*Thanks for you reviews as always
so, as promised here is the next chapter.* - TGE


The Men in Black

2 weeks later…

Senior Agent Tobias Fornell of the FBI scanned the room to make sure he was alone taking note that he had two minutes max to get the information before someone would surely notice the change in his demeanor. Without another thought he pulled the flash drive from his pocket and began the download.

56 seconds…

That's how long it was going to take to download the file he needed and those 56 seconds were so damn long it was driving him crazy. He was sure that the sound of his pounding heart was going to be what would get him caught because right now it sounded like thunder to him.

31 seconds…

Taking a breath he watched the files copy into the flash drive while he read the piece of paper in his trembling hands. Nervous, no he wasn't that's what he insisted as he read again and again what to do once the download was complete.

"Dammit McGee… your hand writing sucks." He mumbled to himself.

15 seconds…

Stuffing the paper back into his pocket he licked his dry lips. Shaking his head he knew if this damn computer wouldn't hurry up this was going to be the end of his career. Something he knew Gibbs would happily give him a hard time over… if he was here.

Smiling he shook his head. "Damn marine." He muttered as the file completed.

Pulling the flash drive from the computer he typed in the commands quickly before anyone could notice him. The trace of someone accessing files on this network and computer were erased as he left before he had a damn heart attack.


Minutes later…

Walking across the parking lot he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and proceeded to dial.

"Evening, Agent Fornell." A young agent said as he walked by.

Tobias smiled back at him as Tony answered.

"Fornell" Tony greeted him.

"Are you with McGee?" Tobias asked as he unlocked his car.

"Yeah, come over, where hanging out with Jacky at Abby's" Tony invited him over.

Without another word he put his phone away unsure if what he pulled from the computer had the information that they needed.


Abby's house

Tony opened the front door before Fornell could even knock.

"Hey, come in." Tony smiled.

"Abby here?" Tobias asked as he entered.

Walking back into the living room Tony shook his head. "No, she left with Carol to go pick up dinner. I called her and told her get you something too."

The FBI agent smiled as he shut the door. He and Abby had become closer over the years and like he promised her years ago he would do anything for her and his payment in return was usually food which he didn't complain about. Following Tony into the living room he saw Jimmy sitting on the floor with Jack playing video games.

"Hey there's my little agent." Fornell said as he teased Jacks hair.

"Hi" Jack replied happily without looking away from the game he was playing.

"Agent Fornell." Ducky greeted him from the kitchen.

"Hey, Ducky." He smiled back. "Full house, what's the occasion?"

Pursing his lips Donald shrugged. "Nothing, just spending time with family."

Tobias smiled at that statement that sounded so much like something his best friend would have said. Taking a breath he was reminded of why he was here.

"McGee around?" Fornell asked.

Ducky nodded into the kitchen. "He's-"

"In here Fornell!" McGee called out from the kitchen.

Smiling at the little boy seated on the floor one last time Tobias headed for the kitchen.

McGee was typing as he sat to the table. "Can I help you?" He asked Fornell.

Fornell looked around the house until his eyes settled on the boy again. "Uh- let's take this to the basement shall we?" He said as he walked away.

McGee picked up his laptop while Tony followed.

"Ducky, you coming?" Tony asked as he disappeared down the stairs.

Without hesitation Dr. Mallard followed the men down to the basement.


The dimly lit room was familiar yet different because nowadays the person you once found working down here was no where to be seen. Since losing their friend it took them weeks after that day until they could come down here and though they never admit it to each other they had all shed tears down here. This place made them feel close to that man that once occupied this quiet space and just like it was to the gunny this place gave them both privacy and comfort. It looked the way it did when Gibbs was last here only because it was too painful for Abby to remove or change things especially in here.

It still smelt of sawdust and maybe that was the reason it was so comforting to them.

Taking a breath Fornell looked at the men. "Where's Leon?"

"He's with his kids." McGee informed him.

Clearing his throat Tobias tossed the flash drive to Tim. "I haven't looked at it yet, but I took off files that could be related to what we're looking into. I went ahead a month and a week after the day in question." He pointed out.

"Why a month ahead?" McGee asked as he popped the flash drive in.

"Let's just say I worked on a case and even though it wasn't documented 'officially' we left breadcrumbs weeks leading up to the point we executed our… work." Fornell replied cryptically.

"What case was that?" Tony asked.

"That's classified." Tobias said with a sly grin.

Tony looked at Ducky and whispered. "Aliens."

Fornell smiled.

"Let's look at the day in question first shall we?" McGee mumbled as he opened the files and its contents.

