Don't own, don't make money.
Special thanks to StrangeVisitor for the inspiration and beta-reading!
A Chance Meeting in Washington
"So, Cowboy, who we're visiting?" Vin Tanner asked, adjusting a visitor's badge on his shirt.
"Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs," Chris answered. "He's an old friend - and one hell of an investigator."
"May I ask, Mr. Larabee, under what circumstances did you arrive at that conclusion?" Ezra inquired, hitting the elevator button.
The three of them had been attending a conference in DC, courtesy of Travis. The boredom of it had just reached the level in which Vin and Ezra often became dangerous to themselves and those around them; so, when they had a free morning, Larabee decided that taking his younger teammates with him to visit NCIS was safer than leaving them alone.
"Back when me and Buck were in the Navy," he explained, "we got on the wrong side of a murder investigation. Agent Gibbs managed to untangle the web faster than was physically possible."
Chris didn't add that the case and the behavior of his commanding officers had left such a bitter aftertaste that he'd decided to leave the SEALs. He had managed to retire honorably, with Gibbs's help, and went to Colorado to run the ranch Sarah, his fiancé at the time, had inherited. Three months later Buck's contract had been over, too, and he'd followed Chris into the Denver PD.
Larabee had been really impressed by Gibbs and though they hadn't actually stayed in touch after that mess, once he'd learned that Gibbs was now based in DC, Chris thought he'd visit.
The elevator doors opened on a standard looking office space Larabee spotted Gibbs right away, the agent hadn't changed all that much. Chris waited until Gibbs was free before calling out,
The man turned and smiled broadly. "Chris Larabee!"
"In the flesh, sir" Chris smiled in return, taking a couple of steps forward and shaking the offered hand.
"Looks like the ATF agrees with you."
"It does, most of the time." Larabee half-turned to introduce his men. "Two of my teammates, Ezra Standish and Vin Tanner." It was then he noticed the stunned look on Vin's face. "Hey, Vin, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I have," Vin answered tonelessly and moved past Agent Gibbs, his eyes firmly fixed on a longhaired brunette, talking animatedly with another one of NCIS agents.
"David?" he called.
The woman turned, her expression rapidly going from irritation to shock.
"You look mighty well, David," Vin drawled, "for a decomposed body."
She muttered something not in English and then added, "You too, Tanner."
"You two know each other?" Larabee and Gibbs asked in chorus.
"No, we don't," they, too, spoke simultaneously, and Vin then elaborated, "We have never met," and the woman finished "In a place that never existed."
They stood there, staring at each other, and the tension was palpable. Chris knew that most of Vin's Army file was sealed for a reason. And that quiet shy Texan was probably the most dangerous and the most lethal man on his team. And the woman might be his even match, if Chris had guessed correctly and she was that Mossad liaison working with Gibbs. And just about anything could have happened between them on that ghost mission, they could be long-lost lovers – or mortal enemies.
"Is there a problem?" Chris heard himself asking.
"No," Vin smiled, instantly turning from a cold-blooded killer to that cute kid that all women in the ATF building fawned over. He outstretched his hand: "Nice to see you, Officer David."
She took the hand and answered: "Pleasure to meet you, Agent Tanner."
They shook and when she smiled, Chris noted that she was very pretty. He didn't fail to notice the way they were lingering to end the handshake and when they finally let go, they immediately changed their postures slightly to move closer, almost in each other's personal space. They looked rather comfortable that way. It seemed that 'mortal enemies' was not the answer to his earlier unasked question.
"Well, well." Ezra whispered from behind Chris. "It seems we might not see Mr. Tanner in the hotel tonight."
Chris chuckled; he had to agree with Ezra's prediction.
The introductions were finished and light chatter followed, as though there hadn't been any interplay between Tanner and David. The visit was cut short when the NCIS team was called upon for a new case and ATF Agents had to get back to the conference. They agree to meet back up on Friday, in the teams favorite local bar, if circumstances permitted.
The threesome made it to the conference in time for the afternoon session. At the last coffee break of the day Chris snatched a moment to talk to Vin.
