I was going to write another segment of my Star Trek/NCIS crossover series, but my husband and I sat down and watched all six of the Star Wars movies this weekend (including the newer three, travesties though they are). I've always been a huge Star Wars fan – I read all the books, as well – and I thought, "Hmm, why not write a Star Wars/NCIS crossover? It wouldn't be too hard to line those up. Of course, the whole 'a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away' thing might be a little useless here..." So my Star Trek muse has been temporarily misplaced and my line of thought is now hijacked by Mon Mothma's goons…
A/N: There is a tribute to Ewan McGregor in here in the form of multiple references to Moulin Rouge, including an extended song section. The lyrics aren't mine, same as the rest of the prefabricated ideas of this fanfic. I recommend you have the Elephant Love Medley song pulled up on YouTube so you can listen to it when that section of the story comes up. Makes it a lot cooler to read. :D
Sometimes, isolated as he was, it was difficult not to feel some tendrils of doubt and dismay gnawing at his mind. In the darkness of every midnight, he found himself staring up at the stars, counting the constellations, drawing maps inside his head. In those moments, the seclusion was almost damning, and it was all he could do to breathe.
Even in the light of the brightest, hottest day, he would find his thoughts turning, from the here and now, to the future. It was always a dank, wretched thing in his mind, hanging off his soul like a disease-ridden blanket; he knew it could kill him, but he was becoming so accustomed to the fear, the need, that he could hardly throw it off.
In those long watches of the night, when he'd heft the weight of his silent long-distance communicator in his palm, the comforting coolness of his most cherished weapon balanced in his other hand, he sometimes wondered if the call would come at all. Twelve years of hiding in the deep forests and another seven of hiding in plain sight were wearing on his dwindling supplies of patience. He thought often of his friends and teachers. He wondered if there were any other survivors, and, if so, where they were. Some nights he dreamed of coming across one or two in his daily life.
But then his long-deceased master's advice, guttural and vibrating in his bones, would sound tirelessly in his ears.
"Concentrate. Breathe deeply. Release your fear, your worry, your doubt. Your concern for the future of those you've sworn to protect does you credit, but there is nothing you can do at the moment. Concentrate. Breathe deeply."
He found those oft-repeated words his best solace in his exile. And surrounded as he was by those he had grown to love as a family helped more than he cared to admit. Their easy teasing, their sweet ignorance, was a balm to his ever-trembling heart.
That sweet ignorance, which often rescued his heart from its darkest depths, was also the most challenging aspect of his exile. The people on the planet he currently called home knew nothing of the outside world. Sequestered as they were by the will of a council they didn't know existed, they had knowledge of naught but their own solar system. And even that knowledge was a timid, newborn thing, shaky in its infancy and dwarfed by the vastness of the possibilities.
But his orders had been clear.
"Await my call, on that planet, you will. Prepare yourself. Study tirelessly. Trust nothing. Devious and clever, our foe is. Be vigilant, always, you must."
So he waited. He prepared himself. He studied tirelessly. He trusted nothing. He remained vigilant.
Ever hoping the call would come, beginning to despair it never would, he waited.
Tony DiNozzo swept cheerfully into the bullpen, humming loudly to some tune that blared in the earbuds he wore. Dropping into his seat with little grace, he tipped his chair back, propped his feet up on his desk, and threw his head back and sang.
"One day I'll fly away. Leave all this to yesterday. Why live life from dream to dream? And dread the day when dreaming ends."
Tony's loud and poppy rendition of the song was halted suddenly by a smack at his shoes that forced his feet to the floor. His eyes snapping open, Tony glared at the woman who had the nerve to interrupt him.
"Tony, if I have to hear one more song from that Mulan Rogue movie, I think I will die!"
Rolling his eyes and thumbing off the iPod in his pocket, Tony pulled the earbuds from his head and corrected with exasperation, "Moulin Rouge, Ziva. It's Moulin Rogue. Possibly the best example of cover music in a contemporary movie, and you call it Mulan Rogue?"
The Mossad officer raised a semi-threatening finger in his direction as she backtracked to her desk.
"No. More. Music!" she hissed, her dark hair almost writhing with her words.
Frowning slightly, Tony paused for a moment before his eyes widened in comprehension.
"Another migraine? God, Ziva, I'm sorry," he apologized sympathetically, his voice a fair bit lower in volume and pitch than it had been.
Ziva David said nothing but sank into her chair, massaging the bridge of her nose. Sighing softly, Tony tossed his iPod into his desk drawer and looked around the bullpen. Tim McGee was sitting at his desk, completely absorbed in his email inbox. Their fearless leader Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was nowhere to be found, but Tony could see the discarded cups of two coffees in the small trashcan that sat beside his desk, indicating that yes, the boss was in.
Sighing again, just a little more loudly, Tony turned on his own computer and waited for it to boot. He sensed more than heard the footsteps descend the stairs behind him, and on instinct, he began reaching for his gear.
"Gear up; we've got a dead Marine," Gibbs barked over the desks.
When Ziva groaned and buried her head in her hands, Tony immediately spoke up.
"Aw, c'mon, boss! Don't you ever have any good news? Like, 'Gear up; we're going to get some ice cream,' or something?" he teased as he stood, sliding his SIG into his holster before hiding the weapon behind his ridiculously expensive suit jacket.
Gibbs turned towards him, ever-present cup of coffee in his hand, and raised an eyebrow. Tony said nothing, his eyes flicking to Ziva and his visage becoming momentarily harder. Gibbs followed his gaze and nodded once. Tossing the keys in Tim's unprepared direction, the older agent issued orders in a slightly subdued voice.
"McGee, gas the truck. DiNozzo, you and Ziva go collect the supply bags from the garage. Meet at the gate in five."
Tony glanced behind him at McGee, who was clutching the (surprisingly well-caught) truck keys tightly and still staring at his computer screen as though it was going to bite him.
"McGee!" At Tony's slightly inflected voice, the younger agent jumped and turned towards him. Making a mental note to later ask what had him spooked, Tony pointed to the keys in the writer's hand and said, "It won't gas itself, you know."
Throwing off whatever had been clinging to him, Tim stood and shrugged into his tweed-like jacket, pulling himself into professional order in a way that made Tony proud.
"On it, boss," he answered, directing his words to Gibbs but giving eye contact to Tony.
Oh, yeah. Tony definitely needed to ask him about that later.
In a quick flurry of movement the bullpen was almost deserted, save for Tony and Ziva. She gathered her things lackadaisically, wincing every time something banged against her desk. Hefting his own pack over his shoulder, Tony approached her desk and offered her his hand.
"Let me help you with that," he offered gently, his eyes warm with an unusual amount of compassion.
Staring at him, curiosity clear on her face, Ziva handed him her bag, their fingers brushing for a millisecond. A static shock traveled between the two of them, making her jump. She glared accusingly at Tony, some part of her wondering if he'd done it on purpose, as a prank. But his smile never faltered, and he simply pulled her bag over his other shoulder.
"C'mon, Ziva," he drawled, dragging out the two syllables in her name to double their length. "Gotta get those supplies from downstairs. You know, toothpicks and hairpins and paperclips – all the things a good little ninja chick needs to fight bad guys."
Groaning at his words, Ziva stood and walked after him, just barely making it into the elevator before the doors closed.
"For the last time, I have NEVER used a toothpick to kill a person."
The usual twinkle was back in Tony's eyes as he responded glibly, provoking yet another indignant response from her.
He kept her so engrossed in their conversation she never realized her migraine had passed.
The case they were working had led them to a string of assaults and multiple gruesome murders that crossed seven states. Well-versed as he was in the geography of the United States, Tony found it only a little annoying that yes, Arizona was only seven states away from Virginia.
His boss found it a little more annoying.
Readjusting his bag, Tony watched Gibbs fairly snarl at the bored teenager behind the glass of the run-down motel they'd found. The case had used a fair amount of resources over the two weeks they'd worked it, and the team was under significant pressure to curb costs wherever possible. That included their lodging out of state. Ziva and McGee were already checked in at another, far less seedy hotel, but they had received the last available room. Hence Gibbs and Tony found themselves standing in front of a cinderblock motor lodge that hadn't seen a paintbrush or a plumber since the fifties.
