"Our body's got a fever" - 'Ducky', NCIS - This is how this story got started. I was watching the beginning of a NCIS-episode, my mind swirling with thoughts of Danny Phantom, and how the team would take to him. I had kind of dismissed ever getting a working idea, but Ducky's word stuck with me, and the story, under the working title 'Our body', was born.
Other than that the title really don't have much to do with the result, but since I can't come up with anything else, it is what it is.
Disclaimer: I don't own Danny Phantom or NCIS.
"Poor kid, life as a popsicle can't be fun."
The scene was a bit crammed for the team of five, but they made it work. It wasn't like they hadn't tried to investigate in close quarters before.
"What about this is 'life'?" Kate was diligently snapping pictures, lighting the sparely illuminated place from time to time with white flashes and not interested in Tony's poor attempt at lightening the mood. He hadn't had much luck anyway. It was rare for them to get a kid.
McGee almost seemed to have entered a state of shock, though he was taking notes and directing Kate to possible evidence around the room. "How did he get here?" he finally managed to squeak out.
Kate could almost hear Tony shrug at the question. It was a really good one too. How had the boy gotten locked in a small storage room on a navy base?
The body was that of a juvenile boy and, even though the temperature in the room was decently high, he seemed to have been frozen to death with that bluish taint, even darker blue lips, and what looked like crystals of ice glittering in the dark-matted hair and eyelashes. He wasn't even lying down but standing in between two shelves like in hiding. He merely looked to be asleep and that made it all the more disturbing.
"What've you got?" Gibbs asked in his gruff voice.
Ducky had turned suspiciously quiet a minute ago, stopping in the middle of a tale about… Kate hadn't heard, but she missed the calm rumble of his voice now.
Kate shot a careful look in his direction, pausing in her work of photographing the place.
The doctor withdrew his hand from checking the pulse at the boy's neck and Kate wondered if someone hadn't already done that. She raised an eyebrow when the next object to emerge from his bag was a small mirror, and suddenly all movement from the team was halted as they waited with bated breaths.
'Impossible,' she thought half-horrified. 'It can't be…'
Gibbs, who had a clear view to Ducky's examination, was the first to react.
He turned and shouted out the small entrance right into the face of Jimmy Palmer. "Call an ambulance!"
Palmer stumbled back the way he had just come, looking like he had taken a hit to the gut and hurriedly fishing for a phone on his person. "W-what do I say?" he asked.
Kate was impressed he didn't stutter the whole sentence.
She heard the small click of Tony's phone closing. "There's no reception in here." he mumbled.
Gibbs had already pushed Palmer even further away from the scene and Ducky shouted after them "Say it's a severe case of hypothermia! McGee," the doctor rounded on him, and Kate almost felt like wincing on his behalf. She had never heard the doctor talk nearly as loud. "Get some blankets from the car and maybe some bottles with hot water. We need to get him warmed up."
McGee shook himself out of his stupor and promptly followed orders.
Kate winded her way around the hindrances in the small storage. "How can I help?" she asked as she made it back to the doctor within half a second.
Tony bent down and whispered into her ear with infuriating glee. "What was that, Kate, about 'life'?"
"Can anyone explain this?" Gibbs demanded as he entered the squad room hours later.
Tony went first. "Well, no one knows how the kid got there. The storage is opened approximately every other day and locked the rest of the time. The window is too small for even a kid to get through, and the vent hole is even smaller. He would have had to go through the door."
"The nearest surveillance camera is in the outside hall and has a decent view of the door to the storage." McGee followed up. "The petty officer who found him arrived at 0826 and raised the alarm three minutes later. People pass the door throughout the day before then, but no one is seen actual opening it. Until the petty officer this morning the storage hadn't been entered since the day before yesterday at two thirty pm, 1430. The boy isn't on the tape."
Kate saw well enough Gibbs' displeased features but continued the summing up. "I spoke with both the petty officer from this morning and the sergeant. The sergeant didn't see anything out of place and seemed rather disturbed by the notion that someone could have been there without his notice. He doesn't remember if he actually looked between the two shelves. The petty officer saw the boy when she turned around from recovering something on the opposite shelf. Scared her half to death. The boy must have gotten in there some time in between."
Gibbs looked at them, his impatience curling the air around them into tight knots.
"No explanation, Boss." Tony finally admitted.
As Gibbs opened his mouth, his phone rang and gave them a second of requiem.
"Gibbs!" He snapped into the receiver.
Then the second was over and Gibbs snapped the cellphone closed with a loud click and relayed the new information. "The kid's awake. DiNozzo, see what Abby's got. McGee, go through every camera on the ground if you have to. Find that kid! Kate, with me."
They scuttled to their tasks as Gibbs marched to the elevator.
"Abby, you've got anything?" Tony asked as he entered the lab.
"I've got plenty…" she said, bouncing on her feet while looking intensely at one of her many screens. "…but"
She swirled around and bored her eyes into his, a dissatisfied frown marring her features. "…answers, not so much. You haven't given me much to work with here."
She turned back to her screen and her fingers danced on the keyboard. Pictures from the storage room showed up.
"It's a storage room!" she cried out.
Tony tried to say something, but she raised a finger towards him, not even looking. "Few if any interesting samples, no garbage or funny liquids, no nothing. Not even a piece of broken glass!" At this a picture of the small window filled the screen.
"Abby…" Tony tried out his Gibbs-impression.
She sighed. "The prints from the boy haven't turned anything up yet." She turned her back to the screen and focused on her work table instead. "There is only one thing in all this that holds a certain air of mystery, the ice crystals." She'd lowered her voice with excitement and shot him a challenging look, encouraging him. "Guess what!"
Tony didn't fall for it however. He raised an eyebrow.
She lowered her gaze, grumbling. "You're no fun… They are ice!" she erupted. "Pure and simple ice! Very cold but plain hydrogen dioxide with a dash of particles from the air we breathe. And if you collected them from that boy and the spot just below the window I would take a wild guess and say those places got so cold, that the water in the air froze in seconds. But the real mystery here isn't that the air froze or where it did it. It's why these crystals didn't start melting until just half an hour ago. They melted if I deliberately tried heating them up but leaving them alone in a 68 degrees Fahrenheit room didn't do anything." She looked at a platter with three small droplets on it with a saddened expression. "Until half an hour ago, that is. They were so pretty too." She finished and gave him a smile.
"So basically we've got nothing." Tony confirmed, feeling dread settle in his stomach. "Gibbs won't be happy."
Abby scurried around the table and attached herself to his neck briefly. "I'll call when a match for the prints come up." She told him jubilantly. "Now, go out there and get some answers."
Tony grinned and left, determined. The McGeek could most likely use some help with the footage.
"How is the kid?" Gibbs asked as they entered the hospital.
The nurse at the reception desk was about to ask for details, and Kate was about to give them, when Dr. Mallard arrived around the corner.
"Surprisingly well," his soft voice came. "The poor lad is still ridden with cold attacks, but that can only be expected from such an ordeal. He came to twenty minutes ago, quite frightened and confused I'm afraid. Physically nothing seems to be wrong. As for his brain, the doctors can't tell until he actually decides to talk to them."
"He hasn't said anything?" Gibbs inquired.
Ducky shook his head. "Only asked where here was, afterwards not a word."
