Title: Slow Burn

Story: NCIS crossover with Firestarter; AU for both

Rating: T/Gen

Summary: McGee's heritage catches up with him, and DiNozzo is caught in the crossfire.

Set in: mid season 6

Disclaimer: Don't own, just playing, yadda yadda. Some dialog was taken from the book. No infringement intended.

Sorry, it's been awhile I know. Not a long chapter, but a few things happen, and a few things are discovered ;)


Chapter 7

Gibbs slowly closed the folder and leaned back in his chair as he rubbed a hand over his face. He was glad that Vance was out of the room because he wasn't sure how he would react to the man's presence, or anyone's for that matter. What he had read in that file had angered him, sickened him and, he was forced to admit, terrified him. The idea that such a project could exist was bad enough, but the confirmation of its results was even worse. He was familiar with the "collateral damage" and "greater good" ideas that the government was so fond of pushing, but he could see no "good" in any of this…

He picked up the DVD that had been included in the folder and examined it before inserting it into the drive of the laptop Vance had provided at some point and unnoticed at the time. He cued up the video and watched the first experiment to test Charlene McGee's abilities.

"Woodchips. They should have given me something harder."

Gibbs couldn't help but smile at the girl's softly spoken comment, evidence that her spirit hadn't been completely crushed by her imprisonment. The smile was soon wiped from his face as he watched the small pile of chips burst into flame. Reading about it was one thing, but actually seeing that power manifested...Gibbs felt an uncomfortable churning in his gut, a sensation associated with only one thing: fear. He continued to watch the documentation of further experiments, and when he saw that little girl immolate a cinder block wall, he reached out and snapped the laptop shut, unable to watch any more.

"Impressive, wasn't she?"

He turned to Vance, who for once had managed to sneak up on him. "That's not the word I'd use, Leon. Why in the Hell would anyone ever think this was a good idea? They gave that little girl the ability to—"

"'Crack the planet in two like a plate in a shooting gallery'. Yes, I know, I read the reports, and the speculation. I almost feel ashamed to admit that I think we're very lucky that threat no longer exists… but we need to keep it that way. This project must never be allowed to start up again. Ever."

Gibbs studied the other man for a moment before asking the question he'd been wanting to ask since he had started to read the contents of that folder. "What's your stake in all this, Leon? Why'd you get involved? Why did McGee get involved? Or Kort?"

"You read the details of the first trial conducted on college students. My…" He took a deep breath. "My mother's sister was one of those students. She took her own life soon afterwards, but before she did she managed to tell my mother what had happened. My mother…she was never the same afterwards. On her death bed, she told me about it, and made my promise I'd get justice for Sonia." Vance shook his head, a rueful smile playing across his lips. "I didn't even believe it until I did some digging, and what I found…let's just say it made a believer out of me."

"So McGee and Kort? They had relatives in that group, too?"

"Andrew McGee was a distant cousin of McGee's, and Kort's half brother was another test subject."

"I understand why McGee would volunteer. I know how he is about family, but Kort doesn't strike me as the sentimental type."

"I think he might surprise you, Gibbs."

"Well yeah, Leon, that's what I'm afraid of!"

Vance sighed. "Kort is ruthless and is willing to bend the rules to suit his needs, it's true, but I think he has been influenced by his connection to this project. He knows all too well what the people he has to deal with are capable of."

"I still don't trust him."

"That's your pejorative, Gibbs, but in this case I think you're going to have to accept the 'enemy of my enemy' idea in regards to the man."

Gibbs snorted. "Don't think I'll ever see him as a 'friend', Leon." His attention returned to the folder on the table in front if him. "So now what?"

"We tread carefully, and wait to see what he turns up. In the meantime, you have an investigation to run. We need to know what happened up on that mountain."

"Especially if it leads you to the people in charge of that project," Gibbs retorted, his anger once again rising to the surface.

"So you can get justice for DiNozzo and McGee. Anything else is secondary."

Gibbs shook his head and let out a low, humorless chuckle. "Whatever you say, Leon." He rose and walked out the door without a backward glance. His team needed him, but when the investigation was over…it would be time for someone to pay.

