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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

Previous Chapter

Chapters Eleven and Twelve

“A Friend in Need” - Chapter Eleven
David Barker stood by the window in a coffee shop across the street from Goldblume’s, watching for a messenger to make a delivery. He had placed an envelope containing a prepaid cell phone, with only one number programmed into it, in the drop box for the courier service at 7:00 this morning, with printed instructions for it to be delivered to Henry Goldblume’s penthouse by 9:00 A.M. This was how they’d contacted the last five CEO’s. Goldblume would call the number, and Peter, aided by a voice scrambler, would answer on his untraceable phone, and give the man the account information for their bank in the Caymans. Then Goldblume would have the five million dollars transferred electronically into the account to secure Carter's return. Peter would assure the executive that after they received their money, Melissa would be released the next day, with instructions to immediately call Goldblume. Peter would stress that Melissa’s life would be forfeit if either she, or Goldblume, contacted the authorities. If they simply let the matter drop, everything would return to normal. David was just killing time, waiting for the messenger to deliver the envelope.

Henry Goldblume was just sitting down to breakfast. He was a slightly paunchy man in his late middle ages, short and balding, but with a kind face filled with smile lines. His bright blue eyes spoke of intelligence and, on a more normal day, a wicked sense of humor. Today though, he just looked worried and tired. He’d sent his family off to their weekend home in Virginia, claiming he had business meetings he had to stay in the city for that weekend, and had barely left the apartment since then, afraid he would inadvertently miss the kidnappers’ attempt to contact him. Having a free day at home was a rarity for him, even on a weekend. Usually he’d already be up and out, tromping through dew kissed greens, playing yet another endless game that had less to do with golf, and more to do with whatever business deal he was trying to close; but today was different. He had purposely kept his entire weekend free, in hopes that the kidnappers would contact him, and he could make the necessary arrangements to end this nightmare. There had been innumerable times over the last week and a half that he’d been tempted to ignore the initial instructions, and pick up the phone and call the FBI, but fear for Melissa’s safety had always stayed his hand. He’d told himself the criminals would have no way to know if he called for help, but the stealth with which the entire thing had occurred scared him, and his conversation with Michael Weiss had served to frighten him even more.

He’d known Michael Weiss socially for years. Although Michael was an Israeli citizen, he’d lived in D.C. for over twenty years. His children had been born and raised here, and had attended the same schools as Goldblume’s. They were members of the same synagogue, and sat on many of the same boards. He’d heard about the murder of one of Michael’s employees, Morris Nussbaum, and had even sent Michael a note of condolence, but hadn’t given it a second thought, not until Melissa went missing. When the kidnappers first contacted him, they had sent a note via messenger that explained that his employee had been taken and would be returned unharmed as long has he met the ransom demand when they made it. The note had assured him they were prepared to kill her should he not comply, saying they’d done it before, and could easily do it again. That was what made him think about Michael. Michael would never cede to a kidnapper's demands. Henry knew he’d spent time in the Israeli army as a young man, and Israel had a firm policy against negotiating with terrorists. If this had happened to Michael, he would have refused to pay on principle. So he’d picked up the phone and called Michael, saying he’d like to ask him a question about Morris Nussbaum. The uncharacteristic wariness in Michael’s voice when he’d asked Henry what he wanted to know, had confirmed Henry’s suspicions before he even got the question out, and when he’d asked if Nussbaum had been kidnapped, the dam that had been blocking Michael’s mouth burst open. He confirmed what Henry had already worked out for himself, called the kidnappers every filthy name in the book, and volunteered to use his connections in the Mossad to help Henry get his own employee back. Henry had demurred, saying he’d need to think about it, and even though they’d had several more conversations over the last week, he was still putting Weiss off. If the kidnappers had killed Nussbaum, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill Melissa.

When the doorman’s buzzer had sounded, as he sat staring at the uneaten bagel in front of him, he’d pushed away from the table and hurried to answer. Pete, the weekend doorman, had told him an envelope had been delivered and asked if Goldblume wanted him to send it up. Michael’s heart was racing now. This was how he’d gotten the first message from the kidnappers – a short, blunt missive delivered via courier. He was standing by the door, waiting, when the elevator opened, and Teddy, the college boy that worked the front desk, stepped out, carrying a manila envelope.

“Morning Mr. Goldblume,” he said smiling. “Did you stay home today so you could watch the Skins play?”

Henry managed to dredge up a smile, not sure if it was very convincing, and said, “Unfortunately not. Today’s all about work.” He’d reached out to receive the package, automatically exchanging it for a tip. He thanked Teddy, and rushed back into his apartment, tearing open the envelope as he went. Inside he found a phone, wrapped in a piece of computer paper. When he took the paper off the phone, he saw it contained instructions, 'Press one on the speed dial. The person who answers will give you the necessary information for an offshore account to which you will wire five million dollars. Melissa Carter will be returned to you, unharmed, as long as you follow orders, and contact no one.'

This was it, what he’d been waiting for all week. God he hoped he’d played this right. He’d never be able to forgive himself if this didn’t work out. Hurrying over to a bureau in his sitting room, he opened a drawer, removing a pen so he would have something to write with, then he turned on the phone, and when it had sprung to life, he pressed 1 and held his breath.

Peter Phelps smiled when the phone sitting on the desk next to him began to ring. He’d been waiting for the last hour for Goldblume to call, unsure as to when the messenger would deliver the package. In another few hours he’d be one million dollars richer. He could then concentrate on getting Melissa Carter home, and rearranging her room for their next ‘guest.’ Picking up the portable voice scrambler, and affixing it to the phone’s mouth piece, he pressed the talk button.

“Henry Goldblume?” he asked.

“Yes, how’s Melissa?” he heard the man ask.

“She is just fine, eager to get home. I hope you’re ready to make that happen for her,” Peter had answered.

“Tell me what I need to do,” Goldblume had demanded.

“You already know what you must do,” Peter said. “All you need now is the routing number for our account.” He proceeded to read of a long string of numbers to Nabscot’s CEO.

“How will I know when she’d safe?” Goldblume had wanted to know.

“Mrs. Carter will call you first thing in the morning, letting you know she is safe and sound. Remember what we told you at the very beginning. We took her once with no trouble, and we can do that again, if we have any reason to suspect you’ve contacted the authorities. Just put this behind you, say nothing to anyone, and soon it will seem like a dream, just a distant, unpleasant memory.” When Goldblume had grunted out his acquiescence, Peter had added, “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Goldblume,” and he hung up. He had then immediately reached for his regular cell phone and called Sylvia, alerting her to start monitoring Nabscot’s accounts, that the demand had been made.

