- Death-Minor Character
For all that talking with Derek and Penelope had left Tony feeling hopeful, the three weeks that followed seemed to conspire against them. In addition to cases assigned to the whole of Unit 4, Morgan was sometimes loaned out to other departments or Units within the Bureau for cases that specifically needed a Sentinel as well as a profiler. In those instances, the aural grounding that Garcia usually provided to him through a dedicated ear-bud when in the field was often not quite sufficient and so she traveled with him. Having received just such a case the day after their dinner, Derek and his Guide were out tracking and profiling a serial bomber until Monday.
Tony had planned to join the pair for lunch on Tuesday to, in Garcia’s words, commence the hunt. It was a disappointment to them all when twenty minutes before they were due to meet up, ASAC DiNozzo received a text from his senior field agent about urgent intel regarding a possible biological attack. He grimaced as he dialed his phone and waited for Derek to pick up.
“It looks like my team will be leaving for Boston in an hour,” he said once his friend had picked up.
“Well damn. I’ll tell my lady. She’ll be bummed, man. I think she color-coded a file on her hard drive this morning just for this. It’s got subfolders and some other kind of organization I can’t even remember the name of.”
Two members of his team poked their heads into his office while he laughed. Tony gestured at a stack of files on his desk for them to gather up, moving the phone away from his mouth for a moment as he spoke. “Take those down to Bruner and let him know his team will have to handle them while we’re gone.” He brought the phone closer again on a sigh. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to get going. Please tell your prettier half I’m sorry and I’ll shoot her an email as soon I get back to town.”
They quickly signed off, but the response he got to his email Thursday morning was an apology of her own. Unit 4 spent four days dealing with a serial rapist while Garcia also filled in for the top tech that worked for Unit 3 to help find a six year-old girl whose bipolar father had skipped town with her during a manic episode. Tracking and profiling a violent stalker in DC kept the Bonded Pair out of the office for the two days after that.
They tried to reschedule their lunch when they returned. But before they managed it, Unit 4 was sent off to handle a high profile kidnapping and Garcia was sent along so Derek could better track the victim. Being a district attorney apparently had perks Tony wasn’t aware of. He was finally able to fit in a quick visit to the computer analyst two weeks after the couple had dinner at his apartment.
He knocked on the doorway to her office that Friday afternoon and was greeted with an eager smile and a more eager greeting when she spun her chair to face him. “The light of life has reached my dark abode, sit and shine upon me so I may sparkle.”
Tony couldn’t help but laugh. It was a relief. Despite Wilde’s best efforts his anxiety had kept him up every night trying to come up with another way to track down his suspected Guide. As a result he had barely had the energy to turn up his scent dials as he made his way through the building each day. Doing a purposeful sniff search hadn’t been a good idea, and his spirit animal gave him a raspy yowl and a stern head butt the two times he had tried over the last week.
“I take it you have some time to take a break?”
She shook a fuzzy tipped pen at him. “You bet your toned tushie. Now get that beautiful set of buns in a seat so we can finally get started on drawing up your treasure map.”
He hadn’t even had time to comply with her order before she was spinning her chair back around to face her keyboard and was jumping right in.
“Okay! Let’s get to it. I figured we’d start with Agents and such. Since Derek spent the entire week we’re talking about in the bullpen, my office, or walking from there to the car I will add security guards to the list. I assume it’s safe to skip that creepy maintenance guy from the parking area?”
Tony laughed again. “Yeah. I see him most days too. He smells like stale beer and old socks so I think it’s safe to assume it wasn’t him.”
“And you had said you did a sniff check on all twelve temp Guides on staff?”
Garcia didn’t even wait for verbal confirmation of what he had already said at dinner. Instead she gave a decisive nod, somehow ignoring the feathers dangling from her earrings as they bumped into her chin at the motion. “So first up, latency. As you know, everyone is required to test for latency to work in federal law enforcement, unless they’ve already been tested. Based on personnel files…” There was a pause filled with the clicking of keyboard keys. “We have a list of sixty-seven, twenty-nine of which are marked as being or having been latent Guides.”
He let out a breath. Twenty-nine wasn’t an unwieldy number and was actually smaller than he expected, even considering that the percentage of gifted in the FBI was supposed to be something around half a percent, which was quite a bit higher than the .05% of the overall population. “Usually only Alphas can reliably recognize their match while the other person is still latent. Some level fives can but it’s what, only forty percent?”