"Look, man. Our rooms are sixty a night for a double. I don't make the prices, dude," the kid said, rolling his eyes.
Gibbs looked like he was half a second from breaking the glass that separated him from one who had called him "dude".
"We're federal agents. It's past midnight. We'll be gone by seven. You can't give us some kind of discount for that?" Gibbs snapped irritably, and Tony took another step closer, his own limbs dragging from the pell-mell run the team had done over the past fortnight.
"Sorry, man," the unrepentant teen shrugged before turning back to his Smartphone.
Sensing Gibbs' anger surge to unholy levels, Tony placed a calming hand on his shoulder and stepped up to the glass.
Waving away an invisible bug near his face, Tony asked, "But you'd like to give us a discount on the room, wouldn't you?"
The young man looked up and nodded slightly, "Yeah, I'd like to give you a discount, but I'm not in charge, man."
Shooing the bug away again, Tony said, "Well, you could consider us military, give us twenty bucks off the room, and drop the price to forty, couldn't you?"
Frowning and tapping at the computer in front of him, the teen nodded again and said, "Yeah, I could give you a military discount, and I could only charge you forty for the night."
Tony nodded and grinned at Gibbs, who was staring at his second with something akin to irritated incredulousness.
"There; we meet our lodging limit for the night, boss," he offered tiredly, stepping back again to his customary spot behind the older agent.
He felt more than saw Gibbs' eyes on him throughout the check-in procedure, and he made sure to walk at his boss's six to the room. Reaching it, Gibbs entered and fumbled for the light switch, cursing lowly under his breath at everything that lived and breathed in Arizona.
Standing in the relative darkness of the back of the motel, where the mercury vapor security lights had long since burned out, Tony turned his eyes towards the sky and took in the very visible Milky Way, the desert night giving the atmosphere startling clarity. With only a small bit of effort, he was able to pick out Mobus, gleaming a tinge of green against its whiter counterparts.
It seemed farther away every time he looked at it.
"What are you doing?" Gibbs voice came disquietingly close to him.
Tony kept his eyes locked on that oh-so-distant gas giant as he felt the weight of seven years of solitude, loneliness, and uncertainty pull at him, compounded by the grueling two week case they were working. With no comforting weight in his right hand and no silent weight in his left hand, he felt like he was floating for a moment.
"I'm waiting," he softly responded, feeling Gibbs shift beside him.
"Waiting for what, Tony?" his friend breathed; the use of his first name wasn't lost on the younger man, who was silent for several seconds.
Finally, he answered, "Waiting for the call, boss."
Gibbs shifted again, this time moving in front of him, the worry on his face and nearly palpable in the air drawing Tony's attention.
"The call to what, Tony?"
Shrugging slightly and giving a slightly bitter smile, Tony simply said, "War."
Gibbs blinked, his mouth opening slightly to respond to that, but he said nothing. Casting yet another look at the stars, Tony hefted his bag higher on his shoulder, turned, and entered the room. The lights came on almost as soon as he crossed the threshold.
Behind him, Gibbs just stared.
It was another three days before Tony could get to McGee long enough to talk in relative privacy. The look he'd given Tony when the case had first started had stuck with him, though he didn't sense any immediate danger.
"Probie, you got a minute?" Tony called as the team bustled towards the elevator, finally finished with forty eight hours of paperwork.
And again, Tim gave him that look. Glancing purposefully at the nearest computer, Tony said, "Got a problem with my computer. Can you take a look at it real quick?"
Tim nodded and stepped away from the elevator, the doors closing almost suspiciously fast behind him, and the metal box carried Ziva and Gibbs towards the parking garage while Tony's face grew serious.
"You had something to show me, McGee?" he asked quietly, though at eleven at night, there was little risk of being overheard.
Blinking his comprehension, Tim grew suddenly animated and hurried to his desk, powering up his computer. Tony stood behind his chair, watching as McGee pulled open his email client.
"You know how you asked me to keep a lookout for any kind of homicides with cauterizing agents? Well, one of my old friends from MIT sent me an email. There was a death in Tennessee – a homeless man – and he was killed with what could be something matching what you're looking for. My friend says the military brought the body to his research lab in the middle of the night; they seem afraid that another country has perfected long-distance assassinations with some sort of laser-like device, and that this was a test. The research lab is still examining the body, but my friend was able to take a snapshot with his Blackberry."
As Tim spoke, he pulled up the photo that was attached to the email, sending it to the large plasma in the bullpen. Tony straightened and walked slowly towards the plasma, taking in the photo. Lying half-naked on a metal slab, the dirty, unwashed body of a bearded man was still in death. A sheet covered the lower part of his torso, preserving the only bit of decency he had left as a corpse. And from his right shoulder to his left hip was a long, black cut.
Walking up behind Tony, the team's technical genius winced at the image as he said, "My friend said the wound went almost all the way through his body. The skin and organs and blood vessels were all cauterized perfectly. There was no blood found on his skin or around his body, so it's being theorized that the weapon cauterized as it hit him."
Tony barely heard him. All he could do was stare at the photo, part of him crying out at the senseless loss of life, another part dreading what this revelation meant. After all, he was very familiar with the wound and the type of weapon used to make it. His entire life revolved around it.
"Tony, why did you ask me to look for this six months ago? Do you know anything about this?" McGee asked carefully, knowing full well that the senior field agent wouldn't take kindly to being accused of murder yet again.
Tony cast a sideways glance at Tim, the question expected. Half a year before, he'd woken from a deep sleep at three in the morning, feeling an otherworldly sense of wrongness flooding through him. It was a familiar sensation, one that he'd grown accustomed to detecting while with his second master. The cave near their home had been rank with such aural vibrations.
As far as he was aware, there was only one thing that could make such a ripple in the world.
"I heard from some buddies of mine in Baltimore then. They had come across something like this and wanted to know if NCIS knew anything about it. I figured another one might pop up eventually," Tony explained.
It would have tasted acrid on his tongue, had he been lying. Truth be told, Baltimore had contacted him regarding a different corpse. In fact, research of his own had led to some startling divinations. Starting in the northern tip of Mexico, following his seven year trail of travel, there had been twelve deaths throughout the country that matched this same method of murder.
All because of him.
Taking in the situation carefully over the sight of his gun, Tony swallowed hard, his gut pounding. Gibbs was standing perfectly still, his eyes blazing in fury over his capture, but still mindful of the barrel pressing into his skull.
He felt the world sing around him, the colors and sounds sharp and clear. Opening himself up a little more, he felt the aural echo of the man who held his boss.
Deceit. Betrayal. Malevolence.
Grinding his teeth slightly, Tony felt the same disbelief he always did when face to face with murderous intent. The will to end a life for reason other than self-defense or defense of others always made his heart ache.
"I'm not going to tell you again, Davis. Drop your weapon, put your hands on the back of your head, and lie face down on the ground," the agent ordered, and he knew immediately his command had been dismissed before it had even been voiced.
"Yeah, and go to jail for the rest of my life for getting rid of a bunch of commies? Not my idea of a good time, fed," Corporal Josh Davis sneered, jamming the gun harder into Gibbs' temple.
Tony felt the flicker before the man moved, and he reacted purely on instinct, barely in control of his own actions, open as he was to the world. Ducking and twisting as the man's focus shifted from the older agent to the younger, Tony felt the bullet whizz by his ear. Whipping around, he saw Davis backpedaling from Gibbs, who was kneeling with a blossoming bruise on his cheek. He saw the gun in the man's hand shift targets, and Tony reached out with his left hand.
Immediately the man tripped backwards, landing hard on his backside, and another flick of Tony's wrist had the gun flying from his fingers and skittering away from him, across the pavement of the parking garage. It came to a quick stop under Ziva's foot as she and McGee rounded the corner, guns drawn.
Breathing deeply, calm and peaceful, Tony watched them detain Davis as he hurried to his boss. The man was just standing, swiping at a trickle of blood from his jaw, irritated.
"You all right, boss?" Tony asked quickly, keeping his voice pitched low to avoid carrying to the other members of the team; if there was one thing Leroy Jethro Gibbs hated with a passion, it was being hurt and fawned over.
