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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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Chapters Nine and Ten

Chapter Nine

Abby woke up with a start and felt something heavy on her lap. Looking down, she saw McGee, his head nestled comfortably on her thighs, softly snoring. Straightening herself back up into a true sitting position, she pulled her left wrist out from where it had been trapped by McGee’s body, and looked at her watch - 3:12 A.M. the digital readout proclaimed. ‘Damn it!’ she thought. “McGee,” she said, shaking his shoulder. “McGee, wake up! Come on, up and at ‘em!” she nudged.

McGee tried to bury his head further between her legs. “Just ten more minutes, Mom,” he murmured.

“I’m NOT your mother,” Abby swatted at him. “Come on, wake up!” she said insistently.

“What….what?” McGee said, as he rolled over so he was facing up. Opening his eyes, he saw Abby’s scowling face looming above his own.

“You made us fall asleep, and it’s after 3:00,” she accused.

“How is that my fault?” McGee asked, not fully awake, but also not willing to be blamed for something he hadn’t even had time to process yet.

“You’re the one who fell asleep while we were looking at menus,” she said. “I was just keeping you company!” Her look dared him to disagree.

McGee, who was more awake now, with his sense of self preservation firmly back in place, wisely chose not to comment. Rolling to his side, he sat up, instinctually checking his watch, even though Abby had just told him the time. After giving his eyes a quick rub, he pushed himself to his feet. “Guess dinner’s off,” he commented. “We need to get back to our searches. It’ll be morning soon, and I don’t want to have nothing to report to Gibbs when he calls in to check on us.”

They made their way back over to where, hours before, they’d set up their laptops. When they had stopped to take a break, they had been comparing Morris Nussbaum’s and Melissa Carter’s FBI files, point by point, and had yet to find a common thread. Their lives could not have been more different. “Okay, let’s review,” Abby said, as they waited for the machines to come out of hibernation. “So far, we haven’t been able to find how Carter and Nussbaum are related. For one thing, Nussbaum is an Israeli citizen.”

“Yep,” McGee agreed, “and Carter’s been happily married for twenty five years, and Nussbaum is unmarried, although he’s been in a relationship with the same woman for five years now – an analyst for the Pentagon.”

“Okay,” Abby agreed. “They don’t go to the same church, since Carter’s Lutheran and Nussbaum is Jewish. So no one scouted them out there.”

“I doubt if they’ve even attended the same conferences, since the companies they work for don’t produce any of the same kinds of things.”

“ARRGGGGGHHHH!” Abby growled. “So how did the kidnappers pick them out?”

“I wish I could answer that,” McGee said fervently. “Why did the FBI have a file on Nussbaum anyway?” he asked, since Abby was the one going through Nussbaum’s files.

“Same as Carter – they were actually running a background on his girlfriend, since she just got promoted. Her area of expertise is the Middle East, and her assigned duties involve helping in the design of the strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, and the ongoing search for Bin Laden. They had all that background on Nussbaum because he lives with her,” Abby answered.

McGee was quiet for a few seconds. Something she had just said had clicked for him. He found himself thinking about the information contained in the files. All those glowing letters of recommendation.... was it possible that each of the kidnap victims was peripherally investigated because of someone else? For instance, Melissa Carter wasn’t a criminal, and neither was her husband. They were both law-abiding, productive citizens, but here were detailed files on them. These files could be accessed for legitimate purposes, i.e., Col. Carter's promotion and increased responsibility in the military, but they could also be accessed for nefarious purposes, i.e., identifying potential kidnap victims. McGee's gut began screaming at him as he realized he’d just had a 'Eureka' moment! Of course, that made him stop and think, ‘I must have been working for Gibbs too long if my gut is now talking to me.... oh boy, what's next? Mainlining coffee, growling at everybody, and slapping them upside the head when I get frustrated? Geez!’

“Hey, earth to McGee,” Abby said, clapping her hands in front of his face and snapping him out of his musings. “Did you hear me? I asked you what you were thinking about.”

McGee hesitantly started to tell her about his idea of how the targets were identified. It was a pretty big leap, and since he hadn’t been able to confirm it yet, he was a little uncomfortable with sharing an untested theory. Abby, on the other hand, became immediately enamored with the idea.

“That’s brilliant, Timmy!” she exclaimed. “That makes so much sense. No one would even know that someone was snooping on them, since they’d be …..” her voice tapered off, as she turned to stare at McGee.

“What?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”’

“Let’s say you’re right. So, who do you think would have access to those files?” she asked quietly, not liking the answer she’d come up with on her own.

McGee nodded, having already worked it out for himself. “Yeah, that’s right,” he said. “Only someone with access codes for the FBI’s computer files, or one hell of a good hacker. But the problem with it being a hacker is, they’d have to know the files existed, which still means an insider.”

“Sometimes I just hate Gibbs' gut!” Abby exclaimed out of the blue.

“What are you talking about, Abs?” McGee asked, totally confused.

“How does he do that?” she demanded, still not bothering to explain herself.

“Do what?” McGee asked, squinting at her.

“Know things before we can prove it. He was sure yesterday there was a leak!” she grumbled.

McGee didn’t bother trying to answer, because he didn’t really have an answer, and wasn’t sure if anyone did. It was just one of those things you came to expect from Gibbs. After it happened to you a few dozen times, you stopped trying to understand it, and just accepted it. “So now we just need to prove it, and we need to figure out if there have been any other victims. I guess we should start by looking at the background checks they’ve run in the last year, looking for people who have significant others in powerful positions in big corporations. I think I can probably write a program that’ll help us with that.”

“While you’re doing that, I’ll try and see if I can get the names of everyone who’s accessed Nussbaum’s girlfriend’s and Colonel Carter’s files. Maybe that’ll point us in the right direction,” Abby offered.

They fell silent as they both concentrated on their individual tasks. An hour later Abby sighed deeply, and then turned to McGee. “I’ve got a list, but I’m not sure how practical it’s going to be. There are dozens and dozens of people who’ve been in their files – secretaries, accountants, HR people – you name it, they’ve opened up at least one of these files for some reason. It certainly doesn’t make you feel very secure about how confidential any information the FBI has on us is. How’s your search going?”

“My program’s working pretty well. I have it pulling out anyone who makes over 200,000 a year, and then I'll have to go in and look at each one individually to check their employers. I’m starting to compile quite a list, but we’ve got another problem,” he told her.

“What?” Abby sighed and asked.

“To confirm our suspicions, we need to know if the any of these people were abducted. But how are we going to do that? It’s not like we can call them up, and say, ‘Oh, by the way, you weren’t kidnapped lately were you?’” McGee explained.