"Where is he?"
"Room 223. Don't frighten him, Jethro."
Kate nodded her thanks to the nurse and shared a knowing smile with Ducky before hurrying in Gibbs' footstep.
Even though they had been told, it still surprised Kate to see the boy awake and sitting up in the hospital bed. He looked more alive than she had expected. His skin looked healthy, not ghostly white or sickly blue like when they found him.
He sat, turned slightly away from the door, a hand fiddling with a strand of his raven black hair in front of his eyes, like he was studying it carefully. He turned at the sound of the door closing, and Gibbs and Kate found themselves under a scrutinizing blue gaze. He didn't look particularly afraid, just curious.
"I'm special agent Gibbs and this is special agent Todd. We'd like to ask you a few questions if that's alright." Gibbs spoke in a much calmer voice than he ever used on adults.
The kid twitched and embraced himself as a shudder ran through his body. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and eased the shudders away. That done, he looked at the two again.
"What agency?" he whispered.
Gibbs smiled and chose the chair beside the bed to sit down. Kate resigned herself to standing. The kid shot a glance between them, obviously wary.
"NCIS, Naval Criminal Investigative Service. You were found on a navy base." Gibbs answered.
Kate could see the thoughts rampaging around in the kid's head. "What's your name?" she asked, taking a chance.
"Dan…" he snapped his mouth shut before he went any further and gave her an angry glare.
Gibbs shot her a look too but she couldn't determine if he was angry or approved of the little trick. "Listen, Dan…" he started, but the boy flinched and held up a hand.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow but complied. "Okay, Danny." The boy looked to Gibbs hesitantly but also with half an eye on Kate. He looked resigned to his fate, but nevertheless alert. "We just want to know what happened," Gibbs explained. "How you got onto the base. How you were almost frozen to death and why."
The boy looked torn. He fiddled with the bed sheets for several seconds, breaking his eye contact with Gibbs completely.
"The doctor did tell you why you are here, right?" Gibbs urged. The boy nodded. "Why haven't you talked until now?" Gibbs continued.
The boy shrugged, shuddered and took another deep breath, clutching at the bed sheets till his knuckles turned white, and then released the grip slowly.
Gibbs studied his reactions closely. "Do you need the doctor?"
The boy shook his head vigorously. "Please no. I'm alright. It'll pass."
Kate wondered at that, maybe the boy was afraid of doctors.
"Can you tell us why you were at the base?" Gibbs then prodded.
The boy sighed. "I was just hiding. I didn't know it was a navy base though I did see the uniforms. I didn't plan on staying for long."
"Hiding from what?"
The boy set his jaw in a stubborn line, not answering. Interesting, he didn't want them to know, but would rather keep quiet than lie.
"Okay," Gibbs gave in. "How long did you plan on staying?"
The boy looked relieved. "Just for a couple of hours, until sunset. Then I'd go home. No one would have noticed."
"What happened since you didn't?"
Kate was impressed with Gibbs' control. Being an earlier employee of secret service, a security breach like the one the boy was talking about made her skin crawl, especially the casual way he had said it.
"I started freezing."
What…? Kate had trouble connecting the answer to the earlier question, but there had been nothing in between.
The boy seemed to notice their confusion and tried to elaborate. "I kind of…have trouble keeping warm sometimes. It's…" he waved his hands in the air, sighed and hung his head in defeat. "It's not normal."
Gibbs chose to ignore this puzzle for another question. "Where did you hide?"
The boy looked puzzled but answered nevertheless. "A small room, for storage or something. There were shelves with office-stuff on them, a lot of the same kind. It was perfect because there was a window where I could keep an eye on the sun."
"You weren't afraid of discovery?"
The boy shrugged. "The door was locked. If anyone tried to enter I would hear and have plenty of time to disappear."
Gibbs' smile was nearly invisible unless you knew what to look for. "How would you do that if the door is the only exit?"
The boy froze, visibly beating himself up for falling into the trap. Funny enough he didn't go for the silent treatment on this one. "I'm very good at being invisible." he ground out instead.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes the slightest bit. "So no one put you in a freezer, and then locked you in the storage room to be found dead later?"
The boy's eyes widened for a millisecond and then he burst out laughing. Not something either had expected but they hadn't got their jobs for nothing and hid their surprise expertly.
"That's ridiculous." the boy uttered in between laughs. "Why would any one wanna do that?"
Gibbs treated him to a mild Gibbs glare, but the boy wasn't looking at him when he finally and very suddenly stopped. He was looking down at the mattress to his left, stopped abruptly around a laugh and covered said part with his blanket, before returning his attention to them. Kate kept her face carefully blank to hide her curiosity of what had just happened.
"Sorry, but that idea is kinda out there." the boy finished his opinion on the notion.
Kate had to admit the idea was a bit farfetched, but not weirder than other cases they had worked on, and to some extent more believable than a teenage boy hiding on a navy base on his own and spontaneously going into a state of hypothermia.
Gibbs argued the same point. "It makes more sense than your explanation. Can you honestly tell me you are not covering up for whoever you were hiding from?"
The boy bent forward, strong resolve shining in his eyes. "I don't. I would never cover up for someone like them if they managed to land themselves in something dirty."
Kate felt a twitch in the corner of her mouth. The kid was actually having a stare down with Gibbs. That is, until a shudder, again, ran its course through his body, and he was forced to close his eyes and breathe in. When he opened them again he looked positively drained, and Kate noticed how his skin had lost some of its earlier color.
"I'm tired," he said. "Can this wait?"
"We'll leave. But can you promise me something?" The boy looked warily at Gibbs, obviously unsure of how to deal with this. Gibbs got to his feet. "Don't use that silent treatment on the doctors. They need to make sure your head's alright too."
He tried to reach for the boy, probably to pat him on the shoulder or something Kate figured, but stopped short as the boy skirted backwards. Gibbs let his hand fall.
The kid swallowed hard and said in a controlled whisper. "I'll try."
"That was a calculated act." Kate said as they had left the room and were a good ways down the hall. "Nothing like a flinch or unconscious discomfort. He'd decided which distance was safe and how slow or fast to move accordingly."
Gibbs didn't react but she knew he had heard and put the information away for later. They arrived at the reception desk where Ducky was still standing, chatting with a nurse.
Ducky lightened up when he saw them. "Did you get anything out of him?"
"His first name is Danny." Gibbs informed.
Ducky brightened even more. "Good, good. How do you get them to talk, Jethro? Never mind. Danny must be short for Daniel. I knew a Daniel once. He was named after the…"
"He promised he would try and answer the doctors," Kate interrupted the beginning of something that could very well become a long tale. "He didn't want us to call a doctor earlier though. He might be afraid of them."
"Oh, my. That is a problem." Ducky conceded.
"Could you stay with him, Duck?" Gibbs asked. "You are in civilian." The 'he might lower his guard towards you' was implied.
"Of course, Jethro. It will be my pleasure. He is our body after all. Even if I don't have to do an autopsy this time around." The doctor said in good humor.
Gibbs gave a sharp nod and then steered for the outside. "I'll be back."
When they entered the parking lot both looked to the sky as small white crystals glittered in the air. Kate held out a hand to catch some of the falling flakes.
"Since when does it snow in May?" she asked incredulous.
