Part 1: NCIS and Jon O'Neill series
He woke up slowly, unsure of where he was. The acute pain in his head was overshadowed by the stabbing pain in his shoulder when he tried to move. Slowly, he opened his eyes trying to keep movement to a minimum. It was dark and he was in shadow, but he could see hints of bright light close by. It illuminated his surroundings just enough. He could feel the gun in his right hand and the square shape of his cell phone in his left. But the light showed that the cell phone was shattered beyond repair. The telltale bullet impact demonstrated just how far beyond repair.
Looking around, he could just make out the outlines of boxes under the tarp with him. He figured that he had crawled into a truck to escape.
That thought niggled at the back of his mind.
Escape whom? Who would want to kill me?
The thought fled as the soothing rocking motion of the truck pulled to a jerky stop. The bloomed pain from his shoulder made him groan in response to the sudden jolt. Just as blackness dimmed his vision he heard voices. The tarp was jerked back and the sudden pain from the bright light pushed him into oblivion.
~NCIS Headquarters - DC, MCU~
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs listened fondly to the easy banter between his agents. He always felt that the more childish their behavior, the stronger the bond between the teammates. They went from being peers to family. You could only get that close with childish bonding.
His phone interrupted his wandering thoughts. "Gibbs," he barked down the line.
"Agent Gibbs," the voice on the other end greeted him. "A Marine attempted to enter the installation at Washington Marine Barraks using his POV. The Marine guard heard a noise coming from the bed of the truck. Upon inspection, the guard found the body of a teenager. Shot. Fire arm in his hand. Destroyed cell phone. The driver had no knowledge of his passenger."
"Understood, out," Gibbs said and hung up the phone. He glanced up to see his team watching him. "Grab your gear!" he ordered. He suppressed a nod of approval as the agents jumped to grab gear and follow him to the garage. He stood at his desk as they began to scramble. Gibbs holstered his service pistol and clipped his badge on his belt. "DiNozzo, you and McGee go to the Washington Marine Barracks. A kid was shot and dumped in the back of a Marine's truck. David with me."
Zíva shot him a startled look, "And we will be?"
"Bethesda Naval Hospital," Gibbs replied grimly.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
The trip to the hospital was done in silence. Gibbs hated this part of the job the most. Kids should never see this side of humanity, let alone experience it. Kids deserved to remain blissfully ignorant of the evils in the world. Adulthood was soon enough to learn about evil.
As Gibbs entered the ward where the kid was being treated, a nurse stopped him and asked for ID. He smiled his approval. He gave her a quick introduction was sent to see a Lt Commander Johanssen, the attending physician in post-op.
"Agent Gibbs, I'm glad to say that the damage was much less then we feared. The bullet passed through the left shoulder cleanly. He went through surgery with no problems. He should regain full use of his arm. The head injury is more worrying. He has been in and out of consciousness, but has yet to say anything coherent," Commander Johanssen summarized his patient's condition.
"That is good news," Gibbs replied. The three entered the room where the kid was hooked up to various medical devices. Their incessant beeping creating a soothing background noise. At least, Gibbs found it soothing. It was the sound of life. Hope.
Gibbs took his first look at the teenager and was struck by his youth. He had expected the kid to look like any one of the many gangbangers that littered the DC landscape. But this kid was far from that. He was white, clean-cut, and lacked all the typical gangland tattoos.
"How old?" Gibbs asked, his voice almost breaking.
"We estimate between 16 and 18," the doctor replied.
"Estimate?" Gibbs asked. The kid sure didn't look 16. Late bloomer, he thought sadly.
"He didn't have any ID. Until he wakes up, we won't know who he is or how old," the doctor replied calmly.
Gibbs found that unacceptable. Someone, somewhere had to have been worried out of their mind for this kid. He was just a damn kid. He quickly dialed the lab.
"Hey, Gibbs," Abby answered with too much cheer for his mood.