"Yeah, just a scrape. What the hell happened?" he asked, somewhat dazed, and Tony surreptitiously started looking for the telltale signs of a concussion.
"Bad guy started running away, tripped, lost his weapon. Works well for us, since we got a spontaneous admission in the process. Didn't want to have to kill him," Tony added sincerely as he put a supportive hand on Gibbs' elbow as the man swayed a bit in place.
But the blue eyes peering at him were a bit more focused and determined than Tony was expecting.
"You sure about that, DiNozzo?"
Blinking at the sudden interrogating tone in his boss's voice, Tony nodded slowly, saying, "Yeah, boss. I'm sure."
He thought about trying something then, but thought better of it immediately.
His boss was not a weak-minded fool, for sure.
Tony grinned over his half-empty beer. The entire team, Gibbs included (for once), had met up at a bar after the close of a hugely successful terrorist sting. They'd taken down three separate terrorist cells operating in the tri-state area, no agents had been lost or wounded, and two of the terrorists were singing like canaries.
The atmosphere of the bar itself seemed to be reflective of the jovial mood of the group at the large table. Abby and Ducky were also gracing their booth, and Jimmy Palmer was present as well. Everyone was joking and laughing with each other, and beside him, Tony could feel Gibbs was relaxed and at ease, satisfied with the conclusion of the case.
"Well, boss? You wish you came out with us more often?" Tony asked in a soft voice, pitching his tone to carry only to his leader.
Gibbs took a swallow of his own beer and raised an eyebrow at his second in command.
"It's no jar of whiskey in the basement by a boat, that's for sure," Gibbs allowed, and a quick aural pulse showed Tony the man was more than happy to be surrounded by his healthy, uninjured, victorious team.
His grin almost splitting his face, Tony was about to respond when the general content vibration that echoed through the bar was tainted by a spike of sadness. The smile slipping from his face, Tony cast his eyes around, pinpointing the location of the unhappiness. A girl – she could be no older than twenty five – was arguing quietly with a group of her girlfriends at a table across the room. Tony tilted his head and patiently channeled the tones of her voice into something he could understand. After a moment, his smile returned and he quickly chugged the rest of his beer.
Gibbs, who had watched his actions with nothing more than a thin-lipped frown and a hardened gaze, asked, "What's going on, DiNozzo?"
His smile never faltering, Tony jumped up from his edge seat in the booth and jerked his head towards the table that had grabbed his attention.
"Gotta give a present to a bride-to-be, boss. Be right back," he said with a twinkle in his eyes, and he turned and walked across the busy bar with purposeful steps.
Gibbs watched him, confused, and took a sip of his drink as he watched his friend. Tony approached the table with the half dozen women and bent over, speaking to one of the women in particular with his ever-charming grin on his face. His smile slipped a bit when he turned his attention to the other five girls, all dolled up in makeup and staring at him with shocked looks on their faces.
Giving the woman a final smile, Tony held out his hand and with her face glowing, the woman accepted whatever offer he'd given and stood. Giving the other girls at the table a cooler glance, Tony led the woman towards a vacant stage, pausing at the bar for a moment to speak with the bartender.
Watching his steps, Gibbs fought a grimace when he realized, far too belatedly, that the bar he had allowed himself to be dragged to was, in fact, a karaoke bar. Catching onto the fact that one of their group was missing, the rest of the team quieted.
"Where did Tony go?" Ziva asked into the sudden localized silence.
Hating being unsure, Gibbs gave what information he had.
"He went to give a bride-to-be a present," he answered, his words stony in his confusion, and he gestured towards the stage where Tony and the mystery woman were just approaching.
Taking two microphones off their stands and turning them on, Tony tapped one a few times to get the attention of the bar while the chuckling bartender flipped on the multicolored stage lights and messed with a music system.
"Excuse me, everyone! Excuse me!" Tony said loudly into his microphone, his green eyes bright in the heavy lighting.
The bar grew as close to silent as it could as most patrons turned towards him. His confidence never wavering, Tony turned and gave the jeans and t-shirt clad woman behind him the second microphone and placed a steadying hand on her shoulder.
"This is Stephanie. She just returned from her first tour of duty in Iraq," Tony said, and the petite, brunette woman beside him blushed a little and waved slightly as the entire bar erupted in shouts of gratitude and clapping. Squeezing her shoulder, Tony nodded at the response and continued, "She and her fiancé Robert are going to be married tomorrow in a Skype call tomorrow, as he's still serving in Afghanistan. She came here with a few of her friends to celebrate. She asked for one thing from her friends: she wanted one of them to join her in singing the song that Robert used to propose to her, as a tribute to her future husband."
At this, Tony cast a slightly censorious look at the table where Stephanie's friends sat red-faced, staring at their drinks in an effort to not notice the half of the bar that now sent them their own disapproving gazes.
"Since none of them agreed to do it, I offered to join her in this duet. She graciously accepted. So now, we give you a more-than-likely hammed-up version of the Elephant Love Medley from the movie Moulin Rouge," Tony finished, and he cast his eyes to the bartender for a moment before backing away from Stephanie slightly.
There was no music when Tony suddenly said emphatically, "Love is a many splendored thing! Love lifts us up where we belong! All you need is love!"
Stephanie smiled widely and then rolled her eyes, begging, "Please, don't start that again."
Tony edged closer to her and sang softly, "All you need is love…"
Stephanie stepped backwards and said, "A girl has got to eat.."
Tony repeated, "All you need is love…"
The girl sounded frustrated as she added, "Or she'll end up on the street!"
Tony gave her his best puppy dog look and sang again, "All you need is love…"
Putting a hand on her hip, Stephanie stared hard at him and said in an authoritative tone, "Love is just a game."
Abruptly there was fast paced music blaring through the speakers, the bartender hitting the player at the perfect moment, and Tony's voice grew deep and rich as he sang, "I was made for loving you, baby. You were made for loving me!"
Stephanie stuck a finger into his chest and pushed him backwards a few feet, grinning as he stumbled back, a false look of hurt on his face as she melodiously said, "The only way of loving me, baby, is to pay a lovely fee."
She turned away, and Tony sang softly to her back, his words begging her, "Just one night. Give me just one night."
Scoffing, Stephanie turned back to him and answered, "There's no way, 'cause you can't pay!"
Dropping to one knee in an overdone way, Tony sang, "In the name of love! One night in the name of love?"
Crossing her arms, still holding her microphone, Stephanie responded, "You crazy fool…I won't give in to you!"
Almost cutting off her words, the agent stood abruptly and said, "Don't…leave me this way. I can't survive without your sweet love. Oh, baby, don't leave me this way."
Tilting her head and pretending to gaze up at the stars, her eyes instead landing on the bright stage lights, Stephanie sang a rhetorical question; "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs."
Walking up behind her and looking at her with a smile on his face, Tony answered in a soft tone, "I look around me, and I see it isn't so, oh no."
Stephanie sang on, almost as though she hadn't heard him. "Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs."
Grabbing her shoulder, Tony spun her to face him, his face covered with a wide grin as he sang, "Well, what's wrong with that? I'd like to know. 'Cause here I go again…!"
His voice shifted from the deep and rich timber he'd had and to a slightly higher key as he sang, "Love lifts us up where we belong! Where eagles fly, on a mountain high!"
Stephanie shook her head and responded, "Love makes us act like we are fools. Throw our lives away? For one happy day?"
Right on the heels of her question, Tony sang loudly, "We could be heroes! …Just for one day."
Stephanie laughed softly, obviously enjoying herself immensely, and she stepped away from him and said, "You…you will be mean!"
A mock look of hurt came over his face as Tony defended, "No, I won't!"
Stephanie turned away for a moment before whirling around and stating factually, "And I? I'll drink all the time!"
Tony's voice rose high as he countered easily, "We should be lovers!"
Stephanie shook her head slightly, answering, "We can't do that."
Tony took another step closer and sang again, "We should be lovers! And that's a fact."
A wave of fake revelation crossed Stephanie's tan face and she sang, "Though nothing will keep us together…"
Tony stepped closer and sang, "We could steal time…"
Grinning widely at each other, Stephanie and Tony fell in sync, him taking the lower key while she took the higher one.
"Just for one day. We could be heroes, forever and ever! We could be heroes, forever and ever! We could be heroes…!"