While all of this was happening, Gibbs and Tony were once again in Abby’s lab, in the basement of NCIS’s headquarters. Since the team that had been dispatched to the parking garage had found no trace of the van, David Barker was now their only substantial lead. McGee had Barker’s military record called up on a large plasma screen, and they were all studying it. Barker had been given extensive training in surveillance and counter espionage training, since the Marines had earmarked him as a possible Special Forces operative, due to his intelligence and level of physical fitness. They’d investing six years in his training, only to have him leave the service, when he had the chance. None of them were happy with this information, knowing it made the man potentially very dangerous. There wasn’t a lot of other information on him. They’d run his name through civilian and FBI databases, and discovered he’d been brought in for questioning on investigations dealing with several high end scams, but his involvement had never been proven and charges had never been made. The FBI listed him as a person of interest, but that was as far as it had gone. For the last two years, Barker seemed to have kept his nose clean, and there were no further records on him. They had an address for him, right there in the Metro area, courtesy of his driver’s license, and they were currently discussing how to proceed.

“McGee, I want you to call Ziva and get her back here. You and she are going to need to go check out Barker’s address. Just observe, we don’t want to apprehend him yet. Ascertain if he still lives there, and see if you can get a tail on him. After you get Ziva on her way, put out a BOLO on Barker, make sure you specify 'do not apprehend' on it. Anyone who see’s him is to notify us. Tony and I are still going to pay Melissa Carter’s boss a little visit, right after I brief the Director. I want you to call me the minute Barker is spotted.”

“What about me?” Abby asked, as she bounced up and down on her heels.

“You are going to take a short nap,” Gibbs said, his glare daring her to disagree. When she finally gave him a grudging nod, he added. “When you wake up, I want you to keep digging into the accounts of the companies the other people McGee established as potential targets work for. Tomorrow we’ll begin contacting the CEO’s of those companies, and see if we can’t get some more information. It will also tell us who the next victim might be. I guess any of the potentials, whose companies haven’t shelled out five million bucks lately will need to be talked to, and possibly guarded.” When Tony and Gibbs left the lab to speak with Jenny, McGee was on the phone with Ziva, and Abby was slowly making her way to the futon.

Ziva, Courtney, Ducky and Jordan had been sitting in the kitchen, enjoying a second cup of coffee when McGee called. Courtney was feeling better that morning, the antibiotics had prevented any infection from setting in, and her body’s natural healing ability was beginning to kick in. She was actually just about to try and convince Ziva that a short run might be in order, when the Mossad agent’s phone rang.

“Agent David,” Ziva said, as she answered.

“Ziva, it’s McGee,” Tim said into the phone.

“Yes, I realize that,” Ziva had answered with a smile.

“We just got a hit on the composite picture; it’s a David Barker. Gibbs wants you back at headquarters so that you and I can check him out,” McGee said excitedly. It wasn’t often any of Gibbs agents were allowed to check out a lead without him, and the fact that Gibbs was entrusting such an important suspect to he and Ziva was an extreme display of trust.

“I do not like the idea of leaving Courtney alone,” Ziva said hesitantly.

“Isn’t Balboa’s team still providing protection?” McGee wanted to know.

“Yes, but….” Ziva began.

“Then it’ll be fine, Ziva. Balboa’s people know what they’re doing, and no one would think to look for her there anyway. Gibbs and Tony are following another angle, so that just leaves you and me to track down Barker,” McGee told her.

Ziva knew she couldn’t really refuse. Plus, she was beginning to go stir crazy. It would feel good to get out there and do something proactive. As important as security detail was, it was never as fulfilling as actual investigating. “I will be there shortly. I just need to check in with Balboa and make sure he knows exactly how to get a hold of me, should the need arise.”

When she hung up, three sets of eyes were fastened onto her. “Did they find something?” Courtney asked eagerly.

“Yes,” Ziva answered. “Abby managed to id the man you bumped into in the lobby, and McGee and I are going to go and check him out.”

“I want to come with,” Courtney automatically responded.

“I do not think that would be wise,” Ziva shook her head.

“It was my team members he and his gang shot,” Courtney argued stubbornly, “and my description that led to the id. I would be able to recognize him the minute I saw him.”

“They are looking for you,” Ziva pointed out. “And you are not healed yet,” she added.

“My shoulder feels much better today,” Courtney countered. “I can raise my arm just fine,” and she proceeded to demonstrate, although it was difficult to keep from grimacing as pain shot through her shoulder when she lifted her arm.

“That is quite enough,” Ducky interrupted the argument at that point. “Jordan and I did not work to patch you up, just so you could rip open the wound again with foolish maneuvers like that. You have absolutely no business being out in the field yet. You wouldn’t even be able to pass a field test right now,” he pointed out.

“Everyone knows the field tests are overly difficult,” Courtney began to argue.

“Doctor Mallard is correct,” Ziva cut in. “You are not one hundred percent right now, and you would be a liability rather than a help. Surely you do not want to be responsible for someone getting hurt, because they had to cover you instead of watching their own back?” she asked.

Courtney looked as if someone had slapped her. Blinking hard to prevent the tears she felt welling up from falling, she quietly said, “You’re right, of course.”

Ziva felt terrible. She hadn’t meant to be so hard on Courtney, but she realized the young woman would continue to argue unless someone said something to make her back down. Playing on her sense of responsibility had seemed like the easiest way to get her to acquiesce, so that was why Ziva had been so blunt. “I am sorry Courtney. I did not mean to imply you would knowingly put another agent in danger.”

“No, what you said was true. I’ll be fine here with Ducky and Jordan. You go on – just let me know what you find out, will you?” Courtney told her friend.

“Of course. Perhaps you will be ready to help in a day or two,” Ziva answered, looking at Ducky for conformation.

“I think Agent Kreiger will be able to at least resume desk duty in a couple of days,” Ducky confirmed, although he did put strong emphasis on the words desk duty.

“I must go,” Ziva told them, as she stood and prepared to leave. “Remember, no one outside of NCIS is to know that Courtney is here. If someone comes around asking questions you should immediately let Balboa’s team know, and then call either Gibbs or myself.”

“We shall be fine, Ziva,” Ducky assured her. “Now you had best hurry.”

Courtney watched as Ziva left, frustrated by her injuries and not liking the fact that she had become a commodity that needed protecting. She’d worked too hard to be taken seriously in the Bureau for the situation to be easy for her. Excusing herself, she went up to her bedroom, where, away from all other eyes, she could finally allow the tears to come.