"Abs, run a database search for a missing person. White, male, brown hair," Jethro glanced down at the medical chart, "brown eyes, 5 foot 8, age between 16 and 18."
"How far back?" Abby asked. He could already hear her typing the parameters into the computer.
"Surprise me." He abruptly hung up.
"Zíva, run the full kit and get some prints. Commander, does he have any other identifying marks?" Jethro asked.
"No. Not so much as a chickenpox scar," the doctor replied.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
He was floating. He recognized the drug haze and the steady beeping in the background.
Infirmary. We made it home.
He was confused again.
We felt right.
But who is we? More than me?
Then he smelled it. Perfume, a rare fragrance, exotic, jasmine…
Where did he know it from? It was right there. He could almost remember…
Nurse. A nurse wore that perfume. She was there every time they came. She would try to fix what they did. She was so afraid. They were angry when she gave him too much morphine. He didn't even feel them breaking his fingers.
Like now… floating. He felt the gentle tug on his hand. Strong fingers holding his index finger.
They were here! She was here. He had to stop them. He can't let them hurt her again. She was only trying to help. To help him…
No… NO… NO!
"No!" he roared to awareness and into action.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
Just as Zíva was about to press his finger onto the ink pad the kid reacted violently.
"No!" the kid shouted as he suddenly jerked his hand back and attacked.
Gibbs watched, stunned as the kid reversed Zíva's grip and with one smooth movement had the Mossad Officer pinned to the floor with her hand yanked up behind her back and his knee pressed into her neck.
Gibbs finally reacted by tackling the kid. He used a loose choke hold, and held him still. "Easy, son. You're safe. Easy." He didn't want to hurt him. He wasn't even fully aware of his surroundings. Just reacting... Violently...
Gibbs saw the angry look in the kid's eyes fade. Then it was replaced by pain, just before he passed out, Gibbs heard him whisper, "Not them. Sorry, Sir. Won't happen again."
"No, Son, it won't," Gibbs replied in reassurance.
Gibbs carefully cradled the kid in his arms. He gently picked up the kid and set him back in the bed. He let the doctor and nurses rush back in and reattach all the equipment that the kid had accidentally detached when he jumped Zíva.
Finally, Gibbs turned to Zíva to see her shocked expression. When she noticed him looking, she carefully schooled her face back to impassive mask. "He surprised me, that's all. It won't happen again," she reported contritely.
Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "No, it won't," he ordered her.
Zíva nodded acceptance of the reprimand and quickly finished collecting the kid's fingerprints without further incident. Gibbs sent her to fax them to Abby when an odd thought occurred to him.
Gibbs carefully reviewed the kid's attack in his head. The kid had used an arm lock maneuver taught to the police and in the military. An advanced move. The move was smooth and practiced. The kid had training. If the kid was 18, he could be in AFIS.
Gibbs quickly pulled out his cell and dialed the lab again.
"Gibbs, do you have any idea how many teenagers go missing every year?" Abby whined into his ear.
"That's all right, Abs. Zíva is sending you his prints now. I want you to run them through AFIS first," Gibbs ordered.
"AFIS? I thought he was just a kid?" Once again, Gibbs could already hear her tapping away at the keyboard.
"Call it a hunch, Abs," Gibbs said as he closed the cell phone. He was missing something.
Gibbs whipped the cell phone open again and dialed the other half of his team. He didn't wait for a greeting before he growled, "What the hell is taking so long, DiNozzo?" he damanded.
"Boss! I was JUST going to call you. The kid wasn't dumped. He climbed in the truck and passed out. Specialist Thompson parks his truck outside his apartment complex at night, so he could have climbed in any time after 2200 hours." Tony cleared his throat, "Uh, Boss. The kid was found with a gun in his hand. Recently fired. Two rounds left."
Gibbs sighed. "Get that scene done and then go over to the Marine's apartment. See if you can find where the gunfight took place," he ordered.
"You got it, Boss! We're already on…" DiNozzo tried to reply.