“Not to worry, Timmy!” Abby said, smiling broadly. “You’ve got the names of their employers, right?” When he nodded, she went on. “Well, we know from the FBI surveillance that both Nussbaum’s and Carter’s CEOs were told the ransom would be five million dollars, right?” Again McGee nodded, not seeing where she was going with this yet. “So all I have to do is hack into the bank accounts of these corporations and see if any of them made a five million dollar lump sum withdrawal or transfer. If it was a transfer, maybe I can even follow the money trail!” she announced, very pleased with her own brilliance. Neither one of them mentioned just how many laws they would be breaking, as they gave each other a high five over their plan.
“Speaking of banks,” McGee said when something occurred to him. “We need to set up monitors on all of Nabscot’s accounts, too; that way we’ll know when they pay out the ransom demand for Melissa Carter.” Abby agreed, and they were soon sitting, side by side, tapping away at their keyboards.


It was the feel of fingers teasing through his chest hair, and the warm gentle pull on his nipples from Tony’s mouth that woke Gibbs up, and he allowed himself a small, selfish moment to just lie there, enjoying, before he opened his eyes and acknowledged Tony’s efforts. All too quickly, however, his body began to crave more, and he reached out, his own hand running up and down the soft warm skin of Tony’s back. His right nipple was released, as Tony raised his head and looked at Gibbs. “Morning,” Tony said with a smile, his face already flushed with desire.

“Is it?” Gibbs asked, not willing to change his position in order to see the alarm clock on the bedside table.

“Close enough, its 3:15,” Tony said. “We slept a lot longer than we’d planned, but I’m all rested now,” he added, just before he started to use his tongue to trace an invisible line from Gibbs’ nipple down his belly.

Gibbs shivered as Tony’s journey took him further south, then audibly moaned when Tony’s mouth found what it had been seeking. His tongue traced its way around the already leaking helmet of Gibbs’ cock; then, without any more warning, Tony opened his mouth wider and took Gibbs’ entire length into his mouth, not stopping until he felt the tip of Gibbs’ penis hit the back of his throat. Then, because he was Tony, he softly began to hum “Good Morning Sunshine.” The stimulation from the vibrations, and the heat of Tony’s mouth, combined to push Gibbs almost to the edge, even as he choked on his laughter. Sensing Gibbs was close, Tony stopped humming and began to move his head up and down, all the while sucking and running his tongue up and down the sensitive veins. Soon Gibbs was panting from the effort of not coming, and he managed to say between moans, “Not this way….Come up here…. let’s do this together.”

Tony released him, and kissed his way back up Gibbs’ body, stopping only when he reached his mouth, where he pressed his lips to his lover’s mouth, opening to allow Gibbs entrance. When their lips were firmly locked together, Gibbs reached up, encircled Tony’s body, and in one graceful move, flipped them both over so he was now lying on top of the younger man. Gibbs reached over with one arm, fumbling around until his hand found the drawer handle he sought, then dipped his hand in, withdrawing a small tube of lubricant. He managed to achieve all this without ever breaking contact with Tony’s mouth. As Tony began to writhe underneath him, his groin pressing up into Gibbs’, Gibbs worked his legs between Tony’s, indicating his desire for him to spread his legs. When Tony complied, firmly planting his feet on the bed, Gibbs released Tony’s mouth, slowly nipping his way down Tony’s chin onto his neck, where he paused to suck and worry at the join between Tony’s throat and shoulder, one of Tony’s favorite hot spots. Releasing Tony for just a second, he opened the tube, allowing the slick lubricant to coat his hand and fingers, then tossed the tube aside, as he brought his hand down and slid it between their bodies, searching until he found what he was seeking. Once his fingers reached their destination, Gibbs slowly teased one, then two, and finally three into Tony’s silken heat, thrusting them in and out until he was satisfied that Tony was ready, and then, in one slow, even push, he replaced his fingers with his cock, easing in to Tony until he was fully seated. When Tony arched his hips up into Gibbs’, whimpering for more, as he wrapped his legs tightly around Gibbs' waist, he began to move. Placing one hand on Tony's hip for balance, while the other was firmly wrapped around Tony's straining cock, he began pumping in time with his thrusts. It didn’t take either of them long to find their release.

Satiated, they lay panting, resting against one another, until their breathing evened out and their heart rates slowed. After Gibbs gently pulled out of Tony's body, he stretched up and pressed his lips against Tony's forehead, his hands once again roaming Tony's body. His intent was no longer to arouse, but to soothe, and he drew his own pleasure from the simple act of touching his lover. Tony sighed as Gibbs caressed him. He was a tactile person - he needed the sense of touch to connect; the surprise to him had been that Gibbs was as well. It went quite a way to explaining those head slaps of Gibbs', he had long ago realized. Tony savored Gibbs’ touch, and smiled against his chest, then lifted his head, and just looked at Gibbs. Gibbs smiled at him in return, and then glanced over at the clock on the night stand. It was barely 4 A.M., and they were both wide awake.

Tony's stomach growled, and Gibbs' stomach echoed in empathy. They both chuckled, and Gibbs started to gently push off of Tony. "Let's get cleaned up, and then we'll go out for breakfast. I want to stop at the hospital to check on Langer, then we can head into the office and see what Abby and McGee have found.

Tony's smile widened as he rolled onto his back, then continued the motion to reach the edge of the bed and stood up in one fluid motion. "I'll go put on the coffee, you get the shower first this time," he said as he headed toward the bedroom door, on his way to the kitchen. Gibbs stretched and admired Tony's body as he strode from the room. He was grinning to himself as he headed to the bathroom, ready to face what was likely to be a long day for his entire team.


Jillian Marshall had not had a good day yesterday, and as she sat in her car, very early Sunday morning, she didn’t have much higher expectations for today. She and David were on their way to the offices where she and Sylvia worked, having spent a rather tense and silent night together. After the meeting had broken up yesterday, the drive back to Washington had been an unpleasant trip. David had sat, sullen and silent for most of the drive, occasionally punctuating the quiet with a muttered curse, and Jillian had wisely left him alone to his own thoughts. Finally, when they were almost home, he’d broken his self imposed silence and said, “I’ve just about had it with DeAngelo and Phelps and their fucking superior attitudes. Who in the hell do they think they are? Acting like it’s somehow my fault that that stupid FBI bitch ran into me in the lobby? And the stuff with the SUV – it was Peter who said we had to get to her right away, not me! What the fuck did he expect me to do?” Jillian didn’t respond, knowing he wasn’t really looking for answers, and not wanting to set herself up as a new target for his anger. Much as she lusted after David, she was well aware of his temper, and went out of her way to avoid ever doing anything to set him off. Instead, she had let him rant, and lost herself in her own private thoughts.