It was close to noon by the time Tony and Gibbs finally got to Goldblume’s apartment. They had spent over an hour with Director Shepard, bringing her up to date on all that had happened since yesterday evening, and assuring her that there was no way anyone would detect the invasions on the private bank accounts that McGee and Abby had been busily conducting all morning long. They had also discussed how to approach Morris Nussbaum’s CEO, since the man was not an American citizen and their files showed he had strong ties to the Israeli Mossad. The fact he had not come to the FBI after Nussbaum had been murdered implied that he might have turned to other sources for justice, and both Jenny and Gibbs were concerned that the Mossad might also be investigating the kidnapping ring. Neither one of them wanted to become embroiled in a dispute with the other intelligence agency, so it was decided that when the initial contact was made, Ziva would be a part of the team that approached Michael Weiss. It might not prevent a confrontation, but it was their best option. Finally, Fornell was called, to alert him to the BOLO on Barker, and to explain who the man really was, since the BOLO did not specify why NCIS wanted him.

They had just been about to leave, when Abby had called Gibbs, to tell him her computer had just gotten a hit on five million dollars being transferred from Nabscot’s discretionary funds account into an unmarked account in the Cayman Islands. Unfortunately Abby had hit a brick wall in trying to discover who held the account, and while she had been working on that, the money had been transferred again, through several different banks, before landing somewhere she couldn’t find, probably in an account in Switzerland, the most notoriously difficult country to get any banking information from, no matter what the reason. Gibbs had been so frustrated, he hadn’t even asked why Abby wasn’t sleeping as ordered, instead telling her to try and see if there was any other traceable movements from the Cayman account, then had growled at Tony to follow him, as he stalked out of the building.

David Barker was still sitting in the coffee shop, slowly drinking his fifth cup of coffee when Tony and Gibbs arrived. He knew that the money had been transferred, and was merely watching to make sure that Goldblume didn’t contact the police. Peter had insisted he keep his eye on Goldblume all day, until they were ready to transport Carter back to her house, that night. Barker had been irritated when Peter had ordered him to stay, since he felt it was a waste of time. He was much more interested in checking out the NCIS agent, Gibbs, that Sylvia and Jillian were so worried about, just to assure himself there was no reason for alarm. He was completely thrown when he watched a car pull up in front of the apartment building, and Jethro Gibbs and Anthony DiNozzo got out. ‘Shit!’ he thought to himself. ‘This is not good.’ There was only one explanation for why the two NCIS agents would be there. He waited until they had entered the building, and then hurriedly left the coffee shop, headed for the black van, wanting the security of its tinted windows, his cell phone already out, as he prepared to call Phelps.

Henry Goldblume was surprised when there was a knock on his front door. ‘Why didn’t Pete call to announce a visitor?’ he wondered, as he moved to answer it. After the delivery of the cell phone, the morning had passed in a blur for him. The minute he’d hung up, he had immediately called Andrew Williford, his CFO, to give him the account information for transferring the money. Aside from himself, Williford was the only other person at Nabscot who knew exactly what was going on with Melissa. They had had several arguments over the past week, as Williford did not want to pay the kidnappers off, preferring instead for them to go to the authorities. It wasn’t until after Henry had told him what he had learned from Michael Weiss that Williford had reluctantly agreed to go along with the plan. Andrew was the one who would have to make the actual transfer, as all the security codes for their banking system were keyed to him. Since that time, Henry had been sitting and waiting, hoping against hope that the kidnappers might release Melissa early, and every time the phone had rung, he’d felt a little pang of anticipation, only to have it dashed when someone else was on the other end. Now, as he hurried to the door, he once again felt a spark of hope. ‘What if it's Melissa?’ he thought to himself. He was so hopeful, that he failed to even look through the peephole before opening the door, only to find two strange men standing in the hall.

“May I help you?” he asked in a startled voice, after he’d opened the door.

The older of the two men held up and badge and ID and said, “I’m Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services, and this is my Senior Agent, Anthony DiNozzo. We’d like a few minutes of your time, Mr. Goldblume.”

“May I ask what this is about?” Henry inquired after he’d examined the man’s badge, secretly afraid he knew exactly why the men were there.

“We’d like to talk to you about one of your employees,” Gibbs said. “Do you mind if we come in?”

Henry didn’t see any way around it. What was he going to do, refuse them entry? “Certainly,” he said, stepping aside so they could enter, and then leading the way into the sitting room. When they’d gotten themselves settled in the upright chairs arranged around a small coffee table, he asked, “Just which one of my employees does this involve?”

“I think you know,” Gibbs said to him, holding Goldblume’s eyes with the force of his stare. “We’d like to talk to you about Melissa Carter,” and he watched to see what Goldblume’s reaction would be. He was actually fairly impressed with the self control the man exhibited. The only tell tale sign of distress Gibbs could perceive was the few beads of sweat that seemed to magically appear on Goldblume’s forehead. This was clearly a man who’d learned to school his thoughts over the years.

“Melissa Carter is an excellent employee,” Goldblume said rather formally. “I can’t imagine what your interest in her might be.”

“Look Mr. Goldblume, I don’t have time to verbally fence with you,” Gibbs declared. “We’re well aware of what is going on with Ms. Carter, and we know that you’ve ceded to the kidnappers’ demands. We need to know all the details so we can catch these bastards before they take another innocent person.” Goldblume seemed to deflate before Gibbs’ very eyes. His shoulders slumped, and Gibbs realized just how tired he really was, as his face paled and the dark circles around his eyes stood out in high relief.

“I can’t talk to you about this right now,” Goldblume said in a barely audible voice. “How do you know about this, anyway?” he asked.

“I’ll explain that to you when you tell me everything you know, and now would be a really good time,” Gibbs said emphatically. “Every second we don’t have the full picture, gives the kidnappers more time to hide their trail.”

“Not today,” Goldblume said, as he straightened up and looked at Gibbs with new found determination. “I have nothing to say about this – today,” he repeated, his voice growing in strength. Henry couldn’t do anything that might jeopardize Melissa’s release. Over the past few years Melissa had become more than an employee to Henry. He’d admired her drive and creative thinking when he’d hired her, and there was no denying her importance to the success of the company, but what Henry valued most about her was her friendship. He and his wife regularly socialized with Melissa and her husband, and he had deep admiration for her commitment to her relationship with her husband Jeff. They were living proof that marriages based on respect and friendship last, and Henry would be damned if he would do anything which might lead to Melissa being hurt, or worse. Jeff wasn’t here now, to protect her, so Henry had assumed that responsibility.

“Mr. Goldblume, I don’t think you fully understand the situation,” Gibbs began, but he was cut off when Goldblume snapped out a reply.

