Chapter Eleven: The End and the Beginning
Eight months after being assigned the Eli David operation, Bravo Team was finally ready to make their final strike. When Echo Team was killed two weeks into their new operation, Jason almost lost his mind. He’d already lost Nate. His marriage had ended, and despite his new relationship it still felt like a failure. Now Echo Team and more importantly, Echo Team Leader Steve Porter who was a good friend to not just Jason but his family, were gone.
Steve’s daughter Hannah and Jason’s daughter Emma had been friends nearly from birth. The need for revenge was strong, but Command wasn’t about to change their plans for Bravo, and instead deployed Charlie Team early to take over Echo Team’s deployment. The fact that the team Jason liked the least was doing what he needed to do was like pouring fuel on the fire.
Jason raged at Tony in his office on base, despite the fact that Tony had nothing to do with the whole thing. He raged at Blackburn in the cage room, again even though the decision was made from well above Blackburn. He then went home and raged at everyone before being sent out to the beach for a breather. Fifteen minutes after getting out there, Rey, Scott, and Sonny showed up and collectively let out their emotions.
When they were done, Rey went home to hug his wife and baby. The other three went up and hung out in the Alpha & Bravo bar area trying to drown out their sorrow. The next morning before going to Steve’s house to help his wife, Jason went into Tony’s suite to talk only to see him laying asleep on his stomach in bed. The two hadn’t combined rooms yet. It probably needed to happen, but Jason hadn’t been ready yet. So, they still had separate suites.
Upon entering and seeing Tony was still sleeping, Jason took the time he probably didn’t have to sit in one of the chairs his boyfriend had on the edges of the room to sit and watch him. The longer he sat there, the longer he felt two things strongly. One was a longing to be laying there next to him, naked and satisfied, taking comfort from knowing he was with someone who had his back outside of the battlefield.
The thing was Jason had a lot of people to watch his back when he was in the field. He had five men dedicated to watching his back just like he was dedicated to them. He had Blackburn and Davis who had all of their backs in the instance that they needed help from afar. He even trusted Harrington to some extent. He was about as good a Captain as Jason had had in the Navy.
The one thing was though that when he came home, he’d always lacked the same level of security. That wasn’t a rewriting of his relationship with Alana. He loved her and his kids. It was just that… If he was being honest with himself, his marriage had always left him with some level of a feeling of failure. It was always this feeling of no matter where he was, he wasn’t doing enough. He wasn’t committing enough to make whoever it was completely happy.
The most fulfilled he felt was when he was deployed or with his team. He knew how to be Master Chief Jason Hayes, DEVGRU SEAL Team Leader of the legendary Bravo Team as Bravo One. He knew how to lead his men. He knew what they needed to be successful, and he knew how to weigh their individual needs against the needs of the team or the mission. He knew how to hunt terrorists, human traffickers, drug dealers, and all sorts of other kinds of targets the Navy deemed a threat to the citizens of the United States.
What he was less successful at and knew less about was how to be a good father and husband. People, including his family, assumed that when he was at home his job was done. Maybe it was for some teams. Maybe on say Charlie Team when they were at home, Beau’s commitment and need to be involved with his men’s lives was over until they all stepped on base again. That wasn’t how Bravo Team or Jason worked.
Jason always felt like Bravo Team was successful because he was involved in their lives 24/7, and that wasn’t just a Jason thing. People acted like he’d just pulled this shit out of his ass. Jason ran Bravo Team this way because when he was a rookie Bravo Team was run this way. His former Team Leader ran Bravo Team that way because when he was a rookie Bravo Team had been run that way.
It was part of why he hated Ash Spencer because the asshole had bucked how Bravo Team was run. Despite the fact that rule number one was what Bravo One says goes, Jason never made the team’s successes about himself. On the reverse though, Bravo Team’s failures were his. Bravo Team is family. Period. End of sentence. End of story. End of discussion.
Jason loved Nate. He was Nate’s son’s Godfather. Nate’s death would probably haunt him on some level for the rest of his life. Nate had bucked Bravo Team tradition. Jason understood the man’s commitment to his family. Not once had Jason objected to Ray or Nate’s commitment to their families. The difference between Nate and Ray was that Ray’s commitment to the team didn’t end when the team’s plane touched down at Little Creek. Nate’s did.
When Nate left base, he wasn’t interested in Bravo Team unless he was called back to base, or when he was required to be at Base for training and the rest of their daily duties. Ray’s commitment to the Team didn’t stop. One of the first things Ray had explained to Naima when they started to get serious was that there was no off-the-clock when it came to Bravo Team. The difference between Naima and Alana was that Naima had been able to find a way to find peace with Ray’s commitment to Bravo Team versus his commitment to his family, and never made him feel like he should choose between those commitments.
Alana on the other hand had understood but never been able to find peace with it. On some level, she’d always begrudged Jason his commitment to the Team when they weren’t deployed. In her mind, Jason should stop being Bravo One when he stepped off base. Her argument was that his team was made up of adults, and their family was made up of children. In her mind, Jason’s commitment when home, should be to their children first.
It had always made Jason feel like he wasn’t enough. He loved his children. Part of why he kept doing what he did was because of his children. The notion that he didn’t want to be there for them more was as painful as a bullet wound. He hated the fact that he’d missed birthdays, Christmas’, school plays and recitals, hockey games and so many more important events in his children’s lives that he’d never be able to level the scales.
