On Your Six Boss

By

Gunnery Sergeant

Set in season 3, after "Frame Up", this vignette a slight AU based on the revelations about Gibbs' past made in "Hiatus", but that episode still has to happen.

Oh, in my mind this story is set in the same universe of "Asking Questions, Finding Answers", but this is a stand-alone story, so there is no need to read the other one.

It can be seen as friendship or pre-slash. You choose! :)

PROLOGUE

Camp Pendleton, California, 1991

"Pedro Hernandez, the drug dealer your wife saw kill a Marine. Much as I'd like to, I can't tell you where the bastard's hiding, Gunny."

"I didn't ask you to, Special Agent Franks."

---

"Don't push me, Gunny. I won't tell you where he hides."

"I thought you liked me, Franks."

"I do, son. I really do. That's why I can't allow you to kill him."

---

"Probie! Put that gun away! Stop torturing yourself."

"I can't, Mike. I can't bear it. To know that bastard is alive somewhere, free to enjoy the life my wife and my daughter will never have. Please, tell me where he is, let me do this..."

"No. I met your wife and little girl, you know? Lovely young ladies. So proud of you, Jethro. So proud to be the wife and the daughter of a man who fought for his country. Shannon was so set to do the right thing, to make sure Hernandez would be held to justice. I admired her and her determination, and because of that, I'll never, ever tell you where Hernandez is hiding. I won't allow you to become a murderer like he is. Shannon and Kelly would never forgive me if I did."

FIFTEEN YEARS LATER

Washington DC, 2006

Anthony DiNozzo Jr. , simply Tony for most, was uneasy. Something was wrong, but he couldn't pinpoint what it was—and that was driving him crazy.

The day had started well. Metro PD had busted a drug ring in Buzzard Point park, and when they had discovered one of the arrested was a Marine, they had promptly delivered him to the NCIS head quarters.

Gibbs had been surprised but appreciative of the Metro PD's willingness to get NCIS involved, although he then muttered the cops probably had decided they didn't want to face all the stonewalling and complications they would get if, as they suspected, the Marine smuggled drug inside Quantico.

Private First Class José Ramirez had been left alone to stew in the interrogation room for hours, until the moment the Boss had decided he was ready to talk—and boy, he had been right!

Ramirez had spilled his guts so easily and so quickly that Tony, who had been present at the interrogation along with Gibbs, had been glad the conversation was being recorded, because of the quickness with which the Marine had revealed the names of his suppliers and buyers.

It had been so easy, and after it had ended, Gibbs had told Tony to take Ramirez to the holding cells and then go home, for there was nothing more they could do until the records of interrogation were transcribed and they could check all the names.

"On it, Boss," Tony had answered, taking Ramirez by the elbow and leading him toward the elevator, but it was then the uneasiness had started to plague him.

There had been something off in Gibbs when he had given his orders, and in his announcement he was going home. The Boss never took it well when a Marine dishonored the uniform and the Corps, and Tony had half expected to be asked to spend the night in the office as they checked the list of names made by Ramirez, to decide which of those to pass to the Metro PD, the Quantico MP and those they had to deal with themselves. Instead Gibbs had seemed lost in thought, almost distant, uninterested in the fact Ramirez's accomplices in Quantico could learn of his arrest and cover their tracks.

This was why, two hours later, Tony still sat at his desk in the all but empty squad room. The paperwork connected to Ramirez' arrest had been filled out and filed long ago, and he was hungry and tired...yet he couldn't bring himself to go home, not without knowing what made him so uneasy.

Sighing, he switched on his computer screen and downloaded the visual recording of Ramirez's interrogation. He played them, concentrating his attention on Gibbs' profile as the camera had captured it, looking for clues about what could have caused his boss' strange mood, because Tony was pretty sure the older man had been his usual self before the interrogation.

And then, almost toward the end, Tony saw it: the widening eyes, the suddenly clenched fists, the tense back...and was it pallor?

