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A Friend in Need

by: tutncleo (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 007 Word Count: 63347
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ensemble
Category(ies): New Character, Established Relationship, Episode Related, Action/Adventure
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Episode(s): 4-08 Once a Hero, 5-04 Identity Crisis, 5-11 Tribes, 5-16 Recoil
Summary: After barely surviving two attempts on her life, a wounded FBI agent seeks help from Team Gibbs to take down a kidnapping syndicate. This story would not exist without the continued amazing imput of Marianne, collaborator and beta extraordinaire!

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

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“A Friend in Need” – Chapter Five

Gibbs and Fornell slept all the way to Fornell’s house, leaving Tony alone to his private thoughts. He knew he should be as tired as the other two men, but for some reason he wasn’t. Maybe it was because he was younger, he supposed, although he suspected that wasn’t the real reason. He was fairly sure his run in with Templeton had more to do with his current state of alertness. Her initial greeting, that nasty crack about fetching and carrying for Gibbs, had immediately heightened all his senses. He’d been aware she was gunning for him, even though he couldn’t figure out why. She’d taken it up a notch by calling him a whipping boy, and when she referenced the collar, it was like declaring open season. Tony had been both angry and embarrassed, and he’d been keenly aware of everyone else in the room looking at them, as he struggled not to retaliate by stooping to her level. He had been able to feel Gibbs’ anger literally crashing through the room like waves, even before he had stood up and announced they were leaving, and that, more than anything, had helped Tony keep his mouth in check. Then, when the doctor had described Langer’s condition, Tony, already over-sensitized, had felt Gibbs’ pain as if it was his own. Having the two men asleep was actually a relief. It was allowing him time to get control of his emotions again. He'd struggled to hold himself in check ever since Liz had begun her verbal attack, and that, he suspected, was why he felt so wide awake.

When he got to Fornell’s, he woke the sleeping men up. It didn’t take Fornell all that long to shower and clean up, and by 6:30, after a stop for coffee, they were walking into the bullpen at NCIS headquarters. As Tony had suspected, McGee was already there, and no one was surprised to see Abby, lounging on top of his desk, as they both studied something on McGee’s monitor.

When they looked up, alerted to the new arrivals by the sound of the elevator doors, they both zeroed in on Fornell. Then Abby poked McGee and said, “You owe me five bucks,” which made him groan.

Fornell looked at them suspiciously, but didn’t comment.

Gibbs, after watching Abby, looked at Tony and smirked, “That’s why I wouldn’t bet you twenty.” Tony laughed, thankful for the momentary respite from the suffocating intensity of the last several hours.

Fornell glared at Gibbs then, and said, “I don’t even want to know.”

“So what’s this about Boss?” McGee asked.

“Let’s go to Abby’s lab,” Gibbs ordered, without answering the younger agent’s question. He didn’t want anyone to overhear their conversation, and even though there were almost no people in yet, Gibbs knew agents would begin pouring in within the hour.

Abby and McGee gave each other a puzzled look, but scrambled to comply, hurrying to follow Gibbs as he led the way back to the elevator.

When they got down to the lab, Gibbs turned to Abby and signed for her to kill any video and audio surveillance in the room. Abby raised an eyebrow in silent question, but hurriedly humored Gibbs. When she was sure there was no way anyone would be able to record the meeting, she told Gibbs out loud, “All set. Spill!”

Gibbs and Tony then took turns describing Ziva showing up with Courtney, Ducky treating a wounded Courtney and then being moved to Ducky's, with Ziva along as bodyguard. They also recounted all that Courtney had told them the previous night. At some point during the recitation, Jenny arrived, and stood, silently listening again to the information she’d learned the night before. No one said anything until Gibbs got to the raid on the surveillance team, and the wounding of Vic Merit and Brent Langer. At that point, Abby had interrupted, demanding to know how Brent was, and then quietly tearing up when Gibbs’ shared what the doctor had said.

“I want to go see him,” Abby stated. “He may have deserted us and gone to work for the dark side,” she said, with a quick glance at Fornell, “but he’s still a good guy, and he’ll always be family.” Abby, who had a hard time letting go of anyone, had remained friends with Langer, even after he started working for the FBI, an act she likened to a cardinal sin, and made a point of having drinks with him at least once a month.

For his part, Fornell was having a hard time listening to Gibbs. He hadn’t heard all the details of Kreiger’s narrow escape from the ruthless killers the night before, and he was angered all over again that one of his own had been hunted down and forced to seek refuge with someone from another agency, since she felt like she couldn’t safely trust any of her own people. Now, instead of being able to go get the bastards with his own agents, he was having to go to the same agency that Kreiger had for help, knowing these people were incorruptible, that they considered Langer one of their own. NCIS would move heaven and earth to find the people who were holding Melissa Carter, a Marine wife, and take the scumbags into custody. To top it all off, he knew that Gibbs had been serious when he’d promised not to seek any credit for capturing the criminals, that just stopping the bastards would be enough for him. There were days when he had to ask himself if the prestige of working for the FBI was really worth it. More and more he found himself thinking it might be nice to work for an agency that actually seemed to work hard at staying under the radar. The FBI was the complete opposite. They wanted their every accomplishment splashed all over the front page of newspapers and making the nightly news. ‘When did it stop being about putting the bad people away,’ he wondered, ‘and more about the public face that would get them higher appropriations come budget time.’

By the time Fornell managed to drag his thoughts back to what was being discussed, Gibbs had finished summarizing the events of yesterday, and was explaining to everyone what he and Fornell had agreed upon – that NCIS would shelter Agent Kreiger and covertly start its own investigation, so that whoever was leaking information at the FBI would be none the wiser.

“What makes you so sure there’s a leak at the FBI?” McGee inquired.