They trailed off, and Tony inhaled deeply before singing in a strong voice, "Just because I…will always love you."
His tone was perfectly inflected as he drew out the lyrics, and Stephanie echoed him, singing a long, heavy, "I…" before their songs met up and they sang together, "Can't help loving…"
In a voice soft as satin, Tony whispered, "You…"
Smiling widely as the music faded away, Stephanie sang sweetly, "How wonderful life is…"
Grinning back at her with the same joy, Tony took her free hand in his and they sang, "Now you're in the world."
Their words fell silent as the song ended, and there was a split second of silence before the entire bar burst into cheers, whistles, and clapping. For their part, the team could only stare as their teammate replaced the microphones and gave Stephanie a completely platonic hug, his visage more carefree than they could ever remember seeing it.
Sitting silently as the rest of the group gathered their wits and joined the rest of the patrons in cheering the spot-on performance, Gibbs finished his beer and stared hard at his second. He watched him escort Stephanie back to her table, give her another sincere hug, and turn back to the table where the team sat.
The bar was settling down at this point, and Tony waved off a few pats on the back from other carousers as he sat down. Signaling for another beer, Tony grinned cheekily at his friends and just shrugged at their appraising looks.
"So I like to sing."
The group abruptly launched into a chorus of "Why didn't you tell me's?" and "When did you find time to learn so well's?" while Gibbs kept quiet, watching his friend deflect every question. When the group's attention finally turned elsewhere, to a conversation regarding some well-known band, Gibbs just gave Tony a look.
"You couldn't have heard her conversation from here, DiNozzo. You didn't have a clear enough line of sight to read their lips. None of them knew you, so you couldn't have known about this beforehand," he stated calmly but quietly.
Tony waited until the waitress bringing him his drink had left, not bothering to notice the phone number written on his new coaster, before turning suddenly unreadable eyes towards his boss.
"What are you saying, Gibbs?" his voice was flat, with no affect.
Shrugging uncharacteristically, the silver-haired agent said, "I don't know. But I just wanted you to know that I noticed. I notice a lot of things with you."
The look he fixed Tony with reminded the younger man of a bounty hunter he'd once had the misfortune of running into. They were very focused, very calm, and very, very determined.
"And sometimes, you make me wonder, Tony."
Swallowing hard, Tony asked, "Wonder what, Boss?"
Gibbs didn't shift his gaze.
"You make me wonder who you are, and what you are."
It was the strongest, most intense flicker he'd felt in a long time. The last time he'd felt one that strong was when McGee had been about to open the letter that was sealed with a kiss.
It was a feeling that generally meant nearly certain death.
He and Gibbs were crossing the street when it happened. He tamped down his fear and surprise, releasing both of them to the world as he opened himself entirely to his surroundings. Colors and motion became suddenly sharp and clear, and his soul sang with a single word: Danger.
Glancing around quickly, Tony saw what he was being warned about. A black SUV was barreling towards them, its texting driver completely oblivious to the red light that had triggered the white "WALK" light that Tony and Gibbs were obeying. Instantly grabbing Gibbs' suit jacket, Tony threw them both to the side, out of the way of the truck.
Landing flat on his back, the wind knocked out of him by the harsh impact, Gibbs immediately trained his eyes on his second in command. After everything he'd seen and thought he'd seen Tony do, there was no way in hell he was turning his attention elsewhere. Tony had landed right next to Gibbs in a bit better condition, considering his preparedness, and he turned his gaze to the road behind them, sitting up slightly.
"Look out!" Tony yelled at the two teenagers who were beginning their oblivious trek across the street, both of them also texting on their phones. (Tony swore up and down that he'd never walk and play Tetris on his cell again.)
At his shout, the two girls looked up, staring wide-eyed at him before turning terrified gazes towards the truck that was still not slowing. In less than a heartbeat, Tony took in every aspect of his surroundings and decided upon a course of action. Gritting his teeth, excruciatingly aware of his boss's intense gaze, Tony barely raised his left hand and turned it slightly, hoping the man beside him had somehow not noticed his motion. The wheels on the SUV began turning suddenly, and the truck immediately shifted its course, throwing its driver into the passenger seat.
Texting while driving a two ton truck in the middle of busy downtown Alexandria and not wearing a seat belt. Of course, Tony grumbled silently as the truck abruptly flipped and began rolling.
Rolling right towards the two prone men on the ground.
Throwing himself back down on the ground, Tony watched as the truck came ever closer, and he heard Gibbs' breath quicken. In the space of less than two seconds, it was on them.
Closing his eyes and breathing deeply, Tony lifted his left hand a little higher than before, and opened his eyes to watch the truck roll towards them…bounce…and land on the other side of them. Twisting quickly, he reached towards the truck as it rolled towards the bodega behind them.
In a dozen feet, it slid to a sudden, suspiciously quick halt, just two meters from the scared-witless customers sitting at the outside eating area.
Exhaling softly, feeling only the slightest drain from the ten second disaster, Tony turned his gaze to his boss. Gibbs was already staring at him, suspicion and unease obvious in his eyes.
And Tony was abruptly certain both emotions were directed at him, and him alone.
"Boy, that was sure lucky, wasn't it, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked in an odd tone.
Still so open and at one with himself, the world, and the past and the present, Tony instinctively responded, "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck."
Wincing internally as a favorite saying of his old friend flowed from his mouth, the younger agent sat upright and started dusting off his clothes, mercifully hearing sirens in the distance moving closer. A quick pulse told him the driver of the SUV was unconscious but otherwise uninjured, and Tony breathed out his relief.
"So what was it, then?" Gibbs asked with an unexpected tone of frustration clouding his words.
Glancing up at him, as Gibbs had already stood, Tony smiled slightly and made a split decision. Holding out his hand in a silent request for help up, Gibbs reached down and hauled him quickly, albeit gently, to his feet.
At the solid physical contact, Tony poured as much reassurance and peace into the other man, mentally whispering, You'll know soon enough.
Gibbs was silent, stunned, and while walking towards the approaching emergency response vehicles, Tony found himself silent and stunned as well. Because where there should have been the same dull, brick-like response to his aural pulse he had felt with every other person he'd touched on this planet, he had found a bright, vast reply. Almost overwhelmed by the only conclusion such a mental reaction would mean, Tony stumbled.
Gibbs was like him.
It was almost ten at night when it happened. The team was just finishing up their daily paperwork in the entirely deserted bullpen; Gibbs was speaking with Ziva at her desk, McGee was typing leisurely at his report, and Tony was walking towards Gibbs' desk to drop off his own paperwork. Dropping it to the desktop, Tony turned to say something flippant to McGee.
That's the moment an entire world came crashing down.
Abruptly, Tony stumbled into the closest chair (it just happened to be Gibbs'), breathing heavily. There was suddenly a crushing ache in his chest, a dark hole of terror and despair welling in his soul. He gasped heavily, stars dancing in front of his eyes, and he vaguely heard quick words spoken over his head. He panted loudly, one hand going to his chest, the other gripping the armrest of his commandeered chair tightly.
All of a sudden, there was a warm hand on the back of his neck, and someone was forcing his head down between his knees. The pulsing wound in his heart throbbed slower and slower, his breaths evening out as well. He blinked back tears as he felt the tremors settle rapidly, and grief began to fester in his soul. There were few things in the universe that could end the song of life so suddenly.
The spots in his vision slowly diminished as he brought his breathing back under control. His master's advice – "Breathe. Breathe." – was echoed above his head by a voice he didn't often hear laced with fear.
"Breathe, Tony. Just breathe," Gibbs ordered, his words soft.
Tony slowly forced his hand from its death grip on the chair while rubbing his chest with his other. He heard Gibbs order Tim to call for Ducky, but Tony reached up and gripped his boss's wrist tightly.
"No, boss. Don't need him. It's not medical," he whispered, voice strained.
Everything lapsed into silence and Tony knew Gibbs was studying him intently. After a few seconds, though, he heard an exasperated sigh.
"At least you didn't tell me you were fine," Gibbs muttered as he withdrew his hand from Tony's neck.