The failure was compounded by the fact that neither Jason nor Alana had family who was willing to or could be part of their children’s lives when he couldn’t. Jason loved his father on some level, but he’d been scared both physically and mentally by his service time. Those wounds left him incapable of being the kind of father that Jason needed even once he was out of the service. The man had turned to alcohol instead of his family, losing house, days, and sometimes even weeks to the bottle.
Saying Jason’s mother had been displeased that her eldest child had chosen to follow in her husband’s footsteps even if he was in a different branch of the service was an understatement. Therefore, she’d instead devoted her time and attention to Jason’s brother and his family, following them to the west coast, to make a life with them. While that was well within their right, and Jason understood the less painful path, it left Jason’s children without any kind of extended family to fall back on when he wasn’t there.
Despite all the modern methods of communication and ways to stay in touch, his mother still didn’t have much interest even things like Facetime or Skype that would allow her to be more a part of their lives, even from the West Coast. Now all of a sudden there were all these other people in not only his life but the kid’s lives.
Tony Paddington had come into Jason’s life, appearing to fill a hole Jason hadn’t even known was there. Not only had he brought himself, but he brought Jason’s cousin Seeley, and frankly the only member of Jason’s family who had ever really given a damn about him back to him. Seeley and Jason were more than cousins, and even brothers didn’t quite explain it. Jason had always done better when he had Seeley in his everyday life, from the time they were toddlers.
Seeley’s mother and Jason’s mother were siblings. Seeley’s father and Jason’s father had been cut from almost identical pieces of cloth. Fortunately, Seeley had his Grandfather Booth to pick up the slack that Seeley’s father had left. Jason hadn’t had any such person in his life. Being unconnected to Jason, while Hank had taken in Seeley and Jared, he’d had no right or ability to take in Jason.
Thus, Jason had been left in a situation that Seeley had eventually been rescued from. Fortunately, the thing Hank could do was try and keep as much contact between Jason and Seely as he was able, giving the child he couldn’t rescue with a safe haven when needed. This made the two close, but he’d been old enough and lived far enough away that he’d only been a minor presence in Emma and Mikey’s lives. Once more though, Tony Paddington had come in and changed things for his children, too.
Not only had Patrick and Gibbs started learning hockey and attending Mikey’s games, but they’d also taken an equal enthusiasm to Emma’s musical ambitions. They’d attended recitals and other important functions for her just as they did Mikey.
For Patrick, he’d admitted to Jason one early morning, that it was a little surreal for him. His deceased wife, also named Emma, had been an amazingly talented pianist with a beautiful singing voice. To listen to a young woman, sharing her name, determined to follow a path that Patrick’s Emma had given up in lieu of being a wife and mother, was part painful and part wonderous.
It was more than hockey games and recitals though. Patrick and even Gibbs had made themselves available to Jason’s children on a normal everyday basis, even when the kids weren’t at their home. Patrick helped out with science questions. Gibbs helped with history lessons. David had even stepped in and helped Mikey with his first heartbreak when Jason and Aiden had been off hunting one of Eli’s underlings, and David and his family had been in Virginia Beach visiting.
It was humbling and a little heartwarming to see both of his kids blossom under the attention of people, who really didn’t need to do anything for his kids or Parker, who was receiving the same attention. As if that wasn’t enough though, it wasn’t just the kids. Again, during another mission, because major events seemed to always happen when Jason was on a mission, Alana had almost died in a car accident. If it weren’t for Patrick’s ability and willingness to call in some of the most skilled doctors in the world, she would most likely be dead.
While she was recovering, not only had the kids been moved into the beach mansion, but so had Alana with Patrick hiring a private nurse to help her recovery, once she’d been released from the hospital. It was a little odd having his ex-wife and his current boyfriend in the same house, but once again Tony’s flexibility and easy-going nature made the situation a lot less awkward than it should have been.
“Jason, I know how much you loved Alana. I know that she was the love of your life. The important word in that sentence being was. I also know that besides the word was, that she is still important to you. She was your best friend well before she was your wife. You make war for a living. I have no interest in bringing war to your personal life.”
Thus, Jason’s personal life was as harmonious as it had ever been. Alana didn’t feel so alone anymore, with only other military wives for support when things went wrong, and Jason wasn’t in country. Something that he was sure wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Tony Paddington coming into his life and bringing so many people into Jason’s.
“Now I know why Gibbs used to gripe about me lingering in doorways,” Tony had quipped sleepily, and Jason smiled remembering the early morning goodbye and combination I’m sorry for being an emotional asshole that he’d shared with his boyfriend before going to Steve’s house. True to form, the Sheppards had stepped up and offered any help they could to Steve’s family and the rest of the Echo Team families as they had offered Nate’s wife and son.
That had been months ago though, and slowly things had gotten back to normal. Bravo Team had continued their hunt for Eli David. Once he’d calmed down and got past his own emotions and kneejerk reaction to needing to find revenge for his family, Jason admitted that in the bigger picture Bravo Team was best suited for the bigger threat, which was David and his underground terrorist network.
Slowly but surely, Bravo team had worked the leads, Seeley, Emily, and Dean uncovered for them until they ultimately found the location of Eli’s current hideout. An old family olive tree farm that had been in the family for generations originally and whose current ownership was murky enough that it wasn’t listed as a known David family property.
The intel that Emily and Dean had gotten out of their informant was that the family farm had suddenly picked up activity with a couple teams of roaming military types guarding the farmhouse. It had made sneaking in tricky, but eventually, Jason, Eric, Clay, Aiden, and Metal had decided that their best bet would be to go in in the middle of the night and strike in the early morning hours.