They all surrounded McGee and watched the screen as he scrolled slowly through the documents. For a while they focused on the information flowing across the screen until Tobias spoke up.

"Wait… there, what's that?" He asked pointing at the screen.

McGee pulled up the file and scanned the info. "Looks like this is about the same time Gibbs and Phillips entered the compound." He pointed out as he looked at the date.

Tony narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, but this is about another case involving… what looks like-"

"Human trafficking." McGee finished.

Fornell shook his head. "No, this is in code. It says… human trafficking but what looks like case numbers here, aren't." He said pointing a set of numbers.

Tim looked at the older agent. "So, what does it say?"

"Human trafficking means 'transport' or 'moving' and these numbers are…" Fornell shook his head.

"Is what?" Tony asked.

Fornell didn't say anything.

"Tobias, what does 5.1 – R14 mean?" Ducky asked the agent.

"I don't know." Fornell mumbled.

"Come on, Fornell." Tony spat that cause Fornell to look at him.

"It just… just doesn't fit." Fornell replied.

"What doesn't fit?" Tony pressed.

The FBI agent cleared his throat. "The numbers based on their location after the words human trafficking means they are 'transporting' and/or 'moving' someone or something to a location… R14 would be the code for the location but I have no clue where that is." He pointed out.

Tony shook his head. "Okay, if human trafficking means 'transport' or 'move' what do the numbers 5.1 mean?"

"5, means the number of agents and 1 would mean the number of persons and/or cargo." Fornell said with confused look on his face.

"You sound unsure." McGee replied looking at Tobias.

Fornell shook his head. "Who or what ever they are moving is requiring 5 agents to move which would mean…"

"It's important." Dr. Mallard concluded.

"Yeah" Fornell breathed.

McGee began to scroll again. "According to this 'human trafficking' case it's nowhere near where Gibbs was at, it's almost 300 miles away. So, how can we be sure it's associated with what we're digging into?" He asked.

"The location could be bogus." Tony muttered.

"Maybe" Fornell said as he cautiously was trying not to jump to any conclusions.

DiNozzo looked at Fornell. "So, what kind of cases does the FBI put into code?" He asked.

"Cases that matter, cases we don't want anyone to know about besides us and cases that are very sensitive." Tobias said he continued to look at the screen.

"The FBI ever moved someone or something in secret like this before?" Tony asked pointing at the laptop.

"Yeah, I've been apart of a few of them." Fornell said as he focused on the screen.

"Anything else, probie?" Tony asked.

"This says 'operation eclipse', what does 'eclipse' mean?" Tim asked as he turned to Fornell.

"Just what it means." He replied.

Tony chuckled. "You guys aren't that good with codes are you?"

"Could you have figured out 5.1?" Tobias spat back.

Dr. Mallard cleared throat. "Gentlemen" He warned.

"So the operation name 'eclipse' is it another code word?" McGee pressed.

"Maybe, I don't know but… a few years back I was on a case when we use that word." Tobias said as he looked at the men.

Tony looked back at him. "What did it mean then?"

"It means dead silence… no communication of any kind and once eclipse was initiated there was a set amount of time for the silence." The FBI agent informed them.

"How long was the video feed lost?" Tony asked Tim.

"Just over two hours." McGee replied.

"So, if 'eclipse' is when we lost video feed why did Gibbs still have communication with Leon?" Ducky asked.

Fornell began to pace. "Jethro wasn't apart this 'operation eclipse' maybe that's why the communication was still there. It's not like everyone in the area has radio silence, just the-"

"…the ones that were involved, are the silent ones." McGee finished.

Tobias nodded. "Whatever this op is it might have nothing to do with what happened to Jethro."

"Maybe not, but this op is what caused us to lose video feed and maybe we won't see anything on that feed but at least it would give us something." Tony said looked his friends.

Dr. Mallard took a breath. "What if what Tobias found has nothing to with Jethro like he said? Anthony, we have to be very careful just how much we dig into this, some ops we just shouldn't go digging into." He warned.

"I agree with Dr. Mallard." Fornell replied. "If this has nothing to do with Gibbs and we dig into something that's completely different who knows what could happen. Our careers would not be the only thing on the line here if we're not careful."

McGee looked worriedly at Tony. "I want to know why the files were changed and why some things don't match compared to the files we got and the new ones but Tony, what if we're digging into something very different here?"

Tony took a deep breath. "Okay, we'll stop but… is there anything on these files that could help us?" He asked Fornell who was hovering in the darkness of the basement.

Quietly Tobias returned to the laptop. "Scroll through McGee." He said as she looked at the screen again.

Moments passed before Fornell's eyes caught one last thing.