Gibbs pointed out that would be the most likely explanation for how the kidnappers knew about the FBI investigation, and then told them that on top of that, the fact they had known where to find Courtney further suggested inside information. As he talked, he’d become more and more irritated, as Abby and McGee started sneaking looks at each other. Finally, when he was midway through explaining how both the interior and exterior cameras at the safe house had been disabled, so surely that meant someone with direct knowledge of the security codes had to have been involved, he was unable to ignore it anymore. “What ever you’re thinking, spit it out,” he demanded, “and stop with the knowing looks.”

Abby and McGee looked at each other again, silently willing the other to answer. “Well, um, Boss, you see,” McGee began, uncomfortable with sharing an opinion that contradicted Gibbs’.

“Oh, for God’s sake McGee,” Abby cut in, impatiently. “What he’s trying to say is that none of that has to depend on inside information. Anyone with enough computer skills could have deactivated the security cameras at the safe house. I’ve been able to hack into the FBI since I was fifteen,” she said, smiling rather predatorily at Fornell. “Plus, if the bad guys took all the paper at the surveillance location, they probably got Courtney’s cell number. Then, all they would have to do was track her phone to know where to find her.”

“That makes sense, Boss,” Tony exclaimed. “Remember how Courtney said she pulled the battery from her cell phone after she got away from the safe house? That’s probably why they couldn’t find her.”

When Abby and McGee heard that, they both grinned and reached over to give each other a satisfied high five, which earned them another glare from Gibbs. “Maybe so,” Gibbs allowed, “but we aren’t going to relax our guard, because it doesn’t disprove a leak either. All the hard drives from the computers at the surveillance site were taken, and there hasn’t been a trace of evidence left at any of the attack sites, so at the very least, these guys know a lot about forensics and investigative techniques, and we know they want to get their hands on Kreiger.”

“So, what do you want us to do?” Abby asked, almost bouncing in her chair, eager to start.

“I want you and McGee to research the missing executive, Melissa Carter; find out absolutely everything you can about her, there’s no telling what is going to be useful. Then, see about getting into Metro’s system and find out what they have on the Hummer attack. It happened in broad daylight, and even though these people are careful, there had to be someone on the street who took pictures with their camera – nothing seems to happen completely unrecorded these days. Even though the FBI took over the crime scene, it’s more likely that an average citizen would share their pictures with the police, rather than the FBI, especially since the police were the first on the scene. This may be our chance to get a look at them, since they disabled the security cameras everywhere else,” Gibbs said. When he was done, Abby started waving her hand around in the air, like an overeager student in a class. Smiling slightly, and marveling at how Abby always seemed able to amuse him, even in the worst of situations, he said, “Yeah Abs, go ahead.”

“Thanks,” she said. “You know, just because they got to the security cameras, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to be able to get a look at them. There are still the traffic cams and cameras from other buildings to look into.”

“Good point,” Gibbs said. “Go ahead and look into those too.”

It was at that point that Fornell hoisted the black shoulder bag off his shoulder that had been there since they came in, and set it down on the table next to where Abby and McGee stood. “What’s this?” Abby asked.

“My laptop,” Fornell said, looking over at Jenny, to make sure she understood the significance of what he was about to do. Pulling a piece of paper out of the side zipper pocket on the bag, he handed it to McGee. “This has all my ID codes and passwords on it. With these, you should have no trouble accessing every computer system at the Hoover Building, and you won’t have to waste time hacking in,” he said, giving Abby and McGee a small smile, as he dished out the backhanded compliment. He knew this was an enormous risk. Abby would most certainly make a copy of his hard drive – she wouldn’t be able to resist - but you had to trust someone, at some point, Fornell had decided, and these were the people he’d decided to trust. What surprised him was how comfortable he was with this decision. If anyone ever found out what he’d just done, it would spell the end of his career, but somehow, he knew that would never happen. “Everything the team recorded as they ran their surveillance on the building, hoping to get information on the kidnapping scheme, was sent by direct feed to Headquarters. When you get into the system, you’ll be able to download both the audio and visual recordings. Maybe you’ll see something we missed. It should also let you get a look at what was done to knock out the cameras. Maybe if we understand how they did it, we’ll learn more about them.”

Gibbs had been stunned when Tobias had offered up his computer. They hadn’t talked about this in advance, and although he knew Fornell had agreed to work with NCIS, he hadn’t expected this kind of cooperation. ‘Hell,’ he thought, ‘I wouldn’t have even asked for it.’ Apparently he wasn’t the only one who recognized what an act of faith it had been, because Abby had rushed over to the FBI agent, and was in the process of wrapping him in a tight hug. Fornell was clearing his throat, incredibly uncomfortable with such intimate physical contact, and his eyes were beseechingly seeking out Gibbs.

“That’s enough, Abs,” Gibbs said, choking on his laughter, which caused everyone else in the room to laugh over Fornell’s discomfort. “I don’t think they’re very big on hugs over at the Bureau.” Abby reluctantly let Fornell go, but the moment had served to bring some much needed levity to the situation, and everyone was feeling just a little bit better. Gibbs couldn’t help taking a brief moment to think about how proud he was of his people, each one so different, and yet together, as tight a team as anyone could ever hope for. “We need to get over to Ducky’s and talk to Kreiger,” he said, “see what she can tell us. McGee, you stay here and work with Abs. Let us know if you find anything useful, and we’ll keep you informed on what we learn from the girl.”

