Tony looked around in the bullpen – a foreign one. Nothing in here looked familiar: not the way the desks were positioned against and next to each other, not the papers that littered every horizontal surface and definitely not the vanilla-colored leather couch that had been placed in there so that tired agents could relax comfortably for a while. He even missed the disgusting orange walls of his own 'home' even though he honestly hated it with a vengeance and had been complaining about it ever since joining NCIS almost two years ago.
That was the thing though: this here wasn't NCIS. This was the FBI building in Quantico, more precisely: the profilers' floor. Yep… he was surrounded by shrinks. Oh, they weren't shrinks per se; they were highly trained agents who happened to squirm their way into other people's heads to analyze all the thoughts the poor person didn't even know possessed. Maybe he should have put on a tin foil hat.
How he had ended up in here was another story altogether. One he still hadn't managed to entirely comprehend…
The day before
"You asked to see me, sir?" – Asked Tony with a fair amount of anxiety in his voice. He knew he shouldn't have glued McGoo's hands to his keyboard but at that time he hadn't been able to resist the temptation. Still, he wouldn't have thought the younger man would run right to the director and complain about him! Wasn't it punishment enough that Gibbs had headslapped him – twice – and made him give Tim his own claviature and keep the ruined one instead!? Kate and McGee had had a field day then watching him wrestle with the damn thing and he had thought the war was solved with that. Apparently, he'd been wrong because not long after that, he had received notice that Morrow himself wanted him in his office – immediately. Ouch.
"Yes, Agent DiNozzo, please, step in; I won't bite." – Yeah, sure. Snakes always said that before latching out... – "Take a seat. A bit closer. Oh, come on… Great. Thank you. So…"
"Sir, please, I just wanted to-"
"Agent DiNozzo, beginning tomorrow, you'll be temporarily transferred to the FBI."
Tony sat dumbstruck; he couldn't believe what he had just heard! Just because of a prank his career should be ruined forever? And the FBI? Even jail would be better… The FBI employed people like Fornell (okay, maybe he wasn't so bad… khm… not always so bad, more like) and Slacks (he WAS so bad!). Definitely people he didn't want to be associated with! This couldn't happen! Not to him!
He gathered all his courage and cleared his throat.
"Director… I really didn't mean anything by it! It was just a prank! I didn't want to-"
The silver-haired older man furrowed his brows.
"What are you talking about, Agent DiNozzo? Did something happen I haven't been told?"
"Ahm…" – So, it wasn't about the glue? But then what!? – "Why am I being punished?" – He inquired, trying to look brave. He probably failed because Morrow first leaned back in surprise then chuckled whole-heartedly.
"Punished? My boy, you are not punished! You are rewarded!"
"You are part of the new program called 'Interagency Teambuilding Exercise'. – Tony didn't know what to say to that, so he just blinked confusedly. The director then started a lengthy explanation about how the leaders of different federal agencies had decided that enough was enough: they didn't want nor need the current animosity and rivalry between the teams. The wanted them to learn more about each other and gain respect for the others' work. And thus… - "You, my boy, are the lucky one to be selected to spend a month with the profilers while one of them will take your place on your team."
"A MONTH!?" – Tony squeaked in the exact same embarrassing way he'd done sometimes before finally leaving puberty behind and his voice had stopped changing. Until now, apparently.
The man had said that as if he had announced Tony had just won the Lottery. And somebody would take HIS place? What the hell!? He should have known that being called 'my boy' by the director could never end well…
"I'm… ahm… honored… to have been chosen, sir. But I think I'll need to pass this… khm… amazing… opportunity. You see, I think I'm just coming down with something." – He added a few fake coughs for good measure. – "My throat is sore and I'm feeling cold." – He pretended to shiver. – "And I'm soooooo tired-" – He was just about to let out an enormous yawn when the director waved his hand dismissingly, effectively stopping the NCIS agent's charade.
"Nonsense." – The man clapped, causing Tony to cringe. – "It's been decided, so you're going. The details have been sent to you via e-mail; you should already have it. End of the discussion." – Tony sat rooted to the chair, trying to look as pathetic as possible so as to maybe make the strict director reconsider this whole assignment. – "You're dismissed, Agent DiNozzo."
Or maybe not…
So, here he was; sitting at a strange desk in a strange place, having strange people around. He missed his Boss; even the headslaps and angry barks. He missed kind old Ducky who always had something nice to say to him to make him feel better. He missed annoying the Probie and laughing at his half-hearted attempts to trick him back. He even missed fighting with Kate. He missed everything!
Beside him, a dark-skinned man was glaring daggers into his direction, clearly about as impressed with this new arrangement as Tony himself was. Well, but it wasn't his fault, so the man could be at least try to be a bit more civil! Around him, there were three women; two blonds and a brunette. Normally, he'd love being the center of attention, especially when it came to the opposite sex, but right now all three of them were studying him curiously as if he were some new and interesting kind of specimen under the microscope. It was annoying and Tony inwardly cursed Morrow again for 'rewarding' him. Couldn't he have chosen someone else for this 'incredible opportunity'? Anyone but him!
From the top of the catwalk (a catwalk what was not nearly as nice as theirs, in his humble opinion!) two men watched the scene silently. Both seemed deep in thought but otherwise unreadable. Tony, who was used seeing his boss' every feeling (mostly annoyance, anger or exasperation, at least when it came to his senior field agent) written clearly on his face, felt totally at loss right now: where they mad at him just for being here, like the others seemed to be? Were they thinking about ways to get rid of him as soon as possible? Did they think he was incompetent as an agent!?