"What is it?" Tony asked seeing the expression on Fornells face change.

"What ever they moved they held it for 2 days then… they handed it over." Tobias replied quietly.

"To whom?" Ducky asked.

Without saying a word Tobias pointed at the screen.

Tim read what he was pointing at. "CIA"

"You're kidding right?" Tony smiled as he peeked over Tim's shoulder.

"What is going on here, Tobias?" Ducky said looking at Fornell.

"I don't know… what ever 'operation eclipse' is it involves both the FBI and the CIA why, I don't know and I'm not sure I want to know. People who know this kind of information usually don't know it that long." Tobias replied nervously.

Tony stepped back from the laptop. "So, we get the mention of the CIA in the first reports we got, then it's removed now we have here the FBI working on something that also involves the CIA. What ever this is it's very-"

"Dangerous." Fornell finished.

Anthony looked at the men who looked worried. "Guys, look I know that this might be something completely different but we just can't stop… not now."

"Anthony, Tobias is right. This is dangerous." Ducky pointed out to the young agent.

"I'm with them on this Tony but maybe there's another way of digging without getting in too deep into something else." McGee suggested.

Fornell looked at McGee. "How do you suggest that McSidekick?"

McGee rolled his eyes. "Having Fornell dig into this could be dangerous but I think we should follow other avenues."

Tony shook his head. "The video feed being lost led us to the FBI now it's leading back to the CIA, what do you suggest?"

"I know where things are leading us but staying safe should be our priority and I think that we can find out what we need by following someone through the proper channels." McGee replied.

"Which would be?" Fornell asked.

"My father." McGee whispered.

"Your father? How can he help us with this?" Ducky asked confused.

"He knows people and I think we can find out what's going here by following the marines that were there starting with Col. Thompson." Tim said while Tony shook his head.

"Col. Thompson was the guy Gibbs and Phillips only met briefly before they left for the compound." Tony said annoyed.

"Yeah, but he might remember something else that isn't in the report." Tim said.

"Do I need to remind you again… it's been four years?" Dr. Mallard replied.

"Not to mention we're going to ask about an encounter that he only had with Gibbs for what could be seconds and if we're lucky maybe minutes." Tobias said as he too doubted McGee's route.

"Look, we either keep digging into this CIA/FBI human trafficking case or we hit this from another angle, a safer angle." Tim told the men who were looking at him.

"I know we're onto something here and this just feels like we're stepping back from this when we're so close." Tony replied as he paced the basement.

"Okay, I follow my route you guys do your own." Tim said getting to his feet.

Tobias and Tony looked at each other while Dr. Mallard cleared his throat.

"Listen, gentlemen. I'm not entirely sure if we're ever going to find out the reasons why things don't add up but I know we must work together on this." Ducky suggested as he to began to pace.

Tony walked up to Fornell. "I know you, you're like me… you're like him. You don't just give up. Fornell, you and I both know that what we're following is leading somewhere. It might not have anything to do with Gibbs but we have to keep going until we're sure it has nothing to do with what we're after."

Looking from Tony to McGee, Tobias took a deep breath. "Are you sure your father will be willing to help?" He said quietly.

McGee nodded.

Turning back to Tony Fornell exhaled. "We follow this as far as we can but once I say stop, we stop chasing this, understood?"

"We just can't give up." Tony added.

"I know and we're not. We just have to be very careful about this. I take lead on this and if I don't like it we stop, we stop no matter how close we think we are okay?" Fornell demanded.

"But, Fornell this could be-"

"This is only going to work if we're in this together. We do this my way or I walk." The FBI agent warned.

Hesitatingly Tony nodded. "Fine."

Joining the men Donald looked at them. "Abby should be back soon we need to get back upstairs." He told them before leaving the men alone in the basement.

Quietly McGee watched Ducky leave the basement. "Tony, I know how much this means to you but there is a chance we will never really know what happened."

Tony nodded. "I know, but-"

"Who are you really doing this for?" Fornell asked. "Jack, Abby or you?"

"For me… for us but mostly for them, especially Jack." Tony whispered as he walked to the stairs taking a seat.

McGee watched his friend.

"This is where I came to when I didn't know how to handle a situation." Tony said quietly as he looked around the basement. "I came here and this is where I found him, working, drinking or just clearing his mind."

Fornell and McGee said nothing.

His breath shaking Tony breathed. "He never said it but I knew he cared about me… more than my own father did, he loved me like a brother, a father, like family. There were times we fought and times we just drank together." Tony smiled. "There was even this one time we talked about women." He chuckled at the thought. "A full bottle of Jack we ended up talking about people who came and went in our lives, I remember I asked him about his relationship with Abby and he just smiled. Who knows maybe he was dating her then but I didn't know, but I knew their relationship was special, we all did."

