodded her agreement.
“If you mean Special Agent Timothy McGee and Ms. Abigail Sciuto, then yes. Now, I do believe that my husband was filling everyone in on what has been going on at the camp. It is a most regretful situation, and maybe we should have allowed you and Duke to go on there. However, we did already have two of our best operatives on the ground and our daughter along with her husband joined them much more quickly than you could have. I assure you that they will do everything within their power to bring both Tony and Special Agent McGee back safe.”
“Tony doesn’t deserve to be hurt more,” Gibbs shared as he rubbed his head. “What’re you doin’?”
“Just a tiny bit of healing to assist you in gaining some perspective,” Olivia assured calmly. “I couldn’t in good conscience see you suffer so much. I would normally not do so without asking permission, but you were working yourself into enough of a state that I was afraid the damage she has done would get worse. You’ll need more healing later, but for now I would like to heal you enough that you can assist us in what is to come. If that is alright with you? No matter what happens at that camp Anth… Tony will need you, and I would like to see you able to be there for him.”
George watched Gibbs take a shaky breath before he gave a sharp nod. “Jus’ get it over with. Then I wanna hear everything again from the start.”
“As you wish,” Olivia agreed, and George let out a sigh of relief. Maybe things would be alright after all.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Tim had a moment of longing as he looked down to where Tony was curled up in his arms, still in snow leopard cub form. Briefly he wondered if his friends warm dry nose was a sign of anything, but then remembered from his brief stint as a dog owner that the warm dry thing was only a myth. He was though concerned about how Tony seemed to be panting and felt like he was shaking.
“You look worried,” Maria offered from her spot across the aisle from him. They both had taken a seat on the Paddington family’s personal jet’s only two sofas. “Tony is lucky to have a friend like you.”
“Tony’s panting,” Tim pointed out with a frown as he went over the things he knew from his mutant lessons. His lungs are scarred from a run in with the plague several years back, and sometimes he has to use an inhaler. I’m worried that he’s not getting enough air, and he’s shivering on top of it.”
Pulling his gaze away from Tony from a minute, Tim looked up at Maria, and couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was. “And, I’m not really that good of a friend. In fact, I’m a really bad friend and probie.”
Turning his gaze back to tony, he missed Maria getting up, and startled when she sat down next to him putting a blanket over him like you’d see on any commercial airplane. When he looked up quickly to see who it was, even though he could smell her perfume, he noticed that her husband John had taken seat on the sofa across from them.
“I think you’re being hard on yourself,” Maria said kindly as she placed a comforting hand on his arm before running a finger over the top of Tony’s head. There’s a chance his lung scarring will heal itself. Self-healing is a common Paddington trait. We all get it from Logan.”
“While I hope you’re right about his lungs, because Tony was a college athlete and I know he hates the limitations the plague put on him, you’re wrong about what kind of friend and probie I’ve been to Tony. I don’t deserve his trust, because I’ve done everything possible to destroy it.”
“Why don’t you explain it to us,” John suggested, and Tim couldn’t help but shiver as he looked at the other mutant shifter. There was something extremely primal about John Sweeney, and Tim knew without a single doubt in his mind that the man wouldn’t hesitate to take him out of he thought it had to be done.
“Tony and I have been working together for about 7 years,” Tim started as he tucked the blanket better around Tony glad that the shaking was subsiding at least, even if the huffing and puffing wasn’t. “I was about as green as it comes when I joined the team. He’d already been working for Gibbs for a few years, and had already earned the Senior Field Agent title. Kate was there too, and was a regular agent because she’d come from the Secret Service. I wasn’t a probationary agent but I’d not done much fieldwork so I was as green as it comes when I came in. Gibbs told me once that if it hadn’t been for
Tony I never would have gotten the spot because he didn’t have the patience to deal with my stuttering and stammering. I didn’t believe him at the time because I was too full of my own self-worth.
