What's this?! A chapter from Lesa?! About nine months overdue?! Why yes, yes it is! I'm so so sorry, everyone. The story of mine that gets the most... everything, and it takes the longest for me to update. Go figure. Bit of a BYOT warning, and we should be getting more of the case in later chapters, and will the rest of NCIS ever get to California? We'll see. We'll see. Enjoy! Thank you everyone for all your reviews and alerts!
"Fresno? Who would want to live in freaking Fresno? So far away from the beach, the babes! Oh, man, Probie, California girls really are the best: buxom, blonde, brilliant." Anthony DiNozzo sighed, leaning back and lacing his hands behind his head, content with his daydreaming.
Timothy "Probie" McGee wisely chose not to reply to his teammate, instead returning to his novel - for once, not only did he have the downtime to write while at his desk, but the words were actually coming to him when he wasn't in front of his typewriter! He knew that anything he said would be taken the wrong way, not only by Tony but by Ziva David, who looked ready to murder. Then again, it wasn't hard for Ziva to look murderous. A soft clearing of her throat rapidly had DiNozzo backpedalling.
"Zee-vah, you didn't let me finish." From anyone else, McGee would have asked for cheese to go with the whine. But it was just Tony being Tony, "California girls may be buxom, blonde and brilliant, but -and there is a but there, mark my words - they have nothing on completely gorgeous, utterly ravishing, crazy-brilliant Israeli ninja-chicks." McGee looked over to see Ziva's expression. Her dark eyes had grown warmer, and the blank look had flitted into a smile. The smile grew coy as she took Tony's flimsy lead-off and ran with it.
"Well, To-ny," she exaggerated, "Let me finish my statement then. Israeli men are intelligent, brave and self-sacrificing… but," McGee almost winced at the puppy-dog expression Tony was giving her as he waited, eager, "they do not hold a candle to street-smart, over-valiant, stubbornly loyal Italian-American movie-buffs." Her hand was buried in her hair as she tilted her head to the side, smirking. Her wink nearly undid both Tony and McGee. The latter thought it was ridiculous, the level to which the pair had taken their flirting. First two months back, they could barely deal with each other! Now it was like they'd spent those months apart together, in every sense of the word, instead of on opposite sides of the globe.
McGee couldn't take it any longer, and stood. It was one thing to steal their words for Lisa/Tommy dialogue. It was something else to have to actually be there while they were this mushy. Ziva never was mushy, ever. Except now, he realized. "I'm going down to see Ducky, lovebirds," he quipped, picking up his file folders, and wishing, again, that Gibbs had taken him to rescue Abby - or that Abby had never gone to her bowling competition. Either way, he would have some relief without having to go to Autopsy. But his life just seemed to want to mock him. It was either the love-birds or listening to another of Ducky's stories… the stories won out.
"Remember rule twelve, now, children," was his parting shot on the way to the elevator. "That's okay, McDateless, Gibbs knows. Heck, Gibbs approves!" Tony's words were teasing and soft, yet somehow reached the junior agent just the same. Tim merely sighed, and rested his head on the instrument panel in the elevator, relishing the coolness of steel on what was likely a tomato-red forehead.
When Gibbs got back, he was asking for a raise… and the name of a good dating service.
"…so then, it turns out her lover was her husband's commander's wife, not her husband's commander, so her husband goes to get revenge on the wife, and…" Abby stopped, and Jane noticed her deliberate look at Gibbs before continuing, his fork-holding right hand seeming to fist around the utensil and "knock" towards the woman, "…and Kate went undercover as the wife so we could catch him before he actually killed anyone."
"Kate? Who is Kate?" Jane asked, ignoring all of the socially 'nice' comments that might be expected, 'It's so nice that the SEAL was able to be reunited with his son' or 'Wow, that's confusing!' Jane went right to the heart of the matter, the issue that interested him. Why the hand motion before the woman's name? And just who was this 'Kate', neither had mentioned her before.
"Kate was a member of the team who died in the line of duty a few years ago," Gibbs said calmly, sipping at his neat bourbon. Abby's free hand gently squeezed his forearm, before she casually reached for her own drink, something called a Strangelove, it seemed to involve a lot of artificial cherry, judging from the scent Jane could pick up over the heavy tang of alcohol. Jane himself was already on his third Tootsie Roll, having ignored Gibbs' glare when he ordered it; he was a full grown adult, if he wanted to get hammered, he would get hammered!
The older man's gaze was fierce again, though it softened at Abby's gentle throat-clearing. It was as if Gibbs was testing him, balancing the need to speak of something with the ability for him to trust what the man was about to say would remain private. The need to tell won out, it seemed - or perhaps it was Abby's hand smoothing down his arm to squeeze the older man's hand, before drifting away. The woman could bring warmth to a block of ice in the middle of Antarctica.
