AN: Be warned, one F word. And is what Tim does a little out of character? I debated whether to put it in or not, then thought W.T.H…like you do….
Brothers Up In Arms
There was nobody in sight, although a Jaguar XF stood outside, and the front door to Woodward's unit stood wide open. Lights blazed from the interior as Packer brought his SUV roughly to a halt on the other side of the service road. He sat for a moment, debating between the assault rifle, which looked meaner, and the hand gun, which had more ammunition. The part of him that liked to frighten and hurt told him to take the rifle, and he badly wanted to frighten or hurt somebody tonight, so he stuck the Beretta down the back of his belt and hefted the big gun.
He covered the short distance to the fringe of the lighted area quickly, then ducked inside the building.
Inside, Pavel's cellphone vibrated against his hip. "Pav? I hid in the truck, like you said. That nice Russian lady nicked our car… and Packer's heading into the building with something that looks like a bloody Kalashnikov."
"Shit!" Pavel hissed. "One more damn thing to think about. Thanks for the heads-up, Ben… if you can do it without being seen, bring the truck round to the side door on the right, but don't come in. We're well hidden. We'll come to you."
Dietrich looked sick. "DiNozzo's in no fit state to take on Packer with a Kalashnikov…"
Pavel shook his head. "Well, new boss… he told us to stay here and guard the lady… He wouldn't thank us for getting her killed."
"He just saved my life!"
"I know. Now we have to do as he asked. You said it… we've got to take down the Woodward organisation, which means staying alive. Let's just wait and see." Dietrich groaned. What had he - willingly, mind - let himself in for?
Packer entered the office area cautiously; but there was still no-one in sight… no-one alive, that was. A very dead man was slumped over a desk full of recording equipment. The desk was beside a window into another room; it was lit up, and Packer glanced in. He froze momentarily with a gasp, too stunned to resort to his usual oaths. That was Woodward on the floor with the knife in his throat…what the hell had happened here?
Outside, the door guard emerged from the shadows at the back of the building, zipping up his pants, a grin of relief on his face. If he'd heard the sounds of the two close together gunshots he might have been more wary, but the sound of jet engines constantly screaming overhead was enough to make hearing anything else difficult; even if he'd been the sort to take his job seriously. He was about to resume his position, when a click behind him wiped the smile from his face and made him freeze.
"That's sensible," a voice said quietly. He felt the muzzle of a gun against the back of his neck, and another figure emerged from the shadows to pat him down. A moment later he was shoved into the XF and cuffed to the steering wheel. "If you think sounding the horn is worth me coming back and shooting you, go ahead and do it," the mean looking guy with the bad haircut told him sweetly. "McGee, wait up!"
The younger agent, moving purposefully towards the door, didn't think you could sound the horn on an XF without the ignition on, and he thought maybe you needed a key card for that, but he wasn't sure, and anyway, tell the Boss? Perhaps not. Find Mari. And Tony.
Packer looked round in deepening unease; there was no-one here he could threaten into giving him money, but there was clearly an efficient killer somewhere in the building. His eyes fell on a denim clad leg sticking out from a computer cubicle – shit – another body…he approached with caution… and couldn't believe his eyes.
DiNozzo… losing blood by the bucket load – but still alive. His Sig lay on the ground, dropped from nerveless fingers. "Well ain't that too bad, Fed," Packer said with growing pleasure, and was even more gratified when the Italian raised his head and looked at him. The unafraid, unamused gaze grated on the ex-cop and took the smile off his face. "Don't know what you're glarin' at, Fed… I'm the one with the gun."
Tony never could resist. "Fucking lousy shot, though."
Packer's eyes widened. "I won't miss this time –" he began to raise the rifle.
"You won't shoot," a voice said, the hardest and flattest with authority that Tony had ever heard it. "Freeze."
Packer froze, and turned his head slowly. Oh yeah, the young one. The Romeo. He laughed. "You freeze. Or I'll kill him."
"It doesn't work like that." Tony shivered. He remembered where he'd heard that voice say those words before. "Understand this – you're only alive as long as you don't pull that trigger. The moment you do, you die."
"You won't kill me where you're aiming at, sonny."