She was worried about several things, although the two most pressing were the mystery of where Courtney Kreiger had disappeared to, and the question of why NCIS had been at the hospital. There wasn’t much she could do about the Kreiger situation. The woman had simply vanished. David had watched the FBI comb the neighborhood around the safe house, knowing he wouldn’t be able to improve on the thoroughness of their search, and she and Sylvia had monitored the girl’s credit cards and bank accounts. When nothing was turned up, she’d set it aside, knowing only time would solve that mystery, and moved on to worrying about NCIS and Jethro Gibbs. She’d met Gibbs once, when she was still in the Corps, although she hadn’t mentioned it when Peter and Richard were discussing him, since it wasn’t really relevant. He wasn’t the kind of man one easily forgot. There’d been an intensity and singularity of purpose to him that she’d found attractive, although she had known, even then, that he wasn’t the kind of man she’d ever want in a relationship. Instead, she’d contented herself with flirting harmlessly with the man who was his second, a good looking guy called Stan, if she remembered correctly. The flirtation had been harmless, never destined to go anywhere, as Stan was extremely good looking, and she’d immediately categorized him as out of her league. Not that Jillian thought of herself as ugly. Her looks were fine, she knew. She was tall and slim, and although her short blonde hair wasn’t as luxuriously thick and bouncy as Sylvia’s, it was a nice shade of honey. Her features were even, although nothing stood out as exceptional, and years of military service had given her a lean, well muscled physique. She supposed she could best be described as being attractively average, and she’d known that was not the type of woman Gibbs’ senior agent was likely to date. That memory had made her wonder what Gibbs’ team was like now. Who were they? What was their background? Would they pose a threat if it was discovered that they really were somehow involved in the investigation?

When they’d gotten back to Sylvia’s office yesterday, in the early afternoon, she’d shared her worries with David, as they waited for Sylvia to return. They’d decided that Jillian should spend some time running a preliminary check on the team members, while David scouted out Bethesda, testing the level of protection being afforded the two wounded FBI agents, since it had been determined at the meeting that they would need to be eliminated. After David had left, Jillian had started searching on the computer. After some snooping, she’d finally found a small news article from a few months ago, in one of the online Marine newsletters she subscribed to, which dealt with a case Gibbs’ team had solved. The article identified the other team members as Timothy McGee, Anthony DiNozzo, and Ziva David. Armed with their names, she began to see what she could discover about them.

She had just decided to begin with McGee, since his name was the first mentioned, when Sylvia breezed into the office and asked Jillian what she was up to. Jillian had shared her concerns about Gibbs and his team, and Sylvia had volunteered to hack into NCIS’ personnel files, since she was much more skilled on the computer than Jillian. Once Sylvia’d gotten in, she left Jillian to do the actual searching, telling her she was going to call Peter and have him let DeAngelo know that they needed to get Gibbs’ cell phone number, and preferably DiNozzo’s also, so that she and Jillian could keep tabs on where they were at any given time. That left Jillian alone with the computer once again. Revising her plans, now that she had better access to information, she decided to start at the top and work her way down. Reaching out, she typed ‘Jethro Gibbs’ into her computer.

What she found there did not make her happy. One of the first things she discovered was that a great deal of Gibb’s file was so restricted, it would be impossible to access without Top Secret Clearance. Well, she knew what that meant. Calling Sylvia over, she showed her the files. “He had to have been on black ops during the time those locked files cover,” she explained to her partner. “That means the details will only be contained in paper files, since they never trust that information to computer systems.” As they read together they discovered that he’d been a sniper while in the Corps, which he’d left eighteen years ago to join NCIS. There had been an investigation by the Military Police regarding the murder of the man accused of killing Gibbs' first wife and daughter. No charges had been filed, and the case had gone cold. Neither woman doubted Gibbs had killed the man, and it was interesting that he had gotten away with it. The file also mentioned that Gibbs had been married three other times, each marriage ending in divorce. Of particular interest to the women, was the fact that Gibbs’ second ex-wife, Dianne, had been a NCIS agent herself, and after divorcing Gibbs, she had transferred to the FBI. A few years later, she had married FBI agent Tobias Fornell, whom she later divorced as well, after bearing him a child. The women had shared a look when they’d learned that particular piece of information. Apparently Gibbs and Fornell were much more than casual work acquaintances.

Since he became a team leader, he'd had one of the highest close rates of any team leader that had ever worked for NCIS. He had more civilian commendations than any individual ever in the history of the service, and interestingly enough, he’d also had more complaints filed against him than anyone else in the service, too. As they read through the complaints, a pattern began to emerge of someone who got his man, no matter how many rules he had to break, or who he had to run over to get them. They read about him killing Ari Haswari in his basement, after Haswari killed Special Agent Caitlin Todd, and they realized he would protect his people and avenge them whenever necessary, with no regard for rules, regulations, or laws. They are not happy campers as they read that file.

Jillian commented, “He’s a fanatic. Once he gets on a case, no one would be able to bribe him or scare him off. It he gets on our trail, we’re screwed. If that FBI agent, Langer, was on his team once, we might want to rethink killing him. I don’t think we want to do anything to draw Gibbs’ attention.”

“You may be right,” Sylvia said. “I’ll talk to Peter about this later. Let’s see what the files say about DiNozzo.”

So Jillian had moved on, calling up DiNozzo’s file. They’d both been surprised to learn that DiNozzo had a considerable personal fortune from money that had been left to him when his mother died, and that had, based on the terms of the trust, become available to him when he turned thirty. Since then, however, the man had been content to leave the principle completely alone, only occasionally pulling from the interest. The file noted that Agent DiNozzo seemed to live fairly frugally, his only notable personal indulgences being his wardrobe and a relatively harmless addiction to any and all electronic gadgets currently available on the market. His only other unusual expenditures were the large donations he made annually to a variety of different charities. His record at NCIS, while good, was not nearly as impressive as Gibbs'. In one yearly evaluation, the Director had noted that he’d stayed on Gibbs’ team longer than any other agent, and it was stated as if that was somehow, in and of itself, worthy of merit.

Considering his educational background, they became curious as to why Gibbs had recruited him for his team, so Sylvia hacked into the Baltimore Police Department's personnel records to see if they could get any additional insight. They read through that, and when they get to the last case he worked, the serial killer William Jeffers, the case file was quite an eye opener. DiNozzo had allowed himself to be used as bait to catch the guy, but then there had been a screw up on the tracking device and he was actually taken. The file said that even though he had been badly hurt - stabbed, beaten, and some veiled suggestions of molestation - he still managed to kill the man, with his own weapon, no less, and protect the girl, an NCIS forensic specialist, the killer had taken along with him. According to the record, Gibbs and some M.E. had found them and gotten them to a hospital, and then Gibbs had poached the cop from Baltimore Homicide and brought him on at NCIS. According to his NCIS file, DiNozzo had no complaints filed against him, no reprimands, and many, many commendations, including letters from innumerable Navy and Marine officers and enlisted personnel who he had helped over the years. Apparently he was a lot tougher and more competent than they’d first suspected. During his time working with Gibbs, he had been accused of murder on two separate occasions, and both times he had been cleared of the charges by Gibbs, and the rest of this team.