Penelope nodded. “Forty-eight, actually. You’re a level 4 though, right?”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “But Sentinel Fletcher thinks I have the emotional imperative of a level 5,” he admitted, glancing briefly at one of the side walls so he wouldn’t see the look of pity all the Gifted who’d heard that tended to give him at one point or another.
“Then we’ll compile the list of latents just in case.” Tony watched her fingers fly over the keyboard. “And I, the cross-referencing queen that I am have already narrowed it down according to who did or did not sign in to the building at any point during the last week of September. Which gets us to fifteen. Well, that’s a bit more than I expected. But never fear, my non Navy gumshoe, my magic is not yet depleted.”
There was more typing, then an exclamation of victory. “Ah-ha. My understandably beloved position within our little work-place Pride serves me well yet again. Of the fifteen I can safely say one is Online and Bonded. One is definitely low-level, which makes her an almost impossible match for you, and another is,” she paused, clearly uncomfortable. “Well, he’s externally dormant.”
Tony winced. Being unable to come Online because of something outside your control such as a genetic disorder was the most common of the four kinds of dormancy. It always bothered him to hear that someone’s access to their gifts had been taken from them before they even had a chance to have them. Yet, in this case it was one less person to search through.
“Anyway,” she said, determinedly cheerful. “Now for the Online ones. Statistically speaking, twenty percent of adult Gifted are online so allowing for some wiggle room, I’d say out of the twelve latent Guides that were here that week, three or four of them were probably online despite not having it officially listed anywhere my admittedly awesome powers can reach. As you know, the Center database is as far from public as you can possibly get but the Bureau can only legally require notification of Online status if it negatively impacts the safety of yourself or others. Guides, of course, have a lot more leeway there than Sentinels, even as field assets.”
There was a flurry of typing, then she smiled over her shoulder. “So we’ll just have to get a little creative to get the most complete list we can. State you parameters, my liege, and I shall do battle in your name.”
Tony, who had felt distinctly useless as he listened to her work, leaned forward with a thoughtful hum. “They most likely be conscientious enough to get their Center recommended annual empathic check, so known trips to their local S&G Center would be a good start.”
“Okay, okay. A little murky there, but keep it coming.”
“Well, the stronger a latent gene the more likely to come online and that tends to run in families, so relation to other known Gifted, maybe.”
“A sound deduction indeed. Give me a minute. Okay, next.”
“Online or strongly latent individuals are often more opinionated about S&G rights and the presence or actions of well known Gifted. And just about everybody in our generation spends a ton of time online, so…”
“Yes, I see where you’re going, online shopping, social media activity and comments, donations to S&G charities.” She leaned forward slightly in her chair as window after window flashed across her screens. “You can’t rush perfection… but you can marry its second cousin and have plenty of chubby cheeked digital babies,” she declared over the constant stream of clicks and clacks until a last few keys were struck with a flourish.
“And there. A list of twelve potentials including the almost certainly Online Zeke Philman and Danh Nguyen, complete with handy pictures for easy identification is my gift to you, Sir Tony of the Terrific Tush. Am I or am I not practically perfect in every way?”
He swallowed hard past the lump suddenly inhabiting his throat as she turned to face him with a wide smile. “You, Penelope Garcia,” Tony said softly as he stood, “are perfectly perfect in every way and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“Awww. You’ll make me blush saying such wonderfully and completely accurate things.”
He laughed and would have replied if his phone hadn’t started to chime repeatedly just loud enough for him to hear, signaling the receipt of multiple texts. He pulled it from his pocket and scrolled through them. He had specifically waited until he had cleared his metaphorical desk for the week before coming to see Garcia so that meant something new had come up.
“Seems I need to get back to it. I really can’t thank you enough, you know.”
She waved aside his words with a grin, then made a shooing motion with her hands. “Yes, yes. You’re welcome even though you totally don’t have to thank me. Now, off you go, duty calls.
A second series of near silent chimes sounded from his phone, prompting him to repeat his heartfelt thanks before heading out. As he closed the door behind himself, he heard her phone ring as well. Her voice followed him out into the hall, causing him to grin and shake his head as he went.
“Office of the omnipotent and the beautiful, how may I direct your call?”
The intel dump heralded by the barrage of texts buried most of Unit 1 for the entire weekend but Tony and his team finally dug themselves free just in time for Unit 4 to be off yet again. It was a good thing he had a list to work from because Penelope was glued to her phone talking with Derek while his team chased a spree killer in LA for three days. The good ended there, however.