“Oh, I can assure you, I have a complete understanding of the situation. It’s you, Agent Gibbs, who doesn’t have the full picture, and I am not about to sketch it out for you in any more detail right now, not when there’s even the most remote chance that my speaking to you could endanger Melissa. I appreciate your interest in helping her, but this isn’t the way. Now, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he said, and stood up to punctuate his request.

Gibbs decided to give it one more try. “These people are dangerous, and need to be stopped. They’ve already killed one of their victims,” he said, hoping to scare Goldblume into cooperating.

“I’m well aware of what they’re capable of,” Goldblume answered, not betraying how much he knew about Nussbaum’s death. “That is why I’m not at liberty to divulge any information to you right now. Give me your card, and as soon as I deem it safe, I’ll call you,” he said.

It certainly wasn’t the concession he’d hoped to wring from the man, but Gibbs could tell he wasn’t going to get anything more at that moment. “I hope you’ll reconsider your position, Mr. Goldblume. This is a dangerous game, and the stakes are awfully high. I’m not sure you’re ready to play it. This is what we do; let us help,” Gibbs said, as he drew out a card from his wallet and handed it to the man.

“I fully appreciate the stakes, Sir,” Goldblume said, then he moved to the front door, with Tony and Gibbs following behind him. When he had the door open, he said, “Good day gentlemen, I’m sure we’ll speak later.”

After Tony and Gibbs had left, Goldblume had collapsed against the closed door, his eyes closed, and his breathing uneven. He hoped he’d made the right decision just now. The men seemed more than capable, and their desire to help couldn’t be denied, but Henry hadn’t been able to dismiss the warning given him by the kidnappers – Don’t tell anyone about this. ‘Maybe when Melissa is safe and sound….’ he thought.

After exiting the building, Gibbs looked across the street and saw the coffee shop. “Time to refuel,” he told Tony, as he headed across the street, walking around a parked black van with tinted windows, to get to the shop. They were discussing the likelihood of hearing from Goldblume later that day as they went in to get Gibbs a much needed cup of coffee.

In the van, David was having a slightly hysterical conversation with Peter. “….Sylvia and Jillian said the man was dangerous,” he was saying into the phone. Peter interrupted him mid-rant. David had been saying the same thing over and over for the last five minutes, refusing to be calmed by Peter’s more reasonable words. Now, Peter’s other phone was ringing. “I’ve got another call coming in. Sit tight, I’ll call you as soon as I’m done, and we can talk about what to do next,” he told David, as he disconnected.

When Peter answered the other phone, Richard DeAngelo’s voice washed over him, sounding every bit as frantic as David’s. “Peter, we’re in deep shit,” DeAngelo began the conversation by saying.

Peter ran a hand across his eyes; the day certainly wasn’t getting any better. “Take a deep breath and tell me the problem. Did David call you?” Peter said, thinking it would be just like David to have called Richard first, just to rile him up.

“David? Why would he call me? Is he in trouble? He’s the reason I’m calling,” DeAngelo hissed into the phone.

“What are you talking about Richard?” Peter asked.

“I just left Bethesda. I’ve been sitting there half the damn morning, trying to see what I could learn. About a half hour ago, Fornell got a call, and when he came back into the room he told me they had just put out a BOLO on a David Barker in connection with the shootings yesterday. And get this, any sightings are supposed to be reported to NCIS! I asked him what had tipped him to the man, and he refused to talk. He told me if I wanted to be helpful I could go back to METRO and get all the precinct captains to really push this BOLO. That didn’t really leave me with a lot of choices. I’ve spent the last thirty six hours offering up METRO’s help in finding the shooters, so when he finally asked me to do something, I couldn’t very well say I’d rather stay there. I want to know how in the hell they found out about Barker, and you need to make sure he makes himself invisible, right now.” Richard had sounded more and more desperate as he’d spoken.

Peter couldn’t believe it. First Gibbs and DiNozzo show up at Goldblume’s, and now this. Thinking quickly, he said, “Okay, take it easy. I’ll make sure David stays off the radar, but we need him to get Carter back tonight. I’m also going to speed up the time clock. If Gibbs is on to our scent, we need to step everything up. I’m going to have David and his crew grab the next person after they put Carter back in her own bed tonight. If we play this right, we’ll be just fine. Go do what Fornell asked you to Richard. You can’t afford to make him suspicious. It’ll be fine, you’ll see. We’ll have an emergency meeting tomorrow, after the next guy’s safely stashed in our bedroom.”

“I don’t like it,” Richard began.

“You don’t need to like it,” Peter said bluntly. “You just need to do your part. It’ll be over soon, and you’ll be ten million dollars richer. You can reclaim your family and start a new life very soon. Just keep the end goal in sight, and we’ll be fine. I’ll talk to you later. I need to get to Barker right now,” he said, as he hung up.

Picking up his cell phone, he punched four on the speed dial. When it was answered he said, “I need you back here right now. Don’t stop anywhere on your way here, and make sure no one sees you. I’ll explain why when you get here.” He disconnected without waiting for a reply.

Gibbs and Tony, drinks in hand, waited while the van in front of the coffee shop backed out of its parking spot, before they headed back to their own car. “So, where to next?” Tony asked.

“Might as well grab something to eat,” Gibbs said. “Then, if we haven’t heard anything new, I guess we head back to the lab to see what Abby’s dug up. Looks like its going to be another long day.”



“A Friend in Need” – Chapter Twelve

Ziva and McGee had been sitting around the corner from David Barker’s townhouse complex for well over three hours, and they were both beginning to go stir crazy. Ziva had by this time cleaned all of her fingernails with the point of one of her knives, sharpened two others, and was now in the process of cleaning McGee’s gun, since she claimed he didn’t take proper care of it. For his part, McGee had had a thirty message IM conversation with his editor on his Blackberry, which had resulted in him promising to have two new chapters ready within the next three weeks, just to get the woman to stop nagging him. He had also fielded two calls from Abby, and another from Gibbs, neither of whom he’d made very happy when he didn’t have anything new to report.

“This is hapless!” Ziva exclaimed, breaking the silence that had descended on the car an hour ago. “He is not going to show up here, and we are wasting our time.”

“Hopeless Ziva, not hapless,” McGee said automatically. “Hapless means unlucky or unfortunate.”

“And this is not unfortunate?” she asked.

“Well, yes this is unfortunate, but that isn’t what you meant,” McGee started to argue.

“And how do you know what I meant?” Ziva demanded.