Gibbs closed the cell phone again before DiNozzo could finish. He walked back to the observation window and watched the kid through the glass. He needed the kid to wake up. He needed answers. Finally, he decided to sit with the kid. He just couldn't leave him alone. Lost.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
The darkness parted once more. He was still floating. He remembered the perfume. He remembered attacking someone. But it wasn't them. He was in the infirmary. He could remember that now.
They were gone. He didn't know where, but he knew that they would never hurt anyone again. He had made sure of that when he left.
Escaped felt right just like 'we' felt right.
There was no 'we' when they had killed the nurse. He was alone then.
'We' was right. He wasn't alone anymore. But who is 'we'? Where did I escape from?
Images floated past. Floating daggers and flashing eyes. Pain and darkness and waking in the light.
No, not then. That pain felt old. He pushed the images back into the darkness. He had been alone then as well. No, this time there should be a 'we'. Shouldn't there?
We… we… team?
YES! Team. MY team… My team made it home. Safe?
I don't know. I need to know if they are safe. I need them to be safe. I need them.
He struggled to push the fog from his mind. He needed to wake up. He needed answers. He needed his team. Pain doesn't matter, only my team. They have to be safe.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
Gibbs felt his phone vibrate. He had been sitting with the kid for two hours and had yet to see the kid twitch. He quickly exited the room and answered his phone.
"Gibbs," he answered gruffly.
"Gibbs, are you pulling some kind of practical joke on me?" Abby complained.
Gibbs frowned. "What do you mean, Abs?" he asked impatiently.
"I mean… you said this guy was a kid. But there is no way this silver fox is a kid," Abby replied.
Gibbs sighed again. "Abby!" he shouted at her. He needed her to spill what she had found.
"Sorry, Gibbs. Your fingerprints belong to one Major General Jonathan J. O'Neill. USAF. We really need to work with the Air Force more often if all their generals are this hot," Abby rattled on.
"Abs, there is no way this kid is more than 18 years old. It has got to be wrong," Gibbs barked into the phone.
"Sorry, but I ran it twice. I even pulled out the Kinsey shooting file to make sure. All the prints are identical," Abby sounded smug.
"Where is he stationed?" Gibbs asked.
"The Pentagon," Abby replied sounding unsure.
"The Pentagon is a big place, Abs. I need to know what department," Gibbs was getting frustrated. Abby was brilliant, but there was a price for her brilliance.
"That's just it, Gibbs," Abby whined. "It doesn't say… anywhere! It does have his home address though," she replied, trying to appease him.
"Give it to me. Get everything you can on this General O'Neill," he ordered. Once again, he hung up before she could reply. He glanced at his watch. He could make it back to the office to review the files on General O'Neill and then make it over to the general's apartment around dinnertime.
Gibbs glanced back into the kid's hospital room. A small movement caught his attention. The kid was awake. He walked back into the room after flagging down a nurse.
The kid looked up and Gibbs was taken in by the eyes. The kid had deep, hard eyes. He was saddened by the sight. He would have preferred the frightened eyes of a kid with no experience in the world.
"How long?" the kid asked him, before he could introduce himself.
The question confused him for a minute. "You were found unconscious this morning. So, most of today," Gibbs replied. He counted back to when the kid was found. He hoped that is what the kid was asking about.
The kid nodded, absorbing the information, but still appearing confused and in a lot of pain. "Is my team safe?" the kid asked, almost as if it was expected of him. The kid's eyes were begging him for a positive answer.
Hell, this just got more complicated. Again, Gibbs was thrown. "I don't know. You were alone in the back of the truck. My team is still trying to track down where the gunfight took place. I don't suppose you want to tell me?" he asked. He was hoping for the kid to provide the intel he needed to track down the crime scene.
The kid looked at him confused. "Truck?" he asked. Then he turned away as if thinking hard. He brought the hand of his good arm up to his face and rubbed his face and stopped. Gibbs watched as confusion was replaced with horror, "I… I… I don't remember," the kid suddenly told him. It was the first time he had seen fear in the kids eyes.