Tony let him go and tried not to feel bereft at the loss of contact; he could feel the worry echoing in his boss's wonderfully open mind. Feeling himself come as close to normal as possible, save for a deep bruise in his soul that he knew would never heal, Tony sat up slowly and opened his eyes. His team was surrounding him, all wearing some form of concern on their faces.
"What happened?" Gibbs asked, cutting straight to the chase.
The younger agent was about to fumble for some sort of acceptable answer when he felt a small vibration at his hip, a tinkling melody floating in the room. Tony's eyes went wide and he immediately pulled the communicator from its customary location in his pocket. In front of him, his partner huffed, annoyed.
"This is barely a time to answer you cell phone, Tony," Ziva said pointedly.
But Tony ignored her. All his attention was on the small silver device in his palm. It had been his silent companion through seven years' worth of midnights. And, on the tail of a world-shattering disturbance, it was silent no longer.
Glancing up at the three people gathered before him, Tony inhaled deeply, opening himself up to the vibrations of the world, and pressed the comlink. He remained silent, saying nothing, knowing better than to speak before he knew who he was speaking to.
"There is no emotion, there is peace. There is no ignorance, there is knowledge. There is no passion, there is serenity. There is no chaos, there is harmony."
The aged voice came across an infinite number of stars, distorted through solar winds and distance, the voice crackling with the strain of the communicator's taxed power source. For seven yeas, he had been living someone else's life, living by someone else's rules. He had been himself, truly himself, just a handful of times. But with those words, Tony felt the cobwebs of his isolation fall from his mind, felt the dust rise off his soul, and felt himself come alive once more.
"There is no death, there is the Force," he breathed into the communicator, the words a balm to his soul.
There was a moment of silence before the man's voice came over the comlink again.
"Kael-Derin Fel, you sound well."
Smiling slightly, the Jedi Master Kael-Derin Fel shed every pretense of his life as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, and he breathed easy as he responded, "You as well, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
The silence was shorter this time.
"I wish I had more time to speak with you, but I fear a great tragedy has befallen some of our most supportive allies. Master Yoda instructed I contact you at the first sign of a strong Rebellion response to the Imperial forces. Such a time has come."
Nobody spoke, and Kenobi continued, "I fear this may be the last time I am able to speak with you for awhile, my friend. Do you still have transport?"
Kael-Derin released his frustration to the Force as he answered, "The fuel cells burned on initial entry. But I have another complication, Master. I have reason to believe there is a Sith upon this planet. A dozen bodies have turned up in places I lingered during my travels on this planet. All are dead by lightsaber strikes. And I felt a localized disturbance in the Force directly before the first victim was killed."
Kenobi was quiet for several seconds, and Kael-Derin took the time to look around him at the three now-dumfounded agents. Gibbs looked slightly enlightened, Tim looked slightly shocked, and Ziva looked completely confused.
"That does complicate things," Kenobi agreed before adding, "You must confront and defeat this Sith; that will make safe the planet and give you access to his transport."
Kael-Derin nodded and said, "There's a further complication, Master. I have three natives standing two feet from me listening to this conversation. I have spent a great deal of time with them, and I believe one of them is Force Sensitive and may have developed an echo of my Force signature. I fear this echo may continue to draw our enemies here, even after I leave the system."
"Agreed. Your insight serves you well, my friend. Take the Force Sensitive with you, if you can. You may yet return this person to their home planet at the end of this struggle."
Kael-Derin nodded once, hating the circumstances but understanding the situation.
"Understood, Master Kenobi. Once the threat is neutralized, am I to meet up with you?" he asked quietly, though a twinge in his heart gave him some clue of the answer.
"No, Master Fel. Your path takes you a different route from my own. Upon gaining some transport, contact this comlink again. You will receive instructions."
Kael-Derin frowned slightly, hearing some finality in the tone of his old friend but not knowing where it came from. Still, he knew how to follow the orders of a Master Jedi older and wiser than him.
"Yes, Master. It shouldn't take long to flush out the Sith. I'll make contact again when I've made it off planet."
This time, there was a definite note of irrevocability in Kenobi's voice as he said, "You have always been a great friend, Kael-Derin. I foresee you training many in the ways of the Jedi, once this conflict is over."
There was a moment of silence, and Kael-Derin used it to swallow his growing grief at the goodbye he was hearing.
"Be safe in your travels, Kael-Derin. May the Force be with you," Kenobi finally said, his voice soft and reminiscent of his younger years.
Kael-Derin ducked his head a bit as he responded, "With you as well, Master."
There was a moment's stillness before the comlink buzzed with static. Breathing deeply, his mind aching to dash towards all the future implications his orders meant but his thoughts kept firmly rooted in the here and now by years of training, Kael-Derin thumbed off the comlink and stared at it.
Finally pocketing it again, he looked up and smiled slightly as he clasped his hands in front of him. His teammates were standing a few feet away, two of them very obviously unsure with the latest development in their lives. Only one seemed to be less than surprised. He supposed he should've been expecting it.
Finally he stood, feeling completely at ease in his own body for the first time in close to a decade. He shook his head at the obvious, overwhelming curiosity on the faces of his friends.
"I'm assuming you may have questions, after hearing that. But I'd prefer if I could answer them elsewhere. Can we meet up at my apartment?" Kael-Derin asked, already moving back to his desk.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes as he watched his agent pull a folder from a locked drawer. The younger man set the manila envelope almost reverently in the "Admin." bin on his desk, smiling almost sadly at it, before he grabbed the rest of his personal belongings and tossed them in the trash. He kept only a few photos, tucking them into his pocket.
"What are you doing?" Tim asked softly, watching as all of the man's possessions went straight into the trashcan.
Kael-Derin powered down his computer and flipped off his light, glancing around one more time at his work area. Looking up, he flashed a grin at the man, his face holding only a small piece of unhappiness.
"That's one of those questions I'll answer at home, McGee. I'll meet you guys there," he threw over his shoulder as he walked towards the elevator, his movements far more graceful than they'd ever been before.
Watching him go, Gibbs waited until the elevator door slid shut. Then, moving slowly, he walked up and opened the manila envelope. Pulling the single piece of paper, Gibbs read the words with detached shock.
It is with great reluctance that I tender my immediate resignation from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Anthony D. DiNozzo
The knock on his door came twenty minutes after he himself had entered the building. Already, though, he'd packed a small duffel bag with a couple changes of clothes and a few mementos that he was inclined to keep. He had also already changed into his traditional Jedi robes, forgoing the cloak at the moment. The dark brown of his outer robes matched his hair, and were it lit, the emerald green of his lightsaber would match his eyes.
Walking silently in his calf-high leather boots, he reached out with the Force and confirmed the identity of his three visitors. Mildly relieved that they hadn't taken it upon themselves to invite Abby, Kael-Derin opened the door. Gibbs was in front, as usual, and Tim and Ziva flanked him, their nervousness giving way to blatant shock as they got a good look at his apparel. Glancing down at his cream tunic and leggings, Kael-Derin swept away the minor tickle of self-consciousness and stepped aside from the door, gesturing towards his living room.
"Come on in. I've got coffee brewing," he said, his words almost unnecessary as the group filed into the apartment, the air heavy with the aroma of dark roasted beans.
Closing the door behind them, the Jedi followed them and watched as Ziva sat next to McGee on the couch, both of them uncomfortable with the situation. Only Gibbs remained standing, his eyes fixed on his newly-resigned agent's face.
His ex-agent who was staring at Ziva and McGee with something in his eyes that Gibbs didn't quite know how to interpret.
Kael-Derin studied the two and finally stepped forward, coming up behind the couch without a sound, and placed a hand on both their shoulders. Instantly, their heads fell to their chests, Tim slumping against the arm of the couch closest to him, Ziva sliding down a bit to rest against him. The Jedi maintained contact for half a second longer before stepping away, exhaling harshly.
Gibbs leapt forward, fear for his agents clear on his face, and his movements as he checked their vital signs slowed slightly as Kael-Derin quietly said, "I only made them sleep, Gibbs. I would never harm them. This is safer for them."
Glancing up, hearing and ignoring the slightly hurt tone in the other man's voice, Gibbs snapped, "Forgive me if trusting you isn't at the top of my list of things to do today."
