Banner by Me!
Tony was sitting on the lawn out from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC when he heard his name called. He didn’t know what time of night it was, just that it was late. Tony didn’t think it was midnight yet, though. His intention was to go home when he left Gibbs’ house, but instead, he found himself at the memorial and just went with it. There were rumors that Lincoln was the first Guide bonded or unbonded to be elected President, and that some of the problems he had with depression and such was from the lack of a Sentinel. Somehow, given where his life was at the moment, staring at a massive statue of a Guide who seemed to be saying I told you so seemed just punishment.
Turning his gaze away from the memorial, Tony found his friend FBI Agent Sentinel Seeley Booth standing there, and newly online Guide Zach Addy hovering somewhere in the background. Tony was glad that Seeley had Zach stay back. As much as he liked the younger man, Tony wasn’t sure he could handle him to be any closer than he was at the moment.
“Tony, what’s going on?” Seeley asked hovering about 6 feet from where Tony sat. “Can I come over?”
Instead of speaking, Tony nodded and patted the grass next to him. The two men were part of a basketball league at the FBI that Tony was invited to through his friend Derek Morgan. Given that someone was always on a hot case, they always welcomed fresh blood. There were a handful of guys from outside the FBI that were involved thanks to connections and friendships. Tony had known Derek since college where the two met playing football for different Big 10 teams. After the first league game, Seeley had come to dinner with Tony and Derek, and the NCIS agent had made fast friends with the other FBI agent.
When Seeley sat down, Tony turned his attention back to Abraham, trusting that Booth would know it was ok to talk. “You’re bleeding all over the place, but Zach said it didn’t feel like you’d want him near. So, he stayed back. We felt you all the way to the Smithsonian. Angela said that she’d call the Center to let them know I have it under control, so they don’t send anyone. So, what’s goin’ on man. This about Kate?”
Tony let out a humorless chuckle as a spike of pain went through his heart at the sound of his former partner’s name. While the two hadn’t been bonded, they had worked in the field together for long enough to form a working bond. They were utterly incompatible as anything other than that, and it took longer than Tony would have liked for them both to get past their preconception of the other to make it work. In the end, though, she’d at least been almost a friend. Kate was a big reason why Tony survived his run-in with the Plague, and then roughly a week later she was dead, and her blood was all over Tony’s face.
“Kind of, but not how you mean,” Tony murmured as he looked to Seeley briefly before turning his attention back to the monument in front of him. “Have you ever felt like you fuck everything up no matter what you do?”
“Oh Tony,” Seeley said and most likely would have gone on, but Tony rushed forward with what was the real problem needing to get it out, or he’d never say it.
“They put Ziva on our team today.”
“What?” Seeley shouted, and Tony could smell the anger on his fellow Sentinel and friend. “They put that bitch who was complicit in Kate’s death on your team of all places? She shouldn’t be at NCIS at all, but to have her on your team is completely offensive.”
“She’s friends with the new Director,” Tony offered as an explanation. “The whole thing is off. The new Director is clearly up to something. She doesn’t even try to hide her fucking lusting all over Gibbs as they play this stupid power game. Between her and Ziva, things have gone bad so quickly, and Gibbs is just deluding himself. I guess that the price for Katie’s blood was Ari’s. The ol’ eye for an eye’ shit or somethin’. It’s… I can’t work there, Seeley. I can’t be in that environment, and I’m not the only one. Guide Balboa already told me that both he and the Sentinel on the SWAT team are quitting. They’ve been dating and think that something permanent could come of it. So, they’re leaving NCIS before Sheppard gets a whiff of it. I can’t… Jesus, Booth, I turned down my fucking Guide for this shit?”
“Fuck, Tony,” Booth moaned before the sniper put a hand on his shoulder. “You did the right thing at the time.”
“That wasn’t what you said then,” Tony pointed out as he turned to look at his friend once again.
“Yeah well, I was just coming off that close call of maybe finding a Guide myself, and I was a huge asshole at that point. Plus, we’d just met, and… I’ve been holding back because of the Plague scare and then the Kate thing, but I got something similar a couple days before you got sick. I guess you don’t understand until you’re in the same situation. AD Evans told me no rush, but I’ve been thinkin’ about it for almost a month now, and it’s hard to get over the part where I’m going in blind.”
“Yeah,” Tony agreed, understanding completely. About a year into his service with NCIS he got pulled into Tom Morrow’s office for a notification of a Guide match, only this one was of a sensitive nature. Most times when the centers found a high-level match between a Sentinel and a Guide, all the information they had was given each person, and the two of them worked out the details together. However, when one of the Mates was in a sensitive or classified position, no information at all was given the other mate. There also was no question about who would be going where. The person with the classified position always won out. While Tony knew that both he and Seeley would have parts of their files restricted or redacted depending on the other person’s security clearance, neither of their records were completely blacked out.
That meant that should they accept their perfect or nearly perfect Guide match both he and Seeley would be expected to give up their jobs and lives as they knew it to go to wherever their Guides were. It wasn’t the greatest situation, but it was the best they had to protect those whose jobs were of a highly sensitive nature.
“You know the funny thing is your old director was there at my meeting,” Seeley continued almost absently, and Tony shook his head a little to bring his thoughts back to the present.
“Morrow?” Tony questioned tilting his head to one side as he tried to figure out why he would have been there and found himself frowning when Seeley nodded his head yes.
“He told me that I should talk it over with you if I needed to talk to someone who understands,” Seeley shared making Tony’s frown of confusion deepen. “I didn’t even know that you’d told him that we were friends. Not that I mind, it was just a surprise.”
“I didn’t though,” Tony corrected shaking his head as he turned his body away from Lincoln and resettled facing Seeley. He didn’t want to get a crick in his neck, and the conversation was drawing him away from his morose thoughts and toward the new puzzle that he’d been presented. Even as a child Tony was unable to resist a good puzzle, and the staff was always finding him new ones. The larger, the better as far as he was concerned. Now he used his puzzle skills on his job and scumbags that hurt other people or conversations about former Directors that weren’t where they were supposed to be.
“You never told him that we were friends?” Seeley clarified leaning forward slightly, having turned his body to face Tony’s as well.
“Nope,” Tony assured making the popping sound on the P. “You know, the day he left NCIS for good, he pulled me aside and told me that should I ever change my mind I could come to him. He said that the door wasn’t closed. I couldn’t figure out what Morrow was talking about until I got home that night, and then things went to hell. Once I had time to myself, I couldn’t understand why he was bringing it up when we hadn’t talked about it in years. Not even Gibbs knows I play in the FBI Basketball League. I never mentioned it because I knew he’d bitch, and Fornell swore that he wouldn’t tell. I don’t believe most things that come out of that asshat’s mouth, but he was sincere on this. Why the fuck would Morrow be at your Guide meeting?”
“Unless they’re connected?” Seeley prompted, and Tony slapped his friend’s leg as his head bobbed up and down in agreement.
“That has to be it!” Tony exclaimed before standing. “Come on. We’re going to talk to that old fucker to get some answers.”
“Tone, it’s like 10:30 at night,” Seeley pointed out amused, as he stood with a smile on his face. “And we haven’t really decided anything have we?”
“I’ll do it if you will,” Tony said eagerly pushing Gibbs and NCIS into a box and locking it never to be opened. Maybe once he was settled at his new place, he’d put together something to warn someone like Morrow of the potential problems brewing at NCIS.
“As long as we’re together, I mean. One of the reasons I said no in the first place was I was tired of starting over completely from scratch. New home, new job, new friends, new everything, but if this whatever is going on is us together, then I’m in if you are. If you and I are guaranteed to be in the same place at least, then I won’t be starting over from scratch. So, like I said, I’m in if you are, and if Morrow’s gonna dump puzzles like this on me, then he deserves to answer questions in his jammies at 11PM at night. ‘Cause it’ll take at least 30 minutes to get to his place and through his security.”
Seeley laughed and shook his head but held out his hand. “What the hell. I’m in. You’re right. The complete newness of it and the potential isolation was my hold back, too. I mean I have some things I’m gonna have to work out, like what do I do about Parker, but I think that’s a manageable item. Let’s wake up an Assistant Director at Homeland and make him answer some questions.”
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
A little over 30 minutes later, Tony and Seeley were heading up the path to Assistant Director of Homeland Tom Morrow’s house. The man in question was standing in the open front door wearing what appeared to be a pair of house pants and his robe and a very clear scowl on his face. “If you two jackasses were going to figure it out, did it have to be at 11PM?”
“You wanna give us really cryptic clues you have to suffer through our working schedules,” Tony snarked back not caring in the least at that point about pissing anyone off. He was completely over the games those in power liked to play. “Some of us do more than sit at our desks all day and have power meetings with other important people, Director Morrow, sir.”
“I should sic Annie on you,” Tom threatened as he waived the two men into the house and closed the door behind them.
“Your wife loves me, sir,” Tony reminded still smirking, “and she’d probably tell you it was what you deserved for playing games. We would have waited, but I’m already tired of the bullshit that exploded at NCIS the second you walked out the door.”