XXX

Ziva stood near the wall of the evidence garage, watching the technicians document the two large, twisted objects that had recently been delivered by the Virginia Highway Patrol investigators. She could hardly believe that these wrecks had been the treasured vehicles of her two teammates, just as she could not believe that the remains of those two teammates were currently being examined in autopsy. She had tried to push the anguish from her mind, to do her job and not let the people here see her pain, but she barely managed to do so. She had lost far too many people that were important to her during her lifetime, and despite the assurances of her Mossad compatriots, it never got any easier. She had become more adept at hiding it, but this time…

She heard the elevator doors open behind her and turned to see Gibbs step through the doors and into the evidence garage. He stopped to stare at the activity before him and Ziva saw a rare flash of pain cross his features before he turned his attention to her.

"Ziva, are you OK?"

"I am…" She couldn't finish the lie. She was not fine, but she couldn't show it. "What do we know?"

"Not much. Hoping Abby can find something in all this." He looked around, obviously expecting to see the forensic scientist among the group working on the evidence.

"She went back to the lab to do some tests. She said…she does not believe the…bodies found were Tony or McGee, but…"

Gibbs pulled Ziva into a brief one-armed hug. "Understood, Ziva."

"Gibbs, I…what are we going to do?"

"We're going to find the bastards who did this."

"And then?" She saw another flash of pain, and immediately felt ashamed. "I am sorry, Gibbs, I…"

Gibbs merely nodded before returning to the elevator. Once he was gone, Ziva stepped into the shadows of the garage, hoping no one would see the tears that, despite her best efforts, had started to fall.

XXX

Ducky glanced up at the sound of the autopsy doors sliding opened and allowed a rueful smile to cross his face before addressing their visitor.

"I've barely begun, Jethro." He looked over at his assistant, who sent his mentor an almost grateful look.

"I'll just…go take these samples up to Abby." Palmer beat a hasty retreat and the M.E. returned his attention to the other living occupant of the room. Gibbs was staring silently at the remains on Ducky's table with an expression that few saw, although Ducky had seen on far too many occasions for his liking.

"What can you tell me, Duck?"

"A bit more after I examine the x-rays," he said, and went to retrieve the newly-developed films. When he returned, Gibbs had moved to the other table to examine what Palmer had been working on: the almost completely burned and jumbled collection of remains from the area near the car. Ducky silently placed the films on the light box and flipped the switch. His eyebrows shot up in surprise when he saw the small white mass in the chest area. Gibbs apparently noticed his reaction and walked over to see what had captured the M.E.'s attention.

"Is that what I think it is?"

"We shall see, Jethro," Ducky grimly replied and returned to his table. He found the area on the body that corresponded to the area he had examined on the x-ray. "It appears that there is an entrance wound. Ti...whoever this is was shot, and from the angle I'd have to say it occurred before…the body was placed in the vehicle."

"They were covering their tracks."

"It appears so."

"So what about..." he tilted his head towards the other table.

"I don't know, Jethro. What I do know is that the condition of those remains could only have been caused by a very hot fire, over 1000 degrees Celsius. Even in a retort, it would take several hours. I sent Abigail some samples to test for accelerants, so hopefully that will provide us with additional information." He looked down at the body in front of him. "Once I retrieve the bullet, I'll send it up to Abigail immediately. Although if this was a professional hit…"

"The gun won't be in the database. Anything else?" Before Ducky could respond the doors slid open again and Palmer returned, a stricken expression on his face. He came to a halt when he saw that Gibbs was still present.

"Uh, sorry, I…"

"Return to your task, Mr. Palmer."

"Yes, Doctor."

Jimmy went back to his table and started carefully separating the delicate pieces of bone from the pile and placing them in anatomical position. Gibbs and Ducky moved to the far side of the room to continue their conversation.

"Jethro, can you tell me anything else about the circumstances surrounding…" He waved a hand in the general direction of the bodies.

"Right now Duck, it's better that you don't know." Ducky gestured upward and Gibbs nodded. Ducky swore softly.

"I am sorry, Jethro. I am holding out hope that these remains are not those of Timothy and Anthony, but…"

"I know, Duck. I know. I better go check on Abby. Figure I'll be there for awhile, so…"

"I'll know where to find you if I discover anything else."