He stopped the recording, went back and looked again at the footage, this time paying more attention to Ramirez's words.

"...Another of my suppliers is a Mexican, Pedro Hernandez. He's a guy you don't want to mess with. Rumors say he has killed a lot of people, including a Marine in California, when he worked near Camp Pendleton. Then there is-"

Tony watched the recording another time, then closed it, as he nodded to himself.

There was no doubt: Gibbs had reacted upon hearing Pedro Hernandez's name, so it was logical to assume he knew that guy. But how? Tony knew just a little about Gibbs' past, but he seemed to remember his boss had been stationed in Camp Pendleton when he was still a Marine. Maybe he knew the guy Hernandez had killed there...

Tony opened the NCIS case database, typed "Pedro Hernandez, Camp Pendleton" in the search box, and pushed "enter".

Two old NIS case files appeared, their consecutive numbers showing they were somehow connected.

He opened the first and quickly scanned the report. It was about a murder that happened in January 1991. Marine Corporal John Harris had been shot in Oceanside and a witness had identified the killer as Pedro Hernandez.

Tony looked for the witness' name and his mouth opened in surprise when he read "Shannon Gibbs, nee Fielding."

Is she ex-wife number 1? He wondered with a smile as he opened the second file, but all of his amusement disappeared when he saw it concerned a triple murder case. The victims had been Jack Davis, an NIS agent, and two civilians, Shannon and Kelly Gibbs.

With a shaking hand, Tony scrolled down the file, reading the report of how Agent Davis, who had been assigned to protect Mrs. Gibbs after her decision to testify against Pedro Hernandez, had been killed by a sniper shot while he was driving the woman's car. He had died at once, while Shannon and her daughter Kelly had been killed in the resulting car crash.

Tony kept scrolling down the file, fighting his nausea as he found the photos of the victims. Shannon had been 31, a beautiful red head with bright green eyes. Eight-year-old Kelly had been her copy, but for her slightly darker hair and her eyes, which were blue.

Tony angrily brushed away the tears that had gathered in his eyes, as he kept reading until he found the name of Shannon's husband and Kelly's father, Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Not that reading it written black on white had been necessary, Kelly had had her father's eyes. Nor had he really needed to finish Agent Franks' report to know Pedro Hernandez was the killer or that he had fled to Mexico before NIS could arrest him.

Tony switched off the computer and leaned back in his chair, his mind working frantically to process what he had learned.

Gibbs had been married four times, not three and he hadn't lost that wife to divorce. She had been killed along their little girl. Now so many things made so much more sense; Gibbs relentlessness on the job, his need to catch the dirt bags before they could hurt someone else; his kindness toward children, especially little girls; his fury toward Captain Watson, the man who had organized the kidnapping of his blind daughter and wife to steal money from the Pentagon.

What had Gibbs hissed to Watson when he had slammed the captain against the wall? Oh yes, he had said: "Don't you dare tell me that there's a reason for you throwing away what you had." Tony nodded sadly, understanding how meaningful those words had been for Gibbs.

And, of course, all his boss' failed marriages made a hell of more sense now. Tony didn't need a degree in psychology to understand the three red-haired ex-Mrs. Gibbs had been attempts to replace Shannon, but they had been found sadly lacking...

"Oh Boss," he murmured, thinking of the man who was so much more than his superior or his mentor. He was a friend, and Tony felt much closer to him than he was to his own father.

Sighing, he stood up and stretched. Perhaps he should go to visit Gibbs— with pizza, beer and an offer to help with the boat – and make sure the older man didn't exaggerate with the bourbon. Yes, he would do that.

Tony picked up his backpack and took the elevator to the garage, musing if he should or not let Gibbs know what he had discovered about Hernandez. He had just opened the door of his green Mustang and was about to climb in when he saw a familiar dark sedan drive by. Gibbs' car—and there had been someone in the passenger seat.