From there, they moved on to Timothy McGee. McGee was quite different from DiNozzo. He held an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins in bio-medical engineering, and a Master's degree from M.I.T., so on paper at least, he was the much more impressive agent.

“Why in the world is he wasting his time working for some rinky-dink little agency like NCIS, for a buck twenty a day, when he could be making a killing in the private sector,” Sylvia had wanted to know when she’d read his educational background. Jillian had been tempted to tell her that not everyone worked only for the paycheck and what it could buy you, but given what she was presently doing, she had supposed she didn’t really have any room to talk.

When they read further, they were amazed to discover that, like DiNozzo, McGee did not really need the salary he drew from NCIS. He was the author of a best-selling novel entitled 'Deep Six' and there was a sequel in the works, which was expected to make even more money, which explained his finances. There was a complaint filed against him, from an Undersecretary of State, no less, for insubordination and conduct unbecoming, but no action had ever been taken on the complaint. There were also many fewer commendations than DiNozzo had, and it looked like he was more their technical go-to guy than a real agent. Although his computer skills looked formidable, they decided he didn't pose the same level of threat as DiNozzo might in backing Gibbs up out in the field, although the fact he had directly disobeyed an Undersecretary of State suggested he was no pushover. During his time with Gibbs, his sister had been a murder suspect, again cleared by Gibbs and his teammates, and McGee himself had been accused of killing an undercover D.C. Metro detective, and he, too, had been cleared by Gibbs and their team.

That had left them with one agent, Ziva David. They both had groaned when they read she was actually a liaison officer on loan to NCIS from the Mossad. Her file was sparse, to say the least, with most of it labeled 'Eyes Only' and not in the computer at all. They both knew that couldn't be good. Her record since joining Gibbs' team was excellent, although it was noted that a man had died while in her custody, and she had been investigated for his murder, but had ultimately been cleared, by the same M.E. that had been with Gibbs when he found DiNozzo and the girl in Maryland. This was not a coincidence, so they tried running the M.E.'s record, and found he had more 'Eyes Only' information than Gibbs. That had caused Jillian to shut the laptop, and turn to Sylvia. “Who are these people?! They aren’t like any investigative teams I’ve ever run across. They don’t seem to think the rules apply to them, and they’re tighter than some weird religious cult. They seem willing to do anything to defend one of their own, no matter the established protocol. If they get involved, they’re going to be way more trouble than the FBI.”

That had been yesterday, and Jillian had been worrying about ‘Team Gibbs’ ever since. Peter had called last night and told them that DeAngelo had gone back over to Bethesda that evening and was convinced that NCIS wasn’t investigating the shootings or kidnapping. DeAngelo had told him that the Director of NCIS had shown up there last night, offering her condolences to some Assistant Director of the FBI that had been there, and that the tone had been polite, but was more like one politician speaking to another. He’d assured Peter that if NCIS really knew what was going on, there would have been posturing and jurisdictional disputes. He’d listened to Sylvia’s and Jillian’s assessment of the potential danger NCIS would present if they became actively involved, but, since Peter had other things to worry about, he’d decided to take DeAngelo at his word, and had suggested that Jillian and Sylvia get busy finalizing the details on collecting the ransom for Carter. So here it was, five o’clock on Sunday morning, and Jillian and David were on their way to Sylvia’s consulting firm, to take the final steps towards being one million dollars apiece richer.


Tony and Gibbs had stopped at their favorite diner for a quick bite to eat, ordering two egg and bacon sandwiches and some hash browns to go, figuring Abby and McGee wouldn’t have taken the time to stop for food. Since they hadn’t heard from the two technophiles since they’d left the Yard yesterday, Gibbs and Tony knew they would still be there, working to solve the mystery of what had happened on Friday, and delving deeper into the kidnapping syndicate. “I hope they stopped and got some sleep,” Tony commented to Gibbs. “Abby gets kind of psychotic when she’s too tired, and McGee is fussier than normal. You know, there’s a good chance we’ll just find two dead bodies when we get there,” he said with a grin.

“Hope they leave us a note with what they found, before they off each other,” Gibbs said, willing to play along.

“Better hope it’s written in English and not Binary,” Tony smirked, daring Gibbs to top that.

Gibbs didn’t even try. He merely reached over, and slapped the back of Tony’s head.

Once they’d eaten, and had their carry out for Abby and McGee, they got in the car and headed for the Yard. Tony was smiling; last night had started poorly, but it had ended well. This morning had been even nicer. He wasn’t sure why he’d let Templeton’s pettiness get under his skin, but any residual insecurity he’d been feeling had disappeared. Thinking about Templeton had reminded him of a thought from last night, and he said, “Ya know, Gibbs, we might want to warn Abby and the rest of the team about Liz. If she’s going to be the FBI liaison, they’re all likely to come in contact with her. Since I don’t have a clue what crawled up her butt and died, I don’t know how she’s going to behave around them. Abby knows her, but I don’t think that’s going to save her if she decides to run her mouth around Abs. If she starts saying stuff about you or me, Abby’s liable to order up a hit, and Ziva would carry it out. Then, between the two of them, Abby and McGee would make sure no one ever found a trace of Liz ever again. Not sure Fornell would be very happy if another one of his agents went missing in the same week.”

“Well, technically it’s not the same week,” Gibbs said, but he knew that Tony was right. No one at NCIS was going to willingly put up with Liz’s snide comments, and if she aimed them at Tony, he couldn’t even begin to predict how Abby would react. “But, you’re probably right. I'll say something when we get there. I’m sure Abby will be more than willing to fill McGee and Ziva in on all of Liz’s finer points. She never did like Templeton, and I doubt if she’s forgotten the cracks Liz made on her way out, even if it was seven years ago.”

Tony laughed, thinking about Abby when she was in high dudgeon. “You know, I thank God at least once a week that Abby doesn’t carry a gun.”

“A Friend in Need” - Chapter Ten

When Tony and Gibbs walked into the lab, Abby’s head shot up and her nose started to twitch. “I smell food,” she cried, looking over at them. “Oh, please, God, tell me that’s food you’ve got in that bag and Caf-Pow in that cup you’re carrying.” She leapt to her feet and rushed over to them, giving Tony only the most minimal of hugs, focusing her attention on Gibbs and the drink tray he was holding which was supporting a bag of food, a large container of coffee and a bright plastic cup with CAF-POW! written on its front.

Gibbs laughed, and in a rare moment of playfulness, raised the tray high in the air, out of Abby’s reach.

“Not fair,” Abby pouted, as she reached up, trying to liberate the tray. “McGee, get over here. I need someone taller.”

“Not a chance,” McGee wisely said from where he’d moved, now standing next to Tony, watching the game unfold.

“I’ll give you the food and cup if you tell me you’ve got something for me,” Gibbs told Abby.

“Well, then you’d better lower that tray, because you know I have something for you. We wouldn’t let you down, Bossman,” Abby declared, crossing her arms in mock affront.

