[personal profile] lit_gal
My Post-Hiatus story

Illusions Lost
Our experience is composed rather of illusions lost than of wisdom acquired.
Joseph Roux

This is the chapter I wrote first. This is the heart of the whole story.

NCIS/Criminal Minds
Gibbs has left for Mexico, and Tony’s gut is telling him he’s in trouble. Abby is too distracted by her grief for Gibbs to back Tony up, so he decides to go to the most Abbish person he knows for help: Penelope Garcia. Abby introduced them after the two women met at a forensics seminar for federal agents. So Tony asks Garcia if she will do a little digging, but bringing Garcia in means bringing in other members of the BAU. After all, if Garcia thinks a friend is in trouble, she’ll always turn to her Derek, trusting him to do the right thing. Tony just isn't sure that having Derek Morgan on his side is going to help when he has a director making unreasonable requests, a team doing the minimum required for their job and an overwrought Abby to deal with.

Earlier chapters HERE

Chapter Eight: Hotch’s Version of Reality.

By day two of Tony’s suspension, he was bored. His apartment was spotless, he’d cooked enough food for the week, and he was tired to dodging phone calls. Luckily, Abby had only come to his apartment once. After he ignored her for an hour, she either decided that he was out or that he was too angry to answer the door.

McGee had been better about respecting Tony’s time. Tony had told him to treat the three days like a practice run for being someone else SFA. After all, most team leads expected their senior field agent to work independently. McGee had been uncomfortable, but he’d seemed willing to listen and try it Tony’s way. He was also unhappy about doing it Tony’s way, which was a little less comforting.

And Ziva was just… he had no idea what to think. She watched everything, but he could not get a read on what she thought of any of it. He did know she didn’t want another agent to come in and boss her around; she made that abundantly clear. However, until they got back into the field, Tony didn’t know if that would translate into her doing her damn job without bitching and being sent back to do the work over. She wanted Gibbs. Tony suspected that she would consider anyone else a poor substitute.

The doorbell rang, and Tony turned off his movie and went to check the peephole. He’d braced himself for a second visit from Abby, like she was doing to make a daily pilgrimage to his apartment or something. Instead Aaron Hotchner stood in the hall.

For a second Tony was too shocked to react, but curiosity got the best of him fairly quickly. He opened the door. “Can I help you?”

Aaron Hotcher had an immaculate suit on, custom tailored although not a designer label. He didn’t pause before asking, “Agent DiNozzo?”


Hotchner held out his hand, shaking firmly when Tony offered his in return. “I’m SSA Aaron Hotchner from the BAU. I was hoping we could speak.”

The first hints of apprehension started to flutter in Tony’s stomach, but he stepped back and gestured toward the room. “Come on in.”

“Thank you. I’ll be brief.” Hotchner walked to the middle of the living room and turned. His every move was unhurried, and yet Tony got the sense that this man didn’t waste a single gesture. The sense of efficiency he projected was probably reassuring when he worked with victims and various police departments, but Tony found he was a little uneasy at having the man in his house. “For reasons which don’t matter, I monitor Garcia’s computer use, so I am aware that she used FBI resources to help you on the Renny Grant case.”

Shit. A lump formed in Tony’s throat as he realized that he’d gotten Garcia in trouble with her boss. “I apologize, and the misuse of FBI resources is entirely my fault.”

Hotchner held up a hand. “You misunderstand me. Captain Grant’s release and reinstatement makes any small outlay of effort on Garcia’s part entirely justified. However, I am also aware that she made inquiries about the La Grenouille case.”

“Like I said, it won’t happen again,” Tony hurried to say.

“Why not?”

The question startled Tony. “Excuse me?”

“I have a very incomplete picture here, but I have done some research. It seems that checking into the operation was a reasonable action on your part. Your director has a personal connection to La Grenouille, and Garcia found that NCIS did not have an officially case open, but that Director Shepard had a large number of restricted and highly classified CIA files on her personal computer.”

