AN: Thanks to the people who reviewed but weren't logged in!
Justice is a Bag of Jelly Beans
Mateo Fuentes wanted to do something useful with his life. Brought up by his grandmother in a tiny village near Baguio in the Philippines, he'd taken his turn and looked after her devotedly until she died, and then come to the USA to stay with his cousin Roberto, ten years an American citizen.
His intention now, at age twenty-three, was to work hard, become a radiographer, and either return to his own country to work, or to naturalise like Roberto; so far the decision on going home or remaining with his friend and only living relative, hadn't been faced. Having not spoken English until he went to school, he still felt at a disadvantage compared to people from Manila and other cities, who were completely at ease with it. Roberto and Cara kept assuring him that he was perfectly fluent, but he still tangled up, or reverted to Tagalog (or 'Taglish', as Robbie teased,) at times of stress.
Mateo refused to be a financial burden on his cousin; and while he studied conscientiously he supported himself by working as an orderly at Bethesda Medical Center, where he was well liked by all his colleagues.
Staff Sergeant Glenn Gallier was a model Marine. Since he first enlisted, he'd been seen as a man with potential, capable of taking on responsibilities and dealing with them well. His progress upward through the ratings had been steady; there wasn't a black mark anywhere in his record.
He adored his wife Jane, who adored her soldier right back, and just now they were well aware of their good fortune, that the expected birth of their first child would happen while he was at home. Many wives had to go it alone, while their husbands worried about them somewhere in Baghdad or the wilds of Helmand province.
Mateo and Glenn… two good people whose paths just happened to cross at a bad time.
The Staff Sergeant woke up slowly from what he thought must have been a bad night's sleep in an awkward position under his Humvee. His neck really hurt. But so did the top of his head; that didn't fit with his first assumption. There was something stuck to his arm, snagging and hurting as he tried to move, and he wondered if he'd been wounded in action, and who'd tell Jane…
He sat up with a horrified yell, as he remembered. He lay in a hospital cubicle, curtains drawn, still fully clothed except for his top shirt and boots, an IV in his arm. Jane… the baby… people with guns…terror gripped him such as he had never felt in combat; there was a buzzing in his head like a flight of Hueys passing above it. He was a man of action; twenty seconds ago he'd been unaware of danger, now all he could think of was the immediate response that was needed; he ripped the canula out of his forearm, tore the curtain aside and ran out to find his wife.
A figure blocked his way; a young man, smaller than him, pushing a wheelchair and saying something in soothing tones that he wasn't hearing.
"Get the hell out of my way."
"Sir… please be going back… there's no danger… you're bleeding…sir, please…" Mateo couldn't, for the life of him, remember the word for rescued, or saved, although he knew this was Jane's husband, and he'd come to escort him to her if he were awake. The soldier's anger made him panicked and tongue-tied; but manfully, he tried again. "Sir… please sit down in the chair… your wife is…"
Sit in the chair be damned. Disorientated and afraid, the Marine grabbed the wheelchair and threw it against the wall. The young man tugged at his sleeve; his mouth moved, but Glenn Gallier couldn't really hear him, except that word 'wife'. He picked the young man up by his upper arms, flung him out of the way, and ran off down the corridor, not really even knowing if he was heading in the right direction. But hell, he was a marine, he'd find his way.
There was no chance of him looking back, but if he had done, he'd have seen Mateo Fuentes trying, and failing, to pick himself up off the floor. His hand was pressed to a long gash in his scalp, from which blood dripped copiously, where he'd hit one of the footrests on the wheelchair; his uncoordinated movements suggested a worse concussion than the Sergeant's.
The fight was short, but brutal, as Tony had rather expected. The problem was, that although Brassington had no height advantage over him, he was certainly heavier, and more importantly, he didn't seem to feel pain at all. When the man charged, the agent sidestepped, but his opponent's flailing arm took him anyway.
Tony wanted the fight over ASADWP; there was an unconscious marine and a feisty, fighting pregnant lady to deal with, to say nothing of not trashing Bethesda. He wondered if McGee would join in, or if the probie would think he didn't want him to. Serves you right for teasing him, your fault if he thinks you're too macho to accept help.