Tom lifted an eyebrow at Tony before greeting Seeley and the urging the two younger man to follow him to his study. Once they were all settled, with Tom behind his desk, and Tony and Seeley settled into the two chairs in front, the former NCIS Director finally responded to Tony’s earlier quip.
“My lovely wife is a kind and generous woman, and that has to be the only reason she’s so fond of a pain in my ass like you. I can’t answer much. You two boys do know that, right?”
“We understand, sir,” Seeley answered thinking maybe they should add a little more professionalism back into the conversation. When Tony just whispered “suck up” at him, though, the FBI agent rolled his eyes. “We have a question for you though, and then depending on the answer may be willing to discuss our options. I may have a few more than Tony, given my personal situation.”
Tom nodded as he leaned back in his chair and got comfortable waiting for one of them to get to the point. The Deputy Director of Homeland Security, and newly read into the Stargate Command program, studied both men waiting for someone to ask a question. The day he’d been read in, he received an overview of the SGC’s most pressing threats from their commanding officer General George Hammond, and right at the top of the list was Senator Robert Kinsey and his agenda against the entire program, but SG1 specifically.
Apparently, his latest attempt, which was actually gaining ground, was how dangerous it was to have two unbonded Guides leading the SGC’s top team. Unfortunately, there were still those in Washington and high up in influential companies around the world who felt that Guides were too fragile to be left alone and certainly weren’t effective without being bonded. The fact that O’Neill and the rest of SG1 had already saved the planet a couple times wasn’t important. It was seemingly the fact that they were being put in danger without someone there to protect them was. Unfortunately for Senator Kinsey and his ilk, Tom Morrow not only didn’t buy into such buttshit but when he found out just who Colonel Jack O’Neill’s Guide was, he knew exactly how to solve the problem.
When Morrow originally received the papers advising of a Guide match for the Sentinel Gibbs brought in to make his partner, the then NCIS
Director did not want to lose the only person who ever seemed to be able to handle the cranky Marine. So, when he presented the pairing notification to the young agent, he’d cheered silently when the offer was turned down. However, just over 3 years later, when he found out how important finding Jack O’Neill his Sentinel was, the situation was completely different.
For one thing, he knew that making Jenny Shepard Director of NCIS was a mistake and had voiced his warning. While SecNav Davenport hadn’t listened and instead given in to pressure to hire a female Director and specifically Shepard, he had promised that he was going to be keeping an eye on the woman.
Tom had no problems with Shepard being a woman. It was her obsession with what she saw as finding the truth to her father’s death, that wasn’t as secret as she wanted to believe, and her questionable connections to people like Eli David that gave him pause. In Tom’s opinion, there were much better people to put in charge of NCIS. Hell, even Henrietta Lange from over at the CIA would have been a better choice than Shepard, and Tom felt that Hetty was still too stuck in her Cold War state of mind at times.
If things at NCIS were already going off the rails, Tom knew he’d have to put a bug in some people’s ears. While he knew that it wouldn’t be taken seriously if he investigated her himself, Director Skinner over at the FBI or even SecDef Grimes could do the job. While Tony and Gibbs had certainly had their moments since the young man joined NCIS, the former Detective was as loyal to Jethro as it could get, and if he was looking to leave, then something was seriously wrong.
“Do these two Guides that you offered Seeley and I work together?” Tony asked pulling Tom out of his musings. “Either on the same team or at the same place?”
Steepling his fingers and resting his two index fingers against his lips, Tom considered how to answer knowing that if he said too much the agent who was much more intelligent than he let on would gain more information than Morrow should be giving out. “Yes, yes, and yes,” the former NCIS Director finally settled on.
“Yes, yes and…” Tony repeated before trailing off and tilting his head to one side. It didn’t take long for one of Tom’s favorite NCIS agent’s eyes to widen as he looked to Seeley Booth. Morrow hadn’t known that the other man was a friend of Tony’s until Tom got back details on a security check he’d ordered for the FBI agent. To be safe and fair, he’d ordered one on Tony as well, but it hadn’t revealed anything that Tom wasn’t already aware of thanks to his original check when Tony moved to NCIS from Baltimore PD. That included the details on Tony’s criminal father, whom the younger man hadn’t had contact with in more than 11 years. When Tom found out that Tony and Seeley played basketball in an FBI league along with a mutual friend, the new Deputy Director had known that he found what he needed.
Tony DiNozzo was an enigma. He came off as both a social butterfly and a lone wolf at the same time. He could blend in with any crowd or at any social function but seemed to be just as comfortable on his own. He could shift from careless playboy to seeker of justice in the blink of an eye, and there was always more going on in the man’s head than he let on. The man’s masks were something most people around him struggled to comprehend, even those that spent every day around him. There were very few that the young man let fully inside, and if Seeley Booth was one of those people, and his very presence in Tom’s study said he was, then there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Tom wasn’t getting the former Sniper into the SGC. Thankfully, the FBI agent turned out to be Daniel Jackson’s Sentinel, so there hadn’t been much manipulation needed on Tom’s part.
“I know you two must have other questions, but unfortunately, I can’t say much more without knowing that you’re onboard,” Tom said regretfully and wasn’t surprised when Tony pushed things. The question he followed up though was a little surprising but definitely leant to Tom’s belief at these two men having a close friendship.
“What about Parker?” Tony asked, and Tom didn’t miss the combination of surprise and gratefulness that passed over Seeley Booth’s face. “Seeley has full custody of him. We can’t go anywhere that we can’t take Parker to.”
“Parker can come,” Tom confirmed with a nod. “I won’t lie and say that he doesn’t make things slightly more complicated, but we already have some tentative plans worked out. We took the liberty of doing a security clearance check on his nanny Isla Collins, and we were thrilled with the outcome. Your English relatives certainly know how to train a nanny, DiNozzo. We were aware that Agent Booth had full custody of his son due to his ex-wife’s death and put some things in motion, both including and excluding the nanny, in hopes that Seeley would come around.
“There’s a lot more going on than you two realize, and I am not going to bullshit you here. There are a lot of more lives that depend on you and Booth agreeing to these matches than you can understand right now. If you’re agreeing to the mating, you’ll have 24 hours to get things wrapped up here. Don’t worry about things like giving notice to NCIS or the FBI. My office will take care of those things once you say yes. We’ll also take care of moving your residences. So, all you’ll have to do is say your goodbyes tomorrow and then report to my office at Homeland at 0800 hours the next day. Since you both work closely with very… inquisitive people we’ll call them, I would recommend that you advise them the position you are moving to is highly classified, and any attempt at ferreting out information will result in serious consequences. So, do you have answers for me, gentlemen?”
Tom watched the two men have a silent conversation but didn’t bother to hide his smile when he finally got an answer from Seeley Booth. “You have a yes, sir.”
A deep sigh of relief was let loose from all three men for three different reasons. While Tom was known for his stoicism, he didn’t bother to hide his relief and thankfulness. “Both I and your country thank you, boys. I will see you 0800 hours the day after tomorrow. Booth, please bring Parker and your nanny with you. You will all be shipping out to meet your mates once we are done with a lot of paperwork. Have a good evening, boys.”
Tony and Seeley both shook hands with Deputy Director Morrow and then headed back to their cars. After saying goodbye and making plans to meet for breakfast before heading to Homeland, the two men parted ways, both daydreaming about the Guides they’d both thought they’d never find.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
There was a heavy feeling covering the conference room Tony and Seeley were sitting in at 1000 hours the morning of their appointment. It was like a heavy woolen blanket that you snuggled down under in the middle of the winter when it was bitter cold, and nothing else would keep you from freezing as you slept. The problem was that it was early September in DC, and the weather was even warmer and more humid than usual. So, instead of being comforting the blanket was just itchy and suffocating and all Tony wanted to do was throw it off and find some nice cool silk sheets.
All he could think was that he’d left his Guide alone to deal with this mess.
Aliens, wormhole thingys that let people travel to different planets, asshole aliens who were worse than some bug you picked up when drinking water from a contaminated water source, and… Christ Tony’s mind couldn’t even process it all. Because he couldn’t stop quietly freaking out and mentally castrating himself for leaving his Guide alone to deal with this shit. How the hell did he deserve this man? Someone who hadn’t turned away but ran headlong into danger and apparently saved the planet more than once just in the few years he’d been with the program. Not to mention all the heroic shit he did before he joined this program. And Tony was supposed to be his Sentinel?
To do what?
Stand around in his Armani suit and look pretty?
At least Seeley had actual battle experience, and the former NCIS SFA was sure that his sniping skills would be highly sought after. After all, surely asshole aliens deserved a headshot now and then. But, Tony could do what? Tell a joke? Find a movie reference to relate the situation to that would do what? Alien movies had never really been his thing because he always felt they were the same thing over and over… Maybe he was regretting that a little bit now. Perhaps he should have taken a second to watch Tom Cruise save the world from aliens but to be fair, he’d thought nothing could have topped Will Smith.