The situation was quickly becoming unbearable but just as Tony was about to dash into the restroom just to escape for a while, the younger man with the raven hair called from above:
"Everyone to the briefing room. We've got a case."
At least the reaction of his temporary teammates to that clear and simple order was something he could relate to: each one of them noiselessly gathered their pens and notebooks before swiftly making their way upstairs. There was no question about it: the solemn-looking black-haired man was the boss and everyone was to obey without comment. That, at least, he could do. But otherwise…
Tony followed the others dutifully, all the while thinking: 'This is a nightmare!'
NCIS * NCIS * NCIS * NCIS * NCIS * NCIS * NCIS * NCIS
Dr. Spencer Reid was perched at the edge of the chair he'd been physically pushed onto by the young agent now working at the desk next to his about half an hour ago, unable and unwilling to move, hoping against hope this whole situation would turn out to be just a bad dream and if he waited long enough, he'd wake and find himself in his own apartment, ready to begin the day – with his own team, in Quantico. So far, no matter how hard he wished, no such awakening had happened. Still, he hadn't given up.
Because every time he looked at the man whose workstation was positioned diagonally from his desk, regarding the newcomer profiler with an expression akin to disgust and running his hand through his silver hair periodically, something died in him. Not to mention the woman across from him who didn't seem to be able to stop frowning or the agent who had herded him to this desk but then proceeded to ignore him altogether. It was as if all three of them hated him already, without having spoken to him even a word.
Of course, it wasn't the first time the genius encountered an atmosphere like that; in fact: aside from his FBI teammates, this was pretty much the reaction he'd gotten his whole life, wherever he went. Kids tended to hate those that were much younger and yet a hundred times smarter than them. The cold shoulder they were showing him wasn't the worst thing.
No, the worst part was being put on display: an old man, probably even older than Gideon, stood not too far away from him, regarding him with a kindness he couldn't see on any other face but still not approaching, not offering any form of comfort or understanding. Not acknowledging the fact that poor genius boy was used to be protected and loved by his teammates; whose team was like a family. Who was now feeling incredibly alone and vulnerable… Also, a woman who had her hair pulled back in two pigtails and wore a white lab coat had been giggling uncontrollably ever since she'd laid eyes on him. Reid was stunned: he'd never thought he would ever encounter anyone more eccentric than Garcia, but here it was: their bubbly technical analyst almost appeared plain compared to this… apparition.
The young profiler tried not to fidget too noticeably, knowing from past experience that showing weakness usually didn't end well for him… But he couldn't help it: he was nervously biting his lips and tapping his fingers, trying to convince his stomach to stop spinning and praying he wouldn't throw up. Oh, that would make things so much better… - He thought bitterly, snorting at his own misfortune.
And to think that yesterday hadn't started out bad at all! Not until the director asked him to go to his office… Naturally, for lack of better options, he had done so, accompanied by Hotch and Gideon, both of whom had made it quite clear months ago they wouldn't let their youngest face authority persons alone…
The day before
"I don't understand." – Repeated Reid for the third time, ignoring Gideon's hand patting his shoulder comfortingly. What he had heard was too incomprehensible to just be made better by a fatherly hug. Beside them, Hotch looked like he had a big slice of lemon in his mouth. – "Is that some kind of joke?" – Joke. That could be the only explanation. Yes. That was it. A joke.
"No joke, Dr. Reid." – Said the director with an almost pitying expression on his face. – "I'm afraid it's quite real."
"Think of it as a glorious new challenge."
The genius made a disbelieving face.
"Glorious?" – He repeated hysterically.
The director nodded, all the while avoiding eye-contact with the two older profilers as if afraid of them.
"Yes. Just think of the opportunity this presents!"
"And that would be…?" – He asked patiently, though Reid knew that inwardly the older man was picturing all the ways they could use the director's head for target practice.
"Ahm…" – Finally, the leader of the FBI seemed to have caught on that nobody was excited about the news. Maybe there was still hope for the man after all. – "Well… khm… Okay, so everyone knows we have quite a reputation of being somewhat… ahm… uncooperative when it comes to working with other agencies." – That was the understatement of the year but Hotch and Gideon both looked unaffected if not outright bored with the explanation. The director cleared his throat nervously. – "I volunteered us for this program." – He admitted finally.
"But why Reid?" – Pressed Hotch. – "There are hundreds of agents you could choose from. So: why our team and why him?"
Now the director looked positively uncomfortable.
"Because…" – He began. – "He's a bit more… How to say? Tolerable than most agents… I believe he won't have any problems fitting in."
"Sir." – The youngest profiler sighed. – "I have problems fitting in anywhere. I am the epitome of a disaster."
"Come on, Dr. Reid, don't exaggerate! You'll be fine, you'll see. The team I'm sending you to is as unique as you are. So is the man you'll get in return, Agent Hotchner."
Hoch jumped up and roared:
"What do you mean 'the man I get in return'!?
So, that had been it. There had been no way around it; thus Reid had ended up in Washington D.C., sitting at the desk of another agent he'd never met and who was now, undoubtedly, feeling very lucky to be rid of this hostile environment and spending some time with a team that operated like a family. And that left him, Reid, suffering the consequences.
He longed for his own desk. He longed for his 'big brother' Morgan. For JJ and Elle's loving teasing. For Garcia's jokes. For Gideon's never ending support and Hotch's firm but understanding pushes into the right direction. He desperately wanted to hear the words 'wheels up in twenty!' but all he got instead was…
"McGee, get the truck! Everyone get ready. We've got a dead marine."
And while he tried to mimic everything the brown-haired woman was doing, figuring it was expected of him as well, all he could think about was: 'Life's so unfair!'