- Character Bashing
- Death-Major Character
- Explicit Sex
- Canon Divergent
- Fix It
- Science Fiction
Gibbs entered the small diner, which was closer to his house than the base and so likely to be devoid of SGC personnel. The hour was off—after breakfast but well before lunch—so the place was nearly empty. The man he was there to meet was sitting in the back booth, far away from the few other patrons.
Frank Boyd rose to his feet when Gibbs approached, immediately offering his hand. “Agent Gibbs.” Francis Boyd was about Gibbs’ height, with broad shoulders, and if Gibbs didn’t know better, he’d put the man at least fifteen years younger than his sixty-five. There was no grey in his receding hair and his skin showed little signs of age.
“Just Gibbs is fine, or Jethro if you prefer, Admiral.”
“I’ve been retired for five years, so please call me Frank, Jethro. I do like an old-fashioned name.” Frank’s presence was larger than life, but he was more soft-spoken then Gibbs would have expected.
“I think you’ll have a hard time getting your new men to call you anything other than Admiral.”
“More expected, perhaps, from active military, though I think to set the right tone, I’ll insist on Dr. Boyd.” He smiled faintly. “I’ve never done that before.”
“Political science, correct?”
“Yes. Considering the nuance of the situation, I do think insisting on a more civilian form of address to be prudent.”
Gibbs personally thought it was an unnecessary distinction, but considering how adept these oversight people were at finding tits on an ant, Boyd might be right about the necessity. “I assume you wanted to meet privately ahead of your introduction at the base to be because of our…mutual acquaintance?”
Boyd’s briefly face twisted with sadness as he nodded. “Yes. I was grieved to hear about Anthony’s… Well, that he’s no longer with us.”
“You were close?”
“After a fashion. I took over the role of Superintendent at RIMA when Tony was fourteen. He was a scrawny kid, behind the others on the growth curve. Unfortunately bullied a lot, which I did my best to stop in the school during my tenure. It was regrettably one of the things my predecessor found to be ‘character building.’”
Gibbs frowned in distaste. “I never would have suspected Tony of being undersized. He was 6’2.”
“He shot up like a weed his last year at RIMA.”
“Did you keep in touch?”
“Yes. He was one of my wife’s favorites. She had a soft spot for the lonely ones, especially those that didn’t seem to have much family connection. Tony was the worst in those three years before she died. He never left for the holidays or the summer break. Year-round board was an option in case a student’s family couldn’t bring them home for one of the breaks. We had a few ambassadors or other dignitaries with kids in the school, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to be unable to bring their children home for one of the holidays in the year due to travel issues. But Tony was the only one of the kids who never went home.”
Gibbs found that unbearably sad, and he wondered if he’d ever been insensitive about Tony’s family. He couldn’t remember much that Tony had ever said one way or the other.
Boyd smiled faintly, looking like his thoughts were far away. “Amelia started bringing him home at the holidays and part of the summer. He was a good kid.”
Gibbs nodded, letting silence reign for a bit to give the memories space. “Did the general tell you how you wound up on our radar?”
“The will.” Frank sighed and turned his coffee cup around, fiddling with its position on the table. “I rarely saw Tony in person, not really since his graduation from the police academy, but he kept in touch. Wrote me letters a few times a year before I got with the times and got a private email account. Then he’d write at least every couple of months. He always wrote on Amelia’s birthday, shared a favorite memory of her. Their birthdays were three days apart—Amelia’s on the 6th of June and Tony’s on the 9th. When I didn’t hear from him by the end of the month, I knew something was wrong. I tried to reach him and then called NCIS the first week of July, but all they’d tell me was that he’d been transferred.”
“I’m sorry.” The words, so rare in Gibbs’ vocabulary, seemed like the only thing he could say. “I didn’t know to call you.”
“No one to blame, Jethro. That’s life.” From the background check, Gibbs knew that Boyd had lost his only son in a car accident while the young man was at college, and then he’d lost his wife to cancer. He had no other close family.
“Do you mind if I ask why he left you his piano?”
Frank’s smile was sad. “Is that what’s in the will?”
Gibbs nodded. “The program is giving us a year before it’s executed.”
