A/N: This is a story that was born out of the story "Stepping in", written by Mooncat99 (www . fanfiction s/7985037/1/Stepping-In). Read that story first please, before you start reading this. Considering this is basically a West Wing point of view about that story, not much would make sense i think, if you haven't read that.

Having said that, the plot isn;t mine as it is created by Mooncat99, neither do I own NCIS or The West Wing.

I hope you enjoy this though, and don't forget to review!


Josh was leaning back in his chair, feeling extremely tired. He hadn't had a decent night of sleep since the midterms. Right now, he and Sam were sitting at the top of the table in the Situation Room. They were still seven votes short for the Equity Bill. And they were having trouble deciding which votes they were going to try and haul in.

"Look, all I'm saying," Sam tried to remain calm. "Is that there is no way Hoynes will once again haul our asses out of the fire. And frankly, I wouldn't want him to. It would cause the President too much harm, if once again his VP would go around and steal the price."

Josh had to agree with that point, but as he opened his mouth his assistant Donna was walking into the room. Even if he hadn't worked with her for as many years as he had, there was no missing the anxiety that was all over her face.

She wordlessly handed him a note. Josh paled at what was written on it, this couldn't be true. He looked at her and she nodded to him, knowing he was asking if this wasn't a joke.

"Josh?" Sam inquired.

"Sorry, Sam," Josh managed to speak in a normal tone. "Something just came up. I'll have to go now."

Without giving his friend anything more he quickly walked out of the Roosevelt Room. Making sure Sam couldn't see his facial expressions through the windows, he turned to Donna.

"Listen very carefully," he spoke softly "You're going to walk. Walk NOT run, to Leo's office. You're going to give him, and only him, that note. I'll be with the Secretary of Defence."

Without looking back, he marched towards where he knew Secretary Swain had his office. He slipped into the room and saw the wall for videoconferences was turned on. On the screen he could see a motley crew of men and a woman.

It wasn't long until both Leo and Alan Fisk joined the circus as well. Josh knew the turf war that was happening before his eyes. He looked over the people and knew them to be FBI, CIA, Homeland, NSA and NCIS the smallest of the agencies.

"With all due respect, Sirs, the CIA clearly has the best means to deal with this situation. We have the best net of informants to deduce who is behind this attack and our experience in dealing with this sort of threat surely surpasses that of my colleagues. Nothing against them, but while they usually are concerned about single case …"

"Bullshit," a new voice sneered from the screen.

Leo and Josh looked up to see a much younger man glare at the CIA representative (clearly there was some history between them) as he stepped a half step towards the camera and let his arms fall at his sides.

"Special Agent DiNozzo," a mousy man hissed loudly. Josh knew him as the Under Secretary for the Navy.

"Yes, DiNozzo, why don't you stay back and let the professionals talk here," the CIA man added sweetly with a nasty smirk on his face.

Leo and Josh exchanged glances. They had to admire the restraint the young agent showed at such blatant disrespect from a colleague.

"You have something to add, young man?" Secretary Swain asked with a frown, his dark eyes piercing as they stared at the young man on the screen.

The young agent didn't seem to be moved by the glare, the only visible reaction was a straightening of the shoulders as he met the Secretary's eyes with a strong green look of his own.

"As a matter of fact, Sir, yes, I have. While I have the utmost respect for the work of our sister agencies, I'd like to point out that it has been NCIS that discovered the impending attack, NCIS that first grew aware of the abduction of our superiors, NCIS that has so far gathered all the evidence, NCIS that has already brought down five of the terrorists, and it is also NCIS that has the only suspect in custody as we speak."

The guy should have been in politics, Josh thought succinctly. From all the higher ups that were in that room with him, he was the only one who showed primal evidence why they should take lead. Josh also didn't miss the next glare the guy threw towards the CIA.

"But I'm not pointing this out in order to receive credit. I don't care who gets credit afterward. That's one thing our directors can trash out among themselves once they're safely back at their desks. For now though we have work to do and we have to act fast. And even my esteemed colleagues," Josh had to subdue the snort at the cynical tone DiNozzo sported with those words, "have to concede that it's NCIS that's already the most involved in the investigation, and has the best chance of tracing and stopping this attack before it's too late. With all due respect, we don't have the time to stand around here and fight over jurisdiction. We should be out there working our asses off. And most of all, we need to be working together here, Sir," came after it, as if he belatedly had realized who he was talking to.

Leo looked over to the Swain, who had straightened a bit as he listened to the impassionate speech. He knew that talk like this from a guy like DiNozzo, impressed military men. But he didn't show anything of that only volunteering a perfunctory "I see".

They turned the screen black. Swain turned towards his aid.

"You've got the file?" he demanded.

"Yes sir," the man hastily started a report. "Special Agent Anthony D. DiNozzo started in law enforcement at the Peoria Police Academy. After two years he transferred to Philadelphia, but after the mayor affair he had to transfer once more to Baltimore PD. Worked there two years, including an extensive undercover operation, before he was hired by Special Agent LJ Gibbs to become his Senior Field Agent. Aside from a brief period as Agent Afloat, he has fulfilled that role for many years now, sir."

"Gibbs?" Swain asked with a raised eyebrow. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs?"

"Yes sir," the aid nodded.

"You know him?" Leo asked.

"Yeah, he served under me in the Gulf back in '91. Heard he really made use of his 'second B for bastard' when he started NCIS. He is a mean son of a bitch."

"So, he can handle the job?" Leo asked again.

Swain didn't answer but did give the signal too turn the feed on.

"Special Agent DiNozzo," he intoned.

"Yes sir," the man answered.

"You are appointed director of NCIS ad interim, effective immediately, until either Director Vance returns or we can find a more permanent replacement. We have also agreed that for now, the lead in this investigation stays with NCIS. I expect an hourly update and to be briefed before any major decision are made, is that understood?"

Josh had to feel sympathy for the guy as he paled and tried to protest.

"Me? Sir, that must be a mistake. I'm a field agent, not … I mean, I'm sure any of our remaining team leaders could step in and take over temporarily."

Josh knew that his protest were futile. He had recognized DiNozzo as a guy who worked in the trenches, and was invigorated by it. But the man was highly intelligent, and saw connections and the bigger picture. Those men were rare, and they needed him if they were not to have a terrorist attack succeed on American soil.

"Special Agent DiNozzo," Swain's tone left no room for arguing. "Do I understand correctly that all your agency's achievements in this affair so far have been made under your command?"

Leo and Josh noticed the small scuffle of his feet. "Well yeah, but mostly it was a team effort, Sir. I just did my job, that doesn't mean I'm fit to lead the agency."

Leo could easily see the trap the young man had set himself up for. The small smile on Swain's face told him more than enough. "In that case you won't have a problem with keeping on doing your job and working as a team with the other agencies. That is an order," he addressed the rest of the representatives. "Whatever differences you have, bury them or your directors, once they are safely returned, will be hearing from me."

With a glare he sent all the other representatives from the room. As Tony wanted to leave the room, he was stopped by Swain's voice.

"Director DiNozzo?" he asked.

"Yes Sir?" DiNozzo lifted an eyebrow.

"Gibbs?" Swain asked him.

Josh looked on as the guy's mask broke for a split second. Pure agony was written on his face as thoughts about his Team Lead and mentor came to the forefront of his mind.

"We were completely taken by surprise," he sighed as he leaned against one of the movie theatre seats and explained the situation more thoroughly. "Gibbs was hit twice in rapid succession. The doctors told me one buried itself in his shoulder, the other was about one and a half inch away from his heart."

Tony rubbed a hand over his face. "He lost a lot of blood before they could get him on the operating table."

"He's a stubborn son of bitch if there ever was one," Swain spoke trying to help the agent through it.

Tony laughed at that. "Ain't that the truth, sir. If it were possible he would glare bullets into submission.

"Hourly updates, director," the Swain reminded him before he cut the feed.

"Well," Josh spoke up. "This could be the biggest disaster from our lifetime."

"I'll inform the president," Leo spoke with a sigh, before turning to Josh. "This stays between us. Nothing to Sam or Toby, and nothing to CJ. We keep the lid on, got it?"

"Yeah, I get it," Josh spoke up as well.

It was hard to focus on anything else, as they waited the hour before the next update. Josh slipped into the room where Swain was already standing in front of the feed.

"Mr Secretary," DiNozzo spoke up. "My apologies to keep you waiting."

"What was the problem?" Swain demanded.

"Agent Fornell was worried about my physical condition after being caught with a shotgun in the chest," Tony explained. "He outed me to my medical examiner, who refused to leave me alone until he could check on me."

"Are you alright, director?" Josh spoke up.

"I'm fine," Tony dismissed his worry. "Well, there will be some spectacular bruising, but that is to be expected. I'm sorry, mr…?"

"Lyman, Josh Lyman," Josh introduced himself. "Deputy Chief of Staff."

"I remember you!" Tony suddenly pointed a finger at him. "Had me falling from the chair with laughter. Calling the press stupid," he grinned.

"Sit-rep, if you will," Swain brought them back on track.

"Right," DiNozzo turned serious in a second flat. "Our forensic specialist has discovered what the biological residue contained. It was Yersina Pestis, also known as the pneumonic plague."

"Plague?" Josh echoed shocked. Tony nodded swiftly.

"Yes, which is actually enormously helpful, because of the specific environmental conditions that need to be met to keep the bacteria alive," Tony continued on.

"Dr Sciuto is now testing if the strain is altered or not," Tony spoke on. "That test should be done with the next hour."

"Why is she testing this?" Josh asked.

Tony turned his glare to Josh, who had to admit he was slightly intimidated with it.

"Because back in 2005, a SWAK letter was delivered to NCIS HQ. I was the unlucky one to open said letter, which contained powder that was in fact genetically altered to make it resistant to antibiotics."

"You… had the plague?" Josh was filled with disbelief.

"If you'd read my file, Mr Lyman," Tony's voice was icily polite. "You would have discovered that I did indeed had the plague."

He turned back to Swain. "We managed to discover the name of the group and how they came about their aliases. They use a scrambling of well-known rock- and popstars. They all arrived here from visa-waiver countries, which is troubling."

"And the directors?" Swain.

"Still working on it," Tony replied. "But until there is a vital lead, I am putting more manpower on the targets and timing of this thing. Even though they are extremely important for our agencies, I will not put the lives of twelve men over that of millions of citizens. We swore oaths that they have precedence over our own."

Swain nodded and they said goodbyes. He turned to Josh.

"That man is one of the most accomplished agents in the federal business. He has many connections with the blue brothers as well as in the federal agencies. You'd do well not to piss the man off."

Josh walked back towards his office in the West Wing, when he was accosted by Toby.

"Listen, there's chatter in the hallways," Toby spoke softly.

'What kind of chatter," Josh asked innocently.

"The kind that no one in power wants," Toby replied. "The kind that talks about terrorism in the streets."

Toby could see the tension in Josh's face. "Josh, what's going on?"

"I can't tell you," Josh spoke. "It, really, it's better if we don't speak about this. At all."

Toby nodded, knowing that there was something going on. And that Josh had been muzzled. They could only hope.

In the Oval Office, the tension was even higher. "Leo, are you telling me that terrorists coming from our Western allies have been living right under our noses, and nobody knew a goddamn thing about it?"

"Yes sir," Leo answered.

"For crying out loud," Jed Bartlet threw his hands in the air. "They managed to get all our heads of agencies out of the way!"

