Father, Strong to Save
Summary: Jack Bauer has been framed for the murder of a navy petty officer. Local NCIS calls in the best of the best, Jethro Gibbs.
Spoilers: Season 5 of 24, Season 2 of NCIS
Disclaimer: Nothing in '24' is mine, especially not the characters that appear, or are mentioned, here. It all belongs to Twentieth Century Fox, Real Time Productions and its creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran. Nothing in 'NCIS' is mine either (though I wouldn't mind borrowing Gibbs occasionally), especially not the characters that appear, or are mentioned, here. It all belongs to Belisarius Productions, in association with Paramount Network Television.
Author's note: If you haven't seen NCIS, don't worry, it's not strictly necessary to understand this fic. That said, it's a quality show and worth catching some episodes. Lighter than 24 but if you like Jack Bauer, you'll like Gibbs.
Story background: A petty officer and her daughter have been tortured and murdered in Los Angeles. Out of leads, the local NCIS office calls on the best of the best: Special Agent Gibbs and his team. They find prints at the scene matching those of former CTU agent Jack Bauer.
She'd stood when he walked into the room. That, in itself, was unusual. As if Gibbs hadn't already figured out that this one was different. She couldn't lie worth a damn, either, which was why she was here now.
Her eyes followed him warily and never once flickered to the two-way glass behind him. All of her attention was on the man in front of her. She didn't sit until he did. Her eyes reminded him of a half-tame animal; not sure whether to stay, or follow her instincts and flee.
There was defiance under the wariness, Gibbs noted. It was an odd reaction, as most of hers had been up to now. Most female suspects took him for a nice guy at first, often even tried to flirt with him. Not Chloe O'Brian. Then again, she wasn't your average female suspect; she worked for the Counter-Terrorist Unit in LA. And, really, she wasn't even a suspect. They had one of those. She was just their link to him.
"Tell me where Jack Bauer is," Gibbs requested softly.
Her lips tightened a little but she remained silent, as she had been since they'd taken her into custody.
"We're going to find him," Gibbs promised her. "With or without your help. If you know where he is, it's your duty to help us. And if you cooperate now things will go a lot easier for you later."
She didn't need to speak with words, her expression spoke volumes. She didn't quite roll her eyes but it was close.
"Is he really worth going to jail for? Are you really willing to be arrested just to protect him?"
"Wouldn't be the first time," she muttered.
And it's the rhetorical question that gets an answer, Gibbs thought with a mental headshake. "Your record doesn't show any arrests."
"The first time they let me resign instead of charging me. The second time, Jack was being framed. Just like now."
"We found his fingerprints at the scene."
"Then someone planted them," she said matter-of-factly. "He didn't do this."
"I'd like to hear that from him."
She rolled her eyes and went back to being silently defiant. She was good at it, Gibbs reflected twenty fruitless minutes later. It wasn't the stony silence that some people affected. She reacted to his questions, mostly with a series of sarcastic expressions and a couple of times with an oddly unsettling 'I see right through you and out the other side' look in her eyes.
She'd talk when it wasn't related to the case but as soon as the conversation got back to Jack Bauer that was it. Except for a repeated declaration of the man's innocence. She steadfastly refused to elaborate any further on how or why she was so convinced of that. She didn't waste time trying to think of lies, just refused to even open her mouth.
Bringing up the consequences of her protection of Jack Bauer got only a series of 'I know's and a couple of corrections on possible sentence lengths for accessory after the fact.
At that point, Gibbs retreated to the observation room until he could come up with a better strategy for questioning her. Caitlin, or as she preferred to be called, Kate Todd had been watching from behind the glass. Before he'd hired her, the tall brunette had worked for the Secret Service, and before that she'd trained as a profiler. It was the latter training that made her invaluable as an observer during interrogations.
"I don't think you're going to get anything out of her, Gibbs," Kate greeted his entrance to the observation room. "She's thought this all the way through."
"I could have told you that." The speaker was a stranger. Poised, clean-cut, grey hair, black suit. Some kind of LEO, Gibbs assessed, probably FBI.
"Who are you?"
"Her boss," the man answered. "Bill Buchanan, Director of CTU-LA. You're aware that Agent O'Brian is our Senior Systems Analyst?"
"Yes, I am. She's also protecting our primary suspect in a double torture and homicide. I don't care what you're the director of, I'm not going to let her go until and unless she gives me Jack Bauer."
"She's not going to," Buchanan repeated. "She's loyal to Jack, above everything but national security. And even then." The man shrugged.
"What do you know about their relationship?" Kate asked.
"Jack hired her to CTU when he was Director of Field Ops. She is, hands down, our best analyst. Jack was our best field agent in history. The two of them together are pretty close to unstoppable. Whenever he comes in as a consultant, it's understood that Chloe's his until the situation is over."
"There's more than a work relationship there," Kate commented.
"They're friends," Buchanan said.
"That's all?" she asked sceptically. "Just friends?"