Fornell smiled.

"Four years… four years since I had no one to talk to, to drink with or just to hang out with like I did with him. I know there is a possibility that we may never know what happened or why the information isn't solid but I need to know. I need to know for Abby even though I probably would never tell her. I need to know for Jack because I know he will come to me when his mother can't tell him things that he wants to know." Tony explained quietly.

McGee looked up at the door way. "You think he knows… I mean knows that his father is gone that he's never going to meet him?" He asked.

Tony shrugged. "I don't know. It's hard for me to think about." He replied.

"What is?" Tobias asked.

Tony took a breath. "I still have my father even though he's not the best father at least I have him and you McGee you still have yours but Jack… doesn't. No matter how many stories we share with him he will still have no idea who his father was. We're here for him but we will never be the father he deserves." Fighting back the tears he continued. "Gibbs… would have been happy to be a father again, but most of all he would have had a family… a real family again."

Tim looked away from his friend. "Could you imagine if he came home?" He smiled. "Finding out that Abby was pregnant probably would have been like a head slap to him. Not to mention how things would be now if he were here."

Tony smiled. "I thought about that last week when I was at the park with Abby and Jacky. Abby was sitting on the ground leaning against a tree reading while Jack was playing near her. I stayed away from them and just watched because I didn't want to intrude on their moment. I was thinking about how he would have been if he was there. Maybe he would have been sitting next to her or playing with his son. " He chuckled. "Could you imagine him crawling around after Jack in the grass?"

His friends said nothing.

Taking a deep breath he shook his head as those thoughts weighed heavy on his mind. "He was suppose to come home. He was suppose to come back and have the family, the happy ending he deserved because after all that he went through that's what he deserved. I wasn't suppose to lose my brother... not like that."

Hearing the pain in DiNozzo's voice Fornell looked away because he couldn't look at him.

Sniffing back the tears Tony stood up. "I'll stop chasing the answers when I know that there is nothing else to know."

Finally able to look at Tony Fornell nodded. "Tony, when we cannot dig any deeper we take all we know and let it go. Is that understood?"

Tony stood silently.

Stepping closer to Tony Tobias looked into the agents' tear filled eyes. "We let everything go and focus on Abby and that little guy upstairs, like we did in these past years. We let it go and move on no matter how difficult it is and we give the son of our best friend the life that his father would have wanted him to have… even if it's without him."

A tear streaming down his face Tony hesitantly nodded.

"I miss him too…" Tobias voice cracked. "The day I found out my best friend was gone I was undercover and that night I got drunk and destroyed everything in my hotel room. I know how much you hurt, how much we all still hurt but we have to be strong for the one person he loved. We stay strong for her because after we all go home she will be alone again. She'll be alone with her son and alone with her thoughts, so we have to be strong for her even when we're still hurting too."

Tony looked to the floor as a rush of emotion and thoughts filled his mind.

McGee walked over to Tony quietly and reached out giving him a light head-slap. "Snap out of it DiNozzo." He smiled

Chuckling Tony looked McGee as the tears slowly streamed down his face. "Okay" He breathed.

Fornell smiled while Tony wiped his eyes.

Taking a deep breath Tony turned his attention to Fornell. "Okay, okay… when we can't go any further, I'll let go." He promised.

Smiling Fornell nodded. "We're in this together and I'm not talking about Sierra 3. We will always be in this together, DiNozzo."

Composing himself Tony smiled. "That's what families do, right?"

"Right." Tobias smiled back. "Speaking of which Abby should be back by now."

"We should get up there." McGee replied as he retrieved his laptop and headed upstairs but not before giving Tony a quick hug.

Tony said nothing as he hugged Tim back.

Letting Tony go Tim smiled at him while Tobias smiled at Tony.

"Yeah, you're not getting one from me." Fornell smiled.

"Would have never dreamed of it." Tony replied.

"Ah, hell, come here." Tobias muttered as he gave Tony a quick hug before retreated upstairs.

Tony stood smiling as he gave the basement on last look. This was the place he could always find what he was looking for and tonight he hoped that this place would help them discover what it was that they were looking for. They weren't completely sure if what they had found would lead them to the answers they seek but none the less they would question everything.

Shutting off the dim lights Tony gave the room one last scan as his thoughts were not only on his brother, or the little boy upstairs but also on the FBI and what was it that they handed over to the CIA. With more digging and McGee going to see his father soon would they find the answers that they need or would those answers be just as elusive as the men in black... if they even existed at all?

TBC…


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Next Chapter: "The Question"

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