"Thanks, Duck."

After the agent had left, Ducky returned to his table and picked up a scalpel.

"What other secrets can you reveal today, my young friend?"

XXX

Gibbs stood in the doorway and watched Abby dash around the lab, completely absorbed in her task. Other than the sounds of Abby's heels hitting the floor as she ran back and forth and the normal ambient sounds of the instruments at work, the lab was quiet. The music which usually blared through the small space was gone, as was Abby's cheerful chatter. Grim determination and barely hidden grief had silenced the woman in a way that worried Gibbs. Finally, after she had placed the latest batch of samples in Major Mass Spec, he tried to get her attention.

"Hey, Abbs…"

She spun around and launched herself into his open arms, hugging him tightly as she started to speak.

"It's not them, Gibbs. I know it's not, it just can't be, not after we got the team back together again, we can't lose so much of our family, not again, not like this!"

"Abby…"

"No, Gibbs! I won't accept it. No…"

Gibbs sighed. It would be bet to just let her focus on the case. He would have to deal with the rest later. "What do ya got for me, Abbs?"

She released him and walked over to her computer to pull up images of the destroyed Porsche Boxster. "From what I can see so far, it looks like the gas tank exploded and the fire spread from that direction. I need to go back and check again for any evidence of another source of ignition, but—"

"—they probably stuffed a rag in the gas tank and set it on fire."

"Most likely. As for the other car, most of the damage looks like it's from the river, except for this." She pulled up a photo of a perfectly round hole in the trunk lid.

"Bullet hole."

"Correct. I'm sure I'll find more once I get down there and examine the car myself. Hopefully I'll be able to recover some bullets and we'll be able to track down the guys that totaled Tim and Tony's cars. They're gonna be so mad when they find out…"

"Abby…"

"No, Gibbs. They're not dead. I won't accept it. You didn't give them permission to die, so they didn't."

Gibbs decided to try a different subject. "Did you get anything from McGee's computer?"

"No. I tried, but when the other evidence came in, Vance sent it down to Cybercrimes. He's overseeing their work, though."

Before Gibbs could say something he no doubt would later regret, Palmer arrived with another evidence jar.

"Abby, Dr. Mallard says-." He caught sight of Gibbs and paused. "Uh…he said you need to examine this. It's a bullet from…one of the bodies downstairs."

Silently Abby took the evidence jar from Palmer and signed the evidence form before retreating to the ballistics lab. Palmer quickly excused himself and left, leaving Gibbs alone in the main section of the lab. The lead agent watched the activity in the other section for a few minutes before heading for the elevator, his thoughts on his two missing agents.

Gibbs arrived in the bullpen to find all of the desks, empty. Ziva was apparently still supervising the evidence collection from the vehicles, so Gibbs went to his own desk and started to read through the notes the VHP had provided on the case.

An hour passed before Ziva returned from the garage with her own stack of notes to organize and review. Neither remaining member of the team spoke as they worked through the files, hoping to find some evidence of who was responsible for the destruction of their team.

When Gibbs' phone rang, he absently answered it.

"Yeah, Gibbs."

"Gibbs, I finished testing the samples Palmer brought me and…this is hinky."

"What's hinky, Abbs?"

"I found absolutely no evidence of accelerants. Now, since the samples were so badly burned, I didn't expect to find more than maybe trace amounts, but I didn't find any accelerants at all. The fire that burned those remains was started without any chemical help. You know I believe in spontaneous human combustion, but…this isn't consistent with that phenomenon at all. It makes no sense!"

Gibbs felt the sensation he had experienced earlier in Vance's office return. The fear was back, and he sincerely hoped that this time his gut was wrong.

"I'll be there as soon as I can, Abbs. Keep this to yourself until I get there."

"But Gibbs—"

"Just do it, Abby." He hung up the phone and looked up at Ziva, who was staring at him with a worried expression on her face.

"Gibbs, what is going on?"

"I'll let you know as soon as I do," he replied and headed for the central staircase. "I need to talk to the director."

"I believe he is still down in Cybercrimes."

Gibbs reversed direction and headed for the elevator. He rode it down to the subbasement and when he opened the door to the Cybercrimes Unit he could see Vance leaning over the shoulder of a very nervous-looking and disheveled young man.

