Small Beginnings
Print version Send feedback to the author Show comments (2)
Tony taps the edge of the desk in something approximating a rhythm as he surveys his corner of the bullpen. The corner far from the windows, which he misses, is dark; the ceiling is too low, only one storey high; and the desks are too empty.

His badge is different too, but that’s tucked in his bottom drawer so he doesn’t have to look at it. He wonders how many times he’ll have to try “Freeze, FBI!” before it becomes instinct.

“Special Agent in Charge DiNozzo?”

The pronunciation is as close to perfect as he’s heard anywhere outside of Italy and Fornell and Tony looks up at a too tall, too thin man in a t-shirt and jeans. The only concession he’s made to the standard FBI dress code is a jacket that doesn’t quite sit right on his shoulders. The man’s nose is too big but it doesn’t detract from eyes that are too alert for a computer tech that has never been in the field. Tony thinks he recognizes the t-shirt logo as one of Abby’s bands and longing clenches so tightly around his chest that he can’t breathe.

Tony’s not even thinking about his title at the moment. Really.

“Yeah,” he says, then clears his throat when it comes out croaked and harsh.

“Apparently I’m your new agent,” the man says as he reaches out a hand. Tony grasps it instinctively and shakes.

“Baines, right?”

“Just Adam’s fine.” The name is quick and confident off his new teammate’s tongue and Tony almost believes it, but Tony Dinardo and a hundred other names used to fall effortlessly off his own tongue.

“Right,” Tony says, and flounders for a moment trying to remember how to be a team leader, not a senior field agent. “Looks like you’ve got your pick of desks.”

“NCIS, huh?” Adam asks apropos of nothing as he dumps his bag on the desk furthest from Tony. A curious move that Tony is going to investigate some more when he isn’t trying to not think about NCIS.

“Yeah.” The delivery is flat and Tony starts tapping the desk again.

“Right,” Adam says in the same tone as he collapses bonelessly into his chair. Tony appreciates the distraction of trying to work out just how he manages that in the uncomfortable chairs.

They look at each other for a moment and Tony is jealous of how at ease Adam seems when he feels uncomfortable and out of place. There is something off about him and Tony cocks his head. The assistant director assigned Adam to him and the cursory background check shows he’s more than adequately qualified even if he doesn’t have field experience. Now Tony’s thinking of sending his information to Abby for a second opinion.

*

Tony’s just flung his jacket over the back of a chair when the phone rings. He sighs, wondering if it’s going to be another accusatory call from Ziva or an awkward one from McGee. He thinks about letting it ring, but then they’ll just keep calling until he does answer.

“Hello,” he answers, shoulders slumping in weariness.

It’s been a long day with not enough to do. They haven’t got a case yet, so Adam spent the day doing paperwork and things on his computer that had him smirking a little sadistically. Tony didn’t ask. He had his own files to go through; the team was still a few members short. They get on fairly well, but that might just be because they didn’t interact much and Tony wasn’t forced to confront whatever made him uneasy about the man. Tony doesn’t trust him, can’t determine if it’s even possible to until they’ve been in the field together. At least Tony got through a whole day without his orders being questioned. He doesn’t think it’ll last.

“Tony!” Abby says and Tony floods with warmth. Despite being cross with him for leaving, Abby had supported his decision as long as he promised lots of calls and visits. She, Ducky and Palmer were the only ones who had been encouraging, even if their initial reaction had been shock. The others had acted like he betrayed them. Though it hadn't taken McGee long to settle into smug satisfaction when he realised he'd be the senior field agent.

“Hey Abby,” Tony says with a wide grin that wipes away his previous exhaustion. He settles back on the couch, feet propped on the table and lets tales of the team, bowling nuns and Abby’s new tattoo strip away all his worry and longing. After almost an hour Abby runs out of conversation.

“Can you do me a favor?” Tony asks.

“Anything,” Abby answers immediately and Tony’s smile is warm and affectionate. He’s never been physically demonstrative but he really misses Abby’s hugs, her enthusiasm, and even Bert.

“I need one of your special background checks on Adam Baines.”

“Sure, what’s he done?”

“Joined my team.”