"So far, the investigation is going quite smoothly," Leo tried to calm him down. "Temporary director DiNozzo seems extremely competent. Further more he has a great personal motivation to catch these bastards; his mentor and friend was shot this morning by one of them, plus Mr Jarvis and director Vance are personal acquaintances of him."

Well that was one word for it, Leo thought privately.

"Can we help? How about the Secret Service?" the President demanded.

"Mr President, another agency thrown into the mix is not going to be productive," Leo tried do disabuse the notion.

"Can I at least get some footage of things?" Leo understood the helplessness his old friend was feeling right now. He felt the same.

"Let me make a call," Leo pulled his phone out and called the NCIS switchboard. After a few minutes he had the director's secretary on the line.

"Well," Shelley hesitated after Leo told her of the President's request. "It is possible, I think. But I don't know if Director DiNozzo is going to be happy about it, Sir. There are some strict rules when it comes to interrogating suspects."

Leo had put the phone on speaker and Jed Bartlet suddenly spoke into it. "Hello? You can say to your director that you have been overruled by the President of the United States."

"Yessir," Shelley stammered. "Let me get some of the technicians to set it up. Will it be going over the normal White House feed?"

"Yes," Leo answered before Bartlet could put his foot in his mouth. "With an extra scramble code that your technicians will receive when we have established contact."

Five minutes later, they saw an interrogation room from the top corner of it. They could clearly see a blonde man with a bandaged hand sitting at the table. A guard was standing in the room. Leo explained it to the President.

'They have him on suicide watch, Sir. The suspect who kidnapped director Vance's secretary and her children, shot himself in the head before they could take him into custody."

Suddenly the door of the room opened and in walked two men wearing suits. The younger one stalked into the corner, out of their point of view. The older one sat done across the suspect.

"Mr Armstrong, I'm Agent Fornell from the FBI, this is Agent DiNozzo from NCIS."

"Ah, ah, ah, Toby aren't you forgetting something?" A voice interrupted him.

Both men could see the tension in the FBI's shoulders. "Sure. Sorry. That would be Director DiNozzo now," he spoke precise.

"That's right, Deanie boy, Director DiNozzo," the voice from DiNozzo sounded again from outside the frame. Both men were taken aback with how relaxed he seemed. "You didn't really think taking Director Vance and SecNav Jarvis would have any notable impact on our agency, did you? Well sorry to disappoint. That's not how we work. You cut down one head, another rises. And you buddy, have the bad luck that's me that succeeded Director Vance. Want to know why?"

Fornell spoke after a few seconds of silence. "I don't think he cares, Director."

"I think you're right," Leo and Jed could see the tall figure of the man come into the picture as he leaned over the suspect's right side. "That's not very smart of you, Mr Armstrong. No wait, it's Mr Martin, right Louis? Damn. I just can't get those names straight, can I."

Although the two men watching the interrogation from the screen couldn't see it, it was clear that the two agents were smelling weakness.

Fornell picked up where the other left off. "That's right, Armstrong. We figured out how you came to your alias. It was rather obvious, really. How long did it take us, Director?"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe five minutes? Of course, we had all the other names lined up beside yours that helped immensely. But wait, you probably don't know that yet. See, we also know about the biological weapon you and your friends build and the Y. pestis. Sorry, your little distraction act of kidnapping our bosses didn't work either."

Leo could see the suspect's jaw clenching over the screen. The two interrogators were clearly getting to him.

"And do you know how we know all that?" Fornell asked. He laid out pictures on the table, not visible over the camera, while DiNozzo crowded even closer to the man.

"Cause we found and stopped them all. Killed them. Raided your little suburban base, confiscated all your little toys and plans. So you see, all your carefully hatched out plans were for nothing. Not even a day into your little stab at terrorism and already the whole's mission's gone downhill."

"If that is so, why are we not doing anything about it?" Jed demanded.

"They're bluffing, Mr President," Leo explained. "They're trying to trip the man up into saying something they can use."

"And that's not all," Fornell continued. "We know these people are part of your cell also. Every cop in the country has a copy on his desk by now and knows these three, Tina Jones, Frank Lennon and Bobby Steven, are wanted for terrorism. Even if you are Swedish you have to know that it's only going to be a matter of time before we apprehend them. You talk now, we may be able to prevent the death penalty."

"But Toby, don't forget my newest favourite pal!" DiNozzo chipped in, reached over the table to get the last photograph out of the folder. "Tom Turner. And with that, we get back to why you really, really should be sorry that you taking my director and SecNav left me in charge. See, your buddy here shot my partner."

Leo and Jed were shocked as they saw the newly appointed Director slam the picture down and shoving Armstrong's chair around.

"That's right. My partner. He's in the hospital, fighting for his life as we speak. You better pray he'll make it, because if he dies, I don't care what you've said or can tell us, I'm going to make you all pay for killing my partner, starting with you. And thanks you, no one can stop me because hey, I'm the boss."

Even Leo and Bartlet could hear the hitching in Armstrong's breath. They had been taken aback by the force of the man's rage as well.

"He's right with that, you know," Fornell piped up. "I can report him if he steps over the line but stop him from killing you? I don't have that power. And you know what? Even if I had, I wouldn't. Because his partner? Happens to be my friend. Some would even say he's my best friend. So he dies? I'm going to hold you while the director here beats you to death."

DiNozzo straightened and took a step back. "But maybe, maybe you can safe your own worthless hide. By talking. First we can start with where Tommy here might be because I really want to get my hands on his neck. But we'll also take anything you know about the targets, the exact type of weapon you intend to use, who else is in on this operation and of course where you're keeping our bosses."

Armstong glanced between the two men. "No."

"Well I'll be damned," Leo breathed.

"What?" Bartlet demanded.

"He spoke," Leo said with awe. 'The man was not about to talk one word, but they got him to speak. That means, Mr President, they broke him down."

The interrogation was interrupted as they heard the ringtone of a cell phone. DiNozzo picked his out of his pocket.


Silence reigned until … "WHAT! WHEN?" Tony bellowed into the phone.

DiNozzo listened and quietly thanked the person on the other end. Jed and Leo watched the feed as DiNozzo's shoulders slumped and his head lowered down. Then suddenly, with an inhuman cry the man threw his phone against the two-way mirror and had Armstrong pinned against the wall. Holding him as he used his forearm to choke him.

"Time's up Armstrong. That was the hospital, my partner is dead. He. Is. Dead. Now talk – or die."

Leo hadn't waited after that outburst and rang the NCIS HQ to seize the interrogations. He was rebuffed by every single person they put on the phone.

"Goddamn," he cursed. "They're protecting their own."

"Well," Josh piped up from behind. "The entire building knows that their director has been kidnapped and their biggest baddest legend of an agent has been gunned down. Yeah Leo, I'd say they won't care what the man does to one of the perpetrators."

"Leo, come here," the President's voice sounded from the viewing room.

Reluctantly to see a dead body on the screen they both walked in reluctantly.

"It was all a ruse, and a brilliant one at that," Jed's eyes sparkled with awe.

"What?" Leo questioned.

"Yeah, apparently his entire team was watching as well. I could hear their yelling from over the feed," Bartlet chuckled. "The man's okay and out of surgery."

The men dispersed once more, trying to get anything done while waiting on news about the terrorist threat. When news came, it wasn't good.

"Mr President," Josh stormed into the Oval Office. "Leo."

Both men looked up into Josh's pale face.

"Bathesda Naval Hospital has just reported an explosion in their parking garage," Josh burst out. "Plus, there has been the death of two federal agent and a man in their custody."

Bartlet sank into the chair behind his desk. Before he had thought it serious, but not this level serious. Two men, who had been guarding the suspect as he had been given medical treatment, had been killed because of it.

"Any news on the parking garage?" Leo asked.

"Yeah, but you're not going to like it," Josh breathed. Leo's face made clear he didn't care.

"Apparently, Director DiNozzo went to visit his mentor for a few minutes. When he came down to the Emergency Room, he was going to check up with his perpetrator and his guards. He saw them dead, and realized that it was someone tying up loose ends. He came across a speeding car in the parking garage and managed to shoot out the tires."

Josh paused looking at the President behind his desk. "Go on, Josh."

"The terrorist threw a grenade," Josh had the words out.

Bartlet had jumped from his chair. "A grenade? To Director DiNozzo!"

"Yes sir," Josh confirmed.

"What's the Director's condition?" Leo asked.

"On route back to the Navy Yard as we speak, sir," Josh told to their relief. "He refused to remain at the hospital although doctors suspected a concussion and possibly some bruised ribs."

"Well of course he wasn't going to stay there," Leo snorted. "The man is the leading force to stop this attack. You think men like that are just going to wait to the end of time because they have a little headache?"

"No, sir," Josh bowed his head a little. "Their update is in five minutes."

"Go look at it from the background," Leo ordered him.

Josh sped away. As he stood in the dark he could see the results of the explosion. DiNozzo looked haggard, though Josh had to admit that it was better than any other man would have looked at. Meanwhile, Swain was reaming the man out.

"I do not need a Director who goes to hospitals to hold the hands of their fallen bosses! You are the acting director now, DiNozzo! So you better keep those damned stupid ideas out of your head next time!"

"Stupid ideas, sir?" DiNozzo was seething as well. "With all due respect, sir, I'm a field agent. It's the way my mind works. There is a reason that I've been working with my partner for the last ten years, and that is because there is something that makes me rethink everything in a different perspective. Further more, sir, I haven't slept in over twenty hours. During those hours, I've been shot at, seen my boss shot, found out there is no federal agency out their with senior management available and now, I have been blown up. I need some place where I can find the quiet in my mind! And if that is during a damn stupid field outing towards my boss' hospital bed, then so be it!"

Josh saw the man cut a hand over his neck as the feed died off. He was mind blown by the way DiNozzo spoke against his superior. But then again, he did have a harrowing day.

"How does the informing of the important institutions go?" Josh asked the man, rubbing a hand over his forehead. He knew he needed sleep in a real bed, but it would probably be his chair and desk once more.

"NCIS had informed CDC and USAMRIID as soon as they discovered the bacteria as Y. pestis," Swain informed him.

"Good," Josh sighed. That was at least one thing they could cross off the list. He had to admit to being surprised and impressed by NCIS. He never actually heard of them, besides seeing it in the budget briefing of federal agencies. But they did very good work, as it seemed.

Josh wasn't the only one who stayed the night. Both Leo and Toby were camped out in their offices, trying to make sure they were up to date as best as they could. Josh would bet his position in the White House that the President wasn't asleep either. His country was about to be hit with a biological attack of unprecedented proportions.

CJ knocked on his door, causing him to sit up straight in a flash.

"Yeah?" he called out.

CJ walked in and closed the door. "Look, I heard some chatter here and there. And if I heard it, so did the group of mangly hungered wolves out there. Is there anything I should know?"

"NO!" Josh called out. "Look, chatter is very loud at the moment. We're keeping an eye on it, but nothing for you to worry about."

"Okay," CJ's face told him she didn't believe him for a second, but would let it go. She was brilliant at her job and knew that there were some things she shouldn't know.

"Wait, yes," Josh suddenly realized. "Last night there was an explosion in the parking garage of Bethesda hospital. It was a murder suspect with a grenade, the suspect is now in custody."

They had agreed that approach would be best. Of course reporters would know about the explosion, and they would know it was thrown, not a simple case of 'oops I spilled the gasoline'.