"That's alright. I'm sure it will come to you," Gibbs tried to reassure him. He knew more than he wanted about trauma-induced amnesia. It would either come back or it wouldn't.
Hard eyes stabbed into him. "You don't understand. I don't remember anything. I… I don't know who I am," the kid said with a bit of panic in his voice. The monitors around the kid started beeping faster. But then they slowed as the kid once more tried to pull himself together with careful calculated breaths. Gibbs recognized the breathing techniques from sniper training. Well that complicates things... How the hell did this kid get sniper training?
"Do you know who I am?" the kid plead, his eyes no longer old and hard, but young and afraid.
Gibbs felt that he would hear that pleading voice and see those eyes in his nightmares. He had only one answer for him. "No, but I promise to find out," he told the kid with a sureness that they both needed. He handed the kid his card and made way for the doctor and nurses as they descended on their patient once again.
Gibbs didn't usually give someone the benefit of the doubt. But something about the kid made him want to protect him. The raw fear he displayed as he realized that he didn't know who he was couldn't be faked. Combine that with his obvious training and he needed protection. But from who or what?
~Department of Homeworld Security, Pentagon, DC~
Jack was working on paperwork. He hated paperwork. Yet the universe conspired to send him more paperwork than he could tolerate faster than he could properly clear it from his desk.
Worse, it seemed that the paperless trend was actually an evil plot to generate more paperwork than the original paper-full system. He should put Carter on that problem. Why does the paperless system generate more paper than the paper-full system?
No, scratch that. He didn't want to discourage her with an impossible problem.
"Bing!" his computer alerted him to an emergency email.
"Now what?" Jack growled.
Jack popped open the email. It was an automated email generated from the AFIS database. It alerted him when anyone accessed the file of an SGC member and where they entered that file. In this case, it was his file matched with fingerprints collected by an NCIS agent.
"What the hell? Who the hell is NCIS? Why in the hell do they have my fingerprints?" Jack groused.
Jack considered his options.
One, he could let someone else track down NCIS and resolve this issue while he attended the JCS meeting with the IOA. Senator Fisher was supposed to present some findings to the IOA from the Appropriations Committee. Not that that windbag had anything to say. It would be a fun meeting, if Vala would come in again.
Or, two, he could skip on the oh-so-fun meeting and deal with this NCIS himself. He doubted that they were as underhanded as the NID.
Or, three, he could wait till this NCIS contacted him. Nah! Pizza plans for tonight.
Okay, I'll take door number two.
Jack carefully shut down his computer and locked up his files. He straightened his tie and pulled on his jacket. He really hated the Pentagon dress code. Bunch of stuffed shirts. He refused to wear all of his medals just because the rest of them were trying to impress each other. He kept enough of them on there to shush the knowledgeable. Then changed them around to confuse the others. They were never out of order. But he had so many it was a small thing he could do to entertain himself.
"Jeanelle, I'm going to grab some cake. Need anything?" Jack addressed his secretary/aide/right-arm. She was also about as good at keeping him on task as Walter. Not that he didn't appreciate all her hard work, but 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.'
"No, Sir. Don't forget your meeting at 1600," Jeanelle piped up. She knew he liked cake. She had been warned that nothing should get between the general and a good double-fudge with chocolate icing. Today was nothing new. He was running off for cake or pie or even Jell-O at least twice a week.
Jack just grinned. His excuse firmly in place, he slid down the halls to the locker room. He quickly changed into civilian clothes and took the back way out of the Pentagon. He was surprised that more people didn't use the back way. Then again, the stuffed shirts wanted to be seen. Jack didn't.
Now, Jack just had to figure out: Who is NCIS? Who is Agent Z. David? Why they had my prints?
"God, I miss being in the field," Jack commented to the air.