“Jethro,” Jenny said, speaking for the first time since she’d arrived. “Everyone must be exhausted, including Ziva. I want to send Frank Balboa’s team to Reston to take over protection duty this afternoon. You all are going to need to rest, or you’ll be too tired to get these people, and even though Ziva will probably not be willing to leave Agent Kreiger alone, she too is going to have to get some sleep. I’ll talk to Balboa, make it clear that this is a top secret operation. I’ll keep it off the books so there won’t be any way anyone else can get wind of it, I can assure you,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Gibbs acknowledged. He might not like having to involve another team, but he knew that Jenny was right. They were going to have to get some sleep, and sooner rather than later. Most of them had been going straight for over 24 hours, and although this wasn’t the first time that had happened, and wouldn’t be the last, he knew they weren’t in top form, and exhaustion led to mistakes, which was something they couldn’t afford to have happen. “Have them there by noon. Make sure they know to be inconspicuous,” he added. Then goodbyes and last minute instructions were given, and before Tony knew it, he, Gibbs and Fornell were once again back in his car, this time headed for Ducky’s home in Reston, VA.

While all of that had been happening, things were beginning to stir at Ducky’s house as well. Courtney had woken up about an hour ago, driven from sleep by a nightmare. She’d been put to bed the night before in a second floor guest room. Ziva and Dr. Hampton had helped her undress and then slipped her into one of Ducky's mother's sleeveless cotton nightgowns, so nothing was rubbing against the bandages on her shoulder. Ducky had insisted that she take a couple of analgesics and antibiotics, and she was already getting sleepy as she donned the unfamiliar garment. He’d also given her a glass of vanilla flavored kefir, since food wasn’t something she’d been able to tolerate at that moment, but he wanted her stomach coated so she wouldn't have a reaction to the antibiotics. And there she had lain, blissfully unaware of any of the activities around her, until her dreams had shattered the drug induced sleep. Upon waking she shot up from the pillow, momentarily disoriented. Pain radiated from her shoulder, as the analgesics had worn off during the night, clearing the nightmare from her head, and memories of the day before washed over her, so vivid it was as if she was reliving them.

She thought of Brent and Vic, covered in blood and barely alive when she returned to the office. The next image that flashed into her mind was of Assistant Director Glenn grabbing her by the arm and literally shoving her down on the floor of the SUV when the gunshots had erupted from the Hummer in front of them. She heard glass breaking, then Bill Flowers, their driver, an agent she knew only vaguely, cry out as he was hit repeatedly by the bullets from the AK-47s that were being aimed at them. She felt Glenn's body fall on top of her, and heard him grunt in pain as he, too, was hit repeatedly. Courtney could barely remember the sounds of the sirens that heralded the arrival of the DC Metro cops who were first on scene. She had slowly become aware of the lack of gunfire, and then there had been cops yelling outside the vehicle, asking if anyone was hit. One look into the SUV, and calls had gone out for EMTs and ambulances, and she heard someone recognize the plates as government, then someone else saying they were running the plates, then everything became too much, and she must have passed out from the shock.

Courtney remembered with a shudder what had happened when she returned to consciousness. She’d looked down and realized she was covered in blood. Literally, covered in blood. She knew some of it came from her efforts to offer aid to Brent and Vic, but the blood now covering her face and the rest of her clothes had to have come from Assistant Director Glenn, and she had known that amount of blood was not a good sign. She’d found herself lying on a gurney, and a female EMT was frantically checking her for injuries. When Courtney somehow found her voice she’d tried to tell the woman that she wasn't injured, it wasn't her blood. As soon as the EMT realized that Courtney was conscious, and heard Courtney's assurances that she wasn't injured, she told her she was probably in shock and to stay put, she was going to help the other EMTs working on the men from the SUV. Courtney nodded and laid her head back on the gurney, trying to take stock of everything that happened today.

She had realized she had to phone her boss, and let Morgan know that more FBI agents were injured and possibly dead. Fumbling in her pocket she’d been relieved to find her cell phone still intact, and pressed speed dial 1 to contact Morgan. As soon as she heard his voice, she started talking, telling him about the Hummer, and that Glenn was probably seriously injured, or maybe dead for all she knew and that Flowers was most probably already dead. Her voice started going up the further into her report she got, and she could hear Morgan yelling at her to calm the hell down and give him a location so he could get agents on the way to assist her. She told him the local LEOs and paramedics were on-scene, and everyone was being treated, but she didn't know where they were, and at that point, a police officer approached her to take a statement. She handed him her phone, saying in a barely audible voice, "Please tell my boss where we are... I don't know where we are.... can you please..." The officer had taken pity on her, and after reaching into the ambulance and grabbing a latex glove, he’d taken the bloody phone out of her hand with a gloved hand. The officer heard someone yelling "Kreiger, Kreiger, are you still there?? Where the hell are you???" The officer identified himself, and spoke to Morgan, who identified himself a Supervisory Special Agent Morgan, of the FBI. After giving Morgan the location of the ambush, and a quick assessment on the conditions of the three occupants of the SUV, he’d assured the FBI agent that they would guard all of the occupants until the FBI arrived.

As soon as the call terminated, the officer had returned Courtney's phone to her, and then stepped away, but Courtney had been able to hear him place his own call to Metro’s HQ to talk to his boss. He told him that a FBI SUV had been attacked, ambushed for lack of a better description, and that an Assistant Director and two agents were injured. He also told him about his conversation with Morgan, and that the FBI was claiming jurisdiction, and he was going to need back-up from somebody much higher up the food chain if they had a hope in hell of finding out who was waging war on the streets of DC, and taking out feds with no hesitation.

Courtney was spared from having to relive any more of the previous events for the moment, when Ziva came gliding into the room to check on her. Ziva had stood guard during the night, roaming the house, constantly checking the front and back areas of the house to ensure the safety of its residents. She was still tired from the events of the past week, but at least she had gotten a good solid six hours of sleep before this whole nightmare began, not that it had made up for an entire week of lost sleep, but it gone a long way towards allowing her to function normally again. Also having Courtney's situation to focus on had taken her attention away from her lingering embarrassment over her lapses in judgment during the prior case, and lessened her anger and disappointment with herself for her inability to get past the events that had occurred. Courtney's safety was now her responsibility, and Ziva was excellent at discharging her responsibilities on protection details. “I am glad to see you are awake,” Ziva said to her friend, when she saw Courtney sitting up in the bed, although she was privately disturbed by the sweat on Courtney’s face, and the slightly wild look in her eyes. “Are you in pain?” she asked.