“See, when Kate was alive, even though the two of them bickered like my sister and I when we were kids, there was a definite divide between them and me. So, after Kate died and Ziva joined the team it was nice to have someone side with me against Tony for once. He was the one always being teased and needled, and if sometimes Ziva went too far it seemed like payback so it was only fair.”
Tim huffed and frowned as he remembered how much of an asshole he was. “Forget the fact that I was by then able to stand up for myself not only to Tony but to others, even people higher on the chain of command than myself if needed. I didn’t wanna see that while Tony’s teaching methods might be unusual, it was because of him that I had become a damned good agent. Ziva though kept telling me that he was just a clown and the only reason he had his position was because Gibbs was too loyal to fire him. Nevermind that Gibbs himself tells people that the second B in his last name is for bastard.
“So, after Ziva’s brother Ari killed my teammate, I jumped right on board her wagon. It meant that I was in for once and Tony was on the outside wanting, or so I assumed. Of course, Tony has probably never forgotten that Ziva put together the files that Ari used to determine killing Kate would cause the most damage to Gibbs. As time when on, it became easier and easier to dismiss Tony’s doubts and being mean and calling it teasing became more comfortable. I mean, that felt like payback too. It didn’t matter that Tony never really bullied me and certainly wasn’t one of the jocks that bullied me in school. Tony was a two-sport college athlete at a big-name institution, so he was the perfect substitute. When Abby started in too, Abby who had before that been like Tony’s sister, it just became second nature to ignore my conscience as it whispered I was going to far. We were going too far. Then, Commander Daniels and that DJ got murdered by that home-grown terrorist group.”
Tim paused to scratch behind Tony’s ears, smiling briefly when a sliver of green was seen as Tony peeked at him momentarily before going right back to sleep. “Tony was getting voice prints because we were trying to track down the terrorist who had called into the show, and Ziva was having one of her bad days. She seemed to have a lot of them, but that day she was pricklier than ever. When she said she wanted to sound to Tony’s coms turned off, I didn’t… I didn’t even think twice about it. I just did it. So, you see. I’m not a good friend or a good probie and I don’t deserve his trust.”
“Am I understanding that you turned off the sound on his only means of communication while he was hunting a terrorist because the Mossad agent in the car with you was prickly?” John nearly snarled, and Tim looked up giving a slow nod.
“Yeah,” Tim admitted trying to look John in the eye, but was too ashamed of his actions to really do so. “Looking back, it’s hard to understand how I became that person, but I did it. I didn’t even see how it was any big deal, and that makes it so much worse.”
“What changed?” Maria asked, and Tim could see that she’d taken one of John’s hands in her own, “because it’s obvious that something has changed.”
“I don’t know how, but my mutant abilities changed,” Tim offered with a sigh, “suddenly I could feel how my words and actions effected people. I could feel how hurt Tony was when we said cruel things to him or demeaned his past as a cop or insinuated he was stupid because he only has a PE degree. Tony’s teasing never made me feel like that. Not even when he’d superglue my fingers to my keyboard as punishment for something. I just… I don’t know how, but gaining that new ability changed everything. I’d probably still be a conceted asshole if it hadn’t happened.”
“My guess is that would be Duke Crocker,” John replied with a smirk, “and I can’t say as I blame him.”
“It’s the very least of what you deserve.” When John’s eyes took on a tinge too much of his feral nature, Tim dropped his gaze back down and was shocked to see Tony watching him. One little paw came out from underneath the blanket to rest over McGee’s lips for a few moments before cub Tony began to squirm.
Tim loosened his arms, letting Tony roll around until he could was standing on the sofa with his front paws on Tim’s leg glaring at John and offering a weak growl.
“I would say that Tony would disagree with you both,” Marie offered amused, “at least to some extent.”
“What does probie mean? You’ve called yourself that a few times in relation to Tony.”