Gibbs laughed then brought the tray down to within Abby’s reach, holding it steady while she reached over and snatched the Caf-Pow. As he lifted the coffee cup out of its slot and handed it to McGee, he asked Abby, “Don’t you want a sandwich?”

“In a sec,” Abby said, as she practically inhaled a third of the cup’s contents. “Ah,” she sighed. “I haven’t had anything decent to drink for hours. I couldn’t afford the time to go get a Caf-Pow, so I’ve had to make do with crappy Mountain Dew from the vending machine.” She took another large gulp, before taking the egg sandwich Gibbs offered to her.

Gibbs and Tony watched as Abby and McGee virtually inhaled the food; in mere minutes the food had completely disappeared. “When was the last time you two ate?” he demanded, after they had finished, causing Abby and McGee to look at each other, as they searched their memories for the answer to his question. The look told him everything he needed to know. “You have to make time to eat,” he lectured. “It doesn’t do any good for you to spend the night searching for answers, if you’re so weak with hunger when you get them that you don’t have the strength to do anything with them. From now on, make the time for food and Caf-Pow,” he added with a small smile, to soften his words. “So, tell us what you’ve got.”

Abby began by telling them about her success in following the exterminator’s van to the parking garage, but subsequent failure at spotting them leaving and McGee followed, explaining how he’d tracked the Hummer to the residential block only to lose it.

“I thought you said you had something for us,” Gibbs growled, “Finding them on cameras doesn’t count if you lose them again.”

“Oh ye of little faith,” Abby said haughtily. “That’s not all we have. I also have a good composite drawing of the man Courtney saw in the lobby, and its running through facial identification programs right now. Oh, and we know how the kidnappers are picking their targets,” she said casually, knowing that would grab Gibbs’ and Tony’s attention, and she went back to sipping on her drink.

“Abs,” Gibbs warned, when she stopped talking.

“Okay, okay,” she relented. “Actually, it was pretty cool how we found out. See, McGee came up with the idea that …..” She proceeded to explain how they’d discovered the commonality between Carter and Nussbaum, and also how McGee had come up with a way to target other potential kidnapping victims, and that she was auditing those companies’ expenditures right now. She also told them about the trace they were running on all of Nabscot’s accounts, and how they hoped that would tell them when the ransom had been paid.

“That’s good work,” Gibbs nodded his approval when he’d heard all they’d achieved in the last few hours. “I want to know the minute you get a hit on any of those traces.”

“What are you going to be doing?” Abs asked. “Are you going back to the hospital?”

“Thought we’d start there, then, when it’s a little later, Tony and I are going to pay Melissa Carter’s boss a visit. His name’s Henry Goldblume. Can you find me his home address, Abs?”

“Sure, no problem, but I’d like to go to Bethesda with you,” she said, her face suddenly somber.

“Not today, Abs,” Gibbs told her gently. “Brent’s in Intensive Care, and isn’t conscious anyway. Wait until he’s a little better, when he’ll know you’re there,” he said, as he wrapped his arms around her when she plastered herself against him seeking reassurance.

“I’m worried about him,” she whispered into Gibbs’ chest.

“I know you are, Abs,” he said, giving her a slight squeeze.

Abby allowed herself a few more moments to merely lean against him, before she took a deep breath and pushed herself away. “Okay then, back to work,” she announced. “I’ll get you that address,” she said, as she surreptitiously wiped at her eyes.

“What do you want me to do, Boss?” McGee asked, although he was watching Abby with concern.

“Stay here, McGee,” Gibbs instructed. “Help Abs, and we’ll see what needs to happen when we start getting more information. You should both know that Fornell and I have arranged to have one of his agents function as a go-between. Her name’s Liz Templeton.”

Abby twirled back around when he said that. “Liz! You’ve got to be kidding!” she hissed.

“As you can probably tell, Abby knows her,” Gibbs said to McGee. “She was on the team for a little while, several years ago,” he added.

“What’s wrong with her?” McGee wanted to know.

“She was completely stuck up,” Abby complained. “I just hope she’s chilled out some over the years, because she was one of the nastiest people I’d ever met when she worked here!”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Tony warned.

“Do you remember the way she acted when you started,” Abby demanded of him, “in front of Gibbs and everyone?”

“Yeah, I remember; it confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done to piss her off,” he told her. “We ran into her at the hospital yesterday. I don’t think absence has made her heart any fonder,” he told Abby with a wry smile.

“Did she say something to you?” Abby wanted to know.

“Nothing much,” Tony assured her, but Abby had seen the momentary flicker in his eye that told her that he was lying.

Narrowing her eyes, she pinned Tony with a glare and commanded, “Tell me what she said, Tony.”

“It was not big deal, Abs. Let it drop,” he said, making it clear with his tone that he wasn’t willing to go into it.

“She’d better not run her mouth in front of me,” Abby declared, “or I’ll….”

“You’ll ignore her,” Gibbs decreed. “We don’t have time for a pissing contest. You’re going to be the bigger woman,” he added, effectively ending the conversation.

Abby shot him a quick look, letting him know he may not have completely won that argument, but she refrained from commenting further. McGee, who had crossed over to his laptop while Gibbs and Abby were talking, wrote something down on a post-it and then handed it to Gibbs. “Here’s Henry Goldblume’s address and home phone number, Boss.”

As Gibbs and Tony headed for the door, Gibbs turned back and reiterated, “Call me the minute you’ve got something.”

“Wonder who’ll be at the hospital, this morning,” Tony said to Gibbs as they walked to the car.

“Hard to say,” Gibbs answered. “I just hope Fornell had enough sense to get some sleep last night. I doubt if the week is going to get any easier.”


Ed Morgan was sitting alone in the hospital waiting room, enjoying a few minutes of quiet. He’d had a long night, which had followed a very long day, and he was wiped out. When he’d arrived back at the hospital yesterday evening, he’d been surprised to run into Liz Templeton. He hadn’t expected her back that evening. Although Templeton usually got along with her fellow team members, she didn’t go out of her way to be overly friendly. There was always an invisible wall surrounding Liz, which discouraged people from getting too close; you could sense it, and you sure knew when you ran into it, even if you didn’t understand why it was there. It was hard to describe what made Liz different from most other agents. It wasn’t that she was routinely impolite; as a matter of fact, there were times when she was almost overly polite. The problem was, you often walked away from encounters with her feeling that the manners she had displayed were more ingrained behavior which reflected habit, rather than sincerity.

Liz had stagnated at her current level within the ranks of FBI investigative teams. No one had ever described her as a rising star, and it had become obvious she would never even achieve the rank of team leader. It wasn’t because she was incompetent; it was more because she never seemed to really connect with people – not her team members, her superiors, or even the victims of the crimes they investigated. Liz lacked warmth and basic human empathy. She wasn't exactly cold, but she was missing that vital something that made people want to confide in her, want to entrust her with their secrets or their fears. He’d witnessed her making the occasional snarky comment before, although it was usually reserved for when she was alone with the other members of the team. The blatant antagonism of the incident with DiNozzo still boggled his mind.

