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by: ksl (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 030 Word Count: 111544
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Alternate Universe
Episode(s): 4-03 Singled Out
Summary: An AU where Tony accepts the position in Rota, Spain when Shepard offered it in season four.
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30
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Gibbs hated being wrong.
Gibbs thought Goliath brokering the sale of ARES meant selling it couldn’t happen without him. But the truth was a bit more complicated. Goliath’s actual role was to bring the buyers and seller together, to arrange a way for the auction to take place, and for contact between the seller and the highest bidder to occur when it was time to make the exchange. So when they’d found Harrow, Gibbs had told Shepard that the auction hadn’t taken place. He hadn’t known it was already set up and could occur even without Goliath or Harrow around to participate. The wheels were already in motion.
It wasn’t until McGee realized that the coffee shop where Ziva and Bahl had spotted Harrow was actually an internet café that pieces began to fall into place. Gibbs wasn’t sure how McGee got into Harrow’s email, or traced the lines of communication, and he didn’t honestly care. All Gibbs had needed to know was that the auction was definitely going on. An unknown party was hosting the online activity; they’d been unable to pin down whom, or where, and as a result couldn’t stop it or take control of the event.
Fortunately, buried in what McGee and Abby both considered a positively ancient computer, ARES had been located. Buyers might be lining up to bid, but they ultimately couldn’t get the goods. So the on going auction wasn’t much of an issue---or it wouldn’t have been if not for Shepard’s desire to capture Benoit.
How exactly they were supposed to ensure he was the highest bidder, Gibbs didn’t have a clue. He didn’t know how they were supposed to make the exchange either, because they couldn’t risk losing ARES, and there was no way Benoit wouldn’t be smart enough to test the system before paying for it. McGee was good, but even he’d need more than a day to make something that might resemble a complex system like ARES long enough to fool anyone into thinking it was the real deal.
And it as luck would have it, Shepard wasn’t the only one interested in taking this case further. There was also the not entirely unexpected involvement in the case by the CIA.
Gibbs wasn’t sure what tipped them off. It could have been their digging into Trent Kort’s past, McGee trying to hack into something or Miri asking too many questions. Or it could have been Shepard telling the SecNav they’d located ARES and were trying to bring down La Grenouille. Whatever it was didn’t really matter. Gibbs wasn’t looking to blame anyone for it. From the minute Miri mentioned that Kort might be CIA, he was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before someone from the Agency showed up.
They were monitoring the auction, trying to keep tabs on the bidders and find a way to take any or all into custody for a charge that would stick longer than a day, when two men in dark suits stepped off the elevator. Miri had been the first to notice them, nudging Tony and nodding toward the approaching men.
“MiB’s, Sir. Ten o’clock.”
Gibbs had looked up from where he’d been watching the auction over McGee’s shoulder. Men in Black was definitely an apt description. It was possibly the only way to describe them. There was nothing remarkable or otherwise memorable about the two men. They were both Caucasian, approximately six feet tall, with short brown hair and eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses making the color hard to determine. They wouldn’t stand out in a crowd or draw attention, and that was likely one of their most valuable traits.
“It’s always weird to encounter a walking cliché,” Tony murmured loud enough for anyone in range to hear it.
“I know,” Miri said, her sotto whisper clearly meant to draw attention rather than hide what she was saying. “You start thinking it’s just so much bullshit, urban legend stuff to scare small children and then poof there it is.” She gestured toward the two men and grinned. “Wanna bet dinner on the first thing they say?”
Tony chuckled. “Too easy.”
And it would be, Gibbs knew. He was certain even green as grass Bahl would be able to predict the words coming out of their mouths. Gibbs grimaced. This was one more complication he didn’t want or need.
His earlier conversation and coffee with Tony had been interrupted and that still pissed him off. He’d had a revelation of his own about his past relationships that he had yet to get a chance to act on, and that had kept his anger simmering. He wanted more time alone with Tony but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon because he still had some dressing down to do for Ziva and Bahl. And he had a dead arms dealer to deal with while the Director breathed down his neck about how to make a miracle happen. The CIA showing up was just one more thing on a long list of things that were making the longest day of his life even longer.