"If they've ever slept together, it didn't change anything. Not that I think either of them would have let it. It's hard to explain unless you've seen them work together. I'd never seen anything like it until two years ago. There's this…insane level of trust there. I honestly think Jack would walk blindfolded into a building full of hostiles as long as Chloe was on comms telling him which way to go. And she'd hack into just about any system if Jack asked her to. She helped him stage his own death just over eighteen months ago. I've questioned her under similar circumstances to this before. You're not going to get anything out of her until she's sure it's too late for you to do anything about it."
"It doesn't bother you that your senior computer tech is loyal to someone with Bauer's history?" Gibbs asked.
"She's too good to fire. And there are other reasons to keep her on."
"Other reasons?" Gibbs asked.
"Because she's loyal to Jack."
Thinking it over, Gibbs nodded in understanding.
"That makes no sense," Kate objected.
"Actually, it does," Gibbs corrected her. "Loyalty works two ways."
She looked her question at him, but it was Buchanan who explained.
"As long as she's at CTU, we have a line on Jack and stand a good chance of being kept in the loop on whatever they're working on. If we fire her, we lose what little control that gives us over Jack or the situation."
"It wouldn't shut him down completely?"
"She's hacked DoD, NSA and every other agency out there, for him. She got into Homeland Security and they were deliberately trying to keep her out. Hell, she hacked CTU the one time she ended up out in the field with him."
"But those other times were from within CTU, right?"
"Without any of her authorization codes. Let me explain something to you. When Jack gets involved in a situation, it's usually as a personal favour to the president. Which means that's the only person he has to report to. He works with us because Chloe works for us. If we fire Chloe and yank her clearance, all Jack needs to do is make a phone call to have her clearance re-instated. And we lose any idea of what's going on unless Jack feels like keeping us updated."
"Does she know that's why you keep her on?"
"They both do. It's convenient for them because they both know our system and trust us to work with them instead of against them. Jack gets access to CTU's resources and we get," he sighed, "whatever control Jack is willing to give us."
"What does Chloe get?"
Buchanan thought about it for almost a minute before answering. "Honestly, I have no idea. The point is, as long as she's sure Jack is innocent of this, she's not going to be of any use to you."
"You don't sound especially unhappy about it," Kate noted.
"I don't think he did it, either," Buchanan said, coolly. "The man's crossed a lot of lines, but this isn't one of them. And in her defence, if Chloe thought he had, she'd have been the first in line to turn him in."
"We have his fingerprints at the scene," Gibbs pointed out.
"Offhand, I can think of at least two ways to manage that without his ever having set foot there," Buchanan said. "That said, it doesn't mean I don't think he should come in." He paused, turning his head to look at O'Brian through the glass for a moment, before looking back over at Gibbs. "I'd like to talk to her."
This time Gibbs watched with Kate from the observation room. O'Brian had stood again when the door opened and that look was back in her eyes.
"She's feeling vulnerable," Kate commented. "Unsure what's going to happen next, but pretty sure it's not going to be good."
"CTU-LA has a reputation for being willing to get its hands dirty to get answers in a hurry," Gibbs explained. "They take the words 'all necessary measures' literally."
"You mean – she expects to be tortured?" Kate sounded horrified. "Is that why you let Buchanan go in? So that she'll think that?"
"She'd think that anyway, Kate," Gibbs corrected her softly. "She looked at me like that, too." And it bothered him that she had.
"Mr. Buchanan." Chloe felt her spine straighten reflexively. Buchanan was in a bad mood and it was because of her. And it had something to do with Jack. This wasn't the first time and it probably wouldn't be the last.
"What the hell is going on here, Chloe?" he demanded.
"Jack didn't do what they're saying he did."
"This is according to Jack?" he asked sarcastically.
"Not just." She bit her lip to stop herself from telling Buchanan everything. Unless she could be sure that he would help instead of hinder, she had to stay silent.
"Then what else, Chloe? Help me to understand what's going on here. Two women were tortured and killed, Jack's fingerprints were found at the scene."
"Leaving aside the fact that there are some lines Jack wouldn't cross, and you know that, he's the best field agent CTU ever had. Do you really think he'd leave evidence as obvious as his own fingerprints at the scene of a crime he actually committed?" She paused as she actually heard what she'd just said. "That, sounded bad," she added, "but it's true."
"The adversarial approach certainly seems to be working," Kate murmured, back in the observation room.
"I don't think it's the change in approach that changed her answers."
"You think it's because this is someone she knows? Or because it's someone else who knows Bauer? Someone she stands a chance of convincing?"
"She's starting to convince me," Gibbs said without taking his eyes off the two in the interrogation room.
"If Bauer is as good as his file says and those two seem to think, then she has a point. He's been trained to get away with murder. Literally. Why would he get sloppy all of a sudden?"
"Sloppy?" Kate asked. "We had to process everything at that scene to get one print."
"Exactly," Gibbs said quietly. "Sloppy."
"Maybe he wanted to get caught," she suggested.
"Then why run?"
"Well, if Bauer didn't do it, who did?"
"Unfortunately, I think he's the one we need to be asking that."
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