Title: Emergence – Chapters 9-12
Author: Jilly James
Betas: Elsa Kallan and Naelany
Emergence Main Page
– – – –
Blair was roused by a whispering Jim after what felt like only ten minutes. “It’s a little before 0300, Chief. Tony started moving a little about five minutes ago.”
Grunting an acknowledgment, Blair rolled to a seated position and tried to make his brain engage. Blearily, he looked around for Ducky, but his bed was empty. Most of the team seemed asleep, but Rossi was up, and so were Rafe and Cassie.
Jim sat next to him, wrapping an arm around his waist. Blair’s head plopped onto Jim’s shoulder, causing Jim to chuckle softly. “I told Ducky to set up the kettle and supplies in the Omega’s room, since you’ll be taking over the dosing once he’s back to work. He just went to get the water started.”
“Good,” Blair mumbled. “I need to talk to him. Have an idea.”
“Well then, up you go. Come on.” Jim got up, and pulled Blair to his feet. Rather than completely letting go, one hand cupped Blair’s cheek. “You okay, Blair? These are pretty weird circumstances, even for us.”
Blair hugged his Alpha tightly and Jim squeezed back just has hard. Blair had trained Jim into good hugs. “I’m fine, Jim. Don’t care how wonky things are as long as you’re with me.”
“Ditto, Chief.” Blair needed time with his toothbrush, so he settled for giving Jim a kiss on the cheek. “Now get to work, so you can get some more sleep.”
Checking Tony first, who was shifting around, but not really waking, Blair joined Ducky who was looking rather the worse for wear watching the kettle boil.
“I can do this, Ducky. Why don’t you get some more sleep?”
“That’s a kind offer, Blair, but I am well. With James’ permission, I’d like to give Anthony a quick check, just to ensure he’s progressing, especially in regards to the headache and elevated temperature.”
“I’m sure Jim will be fine with that.” The water hit a boil, but as Ducky reached for it, Blair inquired, “I was thinking we should use a triple dose. Does that pose any concern for you?”
Ducky hesitated. “Normally that dose would make any dragon quite sleepy. Ah, I see your point. If he’s already asleep, why not give him a greater quantity. Yes, that makes good sense. It’s not known to suppress respiration, so it should be fine. I wouldn’t want to go higher until we’ve tested it.”
“Do you think it will make him sleep longer?”
“I wouldn’t think so, no. The duration of action should not be lengthened by an increase in dose.”
“We could go with the plan of giving him two back-to-back doses at night and sleeping for twelve hours, and that still may not be enough to get him caught up. Or we could try increasing strength gradually. But I didn’t want to even try this until we were settled.”
“Excellent suggestion. I’ll prepare it now and it should be ready in ten minutes.”
Blair returned to the main room to find Jim had Tony sitting up already. He looked a little out of it, but was coherent enough to be asking some questions about where they were. Jim was softly murmuring answers and generally being more patient than was typical for him.
Blair gave him a smile. “I got him, Jim. Thanks for the help.” Blair sat with Tony for a couple minutes in silence while Tony seemed to be trying to pull it together.
Finally, Tony said, “I seriously need to brush my teeth.”
“You and me both, man. Come on… Jim took our bags to the bathroom. We can take care of that and then more tea for you.”
“Gah. If it wasn’t 0300, I’d seriously object.” Tony was a little unsteady, but seemed to be improving quickly. Blair thought it interesting that Tony spoke in military time, just like Jim, but Tony didn’t strike him as the military sort.
In short order, they’d navigated all the bathroom necessities. Jim had left sweats out for Blair, and he changed quickly so he didn’t have to sleep in jeans. Blair’s wrist scales had been visible for a bit while washing up. He didn’t think Tony had noticed because he didn’t react.
Considering what Blair had been told about Tony’s lack of knowledge about dragons, he imagined Tony didn’t know about an Omega’s scale patterns. The wrist scales were fairly common knowledge, though Omegas tended to keep them covered. He’d make it a high priority to talk to Tony about that when they woke up again, because he had a feeling Tony wouldn’t react well.
Back in the main room, Ducky was waiting with the tea and a medical bag. “Hey, Duck,” Tony whispered.
“Anthony, you are looking less peaked. That’s excellent. Let’s have you drink this. I believe it’s cooled enough, and then I’ll give you a quick check to make sure everything is satisfactory.”
Ducky had managed temperature check and a couple of questions, before Blair felt that funny emotion-blunting. He quickly got Tony lying back down before he passed out again. Ducky blinked in surprise. “That was quite quick. The higher concentration no doubt. Let me just take his blood pressure and then we can all obtain some additional sleep.”
While Ducky finished, Blair called Jim over and filled him in, asking that Tony be checked on more frequently.
Getting back in bed was blessed relief. He really admired the way his Alpha could keep functioning with his rest constantly interrupted. Blair pulled the covers over his head and immediately went back to sleep.
An alarm jolted Blair from sleep to the sounds of utter chaos outside the barracks. Already scrambling out of bed, Blair could see everyone was up, Jim was barking out orders to secure the room, and guard Tony. Then Jim was outside, while Hotch, Rossi, Henri and Rafe converged on them. Rossi handed Blair a weapon; which Blair belatedly realized was his own 9mm that must have come from Jim.
“What’s going on?” he asked to anyone who would answer.
“We don’t know yet,” Hotch replied evenly, cocking his head to the side, listening intently. “There are multiple alarms going off in the Yard. Right now, it’s just carefully controlled chaos as the Marines sort things out. Our group is either in here, or right outside with the Marines on guard duty. It could have nothing to do with us.”
Rossi snorted. “I don’t believe in that kind of coincidence.”
“Neither do I,” Hotch responded.
The two Alphas continued to listen carefully to what was going on outside. Spence stood between them, a hand on each, trying to help stabilize their senses. An Alpha could extend their senses further when in contact with their Omega, though no one was completely sure why. Blair had theories, but little way to test them. He wished he could be with Jim right now, but knew he had to stay put.
“If I tell you the dragons outside have shifted to defend position, everyone under a bed,” Hotch ordered. Which made good sense. If dragons fought in shifted form, they could bring buildings down. They didn’t want to be out in the open with Tony, so they had to stay inside, and therefore under the beds.
This whole situation was too surreal. Blair hoped they weren’t under attack, because that would be bizarre. Kidnapping attempts in the past were why security measures were so tight, but they’d never had an all-out attack of any kind. That better not be what this was. Things would turn into a nightmare if someone was willing to attack a US Military site, and the various world governments would get all up in the affairs of the Council.
It seemed an eternity, but was only about twenty minutes, before Jim returned. He gestured for everyone to relax a little. “There were four blatant attempts to gain access at the Navy Yard gates, though no shots were fired, and the perpetrators fled quickly. It seems likely this was a diversion. We’re operating under the assumption that, in the chaos, someone has gained access to the Yard.”
Blair felt his stomach drop. This was ridiculous, and further evidence that they couldn’t move Tony. Someone seemed desperate.
“NCIS has investigative purview, so Gibbs will be on point to determine how and where someone got in. We’re going to continue to operate as if there’s imminent threat. It’s a little after 0500, so in a few hours, the Yard will open to general traffic, including civilian access to the Museum. Fortunately that’s on the other side of the Yard. But it will still be relatively easy for someone to blend in with general foot traffic around here.”
“How are we proceeding?” Hotch asked.
“Stay hunkered down here. Not relax our perimeter. I want every dragon to meet every Marine assigned to guard the exterior, and we don’t let anyone in who isn’t known to us. Whoever this is, they’re going to wait until Tony’s in the open.”
So, they’d keep Tony under wraps. Why did Blair think that Tony wasn’t going to be very enthusiastic about that plan?
Everyone was too wound up to even think about sleep, though Blair plopped back on his bed and sighed. They discussed plans until Gibbs arrived about an hour later.
“Everything is contained for the moment. No sign yet of anyone in the Yard. Director was called in and briefed. He’s pulling in a couple extra agents from Norfolk to assist with the investigation. SecNav seems to consider this a personal affront and guarantees the emergence will not be interrupted. He is going to vacate the barracks next to us for the meetings, so we’ll only have to move Tony one building over and we can keep a tighter perimeter.”
Jim went back outside with Gibbs, and Blair got the unenviable task of calling Jeremy Turner with the news. The head of the Council wasn’t going to be pleased.
Something loud startled Tony awake. Unlike the last couple times he woke from the tea, he didn’t feel quite so weighed down and foggy. In fact, he felt better than he had in a couple weeks. He tried to remember what day it was, and it took him a few minutes to come up with Friday.
He sat up and surveyed the room. Many of the dragons from last night were doing various things, some seemed to be resting. Blair was on the bunk next to him and offered him a smile and a half-wave. Spencer was across from him and reading intently. Someone had brought in a refrigerator, which was the noise that woke him.
“How do you feel?” Blair asked.
“Better. Pretty good, all things considered. What’s going on?”
“Had a busy morning. Security’s changing a bit.” Then Blair filled him in on what had happened in the early hours of the morning.
Tony was somewhat aghast. This was like the plot to a bad movie. Sadly with him playing the role of the helpless heroine. Ugh.
“We think they were trying to get someone into position in case an opportunity presents itself to grab you. We don’t think someone would attempt an all-out assault,” Blair tried to reassure.
Tony pondered the situation for a minute. “So, let me guess, you guys are gonna ask me to not try to leave the barracks?”
Blair sighed and ran his hand down his face. “It’s easier if we can keep the area contained.”
“You know I’m going to go absolutely insane if I have to stay in these two buildings for a week.” He took a few deep breaths, telling himself it was just a week, not the rest of his life. “Look, I’ll try. I can’t promise not to go out of my mind sometimes, but I realize everyone is putting their lives on hold to be here. I don’t want to make things harder.”
Before Blair could reply, Tony added, “But, that just applies to security. I make no promises about any other craziness you guys throw at me. If I don’t like it, I’m gonna say something.”
Jim appeared, clearly having heard everything. “Fair enough, Tony.”
“I suppose it’s insane to ask if there’s any way I can help with the investigation?”
Blair flashed him a sympathetic look. “Honestly, Tony, even if you weren’t confined, you don’t have time. We have so much to fill you in on, and there’s so much to do.”
“Okay.” Tony figured the explanations would come, right now he needed a shower and some breakfast. “I want to shower before we start with the dragon school. And I seriously need to eat. In the last thirty-six hours I’ve had like eight bites of squid.”
“Seriously?” Blair asked. At Tony’s nod, he said, “Oh, you are so eating first, man. That’s just not good.”
A couple minutes later, he had a microwaved breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee. “So, what am I supposed to do about clothes? I have enough in my bag for today, and that’s it. I have a few shirts in my drawer at NCIS, but that’s not gonna cut it.”
“Most of us only have a few days of clothes, so we’ll be arranging to get laundry service. Or we could send someone to your place to pack you a bag?” Blair asked.
Tony winced. He didn’t like anyone in his place, and certainly didn’t want strangers going through his underwear drawer. “Would you guys ask Abby to stop by after work? Or I can call her and tell her what I need. She can get my stuff for me. I’d really rather someone I know…” he trailed off uncertainly.
“That’s a good idea, Tony. And Abby would feel better getting to see you looking more like yourself. She’s been worried about you.”
Rubbing his hand over his head, he grimaced a little. He hated to get Abby upset. He’d have to be sure to be as normal as possible when she was around, and then maybe she wouldn’t worry so much.
Tony polished off his breakfast, as underwhelming as it was. His body said it needed more food, but his stomach wasn’t going to accommodate it yet. Blair seemed to understand and didn’t press him to eat more. He was sure Ducky wouldn’t have let it go so easily. He wondered where Ducky was, so asked Blair.
“He went back to NCIS to work. He checked your vitals and stuff before he left and said you were doing better. He’ll be by later to check on you again.”
Nodding, Tony kept to himself how much it bugged him to have people touching him while he was unconscious. It really kind of freaked him out. Blair was shooting him a sympathetic look, which gave Tony pause. Hell. “You’re an empath, too?”
Blair nodded. “Yeah. Most of us are. We can tell you more about everything later.”
“So I’m clear to shower? No escort required?”
“Well, Jim or Hotch will be close by, and I’ll watch the door, but otherwise, you’ll be on your own.”
Tony’d take what he could get. Five minutes later, the hot water was pounding on his back and he felt some of the tension of the last twenty-four hours bleed away. His life had turned into a cross between a runaway train and a Lifetime movie of the week. And he wasn’t sure how to have any measure of control in the situation.
He found his mind turning to his dream from last night. It really didn’t feel like a dream, but he had a hard time accepting it as anything else. Tony had always tried to be a realist, and reality said that was just a weird dream, entirely based on his wish that Gibbs was his mate. But it still felt so real. A part of him he hadn’t let out since he was a kid wanted to believe it, because if it were true, it meant he got to have Gibbs.
Frustrated with the direction of his own thoughts, he scrubbed furiously at his body, now anxious to get on with whatever was next. The sooner this was over, the better.