"Since when does it snow without a cloud in sight?" Gibbs replied.
As soon as the two agents had left the room Danny jumped out of bed and rushed to the window.
He was grateful that the IV-drop had been taken out. It would only have gotten in his way, and he didn't know how to put it back in again when he was finished.
The shivering he had managed to hide from them was back full force, and his teeth were literally clattering around in his head. He forced himself to relax once more while prying the window as open as it could get. It wasn't much, only enough to let fresh air in. He cursed under his breath and shivers and made his hands intangible instead. Finally he could let go of the cold in his core.
He pressed it out in one big burst from his hands, aiming at the sky. He didn't want to cause any accidents on the ground. 'Cold snaps' like the ones he could create were particularly dangerous.
Once satisfied and un-shivering he drew a breath of relief and turned back to his bed. At the same time the door opened again, and a nurse walked in with what seemed to be his dinner. She stopped when she saw him.
"What are you doing out of bed?" she asked, a reprimanding edge to her tone. She saw the open window and huffed. "Now, here now. You have only just awoken from a severe case of hypothermia, and you go and open a window to let the cold in?"
He bent his head down to hide the smile that wanted to show and folded his hands in front of him. "Sorry," he mumbled.
She sighed but smiled indulgently "Now, get back to bed. I have a special lunch for you. You need to get something hot in your stomach. Doctor's orders."
She put a hand on his back and guided him back under the covers. He made sure she didn't see the part of the mattress he had accidently frozen during his fit of laughter. That had been a close one.
She fussed about him for a couple of more minutes, and then left him to his meal. It didn't exactly look appetizing but with parents like his he couldn't afford to be picky. He dug in, hungrily and obediently.
It was good to get some food down. As far as he could figure, he hadn't eaten anything for approximately twenty-four hours. It was his luck his body didn't need nutrition while in 'shut down', but on the other hand he didn't want to know for how long he could actually survive the state.
When he had emptied the tray and drunk the scorching hot tea, he leaned back and considered his options.
He needed to get home to Amity Park. His parents would be worried by now, not to say his sister and friends. They were the ones who had seen him try to lose his pursuers, and they would most likely have started a search party already. However, he couldn't just up and leave with the current situation. Or maybe he could, – but not until he had found out if the doctors here had taken any blood samples. He would not have escaped the GiW just to end up a guinea pig for doctors across the land. He just hoped it wasn't too late.
The agents worried him slightly, but he tried to calm his mind. They weren't GiW. They wouldn't have any interest in him once that navy-thing was dealt with. – And he hadn't exactly been lying so they had nothing to complain about!
He sighed as he felt the cold grow again. It was getting ridiculous how fast his inner core regenerated cold. With the way this was going he was probably an ice age waiting to happen. He knocked a fist into the frozen part of the mattress in frustration and resolved to visit Frostbite as soon as possible.
Donald 'Ducky' Mallard waited until the boy's doctor finished his ward round, and then followed him in to the boy's room. Now that they knew he could be made to talk it was only a matter of building trust. The doctor had been happy to get a name for the boy if a bit perturbed that it was the gruff Leroy Jethro Gibbs that had managed said deed.
The doctor entered the room in his usual brisk stride; his clipboard secured under one arm. Ducky followed in a more sedate pace.
The boy was resting his eyes after his meal it seemed.
"Our timing seems to be off," the doctor commented quietly.
"Indeed it does." Ducky replied even quieter. He spotted the empty tray on the boy's bed table and chuckled: "Now, there is something I don't see often."
The doctor looked confused until he saw what Ducky was looking at. He sighed, partly defensive, partly resigned. "The food isn't that bad."
And then the boy was looking at them and smiling. "Actually, I've had worse."
Ducky could almost feel the doctor beside him flinch and thought it sad that the doctor hadn't tried to work around Gibbs. It could have prepared him.
The doctor collected himself and un-tucked his clipboard ready to use. "So, I hear your name is Danny?" The boy nodded and sat up straighter. The doctor gestured to Ducky. "This is the medical examiner who decided for an ambulance instead of autopsy, Dr. Mallard."
The boy's eyes widened tremendously.
Ducky chose to cut in. "Just checking up on a patient, dear boy. I do so rarely see them alive and well. Please call me Ducky, everybody does. – Your humor leaves something to be desired, good doctor."
The doctor coughed slightly. "Well, I wasn't joking, only stating a fact."
The boy smiled hesitantly and reached his hand out to Ducky. "I guess I have to thank you for saving my life," he said.
Ducky accepted his hand and shook it gently. "You're welcome." It was a cold but firm grip the kid had.
"So," the doctor interrupted, "ready to answer some easy questions?"
The kid withdrew his hand and looked expectantly at the doctor. Ducky sat down in the chair beside the bed.
The doctor cleared his throat. "This is just to confirm if your brain has taken any damage. It isn't exactly healthy for your body to get so cold. I want you to answer to the best of your abilities but if there is anything you feel uncomfortable about, let me know, okay?" he said. The boy nodded in understanding. "Okay, let's begin. What's your name?" The boy squirmed.
'Oh,' Ducky thought, 'this will take quite a bit of patience.'
When they had finally seen the doctor's questionnaire all the way through, the doctor had left with a tired 'thank you'. Despite the boy's reluctance to answer certain questions, he had confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the kid but for his tendency of freezing and shivering in a perfectly warm room.
Ducky and the boy sat a minute in perfect silence until the kid to Ducky's surprise chose to break it. "Do you know where I can find a phone?"
"Yes, there are some pay phones for the patients' use. Any particular reason you need one?"
"I just wanna call home and make sure they are not too worried."
"Why didn't you just give the number to the doctor and let him call on your behalf?"
The boy cringed. "I prefer to talk to them myself."
Ducky smiled in an effort to show he didn't mind the kid's diversion. "You are one strange kid, Daniel." He ignored the kid's slight twitch and continued on with a suggestion. "How about this: I'll help you get to the pay phones and make your call if you promise to get right back here afterwards and let me keep you company for the rest of the day?"
The boy eyed him suspiciously. "Don't you have work or something?"
Ducky smiled. "Today I was asked to keep an eye on you. It would be so much easier if you gave your consent to the looking after."
The boy turned reluctant and squirmed in the bed, debating with himself the pros and cons. In the end his need to make the call won over, and he nodded his agreement.
Ducky got up. "The closest one is just down the hall but we've got to be careful. I don't think the dear doctor is fond of letting you out of bed yet."
"Eh, Dr. Ma… Ducky?"
"Yes, dear boy?"
"Could you wait outside for just a minute? I…" The boy avoided his eyes.
"Of course, my friend. Take all the time you need."
"According to the kid he got onto the base yesterday evening a couple of hours before sunset. At least two people were searching for him." Gibbs announced to the squad room.
A rattle sounded from Tony's desk as he had, as usual, been occupied pretending to be lazy.
The typing sound from McGee sped up as he configured the new information to his search. "So we are not only looking for the kid but suspicious people lurking around?"
"Why 'at least two'? He didn't give you a number or description?" Tony asked, finally righted in his seat.
"He refused to tell. We only know there was more than one because he slipped up and said 'them'." Kate said annoyed.
"Did you get a name?" Tony then asked.
"Only Danny," she sighed. "For some reason he doesn't want us to know who he is."