The one weakness that they’d uncovered was that Eli liked to take an early morning stroll through the olive trees as the sun was coming up. The informant stated that Eli claimed it was a kind of purification ritual where Eli connected himself to nature cleansing his soul and freeing his mind of impure influences, thus allowing him to keep his mind free of evil influence.
In Jason’s opinion, the man had lost that battle far enough back that he didn’t even know what path he was on anymore. But then, it wasn’t the first time he’d heard similar nonsense from one of the Team’s targets. With his site on two members of the patrolling the olive tree fields, Jason pressed the button on his coms and talked as quietly as he could. “Bravo One to Bravo Team. Two targets moving back toward the farmhouse. I count that as ten targets to take out before infiltrating the residence.”
“Copy, Bravo One,” Ray responded quietly in his ear before Metal pipped in.
“Alpha One to Bravo One. Alpha Three, Bravo Five and I counted the same number. HAVOC, we still sticking with quiet infiltration?”
“HAVOC to Alpha One, that is affirmative,” Jason heard and wasn’t surprised by the confirmation. During their planning sessions, it was made clear that the recovery of whatever intel Sciuto had on her laptop or laptops was a top priority. While they knew that she had continued to target Tony and Seeley’s digital lives during her time in hiding, it was what else Abby was doing that they were all interested in.
Thus, they had been ordered as silent of an entry as possible. That meant knives and hand-to-hand combat instead of guns whenever possible. While it wasn’t their typical method of attack for a force this dangerous, it wasn’t unheard of either.
While they hadn’t thought that two SEAL teams were necessarily needed, Jason and Metal both felt in this case, and with the importance of this mission, they’d rather have more hands in the field than needed than less. Especially since they were attempting to recover Sciuto’s laptop intact. Both Tony and Gibbs had stressed that while Abby had at some point lost her path, she was still incredibly skilled and her first thought, if she thought the farm was under attack, would be to disable her electronics.
Thus, it was imperative that the killing of Eli David and his protection detail as well as the entry into the farmhouse be done as quietly as possible. “Bravo Two to Team, the target has been spotted leaving the farmhouse.”
“Copy Bravo Two,” Jason acknowledged. “Bravo One, Bravo Six, and Alpha Four are in position.”
“Copy Bravo Two,” Derek, aka Alpha Two who was also Clay’s neighbor across the hall in his apartment building, then quickly replied after Jason. “Alpha Two, Bravo Three, and Alpha Six are in position.”
As much as Aiden had wanted to be part of the teams taking out Eli David, it was agreed by everyone involved in the planning, including Aiden, that he was the person most qualified on the two teams to deal with the retrieval of Abby Sciuto’s electronics. While there were plenty of people capable of killing Eli, even in a close combat situation, there was really only one person who had the training to deal with the high level of technology they expected to find.
While Aiden had always wanted to be a SEAL since hearing stories about his Uncle AJ Chegwidden’s exploits at his uncle’s knee, he’d also been equally as fascinated by technology. Being the son of the country’s leading technological tycoon, he’d been dealing with and taking apart computers and other electronics to learn how they work.
Thus, when the time to make a hard decision came, he gave up his need for revenge upon Eli David, to make sure that the woman who had been tormenting his brother for almost 8 years by that time paid for her ill deeds. That meant that they needed the evidence that those who knew her believed would be on her laptop or laptops. Not to mention all of the intelligence that they would get off them about Eli’s allies and rivals.
*Bravo Six to Team, I have eyes on the target. Jason, you need to move two rows to your left. I estimate that he’s five mikes out from that location.”
When it was determined that Aiden was best suited on the farmhouse breach teams, the unofficial agreement on the two teams was that Jason is the one to take down David. While any of them were capable, and there were two, three men teams in the olive tree fields to make sure that David didn’t slip through their fingers, this wasn’t a normal case. All of the men involved had a hum of needing to get revenge for the NCIS SAC who had become a friend to all of them, and thus they agreed that Jason deserved the honor if possible.
Calling upon his 20 some years of military experience, Jason quietly but quickly moved from his current location to one where he could intercept their target. Laying motionless in the grass between the trees, Jason watched Eli move his direction, and waited, watching the target pass him before smoothly and quickly standing to come up behind the former Mossad Director.
He’d never know if it was because the target was lost in his early morning thoughts if it was his years of training, the fact that David was in a place where he thought himself perfectly safe, or a combination of things that allowed him to sneak up behind his target. However, it was only just before he attacked the man that his presence was realized. By then though it was too late.
Before David could do more than utter a sound of surprise, Jason had one hand clamped over his mouth as the other struck with speed and precision with his Ontario MK 3 Navy Knife slicing the man’s throat. Falling backward he wrapped his legs around the older man’s body, feeling his struggles weaken as his blood poured out from the gaping wound spanning one side of his neck to the other.
A part of his mind wanted to wander and consider the justice of the moment. Think about all the lives that the man had ruined, including all of his three known children. Let his thoughts wander over what this man’s death will mean to Tony and the relief it will give his boyfriend. Think about how this death weights in comparison to the other High-Value Targets that Jason had personally taken out in his career. Fortunately, Jason’s training had drilled such lapses in judgment out of him leaving him connected only to the man dying in his arms.