“I’d rather give it ten.” He sighed heavily. “It’s his mother’s piano. One of the few things he has of hers. When he was sixteen, he got word from a housekeeper or perhaps groundskeeper, I can’t quite recall, that his father was selling the house in Bridgehampton and getting rid of all his mother’s possessions. His father wouldn’t even take his call when he tried to get some of her things.”
“Jesus.” Gibbs rubbed his hand over his mouth, wishing he could find Tony’s father and hit him. With a brick.
“I don’t know what Amelia said to convince Tony, but she got him to reach out to his mother’s family, who had taken very little interest in Tony’s life, and persuade his Uncle Clive to help him get some of her things.
“I talked to Clive Paddington myself after everything had been handled, and there had been a lot of manipulation on the part of DiNozzo the elder. He failed to pass on messages to Tony, leaving Tony to believe his mother’s family were apathetic toward him. DiNozzo then told the Paddingtons that Tony didn’t want anything to do with them. Underhanded behavior that served no purpose but to hurt his son.”
Gibbs shook his head, hands curling into fists. “Think I’d be arrested if I hit him with a chair?”
“Only if you got caught.”
Snorting in amusement, Gibbs flagged the waitress down for some coffee. “So his uncle helped him?”
“Did several things for him, really. Wrested Tony’s education trust out of his father’s hands but also gave him funds while the legal maneuvering was in process—not that DiNozzo didn’t keep trying to take the money back. I don’t know what Clive said to DiNozzo to get him to part with Claire Paddington’s possessions, but Tony wound up with her piano, photographs, personal letters, and a few other small things. The rest of her belongings were returned to the Paddington family. I’ve kept in contact with Clive over the years. Not closely, but we share a common interest.” Boyd’s expression was briefly twisted with grief. “In any case, I stored the piano for him until he had a home he could put it in. It’s a beautiful instrument.”
“Do you play?”
“No. I’m sure Tony left it to me because he wanted me to find it a good home. A home with someone who would treasure it.”
“Did O’Neill mention that Anthony DiNozzo Senior is not actually Tony’s biological father?”
Frank blinked in obvious confusion. “Is that so?”
“Yeah, and I mention it because a biological brother he didn’t know he had will be shipping out with you.”
“I confess that I’ve already reviewed the entire roster. Who—” He broke off and cocked his head. “Sheppard?”
Gibbs stared. “How’d you guess?”
“They have the same eyes.”
He always felt a sharp tug in the vicinity of his heart whenever Sheppard was around. They apparently got the eye color from their paternal grandmother.
Gibbs looked away. “Yeah, they do.”
* * *
“Frank Boyd is a pain in my ass,” Weppler bit out as he kicked the office door shut behind them.
“I didn’t think he’d been here long enough to make that kind of impression.” It’d only been a week since Boyd hit the mountain. Granted, Gibbs had been at Area 51 for most of the week because of some missing alien artifacts, which had fortunately just been misplaced in a reorganization. Gibbs was glad the items hadn’t been stolen, but he was pissed about chasing his tail for five days. But how much could Boyd have done in a week?
Weppler poured two drinks and passed one to Gibbs.
“It’s 0930,” he protested.
“Jethro, it’s going to be that kind of day. That kind of week. Sometimes you can just tell. Take it when you can.”
Gibbs eyed Mike Weppler cautiously, wondering if the man was already letting this command get to him. “What happened with Boyd?”
Weppler sat heavily in his chair. “It’s not even him. He’s just easy to point to right now because he’s tearing apart the expedition planning and seems to think he needs to keep me in the loop.”
“He does need to keep you in the loop.”
“He can loop me in when he’s got it all figured out. I cannot look at one more supply manifest or I’ll be ripping out other people’s hair since I don’t have any of my own!”
Gibbs passed over the glass. “Seems like you need that more.”
“Damn right.” Weppler downed it. “I’m going to have him loop you in.”
“I’m not your aide.”
Weppler glared, but it lacked real heat. “You’re a resource in this place.”
“I’m an NCIS special agent who doesn’t even report to you,” Gibbs pointed out dryly. “Wrangling Atlantis personnel is outside my mandate. And if you told Boyd not to loop you in until the end, he’ll do that. Do you trust his judgment?”