"Boss, I think I just found him." It came from McGee.
Everybody paused, looking at him.
He typed a command more into his computer and then directed his gaze to the big screen as a black and white picture from a security camera came up. He played some frames and pointed a section out. It was from an outside camera surveying the yard, a uniformed group crossed it and, behind the building they had just exited, a black-haired head peeked around the corner. It was merely a fraction of a second. Played frame by frame they saw how the head looked skywards and then to the people on ground to immediately disappear.
"Is there a camera on the other side?" Gibbs asked.
McGee shook his head. "Not from an angle that show that exact location. It's a blind spot."
"On it, Boss."
"I keep checking the tapes."
"I already told Tony everything I know." Abby said to the room when Gibbs stepped in.
"I know," he said back.
She turned towards him. "And the fingerprints are still running through the system. He might not be there, you know."
"What are you doing here, Gibbs. You usually have better timing."
He waved a big cup of CafPow in front her. "Can't I just come for a visit?"
Abby smiled brilliantly and grabbed the CafPow.
Gibbs' phone rang. "Gibbs." He handed the phone to Abby. "It's for you."
Abby looked curious but took it to her ear. "Oh, Ducky! What is it?"
"Hello, Abby. Daniel is calling home from a pay phone in the hospital, number three on the second floor."
Abby smiled, turned to the nearest keyboard and started typing furiously. "Ducky, you're a genius." she exclaimed.
"Yes, well. I thought it awfully sad if we'd have to put him with social services while the case is running if he has a family to return to. Can you track the call?"
"I'm tracking it as we speak. Just a couple of more… No! The connection broke."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Abigail, but that means I have to end the call too. Goodbye."
Gibbs took the phone back. "Did you at least narrow it down?"
Abby nodded. "He called to somewhere named Amity Park in Illinois."
"Good. Run his face with the schools they got there."
"Danny! Are you alright? When you didn't return yesterday I…"
Danny drew a sigh of relief at his sister's voice. Unfortunately he didn't have time to listen to all of her worries. "Jazz, I'm fine. Listen to me. I don't have that many coins so I gotta do this quick. They didn't catch me, but I've ended up in a hospital…"
"I'm alright, Jazz! It's got nothing to do with them. Would the doctors have taken a blood sample from a patient with hypothermia?"
He could hear her almost hysteria and tried to plead her out of it. "Please, Jazz. It can disconnect any time."
She took a deep breath and he could practically see her eyes turning cold with determined calculation. "They most likely would. Doctors need to know their patients' blood type in case of an emergency."
"Okay, then I'm gonna need Tucker's help. I'm in Washington…" Beep…
'Darn it,' he thought and slammed the receiver in place, panting. He leaned his forehead against the wall, staring down at the floor, taking long calming breaths. 'Okay, Fenton. Relax. You told her the most important parts. The rest can wait.'
When he felt sufficiently calm, he returned to the hall and the waiting old man. He smiled at Danny and nodded in the direction of his room. Danny smiled too. He was really a kind old man, almost emitting trustworthiness. But then, Danny had spent two years learning caution. He wouldn't let himself be easily swayed.
Tony and Kate were at the base again, this time outside the building with the storage room, and studying the house end with the supposedly blind spot.
Astonishing enough it had been quiet between them for a whole five minutes, while they had studied the empty wall and the surrounding area. It really wasn't much of a hiding spot except for cameras apparently. It was pretty open and far from any cover. It was a mystery how the boy had gotten so far without being seen.
Tony put himself in the boy's spot and acted out what little the tape had shown, looked up, looked at the yard, hid his head. He stood leaning against the wall, thinking. It was an open area alright, but on the other side of the fence, thirty feet away, were some bushes and trees. If you were talented you could use it as cover for a while.
Tony straightened and set course for the fence. Kate followed quickly. She had been staring into the sky, taking guesses as to what the boy could have been looking for. She had ruled out planes. There wasn't any airport nearby.
He reached the fence and climbed it practically unscathed. A guard shouted in surprise at his action, and the rattle of the metal wires alerted several others too. He couldn't have done it unnoticed. Kate calmed the guards all the while shouting after Tony. He smiled mischievously. Clearly she was annoyed that he wasn't talking to her right now. He would have to rectify that later.
He pushed some underbrush aside not really knowing or expecting much, certainly not what he found. He covered his nose and mouth with a hand in a vain effort to hide from the sight and called back to Kate.
Ducky would have himself a body now.
Ducky had been talking to the room for a while, telling one of his more fascinating stories from his time in Vietnam. He had been careful to keep away from the more scary episodes. He didn't want to scar the lad, but he had a suspicion the boy wasn't listening if the glazed eyes were anything to go by. Not that that had ever stopped him so he kept going, finishing the story and laying the ground for a new analogue in one sentence, but then the boy broke in.
"Wow, that's…" he hesitated shortly and Ducky waited patiently, interested in how the boy would play it. "…kinda gross, sorry." His apologetic expression was sincere, and Ducky would have replied in kind, but the lad wouldn't let him. "But interesting. How did they manage to get him back to you if they were under attack?"
Ducky was speechless for just a second. He had actually been listening? "It is risky, indeed, but well-organized units can hold themselves against enemy fire and get their man with them. It lies with their training and a good deal of luck. Now, there was this one time…"
"Do they bring their dead back too?"
Again Ducky was dumbfounded. Mr. Palmer he could understand but this boy…? "Sacrifices are made in wars, dear boy. They can't risk their lives for someone who is already long past saving."
The boy thought it over and this time Ducky refrained from diving into a new memory. He was curious to see where the boy was headed. "What happens to the dead then? Do you find them and bury them later?"
Ducky sighed sadly. "As many as can be found. There isn't always anything to bring home. Bodies have disappeared."
The boy's eyes glazed over again. "How many in battle die with unfinished business?" he mumbled, that faraway look in his eyes.
It was unclear if he had meant to say it aloud. Ducky answered anyway. "Quite a lot I would think. They are all fighting for something, in what they believe. For some that's enough. Others might just be fighting to return home, which is admirable in itself, but I can imagine it would leave them unsatisfied in death."
For a moment the boy looked terrified, then he shook himself and said, maybe in an effort to change the mood. "It's still gross. How do you get through a day without barfing?"
Ducky chuckled. "Practice, my dear boy. Years and years of practice, I would think."
Not long after this enlightening conversation there was a knock on the door, and the head of Timothy appeared in the opening.
Ducky had been waiting for one of the team to surface since his pager alerted him ten minutes ago. He smiled pleasantly, ignoring the boy for a moment. "Hello, Timothy. Did Jethro send you?"
Timothy nodded and came all the way in. The boy was both tense and curious.
Ducky got to his feet. "I'll have to go now, Daniel, but Timothy here will stay for the duration of our deal."
He winked at the boy who huffed and crossed his arms before his chest. "I don't need a babysitter, you know."
"He is all yours, Timothy."
Tim stood for some eternal seconds looking at the boy in the bed who glared doubtfully right at him. Then he smiled and stretched out a hand. Kids he could handle. It was a relief to see this particular boy very much alive.
"Hi, I'm special agent Timothy McGee. You can call me Tim."
The boy's glare dissipated for hesitation, and then he accepted the outstretched hand.