Twenty minutes later, he was dressed in his jeans, which were too big due to his weight loss, and his last t-shirt. He was shown to a small private room with a bed, a chair, and a desk. Spencer and Tony sat on the bed and Blair in the chair.
“Okay, guys, lay it on me. What insanity is coming up?” Tony quickly asked.
Blair started. “I’ve been debating about where to begin this for you. I know you’re going to have questions, but I want to start with the information that’s the most time-sensitive and we can fill in the blanks on the rest later.”
At Tony’s nod, he powered on. “As you’ve probably guessed, you won’t have a lot of control of your first transformation. When your dragon is ready, you’ll emerge, full stop. There’s no controlling it, or stopping it, or delaying it. There are a few signs that it’s about to happen, so we can get you in a place where it’s safe to shift. You will likely have some stomach cramps, your back will feel like pins and needles, there’ll be a sense of pressure, and you’ll get really light headed. You won’t be able to see it, but right before the shift, your pre-scales will kind of ripple.
“If you were an Alpha or a Beta, you’d have your first transformation, the dragon and the human sides would internally tussle with each other a bit, then there’s a sort of melding in the mind. After that, you’d be able to shift back. Okay so far?”
At Tony’s nod, Blair continued. “Usually, there’s plenty of time to get them to a dragon center, where they can spend the first week getting used to shifting, moving around in their new form, heightened senses, the whole dragon package. But there’s a big piece that’s different for an Omega. As soon as you emerge, your dragon nature will take over and you’ll want to find a mate. Your human nature can’t easily assert itself fully until that’s done.”
Tony nearly freaked. A mate was less than a week away? Holy shit. He was not ready for this. He felt like he should have seen that coming. Most of their worry was about an unmated Omega, and they certainly weren’t going to keep protection detail on him forever.
When it seemed like Tony was going to remain quiet, Blair added, “Your dragon will choose your mate, and will not settle completely until you do. So we have what’s called a gathering to allow all the interested Alphas to be present when you emerge, so you can find the mate that calls to you.”
Suddenly, Tony thought of his first dream. “So you’re saying the Alphas will all be there when I emerge and I’ll pick the one I want? Can you describe exactly what happens?”
Blair flashed him a puzzled look. “Ah, well, we’re going to use a warehouse here at the Yard. All the Alphas will be assembled and ring the interior of the building. You’ll emerge in the center and pick the one that calls to you.”
“How exactly does that happen? Describe it for me,” Tony prompted intently.
Blair and Spencer exchanged a quick look before Blair replied, “Typically, you’ll roam the circle, you’ll sniff ones that draw you for whatever reason, then when you’ve decided on the right one, you’ll butt him with your head, initiating contact and inviting the Alpha to claim you. Most of us knock our Alphas on their butts, but they’re tough, they can handle it.
“At that point, the other Alphas will leave, your Alpha will shift, then there’s some dragon wrestling that goes on to demonstrate his acceptance and allow you to form a connection. Then your more rational side will return and you’ll be able to shift to your human form. Then you’ll feel compelled to mate.”
Tony felt a sharp flare of hope. That was too much like his dream, and he had no way of knowing any of that if the dream wasn’t real. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being compelled to mate immediately, but that seemed like a trivial issue compared to everything else.
Blair and Spencer were both looking at him oddly and he remembered they could feel his emotions. But there was no way he could dial it back. Now he had to test the second dream. “And what happens if I don’t find a mate?”
“That’s really rare. But eventually, you’ll return to human form, though your dragon will continue to want to seek a mate. You’ll be very unsettled if you don’t find a mate right away.”
“Will I be able to shift back to dragon form without a mate?” Tony asked, continuing to think over the aspects of the second dream.
“No one’s ever asked me that question before, but no, you won’t. You’ll remain in human form until an Alpha is accepted by your dragon. Your Omega gift, or gifts, will manifest up to a point, but they’re usually blunted until you complete the mating.”
That was now several points that were just like his dream. Tony couldn’t stop the well of joy. He was going to get Gibbs! “Can I just pick now?” Might as well save some time and get right to the Gibbs-getting.
“Um, no. Your dragon side has to pick the mate, not your human side. A long time ago, Alphas tried to claim an Omega before emergence, and frequently they were rejected. Which is how we know what happens when an Omega doesn’t find their mate. That’s why we have the gathering, to be sure the widest possible field is available for you to choose from. No one wants to see an Omega unable to find a mate.”
“Hmm. Okay. Anything else about the gathering?”
Blair and Spence exchanged a mystified look. Spence answered, “Approximately fifty percent of Omegas choose someone they knew before they began emerging. As a result, there is a firm belief that knowing the Omega ahead of time is the key to being chosen. So it’s become customary for the Omega to meet all their suitors prior to their emergence.”
Tony gaped. “Wait, so you’re saying I have to meet all the Alphas ahead of time? How many are there?”
Spence replied, “There will be hundreds. We don’t have an exact count yet.”
“Oh dear god. Please tell me I don’t have to remember all their names!”
Both issued a surprised laugh, and Blair responded. “No, Tony. You just have to meet as many as you can. Because of the remaining fifty percent, almost all choose someone they met during the gathering. The outcry would be enormous if you refused to meet with the Alphas, or if we didn’t make every reasonable effort to meet as many as possible.”
For some reason, Tony knew that meeting the Drake ahead of time wasn’t the key. If fifty percent of Wyverns chose dragons they’d known in their lives before they emerged, then it was because that was the right Drake. And for those who picked a near-stranger, it was because it was right not because they’d had five minutes of conversation a few days prior.
Lost in his thoughts, Tony absently said, “So I meet a bunch of Alpha Drakes, then pick one, then mate.” He looked up. “I’m sure there’s more to it than that.”
The other two Wyverns exchanged another look, then Blair asked. “Did you say, ‘Drake?’”
“You don’t use that term anymore?”
“Tony, we’ve never used that term.”
“So you don’t refer to yourselves, even privately, as Wyverns?”
Blair’s mouth was agape for a moment, before he snapped it shut. “What are you talking about?” And Spencer had the oddest expression on his face.
“Um, oops?” Maybe this wasn’t the right time to bring up any of the dream. Now he recalled that Precious had mentioned the names had been lost to time.
“No, no, no,” Blair shook his head. “No ‘oops.’ As soon as you said ‘Wyvern’ something inside me kind of resonated. I want to know how you heard that.”
“I do, too, Tony. I had the same feeling,” Spencer said faintly.
“Maybe we should just write this off as me having a bad breakfast burrito and just keep going on with dragon school and my dragon etiquette classes.”
“Sure,” Blair agreed affably. “And you’re going to be teacher for a bit. So start talking, Teach.” He sat back with his arms crossed.
Tony sighed. He had a feeling he shouldn’t say everything yet, so he’d be carefully selective. “I’ve been having these dreams under the influence of the tea. Maybe it’s all a hallucination, but I dreamt some of the things you just told me.”
“Like what parts?”
Tony described the first dream, where he went to the gathering grounds of the Drakes, and how the Alphas ringed around him and he went from one to another, occasionally smelling one, but not able to find the right one. He described how he was aware, but not exactly aware of himself as Tony. Then how he spotted the one he knew was his and practically head-butted him in invitation.
Blair blinked a few times. “Okay. I’m flummoxed, but I’ll get it back together. Keep going. ‘Cause that explains Drakes, but not Wyverns.”
“Last night I was visited by a Wyvern Elder from before we took human form.” He winced a little, because now that he’d said it out loud, that sounded plain weird. It seemed so much less crazy in his head.
Spencer’s expression was frozen, but Tony could see in his eyes that his mind was going full speed.
Blair just looked stupefied. “What did he say?”
“I’m not sure it was a he, but not really a she either. It was weird.” He really should have made the time to ask about that. The gender thing just felt so different with Precious.
“So not the point,” Blair nearly snapped, then made a placating gesture. “Sorry, sorry. Ah, for the sake of argument, let’s go with all Omegas are male, so we’ll refer to your Elder as male. Please, please, continue.”
Tony went into what the Elder had told him about how Wyverns and Drakes brought out each other’s gifts. About the Elder’s gift of future sight that allowed him to see the extinction of the various dragon species, unless they hid in human form. And then how the Elder, named Precious, and two others had left their souls on the spirit plane to wait for the time when the Wyverns could return.
He went on to explain how many dragon species were hunted to extinction, and how the Drakes held on as long as they could, then scattered to spread their blood far and wide. How the physical strength of the Drakes allowed their blood to strengthen in humans, making them the first to return.
Everyone was silent for several minutes. Blair finally managed a soft, “Wow. Ah, I don’t know what to say. Um… did the Elder mention how they reached you? You’re not emerged yet, so I can’t see you on a spirit walk.”
“Precious said that in me the two lines of Wyverns came back together. I guess I have more Wyvern blood than most, so Precious could come to me, rather than me going there. Or something like that. But, it was made really clear that your gifts in the spirit realm were gonna be really strong, and after you bond with Jim, you’ll be able to go and seek Precious out and get whatever answers you need.”
Now Blair was gaping again. “I am bonded to Jim.”
“Oh yeah! I need to tell you that, too. Precious said you’re just mated. That neither of you can realize the full potential of your gifts until you bond.”
Blair started to ask a question but there was a sharp knock at the door before Jim entered, looking serious. “Sorry, Chief. I’ve been keeping an ear out for you three, and heard enough to know I need to be here for the rest of this.” He leaned against the closed door. “Please continue, Tony.”
Shaking his head as if to clear it, Blair made a ‘go on’ gesture. “So what is bonding?”
“I’m not sure. Precious said I’d know what to do after I mated with, uh, my Drake.” Tony had almost said ‘Gibbs.’ He was tempted to tell that bit, about how Precious had assured him that he would choose Gibbs, had already chosen Gibbs, but he felt the pre-choosing would go down poorly. Maybe not in this room, but overall with the dragon community.
Tony would go through the motions of this gathering, though he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. “I wish I could tell you more about bonding, but I just don’t know yet. But Precious said you and Jim should bond right away and you needed to seek him out on the spirit plane as soon as you could.” He again decided to withhold information about the corrupt ones, feeling it was better for some reason not to say it out loud.
Tentatively, Spencer asked, “Did he say if I should bond with David and Aaron?”
“Oh, yeah. Precious said every Wyvern should bond with their Drake. Or, you know, Drakes. Something about your gift was hard for you to control because you weren’t properly grounded in your Alphas.”
Seeming the least affected, Jim asked, “Was there anything else?”
“Well, after you and Blair bond, Precious is going to give you a task. I’m supposed to have Blair teach me the ways of the spirit gifts, so I can go talk to Precious some more.”
Jim was giving him a speculative look. “What task were you given?”
Tony frowned. “How do you know I didn’t just complete my task?”
“A hunch, but I think you just confirmed it.”
“Christ, you’re as sneaky as Gibbs. Yes, I’m supposed to take up some task along with my bonded. And if we all,” Tony gestured to the entire room, “do what we’re supposed to do and succeed in our charge…” Tony trailed off, not sure he could say it out loud. It sounded too fantastical and a touch melodramatic.
“What, Tony?” Jim prompted. “What’s going to happen?”
Sighing, Tony half mumbled, “Supposedly the Wyverns will rise again.” Okay, that sounded more than a touch dramatic. “Look, this could all be a psychedelic dream brought on by too much of that tea you guys push.”
“No, it’s not,” Jim replied.
“How do you know?”
“I just do.” He pushed away from the door. “Blair, come on. We need to call Jeremy.”
Well, things had just drifted way out of control.
Tony glanced at his lap, trying not to smile. All the dragons were confirming that his dream was true. His whole life was up in the air, everything was completely nuts, but he was going to trust Precious that, at the end of this crazy week, he was getting what he most wanted.
– – – –
Blair tugged Jim to a stop, then towards the bathroom, hopefully they could find a bit of privacy. Jim halted his course and pulled him into the designated Alpha room instead. Thankfully, it was empty.
Once they were inside, and Blair got a good look at the room, he blurted out, “Holy munitions locker, Batman! That’s a lot of weaponry.” It looked like the Alphas were outfitted for war. Blair shook off the unimportant thought and turned to Jim. “Are you sure we should call this in right away?”
“I’m sure.” Hesitating for a moment, Jim ran his fingers gently down the side of Blair’s face. “God, Blair, what we have is so much, I can’t imagine it being more intense. What I heard in there is the craziest thing I’ve ever come across, but I know in my gut that it’s true.”
Capturing Jim’s hand, Blair held it tightly, fighting back his emotions. Jim wasn’t usually so open with what he felt. “I know,” he whispered. “But I want it. Whatever it is… if it brings me closer to you, I’m there.”
Jim let their foreheads rest together and twisted his hand so he could stroke Blair’s wrist scales, making Blair shiver. “He doesn’t get it, Chief. For all that he’s got some phenomenal gift manifesting really early, he’s still human right now. He’s not going to get why this is so important to us until he’s a dragon. I know you and Spencer are going to have theories bubbling up as soon as you can think straight, but Tony won’t understand. As much as we want to know, we have to give him space. We just have to get through this week.”
