Chapter 2: Life Changing Decisions
Friday June 12, 1992
Tony sat heavily on his couch after returning to his apartment. He jabbed the 'play' button on his phone's answering machine and glared at the device as it replayed the message he'd listened to at least four times since he'd gotten it that morning.
"Anthony. It's me, your father. You're going to have to face reality sooner or later, boy. Your dream's dead. Get over it and move on. Becoming a professional athlete was a fools dream, and we both know that you're not going to settle with becoming a damn gym teacher. Come to your senses and come home. There's a secretary position open for you at the company to get you started. We can talk about you starting your business degree at NYU later. Call me back as soon as you get this message and let me know when to send the jet to pick you up." – CLICK –
Tony scowled and rewound the tape so that the next message he received could record over it. He was beyond pissed that his father just assumed that he'd come crawling back. Contrary to his father's beliefs, he'd rather take the gym teacher gig than go back to New York and do his father's bidding. He wanted out of that world and to have nothing to do with his father's controlling and manipulative ways. That had been the whole point in attending Ohio State and getting a degree in Physical Education. To be stubborn. Insubordinate. To defy his father and be the complete opposite of the person his father wanted him to be.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, Tony pulled out the simple business card he'd been given. It only had the initials I.D.C.A printed at the top of the card with a boldly printed number under the word "Recruitment" in the center. He thought about last night's conversation. It was tempting. It sounded like a lot of work, but the man who'd come over last night had mentioned that a lot of his jobs for the IDCA starting out would be that of a regular beat cop. If becoming a P.E. teacher pissed his father off, becoming a cop (or any kind of law-enforcement, actually) would really piss Anthony DiNozzo Signor off.
Tony chuckled softly at the thought of his old man's reaction, and he knew that he had a third option now too. With his grades he could easily go to the police academy and become a cop. It was a kind of a middle ground he supposed. Becoming a cop had better prospects than becoming a gym teacher, and it would most certainly be easier than spending years of training and getting his ass beat into shape in order to become some super spy government agent.
But then again…
Tony glanced over at his small VHS collection. At least half of them were James Bond films – he had all the ones that stared Sean Connery – and the other half were cop/spy thrillers like Die Hard. Growing up with those kinds of movies, Tony had often wondered what life would be like as a spy. Now here he was with a very real chance of living out that fantasy. He wasn't deluded enough to think that the life would be as glamorous as it was in James Bond. It would be hard and a lot of work – one didn't learn those cool spy skills over night, he knew that – but the idea was stuck in his head. Agent Anthony DiNozzo – Super Spy. Now that had a nice ring to it.
Tony shook his head, stuffing the business card back into his pocket. This was a serious decision he had to make. He couldn't just make it with half-baked fantasies. He had to want this. He knew that he had to be sure that this was what he wanted when– IF! If he accepted Michael Weston's offer and got on that plane to New York. It couldn't be just for kicks and a kid's dream of wanting to become a spy. And who said he'd become a spy anyway? Sure, Michael had mentioned a whole lot of spy-sounding jargon, but this sounded more like a military run – or at least military funded – agency if most of it's agents were former armed service members selected for their prowess in the field. If he chose this, it wasn't going to be easy and he knew it. Michael had told him that he'd have to go to some form of boot camp and play catch up just so that he could even be in the same league as the rest of the recruits. That right there was going to be a bitch with his still recovering leg injury.
But all that hard work could be worth it. He knew that. Michael had also mentioned traveling, good pay, benefits, and, quite frankly, it sounded like the chance of a lifetime. Surely he could put up with a few years of whatever training this gig entailed after three years of toughing it out at Ohio State cut off from his father's influences and money. He'd been learning things the hard way on his own, broke and living off scholarships, financial aid, and a small salary from a job he'd had until recently at a local diner. On top of all that, he'd still managed to participate in all of those sports, clubs and classes in order to graduate within three years. Sure, this would be a different kind of hardship, but who knows?
Maybe Michael was making this whole training and recruitment business out to be harder than it really was. In spite of his injury, Tony was still a very athletic person and had kept up some of his work out regimen while his leg was healing to remain in shape. Hey! Maybe this IDCA agency would cover his remaining bills and expenses. Didn't military groups do that for their recruits? They had that GI bill thing and special insurance to cover their schooling and medical expenses didn't they?
