Tony DiNozzo's head rested against the soft leather of his office chair. He was certain his boss had entered the building but he had not seen him - yet. He let his mind wander in search of his boss even though he knew Gibbs did not answer to one Anthony DiNozzo. Strictly speaking, he only answered to the director - but that was only when it worked in his favor. Gibbs admittedly was technologically challenged, but his mind was faster than any super computer ever built or imagined. Tony marveled at the man. He could stare down a suspect until the person finally confessed to the crime yet the next minute become very open while he spoke with a lost child. Of all the skills the former gunnery sergeant possessed the one that Tony DiNozzo appreciated the most was his sixth sense in knowing when Tony needed support, both emotional and physical.
Lately Tony thought he would be in need of some physical support. There were times he would be so completely focused on the computer screen that he could see individual pixels. He didn't tell anyone about that. They already noticed that he could pick out license plates much further away than anyone else. He didn't want to draw any more attention to himself. The day Kate was killed, Tony recalled, he was distracted by the sound of trigger release immediately before Kate was fatally shot. Would Kate still be alive if he had not been distracted? If he had reacted to the sound of the discharge instead of looking for the origin, would she still be alive? What good is it to hear or see better than others if it won't help save a life?
Tony sat up straight. He heard his boss and mentor enter the elevator. He was not alone. Damn! He had to talk to Gibbs, alone. He had to tell him he was loosing his confidence. He had to leave NCIS before his negligence would hurt another agent. He had not been able concentrate on his job after he found Gibbs shot by Ari. He had lost himself in the sensation of kissing Voss even while knowing he had broken all the rules of surveillance. Why? Why was all this happening to him? Every time he thought he couldn't bear one more annoyance, Gibbs was there, speaking to him, touching him, affirming him. Should he resign from NCIS? Yet if he did, that would mean he would be leaving Gibbs. Would he also be leaving a piece of himself? Without Gibbs, without him nearby, would he-
The world turned slightly on it's axis then righted itself as Tony focused first on his boss, then on the two strangers on either side of him. 'Not again,' Tony berated himself. He was so inwardly centered, he did not hear the trio approach. 'Maybe I won't have to resign, Gibbs may fire me first.'
"Yeah, boss," Tony answered aloud. "Sorry, must have drifted off." Tony regretted that phrase the moment it left his lips.
The strangers glanced at each other behind Gibbs' back. Tony thought he could hear the shorter man's breathing rate increase. The tall one seemed almost - defensive. Tony's headache, which had been plaguing him all morning, started to fade as Gibbs put his hand on Tony's arm. The tall stranger seemed surprised by something between DiNozzo and Gibbs. Tony had no idea what could have happened that was so astonishing. Tony always felt better when Gibbs was around. DiNozzo would gladly add that to the list of rules Gibbs was always reciting. 'Well, rule #13 is to never go anywhere without Gibbs nearby. Yeah, rule thirteen, well, ruled,' Tony mused. With a slight grin on his face he looked up to see faces staring at him.
"What? I have something between my teeth? What?" Tony retorted defensively.
The shorter stranger smiled while the taller one moved even closer to long-haired man. Tony closed his eyes as all his senses seemed to calm themselves. He usually felt calm when Gibbs was nearby, but this other man....
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs slapped the back of Tony's head gently. "Stop staring, it's not polite."
Tony shook his head, like a dog shaking the water off their body. "I wasn't..."
"You were," Gibbs knelt down on one knee in front of DiNozzo holding both arms of the chair. Softly, he continued, "You were, but it's okay. These are friends.?" Pointing first to the tall man then the smaller man, Gibbs continued. "Tony, this is Detective Jim -JJ- Ellison and his partner Blair Sandburg. It, ah, seems we have something in common with them."
Tony looked straight ahead into the blue eyes of his boss. Gibbs wouldn't lie to him, but what would two federal agents have in common with that mismatched duo. "Okay, I'll ask. What do we," pointing his finger between himself and Gibbs, "have in common with them?"
Again the bigger stranger, Ellison, now that Tony knew his name, moved, only this time he moved and stood directly in front of Sandburg. "You and I have a lot in common, DiNozzo. LJ told me about you, about your really good vision, about--"
Grabbing Gibbs' shirt and pulling the man up as he rose, Tony exploded. "You told a stranger about... about..."
Gibbs clutched Tony's wrists holding them steadily until Tony released the shirt. Putting his hands on either side of the young agents face he calmly remarked, "Not a stranger. Already told you that. Let's go to conference room. You need to hear what JJ has to say."
Relishing the feeling of Gibbs palms on his flushed cheeks, Tony nodded mutely.
"Good." Gibbs released Tony's face and turned to the pair silently waiting. "Follow me."
Gibbs led the way down the hall to the conference room. Tony was certain that Sandburg and Ellison were talking about him and looked behind himself to be sure. 'Like deer caught in the headlight of a car,' Tony ruminated, 'I caught them talking about me and they know it! Wonder what kind of training they're talking about.'
They all sat facing each other at the table in the conference room. Gibbs sat next to DiNozzo and Ellison and Sandburg sat on the opposite side. Gibbs being secretive-normal. Gibbs allowing Tony in on the secret-not common. Gibbs revealing a secret-unheard of! Whatever this was about, Tony was pretty sure it did not concern NCIS. In fact, the whole situation reminded him of an old television series, The Twilight Zone...
"Yeah, Boss. I'm listening but not sure I'm..."
"DiNozzo. Just shut that mouth of yours and listen. The short and sweet version of the story between me and JJ is that I met him while in the service. He was Army, but I didn't hold that against him. I, ah, helped him one day--"
"-Saved my life. More than just helped, LJ. Tell the story right or I will," JJ interrupted.