"Okay," CJ nodded while scribbling. "Anyone hurt?"

"The federal agents were able to avoid the explosions mostly, but have been sent home with a nice case of the concussion."

"Prognosis?" CJ demanded.

"Most damage is superficial, so it wouldn't cost much. But for a more detailed picture, defer them to the NCIS press department and Bethesda."

"M'okay," CJ nodded and was already out the door before she turned around. "Hey, did you sleep here?"

"Yeah, Leo Toby and I got into a card game and we went a little heavy with the spirits," Josh rubbed his eyes. "I gotta go, I have a meeting."

Josh almost ran towards the Swain's room, where he had spent more time in over the last twenty four hours than in his own office.

Tony DiNozzo was already on the screen.

"Well?" Swain demanded.

"You're not going to like it, sir," DiNozzo hedged.

"Son, we're on the brink of having a medieval disease bombed on us. There is not much about this situation I'm liking so far," Swain barked.

"Yes sir," Tony nodded. "Very well. We have leaks, pretty impressive ones too."

"What makes you say that?" Swain demanded.

"Well first of all, yesterday at the hospital," Swain scowled at the reminder. "The perpetrator Tom Turner, knew I had been promoted to director."

Tony looked straight at the Swain. "There has been no official announcement, no press releases. The only ones that know are the ones that were there in the room with you and here on the floor with me."

"And who do you suspect?"

Tony grimaced. "Definitely more people here as well, but …"

"Spit it out DiNozzo!"

"We found the doctor who probably delivered Balance the Y. Pestis," Tony spoke.


"And he had connections with our dead Ranger, and Franklin Bishop," there the high word was out.

Josh sucked in a breath as he heard the words. Oh, this was bad.

"Are you trying to tell me," Swain spoke threateningly. "That you're accusing the Attorney General of having ties with a terrorist group?"

"Sir, this group has been working low key since the sixties," Tony replied. "We don't know who is who. But there has to be someone high up that's part of this. Or they would never have managed to pull this off like this."

"You won't do anything until I see hard evidence," Swain spoke eventually.

The man sighed as the feed went dead and he turned to Josh.

"You believed him?" Josh couldn't believe this. This was Bishop they were talking about!

"Lyman, men like that develop a six sense about the right direction in an investigation," he spoke slowly. "No matter how much I hate it, his gut is telling him this is the way it is."

"We put a full lid on this," Josh spoke. "Until they have the evidence we don't speak about this to the President or the Chief of Staff. If Bishop is a possibility …"

"I know," Swain spoke up looming.

The next update came, and now Leo had Josh taking care of some little fires so he couldn't be there. Swain came out and met him in the hallway.

"And?" Josh spoke in a low tone.

"They're coming here," Swain spoke.

The meeting was without Josh at first. He knew it had to do with the chain of command, but he hated that he didn't know what the hell was happening. But when Secretary Burryhill from State came speed walking through the West Wing, he knew it would be really bad. Leo signalled him and they both stepped into the room as well.

Josh could see DiNozzo was a little intimidated by his surroundings and the people he was in the room with. His attention was grabbed by the older agent at his side. He knew him to be FBI, and he was almost looking like a protective father over the young director.

"Are you certain this is world wide?" Burryhill looked at the man.

"Yes sir," Tony nodded before naming the cities Crest had named to them. "They call themselves the Circle of Five, which is ridiculous. But this is their little vendetta against the human race; overpopulation."

"You're kidding, right?" Josh couldn't help it.

"I wish I were," Tony grinned without humor. "Look we know because of the events and the time, what the probable targets are here in the US. But if we're going to evacuate, then we have to be honest about at least the bomb threats. People are going to know something is up if we're evacuating events in five different cities. For the other countries, well I've got an agent calling all of her foreign contacts to start the ball rolling at the field level."

"How's he going to be any help?" Leo couldn't help but ask.

"She," Tony emphasized. "is very helpful, considering her name is Ziva David. As in Eli David."

Leo sat back in his chair. "So the rumours were true."

"If the rumours say she defected to NCIS, because her father left her to rot in a Somalia terrorist camp then yeah," Tony remarked.

Josh had to smile at the sarcastic tone the man used. He liked this man already, he could tell.

It took some time, but with his reasoning he finally convinced Leo and Swain that Bishop was in on it. Leo made the call to the Secret Service to secure him in his office.

"If that is all gentlemen," Tony stood up. Everyone could see that now he had the green light he wanted to set things up so lives could be saved.

"God's speed, Director," Leo shook the young man's hand solemnly.

"Let's hope we see each other in one piece," DiNozzo answered the man just as seriously.

"We'll be watching your operational feed here as well, Director," Leo spoke.

"Sure," DiNozzo agreed. "But if things go south, do not interfere on the feed. This is our mission, with our people. I will not have them confused or killed because there was a stranger on the other side of the line."

Leo nodded and with that the two agents were back on their way to the Navy Yard he saw DiNozzo was already talking into his phone before he even left he hallway. He just hoped everything would work out all right.

"Time to inform the President," Leo spoke up from behind him. "We need to let CJ Toby and Sam in on this as well."

"I'll gather them," Josh was quick to round up the senior staff, while Leo gave the briefing to the President.

As they delivered the news to the other three of the staff, they sat stunned.

"Are you telling me, that all over the country bombs have been planted in the large local venues to infect as much people possible with a disease from the Dark Ages?" CJ's fear came out in her biting angry tone.

"Yeah CJ," Josh whispered with his head in his hands. They were now in the waiting game. "You'll have to brief the press on the evacuations as well. Not a word about plague, though."

"No, really?" CJ became even more sarcastic. "Thank you Josh, because my idea for the briefing was to create mass hysteria all over the country!"

"Mr President, there will be a live feed here in the White House during the operation. It is the same feed Director DiNozzo receives in his command centre," Leo relayed to the man. Bartlet nodded.

"What the hell has happened to the human race, that it willingly afflicts his brother such?" he sighed.

"CJ," Leo looked at her. "Briefing in fifty. Rest of you, just forget about your jobs and come look to see if the world we live in ends today."

While CJ was setting up the press conference, the rest of them gathered in a room with a large screen where they all sat down to see multiple images set up.

One of those images they knew was from the Navy Yard, they could see a bustling bullpen where people were seen preparing for the tasks ahead of them. Suddenly they could see a younger man walking halfway down the stairs.

"Listen up everybody! The videolinks to the other NCIS bases airing already?"

The man got confirmation.

"By now you're all aware of what a great threat our country is facing. If we don't stop it, in a few hours bombs will go off here in Washington, New York, Chicago, LA and Hawaii, that'll release the plague. I don't have to tell you what that would mean, but I'll say it anyway: thousands of people will get sick and die if we're lucky, a pandemic will erase more than half of our population if we're not so lucky. But we have a chance to stop it. Together with local police forces, the FBI, CIA, NSA Homeland and every other law enforcement agency we have a chance to stop it from happening. We have to stop it."

The room was silent and captivated by the speech that was delivered here. Everyone in the room stood there with goose bumps on their arms and their eyes slightly watered.

"You've already received your orders. These are dangerous tasks and I wish I could guarantee you that they're not suicide missions. But I can't, nor do we have the luxury of asking for volunteers. We need every single one of you in order to stop these bastards. I can only promise you that I'll do everything in my power to have your six out there. And if you can't come back, your families will hear from me personally that you died a hero. But then again, we're used to being underestimated, aren't we? So go out there and show Balance and the whole world what stuff NCIS agents are made of! Show them that they can't hurt us, that on our watch no lives will be senselessly taken! Kick their ass!"

The White House staff looked on as they saw all the feed burst out in a loud cheering.

"SEMPER FI!" DiNozzo bellowed, and was greeted with semper fi's and oo-rah.

Josh glanced over to Leo and saw him with tears in his eyes.

"Leo?" he asked in a soft tone.

"That was some speech," Leo spoke slowly.

"Let's hope he's a Democrat," the President joked, trying to break the tension.

"Wait, am I seeing this right?" Sam cut through the joke. The rest put their attention back on the screen and saw two people being arrested. They were shocked as they heard the comment about the Attorney General, though.

CJ walked in on that, having set up all that she could at the moment. "Oh, great!" she exclaimed. "Because a terrorist threat alone isn't problematic enough, the AG has to be involved as well! Make my job hell, will you!"

"Yes CJ," Toby cut in sarcastically. "I'm sure that NCIS uncovered him as a member of Balance, just to spite you."

CJ walked out as the agents on the screen made their way to the exit as well. But where CJ was only to face the press, these agents went out without knowing if they would ever return.

She walked on the stage with heavy steps. Never in her years working in the White House had she ever felt like she felt right now. Not even when she had held the press conference after the shooting of the President.

After she had read out the statement, she was vaulted with questions. Finally she had enough.

"As we said, a joint operation under the lead of Interim Director Anthony DiNozzo of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services, is underway as we speak in order to prevent the bombs from detonating and destroying some of this country's most beloved buildings. As it is still an ongoing operation, we cannot answer any questions yet. You will all get a chance for that once the immediate threat is over. We only released this official statement as it is obvious the evacuation of the five targets could not go undetected and we do not want any wild theories scaring the citizens more than they already are by the evacuation. Now, that is the full lid people."

As she walked back into the building, she handed her files to Carol and made her way to the room where they would watch the fate of their country.

The wait was excruciating. They heard the teams checking in with NCIS MTAC periodically, telling the man in charge what locations they've checked out already.

Finally, the first good news came through.

"We've found the bomb."

The White House crew didn't know what team reported in, but the sigh of relief was audible throughout the room.

"Roger that, Team W. Where is it located, and can you disable it?" DiNozzo spoke.

"W, the Pentagon," Sam sighed relieved. After 9/11 the last thing they needed was another disaster there.

"As Crest said, it's connected directly to the water tanks. We have a bomb squad in place, looking at it right now. After the first inspection it seems like it's doable, but it wont be easy."

There was a pause in the conversation. "Sir, that was the bomb squad. They were able to open the bomb and confirm that the agent is in place but also that disarming is proving to be more challenging than anticipated."

DiNozzo asked: "The building is evacuated?"

"Yes, Sir, only our teams and PFPA remain on scene."

"Good. Send us pictures of the bomb so we can forward it to the other teams. And keep us updated."

"Affirmative, Sir," the tem leader responded before he went off.

The tension in the room filled with the staffers and the President was tangible. Slowly the reality of this moment truly sank in. they were praying that their men could stop another terrorist attack. One that could cripple not just the US, but the entire world. A pandemic, as DiNozzo had called it.

Every second lasted an eternity, until the team lead cam on the radio again. This time, he had good news.

"Squad just gave the green light, bomb is disarmed, biological agent has been secured," the voice came over the line.

"Great work, Keller. Have the explosive experts wire us the disabling process. Then proceed with securing and processing the scene. If there is one clue, no matter how tiny it is, as to who placed the bomb, I want it bagged and tagged and transferred to our lab," DiNozzo ordered immediately.

Leo whistled in between his teeth.

"PFPA won't be happy about it," the response of this Keller came.

They heard the newly appointed director sigh a little.

"Tell them that it's only in order to collect and process all evidence in one place. As soon as we've processed it, they along with the other sister agencies are free to join the examination of the evidence. In fact, I propose they name one of their own forensic analysts to join our team here. If they still give you a hard time about this, refer them to me."

