This is the start of my second NCIS story ever. The first is still in progress, so this is going up as a...preview, I guess, until number one is done. :-)
Anyway! Here it is, let me know what you think. :-)
The sun wasn't high enough in the morning sky to reflect off the glass face of the building as Gibbs tilted his head back to squint upwards.
He heard Tony's impressed whistle but ignored it. DC-area apartments were overpriced as it was. A place like this – all glass and architecture and delicate-looking angles – had to cost more than Gibbs' mortgage payments.
Adding to the sheer appearance of it was a doorman in the front of the building, wearing a cap and jacket, for Christ's sake. A parking garage around the side of the building would probably be full of BMWs and Mercedes.
The place smelled like money, of course Tony was impressed.
Gibbs, though. His mind was on the little information he'd gotten on the initial call.
When he showed up somewhere to investigate a dead Marine, he didn't expect to show up at a spread like this. Already his instincts were flaring, telling him to pay attention. This early in the morning, a building like this...
Nothing easy waited for him inside.
He dragged his eyes down the face of the building, sighing to himself. "David and McGee?"
Tony was right on his heels as he started for the front door. "Ziva's meeting us here. I told her to pick up coffee."
Gibbs waited about two seconds. "And?"
"And." Tony grinned, walking fast to keep up with Gibbs' strides. "Donuts?"
Gibbs looked sideways at him. "McGee," he said, though thanks to Tony's obfuscating he already knew what the answer was.
Tony hesitated, pulling his phone from his pocket. "I'm just gonna try him again. You know it's early, boss. Not work hours yet. Poor kid was probably up half the night raiding castles or dungeoning dragons. Or...dragoning dungeons? I really have no idea how that works."
Gibbs frowned to himself and passed the doorman without a word, leaving Tony to flash his badge at the guy. For a moment he almost pitied McGee – he was in for a long, hard day. There were rules Gibbs was flexible about and rules he wasn't. Out-of-contact was one of the inflexible no-nos. Working hours or not, the least an NCIS agent had to be was available.
He forgot about McGee when he spotted a man approaching across the high-ceilinged entryway into the building. Some apartments opened on a narrow hall, a row of anonymous metal mailboxes. Not this place – this place had a whole damned lobby, complete with anxious-looking guy in a suit and tie behind a concierge-type desk.
The guy approaching Gibbs wore slacks and an anonymous blue button-up shirt, but he had cop written on him even without the badge shining on his hip.
Young guy, couldn't have been long out of a patrol uniform. And he had a big grin on his face, like something about a dead Marine was funny.
He stuck his hand out before he was within reach of Gibbs. "You must be NCIS. Detective Jack Person. I called in to the Navy Yard."
"Detective Person." Gibbs didn't need long to read people: he did not like this guy.
"Detective Person?" Tony, catching up, reached out and shook the guy's still-outstretched hand. "Special Agent DiNozzo, this is Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. Must be a fun name to be stuck with."
Person's eyes went to Tony instantly, drawn to that amiable thing Tony did that Gibbs never bothered with. He shook Tony's hand. "I got used to the jokes before I turned ten, Agent DiNozzo."
Tony peeled off his latest pair of overpriced sunglasses and grinned at the officer. "I can't even imagine what sort of 'person' jokes a ten year old would-"
Gibbs turned to him. "You done?"
Tony's mouth clamped shut fast. His eyes were still grinning as he nodded. "All done, boss."
Gibbs turned back to Person. "Where's our Marine?"
"Seventh floor. I'll take you up."
The elevators were mirror-lined with cushioned bars on the walls about waist high. Dim lighting in recessed yellow strips along the walls. No music playing, which was the one quality about the thing that Gibbs actually approved of, besides it moving up and down and therefore serving its actual function.
He didn't understand money. He really didn't.
"You want to fill us in?" he asked the detective fidgeting in the elevator beside him.
"Call came in about three hours ago," Person started.
Gibbs turned on him instantly. "Three hours ago you found a murder scene with a dead Marine, and I just got a call twenty minutes ago?"
"We got to the scene a little late." Person was barely muffling his smirk. "We called you as soon as we knew what we had on our hands. Trust me, Agent Gibbs, nobody's going to fight you for jurisdiction on this one."
