- Alternate Universe
- Crime Drama
- Episode Related
- Established Relationship
This is the sequel to Nightcap
Gibbs leaned against the wall outside the curtained-off area, listening to the reassuring sounds of his best agent making herself a pain in the ass to the medical profession. It was a distraction from the fury lodged in his gut and the sight of the FBI getting off the elevator.
“Ow! Careful with the merchandise, doc.”
“You should have been more careful with it if you value your skin so much.”
“I’ll be sure to lodge a complaint with the terrorist who took me hostage.” DiNozzo’s voice was so dry Gibbs figured the doctor needed a glass of water afterwards.
“You could try a different profession.”
“And leave this life of ease, leisure and glamour? Please.”
Fornell came to a stop in front of him, trailing a tall black agent Gibbs didn’t know and a compact female one he did. Blackadder had gone back to the FBI when her liaison position had ended, having not been allowed near the terrorist responsible for the USS Cole bombing and her brother’s death but with the knowledge that he would live in a cell in Gitmo until he died.
“Gibbs. Heard you’ve had a busy afternoon.”
“Why are you here, Tobias?”
Behind Fornell, Blackadder grinned and mouthed ‘Tobias?’ to the other agent.
Fornell raised a brow. “An attack on a federal agency, and federal employees? That’s FBI jurisdiction and you know it. Jethro.”
Blackadder bit her lip; the other agent didn’t respond at all. Typical FBI suit; at least Tobias and Blackadder had personalities. Even if the former was an asshole.
“And they couldn’t send a real agent?”
“Ha ha ha.”
The curtain rustled and the doctor emerged. Gibbs focused on him. “She okay?”
The doctor nodded, looking amused. “She’s beat to shit, in medical terms, but she’ll be okay barring complications and providing she follows doctor’s orders.” Blackadder snorted. “But her personality hasn’t suffered.”
“It never does.”
Toni was contemplating suffering through the effort and contortions needed to put her shirt back on versus paging a nurse for help and coming up with a zero-sum equation. There was always interrupting Gibbs’ bitch session with his frenemy to make him help her — she had minimal body shame in any case and his embarrassment at seeing her tits might brighten her mood.
Fortunately, a handy solution appeared in the shape of one Viv Blackadder.
Viv twitched the curtain closed behind her, studying Toni with her shirt half off, showing her chest and an array of bruises along her ribs and side, pants unbuttoned and tugged down to reveal more bruising on her hip. Viv tilted her head and pursed her lips. “Ouch.”
“You are a master of the understatement, Vivian.” Toni dropped the melting ice pack she’d been holding to her face. “Give me a hand, here, would you?” She lifted her left wrist, confined in a brace. “I’m lacking in certain essentials, like all my limbs and a full range of motion.”
Viv shook her head and helped Toni off the bed. “You look worse than that time with the quartermaster dealing drugs out of his duty post.”
Toni winced and not just from shifting weight onto her bruised hip. “We agreed never to talk about that, Viv. Solidarity.”
“Sure but I’m a backstabbing FBI agent again, so . . .” She frowned at Toni’s ribs, and the bloodied shirt. “This is evidence.”
“There’s a bag and a scrub top over there.” And wasn’t she looking forward to lifting her arms over her head?
Viv agreed based on her expression, frowning as she bagged and labelled the ruined blouse. “Even if I had a spare shirt, it wouldn’t fit you. Hold still, let me do the work.”
“Kinky. Ow!” Viv poked one of her lighter bruises — gently — and manoeuvred the scrub top up her arms and over her head. “You’ve gotten meaner since you returned to the Hoover.”
“I’m not the lowly liaison agent from the big bad FBI anymore, either. Can’t you stay out of trouble, DiNozzo?”
“We have met, right?”
Viv raised a brow and fought back a smile. “Unfortunately.”
“Nice to see you too, Viv. We’ll have dinner and drinks sometime soon, yeah?”