“Look Ziva, I’m not going to get into an argument with you over this. You’re starting to sound like Tony,” he announced. When he noticed her taking out her phone, he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am calling Gibbs. I want to check out the inside of Barker’s house, while you watch from here,” she told him.

“Why do you get to be the one to go in?” McGee asked.

Ziva raised an eyebrow as she looked at him, a trick she’d learned from Gibbs and answered, “I get to go in since I am the one who knows how to pick the lock. Is there anything else you would like to argue about before I call Gibbs?”

McGee was still sputtering about not being the one who was arguing when she pressed the speed dial button. When Gibbs answered Ziva asked him for permission to execute her plan, explaining that McGee could stay in the car and watch to make sure Barker didn’t return while she was inside. She pointed out that they’d been there for several hours and there had been no sign of the man. This might be their only chance to get any additional information. Gibbs had reluctantly consented, telling her to make sure she left absolutely no sign of her presence. He ordered her to call him immediately if she found anything that might tell them more about what was going on and where the kidnappers were holding Melissa Carter. He ended the conversation by warning her to be careful.

With McGee watching her back from the car, Ziva slipped out of the car, stepped behind the bushes of the house they were parked in front of, and vanished from sight. McGee was still wondering how she did that when his phone rang once and then quit, the sign he and Ziva had established to let him know she was in the house.

Gun drawn, Ziva had entered from a back door that opened up into a small laundry room. She sniffed the air, not at all happy to discover there was no trace odor of laundry detergent. Clearly Barker hadn’t washed dirty clothes here for a while. As she sidled into the next room, she found herself in the kitchen. Once again, there was little evidence of habitation – no dirty cups in the sink, or washed dishes sitting in a drying rack on the counter. A quick glance into the refrigerator revealed a host of condiments, some beer, a jar of pickles, and a couple of shriveled apples, but other than that, it was empty. From the kitchen, she stepped into a small living room. The furniture was modern and tasteful, a combination of black leather and blonde wood. The flat surfaces were not overrun with knickknacks, and the few chrome framed pictures sitting out were images of mountains, waterfalls, and wild life. It looked like a showcase living room, put together by some interior designer, meant to suggest masculinity, but purposely devoid of individualism. ‘Who is this man?’ Ziva found herself wondering. There were two bedrooms in the house, the first of which Barker clearly used for sleeping. There was a neatly made queen sized bed, dressed in an expensive, but understated, slate grey silk duvet, with several white, grey and black pillows stacked at its head. The birch and stainless steel dresser contained neatly folded underwear, sweaters, t-shirts, and pullovers, along with some jeans, khakis and various articles of clothing intended for working out. In the closet she found suits, shirts, ties, shoes, and various other pieces of clothing. What disturbed her were the gaps she had found in the carefully arranged hanging clothes, and the folded items in the dresser. It appeared as though Barker had packed enough clothing to see him through an extended time away.

Reholstering her gun, Ziva went to explore the other bedroom. It had been arranged as a home office, and there was a glass topped desk, the writing surface perched atop two chrome table saw shaped supports. The one thing that was conspicuously missing was a computer. Barker must use a laptop, which he had taken with him when he left. A large black filing cabinet sat against the wall, and when Ziva tried to pull open a drawer, she discovered it was locked. Pulling out her lock pick, she unlocked the unit, and took a quick look inside the drawers. She found copies of his insurance policies, which she quickly scanned, and was surprised and frustrated when she discovered that a local veterans’ association had been named as beneficiary on all of his policies. That wasn’t going to be any help. She found a copy of the bill of sale for the house, the only thing interesting about that was the fact that he had paid for it in full, rather than taking out the usual mortgage. There were bank statements, neatly filed in folders, and she used her phone to take a picture of them, so that they would have the bank’s name and his account numbers, but a quick glance through them didn’t trigger any warning signs. Barker seemed to be living fairly modestly, and his balance, as of two months ago, was only six thousand dollars and some odd cents. Copies of his utility and phone bills were there, and seemed to be paid on time. She was surprised that she didn’t find a record of him having a cell phone, and actually looked through all the papers twice, to make sure she hadn’t missed it, to no avail. She even found his discharge papers from the Marine Corps, but other than that, there was nothing in there to give her a real feel for the man.

Actually, the lack of helpful information was beginning to tell Ziva a lot about Barker. He obviously had been careful to leave no real information about himself sitting around, available to anyone who might come snooping. This was not a man to be taken lightly. Ziva recognized the caution he exhibited; her own apartment was not much different. Any important information she owned was kept in a safety deposit box at the bank, and Ziva was very frustrated by the fact that she’d found no record of Barker possessing such a thing. ‘I would bet he has one in another name,’ she thought to herself, as she looked through the closet in the office, only to discover it was his catch all closet, and was filled with office supplies, luggage, assorted sports paraphernalia, old magazines, and assorted other items equally as impersonal. Moving back through the house, she took out her cell phone and punched in McGee’s number, letting it ring twice, before she disconnected. That was the signal to indicate she was leaving.

Within minutes, Ziva was opening the door to their car, and sliding back into the passenger side. “There was nothing in there that told me a thing about the man. It is as if he were a ghost. I found some banking information, but I suspect it is not his main account, as it had only six thousand dollars in it, and seemed to only be used to pay his bills. There was no credit card account information, no phone or address books, nothing that really told a thing about how he spends his time, and it appears as if he has not been there in a while. This is a death end,” she announced in exasperation.

“Dead end,” McGee corrected her without even realizing he’d done it. “We should call Gibbs, then. If he still wants the place watched, there might be someone else who can be assigned, so we can move on to other things.”

When Gibbs heard what Ziva had seen, he agreed that Barker’s house sounded like a dead end, and told them to head back to the Yard, saying he’d get Jenny to assign someone else to watch the house for the next few hours. Ziva and McGee found themselves back in Abby’s lab by 1500, along with Tony and Gibbs, listening to Abby give them an update on her findings. She had continued searching through the FBI background check files that she and McGee had been exploring that morning, and now had a list of about twenty potential victims. Her computers were still scanning through their employers’ various bank accounts, but she already had isolated three companies, aside from Nabscot, that had made a five million dollar lump sum payout to private accounts outside of the United States. The team all agreed that these were very likely other victims of the kidnappers. She also explained how she had lost the money trail on Nabscot’s transfer, as it bounced from one account to another, and that, try as she might, she couldn’t access any additional information on the accounts. When she was done, she looked tired and discouraged.

“Go home people,” Gibbs surprised them all by saying.

“But Gibbs…” Abby said.