There’s a long pause and Tony winces in anticipation of her outburst, but all he gets is a too quiet “be careful, Tony”.

“Always,” he says, trying to keep his tone light. Abby understands.

“If you get so much as a paper cut on his watch I’m going over there myself.”

“I’ll tell him,” Tony says, though he has a feeling Adam could take Abby in his own way, and he’s not willing to trust his new computer tech with the people he cares about.

“I’ll see you this weekend.”

“Sure,” Tony concedes. He could really use a familiar, friendly face.

*

Tony gets to know some of the people who stay as late as he does. He finds out that Kevin Lynch is dating Penelope Garcia, who reminds Tony of Abby. When pushed Adam will grudgingly admit that they’re both good at what they do. They’ve even used Kevin’s help on a few cases when they’ve been shorthanded and Tony needed Adam in the field.

Tony can greet all the security by name again, and it goes a long way to making him feel like things are right. The other team leaders seem to like him, they don’t once compare him to Gibbs, which would make sense since most of them have never met him, but it’s something Tony really appreciates.

Tony’s not sure why, but it’s months before he first bumps into the infamous and elusive Aaron Hotchner. Apparently he’s been off work for quite a while recently and when he is in he tends to be on location with the team. Hotchner’s already in the elevator when Tony decides to leave for the night. He glances sideward at the older man until Hotchner turns to face him.

“Can I help you?” he asks. Tony thinks his hard and unyielding expression might even be better than Gibbs’s.

“How about coffee?” Tony asks, a grin stretching his mouth. It’s been too long since he’s taken a chance on someone, since before Jeanne, and he suddenly wants to take a shot again.

“Thank you,” Hotchner says, “but I can’t.” No further explanation, no excuse, and Tony is intrigued. Very few people know themselves well enough and are comfortable enough with who they are to leave it at that. They always feel the need to justify themselves. Tony really wishes that the unselfconscious confidence wasn’t such a turn on.

*

By the time they’ve worked together two months Tony comes to understand two things about Adam; one, he’s competent in the field and Tony’s mostly alright with Adam watching his back; two, Adam’s scary when he needs to be. Not that Adam’s been scary where Tony can see and verify it, but two weeks in they caught a guy who’d been kidnapping young women. His latest was a small, dark-haired girl who’d recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Tony had taken a break in the interrogation when the guy clammed up and refused to say anything. Later Tony discovered that the cameras had mysteriously malfunctioned during his break and no record of what happened remained, but when he’d returned he’d caught Adam leaving the interrogation room. The guy told them where the girl was and confessed to everything as soon as Tony entered the room. Tony’s learnt to go for coffee when they have especially difficult suspects. At least Adam hasn’t accidentally killed anyone yet.

Abby’s background check didn’t reveal anything too interesting but it reads like a really good undercover identity, not a real person. Tony’s practiced at noticing these things in ways other people don’t. Playing a role his entire life, not just when whatever agency he’s working for needs it, helps a lot. He’s taken to asking obscure personal questions just to see if he can catch Adam out and can’t help but feel a strange kinship when it doesn’t work.

They’ve settled into a fairly easy partnership even if the things they know about each other are lies and fronts and omissions. He doesn’t take Adam bucking his authority personally, Adam gets his movie references; it’s a match made in heaven.

Then they get a case where the suspect, who wandered into a police station covered in blood and confessed to murder, claims he was possessed. The guy’s some kind of famous and the PD doesn’t want to play politics so it gets kicked to the FBI. It gets dumped in Tony’s lap because he’s still the new guy.

Tony hates the guy’s lawyer. He’s somehow both slick and a little rough around the edges. His eyes are shadowed with memories of pain and violence, and he always keeps everyone in the room in sight. The suit is crisp and definitely designer even if he’s not wearing a tie, and his long hair is tied back in a neat ponytail. Tony’s willing to admit he looks good.

Adam and the lawyer, Lindsey McDonald, get the measure of each other in a way Tony doesn’t quite understand, before clearly deciding that they’ll simply ignore each other. Tony’s learning when to push and when not to; this can wait.