“I know. I want to pin him down and make him answer questions without remit, but I’ll keep it under control. We have to make sure Jeremy gets the same message. Does everyone know?”
“No. Only the Alphas heard that. Because of your concern about privacy with Tony, we set up some white noise machines outside the rooms. I turned them on as soon as you went in. The sound is pretty low-pitched, but I’m pretty sure only the Alphas can hear around them. Probably only the mated Alphas. We’ll have to watch what we say outside these two private rooms, though.”
“You are so getting lucky for that.” Blair pulled back a bit, grinning. “Do Rossi and Hotch know to keep it quiet?”
Jim cocked his head, listening. “Yes.”
“I swear, you dialing up your hearing like that makes me so hot,” Blair breathed.
And just like that, Blair was reeled in even closer and his mouth was devoured by his Alpha. He surrendered instantly, twining his arms around Jim’s neck, stroking the scales behind his ears, making Jim groan into the kiss.
All too soon, Jim pulled away, gasping for breath. “We can’t start anything, Blair.”
“Yeah, yeah. Christ, Jim, we haven’t been celibate for a week since… since we mated! This is gonna be a long-ass week,” Blair said despairingly.
“Ah, but just think… now we have bonding to look forward to,” Jim whispered in his ear, making him shiver.
Blair swatted him away. “If you start something again, I’m making you finish it.”
Laughing, Jim pulled out his phone and turned it over. “You’re up, Chief.”
“I have to call?”
“Hey, I had to call to tell him that people were breaking into the Navy Yard to kidnap our new Omega.”
Blair conceded and quickly dialed Jeremy.
The phone rang several times before it was answered. “James, if you’ve called to tell me that someone has targeted a missile on the Navy Yard, I shall have to resort to avoiding your calls.”
“Hi, sir, it’s Blair.”
“Goodness gracious, Blair, do program my number into your own phone. If I knew it was you calling, I’d answer sooner.”
Blair laughed. “But then you might never take Jim’s calls again.” In truth, they’d only ever gotten the one secure Sat-phone; Blair’s was a normal cell, but he did have Jeremy’s number programmed. Usually they contacted Jeremy through more official channels at the Council, but recent circumstances necessitated speed.
“True,” Jeremy replied gravely, nearly making Blair laugh again. “How may I assist you, Blair? Please tell me there are no additional problems with our newly emerging Omega?”
“Not problems, exactly,” Blair hedged.
“Oh dear. Do go on.”
“Do you have privacy right now?”
“Yes. I’m in my office. Richard is here with me, per usual. I assume privacy is assured on your end of things?”
“As much as we can given circumstances. It seems Tony is coming into his gift rather early.”
“Well, that’s unusual. What gift?”
“I’m not sure how to qualify it. I’d say it’s a bit of sight of some kind. But that’s not really important. The bit you need to know about is the message he’s received.”
“One of our ancestors, from before times, who put their soul in some kind of spiritual limbo to wait for the right conduit to appear. At least, that’s what I’m inferring from what Tony said.”
Jeremy was silent for a long while. “And what did this ancestor have to say?”
Blair repeated everything he was told about Drakes and Wyverns, and how they needed to learn to bond in order to completely access their gifts.
“And you have reason to believe this is all true, and not some fevered dream?” Jeremy asked cautiously.
“Just ask Richard how he feels when you mention Wyverns. Spencer and I both felt like something had been jolted into place. It was very disconcerting. And Jim said he knew it was the truth as soon as he heard it.”
“Hmm. Hold for a moment, please.”
There was a long silence. Blair would have explained to Jim, but he knew Jim was already listening.
“Blair? Richard is quite adamant that we come to America. I cannot say I disagree with him. However, I’d rather we know more before we release this information to others. Who else knows?”
“The Alphas on site heard, but no one else other than Spencer.”
“Let’s keep it that way, if you would? We should be on the ground in ten hours, and can discuss further at that time.”
“Are you planning to stay with us here?” Blair asked hesitantly.
“Heavens no. I’m much too old for communal living. The very notion…” Jeremy trailed off.
“If you’re a day over seventy, I’d eat my flannel shirt.” Seventy was barely middle-aged for a dragon.
Jeremy chuckled. “Take care of our budding Omega. It’s rather important that his mating proceed without hindrance. We must pin down what this bonding is, and how it can help our race. We look forward to seeing you soon, Blair. It’s been too long.”
“See you soon.” Blair hit the end button, then glanced up at Jim. “You gonna tell Jethro?”
Jim considered for a second. “Jeremy was pretty adamant about keeping it under wraps for the moment.”
“But I said the Alphas on site knew, and technically Gibbs is on site.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “I’ll think about it.” He hesitated a second. “Is there a reason you think it’s important Gibbs know?”
“I’m pretty sure Tony’s going to pick him, and he might as well be prepared that something we know nothing about could happen.” Blair thought about what he’d just said. “That sounded better in my head.”
Jim smiled and shook his head in exasperation. “Blair, we can’t know that Tony is going to pick Gibbs. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.”
“Yeah, but, I think Tony does know. When he was asking me to describe exactly what happens in a gathering, he started feeling… well, joyous is the only word I can come up with to describe it. I think that dream he had of picking his Drake, I think that was Jethro.”
Jim appeared to be processing the information, and Blair could feel the mixed emotions. “I’ll figure out something to tell him without blatantly getting his hopes up.” Blair wanted to protest, but Jim continued. “Unless we’re a hundred percent certain, I’m not going to play with his feelings. It’s pretty obvious he’s invested in Tony, but doesn’t really believe Tony would choose him.”
Blair blew a raspberry. He knew Jim was right, but he couldn’t help but want to see Jethro happier. Although, it was just a week!
“Is there a reason you left out the part about our tasks and Tony’s role in the Wyverns coming back? By the way, I assume we’re both thinking that means in real numbers, because you’re pretty much already here.”
“Yeah. I definitely think that meant Wyverns in comparable numbers to the Alphas. And I was going to tell him, but once he said they were coming here, I felt it better to discuss face to face.”
“Hmm. Okay, whatever you think, Chief.”
“Any updates on how the gathering is proceeding?”
“Alphas are already arriving. Fortunately there’s nothing major going on in DC this week, so we don’t have to struggle to get hotels. The Council ops team is assembled and working out of a hotel a couple blocks away. Logistics are mostly being handled by people from the West Virginia Center, but there are a few from London HQ, including an Alpha liaison.” Jim frowned at the last.
“Who’d they send?”
“Rupert Sewell III. I only talked to him briefly, but he seemed…” Jim trailed off as if not sure how to describe the man.
“Like a stuffed shirt?” Blair supplied. “I can’t believe that’s who they sent.” Then Blair realized exactly who the guy would be talking to. “Shit… Tony is going to hate that guy.”
“You know him?”
“Not well. He’s latent. The son of an Alpha/Beta pairing from Edinburgh. Kind of self-important. I’m pretty sure this will be his first time liaising for an Omega emergence.”
Jim frowned a bit. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”
Blair shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s something in the way the guy talks to me. I can’t quite pin it down. He’s always rigidly polite, so it’s not like he’s rude. I just don’t know… it’s probably just me. Don’t worry about it. I’ll manage.”
Jim looked concerned but let it go. “Later today Hotch has arranged for someone to come in and set up a secure satellite feed so we can use our computers to handle some of the logistics, rather than doing everything via phone or in person. In the interim, we’ll keep syncing up every hour. So, what’s next for you?”
“Get back in with Tony and Spencer and pick up where we left off. I’m sure we’re going to have Alpha meetings this afternoon, so we have to be speedy. The barracks ready for that?”
“Yeah, they got all the bunks out and it’s set to go. Let’s get back out there. I need to check in with everyone.”
They left the bedroom-turned-office-turned-weapons’ storage. Tony was in the main barracks chatting with Rossi and drinking more coffee. Several of the Betas were in the room talking while keeping a careful eye out, a couple of them were resting.
In answer to Blair’s unasked question, Rossi said, “Aaron needed to talk to Spence about what came up earlier. I’m sure he’ll be out in a minute.”
“Got it.” To Tony, he added, “We have a few more things to go over, but in a little bit, your liaison to the Alphas is going to be here. Likely there will be meetings this afternoon.”
Tony frowned a bit, but sighed in resignation. “Okay. Can you tell me what those meetings are going to be like?”
“Well, Hotch, Rossi or Jim will be in the room at all times, as well as at least two of the Betas, more depending upon the number of Alphas. There shouldn’t be more than ten Alphas at any one time. The Council schedules the meetings and we don’t have that schedule yet. The duration of the meetings, the frequency, and the number of guests is determined by them based on how much time we have, and how many Alphas to get through. No one is allowed to touch you, but you’ll need to speak to each Alpha individually.”
“That part was hell for me,” Spencer said as he rounded the corner with Hotch close by. “Having to make conversation with so many people day after day. At first it was okay, but then I hated it.”
“How many Alphas will there be, realistically?” Tony asked.
Spencer replied, “There were 276 Alphas at my emergence, so I’d expect a similar number for you.”
Tony’s shoulders sagged a little. “That’s a hell of a lot of small talk. Okay… okay. I can deal. So are we going back to dragon 101?”
Blair nodded, and they all refilled their drinks and headed back to their hideaway. Spencer accepted a quick kiss from both his Alphas before following them to the room.
Tony still seemed to be mulling over something. “So how are the Alphas who come here selected?”
“Oh… no, that’s not it. They decide on their own. Most of the unmated ones will come if they can. And even a few mated ones.”
Blinking in confusion, Tony only managed an inarticulate, “Huh?”
“Most Alphas mate with Betas, because Omegas are so rare, but it’s considered acceptable for an Alpha to break their mating with a Beta if chosen by an Omega.”
Spencer added, “No Alpha who was mated at the time of a gathering has ever been chosen, so we’re not sure why they keep trying. The Omegas have repeatedly asked that mated Alphas not be allowed to attend, but it’s a long-held custom, so we just go with it.”
“Hn. Well, okay. If that’s the way it is, guess I just have to roll with it. Why do so many of the unmated ones come? Are they all really that hopeful they’ll be chosen, because that seems like a lot of unhappy dragons in a week.”
Blair considered for second before replying. “I do feel hope from many of the Alphas, but it’s not really directed inwardly.” At Tony’s confused look, he tried again. “I didn’t say that well. Uh, for starters, they come because it’s respectful, and it’s tradition. But I think many of them are hopeful that the Omega will have the best chance at finding their mate. It’s really an expression of concern and care. I do occasionally sense a kind of avarice in an Alpha, but that’s fairly uncommon.
“I don’t mean to imply they all have altruistic motives. Some just want their chance to have an Omega as a mate. But generally, Alphas want to take care of Omegas, and making themselves available is part of that. I don’t know if that made sense.”
Tony was staring at his hands. “I get what you’re saying. It just doesn’t feel quite right to do it like this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It’s just kind of sad to me, I guess.”
Blair decided not to push. He had a hunch that whatever Tony was feeling was important, but it could wait until Tony emerged and his gift developed more.
“So what’s next in my dragon lessons?”
“Before we get into that, Jim and I called the head of the Council, Alpha Prime Jeremy Turner. He and his Omega, Richard, are en route. They want to see how this bonding stuff turns out. But for now, we want to keep what happened in your dreams fairly quiet.”
Tony didn’t look pleased. “You want to cover this up?”
“No! That’s not it. Word would get out, and dragons would have questions and everyone would be clamoring for answers we can’t give them yet.” Blair held up a hand and began ticking off points. “We don’t know what bonding is, we don’t know how it’s done, we don’t know what is going to happen to cause the Wyverns to come back in greater numbers. With no answers, it will just be an uproar in the midst of an already chaotic emergence,” he ended with a shrug.
“Okay. I get where you’re going with this; why bring it up if we can’t answer questions. So no talk of Wyverns or Drakes or bonding or anything else?”
“Just for now, Tony.” Blair rubbed his hands together. “So, let’s talk about what you can expect physically after you emerge. How familiar are you with an Omega’s scale pattern?”
“Uh… they’re on the back, right? That’s what Ducky said. Are there more?”
“The pre-scales only form on the spine, that’s true. But there are other scales you’ll have after you transform the first time. I assume you know from what you saw in your dream that Omegas are all very pale colors?”
Blair continued, “Also, our scales aren’t matte like other dragons. They’re really, ridiculously, shiny.”
“It was like that in my dream. The, uh, Omegas in my dream were like gold and peach disco balls. I was kind of hoping that wasn’t reality.”
“No, it’s pretty much real.”
“Is pink one of the colors?”
Tony groaned and dropped his head in his hands. “I knew it. I’m gonna be a pink dragon. Where else are these scales?”