“You might want to hold off making plans to go out in public for a few . . . weeks.”
Toni sighed. The combination of numbing, pain and the stitches the doctor had put in her face told their own tale but Toni had yet to see the actual damage. “Got a mirror?”
“You don’t want one.”
“Nothing some icepacks, foundation, and some time won’t fix,” Viv said bracingly. “Unlike your personality.”
“Ready for company?”
“Company, or the bickering couple outside? You know we can hear you, right?” Toni raised her voice. The snarking just outside the curtain stopped. For two men who shared an ex-wife and, presumably, the same taste in women, Gibbs and Fornell had a weirdly bromantic vibe. Not that she was judging, or anything.
Or that she’d put money on them in the agency betting pool. That was her story and she was sticking to it, should Gibbs ever find out.
“She’s your agent,” Fornell said after a moment.
The curtain rattled open revealing Gibbs, Fornell and another agent. Gibbs checked her over once and nodded, apparently satisfied she was still in one piece.
Fornell’s forehead rose. “Ouch.”
“You should see what’s under the shirt,” Toni said with a wink. The agent behind Fornell looked horrified. Fornell chuckled.
Gibbs sighed. “DiNozzo.”
“I meant the bruising, boss. It’s impressive. Right, Viv?”
“Best I’ve seen,” Viv said with a straight face. She offered the evidence bag. “Sir.”
“Sacks, take that and the evidence from our terrorist back to the office. Blackadder, if you’ve finished playing with your friend,” Fornell said dryly, “head over to NCIS and start interviews. Those people know you.”
“Not always an advantage, sir.”
“They’re less likely to stonewall you than me.”
“She’s prettier,” Toni offered.
“I thought it was my winning personality that was the problem,” Fornell deadpanned.
“That too, but mostly it’s the FBI badge.”
Orders given, Blackadder and the bland-faced Sacks departed, Sacks without a backward glance and Viv with a wave. Fornell turned his sights on Gibbs.
“It’s not your case, Jethro.”
“It is my agent, Tobias.”
“As entertaining as this is,” Toni interrupted their staredown, “I want Gibbs to stay and you’ve got about fifteen minutes before the numbing used to put the stitches in my face starts to wear off.”
Fornell pointed at Gibbs. “I ask the questions.”
“Fine,” Toni said. “Oh, were we not just repeating the same word?”
“Sit down DiNozzo, and tell me what happened,” Fornell said, retrieving a notebook and pen from his pocket. “From the beginning.”
Toni abandoned her humourous mask, eased her good hip back on the hospital bed, and inhaled. It was a good time to give a report, soon enough after the incident but before she’d had a chance to reflect on all the errors she’d made, all the ways she could have tried to defuse the situation sooner, or better, or without injury. None of which had a place in her statement.
That was for when she was at home, staring at the ceiling and trying to sleep.
“At around oh-nine-hundred this morning, Abby — Abigail Scuito — our head forensic scientist entered the bullpen. She asked for Senior Agent Gibbs, who was in a meeting with the director. With him unavailable, she told me that Doctor Mallard had asked her to return all biological samples from the body of Yasir Qassam, a Hamas operative, to Autopsy immediately.”
“Why did she come to the bullpen instead of going straight to Autopsy?”
“Because she hasn’t gone into the autopsy suite in a month since she had a nightmare of being autopsied herself.”
Fornell turned to Gibbs. “Doesn’t she sleep in a coffin?”
“I build boats, Tobias, that doesn’t mean I’d enjoy a dream about drowning.”
“Dreaming involves sleeping which isn’t something you do. Continue, DiNozzo.”
“Are you sure? Because I can give you two a moment — fine,” she relented under Gibbs’ glare. “Abby asked me to take the samples for her.”
“So you left your desk to do someone else’s job?”