“No, no, I’m okay,” Courtney assured her. “I was just thinking about everything that happened yesterday.”

“Well, no need to think about that right now. Gibbs, Tony and Fornell are on their way here, so there will be lots of time to go over that later. We need to get you showered and into some clean clothes. I asked them to stop and pick up some things for you to wear, but until they can bring them, I have found something for you to put on for the moment,” Ziva told her, not yet sharing with the woman just what it was Ziva had procured for her. She helped Courtney out of bed, and produced a plastic bag and some white adhesive tape that would do no further damage to her skin. She proceeded to cover the bandage on her shoulder with the plastic and affixed it with the tape. She then had Courtney walk to the bathroom, following closely behind her. Once she was sure that Courtney was stable enough to tend to her own personal hygiene, Ziva left the room to get the promised articles of clothing.

Ziva, Ducky, Dr. Hampton, Ducky’s mother, and her nurse had all been having a quick breakfast when Gibbs had phoned to say he was on his way. Discussion had immediately moved to the need to get Courtney up, bathed and fed, which had led them to the unpleasant realization that Courtney had no clean clothes to put on. Ziva had a bag of fresh clothing that she always kept in her car for emergencies, and Dr. Hampton had the clothes she’d brought with her for the weekend, but, although the two women were able to provide undergarments that would work, neither had outer clothing that would fit the FBI agent. Mrs. Mallard was the closest to Courtney’s size. In a stunning display of patience, Ducky had been able to get his mother to understand that they had an unexpected female guest who had arrived without the appropriate changes of clothing, and Mrs. Mallard had immediately offered to take Ziva up to her room to find something for the young woman to wear. Ziva had a bad feeling about this, and had quickly placed a call to Gibbs, explaining that they would need to stop and get Courtney some clothes to wear, and had suggested that Tony would probably be able to help with this, since she was rather afraid of what Gibbs and Fornell would come up with if left to their own devices. But in the end, she had allowed herself to be persuaded to follow Mrs. Mallard to her room, to find something for Courtney to wear while they waited. Jordan, who by now had a better sense of Ziva, had volunteered to accompany them, not at all sure that Ziva possessed the amount of constraint the ensuing situation might require.

When they’d gotten to Mrs. Mallard’s suite and Ziva had gotten her first look at the room sized closet, she had been immensely relieved that she’d asked Gibbs to pick up something for Courtney to wear. There was hanger after hanger of dresses of all kinds – floral, paisley, lace, every pastel color known to man, even sequins – floor length, short, and tea length. When Ziva had inquired as to where her pants were, Mrs. Mallard had looked at her askance, and informed her that proper ladies didn’t wear trousers, and looked pointedly at both Ziva and Jordan, who were clad in pants. Then, as Ziva was still choking down a reply, Mrs. Mallard began to pull things out of the closet to consider. Her first choice was a green beaded evening dress, circa 1958, which, after studying, she dismissed as too dressy for the morning. Next came a lavender and pink floral dress, that would have made the Queen Mother proud, and Jordan had jumped in before Ziva could respond, telling the older woman that it wasn’t right for Courtney’s coloring. Finally, after several dresses had been considered and discarded, they settled on what Ziva decided was the least offensive of the available choices, a cream colored lawn dress made of a soft cotton voile, that would have only been appropriate on a debutante at an afternoon tea party.

So, armed with the delicate dress and the more practical bra and panties she and Jordan had provided, Ziva re-entered Courtney’s bedroom to wait for her to emerge from the bathroom. Courtney had not been pleased with what she’d been presented with, but as she had no other choice, she’d slipped the garments on, accessorizing the outfit with the white running shoes she’d gotten the day before. Jordan appeared with a breakfast tray, laden with food and more medications and had managed not to laugh out loud when she’d seen the disgruntled FBI agent. Ziva and Jordan had left Courtney alone then, after she’d promised to eat the food and take the pills, knowing she could probably use some time alone to compose herself, and had gone downstairs to wait for Gibbs’ arrival.

When the men did arrive, about forty five minutes later, Tony had handed Ziva a large shopping bag. “Here you go,” he said. “Do we need to wait while she gets dressed?”

Ziva had snorted with laughter at the question, and said, “No, I do not think so. She is dressed for now. These will be useful later.” She gave no further information, even though Tony was looking at her quizzically.

Jordan excused herself at that point, volunteering to go get Courtney, and promising to round up some food for the new arrivals while they talked, since she had accurately guessed that it had been a long time since they had last eaten. Ducky led them into the dining room, a formal affair, tastefully decorated in yellows and Delft blues and anchored by a glorious walnut dining set, saying this would allow them to all sit around a table while they talked. Gibbs was bringing Ducky up to speed on what was going on, when Courtney entered the room, and all four men turned to look at her in stunned disbelief. Courtney stood in the doorway, swathed from neck to ankle in sheer, floating layers of fragile cotton, little bits of finely woven lace peaking out from under the bell sleeves and around the neckline, discreetly masking any décolletage, shifting uncomfortably from one tennis shoe clad foot to the other. Ziva, who had already seen the spectacle, merely shook her head. Tony was the first one to find his voice, “Um, Daisy Gatsby, I presume?” he said, his voice shaking with laughter, which made everyone else in the room break down.