They heard affirmation of the idea and saw DiNozzo turn to the other two men in the room. "Same goes for you. This is too much for one agency to process and we need to look at all evidence collected from the five scenes as one. The different eyes could even prove helpful. But our Ms Sciuto will have the lead," he added sternly.

"Get the other Leads on the line," he ordered the technicians.

"Pentagon is secure," he stated bluntly, knowing that they could use some inspirational news at this moment. "The disabling process has been sent to you, see to it that your bomb squads get it. What is your status? Team N?"

"Building and surrounding blocks evacuated and closed off. We just located the bomb. Bomb squad is starting to disable it now," the voice, sounding strained, answered the man promptly.

"Good. But be careful, I wouldn't be surprised if they used different bombs just for this case. Team C?"

An accented female voice answered him almost monotonically. "We arrived on scene half an hour ago. The evacuation is still underway, but we should have the zone cleared within the next thirty minutes. Search teams are looking for the bombs as we speak. We will keep you updated."

This continued on. Both LA and Hawaii were also still searching. The wait was wearing on all of them.

The next bit of good news came half an hour later, from Chicago.

"Two bomb sites discovered. PD has one site, I take the other with York," Ziva's voice now sounded so focused over the line that the White House saw DiNozzo visibly relax at the news.

They looked, but only Sam noticed the three men in the command centre huddle together to speak. He grabbed a headphone to listen better.

"What is it?" the older FBI agent asked.

"I dunno. Its too easy?"

"Easy?" the man exclaimed, disbelief in the word.

"Please," the third man snorted, British accent lilting his words. "You just want an out in case something goes wrong. But you won't get it. You wanted the lead. Something goes wrong, you take the responsibility now and don't get to excuse yourself that we didn't listen to you gut."

Those words were easy to hear by the entire room. President Bartlet snorted at this.

"If something goes wrong, because that buffoon refused to listen to the lead, I'll make damn sure that man won't take the responsibility for it."

Suddenly a ruckus on the screen diverted the attention once more. One of the most peculiar dressed women they had ever seen in their life came storming into the command centre.


The man in question stepped forward and calmed her down. "Breath Abby. I'll be with you in a minute, unless it's life-threatening?"

The woman shook her head after a few seconds, and DiNozzo focused on the screen. The screen split up between LA and Hawaii. Hawaii spoke first.

"We've got trouble. Balance sent a strike team to protect the bomb. We're under fire. So far we can hold our position, but there've been casualties already."

"We got anyone in Hawaii who we can send in to help?" the question was asked to the two men at his side.

The two men shook their head. Tony spoke up.

"Copy that, H. do what you can, I'll see if I can get you some reinforcement." He looked at the operator. "Get me SecDef, ASAP!" he bellowed.

Thirty seconds later, Swain was on the screen as well, looking non too happy, the rest of the White House noted. DiNozzo didn't waste a second.

"Pearl Harbor is under fire. We've got casualties. There's a SEAL team on base and the Ronald Reagan's docked in. Request to send the forces in to help our guys."

Swain didn't hesitate. "I'll send them in immediately. Keep me posted."

DiNozzo nodded and relayed the message to the Hawaii team.

The CIA agent spoke the words they were all thinking out loud. "Even if SecDef's orders already reached them, it will take some time to assemble the teams and send them in. it's unlikely they'll make it in time."

They all could see the feral smile appear on the Director's face. "Commander McGarrett is a reservist SEAL. He already put his old buddies on alert. And I spoke with the Captain of the Reagan as soon as we learned that Hawaii's a target. He knows me from my time as Agent Afloat on his ship and promised to help. As soon as the official orders from SecDef come through the proper channel, he'll give the go and they jump into action."

The entire White House team reeled back in surprise. Josh spoke up.

"Seriously, what does this guy run on?" he cried out in disbelief. "The man hasn't slept in days, have been shot at and been blown up and still he has enough time to make the phone calls?"

Before anyone could respond to this exclamation, the screen caught their attention once more. The team leader from LA appeared with a grey face, stilled in shock.

"We located two bombs. One we could disable but the second was triggered by remote. Half of the Kodak theatre is gone, along with the LAPD bomb squad and two FBI agents. The scene was contaminated. They think it's confined to the bomb site but further tests must be conducted before we can confirm that. To be safe we've expanded the evacuation zone with a mile. Our Agents Deeks and Blye were exposed. They are being treated as we speak."

Silence sounded through both the NCIS HQ and in the White House. They had been too late for one. They didn't know how to speak anymore. They could only watch as DiNozzo nodded slowly.

"Keep us updated. And please send us the names of the fallen so we can contact their families. What about Balance? Could you follow the signal? Did they show up at the scene?"

"Not that we noticed and we're still analysing our data. As soon as we have a lead, we're ready to strike," the LA agent spoke with revenge in his tone.

As the man turned the screen black, the director turned to Agent Fornell. "I'm sorry about your agents," his tone was quiet and mournful.

Bartlet could only watch in awe at the young man who rose up to the challenge so magnificently. He knew what it cost a leader when his troops didn't make it home. He himself had felt that burden, and it was a heavy one. But he could see that the man was pushing it away to be dealt with later. Right now, many more lives depended on him. And the President could only respect such determination.

"Tony, Tony, Tony!" everyone had already forgotten the weird woman from before in light of the news.

They saw as all the weariness and grief disappeared from DiNozzo's expression and attitude, to face her. How could a man so easily hide what he was thinking and feeling. Josh's mind flashed back to the file he had seen when this mess had started. A long term undercover op, he could see the man doing such work.

"Abby, can't it wait? You see we're a bit busy here.

"I know, but trust me you need to know this," she plunged right in, not even pausing to take a breath. "I think I know where they're keeping Vance and the rest of the directors."

Leo stood straighter, if that was possible. Josh's mouth hung open at the news and the rest looked as if the words had not even registered yet. DiNozzo was already demanding this 'Abby' to explain her theory to him.

And it was a compelling one. They listened as she told her friend how she had followed the truck with the captured man up to the end of the city, going in the direction of the Hamptons. How she had discovered in notebooks the mentions of a HQ and plans of a complex underground that also held something that looked like cells. And they were shocked as she explained that she had checked the AG's bank accounts and found large sums spent on redecorating his holiday home in the Hamptons.

They watched as DiNozzo turned around and started to leave, but was stopped by Fornell.

"What d'you think you're doing, DiNutso?"

"Well, guess we now see the true relation between those two," Sam noted.

"My job," DiNozzo answered him quietly.

"Your job," Fornell emphasized, "is to stay here and coordinate this operation, Director."

"I hereby charge you with the coordination of the different field teams, Agent Fornell," Tony spoke in a calm and dangerous tone.

The White House was an onlooker as these two agents had a stare-off. They could see from their backs that something deeper was at play here. In the end they saw the older man capitulate.

"Well, you're not going out there without back-up. And we're fresh out of those," Fornell spoke with no room for protest.

The CIA agent snorted. "Sure, I'm just going to stay here and look pretty then?"

With some arguing the two left to catch a chopper out into the Hamptons. Fornell turned and watched the screen.

"Gibbs is definitely going to kill me," Fornell muttered to himself.

The waiting that once more commenced was excruciating. Although reports kept coming in that the bombs from the rest of the locations had been stopped, they now started to receive news from the rest of the world. And it wasn't good. Many places had been unsuccessful. Al the while, they were sitting on the edges of their seats hoping to get news from the newly appointed director.

Josh was biting his thumb nail. He had taken a liking to the young agent from the get go. And he was awed by the man, who had not hesitated to walk out of safety to go and try to save his director and the rest of them.

Finally they heard DiNozzo coming through an audio link.

"Fornelli," he spoke lowly. "We're ready to storm the compound. It's underground so you possible lose our signals without us being dead."

"Copy that DiNutso," Fornell answered. "Good luck, and keep Trent on a leash."

"Roger that," they heard a small laugh coming through.

"Lot of things I really don't understand about," Toby spoke softly to CJ.

CJ looked at the man and the rest of the senior staff. They were pale, all having too much stress because of this disaster. And CJ knew Toby, he would get through this by focusing on small innate details.

"Probably not the first time the two work together," CJ commented and looked over at the rest. "What do you think Spanky?"

She turned red as she realized she had uttered the nickname in front of the President.

"Thanks, Ceej," Sam commented drily. "Really."

"Sorry Samuel," CJ grinned a bit. "But I only did it to make a point."

"Sure," Sam agreed cynically. "And my embarrassment played no part in it."

Finally, they heard the communication they needed to hear. "Found them. We're coming out now. One body."

"My God," the president uttered.

They diverted their attention back to the screen that had NCIS HQ on it when they heard a phone ringing.

"Gibbs?" they heard the surprised voice of Fornell. "I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to use the phone. You didn't get up and sneak off, did you?"

They couldn't hear what the mysterious Gibbs said on the other line.

"He's doing alright. Now why don't you …

The door to MTAC opened and Abby stormed in once more.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God! Is Tony on the line? I need to talk with Tony! Please, you've got to get me through to him! Now!"


Now they could hear Gibbs loud and clear over the feed. Just like Abby apparently, as she grabbed the phone out of Fornell's hand.

"Gibbs? Oh, it's so good to hear your voice! But the bomb! Please, we need to warn Tony! He's got no idea he's sitting on a bomb big enough to take out the entire compound!"

Josh grabbed his hair as Sam put his head in his hands that were resting on his knees.

"Bomb, what bomb?" Fornell asked the girl.

"I found receipts for fifty pound of C4 and plans for a destruction cascade. The whole compound is rigged. And Tony's there, attacking them, not knowing that any moment, they just have to push a button and everything's going to explode around him. Now, will you finally get him on the phone for me?"

"We can't. He's still underground. The same inference that's hindering the satellite feed is also messing up the cell signals," the poor man visibly paled at this. "Get me Kort on the line!"

"KORT!" once again they could hear Gibbs from the phone. "What the hell, Tobias?"

Abby had gotten into full on panic mode and started rattling to the phone in her hand.

"There was no one else to back Tony up, not after Tony ordered Fornell to stay put and take over coordinating the missions from him. You should have seen him, Fornell didn't have a chance. I swear, it could have been you giving him that stare, you know which one. Well, of course with Tony it was more of a laser green stare while with you it's more an icy blue stare, but other than that totally the same 'don't even try to shit with me' vibe you give when there's no stopping you and Fornell just stood aside. You'd have enjoyed his dumbfounded expression. Only now he's all alone out there in the Hamptons, with Kort having his back and after nearly letting him be killed by the frog, that thought really doesn't comfort me much. Like not at all! We can't lose him, Gibbs!"

"Wow," Sam stammered, impressed by the rate this woman could speak, and what she was talking about.

"What's taking so long," Fornell hissed at the technicians in the room, while taking over the phone from Abby.

He listened for a second before he snapped. "Want me to explain things now or instead let me warn your agent about the trap he's in?"

Another audio line came through. The first thing that was heard was shots fired, not single rounds but rapid like a machine gun.

"We're under fire, trying to get the directors to safety. I don't have time to talk." Kort sounded annoyed over the line.

"We believe the whole compound is rigged to blow. Warn DiNozzo and then get the hell out of there, ASAP," Fornell spoke urgently.

It wasn't Kort who answered though, but DiNozzo. "Rigged?"