“I did a favour for a friend,” Toni said cooly, “and since it also pertained to a case we were working, it was also part of my job. Abby said Ducky seemed stressed when he made the request and also that he couldn’t send Gerald because they were in an infectious autopsy, but she didn’t have more information than that. It behoved me to get answers since, as far as I knew, the only body in Autopsy was Qassam’s. Do you want to take my statement, Fornell, or cross-examine me? Last I checked you weren’t with the Inspector General.”
“Just getting a clear picture.”
“Why don’t you get the picture and then clarify it?”
“Getting beat to shit makes you testy, DiNozzo,” Fornell complained. “Fine. Continue.”
“Thank you,” she said sweetly. “I took the samples to Autopsy, found it under quarantine protocol and stopped long enough to send Gibbs a text asking if he knew what was up. Then I knocked on the door.”
“Why did you send the text?”
“Because in over two years at NCIS there has been one infectious autopsy that I was aware of, and the Director and team lead for the case were informed as soon as Ducky suspected it was necessary so that anyone who had come in contact with the body could follow protocol. Unless a body comes in already suspect of carrying an infectious agent, in which case the building is notified to minimize personnel entering the loading area or Autopsy level to contain potential risk. The lights are intended as the last measure of warning, not the first.”
The longer she quoted procedure, the higher Fornell’s brows rose towards his former hairline. He looked at Gibbs, who snorted. “I hired her for her brains, Tobias, not her face.”
“And those are significantly less bruised than my face at present.”
“So you knew something was wrong,” Fornell stated.
“No,” Toni said darkly. She closed her eyes and saw the terrorist, looming out of the darkened corner of Autopsy, gun in hand and a mocking smile on his face while they fought to stop Gerald from bleeding to death. The same smile as when he taunted them with how long Gerald had before he lost his arm, or toyed with Gibbs and HRT over the phone, or leaned into Toni’s space.
She opened her eyes, already knowing that damned smile and his calm, mocking tone would feature in her dreams. “I didn’t know something was wrong, or I would have called for backup. I only knew something wasn’t right.”
The next thirty minutes were gruelling — after action statements always were — and Toni had to resist the need to sag or even lay down. Her body screamed for rest, hell, for painkillers, but she wasn’t ready to give way yet. Despite the long day, it wasn’t yet three o’clock in the afternoon and there were hours of work yet to do.
“What’s the word on Gerald?” she asked when Fornell was satisfied.
“Still in surgery but he won’t lose the arm,” Gibbs said. “Ducky is observing.”
“Okay,” Toni said, more to herself than anyone else. “That’s good. And Ducky?”
“Shaken but holding on. He’s been through worse.”
“He wasn’t closing in on sixty, then.”
Gibbs inclined his head. “Once Gerald is done and settled in a ward, someone will drive him home.”
“And our friendly neighbourhood terrorist?”
“They’re stitching up his wounds and running a couple of tests. Apparently, even shallow neck wounds are a concern.”
“You went for the jugular,” Fornell observed.
“The carotid artery bleeds out faster than the jugular,” Toni told him dryly. “And I didn’t hit either or he’d have gone down before the nice men with guns showed up.”
Fornell turned to Gibbs. “What is it with you and the mean ones?”
“Agents? Or wives?”
“Any identification?” she asked. “I didn’t recognize him from any cases or interagency bulletins.”
“No ID on him and his prints and DNA are being run.” Gibbs shrugged. “We’ve been running his face from the one useful still we got off the cameras, but nothing so far. He’s not on any of the wanted lists.”
“Check visas and immigration — focus on the UK and Europe. Run his face against Interpol and the European bureaus.”
Both senior agents gave her an identical look, brows raised in question. “Explain,” Gibbs asked.
“Only if the two of you never do that again. His accent — he spoke English with a British accent. Not London or Oxford — I’d recognize either. But he spent significant time in the UK. He slipped and swore in another language — Semitic, maybe, but not Arabic or Farsi, I don’t think — and that sounded natural, too. He killed the cameras,” she considered, “not that they had sound anyway. I wish I knew what the hell language he cursed in.”