Blair grinned. He had a feeling that was Tony’s masculinity talking and not some weird knowing. “The pink is actually really pretty. I think you’ll like it. It’s very pale and has kind of a champagne tint to it.”
Tony’s head whipped up and he glared fiercely at Blair, which nearly gave Blair the giggles. Spencer couldn’t suppress his laugh at Tony’s expense, which earned him a healthy portion of Tony’s ire.
“Don’t worry about it, Tony. Whatever color you are, you’ll find you like it.”
Sighing, Tony relented. “So where are the scales going to pop up?”
“Let’s first discuss the scales that appear on all Omegas, and then there are others you may or may not have. You already know about the spine scales.” Blair took a breath. This was the difficult part. “They’ll start at your hairline and continue down your spine, about three inches wide, then narrowing down into the crease of the buttocks, up to the front of the groin, forming a circle around the testicles and then a ring of them at the base of the penis that’s about an inch wide.”
Throughout Blair’s discourse, Tony’s eyes had gotten bigger and bigger, an appalled expression sweeping over his features. “What else?” he got out on a hoarse whisper.
“Every Omega also has thick bands of scales around their wrists.” Blair rolled back his sleeves showing two-inch wide rings of silvery pale blue scales wrapping his wrists. “The wrist scales are somewhat common knowledge amongst the mundane population.”
Spencer also rolled up his sleeves to reveal his bands of pale pearly lavender.
Tony looked back and forth between the two. “Are you telling me that I’m going to be wearing symbolic handcuffs and a cock ring for the rest of my life?”
Blair winced a little. He’d never heard it put quite that way. He decided to address what was likely the real thing on Tony’s mind. “Tony, have you ever wondered why we are called Omegas?”
“No, but what does that have to do with anything?”
“We’re the submissive partner in the relationship, Tony.”
“The wrist cuffs, the other scales, they are symbolic of our relationship with our Alpha. They are dominant, we are submissive.”
“What the fuck does that even mean, other than the obvious sexual connotation?”
“Sex is certainly a big part of it. But it’s also just a part of your dragon nature. When you emerge, it just feels right. You’ll seek out the Alpha that your dragon feels can best care for you and protect you. And in return you surrender everything to your Alpha. And it will feel right to you. I know this seems weird now, but I promise it will make sense.”
“Are you saying I’m going to lose my free will in this deal?”
“No! God, no. Do Spencer or I seem like we can’t think for ourselves? That we can’t make decisions? It’s just when the chips are down, they get to make the call. You have to remember that an Alpha has to surrender to the dragon nature, too. They have to take up the mantle of protecting and leading. They’re nearly compelled to do so. We all have to give in to the dragon within us.”
Blair could feel that Tony was totally overloaded, but he still managed to ask, “Any more scales?”
“There are additional bands of scales that may appear. They could be on the ankles, the thighs, the biceps, and at the waist. A possibility of nine bands, plus the genital scales.”
Tony rubbed his forehead. “So I could wind up with nine symbolic cuffs and a cock ring? Well, isn’t that fucking special.” He made a go on gesture. “Give me the rest of it. Let’s get all the fuckedupedness out there.”
“We can take a break, Tony,” Blair offered, feeling like Tony was saturated. Spence looked a little like he was struggling with Tony’s emotions, too.
“Oh, no… I want to hear it all.”
Cautiously, Blair replied, “I know this is a really personal question, but how much experience do you have with anal sex?”
Tony looked and felt completely flummoxed. “I’ve tried it.”
“No,” Tony choked out, now blushing furiously.
Blair hated being invasive, but from his own experience, it was better to be well informed. “I know that’s an intrusive question, but there are some differences with Omegas, compared to humans.” Blair remembered having this conversation with Spence, and it was just as uncomfortable.
He tried to be clinical about it, hoping that would be easier. It was the right approach with Spencer, but he wasn’t sure about Tony. “When you become aroused, and are in physical contact with your Alpha, you will produce a lubricating fluid, and the muscles in the anal area will relax to some degree. Very little, if any, preparation is required for mating.”
“Oh holy fuck. I’m gonna turn into a pink girl. A shiny pink submissive girl!” Tony’s head was in his hands again, and Blair was picking up a huge amount of mortification. There was also a bit of dread with a healthy dose of indignation. Periodically he’d caught some fear, but it seemed fleeting, or pushed down in some way.
“I know this is hard to take in, but it’s better to be prepared. Mating can be kind of rough. Especially the first time. You need to not feel anxious that you’re going to be hurt.”
“Kill me now.” Tony looked up. “Seriously. We all carry guns. I can’t take any more.” He waved his hands furiously in a negating gesture. “I… I need a break. No more.”
“Sure. We’re going to step out and figure out lunch. We’ll come get you in a little bit.”
After Blair and Spencer left the room, Tony flopped back on the bed, trying to get his mind around what he’d just heard. He realized what part of the problem was. In his fantasy relationship with Gibbs, it had always looked like a human relationship. And now he had to wrap his mind around the reality of a dragon relationship. Although, he still wasn’t clear on what that actually meant.
The whole submissive notion was giving him hives, and he really wanted to know what that entailed, but it seemed like the answer to everything was that ‘he’d know after he emerged.’ Apparently some mystical understanding was going to strike his brain and he’d be okay with being a pink submissive girl. He wanted Gibbs to see him as an equal, not whatever the hell this was going to be.
He thought about how Jim was with Blair, and it didn’t seem weird to him, or out of balance. He hadn’t gotten any odd vibes from them, other than Jim seemed really protective. Hotch and Rossi were both a touch more possessive than Jim. But maybe that was because Spencer seemed so much more vulnerable.
Gah. This was so fucked up. His body was going to be capable of self-lubricating. Whoever thought this up had a sick sense of humor. He didn’t know what to think any more. Fighting the inevitable seemed like a waste of energy, but he wasn’t sure how to accept this. How did he go forward when he knew there was no point in resisting, but surrender wasn’t an option either?
Tony was a master of masks. He rarely let anyone see his vulnerabilities, and at the heart of it, Tony was afraid Gibbs wouldn’t want him that much. Tony had always hoped for someone to want him just for himself; accept him with all his hang ups and weird behavior. He didn’t want Gibbs to care for him just because of some biological imperative.
Tony hated talking about feelings, but he was afraid he’d have to in this case. He needed to find out how much of this was free will, and how much was because he was compelled by his dragon.
He was working himself into a serious funk when there was a courtesy knock at the door, then Blair and Spencer came in bearing pizza and drinks. He took a deep sniff while putting his masks back on. “Pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese.”
Spence froze as he was setting down the drinks and looked at Tony askance. “You can smell that?”
“Oh yeah. Always had a good nose. I can’t really smell extra cheese, but I figured Gibbs must have had a hand in the pizza ordering.”
They mostly kept away from serious topics while eating, but eventually Tony had to ask, “So how many of these bands do you two have?”
“I have nine,” Blair responded without hesitation.
“Seven,” Spence replied while carefully picking sausage off another slice of pizza. “I don’t have the thigh bands.”
“What are they like? Scales, I mean,” he asked tentatively.
Blair set his plate down and rolled up his sleeve. Extending his arm, he offered, “You can feel them.” At Tony’s hesitation, he prompted, “It’s okay. Go ahead.”
Tony cautiously felt the pale silvery blue scales. They felt warm, and only faintly textured. He noticed Blair shivered a little. “What does it feel like?”
“They’re really sensitive… in a good way. But they’re also really tough. It would be hard for anything to cut through them.”
“Hmm.” Tony wasn’t sure what to say. There was a sudden knock at the door, and Tony jerked his hand away from Blair’s wrist.
Blair got up and answered the door. It was Jim and another man, who was about 5’10, early 30’s, short brown hair, gray suit, and looked rather uptight to Tony. Constipated, maybe. There was also an air of arrogance about him that put Tony a bit on edge.
Jim’s expression might as well have been carved from granite. “Blair, this is Rupert Sewell, he’s here to discuss the schedule.”
Tony noticed that Blair tensed slightly, but still managed a smile and gestured for the man to come in. He thanked Jim and shut the door.
After casting a disdainful look at the room, Sewell sat in Blair’s chair and turned his attention to Spencer. “Congratulations on your emergence, young man. I’m sure we’ll be able to make you a great asset to the dragon community. Let’s begin as we mean to go on, shall we? I’m Rupert Sewell III, I’ll be here to guide you through the gathering process. Any questions before we begin?”
Tony was amused, but no one else seemed to be. Spencer was doing a good approximation of a scowl. “I’m Dr. Spencer Reid, the ranking Omega for the east coast. Mated to Alpha Prime for Washington DC, Aaron Hotchner and Alpha David Rossi. This,” he gestured to Tony, “is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, the emerging Omega.”
Sewell looked briefly abashed, then gathered his arrogance around him as he gave Tony a head to toe once-over. “Not exactly the typical Omega, are you?”
Now Tony was getting a bit annoyed. This guy was here for a minute and was already on thin ice. And what the hell did he mean about not a ‘typical Omega?’
Before Tony could say anything, Blair levelly replied, “In point of fact, Rupert, you’re here to coordinate the meeting schedule and liaise with Tony only as it pertains to that. Whether Tony fits into any irrelevant norms, is really outside of your scope.”
“Well, I believe we would all do well to take advantage of my expertise in this area. I’m sure the young Omega would appreciate the guidance.” Before Tony could knock the guy’s teeth in for the ‘young’ crack, the idiot continued on. “Now, if you’ll let me verify your status, please?”
Tony was too confused to know how to respond to that, but both Spencer and Blair were upset.
Blair ground out, “It is not your place to request to see Tony’s pre-scales!”
“Mr. Sandburg, a representative of the Council needs to verify status!”
“That’s Doctor Sandburg, Mister Sewell. And a representative needs to do nothing. A member has to do it, and, in case you’ve forgotten, Jim and I are members. His status was verified, and that’s the end of the discussion.”
Tony shot Blair an inquisitive look. When was his status verified?
Blair shot him an apologetic look. “We just pulled the back of your t-shirt down to see how far your pre-scales had progressed.”
Tony still had a mild visceral reaction to the notion that he was currently growing any kind of scale. Pre or otherwise. He nodded in acceptance of the necessity of Blair’s actions, though he really hated the idea of being manhandled while unconscious.
Sewell seemed offended and sniffed. “The new report form requires the liaison to validate the claim before going to the effort and expense of a gathering.”
“Excuse me?” Blair was really getting indignant now. “Exactly whose idea was that?”
“In point of fact, I was responsible for overhauling the forms and procedures.”
“We are done with this discussion. Tony is not taking off his shirt to satisfy your prurient curiosity. Move on or get out.”
Tony almost smiled… Blair was like a mama lion.
“Very well. If that is your position, I’ll note in my report that we were unable to satisfy this requirement. Moving on then.” He gave Tony a considering look. “In regards to your status, in years past there was a tradition that many of the Alphas would like to see brought back into use. Would you be amenable to conducting the meetings with the prospective Alphas in just your trousers? That way they can be assured of your status, and have a look at what they might be getting with you.”
Tony was on his feet before anyone could say anything.
Jim left Sewell with the Omegas and went back outside to sync up with Gibbs, who had escorted the liaison in from the pedestrian gate. The gathering Alphas were required to use that one gate as it was the best option because everyone involved would have to approach on foot.
Jim grudgingly admitted he was getting worn down. When they had these things at the Center, there was more support staff and Jim didn’t have to be on guard duty, he just had to supervise. He desperately needed a good night’s sleep. And so did his other Alphas.
Gibbs wasn’t working anything at NCIS except the attempted breach, and focused much of his time on the perimeter and security measures. Jim could tell he was tired, though Gibbs hid it well. Alphas had a lot of endurance, but stress and lack of sleep could get to any of them. It was hard to believe it had only been a little over twenty-four hours.
He looked over the schedule with Gibbs. The first meeting was set for a little over an hour with eleven Alphas. Jim frowned at that. It was a little too many for a first meeting, but hopefully it would be okay. The Alphas were responding to the tight timeline and getting into DC as fast as possible.
Gibbs was frowning at the schedule, which Sewell had apparently refused to give him earlier, even though Gibbs was handling a lot of the security. “They’re going to try to squeeze in 30 on his first day?”
“Tight timeline, Gibbs. I think Tony’ll be okay.”
Gibbs gave him a skeptical look. “You don’t know DiNozzo, Jim. I think he’s gonna blow. And soon.”
Practically as soon as the words were out of Gibbs mouth, Jim picked up on annoyance in Blair’s tone and focused closer on what was being said in the Omega room. He was immediately horrified. “Oh hell.” He turned back to the barracks at a run. He knew Gibbs was at his back, but because he was unmated, he likely couldn’t hear past the white noise generator.
Before they were even inside the barracks, they could hear – hell, everyone could hear – Tony yelling.
“Get out! I’m serious, Sewell, Get the fuck out of here.” Inside, Tony was out of the private room yelling at Sewell. Blair and Spencer had already left the room too, both looking pissed off. And based on what he heard, Jim didn’t blame them. “I don’t ever want to see you anywhere near me!”
