AN: Hey, everyone! I'm so glad to be back into an NCIS multi-chapter fic! Feels as if it's been forever. This story is a little different than what I've written in the past, and deals with lots of emotions and action and just a lot in general! I have a feeling it'll be a pretty long one, too…Basketball season amongst other things has me pretty tied up for time, so updates might not be as frequent. But I promise to do my best! Hope you all enjoy!

Warning: There are some events and emotions in this story which may be sensitive for some readers. Nothing particularly graphic, but the world is a sad place, and that's something I definitely explored in the writing of this story. I mean not to offend, simply to address the real emotions and tragedies that reside everyday in the world around us.

"Gear up; we've got a Marine ready to blow up a bank."

Gibbs strolled through the bullpen and stepped into the elevator, waiting for his agents to follow. As expected, Tony, Ziva, and McGee were up in seconds, squeezing through the doors and standing around their boss.

"What's the story?" McGee questioned as they descended.

"Lieutenant Jane Marsh, six years in the Corps. Cheating husband cleared out their account and took off. She's more than a little upset," Gibbs replied, taking a swig of his coffee. "Armed, and has enough high-powered explosives in the bank to level the place."

"Accessibility?" McGee asked from behind Gibbs.

"None. Too many bombs planted in unreachable areas, no way to get to them without being seen."

"Detonator?" Ziva questioned.

"From what the LEOs could see, it's a pressure-release trigger. As soon as she releases it from her hand, that's it. Looks like the Lieutenant is preparing her final speech for when she blows the bank off the map. Got about 30 civilians in the building, and from what we can tell, she's not one to respect the 'sanctity of life'."

Tony's brow furrowed as they stepped off the elevator and headed toward their vehicles. "That doesn't make sense, Boss. Why would she put so many lives at risk when her husband won't be there to reap the consequences?"

Gibbs took another drink from his cup before tossing it into a nearby garbage can. "It's not about the husband."

Realization dawned on Tony, leaving a cold knot to form in his stomach. "The mistress…"

"Works at the bank."

"Any demands?" McGee asked hopefully.

Gibbs paused a moment before replying brusquely. "Nope."


Bombs were scary. People with bombs were even scarier. But the most terrifying thing a cop has to face is people with bombs and nothing to lose.

"So we are going to try to talk her down?" Ziva inquired.

Gibbs answered, fishing the keys out of his pocket. "We're going to keep that bomb from going off."

He makes it sound so simple.

With that, they piled in, rushing off to their destination, none sure of what they would find when they arrived.

. . .

As they pulled hastily into a clear space near the bank, the team knew they were in for trouble. People were crowding voraciously around the building, and the LEOs had a line of men trying to hold them back. Yells could be heard from the crowd, shouts of curiosity mixed with pleas of desperation.

"Please, my wife's in there!" a man shouted from the mass of people. Tony straightened his shoulders and walked on, determination in his gait. Several more people cried out similar claims.

"My son works there; he had the day shift. Damnit, let me through!"

"My mother was getting her taxes done today. Jesus, what are going to do to get them out?"

"My baby boys…God, please get them out, please. They're with their brother. My youngest is only three..."

It was painful to hear the broken uncertainty of the families. Everyone had something to lose, someone to lose. Amidst the chaos and noise, Tony knew they had to find a way to stop the bomb from going off, at all costs. No loss would be accepted, from the smallest child to the oldest teller. Even Marsh herself would be spared if possible. Marsh may not deserve to live, but she didn't deserve to die. In the vast accumulation of people…past, present, future…there had to be someone who wanted Marsh to live. So she deserved to. Not for herself, but for her family, for her friends.

Everyone was loved by someone.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said. The sharp tone snapped Tony out of his thoughts, and he glanced over to see Ziva and McGee talking to some LEOs. "Let's go," Gibbs said, and he and Tony made their way toward a uniformed man, apparently the officer in charge.

"What've we got?" Gibbs asked, flashing his badge as he approached the man.

"Officer John Gordon," he introduced himself. "I've stationed my men outside a back exit of the bank, on the southeast corner. A SWAT team is on their way, and I've got a negotiator here as well. You've got jurisdiction, Agent Gibbs, it's your call."

"Where does this back exit lead to?"

"It's an unused fire exit, crammed between some storage closets and maintenance rooms. Marsh must not have known about it; not surprising, seeing as some the employees weren't even aware of it. We figure we can sneak the SWAT team in one by one and take her by surprise."