*

Tony’s in the courtroom when the verdict is read. Lindsey’s good; the guy gets off. Tony wants to be resentful, but he knows there’s something more going on. Adam likes finding the answers to the mysteries posed by their cases, more so than avenging the victims and protecting the innocent like Tony, but he hadn’t pushed with this case at all.

He and Lindsey end up standing opposite each other, assessing each other. Tony’s mind goes automatically to Gibbs. He doesn’t have the pull his old boss did, but he can’t help the impulsive “Need a new job?” Lindsey raises an eyebrow.

“Pay’s terrible, so are the hours, but you won’t want for excitement,” Tony adds.

Lindsey’s casual “Alright” surprises Tony, but he can’t help the grin. Having a lawyer on the team tends to make getting through red tape a whole lot easier, which Tony had appreciated with Agent Lee, until he’d found out she’d betrayed them all, which brought with it more lies from Gibbs. Tony can’t help the angry resignation that still sweeps through him with thoughts of Gibbs. Lies were only allowed when it was Gibbs telling them, everyone else was ostracized and punished for them, even when they were orders.

“See you Monday.”

“Make it Tuesday, I’ve got some things to finish up,” Lindsey amends. Tony nods and watches the lawyer walk away. He can’t hide his shock when he sees Lindsey meet up with Adam. They have a hushed conversation and Tony would suspect something sexual except he’s just not reading that at all. He follows them a little way to Adam’s car and doesn’t quite know what to make of the supply of salt and water in his trunk. Tony frowns when they drive off together.

*

Tony takes the elevator two floors higher than his office. He looks around nervously when he exits, but there’s no one around. There’s a single office door open with the light spilling out and Tony makes his way directly there.

He stops in the doorway and peers in. Hotchner is working quietly, head bent over his paperwork. Tony’s skin prickles and he knows Hotchner is aware of him, but he plays the game and waits for the other agent to acknowledge him.

“Special Agent in Charge DiNozzo,” Hotchner says when he looks up. Tony finds himself grinning again. As a distancing measure it’s fairly transparent, but it’s interesting that Hotchner went so far as to find out who he is.

“Tony,” he insists. “Since you couldn’t make coffee I brought it to you.”

Hotchner’s expression becomes hesitant and Tony moves forward, placing the coffee in front of him. He went out and got some of the expensive stuff since he knows the office stuff isn’t worth mentioning. Before Hotchner can protest Tony settles himself in the chair across from him. Hotchner sighs and takes the coffee, all the while eyeing Tony.

“I don’t have a middle name, I majored in Phys Ed and minored in Criminology at Ohio State, I like classic cars and old movies, and my favorite color is blue,” Tony tells him quickly. “Now that the ice is broken, do I get to bring bagels next time?”

Hotchner pauses and takes a sip of his coffee to fill the silence. Finally, he lowers his hand and gazes directly at Tony.

“Agent DiNozzo,” he starts.

“Tony.”

“…Tony,” Hotchner concedes, “I’m sorry, but I really am quite busy.”

“Muffins it is,” Tony says and escapes the office before Hotchner can disagree further.

*

It takes a while for Lindsey to settle into the team. Tony can tell there’s something they’re keeping from him, but he doesn’t know how to push it without sounding paranoid and insecure. They lose some of the camaraderie they’d gained.

The fourth case all three of them work together is a beheading. Adam’s antsy and a little more jumpy than usual. He takes to wearing a longer coat despite the fact that it’s still fairly warm for autumn and says he doesn’t like the cold.

“Head’s up,” Lindsey says as Adam enters the room, reluctance dragging his feet. “This one’s pretty gruesome.” Adam’s distracted gaze snaps from the second beheaded body to Lindsey and dark things hide in his glare, making Tony shudder just a little. Lindsey simply chuckles and gets back to his job. Tony wonders, for the umpteenth time, just who it is he’s working with.

“Looks like a serial,” Tony says.

“Think it’ll get bumped to the BAU?” Adam asks, with just a little too much eagerness.

“I doubt it,” Lindsey answers. “They’re up to their necks in cases.”

Adam folds his arms across his chest ��" a defensive posture that looks altogether unfamiliar on the man. Tony narrows his eyes.

