AN: And six months and 300,000-plus words later, it's finally done! There were times I thought this day would never come. :) First, Happy Birthday to Harempriestess! I knew when you said your birthday was this month you'd probably get a chapter on your birthday, but I didn't realize it would be the final one until a few weeks ago. Hope you have a wonderful day! Second, thanks to everybody who's stuck with me through what is now the third-longest NCIS story on this site. It's almost as long as four novels. You guys are amazing. Your reviews have made many crazy days, especially in the past three months, immeasurably better. And finally, she says I thank her too much, but this would not have been possible without the ever-patient Kyrie. She's been editing my fiction — fanfic and original — for more than 10 years and I am an infinitely better writer for her help. If the novel I started working on last week gets published, she'll deserve a lot of the credit. With that out of the way, enjoy the last chapter!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Gibbs left Jack in the kitchen, an agent on duty outside, and walked over to see Sean and Eileen. They needed to know what was going on, and he needed to be the one to tell them.
He waved off the protection detail, not wanting to alarm them. He had his SIG, and they needed to protect Jack more than him.
When Gibbs knocked on the door, Eileen was quick to answer.
"Jethro," she said. "Come on in. How have you been?"
He hesitated. "Been busy," he settled on. "Is Sean around?"
Eileen nodded. "In the kitchen." She headed back, and Gibbs followed.
Sean was at the kitchen table working a crossword puzzle. "Things settling down some?" he asked. "We haven't been able to catch the boys the past few days."
Gibbs hesitated again. "Case. Bad one." He pulled out a chair, motioned for Eileen to sit.
"Something wrong?" Sean straightened up. "Are the boys OK?"
Gibbs nodded. "Not them." He tried to figure out how to find the words. "They ever tell you about my first wife?"
"Shannon, right?" Eileen said. "Jack's told us some stories. She and your daughter were killed while you were in Desert Storm."
Gibbs nodded. "I've told you a few stories myself. Don't know that I ever told you how they died, though."
Sean frowned. "All I know is they were killed."
"Drug dealer." Gibbs clenched his fists. "Shannon witnessed him murder a Marine and agreed to testify. She always did the right thing — something I loved about her — but this time it was dangerous. Too dangerous. On their way to the safe house, the bastard shot the NIS agent protecting them, sending the car off the road. The crash killed both my girls." He forced himself to relax. He couldn't afford to let the anger and grief overtake him again. His lack of control then had put everybody he loved now in danger. "NIS went after him, but he fled to Mexico. They didn't have jurisdiction down there. So even if they had found him, they couldn't extradite unless Mexico was willing. The government down there, well, let's say this cartel is good at getting family members in key government positions." He frowned at the memory of Alejandro. "The case agent, he left the file out when I went to see him."
Sean looked at him, and Gibbs waited the former sailor out. He didn't know what Sean was looking for, but he knew when he found it. Sean nodded. "You went after him."
Gibbs nodded. "Between injuries I sustained overseas and bereavement, I had leave, so I used it. Took my sniper rifle, found the SOB, and I made sure he could never hurt anybody else." He paused. "NIS never closed the case."
Sean looked over at Eileen, and Gibbs watched the two of them exchange glances, but not words. After a minute, Eileen reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. It shouldn't have meant so much. But Gibbs knew Tim was a stickler for the rules, and he'd gotten that from Sean and Eileen. The couple could have shut him down, been horrified at what he'd done.
"I'd have done the same thing," Sean said. "If somebody had hurt my girls, hurt Tim... You don't do that." He leaned forward. "Why tell us this now?"
Admitting the danger he'd put them in was almost harder than confessing the reason why. "His daughter Paloma — she runs the biggest drug cartel in Mexico — set a trap, she and her brother. Alejandro's a high-ranking offical in the Mexican justice department. He invited Abby to speak at a forensic seminar so he could get her to investigate their father's cold case."
Sean's eyebrow shot up, so like his son that Gibbs felt a hint of a smile tug at his lips. "Did she..."
"She wrote the report, did her job the way she always does. The way I needed her to do it — the right way." Gibbs wasn't going to mention the baby. It wasn't his story to tell, even if it was another thing he felt guilty about. "The report's been buried. One of the players on the other side realized she was being played. But Paloma, she's still out there." He hesitated. "She was in Stillwater yesterday, shot up my dad's store."
Eileen's hand tightened on his shoulder. "Is Jack OK?"
Gibbs nodded. "I'd called him, warned him. He wouldn't leave, but he was ready for her. Store's a mess, but he's fine. I drove up yesterday, picked him up. He's staying with me until we catch her." He paused. "The whole family's in danger until she's caught. All of you."