"Need to talk to you."

Vance straightened and glanced around the room. "All of you: take a break. Now."

The group scurried out and as soon as the door shut Vance turned to Gibbs.

"What do you need, Gibbs?"

Gibbs took a deep breath and met Vance's gaze. "How sure are you that Charlene McGee is dead?"

XXX

Tony opened his eyes and blinked in dim light surrounding him. For a moment he had no idea where he was but soon the memories came rushing back: the gunfight, the chase, and waking up in this cave, where he had learned McGee's horrifying secrets. Tony turned his head, searching for the man himself, and smiled when he caught sight of his partner still sleeping just a few feet away. He suppressed a chuckle at the image of McGee's peaceful expression. Hard to believe a that thirty-year-old, especially one who had experienced what McGee had endured, could ever have such a child-like look of innocence.

Suppressing a groan of pain as his stiff muscles protested, Tony slowly sat up and took a look around. The fire had burned down, but the cave was still quite warm, and he could see his and Tim's clothes hanging on sticks propped up near the fire. He grimaced as he thought about their circumstances. They were stuck out in the middle of nowhere, no vehicle available except (maybe) Probie's bullet-riddled Porsche a few miles away, he himself was wounded, and McGee didn't look particularly healthy either. While the uncomfortable feeling that it was his own fault they were in this mess wouldn't go away, Tony was glad that he had been there last night. God knows what would have happened to McGee when the shooters showed up…

Tony's attention was soon pulled to another discomfort and he stifled another groan. He wasn't about to ask for McGee's help with this particular problem, so he gingerly dragged himself to his feet and slowly stumbled away from their part of the cave, hoping to avoid heading out into the snow to "take care of business".

He felt the stiff bandages under his shirt and was relieved to find that they were dry. Probie really earned his first-aid merit badge, he thought as he made his way back towards the fire. His shoulder and upper arm were sore, but the pain he expected to experience from two bullet wounds was absent. Must have had some good stuff hidden away in here and slipped it in that tea last night. He made it back to their camp and saw that Tim was still asleep. He took a closer look at his partner and winced. The bruises that had been barely visible last night had darkened, and the scrape above McGee's eye looked even worse than it had before. The senior agent felt a surge of guilt. The younger man had neglected himself in favor of caring for his teammate. Tony decided that it was his turn to take care of his partner, and he started to search for the first aid kit.

Finally he found a few remaining supplies and sat down to wait for McGee to wake up. After a few minutes, he decided to check his own injuries, to give his partner one less thing to worry about. Using his good arm, he carefully undid the buttons on the flannel shirt he was wearing and slid the fabric down his injured limb so he could get a better look. He carefully peeled back the bandage on his bicep, closing his eyes and bracing himself for the gruesome sight he expected to see. Finally he opened his eyes and froze in shock when he looked at where the bandage had been.

There was no wound.

What in the hell…? His arm was slightly discolored where he remembered feeling the bullet graze him, but the gap in his skin was gone. Breathing heavily, he quickly reached up and removed the bandage on his shoulder. The area was bruised, darker than his arm had been, but there was no bullet wound. He immediately felt the back of his shoulder where there was another bandage, yanked it off, and felt around for the entrance wound.

Nothing.

Suddenly he heard a soft gasp and tuned to see that McGee was sitting up and staring at him, a look of genuine fear in his eyes, which he quickly hid when he saw Tony return his gaze.

"Something…you want to tell me, McGee?"

"Tony, I…"

"You told me I got shot. I…I remember I got shot! What the hell did you…what did you do to me?"

"I told you, I patched you up."

"This is more than a patch job, Probie! What…you…did you…?"

Slowly, Tim nodded.

"But you said…you said you were normal!"

Tony immediately knew he'd just said the wrong thing as he saw a flash of hurt cross Tim's face before the agent's emotions shut down. The neutral mask that slid over McGee's features was much worse than the fear he had worn only moments before.

"Tim, man, I-"

Suddenly Tim's eyes widened as he held up a hand to silence his partner. Tony listened and soon realized what had caused the fear to return to the agent's eyes.

Both men turned towards the soft sound of approaching footsteps.

TBC…