Courtney managed to walk stiffly over to the table and sit down, with an admirable display of dignity, refusing to acknowledge the others’ laughter, although her cheeks burned red in embarrassment. The jovial atmosphere didn’t last long however, as Gibbs resumed updating Ducky, Ziva and Courtney on Director Glenn’s death and Vic Merit's and Brent Langer’s conditions. Courtney was wiping away the tears she hadn’t been able to stop when Fornell asked her in a surprisingly gentle voice to tell them in complete detail what had happened the day before.

Courtney had begun then, recounting everything she had remembered so clearly when she’d first awoken that morning, and continuing by telling them all about the attack on the safe house, and her subsequent escape. Gibbs, Tony and Fornell stopped her periodically asking for clarification on a point, and Jordan interrupted once to bring in pots of coffee and orange juice, a tray of bagels, cream cheese and butter, scones, fresh fruit, and plates, silverware, glasses and cups and saucers. Everyone took a short break while food and drinks were distributed, and then the interview was resumed, each point recounted again, and carefully considered by all. They had just about finished when Fornell’s cell phone rang.

“Yeah,” he said into it as he answered. “When?” They could all hear him say. Fornell was quiet then, as he listened intently to the other person on the line. “That’s all he could remember?” he asked. When that question had been answered, he said, “I’ll pass that on. I should be there shortly to relieve you, at which point you will go home and get some rest.” Then he closed his phone without waiting for a response.

Looking up at the others in the room he said, “Merit’s awake and Morgan just got to talk to him. Seems there was a knock on the door of the surveillance room, and someone had called out, ‘Exterminators.’ When he opened it, intending to send them away, he’d been shoved backwards, with a sharp clip to his sternum and was momentarily stunned. Brent had drawn his weapon and aimed towards the men pouring into the room, but before he could get off a shot, one of men, using a handgun equipped with a silencer, shot him. By that time Merit had his own gun out, but before he could shoot, someone else had managed to shoot him. He took a bullet to his left shoulder, since he had been struggling to his feet when the shot hit. The thug had been aiming for his heart, but his attempt to rise had saved his life. The last thing he remembers is falling back down to the ground. He didn’t get a good look at them, because they were dressed in coveralls and had some kind of masks on their faces, presumably to protect them from the fumes of the chemicals. He did remember they had gloves on their hands, and some kind of booties on their feet, which explains why we couldn’t get any good trace evidence or fingerprints. Oh, and he said there were three of them.”

When Courtney heard this she gasped. “I bumped into one of those guys when I was leaving to get food and coffee for the team. In the lobby. I was digging in my purse and didn’t see him. I made a big deal of apologizing to him after I hit him,” she said, stunned that she had been that close to one of the men who had attacked her teammates.

“Can you describe him, Courtney?” Ziva asked, excitement creeping into her voice.

“Oh yeah,” Courtney answered. “I looked him right in the eye. He wasn’t wearing a mask at that point. I noticed the other two men as well, although I didn’t really pay that much attention to them, because I was so embarrassed about plowing into the other guy,” she apologized.

“Now we know why they want to get their hands on her,” Gibbs said to Fornell. “Ducky, can Ziva and Courtney use your computer? If they get on the phone with Abby, and Courtney describes this guy, Abby should be able to work up a composite picture with Courtney’s help, but they’ll need to be able to see what Abby is creating on her computer, to offer suggestions and corrections.”

“Not a problem Jethro,” Ducky said. “What do you intend to do now?” he asked, since Gibbs, Fornell, and Tony were on their feet.

“Frank Balboa and his team should be here any minute to take over protection detail. Ziva will stay here to supervise, but I want her to get some sleep, too. We’re going back to D.C., Fornell will need to see Merit himself, and Morgan needs to be relieved and read into what we’re doing. It will probably take Abby and McGee some time to get anything new for us to work on, so, before you even say it, DiNozzo and I will stand down for a while and get some rest,” Gibbs told him.

“I’m glad to see you being so reasonable, Jethro,” Ducky nodded in approval.

“Not reasonable, Ducks, just realistic. If we don’t get some sleep when we can, we aren’t going to be of much use when things start to break,” Gibbs answered.

“Well, whatever the reason, I approve of the plan,” Ducky said. “Don’t worry about us here, between Ziva’s watchful eyes, and Balboa’s able assistance, we shall be just fine.”

“That’s what I’m counting on,” Gibbs said, as he turned to leave.

“A Friend in Need” – Chapter Six

Tony found the drive back to the hospital considerably less tense than the drive to Ducky’s. Finally they had something new to go on, something no one else knew. Even though they were aware it would take time for Abby and Courtney to come up with an image, and even longer for Abby to run it through all of their databases, hope was slowly replacing the fear and helplessness they had all been feeling. They spent most of the ride talking about the brazenness of the killers, and they were all disturbed by the level of subtlety that the abductions revealed, and the complete lack of evidence left at the various crime scenes. These were not your average criminals, they were incredibly sophisticated and well organized, and even if they weren’t being aided by inside information, there was no denying their understanding of forensic investigations. Tony proposed that one, if not more of them, had a background in either the military, or some sort of law enforcement, and Fornell and Gibbs had both agreed with him.

When they got to the hospital, Tony was surprised to find Morgan sitting alone in the oppressive waiting room, with no other FBI agents to keep him company. Apparently Fornell was as well, since the first question he asked Morgan was, “Where is everyone else?”

“Estes and Wilson got called back in, and I sent Templeton home to get some sleep. She wasn’t doing me, or anyone else, any good being here,” he said, still angry at her behavior earlier, but unwilling to discuss it in front of two NCIS agents, even if they were friends of Fornell’s.

“That’s good,” Fornell said. “This gives us some time alone to talk. Some things have come up that you need to be aware of, and I didn’t get a chance to fully brief you earlier.” Fornell proceeded to bring Morgan up to speed on everything that had been discussed during Courtney’s debriefing.