Tony's felt his blood chill in his veins as realization hit him as a ton of bricks.

It had been Ramirez.

That was why Gibbs had sent everybody home.

Plausible deniability.

Gibbs had taken Ramirez because he wanted the Marine to lead him to Pedro Hernandez. And then...then...

Gibbs would kill him—and avenge his wife and daughter as much as he had avenged Kate by killing Ari. But killing Ari had been self-defense while this...

This would be murder.

Tony sat in his car, slammed the door closed and started the engine. Driving like a madman – or as Gibbs would usually– he left the Navy Yard and dived into the Washington DC traffic.

But where had Gibbs and Ramirez gone?

Tony didn't waste time in trying to guess. He speed dialed McGee's number and when the younger agent picked up the phone Tony spoke before Tim could utter a word.

"McGee, I need you to track Gibbs' cell phone. Now!" he ordered, hoping the boss had his phone with him.

"Tony, why-"

"Don't argue! Just do it and fast!"

"All right," McGee replied, and Tony could hear him type on the keyboard. "He must be in a car, because he's moving. He's on Maine Avenue going SW."

"Okay. Keep on following him; I'm on M Street moving SE."

"What's going on, Tony?"

"It's a long story, Probie, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tell you, but it's really important. The Boss' life is at stake."

"Then we should all get involved. I'll call Ziva and-"

"No. You can't do anything; you're too far away. The only way you can help me is to track Gibbs. Where he is now?"

"He's crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge."

Tony concentrated on his driving as McGee gave him directions. The fact it was late in the evening and the streets almost free of traffic was both a blessing and a curse, because if they were free for him, they were for Gibbs too.

"Tony! Gibbs has stopped moving. He's on North Black Oak Street*, in Arlington."

"Thank you, Tim!" Tony replied, steering the wheel on the right and taking the turn faster than it was advisable. Gibbs was still a few blocks away, and he had to reach him before he did something irreparable.

Finally Tony reached his destination and pulled up the Mustang. He was out of the car even before it was completely still and looked around. He heard voices coming from a darkened alley and ran into it. He slid to a halt when he reached the end of the narrow street and saw the scene in front of him.

Gibbs was standing tall in the middle of a small yard, his gun arm stretched as he pointed his Sig toward a man with Hispanic features. He was older, balder and fatter than he had been in the NIS photos, but Tony recognized him at once. It was Pedro Hernandez, and near him, cuffed and trembling, stood Ramirez.

"Do you remember them Hernandez?" Gibbs was saying, "They were my whole life...and you killed them."

Tony was taken aback by the raw pain in his boss' tone. He seldom showed his emotions – well, except anger or irritation – but the younger man had always known Gibbs' emotions ran very deep.

Gibbs shifted his grip on the Sig and Tony didn't hesitate: he jumped in front of the gun, and put himself between his boss and Hernandez.

If Gibbs was surprised to see Tony there, he didn't show it. He just said coldly, "Move aside, DiNozzo."

"No, Boss. I won't."

"This bastard killed my wife and daughter," the older man growled, looking at Tony, and then tilting his head toward Hernandez.

"I know, Gibbs. I just read the NIS case report."

"Then you know why I've got to kill him."

"No, I don't. I know why you want to kill him—and I know why I can't let you do it."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "What the hell do you mean?" he snarled.

"Your girls," Tony said gently, yet firmly, eyes locked with his boss' pain filled ones. "Shannon and Kelly. They died because Shannon believed in justice. She believed in it so much she didn't hesitate to put herself in danger to do what was right. Do you really think she would want you to become as much as a murderer as Hernandez is?"

"Don't give me bullshit, DiNozzo. My girls wanted peace, the same peace I want, after fifteen years spent knowing he was alive while Shannon and Kelly were dead. I need closure, Tony. I need to know this bastard won't condemn anyone else to the same hell he sentenced me to." Gibbs moved on the side, to have a clear view of his target, but Tony imitated him.