Laying on his side in the grass amongst the olive trees, Jason became aware of people coming up upon him. He realized that while time had almost slowed down making it seem like he’d been laying there a lot longer than he had, it had only been mere minutes. He knew that Clay and the others would have moved to his position immediately to back him up.
“Boss, you’re good,” Clay said quietly coming up and tapping on Jason’s elbow. “He’s gone.”
For a moment, Jason couldn’t get himself to let go. It wasn’t until Clay moved into his line of sight, kneeling down so that he could better look into Jason’s eyes that the Team Leader was able to begin to let his hold loosen. “Come on, Jase, let him go,” Clay said quietly tapping his elbow again. “He’s gone. He can’t hurt T anymore. We need to get into the farmhouse to help the teams.”
This time when Clay tapped his elbow, Jason nodded and let the body fall forward, then took Brian’s extended hand pulling him into a standing position. It wasn’t until Sonny handed him his knife, now cleaned of Eli’s blood that Jason realized he’d let it drop with the body. “Don’ wanna leave that behind, Boss.”
Nodding, Jason shoved the knife back into its sheath and ordered the five men with him to head to the farmhouse to help with the wrap-up there. As they sprinted through the trees toward the house, Jason clicked on his comms to call TOC. “Bravo One to HAVOC. Passing Sauron. Moving to join the other teams at Voldemort and Cruella De Vil.”
When it came time to pick names for their mission levels, the Bravo had almost unanimously insisted on going with movie and cartoon villains continuing the theme Jason had started in the briefing. Thus, killing Eli David was Sauron, and capturing Senior would be Voldemort. Capturing Sciuto would be Cruella De Vil, and successfully getting her electronics to take back to the US was Hans Gruber. Jason secretly thought Tony would be highly amused by their choices and hoped his boyfriend would approve.
As they walked through the lawn separating their olive tree fields from the house, Jason noted the bodies laying around, and while he didn’t count ten, assumed that there were some that he couldn’t see. He knew that there were at least two injuries. On their way to the farmhouse, Trent had called and requested that Alpha Two, the Alpha Team official medic, double-time it because he could use a hand.
Entering the farmhouse, Jason saw Derek working on Metal already, who was sitting shirtless while his Second in Command sewed up a gaping wound in his side. At the same time, Jason noted that Trent, aka Bravo Four the team’s unofficial medic, was working on Alpha Five’s ankle. The farmhouse wasn’t all that big. So, Jason was clearly able to hear both Scuito and Senior’s objections.
“Bravo Six and Bravo Three, go help Bravo Two with Voldemort. Alpha Four and Alpha Six go help Alpha Three with Cruella De Vil and Hans Gruber.”
Heading over to check on Metal, who seemed to be the most serious injury Jason knelt down next to him. “What happened?”
“One of the damned Tangos came up on me while I was trying to get rid of his buddy. Caught me in the side with his knife before Alpha Three could get off a shot. No one else was close enough for a silent takedown.”
“Do we know if she got to anything before, he could get in there?”
“Negative,” Metal responded before turning to swear at his SIC who was just finishing up the stitches. Chucking knowing that if his friend was cursing Derek out that he must not be in danger of dying, he looked toward Trent who as always seemed to sense his Team Leader’s eyes on him, and waved a hand in the air.
“Just a sprained ankle,” Trent explained as he finished wrapping up Alpha Five’s ankle. “Tripped over something when that bitch hit him over the head with something.”
“Roger that,” Jason acknowledged and was about to go check on the teams when he looked up hearing Alpha Four, aka Thomas Davis taunting Senior as they dragged the half-naked and obnoxious man into the room.
“Christ, I didn’t need to look at that,” Metal bitched, and Jason couldn’t help but agree.
“You couldn’t have gotten him dressed?”
“You want him dressed or alive?” Ray drawled from his position behind Alpha Four and Six where he’d been using what looked to be a cane to prod the irritating man along by poking him in the back now and then. “The only reason I left him alive is because I had to.”
Given that Ray was generally the calm rational one of the two of them, told Jason a lot about how irritated his friend was. While he knew the Alpha Team guys might assume Ray was joking, Jason could clearly see the honesty in his friend’s words. Before he could comment though the jackass opened his mouth again and began bitching to Jason, who he must have decided was in charge, about his treatment.
“Do you know who I am? I am an upstanding United States citizen. You have no right to treat me in this manner. Our host is a powerful man in the international intelligence community. You just need to call him, and I know he’ll vouch for me. I am innocent. He’s out in the fields on his morning walk. He’ll be upset when he sees how you’re treating me!”
Jason arched an eyebrow crossing his arms across his chest. “David is dead. I slit his throat in the middle of his precious trees. I assure you that he won’t be vouching for you for anything unless it’s with Satan.”
Jason was surprised when the man’s demeanor immediately shifted from boisterous to appearing fragile and terrified. If Tony hadn’t already thoroughly warned them about what to expect, he might have bought his act. “Oh, thank God! You must be here to rescue me. There has to be a misunderstanding. I am Anthony DiNozzo, Senior. My son works for NCIS. He must have heard of my capture and ordered my rescue.”
“Pretty sure chump that you have to have a son to be a Senior or for him to vouch for you,” Ray pointed out poking Senior with the cane again making the man snarl at him over his shoulder.
“I do have a son! His name is Anthony DiNozzo, Junior. Just a mere copy of his old man though. I am the original and best DiNozzo version you know.”
“Yeah, no, Skippy,” Brian Armstrong, aka Alpha Six, drawled throwing the man into a chair as Thomas threw a blanket over him.