Sean nodded slowly. "If she knows about Jack, knows the team well enough to target Abby, she knows who else to go after."
Gibbs nodded. "I've called a team meeting. My place. 1400. Tony just got back from Mexico. Tim is picking him up at the base. We need to put our heads together, make sure everybody's safe. Not just the team, but you two, Jack, and Sarah." He wasn't going to mention the other complication. Not if they didn't know.
"Sarah." Sean looked at Eileen. "Now that she's living with Ziva, is she in more danger?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Don't know. Paloma threatened my team before mentioning Jack, but she hasn't gone after them yet. She and her brother are still looking for the report, so Abby's definitely a target. That's why we're meeting."
Sean nodded. "Do we need to call Sarah?"
Gibbs shook his head. "The team knows. Ziva will fill her in, bring her. If she hadn't already told Sarah. Not sure what she knows."
Eileen looked at him. "Jethro, you were alone 20 years ago. You're not alone now."
He let one corner of his mouth quirk up. "I know. But I wouldn't have done it if I'd known it would put you all at risk."
Tim waited at Anacostia for the flight from Mexico to land. When Gibbs had told him about the team meeting, he'd realized whatever time he and Tony had thought they'd had to make a decision about Sarah's suggestion was gone. Everybody would need to know about the baby to set up the protection detail, and Sarah needed to know what they had decided so she could make her own choice. Which meant they needed to decide. Now.
When Tony walked out of the hanger, jeans and cotton shirt wrinkled and dirty, Tim had to resist hugging him. This was the first time one of them had gone on a dangerous mission without the other since they'd been together, and the only reason he hadn't McWorried about Tony the entire time was because he was too busy thinking about Sarah and her situation.
"Home, Jeeves," Tony said as he approached.
Tim rolled his eyes. "Not opening the door for you," he said.
Once they were off base, away from eyes that might not understand, Tim pulled over and pulled Tony into a hug.
"Missed you, too." Tony buried his face in Tim's neck, so his next words were muffled.
"Want to try that again?" Tim pulled back a bit.
Tony rubbed the back of his neck, but sat up. "I said, I blew it. Alejandro was right there, waiting for us."
"Franks showed up. Said he could pull the trigger with his thumb. We didn't get a chance to find out, though. Alejandro had his goons all set, gave the signal, and they started shooting. Franks got hit, the rat escaped, and I was caught flat-footed." Tony made a face.
"Gibbs called a meeting for his place," Tim said, checking the time. "Two hours. All of us." He paused. "Including Mom, Dad, and Sarah."
"Oh, hell," Tony said. "Does he think they're in danger?"
Tim nodded. "Paloma showed up in Stillwater yesterday afternoon and opened fire on Jack's store."
"Jack's OK," Tim said. "Gibbs drove up last night and got him, and Vance gave them protection detail. Abby and Ducky each have one too, which means Jimmy's protected."
"And he thinks Paloma might go after the rest of our family if he can't get to them." Tony's voice was flat.
"I don't know what he thinks, but he's not taking any chances." Tim ran a hand through his hair as he pulled the car back into traffic and headed for home. "But if we're going to sort this out, there can't be any secrets."
Tony cursed again. "Do you think Paloma knows about Sarah?"
Tim shrugged. "I don't know, but Vance needs to if he and Gibbs are going to handle things right. And if Sarah's going to have to tell everybody, including Mom and Dad, we need to tell her something."
Tony's language wasn't getting any better, and Tim couldn't help but agree. "Look, when Macy was killed, I didn't see your point, didn't think the risk was worth us giving up on the idea of a family." Tim hesitated. "My concerns with Sarah's suggestion were more practical: whether we could, whether it was a good idea for her given how unsure she seemed about it."
"So what's the McBut I hear coming?" Tony crossed his arms.
"Now I'm with you," Tim said. "I spent last night wondering if you would come back, and then I tried to imagine what it would be like if you didn't."
Tony huffed out a laugh. "And I spent the entire plane ride back thinking that if it had been my last mission, we would have missed out on creating a family together."
"We're a mess," Tim said. "But that has to be our problem, not Sarah's. We just need to figure out what our answer is and tell her."
Tony nodded. "Look, let's get home, let me clean up. We can figure it out on the way over to Gibbs'."
Jack fumed at Leroy for making him stay in the house, but he couldn't disagree with the boy. He'd thought his son was just exaggerating when he'd called a few days ago, but when Paloma Reynosa walked into his store, he'd realized the danger was real.