“You pick that up from watching movies, too?” Fornell asked.
“No, you wanker, I picked that up from three months a year in bloody Oxfordshire. Stop talking bollocks about things you know nothing about. You bellend.”
Fornell’s brows crawled up his forehead as she rattled off in a crisp English accent, complete with a couple of her uncle and grandfather’s favourite terms for the uncouth and ignorant.
“Look it up, but it loses something in translation.”
“Ducky said the same thing,” Gibbs cut in. “Less the British curse words. He pegged England or Scotland as well.”
“Good,” she said, exhaling.
“He also swears the man went to medical school.”
Toni considered. “He spoke with authority on physiology but I couldn’t swear he was a doctor over, say, a biologist. But if Ducky thinks so, it’s most likely.”
“We’ll prioritize European and UK connections,” Fornell said. “In the meantime, DiNozzo, stop trying to be Superman —”
“I’m more of a Batman girl, Fornell, what with the ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ thing and all.”
“ — and go home and take some painkillers. I want a copy of your report when you’ve made it and a signed statement,” he added, notebook disappearing into his jacket pocket. “I’ll talk to you when you’ve dealt with her, Jethro.”
As he retreated through the curtain, Toni frowned at Gibbs. She refrained from wincing when the stitched in her brow pulled and her face throbbed. “I don’t need to be dealt with.”
“I can get started —”
“Healing? Yup.” Gibbs gave her a look. “Langer is downstairs, he’ll give you a ride. Go home; ice your bruises, watch a movie. Take your pills and get some sleep. You can write your report later.”
“I could write it now if I went to the office.”
“You won’t be able to sit at your desk chair long enough to turn the computer on in your condition, and pretending to be alright is a waste of energy, DiNozzo. And don’t even think about ‘forgetting’ to get the pain prescription filled — Langer is waiting for you by the pharmacy.”
“Curses, foiled again,” she grumbled. She wasn’t fond of painkillers and reacted badly to them. And her mother had favoured them, with a vodka chaser. But mostly she hated being out of control. “Boss —”
“Go home, Toni. Tomorrow is soon enough.”
DiNozzo fought him a little longer, for all the world like a stubborn toddler trying to fight against sleep. If she’d had the first clue how bad she looked — beat to hell, stitches in contrast to the extensive bruising already forming on her jaw, cheekbone and eye, faint traces of blood from her split lip still visible — she would have done something to hide it before trying to pretend she was ready to go. But Toni preferred to only show weakness when it was to her advantage and hide her real vulnerabilities behind humour and wit. She was going to have a difficult time of that when she was wearing her wounds so obviously.
But she gave a good try at getting Gibbs to send her back to NCIS to work on this case, or whatever part of the case the FBI hadn’t taken from them. Fortunately, he could still out stubborn her sixty per cent of the time and she currently wasn’t at her best or in possession of the moral high road.
Watching Dinozzo walk towards the elevator, limp badly concealed, just cemented his belief that sending her straight home, rather than let her realize how badly off she was on her own, was the right thing to do. And it bought the office a little time before they suffered the unique joy of Antonia DiNozzo on desk duty. Considering the bruised hip and sprained wrist, it would be three weeks before she could even try to requalify for field duty. Gibbs was not looking forward to not having her on his six, and even less so her bored shenanigans.
“Separation anxiety already?”
“Don’t you have a case to investigate?”
Fornell chuckled. “I do and I am but you look like a hen with one chick and you just sent her off to cross the road by herself for the first time. Don’t you have a new junior agent to cluck over? Or did you run her off already?”
“Todd is at the office, running leads.”
He might be a hardass and unwilling to share a case — though happy enough to give away credit, to the director’s frequent annoyance — but he knew when he had no choice but to share intel. “Someone delivered a fake body to NCIS, Tobias. That’s not as easy as dropping it on the doorstep.”
“It was supposed to be an Israeli officer, right? Did the call come from a base?”