Jason just watched as Ray moved to loom over DiNozzo his hands resting on his hips. “Pretty sure he’s not your son. He’s also not any kind of a copy of you and I think you’re confusing evil with best, you douchebag.”
Again, DiNozzo’s facial expression shifted, this time into a snarl and Jason thought maybe they were finally seeing the irritating man’s true feelings. “That unappreciative little bastard! He owes me for everything I gave him, but like the ungrateful little shit he’s always been, he abandoned me the second that fucking Sheppard came sniffing around.”
Jason opened his mouth to argue, but then closed it and just shook his head. “Someone find something to stuff in his mouth, please? I am not listening to him all the way back to the plane. Mr. DiNozzo, you are being taken back to the United States for interrogation then what I guess will be a long list of charges thanks to your time playing BFFs with a terrorist.”
Turning, he headed back to where he could still hear Sciuto screaming as fortunately, Senior went quiet. He guessed that someone had found something to shut him up with. Reaching up for his coms, Jason pressed the button. “Bravo One to HAVOC. We have passed Voldemort. Heading to check on Cruella De Vil and Hans Gruber.”
“Copy Bravo One,” Blackburn replied from TOC and Jason paused outside the door to the room and searched for some patience before he headed inside. He wasn’t surprised when immediately the woman turned her eyes on him and opened her mouth to start screaming when Clay shoved what appeared to be part of a headscarf into her mouth.
“Thank you, God,” Aiden swore from where he sat hunched over a laptop. “Tell me we can leave that in? If I have to listen to her insulting us and Tony again, I’m gonna do something that I wouldn’t feel bad about later, no matter how much I know my mother would hate me for it.”
“We’ll take care of her for you, man,” Sonny promised, patting Aiden’s shoulder before he moved to where Clay was taunting Sciuto mocking her inability to be understood. Jason noted at some point they’d zip-tied her hands behind her back.
“Jesus, kid,” Jason snickered turning to watch Clay who was taking an obviously great amount of pleasure in getting under the woman’s skin. The fact that it was also distracting her from what Aiden was doing and therefore letting him finish whatever it was he and the technical people who had been consulted, aka Rodney McKay, decided needed to happen was only a plus.
Clay just turned his attention flashing Jason an amused grin before going back to mock Sciuto’s inability to insult them anymore. Shaking his head, Jason just shared a headshake with Sonny and turned to Aiden.
“Seriously, can we get Clay some kind of medal for that shit?” Aiden murmured when Jason stepped up behind him.
“Yeah, I’ll nominate him for the Medal of Assholery. It’s shit brown colored and has a dangling smiling shit emoji hanging off the end.”
When Aiden let out a temporary bark of laughter, flashing a smile over his shoulder, Jason just gave his back another pat as he looked at the screen. “You close to being done?”
“Yeah, the program I was using is almost done. It’ll enable everything to get back intact. So far it hasn’t found signs of any kind of safety precaution that would prevent me from moving it. The other two were already powered all the way down. I also looked for explosives around the table before I sat down. The two other laptops I found are already packed and ready to go. This was the last one I had to move. There’s a whole box of hard drives, thumb drives, and other stuff by the door.
“So, Clay seems to be enjoying himself,” Jason observed as Clay’s taunts became more and more absurd.
“Yeah, he really likes Tony,” Aiden observed as it seemed to Jason, he began to power down the device. “I think he’s as pissed at Senior and Abby as I am. You might wanna keep him away from Senior, fair warning. Abby is pretty safe because he’d never harm her unless he had to, to defend himself or us, but Senior is something else. I think there’s some blurring of lines between Ash and Senior going on there.”
Nodding, Jason turned around to eye Clay before looking in Sonny’s direction to find Bravo Three watching him. “Bravo Three and Bravo Six, you two are on Cruella De Vil assignment until we get back to the plane. Bravo Two and Alpha Six and Four have Voldemort. Once we get her back to the plane, she’s not our problem anymore.”
Pressing his coms button one last time Jason turned back to Aiden to see him picking up computer bags. Moving to the doorway, Jason picked up the box sitting there that Aiden said had all of the hard drives and other things they needed to take with them. “Bravo One to HAVOC. Passing Cruella De Vil and Hans Gruber. Heading back to HAVOC with the HVTs. We have three laptops, and a box of other stuff Alpha Three has us bringing home.”
“Copy, Bravo One,” Blackburn replied from TOC, and Jason could hear the smile in his voice. Clay wasn’t the only one who had formed a friendship with Tony independent of Jason after all. Following Clay and Sonny out of the room leaving Aiden to bring up the rear, Jason contemplated the successful wrap-up of the David operation.
Even though they still had to get DiNozzo and Sciuto back to the plane, he couldn’t help but feel like they’d accomplished what they set out to do, and for the first time in a long time felt like he’d made a change in the world that wouldn’t be almost immediately undone by someone else stepping into the vacated position. During their operation, they’d done their best to bring down as much of the lower levels of the terrorist organization as possible.
Maybe for once, they’d made a difference in the world that would actually last.
When Tony got home from work later that same day, instead of heading right to the house, he headed to the small building that Patrick had built for Gibbs to build boats in. All-day since finding out that Bravo Team and Alpha Team had successfully completed their mission, Tony had been more absent mentally than present. He would have gone home, but with Seeley having accompanied the two SEAL Teams he felt like one of them needed to be in the office.