Abby took over. "You're sitting on fifty pound of C4, Tony! From the plans I saw, someone in the command centre just has to push a button and the whole thing goes up. You need to leave. Like an hour ago!"

"Son of a bitch!" Dinozzo cursed.

The White House stood up and took a step to the screen as they could hear the background noise of gunfire and shouting to fall back.

Sam stared at the image of Fornell who jumped and hissed something to a technician.

"You're on," they could hear Fornell speak into the phone.

"DiNozzo!" the senior staff jumped at the sound of the bark, now at his full effect being added to the link.

The reply came instantaneously. "Boss?"

"You get your ass out of there now, you hear me?" Gibbs ordered the man over the phone. All the White House staff had the urge to stand straight at the sound of steel in the voice, Leo being brought back to his service days in Vietnam.

"Boss, I can't. It's a decoy. They're trying to busy us so we won't secure the command centre and stop them from blowing everything up," they could hear DiNozzo panting a bit as if he was running. "We'd lose everything. The data, the evidence, anything that could help us to bring Balance down once and for all. I can't let that happen. I won't."

"No," the President whispered horrified, not wanting to believe what Agent Gibbs had known minutes earlier.

"It doesn't matter. GO!" Gibbs ordered harshly.

CJ's hands were in front of her mouth in shock, not capable of understanding that this was really happening.

"No can do. Those are the bastards who shot you, Boss. Threatened Shelley's kids. They killed two of my agents, if not more by now. I won't let those assholes get away with this, not if I can stop it."

"Damn it, it's not worth your life, Tony!" Gibbs exploded, but everyone could hear a note of pleading in his voice.

"Oh yeah? Like Ari?" the questions were dripping in sarcasm. "I'm sorry, Gibbs. Not this time. But just in case, it's been an honour knowing you and even more so being able to work with you for those past twelve years. We're one hell of a team and you made me very proud to be part of something meaningful like that."

Sam's eyes were a bit misty, hearing the depth of care that existed between these two men.

"Get the directors to the hospital, some of them need it badly. Then clear the compound – no use in risking more lives than necessary." DiNozzo was clearly ordering his companion at this moment.

Leo sank in a chair knowing this was almost like a father hearing the last goodbye of a son.

"No! DiNozzo! Get back. TONY!"

There was no answer, not nothing. It was Kort who spoke next. "Too late. He's gone."

The president had a hand on his face, not believing the human drama that happened as they listened in. He felt dirty, as if he was a pervert sneaking around a situation he had no business listening in to.

Silence reigned as Fornell hung up his phone.

Reluctantly the FBI agent went back to gathering as much intel as he could at the moment, not trying to think about one young NCIS Senior Field Agent that was now probably dead. All this under the watchful eye of the president and his staff.

Hawaii once again reported in.

"Pearl Harbor is back under control, the bombs were found and disabled. Most of the strike team Balance sent died in the battle, we were able to detain two though. We have five dead police officers and one critically injured Seal."

Fornell's face grew dim with this news.

"We locked the base and the commander ordered a complete sweep. All personnel will be controlled as well."

Leo understood what the man wasn't saying. He cursed fluently and long, garnering surprised looks from the rest of the people in the room.

"You suspect a mole," Fornell gave word to what Leo had understood as well.

"Only way they could come onto base and place those bombs. My team's already started to check phone and financial records," McGarrett answered with a grim and vengeful look on his face.

The rest of the staff gasped at this and looked at one another. If there were so many places infiltrated, who was to say that the White House only had the AG as a part of Balance?

They missed the end of the conversation that went on between Fornell and McGarret, but couldn't miss the bellow of the weathered man.

"Get me Kort on the phone, ASAP!"

During the wait, they saw the lab tech once more scurry in the room.

"I couldn't stand it anymore! Have you any news on Tony? Because I have nothing since he went in again! His phone's still off the radar, the satellite feed gives me absolutely nothing and I've got no new evidence to distract me with so I'm literally going crazy down there."

"That woman really is a motor mouth," CJ noted in a dry tone that belied the tension and fear that was simmering in her eyes.

"No," the man replied. "But I'm about to find out. Agent Kort, report!"

"All directors arrived at the hospital. Director Vance and AD Clark were injured. While Director Vance should recover fine, AD Clark is in critical condition and undergoing surgery as we speak. His doctors were not too optimistic. The rest of them were unhurt and with a bit of rest and nourishment will be fine. Director Trammer was not so lucky. He died of his injuries shortly after their relocation."

"Oh no," Leo whispered.

"He was …" Sam asked him.

"NSA," Josh answered his friend with a pale face. To hear about the deaths of unknown agents was one thing. But they had all seen the NSA director walking around the West Wing as he came to brief the President. To hear about the death of someone whose face was known … It was hard to deal with.

"What's DiNozzo's status?" the FBI agent asked the man on the other line. Tension rose once more in the room, everyone anxious to find out how the man was doing. His courage and determination had left a deep impression with them all.

"No idea," sounded after a slight pause.

"What?" Toby's eyes were skirting all over the screen, as if it held a different answer than the one he just heard.

"What?" seemed like the old Fornell had the same issues as Toby.

"He ordered me away as you well heard yourself."

"That arrogant, pompous son of a bitch," Toby's voice grew louder with each word.

"Yeah, but he is still your boss at the moment. If you had to leave I expect you at least left some men back who monitored his progress," Fornell's voice clearly showed the anger the man was containing.

"Please," CJ said to no one.

"He ordered all personnel off site, remember?"

"O God," the President spoke softly. They had left the one who had saved them all, alone?

A growl was heard loud and clear.

"And you followed that order?"

"As you said, he's my CO. Who am I, to question his orders let alone disobey them?"

Fornell cut the call short as he heard that. Pacing up and down the room he was weighing his options.

"Sir, Agent David is on the line," they heard again.

"That is the daughter of…" Josh started to say, but cut himself short as the call was connected.

"What you've got?"

"Director DiNozzo needs immediate help," the accented voice sounded a lot less in control than it had done hours earlier. "He called me for help with deactivating the bomb which he achieved. Unfortunately, he later passed out from injuries sustained in a battle with the man who shot Gibbs, Tom Turner. Tony did not elaborate on exactly how badly he was injured but if he passed out from it, it has to be substantial."

Although she had sounded anxious, her voice was calm until the last words. The White House staff urged them to give more information. The tight expression on the President's face showed that a certain CIA agent would be having a very tough time in the near future.

"However, he did order the setting up of road blocks, and that all harbours and airfields near the Hamptons should be put under surveillance. Also, he reported that he rammed his knife into Turner's abdomen, so he should need medical help as well. Hospitals and private practices should be observed. The BOLO out on him is to be updated accordingly."

Sam stood mesmerized. He could clearly hear the worry in this woman's voice, yet she still continued working. Fornell had almost a fatherly protection over the man, yet he still made sure the operation continues smoothly in its aftermath. Their friend could be dying at that very moment, but they were not rendered useless.

"I'll have an ambulance and police escort sent to the compound immediately."

There was a slight pause, before David's accented voice became edgy and sharp as the edge of a knife.

"Sent? Are they not on site? I thought Agent Kort and the police were already in place as his backup?"

Leo and Josh winced at the amount of pain that was promised in the foreign accent. One thing they both knew for sure; they sure didn't want to be Kort at this moment.

Their attention was once more drawn to the screen as the leader of the New York team called in again. By the reaction of Fornell, they could tell he was also an agent close to DiNozzo.

"My team and I just arrived at the compound in the Hamptons. It seems to be abandoned by both Balance and our guys? What the hell's going on? Where is Tony? He would never have left this scene unsecured."

CJ was loving the indignant tone the agent was using against Fornell, if she had to be honest. It was a mix of disbelief and a demand of explanation she'd never ever would hear from her press corps. This was the indignation of a younger brother who knew better than what he saw.

The woman in the NCIS HQ demanded what they were all asking at this moment. After all; Hamptons, the agent was supposed to be in New York.

"Timmy? How did you get to Hamptons so fast? I thought you stayed put after all?"

"The captain left in charge lent us one of the NYPD choppers as soon as he heard about the recovery mission. He insisted actually. From what I gathered, he knows Tony himself," the agent explained, as if knowing Tony DiNozzo was explanation enough.

The White House staff took the newest information with all the grace they could manage. But behind their carefully crafted 'media-proof masks' the questions were running rampant. What the hell did this guy do in his years of service to garner such loyalty on every level of law enforcement and navy? From freaking captains on naval ships to captains of the local law enforcement, everyone seemed to know DiNozzo.

"DiNozzo ordered everyone off as soon as he learned the compound was rigged while he went back in to disable the bomb. According to Agent David, he succeeded in doing so but was injured in the process and now requires help," Fornell reported to the man that was now apparently on side.

The President and Leo claimed years later they could hear teeth grind over the feed from the Hamptons.

"What are his injuries?" the young voice sounded impressive with its growl.

"Unknown. Just hurry," Fornell answered the younger man.

"On it," the man's voice spoke of vengeance, and the hope to meet the one who injured his partner. "Last known location?"

Abby answered that one, clearly to anxious to wait for the official channels through Fornell. "The control room. I've sent the blueprints I've found to your PDA. Bring him back to us, Timmy."

"I will."

The solemn promise that resonated through those two words captivated the White House staff. It was clear that this team was more than that; it was a family, who would walk through fire and bullet storms for one another. To hear that solemn vow of an agent, to a lab technician (who was more than that, spoke through all the things they've seen so far), spoke of that brotherly bond that grew over time.

Josh suddenly gasped out loud, his quick mind putting all the pieces together.

"Please tell me that this man, this Agent McGee was not trained by Agent DiNozzo," he suddenly spoke out horrified.

Leo grasped the file that was thus far lying disregarded on a coffee table. He leafed through it on top speed, hoping to deny the horror Josh's statement lay upon them.

"Probationary Agent Timothy McGee, Supervisory Agent Anthony DiNozzo," he read out loud from the file he had in his hands.

"No, no no!" Toby shouted, clearly looking for something to punch. An instinct all the men had to supress. "You cannot tell me this story ends that his pupil finds him dead in the control room!"

"He was alive while speaking with Agent David," Sam tried to influence Toby. "He seemed the stubborn kind, you know. The kind that won't die until they say it's time to die."

The silence of the feed that came from Agent McGee seemed to last an eternity. They knew he had a team with him. They just hoped they would be on time to help the wayward Director, who had decided his own life mattered less than evidence found on this Balance.

"Tobias?" McGee's voice sounded over the feed, sounding slightly shaky.

"I read you, Tim," Fornell's voice was softer than they had ever heard.

"He's alive," everyone sighed in relief. "But in not so great shape. He looks like he went twenty rounds with a freight train and lost. His cracked ribs are now definitely broken. Plus his slight concussion," everyone could hear the sarcasm on that one, "is not so slight anymore, if it is my guess."

"ETA on ambulance?" Fornell asked without hesitation.

There was a slight pause on the other end.

"Yeah, they just walked into the underground tunnel, so two minutes? We'll bring him to Bethesda, Toby," McGee reported. "He'll have a nice long regiment of painkillers and bed rest to keep the boss company."

"Like they wouldn't kill each other within an hour," Fornell snorted, glad for the lightness Tim brought in the conversation.

"Nah," the agent contradicted on the other end. "Give Tony painkillers at this moment and it'll be knock-out ville after he passed the loopy highway."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Fornell agreed with a smile.