"Anything I should know, Cowboy?"
Vin shrugged. "If he's got David on his team, your Gibbs must be one hell of a leader."
Chris was curious about who this Mossad officer really was to Vin, but restrained himself.
Ezra was right – Vin hadn't made it to the hotel that night. Or the next one. He had of course arrived in time for the lectures, though maybe a little absent-minded.
"Mr. Tanner is extremely lucky Mr. Wilmington isn't here," Ezra observed.
Chris had to agree. Buck wouldn't back off until he knew every last detail of Vin's nocturnal activities.
The conference ended on Friday afternoon, and the Denver Agents quietly vanished from the official banquet, preferring less luxurious, but much warmer party with NCIS crew in a cozy bar. Once there they were introduced to the two remaining members of Gibbs's team – Dr. Mallard, the M.E., and Abby, the team's laboratory analysis genius. Abby proved that it was possible to be more enthusiastic than JD, and it seemed the Scottish doctor had as much parables on hand as Josiah.
The conversation was flowing freely between the two teams. McGee, the youngest of Gibb's agents, must have done his homework, because he and Abby bombarded the Denver team with questions about their most legendary case – the one that had earned them the nickname of Magnificent Seven. Soon as the nickname was mentioned, Tanner and Agent Dinozzo began quoting the western, trying to stump the other
The improvised contest seemed to improve Tony's opinion of Vin somehow, because, when they had run out of quotes, the told Ziva, "The guy knows classics, David, you can date him."
The statement or, more likely, the patronizing tone of it, earned Tony a smack on the shoulder from Ziva and a paper ball from Vin, which landed precisely between his eyes.
"Wow!" Abby cried in delight. "Impressive shot."
"Mr. Tanner usually doesn't miss, my dear lady," Ezra agreed. "Whatever the weapon."
Tony tried to bring up Vin and Ziva's relationship a couple of times, but Ezra, with a little help from Abby and Dr. Mallard, changed the subject as smoothly as ever. Of course, come Monday, Officer David would get her share of teasing and questions from her team about her relationship with certain blue-eyed Texan, Chris was sure of that, but right now the Texan and the Israeli spent most of the time looking at each other, taking 'the silent communication' to a whole new level. Though they did throw in a sharp remark to the general conversation when it was required.
The both team leaders observed quietly and exchanged amused glances from time to time, mouthing 'kids'. Chris actually felt more relaxed and content than he thought he could that far from home, with half of his men absent. It was obvious that Gibb's team had a bond not unlike the one that united Team seven. It would be a pleasure to work with them, if the opportunity ever presented itself.
Moments after boarding the airplane, Standish was fast asleep, giving Chris a chance to speak with Vin in the semi privacy of the airplane. Chris studied the distant look on Vin's face for a moment, before broaching the subject that had been on his mind all week
"Contemplating the geography, pard? Washington isn't that far, you know."
"Nah, it's not that."
"Then what is it?"
Vin shrugged. "Ziva is not the kind of woman you build a relationship with, if that's what you're asking. We're too much alike in some ways and too much different in others to spend together more than couple of days together. I'm just damn glad she wasn't blown up into tiny pieces back then. And it's good to know that she has a boss who gives a damn about her, not just about the mission. It's a luxury in our line of work, you know."
Apparently, Vin's experience with the brass in whatever special unit he had served wasn't that far different from Ezra's experience in the FBI – or his own in the Navy, for that matter. Well, speaking about the brass…
"Guess I owe Travis an apology."
"This trip wasn't half as disastrous as I expected it to be."
Vin laughed. "Yeah, that's true. If you speak with him, add my thanks."
Vin closed his eyes and threw back his chair; Chris shifted his gaze to the window. The trip really was a good one. The knowledge that Vin had now one less demon to haunt him had eased Chris's own load somehow and it was well worth the trouble of flying across the country to endure the endless lectures and reports.
Below, the outline of Washington slowly vanished, and Chris, too, closed his eyes. Buck had promised them a 'welcoming committee', and so it was a good idea to follow Vin and Ezra's example and sleep while he could.