“We’re looking for Special Agent Gibbs,” one of the strangers said. It was hard to judge but Gibbs was pretty sure the guy was glaring at Miri from behind his sunglasses.
Miri just smirked. “That look would be more effective, Sweet pea, if you ditched the shades.”
Gibbs forced himself not to smile. He might not like her, but he was developing an appreciation for Miri. It was no wonder she and Tony worked together so well. They had a similar sense of humor and willingness to poke at anyone who caught their eye.
“We need to speak with you.” The man looked around, clearly taking in the fact that he and his partner had become the center of attention for Gibbs’ team. “Alone.”
“Damn,” Miri cursed softly. “I thought for sure we’d get the whole top secret classified hush hush bit. It’s always my favorite part. But they went with the softball route and just implied it. I think that’s cheating.”
“We still might get the hush hush bit,” Tony offered, green eyes alight with amusement. “It is early yet, Callahan, they did only just get here. Have a little patience. Let the MiB’s get a chance to settle in and warm up to it. Not everyone goes straight for the kill shot, you know.”
Speaking of kill shot, Gibbs saw Ziva fingering a weapon. He made a subtle stand down motion. They didn’t need to escalate this into something more just yet. And getting bloodstains out of the carpet would take forever.
McGee looked wary but ready, his fingers hovering over the keyboard. What exactly he could do at his computer, Gibbs didn’t know. But hell, McGee pulled rabbits out of his hat all the time where his computer was concerned, so Gibbs repeated the stand down gesture for him as well.
Bahl seemed to be taking his lead from Miri and just smiled, obviously eager to see what would happen next. Letting the two of them spend the afternoon together might have been a mistake, Gibbs thought, except he liked Bahl better when the man didn’t seem so damn nervous all the time. Maybe the probie was finally starting to grow a backbone.
“Gibbs, we need to speak with you, alone.” The man repeated himself, making it less of a request and more of an order.
Gibbs was sorely tempted to tell the two strangers that if they had something to say they can damn well say it in front of his team. But he knew better. He’d done his own share of black ops and there was stuff that simply wasn’t meant to be shared. While he might not think much of how the CIA operated, they are still technically on the same side. And whatever secrets they were protecting were probably in need of protection.
“We’ll use a conference room,” Gibbs said, moving toward the hallway. “DiNozzo, you’re with me.”
The order was habit. It was something that in all the months Tony had been gone Gibbs had never managed to break, and truthfully hadn’t tried very hard to. He’d managed to keep from verbalizing it, but he’d always thought it. Now, with Tony around, saying it seemed completely natural. So too did the immediate answer that came from the younger man.
“On your six, Boss.”
“I said alone, Special Agent Gibbs.”
“I know, I heard you,” Gibbs returned mildly, looking over his shoulder. “If you heard me agree, then you need to get your hearing checked.”
When the man looked like he was going to protest, Gibbs eyed him up and down. “We do this my way or not at all. Take your pick.”
Gibbs really wasn’t under any time constraints or pressure from the brass, the Director’s interest in the case not withstanding. No one told him he had to play nice with another agency. They had ARES. Catching an arms dealer or two would be a bonus, but had never been the main objective, at least not for Gibbs and his team. He could talk to them or not, and it wouldn’t affect Gibbs one way or the other. But he was sure these two needed something Gibbs could provide. There really wasn’t a choice for them.
Gibbs could almost feel Tony grinning behind him. It felt right to have Tony at his back again. McGee was a good second, but Gibbs had never really been able to tell what he was doing or thinking without looking at him the way he could with Tony. And right now he knew Tony was struggling to stay silent, to not be more of a wise ass than he’d already been with the two as yet unidentified agents in front of them.
The man finally nodded his acceptance like Gibbs knew he would. He headed for the conference room knowing they’d follow him and that Tony would keep an eye on them. It was a decidedly comfortable feeling knowing Tony had his back. He’d missed that, a lot.
Gibbs opened the door to the conference room. He held it open and waved a hand in careless invitation for the two strangers to enter ahead of him. They hesitated, and then simply refused to move.