“Don’t lose your head,” Lindsey teases, but there’s a hard edge to it Tony doesn’t like. It’s too close to how his old team acted.

“Shut up, MacDonald,” Tony says, because for whatever reason this case hit Adam hard. It happens to all of them from time to time, but it’s clear Lindsey isn’t used to working in a team.

“Yes sir,” Lindsey replies with a mocking salute.

Tony doesn’t quite understand the dynamic between Adam and Lindsey, but he gets that Lindsey crossed some sort of line in his teasing. He’s not terribly surprised when Lindsey later finds a rather expensive entertainment centre and an imported case of beer charged to one of his credit cards. He really needs to find out whatever the hell it is those two are keeping from him.

*

Tony swears as he presses the elevator button. Despite being at each other’s throats, Tony winces at the unintentional reference to all the jokes Lindsey has been making, both of his agents have managed to go missing together.

He pushes at the button again and glares at the doors when they don't open. Slamming his hand against the wall, Tony turns and jogs down the stairs. He bursts through the door at the bottom of the stairs and rounds on a surprised junior agent.

“Where’s Kevin Lynch?” he demands. The man simply points further into the room. Tony marches on without a glance back.

“Lynch!” he calls when he nears and the man jumps and turns with his hand to his heart.

“Jesus, Agent DiNozzo, warn a guy next time.”

Tony has the sneaking suspicion that he’s turning into Gibbs, but it’s something he’ll have to worry about when he’s got his team back. He briefly considers making his own list of rules, but it would probably consist of things like “being attracted to someone on a case invariably means they’re the perp” and its corollary “being attracted to someone off a case invariably means they’re trouble, or the perp in another case”, and Adam and Lindsey are bad enough as it is without adding his influence.

“I need you to track Agent Baines’ and MacDonald’s phones.”

“Sir, are you sure that’s necessary…” Kevin says, trailing off when Tony just stares at him. “Right,” he murmurs and turns to his computer. Tony stands at his shoulder, arms folded, until the nervous and stuttering computer tech delivers the information. Tony wonders what the hell his agents are doing at an abandoned warehouse.

*

When he arrives at the scene he can hear the sound of metal clashing on metal. He runs toward the sound, gun drawn and pointed down. When he enters the large, open warehouse the first thing he sees is his senior agent wielding a broadsword like it was an extension of his arm.

“What the hell is going on?” Tony demands as he rushes forward. Lindsey grabs him and pulls him back a step.

“You’re not supposed to interfere,” Lindsey tells him, holding him firmly by the upper arm.

“My senior agent is dueling a serial killer with swords and you expect me not to interfere?” Tony is incredulous, but Lindsey’s grip isn’t slacking and Tony’s not even sure how to stop them without being more of a hindrance than a help.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it handled,” Lindsey says and he waves the gun he’s holding in his right hand. Tony’s tempted to ask which one he’s planning to shoot.

Adam is good. Even without the little training he had in fencing at the military academy, Tony can tell. He can also tell that Adam’s very good at hiding just how good he is. The other guy is completely falling for his act. Within a few moves, Adam forces the other guy to his knees.

“No!” Tony shouts, but Adam’s already in the downward swing. The head rolls and Tony flinches but he can’t look away, especially not when blue lightning starts to arc from the body. Tony’s rooted to the spot, even without Lindsey holding him back, when the lightning hits Adam who drops to his knees. Lindsey pulls him back a few steps and Tony’s grateful because then the lightning starts arcing to other things in the vicinity. When it stops there’s silence.

“Will someone tell me what the fuck’s going on?”

Adam and Lindsey exchange another of those glances that are really starting to piss off Tony. Lindsey nods a little at whatever he sees in Adam’s glance.

“Supernatural things are real,” Lindsey tells him with a shrug as though it’s no big deal that he’s just upturned Tony’s whole world.

“And my senior agent is…”

“Immortal,” Adam says as he levers himself to his feet using his sword as a crutch. Tony’s sure that isn’t good for the blade, but that’s the least pressing issue at the moment.

“Immortal?” Tony asks.

“I need beer,” Adam says instead of an answer. Tony nods. He needs some time to try and get a handle on the fact that supernatural things exist before he comes to terms that his agents were more involved in it than he liked.