“Yes.” Weppler dragged his hand over his face. “He’s demonstrating a remarkable amount of common sense, which was clearly lacking in the prior attempts at mission prep. This place is going to make me insane, Jethro.”
Gibbs finally took a seat. “What’s really going on, Mike?”
“Carter. Jackson to a small degree. In briefings, I can see that she thinks I’m wrong, and I know that I’m seeing it because she wants me to. You don’t make it to her rank without being able to keep ‘I think my superior officer is a fool’ off your face.”
Carter seemed to smart to him to make that kind of career-limiting move. She didn’t seem like the sort to alienate someone who could negatively affect her promotion prospects. Unless she’d gotten it into her head that Weppler couldn’t affect her. “They’ve all been here from the beginning,” he offered carefully.
“Yeah.” Weppler shot him an unimpressed look.
“They have a way of doing things, and change takes time.”
“They have a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants way of doing things. Carter anyway. Jackson’s issue is more his bizarre jaded idealism.”
Jaded and idealism seemed like a contradiction in terms, but Gibbs wasn’t going to argue about it because it didn’t actually seem wrong. “What’s the problem with Carter? Exactly.”
“Landry reined them in about stupid crap that doesn’t matter, but let incredible breaches of operational protocol go by.” He rubbed his hand over his head. “The briefing this morning…they both argued to allow this delegation from P-whatever-we-visited-recently to come here for negotiations for some mineral they want to trade for that will help with the yield of something Carter needs in order to build a thing that will do something I couldn’t possibly hope to understand. And she knows I don’t understand, she’s banking on it.”
Gibbs took a second to parse that and then frowned. One of his biggest issues with the way things worked at the SGC was the sheer number of times aliens with unknown technology and weapons had been allowed in the mountain and even off-base. He figured Teal’c had earned some leeway, but the problem became that Teal’c was then used as a precedent for allowing more breaches in operational security.
Weppler got to his feet and began to pace. “In Carter’s eyes, I’m just another general in the seat, and she’s helped save the world repeatedly, so I should trust her judgment without question, apparently. I can’t even argue about the saving the world part.”
Gibbs wondered how he’d become the general’s confidant about his new command woes. It probably helped that he was outside of the base hierarchy. “While the program has many goals, the primary has to be keeping the planet safe.”
“Yes.” He paused. “I’m going to go ahead and allow this trade meeting to happen tomorrow. We all need to feel out our edges here. Carter’s familiarity with O’Neill isn’t doing me any favors here, and the perception that she’s mission critical by those above me is an issue.” He frowned. “I’m in charge here, but I have to concede that I lack the perspective those already in the program have.” He considered for several seconds. “Meet with Major Timmons and come up with a plan for security tomorrow.” He raised his an eyebrow. “I assume advising on base security and force protection support are still within your mandate?”
Gibbs shot him an unimpressed look.
That caused Weppler to laugh and finally slouch down in his chair. “This job is exhausting.”
“Yeah.” He got to his feet. “Here’s hoping I don’t need to take you up on that drink.”
* * *
The trade meeting seemed to be going okay, but Gibbs couldn’t shake off a bad feeling. He wasn’t sure if it was Weppler’s pessimism affecting him or something else.
While his presence wasn’t required, he’d been coordinating with base security to ensure only those absolutely necessary were on the entire floor where the meeting was happening, and he’d decided to stay in the room himself to keep an eye directly on the situation.
The trade delegation was only six people, but from the SGC side there were several scientists including Jackson and Carter, with Carter being the only military scientist. General Weppler was in attendance with Boyd sitting in as an observer. There were also six SFs in the room. All the delegates had submitted to a weapons search and had been clean. Gibbs had Kate and McGee outside the room in case they were needed, each with their own set of instructions should there be a problem.
The discussion was on science at a level Gibbs couldn’t possibly understand, so he let the conversation flow around him as he stood in a shadowed corner and tried to pinpoint what was making him uneasy.
Dr. McKay’s name coming up caught his attention. For some reason they’d determined they needed McKay to consult on an issue, and Weppler okayed for him to be summoned to the meeting. That’s when Gibbs gut started pinging because the SFs were slower to respond than they should be on top of McKay coming up in a conversation with people who’d never met the man.