When everyone else had left last night, and it was just he and Templeton, he’d decided it was probably going to be his best opportunity to address what had happened between her and the NCIS agent. If she was assigned as the go-between for the two agencies, they needed to get a few things straight. The visitor’s lounge outside Bethesda’s ICU wouldn’t have been his first choice as a location for this discussion, but he didn’t see a lot of alternatives. “We need to talk about your behavior this afternoon,” he’d said. “You need to explain your totally inappropriate attitude towards DiNozzo. I don't want excuses Liz, I want to know exactly what that was about; what the hell was that crack about a collar? In detail, tell me the story."

Liz, who’d been slumped in the chair next to him, lost in her own thoughts, as she tried to find a way to rearrange the events of the day so they made some sort of sense to her, turned towards him as he spoke. When his words sunk in, and she realized what he’d asked, she sat up straighter, immediately going on the defensive. Her first impulse had been to deflect. "He just rubs me the wrong way, has since I met him. It wasn't a big deal," Liz responded, as casually as she could, hoping he’d let it go.

"Special Agent Templeton, explain the comment, and do it now," Morgan had ordered, his voice deceptively quiet and calm.

Liz recognized that the quieter Morgan spoke, the angrier he actually was, so she had quickly decided on how to phrase her report, and then began speaking. "Seven years ago, I had transferred to NCIS from the FBI. I was assigned to Gibbs' team, and at the time, the two of us WERE the team. Gibbs tends to go through agents fast, most don't even last a month. I had been with him for about that long, and I thought we were working out well as a team. One morning, he got a call from Dr. Mallard, the NCIS M.E., asking if he knew the whereabouts of their forensics specialist, a ditz of a girl named Abby Scuito. She and Gibbs have some weird kind of father/daughter thing going on, and he spoils her rotten. She hadn't shown up for work that morning, and Gibbs ordered me to start tracing her cell phone. While I was tracing the cell, he got a call from Baltimore Homicide, asking if he knew an Abigail Scuito. Gibbs identified her as an employee of NCIS, and asked why the cop was calling. The cop gave him some song and dance about finding her purse, and wanting to return it, which Gibbs didn't buy at all. So Gibbs goes tearing up the Director's office, and tells him what's going on, and then tells me to stay put and handle any cases that come in, and he takes off for Baltimore, alone, after I gave him the location of Abby's cell phone, which happened to be at the offices of Baltimore Homicide.

The next time I hear from Gibbs, he's telling me that they think Abby's been taken by some serial killer they're tracking, and he wants me to run a background check on a Homicide cop named Anthony DiNozzo. He told me to stay in the office and be available 24/7 in case he needed me, which wasn’t that unusual since he operates as though the agents assigned to his team are his property. There's no such thing as a scheduled weekend off, because if a major case comes in, Gibbs gets the call, and he expects his team to be there, with no notice, and regardless of any plans being disrupted.

So, while Gibbs was off taking over jurisdiction on the case, and I really don't know how he did that, other than just intimidating the hell out of the Baltimore cops, because there wasn’t any Navy or Marine personnel involved, and Abby’s a civilian employee of NCIS, so really, he shouldn't have even been allowed to participate in the investigation, but that's Gibbs, what he wants, he usually gets. So anyway, he's taking over the investigation, while I'm stuck running a background check on DiNozzo, which wasn't very impressive, that's for sure.

He started at a local private school then transferred to a military school for his secondary education. I figured he must have been a discipline problem, and the family's rich, so they shipped him off to try to get some control over him. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire, grade wise, and he was clearly a slacker since he tested off the scales. In college he majored in Phys Ed and Criminology at Ohio State. He probably picked it for it’s reputation as a party school. He had a partial athletic scholarship, and played on the football and basketball teams. I don't know how he qualified for that scholarship, his family is loaded, like, really loaded, so he must have been a helluva an athlete, that's all I can figure. There was something weird, that stayed in my memory because it didn't fit, and that was that he took out the maximum in student loans each year he was in school, and he worked part-time in the athletic department at Ohio State. I figured he pissed off his father one too many times, and he left him to fend for himself.

After college, he went to the Illinois Police Academy, where he graduated second in his class. Then he spent two years with the Peoria Police Department, and moved on to the Philadelphia P.D. for less than two years, where he made detective. He transferred to the Baltimore P.D. and he was there about two years, when all this happened. He had quite a few write-ups for insubordination from his lieutenant, but his solve rate was solid. I figured he had a more experienced partner, and he was getting credit for the work the partner did, since I got the impression he was some poor little rich boy playing cops and robbers, until the trust fund kicked in. I mean, he moved around a lot, and yeah, he got promoted fast, but then never stuck around anywhere very long. Must have been encouraged to move along by his supervisors, who didn’t put anything down on paper that would stop some other department from taking him off their hands.

So, Gibbs calls me at about 2 in the morning, orders me to Baltimore to pick up some evidence he needs processed asap. I drive to Baltimore, and then have to sit and wait for hours until Gibbs shows up. While I'm waiting, the cops are asking me what's happening with the undercover op, and did we catch the serial killer yet. Well, I didn't know anything about the undercover op, or that this DiNozzo that Gibbs had me run the background on was the one they sent undercover. It would have been real helpful if he had taken two minutes to fill me in so I didn't look like an idiot when I was talking to the cops, but Gibbs doesn't think he needs to tell his team anything about what's going on, he's the only one that has to know. I could have been a lot more useful to him if he'd just told me what the hell was happening before I got there, but no. So anyway, Gibbs finally shows up, then gets in a pissing match with the lieutenant in charge over the evidence, and the guy just threw up his hands and walked away, sending his guys home for the night. So Gibbs finally reads me in on the op and what went wrong, which was that the locals fucked up beyond belief and managed to lose their own guy. DiNozzo had been wearing a collar, where they hid the tracking device, but when he was taken, none of the cops were actually monitoring the tracker. Who the hell would be stupid enough to authorize everybody to go out for a coffee break at the same time? I could see why Gibbs was pissed, and he wasn't making any secret of the fact that he thought the locals were downright useless. Made him real popular with Baltimore Homicide, let me tell you.

So Gibbs gave me all the evidence they collected, and sends me back to the Navy Yard with it, and he's there with no back-up, which I pointed out to him, and he tells me that the M.E. is there, and he can help out if Gibbs needs it! The M.E.!! Not an agent, mind you, but an elderly, ready for retirement, OLD M.E. is going to be his back-up! When I tried to suggest that we might just courier the evidence back to the Navy Yard, and I could stay as back-up, he acted like I was suggesting I take over the case from him, and practically shoved me out the door, with orders to call him the minute I had anything.