“Tony? What are you thinking, son?” He heard, and lifting his head, he looked to Tom and for once didn’t bother to try and mask the expression on his face. He was reasonably confident that his shields had cracked somewhere around the time they said his Guide went to other planets, and now everyone in the room knew how he felt. He knew the stone-faced Major Davis was utterly unimpressed by Tony.
“I’m thinking I’m gonna be as useful as tits on a boar hog, and what the fuck does my Guide need me for?” Tony answered honestly. “And beyond that, doesn’t he deserve better than me at this point? I mean, what the fuck Tom! I left him to deal with this? And, you people think he should or would take me now? Offer me a second shot when he’s proven that he doesn’t need me to save the entire planet literally? My whole life is filled with people who have been saying I’m basically worthless. Hell, my father made it his mantra when I was a child. For a while, I thought I’d become a street sweeper because he kept saying I’d end up in the gutter, and I didn’t know any other jobs I could do living there. I don’t…”
“Tony breathe,” Seeley said softly as he put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I get it. I’m freaked out too. There’s no way to one up here. Both situations are less than ideal, and no matter what Major Sourpuss there obviously thinks, this isn’t some Sentinel posturing or temper tantrum because our Guides were successful without us. It’s fear and anxiety born from knowing that we can’t keep our Guides from danger. It’s not even maybe because it’s been proven that they do just fine without us. No one wants to go into a situation where it’s clear they have no useful value. Especially when they were damned good at their previous job. I mean…”
Seeley trailed off shaking his head, and it was Tony’s turn to attempt comfort as he gave his friend a pat on the back. “I don’t know what to think or say, Tom. I honestly don’t. What the hell good can either of us be to these people? We aren’t exactly domesticated housewives. I can’t see either of us sitting around and waiting on our Guides to get home after a long day of chasing asshole aliens around on other planets. I mean no offense because I know you wouldn’t have brought this to us if you didn’t believe we were suitable, but it’s clear your cohort there doesn’t agree.”
“Don’t worry about what Paul thinks,” Tom ordered giving the Major in question a disapproving glare, “it isn’t his job to judge your fit for this pairing or this program.”
“It’s my job, and I already know what an asset you’ll be to these people. Major Davis may not understand why you turned down this pairing originally, but I do, and I supported it. Major Davis is here to get the non-disclosure agreements signed, and that’s it. If I wanted someone to be either of your Guide’s mate on paper only and be some house-trained Sentinel housewife, I would have picked completely different people. Trust me. I get why you’re worried, but I think you’re missing some things, though. Firstly, this isn’t just about what you can contribute to StarGate Command. The first concern is the two of you and your Guides on a personal level. Don’t think I don’t know what a mess your head is right now, DiNozzo, either.”
Tony tried to protest, but Morrow just glared him into silence. “Major Davis and the rest of the people in StarGate Command may not know you yet, but I do. You just had your damned partner murdered as she was standing right next to you in the field, by a damned terrorist, or close to it in my mind. Ari Haswari was a psychopath and murdered the woman who served as your field Guide for close to two years. As if that wasn’t bad enough it happened right after you almost fucking died from the plague! Then there’s the whole car bomb that could have killed Kate and Tim, Abby getting shot at in her lab, Gibbs going on a, what did you call him, Captain Ahab tear…. I’d say you’re more than a little stressed and vulnerable.
“Frankly speaking, you and your Guide need each other on a personal level much more than SGC needs either one of you. Then, yes, SGC will need you, and despite what you’re thinking, your talents could be of use. We don’t have anyone that works in an undercover type role. We don’t have any investigators, and you’ve always been scary good with languages, which can only help even when we’re talking aliens. I don’t blame you for being scared, and as a Sentinel myself, I get the whole kicking yourself for not being there when your Guide was in danger. As you know, my Guide and I have always worked separately, and there’s been more than one instance when one of us was in danger, and the other wasn’t there. I get it. Forget Paul’s expression. He looks like that all the time. He can’t help it. As a matter of fact, Major Davis, you’re excused. The NDAs have been signed, and my assistant can help me from here. Plan on us meeting about this though later, and you judging people that you have no fucking clue about.”
The Major in question stood and gave Tom a nod and went to leave but paused. Tony arched an eyebrow as he returned the Major’s stare. “For what it’s worth, I meant no offense. I didn’t realize that you’d been through so much recently. My condolences on your Field Guide.”
Tony gave the man a nod of understanding but fought not to let the tears break out at the continued mention of Kate. The whole thing was still incredibly new, and as much as they had a love/hate thing going on sometimes, she’d been an essential part of his life. He thought maybe being denied the opportunity to hunt Haswari might have started the inevitable end of his time with NCIS. Once the Major left the room, and another man who was obviously a civilian joined them, Tony turned his attention back to Morrow.
“I don’t want to keep beating around the bush, Tom, but I just…”
“I know, DiNozzo,” Tom assured quietly as he leaned back in the chair he was in. “I do. You’re going through an emotional rollercoaster. Now that you’ve signed the NDAs and the bonding commitment paperwork, I can give you both a little more information on your Guides. There are some details on their missions I don’t want to share yet. Mostly because you’re both so far away from them and Tony especially is extremely on edge right now. But, I will tell you the basics, and hopefully, that will give you both something new to think about than your worry over not fitting into the program.”
When both Tony and Seeley nodded their understanding and seemed to perk up a bit at the news of more information, Tom knew it was the right decision. If he didn’t give DiNozzo something else to think about he’d be a wreck of self-doubt and have his self-esteem in tatters by the time he got to Cheyenne. “Tony, your Guide is Colonel Jack O’Neill. He’s older than you are and is the Second in Command at the base the two of you will be stationed at, and the leader of SG-1, which is the team both Guides are on. He’s divorced. He had a son who died when he managed to get ahold of one of Jack’s guns and got curious. Unlike Gibbs, though he’s in recent years tried to move beyond that. Honestly, your personalities are pretty similar, and I think in that area you’ll mesh very well.”
“Seeley, your Guide is Dr. Daniel Jackson, and he is the lone civilian on the team, but he’s quite a valuable asset. It was Dr. Jackson who helped solve the issue with the StarGate to allow us to get it working. He’s an archaeologist and anthropologist and is quite respected on the base. Honestly, I am finding both pairings quite ironic given each of your most recent situations. Tony, as much as I believe you and Jack are a perfect match, my gut says you’ll both blend much better now than you would have when it was first offered. While Jack is similar to you in ways, I can also see shades of Gibbs in him, and I think that your time under Jethro will help you in your pairing.
“Booth, the same can be said for your time working with Dr. Brennan at the Jeffersonian. I can’t help but feel that had this pairing come about before your time with that team that maybe you and Dr. Jackson wouldn’t have been such a perfect match. I know that this is a newly discovered match, and I am told that something changed in your most recent testing that made the match possible. Look, DiNozzo knows that I’m not a bullshiter, and I am not one for all the spiritual or mystical mumbo-jumbo. I try to tell it the way it is.
“I think that both of these men need each of you, and I think that this delay in both of your pairings happened for a reason. We have options for how both of you can be assets on base outside of your fieldwork. Tony, I am very aware that you spent time at military school. So, I know that you aren’t completely foreign to that life, and I think your time under Gibbs will help you fit into a military environment, as well. My suggestion is to just go into it with the idea that you’ll be as honest and patient as you can with your Guides, and that everything else will work themselves out. Booth, we need to talk some details about your son. So, why don’t we get that done real quick, and then we can send the four of you on your way.”
As the conversation turned toward things that had nothing to do with Tony, his Silver Fox Spirit Guide made an appearance sitting on the table near him. Smiling, Tony moved the empty coffee cup in front of him to make room for the creature. After Hades settled in front of him, Tony buried his face in the animal’s fur, and let his mind wander to all of the possibilities coming his way. Changes were a’comin’, as they say, and the question facing Tony was, was he ready to deal with them or was he going to let his cracked psyche get in his way? When Hades lifted his head and huffed at him, the former SFA knew he only really had one option. So, dealing it was. Whatever that meant.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Much later that day, Tony was looking out the window of a Humvee as he drove himself and Seeley, along with Parker and Parker’s nanny Isla Collins toward the Cheyenne mountain base. The closer that Tony got to meeting Jack, the more anxious he got about it. Seeley seemed to understand this and had stopped trying to distract him somewhere over the Mississippi, and instead left his friend to his thoughts.
On Tony’s part, he was trying not to fall too deeply into the well of despair and uncertainty, but it was hard. Life really had been completely craptastic lately, and while he wanted to believe that this would be different, he honestly couldn’t say that he did. He just couldn’t fully get past the notion that Jack O’Neill really didn’t need him, and why the shit would the man even want him after Tony already rejected him once. He was self-aware enough to know that until he actually saw the man, there was nothing that could convince him things were going to actually work out. His life just didn’t historically work that way. So, why would this be any different?
Tony wanted to call Gibbs badly in the aftermath of finding out his Guide’s identity, but didn’t think it was a good idea to do it so soon. Not that their last talk had gone badly. In fact, considering their recent circumstances, most of the talks had gone better than expected. He’d gone to see Gibbs first. There really hadn’t been any other question of who he’d see initially. Morrow had advised he was taking care of the paperwork portion of moving Tony and Seeley each from NCIS and the FBI to Homeland. The last thing Tony wanted though was to have Gibbs find out at work. As much as he questioned what the hell the man was thinking with this Ziva David shit, he owed the older man more than an email from the Director informing him that his SFA had flown the coop.