Morgan listened to it all, horrified by what Courtney had gone through, but inordinately proud of the bravery she’d shown. He couldn’t help thinking that Kreiger and Templeton were night and day. Courtney was always sweet, eager to please, and hesitant to put her self out there, and yet, when push came to shove, she could be as tough as any seasoned veteran. Templeton, on the other hand, sought out and reveled in the limelight, which she never graciously shared with others, but when hard, thankless work was required, Templeton always seemed to hold back. “You’re sure Kreiger’s going to be okay?” he asked.

“She’s going to be fine,” Fornell assured him. “Dr. Mallard may be an M.E. now, but he spent years as a military doctor in England.” Then, changing the subject, he said, “So, now you know what’s going on. We can’t tell anyone that Kreiger’s safe, or that she is able to identify at least one of the gunmen. NCIS is going to work on that angle. We’re going to keep going on the kidnappings. They still have Melissa Carter, and it’s got to be getting close to time for them to make the deal with her CEO. We need to re-establish surveillance, somewhere else, and try to make sure no one gets wind of it. Who do you think we can trust?”

“I’m not really comfortable trusting anyone right now,” Morgan grumbled, “but I think Templeton’s probably a safe bet. I’d also be willing to bet Wilson and Estes are okay. If there’s a mole, it’s more likely to be someone higher up on the food chain, since they have more access to all on-going investigations.”

That made sense to all the men in the room. “We’re going to need a go-between, so that you and Gibbs can swap information without anyone else picking up on it,” Fornell said. Then, knowing what he was about to suggest was likely to inflame Gibbs, he added, “Templeton’s probably our best choice.”

“Absolutely not!” Gibbs roared. “I don’t ever want to see that woman again,” he hissed, as he felt Tony go rigid beside him. “Her behavior this morning was unforgivable, and if it had happened in any other situation I’d have demanded she be formally reprimanded.”

Fornell sighed. He knew Gibbs would react that way, and he wished they had another option, but he honestly couldn’t see one. “You’re right,” he told Gibbs, “and I will personally address that, but what other choice do we have, Jethro? Templeton knows all the players, so we don’t have to waste any time bringing her up to speed. Plus, she’s already on Morgan’s team, so no one’s going to question him sending her out on unexplained errands. Even if we do conscript Estes and Wilson, they have their own team leader to answer to, so we can’t guarantee that something wouldn’t get said to the wrong person without our knowing it,” he reasoned.

Gibbs was shaking his head furiously, and was just about to object again, when Tony piped up. “He’s right Boss. She may be a bitch, but I’m a big boy. Sticks and stones, you know,” he added with a grin that even Gibbs wasn’t able to see behind.

No one bothered to defend Templeton’s honor when Tony called her a bitch, since there wasn’t any denying that he was right, and they all seemed to hold their collective breaths, waiting to see what Gibbs would say. He remained quiet for over a minute, clearly waging some private battle with himself. Finally, he took a deep breath, and said, “Alright, we’ll try it. But if she says…”

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Morgan said, stopping Gibbs before he could go further. “She’s on my team, and I will make it clear to her that she embarrassed me earlier, and that I won’t tolerate any further incidents.”

By now Tony was embarrassed. “Just let it go,” he said to Gibbs. “She only made herself look bad,” he pointed out. He was uncomfortable with other people feeling like they needed to defend him, especially Gibbs. He never wanted to appear weak or needy.

“Can’t do that,” Fornell said to him. “She crossed a line this morning, and needs to have that pointed out. She’s come close before, but never took that last step.” Having correctly guessed the source of Tony’s discomfort, and artfully turning the thrust of the discussion onto Templeton’s need for correction, rather than Tony’s need for defense, Fornell proved he wasn’t the leading supervisory agent at the FBI for no reason.

Gibbs shot Fornell a grateful look, when he was sure no one else was looking, and then nodded his head, “It’s settled then.”

From there they moved to a more general discussion of the case, but when Morgan began to yawn discreetly, Fornell announced it was time for him to leave. Gibbs and Tony agreed to take Morgan home, so he could get some sleep while Fornell stayed behind at the hospital.

When Gibbs and DiNozzo left to take Morgan home, Fornell prepared to spend a long day waiting in Bethesda's ICU visitor’s lounge. As he sat alone he couldn’t help thinking about all his agents had to endure yesterday. He knew how hard Morgan had been hit by the attacks. Two of his men had been seriously wounded and his rookie had been forced to run for her life. No good team leader wants their rookie exposed to danger, ever, and they do everything in their power to protect and nurture the ones with true potential. Kreiger was one of those. After a rocky start, she had proven a fast study, and apparently Officer David had been giving her some pointers. Now that he had been made aware of their friendship it explained the rapid improvement in her fighting skills and was a testament to her determination to succeed as an agent. The girl was a sponge, and absorbed any new information she was taught. Her ratings were excellent, and her appraisals were glowing. She would go far in the Bureau, if they could keep her alive long enough to get through this current clusterfuck.

The day passed slowly for him. During the time Fornell had been there, operating on no sleep, but massive infusions of coffee, he had been visited by the Director of the FBI, who wanted an update on the condition of the two injured agents. The Director stayed long enough to spend a few minutes with Merit, then demanded an update from Fornell on the investigation. Fornell knew he couldn’t keep his arrangement with NCIS a secret from the Director, so he took him to the Doctors' Lounge, and after plying him with very good coffee, brought him up to speed on exactly what was happening. He didn't go into detail, but he did make sure the Director was aware that Fornell suspected a leak at the Bureau, and that NCIS was involved. He assured the Director that the Bureau would take all the credit when the case was solved.