He watched them all closely and realized the SFs looked…vacant. Gibbs fired off a group text to the people on the critical response team, which included Weppler and Gibbs’ people.
McKay had already been summoned, but Gibbs stepped forward, looking down at his phone. All they had down here was Wi-Fi, but he’d also quickly messaged McGee to intercept McKay and not let him in. “McKay’s on his way, but there’s been a snafu in one of the labs, so I’ll need the other scientists to head up. I hope Dr. McKay will be able to answer any questions that arise.” He smiled more genially than he normally would, the expression feeling forced.
Weppler didn’t outwardly react, but Carter had more of a tell. Jackson barely paused before keeping the conversation going.
One of the delegates held up a hand. “I hope everything is all right.”
“Pretty normal for around here, but I’m sure Colonel Carter will be able to answer your questions.”
First, clear the civilians. Weppler nodded for the four civilian scientists to leave.
The delegate’s eyes were narrowed. “I’m sure Dr. McKay will be more than satisfactory.” The tone of voice said everything.
Fuck. They were there for McKay.
Jackson caught the nuance, but Carter didn’t.
With the SFs potentially compromised, and they were the ones with the big guns, they had to be careful how they broke this party up. Gibbs ushered the civilians out the door except for Dr. Jackson, who was standing in as their key negotiation person, but he spotted McKay and McGee at the end of the Hall.
“Oh, there’s Dr. McKay,” one of the scientists blurted out.
Gibbs wanted to smack the guy silly. “Give me a minute and I’ll send Dr. McKay in.” He ushered the scientists out and closed the door. The SFs in the hall looked alert. “Go! Get to the stairwell,” he directed the civilians, shoving the scientists down toward McGee. Kate should be summoning reinforcements. “It’s about to go hell in there,” Gibbs advised the SF, “and your counterparts in the room are compromised by something.”
There was a blast in the room followed by yelling, and the scientists screeched and ducked for cover.
“McGee! Lock it down and shove them in a closet somewhere.” He pointed the scientists toward McGee and McKay. “Get to Agent McGee and do not stop.”
The door to the conference room opened and one of the vacant-eyed SFs exited, getting immediately zatted in the face by Gibbs. He was the only person carrying a zat, and while he found the weapon horrifying in how easy it was to kill and dispose of the body, he had a sudden appreciation for the stun feature.
Everything was chaos and yelling, like a damn warzone within reinforced concrete corridors.
Gibbs had tried to get back into the conference room but all the alien delegation were armed. Their damn wrist jewelry firing blasts with alarming speed, efficiency, and accuracy. He wound up pinned down at the end of the corridor with McGee and McKay. The civilians had all been shoved into a utility closet and, somehow, McKay had gotten clocked in the head and was now unconscious.
McGee was hovering over the man, checking his pulse. An energy blast missed Gibbs’ head by inches and he scrunched further down the wall. “McGee!” he snapped out. “Stop fondling McKay and get further back.”
“I think he was just knocked unconscious, Boss.”
“Yeah, I got that! Get down, dammit!”
McGee finally scrunched himself down, still shielding McKay.
Gibbs hadn’t felt good about the trade delegation, Weppler hadn’t felt good about it, and now they were getting their asses handed to them by six people whose weapons were disguised as fucking jewelry. He was never letting a visitor to this mountain keep even a damn watch on their person. If they ever allowed another visitor. He had no doubt Weppler was going to take all of these things off world in the future and that sure the hell would be Gibbs’ recommendation.
There had been precious little actual gunfire, mostly energy blasts as the delegation kept the SFs from entering the room. The guy shooting their direction was using Weppler as a shield as he fired blasts down the corridor as they demanded Dr. McKay.
Gibbs was hoping for an opening, some sort of distraction to get line of sight so he could put a round in the guy’s forehead.
There was a sudden increase in yelling and the energy discharges seemed to be targeted a different direction. Gibbs risked looking around the corner again just in time to see Colonel Sheppard skid into view on his knees, give barely a second to get his aim, and then take the shot Gibbs had been looking for.
The delegate fell back, and Weppler got his balance then got the hell out of the line of fire. With a complete lack of self-preservation, Sheppard went low into the room, the sounds of gunfire and energy blasts making it to Gibbs even as he raced down the corridor.