Leroy was down in the basement with Vance and the McGees, but Jack had stayed upstairs wanting to see everybody arrive. He couldn't go outside, but he could at least watch.
Jimmy and Abby arrived first, and Jimmy wrapped his arm around Abby as they came up the walk. Jack could see their matching tattoos, and he shook his head at his unconventional granddaughter. Leroy had told him what happened, and Jack was ready when they walked in.
"Jack!" Abby pulled away from Jimmy and wrapped her arms around him. "You're OK! I mean, we knew you were OK because Gibbs went to get you, but I'm still glad I can see you're OK."
Jack pulled her close. "I'm fine, Abby," he said. "It takes more than a little viper like her to take out a tough old coot like me." He ran a hand along her back. "Leroy, he told me what happened. About the baby, I mean." He kissed her cheek.
Abby sniffled into his shoulder, and Jimmy stepped closer, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry for you kids," Jack said. "That's rough."
Jimmy nodded. "We're getting there," he said. "It's been... There have been some distractions. Not that you getting shot at is a distraction." He rushed out his words. "You getting shot at is horrible, not a good thing. It's just-"
Jack heard a watery giggle from the girl he was hugging, before she pulled away. "He knows, Jimmy." She wiped her eyes. "Thanks, Jack. It's probably for the best anyway. I was already on the cartel's radar — if they realized hurting me would get Gibbs' daughter and grandchild, he'd have me locked in the basement for the duration and I'd go crazy. I'd be one of those old Gothic heroines chained up and never seen except at midnight."
Jack couldn't help but laugh. "That's my girl," he said. "Go on, Leroy wants everyone downstairs. I promise, I won't let them keep you chained down there."
Abby hugged him again. "Thanks, Jack."
As they headed back through the kitchen, Jack turned to look outside and saw Tim and Tony arrive. The two men were in the middle of an intense discussion, and Jack wasn't surprised they stayed outside, leaning against the fence. It wasn't long before another car pulled up, and Ziva and Sarah got out.
Ziva only paused near the boys before continuing up to the front door, but Sarah stayed outside with the two men. Jack stepped back from the window so he could greet Ziva and send her downstairs, then turned to study the scene outside. The boys were still talking and Sarah seemed to be listening intently. Then she reached up to hug first her brother, then Tony, which piqued his curiosity.
As the trio walked up the path, Jack continued to watch them and noticed something nobody had mentioned to him. He wondered if he was just out of the loop or if this was news Leroy and the others weren't aware of.
"Hey, Jack," Tony said as they walked in. "Glad you made it through in one piece."
"Tony!" Jack walked over to hug his honorary grandson. "Could say the same for you; Leroy told me you just got back from hunting down those rats."
"Not successfully." Tony made a face. "Can't believe I let them take another shot at Franks and get away."
"I'm just glad you got away," Tim said, wrapping an arm around Tony's shoulders.
"Me, too!" Sarah stepped into Jack's arms, and he could feel her hold on a bit, so he patted her back.
"You kids should head on downstairs," he said. "Safer down there."
"Says the man standing by the front window," Tony said. "Shouldn't you be down there, too? You're the one she's after."
"She's after all of us," Jack said. "I feel better keeping an eye out for her."
The guys headed back through the kitchen, but Sarah stopped in the bathroom off the dining room. Jack nodded, but didn't say anything. There would be time enough for that later if it didn't come up on its own.
As Ziva navigated through the streets of D.C., Sarah gripped the handle above the seat.
"Oh." Ziva slowed down. "I am sorry. I am not making you sick, am I?"
Sarah shook her head. "No, the baby's being pretty well-behaved today. Just squishing my bladder." She squirmed a bit. "Ziva, I'm going to have to tell everybody today, even though the guys haven't decided yet, aren't I?"
Her friend did not say anything for a minute. "Yes," she said finally. "I believe you must, so that we can make sure you both are protected properly." She steered the car onto the bridge across the Potomac. "Gibbs, he already feels guilty because of Abby and her baby. He thinks, though I do not know if he is right or not, that if it had not been for this Mexican conspiracy, Abby would not have lost the baby. He would not want to risk either you or the baby because of this."
Sarah nodded and bit her lower lip. She had been doing some hard thinking during the past week. "Ziva, I don't know for sure what I'm going to do about the baby, I mean if the guys decide they don't want it." She paused, making sure she was certain before saying the words. "I am going to have it. I don't know if I want to give it up for adoption or keep it — I think probably adoption — but seeing what happened with Abby and Jimmy, I don't know... It just doesn't feel right to get an abortion."