Hotch was moving to intervene, but Tony blew right past him and stalked up to Jim. “If I have to deal with that jumped up little twit, I can promise you there will be no meetings.”
Sewell tried to get to them, but Rossi held him back, refusing to let go.
“Is this what I’ve gotten myself into, Jim? I put up with his crack about my age, I didn’t react to his request to take my fucking clothes off, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you guys treat me like a fucking sideshow. Is this how Omegas used to be regarded? Because if so, you can find my ass on the beltway headed home! I’m done with this crazy shit. And I’m tired of people telling me I’ll eventually understand. Because I don’t. I don’t get it.”
Jim absorbed Tony’s anger. This situation was entirely his responsibility.
“Tony, it’s not like what you’re thinking,” Blair tried to placate. But Tony wasn’t listening anymore.
“DiNozzo,” Gibbs barked, and Tony’s attention snapped away from Jim to Gibbs
“No, Gibbs! You’re not my boss–” Tony’s voice broke a little, and he looked shattered, “in this. You don’t get to tell me to put up with it. No one makes me put up with that. Not now. Not ever.” Tony spun on his heel and went back to the room, slamming the door behind him.
“Get him out of here,” Jim said to Connelly and Morgan, ignoring Sewell’s sputtered protests. “And if he steps foot back in this facility, shoot him.”
If Jim were prone to headaches, he was fairly sure he’d have a migraine right now. He quickly got everyone back to where they were supposed to be. Even though he immediately had to deal with the fallout of this mess, Blair insisted they go to the ‘Alphas room’ with Gibbs and Rossi.
“Blair, I have got to get on getting that idiot replaced, and hopefully fired.”
“Tony first,” Blair insisted, then turned to Gibbs. “The guy was an ass, Gibbs, but that was way more emotion than there should have been. It felt like a floodgate broke. It nearly overwhelmed Spencer. If you know anything about what’s going on with him, please tell us so we can help him.”
Now Jim got why Rossi was here. He had the most psychological training.
“What was said?” Gibbs asked, looking like he was worried and feeling helpless.
Blair recounted the conversation word for word, and Gibbs winced.
“I can only speculate because Tony’s not really directly talked to me. But from little things I’ve pulled together, I gather than Tony’s parents had very little use for him, except as a show child. I think they mostly forgot about him, except to put him on display. Tony likes to be entertaining, but to tell him his only value is to be entertainment? That’s not going to fly.”
Jim nearly groaned. Fan-fucking-tastic. “Okay. I have to go deal with this. You three talk about whatever you need to, then you,” he pointed to Rossi, “go talk to him.” He left the room, stopping to check on Hotch and Reid. Reid was looking like he’d been run over by a truck, but Hotch was sitting close, gently rubbing his back.
Jim paused. “You okay, Reid?”
“Yeah. That was just intense. A lot of stuff bottled up, I think.” He gestured to the closed door. “Should I attempt to talk to Tony?”
“No. Give him a little bit. Rossi’s going to try first.” He nodded to Hotch, then headed next door to find a private room to use the phone. He had a to get rid of a… what did Tony call him? Oh yeah. A jumped up little twit.
– – – –
Jim hung up the phone after dumping the entire mess on the director of the West Virginia Center. With Jeremy in the air, Jim had complete authority to take any action necessary. He’d made it clear Sewell was to be debriefed and then sent back to England. There was no place for idiots like that anywhere near an Omega, and certainly not working for the Council.
He planned to give Jeremy a ration of shit for letting that nut through. He doubted Jeremy had ever met the moron, but it was still the London Center the nitwit worked out of, which was Jeremy’s purview.
Gibbs had entered the barracks set aside as a meeting room about halfway through the call, waiting for Jim to finish, leaning against a wall. The room had been stripped of beds and replaced with about fifteen chairs and a few tables.
Before talking to Gibbs, Jim listened in to the activity in the other barracks. Rossi and Blair were still talking; he heard nothing from Tony.
“Rossi going to talk to Tony?” Jim asked.
Gibbs nodded. “He’s giving him a few more minutes to settle down. Tony doesn’t blow often, but when he does, it’s best to give him a little space.”
“How’d you know that was going to happen?”
“I didn’t know that was going to happen, but my gut’s been telling me that DiNozzo wasn’t going to take everything so calmly.”
Jim picked up the schedule he’d been perusing when Sewell displayed his mastery of tact. “You want to tell me why you’re not on this?”
Gibbs’ expression gave away nothing. “I haven’t checked in and asked to be scheduled.”
“Are you going to?”
With a faint grimace, Gibbs hesitated.
“What’s the problem, Gibbs? Are you not going to attend the gathering?”
“I’ll be there. I just hate these meet and greets, and I already know Tony.”
“Gibbs, don’t be an ass. Get on the schedule. If for no other reason than I don’t think Tony would take it well if you don’t. Do you?”
Gibbs winced, an answer in itself.
Jim had continued monitoring the activity next door, and he could now hear the low tones of Rossi and Tony talking. “Tony sounds fairly calm now.”
Gibbs cocked his head, then flinched a little. “I don’t know how you can hear around those white noise generators. They make my brain feel like it’s full of static.”
“Mating does that.” Speaking of, now was as good a time as any to broach the revelations of the morning. “Listen, Gibbs, there’s something I need to fill you in on. Let’s go back to the other building, we’ll use the Alpha room.”
“I really shouldn’t be over there, Jim. Not unless there’s an emergency.”
Jim waved off the concern. “Tony is isolated with Rossi for the moment, and you’re not going to be in any kind of contact with him.”
Next door, Jim found Blair sitting with Spence, both were quietly fretting. Jim gave his shoulder a squeeze and murmured, “Everything is going fine. Just calm down.” Then he led Gibbs into the private room. “Jeremy has asked that this be kept under wraps, but Blair told him all the on-site Alphas were read in, and you were on site at the time.”
Jim hesitated. He felt like he needed to give Gibbs some kind of heads-up, but didn’t want to specifically encourage him in any way. “Tony’s showing signs of his Omega gifts already. He’s having dreams…” Jim trailed off. Even though he believed Tony, this was too mystical for him to be comfortable with it. “Blair calls him a conduit, and some before times ancestor has been in touch with him.”
Gibbs appeared to be frozen for several seconds, before he managed, “You think this is real?”
“Yeah, I do. Everything he had to say resonated with the dragon. I’m not comfortable with it, at all, but I know it’s real.”
“What information was he given?”
Jim gave a quick rundown of the Drake and Wyvern history.
“Shit,” Gibbs exploded, pacing in agitation. “What is this going to mean for Tony after his mating? Is the Council going to be expecting something from him?”
“I don’t know, Gibbs. We don’t know how this will fully manifest. He did say that others would be able to eventually get in contact with these ancestors.”
“How?” Gibbs looked relieved that Tony wouldn’t be on the hook to be some kind of mystical cell phone to the ancestors. Jim was relieved about that, too. He wouldn’t wish that on any one person. He wasn’t thrilled that Blair had the potential at all. But Blair was already on the Council and subject to the Council whims anyway.
“Apparently we don’t have all the information down on Alpha/Omega mating. There’s a bonding process that has to happen that will make both sides stronger in their gifts. When that happens, others will be able to do… whatever it is.”
Gibbs blinked a couple times. “What does that even mean? Bonding?”
“We don’t know yet. Have no idea what that’s going to look like. Apparently Tony is supposed to figure it out at the time of his mating.”
Expression now closed off, Gibbs asked, “Anything else?”
Jim had known Gibbs for a long time, and he could spot when Gibbs was not letting himself hope for something. “Yeah, that’s it. I just wanted you to be aware. Jeremy is coming because of the potential ramifications of whatever happens with Tony’s gifts. And he wants to understand this bonding thing.”
Gibbs scrubbed his hand over his head. “Only DiNozzo.” He sighed. “Just, take care of him, Jim.”
“You know I will, Jethro.”
Gibbs nodded shortly, then left the room.
Blair entered immediately after, still looking upset. “What are you doing about that ass?”
“I’ve punted most of it to the Center director from West Virginia. He’s got someone working on it, and is having his coordinator take over from Sewell.”
“I mean, what are you going to do about Sewell? Not just the situation.”
“Oh, he’s gone. I won’t let it go until he’s no longer working for the Council in any capacity.” And Jim meant it. One of his primary duties as the North American Alpha Prime was to make sure the Omegas were safe and cared for. And that bullshit earlier was not acceptable.
Blair started to pace, arms waving agitatedly. “He has no business working with any emerging dragon. We don’t need him passing on his bullshit propaganda to Alphas or Betas either. He’d better be fired. And I want to know how he slipped through. Oh! And who he might have infected with his sick thoughts. Jeremy better go over that department with a magnifying glass, man. I could have killed him!
“I feel how on edge Tony has been through this whole thing, and then we get that pompous ass pushing him right off a cliff. If someone had talked to me like that at my emergence, I’d have blown a gasket. I mean–”
Jim interrupted Blair’s circuit, pulled him close, and put a finger across his lips. “He’s gone, Chief. He’s gone.” Moving his finger away, he lowered his head and nuzzled Blair’s neck, a spot he’d always been obsessed with. When Blair relaxed and arched into Jim’s touch, he moved to do something more pleasant to his Omega’s lips.
Tony stared at the ceiling of his cell – that was how he was starting to think of the little room where all the Omega-ness happened. He was feeling kind of numb, the emotion having run out and leaving him cold and empty. Despite his threats to head for home, he knew he’d never do that. Not even so much because of his own safety – god knew he’d been cavalier with himself on more than one occasion – but more because he knew these crazy Drakes would keep trying to protect him. And if they failed, Tony could be used to cause pain to other people. And that Tony couldn’t tolerate.
But he refused to be a show pony for these people. His earliest memories of his parents were of them showing him off, and then ignoring him when the spotlight was elsewhere. His mom dressing him up in funny costumes… he shuddered. No. Not gonna happen.
He refused to think about the craziness anymore. They’d have to meet him on his terms, or he’d stay in here until his dragon emerged. That would fuck them and their gathering.
The emotional rollercoaster he’d been on today had left him tired and he found himself nearly drifting to sleep. A soft rap at the door jolted him a little. He’d been in here for twenty minutes, guess they were tired of waiting for him to come out.
“Come on in,” he called softly, remaining lying down with his arms propped under his head. To his surprise, it was Rossi who came in and shut the door behind him, taking a seat on the chair.
“You here to tell me I overreacted?” Tony asked cautiously.
“You reacted. I don’t know about over.” Rossi leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands. “If it helps, no one thinks you overreacted.”
Tony considered that for several seconds. If no one thought he overreacted, then he was missing something. He’d hold off on that thought for a bit, though, not quite ready to go there. He sat up and looked at Rossi intently for a few seconds. “What’s a typical Omega, and how am I different?”
“Ah. If we’re talking purely statistics, in the last hundred years, at the time of emergence, the average Omega is 5’8, 140 pounds, 29 years old, blue eyes, brown hair.”
“That’s… really specific.”
“It’s just what’s average, Tony. It doesn’t mean anything. Over seventy percent of Omegas have blue eyes. Spencer’s eyes are hazel. So what? He’s five inches taller than the average. Does it matter? Blair’s a head-on collision with an Omega cliché, does that make him more Omega, or better at it?”
“No.” Tony fiddled with the seam of his jeans. For some odd reason, he found it easy to talk to Rossi. Even more so than the other Wyverns, which was kinda weird, he barely knew the guy. “I don’t want to do this,” he blurted out. “I don’t. It… scares me,” he admitted somewhat reluctantly.
“It scared all of us. To become something so different, to become a different species, you’d be crazy not to be scared.” Rossi looked at him intently. “But I have a hunch that with you, it’s more the emotional and mental changes than anything physical.”
Tony looked up sharply, a little disconcerted by Rossi’s insight. “I don’t want to come out the other side and not be me. I want to have a choice beyond choosing a mate. I want someone to love me because of who I am, not some biological imperative they have no control over. And the same thing in reverse. I don’t want to be compelled to love someone.”
“You won’t be.”
Tony nearly did a double take. “Huh? Have I just been reading all this wrong?”
“No. You’re just thinking like a human, and you’ve got dragons trying to tell you how to be a dragon when you’re still a human. The whole way we do this is awkward. It’s so hard to explain how the change in your physiology makes things so different, so everyone tells you ‘you’ll understand when it happens, Tony.’ And I know you’re tired of hearing it. But it’s also true.
“Let’s try a thought experiment. Try to imagine that all that will change for you when you choose a mate, in terms of the relationship, is that your insecurities are gone. You know you can trust your mate, you know they’ll take care of you, you know they won’t leave you. In that environment, could love easily grow?”
“I guess.” Tony considered for a bit. “Yes. It just seems so improbable that sprouting scales is going to suddenly make me confident about relationships and no longer intimacy-avoidant.”