He peered around the door to the room, quickly breaking cover to shoot one of the remaining delegates who was about to kill Daniel Jackson. Otherwise, Sheppard seemed to have taken down most of the rest with the help of the SFs who had been hot on his heels.
Before Gibbs had finished assessing the room, he felt a sharp punch in the back and his legs went out from under him. His last thought as the world went white was that he couldn’t feel anything.
* * *
“Tony?” The word was out of Gibbs’ mouth before he was even fully awake. It wasn’t uncommon for him to wake thinking of Tony, but this was so vivid.
“No, I’m not Tony,” a familiar voice said.
Gibbs blinked a few times, vision easily adjusting to the low light of what he recognized as the infirmary. He looked over and found General Weppler sitting by his bed. The man looked tired and worn, uniform jacket and tie off, sleeves rolled up to the elbow.
“What time is it?”
“A little after 2300 hours,” Weppler replied taking a sip from a mug. “You gave us a scare, Jethro.”
“Not sure what happened.”
“You were shot in the back with one of those energy weapons, right between the shoulder blades. Shattered your spine with bone fragments likely flying into your heart. You were probably dead before you hit the ground.”
Gibbs wiggled his toes, having no problem with movement. “I’m not feeling that injured, and I didn’t think a healing device could bring you back from death.”
“It can’t, and we don’t have a sarcophagus lying around. No, you’d be dead if one of those ascended people hadn’t shown up and lit you up like a firecracker. You were healed but unconscious when he was finished.”
“Tony?” Gibbs sat straight up, feeling a little dizzy.
“I’m sorry, Jethro, but no. It was a man calling himself Janus.”
“Janus,” Gibbs repeated, throat tight with disappointment. “Why would he save me?”
“He didn’t care to explain, though he did talk to Daniel Jackson for a moment, and Dr. Jackson hasn’t been very forthcoming. Said he’d need to talk to you first before he revealed the nature of that discussion.”
“Then I’d like to talk to Dr. Jackson.”
“Last I saw Dr. Jackson was a couple of hours ago after O’Neill arrived. We gave him a sitrep, he changed into civvies, had a private conversation with Colonel Carter, and then left the mountain with Dr. Jackson. Hopefully everyone is getting some sleep, and I’m not calling him in when you should also be sleeping.” Weppler nodded toward the pillow. “Janus said the energy you’d been exposed to in order to heal you would make you tired for a few hours, so you might as well lay down.”
Gibbs wanted to have Jackson dragged out of bed so he could be told what Janus had said, but he knew that wasn’t an option, so he tried to put it out of his mind. “What happened?”
Weppler sighed. “You saw how their weapons were disguised as wrist cuffs?”
“Yeah. I’m already working on new security protocols.” He tapped his temple.
“I’m not doing this again. We’ll have a beta site outfitted for visiting dignitaries or whatever, but there’s going to have be a hell of a compelling reason for me to let this happen.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “They wanted Dr. McKay and planned to use the SFs they’d compromised and the hostages in the room as leverage to get him through the gate.”
“How did they even hear about him? He’s not on a gate team in this galaxy.”
“Some idle bragging on the part of one of the scientists who first went to,” Weppler made a dismissive gesture, “P-whatever. They apparently have some remnants of Ancient equipment, and the scientist on the first contact team boasted about McKay’s prowess with Ancient Tech but said he doesn’t go off-world.”
Gibbs’ jaw was clenched so tight it was making his teeth creak. “McKay all right? Last time I saw him, he was unconscious.”
“Fine. Minor concussion. He’s sleeping it off in his quarters while Colonel Sheppard clucks over him like a mother hen.”
“Eight injuries of varying severity, two SFs were killed, and then you.”
“How’d they compromise our people?”
“The SFs in the room were the same ones who escorted the delegation.”
He made a mental note to not let that happen again.
“In truth, it didn’t matter if they were in the room or not. It probably worked in our favor that those they’d slipped these things on,” he waved what looked like a small piece of plastic, “weren’t outside, roaming around.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t understand the science of it, but it allows them to influence the behavior of anyone they’re attached to via some sort of neural implants that their scientists and leaders all have.” Weppler tossed the square of not-plastic on the side table. “Two of the fours SFs they got those on were the ones who were killed. The other two are still in the infirmary, dazed and confused. We’re not sure how long that will last.”