Tony spoke up, "And let her twitch and blow the place away? I don't think so. Sure it looked sweet in Shooter, but this is the real world, and there are real people in there whose lives we aren't willing to risk."

Tony almost laughed when the officer's chest puffed out indignantly.

"Who the hell is this?" he asked Gibbs.

Tony extended his hand. "Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. Now if we're done with the niceties, I think we'd like to hear your plan B."

The man visibly bristled at Tony's confident attitude. Tony's grin extended even further. Ruffled your feathers, have I, Gordy?

"I was getting to that, Agent DiNozzo," the man replied.

Before the officer could continue, Ziva and McGee walked over and introduced themselves. Not surprisingly, the officer seemed to take much better to the two than he did to Tony.

Wouldn't have it any other way.

"As I was saying," Gordon continued. "We're also thinking we can send the negotiator in through the back-"

"Armed?" Gibbs asked.

"Unfortunately, our currently employed negotiator hasn't been certified to carry a weapon." The officer looked down, a bit of shame seeping into his stature.

Gibbs swore under his breath and everyone spent a moment in thoughtful silence.

Which was, of course, broken by Tony.

"Boss," Tony began, voice low and determined. "Put me in there."

Gibbs stared at Tony with a look of incredulity. "No."

"Boss, just hear me ou-"

"I said no, DiNozzo."

Tony felt his frustration building. Because damnit, he was competent, he was more-than-qualified, and he was good. Why couldn't someone just acknowledge that for once in his life?

"Boss, listen to me, please."

"What, DiNozzo?" Gibbs's eyes narrowed into the typical fixed stare.

But the angry glare didn't faze the senior agent. After years of exposure to Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Tony knew when to stand up and when to back down. He was a good cop, a good investigator, and a damn good undercover agent. He had the chance to use his skill set to save a building of civilians and for once, he was taking it. For once, he saw an opportunity and was taking it.

If he couldn't do that, what was he good for anymore? Nothing, Tony thought. According to the world, absolutely nothing.

"You just said there was an opening through the back. We send a SWAT team in, all those people are dead. You send a shooter in, they're dead. You send a negotiator in, they're bored, then dead."

Gibbs gave a small growl as he replied. "We don't know that. If we send in the negotiator-"

"She doesn't care about negotiation, Gibbs!" Tony spat frustratedly. "She cares about revenge. And some two-bit fed in khakis isn't gonna change her mind." As the words left his mouth, he knew he needed to rein in his anger. They were losing time, and he'd allowed his frustration to affect his communication. Another opportunity blown, DiNozzo. Well done.

Everyone was quiet for a moment, suspended in the tension, waiting for Gibbs's reaction.

If there was ever a time to be fired, Tony thought, a flicker of fear in his heart. It'd be now.

He'd made his stand, right or wrong, and he was ready to accept the consequences. Hazel eyes determined and hard as stone, Tony stared unwaveringly at Gibbs, trying (and failing) to gauge his unreadable expression. Icy blue narrowed and locked on Tony's face.

Everyone in the area swore that time itself stopped to watch the standoff.

Stepping into Tony's personal space, Gibbs opened his mouth. Tony held his breath.

"What exactly did you have in mind, DiNozzo?"

And exhale.

"Wire me. Give me a camera to plant. That'll give us eyes and ears in the building."

Gibbs raised his eyebrows. Go on.

"If we can convince her that I'm just another hostage, she won't be threatened. Then, we can distract her and sneak them out a few at a time. Have a team at the door to get people out quick, save as many as we can until we find a way to keep the bomb from going off."

"And when Marsh starts to notice people are missing?" The skepticism wasn't missed by Tony.

"There are at least 30 people in there, Boss, and right now, Marsh is restless. Odds are, she won't notice, and if she does…" The uncertain pause was far from missed by Gibbs. "If she does, send in the SWAT team, hope for the best."

Gibbs shook his head, eyebrows jumping up toward his hairline. "That's your Plan B? Hope for the best?"

Sighing, Tony released the tension in his shoulders, a half-smile accenting his tired features. "Got anything better?"

A few beats of silence filled the cool air, permeating through the atmosphere, seeping into the stressful expanse.

Turning away from Tony, Gibbs faced the officer beside him. Tony tasted the familiar tang of defeat. But then, Gibbs spoke in a low voice, eyes flicking briefly to Tony and back.

"Wire him."