“Oh, it won’t do that.”
“You’ve lost me,” Tony said with no small amount of frustration.
“Hypothetically, let’s say you wonder if your friends are really friends, or simply interested in your money. Becoming a dragon isn’t going to change that. You’ll still be the type to wonder if your friends like you for you. But with your mate, you’ll know that you can trust them with a certainty a human can never experience. And in such an environment, love can easily follow. I wasn’t in love with Spencer when we mated. But I got there faster than I would have as a human because I know he’s mine. I know I can trust him with everything. And when he grew to love me, I knew that with certainty, too. So I have complete confidence in our partnership.”
Tony still wasn’t sure he fully understood, but maybe some things just had to be experienced.
“Does it help to know that I love Aaron, too?” Rossi asked, his expression fond and gentler than Tony was used to seeing.
Tony’s brows shot up. He saw a lot of camaraderie between the two, but hadn’t seen a lot of romantic affection. But then, the trio wasn’t really all that demonstrative.
“There’s no biological urge prompting me to love Aaron. I don’t feel compelled to protect him, or care for him. Love isn’t necessary between us, but it still happened,” he offered, leaning forward, expression intent.
Feeling a little stunned, Tony gave an oblique nod. He sensed that he was being given access to something incredibly personal and precious.
“You worry about love being compelled versus will. I think it’s more that the mating gives a pristine place for love to exist, but it’s my choice to let myself feel it. My love for Spencer doesn’t feel forced any more than the love that grew for Aaron,” Rossi said earnestly.
Tony let himself internalize the words, struggling a bit to accept them.
Seemingly pulling back from the personal a bit, Rossi added, “When you emerge, you will blend with your dragon. You won’t get a new personality, you’ll still be Tony, but you’ll have new connections to the world through your gifts, to other dragons, and to your mate. You become more, not less. It’s not like half of you goes away because there’s a dragon in there.
“Emergence causes a weird kind of clarity about your life that can’t truly be explained until you’ve gone through it. But everything you’re worried about now? It will all seem inconsequential. I know you’re tired of hearing that you have to wait and see, but you won’t be convinced until you go through it.”
“And what if I’m still not convinced? What then?”
“Then nothing. No one is going to force you to do something, Tony. If you decide not to pick an Alpha, no one is going to hold you hostage and make you. There are powerful biological urges at play, but if you put your foot down and say no, then that’s it.”
“Is that even possible… to not choose?” Tony knew he had already chosen, but he wanted to talk this through to the end. He also knew there was the danger out there to Omegas, but he needed to know what was possible, not what was practical. He’d been tied in knots by what was practical. Maybe just knowing there were options would make him feel less trapped.
“It’s happened. It’s rare, but it’s possible. But I warn you, it doesn’t lead to a happy life for the Omega. We’re designed to be together. A unit.” Rossi glanced away for a moment before looking back up at Tony. “It feels very empty to be alone. I’ve been an Alpha a long time. Spencer is new in my life, and I’m so much more for having him. I wouldn’t give up my bond with him for anything, even if it’s not as complete as we thought.”
“What if I want my life to go back to the way it was?”
“This is your reality, Tony. You are a dragon. You are an Omega. No one can change those facts.” Rossi gave Tony a speculative look. “If I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away, would you really want me to?”
Tony stared at his hands. Would he go back if he could?
“I want you to answer a question for me, I want the first thing that pops into your mind. Don’t run it through any filters, just answer.”
Oh boy. That wasn’t the kind of thing Tony really wanted to do. But he knew Rossi was earnestly trying to help, so he’d give it a go. “I’ll try.”
“Close your eyes, and say the first thing that pops into your head. What are you most afraid will happen?”
“I won’t be good enough.” Tony winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth. He hated being so damned insecure sometimes. He met Rossi’s eyes and saw nothing but understanding.
“That’s not gonna happen, kiddo. For starters, that’d be like you saying you’re not good enough at having green eyes. You are a dragon. And we don’t have a star rating system for Omegas, and no one gets to submit a review. There’s no Dragon Yelp.”
Tony couldn’t help but laugh. Though he wasn’t really reassured. There were the gifts, and his bloody tasks, and whatever else was coming his way.
“And for all the things you have to learn along the way… you need to turn off that voice in your head, that I think probably sounds like your father, telling you you’re not enough the way you are,” Rossi said gently.
Tony flinched. That was a little too on the money. Ouch. Rossi read him entirely too well. “I don’t think I’ll ever play poker with you.”
Rossi laughed. “I’m not so bad. Never gamble with Reid. Fair warning.”
Rubbing his hands on his legs, trying to work out the stress, Tony asked, “So what was Blair trying to tell me when I was having my little fit out there?” It wasn’t the most deft subject change, but Rossi let him get away with it.
“Don’t get self-deprecating about what happened. He was being a prick, and incredibly inappropriate on so many levels. Not the least of which is that he had no authority to try to change Council policy. We’ll get to the bottom of the presence of that idiot, trust me. You have every right to be pissed. And if you find anyone else intolerable, you say so, and they’re gone.”
“Okay, thanks. But now I’m wondering if I misunderstood something.”
“Oh, I think you understood that moron just fine. He meant just what you think he meant. I think you drew some wrong conclusions about dragons as a result though. The custom he was referring to was something at an Omega’s discretion, not the Alphas’. You have to remember that these traditions started in different times, with different standards of modesty.
“For a long stretch of time, pre-emergence, an Omega could choose to display their emerging status by meeting their potential mates without their shirt. The Council has never imposed that on them. However, the Council does tend to pay close attention to the mores of the human society we live in, so when values became more puritanical, that actually became close to forbidden.
“It’s not forbidden now, but it is frowned upon because with the values of today’s society, that practice appears to objectify the Omega. And we do pay attention to what our human sides need, too, you know?” Rossi offered patiently. “If you lived a thousand years ago, you might not find that practice objectifying, but 2010 Tony does. The human values are important. They don’t go away just because you emerge.”
Tony felt so much more at ease with Rossi’s calm, matter-of-fact approach. “So where did all that garbage from him come from?”
“I’d say that ninety-nine percent of Alphas are just like we’ve described Alpha dragons to be, but as much as our dragon nature affects our human side, who we were before we emerged affects the dragon. That said, there is a small percentage of dragons who think Omegas should be property.”
At Tony’s flinch, Rossi quickly added, “There are humans today who still feel that way about women, Tony. It’s not a uniquely dragon problem. But frankly, an Omega has never chosen one of those idiots, so I tend to think it’s all sour grapes. Some bizarre hope that they could force an Omega into choosing them. And the kind of rhetoric those few dragons spout is pretty much in line with what the ‘jumped up little twit’ was saying. How he slipped by, and into a mid-level administrative position, we don’t know yet.”
“He was human, so why would he care about how Omegas are treated by the Council?”
“I’m sure he’s latent. Most of the humans who work for the Council have strong family connections in the dragon community. A lot of our logistical, operations and administrative staff are human children of dragons. Dragons don’t like that kind of work. So, no doubt he’s just repeating something he heard at home. We’ll figure it out. But the bottom line is that he had no business saying that, and he does not speak for even a small percentage of us. That is not how we treat our Omegas.”
“I’m sorry I reacted so badly.” Tony really felt like a moron for jumping to such an ugly conclusion about Alphas based on what was said.
“Do not apologize for that. If it were me, I’d have hit the idiot. I was tempted, and he didn’t even say it to me.”
“Okay. Thanks, Rossi.” Tony would normally rather wear fluffy pink earmuffs to work than talk about his feelings, but he had seriously needed to get that stuff cleared up. “I really appreciate you helping me understand. And just, you know… all this talk stuff.”
“You’re welcome, kiddo. And I’ve told you twice, and I do mean it, you can call me Dave.”
Oddly enough, Tony didn’t mind the nickname coming from Rossi, and felt himself smiling. “Okay.” He took a deep breath and got to his feet. “I guess I need to sync up with Blair about what’s next.” But he was kind of dreading going back out there, and felt like a five-year-old hiding in his room.
Rossi suddenly said, “Aaron, would you minimize the number of people out there when we come out? Maybe just you, Spencer, Blair and anyone who might be sleeping?” He cocked his head to the side, clearly listening. “He’s going to clear the room. Jim’s out there, too.”
Tony felt a little abashed, but he was grateful for the effort. “You know, that hearing thing is seriously cool.” Of course, it was less cool that Hotch and Jim had heard that entire chat, but he’d try to focus on the positive part. Super hearing? Completely awesome.
Rossi laughed. “Come on. You need to get out of this tiny room. And bring your pizza. All three of you need to finish your lunch.”
Blair was grateful that Jim had decided to stay with him for a little bit, rather than continue overseeing the massive effort to get a gathering together in only a week. He normally didn’t let himself get so rattled about something, but he really liked Tony and was angry that he’d had such a setback. He was also annoyed with himself for not putting a stop to that faster.
He and Jim were sitting close to one another on Blair’s bed. Jim rubbed his hand along Blair’s back, leaning down to whisper, “I can still smell that damn pizza. I can’t believe that’s what you got. I’d be getting an endless lecture about my cholesterol and hardening arteries. Even though you know my arteries aren’t going to harden.”
“Gibbs said it’s Tony’s favorite, and he hasn’t been eating much lately. I was trying to tempt him,” Blair defended, and it didn’t matter if Jim had Superman’s arteries, the bottom line was he was in better harmony with his dragon and his gifts when he ate real food.
Blair elbowed his partner, then moved even closer, resting his head on Jim’s shoulder. “Gibbs left a few things for Tony. Said Abby thought of it. Cell phone, charger, couple other things. I think before we do anything else, we should have him call her to make arrangements for clothes. The familiar voice will do him good.”
“When he comes out, we need to find out when he wants to start the meetings.” Blair stiffened and Jim quickly added, “I’m not going to try to push him to meet today, or before he’s ready, but we can’t coordinate something when we don’t know when the main player is going to be available.”
Grudgingly, Blair conceded. “Yeah, all right. But I wouldn’t blame him if he just wanted to stay in there.”
A few minutes later, Hotch and Jim assumed listening pose at the same time, then Hotch said, “Sure, Dave. Jim’s here, too.”
Jim turned to Rick and Cassie, who were sitting at the far end of the room, talking quietly. “Could you guys give us a couple minutes with Tony?”
Henri was sleeping, and Blair knew from experience that he could sleep through anything, so Jim let him be.
A minute later, Tony and Dave came out, Tony carrying the pizza, which he set on the bed. Blair anxiously scanned his new friend, finding him rather flat emotionally, as if it had all just drained out. He had a look of mild consternation on his face.
Blair got to his feet. “You okay?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah. Fine. Sorry about the drama.”
Shaking his head, Blair replied, “No apologies, man. He was so out of line. You totally had every reason to be upset.”
Looking uncomfortable, Tony shrugged and turned his attention to Jim. “I apologize for the accusation portion of the program.”
“I agree with Blair, no apology necessary.”
Blair registered surprise from Tony, but his face didn’t reveal it. He wondered if Tony often had to apologize for displaying his real emotions. Well, that wouldn’t be happening if Blair had anything to say about it!
Tony glanced over Spencer. “You okay? I know that was probably a little, uh, much.”
It had been a bit much for Spencer, but Blair could sense he was back on an even keel after spending some time in close contact with his Alpha. Spencer just nodded in reply, lips quirking slightly.
“Okay then,” Tony said, taking a deep breath. “What’s next in this circus?”
Blair and Jim exchanged a glance before Blair replied, “Tony, you can take more time if you need to. No one is going to care.”
“No,” Tony replied quickly, with a strong head shake. “I need to actually be doing something. And I’m sorta done talking about anything serious for the moment.”
“If you’re sure,” Jim started, “a few Alphas from this coast have arrived. We could get the meetings going. Not sure how you feel about socializing at the moment.”
Tony waved his hand dismissively. “Piece of cake. But I’m gonna have to insist that dragon school be let out for the day. I’ve hit saturation.”
Jim stepped out to make a call in order to try to give them a timeline.
Blair wanted to ask if Tony was really sure about going forward, but he sensed a sort of resolve in Tony, and didn’t want to rock the boat with him. Instead, he offered, “Gibbs brought some stuff for you. Cell from your desk and things… Not sure what all’s there, but the bag is on your bed. Thought you might want to call Abby to make arrangements for her to swing by your place.”
Tony’s eyes lit up, and Blair knew he’d made the right choice. Tony dug through the bag. “This was definitely put together by Abby. No way Gibbs thought to get my iPod,” Tony laughed.
Jim returned a few minutes later. “Tony, you up for the first meeting at 1500 hours?”
Blair had to translate that to three o’clock, which was in less than two hours.
Fussing with his cell phone, Tony nodded. “Sure. Although… do I need to dress up for this? Because what I’ve got on is it until Abby can go to my apartment.”
Blair was going to reply, but Jim firmly said, “You are not on display, Tony. You don’t even have to be polite if you don’t want to.”