Brassington's elbow jammed into his ribs, as they rolled on the floor; Tony got an arm free and hit the nurse hard under the nose with the side of his hand. It was a trick he'd learned as a football player; if someone persistently fouled you, you could make a blow like that look like an accident, and it reduced most people, literally, to tears. Not Brassington. He simply grunted, and punched the SFA hard in the face, setting up an angry smarting along his cheekbone.
Tony fought dirty, as they each scrambled for an advantage; he went for every pain inflicting blow he could think of, without success. Meanwhile, the blows that his opponent landed, especially to his ribs, sure hurt him. He realised as Brassington wrapped his arms round his torso that the other man was trying to roll him, so that he could hit him round the back of the neck like his victims; oh, no way.
He gripped both hands together, and pushed his arms up hard in front of him, to break Brassington's bear-hug, then sprang to his feet as fast as his bruised body would let him. The male nurse did the same, and picked up a chair. Tony flicked his eyes round the room and observed they were alone. Mostly good, it meant that both the injured marine and his wife were safe. More than could be said for him… he tried to ward the chair off, and it missed his head but came down on his shoulder. Sheeeeeet….. that was probably his collar bone. Enough already.
He'd seen them do it on TV. Jackie Chan could do it, and laugh at the same time; he bet Ziva could do it – he could do it, right?
Brassington watched him as he backed away, and grinned, clenching and unclenching his fists over and over. Just let the fed go down; he could damage him plenty and still have time to get away. A small thread of drool ran down from the corner of his mouth.
"In your dreams, dirtbag…" Tony read the look, took two short steps and leapt. He didn't risk trying to get too high and missing altogether, but executed a perfect drop-kick – how about that then – and landed both feet on the good healer's kneecap.
Brassington felt that. No-one had ever fought back; no-one had ever hurt him. The hideous crack and tear was nowhere near drowned out by his screech of agony, loud as it was; he went down mouthing obscenities, as Tony rolled away from where he'd landed, wanting to put as much distance as he could between him and that mouth. There came the click of a Sig, and a familiar voice said softly, "Can it, sonny, or I'll give you something to cuss about."
Tony looked up and grinned broadly, at the sight of Gibbs' gun against the nurse's ear. Gibbs returned the grin. "Sorry I'm late for the party," he said. "You OK?"
"Don't know… probably. Where's –"
Tim appeared from the passage to the maternity wing, and went straight to the Senior Field Agent as Gibbs cuffed Brian Brassington. "Tony…" he began apologetically.
"You thought it was better to take the pregnant lady to safety than stay and help me deal?" The SFA's voice was hard.
"Well, yeah… I came back as quickly as –"
"You thought right, Probie. Chill." He sat back against the front of the reception desk, clutching his shoulder, and Tim moved his jacket to look at it.
"Looks like a busted collar bone there. I'll get Brad."
"Thanks, McGee." Tony looked round as if expecting the physician to appear.
"He charged in here," Tim explained, "and helped Ziva to take Sergeant Gallier down to emergency. Having a doctor go with him was the only way we could persuade his wife to go in the other direction and get herself checked over."
"I think they both are. They're making her rest just for fifteen minutes, then they'll have a look at her blood pressure again, but she's doing fine. They say the baby's not hurt." He fastened Tony's jacket around his arm, in a makeshift sling, which did ease the pain. On the other side of the room, Brassington was still mouthing incoherently into the floor tiles.
After Brad had expressed the opinion that he'd never walk well enough on that leg again to ever hurt anyone else, the nurse was taken off under armed guard, and the waiting room returned to normal. Expectant ladies trooped in; the obstetricians came nervously from their rooms to greet them, and the ultrasonogaphers returned to work. The only sign that anything had been amiss was a dent in the wall made by the chair Brassington had wielded.
"Now you – go down to x-ray and get that shoulder looked at. I'll ring them in five minutes to check you arrived."
Gibbs snorted. "It's all right, Brad – Ziva can go with him to make sure he gets there. McGee and I'll finish up here and go back. Ziva – when they're finished with him, bring him back to the bull pen where I can keep an eye on him."
Tony glared, but didn't object – until Ziva brought a wheelchair in from the corridor, and he threatened to make her ride in it.