"Kelly was eight when she died," Gibbs' voice was soft, even… like it was hiding the same pain that Jane knew had flared into his eyes - into his entire being - at the other man's words. How had he known about Kelly? "We were almost to our ten year anniversary… would have been the next month." The other man gulped down his bourbon like it was water, stopping only when Abby seized his wrist in her hand and slowly guided it down to the table, unwrapping his fingers from the glass to lace them into her own. Gibbs breathed deeply once, twice, then continued, voice surprisingly level.
"Shannon saw something she shouldn't have about a drug deal, and reported it. The cartel took her out, Kelly too. I didn't even find out until a week later - was stuck in the middle of Desert Storm. Tried two suicide runs until my buddy knocked me out, hoping I'd stop," Gibbs chuckled ruefully, "I never got a chance to thank him… died himself while I was still in the coma. When I got back here, after the funeral, I tracked down the bastard that ordered the hit and killed him. Joined NCIS - NIS then - to get the same for others: justice."
Jane smiled grimly, A little story-telling time, huh? It wouldn't work with him - didn't have much to tell, didn't have an Abby to comfort him as he told it. So he wouldn't be telling. It wasn't like a Fed wouldn't be able to easily look his whole background up; it all had to be in his file - except the hospital, of course. "What do you want me to say? I'm sorry? Oh, that's terrible, but I'm glad you found peace? There, I've said them, what more do you want from me?" Abby recoiled at the menace in his tone, and Gibbs went back to glaring at him. Neither spoke.
"No, Jane. They want to hear your story." The voice made him whirl around. Teresa?!
It had been hard, letting Jane go with those strangers. Abby seemed nice enough, but for her and - Lisbon still didn't quite believe it - her lover to whisk him away without as much as a by-your-leave, or even giving him the chance to protest, was akin to a kidnapping. Or so it had been in Cho and Rigsby's eyes. Van Pelt and Lisbon herself had viewed it differently. Perhaps because they were female.
There was… something about the pair of Gibbs and Abby that would be – good – for Jane. In what way, neither woman could appropriately give words, but some sort of… connection… between the two men, with Abby as a common denominator between the two. The entire team knew Jane needed to just get over the whole thing with his wife and daughter dying. Now, that may sound cold – but it was affecting his work. And when something affected his work, it affected their cases. Simply put: if murderers went free because Jane couldn't get his head on straight, his head would roll.
So maybe this was good for him – or at least the female contingent of Team Lisbon thought so. The males… not so much. But at least Gibbs had given her a prime tipoff for what she should do that night. Mentally giving a goodbye to her plans to curl up with a tub of mint-chocolate-chip and a Tom and Jerry marathon, Theresa Lisbon instead found herself stuck in a corner booth of Lime Lite, Grace Van Pelt having taken the seat beside her so both could not-so-subtly view the trio of Gibbs, Abby and Jane. Cho and Rigsby had been left out completely. Didn't want them going over and pulling Jane out at the first sign of 'trouble', this wasn't an undercover op, or anything the mentalist needed rescuing from; besides, Gibbs had been a Gunnery Sergeant, meant he outranked Cho, a mere Lance Corporal, and could surely out shout and out intimidate Rigsby.
Van Pelt had been startled at Teresa's sliding out of the booth, but the younger agent hadn't seen Gibbs directly look at the pair of them and signal with a flick of his eyes to the empty chair at the table. The table was situated comfortably on the back wall – Gibbs and Abby would be able to look at all the doors, while Jane couldn't see a thing coming. Perfect for this. His agitated voice carried over to Teresa clearly, "What do you want me to say? I'm sorry? Oh, that's terrible, but I'm glad you found peace? There, I've said them, what more do you want from me?"
Oh, wonderful. He was at that level of drunk. Just what she wanted to deal with, a snarky Patrick Jane. Normal Patrick Jane could be hard enough, let alone when he was like this! Her voice in reply caused him to whip around, gray eyes wide in shock. She let a small smile flit to her face, pulling out the chair next to him with one hand, pulling his drink out of his hand with the other. The CBI agent sat and sipped at his Tootsie Roll, ignoring his incredulous stare. "We've got a case, Jane, you can't come in tomorrow with a hangover," she chided, enjoying the sweet flavor of the pure alcohol beverage. Why did he – ah.
"Tootsie Rolls, the real ones, they were your Kelly's favorite candy, weren't they?" his stare turning into a heated glare confirmed her theory. Gibbs chose this moment to gently insert himself back into the conversation, before anything could happen – Jane was either about to kill or kiss the CBI agent, and while the kissing wouldn't be bad, it would be for all the wrong reasons. He'd learned that through much experience and too many marriages. "My Kelly loaded me down with Tootsie Rolls every time I shipped out, and all the care packages from home included them."