“There isn’t anything else we can do today, Abs,” Gibbs explained. “We’ll need to talk to all the CEO’s of those companies you’ve located, but most of them won’t be available until tomorrow. Since Nabscot paid the ransom today, Melissa Carter will probably show up somewhere tomorrow, then maybe Goldblume will be willing to talk to us. Everyone here needs a good night’s sleep, since if all goes well, things will start to pick up tomorrow, and we may not get the chance again for awhile.” Then, looking over at Ziva, he asked, “Are you going back to Ducky’s?”

“Yes. I want to check in with Balboa’s team, and see how Courtney is doing. She is getting restless; she even tried to convince me to let her go with me this morning,” she answered.

“Kreiger is to stay put!” Gibbs declared forcefully. “We didn’t go to all the trouble of hiding and protecting her, just so she can stick her neck back out and ask to get killed. Tell Ducky to call in sick tomorrow – I’ll talk to the Director. I want someone with her at all times, and Balboa and his people have their hands full securing the perimeter. You talk some sense into her,” he ordered. “Are we clear?” he asked everyone. When they all nodded in response, he said, “Get moving people.”

__________________________________

While the NCIS team was dispersing, people were beginning to congregate at Phelps’ place in Virginia. Barker had arrived there shortly after one, and Peter had taken the opportunity of speaking to him alone so he could tell him about the BOLO. As Peter had suspected, Barker went ballistic. When he had finished cursing Courtney, both her parents, and NCIS, Peter had interrupted him and said, “There isn’t a lot we can do about this David, except make sure they don’t find you, and as long as you’re smart, that won’t happen. All of our vehicles are registered under phony names, and their windows are tinted so darkly that no one can see into them. As long as you don’t do something stupid, they should have no way of finding you. You’ve been staying with Jillian for the last few months, haven’t you?” he asked. When Barker confirmed that, Peter continued, “Then they won’t be able to pick up your trail from you place. Is there anything there that would lead them to Jill?”

“Of course not. Do you think I’m stupid?” David snapped.

Peter kept his thoughts on that subject to himself, and didn’t answer the question. Instead, he said, “It’ll be dark when you return Carter to her home, so no one will be able to see you then. I’ve talked to the others, and we all agree that we need to step up the time schedule. I want you to take the next person tonight, after you drop Carter off.”

“That doesn’t give me enough time to plan it out,” Barker objected. “How am I going to arrange to drug them, so they’re asleep when we go in, on this short a notice?”

“You won’t be able to do that,” Peter agreed. “But if you move quickly, you should be able to use a stun gun, so he won’t get a chance to see anything useful. Then you can blindfold him for the trip out here. The next victim’s Joseph Galvin, and you’ve already done all the preliminary research and surveillance on his place. It shouldn’t be that difficult for you to get him tonight.”

Barker couldn’t really argue with that, since everything Peter had said was true. “What about getting the room ready?” he asked, still looking for a way out of hurrying into the next kidnapping. He didn’t know why, but for some reason it just seemed as if stepping up the schedule was a mistake.

“Leave Garrison here with me when you take Carter back and go to get Galvin. He can help me swap out the furnishings, to make the room ready for a male inhabitant. I’ve already purchased most of the books, magazines, and personal items we’ll be needing; it helps that he’s the same size as the first man we took, so the clothes won’t be a problem. You and I can go over his information together in a few moments, look at what I’ve already gotten, and see if we need to get anything else. One of your men can pick it up for us on their way out here tonight,” Peter said reasonably.

“What about keeping our eyes on Gibbs and his team?” David asked.

“We still need to do that, no doubt,” Peter agreed. “But the question of whether Gibbs is on the case has pretty well been answered. Now we need to see how close he’s getting, and talk about ways to slow him down. Richard managed to get his and DiNozzo’s cell phone numbers, so Sylvia can now keep track of them electronically, so you don’t have to be actively tailing him. We’ll have an emergency meeting out here tomorrow, after Carter’s been released, and Galvin is safely ensconced in the room, and we’ll figure out exactly what to do then.”

“And Langer and Merit, not to mention the girl?” David asked.

“What’s the point of worrying too much about them now?” Peter asked dryly. “They already know who you are. I assume you have several false identities already established?” he asked Barker.

“Yeah, I’ve got three I can activate with no real problem,” he admitted.

“Well, you’re going to need them, especially when all our business is concluded. I think it’s safe to say that David Barker is now effectively dead,” Phelps announced.

“Yeah, let’s just make sure that doesn’t happen literally,” David muttered.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Phelps pointed out.

Phelps and Barker spent the rest of the afternoon reviewing the information they’d gathered on Joseph Galvin. Galvin worked for a firm called Pursell and White, a small company that made three components critical to most modern network computer systems. So, although the firm was relatively small, they were making money hand over fist, and Galvin, who was in charge of the corporate relations department, had been instrumental in their success. Over the past month, Barker and the team had learned more about Galvin’s personal likes and interests than most of his close friends were likely to know. Thanks to Sylvia, they knew what websites he went to on a regular basis, what type of music he listened to, and even what sports teams he followed. Barker had broken in to his house, and inventoried his taste in literature, movies, personal hygiene products, supplements and vitamins, and had even checked his TiVo to see what television shows he enjoyed. Similar, and in some cases, identical, items had been procured, and were now sitting in the storage room in the plantation house, just waiting to be moved into the ‘guest room’, in anticipation of Galvin’s arrival. Now all they needed was for night to fall, and Melissa Carter to go to sleep.

Joe White, Steve Holmes and Marty Franklin, three of Barker’s men arrived at the house by seven that evening. Phil Garrison, the last of Barker’s crew, had already been there, as it was his day to keep an eye on Melissa Carter. David briefed his men on the plans to return Carter to her home, and then make the twenty minute trip to Galvin’s home, where David and Joe White would quietly break in and get their next quarry. Marty Franklin would stay in the car, and Phil Garrison would remain behind in Virginia, to lend Phelps a hand in preparing the room. All of the items Carter had used would need to be removed, and anything not recyclable for their purposes, would be boxed up for charity and stowed out of the way. The room would undergo a gender change, and the items that had been earmarked specifically for Galvin would be moved in. Phelps figured he and Garrison would have about three hours to achieve this, while Barker and his other three men carried out their portion of the mission. Then everyone would spend the night at the house, since it would be too late to go back to their respective homes.