He arrived at the x-ray department on his own feet, didn't have to wait, and the radiographer looked at the plate and pronounced it to be a hairline fracture. Immobilise and rest, the emergency doctor said, as he strapped Tony's arm to his body. Yes of course, Tony agreed. Ziva looked at him suspiciously, and was about to comment when there was a commotion outside the cubicle. Since the doctor went to see what was going on, so did the agents. They heard his horrified exclamation, "It's Mateo!"
"Oh," Ziva said in alarm, looking at the bloody form being wheeled on a gurney into the next cubicle, "That is the young man who Doctor Pitt asked to find out about Mrs. Gallier… what has happened to him?" Tony looked puzzled, and his partner explainer. "When we came down with Sergeant Gallier, Dr. Pitt asked that young orderly to go up to maternity and find out personally how his wife was, and to bring word. He thought that would be more reassuring to both of them than simply phoning."
Tony nodded. "Doctor, what's happened here?"
"Don't you concern yourself, Agent DiNozzo, this is the hospital's business, he's one of ours, we'll take care of it."
Ziva expected Tony to leave it at that, and she was surprised when he said "I'm sorry, Doctor, but that young man was involved in our case, which makes it my business. Now, what happened?"
By the time the nurses with the gurney had explained, someone at the ER front desk had pulled up the camera footage. The agents watched with the medical staff, with Tony hanging on to the edge of the desk for support. He frowned. "Can you find out if the Galliers have left the hospital yet?" A call to ante-natal reported that they hadn't; the Sergeant wasn't fit to drive, his wife had trouble fitting behind the wheel, and there was the matter of Glenn Gallier's footwear. They were waiting on a friend to pick them up and drive them home, and another to collect their car. Nothing was said about the Sergeant's stay in emergency.
"He may not know what he has done," Ziva said as they hurried back towards the maternity wing as fast as Tony could make himself travel.
"And that makes it all right?"
"No, of course not… but a man would be very anxious in his circumstances. There was no-one with him when he woke up, to tell him how his wife was."
"That would have been scary, sure." Ziva thought she'd made her point. "But I didn't see him trying to ask." His tone brooked no more argument.
By the time they reached the ante-natal waiting area again, the SFA looked, and felt distinctly peaky, but when he saw the reception committee waiting there, he decided to forgo the pleasure of sitting down. The Galliers were cuddling each other, surrounded by other expectant couples, and a mum or two, all clearly sympathetic after their ordeal. One Marine looked up as the NCIS agents entered. "Oh, good," he said airily. "Have you brought Glenn's boots?"
Tony ignored him. "Sergeant Gallier, I need a word with you in private."
The Sergeant looked astonished, but not alarmed. "I've already told everyone what happened, there's no need for secrecy, Agent er…"
"Ok, your choice, Sergeant. You're under arrest for assault on a member of hospital staff, Mateo Fuentes." There was a squeak of outrage from Jane, and a murmur of resentment that ran amongst the Galliers' friends.
"I didn't assault anyone, and who the hell is Mateo Fuentes?"
"He's the orderly who came down to tell you that your wife was OK, and brought a wheelchair to take you to her. He's the orderly you picked up and chucked out of the way like a rag doll, who's now in ER with a concussion and a scalp wound that's going to require a dozen stitches."
"Oh, him! He wouldn't get out of my way – I just moved him aside, that's all. I was worried about my wife!"
The murmur went round again, this time sympathetic and slightly belligerent. Ziva quietly braced herself.
Tony looked round at them all, and back to Glenn Gallier. "Well now… you threw the wheelchair at the wall, then threw the orderly after it. I can show you the footage if you like." The murmur sounded more like denial this time.
The Marine who'd demanded the boots spoke hotly. "Look, officer, agent, whatever, Glenn and Janey have just been attacked by a violent criminal. Glenn was concussed. He didn't know what he was doing. He didn't mean to hurt anyone, he was just afraid for his wife. Shouldn't you be taking down the real bad guy, not hounding the victim?"
"Mark," Jane protested, "He did take down the real bad guy!" She paused. "My husband's not a violent man, Agent DiNozzo. He wouldn't hurt anyone deliberately… he must have not been thinking straight because of the concussion…"
"Janey's right," Glenn said desperately. "I'm sorry the guy got hurt, but it was an accident! My head was exploding – all I could think about was Jane… you'd have done the same!" The murmur sounded like complete agreement. Ziva felt tense. She didn't think Tony would be able to resist the pressure from so many of them, especially as there was some truth in what they were all saying. They'd have to arrest the Sergeant at a later date, which would be humiliating.