He utilized the list, color-coded and organized by location, department, and the likelihood that they came in contact with Derek based on some system of odds he was completely unaware of. He made a point to wander through a different area of the building every day on his way through and during his lunch breaks, conveniently passing close by as many of the candidates as possible. Yet, while he was sure the two Garcia had named were in fact Online, neither they nor any of the others were the Guide he was looking for.
By the twenty-fourth of October, Tony had worked his way through seven of the twelve names, and all but two of the people on it who worked at Quantico on a daily basis. Before he could become too discouraged he was sufficiently distracted by a long series of fourteen-hour days investigating a suspected terrorist cell that culminated in a day of travel.
One week after he had met with Penelope, he forced himself to call her before falling into bed for at least half a day. He had made the best use of a restless plane ride by trying to pinpoint the day he vaguely remembered smelling something that might have been Guide in the hallway outside his bullpen. He had a murky recollection of a bombing case but that only narrowed it down to the month of March.
“I thought it might be worth a shot though, right? If nothing else it might tell me how soon I need to maneuver a meeting with those three from out of state.”
“You bet. More information is always good information. I’ll do the technological tango first chance. I’ve got to get my Psionic Adonis out the door, though, or we’ll be late for Reid’s birthday dinner.”
“No problem. I’ll talk to you later, lovely. Thanks again.”
“Of course handsome. I’ll- Wait, before I forget. You haven’t gotten a chance to do a sniff-test on JJ yet right?”
“No. I don’t think both our teams have even been in the building at the same time without one of being at def-con four since the dinner.”
“Right. Well, I was thinking you might want to have a little more fun with it. Derek and I are going to this awesome haunted house on the thirtieth and I have two extra tickets and a couple convenient costumes to go with them.”
Tony sputtered through his exhaustion. “Are you serious?”
“Yeah. Like a double date thing. It’ll be fun. Please?”
“And did you ask your friend about this?”
“Well not yet. But I know she’s free Sunday and a few minutes under the force of my spectacular personality and I know I can hook you our Pretty Press Wrangler for the night. So say yes, say yes.”
He let out a long breath and decided to give in gracefully. He didn’t have the energy to argue anyway, and Wilde was giving him doeful eyes for not being in bed yet. “Fine. But only if she agrees.”
“Excellent. We’ll see you there. I’ll text you JJ’s address so you can pick her up.”
“After she agrees to go. Right? Garcia?”
“Opps, there’s my Sentinel now. Gotta go.”
DiNozzo shook his head, set down his phone, and fell into bed with a sigh. He was asleep before Wilde had even gotten comfortable next to him.
He sighed again Sunday night as he said goodnight to latent Guide Jennifer Jareau. Tony had always thought his Guide would be male, if only because 75% of Guides were. That and he was pretty sure the smell had been a man’s scent pile. So it wasn’t a shock to him that the pretty blond hadn’t been his. Even so, it was another disappointment on top of a growing heap of them.
Penelope bumped his shoulder with her own as they watched JJ’s taxi pull away. “You okay, Tony?”
He did his best to smile. “Yeah. I still think I should have dropped her back off myself though. Feels rude not to.”
“Don’t worry about it, man. It was JJ’s idea. There’s chivalry and then there’s lettin’ the lady make her decision. I think she was probably trying to bow out gracefully.”
Tony winced. “God. I wasn’t that obvious, was I? I feel like a jerk. It’s hardly her fault she isn’t my Guide.”
“It’s okay, handsome. You were a perfect gentleman, your natural charming self. It’s not like I didn’t tell her about our sniff campaign. She knew as soon as you did that she wasn’t who you were looking for. But the two of you came and enjoyed, and didn’t laugh when I ran away from the clown. No worries.”
“Right. What she said,” Derek agreed as they both reached their cars and got ready to leave. “Now go home and snuggle with your leopard and we’ll see you tomorrow at work.”
Tony rolled his eye at his fellow Sentinel and got in his car.
“And don’t mope!” Garcia commanded. “We’ll find your lobster, Tony, just wait and see.”
He wanted to agree but just smiled and started the engine. As unpleasant as it had been coming Online, being Online was worth it just for the chance to find his Guide. And he knew that elusive person existed, it was just a matter of finding him. Because he refused to believe that wonderful scent belonged to anyone else.
“I just have to keep looking, right?” he asked the spirit animal in the passenger seat as he made his way home. Wilde made a soft huff and rested his big head on his human’s shoulder.