Tony pursed his lips together and looked around his apartment. It held the barest of essentials and it had come "fully" furnished, so none of the furniture was his. Everything he owned could easily fit into one suitcase and a carry-on.
The phone rang, cutting off his thoughts, and Tony was tempted to ignore it in case it was his father again. When it reached it's fifth ring, however, he decided to pick up.
"Hullo?" He sighed.
"Still thinking it over, huh, Champ?"
Tony's body snapped to attention.
"You remember my name. I'm flattered," the older man's voice said, sounding amused. "I'm over at the diner at the end of the block. Why don't you come join me for a late lunch, my treat, and we can discuss my offer in more detail now that you're completely sober and don't have distracting exams to study for."
Michael hung up without waiting for a response. Tony stared at the phone in his hand bewilderedly for a minute and then set it back down on the cradle. He mulled his options over in his head again before grabbing his wallet and keys and headed out the door.
The walk to the diner wasn't a long one, but Tony took his time, trying to put his thoughts in order so that he had an idea of what he wanted to ask. When he entered the diner, he looked around and spotted Michael Weston sitting in a corner booth near the back of the diner. He was dressed in the same polo and jeans combination, only this time the polo was an off-white color instead of dark navy. He was also wearing a pair of dark tinted sunglasses. Tony noted the way Michael sat slouched in the booth in a relaxed manner, but could still detect alertness in the set of his shoulders and the smallest of movements the guy's head made as he undoubtedly scanned the interior of the diner behind the dark lenses.
"Tony!" the man smiled as he approached. "Glad you could join me."
Tony nodded as he slid into the bench across from Michael.
"I trust that by now you have some questions," Michael smiled.
"You know that I do," Tony huffed. "Why else would I come?"
"Promise of a free meal? I did say it was my treat," Michael shrugged.
"Ok, you got me there," Tony laughed, relaxing just a fraction.
"Tony!" a cheerful female voice called out suddenly.
Tony looked up and spotted Diana Miller, a waitress he usually worked with before he'd cut back on his work shifts in preparation for quitting. Sunday afternoon had been his last shift.
"Hey Di," Tony greeted as she approached their table.
"So you're the friend David's been visiting," she grinned. "He's been waiting here for the last half hour."
Tony noted the half-full pitcher and a cup of coffee on the table next to Michael. He glanced curiously at the other man and saw that his companion's gaze was fixed casually on him, but there was an intensity in his gaze behind the sunglasses.
"Yeah, well, I only just got out of my last final and had to drop by the bookstore to return and sell back my textbooks. Not like I need them anymore, right?" Tony said, flashing her a charming smile.
"Right," Diana nodded. "So what can I get you guys? Your usual, David?"
"Yes, please," Michael nodded. "With a coke."
"And you, Tony?" Diana asked, turning back to him.
"Ah… lets go with the Bacon Cheeseburger," Tony mused, "and I'll have a coke as well."
"Sure thing," Diana nodded, taking the pitcher of coffee and empty cup from Michael. "Be back with those in a jiff."
Once she was out of earshot, Tony addressed the man across from him.
"She thinks I'm David Henderson and that I'm in town visiting a friend for the week so that I can attend their graduation," Michael shrugged.
"Why the fake name?" Tony asked, curious.
"I don't want to draw attention to myself should something unexpected come up," Michael shrugged. "I'm here to recruit you, Tony, for an agency that isn't public knowledge. If someone notices me hanging around, I need a credible identity and a reason for being here. Michael Weston has military connections and a presence that might draw suspicion from the Local Leos, but David Henderson is a low-end businessman with boring credentials who's just here visiting a friend."
"Are you expecting something to happen?" Tony frowned.
"No," Michael shook his head, "but it doesn't hurt to be prepared for anything from a minor problem like a bank robbery to a national threat such as a terrorist attack."
Tony nodded absently, attention diverted momentarily when Diana returned with his bacon cheeseburger and Michael's "usual" – an Italian BMT with extra pickles on the side.