“What?” Tony’s brain was having trouble making sense out of that. The CIA did not share classified material with NCIS, not when asked nicely, not when presented with subpoenas, not even when Sec Nav got involved, so there was no way the CIA had given up files to a brand new director with little political leverage. Well, they might if she knew where someone had buried a metaphorical or literal body, but that would mean Shepard was way off the reservation.

Hotchner studied Tony for a second. “Clearly Garcia didn’t tell you that last part.”

Tony shook his head. “No, no she did not.”

“Did she tell you the CIA is running an investigation already?”

“Yes, which is why I turned down the director’s request that I go undercover.”

“I suspected Director Shepard had asked you to either investigate or go undercover. I take it that’s why you sent Garcia on a fishing expedition.”

Tony sat down. “Look, Garcia shouldn’t get in trouble for this.”

After another brief pause, Hotchner settled himself on the far end of the couch. “I will file a reprimand because she didn’t come to me with this. She had a federal agent who required information in order to check the legality of an action he’d been ordered to take. She should have known to bring that to me, both as he team lead and as the lawyer on the team.”

“I asked her to avoid getting anyone else involved. I had been directed to not read anyone in on the program.”

“And would you take this action again if the circumstances were the same?”

When bosses asked questions like that, they wanted some reassurance that a subordinate would avoid making the same mistake in the future. But the fact was that Tony would make the same choice. He’d been suspended and given himself ulcers playing SSA DiNozzo, but Tony had also avoided getting involved in an unsanctioned op, and Renny Grant had avoided years in prison for a crime he hadn’t committed. “Look, no offense, but I’m not in your chain of command. I made my choices, and now I’m taking my lumps. But none of that involves Garcia, who did nothing more than act on a request for information, and she had no way to know that anything hinky was going on.”

“If you believe that, you’re underestimating Garcia and her ability to put information together.”

Tony grinned. “Well that’s me. I act without thinking. It’s the lack of education.”

A small almost-smile appeared on Hotchner’s face. “Psychology of adolescence, coaching the young athlete, psychology of delinquency, the sociology of gangs—for someone who claims a lack of education, you’ve taken interesting undergraduate work.”

“You left out adolescent parenthood and sexuality around the world. I’m not even going to ask why that’s one of the available electives, but it’s all part of the Bachelor of Science in Physical Activity and Coaching.” There was some irony in the idea that the famed Aaron Hotcher was citing the very classes McGee always dismissed as irrelevant. It was more interesting that Hotchner had looked up Tony’s background. “Is there a point here?”

“You took more psychology classes than required. You seemed to have gravitated to those electives.”

“At the time, I was starting to think I was less interested in coaching kids than I was in figuring out why they turned into little criminals.” Tony could tell that Hotchner was paying far too much attention to Tony’s answers. Something was going on, but Tony wasn’t sure what. He decided to poke and see if Hotchner poked back. “And during that first class, I was a little shocked to learn that some psychologists argued I was still in adolescence at twenty-two. Kalat gave me hope.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because I was screwed up and I hoped that if he was right, I would figure it all out when I grew up.” Tony gave Hotcher a huge grin, but the man didn’t even react.

“How did that work out?”

“I’ll let you know when I grow up.”

For a long time, Hotchner stared at Tony. Maybe he thought it was an intimating move, but Tony just stared right back. Working for Gibbs had given him a thick skin for implied threats. Finally Hotcher said, “You’ve invested a lot in this persona of yours.”

Tony had not expected that. Most people never saw through his façade, but he couldn’t remember anyone who had ever seen the act and called Tony on it so quickly. Well, in a for penny…. “You know, I really have. It keeps suspects from clamming up.”

“And the professionals you work with should put more stock in your Master of Science in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania.”

“That’s the assumption.” Tony was starting to develop a few hypotheses. There were a limited number of reasons SSA Hotchner would have done this much research on Tony’s past.

“You leaned toward the psychology electives there as well: race and criminal justice, law and social policy, clinical neuroscience approach to understanding violence.”

“Professor Newton. She was one hell of a teacher.”

Hotchner nodded. “I’ll let her know you said so. I always enjoyed her classes.”