The younger man blinked at the amount of anger in the lead agent's voice, needing no probe to determine the man felt betrayed.
Hoping to gain some of that trust back, Kael-Derin sat on the arm of another chair and explained softly, "I made them think that it was a dream, the conversation they heard with Master Kenobi. I also implanted the suggestion that they knew of my resignation for the last few months. They will wake up believing they fell asleep here after a farewell party for me, and that they're responsible for setting my affairs in order, since I decided to take a job abroad that would not allow me to bring all my personal belongings. It's best for them, this way."
Gibbs stood, finally convinced that his sleeping agents were, indeed, sleeping, and that his other agent had officially lost his mind.
"What the hell are you?" he bit out, wanting to believe his friend was still the man he'd worked with for three years but unwilling to stake his life on that belief.
Kael-Derin inclined his head towards another seat in the room, sighing silently when Gibbs didn't take it, and made himself comfortable in his chair.
"As you heard, my name is Kael-Derin Fel. I am not from this planet; I was born on Sevarcos in the Outer Rim. This solar system is in a quarantined area; the rest of the galaxy believes it is because the star is unstable and liable to go supernova at any moment. The truth is, this system, along with a dozen others, was cordoned off by the Jedi Council on the planet Coruscant as a safe haven for Jedi in case of mass civil war. Such a thing happened nineteen years ago. One we trusted as head of the Senate – a political body made of representatives of star systems and guilds in the Republic, which numbered more than two thousand, at my last count – betrayed the entire galaxy and took ten years to stage a coup that saw the Jedi branded as traitors, the Senate disbanded, and the rest of the Republic gathered into an imperial empire."
Kael-Derin paused for a moment, watching as Gibbs finally surrendered to his aching knees and sat in the chair across from him.
"Jedi were peacekeepers of the galaxy. We were responsible for providing unbiased mediation in disputes, protecting the defenseless, and aiding those who required it. But we were too great a threat to the new Empire, and so the new Emperor twisted the Republic's army. They attacked us, destroying most of us, and another of our order turned against us as well. He attacked our home, the Jedi Temple, and killed those the soldiers did not."
Here, Kael-Derin hesitated, remembering the frantic flight he and a companion had made from that burning building, both of them stumbling over the bodies of friends while one they called ally murdered behind them.
"He was someone you knew? Who attacked the Temple?" Gibbs asked, obviously picking up on the painful memory Kael-Derin was reliving.
Reminded again that Gibbs was an oblivious Force Sensitive, the Jedi raised better shields around his emotions and gave a tight nod.
"He was a mentor of mine, and he was Master Kenobi's apprentice. His betrayal was terrible and ever-encompassing. After the massacre, he attacked his wife and nearly killed her, though his turning damned his children to life as orphans; she died giving birth to them. And now he stands beside the Emperor, hunting down the last of the resistance. During the massacre at the Temple, I managed to escape with a friend, Jedi Knight Vosh Teff. We retreated from Coruscant and made contact with Masters Kenobi and Yoda. Vosh was ordered to Alderaan to watch over the leaders of the Rebel movement. I was only fifteen at the time, and I met up with Master Yoda on another planet. He trained me for twelve years before he sent me here, to train on my own and await his call."
A memory swam to the surface and Gibbs breathed, "The call to war."
Smiling slightly, the Jedi nodded and excused himself, returning a few minutes later with two cups of coffee. Accepting his with only a slight tinge of suspicion, Gibbs sat back down.
"I've seen you move things without touching them. What exactly is a Jedi?" he asked, though something in his tone hinted at a bit of fear.
Kael-Derin sipped his coffee and answered, "We are members of any species of race that are Force Sensitive and trained in the ways of the Force. The Force is a web of energy, of life, that connects and envelops everything. It's spreads across the whole of the universe, and every action, good and bad, echoes across it. So Jedi can sense things, and sometimes see things, happening elsewhere in the city, country, world, or galaxy they're in, depending on the severity of the disturbance."
Taking a moment to shift in his chair, the man continued, "By opening ourselves to the world, by focusing on everything and nothing at the same time, the Force affects our movements, our thoughts. It controls us, to a degree, by giving us faster reflexes, higher kinesiological functions, better muscle control. It gives us visions of the future, and clarifies memories of the past. Using the Force, we can affect objects – make them move, for instance – as we need to. We can sense the thoughts and emotions of other sentient beings. And as you saw with Tim and Ziva, we can use the Force to plant suggestions into the minds of those who are weak-minded. And no, they aren't weak-minded. I was just using a particularly draining and nearly infallible sleep suggestion my Master taught me."
Taking a long swig of his own drink, Gibbs asked, "Your Master?"
Kael-Derin glanced down and answered, "My Master Denth Su. He was killed by an enemy shortly before the massacre."
Swallowing a bit of guilt over bringing up what was obviously a painful memory for the man, Gibbs waited a moment before asking, "You said something about a Sith? And what do you mean you know a Force Sensitive?"
Standing and pacing the living room slowly, the younger man replied, "I felt a disturbance in the Force nearly a year ago. There have been multiple murders across the country, committed with a lightsaber, the weapon of those trained in the Force, be they light side or dark side."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow, and Kael-Derin explained concisely, "Essentially the good and evil side of the Force. Those who open themselves to the light side of the Force are Jedi, those of the dark side are Dark Jedi, or Sith; both Master Kenobi's old apprentice and the Emperor are Sith. And a lightsaber is a beam of plasma energy encased in a containment shield. Very dangerous, very difficult to use. And very distinctive.
"When I first arrived on this planet seven years ago, I didn't think that another would be able to follow me, be they Jedi, Sith, or any manner of life, because of the defensive parameters put in place around this system. I managed to pass them because Master Yoda gave me the code to temporarily lower the defenses. I still don't know how he managed to get past them," the Jedi sighed, massaging his temples for a moment.
Remembering the other half of the question, Kael-Derin paused and weighed his words, releasing his anxieties to the Force. Standing with his back to Gibbs, he straightened a bit. But before he could answer the man's question, he felt a sudden spike in the Force, too close and too malevolent for comfort.
Freezing in place, he stretched out his senses, his countenance becoming grim when he found the cold and dread that swirled through the Force. So he'd been tracked down, at last. Thankful he'd placed his lightsaber on his belt, he took it in his hand and glanced over his shoulder at Gibbs. The older agent was studying him carefully, frowning.
"Stay here. Watch over Tim and Ziva. I'll be back as soon as I can," Kael-Derin said, before turning and hurrying toward the front door.
He was out of sight, the door clicking softly shut behind him, before Gibbs could say a word.
Several minutes later, his coffee cup drained, Gibbs sat quietly in the silent apartment, his eyes ghosting over Ziva and Tim without really seeing them. Holding the empty and cold mug in his hands, the agent thought hard over everything he'd been told. It wasn't that he didn't believe Tony – or Kael-Derin, as he was actually called. He truly trusted that everything he'd been told was the truth. He felt with his gut that the man hadn't lied to him about anything.
Maybe that was the problem.
Kael-Derin was an alien, born on another planet. He was able to manipulate objects and the thoughts of people with his own mind. He could feel events, and sense the emotions and intentions of other people. He had implied that there were other alien species out there, possibly not even humanoid. He'd said outright that there were at least two thousand star systems and guilds represented in the now-dissolved Senate. There was an entire universe out there that the people of Earth didn't even fathom existed.
Thinking about the question that he'd asked but hadn't been answered, Gibbs swallowed hard. Looking at the two sleeping agents across from him, he had a feeling he knew who Kael-Derin said was a Force Sensitive.
As though to prove his point, his gut suddenly started churning. Standing quickly, Gibbs mindlessly dropped his coffee cup onto the table beside him, uselessly looking around the room where nothing obvious was amiss. But his stomach was doing somersaults, and he shuddered at the cold tingle of unaccustomed dread that crept up his spine.
He suddenly, instinctively knew that somewhere close by, Kael-Derin was in trouble.
Glancing at his slumbering agents, healthy and well, Gibbs felt his heart make a decision before his brain caught up with it.
And, cursing loudly, he jumped up, pulled his SIG, and ran out the front door.