Apparently they were missing an insight joke.

It had taken two hours after that last transmission, but now that SecDef had met with the Temporary Director, they knew for sure that he was fine. Actually, right now he was in the White House, accompanying the SecDef for his press briefing.

Carol was in stitches, there was no way she could make-up away the bruises the handsome man was sporting. His eyes showed he was half out there, and the way he was holding his arms around his ribs told the story of how bad the man was feeling.

"Sorry, Carol right?" the man flashed an irresistible smile towards the dark haired woman. "I know I look bad right now, which is a shame to the original features, I still have to go out there with the Secretary. So please, make me as pretty as possible?"

The puppy-dog eyes he cast on her were her undoing, but not CJ's.

"You're not gonna pass out on my podium, are you?" she demanded of the hero.

It had to be asked, although she as well would much rather pamper the man as much as possible. He looked beat, literally and figuratively speaking. But she also knew that if they got him on stage and he succumbed to his wounds, the press would fall all over each other for the story that the White House tried to get a cheap score out of a severely injured man. She couldn't afford it.

"Ma'am, clearly you've never heard the family motto," he responded with ease. "DiNozzo's don't pass out."

"DiNozzo's also don't cry, right?" a young agent to his left muttered, gaining himself an arctic glare of the man of the hour.

"And you are?" Cj diverted her attention to the man.

"Agent Timothy McGee of NCIS, ma'am," he responded, automatically pulling his badge.

"And why are you here?" CJ did her famous lifting of the eyebrow.

"Until relieved of his duties, Anthony DiNozzo is still Acting Director of NCIS. As such he is required to hold a protection detail," the words were as much spoken to her as they were spoken to the Acting Director.

"Tommy is hurt, McClueless," the new Director pointed out with nonchalance. "He may not feel pain, but his body will not be able to hold up long with a rule 9 in his gut."

"9?" McGee grinned ferally.

"Yeah, pity I had to sacrifice it though," DINozzo's face screamed out the loss.

"I'm sorry," she glanced at both men. "Number nine?"

"Rule number nine," they both intoned. "Always carry a knife."

There was a pause.

"Are you serious?" she asked them both.

It was Tony who answered her,

"Deadly. You know, long before this mess when McProbie was still only McProbie ... I was locked inside to starve to death with another Marine inside a room in the DC sewer system. Because I hid a rule number nine within my belt, I got us out of our room."

"Your belt?" CJ could only repeat.

As an answer, Tony DiNozzo unclipped his belt and showed the short knife he had hid inside the buckle of it.

"Belt, nine," DiNozzo spoke with a grin. "It's known to save lives."

"I believe you," CJ spoke with a bit of awe, which meant that she was almost worshipping the guy. "You know what to do in there?"

DiNozzo nodded discarding. "Sure, look pretty in the background 'till it's my turn. Than answering stupid questions on details about the missions that they don't understand anyhow and then exit left."

"Right," CJ responded uncertainly. "But remember, this is the White House press corps. They're ruthless."

DiNozzo smiled enigmatically. "More ruthless than being subjected to an interrogation by the Mossad Director?"

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way," CJ hesitated.

"Then, I'm good," DiNozzo smiled once more before he stood with the SecDef, ready to be announced.

McGee shuffled up to CJ to whisper in her ear.

"Don't worry. He'll treat it as an interrogation. And if someone is the master of deflection, it is Anthony DiNozzo."

This brought her more confidence of what was to come than any words or smile of the man in question could gather.

CJ stepped up to the podium and started the press briefing. She stepped back after announcing the Secretary, standing quietly next to the man of the hour, who was sporting sunglasses to hide his pain and concussion from the cameras and journalists.

"For more information on the investigation on Balance, let me hand over to Anthony Dinozzo, temporary director of NCIS and leader of the task force that so successfully protected our country from these vicious attacks," the secretary ended his part of the briefing.

CJ was impressed with the man that now stepped forward. He had been leaning listlessly just a second ago, now he stood straight, which must have been killing his ribs. Though looking at his face, one could never guess the pain he had to be in.

The hounds descended on the man, screaming at him all at the same time. DiNozzo held up a hand and smiled winningly.

"I'll be glad to answer questions," he spoke in a calm clear voice. "I do need to be able to hear them, though."

The press corps quieted down with that and began asking questions in a calmer and more organized manner.

DiNozzo was stellar, CJ admitted. He was clear cut, with perfect words explaining how the investigation had gone down and gave additional facts that were actually meaningless but the press wanted them.

But it was different from the man that had spoken to her in the hallways just before. No jokes, no sarcasm just a precise summary of the events. CJ's instincts were screaming at her that she was missing something. From the corner of her eye, she saw Agent McGee shifting. It was clear she was not the only one that was waiting for the shoe to drop.

"Director!" Chris called out, DiNozzo shifted his attention to the man. "Are there any further suspects that have not been apprehended yet?"

DiNozzo stood even straighter and took off his glasses.

"We are still investigating, but at the top of our list is a an going by the name of Tom Turner."

CJ cast a glance at one of the televisions, and saw the green eyes piercing through the screen glowing with determination and truth.

"If you see this man, do not approach or engage him in any way as he is very dangerous. You see him, call 911. If you know this man, please contact your nearest police station. He is wounded, so we caution any medical care facilities to be on the look-our for him."

Behind the glass the rest of the senior staff stood watching the man, and were awed by the strengthening of the look the man cast at him through the cameras. That green laser beam, as the woman had described it, was piercing them through their very being.

"Finding him is our top priority. We won't stop until he and his collaborators are under arrest and have to pay for the crimes they've committed against humanity. Balance has lost this battle and I'm confident we will also stop them altogether and win the war they brought into our homes."

It was such a perfect statement to end with, as he once more put on his sunglasses and stepped back to give SecDef the room to wrap up the press briefing.

Together CJ, the secretary and DiNozzo stepped back through the door that closed quickly behind them.

"You did good, Tony," Tim spoke, although he was frightened at what his friend had just done.

CJ clearly hadn't grasped the ramifications of what the man had just done.

"Tim," DiNozzo suddenly gasped, standing still in the little corridor.

"Tony?" Tim turned around, seeing his friend pale even further and swaying on the spot. "Shit! TONY!"

He was just in time to catch the man as he sunk through his knees, clearly losing consciousness.

"Director?" CJ called at the man, before yelling at the top of her lungs. "Get an ambulance here!"

Josh and Toby walked into the corridor to see the three surrounding the man who was now lying on the floor.

"CJ, what happened?" Josh called out.

"I don't know, he just collapsed!" she spoke, shaken that the man had just turned off.

"Yeah," Tim mumbled. "Irresponsible idiot that he is. This is the DiNozzo come down. He'll push his body so far that he just goes over the brink and then it's game over."

"Game over?" Josh stammered.

Tim looked up at the Deputy Chief of Staff with a quick glance. "Oh no, nothing like that. Its more that he had 48 hours of no sleep, all his reserves have been used with the explosions, gunfights and then the fight and mad dash at the Hamptons. He's just completely out of fuel."

At that moment the paramedics arrived and quickly assessed the situation within three minutes they had strapped him on the gurney and made their way out again. Tim stood up and followed them.

"Keep us posted!" Josh called to the man.

Tim McGee turned around and nodded at the man. "I'll tell you how Agent Gibbs killed him, if you like?"

"Are you serious?" Toby blurted out as they followed them out towards the ambulance.

"Well," McGee turned around for a second. "Let's just say that Tony is incredibly fortunate that the boss just had open heart surgery."

With those words as a parting he stepped into the back of the ambulance, who rode off towards Bethesda.

The senior staff stood at the doors to the West Wing, as the red lights disappeared towards the hospital. Slowly they made their way back in, without waiting they all went to Josh's office. Sam came in only three seconds after they closed the door.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad," Sam suddenly spoke up. "But, why on earth does anybody chooses a profession that has them nearly killed on a daily basis?"

"They want to do good," Toby spoke slowly. "They chose to serve their country in the trenches. Hoping that at the end of the line they helped the world be a better place, if only a little."

"We are men of actions?" Sam quoted with a sardonic little smile.

"Yeah," Toby nodded. "You saw the man during the operation. It was killing him to be standing there in safety, while he had to send them out. It is something they don't even think about. They sign over their right to choose life and death for themselves when they take the oath. They decide their life is allowed to be sacrificed so others can live without having that burden on their shoulders."

Nobody spoke after that. They had been sitting there for two hours, when Leo found them.

"Any news?" he asked the group, not even giving a token comment about how his staff was hanging around. CJ shook her head.

Leo grabbed a chair from the bullpen and sat himself down with them to join their wait. The knock on the door had them all on edge.

Donna walked in. "You have Agent McGee on the line."

Josh jumped at the phone and pushed the buttons. "Agent McGee?"

"Mr Lyman," sounded over the speaker. "As I already suspected, Director DiNozzo has succumbed to his severe exhaustion and his wounds. The doctors say he probably be out of it for 48 hours. We suspect it is only twelve."

"Why is that?" Leo took charge of the situation.

"Tony never was one to lie still," they could hear the smile in his voice. "Plus, Tony wouldn't be Tony if he'd spend longer than a day in a hospital bed without driving the medical personnel to despair."

Toby's beard shifted, showing the smile that appeared underneath it.

"Secretary Jarvis is already back on his feet, and he and Secretary Swain are now looking up the other Directors. I'm pleased to report that Director Vance will be back to work with two weeks. Deputy Director Morrow is already harassing the staff here in Tony's honour."

"Why would Tom do so?" Leo wondered out loud.

"Director Morrow used to be the Director of NCIS, sir," Tim answered him. "He was the one who okayed Gibbs hiring him, to the despair of Agent Fornell."

"Why?" CJ asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Tony receives five job offers per month at least," Tim grinned. "He'll never leave NCIS though, they had started calling him Gibbs' loyal St Bernhard."

"That's not very nice," Sam spoke blandly.

"Yeah," Tim snorted. "They forget that those dogs are strong though, and can be half pit bulls if the one they protect comes to harm."

"Thank you for the update, Agent McGee," Leo spoke over the phone. "The president was worried about his condition after he heard what had happened to him."

"You can tell the President to rest easy, sir," McGee chuckled. "DiNozzo's are harder to kill than one should think. Now, if you don't mind I only have had three hours of sleep the last three days and I'm ready for a coma that'll last a week. Goodbye sir."

After that he hung up.

Leo stood up, "I'll inform the president."

Three days later Josh and Dr Bartlet navigated the hallways of Bethesda. After hearing what the man had done, and what his condition was, Dr Bartlet had been adamant to visit the young man.

They turned the corner to see the Secret Service in a verbal clash with two Marine guards.

"Do you know who is visiting?" One of the SS Agents asked.

"I don't care," the marine spoke without hesitation. "These men that lie in that room have given blood, literally for their country. Without regard for life and limb they risked everything to save you and your charge. I have had orders from Director Vance and Secretary of Defence not to move until relieved. So I will not step aside to allow anyone carrying a gun, besides their colleagues, into that room."

Josh was impressed. Not many people denied the Secret Service anything.

Before their protection detail could respond, Abby intervened.

"It's alright Joe," she spoke up. "Captain, am I allowed into the room?"

The marines saluted the First Lady, before the youngest spoke up. "Allow me to check if they're up for visitors."

As he slipped in, Abby turned to the other guard. "They?"

"Agents DiNozzo and Gibbs, ma'am," he responded.