I got back to the Navy Yard and got the evidence to forensics, and stayed to help, then around 7, Gibbs calls, all pissed off that he's back at the club where the cop was taken, and it's locked up. What did he think he was going to find at 7 in the morning? It's a NIGHT club, not a morning club. So he tells me to find out who owns it and get them over there immediately, he doesn't care what I have to say, just make it happen. I spent the next half hour tracking down the owner. Boy, he was not happy at being woken up just a few hours after he went to sleep, but I cajoled him into going over to the club to meet Gibbs.

A couple of hours later, Gibbs called to tell me he had the surveillance tapes and wanted them enhanced. He found the footage of some guy dragging DiNozzo out to a Jeep Cherokee, and wants the license plate number and anything I can get on the guy. He also wanted copies of the pictures he’d taken the night before during the undercover op, since we were already running them through every database we had. Since he didn't have a way to access them on the computer, and he's not very computer literate, I offered to courier him clearer printed copies of the pictures, if he would wait until I could print them out. He agreed, and the messenger that brought him the pictures picked up the tapes from the club's security cameras.

We got id on about half the men who’d been on the film, and I called Gibbs. He told me he'd have the Director assign a couple of agents to help me and we were supposed to gather as much info on them as possible and keep Gibbs informed if anything looked interesting. He was finally treating me like a partner, and sharing some of the responsibility. I worked my butt off on that assignment, and I made sure the agents assigned to help did, too. After all, an NCIS employee's life was on the line, and Gibbs was counting on us to help find her.

It took most of the day, but we finally got a response from the tech people. They had cleaned up the tape enough to get a clear shot of the vehicle, and it was a black Jeep Cherokee, and at around the same time we were working our way through the men, and one of them, William Jeffers, had a Cherokee registered in his name. I called Gibbs and he wanted the guy’s address. He was going all Lone Ranger and going after him alone. Well, he had Dr. Mallard with him, but please... so when I got off the phone, I jumped in my car and headed for Baltimore to back him up, so he'd have a trained agent at his back, and not some elderly M.E. who would probably faint if a gun were pointed at him!

I was about twenty minutes out from Baltimore when my phone rings and its Gibbs, telling me the apartment was a dead end, and he wants me to run property searches on the guy, to see where else he might be. So I told Gibbs I was on my way to back him up and he flips out at me, screams at me, and tells me to get my ass back to the Yard, and in the meantime call the agents assigned to work with us and get them started on searching for any property Jeffers might own. No, 'thank you, Liz, for worrying about your partner's safety, and wanting to back him up.’ No, 'thank you Liz for working all night and all day to help me find Abby's location, and still being willing to drive to Baltimore to assist in the take-down.' Oh no, none of that, just get your ass back to the Yard and get me the info I want NOW. So I did what he wanted. When I got back, I was the one that finally found the info on Jeffers, and I called Gibbs, and he was less than grateful, to say the least. He refused when I offered to call in the state police as back-up, and told me to only do that if I hadn't heard from him within an hour. He was still playing cowboy, and I was supposed to sit and twiddle my thumbs, while he's out playing hero!!

I put together a back-up team, briefed them, and when an hour had passed, and I still hadn't heard from him, I called the staties closest to the location, and informed them that a federal agent needed assistance, that we had a possible hostage situation, and to approach with caution. We headed out as soon as I got off the phone, and were on our way to Frederick County when Gibbs finally called to say he had Abby and the cop, and that Jeffers was dead. Instead of thanking me for handling everything while he was unreachable, he tells me to continue on to the address and process the house, the basement and the Jeep, and that's on his way to the local hospital with Abby and DiNozzo. Does he bother to tell me their condition? Hell no, that would be sharing too much information, right?

I only got the whole story after I saw the reports filed by Gibbs, Abby and Baltimore Police reports filed by DiNozzo, and his lieutenant. When Jeffers took him from the club, he had cut off his clothes at a 4H fairground, and replaced the collar with the tracking device in it, with another, a black studded one that had 'whore' on a little nametag affixed to the front. Jeffers was nuts, he wanted men, but kept trying to convince himself that he didn’t. He kept DiNozzo naked, beat and molested him a couple of times, and finally, DiNozzo managed to kill him with his own knife after Jeffers had stabbed him. Gibbs and Dr. Mallard found them shortly afterwards. We processed the hell out of the scene, and found evidence that proved that Jeffers had all the previous victims there, so at least the cases were all able to be closed, and I figured we were done with Baltimore Homicide.

Then Gibbs comes back to the office the next day, and tells me he's hired DiNozzo. This cop, with not the best record in the world, who managed to get himself taken by a serial killer, and Gibbs is bringing him on the team?? No way was I working with this guy. Why in the hell would Gibbs want him? It didn't make any sense, until Abby came back, and wouldn't shut up about him. Now, I know Gibbs has a soft spot for Abby, but even so, to take on this copshop retread because Abby thinks he's a hero? Are you kidding me? I would end up doing all the work, and Richie Rich would be coasting along on Abby's hero worship? No way! So I told Gibbs if he brought DiNozzo on to the team, I'd go back to the FBI. He didn't bat an eye, he just said, best of luck, and make sure you file all the paperwork, and give it to him for signature!!! Like DiNozzo's worth more than a trained FBI agent! There was no way I was sticking around to watch that disaster happen, so I went right to Human Resources and filed everything to transfer back to the land of sanity, where advancement up the ladder may be slower, but at least federal experience is appreciated.

I can't believe DiNozzo lasted seven years on Gibbs' team. I mean, he's an over the hill jock, who got booted out of three police departments, with a slew of write-ups in his jacket, and Gibbs picks HIM to be his senior field agent??? Man, things must have changed over there, that's all I can figure. But the guy just rubs me the wrong way. I guess he gets by on his looks and that smarmy fake charm of his, and somehow, Gibbs buys it. It doesn't make sense, since I know Gibbs has been winning Agent of the Year, every year, so maybe the rest of his team does the work, and DiNozzo gets by with literally fetching and carrying for Gibbs. I don't get it, but I see him, and it pisses me off all over again that he put one over on Gibbs and NCIS to get hired in the first place."

Morgan had sat there stunned. It had taken her almost an hour to tell the whole story, and the whole time she’d talked, he’d tried hard not to let his face reveal what was going through his head. At times during her recitation, he's been horrified by her willingness to use such a traumatic experience to poke at DiNozzo, amused by her utter lack of insight regarding Gibbs’ expectations of her, and disdainful of her personal valuation of her contributions to the successful closure of the case. He had to actively work at not shaking his head in amazement when she was talking about advancement at the FBI being slower than at NCIS, since he knew she had advanced as far as she was ever likely to at the FBI. She had investigative skills, there was no question, but she lacked people skills, and her ability to read situations was abysmal. She could follow orders, as long as they were specific, and not open to interpretation. She always wanted to be doing what the other agents were doing, as opposed to what she had been assigned.