“It’s short for Probationary Agent technically,” Tim offered with a nostalgic smile when Tony turned to give him what looked to be a grin. “Basically, it means that I was his trainee. I didn’t understand how much the word meant to Tony, or what it meant about how he thinks of me until after the change. When he’s not mangling my name with Mc-isms, Tony calls me Probie. I have a lot to make up for, but I am trying, and I swore to myself that I would always have his back going forward. Whatever is coming his way, I’ll be on his six.”
When Tony offered a happy little huff, Maria offered a smile of her own.
“I would say it’s safe to say Tony accepts. Everyone gets lost now and then Agent McGee. Even John has lost his path a time or five. It’s what you do afterwards that speaks to the man you are. I look forward to watching you redeem yourself.”
Tony turned and after exploring the couch, ended up laying down with his head on Tim’s leg. As the younger man covered his friend with the blanket, he watched Tony close his eyes. Silently, McGee began to plan all the ways he could be a better man.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
When Tony opened his eyes, the first thing that he noticed was the burning in his chest like he’d been running for an hour in subzero temperatures. When he tried to move his hands, he found them immobilized, which increased his momentary panic. It was only Duke’s touch that kept him silent. While this was plusher than most hospital rooms he’d been in, the familiar monitors and equipment told him he was in some kind of hospital somewhere.
The second thing that he noticed was the number of people in the room. Oddly, it was only after that when he realized that he was finally back in human form, not remembering though how he got there. Surveying the room and ignoring the words people were throwing at him for the moment, he assumed the person in the white coat was his doctor although he knew not all doctors liked wearing it. Gibbs was standing next to chair that held his Aunt Olivia and wasn’t that an odd combination. When Tony turned his head to look at the other side of the bed, he saw that it really was Duke standing next to his bed with a hand on his forearm, while Tim was sitting on a couch near the window watching him anxiously.
“McGee, you ‘kay?” He asked immediately and frowned as there was an almost simultaneous huff of amusement from the room.
“Yeah, Tony,” Tim assured with a friendly eye roll thrown in, “I’m fine.”
“Just a little dehydrated and some minor bumps and bruises. Nothing big thanks to you.”
Tony wrinkled his nose at the last statement. “‘M pretty sure we sav’d each other, Probie.”
“Why don’t we clear the room so that I can examine my patient?” An unknown voice requested, and Tony turned his head in that direction with a frown as his fingers curled wanting to grab Duke’s hand to keep it where it was. The fact that he couldn’t do so only made him fidget on the bed and caused his teeth to clench in his agitation.
“Duke says,” Tony insisted focusing his attention on the man in the white coat. “An’ Probie,” he insisted as an afterthought. “The rest c’n go, but Duke an’ Probie stay. Water?”
“I’d really like to have a few moments with you, alone Special Agent DiNozzo,” the doctor stressed, but Tony was out of caring. He was running purely on instincts at the moment and those instincts said he was safe if Duke and Probie were there.
“They stay, or you go,” Tony countered with a lift of his chin and a narrowing of his eyes. Just as the doctor looked as if he were about to argue, another doctor came in with a nurse.
“I believe that I requested that I be advised when my patient woke up, Dr. Adams,” the new man offered firmly but evenly. “As you know, you are not authorized to treat a mutant of Special Agent DiNozzo’s level of ability. I need everyone to clear the room, including you, Dr. Adams.”
“I want Duke an’ Probie!” Tony snapped his aggravation reaching its limits and almost growled as the world started to yellow.
“My apologies,” the new doctor offered gently, “I was not aware that you had already made that request. I should have asked first. Everyone out who isn’t Duke Crocker and whomever Probie is.”
“That would be me,” Tim said smiling and the new doctor nodded with a small smile on his face.
“I should have guessed,” the man said as the nurse ushered people out and then began taking Tony’s vitals. Not sure if he could trust these people, Tony looked to Duke first then Tim and back to Duke seeking assurance.
“It’s ok, Tone,” Duke soothed as he rubbed his thumb over the back of Tony’s hand.