"And do you think you're gonna have peace when you're sentenced to life prison—or worse? We're in Virginia, Gibbs, there's the death penalty here."

The older man didn't answer, his eyes still filled with deadly determination. So Tony tried another approach. "You're thinking only of yourself in this, aren't you?"

Gibbs frowned at him, perplexed. "Yeah, I'm alone...I've no one else."

"You're wrong. What about Abby? Doesn't she count? She adores you. You're her hero, her protector, her knight in shining armor. How do you think she would feel if you were arrested? And what about Ducky? You've been friends for years. What about Probie or me or even Ziva? Have you stopped to think what your arrest would do to us? You say you're alone, but you aren't. You're our boss, our model, our friend...We all love and rely on you..." He swallowed hard and spread his arms, palms up. "Boss, please, we've just lost Kate...don't make us lose you too..."

Tony fell silent and watched, holding his breath, as Gibbs struggled with himself. He let out a relieved sigh when, slowly but surely, the older man lowered his gun.

"Cuff him," Gibbs said roughly. "Cuff him and promise me he won't walk away again."

Tony nodded, "I promise, Boss." He watched as the older man walked toward his car and collapsed to sit on its hood, apparently exhausted. Then he turned his attention to Hernandez and quickly cuffed him.

"That man is mad, completely loco. He should be kept chained as a rabid dog," the drug dealer hissed, looking warily at Gibbs.

"Shut up, scumbag, and pray you're sentenced to life in prison, 'cause if you find a way to walk away, I'll help him to put a bullet between your eyes." Tony grabbed Hernandez by an arm and dug his fingers in his flesh—hard. "And Pedro, Jose, if I was you guys, I wouldn't mention what happened here tonight, because, if you do, I'll spread the word you're child molesters, and you know what happens in prisons to those who abuse children..." He completed the line with a malicious smile, enjoying the look of fear that crossed both men's faces.

He grabbed both prisoners by the elbow and led them to Gibbs' sedan, making them sit in the back seat. Then he slammed the door shut and circled the car, sitting on the hood beside the older man.

"The dirtbags are in the car, Boss," he said with his best sit-rep tone. "Your plan to have Ramirez lead us to Hernandez worked well."

Gibbs tilted his head to look at Tony with a smirk. "That what happened?"

Tony shrugged, "It's what I'll write on my arrest report."

"Those two might not agree."

It was Tony's turn to smirk, "I took care of that."

The older man arched an eyebrow, but didn't ask for more details.

"Come on, Boss, time to leave this place. It's late and I'm hungry." Tony stood up but before he could begin to walk toward his car, Gibbs' hand wrapped around his wrist, stopping him. He turned to look at the older man with an interrogative expression.

Gibbs let him go, lowered his eyes for a moment, and then raised them to look straight at Tony. "I'm not good with words, but...Thank you, DiNozzo."

Tony shook his head. "There is no need for that. This is what you would do for any of us."

Gibbs muttered, "Yeah." He rose to his feet and reached out with his hand. "Nevertheless thank you, Anthony. Thank you for stopping me."

Tony swallowed hard and took the offered hand, as he and Gibbs told to each other all the things they would never be comfortable enough to say aloud.

Then the older man nodded sharply and freeing his hand said, "All right, DiNozzo, time to go. We've a job to do."

Tony grinned broadly, showing all his teeth and replied, "On your six, Boss!"

This evening. Tomorrow. Always.

The End

* There is no North Black Oak Street in Arlington, it's just a fictional name.

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The idea for this story popped up after watching "Mother's Day" and after reading all the speculations about the season 7 finale, which a lot of us fear may concern what Gibbs did to his wife and daughter's killer.

I began wondering about what a great episode – full of angst and drama and team interaction – could have been if Gibbs had never killed Hernandez in 1991 and suddenly found himself face to face with him…