“Complete goat rope,” Gibbs muttered.
“O’Neill suggested it might be time to let Carter go to Area 51.” Weppler’s tone was flat.
Gibbs made a vaguely interrogative sound.
Snorting in amusement, Gibbs replied, “I’ll bet you did.” Weppler wasn’t the kind of officer who sent his people elsewhere to deal with an attitude problem. He made them work it out under his command.
“I explained my reasoning, and then he changed into civvies before meeting with Carter and Jackson. I’d have let it go if she’d taken any accountability for what happened.”
Gibbs considered for a few seconds. “She’s not actually responsible, is she?”
“Responsible, no, but she’s not blameless either. But I’d have still let it go if she’d looked at her own failings in misreading the situation. Instead, she shifted blame to base security.”
Scowling, Gibbs retorted, “Base security is better, and she’s resisted all the changes.” It wasn’t just Carter. A lot of the old guard had been resistant.
“Exactly. But she keeps a cool head under fire and is obviously brilliant. She and a few others need to get themselves in check, and that’s not going to happen at Area 51.”
“You’re the boss, sir.”
“Damn right.” Weppler shot him a smile with too much teeth. “I’ve been sitting back and learning the lay of the land.”
“But I think those days are behind us.”
Gibbs just smiled.
“Don’t die on me, Jethro. I’ll be very put out.”
“Everything seems to be working fine now.”
Weppler glared. “You know what I mean. This wasn’t just a case of too close, you were gone. So keep your ass in that bed until morning and then take the day. Rest up and be prepared to come back on Thursday ready to discuss necessary changes based on today’s cluster fuck.”
Smiling, Mike got to his feet. “Night, Gunny.”
As soon as he was alone, Gibbs let his head drop back against the pillow and stared at the ceiling. For some reason, an ascended being saved Gibbs, and it wasn’t Tony.
* * *
“I know what you’re doing.”
Tony stopped playing and looked up at Janus. “Well, we went over what a piano is already, so your ability to articulate what I’m ‘doing’ doesn’t seem noteworthy.”
“I don’t mean the piano.” Janus looked vexed.
“Then what in the world do you mean?”
“You’re planning something, and I’d like to know you’re trying to do.”
“Am I? It seems like I was just playing the piano.”
Janus caused a chair to appear and sat down, glaring at Tony. “Why this place? The construct I created was based on memory, but you’ve created a new waiting place that looks the same.”
“It’s clinging to the past.”
“Hmm.” Tony began to play again.
“Why doesn’t it make noise? You could have fixed that.”
“I hear it just fine.” Tony was playing one of Chopin’s Nocturnes, Opus 9 No. 2, because the melancholy feel of it appealed to him in his current mood. One of the things he’d learned quickly about the Ancients was how little they heard.
“Jethro Gibbs died today.”
Tony’s hands stilled briefly before continuing. “Did he?”
It wasn’t as if this was news to Tony. He’d felt Gibbs go down, felt his life fading away, and had been about to tear a hole in the temporal plane to fix it, when he’d felt Janus take action. Janus who had the power and authority to actually get away with what would have ruined Tony’s plans—not that Tony wouldn’t have burned his plans to the ground to save Gibbs.
Despite Janus’ actions, Tony couldn’t afford to trust him. He was playing the long con, and he couldn’t afford to let the narrow focus of all Ancients throw him off.
“Did you help him ascend?” Tony asked idly.
“He hasn’t walked the path, that’s not something I could do.” After a few minutes of watching Tony soundlessly play, Janus sighed with obvious exasperation. “I broke our laws and saved his life.”
“Because I didn’t wish to see you do something foolish when Oma hoped for so much for you.”
“Hmm.” Tony cocked his head as he played the last few bars then turned to face Janus. “I appreciate you intervention. Gibbs was very important to me in life.”
Janus’ eyes narrowed. “Your detachment from your old life so quickly is surprising.”
“Is it? Interesting. I hope you won’t get into trouble with the others for your actions.”
“They’ve called me to task, but they agreed with my reasoning. You could have much to offer and they see that, so they support my goal to curb the temptation to interfere in your old life. They felt you were not adjusting because of your isolation and how you sit in this shrine to the past. But perhaps we’ve all misunderstood.”