"May I?" Tim asked, indicating the chair. The boy nodded and he sat down. "So what do you do in your spare time? Play any games?"
The boy gave him a once-over, likely measuring him for potential. "I play Doomed."
Tim smiled. They would get along just fine.
The sun had gone down several hours ago when the entire team had finally assembled in the squad room once again. Tim had spent an hour more looking through even more surveillance footage, since he returned from the hospital after bidding Danny goodnight.
The kid didn't have a problem talking about the thrill of winning the next level in Doomed, playing and losing against his best friend, going to the movie theatre, and hanging out in the mall like a regular teen. He talked about school to some degree too, mentioned some of his subjects and his dislike for math. He even talked with quite some humor about the bully of a jock who hunted him down following bad grades. Those were safe topics, the kind that didn't reveal much of anything.
However, the kid shut up like a clam if asked anything else. He hadn't once mentioned the name of his best friend or the school or town from which he came, neither what his parents did for a living, and when the topic had turned to schoolwork and tests he had been rather brief. But that could just be embarrassment. From what Tim could gather he wasn't doing too well in that regard.
In the hour looking at footage Tim hadn't found anything more so he felt a small wave of relief when Gibbs returned from autopsy. Maybe they could soon retire for the night. Tony got up when Gibbs entered, and Kate finished with whoever was on the phone. The briefing began without any prompting on Gibbs part.
"The victim is ex-corporal Dean Tailor. He ended his career in the navy three years ago. He was asked to leave due to episodes with violence, the last one surrounding a scuffle in a bar. He took a course in anger management, but there are no records after that." Kate told them.
"There was spying equipment at the scene, for instance a set of binoculars with heat sensors, highly advanced, can see the difference between average temperature and a person with fever or engaged in other hot… activities." Tony smiled mischievously but returned quickly. "Most of the other stuff seems to be cleaning utensils…"
"Cleaning utensils?" Gibbs inquired, an almost curious note to his voice.
Tony shrugged. "I guess for cleaning. That white suit can't have been easy to keep pristine."
"You think?" Gibbs said.
"Abby hasn't figured out the rest yet," Tony added hurriedly.
"What killed him?" Tim asked carefully.
"Someone hit him hard enough in the stomach to breach muscle and skin and reach his heart."
Tim gulped, suddenly glad he hadn't been at the scene on this one.
"Who could have that kind of power?" Kate wondered aloud.
"That's what we are gonna find out."
The elevator dinged and Abby rushed out. "Great, you haven't left yet."
"You finished the DNA sample, Abby?"
She shook her head. "That's still running. No, I did a search on Amity Park. The boy's name is Daniel Fenton, age 16, sophomore at Casper High, by the way. According to the web the city is plain enough, 'A nice place to live' they advertise, but something isn't right. I tried going deeper, see some of its history, and a demand for clearance popped up."
"Is it a part of a military base?"
Abby shook her head to Tony's question. "The only thing remotely needing that kind of security is Axion Lab, which develops and does research in some of the most advanced technology in the world, but they have their own security system. The data on the city is protected by something else. The public information available is place, population, public facilities like schools, the park and library. The tourist attraction is Axion Lab and the city has proclaimed itself the most haunted since the middle of the 18th century. I would love to see that."
Gibbs rubbed his eyes. "Okay. Everybody, go home."
They all got to their feet, but Tim hesitated in front of Gibbs' desk. "Eh, boss?"
Gibbs looked at him, and Tim fiddled with his feet nervously. "Well, are you going to come out with it today?"
"The hospital is discharging Danny tomorrow morning. What do we do with him?"
"Well, we take him here for questioning, McGee. He is a witness in a murder investigation."
"Who is picking him up?"
"Tony, meet up at the hospital tomorrow at 0700. Kate, call social services. They need to look after the boy until his parents make it here. Satisfied, McGee?"
Tony was sketching in his notebook as he waited in the hospital's foyer.
Seven o'clock was a bit too early for people getting discharged, but he knew exactly what to do in the meantime. He was the last on the team, who hadn't been introduced to the kid yet, and he was going to exploit it. Admittedly, kids always seemed to have a problem with him, but that didn't stop him from trying.
He finished his sketch and rose from his seat. No one was watching him so he walked purposefully ahead, chose an elevator and got to the second floor. He wondered if the kid would be awake, but why not? He couldn't imagine someone being able to sleep for long in a hospital bed.
As he reached the door he didn't bother knocking. He just strolled in. The kid's eyes snapped open at his entry.
Tony smiled charmingly. "Hi, I'm Tony," No response "from NCIS, very special agent DiNozzo." He showed his badge, still nothing.
He sat down in the chair, which he assumed everyone had used the day before, and threw the sketch block to the kid. "I want you to point out the room you were hiding in on base. There are several possibilities."
The kid studied his handiwork, and Tony studied his travelling finger on the sketch.
The kid chose the location and showed it. "There. You still think someone moved me, while I was out for the count?"
Tony looked at the original storage room and smiled. "No, that doesn't seem to be the case. So, you're getting discharged today? That must be thrilling. What are your plans?"
The kid crossed his arms. "None of your business."
Tony tossed his legs up, just to tick off the kid. "Actually it is. We are running an investigation here. You, as a witness, can't just disappear on us."
The kid shot him a cautious look, ignoring the feet currently occupying the bottom of his bed. "I've already told you everything I know."
Tony smiled mysteriously. "There are still a few details that need to be cleared up."
Gibbs entered, coffee in hand and clothes in the other. He subjected Tony to one of his glares.
"Uh, hi boss. Did I get here too early?" He casually put his feet back on the floor.
Gibbs threw the clothes into the lap of the kid. The kid scrambled in surprise. "It's better than hospital garments and your own clothes didn't survive," was the explanation. The kid gathered it in his arms. "When you've gotten dressed you are coming with us to headquarters. Social services have agreed to look after you until we get ahold of your parents." Gibbs continued in an even voice.
The kid paled. "You don't need to call my parents. I'll just get home on my own when you're finished with me."
Gibbs nailed him with a stare. "And how do you intend to do that? Amity Park is all the way in Illinois. That's a long way from here."
The kid gulped. "I didn't tell you where I'm from," he said.
Gibbs almost smiled. "You didn't have to. Now, get dressed. We can always discuss your arrangements later."
The kid didn't move from the place. "Please don't call my parents," he pleaded. "My sister knows where I am. That's enough."
Gibbs considered it for a short moment and then nodded. "Okay, we won't call your parents until you ask us to."
Tony returned to his bullpen slightly nauseous and started fingering his sketch from earlier.
"Did Gibbs drive?" Kate asked from her seat. Tony nodded. "Poor kid," she commented.
Tony grinned. "I wouldn't be so sure. He didn't seem the slightest distressed about it, just sat staring out the window holding on to the door like it was the most natural thing in the world. Said his father was worse when I asked about it."
"Ugh, I don't wanna know how that feels like. Where is he now?"
"Getting some food down in interrogation."
"Why? He can't be strong enough to have done what was done to the victim."
Tony finished his working on the sketch for the second time and showed it in her direction. "According to this he went through the scene or was close by at some point. The trees were one of his pointers to navigate the base. He has a funny way around it too."
"What do you mean?"