Damn it. If Gibbs hated one thing, it was a clown. Tony pushed his buttons enough as it was, but Tony knew when to stop with the leading statements and innuendos and just give a report. This guy Person was talking like he was leading up to something good but wanted to be begged for details.
Which, really, just made Gibbs' hand twitch to make a fist. "Who called it in?"
Person's eyes widened, some overwrought attempt at innocence. "Your Marine's...hell, what do I even call him? 'Partner' would be the word if this was Will and Grace."
Gibbs regarded him, feeling his expression cooling fast. "Excuse me?"
Person's grin wavered. "You know, that show? Will and Grace?"
"Yeah, don't bother." Tony clapped Person on the shoulder, but he wasn't smiling anymore and the clap seemed a little too forceful. "Skip the pop culture references and answer the question, huh?"
"Fine," Person said, twisting his shoulder out of Tony's grasp and looking like he was starting to realize that NCIS was not his target audience. "The dead guy's boyfriend called it in."
Gibbs' mouth thinned.
"I know, surprised the hell out of us, too. You expect that kind of thing with the Navy, maybe Air Force. But Marines? Aren't they supposed to be the real men?"
Gibbs cleared his throat.
"Is this homicide, detective? Accident? Too soon to tell?" Tony spoke fast and a little too loud. His eyes were on Gibbs, wide.
Gibbs must have been too close to making that fist. He didn't relax, though – he had no reason to want to make nice with this prick detective.
"Oh yeah, homicide no doubt. This guy died hard." Person smirked all over again. "Maybe some gang-bang gone bad."
"Why don't you just skip the editorial comments and stick to the facts?" Tony's eyes flickered from the cop to Gibbs, nervous.
Gibbs didn't take his eyes off Person long enough to pick up on why he was nervous.
The cop smirked at Tony, but then his gaze wandered to Gibbs. For some reason he seemed to realize why Tony was urging him on and not sharing in the joke.
Gibbs couldn't imagine why - he was just standing there. Looking at the guy.
"Okay, right. According to your Marine's little boyfriend," here Person's smirk curled into a grimace, "they went to bed safe and sound the night before. Didn't hear anything, didn't see anything. Woke up this morning to an empty bed, found loverboy in the living room."
The elevator doors opened. Person all but jumped out when Gibbs took a step towards him.
Tony hurriedly put himself between the two of them, shooting Gibbs a look that might have been a warning if Gibbs wasn't Gibbs and Tony was in any position to give warning looks.
There were uniformed officers milling outside a door at the end of the corridor. Gibbs made his way to that door without a pause.
Person followed, speaking fast when he realized his unimpressed audience was leaving him behind. "You ask me, the boyfriend's full of shit."
"Didn't ask you," Gibbs muttered to himself, nodding at the cops outside the door before moving inside.
The apartment opened into a small white-tiled foyer. That close to the door Gibbs could already see spots and streaks of red over the tile and the thick carpet beyond.
An open-aired kitchen to the right, to the left a rounded staircase leading up to what looked like a small loft area. Hell, the place probably had as much square footage as Gibbs' house. What happened to apartments that were nothing but big boxes with a bathroom?
There was a dining room beyond the kitchen that obviously wasn't used for dining - a solid-looking desktop computer was set up on the table, with a web of cords and plug-in devices arranged around it. Intricate-looking setup, though Gibbs didn't know what the hell any of it was.
Past that was the living room. More deep white carpeting, arched ceilings, but the couch and chairs in the living room were slightly worn, comfortable-looking. There was a flatscreen on the wall – undisturbed, Gibbs noted, like most of the room. This wasn't a robbery.
It was a murder.
Their Marine was towards the back, half-hiked up against a glass door that led out to a wide balcony. There was red smeared down the glass behind the body, red pooled on the carpet. Red flung over the walls, even dotting the ceiling in a couple of places that Gibbs could see.
"See what I mean? No way his nancy girlfriend slept through something like this. You want a suspect, he's your number one."
Gibbs looked back at the cop. "I give you some indication I need you to do my job for me?"
Person hesitated. "No. Uh, no sir."
Gibbs moved into the room, dismissing the asshole LEO to take in the crime scene. He was careful where he walked – the spatter wasn't tagged yet, and he didn't envy his team the job.