“You think I’m sitting in my mother’s music room because of my attachment to the past?” Tony laughed and switched over to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. He willed his in-between space to look like they were floating in open space as his fingers moved briskly over the keys. “Better?”
“What are you doing, Anthony?”
“You’ve been here for nearly four months in the temporal plane and yet you’re just…thinking.”
“Yes. Don’t you ever just think. You’ve been here for many millennia, don’t you ever ponder? Consider? Contemplate? Cogitate? That’s a lot of C-words in English for think.” He side-eyed Janus. “Or do you just observe.”
“We study and learn.”
“Mm.” He let himself get lost in the movements of his fingers, wondering what fucking good all their learning was. “Well, I’m thinking. I have millennia ahead of me to step into my role as intergalactic observer. For now, I shall ruminate. Maybe muse a bit.”
Clearly irritated, Janus got to his feet. “I’ll leave you to your meditations, then.”
“Janus.” When the other man stilled, Tony offered. “Thank you for taking care of Jethro.”
There was a long silence. “You are welcome, Anthony.”
When he was sure he was alone, Tony switched to something slower again, idly picking at the keys in a way that took no concentration so that he could listen again. His new companions seemed to know every time he turned his ascended gaze to the mortal world, but they never seemed to notice what could be heard. He’d learned that despite their many advancements that they were remarkably short sighed and often narrow-minded.
For now, Tony needed to not be noticed, but he also needed to know what was going on with his old team. Right now, Gibbs was just arriving back home so Tony tuned in to listen. He wasn’t sure how long he’d have to do this, but he knew it would be a while yet before he could act.
After all, Tony had a plan.
* * *
Gibbs rested his head on the arm of the couch, hands laced over his stomach, staring up at O’Neill’s ceiling, and wrestling with grief and a profound sense of disappointment. Janus’ only words to Daniel had been that he’d intervened to avoid any possibility that Tony would be distracted from his path. Janus apparently had enough status with the ascended assholes to not suffer great repercussions for his interference.
The only thing that had been confirmed was that Tony was still ascended, so he supposed it should be a relief that his fear about Tony being abandoned and alone on an alien world were unfounded. But he couldn’t seem to find his relief.
“I appreciate what Janus did, Tony, but why wasn’t it you?” he murmured. He used to talk to Shannon all the time after she’d died, and he’d known he was talking to his memories of her. But Tony was actually out there somewhere.
“I get up every day and do this job, but every crazy moment makes me think of you because you’d have been…perfect for this.” He dragged his hand over his face, fighting back emotion. “Kate and Tim are coming along. Thought Kate might wash out because of all the things you saw in her that I never wanted to address. But she’s good now. She impressed Weppler yesterday, her Secret Service training coming into play as we fought back a potential foothold situation. She practically sat on him to keep him out of the line of fire once Sheppard did his over-the-top stunt.” Gibbs smiled faintly at Weppler’s recounting of how Kate wouldn’t back down when she’d ordered two of the SFs to “secure the general.”
“McGee loves that crazy place, but he’s digging in more with his computer stuff. Gonna get Kate to start to take on keeping him focused on other methods of investigation. Good for her to mentor people, I think. She did better with Abby than I could have—persuaded her to stay in the hospital for a while and get some help. Kate says she’s thinking about taking a research job when she gets done, but Kate’s gonna talk her into going on vacation first. Maybe Europe.”
He abruptly rolled to his feet and walked to the window looking out into the trees. “I took it for granted—having you on my six. I trusted you from the beginning and felt settled in my skin in a way I hadn’t in a long time.” He blew out a breath. “I wanted you from the first time I saw you, but told myself ‘rule 12, Jethro.’” His laugh had no humor in it. “And I really into the lie that it wouldn’t hurt to lose you if I didn’t ever have you.
“But it hurts like it did when I lost Shannon. I know I never told you about her, but I figured you knew. You’re too smart to come work with a man you hadn’t looked into after what happened with Price. I think she’d have liked you—she like to laugh too.”
His throat felt constricted, and he had to swallow back the emotion again. “How did you move on so easily? Because I can’t, Tony,” Gibbs whispered.