Tony was prepared for anger and guilt trips trying to get him to stay. Instead, there was encouragement, and honest conversation about things Tony knew, but Gibbs had never mentioned himself. Things like his wife and daughter getting killed, and how much he regretted turning down his own Guide in the aftermath of that. Gibbs advised that there should be nothing more important to Tony, and that working things out with whoever this mysterious person was should override whatever worries the younger man had. Tony left the house feeling much better about things between the two of them than he had since Kate died.
He’d then headed to NCIS to pack up his desk and leave a letter for McGee. He didn’t know how well the Junior Agent would do without Tony there to get between the computer genius and Gibbs’ temper, but that was something for someone else to figure out now. He’d then gone down to autopsy where he knew Ducky would be in. The two of them had a long talk that further soothed some of Tony’s worries about leaving, and he’d walked out with a promise to keep in touch. Both Ducky and Gibbs understood what it meant for Tony to have a match with no information and sent him off with a request to try and stay safe.
Abby had been the other surprise. Tony hadn’t been sure how she’d handle the exit, but he’d decided to pull a card from Gibbs book. So, when the Goth arrived at work, Tony had been leaning against her door waiting with a CafPow so they could talk. There had been nearly 15 minutes of shouting, begging, and tears that Tony just stood quietly through not reacting or speaking. Eventually she wore herself down and threw her arms around him demanding that he keep in touch.
Abby was one of his favorite people in the world, and while he was going to miss seeing her daily, they’d promised to stay in touch. As a parting gift, Tony left her with some things he’d noticed about her lately that were trending into a not so good path. That part she hadn’t taken so well, but Tony knew he wouldn’t be around to look out for her anymore. As a last act as Gibbs’ SFA, Tony made Abby promise that she’d get counseling for what happened with Kate and Abby’s own harrowing encounter with getting shot at by Ari, also. “You’re a beautiful loving woman, Abby, but you’ve picked up some habits that don’t reflect that. I’d hate to see you lose yourself. Talk to someone before it happens.” Only after she’d pinky promised had he given her another hug and left. There wasn’t anyone else in the building that he was close enough to that he wanted to say goodbye’s to, and felt he needed to get gone before the Director, or worse Ziva David, realized he was in the building and either woman decided she wanted a chat.
“Ten minutes, sirs,” the Corporal in the passenger’s side seat in the front informed them, which Tony found interesting considering the driver was, if Tony read his ranking correct on his uniform, an Airman First Class, meaning the driver was Air Force and the companion was a Marine. This was looking to be some kind of an oddly made up base, but he’d roll with it. “Thank you, Corporal Spencer,” he returned and looked back to Seeley who was in the back seat with Parker and Isla. Tony wasn’t very good with kids, but Parker was cool, and seemed to be taking this whole thing as an adventure.
Tony wasn’t sure if it was too soon or not soon enough that he and Seeley were being escorted through the mountain. They’d taken one elevator down to level 11, and then taken another elevator down several more levels to seventeen. Corporal Spencer was now leading them toward a greeting room on the level, which Eliot advised them was used for Sentinel and Guide purposes. While there were isolation rooms further down into the mountain, level seventeen was used as the common gathering area and meeting rooms for the Sentinels and Guides on base. They’d apparently found out that seventeen was as far as a Sentinel, who was new to the command, could get down into the mountain before the difference in the environment became a problem.
While Tony and Seeley were ushered the gathering room, Corporal Spencer took Isla and Parker to the common room so that Parker would have the TV to watch while they were on the mountain. Tony’s last thought unrelated to his new circumstances before entering the gathering room was that he would need to contact the Paddingtons and thank them for sending such a kickass Nanny. Up to that point at least, Isla had simply rolled along with the changes, and made things much easier for Seeley and helped to sooth any worries or anxieties that Parker must have had.
When they entered the room, Tony took note that there were only two other people in there. As they’d both been shown pictures of their Guides, Tony recognized the salt and pepper haired man as being Jack O’Neill and the younger of the two being Daniel Jackson, not that he gave the younger man much of his attention. The second his eyes landed on his Guide, Tony found himself struggling to control himself on several fronts. He was vaguely aware of Dr. Jackson saying they’d be in the room across the hall, and the door closing, leaving Tony and Jack alone. There was a feeling in the air that Tony wasn’t sure how to label. He thought that maybe there was a glint of anger or distrust in the Guide’s eyes, but he wasn’t sure if it was real or if he was just seeing what he expected to.
When the silence between them started to become uncomfortable as they played the staring game, Tony found himself being the one to break as his eyes dropped to the floor. As if on auto pilot, he moved to one of the chairs and sat down heavily, staring at his hands. What the fuck was he supposed to say now. Sorry? Sorry I wasn’t there when you fucking needed me the most, but I had this new job and wasn’t ready to start over from scratch in an unknown environment? Oops? My Bad! Can we get a do over? Normally, he’d be cracking a joke right at that moment to lighten the atmosphere, but somehow it didn’t feel like the right thing to do.
“Well, this is just a ball of laughs,” Tony heard from the other man and shifted his gaze enough to see the other man was moving in his direction. When it seemed that Jack settled in one of the other chairs, by where the Colonel’s feet appeared in his range of vision, Tony noted that the seat was close to where he was, but that it wasn’t the one next to where Tony was sitting.
One thing that Tony noted quickly was that there was absolutely nothing coming from Jack. He was used to feeling Guides that he was in close contact with reaching out to him mentally. It was something that they all seemed to do regardless of their bond status. Not Jack O’Neill though. It was as if the man had this series of barriers around himself ranging from cement to Chromium, and there was nothing that was going to get into or out of them.
“I don’t understand,” Tony said softly, not realizing at first that he was the one that had spoken.
“What exactly is it that you don’t understand, Special Agent DiNozzo?” Jack asked as the shoes seemed to stretch out in front of the man, and Tony guessed that the Guide had settled more comfortably in the chair.
“I’m not anything special anymore,” Tony murmured softly before responding to the actual question. “I don’t understand why you would wait for me? Why you would want me now?”
“Who said I did either?” Jack snarked making Tony lift his head finally to look at the man. “Who said I needed you at all, except this douchebag in Washington that thinks all Guides are weak and fragile. Frankly, I think that I’ve done a damned good job without you. I never said I needed any kind of Sentinel. I never put out the first request for bonding, let alone the second one. The Air Force did that. I don’t want you or need you here. I can save earth just fine without your assistance.”
To say Tony was devastated was putting it lightly. It was as if the last of the threads holding him together had been cut, and all of his emotional barriers were severed so that they were opened up for anyone to see. Not knowing what else to do, Tony stood, and with a nod left the room blindly heading down the corridor and further down into the mountain.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
“You’re a fucking prick, you know that, asshole?” Jack heard and looked up quickly to see Daniel’s Sentinel stride into the room, with Daniel hovering in the background. Standing to defend himself, Jack opened his mouth to speak, but quickly backtracked until his back was to one of the cement walls. He’d go further if he could, because there was a highly irate Sentinel in his face, and while he had more balls than maybe was safe, even Jack O’Neill wasn’t stupid enough to goad someone that could literally tear him limb from limb if pushed too far.
“Do you feel better now? Have you gotten your ounce of flesh, or was that just a warm up? Do you have a whole fucking diatribe planned that will slowly tear tiny bits of him off his bones until there’s nothing left? Will that make up for whatever you went through? ‘Cause somehow, I fucking doubt it. Seriously, do you have any fucking idea what you just did? Do you have any fucking idea what he’s gone through lately? And yes, I do get what happened to you and how devastating it must have been. I have my own Charlie. I believe he’s down the hall watching cartoons with his nanny, and if something happened to him I would probably cease to exist, Daniel or no Daniel.
“There are days that it’s so fucking hard to imagine going on that I don’t want to get out of bed, but I do because I have him and I know that as long as I do nothing else matters. So, I get it. Losing your son must have been the worst thing that ever happened to you, but really… and I realize this is going to sound like I’m diminishing what happened, but that was one fucking event. Imagine having your worst fucking day happen when you were 8 fucking years old. And then again, a few months later, and then a few years later and then again and again and again. It’s like there’s something in the fucking universe that is hell bent on seeing Tony destroyed until there’s literally nothing of the amazing man that he is left.”
When the sentinel laughed, it was a dark, ugly sound that made Jack shiver and his stomach clench with pain. “And you what, you had to get your fucking blows in right off the bat. Well, good job asswipe. Maybe Senior will let you join his club, God knows he’s delivered enough to Tony both verbally and physically over the years. Seriously, what the fuck?”
Just when Jack was sure that the end had come, Daniel stepped in and saved his ass once more. “Seeley come on, back up. Trust me when I say I get that Jack can piss you off more than any person on earth, but you can’t kill him here. General Hammond has a strict no blood on the carpet rule.”