Tony rolled over in his chair. "See, he started by pointing to one of the towers but decided for the second tower, then he found the trees and went straight from the trees to the back of the building, where the camera spotted him from. From there, instead of rounding the corners, he went straight into the building, the nearest room from the back and moved from room to room until he hit the storage. It was like he was counting walls."
"Maybe he was passing through them." Gibbs' voice suggested and Tony jumped slightly in surprise. Gibbs grabbed a folder on the case from his desk and continued his stride. "The kid's almost done with his meal," he informed.
Danny didn't feel all too comfortable in the small room with the table, two chairs, and the mirror on one wall. Oh, he knew he wasn't meant to. The hardness of the chair was just one give-away. He ate the meal he had been given without complaint anyway and hoped it would be over with quickly.
Jazz had had more than twelve hours to get ahold of Tucker and Sam and lay down a plan. At least one of them, hopefully Tuck, would arrive sometime today, most likely in hot pursuit of the Fenton Booo-merang. He was awaiting the oncoming headache with resigned displeasure.
He had only just finished the last bite when the door opened and the grey-haired man from yesterday and earlier this morning stepped through. Gibbs was his name if he remembered correctly.
The man sat down and stared at him. Danny quickly concluded that he was more likeable yesterday.
"Do you know this man?" he asked and put a picture in front of Danny.
Danny stared at it, feeling his pulse quicken a tiny bit. He swallowed. The guy looked very much dead in the picture. "I don't know his name, exactly. Is he…dead?"
Danny looked to the man in the other chair. Gibbs just bored his eyes into his. Danny looked at the picture again with a gulp. "Eh, okay. It is a bit difficult to distinguish between them, but I think he was the one who presented himself as Agent D," he whispered.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Agent D? Was he the one you were hiding from?"
Danny nodded carefully, furiously thinking how best to get through this without revealing too much and wondering what had gotten to a GiW. "What happened to him?" he asked.
Gibbs took the picture away and opened the folder. "I was hoping you could tell me."
"How? I haven't seen them since I entered the area of the base. I didn't understand why they stopped, but I wasn't going to complain about it."
Gibbs drew a new picture forward, this time of some trees and bushes at a fence. "He was found in there. I believe you have been there."
Danny looked closely. "This is near the back of the building I hid in?"
"Yeah, I hid in the bushes for a minute or two, but I didn't feel safe. I knew they were still on my tail, and I knew they wouldn't let up unless I disappeared completely. That was when I noticed that they were wary about getting closer to the base, so I figured if I hid in one of the buildings, they wouldn't dare look for me there."
Gibbs worked his jaw. "And they didn't get to you in those bushes?"
Danny shook his head no. "If they did, I wouldn't have made it into the building."
"Okay. Do you have any idea what the Corporal was doing in the bushes?"
Danny looked confused.
Gibbs explained. "The deceased was a marine three years ago, a Corporal, Dean Tailor."
Danny widened his eyes in surprise "Dean Tailor? The D was from his first name? I always figured it was from their last."
"The bushes, Danny. What was he doing in the bushes?" Gibbs tapped a finger against the tabletop.
Danny almost fell out of his chair. "Gee, I don't know. Looking for me, maybe!" he fumed, hiding his fright behind an angry glare but careful not to make it too angry.
"With binoculars that can gauge a person's temperature?"
"With w-what?" Danny whispered, suddenly eerily frozen in place. Gibbs was about to repeat himself, but Danny shrieked out. "They can see people's temperature now?" He stopped himself from going any further down that lane and shot Gibbs a wary look. He had only lowered his own temperature to begin with based on a wild guess that maybe, just maybe the GiW had something along the line of heat sensors. He had desperately hoped it wasn't so.
"Why does that make you so upset?" Gibbs asked, this time kindly.
Danny shuddered and embraced himself. "Remember how I told you about my tendency to freeze easily?" Gibbs nodded. "My average body temperature is just around ninety-five. If they can do that… I won't have anywhere to hide."
"Who are they?" Danny avoided his eyes. "Who are they, Danny? Why are they hunting a 16-year-old boy?" Danny shook his head stubbornly. "Danny," Gibbs growled.
Danny caught his eyes. "It's got nothing to do with you," he stated quietly.
"Danny, when a marine dies of unnatural causes no matter how long ago he actually was a marine, it is NCIS' case. I got a dead ex-marine and a boy who claims to have been hunted like an animal by said ex-marine. It's got damn well a lot to do with me!"
Danny flinched back in his chair at the final outburst and Gibbs sighed. "Help me out here, Danny. Tell me what Dean Tailor was involved with so I can catch the culprit."
Danny hesitated and squirmed a bit in his seat obviously debating with himself. Finally he sighed. "You know ghosts, right?"
This only served to confuse and irritate Gibbs further. Why the change in subject? "What about ghosts?" he growled his frustration.
Danny gauged his reaction with a careful look and sighed again. He drew his arms around himself in protection and let his eyes fall to the table. "They are the GiW," he whispered.
"GiW?" Gibbs inquired, this time successful in keeping his voice completely calm. Danny's eyes darted up and down again before he loosened his arms a tiny bit and explained. "It stands for 'Guys in White'. They are government approved ghost hunters." Danny raised and kept a steady gaze at him, clearly looking for any reason to stop talking.
Gibbs didn't give it. This kid was dead-serious. Either he was a very good liar or he firmly believed in what he was saying. Gibbs couldn't decide what was most disturbing, but he had to hear him out first and that meant playing along. "If they are ghost hunters, what were they doing hunting you?"
Danny worked his lip, but again decided for an answer. "I… sort of know a thing or two about ghosts. I have been seen near them several times. I think they decided I was a threat too. The GiW was mostly harmless when they first were established two years ago. They couldn't catch a fly. But their equipment has improved over the years. They are getting better."
"How do you know so much about them?"
Danny slumped further down in his seat, a scowl on his face. "When your hometown is swarming with ghosts and ghost hunters you sort of have to know who is who and what is what. It's general knowledge in Amity Park. How else would we survive the attacks?"
Gibbs leaned forward. "You know, there isn't much info on Amity Park. My forensics and computer expert was a little perplexed by the lack of it. Did you know you need a high level of clearance to access just the history of Amity Park?"
Danny straightened in the seat, curious but still wary and a little sour. "You are kidding, right."
Gibbs shook his head and let a piece of paper skirt over the table to the boy. "This is all we know of your hometown."
Danny studied the paper and then started chuckling. "This is insane. There is no way this is the only thing you can find about Amity Park. I mean, what about the ghost invasion? That was on the news. Or the time the whole town disappeared, swallowed by a gigantic green dome? Someone must have noticed the crater left behind. Or even better, when the entire world was drowned in a worldwide storm or covered in wild growing plants, - though people could have forgotten the plant thing… We get ghost reports instead of weather reports for crying out loud! There is no way it could be kept a secret."
"Apparently there is."
Danny huffed and slumped down again. "Incredible. The whole town could very well be a phantom. No one would know the difference."
The silence stretched between them.
No longer uneasy by the questions Danny didn't seem to mind. Five minutes went by as his eyes studied the different corners of the room. Gibbs kept his eyes on the boy, looking for something, anything. He was only a kid. He didn't have the build or strength to have the slightest chance at overpowering the struggling ex-marine. He was downright scrawny, still growing and awkward in his body. And even if he was crazy, believed in ghosts and was more paranoid than a CIA-agent, he had sounded and acted reasonably.