"Not right away," McGee said in that matter-of-fact, deadly voice. "Which d'you prefer – life, or revenge and your 'nads shot off?" Tony grinned broadly. "Drop your weapon," he heard McGee finish, and saw Packer begin to comply… but as he did so, he turned slightly sideways, as if to put the rifle on the nearest desk. As his back turned to Tony, the SFA saw his right hand, masked from Tim's view, reach round behind him for the Beretta.
When you must, you can. He had no chance of reaching, let alone using his blood-slippery gun. He sucked air in and yelled. "Back-up! Between his cheeks!" His damaged ribs clamped an iron band of pain round his torso, and his head fell forwards onto his knee again, so he didn't see the handgun swinging back towards him, and the roar of Tim's gun was just a noise in his darkening mind. McGee, looking beyond Packer at the slumped, defenceless man who was still looking out for his friends, put a bullet exactly where he'd said he would. Well, he thought, that was for Mari too…Packer raised his head in horror, and Gibbs shot him between the eyes.
The two agents looked round, taking in the other body, and Gibbs glanced through the lighted window. "Woodward. DiNozzo's knife in his throat."
McGee was already kneeling beside Tony. The big Italian tried to give him his usual grin, but his facial muscles didn't seem to respond to instruction too well, as the world drifted in and out of reality. Tim looked back round the partition. "Mari, Boss?" he pleaded, as he clamped a hand round the SFA's arm. Gibbs nodded, and began a careful search. Tim got himself round behind Tony to support him, still holding his arm tightly, and trying not to kneel in the red puddle beside him. He marvelled to himself… seemed like he wasn't above shooting a man where it hurt, but he drew the line at paddling in his friend's blood.
Tony shifted in his arms and whispered something, but it was inaudible. He put his ear down by the injured man's mouth, and Tony tried again. "Mari's safe."
Tim would have allowed himself the time to be sick with relief, but for the SFA, rapidly approaching hypovolaemic shock, slumped against him. He squeezed his shoulder and said "Thanks, Tony," although he didn't know if his friend heard him, and reached for his cell phone. "Abby? We need the airport police, and medics. No, nobody's dead. Everyone's safe. Tony's hurt – but he'll be fine if you - Abby, please," he said desperately, "Please, just do it! I'll call you back as soon as they get here. I promise."
As soon as he disconnected, the phone buzzed again. "Abbs –"
"Hello… is that Genevieve?"
"Dietrich! Where are you?"
"Making our escape… I'd have stayed around, but we're bad guys, remember? Did DiNozzo tell you… Dr. Weiss has only been given Ativan, she'll wake up none the worse shortly… I gave it to her so she couldn't be questioned. He told us to stick around long enough to protect her until his friends arrived, so we did. When we saw your boss heading this way we left. Did DiNozzo tell you he saved my life? McGee?"
"No…" Tim said slowly, "He didn't say that…"
"Shit, McGee, he's not –"
"No, he's alive…" the tone of his voice didn't encourage the CIA man much.
"Was it Packer?"
"Yeah. He's dead."
"Ah. The ambulance has just screamed past us; it'll be with you soon. Keep me posted when you get the chance. You're good guys."
As he disconnected a shadow fell across him, and he looked up. "Mari!" Gibbs had her arm over his shoulder, and his arm round her waist; she was unsteady on her feet but otherwise looked fine. "Mari…" Tim said again. He shook himself. Like an agent… "Liebchen, help me… please…"
Pulling her scarf purposefully from round her neck, she dropped to her knees beside him as if she'd never been away.
"You think of everything, milaya," Jonathan Grenville said, smiling over his champagne glass. They sat in comfort in the first class cabin of a Lufthansa 747, waiting to take off for Berlin.
"I had thought of inviting you to Berlin for a while," Akhmatova said. "You know I cannot get enough of you, my Englishman. But as it turned out, booking the extra ticket was prudent; we have to see if any of this debacle can be traced back to us, before we know when it will be safe to return to this country. No matter…" she clinked glasses with him, "We have other fish to fry."