Ziva was silent for a minute. "Sarah, you know I will support you no matter what you decide. But this is a big decision. You cannot make it based on Abby or Jimmy or Tim or Tony or me or anybody. It has to be the decision that is right for you."
Sarah thought about her words before she said, "This is the one that's right for me. It's not the one I would have made if I found out about the baby right after I dumped Josh, but it's the one that I think I need to make now." She shrugged. "Did you ever...? Have you ever felt like something that's happened is all wrong, but without the all-wrong part, you wouldn't have gotten to the place that is right?" She looked over and saw her friend nod.
"When my father demanded I leave NCIS, that I take Michael's place on the Kidon unit, he called it my aliyah, my return." Ziva paused. "Then I was captured, and I thought I would die in the Somali desert. My father did not come after me. He did not send anybody after me. It was Gibbs and Tony, McGee and Abby, who found me and rescued me. And when they did, I made my real aliyah and returned here, to my family. For the first time, I was able to cut the ties that had bound me to my father, to Mossad. I could not after Ari. I could leave Israel, I could work with NCIS. But I could not fully belong." Her fingers gripped the steering wheel. "Only when the situation was so bad there was no way out could I finally live the life I wanted."
Sarah nodded. "And without you being gone, Tim and Tony might never have gotten together."
"It is true," Ziva said. "And if Tony had not made McGee off limits, Abby might never have realized Jimmy was right there. If I had not been able to come back, Damon might not be here now. He might have stayed in Ohio or gone someplace else." Ziva shifted into the lane that would take them down the side street to where Gibbs lived.
"Maybe we should be thanking your father instead of cursing him when his name comes up." Sarah thought about what Ziva had said. "Of course, who knows. That could mean we'd wind up thanking Josh one day, and that idea makes me sick."
"And my driving does not?" Ziva reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. "You should tell Tony and McGee my driving is improving."
Sarah knew her giggle was weak, but it was still good to have something to laugh about. "They won't believe it. You'll have to prove you can drive without making Tim turn green first."
"So you are ready to tell your parents and Jack and the director?" Ziva said. "I believe the rest of us know."
Sarah thought about it and nodded. "I am."
As Ziva pulled up outside Gibbs house, Sarah could see Tim and Tony standing there. "Maybe they decided?" She turned to look at Ziva.
"We will find out."
They got out of the car and walked up to the gate where her brothers were waiting.
"You are all right?" Ziva asked Tony.
"Pissed off that he got away, but at least I didn't get shot," Tony said. "Still feel like I failed, though."
"We will catch them," Ziva said. "I am certain of it." She headed up the walk, but Tim shook his head when Sarah went to follow.
"Wait a minute, sis," he said.
She looked back and forth between them. "You decided already?"
Tony nodded. "Yeah, for all the craziness going on, it at least helped us put a few things in perspective."
Tim put a hand on her shoulder. "We still don't know how all the logistics of adopting would work or how Josh factors into that. And we're going to have to wait a week or so until all of this cartel mess gets sorted out to have time to find a lawyer and start figuring it out. But if you're still willing to have us adopt the baby, we want to. She or he is family. It wasn't what we'd planned, and it certainly wasn't what you'd planned. But you do what you have to for family."
She looked over, and Tony was nodding. She reached up to hug Tim, then Tony. When she pulled back, they both had big grins on their faces. "Looks like I owe you guys a Fathers Day card next month."
"So," Tony said. "Who gets to tell Mom and Dad about Baby McGee?"
Sarah grinned and winked at Tony. "Tim. He's the good kid — they'll take it much better coming from him."
"Works for me," Tony said. "That's why Abby always has to be the one to tell Gibbs bad news at work — she's the favorite."
Tim rolled his eyes, and Sarah couldn't help laughing.
"Come on, McDaddy," Tony said. "Let's go bring the one bit of good news to this gathering."
"Yeah, yeah," Tim said. "You two know I'll get you back for this, right?"
AN: Yes, this doesn't wrap up every loose end. Just as the team didn't realize in May that it would take four months to catch Paloma, they don't here, either. ;) It's the end of this story, not the universe, and I have many more stories to tell. I'll be posting one-shots during the next several months, mostly for the NCIS Last Fiction Writer Standing contest at the NCIS_lfws community at Live Journal and for NFA challenges. If you're on LJ, the LFWS contest entries post every other Friday and voting runs through Monday afternoon. Round 5 entries post this Friday. I hope the novel will be done, or at least in the revision stage, by the fall and I can tackle the next major story in this uni, What We Need, which addresses what happened to Ziva in Somalia. If you want to follow progress, I'm on Twitter and LJ with the same username.