Morgan understood why Fornell wanted her as the go-between to NCIS, but Ed was sure that, given Templeton's personality, this was going to be disastrous. Her obvious antipathy towards DiNozzo, and her admiration for Gibbs, as well as her resentment towards him, could undermine any positive aspect of her having involved in this operation. As much as he admired and genuinely liked Tobias Fornell, right at that moment, Morgan wanted to strangle the man! He made a unilateral decision not to brief Liz on the Kreiger situation, and not to let her in on the NCIS involvement. He would wait until he saw Tobias, and then tell him, in no uncertain terms, that Liz was the wrong one to be involved in this, and they'd have to find another way. In the meantime, he was going to give Liz a verbal reprimand, and warn her of a written one from himself and Fornell, if she ever again treated another agent, no matter what agency, the way she had treated DiNozzo. He had to make her understand that it was unacceptable behavior, and would not be tolerated.

“You embarrassed our team and the Bureau yesterday, Agent Templeton. Gibbs and DiNozzo showed up to offer NCIS’s support to another agency, on a day five of our agents were killed, and instead of showing some grace and appreciation for their concern, you attack the agent who just brought food and coffee for all of us, paid for out of his own pocket,” he had said.

“They weren’t here as representatives of NCIS, they were here because Langer was once on….” Liz argued.

“Enough! You’ve said more than enough already.” He shook his head in disgust. “This is what is going to happen. You WILL apologize to both Agents DiNozzo and Gibbs for your behavior, and you will also make sure that there is absolutely no repetition of what happened yesterday, ever, with anyone. If I even suspect you have shown anything but the utmost professional respect to a representative from another agency, you won’t get another verbal warning. I will personally put a written reprimand in your file, which should make advancement next to impossible. Do I make myself clear?”

Liz had sullenly nodded her head, and said, “Yes Sir.” Morgan had waited a few moments, to see if she would apologize to him. When it became clear that she had no intention of doing so, he’d sent her on her way, with instructions to be back at the hospital by 0800, hoping that Fornell would have already arrived by then, and he could talk him out of using her on the operation.

That was where things stood, when Gibbs and DiNozzo showed up early that morning, once again bearing food and coffee. Morgan stood to greet them and gratefully accepted the refreshments DiNozzo held, as he brought Gibbs up to speed on Langer’s and Merit’s conditions, both of whom had shown improvement overnight. The doctors had made it clear that Langer wasn’t out of danger yet, but had been encouraged by his response to the antibiotics they were pumping into him by the gallon in an effort to combat the infection, and Merit was most definitely going to recover in time. They sat and visited quietly for the next hour, and the two NCIS agents were just getting ready to leave when Tobias Fornell arrived at 0730.

Since it was just the four of them, Gibbs took the opportunity to bring both Morgan and Fornell up to speed on what Abby and McGee had discovered overnight, and let them know that he and Tony intended to pay Melissa Carter’s boss a visit that morning. They were just beginning to discuss their options when Liz Templeton walked into the lounge.

Liz had not expected to see Gibbs and DiNozzo first thing that morning. As a matter of fact, she’d privately been hoping it would be a good long time before she ran into them again, but apparently her luck was holding true, she told herself. Knowing there wasn’t any way around it, she took a deep breath, wished a good morning to everyone in the room, and then walked over to where Gibbs and DiNozzo were standing. “Agents Gibbs and DiNozzo,” she began. “I’d like to take the opportunity to apologize for my behavior yesterday. I was out of line, and I regret that.”

Tony, eager to put the whole ugly event behind them, said, “No problem. Yesterday had to be hell for you. I lost a partner once, and it took weeks for me to get my anger under control. No hard feelings,” he added, as he held out his hand, and Liz didn’t have much choice but to stiffly take it. Gibbs didn’t feel quite as charitable, but he did nod his acceptance of Liz’s apology. Fornell and Morgan had watched the exchange, Fornell with an expression of approval, and Morgan with a guarded look that was impossible to interpret.

When Tony began to casually visit, ignoring the fact that Liz was only answering in one word sentences, Morgan took the opportunity to ask Fornell if they could speak privately and they had excused themselves to the doctor’s lounge. Once there, Morgan had expressed his concerns with Liz functioning as the go-between, given her animosity towards DiNozzo, and her conflicted feelings about Gibbs.

“She’ll be fine,” Fornell had assured him. “You saw what just happened; I don’t think we’ll have a repeat of yesterday. She’s the best choice for this, Ed. No one’s going to pay any attention to her comings and goings, and there’s already a precedent set for her being here at the hospital. I don’t see how we can bring someone else into it without setting off an alarm for whoever’s watching the investigation. I’ll talk to her myself, and then we’ll read her in, since Gibbs and DiNozzo are already here. Go on back and send her in here to see me. Have you already spoken to her?” he asked.

Morgan told him he had, and summarized what he’d said. When Fornell observed, “Well, she seemed to take it to heart,” Morgan knew there wasn’t any point in pursuing the issue. Vowing to keep an eye on Liz, he’d gone back to the lounge, where he found the other three agents sitting in uneasy silence. Morgan then sent Liz off to speak with Fornell, and let Gibbs and DiNozzo know that they’d brief Templeton when she and Fornell returned.

Gibbs didn’t need to ask what Fornell was doing, but he did take the opportunity to ask Morgan, “This going to be okay?”

Morgan wondered what in the hell he was supposed to say to that. It wasn’t like he could offer up his own reservations, since Fornell had chosen to ignore them. Instead he just nodded and said, “Should be.”

Gibbs had merely grunted in response, and then changed the subject by asking how they were coming on their end of the investigation. Morgan was telling him about the lack of workable forensic evidence when Liz and Fornell walked back into the room.

It didn’t take them long to fill Liz in, since she asked almost no questions. She did express relief when she learned that Kreiger was okay, which Morgan took to be a good sign, but said nothing when Gibbs explained that Abby had found a way to pinpoint other potential targets, which concerned Morgan. When it looked like they had just about exhausted the subject, Gibbs was interrupted by his cell phone.

“Gibbs,” he said, as he answered.

After listening to the person on the other end, he said, “Slow down Abby. Are you sure about that?” He was silent as she answered him. “Okay, Tony and I’ll be back over there in about twenty minutes. See what you can do about verifying his information.” After he hung up, he looked at the others and said, “Abby just got a hit on the composite drawing, a David Barker, ex-Marine. She’s going have more recent information for us when we get there. Let’s go, DiNozzo.” As he stood to leave, he added, “I’ll keep you informed. When we have anything concrete, I’ll have you send Liz over for an update.” After curt nods were exchanged, he and Tony left for the Naval Yard. He said a brief hello to Richard DeAngelo, who was getting off the elevator on the ICU floor as he and Tony got on to leave.

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