"So," Tony started, after a bite of his burger. "This job offer…what are the terms and conditions exactly, should I say yes? What happens?"
Michael finished swallowing at bite of his sandwich before answering.
"Well, first, you get on that plane with me to New York. From there we get you registered and settled into temporary quarters where you'll be evaluated. Most of it is a background check, review of your records, and a medical exam to check your physical fitness and determine when you'll be able to start the more hands on training. While all that's going on, I'll be showing you and the other recruits the headquarters and facilities, explaining official procedures in better detail than the quick review I'm giving you now. Should you pass all the qualifications – and I have no doubts that you will – then you'll come with me and the other passing recruits to Colorado where we have a special training facility and you'll be assigned a bunkmate and unit that will rotate with other units through a series of training programs and regimens. Some with be physically demanding, like going to an army or marine boot camp, while others will be more mentally stimulating in the form of workshops and classes."
Tony mulled the information over in his head, taking another bite of his burger to stall for time so that he could form his next question.
"What about payment?" Tony asked. "Is the agency going to be covering all expenses or am I expected to pay a monthly fee for room and board while going through all this training?"
"The agency will cover all expenses as far as your room and board goes, and you'll be given a bi-weekly paycheck – call it an allowance if you want – for other personal expenses. The amount you receive depends on how well you're doing in your current exercise. This would be a great opportunity to put that brain of yours to the test and excel instead of holding back like you have been. And before you ask, yes, the IDCA will pay off anything you owe for tuition and any medical bills you still have. We want you to take this offer and join our agency, Tony."
"I admit that I'm not seeing a downside," Tony smiled. "Nothing but benefits from you guys."
"True, but those benefits are earned and I do feel that I must warn you that this isn't going to be some cake walk, Tony," Michael said seriously, hands clasping in front of him and the remaining half of his sandwich was pushed to the side, forgotten. "This training is going to test you, push you, like nothing you've ever experienced before. And once you're in, you're in. The Agency isn't going to let you simply leave and walk away. Becoming an IDCA Agent is serious business. You'll learn government secrets, military tactics, and your life will be put on the line for the sake of national security. Even if you're passed over or refuse placement on a pro-active field team, you'll still be relegated to operating as an agent working inside other government agencies like the FBI and CIA to make sure that everyone plays nice and gets along. You will find yourself put in dangerous situations working crime scenes and high profile casework. This training is to prepare you for that. You'll not only learn combat and field training, but forensics and how to case a crime scene, log evidence, examine cadavers, the works. Basically the IDCA is training you to become whatever they need you to be, whether that's a local cop, Private Detective, Forensic Analyst, or a member of a Major Case Response Team in the FBI. Hell! Maybe you'll be assigned to serve as a Secret Service agent and protect the President."
"Sounds like the IDCA is a lot more than some peace keeping organization," Tony said softly.
Michael paused in his little rant and leaned over his clasped hands, lens covered eyes boring into Tony's.
"The IDCA is whatever this country needs it to be. They prepare future agents like you and me to cover a variety of fields so that we can get jobs done that others can't do on their own. That's why the IDCA is so selective of their agents. They may be small, but the agency is growing, and in the end, we just might be the ones that keep this country from falling apart."
"So much for not being taken in by their patriotic BS, then huh?" Tony murmured.
Michael cracked a small smile, pulling back to lounge on his side of the table.
"Joke while you can, DiNozzo, but this is serious stuff," he said.
"Oh, I have no doubts about that," Tony nodded, reclining in his seat to match Michael's relaxed posture. "You've made that ominously clear."
"I'm sensing a "but" in there."
"But…What if I can't cut it?" Tony frowned. "What then?"
Michael nodded slowly and seemed to take great care in deliberating how he was going to answer. He took a bite out of his previously abandoned sandwich and looked around the diner. After a minute of contemplation he set the sandwich back down, swallowed what he had in his mouth, sighed, took off his sunglasses, and stared Tony dead in the eye.