Finally, Daniel pulled the Sentinel back enough that Jack wasn’t in imminent fear of his life. “So, because Tony DiNozzo had a hard life, I’m not allowed to be mad that he rejected me? That’s kinda fucked up.”
“That wasn’t being mad jerkface!” The angry Sentinel hollered getting right back into Jack’s face. “Do you understand that? Mad is hey, jerk. I need you and you weren’t there. What the fuck? What you just did was tell him that as far as the last fucking person on the face of the fucking earth that he is supposed to fucking be important to above all else is concerned that he doesn’t fucking matter! That isn’t fucking mad, that’s fucking cruel. So, to the only fucking person he’s supposed to matter to, he doesn’t. Bravo, Colonel O’Neill. You got your fucking ounce of flesh from him. Unfortunately for you, it just might be the last fucking ounce he had.”
“Jesus, melodramatic much?” Jack quipped and wanted to bash his own head against the wall when Seeley leaned impossibly closer to him.
“Did you not read his fucking file dumbass?” Seeley snapped as Daniel tried to pull him back. With their own bond not even begun, he wasn’t having much luck using his Guide abilities to help his Sentinel who obviously had a much closer bond to the other Sentinel at the moment than he did Jack. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“His fucking Field Guide was just fucking murdered! He had her goddamned blood all over his fucking face. That’s after he just recovered from the motherfucking plague, which did fucked up things to his senses. Hell, they still aren’t sure that they understand all of the shit it did to him. And then on top of it his fucking new Director let a woman who was complicit in Kate’s death onto his fucking team! So, no fuck face, I’m not being melodramatic. You have literally picked the worst fucking time to be an asshole!”
“He was in the field with another Stargate team on a special assignment, Seeley,” Jack heard Daniel murmur close to the Sentinel’s ear as he was determined to keep his mouth shut. Not that he could speak at the moment if he had to. He was pretty sure that even he couldn’t find something to say or joke right at that second. “He just literally got back a couple hours ago, and just got out of his debriefings when you two arrived. I was trying to fill him in when you and Tony walked in. Please, I know he’s an asshole, and sometimes his masks get in the way, but please.”
Finally, the enraged Sentinel allowed himself to be pulled back and calmed. Not sure what to do, Jack slid to the floor as the reality of his situation became clear. He hadn’t wanted to cause so much damage. He was just pissed. It was a fucked-up mission and he hadn’t had any time to process his own feelings about his Sentinel finally agreeing to a bonding before the man was in his face and angsting all over the place like he was the one who had suffered. To say it did bad things to Jack’s psyche was putting it mildly. Unfortunately, he’d caused more damage than he’d wanted, and as it turned out, the other man really might have been on his last thread.
Fuck his life.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Tony had been wandering through the base, not sure where he was going, but since no one seemed to be paying him any attention, he just kept going. Eventually, he found himself alone in a room with a ramp leading up to this big metal or stone circle thing, and he guessed that he’d found the gate. Not that he’d been looking for it exactly, but somehow it felt like this was where he was meant to be. His head was… well, a mess. He was hurt in a way that he didn’t know how to get over, and while a quiet voice in his mind kept whispering that maybe Jack didn’t mean his words, the louder voice constantly countered that thought with how couldn’t he?
Tony was trying to quiet both voices because he didn’t want to deal with either of them at the moment. As he stood looking at the large circle, not knowing how long he’d been there, he heard a loud beeping sound like an alarm and realized that something was happening with the ring. As Tony watched, part of it began to move, and some of the symbols started to light up. Since the plague, he’d been having trouble with his senses spiking at inconvenient times, and especially his hearing. So, Tony was aware that there was some alarm as to what was going on. Typically, he would have retreated, but it was as if something else was controlling him because the pull toward the circle and whatever was going on with it was too hard to overcome.
He watched as the symbols light up, the middle metal part of it retreated, and the center got this liquid appearance. Just as the liquid portion was beginning to move, though, and rush toward him, his vision got weird, and everything blacked out. The last thing he saw was the liquid rushing straight at him.
When Tony opened his eyes, he found that he was laying on the floor of a room, and there was some short grey creature with a big head and big black eyes looking down at him. It was every alien abduction story he’d ever heard in his life and swore to himself not to scoff at another National Enquirer article, again.
“I apologize for removing you from the gate room without warning, but we could not allow the Ancients to gain access to you,” the small creature replied. “We have waited too long for Colonel O’Neill to find you.”
“Ahh, ok,” Tony murmured as he pushed himself up into a sitting position. Then, crossing his legs pulled his knees up to his chest and resting his arms on his knees and studied the alien in front of him wondering which of them was the alien in the current situation. “I take it that would have been a bad thing? You’re an Asgard, right? Tom, err Deputy Director Morrow, showed me a picture of you.”
“I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet,” the being said introducing itself, “and I believe the word that Jack O’Neill would use to describe the Ancients is asshole.”
That comment drew a startled laugh from Tony, and he thought that if his Guide was teaching aliens curse words, then the man couldn’t be all bad. The thought of his Guide brought a renewed pang of hurt, but before he could get lost in his head, he noticed Thor’s head tilt. “You are distressed. I do not know if it will help, but we believe that the Ancients or at least a small portion of them have meddled with you and Jack. For what purpose we do not know, but they seemed to not want Colonel O’Neill to find you. That is why I beamed you from Stargate Command. We were unaware that your StarGate was still able to be controlled by the Ancients, or we would have fixed that before now. I assure you that we will share the information with General Hammond on how to correct that problem.”
“So, what? These Ancients made my Guide be an asshat?” Tony asked as he stood when Thor motioned to him to do so and began walking with the Commander down a hall.
“No,” Thor admitted, although sounding somewhat reluctant, “it is more you that they have been manipulating, or more precisely, we believe that this portion of the Ancients has been manipulating things or people around you to try and prevent you and Colonel O’Neill meeting. We believe that they engineered certain negative situations in your life. The latest being your most recent illness.”
“And you guys just what? Watched as they fucked with my life?” Tony snapped but forced himself to calm down as Thor stopped and turned to look at him.
“No, this is information we are just learning,” Thor shared, and for once Tony found himself struggling to read someone and didn’t like it. Not willing to give up though, he chalked it up at the moment to his first alien encounter and hoped that with some practice he could adjust his knowledge of humans to other beings.
“I admit that we have been keeping an eye on Jack O’Neill since he discovered one of the Archives of Knowledge. We believe that one of them contains the information we need to solve a dire problem we have encountered. At one time, we had what you call Sentinels and Guides as well. Over time though, we have accidentally lost that which makes a Sentinel, and now we are all only Guides. When we found out Jack could access this information, we began using technology we have not had to use in quite some time to find his Sentinel. However, it was only your recent illness that allowed us to find you. We were planning on visiting General Hammond and sharing the information we knew, but before we were able, we saw the Ancients trying to penetrate the Gate Room of the Midgard base and felt we needed to act quickly. We feared what would happen if they got gained possession of you.”
“Uhh, yeah, thanks for that,” Tony agreed as they began walking again, and soon he found himself in a room that appeared to be some kind of lounge.
“We created this room so that Colonel O’Neill could be more comfortable if he came to us again. I hope that it is suitable for you. I have requested that one of my people contact Midgard to let them know that you are with us. The moment you were removed from the Gate Room the Ancients ceased their attempts to gain access. As soon as we are sure that the Astria Porta has been blocked from further unwanted interaction with the Ancients, we will send you back. Without you, we believe that Colonel O’Neill will be safe, as it is you they have been targeting. It should only take one or two of your Midgard days to accomplish this. In the meantime, I believe that our scientists would like to ask you some questions if you are willing.”
Settling on one of the couch looking pieces of furniture that were actually more comfortable than it looked like it would be, Tony agreed to answer any questions he could. He did stipulate that he held the right to refuse to answer anything he felt was Classified, and Thor happily agreed. This led to two days of questions from scientists until finally, Tony was able to be sent back home. As he said goodbye to some of the friends he’d made and promised to discuss giving them the samples they wished under the right circumstances, he left with some not small amount of trepidation and concern about what was waiting for him back home.
Asgard had been a temporary refuge that he’d needed desperately, and when Thor offered it up any time he needed, Tony was moved almost beyond words. He wasn’t oblivious to the fact that he’d felt more welcome and appreciated by a group of aliens than he had on his own planet in quite some time. He could only hope that now that they were aware of the Ancient’s meddling that there was possibly a chance for himself and his Guide.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
When he materialized back on earth - and how very Star Trek was transporting? McGeek would have been jealous - Tony was happy not to have the blackout he’d suffered the first time. One of the things that the Asgard had done was to help him correct some problems that the plague caused with his senses.
They did admit though that they found some differences between him and some old files the Asgard had on other human Sentinels before they realized some of their people were experimenting on the humans. Sigyn admitted that this could be the result of evolution as the information they had was very old, but they weren’t willing to automatically assume that was what it was. They stressed that they felt that there would be some differences between Tony and other human Sentinels, but also shared that they felt the same was possible for Jack.