“Nope.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, wishing for a cup of coffee. “The Israeli Embassy.”
Fornell’s brows shot up. “And you think they’ll answer questions?”
“I think they’ll want to ensure there are no ties to them and reassure everyone that someone faked the call so no one suspects they might have a leak.”
“What are you thinking, Jethro?”
He rocked back on his heels. “There’s Israelis doing training at Little Creek right now — the original terrorist, Qassam —”
“The one that’s actually dead.”
“So far,” he agreed, “He was working on the base. The Israeli contingent was the likely target of his attack. If this terrorist knew enough about Qassam’s attempt to infect the base with smallpox, he knew that, too. Why bring the embassy into it? Check his face against all known and suspected Hamas members and other anti-Israeli groups — it’s too deliberate a choice.”
“Telling me how to do my job, now?”
“Not as long as you actually do it.”
“What the hell did Diane see in you, again?” Tobias shook his head. “Stubborn bastard.”
“Guess she has a type, then. Has he said anything?” he demanded abruptly.
Tobias took it in stride. “Not a word. Doctors want to run some tests to make sure but, so far, no damage to the vocal cords or windpipe. Though if she’d gone an eighth of an inch deeper, he’d be breathing through his Adam’s apple.” Gibbs said nothing. Fornell scratched his chin. “You wanna try?” Gibbs grunted and strode down the hall towards the door he’d made note of first thing, marked by the guard outside it.
“Okay, then,” Fornell muttered and followed.
The guard took his eyes off watching the various nurses, doctors and civilians going about their jobs to block Gibbs from approaching the door. Fornell waved him off and opened the door.
Gibbs walked right up to the bed, looming over the bastard terrorist’s reclined and vulnerable form. He wore some bruises of his own including all the signs of a broken nose. His left hand was chained to the bed frame and his right arm was bandaged from where Toni had gotten him a couple of times. The puncture on his thigh was deeper, Gibbs knew and would take some weeks to heal and even longer before the leg could bear his full weight.
He wore the same smirk as he had on camera.
Gibbs said nothing, just studied the bandages he could see, lingering particularly long on the ones wrapped around his throat. A little blood had already stained the white bandages in a couple of spots.
Still not speaking to the terrorist, he half turned his head to Fornell. “How many stitches?”
“Nine total in his arm, six in his thigh. Twenty in his throat; mostly on the right side. Some of the cut is too shallow to stitch though the whole thing will make an interesting scar.”
Gibbs smiled and continued to stare down at the terrorist until his smug expression went more neutral and he raised an eyebrow.
“Going to ask him anything?” Fornell asked, falling into the good cop rhythm.
“Nope.” Gibbs continued to stare. “He’ll just lie anyway. Got his face, his blood, his prints. That’ll tell us what we want.”
The terrorist narrowed his eyes briefly then shrugged as well as he could while reclined and chained to the bed.
“I don’t think he cares, Gibbs.”
“Neither do I but I need something to write on the intake forms for Gitmo.”
He smirked again.
“You think that’s funny?” Fornell asked, getting another shrug and a mocking look.
Gibbs leaned in. “Whatever get out of jail free card you think you’ve got? Whatever plan or backup you’ve got in the works? It’s not going to work.” The terrorist raised a brow. “You’ll leave this hospital on a prisoner transport — either to Cuba or maximum security prison — or the same way you came to NCIS. A body bag.”
Despite the cuffs, he raised both hands and made a gesture and smiled.
Gibbs turned and walked out the door, Fornell at his shoulder. The second the door closed behind them, Fornell spoke. “What was that at the end?”
“Sign language. He said ‘we’ll see’.”
“I want a second man on the door,” Fornell told the guard. “Make the call.”
“Yes, sir,” the agent said, taking his eyes away from a suited man to pull his cell phone out.
“Who is that?”
“No idea, but he’s not a doctor or staff or a visitor.”