"That's a very reasonable question," Michael said carefully, "but not one I know a definite answer for. If you don't make it through the screening process in New York, fine, you'll be sworn to secrecy about our organization but free to go and take that teaching position in the next town over, or apply and attend the Police Academy. They'll pay for your flight back, and write a glowing recommendation for you to help you on your way. As I said earlier, though, I doubt you'll fail the screening process. In Colorado during the actual training sessions, if you fail to meet standards… I honestly don't know. I've yet to meet or even hear of a recruit that wasn't up to snuff. The IDCA is very careful about who they recruit to begin with. If there is even a doubt that they might not be able to handle what we have in store for them, they don't make it past the screening process. If you happen to be failing in one area, you may just need extra training or are simply not fit for that kind of work. Not all recruits will be field agents. Some of them are desk jockeys, paper pushers, legal, technical and tactical support. All kinds are hired, though everyone is expected to meet baseline requirements."
"And what are those baseline requirements?" Tony asked.
"That any representative of the IDCA is fit, knows all standard operating procedures for any event and is capable of handling themselves in foreign environments and dangerous situations," Michael shrugged. "Even the pencil necks need to know how to defend themselves and use a firearm. I don't think you need to worry, though, Tony. I believe that you have the potential to be a great agent and will go far in the IDCA."
Tony offered up a small smile and stared down at his coke bottle, swirling the remains of the beverage around as he took in all that Michael had told him.
"How long does the training process last?" Tony asked.
"It depends on the person," Michael shrugged. "Some only need a year, others, two, maybe three. Considering your non-military background, though, I peg you as a three-year trainee. Two years if you really apply yourself. During the screening process your current capabilities will be assessed and later you'll be paired with a bunkmate and placed in a unit that rank at the same perceived level of ability and the amount of training required before being made a grunt agent. Again, I'll explain this sort of information in more detail once we reach New York."
"You said that you've been with the IDCA for only a year," Tony said. "Have you completed your training or do you still need more training?"
"I had a rather long six-year career in the Army before I became an Army Ranger two years ago. It was during my short one-year stint as a Ranger that I'd caught the IDCA's attention with my impressive marksmanship. Even now I still hold the current training record for a sniper. With all I've accomplished in the field, I easily passed all requirements for basic training within a year," Michael nodded. "But in a sense, I am still in training, just a different kind than what everyone does going in. During these coming years I'll be assessed on my leadership and command skills as I oversee your batch of recruits' training. If I'm deemed proficient, I'll be assigned command of a team in a field deemed worthy of the assembled team's skill set. If I'm deemed exemplary, I'll be allowed to hand pick my team and decide the kinds of cases I want to take. Who knows? Until you're placed as an IDCA agent inside the same government agency for more than a couple of years, or assigned to an established field special missions team, you'll always be training for something."
Tony nodded and it was silent for the remainder of the meal and even through their dessert – apple pie – that they ordered from Diana when she came by to check on them. It wasn't until after Michael paid Diana for their meal that they spoke again.
"So what do you think, Tony?" Michael asked.
"I honestly don't know," Tony admitted. "I want to say yes. It sounds so much better than being a gym teacher or a regular beat cop…but I'm just not sure if I can do it though. It sounds so fantastic and very James Bond, but…"
"I understand," Michael nodded, standing up. "You need more time to think it through. I'm actually glad you're taking your time to think this offer over before giving me an answer. The first meeting is just to get the idea out there, get you thinking. The second meeting is to give you a taste of what being an IDCA agent could be like, what it could mean for you, and to answer any questions that might have arisen after the first meeting. Almost all of the potential recruits I've spoken to gave me an answer after the second meeting."
"What about you? How many meetings did you have with your recruiter before you agreed to join up?" Tony asked.
"Why don't we continue this conversation outside? Walk with me," Michael nodded towards the door.
They exited the diner and began to walk around the block, not really heading anywhere in particular – that Tony was awear of at any rate.