Generally, as a result of his undercover work, Tony didn’t like anything that made him stand out. In this instance, he was more grateful for what they fixed, and really, the changes weren’t their fault. They hadn’t given him a biogenetically engineered form of the plague that had completely messed up his system. For all, anyone knew these changes would have come if he and Jack had met and bonded naturally. So, Tony wasn’t about to hold a grudge against his new friends.
As a result of the corrections the Asgard made, Tony was able to shut down the senses that he’d thus far been secretive about how hard they were to control. This reduced the chances of him blacking out, which apparently had been caused by sensory overload as he transported. Once he materialized fully, Tony was happy that Seeley was the first face he saw.
“Tony, thank fuck,” Seeley muttered none too quietly as he strode forward and wrapped his friend into a massive hug. “We’ve been worried sick.”
“I’m ok,” Tony insisted but made no attempts to move from his friend’s arms. “They actually fixed some problems that the plague caused. So, technically I’m better than I was when I left.”
“How about I be the judge of that,” a short brunette said stepping forward, and Seeley smirked.
“Tony, meet the base doctor, Janet Frasier,” Seeley introduced as he stepped to one side to let the woman approach his friend.
“I want you in the clinic immediately,” Doctor Sentinel Frasier ordered. “We’ll do a complete work up to see what they did to you, and before you even think of trying your tricks on me, Dr. Mallard sends his greetings. He mentioned you have become needle shy since your illness, and I promise you we will keep that in mind as much as possible.”
Tony groaned but followed knowing that if she’d already talked to Ducky, he was about as screwed as it got. He was glad though when Seeley trailed along. He didn’t miss the sight of Jack lurking in the back of the gate room and was worried when his Guide didn’t immediately speak up. When the Colonel followed them, though, to his checkup, Tony took it as a good sign and just tried to focus on the upcoming prodding and poking and not the Guide following along behind them.
An hour later, Tony found himself alone in the clinic with Jack. Tony was sitting up on one of the beds waiting for clearance to leave from the feisty Doctor. Once the initial examination had been completed and come out with no apparent issues, Seeley and Daniel excused themselves to go and begin their bonding process. They’d delayed it while Tony was missing, but Booth admitted that it might have been for the best because it had given them time to get to know each other before sex got added into the mix.
Currently, Tony was watching as Jack wandered around the room poking at various things. He later chalked it up to his massive hatred of hospitals no matter what form they came in, even if they were underneath a mountain and honestly having no escape options just made it worse, that it took him so long to realize that Jack felt different. He felt more open than he had before, and Tony wasn’t sure what to think about it. He could smell nerves on the older Guide and definitely didn’t know what to think about that tidbit. For the first time since Tony had arrived at the mountain almost three days prior, Jack almost felt like every other Guide that Tony’d met in his life. He could definitely feel the other man’s Guide part reaching out to his Sentinel.
Not ready to think about bonding before they’d cleared the air, Tony tried to figure out what to say. “You feel different,” he finally noted drawing Jack’s attention from whatever medical apparatus he was fiddling with.
“Yeah, about that,” Jack began as he shoved his hands into his pockets and wandered closer. “Morrow said that he told you about Charlie. After he died, I guess I kinda shut myself off. Things were bad around the house. Sarah wasn’t a Guide, but she knew the difference between keeping her emotions in or letting them out freely. The Air Force insisted that she have at least that much training when we got married. I was considered one of their stronger Guides, and they didn’t want me going home to a potentially hostile environment. After Charlie… She kept telling me that she didn’t blame me, but it felt like she and her father were shoving all this hate, anger and blame at me all the time. I guess I just shut off and put up all these barriers. When you rejected me the first time, I guess I didn’t handle it well. I mean…”
Jack huffed and scrunched his nose a moment, but quickly barreled on and Tony could see on the Guide’s face how much he hated this part. Definitely shades of Gibbs in the man. “It wasn’t long after Charlie died. The Air Force wanted me to find my Sentinel to go on the original Stargate mission no matter how I felt about it, and then you turn me down. And, yeah, I get it now, and if I hadn’t still been suffocating from grief, I probably would have understood then. Over the years, I guess the anger just festered, and I imagined the worst things about you that I could. Daniel will tell you I can be an asshole when I want to be, and I will admit maybe our first meeting wasn’t my finest moment.
“Seeley yelled at you, huh?” Tony said with a soft smirk, and Jack made a face remembering.
“I think that’s putting it mildly,” Jack confessed and frowned as he remembered the incident. “Then as if he wasn’t enough, once your Deputy Director Morrow found out you were gone, and why you were down in the Gate Room alone, he came here to chew my ass out, as well. He brought someone from the DC S&G Center with him to help me get my barricades down. So, while you were gone, I guess I had time to think. I don’t really have an excuse, just explanations. The mission I’d come off of wasn’t the best. I hate going into the field without my team, especially when something goes FUBAR. I barely had time to debrief, and then there you were, and I guess… Well, you were a convenient target. It’s not something that happens often but, well…”
“It can’t happen again,” Tony insisted quietly as he played with the thin blanket covering him from the waist down. “I won’t be your verbal punching bag when you’re having a bad day or coming back from a bad mission. We both obviously have scars, and it will take time to learn each other’s sensitive spots, but I need to be able to trust that you’re not going to use mine against me.
“My father did that to me my entire childhood, and I won’t go through it again in my adult life. I’m not trying to throw my own personal pity party, but other than Seeley, I’m giving up everything to come to a position where I don’t see how I can be useful. I’m doing it because this is where my Guide is, and your job is obviously more important. It’s been a crappy couple of months, and I need to know that I can depend on you to be with me, not someone I have to constantly worry about.”
“Look, I know that I didn’t set the best first impression, but I’m not really that big of an asshole,” Jack insisted, and Tony could tell he was starting to feel defensive, which was the last thing the Sentinel wanted. “Can we get past this? Are you willing to try to get past this?”
It was an honest and fair question that Tony just didn’t have an answer to.
An hour later, Tony had been released from the clinic and was in a conference room waiting to go over his time with the Asgard. Joining him were all of Jack’s SG1 team, Seeley, Doctor Frasier, and General Hammond, who was the base CO. These types of meetings had never been Tony’s favorite, and certainly not when he was the center of attention. It was part of his new world though, and eventually, he was going to need to just suck it up and get used to it.
“How did you end up being in the Gate Room?” The General asked beginning the debrief, and Tony slouched down in his chair slightly to get comfortable. Stealing a pen that was sitting in the middle of the table, he began playing with it as he turned his mind back to that day.
“I don’t really know,” Tony admitted and glanced to Jack whose face was blank, but a brief head tilt gave Tony the idea that his Guide wanted him to be honest. “I was just trying to get away from Jack. I like to move when I get really upset. I obviously can’t go for a run when I’m trapped inside of a mountain, so I just started wandering. I don’t really know how I ended up in that room. Looking back, I guess I was drawn there. I remember standing at the bottom of the ramp in front of that circle thing… uhh, the StarGate and wondering what I was doing there when things started happening. I remember the rings moving and the middle getting all liquidy, and then I blacked out. When I woke up, I was on the floor looking up at who I found out was Commander Thor.”
Seeley put a glass of water in front of Tony, who nodded to his friend thankfully, and the former NCIS agent took a drink before he continued. “Thor apologized for taking me without my permission but said that they didn’t want the Ancients to gain access to me. He said that they’d been waiting too long for Jack to find me.”
“Jack?” Daniel repeated leaning forward from his position next to Seeley and peering around his Sentinel. “They knew that you were Jack’s Guide? How did they know that? Did they say why Jack specifically?”
“Uhh, yeah, Impatientson, I was just getting to that,” Tony replied obviously amused, and when Seeley offered snort of amusement of his own, the Long Island native felt himself relax slightly.
“Dr. Jackson, why don’t we let Agent DiNozzo finish his story before we begin asking questions?” General Hammond added in more order than request.
“Right, sorry, Tony,” Daniel said, and Tony waved a hand in the air with a smile.
“No sweat, Curiouson,” Tony quipped enjoying having someone new whose last name he could creatively mangle, “fortunately for you I’m used to excitable scientists.” After Daniel gave him a shy smile, Tony continued with his story.
“Thor explained that the Asgard were not aware that our Astria Porta err StarGate hadn’t been changed so that the Ancients couldn’t dial in whenever they felt like it. It seems that your shield thingy won’t stop the Ancients as they can get around that. The Asgard weren’t sure why the Ancients wanted to get their hands on me, but they weren’t willing to allow it. So, until the changes could get made to the StarGate, the Asgard were going to keep me with them. I said that it sounded like that would be a bad thing, and Thor replied Jack would call the Ancients assholes.”
When Jack let loose an unexpected laugh, Tony flashed his Guide a grin, while Daniel muttered something that sounded like “Jesus, Jack” and the rest of the room tried to hide their smiles. “I’m glad he said it because it was my first indication things might work out with Jack and me. I figured that anyone that would teach aliens curse words couldn’t be too bad. Thor said that he felt I was distressed and explained that the Asgard had recently learned that the Ancients had been fucking with my life to try and prevent Jack and me from finding each other. I got upset at first that they hadn’t done anything to stop it, but Thor immediately explained they’d just recently figured it out, and immediately started trying to locate me. He said that they’d just found me and were in the process of trying to contact General Hammond to let him know everything they’d learned when they saw what the Ancients were doing.