*

Tony catches a case soon after that, some sort of spirit that’s killing people. He lets Adam and Lindsey handle it while he plays catch up. There’s a lot more to the whole supernatural thing than he anticipated. It’s almost a week before he has a chance to get coffee again. He gets two muffins, chocolate for him and blueberry for Hotchner.

The bullpen is empty again but this time there is light spilling from two office doors. Tony doesn’t sneak past the first door, but he does step a little more carefully. He pauses in Hotchner’s doorway again and watches the man work. Hotchner is focused, intense and dedicated, which reminds Tony a little too much of Gibbs, but Hotchner doesn’t look at him with doubt like Gibbs had been, like the whole team had been, before Tony left.

“I owed you a muffin,” Tony says when Hotchner looks up. Hotchner’s eyes narrow as though Tony isn’t welcome, but Tony notices the slight softening around his mouth. Tony smiles.

“Agent DiNozzo,” Hotchner greets. He puts his pen down and leans back. Tony takes that as a good sign.

“Blueberry okay?” Tony asks, handing over the coffee and muffin. Hotchner nods, looking a little out of his depth for only a moment before his features settle into his usual unyielding expression. Tony makes a note never to play poker with him. Tony sighs as he settles into the chair and eases his shoulder. He really does feel behind the curve with the whole supernatural thing, especially when one of his guys is some kind of non-bloodsucking immortal and the other is a demonic lawyer or something. Somehow, even with all of that, the ghost still managed to throw him around a bit. After being the punching bag in all his normal cases he should have expected the same when he moved to supernatural cases.

“Tough case?” Hotchner asks. Tony shrugs and winces as the movement jostles his shoulder.

“Aren’t they all?”

Hotchner’s expression softens enough to convey empathy and Tony revels in the warmth that blooms in his chest.

“Did you catch the guy?” Hotchner asks after a moment.

“After a fashion,” Tony says with a wry smile. Hotchner’s eyebrow raises in interest, but he doesn’t push. They sit quietly for some time and Tony is surprised that the silence isn’t uncomfortable.

“Hotch,” a woman says as she enters the office, “you heading home soon?” She stops when she spots Tony. Tony stands, suddenly feeling defensive and ill at ease. The woman is beautiful, and she seems familiar with Hotchner. “Hi,” she says with a warm smile as she holds out her hand. He shakes it and steps back immediately. “I’m Jennifer Jareau ��" JJ.”

“Tony DiNozzo.”

She looks between Tony and Hotchner for a moment and settles on Hotchner with raised eyebrows. Hotchner meets her gaze steadily.

“You should go home to your son, JJ.”

JJ’s gaze sweeps over Hotchner, but there is nothing sexual about it, more concerned. Some of the tension twisting in Tony’s stomach unwinds.

“Alright,” JJ concedes. She eyes Tony one last time and there is warning in her expression that Tony only half understands. There’s a tired sigh from Hotchner as she disappears out the door.

“I should go,” Tony says, eyes not quite meeting Hotchner’s. Hotchner clears his throat and Tony tenses. Hotchner’s already reluctant to have anything to do with him and if the people he trusts disapprove of Tony’s interest then he doesn’t stand a chance.

“Same, Law, time with my son, green,” Hotchner tells him, and Tony turns to look at him. There’s the memory of something dark and terrible lingering in Hotchner’s eyes that Tony can’t even begin to know how to address.

“What?”

An almost smile twitches Hotchner’s mouth.

“Breaking the ice,” he says by way of explanation and Tony grins, wide and happy as he realizes for the first time that he might actually have a chance. He settles down in the chair again.

*

It takes a while to get the full story from his team members, but eventually he gets more than just the fact that the supernatural exists and Adam is part of a race of Immortal beings that hunt and kill each other. As it turns out Adam is only in his forties. Apparently he started out as a researcher for some kind of historical society. Tony’s disappointed since he was hoping for a few hundred years, maybe even a thousand.

That’s not even the worst of it; Tony finds out Lindsey used to work for some kind of demonic law firm and there was something involving an apocalypse. It’s all a bit overwhelming and Tony’s trying to take it one case at a time.