The victim was a black male. Mid-thirties at most, head shaved so close he could've been fresh from boot camp. But he was no recent recruit. Dressed only in boxers and blood, the markings of at least two Corps tats showed on the dark brown skin of his chest and arm.
The unnatural bend of his head showed the deep slit carved across his throat. Under the blood Gibbs could spot at least three other jagged gashes sliced into his chest.
This guy really did die hard. A Marine, young, in good shape. Strong. It would have taken a hell of a lot to bring him down.
Gibbs crouched as close to the body as he could get without stepping in evidence. He noted telltale white lines of scar tissue up and down the Marine's leg, bad around his knee. More scar tissue over his chest, familiar round patterns marred by surgery cuts.
This guy had seen some serious action.
Gibbs straightened and looked around, wondering...
Then he spotted it, on the wall near the plasma TV.
Tony faced Person as Gibbs moved past them. "Got a name for us?"
"Nathan Bryar, according to his little girlfriend. The building manager's coming in to confirm - he should be here any minute."
"Where's the witness?" Gibbs asked, his eyes not moving from the frame he had spotted on the wall.
"Crying her little eyes out in the bedroom. Don't worry, my guys are keeping an eye on him."
And then Person made a critical error. He approached Gibbs to see what he was looking at.
"What you got, Agent Gibbs? Picture? No...what the hell is that? They framed a piece of paper? I thought fags were supposed to be all Martha Stewart and shit."
Gibbs just barely from the corner of his eye caught sight of Tony's head snapping over.
Too late, DiNozzo, was the last clear thought that filtered through his head before he found himself with two fists full of Detective Person's button-down shirt.
Person hit the wall with a satisfying oomph,and Gibbs was in his face before any of the uniformed cops hovering in the doorway even realized what was going on.
"What the fuck is your problem, Agent-"
"'They were on the last night of a long-term reconnaissance patrol when his squad came under a fierce enemy attack, instantly killing his point man and wounding five out of the eight Marines, including Lieutenant Bryar.'"
"What?" Person scowled at him.
Gibbs reached up and grabbed the back of his neck, jerking his face to stare at the frame on the wall. He kept reading, his voice steel. "'Painfully wounded and with complete disregard for his own safety, he moved to the front of his patrol, aiding the injured Marines and directing fire into the enemy. Under intense enemy fire, he personally carried two wounded Marines back to friendly lines.'"
Movement by the door nearly stole his focus, but as a couple of the uniformed officers came in to check things out, Tony's long, dark coat slipped between them and Gibbs, giving his boss space to work.
"Nothing to worry about, fellas. Just a quick lesson in manners."
Gibbs smiled, though it came out fierce. He pushed Person's face against the wall by the frame. "'Only after ensuring that the wounded Marines were being treated did he accept medical aid. Lieutenant Bryar then immediately returned to the landing zone, where he routinely exposed himself to enemy fire to ensure all members of his platoon were extracted.'"
Person had stopped struggling by then, glaring at Gibbs from against the wall.
"That piece of paper is called a citation, Person." Gibbs stepped back, only giving him enough space to straighten before he gripped Person's neck again and aimed him at the body of the dead Marine. "You're in the presence of a recipient of the Navy Cross."
He came in close, voice soft in Person's ear. "I don't care if this Marine was sleeping with a woman, a man, a farm animal or a piece of fruit. You will show him the respect he's earned or you will get the hell out of his home."
Person twisted out of his grasp. Red-faced, he looked from Gibbs to the framed citation, and then away from all of them.
Gibbs pointed towards the front door. "You're finished here. Our jurisdiction, our crime scene. Get the rest of your men and go. Now."
Person looked to the door, where at least four uniformed cops stood watching him get his ass reamed. He turned back at Gibbs, sucking in a breath as if he'd found some balls somewhere.
Gibbs looked at him. "You don't have permission to speak, Detective."
Person flushed darkly. His mouth opened, formed words.
Gibbs' voice dropped low. "Think I'm kidding?"
Person could only meet his eyes for a few seconds.
Gibbs didn't look away from his averted face. "Tony. The witness is back in the bedroom. Go dismiss the officers who are 'keeping their eyes on him'. Get a statement."
"On it, boss." But of course Tony didn't move.