Jane was quiet, staring off into the distance, clearly thinking. His mouth opened once, twice, and then he spoke as if he was being condemned to death, "Tracy… Tracy begged me not to take on the Red John case. Told me she was afraid he would come after me, she didn't want to lose me, or for Kelly to live without her Daddy. Everything seemed fine, I mean, sure, I was probably a little cocky about how close we were to catching him… but the PR folk with the department told me that it would be the best way to reassure the people, if I was all about how close we were to catching him," his tone grew scathing, "of course, they weren't the ones that had him come after their family!" If he still had his Tootsie Roll at the moment, it would either have been drained dry or thrown against the wall, Teresa wasn't certain which.
He was frighteningly matter of fact, or so it seemed in the beginning. Best way to keep himself separated from what he was talking about, "Wasn't the first time – he had left warnings around the house, that was why I got Tracy the gun, and they had twenty-four hour protection. But that last show… he must have planned it ahead of time, this was no spur of the moment working. Slipped in between the patrols, had to have staked out the house for days, hacked into the police database, because he knew the normal in-house officer was sick, and Tracy agreed that they didn't need one, if it was just going to be one night. No one asked my opinion about that, of course not!"
Jane's voice dropped down to a whisper from the near-shout of a moment ago, "He knew Tracy was pregnant. Bastard knew Tracy was pregnant, despite the fact that Tracy hadn't told anyone, hadn't even gone to the OB-GYN, except for stopping by her office after Kelly's yearly checkup, since I was afraid of him finding out. Kelly and I were the only ones that knew about the baby, and Kelly knew she wasn't supposed to tell anyone. She didn't tell anyone, my good girl, always listened to her Daddy when it was important things… just like Tracy that way." He half smiled, pained, and continued on, forcing the words through a tight throat, "I – I requested it be kept out of the reports, and any articles. She was five and a half months in…" he broke off, not noticing Abby reaching out to grab his hand, too wrapped in the memories.
"As soon as I saw the note, I knew. Didn't even need to see the smilie. Just the note…" Jane gave a choking sob, and free hand fisting, slamming down onto the table top, silverware and plates rattling. The sound seemed to jolt Jane back into himself for the merest of moments, the blank look gone from his eyes to go razor sharp in pain. He buried his head in the crook of his elbow, shoulders shaking once, twice, before turning his haunted gaze to Gibbs'.
"He – he killed Kelly first, that much was clear, her face was too peaceful to have heard anything of a struggle," he laughed darkly, "we always did tease that she slept like – like the dead. He… tormented Tracy… oh God, he practically tortured her." Tears rose in both women's eyes, and Gibbs pulled a chair around to use his body to block Jane from sight, of the rest of the restaurant, Abby seated in his lap, her hand still clenched in Jane's as the mentalist tightened his grip painfully. The three were ready to tell him to stop – but there was no way to stop him, now he had to let it all out, the anguish and horror that had formed to a weeping, oozing hole in his mind.
The words came out slow now, like they were the last words Jane would ever speak, "We – we were going to name him Isaac… after Tracy's father… Isaac Owen… after both our fathers… like Kelly was Kelly Rose, my mother and Tracy's. So they could know their grandparents even though all were dead… Never – never expected them to meet their namesakes so soon," the laugh was harsh, dark and pained, words faster now, as the pain got to be too much, practically running words together in his haste to get them out, "when I got there, Isaac was sprawled on Tracy's belly – I had just felt him kick for the first time the day before, through that belly, and there he was lying on it. Son of a bitch sliced open my wife to make sure there was no way our son would survive." Jane breathed deeply; face red from screaming, all façade of a gentile, kind and bumbling mentalist gone in the face of his torment. Teresa thought he might be done. Gibbs' hand on her arm had her questioning his intent – didn't he see Patrick needed comfort?!
"The – " Jane spoke again, not much quieter, a hysterical note taking his voice, "the kicker is, Tracy had a gun under her pillow. I gave it to her after the first attack, just in case – and it was right there, but she never used it. I – I'll never know why. She could've shot the bastard, and they might still all be alive!" He choked, finally succumbing to the tears that had been streaming silently down his face. Abby leaned forward before Teresa could even think, pulling the man to her. Jane was settled in her lap as she sat on the floor; she rocked the larger man as if he was a child, just letting him sob into her shoulder. Gibbs stayed in his seat, a watchful guardian, hand running through Abby's hair to rest, firm, on Jane's shoulder.
A hand on Teresa's shoulder made her whirl, hand on the butt of her gun. Van Pelt jumped back. Teresa chided herself for her jumpiness, forgetting that she had a very good reason to be jumpy. Gibbs hadn't moved, that should've tipped her off that nothing was wrong. Teresa took a moment to glance around the rest of the… empty? restaurant. How had it emptied so fast? Van Pelt's tight smile, overlaid with the pain all were feeling in some form, said it all. Her junior agent needed a raise, or a commendation or something. To clear out an entire restaurant to allow a very valuable consultant and friend – wait, where had the friend part come from? – the space to have a mental breakdown was very sweet. Van Pelt didn't say anything, merely taking Jane's now empty seat for herself, just being there.
It was all they could do, be there.