Jack grabbed a staff car from the motor pool and headed over to the local library with a half-decent computer. Before long, he had found out that NCIS was Navy Criminal Investigative Service.
"Navy, huh? Well, that just doesn't make any sense," Jack whispered to himself.
Jack ran a search for Special Agent Z. David and found absolutely nothing. So, he hacked into the FBI database. If Carter could only see me now.
Jack had been downplaying his computer skills for years with his team. Sadly, they believed him. Even the dancing monkey's and intermittent chords of 'Oh, Danny Boy' failed to convince Daniel that it was Jack and not Sam who was hacking his system.
The FBI system was way easier to hack than the encryption program Sam had put on Daniel's system after the dancing monkeys had finally been removed. Come to think of it. Daniel had actually liked the Ancient Graffiti that had replaced the monkeys.
"Ah, here it is. Officer Zíva David. Mossad. Attached to NCIS, under Special Agent L. J. Gibbs. DC Division." Jack jotted down the address.
Now, why would Mossad want to set him up? He had refused to go near anything in the Middle East for years. As far as they knew, he was an old washed-up general.
"Ah, good, it's not far from here," Jack said casually.
~NCIS Headquarters - DC, MCU~
Gibbs had just finished reading the thinnest file he had ever seen on anyone in the military. Let alone a general. As far as he could tell, Jonathan O'Neill had been commissioned as a pilot just after Vietnam and then magically appeared a little over a year ago at the Pentagon doing, god knows what.
There was no reference to the intervening years. His bio was short. He was divorced and had outlived his only son. His next of kin was a retired general who had served as his commander for several years. Aside from being accused of killing Senator Kinsey... A charge that was bogus to begin with since the Senator was still alive... and then being exonerated in a government sting operation, the general wasn't mentioned anywhere. Abby was certain that the files were somewhere, but definitely not in the CIA or FBI databases.
It was only as Gibbs reviewed his military awards that he began to understand the man better. The Ribbon Rack was a military member's resume, if read correctly. The general's military medals were some of the most honored awards. Most were awarded with a combat device, but the citations were vague. The actions described were couched in terms that could be interpreted to mean practically anything.
However, the most telling was the fact that the last President had awarded the Medal of Honor to this man. Again, couched vaguely. The current President had nominated him for an additional award. Gibbs had heard of very few living personnel who had earning that highest military honor twice. Yet here is one.
The general had to be Special Operations. The vague descriptions could only be describing missions that were top secret. His missing years were most likely filed in the deepest darkest hole the US government could find. The man was a specialist. A ghost. Most of the time, he simply didn't exist. Until he was needed, then he appeared, saved the day, and disappeared in one smooth motion.
"Good reading?" a quietly amused voice asked directly behind him. Gibbs hadn't had anyone sneak up on him since he entered Marine boot. Not even the Drill Instructors could catch him out.
Gibbs looked up to see his team just now looking up at the sound of a new voice. Judging by their shocked expressions, it was not someone they expected to see.
Gibbs slowly turned to see the very man he was brushing up on, standing behind him. The man whose very picture was even now plastered over the big screen TVs they used to pass on information.
Gibbs was barely able to control his expression. "Actually, General, it's rather boring. No substance. Until, you read between the lines," he replied calmly.
"Really?" the man was ready to quip. "Do tell."
Gibbs studied the man as he walked around the partitions. He was wearing casual slacks and a print shirt. Not one ounce of military clothing. Yet his very bearing and tightly controlled manner was very telling. He was smiling, but humor never reached his eyes. His casual air was a façade carefully constructed over an instant readiness and a command bearing that demanded instant order and obedience. The general dropped gracefully into the chair next to Gibbs' desk. "So…" he started casually.
Gibbs smiled. "What can I do for you, Sir?" he asked.