"They put them together?" Abby's eyebrows raised at that, considering they had completely different wounds.

"Yes ma'am," the marine nodded. "It is on the peril of either patient if they're split up. Apparently, both have the tendency to leave their hospital bed to check up on the other."

Josh grinned at that, he could totally imagine Tony DiNozzo do that. He certainly was stubborn enough.

At that moment the other guard slipped back out of the room. "They can see you, ma'am."

With that, Josh and Abby slipped into the room. Both were immediately captivated by a voracious blue glare, coming from a silver-haired man that was in the first bed.

"Blue icy laser beam," Josh muttered. "She was so right."

The blue eyes softened a little to a small smile.

"Abby?" another voice questioned, causing the eyes of the two visitors to swirl to the other bed.

Tony looked worse than during the press conference, his bruises had turned into spectacular colours.

"Yeah," Gibbs answered, ignoring their visitors in favour of his young agent. "When, you know, she came to warn you during your boneheaded charge."

"Ah, come on Boss," DiNozzo grinned unrepentantly. "Boneheaded? That the best you can do."

A twitch of the man's arm had DiNozzo backpeddling. "Oh no, you're not going to get out of that bed just for a headslap! Still concussed over here."

"Just wait, I'm counting," Gibbs answered with a glare.

"Okay," Abby intervened. "No climbing out of beds for either of you. And Agent Gibbs certainly no hitting your agent!"

Abby's glare had Gibbs frown before lowering his eyes to the blanket. Tony laughed out loud.

"Ma'am, you're not by any chance a natural redhead are you?" he chortled. "I've never seen him back down so readily, except when a –"

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs barked.

"Shutting up now, boss," DiNozzo responded with a smile.

Abby walked over to the bed of the younger agent. "May I?" she asked with a smile while gesturing to his chart.

"Be my guest, ma'am," DiNozzo smiled at her. "And Mr Lyman! What are you doing here?"

"Seeing if you're still alive," Josh answered with a smile. "That and to hand you this."

He walked up to hand a heavy envelop to the man in the bed. Tony accepted it and opened it. He read the words twice, a frown appearing on his face.

"Tony?" Gibbs asked, well Josh though it was more a demand.

"This must be a mistake," Tony muttered, his eyes finding Josh's. "No way that I deserve that medal."

"Medal?" Gibbs ordered him.

"This says the President is awarding me with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor," Tony looked at his boss. "Boss, I –"

Gibbs nodded, his eyes warming. Josh looked between the two men, who spoke so easily with just their eyes. An entire conversation passed between them, but he didn't catch any of it.

"No," Tony's face turned mulish.

"Yes," Gibbs refuted him, without any hesitation.

"Boss, I-"

"You did earn it, DiNozzo," Gibbs contradicted him.


"No," Gibbs interrupted him. "Those are regrettable, as any one agent's death is. But they are not on you, Tony. They knew what they signed up for when they signed on that dotted line. They knew what it meant when they took that oath."

"Damn right," Abby spoke up, finished with DiNozzo's chart. "Listen, son."

Josh saw Gibbs wince and DiNozzo flinch at the son. Abby noticed too, but disregarded their reaction.

"Listen son. My husband has watched the entire operation and read all the reports, and got the briefing from the Secretary. You went above and beyond the duty that was bestowed on you. Jed wants to honour that dedication, and show his gratitude towards you."

DiNozzo clearly wanted to protest, but seemed to be cowed that it was the First Lady speaking those words. Josh decided to intervene.

"Look, Agent DiNozzo," he stepped to his side. "That medal may be awarded to you, but it is also a symbol. A symbol to the leader of a group of extraordinary people who willingly went to bombsites to stop a biological nightmare. No one thinks their sacrifice is diminished because the man who lead these people is commended for all their actions."

Abby shot him a glare, which he ignored. He could see that Tony had an easier time to accept the medal with this reasoning.

"Plus, those award ceremonies have excellent booze," Josh lightened the mood. "And if you be a good boy, I'll convince CJ to do 'The Jackal' for you. And you have to see that at least once in your life."

He privately wondered how much that would cost him with the woman in question.

"No offense to either of you," DiNozzo sighed. "But I hate politics."

Gibbs snorted and nodded. "Yeah, better to know where you stand with people than to smooch and drive daggers in their backs."

"Well, Kort," Tony muttered, making Gibbs grin ferally.

"Oh don't worry about ol' little Trent," the man vowed darkly. "I heard that nobody was impressed with him during this mess. I am impressed that you didn't deck him during those days."

"He still owed me a Mustang," Tony spoke petulantly.

"Yeah, I know," Gibbs responded.

"I'm sorry," Abby responded. "What do you mean, he owed you a Mustang."

Tony and Gibbs exchanged some looks, then Gibbs spoke up.

"Director Shepherd, Leon Vance's predecessor," Gibbs voice was heavy with the mixed emotions that existed around that woman. "Had DiNozzo here on a long-term undercover operation to catch a weapons dealer. The CIA had other plans, the man wanted out. DiNozzo's operation compromised that goal, so Trent Kort thought it a good idea to scare the shit out of us – pardon me – and blow up Tony's car. He wasn't in it, though, but for some hours –" Gibbs broke off.

Tony glanced his boss' way. "I had tried to contact the Director, my cover had been blown by Kort. They were tracking my car through DC traffic cams. They unfortunately saw my car explode. I was with the weapons dealer and couldn't contact them. It took to the end of the autopsy before they found out I wasn't the body in question."

Abby and Josh looked horrified at the story.

"Jesus man," Josh choked out. "What kind of life are you living?"

"The dangerous kind," Tony flashed an edgy grin. "Living on the edge-"

"DiNozzo, I don't need to hear another movie quote," Gibbs barked.

Josh thought that was just the default setting of that man. Surly and angry was what he expressed, but judging by DiNozzo's face there was a wealth of meaning behind it as long as you knew the man.

"Well," Abby changed the subject. "From what I can gather you will make a full recovery. Though there are some notations about the state of your lungs that are a bit worrisome. For an active agent, I thought your lungs would be in a better capacity."

"Yeah," Tony smiled a bit sheepishly. "I think you skipped my medical history of importance that is on the chart."

Abby took it up again and flipped to the correct page. Her eyes widened as she read it.

"The plague? Pneumonic plague?" she asked incredulously.

"I have really lousy luck," Tony responded flippantly.

"You survived, didn't you?" Gibbs bantered back.

"Those are just my nine lives, boss," Tony responded with vigour. "Though maybe it's more like a dozen lives. Considering …"

"Yeah," Gibbs turned serious. "Abby called by the way."


"During your X-ray," Gibbs spoke up. "She told me to tell you Daniello has been denied parole."

Relief crossed Tony's face.

"Daniello?" Abby demanded, thinking that the man would be better off if she tied him to a bed in the Residence.

"Daniello Macaluso," Tony elaborated. "Uhm, he was a cousin twice removed from Mike Macaluso. He was an old time mafia boss in Baltimore. I sort of went undercover and rolled them up."

Gibbs snorted. "You got into his family Tony. The man wanted you to marry his daughter."

"Yeah," Tony smiled reminiscently. "God Sophia was gorgeous. Anyway, Daniello had his parole hearing coming up. He was only in on the semi-illegal branch of the empire. He didn't take it so well when he heard I was a pig."

"Just how many messes have you found yourself in, young man?" Abby's stern motherly glare made Tony uncomfortable. It took him back to times he rather didn't think about, times before his mother succumbed to prescription drugs and alcohol.

"Well, I get out of all of them," DiNozzo smiled charmingly at the First Lady.

Josh decided that they had to go. They didn't know these men, and though Dr Bartlet apparently wanted to change that, now was not the time.

"Ma'am," Josh spoke up.

"Yeah Josh, I know," Abby answered him. She turned towards the two men. "Now considering you two are clearly even more stubborn than my husband… You better do well to listen to me when I tell you to follow your doctors' orders to the letter. If you don't, well I know some men in black."

"Yes ma'am," they both answered her dutifully, but Josh could see the crossed fingers on the beds. He smiled ruefully.

"Thank you for visiting," DiNozzo spoke up with a small smile.

"Of course dear," Abby smiled. "Besides, I needed the juice to report to all the assistants in the West Wing."

With a wink she left the room. Josh stepped up once more and gave both men a hand.

"I know you both have been saying to everyone that it is just the job," he spoke solemnly. "But both personally and as Deputy Chief of Staff I am awed and proud of the way men like you serve our country and perform their duty and jobs."

Without waiting to hear the protests he followed Abby Bartlet.

The weeks passed by as the West Wing turned back to its normal business, well as normal as it could be. Tonight was the Award Ceremony that would also include Tony DiNozzo. Leo had kept them updated of what was happening in NCIS.

They were pleased to hear that DiNozzo had been promoted to new Team Leader for the newly created second MCRT. They were even more pleased to hear he had accepted the title of Assistant director. Besides that he was still the leader of the Balance Task Force.

They all believed that Tony deserved that and much more. Josh had asked Donna to get more information on the man, and how things were at NCIS. Donna had showed how sneaky assistants could be with each other. She had bonded with Vance's assistant, Shelley. The woman had only been too eager to sing DiNozzo's praise. The man had saved her and her kids after all.

Through the Sisterhood, as Josh had jokingly called it, they had got a clear picture of the family they had seen in action during those days. Nights with take-outs had been the setting of the stories Donna had got from Shelley.

"So, here is how they came together," Donna had smiled at everyone. Everyone had sit up straighter at hearing that Donna had some new stories about NCIS. The entire senior staff had agreed that it was the best intelligence and investigative service out there.

"Gibbs has been with NCIS for ages," she had spoken enthusiastically. "And they all say that the second b is for bastard with him, seriously. So he had a case about money laundering that crossed over with a Baltimore Homicide investigation."

"Detective Tony DiNozzo," CJ had tried the words in her mouth, deciding that it had a good ring to it.

Donna had nodded in confirmation. "Yeah. They found the man responsible, Tony and his partner. Now, they only found this part out a couple of years ago, when the partner was found dead at a serial killer crime scene."

The group had flinched at that. "Apparently, his partner was dirty and part of the money laundering. So Tony was leaving Baltimore PD, completely disillusioned with the betrayal of his partner. Gibbs picked him up, made him his agent. They have been partners ever since. Although, the director of that time still kept pushing new probationary agents at them. Gibbs made them run away screaming and crying."

Josh had chuckled at that, having seen the full effect of the blue glare himself he could easily believe that.

"They were a two men team for over a year, until a case brought them to Wichita," Donna had continued.

"Wichita," CJ hadmumbled, her eyebrows drawn together.

"Yeah, it was the death of that Navy Officer on Air Force One," Donna had clarified. Everyone could remember that from the news in that time.

"There they met their newest agent; then Secret Service Agent Caitlin Todd. It was a case that involved stealing the body, switches and a member of the press corps being a terrorist. In the end due to some indiscretion, Todd resigned from the Secret Service. Gibbs picked her up. A year later they requested Timothy McGee, a young agent from Norfolk and a computer wiz to be attached to the team as well."

"A terrorist shot Agent Kate Todd dead a year later," Donna's voice had sounded sad. "They got another agent, though it was not really an agent. It was Mossad Officer Ziva David. That is the team as they were before the attacks."