"My recruiter wasn't actually the one who convinced me to join up," Michael confessed. "I don't even remember his name actually. It was the man he worked for that convinced me in the end, and this is a man I've only ever known as Coulson. I'm not even sure the guy has a first name aside from Agent. Anyway, Coulson has kind of become like my supervisor. My handler, if you will. I go where he says. He's one of those people that have an ambiguous kind of desk job and you're never really sure what he really does, but you know that it's important. I do know, however, that he's part of the team that finds possible new recruits like you and will be one of the select personnel who will be reviewing your records and assessing your capabilities. That kind of seems to be his thing. Coulson is one of the few Agents who've been with the IDCA since it was established. Not a founder, per-say, but someone who was there and got in on the ground floor when the foundation was poured. He's a records kind of guy and I doubt that there is anything going on in the IDCA that he doesn't know about. Anyway, I apparently intrigued Coulson enough that he left New York's HQ and came to help recruit me personally. He was there during my second meeting with my recruiter, but it wasn't until my third meeting and after my recruiter had left that Coulson and I had a one-on-one and he convinced me to join up."
"What did he say?" Tony asked.
"Well it wasn't so much what he said that convinced me, but what he was like as a person. I was already sold on the idea that I'd get to travel more, and I certainly have done a lot of flying even if it's only been all over these United States thus far," Michael laughed, "but Coulson is the one that told me that the IDCA is about making a difference. We may join up because of awesome benefits like traveling or a cushy salary, but one day, whether it's during training or when you're out in the field, you'll find yourself realizing that we make a difference in this world. He told me that sometimes being an IDCA agent will feel like a thankless job, but that in the end it will be worth it. That it's going to be worthwhile, knowing that you've saved the lives of the people living in this country. We may have our own individual reasons for joining up, Tony, but in the end, we all will continue doing what they train us to do because one day you'll feel pride in being one of the few that stand between the people of this country, and the tyranny of others, even the ones in our own backyard. He was talking about sleazy politicians, of course."
Tony chuckled. "Still sounds like a guy on a soap box."
"Yeah, the man is a patriot," Michael shook his head, "but I could tell that he meant what he said, and he didn't over embellish like my recruiter did. I told you last night, Tony, that it's the people in this agency that really convinced me that all this patriotic propaganda isn't complete bullshit. The IDCA may seem like a very suspicious shadowy government agency, but everyone in it, one way or another, comes to believe that they are doing what is right for our country, and for it's people. When you work for people like Coulson, you want to be the kind of man that he believes you can be, and he's just one in an entire government agency that's dedicated to those beliefs. Tony, even if you find that you can't hack it as an Agent, or something happens like your leg injury that renders you unable to actively participate in the field, the IDCA will find some other kind of position for you, because if you say yes and join up, you become one of us, and I've learned very quickly during my one year with the IDCA, that we take care of our own."
Tony was silent for a long time letting all of that sink in. He honestly felt relieved at the news. The agency wouldn't just drop him, like his sports coaches and teams had when he'd injured his leg. Joining this IDCA was sounding better and better the more he thought about it, but still…
"I'll let you think it over some more," Michael's voice suddenly penetrated his thoughts.
Tony snapped back to reality and realized that they'd stopped in front of his apartment building.
"You have my number. Call me if you have any more questions and we can set up a third meeting. If not, remember that the flight is from Port Columbus Airport at 5:50 to JFK in New York. Hopefully, I'll see you there, Tony," Michael smiled before leaving.
Tony watched the man walk away until he seemed to vanish within the small foot traffic further down the block.
Aaaand I ended up bringing in Avenger's Coulson into this fic. Wow this is turning out to be a pretty big crossover in the works. I mean I'd already planed to have characters from NCIS (Tony), Burn Notice (Michael), Bones (Booth) Bourne Series (Jason Bourne), and Dark Angel (Max), but now I'm going to add characters from Supernatural (Dean Winchester at the very least, maybe Sam), Phil Coulson and maybe some others from the Avengers verse, and I now want to not only have Max, but Ben and Alec from Dark Angel as well. We'll see how this goes. For now we'll just stick to NCIS, Burn Notice, Bones, and Bourne and see where we get with that.
Hopefully I'll post the next and last chapter of this fic and will be able to move on to the longer, and intended purpose of this series. Feel free to drop a note/comment and let me know what you think so far and what you might like to see next. I have a few ideas in the works for how Tony meets David Webb/Jason Bourne, Michael recruiting Booth, and little private outside-of-training team moments.