“Call in,” Fornell repeated and headed over. This time Gibbs followed him.
The stranger offered his ID before they could ask his name; Fornell took it, studied it and passed it to Gibbs.
“Now what is a member of the Israeli Embassy staff doing hanging around a hospital ER?” Fornell wondered.
“You need a doctor? Ben-Gidon?” Gibbs asked, deliberately checking the diplomatic ID before using his last name. He made a note of the birthdate to run Malachi Ben-Gidon first chance he got but he doubted a search would get him much but a bland dossier. The man’s relaxed stance and the gun callouses marked him as Israeli military at the least and very likely Mossad.
“Not at present, thank you for asking, Agent Gibbs. You might expect that the Embassy would have an interest in a man who used our name to attempt a terrorist attack on an American agency.” Ben-Gidon shrugged casually and tucked his ID away. “This is of great concern to us.”
“I’m sure it is — you certainly heard about it quickly enough.”
He nodded to Fornell. “It has been over two hours since NCIS first called to make an inquiry. Perhaps that is quick to an American agent but for us, it is embarrassingly slow.” Gibbs exchanged a look with Fornell, both of them rolling their eyes at the insult. It was textbook and proved the man was trained in intelligence. “But we must act quickly out of concern for the position your lack of security has put us in.”
Fornell kicked Gibbs in the ankle before he could say anything too vicious in response to that piece of arrogance. “Oh? Your position? Which is?”
Ben-Gidon looked faintly amused but hid it reasonably well. “Your agency accepted the delivery of a body on the word of a caller who claimed to be from the Israeli Embassy. This allowed a terrorist to infiltrate your building, by using our name. It is very embarrassing for all concerned, but we have more at stake. Our reputation is of great value and NCIS — well, they have little reputation to lose, from what I understand.”
Gibbs smiled, one he often used in interrogation. Toni called it his ‘keep digging’ smirk. “Is that so? Well, I’m sure your superiors will be relieved to know that it wasn’t our security protocols that were the problem. The caller was very convincing; he had the correct names, ID numbers and even managed to fax documents on the correct letterhead — from the correct number. But what do I know? I’m just an NCIS agent without much reputation to lose. Or much patience with games.”
Ben-Gidon’s eyes narrowed slightly, a hooded look replacing previous humour. “Is that right? Well, under the circumstances, perhaps he should be transferred into the custody of my government. He has clearly stolen intel from us.”
“Or he has help,” Fornell broke the stare down between them. “In which case he’s better off in our custody.”
“It is extraordinarily unlikely a terrorist involved in an attack on an American agency has an ally within the embassy,” Ben-Gidon said cooly.
“Maybe so,” Fornell agreed, “but you know what they say.”
“And what is that?”
“Coincidences aren’t,” Gibbs answered.
Behind Gibbs and Fornell, Agent Paul Conners ignored the peppy music being piped in his ear as he waited on hold. Why the Bureau used such annoying hold music was beyond him.
An attractive nurse approached the door he was guarding, offering her ID badge as she retrieved the patient file from where it hung by the door. “I need to check his vitals and bandages. He’s also due for a new drip within an hour.”
The badge photo matched the face in front of him, mid-toned skin with dark eyes and hair that read as Hispanic. The thick, curly hair in her photo was barely constrained in real life. When she looked up at him from under heavy lids, Paul reminded himself that he loved his wife and couldn’t afford alimony anyway.
“Alright,” he said and rechecked her ID. “Ms Ortiz. Keep the door open, stay out of reach as much as possible and call if you need anything. I can go in with you if you like?”
She patted his arm. “Elena, please. And no, thank you. He is not the first man cuffed to a bed I have seen, nor the last. Even a bad man gets a little privacy but you will hear me if there is a problem.”
“I’ll be right here.”
She smiled warmly at him, patted his arm once more and entered, leaving the door half open. Paul continued to guard the door, one ear to his phone, one listening for any problems inside as he scanned the hallway.