Jogging quickly through the streets, deserted and vacant in their eleven at night, weekday blanket of sleep, Gibbs thought hard, trying to figure out where the other man had gone. Familiar as he was with his friend's neighborhood, he couldn't figure the logical place to go have a laser sword fight with a bad guy. Unbidden, something Kael-Derin said filtered through his mind.
"Focusing on everything and nothing at the same time…Jedi can sense things, and sometimes see things, happening elsewhere in the city."
Slowing to a physical stop as his own brain halted in its tracks, Gibbs growled in frustration.
"Abby's the one who deals with this kind of mumbo-jumbo," he muttered.
But the unease in his stomach was getting to a point he almost felt nauseous. Resolutely pushing away any sense of embarrassment or shame, Gibbs took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and just felt.
For several seconds nothing happened, and the agent almost kicked himself for being so stupid. Then, abruptly, a picture flashed in his mind: Kael-Derin scuffling backwards, a slight limp and bloody side making otherwise graceful movements clumsy. A jade beam of light in his hand, flashing brilliantly as it deflected another weapon, this one blood red. Trees everywhere, some scorched with parallel lines and symmetrical, circular burns. And in the background, a swing set sat silently in the night.
Exhaling forcefully, Gibbs wrenched open his eyes and whirled on his heel, his knees screaming as he took off towards the park that was a few blocks away. What felt like hours only took minutes to reach, and the agent slowed and made his steps as silent as possible as he crept into the park. The lot itself was the size of four city blocks, the green oasis carved out of the concrete jungle by environmentalists looking for their share of oxygen, politicians looking for their share of positive publicity, and businessmen looking for their share of fame.
His gun still drawn (though what use it would be, he had no idea), Gibbs stalked quietly over the tarmac of two basketball courts. There was a small rise that separated the two sections of the park, and as Gibbs approached it, he felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck and his insides tremble. Dropping to the ground, he Army-crawled towards the top of the rise, hesitating when he reached it.
The scene he took in when he peered over the ridge just about made him think that he'd actually lost his mind.
Many of the details were the same as he'd envisioned. Pockmarks were spread over some of the trees, and there were multiple blackened gashes over tree trunks and the ground. In the middle of the destruction was Kael-Derin, his balance seeming a little off center, and the front of his cream tunic dark with blood. He stood still, the green lightsaber pulsing in his hands. There seemed to be a temporary lull in the battle.
Across from him stood a man clothed entirely in black, and his shoulder length hair matched his clothing. His dark eyes glittered like burning coal in the full moon's light, and while he stood several dozen feet away, his red lightsaber glaring in the darkness, Gibbs could sense, somehow, that the man was wounded.
"You cannot fight the truth, Jedi. My Master will wipe every last trace of the Old Republic from the face of the universe. He will turn every Force Sensitive to the dark side. He will destroy everything you have fought so pathetically to defend," sneered the Sith as he and Kael-Derin circled each other.
Then his friend spoke, the other man's voice calmer than Gibbs believed to be possible, given the circumstances.
"You're wrong. Everyday the Empire grows weaker as world after world chafes under the Emperor's grip. The people are stirring, yearning to be free. If this wasn't true, your Master would not have sent you here to destroy me," Kael-Derin argued, cool truth echoing in his voice.
Growling loudly, the Sith shouted, "And destroy you I shall!"
With no warning, the dark man leapt forward, his jump taking him directly in front of the Jedi. Gibbs watched, mouth agape, as the two began dueling in earnest. Inclined as he was to help, something told him to stay put for the moment. And so he waited, staring at the two men.
Blocking the first blow, which was meant to take his head off, Kael-Derin pushed the Sith's saber away and whirled, swinging his blade around towards the Sith's midsection. His enemy blocked the move and then executed a simple flip over the Jedi, his lightsaber already moving towards Kael-Derin's side. This blow was also blocked, and the two battled back and forth, neither gaining nor losing ground.
Gibbs swallowed as he saw the Sith abruptly throw his hand out, his palm facing Kael-Derin. A split second later the Jedi flew backwards, slamming into a tree, his head hitting the trunk with a sickening crack. He slumped to the ground, his lightsaber falling to the ground and cutting off beside him.
The Sith's cold chuckle resonated eerily around the empty park as he limped heavily towards the tree, the difficulty in his gate more pronounced that Kael-Derin's. Gibbs felt the urgency that had previously deserted him return abruptly, and he obeyed to the feeling immediately.
Standing and training his gun on the other man, Gibbs shouted, "NCIS, freeze!"
Maybe due to shock or incredulousness, the man did actually stop. He turned, dark eyes widening at the intrusion, before he grinned in a feral manner, blood coating teeth that were – What the hell is he? Gibbs asked himself – shark-like, pointed and huge.
"Ah, the Force Sensitive. I wonder how you managed to sneak up on us like that," he growled, and for his part, Gibbs found himself wondering just how in the world he managed to speak with teeth that big.
Declining to inform the Sith that he'd been watching for several minutes, Gibbs stepped forward and snapped, "Back away from him, now. Drop your weapon."
At his harsh voice, Kael-Derin suddenly stirred, pushing himself to his hands and knees before forcing himself to his feet. He looked up, blinking owlishly for a moment, and then the situation returned to him and his face turned hard. Scooping up his lightsaber and reactivating it, he turned his attention to the Sith, who had yet to discard his weapon.
"Two against one? Those are odds I like!" the Sith bit out, sliding into a fighting stance.
It was obvious that Kael-Derin was done talking, for he gave no indication of a sudden dash forward. Green and red met again, the blades smashing against each other with discordant sounds. Gibbs didn't lower his gun and instead kept it trained on the Sith; the insistent pounding in his head hadn't yet lessened, and Gibbs was inclined to trust it.
Seemingly freshly determined by the agent's arrival, Kael-Derin threw himself into the fight with renewed vigor, the strength behind his attacks catching the Sith off guard. He pressed his advantage, forcing the man back behind the onslaught of his attacks. Gibbs watched, almost desperate to see what he was apparently being warned about.
In between one blocked blow and the oncoming of another, Gibbs saw it.
A glint of light shone from the Sith's left hand, a hand he was abruptly thrusting towards the Jedi as his right used his lightsaber to hold off his enemy's attacks. Inhaling deeply and trusting in something he didn't know if he believed, Gibbs sighted his target and fired.
The bullet ripped through the air, scored a thin line across the Jedi's upper right arm, and then buried itself in the Sith's chest. The gunshot echoed dully through the park, the trees absorbing most of the noise, and time seemed to freeze for a split second. Kael-Derin stared into the dimming eyes of the Sith, the two of them staring at each other in surprise. Then the moment slid away and time resumed. The Sith's eyes closed and he fell backwards to the ground, his saber hissing as it shut off, the previously hidden knife sliding from his left hand and landing silently on the ground.
Kael-Derin watched him fall, his eyes trained on the man's dead face, his shoulders tight. Then, only a moment later, his own eyes shut and he crumpled, his weapon flickering off as he hit the grass heavily. Gibbs blinked and then ran forward, cautiousness barely slowing his steps. Reaching the two fallen fighters, the agent nudged the Sith with his shoe, but knew instinctively that he was dead.
All obvious danger aside, Gibbs holstered his gun and dropped to his knees beside Kael-Derin, rolling him onto his back as gently as he could. The injured man groaned softly and his eyes flickered. Gibbs placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and began assessing his wounds.
"Blaster shot to my side. I twisted my ankle when I landed wrong on it. A bad headache but no concussion. And a lovely graze across my arm," Kael-Derin murmured as he came around.
Gibbs felt guilt rise in his throat but it died when his ex-agent blinked up at the night sky, turned tired but relieved eyes to him, and said simply, "Thanks."
Despite conventional wisdom telling him to allow it, the older man helped the Jedi sit up when he started to attempt it. Hissing lowly and placing one hand tight against his side, Kael-Derin glanced at the Sith, sadness flowing off him like water.
Taking a shot in the dark, Gibbs asked, "Did you know him?"
His eyes still trained on the dead man's face, the younger man nodded slightly and answered, "He used to be Jedi Knight Vosh Teff."
Gibbs tilted his head a bit and asked, "The man you escaped the Temple with?"
Sighing deeply at the loss, Kael-Derin turned his attention to his former boss, resignation obvious in his features.