Phelps prepared Melissa’s bedtime snack himself that night. Part of keeping the captives calm was establishing a routine – breakfast, lunch and dinner all served at exactly the same time each day, and a bedtime snack each night. Carter was given a cup of tea, and some fruit and cheese each night, the very same things they knew she indulged in when at home. Tonight, Phelps dropped two sleeping pills into her tea. The narcotics were strong enough to ensure that when she went to sleep that night, she would remain so for at least eight more hours, regardless of how much she was jostled about as they moved her back to her own house. When she was asleep, Barker and his men suited up in their black jumpsuits, added black ski-masks and gloves, entered the room and carefully changed her back into the pajamas she’d been wearing when they’d first taken her, then they carried her out to the van and placed her in the back. It would take them a little over an hour to reach her sleepy little suburban neighborhood, and they’d timed it so they would pull into her driveway at around 0100 – late enough for most of the neighbors to be asleep, but not so late that a vehicle travelling down the lanes in the neighborhood would immediately put an observer on alert.

When they got to Melissa’s home, Barker climbed into the back of the van and gently eased her into a sitting position. Then, sliding the side door open, he climbed out and reached back in to get the sleeping woman, throwing one of her arms over his shoulder and gripping her firmly around the waist. Although he was literally carrying her in this position, to a casual observer it would look like a friend assisting either a drunk or ill woman into the house. He had taken her key ring when they kidnapped her, and this was what he used to get her into the house. Once the door was shut behind him, he swooped her up into his arms and carried her up the stairs to her bedroom. After pulling the covers back with one hand, he set her down in the bed and reached into one of the zipped pockets on his jumpsuit and withdrew the computer printed message Phelps had prepared, and safety pinned it to the front of her pj’s, then he drew the covers up over her and turned to leave, dropping her keys on the bedside table as he left.

Joseph Galvin’s house was only fifteen miles away from Melissa Carter’s. Like her, he lived in a small suburban development, in a house that was far too big for one person, even though he lived alone. Galvin had bought the house several years ago, back when he still had a wife; now, twelve years later and three years divorced, it was just easier to stay there than move to somewhere smaller in the city. That was actually one of the reasons Phelps had selected him – no wife or children to miss him when he disappeared. The houses in his subdivision were separated by at least an acre apiece; they weren’t like the Macmansions being built now, large homes on tiny plots. The houses were surrounded by mature trees and bushes, and it took real effort to see into your neighbors’ yard. Barker had liked the layout the first time he’d seen it. If they had to grab someone without as much planning as he would have liked, Barker consoled himself with the knowledge that it was Galvin’s house they were breeching.

When they got there, Barker reached under his seat and took out the stun gun he’d stashed there right before they left Phelps’. The plan was for him and Joe White to go in through the back, while Holmes and Franklin kept a watch on the neighborhood, for any possible witnesses. They were all armed with walkie-talkies, so they could alert each other to any problems they encountered.

“I don’t like this,” White said to Barker as they got ready to get out.

“You’re not being paid to like things,” Barker snapped at him, not happy about the fact that White was verbalizing what he’d been silently thinking for the last several hours. “You get paid to follow orders, not think.”

“Whatever,” White muttered. “Let’s get this over with.”

“No talking until after we’ve zapped him,” Barker reminded White.

“How do we know his heart isn’t going to give out, when we hit him?” White asked.

“Phelps checked over his medical records. He’s in perfect health. It’ll be fine,” Barker assured him, as he opened the door and crept out, White right behind him.

They made their way around to the back, using the bushes for cover, and then Barker slid his lock pick in the door, to let them in. David had been in the house several times already, making sure he knew the shortest path to the master bedroom, so he quickly led the way up to the bedroom, the stun gun already pulled out and ready to use. When they got to the bedroom he was momentarily confused when he looked at the empty bed in front of him. The covers were pulled back, but Galvin wasn’t there. Looking to his left, he saw that the door to the en suite bathroom was closed, and a shaft of light was shining through the crack. ‘This is just great,’ he thought to himself. Frantically motioning to the door, he began to back out of the room, right as the bathroom door was opening.

“What the hell?” Galvin exclaimed, as he saw darkly clad men standing in front of him. He was just about to turn around and rush back into the bathroom, when Barker tackled him, shoving the stun gun to his neck and pulling the trigger and holding the gun there for several seconds, while the electricity pulsed through Galvin’s body. When Galvin stopped moving, Barker removed the gun and pulled a gag and blindfold out of his pockets, quickly putting them on the fallen man. He then reached into another pocket, pulling out a pair of handcuffs, which he fastened around Galvin’s wrists. This wasn’t the way he had wanted to do this. It was supposed to be easy in and easy out, instead they had a victim who would wake up in a panic, and who knew what the fuck he’d do?

“When we get to the van, I want you to tie up his ankles and put the ear plugs in his ears. I don’t trust these stun guns. I’m not sure he’ll stay out the whole way back,” Barker ordered White.

“Do you want me to zap him again, if he starts to come around?” White asked.

“Not unless we have to,” Barker answered. Phelps had said Galvin would be fine if they shocked him with the gun, but no one had discussed multiple uses. He wasn’t willing to lose another target; they were already down one million apiece because of Nussbaum, and his stupid assed boss. “Grab his feet,” he instructed, as he reached under the man’s arms, preparing to lift him up. Together they carried him down to the back door, where White let Galvin’s legs down, and took him from Barker, tossing the unconscious man over his shoulder. Holmes had seen them coming, and had the side door to the van open and waiting when they got there. Tossing Galvin in, White climbed in beside him, while Barker slid into the front passenger seat. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” he said to Franklin.

As he backed the van out of the drive, Franklin glanced over at Barker, who sat silent and rigid beside him. “How’d it go?” he asked.

“About the same way everything else has gone lately,” Barker replied.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

While things had been ramping into high gear for Phelps and Barker, Tony and Gibbs had been trying to decompress. They’d grabbed some Chinese on their way to Gibbs’ house, fully intending to have a beer, eat, maybe watch some television, and call it a night. They’d been going since before four that morning, and they were both beginning to drag. When they pulled into the drive, Gibbs commented, “We should probably take both cars tomorrow.”

“Worried someone will figure things out?” Tony asked, only partially serious.

“No,” Gibbs said. “If us being in the same car was going to tip anyone off, it would have happened years ago. I think we’re likely to have to split up tomorrow. I want to talk to Michael Weiss in the morning, and I think Ziva might be the best person to accompany me, especially if Fornell is right about Weiss having ties with the Mossad, so I’ll need my car.”

“Is Weaver still pissed at you?” Tony teased, referring to the man who controlled NCIS’ fleet of cars. Gibbs had torn out the transmission on one of the company Chargers last week in a car chase, his second that month, and Weaver had threatened to never let him take another car from the pool.

“No DiNozzo,” Gibbs had answered, letting Tony know he didn’t appreciate the reminder by calling him by his last name. “I thought we might get done at different times tomorrow night, and neither of us would want to be stuck waiting around for the other one.”