"We do indeed, devochka moya. I'm disappointed in Woodward… but there are other ways of getting what we want…"
"I am glad to hear it," a light voice said behind him. "You may not be able to avail yourselves of them for some time, however." The young woman who appeared beside them carried a badge and a gun, and was accompanied by three airport police officers. "We also have fish to fry; a matter of kidnapping, intimidation, industrial theft and espionage, the illegal trafficking of military information; all of which, to be getting along with, you will be arrested for as soon as these officers have explained your rights to you."
Grenville's mouth opened and closed like a fish. Ahkmatova was made of sterner stuff. "You are NCIS," she hissed. "You are one of McGee's team… the ones that Woodward warned us of. We should have killed you all."
"Well, perhaps you should at least have heeded the warning," Ziva said, not in the least perturbed. "It is too late now, however… Do you not wish to finish your champagne? You may not get any more for a while. Officers, I must return to my team; the lady and gentleman are all yours." She didn't wish to gloat, in spite of all the pain these people had caused, but there was still a bounce in her step as she walked away.
Tim sat with his arm around Mari; still hardly able to believe all the things that had happened since the last time he had seen her, only yesterday. Thirty hours; it seemed like a lifetime ago. Medical staff came and went around them; Gibbs paced and Ziva sat still, her face a mask of calm. She had arrived later, reassuring Gibbs that his car was unhurt, her voice absolutely steady when she asked for news of Tony, but every time the door from the surgical wing opened, her head snapped round as fast as Gibbs' did.
Mari would lift her head from Tim's shoulder, then when no-one had news for them, she would sink down again with a sigh. After perhaps the tenth time, she finally spoke. "I should've trusted you, Tim. You and the team… I should have believed in you, instead of believing him. Tony wouldn't be in surgery now if I'd had faith…"
"You were trying to protect us," Tim murmured. "It's hard to think straight when you're afraid… and that's what they set out to do, you know… to make you so afraid you couldn't think rationally. It's a technique that usually works, unfortunately." He put both arms round her and hugged her close. "One of these days, I'll tell you what sort of a twit my fear for you has made of me this last day and a half… you'll see you're not alone."
"I'm so sorry…"
"Sssh, stop it." He actually chuckled slightly. "We brought down some very bad people today; and we might be able to help in the bringing down of a few more."
"I know… I won't forget in a hurry the look on your face when you were helping me to bind up Tony's arm with your scarf. I don't know what to say… it wasn't your fault… it's how we live, it's how we do our job."
She pulled out of his arms so she could look him in the eyes, and took his hands. "And that frightens me, so much, Tim. But… but if that's what I'm taking on, then I'll do it. I will not be intimidated any more." Her chin came up defiantly, in a way that made him want to grab her and kiss the daylights out of her, and her next words shook him through to his bones. "I will be the wife of a brave agent, and I will take whatever comes. There." She paused. "And if we weren't so worried about Tony, I believe I'd jump you."
Another campus apartment on Cornell's Manhattan campus; somewhat grander and more spacious than the one where Marianne had hidden, as befits a senior lecturer; but not overdone, since Warren Dietrich wasn't that bothered about such things. He sat, patiently waiting for the phone to ring; he'd insisted that Jack got whoever necessary out of bed to make decisions. He figured he owed that much to Pavel, he needed the answers quickly. The Russian was unsettled, he stood looking out at the river, and the lights of the city; in the distance, he'd see aircraft climbing into the sky, or the powerful landing lights as others headed towards the end of their journey at JFK.
"They don't know me;" he said moodily. "Do you really think that they'll act on your say so?"
"They'd be fools not to. You're owed something for your help today; and they know you'll be valuable in the future. They have a dossier on you –"
Pavel huffed. "I figured as much," he grumbled.
"Not a bad thing. Your inside knowledge – plus, you have a certain morality about you…"
"I know. It might not be everybody's but it's solid… Look, the employees don't care who runs the thing as long as they're paid… the international contacts – who already know us – don't care as long as they get what they want… the banks don't care as long as the money rolls in – totally amoral, and we can keep it going and going until we've identified, and taken out, a lot of very bad people. Until three years ago I was a bored research scientist – now –"
"We're Batman and Robin."