"He must have seen something in the dark side that he liked."
Nodding at the statement but angry at the treason, Gibbs looked around the clearing, knowing they had to move.
"We have to get out of here. Can you move?" he asked, already preparing to help the Jedi stand.
Nodding, Kael-Derin accepted the help and got to his feet carefully, staggering a little. He turned grateful eyes to Gibbs when the older man wrapped a supportive arm around his shoulders. Working together, they quickly grabbed up the two lightsabers, the short but ornate knife the Sith had dropped, a few odd looking items from the dead man's belt, and the small blaster that had apparently been implemented at the beginning of the fight.
Smiling slightly at Kael-Derin's muttered, "So uncivilized," Gibbs shoved the blaster and sabers in his pockets and the two began to limp out of the park, spurred onward by the fast-approaching sirens.
They were halfway home before the police even arrived at the park.
"Don't worry. He was human. His teeth…that must have been some alteration after he turned. They'll think he's odd, not an alien," Kael-Derin said to Gibbs' pacing form.
Pausing in his worrying, the agent turned and sighed at the sight before him. Sitting carefully on the edge of his bed, a hand pressed gingerly to his side, his left boot looking a bit snug due to the bandage beneath it, the Jedi pressed a reassuring gaze to Gibbs' skeptical look.
It was two in the morning, and with his wounds treated as best they could manage with the (not-surprisingly well stocked) home first aid kit in the apartment, Kael-Derin looked close to exhaustion. Gibbs felt similarly, though his was more a mental strain than anything.
"So what's next?" the agent asked as he saw on a chair next to the bed.
It was a question he'd been working up the nerve to ask for almost an hour, because he was fairly certain any answer would involve him. Sighing and trying not to wince when his torn side screamed its protest, the Jedi turned troubled eyes to the man he'd called friend for three years.
"I took his transport locator from him, so I can locate his ship. I have to leave the planet as quickly as possible," he said quietly.
Gibbs nodded slightly, his eyes trained on his hands, and he asked, "And me?"
Sighing again, the younger man shifted slightly and took a moment to think before he responded, "You're the Force Sensitive I was talking about, Gibbs. I think you know that. You could tell I was in trouble. You knew I needed help. You had a vision that led you to me. You were able to hide your presence from the Sith, unconsciously. And you knew how to listen to what the Force was telling you. Working with you for three years, it took me most of that time to even recognize your talent, because you'd hidden it so well, on accident. There's no question you are highly sensitive to the Force. Out of everyone I've encountered on this planet, you're the only one who is."
Gibbs listened to this with dismayed interest, thinking, Dammit, I'm getting too old for this kind of crap.
Taking a deep breath, Kael-Derin said, "You've developed a strong echo of my own Force signature because of the time we've spent together. I am sorry for that, because I'm afraid that it could very well be a beacon to those who are looking for any Force Sensitives, in order to turn them to the dark side."
Asking an obvious question, Gibbs hoped, "Is there any way to get rid of the echo?"
Nodding slightly, the other man answered, "Training in the ways of the Force can destroy the echo and lead you to create your own impact on the Force, one you can actually control."
"And you're the only one who can train me, right?" Kael-Derin nodded again, and Gibbs said in an emotionless voice, "But you can't stay here."
That needed no response.
Huffing harshly, Gibbs scrubbed a hand over his face, wondering why he was so apprehensive about the obvious next step. What did he really have to lose, anyway? All that got him out of bed in the morning was his burning need to help people, to save them, the way that Shannon and Kelly hadn't been saved. And according to Kael-Derin, that's exactly what the Jedi did.
"What would I do, if I came with you?" he asked, voice soft in the barely-lit bedroom.
Not hedging his words, Kael-Derin replied, "Before the massacre, there were rules regarding the age at which Force Sensitives could be trained. Usually, they were taken as infants, with only the rarest of exceptions. But war, and the threat of extinction, changes everything. We need all the help we can get. And if you were trained…you have an amazing potential."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow at that, but Kael-Derin shrugged.
"I won't lie. The path of a Jedi isn't an easy one. Temptation is always there. Fear and anger, what many see as natural human emotions, are the lure of the dark side. And it can be frustrating to see our enemies have a quicker and easier time with their training, even though the dark side is weaker and infinitely fickle. But I think that you could learn to let go of a lifetime of bitterness and regret. I don't think you'd ever turn."
Accustomed to such enduring belief from Tony DiNozzo but not from Kael-Derin, Gibbs asked, "What makes you so sure?"
The Jedi's words were reverent as he answered, "Your wife and child. It would kill them again if you did. And I think you know that."
Images of Shannon and Kelly flickered through his head, accompanied by a single word spoken in a soft, feminine voice.
Exhaling sharply, Gibbs stood and looked around the room.
"Well, so long as we can stop by my place to grab some clothes and leave a note, I'm in."
If Kael-Derin was surprised at his sudden decision, he didn't show it. Instead, he nodded and stood a bit slower than his boss.
"Then let's go."
The sun was just creeping up over the horizon when they found the ship. Nestled in the most deserted area of Fort Hunt National Park, the yacht-sized spaceship was hidden behind a thick stand of cedar trees. The surface of the dart-like ship was covered with something resembling opal, and it shimmered in the dawn.
Kael-Derin was moving gingerly but quickly around the outside of the ship, checking the thrusters and the hull for any damage, while Gibbs stood silently, watching the sunrise, clutching the two lone duffel bags tightly.
"Gibbs? We're ready to head out."
The voice was quiet in his ears, the blood pounding through his veins dimming the noise for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he remembered kissing sleeping Ziva's cheek, squeezing unresponsive Tim's shoulder, and writing and signing a resignation letter before dropping it in the mail. The Jedi had offered and Gibbs had let him plant similar suggestions in their teammates' minds, so that they'd wake up believing that Gibbs' resignation was expected, as well.
For some reason, though, Gibbs didn't feel like he was walking away from his life so much as walking into it. Turning and seeing his friend's slightly conflicted gaze meet his, the older man smiled as that feminine voice sounded through his mind again.
"I'm ready," he said simply.
Nodding, Kael-Derin led the way into the ship. Gibbs followed, walking up the ramp and through the surprisingly spacious craft to the cockpit, everything around him seeming surreal. He felt an overwhelming sense of wonder and awe as the engines slipped them smoothly into space, incredibly advanced technology hiding them from any and all radar and sensors. He felt like he had barely blinked before he saw the planet Earth hanging in space before him like a blue marble in a sea of black glass. He would realize, later, that Kael-Derin had swung the ship around the moon and cut the engines for a moment to allow him one more view of his home world.
Sitting in the pilot's chair, already tapping in the coordinates he'd received from a particularly uptight protocol droid on the other side of the comlink he had treasured for seven years, Kael-Derin cast a glance at who he now knew would be his first Padawan. He had received a wartime promotion from Master Yoda from Knighthood to Master, a title he believed to be a gift during his seclusion. Now, he could honestly make the transition, as long as Gibbs progressed and passed whatever Trials the future Jedi order could concoct.
"Are you ready, Gibbs?" he asked, knowing the weight the other man was feeling; the man was practically broadcasting his emotions, and Kael-Derin knew what his first lesson was going to be.
Inhaling the recycled air, staring at the lights and controls that decorated the console of the spaceship he sat in, and feeling no weightlessness despite the lack of natural gravity, Gibbs thought he was nowhere near ready.
"Yeah, I am."
Smiling knowingly, Kael-Derin turned back to the controls and turned the ship around, preparing to send it into hyperspace.
"One thing, Gibbs," he suddenly said as his fingers danced over the console.
At the other man's expectant silence, Kael-Derin grinned cheekily at him, every pore of him oozing the humor that had characterized his cover on Earth.
"You'll have to start calling me Master."
The headslap that followed them into hyperspace resounded around the cockpit.
"Didn't think so."
Wow! Can't believe it's done! And it only took me three days, too. :D Yes, it's weird, completely odd, and the characters are totally OOC. But this plot bunny was hopping all over the place, driving me nuts. I could either humor it or shoot it; out of fear of PETA's wrath, I chose the former. So please, if you've got a second, leave me a review. Muchas gracias! :D