The SFA grimaced and shrugged his undamaged shoulder. "Can't say what I would or wouldn't have done. Fact is, you did. And Mateo Fuentes is still hurt."
"Can't you give him a break?" It was another pregnant wife who spoke. "He didn't mean it… we'd all like to think our men would do anything for us." Her voice grew thoughtful. "What's a Marine supposed to do? He – or she – is trained to fight. You expect us to fight. Then when one of us fights for his own, he gets blamed. Where's the justice in that?" The murmur agreed. Two husbands stood up and flanked Glenn.
Tony pursed his lips. He worked for a Marine. It was an argument he could go with… but…
"So…" he said slowly, "justice is a bag of jelly beans, then?" He spoke directly to the woman Marine, since she seemed the brightest of the bunch.
"What do you mean?" she asked, frowning as if perhaps she already knew.
"You dip into the bag, pick out the ones you like and leave the rest?"
Mark said "What the hell are you talking about?"
"You want justice for all the people who were attacked. That's fair enough, yes?" Tony mimed digging about in a packet for the right coloured jelly bean, throwing it up in the air and catching it in his mouth.
"You want justice for Jane because she was attacked. Right?" He had his audience hooked, as another jelly bean flipped into the air. "And for Glenn, yes?" Nobody breathed a word as he firkled in the imaginary bag and tossed up another imaginary bean.
"How abut justice for me? Brassington broke my clavicle while I was arresting him. He should pay for that, hmmm?" This time he made a great show of the jelly bean being delicious.
"So how about Mateo?" He sneered at the bean in the palm of his hand, and dropped it disdainfully back into its invisible bag.
For a moment there was dead silence. "Oh come on," Mark said, "It's not the same thing." The murmur couldn't make up its mind, but the female Marine went to Jane and put her hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, it is." It was Glenn Gallier who spoke, and his voice was firm. "I didn't mean to do it, but I did. That young man deserves his justice too." He looked at Tony. "Let me take my wife home, and see she's OK? I give you my word I'll come to NCIS and turn myself in this afternoon."
"That's good enough for me," the SFA said. "But you need to go back to the ER and –" the double doors bumped open, and a wheelchair nudged its way through, pushed by a middle-aged man of Filipino origin. Mateo Fuentes sat in it, dark hair sprouting from the top of a bandage round his head. He looked slowly round the room until his eyes focussed on Glenn. The Sergeant winced in anguished recognition, and began to stutter an apology.
"Please, Sergeant…" Mateo spoke as slowly as he had looked round; Glenn was afraid it was because of his injury, but the younger man was just determined not to mess up his English. "I came to say, that I understood, and if I were a fighter, I would have fought like you did. I do not wish to make… to press charges. I do not wish to make you suffer more." He looked at Tony, who simply nodded.
"But… what about you?"
"I will be fine," Mateo said, with a genuine smile. (Ziva winced internally; she'd heard that word before.) "I work in a hospital, what could be better?" He offered his hand, and Glenn took it hesitantly.
"You're a better man than I am, Mr. Fuentes. I'll report to my CO, and tell him what happened, he'll have something to say. I won't just let this go; you've taught me something today." He looked at Tony. "You too."
"Oh yes." He jerked a thumb at his friends. "Facing that lot down. Courage isn't always physical. And justice is more than jelly beans."
Tony felt suddenly whacked. "Ziva." She didn't answer at first, she was thinking about the Sergeant's words. She too had learned things about DiNozzo today… "Ziva!"
"I am sorry, Tony. I was wood gathering…"
"Wool, Ziva. Wool gathering."
"That does not make any sense. Why would you gather wool, not wood? No… do not answer. Do you wish to leave now?"
"Yeah… let's get out of here."
"We should, while you can still stand up."
"I'm fine. Hey, can we stop at the hospital shop on the way to the car?"
Ziva looked at him and began to giggle. "Ah… you want to buy some jelly beans."
AN: 3 am again… thanks for reading!