“He then took me to this lounge looking room that they’ve made for Jack if he should need to stay with them. Thor said that it would only take a day or two to fix the Astria Porta… err StarGate and that Jack should be safe without me here. Thor then asked if I would be willing to talk to their scientists because they had questions for me. He said that they used to have Sentinels and Guides as well, but something they’ve accidentally cloned their Sentinel part out. While I was there, I learned that they’re dying because there’s a fatal flaw in their cloning process somewhere and if they can’t fix it they’ll all die.”
Tony paused to take another drink of water before continuing and glanced first to Seeley then Jack and was glad to get reassuring smiles from them both. “When the Asgard discovered I’d had the plague, they did what they could to heal the issues I’d been having but said that something had changed in me. Apparently, some Asgard thousands of years ago did experiments on humans, which is where our encounters came from, and that they weren’t sure if the changes were natural or because of the plague or something else.
“Oh, umm they’ve been watching Jack, and are sorry they didn’t tell us, but they were afraid how we’d take it. Apparently, when the Asgard realized that Jack could access the Ancient Knowledge thingy that he could be the one to find the information they need to save them. It seems from what I understand that they have one of their originals stashed somewhere in one of these Knowledge places and that if they can access it, they can see what parts broke in their cloning. Kinda like keeping the original when making copies.
“They also wanted to get some of my DNA and stuff to study since they don’t have Sentinels anymore and aren’t sure that part will be fixed. Since they’re all mostly Guides or what they call Nulls they really want to find out how to bring the Sentinels back. I told them I’d have to get permission, but I was ok with it once the specifics were worked out. I mean, if you guys are ok with it. I kinda feel like I owe them something. They fixed my lung scarring, my sensory issues, and my knee injury from when I played college ball, and I mean… I can’t imagine thousands of years and thousands of Guides with none of them having mates.”
“Jesus, no wonder they cloned off their own dicks,” Jack inserted, and the other Sentinels and Guides in the room murmured their agreement. When Tony didn’t start talking again, General Hammond leaned forward slightly.
“Is that all, son?”
“Yes, sir,” Tony offered with a nod of emphasis, “If you have a computer I can use I’ll be happy to put together a report. I was the Senior Field Agent on my team, so I’m good with reports. Can I ask if you know what you’re going to do with Seeley and I, sir?”
The General nodded and leaned back in his chair. “We plan on using you and Agent Booth as investigators. We’re pleased that you’ve joined us as we don’t currently have anyone to fill such a position, and we feel it’s a position that needs to be filled urgently. So far, we’ve been lucky, but we know that eventually, we’re going to need skilled investigators. We count ourselves lucky that it was the two of you who ended up being Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson’s Sentinels.
“We’ll give both couples time to bond and get comfortable with each other. Then, once you’re back, we’ll do some trial runs to get Tony and Seeley used to gate travel before putting SG-1 back into the rotation. Major Carter and Teal’c, you are welcome to either have time off or join other teams while they are in their bonding periods. Agent DiNozzo, Jack can help you access the reporting system. I’d appreciate it if you completed the necessary reports before you leave for your bonding. I think that’s all people.”
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Later that same day, Tony found himself the one poking at things, as he wandered around Jack’s house while the older man changed. Tony’s suitcases were resting in one of the guestrooms for now. He hadn’t unpacked anything yet though because he had no idea what he was doing.
It wasn’t like he wanted to go back to DC. Honestly, he didn’t have anything to go back to, and no matter what was going on between him and Jack at the moment, Tony still couldn’t handle the thought of his Guide going off without Tony there to protect him. At the same time though, he now had all this uncertainty as to if his protection and even his very presence was even wanted. Jack made it seem as if he was just blowing off steam, but Tony didn’t know the Colonel well enough to have any idea if he could believe that claim or not. He hadn’t smelled any deceit but wasn’t sure he was willing to trust his senses in this.
“Tell me how to fix this,” Tony heard quietly from behind him and turning he saw Jack leaning against one of the walls watching him. It said something about Tony’s distraction and unrest that he hadn’t heard or felt the Guide come into the room. Of course, they had no bond yet even starting. So, maybe it wasn’t terribly surprising. Tony didn’t know really what to expect on that front either.
After studying Jack for a while, Tony let loose a deep sigh and moved to perch on the edge of one of Jack’s chairs. Leaning forward to rest his forearms against his knees, Tony studied the floor as he tried to decide what to say. He had a lifetime of hiding how he was really feeling from people to overcome, and the current situation he found himself in wasn’t conducive to putting him at ease. As much as he hated the thought of baring himself and giving Jack further ammunition against him, Tony didn’t really see as he had any other options.
“We found out I was going to be a Sentinel when I was little. When my mom died when I was eight, I was already showing the signs of what I would be someday. I thought maybe being a Sentinel would be the one thing that made my father happy, but it wasn’t. He hated the fact that someday I would have something over him, something that he’d never be able to touch. I mean, he could keep whatever money he had from me. He could try and get his hands on the money I got from my mother. Hell, he did everything he could to make sure I knew that he thought I was a piece of shit, and he was so much better and successful than I would ever be. The one thing that he couldn’t ever touch or come close to thought were my Sentinel abilities.
“My mother wasn’t always the best parent in the world either. She was often as drunk as he was, and mostly she remembered I existed when it was convenient for her. She at least tried though. I at least have a handful of good memories of her that I can look back on fondly. When they realized what I would be, she sobered up for the first time in weeks and took me out just the two of us. We went to lunch and the movies, and then we went to the park.
“After I played she took me over to the pond to watch the ducks, and as we were sitting there, she said, “Anthony, there are two things your father can never take away from you. That is the fact that you’ll always be more special than he is, and that you have a mate out there who will always put you ahead of everything else. I wish I could be there to see the man that you will become but know that no matter what your father does between the time I am gone and when you find your Guide, he’ll never be able to take away how perfect you and that man or woman will be. No matter how bad it gets, just remember that there’s someone out there who loves you more than anyone else.”
“She was gone a year and a half later. I think maybe if my father had been the only important person to let me down after she died, I might have been able to take the plunge. At the time though, I was honestly so scared to give up literally everything that I thought I had to take a completely blind shot that I couldn’t fathom leaving what I had for the unknown. I don’t understand how you can forgive me for betraying you first.”
“And then everything fell apart in DC, and you decided to give it a chance after all when you found out your friend was going to the same place,” Jack commented before moving to sit in a chair near where Tony was perched. “You know, we can play this tit for tat game endlessly. Who hurt who first? Who deserved what? I’m not sure that will change anything though. You rejected me because you were scared. I hurt you because I was angry and frustrated. You’re tearing yourself to shreds until there’s barely anything left of you but bones, and I feel so guilty that I don’t know how I have any stomach lining left. I think what we’re both missing is that we’re both right here.
“We seem to both want the same thing. Having had a couple days to calm down and being scared shitless that we wouldn’t get you back, I think I can say my mind is in a different place about this bond. When I heard someone had taken you, and someone else had been trying to get you, all I could think was that I’d already lost Charlie. I can’t fucking lose you too, Tony. Can’t we just… Move on?”
As Tony watched Jack, he wondered if maybe that wasn’t the answer. Fake it till you make it. Things weren’t going to get to a spot that night where everything was cotton candy and rainbows no matter how much they talked. The thing was though that they both obviously wanted the same thing. So, maybe they just needed to move on. If they were both committed to the bond and finding their way to the same path. Maybe they just needed to stop talking about it, and just do it.
Eventually, Tony took a deep breath and gave Jack a nod. Maybe it was his imagination, but suddenly everything felt like maybe, eventually, it would be ok.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Three years later, Tony stood near his Guide, with his jaw clenched tightly, watching anxiously as Jack looked into the last of the Repositories of Knowledge hoping that this one would have what they needed. He had good feelings about their chances this time though. Right away, when they walked into the room housing it, he could tell there was a difference between it and the others that they’d found. For one, he could see a minuscule crack in the wall surrounding it, indicating that possibly there was a door or some kind of opening in the wall. After relaying the information, Jack waited for the others to get into place before Tony’s Guide moved into place with Tony’s hand on his back to yank him out of the way if necessary.
Jack had barely straightened up before the wall was moving. Before either of them could fully raise their weapons, a room had been revealed containing a sarcophagus, some large jars with egg looking things inside, a row of computers, and endless rows of what appeared to be books and other documents. Tony couldn’t help but laugh happily, as the team cheered joyfully believing they’d finally found what they’d been searching for.
“Thor, I think you will want to bring a scientist down to see this,” Tony said into the communication device that the Asgard had given them.
The words were barely out of his mouth before the room was filled with a flash of light and Thor along with two of the scientists that Tony and Jack had come to know well joined them. The scientists immediately moved to study the sarcophagus and jars, as Thor stayed where he was looking at them pleased.