"Fine. I pushed him out of the way of a jeep. You have to understand, Tony, that the driver was laying on the horn to move JJ out of the way, but he just stood there. I was pulling SP duty, heard the horn, saw JJ standing, holding his ground. I pushed him out of the way just before the jeep went by."
"That's a nice story, Boss, but what has- Wait. He didn't hear the horn?" Tony stared at JJ. "You didn't hear the horn? Why? Were your ears stuffed, were you ..."
"DiNozzo. I was zoned, you know, out of it, on a sound. Just one sound. Nothing else mattered. Something about that sound demanded my full attention. I still can get that way then I only hear, see, smell, taste or feel one thing. Nothing else matters."
"Nothing else matters...." Tony repeated softly. Looking at his boss, "How long did you know I was having," pausing for the right word, "difficulties. I try to concentrate but sometimes I go off task. Lately..."
"You know, before we too deep, I'd like to give you a little background about ourselves," the young man interrupted. "As LJ said, my name is Blair Sandburg. My partner here is a detective with the Cascade, Washington police, Major Crimes Unit. I work with Jim and also teach at the Ranier University. My major is anthropology. It was due to my field of study that I even met Jim." Blair reached across the table to touch Tony's hand.
"No!" Jim reached to stop the movement of the hand. "No, Blair, no. We'll help, but I couldn't bear..."
Blair beamed at his partner. "I'm with you, Jim. Full partnership. Not looking for anyone else. But, you're right. Not my job. We are here to help LJ and Tony." Looking again at the bewildered NCIS agent, Blair continued. "Jim and I are here to help you become a true sentinel and guide team, just like Jim and me. That was my field of study, sentinels, people with a special genetic background that have enhanced senses. Anyway, Jim was reluctant-"
"-hostile, Chief, let's be honest here."
"Right, hostile when I first introduced the idea of possessing enhanced senses. He thought I called him a caveman and took offense at that. Shoved me up against a wall shelf in fact. But once we started working together, he saw how his senses were helpful on the job and not a punishment from hell."
"My senses don't bother me," claimed Tony, "they're fine. I don't think I'm this genetically enhanced person you think I am. Hell, ask my father, he'll tell you there's nothing special about me."
Gibbs placed his hand over Tony's where it rested on the table. "Tony, your father is not a source to measure yourself against. He may never have physically abused you, but you were mentally abused in that household. I'm just glad you turned out as well as you did."
Tony blushed at his boss's kind words. Gibbs was not acting like, well, Gibbs. He also noticed that Gibbs' hand had not left his own. Tony felt so good at this moment. His body buzzed as if it was in perfect harmony. His headache was just a bad memory.
Without flinching or moving Tony looked intently into Gibbs eyes and asked, "What kind of tests do they want to do on me? I don't think either one of them is a doctor and personally I always trust people with the word 'doctor' in their title and a sheepskin on the wall. No offense to your friend here but I don't think they're qualified--"
Jim and Blair smiled at each other. Hearing test - check.
"Tony, Tony," Gibbs playful retorted, "what these men are lacking in diplomas on the wall they have made it up in spades with experience. Listen," Gibbs lightly held the hand under his own, "Mr. Sandburg,-"
"-Blair and I have something in common. We're both guides to a sentinel. Jim is the sentinel he watches over, and, you...you're my - dammit, I watch your six. But I'm going to receive some training too. I'll need to help you take those senses you have and already seem to use very well and hone them to a fine tool. A tool you will have so finely tuned that after awhile you'll be able to ride one sense on the other." Gibbs noticed Tony's smile as he patted the hand under his own. "What's so funny DiNozzo?"
Tony was not fazed by the sudden change of mood radiating from his boss. "Gibbs, I don't need training. As you've noticed I already see, hear, smell, touch, and taste quite well, in spite of my Dad's feelings on the subject."
As Gibbs and Tony argued about the need for training, Blair and Jim pushed away from the table and exited the room. Jim was sure Tony could hear him, if he wanted, but with Gibbs keeping him busy, Tony would not be able to listen to them as well.
"Jim, his homelife -the similarity between your two fathers- is simply uncanny! When he said his dad-"
"Yeah, I heard too, Chief. Still he does seem to have very good control of his senses. Maybe-"
"I agree. He grew up using them. Seemed the natural way of things to him. Didn't know at the time other people couldn't see or hear things as far away as he could. Still, c'mon Jim, get with the program. He needs to learn to use them when *he* wants to use them, not when his body decides it will allow him to use them. Right?"
Jim leaned over and softly kissed the forehead of his guide. "Right."
"Jim, was that," pointing to his forehead, "such a good idea in such a public place? Might I add a FEDERAL public place?"
"Oh ye of little faith! I listened first...no one around." Jim tilted his head to the side then straightened again. "Okay, it's show time! LJ convinced him to let us give him a demo of what I can do. Here they come."
The door opened as Ellison stepped away from the doorframe he had been leaning against. "You want a demo, DiNozzo? You got it."
"You - you heard that?" Tony stuttered.
"Ya think, Tony? What have we been telling you for the last 30 minutes? You two are these sentinel guys and Blair and I are your backups, covering your six. Got it?"
"Yeah, I got it boss," Tony affirmed as Gibbs lightly cuffed the back of Tony's head.
"Hey, what was that for?"
Gibbs' smirk filled his face as he strode down the hallway with the rest of the group in his wake. Gibbs knew where they could test JJ. Tony would be a believer and then the training would start.