“I don’t think they trust you, Boss.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes and went in first. He was both annoyed and amused by their lack of trust. Like I’d have time to booby trap the damn room, Gibbs thought with disgust. While he’d expected someone from the CIA might show up eventually, he hadn’t exactly planned on them making an appearance this soon, so rigging something painful and potentially deadly for them hadn’t been on his list of things to do. That they assumed it was, was a testament to how the Agency operated.
“You need to release Charles Harrow.”
Gibbs frowned. “Why?”
They hadn’t even started looking for the man’s next of kin yet. If there was someone out there looking to claim the body they’d just have to wait.
The man ignored Gibbs’ question. “We are here to take him into custody.”
Gibbs arched an eyebrow. Custody of him? Not custody of his body? Did they not realize Harrow was dead?
“And just who are you?” Gibbs asked dryly. They had yet to identify themselves, and while Gibbs was sure they were CIA, he wanted confirmation and names.
The man grimaced, and looked like he might refuse on general principal. He reached into his coat. Gibbs tensed instinctively. He didn’t honestly think the man was going for a weapon, but he was prepared for it just in case. He saw Tony shifting his weight and knew the younger man was doing the same.
The man held out a billfold, flipping it open for Gibbs to see. His partner silently did likewise.
“Agent Stanley Brown and Bradley Jones.” Gibbs read aloud. They were CIA. Oh hurray, Gibbs thought derisively. Some times he hated being right more than he hated being wrong.
“What do you need Harrow for?”
“All you need to know is that it is a matter of national security.”
Gibbs snorted. “I don’t see how a dead man could have much impact on national—“’
“Dead?” Brown almost snarled. “What do you mean dead?”
“Dead, as in not breathing.” Tony offered helpfully. “As in no heartbeat. No brain function. No chance of recovery. Dead as in say hello to Saint Peter or Satan depending on how good or bad you’ve been. Dead as in, he bought the farm. He’s taking one long dirt nap. Kicked the bucket---”
Gibbs lightly cuffed the back of Tony’s head. He’d missed having the opportunity to do that. And really, he couldn’t pass it up no matter how amusing he found Tony’s commentary.
Brown pulled off his sunglasses, dark brown eyes glaring at Gibbs. “You killed Harrow?”
“No.” Gibbs kept his tone level. “Harrow had a massive heart attack. According to our ME his diet, lack of exercise and age killed him.”
“God damn it.” Brown’s hands clenched into fists and Gibbs inanely wondered how he managed not to crush his sunglasses in the process. “This isn’t some game, Gibbs. You have no idea---”
“Oh, I’ve got a damn good idea,” Gibbs snapped back, stepping forward to get Brown’s face.
He doubted the agent had any intention of filling him in on anything. Talking alone wasn’t for them to have a nice exchange of information and establish the ground rules for working together. No, the CIA wasn’t the type to share information. If they were, NCIS would have already known about Harrow, ARES and Trent Kort. They’d have been working together from the start.
“Harrow was trying to sell ARES,” Gibbs said bluntly, his anger getting the better of him again for the second time in one day. “You think we didn’t know what he was up to when we found him? That we were just out for a fucking stroll and happened to run into a man selling what should be a secure weapons system? You aren’t the only agency out there looking out for this country’s best interest. Just because you’ve got a man on the inside you may or may not be hell bent on protecting--”
“What?!!” Brown leaned forward into Gibbs’ space. “How do you know that? It’s classified.”
“Not well enough, apparently,” Gibbs shot back.
“Where is ARES now?” Jones asked, cutting in and breaking his silence for the first time, one hand on his partner’s arm, holding him in place.
“We’ve recovered ARES.” Tony told him. “It’s safe.”
“Shit.” Brown cursed. “Safe!! It’s not supposed to be safe.”
Tony arched an eyebrow and looked at Gibbs. Gibbs frowned, and then suddenly he got it. There was a reason why there was speculation about ARES being stolen, quiet chatter that was little more than rumor, but no one else seemed to be looking for it. There was a reason why Harrow hadn’t been nearly as hard to locate and identify as La Grenouille or Black Rose. There was a reason a relatively small time guy like Goliath was involved to broker the deal, and the sale had been set up so it could take place without him if need be. There was a reason a CIA agent was working for or with an internationally known, well-established arms dealer who was looking to buy ARES.