Fortunately, Matt was more than capable of handling what little activity they had going on at the moment, and therefore left Tony alone with his thoughts. Before leaving the base, Tony sent a text to Gibbs needing to talk to his boss. While normally his father or Jason would be his go-to these days when it came to needing to talk something out, it felt like Gibbs was really the only person in the world who would understand what was going on in Tony’s brain.
Pulling his car up to the building, Tony shut off the engine on the classic Plymouth Barracuda. One thing that settling in one place had allowed him was that he could try getting another classic muscle car in the hopes that this one wouldn’t get ruined. It also helped that there were two classic car enthusiasts in both Clay and Aiden. While Tony had gone the route of choosing a car to restore in the past, that wasn’t what he wanted to do this time.
So, there had been several weekends where he’d dragged either Clay or Aiden or both to car auctions until he found the right one. He hadn’t been sure if Jason would fawn over his choice or mock it. When he finally did see the blue Barracuda, he just gave a smile and said it wasn’t bad.
Getting out of the car, Tony headed into the shop and made his way to one of the stools that his former boss kept on hand for visitors. The first time Patrick had walked into the shop they’d had built for Gibbs’ woodworking, he’d taken a look at Gibbs’ normal seating offering and given a very firm no. The next day padded bar stools with backs appeared in the shop and Gibbs had apparently known better than to argue.
“It done?” Gibbs asked without looking up from the long board he was carefully sanding for the boat he was making. Tony knew that it was actually going to be kept, unlike most of the others that had been burned or smashed to bits in the basement.
“Yeah,” Tony confirmed. His foot bouncing his leg from where it was resting on one of the stool’s lower rungs. “they’re on their way back. Should be here by the time we get up in the morning. Although, the debrief will take forever. My guess is though that they’ll let them come home and sleep for a day or two before they get into all of that. I am sure Jase and Metal will have them doing AARs on the plane so that can be done.”
“How are you doing with the whole thing?” Gibbs asked abandoning his task and turning to sit in front of his workbench to look at Tony while they talked.
“I dunno,” Tony admitted chewing on his lower lip. “I thought I would be more… Well, more of something. More relieved, more upset, more whatever. I guess those sessions with Marcus have been helping after all.”
Not long into the operation, Tony had happened upon one of the base psychologists Marcus Stephenson, who had casually mentioned to Tony that he was there not just for the Navy personnel but Tony and his team as well. At the time, Tony had just nodded his understanding and thanked the man letting him know he would keep it in mind.
However, a couple days later, just before Bravo was to leave for their first mission for the operation, Abby unleashed another attack on Tony’s digital life that left Krumitz scrambling to keep up and an angry and defeated feeling Tony sought the Doctor out. He’d made sure to confirm with Granger that the good Doctor actually had the clearance to hear about the whole issue in the days between their meetings. After all, it wouldn’t do much good if Tony couldn’t be honest with the man.
Granger had been quite blunt in his confirmation that not only was Dr. Stephenson safe to be open with but that the NCIS Director thought Tony should take him up on his offer. That had therefore started Tony’s healing from anything he had leftover from the whole fiasco that ended his time on the MCRT and particularly the betrayal of his one-time friend now turned enemy.
Unlike Gibbs, Tony wasn’t opposed to therapy. He’d had enough of it over the years to know that when he was open to it that it could be helpful. He had also learned though that if he wasn’t open to it or ready to commit to the process that it wouldn’t do him any good. That day though, for whatever reason, Abby’s latest antics were the piece of straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, Marcus had immediately made took for him, and by the time Tony got back to his office, he had a plan going forward and was calmed down enough he could focus on the rest of his day.
“Maybe you’ll feel different in the morning,” Gibbs pointed out taking a drink from his water bottle. “Or, maybe you really are just settled enough with it all that you just needed the lid to be put on the whole thing before everything is stored in your mental evidence locker.”
“Maybe,” Tony offered, his head slightly tilted to one side as his mind tried to process all the thoughts and information swirling around inside.
“Did you ever think when we met in Baltimore that we could be here someday, Boss?”
“In a workshop at a Beach Mansion owned by one of the wealthiest men in the world? No.”
Tony snorted and couldn’t help but grin. “In some are they or aren’t they relationship with my Papà. Are you two going to ever come clean? I mean I don’t really care either way. I want you two to be happy, and you seem to be. I just can’t imagine not wanting to shout from the rooftops how happy I am. Some days I wanna take a billboard out to let people know I’m in love with Jason.”
Gibbs smirked and just shrugged one shoulder before answering. “I dunno. Guess we’re old enough we don’t think it’s anyone’s business but our own. What makes you think that is an are they situation instead of aren’t they?”
“Please,” Tony scoffed making a face. “I’ve seen you in enough relationships that I know when you’re in one. Although Papà may not be a redhead or a woman for that fact, you two are definitely in a relationship.”
“Is this where you give me the talk?” Gibbs quipped looking unconcerned about the prospect either way.
“Nah,” Tony said waving a hand in the air. “I meant what I said. I just want you and he to be happy. If you two are in a romantic relationship then ok. If it’s just an epic bromance, then that’s ok, too. I guess I just want you to know I support you both either way. Feels like we’re finally leaving one path behind and have fully joined the new one, ya know? Abby and Senior will pay for all the things they’ve done. McGee is doing his gamer thing and leaving me alone, which is all I care about.