"What now?" Danny asked at last.
"Now you either agree to call your parents and stay with social services, or you stay with social services and wait for us to finish the case."
Danny winced. "I can't get out of the social services, can I?"
"Not a chance." Gibbs agreed.
The kid shrugged his shoulders. "Fine, let them have me. I won't leave Washington until you give me the okay. But one thing…" Danny collected the paper in front of him studying Gibbs from under his bangs. "Can I keep this? My friends would get a blast out of it."
"Who votes for the kid being crazy?" Tony said, raising his hand in the air. Kate and Tim eyed him suspiciously. "Come on, guys. Ghost invasion! Guys in White..? Which is obviously some weird parody on 'Men in Black'. We know all the agencies there are. There are no secret government-assigned ghost hunters. It would make for a great movie though."
Danny had gone with the social services and the team was now stuck sorting through new information and basically waiting for the DNA sample from under the victim's nails to give a match.
"He didn't sound crazy." McGee gave his input quietly.
"Those," Tony raised a finger in warning, his eyes gleaming with silent laughter, "are the ones you have to look out for. They are the most dangerous."
"He is just a kid, Tony." Kate tried.
"Teenager," Tony said. "There's a difference. I say he's crazy."
"You would be wrong." Gibbs rounded the corner and travelled the short distance to his desk.
"What do you mean, boss?" Tony and the rest of the team got up and assembled in front of him.
"I asked the director who got ahold of the secretary of defense. GiW exists. He was curious to know how we'd heard about it. No one but the GiW themselves and the absolute top is supposed to know." Gibbs shrugged indifferently. "I told him a person from Amity Park was involved in our most recent case. Shut up pretty fast after that. Seems they forgot to tell the citizens that most of the happenings in Amity Park were a secret."
"Wow," They turned around and faced Abby, who had managed to sneak up on them. "That's amazing. So the ghosts are real? I simply got to get to Amity Park the next time I have time off. I investigated some of the occurrences Danny talked about. He is right. It's practically impossible to keep such things completely under the blanket. The worldwide storm he mentioned, true, but causes were blamed on the greenhouse effect. Amity Park was never mentioned. The plant thing, haven't got a clue what that's about. The ghost invasion gave the most hits. It runs as a rumor on the internet, about a whole city invaded by ghosts, and the mayor taking steps to fend off ghosts calling in ghost hunters. The story varies but that's the gist of it. It started its round on the web approximately a year and a half ago. None of them mention any names and that would be why they have survived the cover up."
"Abby, why are you here?" Gibbs interrupted.
Abby gave a sudden start. "Oh, I came to tell you I found the match on the DNA. Usually you get to me beforehand, but I guess you were busy talking with the secretary…" Gibbs glared. "You have no patience, Gibbs. McGee, get it up." Abby pointed as McGee pushed a button. "And there you have the guy, petty officer Gene Person stationed on the exact same base." And she ran off.
"There is one problem with this." Kate stated as her and Tony were looking from behind the mirror in interrogation several hours later.
"Only one?" Tony asked.
Kate sighed. "Alright. Several." Her eyes didn't leave the form of the slender marine occupying the chair in interrogation for one second. "His build doesn't match, as Ducky told us. His profile doesn't match that of a killer, neither coldblooded nor enraged. There is nothing connecting him with the victim. No motive. The only thing we got is the DNA match and that scratch on his neck, which will be plenty for a jury, but…"
"It doesn't make sense." Tony suggested.
Gibbs phone rang loudly, and Gibbs demanded his name into the receiver. "No," was the next out of his mouth a bit more neutral, and then the explosion: "You what?" The phone was slammed down and his agents looked at him questioning. "Daniel Fenton disappeared on social services," he growled in answer.
Danny overlooked the parking lot outside the hospital he had spent the night in. He was taking long, slow breaths, releasing wave upon wave of cold from his body. He was starting to grasp what his problem was, and until he could get home or make a more reasonable solution, he was stuck cooling his surroundings to a mere maximum temperature of forty-one degrees, if possible lower. Beside him sounded the clattering of Tucker's teeth. Danny had lowered the temperature around them to just below freezing.
"Man. If I had known you were going snowman on us, I would have brought a coat."
"Sorry, Tuck. I gotta do it while it's the least suspicious. I can't very well start to freeze down the hallways in the hospital."
Tucker grunted. "And why does it have to be a hospital again? Can't you ever wake up somewhere nice? Like a model's home or a restaurant? Sam should have been the techno geek instead of me…"
Danny grinned apologetically. "Sorry. How are they back home? Any problems?"
Tucker shrugged and continued shivering. Danny reined in his powers a little. The temperature climbed to above freezing.
"Nothing we can't handle so far." Tucker finally said, rubbing himself furiously. "So… are we gonna hurry up and do this? I wanna get this over with."
Danny nodded, sucked in his power completely, and let Tucker enjoy the warm heat of the spring sun for some precious seconds.
"Ready to go visit all the models in that giant model bureau?" He asked lightly.
Tucker smiled and clutched his PDA closer. "Thanks, buddy. Let's do this."
They set off.
"Mission accomplished." Tucker said, his voice evident of his relief when they were back to safety in the parking lot. Danny grinned brightly and started leading them out of sight of the high-towering building. Tucker still showed signs of nervousness when looking around.
He patted the pocket containing their precious cargo. "Should I destroy them now?"
Tucker shook his head. "Jazz said, she wanted a look at the samples 'for future reference'. In case you end up at the hospital again, we'll know what they'll find if they are looking. Lucky for us they hadn't found anything too incriminating in their examination."
"How much did you change?"
Tucker lightened tremendously. They had made it in between some other tall buildings down the street. There was no visual sign of a hospital. "Apparently you are very healthy in spite of the slightly off color of your blood and your tendency to turn colder than humanly possible. I deleted the note about the color and fixed a couple of the temperature readings to a more believable number, so now it's just to hope they chalk it up to bad memory or computer glitches."
"Thanks, Tuck. You're a lifesaver."
They walked the rest of the way in comfortable silence. Tucker had come in the specter speeder, and they had hid it away in a dark unobtrusive alley very near the building of social services. It was so obvious they would never search there.
Tucker had created quite the spectacle when he arrived, or the Booo-merang had. Danny had made sure to stay out in the open, on the playground along with some smaller kids. When the Booo-merang crashed down on the back of his neck, it had immediately drawn the attention of all the kids present and they had started a game of catch, Danny, holding the booo-merang, being the target. When the adults finally managed to calm the pile of children down and disperse them, Danny had disappeared along with the object starting the whole mess. Tucker spent five minutes laughing himself silly on the floor in the specter speeder, while Danny examined himself for wounds. Danny admitted to it being funny… in about ten years when his pride stopped being hurt. Now they returned to the covered up specter speeder and resumed their positions in the bottom of it, planning their next step.
"You realize it could take days for them to close the case?" Tucker said, half-immersed in a game on his PDA.
Danny winced. "I hadn't thought of that."
Tucker looked up very shortly. "You realize Jazz and Sam are going to kill you, when they find out you got involved in a murder investigation?"