“This does indeed appear to be what we were hoping for,” Thor confirmed looking up at them. “As per our agreement, your geeks get the paper, and ours get the rest.”
Tony didn’t need his Sentinel hearing to pick up Sam and Daniel’s grumblings. Tony wasn’t sure how good of an influence Jack had been on the Asgard Commander, but it was certainly amusing to listen to him and Jack talk. When the scientists came over and began chattering quickly and excitedly, Tony knew they’d done well. “How soon will you know if "Hopefully not long, Very Special Agent Tony,” the head scientist replied as things began transporting away as the other scientist tagged them. “We will let you know what we find.”
“Please do,” Jack requested shaking their hands before looking to Thor as the two scientists transported away. “If there’s anything else we can do, let us know.”
Thor nodded looking from Jack to Tony. “You have our deepest gratitude. We have a real chance at solving our cloning problem now. We cannot thank you enough. The first of our technology sharing information will arrive at the SGC soon with one of our scientists and an engineer as per our agreement. Whether or not this saves us, you have given us our greatest hope. Thank you, Colonel O’Neill and Very Special Agent Tony, along with the rest of your team. I hope to see you soon.”
After Thor transported back to Asgard, Tony turned to Jack with a smile. “We done good, babe.”
“Yes, we did,” Jack confirmed before leaning in to give his mate a kiss. Then stepping back, he shifted back into commander mode and began issuing orders. Tony knew it would be several hours before they were able to go back through the Gate. Someone had to wait for a team to come that was trained to deal with all the books and other paper documents that Daniel was currently drooling over. Knowing where he was and wasn’t a help, Tony headed off to talk to Teal’c about security and left the rest of it to Jack and Danny.
The next morning, Tony opened his eyes and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was the first to wake up. It didn’t happen often. Jack was usually up at the crack of dawn and Tony took advantage of the moment to reflect on how far the two of them had come since they met. A few weeks back they’d celebrated being together for three years, and they’d have their three-year anniversary of being bonded in a little less than two months.
Much to everyone’s aggravation other than him and Jack, the two had refused to formally bond in any way until their relationship was on a more solid ground. Despite the fact that people kept telling them that bonding would change everything, neither of them believed that and refused to go forward with something that couldn’t be severed without extreme measures until they at least liked each other.
So, they’d gone through getting to know each other as a couple as SG-1 worked on gelling together in a new 6-person format. Having two Sentinels in the field was something that the original members had to get used to. At the same time, Seeley and Tony had to learn how to get over their instincts to treat Jack and Daniel like delicate flowers. It hadn’t always been smooth, much like Jack and Tony’s relationship, but they always worked things out in the end. There were times when Tony seemed to be the only one who got what Daniel was trying to say, as there were other times when Seeley had to explain Jack’s headspace to Daniel. As a result, the two individual friendships had transferred to make the four men quite a tightknit group.
Similarly, Tony quickly got on board with Jack’s friendship, and respect for Teal’c and the former NCIS SFA ended up taking over the majority of teaching the big Jaffa about earth culture. In addition to movies, there were books and music which Tony insisted his new friend be exposed to, and at times it was hard to tell who was enjoying the lessons more. In return, Teal’c happily taught Tony all about the people and culture of Chulak and often soothed his homesickness by sharing stories and information with Jack’s Sentinel.
The person that Tony had the hardest time clicking with had been Major Sam Carter, and sometimes he wondered if she and Kate hadn’t been related somewhere along their family trees. As much as Tony tried to drop his frat boy act when moving to the SGC, it seemed that there were just some things he couldn’t outrun. Carter often thought that he was as big of an idiot as Kate and Ziva had, and there just didn’t seem to be anything that Tony could do about it.
However, one day the real root of the problem occurred to him as he watched her interacting with Jack when the Air Force Major thought Tony wasn’t around. The second that he realized that the woman had feelings for his Guide, Tony found a whole new mindset. While he sympathized with the woman, because really you couldn’t control who your heart wanted, he wasn’t about to feel guilty because Jack was his Guide and not hers. Especially considering that Samantha Carter was as mundane as it came.
One day, after being on the end of one too many of her biting comments, Tony had a frank conversation with her in her lab, that basically came down to get over yourself, buttercup. She hadn’t taken the conversation well and had taken a short assignment in another location. When she came back, however, she at least seemed to be able to be professional and ceased her obvious mooning over Jack.
Over the months and years since then, Tony and Sam had become friendly, but he was pretty sure that they’d never actually be friends. It was something that he hated because he knew that Jack really liked Sam as a friend and a co-worker. Fortunately for Tony, his Guide held his Sentinel in higher esteem than he did his teammate, no matter how many times they’d saved the world together, and overall had done his best to stay out of the whole mess.
“You’re awake,” Jack mumbled sleepily as his eyes opened and he gave Tony a sleepy smile. “Morning. Deep thoughts already?”
“Just thinkin’ 'bout things,” Tony insisted before dipping his head to steal a kiss, “like how much better things are now than they were at the beginning, even if Sam and I won’t actually ever be friends.”
“I haven’t given up hope,” Jack said with a shrug. “Someday she’ll find a nice boring mundane to settle down with and have little scientists, and she’ll forget all about her crush.”
“I think it’s more than a crush, Jack,” Tony chided only to get a glare from his Guide.
“Which one of us is the Guide here, Bevis?” Jack snarked only to get a grin in return.
“I do believe it’s you, Butthead,” Tony snarked back earning himself another quick peck.
“Look, I may have made out with an alien or two, and I know I had a certain reputation before you came along, but to be honest, most of it was unfounded. People just liked to assume shit. One thing I can promise though is that people knew I never messed around in my own command. I might flirt here and there, but I made sure everyone knew it was just that. Rule 12 is one of the few Gibbs Rules that I agree with, except for a few situations that need to be taken into account for. It’s why I never got in the middle of that silly grudge she had for you. I trusted you to handle it, and I wasn’t about to be the tree she kept pissing on to mark her territory. Now, let’s not talk about Sam in bed anymore. Have you decided where we should go for our anniversary?”
One thing the couple tried to do was go away on or around their anniversary somewhere. Having the job Tony and Jack did, it wasn’t always easy. In addition to their field work, Tony and Seeley still split most of the investigative work for Cheyenne mountain, and because of that Tony couldn’t leave in the middle of a case. They did their best however and made sure they had plenty of time for just the two of them.
“How would you feel about going to England and meeting the extended family?” Tony asked hesitantly because he was unsure how his Guide would feel about it. His Uncle George had a health scare the year before, and Tony hadn’t had a chance to get to England to check that he was really ok yet. Fortunately, the Paddingtons did quite a bit of classified work themselves for England and the Queen and understood that Tony’s time wasn’t his own.
“Will I have to go to a fancy dinner?” Jack asked, and Tony snorted at the question.
“Probably at least one,” the Sentinel confirmed not even bothering to try and sound regretful. It’s likely the Aunties will throw at least one huge bash while I am there, but look at it this way, you can use the time to entice Edward or Ashcroft or maybe both away from SAS. Just think how jealous Patrick Sheppard will be if you get Ashcroft away from England instead of him.”
“Oh,” Jack replied, and Tony snickered at the sudden excitement that flared along the bond. “Deal!”
Ever since they’d met John Sheppard, Jack had found new sport in coming up with fun and stealthy ways to aggravate the man’s father without the elder Sheppard knowing who was doing it or why. Giving into a full laugh, Tony kissed Jack again and then lay down with his head on his Guide and mate’s shoulder.
“Thank you for keeping your promise,” Tony said quietly, changing the topic of conversation suddenly. This time it was Jack who kissed Tony, as the older of the two pressed his lips to his Sentinel’s temple.
Sometimes Tony’s insecurities still came into play, but one of the promises Jack had made in those days when they were trying to learn each other, was that Tony would always come absolutely first in everything. It wasn’t like he didn’t still get frustrated on occasion and want to snap at the first person he saw. Hurting his mate, who had already been hurt so deeply and so often in the past, just wasn’t something he was willing to risk though. They’d each waited too long for the other to ruin it with stupid words that they didn’t even really mean.
Then, once they’d bonded, they found out that they really weren’t like any other Sentinel and Guide pair. Between Tony’s plague and the tweaks that the Asgard had made to them both as they healed them various times over the years, they’d found themselves to be unique in little but important ways. It wasn’t something that they shared with many, and certainly no one outside of their immediate circle within the SGC, but it was things that had saved the team more than once since they’d become a 6-person unit. If there was anything that was going to unite Tony and Jack in a way that was deeper and more profound than other S&G pairs, it was being unique even amongst the unique.
“Thank you for changing your mind,” Jack replied in return as he always did when this conversation came up. It wasn’t the first time, and it undoubtedly wouldn’t be the last. However, Jack meant it as much that time as he had the first or would the last. While their road to each other hadn’t been quick or easy they each eventually came to the belief that they were the couple they were because of all the hurt and pain they’d suffered to get to each other. Their relationship didn’t have a pretty backstory, but it was theirs, and neither of them was willing to change it for anything in the world.
And it had been offered once or twice.