There was a brief flash of gratitude in Tony’s eyes, then he nodded his acceptance.
Blair decided rest was in order and flopped back on his bed, while Tony went back to the room to have a conversation with Abby.
Just before three, Jim returned to get them. Tony had asked either Blair or Spencer to come. Spencer was willing, but looked unenthused, so Blair was going. Mated Omegas weren’t excluded from these meetings, there just wasn’t any reason to go. Blair figured he’d attended enough of these at his emergence, but he’d do anything to help get Tony through it. Come to think of it, he wished he’d had that kind of moral support.
As much as Tony acted as if the socializing was no big deal, Blair could feel his nerves. He touched Tony’s arm briefly, smiling at him in encouragement.
Outside, the cold was a brutal adjustment. There were several Marines at various positions, and four of their Betas waiting to walk over with them, everyone armed, even Blair. For this first meeting, inside would be Jim, Hotch, Henri and Rafe. There were supposedly twelve Alphas waiting, which was a rather large crowd for a first meet.
They had a very short distance to walk. They paused outside while Tony took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. He nodded to Jim, who entered first. Tony and Blair went in next.
Almost immediately, someone gave a startled, “DiNoteso?”
Tony dropped his head into his hands, groaning. “Ah hell.” It took a second or two, but Tony recovered and met the shocked eyes of the FBI’s lead Alpha. “Whoever’s dead, I didn’t kill them.”
Blair startled and looked up at Tony. What the hell did that mean?
Responding to Blair’s unasked question, Tony said, “Fornell and I have a long history of him accusing me of murder.”
The Alpha in question blandly retorted, “Quit pissing people off enough to frame you and I won’t have to accuse you.”
Tony spread his arms wide and grinned. “Hey… when you’ve got it, you’ve got it!” He glanced down at Blair. “I take it my name wasn’t released?”
“Not yet.” Blair really wanted to hear the story behind this… it sounded entertaining.
Tony crossed to Fornell, ignoring everyone else for the moment. He tapped his finger on his lower lip in apparent contemplation before saying, “You know we’d kill each other in a week?”
“You think it would take that long?” the Alpha retorted wryly.
“You could just save yourself the trouble.”
Fornell laughed. “Not a chance. I’ve got to see what color you turn out to be. I’m thinking… pink.”
Blair nearly winced. Fornell had stumbled right onto something Tony was fretting about, but he quickly saw that Tony had a near flawless mask. Blair could feel the irritation, but Tony just smiled and said, “Sounds pretty. Favorite color, Fornell?” Before Fornell could respond, Tony said, “Well, since you’re staying, why don’t you make yourself useful and introduce me to your cohorts.”
Fornell looked like he’d rather chew glass, but he obligingly introduced Tony to the next Alpha, mispronouncing Tony’s last name again.
Tony corrected the pronunciation and pasted a wounded expression on his face. “It’s hurtful really that you can’t remember my name. One day I’m going to get offended.” And just like that, the name game was done with. None of the Alphas wanted to offend Tony.
Blair quickly realized that Tony was in his element. He was a master at getting everyone to talk, managing to seem interested in the conversations, while revealing nothing real about himself.
“Can someone be a savant of social situations?” Blair whispered to Jim.
He could hear Henri choke back a laugh. Jim pressed his lips into a thin line rather than smile.
Tony kept Fornell on hand to perform the introductions, rather than letting the new liaison do it, which was clearly driving Fornell crazy. Blair didn’t think the man would have teeth left, he was grinding them so hard.
Usually these meetings were five-minute conversations with each Alpha, but Tony wound up with all of them in a group debating Michigan vs. OSU, and the meeting ran fifteen minutes over.
Once they were back in the barracks, everyone was giving Tony odd looks.
“What?” he said a little defensively. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No,” Blair was quick to reassure. “That was totally fine, man. You’re just a master at that.”
“Yeah, that’s me. The master of banality,” Tony replied self-deprecatingly.
Hotch stepped into Tony’s line of sight. “Don’t underestimate how much skill that took, Tony. Most people can’t do that.”
Blair had to add, “Seriously, man, that was impressive.”
After a second, Tony’s lips quirked into a grin. “Thanks.” His eyes flicked to Hotch. “I appreciate it.”
– – – –
Gibbs was reviewing the sign-in log with the Marine on ID check when he heard someone call out to him.
“Gibbs!” He looked up to find Fornell stalking toward him. “You couldn’t have warned me?”
Gesturing for the Marine to return to duty, he turned toward Fornell, unable to prevent his smile. “DiNozzo take it easy on you?”
Tobias snorted. “No. Had me playing the part of the liaison, dragging me around, making the introductions.”
Gibbs barked out a laugh, that was his Tony. He sobered quickly – Tony wasn’t his.
Fornell scrubbed his hand over his face. “Of all the people to be an Omega. Jesus, Gibbs.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I assume you’re attending the gathering.”
Taking a drink of his coffee, he replied levelly. “You know I am.”
“Odds are he’s going to pick you. Fifty percent chance. You ready for that?”
Gibbs glared. He didn’t need Fornell throwing the odds in his face. Because Fornell had the same chance, dammit to hell. “Are you? Because the stats say he’s going to pick someone he knew before emergence, not necessarily the Alpha he knew best.”
Fornell actually paled a little. “Christ, I hadn’t thought of that.”
Glare going up a notch, Gibbs ground out, “You got a problem with Tony you want to tell me about, Tobias?”
Fornell glowered in return. “I’m not saying anything bad about your boy, Jethro. But we’d kill each other. A happy household it would not be.”
His phone beeped, indicating a text message. It was from Abby. – Tony’s name just hit the news. Someone spilled the beans! McGee’s here freaking out. –
He wasn’t surprised. The news of an Omega emergence at the Navy Yard had been released to the press this morning, but they’d hoped to keep Tony’s name out of it for a little longer. The Alpha meeting had just let out, so he didn’t think the leak came from there. Likely it was someone connected to Vance or SecNav. There was little point in trying to chase it down, it would have gotten out eventually. And he really didn’t have time to deal with McGee.
His cell rang, and he glanced at the display. Ziva. He thought about ignoring it, but decided to get it over with. “Gibbs.”
“Tell me this is a joke, Gibbs,” she growled into the phone.
“The news is reporting that Tony is the Omega under Navy protection.”
“That cannot be true, Gibbs! He has no dragon blood! And an Omega? This is ridiculous. He’s too old. He’s nothing like an Omega should be.” She was nearly raving. Gibbs had never heard her like this.
“You got anything useful to say, David?”
“He doesn’t deserve it,” she spat.
Gibbs closed his phone, terminating the call. He knew that bullshit was more about Ziva than Tony, but he still wasn’t going to listen to it. Fornell flashed him a concerned look, but Gibbs ignored it. He broke away with the excuse that he needed to get back to work, and they’d talk later.
He contemplated the situation with Ziva as he went for more coffee. She was from a strong dragon family. Her father was a powerful Alpha, and the head of Mossad, which was a little odd. Dragons tended not to rise to the head of an organization. The positions became too bureaucratic for a dragon’s temperament. Also, working for Mossad had led more than one dragon to corruption. Mossad definitely had its place in the world, but Gibbs was of the mindset that dragons should stay out of CI/CT positions and organizations.
Ziva had always believed she would emerge one day, and she was also convinced she would emerge a rare female Alpha. It was odd that her two most expressed desires were in conflict with one another. She wanted to be on Gibbs’ team, and wanted to be an Alpha. Gibbs had been clear repeatedly that if she emerged, she would be off the team. Especially if she were an Alpha.
There were rare cases of two Alphas working on the same team, like Hotch and Rossi, and a trio of Alphas at the ATF, but it tended to be uncomfortable for most. Gibbs knew his own disposition, and would never tolerate it.
Still, Ziva was so vitriolic about Tony these days, he regretted that he hadn’t stepped in sooner; even though he hadn’t realized how out of control she’d gotten. He knew he needed to deal with her, but getting through Tony’s emergence was a higher priority. He’d told Vance she was on administrative leave and why. Vance wanted a formal reprimand for her and McGee, but Gibbs had persuaded him to wait for Tony’s input.
He thought about what Jim had said earlier. He did need to get on the meeting schedule. He was afraid to hope Tony would choose him, but upsetting Tony in advance of his emergence seemed like shooting himself in the foot. Although, he really hated those damn meetings. To be fair, Tony watching had to be an improvement over the usual run of these things.
He pulled out his cell and called the schedule coordinator.
Abby listened to McGee freaking out with only partial attention. She had already had enough of it. There didn’t seem to be any anchor to his upset other than it was Tony. Which was starting to piss her off.
He was currently pacing, occasionally stopping to remind her how impossible it was because Tony didn’t have dragon blood.
Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. “McGee!”
Startled, he stopped his orbit around the lab. “What?”
“Knock it off! You have no reason to be upset. This is a good thing. A happy thing, so stop acting like the world is ending.”
“I didn’t mean it that way… It just, it doesn’t make sense!” he whined.
“Oh, give it a rest,” she snapped. It wasn’t like her, but enough already! She jumped off her lab stool, and faced him with her hands braced on her hips. “By the way, is there anything you want to tell me about yesterday? Anything at all that would be better coming from you?” She’d heard a rumor she really didn’t like, and coupled with some things McGee had let slip, she feared there was truth to it.
McGee winced. “Do we have to do this now? There’s so much going on that’s more important.”
She glowered at him and started tapping her foot.
He sighed, then straightened his posture and met her eyes. “Tony gave us an order to pick up a suspect yesterday. Ziva and I didn’t feel he was right, we thought she was just a witness, so we called and asked her to come in. She fled. Agent Weaver’s team tracked her to New York and picked her up about two hours ago and are en route back to DC.”
Without thinking, Abby grabbed a sheaf of papers from her table and started repeatedly smacking McGee on the head. “What the hell is the matter with you? You disobey an order, you fuck up a case?” She punctuated each word with a smack. McGee ducked and held up his arm to ward her off, but didn’t try to run away. “You make another team clean up the case, which Gibbs will kill you for?”
“Ow, Abby, stop!”
She slammed the papers down on the desk and glared at him again. “I’m so mad at you, Timmy. You had no business disrespecting Tony that way.”
His shoulders slumped and he sighed. “I know, Abby. I fucked up. I thought I was just being supportive of Ziva. I wasn’t thinking like an agent, and – ow!” he yelped when she punched him in the arm. Hard. “What was that for?”
“If Ziva is so messed up about Rivkin and Somalia that she can’t do her job, she needs to stay home. Your support wasn’t doing her any favors and could get her fired. If you were trying to support her, you should have told Gibbs she was going off the rails, not gone with her! And where the hell is she?”
“Gibbs placed her on administrative leave. I don’t know why he put her on leave, yet sent me to Weaver’s team. In a way my behavior was worse, so I don’t get that part.” He rubbed his hand over his head. “I’m sorry, Abby. I’m going to apologize to Tony as soon as I see him again.”
“Apologies are worthless if you don’t stop doing it,” she retorted sharply.
He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. “You’re right. It won’t happen again.”
“It better not, Tim. Now go back to work. I have things to do.”
Still annoyed, she was banging away on her keyboard, typing up an evidence report, when she got a call from Gibbs. He barely let her get a word in before he hung up, but her bad mood had lifted. He’d told her to cut out as soon as she reasonably could to take care of whatever Tony needed. As far as she was concerned, that meant she could leave now!
A few minutes later she was on the road. She was so excited she could barely contain it. She was gonna get to see Tony again – and all the dragons! She also got to do a little shopping. Tony had had an order waiting for pickup for some jeans in a smaller size, and she was also going to pick up a couple other things for him. She’d always wanted to dress Tony, and he was a captive audience right now.
While she was at the mall she got a text from him with a request for a few more things from his apartment and the grocery store. She was a little perplexed by the requests until the follow-up text, – have to shake things up around here. – Giggling, she returned to her shopping.
An hour later she was letting herself into Tony’s apartment. She always found Tony’s place made her a little sad. It was like a monument to being alone. She was one of the few people Tony let come over at all. Abby could totally get with the idea of having a sanctuary, but this was more like an isolation unit. A pretty one, but still lonely. She hated that he had a twin bed. It was like drawing a line in the sand that he wasn’t going to let anyone close to him. Ever.
Her enthusiasm for Tony’s situation waned a little. Emotionally she didn’t think Tony was ready for this. She resolved to tamp down her zeal a little, and to figure out what Tony needed from her. He always did a great job of taking care of her, but she was determined to take care of him this time. She nodded decisively as she opened Tony’s walk-in closet. Holy mother of fashion, that was a lot of clothes! Rubbing her hands in glee, she got to work.
Earlier today it had really sunk in that Tony could wind up with Gibbs. She had made the comment to Gibbs that Tony would pick him, but suddenly the thought had filled her with anxiety, and she had a bit of a meltdown for a few minutes. It took her a bit to figure out that she was fretting that if they had each other, would they have time for her? She’d scolded herself firmly because she knew they both loved her and wouldn’t abandon her. And she wanted the best for both of them, right? Right!