"Ah… well, a little birdie told me that someone was looking into my file. Imagine my surprise when I find that it's the Navy… Not that I have anything against the Navy… or Marines… but… it's odd." The general seemed to gesture and wave his hands as he stumbled through his explanation. "So… I figured I'd save you the trip to… my office. Jeanelle has a thing for appointments. Damn near as bad as Walter was… And, seeing as I could use you as an excuse to escape… well, here we are."
Gibbs was momentarily stunned into silence. What the hell? How does he reconcile his bearing... His manner... With THAT load of nonsense? He glanced at the TV again just to make sure it was the same man. Then shook his head. Gibbs reviewed the information that the man had told him. He discovered that the only information he had gained was that the man actually did have an office… somewhere. Well, crazy or not, he was the general or a damn good imitation.
"Could we move this to the Interrogation Room, Sir?" Gibbs asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see McGee sneak off to prepare the room.
"I'm not really… fond… of interrogation rooms, Agent Gibbs. Here's fine," the general replied with a casual grin. He proceeded to make his long frame comfortable in the plush chair by stretching out, hands casually clasped over his stomach. The position was a front. Gibbs could see that. But he was not going to move the man easily. Hum.
Gibbs tried a wan smile. "Can we get you anything to drink?" he asked casually.
"No, thank you. My DNA is a trade secret," the general quipped back, still looking at ease. "Honest Injun!" he smirked, waving his hand as if swearing an oath. "So… why's the Navy poking around my file? With Mossad, no less?" he asked in a casual tone.
What? Gibbs was beginning to feel defensive. How did he know about Zíva's connection to Mossad? It was not casually known. It wasn't in any of the public files. How did he know? Shit!
Just because the man had rank didn't mean he had the authority to bull-doze a criminal investigation. Gibbs clearly pictured the kid's eyes, afraid and oh so young. No way in hell, this damn zoomie is going to pressure me.
"General, the reason we were looking into your file is because your prints turned up at a crime scene." Gibbs carefully watched the general's expression. Nothing, not a flicker or a twitch. "A kid was shot," he continued. Again, he paused watching the general. This time the man's eyes narrowed and turned dark, but he never broke eye contact.
"And?" the general said with barely concealed patience.
Damn. He must know something. Why are the kid's prints in his file. Gibbs gave an internal sigh. It would take hard evidence to convince this man to tell me what he knows and then only the bare minimum. "And when we ran the kid's prints, your picture popped up."
Then Gibbs saw it. A flash of worry before the mask was back in place. "Where is he?" the general demanded.
"He's safe." Gibbs didn't know what the general was thinking. He was worried. But was it for the kid? Or for what the kid could tell them? I need more information. There was no way he was going to tell this guy where the kid was. Not until he could trust him.
But the general's next actions confused him. Instead of demanding Gibbs tell him what was going on or where the kid was, the general pulled out his cell phone and hit a number on speed dial. After a few moments, Gibbs could tell it went to voice mail.
"Damn it!" Jack swore.
The general hit another number on speed dial while Gibbs listened to one side of the conversation. The more he heard the more confused he got.
"Walter, get me Jon's location… Copy, Bethesda… Send in SG-3 to secure the area till I get there… No, I don't know. He was supposed to be in Colorado… Yeah, yeah, put Hank on… Hank… I am NOT missing. I know exactly where I am… Ack! Not gonna happen, Hank. I have better things to do than listen to that bag of hot air… Yes, you can tell him that… Oh, fer crying out loud, I don't need a damn baby sitter…" Jack talked on the phone as a noise brought his attention up.
Gibbs looked up as a group of heavily armed Marines rushed over and took positions around the General. Holy shit! How did they get here so quickly? How did they even get their weapons through the screening station?
"Fine!... SG-12 is here now. Oh, and Hank, I'll be sure to return the favor… Yes, that is a threat… Oy! You can stop laughing now… Hey, I'm still your boss. Ah, hell," the general said, slamming the phone shut.
The general gave a resigned sigh and turned to the leader of the Marines he had identified as SG-12. "Hadden, this is not my idea of fun," the general told the Marine group.