Tony leaned forward. “What dance are we doing here? Did Garcia ask you to cheer me up or is this the strangest job interview in the history of law enforcement?” The third option was that Hotchner planned to bring criminal charges against Tony for breaking the laws controlling the sharing of classified information. If nothing else, a legal mess would make it impossible for him to get a job in law enforcement elsewhere.

“Derek did say you were unexpectedly direct with him.”

That implied that Hotchner had reasons to expect Tony to be less than direct. “I play games when I have a reason to.”

“Like entertaining yourself in the office?”

Tony knew that there were those who disliked his relationship with Gibbs and the team, but Tony wouldn’t apologize for it. “Like loosening people up when Gibbs is putting so much pressure on them that aneurisms are a foreseeable and predictable consequence, but quite frankly, I don’t care about your assessment of my professional ethics or behavior, not unless you are offering me a job because I might be looking for one soon.”

“You have a lot of course work in adolescent psychology, and you have intentionally developed a non-threatening persona. I don’t think that would fit in my unit.”

His unit. That phrasing almost begged Tony to ask the obvious question, “But you have a unit you think I would fit in?”

“The BAU crimes against children unit is always looking for good people. I’m not going to lie. It’s the hardest unit to work for because of what they see, but your background and demeanor would work well given the victims they often encounter. And if you ever decided to show your age more and get psychology coursework in adult deviance, it would be an easy transition to BAU counterterrorism.”

Hotchner was not that subtle with what he was putting between the lines. “But not your unit,” Tony summarized for him.

“If you stayed in DC, I would ask that you not apply to the crimes against adults unit. Unfortunately you have already involved Garcia in a legally difficult situation, and she is clearly invested in protecting you. I’m afraid that would threaten the integrity of our team.”

“If you think I’d threaten your team’s integrity, why would you think I would fit into another unit?”

“I’m not saying that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing you at a team dinners or support your move to the FBI. I’m simply concerned that Garcia is too invested in this persona you’ve developed. She wants to protect you because, like your team, she sees this façade of a playboy hiding a wounded heart.”

“And what do you see?” The second Tony asked, he was sorry. He didn’t want to see himself through Hotchner’s eyes.

“I see a federal agent, someone abandoned young who developed an extraordinary ability to cultivate identities in order to maximize his chance of success,” Hotchner said. That hit too close to home, but Hotchner continued without giving Tony a chance to react. “You are remembered as imminently competent as a police detective, yet you present a non-threatening front around Gibbs, a man whose inability to handle male competition is famous in certain circles. It allowed you to work with him for years when few others could. I also suspect that you never intended for so many people to believe this image, and now you’re feeling trapped.”

Tony stared at Hotchner. The scab Tony had spent days picking at the edges of was now gone, leaving a raw and bleeding wound behind. Tony had defined himself by Gibbs. He had sacrificed some of his ability to interact with others in order to fit in with a bastard of a boss who couldn’t relate to most people. And now that boss was gone, and Tony was left with a stunted version of himself. It left him angry and resentful that everyone treated him like the part he had played for Gibbs. It left him angry at himself for continuing to play the same role after Gibbs was gone. After a long and awkward silence, Tony said, “You’re good.”

Hotchner dropped his gaze to the floor for a second. Then he gave Tony a wry smile, and his tone was pensive when he said, “Most people disagree when I profile them.” Hotchner stood, and Tony did as well. Hotchner reached into his suit pocket before holding a card out to Tony.

Tony took it and saw an unfamiliar name. “What is this?”

“The team lead for the crimes against children BAU is Agent Cole. She hates being called Katherine; she prefers Katie. She knows you might call, and I believe Fornell forwarded her a copy of your NCIS file, although I am trying to avoid thinking about how he obtained it. Have a good evening, Agent DiNozzo.”

With that, Hotchner headed out the door, leaving Tony reeling, not only at the job offer but at the mirror he’d just been shown.

How sad was it when someone Tony had known for ten minutes had cut through more bullshit than people who had worked with Tony for years? Tony looked down at the card.

FBI: National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime

Behavioral Analysis Unit 3

SSA Katherine Cole

Well hell. This was a choice he hadn’t anticipated.
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