The Director was not pleased that another agency was investigating an attack on the FBI, but Fornell’s concerns about a leak truly worried him. Fornell was rarely wrong, and if what he suspected was indeed true, then the Director had to reluctantly agree that the plan with NCIS was a good solution - as long as it stayed under the public radar. Fornell assured him that Director Shepard was fine with the FBI taking all the credit, and preferred NCIS not be publicly acknowledged as being involved in the investigation, as it would free up her people to work in peace. The Director considered being insulted, and then, being the politician he was, and knowing how Jenny operated, asked what their assistance was going to cost. Fornell told him truthfully he didn't know, but that issue would have to be addressed at a later time. The Director agreed, insisting that all details of the investigation were to be run through Fornell, and kept confidential until the case was solved, since they didn't know who might be the leak. Then, after ordering Fornell not to talk about his suspicions, or NCIS’ involvement with anyone else in the Bureau - no matter who - he left.

There were other visitors throughout the day. Agents who stopped in for an update and a chance to show solidarity, a few reporters who managed to sneak by security, although Fornell wasn’t sure how that could have happened, and finally, Assistant Director Christopher Webb. Webb demanded an update, but Fornell remembered what he’d promised the Director, and only gave the man a vague overview of everything that was happening on the forensics front, and the on-going search for clues regarding the three attacks. When Webb left in a huff after he realized he was being kept out of the loop, Fornell sat and prayed fervently no other visitor was going to require any kind of political finesse, since he was obviously too tired to be any good at it. That thought reminded him of Gibbs, a man who refused to ever kowtow to politics. ‘I hope he’s getting some sleep,’ Fornell thought. ‘One of us is going to need to be on their game, and it doesn’t look like its going to be me.’

That was certainly Gibbs’ game plan when he left the hospital late Saturday morning. After dropping Morgan off, Tony and Gibbs had headed back to Gibbs’ house, both in need of a shower and some long overdue rest. They rode in silence back to Gibbs’ place, both too tired to bother making small talk, and were relieved when Tony finally pulled the car into the drive.

Walking into the house, Gibbs turned to Tony and said, “Go ahead and take the first shower, while I put a pot of coffee on.” Tony readily agreed.

By the time Gibbs had the coffee maker dripping merrily, he could hear the shower going in the master bedroom. Climbing wearily up the stairs, he dragged his tired body into the bedroom, undressed, and sank down onto the bed to wait for Tony to finish.

Tony had been in a hurry to get into the shower and let the water pound down on his tired and cramped muscles. It had been over a day since he’d last slept, and his body was screaming at him in outrage. Despite his assertions to the contrary, Templeton’s words had bothered him a great deal. They’d reminded him of what had happened seven years ago, in that basement in Maryland, when he and Abby had been abducted. Even though the case had ended successfully, and he’d found a new friend in Abby and a new boss and lover in Gibbs, he still had the occasional nightmare about Jeffers. What the man had done to his body while he’d held him captive still haunted him, and Liz’s words had brought all of that back. He found himself scrubbing and scrubbing, trying to once again remove the imaginary traces of Jeffers’ hands from his skin.

Gibbs had dozed off while he sat on the bed, and it was his own light snores that woke him up. Looking around, he saw that Tony wasn’t in the room, and then he realized that the shower was still going. Glancing over at the alarm clock, he saw that Tony had been in the shower for almost twenty minutes. Standing up, he walked into the bathroom, and peered through the glass door of the shower. Tony was standing still, his arms stretched out and braced against the wall, eyes closed, with his head bent down, allowing the water from the shower head to rain down on him. “Hey Tony?” Gibbs said. When he got no answer, nor any sign that Tony had even heard him, he sighed. Either Tony was so tired he’d just zoned out, or the bravado he’d shown earlier over Templeton’s remarks had been just that, bravado. If he had to hazard a guess, he’d go with the second option.

Quietly sliding the door open, he climbed into the shower behind Tony. The water that splashed onto him was only lukewarm now, Tony had been in the shower long enough to use up most of the hot water reserve. “Tony,” he tried again, before he reached out and ran his hand down his lover’s back.

Tony jerked up, and Gibbs wasn’t sure if it was because of his words or his touch. Tony turned to face him, and Gibbs saw him form a smile, although it was a half hearted effort at best. He was pretty sure Tony wasn’t even aware he’d done it. “Hey,” he said in surprise. “Did you miss me?”

“Thought I better get in here while there was still some hot water left,” Gibbs answered him, and watched as Tony looked confused when he realized that the water was no longer steamy hot.

“Must have lost track of time,” he told Gibbs vaguely, as he silently wondered just how long he’d been in the shower.

“Thought so,” Gibbs answered, and sought out Tony’s eyes, forcing him to look at him directly. When he was sure he had Tony’s attention, he asked, “Something bothering you, Tony?”

“No, why would there be?” Tony answered, letting his eyes slide away from Gibbs’.

Gibbs didn’t answer immediately. He’d seen Tony like this before, although not often. Jeffers had made Tony feel dirty, made him distrust his own body, and Templeton’s remarks had clearly rekindled those feelings.

"You've never been able to lie to me, Tony. Why do you even try?" Gibbs asked fondly.

Suddenly Tony felt defensive, even though he knew Gibbs wasn't attacking him, and his posture reflected this, as his shoulders hunched, and his head dipped. He muttered his response to the floor of the tub, "I'm not lying, I'm just tired and I must have zoned out for a bit. After I get some sleep, I'll be fine."