Donna had smiled suddenly. "Then you have the people outside the official team. Dr Donald Mallard, although almost the entire agency calls him Ducky, is an elderly Scotsman who rules autopsy. His assistant, Jimmy Palmer. And then there is the forensics expert; dr Abby Sciuto, who is the happiest goth alive."

Donna had looked at them all. "And I'm not kidding. She dressed goth; miniskirts, tattoos platform boots. She listens to heavy metal, but makes flips in her lab just because she can."

"Sounds fun," Sam had laughed.

"Sounds like insanity," Toby had shaken his head.

Now they were waiting in the Residence with the First Family. They were greeting the recipients here, before going downstairs with them.

"Agents LJ Gibbs and AD DiNozzo," a voice announced.

The entire staff had turned to the entrance to see two impressive men standing there in tuxedos.

CJ was relieved to see not a hint of the wounds that the younger man had sported the last time she had seen him.

Carol was guiding them towards the group.

"Agents DiNozzo and Gibbs," she announced. "These are the senior staff for the President. Left to right; Leo McGarry, Toby Ziegler, CJ Cregg, Sam Seaborn and Josh Lyman with his assistant Donna Moss."

"Pleasure to see you all again," Tony smiled. "Please, call me Tony."

"Gibbs," the older man nodded at them in greeting.

"Calling him by his first name is at your own peril," Tony joked. "And no, I'm not kidding."

Gibbs hand shot out to give him a headslap.

"Hey!" Tony protested.

"Midnight, DiNozzo," Gibbs suddenly grinned, charming both CJ and Donna with how handsome he was. "I've got to get the most out of it."

"You slap him?" Toby raised an eyebrow. "Does it work?"

Gibbs smiled. "A slap on the back of the head is a wake-up call. A slap in the face is humiliation."

"Don't even think of it, Toby," Sam warned. "You have a pink ball, remember?"

Tony laughed at that. "How does that work?"

"I'm his deputy," Sam explained. "We have adjacent offices. When he is annoyed, or wants me in his office, he throws the pink ball against the window."

"Hmm," Tony's eyes suddenly glimmed with mischief.

"Don't even think about using that on McGee," Gibbs threatened.

"Hey, when I start doing that, I'll be your boss, remember!"

"Never stopped me before," Gibbs shot back just as flippantly.

They all laughed, relaxing in the easy atmosphere. Tony turned to the group.

"So, who has plied dear Shelley with muffins to get the goods on us?" he asked nonchalant.

The group froze, until Tony laughed out loud. "I'm a professional investigator. You think I don't noticed that Shelley suddenly had a never ending supply of heavenly goodness?"

Donna cried out. "Okay, okay. It was me!"

"Assistants hotline?" Tony smirked. "Ah, don't worry. I know we're very intriguing people. Most would call us certifiably insane. I get you wanted the juice on us."

"Excuse me," a Secret Service agent interrupted them. He looked familiar to Gibbs and DiNozzo. "Are you Gibbs and DiNozzo?"

"Yes," both men answered wearily.

"I'd like to thank you."

They raised an eyebrow. "My name is Agent Glodwil."

Tony paled a bit, before straightening his shoulders. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

They shook hands. "Guess I'm not the only one who had the pleasure of having her watching my back."

Gibbs flinched when he realized why he came to them. A hand on his arm made him relax.

"Kate Todd was one of a kind," Glodwil nodded. "She never was happier than during her time with NCIS. That had mostly to do with her team, so thank you."

Shaking hands with Gibbs as well, he moved away.

"You okay?" Gibbs spoke softly.

"Yeah," DiNozzo swallowed. "Just. Moments like these, you know, make me wonder."

"Yeah," both men were solemn.

Sam cast a glance at the rest. "You were talking about your former partner, weren't you?"

"Yes," Tony nodded with a small smile. "Kate was one of kind."

Josh decided it was time to change the subject and asked to hear more about Abby.

Both men chuckled at that. "Abby, ah our favourite goth. She is so jumpy and giddy, because she's addicted to something called CafPow!"

"CafPow?" CJ deadpanned.

"It's," Tony floundered for an explanation. "Try the sweetest taste caused by chemicals and imagine an overdose of caffeine with it. She drinks about seven of these on an average day. When the case load is bigger, though …"

"No," Donna denied Josh who had turned to her.

"But Donna," Josh whined.

"No Josh, I will not supply you with that stuff. Your blood pressure is high enough as it is. Half the time, when you're tired you are ready to kill the Republicans. I really don't want to know how many muffin baskets I need to send when you're high on those things."

Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of President Bartlet and the First Lady. They made their way to the group that stood in the middle of the room. Everyone fell silent as they watched the two make their way across the room.

The Senior Staff smiled at the man they followed from New Hampshire.

"Mr President," CJ spoke with a smile. "Allow me to introduce you to Special Agent Gibbs and DiNozzo, the man of the hour."

The two stood ramrod straight. Gibbs automatically saluted the Commander-in-Chief. DiNozzo was standing with his hands behind his back, looking over the man's shoulder, as they were taught in the Police Academy.

"At ease, gentlemen," Jed Bartlet smiled and looked at Gibbs.

"You were military?" he asked the man.

"Yes sir," Gibbs nodded as he lowered his hand. "United States Marine Corps, Mr President."

"Ah," Jed nodded. "Did you do any tours."

"Desert Eagle and Desert Storm, sir," Gibbs spoke.

Josh intervened. "What the man isn't saying, sir, is that he received a medal of honor because of his actions in battle."

The rest of the Senior Staff, bar Leo, looked at the man with a newfound respect. Donna's eyes glistened with awe. These really were men of actions.

"Well, it is an honor to meet such a man who served his country," Jed held out his hand.

Gibbs shook it. "Thank you, sir."

"And you, Agent DiNozzo?" Jed looked at the man who had saved them all.

"No sir, I never served in any branch of the military," DiNozzo said with a respect he normally only gave Gibbs.

"How did you end up here then, son?" the President enquired.

"After college, I went to the Police Academy. I worked in Peoria, Philidelphia and Baltimore before Agent Gibbs here dragged me to the Federal side of the law."

"What university did you went to?" Jed continued to interrogate the man.

"Ohio State, Mr President," Tony replied.

Jed smiled. "You wouldn't be the Point Guard of their 1990 team, would you?"

"Yessir, that was me," Tony smiled proudly. "I went on an athletic scholarship, played basketball and football."

"Wait, you did both?" Donna looked at the man.

"Yes, Ms Moss," Tony looked at the pretty blonde. "Loved to kick some Wolverine butt out on the field and the court."

"How come you never went pro?" Josh intervened. "I mean if you were that good."

Gibbs automatically put his hand on Tony's shoulder. He knew how much he missed the excitement of the high-level games he played back then.

"Last Michigan Ohio game, got my knee torn out," Tony explained. "That was the end of my college sports career. After that, I decided I wanted to help people."

"And you did a wonderful job at that," Abby Bartlet cut in. "I see you boys healed up all nice and well?"

"Yes ma'am," both agents nodded at the woman.

"Didn't give your doctors a hard time?" she stared at them both.

"No ma'am," Gibbs answered, while Tony crossed his fingers in the pocket of his pants.

"Hmm, then I guess the e-mail filled with complaints about his two patients was just born out of your doctor's hallucinations," the First Lady raised one eyebrow sardonically.

Tony blushed a bit and tried to cover up, but Abby was laughing before they could excuse themselves.

"I hadn't expected anything different. Seems like you are not the type of gentlemen to sit still for too long," here, Abby's face became stern and severe. "Even though it is required of you to make a healthy and speedy recovery."

"Come on, Dr Bartlet," Tony contradicted her. "I was on my best behaviour."

"The scary part of that," Gibbs added, "is that he is actually telling the truth. Problem is that his best behaviour in hospitals as a patient still isn't very good. At least he didn't convince his nurse that he had to get out because he has an elderly grandmother who lives on her own but can't walk properly."

The entire group laughed, although Abby did look a bit disconcerted with this titbit of information.

"When did he try that one?" Sam asked the older man.

"Back when he was still recovering from the Plague," Gibbs answered. "He was signing his forms, when I came to visit him and he was back in his bed very soon afterwards. That day he found out exactly what happened if he would try to leave AMA again."

The whole group laughed, although they were shocked to hear about the plague. Well, Josh knew already but still. CJ commented on the revelation.

"I'm sorry but did you say plague? As in, the disease that almost got released again?" she asked, shocked to hear this.

Tony nodded to her. "It was years ago. There was a letter, SWAK of course, that was send to NCIS HQ. I happened to open it, and unfortunately got infected with it. I can tell you, pneumonic plague? Not the best time to have."

"That had to have been one of the reasons why you worked so hard during this mess," Donna spoke up, admiring the handsome man who had been through so much.

Tony's jaw clenched, as Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder once more. "You'll get him DiNozzo."

Tony snorted. "Sure I can't borrow your Kate boss?"

Gibbs grinned at him. "You think I let you near my riffle?"

"A Kate?" CJ asked.

"Sniper riffle," Gibbs answered. "I was a Marine sniper before I retired from service and joined NCIS."

"Oh," CJ couldn't think of anything to say to that. It was all so far from any realm of reality she was used to. Sure she knew about the armed services. But to talk to these two men, who truly served in the deepest meaning of the word. Well, she was feeling a bit insignificant.

There talk was interrupted by one of the assistants from her Press Office, announcing that the award ceremony was commencing soon.

"It's televised, right?" Tony checked with CJ. CJ nodded, surprised to see the feral smile appear on the man's face.

"Good," Tony replied satisfied, earning another headslap from his boss.

"Don't be so happy with gambling with your life DiNozzo," he barked at the man, anger covering his worry.

Josh was looking from one man to the other. "Am I missing something here?"

Tony smiled charmingly at them, ready to defuse any worry that they might have. Gibbs didn't give him the chance though.

"That goddamn press conference, that's what," Gibbs glared at his friend, who looked back with the same smile.

"I'm not following," Josh admitted.

"He called out Balance, and Tom Turner, on national television!" Gibbs barked, his worry and anger at the action coming out at full force. "And now, this ceremony is broadcasted as well. Don't you think they'll be watching? He's painted a target on his back the size of the Empire State Building!"

"Let them come," Tony replied calmly. "Better that he focuses on me. A man obsessed is a man making a mistake. I think we learned that from Captain Ahab, don't you boss?"

Gibbs flinched, although nobody else understood the reference. He sighed, knowing that DiNozzo was the hunt, nobody could stop him if he was determined to see something through.

The president looked concerned, though. He realized that these two men knew human nature the same way politicians did. The difference was, that these men played it with considerably higher stakes than the average politician. And although he also had his moments when he did such things, he never did so at his own personal peril.

Tony DiNozzo didn't seem to have that qualm. He was playing a game where his life was one of the stakes. Bartlet mentally shook his head. He had to admit to himself that these men were better men than he could ever be. And he was the one who was their Commander in Chief! He would never look at the men and women who served with the same eyes.

Agents had died, officers of police departments had died, hell two were still in the hospital from their bout with the plague. And here he was, quibbling with his cabinet and Congress about whether or not their medicine should be made available globally. But this was the road he had chosen, hoping he could constitute a change for the better.

As they walked through the hallways towards the room where the ceremony was conducted, he vowed to do better. To fight harder to make their country a better place. He owed it to his citizens. But mostly, he owed it to men like DiNozzo and Gibbs; who wouldn't hesitate to give their lives to make sure others would live.