“You want ARES sold.”
Tony cocked his head and then slowly nodded, clearly putting together the same pieces Gibbs just had.
“Is it defective, or are you using it as a Trojan horse?” Tony asked, beating Gibbs to the question.
“That’s classified.” Jones finally removed his sunglasses revealing uncompromising hazel eyes.
“Yeah, not so much a secret. Maybe you do need to get your hearing checked.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Did we not already tell you’ve we’ve got what Harrow had? How long do you think it will take us to figure out that the version of ARES he was peddling was bogus, bad or just a way for you to infiltrate whatever system the winning arms dealer has?”
“You’re not that good,” Brown asserted.
Gibbs wanted to belt him one, the cocky fucker. Tony laid a hand on Gibbs’ shoulder. The touch wasn’t restraining as much as it was calming.
“We found it, didn’t we?” Tony asked, not sounding as smug as Gibbs would have expected. He squeezed Gibbs’ shoulder and then let go. Gibbs found himself missing the contact almost immediately.
“We knew about your agent working with Benoit. We found Goliath. We found Harrow. And we’ve got eyes on the auction.” Gibbs kept his attention on Jones. Brown might have done most of the talking so far, but he suspected it was Jones who was in charge. “You really want everything you’ve got in motion to hinge on us being to slow to figure it out? Or do you want to fill us in and let us help?”
Jones sighed. Gibbs could almost feel as well as see his capitulation. Brown looked like he was going to protest, but Jones silenced him with hard look confirming Gibbs belief that he was the one in charge.
“Ideally, ARES would go to Benoit. Kort would see to it that the program got sold from there to certain powers hostile to the US. But even if Benoit wasn’t the high bidder, it was still a good bet that whoever got it would ultimately pass it on to someone else. And really, the only people who would want it aren’t friends of the US. So whiled we’d like to control who ultimately got ARES, we aren’t overly worried about where it would end up.”
Jones shifted his shoulders, obviously trying to release some tension. “As you’ve already surmised, the version Harrow had doesn’t work, or at least not like whoever ends up with it would expect it to. Instead of giving them the ability to jam or redirect US missiles, it would make anyone using it a target for those missiles.”
Gibbs could see that being useful in a lot of ways. It would be a brilliant move and one that couldn’t be traced back directly to the US. So it could potentially be used indefinitely until someone caught on that what they were using was actually putting a bulls-eye on them. Using ARES this way could save American lives.
Jones grimaced. “Goliath was just a middle man. A tool. A way to put another layer between things to obscure what this deal really was. We don’t care about him. Never did. Harrow was one of ours. He’d worked for the DOD for years. It made for a good cover that he was a disgruntled programmer, some one relatively unknown and looking to get enough to retire in comfort. He helped design ARES. It was believable that he would have access to it and be willing to sell it.”
“And all that is now shot to hell,” Brown said angrily.
“Not necessarily,” Gibbs countered, thinking it through. He didn’t particularly approve of how the CIA had planned this operation, but the end result was still something worthwhile. “The auction is going on, no reason it couldn’t still come to the conclusion you wanted.”
“Except we don’t have Harrow to deliver the goods. The buyer is going to expect him to be the one to make the transfer.”
“Do we really need Harrow?” Tony asked, green eyes meeting Gibbs’ blue. They were definitely on the same page.
Jones frowned. “What do you mean do we need him?”
“Have any of the buyers ever met him?” Gibbs asked slowly.
Jones hesitated for a moment, thinking about what he was asking and ultimately suggesting. “No, none of them have met him. This was his first sale.”
“What do they know about him?” Gibbs needed the particulars if they were going to find a passable substitute.
“We made sure to leak very little about Harrow. All anyone knows is that he’s older, a British Ex-Pat whose parents brought him to the US after world war two, and that he worked as a computer programmer for the DOD and was being forced to retire.”
“So they don’t know what he looks like?”
Gibbs nodded. “Then all we have to do is find a stand in for him.”
Brown glared at him. “Just how many old British programmers do you think we’ve got lying around?”