"Don't be so cynical –" the phone rang. Dietrich listened for a while, then disconnected. "They want to talk to you in person," he said. "But basically, Robin – we're on."
"I don't want to stay in here, Boss…" the voice was thready, tired, and doing petulant as only Tony knew how.
"It's the middle of the night, DiNozzo, where d'you think you'd go?"
"Ah… you got me."
"Listen… then shut up and go to sleep. The others all looked in on you before you came round, then I chased them all off back to Mari's to rest, they're exhausted."
"You're not, of course. And it's only five minutes since we were doing this…"
"I said, listen. I talked the Doctors into saying you could go in the morning."
"If you behave. Once they've replaced the lost blood. You're not fit to, although the actual surgery was minor, the blood loss was the problem… but we all decided you'd make our lives a misery if we left you here. McGee's coming to fetch you –"
"McGee? Did you order him to? He wouldn't want –"
"You rest up at Mari's for the rest of the day, then Abby drives you home in your car. That suit ya?"
Not Ziva… "Yeah… thanks, Boss!"
"So shut up and go to sleep."
"Shutting up, Boss…" Gibbs rubbed his SFA's shoulder gently, and left very quietly.
The morning found Tony on edge; sitting in the chair by his bed, dressed in sweats that Gibbs had produced from somewhere… McGee had volunteered, Gibbs said, but why, particularly? He wished he'd had time to talk to Abby, but thanks to his second dead cell phone in as many months, he hadn't had the chance. He remembered it was McGee who had held him last night, and Mari who'd bandaged his arm… He recalled the total disappearance of nice-boy Tim as he'd spoken to Packer, but he couldn't recall that his friend had spoken a word to him.
"Hey…" a tentative voice in the doorway said. Tony stood up, and promptly sat back down again. Tim looked at him and bit his lip. "I'm supposed not to let you do that," he said nervously. "I'm supposed to make you move slowly, and sit in a wheelchair to go out to the car."
"OK," Tony said obligingly, with a weary huff. "Don't think I could do much else, actually. D'you think I'll be able to avoid getting shot, or stabbed or whatever until…say… after Christmas?"
"Or punched?" Tim said quietly, as he pulled the hated chair into the room, and waited for reproach, or bitter sarcasm.
Tony laughed. "Taken you six years to actually do it, McGee… shows how patient you are. I know… you told me to stay out of it, and I just never can do as I'm told…"
Tim was profoundly glad he was standing above and behind Tony as his friend lowered himself down into the wheelchair, awkwardly, using one hand. McGee put his hand under his shoulder to help him, and his cheeks flamed. Abby hadn't told Tony why he'd thrown that punch. Wonderful girl - he'd have to fall on his metaphorical knees to thank her. Maybe he'd tell Tony the truth one day, but not today.
He swung the chair round to face the bed, and sat down on the edge of it, hunching himself down to eye-level with Tony. "D'you know how weird that makes me feel? If you had done as you were told, Mari could be a prisoner somewhere, forced to work against her will… or dead… And because you didn't do as you were told, you're in that wheelchair…"
The answer was soft, and floored him as completely as Mari's answer to his two month old proposal had last night. "Well, which d'you think I prefer, Tim?"
"One word of advice?" The green eyes in the pale face were mischievous. "Without you pushing me and my wheelchair down a flight of stairs?" Tim just nodded dumbly. "The job we do… puts constraints on us… we can't just do what we want – we have to handle things –"
"Like an agent," Tim finished.
"Yes. How… ah, Abby."
"That was why you really got her up here yesterday, to talk to me. Right?"
"She does it far better than me, don't you think?"
Sigh. "I'm sorry, Tony."
"So'm I. I could have put things a lot better."
"I could have listened."
"So, we'll both know better in future."
"Sure," Tim said ruefully. Tony stood up. "You're not supposed to do that!"
Tony threw his good arm round Tim's shoulder. "We good, then?"
"We're good." Tim returned the hug. "Now damn' well sit down!" He turned the chair towards the door and began to push.
As he steered the wheelchair down the corridor, a passing nurse heard the conversation that floated behind them.
"So, did you really shoot Packer in the…er… you know…"
"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…"
AN: So was it OOC? Thanks for sticking with me to the end!