Gibbs was surprised to see the Marine Major smile affectionately at the Air Force general. "No, Sir. It never is. We'll try not to get in your way too much... this time," the Major told the general.
At that statement, the general laughed. "Yeah, right," the general replied. Then the general turned back to Gibbs. "They're about as subtle as elephants on parade." He paused before continuing. "I assume, Gunny, that you want to tag along to Bethesda Naval Hospital," the general asked as he rose from his chair.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes. He hadn't told them where the kid was. Nor had he told the general his previous relationship with the Marines. Yet, somehow the general had known all the background information about him and Zíva.
That kind of research bespoke of a depth of information gathering Gibbs was not privy too. With one phone call the general had determined the location of the kid and had a military escort show up within seconds…
Gibbs reviewed his memory of the phone call. For both himself and the kid. Shit! This is very, very deep. And BLACK. Gibbs already knew that the general was Special Operations.
The general had asked for a location on John. That must be the kid. They had better not harm a hair on that kid's head or so help me.
"Yes, Sir, Agent David and I will accompany you," Gibbs replied.
"Good... We'll need a bigger car," the general stated before he turned and headed for the stairs next to the elevator, his escort following in his wake.
Gibbs grabbed his gear as he followed the group down to the parking lot, Zíva hot on his heels. Gibbs decided that he didn't like playing with ghosts.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
He had been dozing when the soldiers had arrived. At first, he had been sure they were here to hurt him. He had been ready to defend himself. But instead, the leader just looked in the window, smiled, and waved at him before turning back to the doctor.
The leader was familiar. I should know him. He watched as the leader talked to the doctor. The others took up positions near his door.
Team. They were a team. Like my team. They might know about my team. They might know me.
He felt elated for the first time in hours. I'll be alright. They came for me. I'm not going to be left behind this time…
He frowned. Another thought niggled at the back of his mind.
This time? This time. I have been left before. When?
"I'm getting too old for this shit," he stated to his empty room.
~Bethesda Naval Hospital, DC~
The group rode to the hospital in silence. Gibbs was determined to protect the kid from this group. He didn't like how the general had been able to see through his questioning. He didn't like that the general knew where the kid was.
What if the kid was running from this general? I don't want to risk it. There was no way in hell I am was leaving this guy alone with that kid.
As the group forced their way into the hospital, Gibbs was stunned to see a second group of heavily armed men already standing guard over the kid. This group wasn't Marines, but Air Force.
As they approached, the general snapped a short greeting. "Reynolds."
A full bird colonel detached himself from one of the hospital staff and saluted the general. "Sir, Doc says he'll be fine. Through and through on the left shoulder and a knock to the head," the colonel reported to the general.
Gibbs was glad to see a flash of relief cross the general's face before the mask was back in place. "Gibbs on me. The rest of you stay out here and try to… blend in," the general ordered.
Gibbs just shook his head as the Marines and Airmen snorted and contrary to the orders, prominently placed themselves in firing positions around the hallway and waiting area. His military mind saw that there was no way a military group could force their way through without falling into a killing box. He shuddered to think that he might need to force his way through to keep the kid safe. He wasn't getting the kid out without permission from the general. That much was obvious.
The kid was sitting up and watching the activity out in the hallway with great interest. When he finally laid eyes on the general as they entered, his eyes changed from recognition to shock, and finally to sad resignation.
Oddly, once the general was alone with the kid, he dropped his carefully constructed mask. He openly showed his concern for the kid. Gibbs relaxed just a bit. The general really cared for the kid. Then it struck him. The general's bio. He lost his son. Gibbs examined the kid closer. He could see more than a casual resemblance. The kid was family. Gibbs finally gave an internal sigh.
"Hey, Kid. Heard you got yourself into a bit of trouble," the general said with a smile.
The kid gave a soft laugh. "Nothin' I can't handle," he replied with a smirk.