Person's shoulders were hunched as he moved around Gibbs and brushed past Tony to get to the door.
Only when the door was cleared of officers did Tony look over his shoulder, meeting Gibbs eyes. He didn't grin, didn't give his boss the way-to-go look that might have otherwise accompanied Gibbs chewing out anyone who wasn't Tony.
He looked solemn, which was odd for Tony even at a crime scene. Maybe he picked up on Gibbs' mood.
Or maybe he realized the same things Gibbs did: Person said the call came in three hours ago, and Gibbs had been called as soon as they knew what was happening, which was half an hour ago at most. No detectives took two hours getting to a crime scene, and it sure didn't take an hour to notice that the body belonged to a Marine.
Which meant that when patrol officers showed up and found a dead man and his boyfriend, they took their fucking time making the call for detectives. And the detectives took their fucking time showing up.
Gibbs had never been a cop, but he knew full well how any law enforcement officer could bring their prejudices on the job with them. It was an ugly, flawed thing to see in people who were supposed to serve and protect.
Sighing to himself, trying to release some of his anger, Gibbs nodded Tony towards the bedroom and turned back to their dead Marine.
The man lying in his own blood in that apartment was the rare kind of man who enlisted to serve his country. More than that, he was the kind of man who stood strong when the bullets were flying, who earned the second highest honor a Marine could earn, who had scars and a knee that probably never worked right again.
A soldier who took on a life sentence of pain and disability to keep his men alive.
There was a small bookshelf against the side wall, and a dark box sitting closed on top of it. That would be the medal. The Navy Cross, maybe a Purple Heart.
Gibbs was called a cynical bastard way too often, but he knew there were heroes in the world. This guy was one of them. And some smirking shithead was going to sneer at him? Call him names and half-ass a murder investigation because he didn't approve of Bryar's bedmate?
Gibbs couldn't have given a shit if Bryar was gay. Hell, he didn't really much care that Person was homophobic. If Person had been making cracks about Bryar's race...hell, if he just generally kept on being a smirking asshole in Bryar's presence, Gibbs would have reacted the same.
Bryar deserved better. He earned better, damn it.
He looked up from his solemn contemplation of Bryar's body.
Tony stood in the doorway to the bedroom. He held his notebook clenched and forgotten in his fist. He was oddly pale.
"I...uh. I think I need you in here."
Gibbs straightened. "It's a witness statement, DiNozzo, not-"
"Gibbs. I really think you need to come in here."
Annoyance bubbled up in Gibbs, close to the surface after dealing with Person. But Tony was too serious, and there was a strange surprise in his eyes that made Gibbs hesitate to bark at him. He glanced back at Bryar, at the citation on the wall.
"What's the problem?" He approached even as he asked, moving past Tony's too-still form and into the bedroom.
A man sat on a large, messy bed, hunched and seemingly holding his breath, waiting.
First thing Gibbs noticed was the blood. It was drying to a cracked brown on the guy's hands, and there was a smeared, browning stain on the front of his t-shirt. Not enough, not the right patterns. Detective Person was, unsurprisingly, wrong. Whether he slept through it or not, this guy was definitely not in that front room when the blood was flying everywhere.
That was the first thing Gibbs noticed.
The second thing he noticed was that the stained t-shirt had the letters MIT across the front.
And then he noticed about a thousand other things, piling one on top of the other in double-time: the guy's familiar posture, the overly-complicated computer he'd seen out in the living room, a holstered gun laying in the open on a table by the large bed. A crowded bookcase under a large bay window that held thick, colorless textbooks that only someone who actually liked school would have kept.
Familiar posture, familiar shirt, familiar hair. Familiar guy.
Gibbs wasn't the sort of man who got stuck on things. He observed and then reacted, quick as instinct. But though his mouth opened to speak almost at once, the words lodged in his throat and he was damned well stuck.
Then he noticed a picture on that bookshelf, a Marine unit posing with grins on their faces and arms slung around each others' shoulders, like a million other units before them. He remembered Bryar, and he wasn't stuck anymore.
Green eyes rose, stopped halfway towards Gibbs, and then fell again helplessly. Drying blood cracked as McGee's hands clenched on his lap.
For a case that was complicated enough two minutes ago when it was just a gay Marine slaughtered in his overpriced living room, this was one added complication too many.