Gibbs didn't believe a word of that explanation, but he let it go for now. Knowing Tony wasn't ready to talk yet, he picked up the bar of soap from the tray, rubbed it until his hands were covered in lather. He spun Tony around until his back was facing him again, and began to run his slickened hands up and down Tony’s back. Then, with the bar of soap still in his right hand, he moved closer so he could wrap his arms around Tony, until his hands were sliding up and down Tony’s chest. When he felt Tony gradually start to relax against his body, he slowed his hand movements down, letting them become more sensual, as his hands snaked up and down from slowly distending nipples to increasingly interested cock. The lather from Tony’s back rubbed off onto Gibbs’ chest as Tony’s body began to match the rhythm of Gibbs’ hands, and when he turned his head to the side, Gibbs leaned forward and caught his lips in a kiss. When Tony shuddered, Gibbs let his lips slide off Tony’s mouth, and began to slowly trail down the side of his face, until his mouth fastened on the juncture between Tony’s neck and jaw, where he began to gently nibble.

Letting the bar of soap drop to the floor of the tub, Gibbs wrapped his arms even tighter around Tony, until they were pressed so closely together that neither man could truly move their bodies. Then, tilting his head a little more to the side, Gibbs began to bite his way down Tony’s neck, occasionally stopping to suck and press kisses on the spots his teeth had just nipped. When he felt Tony’s hands reach up, and press into Gibbs’ arms, trying to bring them even closer together, Gibbs slowly began to undulate his hips, allowing his cock to rub against the crack of Tony’s ass. As Tony began to softly moan, Gibbs pulled away from him, just long enough to gently turn him around, so that they were facing each other again, then he reached back out and pulled Tony back into his body, allowing their cocks to rub together. Sliding his hand up, he worked his hand into Tony’s wet hair and held his head steady. He took a moment just to gaze at Tony who was looking at him heatedly, his expression both soft and needy at the same time, his face flushed and his lips swollen. Then unable to resist, he pulled Tony’s head to him, once again capturing his mouth in a deep kiss, slowly working his tongue in as he savored the tastes and textures he found there. As they kissed he began to grind his own erection against Tony’s. When their mouths parted, Tony wrapped his arms around Gibbs’ middle, then lowered his head, until he’d captured one of Gibbs’ nipples with his mouth and nuzzled at it. When he felt Tony reach down to stroke his erection, and then begin to sink lower, Gibbs knew what he intended to do, and he reached down and pulled him back up.

“Not this time,” he murmured, as he kissed Tony again. “This time we come together, just like this,” he said when their lips had separated briefly for air. Sliding a hand down between them, Gibbs took both of their hard shafts in one hand, and pressed swollen flesh against swollen flesh. Using the water and the leaking pre-cum to lubricate his hand, he increased the pressure and began to stroke up and down, increasing the friction as he pumped, and at the same time, he sucked on Tony’s lower lip. When Tony began to make the soft, repetitive mewling sounds that always signaled his approaching release, Gibbs pulled back his head one last time and wrapped his free hand under Tony’s jaw, capturing his chin. When Tony looked at him, his pupils blown with lust and his eyes mere slits, Gibbs said, “You’re beautiful like this. I want to watch you come undone.” That was all it took. As Tony closed his eyes, he began to pulse out his release, his cream coating Gibbs’ hand. Gibbs’ body shuddered out its own climax in response.

When Tony was through, and the water had washed them clean, Gibbs backed him up against the wall of the shower, while encircling his body with his arms, to lend him support. As they stood there together, the heat radiating from their bodies warmer than the water that rained down on them, Gibbs kissed him again, this time slowly and gently. Reaching over with one hand, Gibbs turned off the water. “Lets go to bed,” he said quietly, and he pulled back and slid open the shower door. Tony had still not spoken, but the tension Gibbs had seen when he’d first climbed into the shower was gone, and the expression on his face made it clear his silence was now a result of being completely satiated. Gibbs gently pulled him out of the shower and grabbed a towel. He ran it over Tony's sensitized body, using it to absorb most of the moisture, then grabbed another to use on his own body, before steering Tony towards the bedroom. They fell into bed together, and Gibbs reached over and encased Tony in his arms. They lay there silently, Tony’s head resting on Gibbs’ chest, allowing their hearts to slow, and finally, Tony started talking, his voice soft and tired.

"That crack about the collar threw me. I shouldn't have let her get to me, but I wasn't expecting to be attacked like that, especially when I barely know her. I don't care if she doesn't like me, but what the hell could I have done to her to set her off like that? Jesus, I spent one day working with her, seven years ago, and even then, it was what, a couple of hours? It almost seems like she has a grudge, but for what? I don't know her, she doesn't know me, it's not like I stole her job. She was leaving before I ever got there. What the hell is her problem?"

"Liz managed to push your buttons, and you're giving her more power than she deserves. I don't know what her problem is, but if she's going to be working with us, you have to get over this, whatever it is, now. You let her see a weakness, she's going to keep jabbing you with a stick, and the stick with the sharpest point is the Jeffers case. You beat him, Tony, all alone, with no weapons, and with Abby to protect. You still managed to come through it alive, and keep Abby safe. You did that, and no one can take that away from you. Allowing her to use anything that happened back then against you, allowing her to throw you off balance, that's not going to happen again, you got me? You're my senior agent, Tony. You represent me, and you will not let her have power over you! Is that clear?"

"Yeah, it's clear. I'll be ready for her next time, so it won't matter what she says, she won't get to me. It just took me by surprise, since there was no reason for it. Who knows? Maybe she just needed somebody to fight with, somebody to get over on. I wasn't functioning all that great after Kate, so maybe this is her way of dealing with her partners being shot, and Courtney being missing. I don't know, that makes as much sense as anything, I guess. She just took me right back there..." Tony said, his voice fading as he drifted toward sleep.

"I know, Tony, I saw it. Nobody else did, but I know you, and I saw it. She's a bitch, she always was, and that hit came out of left field. Let it go, she did herself more damage than she did you. We have to get some sleep. You'll fight better after you get some rest," Gibbs murmured, as sleep worked to claim them. Then, just before Gibbs’ eyes closed for good, he felt Tony press a gentle kiss into his chest, and murmur a quiet, “Thank you.”

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