"Yeah," the general gestured to his shoulder. "I can see that."
"Hey, it doesn't hurt as much as that Salish arrow did," the kid retorted.
"Did you have to remind me?" the general absently rubbed at a spot on his right shoulder.
Gibbs watched the exchange for a few moments making sure that his gut was right, before it struck him, the kid remembered. He narrowed his eyes.
"Hold on, old man. I think Special Agent Gibbs needs a turn," the kid interrupted and turned his full attention to Gibbs.
The general just waved and dropped himself into the chair beside the bed.
"You remember what happened?" Gibbs started.
"Yup, that scraggly, old mug brought it all back." The kid waved in the general's direction. "I can't tell you much. I was in Colorado. Someone snatched me when I wasn't looking." The kid gave the general a pointed look. The general nodded in return to the unspoken message. "I woke up and busted out. Old warehouse on the east pier, I think. I didn't get them all, so I doubt you'll find anything there now."
Gibbs instantly flashed to his long-lost family. Kidnapped and murdered because of him. His job. Pain threatened to overwhelm him. His eyes shot to the general.
"Did they say why they kidnapped you?" Gibbs asked, turning back to the kid, John. He had a name now.
Gibbs could plainly see the holes in the kid's story. He was concerned. If someone was willing to take him once, then they were willing to take him again. Gibbs couldn't protect him if he didn't know who to protect him from. Yet the general continued to look unconcerned. Nothing new then.
"Ah… because I come from good Irish stock…" the kid replied vaguely. Gibbs turned to the general to see if that statement had any meaning. He was surprised to find him texting a message to someone, apparently oblivious.
"Oh," the kid added casually with tension in his voice, "One of the bouncy balls was there…"
Gibbs was still watching the general. The general froze for a moment and his face flashed pain, before his mask settled back into place and he continued to type his message.
Before he could ask another question, Gibbs' cell phone rang. "Gibbs!"
Gibbs listened to Director Sheppard as she carefully explained that the Air Force was taking over the investigation and that he and his people were to turn over all their evidence and documentation. He debated arguing with her. But staring into the general's eyes, he could see that it would be a fight that he couldn't win.
It was only when Gibbs turned to the kid that he began to feel uneasy. The kid was staring at him with the same brown eyes. The same dark, cold stare. He suppressed the involuntary shudder. Perhaps they knew the threat better. He just hoped they could protect the kid.
"Understood, Director," Gibbs replied before he snapped the phone shut. He looked at two sets of eyes as they bore into him. Both sets held deep secrets. Both had a solid inner strength. He wouldn't change their minds and they wouldn't give him any more information than they wanted to.
"General, John…" Gibbs addressed them quietly. "I have just one question. Well, I have quite a few, but I'll settle for just this one. Why are the kid's fingerprints in your file?" he asked.
The kid snorted. The general smirked. "It's… complicated. It has to do with… probabilities. Ya know, people say fingerprints are unique, but they always use probabilities to explain a match. What can I say… we're one in a billion," the general said with a grin.
"Oh, more than that," the kid interrupted.
"Let's just say that you are more likely to be… kidnapped by aliens then to find another two people with matching fingerprints," the general replied.
"Much more likely…. What?" the kid smirked at the general.
"Yeah… well, I'll clear out and leave this mess for the Air Force to clean up," Gibbs said as he turned to leave. "Take care of him, General."
Just as Gibbs was closing the door, he heard the general's whispered reply, "If he'll let me, Gunny. If he'll let me."
~Washington, DC - Gibbs' Home~
One week later, Gibbs walked downstairs to work on his current project boat. He was able to stash the beer in the fridge before he noticed the post-it note.
Your sandbox is all cleaned up. Let me know if you get tired of playing with boats. I could always use a good Marine.
Gibbs stared at the note for a good 10 minutes before he deciphered the message. Then he smiled, shook his head, and tossed it in the trash. He didn't even wonder how the general had gotten it into his still-locked basement.