“Hey Spooky,” agent Johnson calls as he swaggers up to the team’s collection of desks. “Got a case for your X-files.”

Tony simply stares at him, not even bothering to tell him to go away. He knows better. Johnson is a bully and he won’t stop until he’s had a satisfactory reaction. It doesn’t help that news of the kinds of cases they’d been taking spread quickly.

“Hear there’re some vampires in this little town in Washington.”

Tony can see that Lindsey’s getting closer to violence the longer Johnson stays ��" for a man who’s supposed to persuade with arguments, Lindsey’s surprisingly quick to resort to violence ��" and he’s about to intervene when Adam speaks up.

“Hey DiNozzo,” Adam says. “Think we can get the Bureau to fund an investigation into aitu harassing American citizens in Bora Bora? Might even have something to do with that missing girl.”

Tony grins. “I hear it’s nice this time of year.”

Tony snickers as Johnson fumes and storms off. There’s no way the AD would approve it, but he is aware of the supernatural and tends to indulge Tony’s team. It’s nice to have a boss that’s on his side for once.

“If we end up in the basement, I want a raise,” Lindsey mutters.

*

This time Tony brings pizza. They’ve been having coffee for a while and Tony’s a little nervous about making their meetings something more. Hotch finally seems comfortable with him and he’s worried about rocking the boat. It doesn’t help that the last time he felt like this in a relationship was Jeanne. He doesn’t know what Hotchner likes, so he’s gone with fairly innocuous ingredients like mushrooms and peppers, and avoided things like anchovies and olives.

“Hey Aaron, think it’s too soon for an actual meal together?” Tony asks as he enters Hotchner’s office. Aaron smiles a little at him and Tony feels warmth coiling contentedly in his stomach. The older agent doesn’t smile often, but Tony is very pleased with himself that he’s one of the reasons Hotchner does.

“Well, I am hungry…” Hotchner says. He moves out from behind the desk and leads Tony to the conference room with a warm hand on his back. Tony decides he’ll definitely be bringing pizza more often.

They eat in silence for a time. Tony can’t think of anything to say that doesn’t involve the inane chatter he usually does, but that’s alright, because the profiler would see through it anyway, and for the first time in his life Tony might be okay with that.

JJ smiles in at them as she passes the room and Hotchner nods in return. Tony’s smile is a little tight since JJ still hasn’t really accepted him hanging around Hotchner, but the more he shows up the more she warms up to him. When he looks back, Aaron’s watching him closely with a faint frown. Tony shrugs and smiles a little wryly, but Aaron understands his insecurities and rests his hand lightly over Tony’s. Tony can’t meet his eyes but he turns his hand over and entwines his fingers with Aaron’s. They continue to eat in silence.

*

They’re investigating a werewolf when they run into a man who identifies himself as Samuel Campbell. Tony wastes no time in collecting the diner cutlery and empty glass when he leaves.

When they run the prints Tony is surprised at the sheer size of Dean Winchester’s file, but most of it deals with crimes of which he was later cleared. Only hours before a rather suspicious gas explosion killed the agent in charge of the investigation, Henrickson, he had sent through a report vindicating Dean and his brother of the majority of crimes they’d been accused of. The only charges that remained were fraud, grave desecration and breaking and entering. All fairly indicative of life as a hunter.

“I like him,” Adam says as he skims through the information. Tony ‘hmm’s noncommittally.

“Winchesters are good at what they do,” Lindsey adds.

“I want him on the team,” Tony says with a grin.

“I don’t think he plays well with others. From what I’ve heard that’s a fairly universal Winchester trait.”

Tony’s grin remains undaunted at Lindsey’s comment.

“You don’t play well with others either. You can not play well with others together.”

*

The next time Tony sees Winchester he’s standing over a naked body with a bullet hole in its heart. Tony always feels bad for the victims, and the human side of the werewolf is as much a victim as the people it attacks, but he can understand that sometimes there’s no other choice. Tony learned at an early age that not all the bad people were punished, but it took longer to learn that not all good people got what they deserved either.