“You and I both have this whole new family of some related people and a whole bunch of unrelated people. Somehow, we’re both in relationships that suit us with people that love us despite the fact that we’re both difficult. I just, I never thought back when we were working that case that we’d end up here. Never in a million years. Life is just weird is all. I’ve had that old Doors song Riders on the Storm stuck in my head all day.
“That bit about ya gotta love your man. Girl, ya gotta love your man. Take him by the hand. Make him understand. The world on you depends. Our life will never end. Gotta love your man, yeah. It feels like… Like them for my path going forward, ya know? I mean, NCIS and catching assholes are still important to me but something about Abby and Senior being caught has let me move on from NCIS being my focus in life to Jason being my focus and NCIS being the thing that fills my time when Jason doesn’t need me. I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.”
“Don’t know as it is either,” Gibbs said with a shrug and an understanding smile on his face. “Seems like I’m in the same boat though. For you though, I think it’s especially true. Hayes, I think he needs you, Tony. I think you make a difference in his life in a way maybe, even as good of an agent you are, that you can’t at NCIS.
“Seems to me that maybe life is about not just paths but clues, right? You being an investigator you use the clues you find along the way to determine the next path. Maybe all the clues along the way have been there to lead you to Hayes. To give him something to ground him when he can’t be doing his job. So many of our service people come home and get lost because there’s no one to ground them or who understands the gaping void in their lives when they have to switch from always being on to not knowing when they need to be on.
“The higher up in command you go the harder that is sometimes, especially when you’re actually there fighting war instead of sitting behind a desk directing people like a game of Risk. Guys like Hayes struggle when they aren’t supposed to be Master Chief, Bravo One anymore. Maybe that is your mission now. Making sure he knows he has a purpose beyond Bravo Team, not to make him shift his focus, but to prepare him for when his focus will shift itself.
“I think that lines – Make him understand. The world on you depends. – is spot on. I always thought Jim was a genius, even if he was a troubled one. You might be the thing that Master Chief Hayes needs when it’s time for him to just be Jason Hayes.”
“That’s a big responsibility,” Tony murmured as his mind shifted to consider what Gibbs was telling him. “Not one that I’m not willing to take on though. I mean, if anyone deserves a couple lighthouses along his shores to keep him from crashing into the rocks, it’s him. Thanks, Gibbs. I was kind of thinking I was overstepping ‘cause it kind of felt like that’s where my life’s focus was shifting, but I couldn’t decide if I was overstepping or not.”
“Seems to me you’re only overstepping if Hayes thinks you are,” Gibbs pointed out as he stood to move back to his board. “And from what I can see Hayes has you right where he wants you. Seems like the kind of man you don’t have to worry so much about how he feels if you can handle a few thunderstorms to rock the boat now and then.”
“I tell him his second B is coming out when that happens,” Tony quipped and earned himself a genuine bark of laughter from Gibbs.
“Second B indeed,” Gibbs agreed, settling into his sanding. “You done good, DiNozzo. You done good.”
Taking a deep, suddenly shaky breath, Tony nodded and let out a husky, “thanks, Boss,” before settling in to watch his friend and mentor sand. It had always relaxed him and maybe he could use a little more soothing after all.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
It was two days later before Tony and Jason’s paths crossed. Tony came in with an extra coffee and some of the chocolate-filled croissants Jason liked hoping to hunt the man down, only to find the Master Chief sitting in Tony’s darkened office.
“There you are,” Tony greeted, carefully not commenting on the whole sitting in the dark bit. Pausing in front of the couch in his office that Jason was seated on, he handed off the coffee cup and the pastry bag before moving to his desk with his own bag containing a cinnamon roll and his venti white chocolate mocha.
“Yeah,” Jason commented sipping his coffee before digging into the bag. “They decided they wanted to do some debriefing before letting us go home after all. We’ve been napping in the cage rooms. They told us we could go home, but…”
When Jason trailed off, Tony leaned back in his chair debating if he should shift positions but eventually decided that if he touched Jason right then the man might scatter like a flock of birds. “But you were feeling overwhelmed and despite how huge the house is there’s still a shit ton of people in it, or at least it feels that way sometimes? You know that’s why we have suites. I mean, I understand. People assume I’m always on, but I’m not, or don’t like it anyway. If you ever need to just lock yourself in your suite and shut everyone out you can.”
“What if I wanna shut everyone out but you?” Jason asked carefully and Tony noted he was staring at the tiled floor instead of Tony.
“That’s ok, too,” Tony assured carefully and quietly. “You’re the only person that I never wanna shut out lately, as well.”
“Can’t lock the suite door though if I want you to be able to come in,” Jason pointed out munching on his breakfast.
“Maybe it’s time then for your suite to be my suite,” Tony offered gently. “If you are ready, I mean. Mine has a keypad on it that activates when the door is closed. Is that what you need today?”
“S’stupid,” Jason grouched running a hand over his face before crumbling up the bag and throwing it towards the trash can.
“It’s not,” Tony argued shaking his head even though Jason wasn’t looking at him. “It isn’t stupid at all. Jason, you and your team, the other teams like yours, you’re lives are different than the rest of the world’s. Sometimes things just creep up on you. You’ve had to be on and alert and everything else that comes with leading a mission like the one you just finished for eight months. That’s two months longer than anyone imagined, and it was no fault of yours or Alpha Team’s.
“There were delays and shit along the way that slowed you down, but in the end you got him. But it left you all in the state where you always had to be ready to go for far longer than needed. It’s understandable that now you’re crashing, and if you need everyone but me to be gone while you’re doing that, then that’s what you get.”