“He doesn’t have to program anything, does he?” Tony asked. “I mean they aren’t going to ask him to do that, right? The buyer wouldn’t trust him to run the program. He or she would have someone they trusted examine it for them and confirm it worked, right?”
“Point.” Jones nodded slowly. He rubbed thoughtfully at his chin. “But we still need someone with an authentic accent. The European buyers would likely catch anything less than perfect. And he’ll have to be of the right age. Harrow was characterized as being forced out because of his age.”
Gibbs looked at Tony. “You think Ducky would do it?”
The ME was really the only option they had with such short notice. He fit the bill.
“Can’t hurt to ask him.” Tony looked pensive, biting his lower lip. “Do you think he can do it, Boss? Ducky’s not a field agent and this isn’t exactly going to be a tea party.”
“We’ll be there to watch his back.” Making sure to minimize the danger Ducky was in was the primary consideration.
“He’s never had to do anything like this--“
“You can coach him on how to act, and what to say.”
Tony blinked. “Me?”
“Yes, you. You’re damned good at uncover work. Hell you’re the best we’ve got.” Gibbs kept the compliment offhand, not wanting to say much in front of Brown and Jones. Even as casual as it was, Gibbs could tell Tony was pleased by it.
“If your accent was better—“
“Hey,” Tony protested, “my accent is fine.”
“You keep telling yourself that, DiNozzo.” Gibbs smiled slightly, his tone teasing. He was pleased to see Tony’s eyes twinkling.
“You’re not old enough either. No way to get around that or I’d have already suggested you do it.”
Jones eyed them both. “Who the hell his Ducky?”
“He’s our medical examiner.” Gibbs told him. “Dr. Donald Mallard. He’s originally from England, and is close to Harrow’s age.”
“But he’s not a field agent?”
“No.” Tony shrugged. “But we don’t exactly have a lot of options here.”
“And if he can’t do it you aren’t out anything,” Gibbs pointed out. With Harrow dead, their operation was going nowhere fast. “Not like you’ve got a better plan.”
Jones and Brown looked at one another. This was the only way they’d have to salvage an operation that had likely been in motion for a long time.
“We’ll have to clear it with our superiors.”
“Yeah,” Gibbs nodded, “ so will we.”
Gibbs didn’t think getting permission to see this through as being a problem. What would be the problem is that Shepard wanted Benoit. This operation didn’t call for taking him down. It called for letting him get what he wanted and walking away. He couldn’t see her being happy about that.
Gibbs sighed. Maybe they’d get lucky and someone else would be the high bidder. Not that he’d had much good luck recently but one could hope.
“You can use the room and make the calls you need to,” Gibbs told Jones and Brown. “We’ll start putting things in motion on our end.”
He motioned for Tony to follow him out. In the hallway, Gibbs stopped, turning to face the younger man.
“I’ll talk to Shepard.”
Tony smiled wryly. “Braver man than I am, Boss.”
Gibbs smiled back. “Yeah, well, it was my idea.”
“Not like you were alone in thinking it.” Tony rubbed the back of his neck. He sighed. “Not quite what I thought I’d be doing tonight.”
“What did you think you’d be doing?” Gibbs asked, curious.
“I thought I’d be having dinner with you.”
Gibbs’ breath caught. “Dinner?”
There was definitely more color to Tony’s cheeks, and he looked sheepish.
“I mean, I know, you would probably have said no, but I thought—“
“No.” Gibbs hastily cut him off. “No, I wouldn’t have turned you down.”
Going for coffee had gone so well. He wanted more of that, a chance to pick up their conversation where it had been interrupted and take it further. And he was delighted that Tony was still willing to do more. That whatever they were moving toward was still an option, and he wasn’t alone in thinking it.
“Really?” Tony asked, looking pleased.
“Cool.” Tony ducked his head shyly. “Maybe after all this is—“
“I…ah…I should go talk to Ducky.”
“Take him to Abby’s lab. I’ll meet you there once I brief Shepard and the others.”
Tony tossed off a careless salute.
Gibbs watched him walk away. He took a slow, deep breath, fighting down the urge to follow. If he hadn’t had reason to hate this case before, it was definitely giving him reason to now.
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