“Always thinking, must be why you’re the boss,” Tony said with a grin, as he grabbed the bag of food, and got out. As he headed for the door, with Gibbs coming up behind him, he announced, “Last one in does the dishes,” as he sprinted on ahead.

Gibbs was laughing as he came into the house. When the door shut, Tony pushed him up against the door and kissed him soundly. “What is it about Chinese food that always makes you horny?” Gibbs asked, when they broke apart from each other.

“I don’t know,” Tony answered. “Why is it you always suggest we pick it up?” he countered.

“Sometimes I wonder the same thing,” Gibbs said with a smirk, as he stepped around Tony and headed for the kitchen.

They ended up dividing the food between two plates, grabbing a beer apiece, and carrying it all to the den, so that they could watch the news as they ate. When the food was gone and the news was over, Tony reached over for the controller. “Movie or the boat?” he asked.

“Too tired to work on the boat tonight,” Gibbs answered. “How about we clean up down here, and watch something on the upstairs television?" he suggested, smiling to himself. It hadn’t been too many years ago that the only television he had in his house was an old black and white, that only got two channels, and that was with the help of a clothes hanger antennae. Now, he had a small portable color television in the basement, a large plasma screen in the den, and a combination VCR/DVD/TV in the bedroom. Tony may not have exactly brought high culture into his life, but he’d certainly pushed him into the electronic age.

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll even help you with the dishes,” he offered magnanimously. “Of course, that will mean it’s your turn again next time.”

“DiNozzo, we had Chinese that we ate on paper plates with chopsticks,” Gibbs pointed out, as he reached over and smacked the back of Tony’s head gently.

“You know, I think you’re right,” Tony said, affecting a stunned expression. “Guess that means the next two times will be your turn, since I offered to help this time, even though it turned out you didn’t need my help.”

Gibbs was laughing as he leaned over and tackled Tony, pressing his arms into the couch and hovering over Tony’s face. “Want to rethink that?” he growled.

“If I say yes, does that mean you’ll let me go?” Tony asked.

“Probably,” Gibbs allowed.

“Then no,” Tony said, as he thrust his hips up to meet Gibbs’.

Gibbs groaned and said, “Twice in one day? I’m an old man, Tony.”

“Didn’t seem so old to me this morning,” Tony answered, as he lifted up his head to nip at Gibbs’ chin.

Gibbs pressed down harder on Tony’s arms, and leaned down, kissing Tony in earnest. As he eased his body down on top of Tony’s, Tony opened his mouth to allow Gibbs’ tongue entrance. The kiss, or rather, the series of kisses went on for some time, and they were both breathless when Gibbs released Tony’s mouth and arms, so he could slide a hand between them, up and under Tony’s shirt until his fingers found their target, Tony’s right nipple. As he tweaked and caressed, he let his mouth slide down Tony’s face and onto his neck, his other hand sliding under Tony’s neck and up into his hair. He loved Tony’s hair, always had, and could spend hours just sliding his fingers through it, content just to feel the soft strands tickle the underside of his fingers and palms. He also liked the soft, almost purring sound Tony made, as his nails grazed his scalp; it was a pure sound, uncensored and totally spontaneous, a sound he wasn’t even sure Tony was aware he made, and therefore all the more special.

“It reminds me of the first time,” Tony breathed softly.

“What?” Gibbs asked, confused by what Tony was talking about.

“Chinese food – it reminds me of the first time,” Tony said, as he slid his arms around Gibbs, and pressed him closer to him. When Gibbs let his hand slid down to Tony’s groin, tracing his fingers around Tony’s genitals, Tony continued, panting slightly between phrases. “Spilled rice………ummm……….broken plates………oh God………very hot sex.” He moaned the last words because Gibbs had closed his hand around where Tony’s cock was pressing insistently against his jeans, begging for release.

Gibbs felt himself harden as Tony talked, the memory of that first night in Tony’s apartment vividly coming back to him. Suddenly groping and teasing wasn’t enough, as all the need he’d felt that night so long ago washed back over him, threatening to drown him in desire. Releasing Tony, he sat up enough that he could get both hands free, and he quickly unfastened the jeans that Tony was wearing and yanked them off his body. Then he stood, and as he was unfastening his own pants he went over to the bookcase, and reached up into a pewter mug with the Marine Corps’ insignia on it, and pulled out a tube of lube. This wasn’t the first time they hadn’t made it to the bedroom. He slid his own pants and boxers off when he returned to the couch, and using his body, he pushed Tony’s legs apart. Tony lay watching him through half slit eyes, his breath coming in starts and stops, anticipation writ large on his face, and just the merest suggestion of a self satisfied smirk.

Gibbs leaned over and sucked on Tony’s lower lip, rolling it between his teeth before he settled back down to serious kissing. Tony slid his hands up and under the polo Gibbs still had on, letting his fingers run up and down his spine as they kissed, his hips slowly undulating against Gibbs’. When Tony’s fingers worked their way lower, across the soft skin of Gibbs’ ass, tracing along the outside of his crack, Gibbs couldn’t wait any longer. Reaching up, he opened the lube and coated the fingers on his right hand. Then he pulled up enough to reach between them once again, this time sliding his hand down beneath Tony’s balls, searching for his opening. “I love Chinese food,” he said, just before he pushed two lube slicked fingers into Tony, and leaned back down to kiss him again. They didn’t speak again, as Gibbs continued to open him up and then finally push himself into Tony’s warmth. They didn’t need to; seven years hadn’t diminished their passion for each other. If anything, it had intensified it. There wasn’t the thrill of exploration anymore, but it had been replaced by the more deeply felt comfort and satisfaction they found in the simple act of love making. Yet they still had the capacity to surprise one another. For seven years Gibbs had never known that Tony associated Chinese food with the first time they’d made love, and he kissed him again, wanting to offer physical thanks for the revelation. They were positioned, cheek to cheek when Tony came, the rippling of his muscles dragging Gibbs’ own orgasm from his body. As they lay there, sticky and panting, pressed together, Gibbs thought about how lucky he was to have this, to have Tony in his life. Maybe they didn’t whisper sweet nothings to each other, but there was no mistaking how they felt.

“So, shower first, and then a movie?” Tony asked, after he’d pressed a kiss to Gibbs' forehead.

“As long as it's one I can sleep through,” Gibbs answered as he pushed himself off Tony, and reached out a hand to help him up. “The dishes can wait until tomorrow,” he said with a smile, then kissed Tony again before he reached over and turned off the lamp on the table next to the couch.

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