“They’ve been treating you almost from the start, Tony,” McGee echoed as he stood and came closer. “This is Dr. Ross and Nurse Hathaway. I looked them both up and they have excellent reputations. Your Uncle George vouched for them, too.”
“Uncle George?” Tony repeated obviously confused. “Why? Where’m I?”
“You are in the hospital at the Bureau of Mutant Activities and Intelligence International Headquarters just outside of London, England,” Doctor Ross advised after Nurse Hathaway gave him her findings. “I am sure that your Aunt Olivia can answer any questions that you have. She is the former Director of European Operations and is therefore very familiar with our organization. For the moment though, I’d like to talk about you, since you are my top concern right now.”
“Kay,” Tony offered and smiled gratefully as the nurse handed Duke a cup of water, which his partner held up for him to drink from the straw.
“Slowly, Tone,” Duke cautioned, “you’ve been asleep for a few days.”
“Days?” Tony asked sure he’d heard wrong as he looked to the McGee and then Dr. Ross, both of whom nodded their agreement.
“Your body was quite exhausted from the ordeal it went through with the change and the multiple changes so quickly after,” Dr. Ross explained gently. “Now, we’ve run some tests, but I would like to ask you some questions about what you remember of your time after your first change. BoMAI’s testing of mutant abilities is more advanced than what is offered to the general public, but it still is not an exact science. There is unfortunately, still some things we can only find out from individual themselves. Once the questions are over, I’ll let you know what we know and what we suspect. Is that alright with you?”
Tony nodded his acceptance and turned his attention to Duke as the Doctor started his questioning. “Agent McGee gave us a rundown on what he witnessed just before and during your initial change. He advised us that the first thing he noticed that told him something had changed with you was when your eyes changed from their normal color and shape to something more resembling a cat. Does that fit with what you noticed?”
“My veins were on fire,” Tony offered as he looked briefly to McGee who gave his ankle a squeeze of support before turning his attention to the Doctor and the nurse who appeared to be taking notes on a tablet.
“It felt like Saleem turned my blood to lava and it was racing through my body from where he’d put that truth serum into me. I knew then that I had come online. I’ve always been more sensitive to medications, and especially anything that has negative side effects for mutants. Senior was always irate that I never came online. I was always thankful I didn’t after my mom died, ‘cause I’m fairly sure he woulda sold me to someone the first chance he had. There was a time in college I thought it would be ok if it happened, but as I got older, I gave up hope and just accepted the idea that my gene would never activate.
“I didn’t notice the eyes till just before I changed completely. I saw my reflection in the blade of his knife. I actually noticed that I could smell things I couldn’t previously before that. It was why I attacked Ziva. I could smell her all over him, and I could smell her attraction to him coming off of her. I don’t know how I knew that’s what it was I just… did.”
“Pheromones,” Doctor Ross offered casually when Tony paused. “Most likely the new animal part of you that was changing recognized the smell as something the human part of you understood. Do you know why a tiger was your first form?”
“I’ve always been fascinated by the big cats, but even though the lion is the king of the jungle it’s the tiger that’s always been my favorite. Then after a while when things kinda calmed down I started thinking of other kinds of cats. After I changed into the second one, which I think was the cheetah, I started wondering how many others I could do. At first, I was trying to keep a form that could defend Tim from Ziva, but then I realized she was hurt too bad that it wasn’t an issue. By the time the wolf came in I was starting to get tired and even though I recognized him as another mutant he scared the crap out of me and I lost concentration of what I was doing. I’d been thinking of snow leopards but ended up as a cub. So, I just ran to Tim because I knew he’d protect me.”
“So, you were able to have conscious thought?” Nurse Hathaway asked, speaking for the first time. “Did you have any blackouts or any awareness of something that felt like something else in your head?”