So, now she was hopeful they’d wind up together. Because, really, that would be awesome. They were both too alone, so this would be perfect. Plus it was so totally hot!
She spent a little too much time going through Tony’s underwear drawer, then it took her three trips to the car to get everything. Maybe she’d over-packed just a little?
It was nearing 8:00 PM when she finally arrived back at the Navy Yard. With her ID badge and clearance card she got in like usual, but when she approached the barracks, she was stopped by two armed Marines, they made sure she was on a list, then searched her car. Wow. They had put in some tight security for this!
“Hey, Abby-girl,” Derek Morgan greeted her as she was getting out of the car. He was accompanied by Cassie.
She flashed him a big grin. “Hey, Derek. Hi Cassie. I’m here to see my Tony! I have lots of stuff for him. Can I use you for manual labor?”
Derek laughed and helped her unload the car. He flashed her an odd look at all the stuff. “You know we’re only going to be here for a week, right?”
Laughing, she took off ahead of Derek and Cassie to the barracks. She wanted to see Tony!
Tony was chatting with Spencer and Blair about another of Spencer’s papers on the role of criminal profiling. He’d adamantly refused to have any more lessons on dragons for the day, though he’d agreed to two additional Alpha meet and greets. The most recent ended about an hour ago, and the next was set to start in thirty minutes.
The second meeting had gone a lot like the first, except some of the Alphas were less accepting of the group discussion method of getting to know him. Apparently not having Fornell as a straight man had hurt his routine. One Alpha from Florida was particularly overbearing, so Tony spent the entire five minutes allotted to the Alpha talking about John Varvatos’ fall line, and were the trousers cut a little too narrow in the leg? Tony left the guy looking constipated.
Spencer had wanted to come to the second meeting, and had lots of questions for Tony afterward about how he handled things. Tony was apparently a bit of a puzzle to the young profiler.
Tony had made an official request of the liaison to get a TV in the meeting room. The liaison had asked why, but Tony refused to answer. He was not clueing these folks in on his plans. Eventually the guy had caved and agreed to arrange for a television.
Someone entering the barracks caused Tony to turn, then there was squeal, a blur of black and red and Tony staggered as he caught Abby. Her legs wrapped around him and she held on tight, babbling in his ear about how much better he looked and how happy she was to see him.
He noticed all the dragons had tensed, but he ignored it and set about prying Abby off him before he choked to death. Once he got her standing again, he put a hand over her mouth to interrupt the chatter. He smiled at her. “I’m happy to see you, too.”
She bounced a little, then hauled him over to a suitcase, a garment bag, a duffle bag and a pile of shopping bags.
“Jesus, Abbs. I’m only here for a week!”
“I know, I know. I got carried away. But I also brought everything you asked for in your text, plus a few things you didn’t think of.”
He felt his smile growing. The next meeting was going to happen Tony style. “Even the pretzels?”
“Yup! And I want to know what those are for.”
“No spoilers, Abbs. I promise to tell you later. I have another meet n’ greet in about fifteen minutes. You gonna hang out and we can chat afterward?”
She looked a little nervous and glanced at Blair. “If that’s okay?”
Blair nodded, smiling. “Sure. And maybe we can decide on when you’re going to stay over? I was thinking Sunday night. That way you could go straight to work the next morning. Save you a trip.”
Tony grinned. “Hey, that’s a great idea.” He dug through the packed garment bag and pulled out an emerald silk button-up. Clothes were armor for Tony, and doing these meetings in an old t-shirt was not happy making for him. Without thinking, he stripped of his T and started pulled on the new shirt. He became aware that everyone but the Wyverns and Abby had averted their eyes. Seriously? He shook his head and continued buttoning his shirt.
Abby fanned herself. “Looking good, Tony. Yummy.”
Tony tried to glare at her, but couldn’t quite get the heat behind it, and it just made her laugh.
He quickly stuffed a couple things in his pockets and grabbed the shopping bag with the pretzels and gestured toward the door. “I want to get over there a couple minutes early. I need to set up.”
“What are you up to, Tony?” Dave asked cautiously.
“You’ll just have to come with me and see.”
Hotchner and Rossi exchanged a glance, then Rossi nodded, moving to join Tony. Spencer and Blair both decided to come, with Derek and Rick rounding out the procession. Tony dropped a kiss on Abby’s temple, then headed out for his third Alpha meet.
Jim greeted them at the door, frowning a little at Tony’s bags. Inside the Alphas were already assembled and Tony could hear the liaison going over the rules of conduct. Tony rolled his eyes and moved inside, divesting his coat and ignoring Jim’s questioning look.
The liaison, whose name Tony could not seem to remember, abruptly silenced, and all the Alphas turned as Tony entered. He was getting used to being the laser focus of a room full of powerful men.
But there was a surprise. Tony nearly stumbled when he stopped so abruptly. Gibbs was here. He felt a flutter in his stomach. He barely suppressed his pleased smile. Couldn’t play favorites.
Walking right past the liaison, Tony went to one of the side tables and set out a dozen cups, filling them with pretzels sticks. He then dragged another table to the center of the room, put five chairs on one side, rather cramped together, then a chair for him on the other.
Tony seated himself, pulled the deck of cards out of his pocket and started shuffling. “Whoever’s up first, sit down. We’ll play for half an hour, then switch it up.”
No one reacted for a long time, though Blair sounded like he was choking on something. Tony refrained from looking his direction.
Finally, Gibbs and a tall redhead got themselves moving. “What are we playing for, Tony?”
“Universal stakes, Gibbs.” He gestured to the table with the pretzels.
Tony could tell Gibbs was fighting a smile as he and the redhead both grabbed a cup of pretzel sticks and seated themselves next to each other. The other Alphas weren’t really reacting, other than to look at the liaison. Tony figured there were a variety of reasons why they were hesitant, but he didn’t really care.
“Look, I’m playing poker for the next hour. If you want to get to know me, or me get to know you, sit down and ante up.”
Three more Alphas quickly took the available seats. Tony started dealing. “Seriously, people. Ante up. I need snacks for later.”
The redhead was the first to ante, then picked up his cards. They were playing draw poker as it took less concentration as the dealer for Tony than Texas hold ‘em or stud.
Once everyone was looking at the cards, Tony said, “I’m Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, Jr., NCIS. Mispronounce my name at your peril. You’re welcome to call me Tony unless you piss me off, then you have to call me Very Special Agent. I was first string quarterback for the Buckeyes for three years. If you’re a Michigan fan, best not tell me. I’ll get very grouchy.”
He called for bets, then turned his attention to the redhead, who obligingly said, “Horatio Caine, supervisor, Miami-Dade Crime Lab. Feel free to call me H.”
Tony rather instinctively liked the guy, but there was something about him niggling at Tony. He’d have to figure it out later. He turned his attention to the next Alpha.
He got the introductions out of the way and made it through the first hand. Tony won rather predictably. No one really raised, they just called every time, so Tony did the raising.
One Alpha just folded every hand. Tony glared at the guy. “Play or let someone else in.”
“This is silly. We’re supposed to be allowed to have time with you, not play a game.”
Jim looked like he was going to step in, but Tony quickly retorted. “This is my gathering, my rules. If you don’t like it, go away. I promise I won’t mind a bit.”
“This is not what we’re here for!” the Alpha protested vehemently.
“Oh? I thought we were here to get to know one another. This way you get to know me for half an hour rather than five minutes. And if you listen in during the second half, you can get to know me for a whole hour. If you’d do something besides fold, like speak, I could learn something about you. Now, pick up your hand, bet, and tell me how many cards you want.”
Gibbs was openly glaring at the guy, and Tony was surprised the idiot hadn’t burst into flames. He had a suspicion this was an Alpha in Gibbs’ Wing, since many of the Alphas were from the eastern half of the United States, but Gibbs couldn’t really do anything about the behavior in this situation. But Jim and Dave could.
The Alpha just glowered at Tony, which was getting on Tony’s last nerve. “You have the power now, Omega, but after you’re mated, you’ll have to do as your told and this ridiculous behavior will not be tolerated. I demand my time with you,” he said insistently.
And now Tony had had enough. Gibbs and H had gotten to their feet, and Tony heard murmurs of disapproval around the room. But Tony just smiled and said, “Oh yeah. You’re gone. I find you totally intolerable.” That was the code phrase he’d worked out with Jim to indicate that someone really had to go. He had promised he’d only use it if really necessary. And this was the only moron so far today.
Jim towered over the guy. “You need to leave.”
The Alpha started to protest, but suddenly seemed to realize who he was talking to.
Jim and Rossi got the guy out, and the liaison seemed set to apologize. Tony just waved him off and gestured for the Alphas to sit back down. “Okay, who’s in?”
They got through the first half hour of poker, then changed it up with five new players. The second round seemed to go smoother, now that everyone had gotten with the program. A couple of the Alphas were not happy, but seemed to be trying not to show it.
Around the time of the player change-up, Jim had gotten a text he showed Gibbs. Tony was curious about it, but knew he couldn’t inquire at that time.
Most of the Alphas were nice and wanted to know about Tony, but he tried to keep the conversation fairly equal and made lots of inquiries of his own. Tony deflected a lot of personal questions, not wanting to reveal anything real in a room full of strangers.
He peripherally kept up with what Gibbs was doing. He talked to several of the Alphas, but spent most of his time with H. Tony’s mind was still noodling on what he had felt from Horatio.
After the second poker game, Tony let some group mingling occur, even though he had developed quite the headache. The meeting came to an end about twenty minutes late. He really wanted to talk to Gibbs privately, but there were no real private conversations at this thing. Every word he spoke was listened to by every single person in the room.
They packed it up and headed back to the barracks. He had won a ridiculous amount of pretzel sticks.
When they got next door, Blair finally loosed the restraint he had tried to keep on himself, and started laughing. Even Spencer was amused. Derek high-fived him. Rick and Jim seemed more tolerant than anything.
As Rossi was passing, he quietly murmured, “Good for you, kiddo.” Tony wasn’t sure exactly what part Rossi was referring to, but he felt an absurd amount of pleasure at the approval.
Abby was bouncing in excitement, wanting to know what had happened. Everyone helped fill her in until she was giggling. They left out the bit about the asshole they’d had to evict. No point in bringing her mood down. Abby mentioned that someone named Penelope had arrived right after he left, and Abby got to help her set up a secure satellite connection so they could all use laptops. Apparently the two got on like a house on fire and had plans for next week. Derek had groaned and said something about the earth stopping on its axis. Tony didn’t really get it, but now he really wanted to meet her.
Jim finally stopped the chitchat. “Tony, during the meeting, the head of the Dragon Council landed at Dulles. Since it’s getting late, he’s going to his hotel. He’d like to meet you in the morning.”
Tony just nodded, though he was a little disconcerted that the head of the Council was here to see him.
Blair sat on the bed across from where he and Abby were sitting. “I can feel that you’re starting to not feel well. I’m not trying to be your mother here, but maybe you can get ready for bed, I’ll make your tea, then you can chat with Abby and drink it whenever you’re ready? But it can’t sit for more than half hour without losing potency.”
Tony wanted to protest. He didn’t go to bed at ten. But Blair was right about his deteriorating condition. Before he could decide how to reply, Abby was up and pulling him to his feet. “You march right into that bathroom, mister. I will not have you getting sick again.”
With ill grace, Tony grabbed his night clothes and toiletry kit. Instead of going straight to the bathroom, he stopped in the Omega room and shut the door. Hotch was watching, and Tony knew he wasn’t going to have real privacy from the three Alphas. But dammit, he was going to do this.
He pulled out his cell and dialed Gibbs.
It was answered on the second ring. “You shouldn’t be calling me.”
“One question. I’ll call everyone who came tonight if it makes it fair.”
There was a pause before Gibbs replied. “One question.”
“Do you want me just because I’m a dragon?”
There was soft exhalation, before Gibbs whispered, “No, Tony. It’s just the only way I can have you.” Then the line clicked.
Tony focused on his breathing for a few seconds. His heart felt like it was about to beat out of his chest. He knew he was choosing Gibbs, but he’d needed to hear that Gibbs was choosing him, too. Choosing Tony, not just his Wyvern.
Steadying himself, he retreated to the bathroom, ignoring the look Hotch was shooting him. He’d cooperate with this whole process, but he was gonna keep doing it his way!
A little later, he’d said goodnight to Abby and climbed into bed in a room full of dragons who weren’t going to bed. It was really freaking weird. They didn’t have to worry about keeping Tony awake because he’d be unconscious. Gah.
After drinking his tea, now quadruple strength, he carefully didn’t think about Gibbs, and found his mind drifting to Horatio instead. Suddenly he realized what was bugging him. The Alpha should never have come here. Tony felt like the Alpha already had a Wyvern. But how did that make any sense? Before Tony could get any further with the train of thought, the tea started to kick in and the world faded away.
– – – –