At Dean’s shoulder is a shorter man in a trench coat. He looks like a disheveled accountant and Tony can’t quite work out how they fit together but then the man rests his hand a little hesitantly on Dean’s arm and Dean leans in to him. There’s an intimate intensity when they look at each other and something Tony can’t quite identify burns between them. It might be love or grief, devotion or desperation.

Tony’s not sure what tips them off but they both turn to look at him at the same time. The unidentified man steps back and, with one last lingering glance at Dean, walks away. Dean doesn’t move his eyes from Tony and Tony’s glad the team split up to search since it looks like Dean would run at the slightest provocation.

“Agent DiNozzo, FBI.”

The only change in Dean is the slightest narrowing of his eyes.

“I’m here to offer you a deal.”

Dean folds his arms and Tony suspects that he’s got a weapon in his jacket he’s trying to reach discretely. Tony’s not quite sure what to do with the connection his brain makes to Ziva and the resulting comparisons of himself, Adam and Lindsey to Gibbs, McGee and himself. It takes some effort to suppress his snigger.

“I can make all your problems go away. Well, the legal ones anyway.”

Dean has the look about him of someone with the weight of the world on his shoulders. From what Lindsey and Adam have uncovered that might even be true.

Tony’s tempted to tell him he’s been cleared of the murders, but he needs him on his team more. Dean has experience that the team could benefit from and three is a very awkward number since it always leaves someone without backup.

“You my fairy godmother now? All my troubles go away, all for the price of my soul? Been there, done that. I’m not eager to repeat the experience.”

“No deals, at least not for your soul. I just want your time. Work for me for four years and we’ll wipe all current charges from your record.”

Dean simply stares at him, but Tony can tell there is some indecision. The hunter glances back the way the other man went and sighs as he seems to come to some sort of decision.

“Alright, but if I don’t like what I see, I’m gone and you’ll never find me.”

“Great,” Tony says, clasping his hands together and wondering how to tell the hunter he’ll be working with an Immortal and a lawyer from a demonic law firm.

*

Tony can’t contain his overly bright grin when, as he’s working late into the night, Aaron shows up at his desk bearing Chinese take-out. The smile Aaron gives him is small and brief, but it’s there. Tony wastes no time in dragging Dean’s chair over and gesturing for Aaron to sit.

Dean has settled in fairly well, even if he is still suspicious and tends to go off on his own. They don’t learn much about him other than that he has a brother, none of them are sure what happened to him, and that the man in the trench coat’s name is Cas. Tony would assume it’s short for something like Cassidy, but Adam gets a very strange expression every time he’s mentioned. Tony’s letting it all go until it becomes an issue.

“Maybe one of these days we should go to an actual restaurant,” Tony says as he grabs a set of chopsticks. When he realizes what he’s said he reluctantly looks up to judge Aaron’s reaction. Aaron is watching him closely, looking for what Tony doesn’t know, and it scares him that Aaron can read all the things he doesn’t want anyone to know. He thought he was okay with that, that somewhere along the way he’d matured enough, but his heart is beating out of his chest and he can’t seem to draw in breath.

“I’d like that,” Aaron says finally. Tony looks up sharply and nods. His relief leaves him a little shaky. They settle into the quiet comfort Tony’s really starting to revel in but he shifts a little uncomfortably and glances at Aaron before looking away. He’s never been good at asking for what he wants. Aaron pulls his chair forward in the guise of reaching for a food carton and when he sits back his arm is pressed against Tony’s. Tony leans against him a little.

He likes touching Aaron. It quiets something inside him, sooths something that’s been raging for as long as he can remember. As much as he’s attracted to Aaron and wants more, he likes this best.

“There’s something… I…” Aaron begins and uncharacteristically trails off.

“Yeah?” Tony prompts, brow furrowing as he goes through all the possible things Aaron could need to tell him.

“I want you to meet Jack,” Aaron says, “my son.”

Tony’s back to feeling nervous because that means something. They’ve been meeting ��" dating? ��" for months, but they’ve never really discussed what they are. Tony thinks of Jeanne and Gibbs and his terrible luck with relationships. He looks at Aaron, who’s still waiting for an answer.

“Okay.”