“No,” Tony replied slowly, his brows furrowed in concentration as he tried to think back. “I mean, when I was disabling Ziva, so she couldn’t escape, and killing Saleem there was… I had instincts that I guess weren’t mine, but I recognized as being the tiger’s. When that was taken care of though that… part I guess you could say backed off and I had more of my normal awareness, I guess. I never felt though like I was completely an animal. It was more like we shared the same headspace, maybe?”
“That makes sense, Special Agent DiNozzo,” Dr. Ross replied gently, “there are varying levels of awareness for shifters like yourself.”
“The most common awareness for shifters is the human consciousness with very little animal instinct. The second most common is the animal consciousness taking over with only a minimum human awareness. Now it’s not as simple as I am making it sound. There levels of each vary by the individual, but the rarest is a balance between the animal instinct and the human consciousness. It backs up our testing, which indicates you will be a higher-level mutant with a variety of abilities that enhance your primary mutation.”
“And what will that be, Doc?” Duke asked, and Tony was glad for it because he wasn’t sure he could get the words out politely. He really needed to get to the nuts and bolts of this damned conversation. Meaning what the hell was going on with his hands and chest and what had Saleem done to him.
“What is his primary mutation,” Duke continued, “you can tell that, correct?”
“From our testing and the information Special Agents DiNozzo and McGee have given us about the initial shift indicates that Special Agent DiNozzo is a Feline Shifter.”
“That sounds very broad ranged, Doctor Ross,” Tim inserted, and Tony could see he had his thinking face on. “If I remember my mutant classes correctly, aren’t most shifters very specific like one, in maybe a quarter of the time two forms. More than that is like…”
“Approximately, a hundred in the world,” Doctor Ross confirmed with a nod.
“So, rare, but not so rare that it puts him in danger,” Duke concluded with some relief.
“Yeah, unlike some people who are special cupcakes and still manage every day,” Tony grumbled looking up at his boyfriend who just shrugged.
“Apples and oranges, babe,” Duke offered with a grin that drew an eyeroll from Tony.
“So, Feline shifter,” Tony started as he turned his attention back to the doctor, “Does that mean I can be any kind of cat I want?”
“What does that have to do with why my hands are in these braces and why does my chest hurt?”
“We believe that is true,” Doctor Ross started answering the first question, “of course we won’t know for certain until you try it.”
“We believe that there are other abilities that come along with that. Some naturally seen with a shifter ability in high level mutants, and some that are common amongst your genetic line. From your record of what happened it sounds like you have enhanced smell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some enhanced hearing that came with it. We’ve tried to keep you somewhat isolated just in case the hearing kicks in. This room is normally used by our Sentinel mutants. So, it has extra insolation and padding to protect you from outside sensory information. We also think there’s a chance you could have an enhanced speed ability, meaning you can move faster when you will it. We know that you are growing claws that will be retractable. That is part of your lineage and also common to certain shifters. Lastly, we’ve seen evidence that your lungs are healing from your run-in with the plague. That’s why your chest hurts. It seems the scars are lessening. We sent x-rays to Dr. Pitt for a consult when your friend mentioned the incident and we realized you were wheezing. He’s actually the one who advised us the scarring is getting better. All of your minor bumps and bruises from the incident in Somalia have healed themselves already. What questions do you have for me?”
“I don’t,” Tony started but stopped and turned his attention to Duke before closing his eyes. “I don’t even know. M’jus’ tired, Doc.”
“Your body is still adjusting to your new circumstances, Special Agent DiNozzo,” Doctor Ross explained gently, “I would recommend you rest.”
“We’ll keep you here for a few days until we are sure that your mutations have finished developing and we are certain that there are no negative side effects. I know it’s a lot to take in mentally as well. So, if you’re tired rest. Answers will still be here when you wake.”
With a deep breath and a snuffle, Tony turned on his side facing Duke and as he went to sleep found himself wishing that he could hold his boyfriend’s hand. When the other man began playing with his hair, Tony sighed happily and fell the rest of the way into sleep. It wasn’t a cuddle, but it was close enough.
Note: If by some chance this story ever gets finished then this post will be deleted without warning.