When Jason finally looked up, Tony had to force himself to not only not wince but not immediately rush to Jason’s side at the fear and uncertainty he saw in the rare unguarded moment of weakness. “You aren’t mad? Alana was always mad that I didn’t wanna suddenly just jump in and do the ten million things that I’d missed or handle been able to do. I just, I’m waiting for you to be mad, and you keep not being mad at me.”
“Jason,” Tony started then stopped to gather his thoughts before trying again. “I think it would do us a disservice if we kept trying to compare my reactions to Alana’s. Not to be harsh, but there is a reason you two are divorced and I’m here. Not only that though, I get it. Maybe not on the level you know or in the way you know, but I get the crash. I spent over a year undercover with the Malcuso family. Always on. Always someone else. Always having to be hyper-aware of my surroundings and careful about every damned word that came out of my mouth, every action I took.
“So, I get it, babe. I get the crash. I’ve been there. The difference is that I didn’t have someone to come home to who understood or even didn’t understand. I just came home to an empty apartment, and I know how bad and dark that was. I won’t ever let you go through that if I have a say in the matter.
“This thing between us isn’t just for now, or for a while. Jason, this thing between us, for me at least, is forever. I want you to be it. I told you that I wanna see you as this silver fox with this beard and still able to make me hard and weak in the knees. I want us to watch the kids accomplish their dreams. I want us to be proud of Clay as he turns the navy or congress or whatever he sets his sights on, on its head. You and me. You need to crash and just see me for a couple days, then you get to crash and just see me for a couple days.
“If you need to sneak over to Seeley’s office, then he has a similar couch there for a similar reason. Although if I miss my guess then Blackburn is already sleeping on his.”
“Eric and Seeley?” Jason asked finally looking up in obvious surprise and Tony nodded with a grin.
“Yeah, I think so. They’re stubborn those two, but finally, they saw the light.”
“That mean you won’t be upset if I slept on your couch all day?” Jason asked already taking his boots off, and in response, Tony got up and pulled a light blanket and a pillow out of one of the nooks in his bookcase.
“That means I won’t be upset if you sleep on my couch all day,” Tony confirmed handing Jason the pillow then spreading the blanket over him once he had laid down. “Does this mean you’ll finally move into my suite?”
“Yeah,” Jason agreed. His eyes already closing and the words coming out slurred and quieter than normal. “We’re off for a couple weeks. I’ll get it moved. Love you, Pads. You know, right?”
“Yeah, babe. I know.” Tony said leaning over and pressing a kiss to Jason’s forehead. Kneeling down, he let his fingers run through Jason’s spiky hair until he was sure the man was completely asleep. Then standing, Tony shut his door and moved back to his desk to send out a message he wasn’t to be disturbed unless it was an emergency.
His new path had been laid out before him. He was a rider on the storm. His new mission was to take care of Master Chief Hayes while he took care of everyone else. It wasn’t what Tony had envisioned for himself all those years ago when he followed Gibbs to NCIS from Baltimore.
Yet, somehow it was exactly what his life had needed. He couldn’t help but think back to when Tim and Ziva turned off those coms all those years ago and how devastated he was. It had literally felt like he was losing everything all over again. For someone who had already done that multiple times in his life, it had felt like an obstacle he’d never recover from.
There he was eight years later. He was a Senior Agent in Charge of a specialized unit at a traditionally residential unit listing, not just leading people but helping them achieve their own dreams. He had not just a family he’d made for himself, but he had a real actual blood-related family on top of it. He had a father who was so vital to his life that Tony didn’t dare to think what would happen when Patrick was someday gone forever.
He had made a new brother in Seeley Booth who brought into Tony’s life a man who changed everything. The one area that Tony had always felt deficient in was love. The romantic kind of love that led to marriages and forever type of relationships. Yet, here he was. Sitting in his office watching the person that he could honest to Gods say was the love of his life sleeping as he recovered from a post-operation crash.
Senior had always acted like it was money and power that were the vital things in the world, and couldn’t figure out why he was always unhappy. Yet, his real father, Patrick Sheppard, one of the richest people in the world, told him that the real riches came in his ability to accept love and give that same love back to others. Gibbs told him that maybe his new path wasn’t in leading this team of NCIS agents, but in making sure that his Master Chief knew that there was one person who he didn’t have to lead.
Instead, they could just be together. Walking side by side down their joined paths as they helped each other over roadblocks and around pitfalls. They could watch Jason’s children grow, and his children’s children grow. They could be the family that Clay Spencer needed and never had before Master Chief Jason Hayes decided to take a chance on him.
Maybe someday Jason would move on from Bravo Team and they’d have to make a decision between their jobs. Tony believed the Navy needed an officer with Jason’s experience, and knew that if he had to choose between Jason’s career and his own that it was a no-brainer. He had a feeling though that it was a choice they would never be forced to make. Tony finally had a director he could trust, and that left him with the ability to put all his time and devotion right where it belonged.
The storm was finally clearing. There was some debris left behind that they’d have to deal with, but that was just clean up. Eventually, there would be another storm come their way, but Tony knew it would be different. He knew that from that point forward, he would forever be united with the love of his life. His path never again leaving him alone to wander by himself, and that…
That made all the difference in the world.
End Note: I write fanfiction for fun. It’s a hobby and a stress relief. I refuse to angst over my writing. What you see is what you get. Errors, plot holes, and all. Thank you for reading my story!