Danny sighed. "Yeah, but I didn't know it would turn into one! How was I to know one of the GiWs would end up dead?" Tucker shrugged, now fully focused on the game. "I am never going to hide on any military-looking ground again." Danny mumbled.
Tucker let his PDA rest in his lap. "Why couldn't you shake them this time? This is the furthest you've ever been forced away from Amity."
"I don't know…" Danny tilted his head in thought. "Or maybe I do… I… they… the dead guy… That Gibbs guy told me they had found binoculars on Agent D, which could see a person's temperature. Maybe I couldn't lose them because they could see me the whole time. My ghost form is way colder than the surrounding air, especially late spring and summer. I would stand out like the sun on a night sky."
"How did you lose them, then?"
Danny drew his knees up under his chin. "I turned human and hid in a small storage room. I was tired and scared and deliberately lowered my human temperature to the same as in the room just to be on the safe side. I think I managed that for half an hour. But then I lost control and froze completely. Next thing I know I'm surrounded by doctors telling me to relax and let them heat me up." Danny smiled weakly. "I almost laughed hysterically. My core kept regenerating cold and they wouldn't let me gather enough strength to do something about it. I think I fought them so much they ended up giving me some form of sedative."
Tucker put his PDA to the side, leaned back and looked up to the ceiling. "So the GiW will be a problem now and your ice powers are acting up. How are we gonna solve this?"
"It is-sn't s-so bad." Danny attempted, but his shivering had started again.
"Yeah, right. You better get out and blow off some ice. Make it snow all over the city if it helps." Tucker winked.
Danny smiled. "I think I made it snow outside the hospital for some hours last night. I heard some nurses talk about it." Danny turned serious. "And the GiW won't be a problem when I get my ice powers back in control, so we just focus on finding out what's wrong. I already have a theory."
Tucker picked up his PDA once more. "You can tell me all about it, when you are finished getting rid of your surplus cold." he said.
Danny spent a good fifteen minutes soaring through the sky invisible and just letting go. He noticed how the top of the tallest buildings he passed covered in ice crystals, and the trail of glittering white that fell in his wake. He hoped it wasn't too strange for people to get snow in May and, fortunately enough, most of the things he produced in ice melted on its own accord after a couple of hours. He had never counted the exact time. The flying helped him to relax for real since he first woke up in the hospital, so it was with a smile on his face he returned to the alley and his human form.
Before he went into the specter speeder, he took a look out on the street and the entrance to social services. A familiar car held parked outside.
"Uh, oh," he mumbled and hid his head again.
He ran to the specter speeder and went intangible through its door. "Tucker, they are here already."
Tucker looked up from his game. He might be easily absorbed but he was excellent at recognizing urgency in voices. "Those agents are here. Social services must have called them."
"Or they finished the case and came to let you go home. Shall we?" Tucker pocketed his PDA.
Danny nodded and grabbed Tucker to drag him back through the door.
Gibbs was furious but mostly at himself.
The kid hadn't actually promised to stay at social services, only in Washington. He could be anywhere by now. He should have known better. A kid who could sneak onto a navy base could well enough get away from social services.
However, Gibbs believed the kid stood by his promises so he didn't immediately order someone out to look for him. Instead he went down and watched DiNozzo finish the frustrating interview with their suspect. Frustrating, because the petty officer didn't seem to remember a thing about the night of the crime and still had somewhat of an alibi.
DiNozzo finished up and Kate started calling around to check up on said alibi. McGee had gone down to Abby's lab to get help looking at the rest of the footage. There were miles of it and no kid, GiW, or petty officer out for murder yet. Gibbs had the strongest sensation of missing something important.
He ordered DiNozzo with him, and they drove to social services. They parked right by the curb in front of the entrance and Gibbs stormed forward. He didn't know why he felt such urgency, but he was going to find out. DiNozzo followed more easily in his heels, smiling and charming one of the ladies inside.
Gibbs stepped outside again after getting a quick rundown of what had happened and looked up and down the street. That's when he thought he saw black hair disappear around a corner down a nearby alley and he pursued. He reached the alley just as two boys came out of it, both of them jumping feet in the air at the sight of him.
The raven-haired boy he knew as Danny scratched the back of his neck. "Oh, hi Mr. Gibbs. I was just coming back now."
The black boy to the left stretched out his hand in greeting. "Hello, Mr. Gibbs. I'm Tucker Foley. That's T.F. as in Too Fine."
Gibbs almost smirked.
Now there were two kids sitting in their squad room. Two teenagers…
Tony fought back his desire to cringe. One of them didn't even have anything to do with the case, but Danny had wanted him here. How the hell did he get here anyway? – And how the hell had he found Danny so easily?
The dark-skinned boy in glasses and red beret stared around at all their computers in awe. He had a bag with him filled to the brim with tech gear, a regular McGeek. A minute ago he had been talk-whispering into a headset Tony figured was supposed to pass for a phone, Danny observing the conversation with a somewhat nervous expression edged on to his face.
Tucker had finished up and patted Danny reassuringly on the arm. "They'll do it so fast you won't feel a thing," was what Tony had caught.
Danny had winced and smiled all at the same time. The two really seemed to be the best of friends.
Tony got the photograph of their suspect up on the wide screen and sat down beside them, drawing their attention. He pointed to the picture. "Do you recognize him?"
This was their last ditch-effort at connecting the two men, if both were GiW-agents.
Danny shook his head.
"You are absolutely sure? He couldn't be GiW?"
Tucker burst into startled laughter. Tony shot him a glare.
Tucker dried his eyes as if tears of laughter had fallen, still chuckling. "Sorry but that's just too funny." He showed the screen on his PDA after some quick shoves with the stylus. The screen displayed small pictures of persons with added letters from the alphabet. "I have the record of the GiWs and as you can see not one of them are just normal in size. They are bulk and muscles. Say, like the football players at our school."
Danny nodded his agreement.
Tony kept staring at the small screen, desperately trying to wrap his mind around the fact that a mere child, teenager, whatever, had a record with top secret information. "Why do you have that?"
Tucker shrugged indifferently, carelessly. "For safety. GiWs are pretty easy to recognize in their white suits, but should the day ever come that they figure out how to dress normally we can still recognize their faces."
"They are dangerous." Danny added his two cents. "They don't care who gets hurt while they hunt ghosts."
Tony frowned and looked up just as Gibbs arrived.
Gibbs took a sip of his coffee, staring at the big screen. "So there's still no connection between them, no motive and he doesn't remember, but he evidently did it."
Kate had been on the phone the whole time. Now she cut the connection. "And his alibi actually holds for the time he does remember, but his roommate said he came back late. He also said Person acted weird and didn't respond to his questions."
"Wait," Danny got up, "you said: acting weird and doesn't remember?"
McGee came out of the elevator. "We've gone through it all. Nothing. I don't know how he did it, but the tapes haven't caught anything. They haven't been tampered with either."
Danny raised both hands and waved them exaggerated. "Just wait a second." They looked at him, Tucker included.
Danny pointed to Gibbs. "You're saying he doesn't remember?" He pointed to Kate. "You're saying he was acting weird?" And lastly he pointed to McGee. "And you're saying the tapes didn't see him?" Everyone nodded, unsure of his point. Danny dropped down in his chair with an 'oh, crud' and a pained expression in his eyes. Tucker dived into his bag.
"What?" Gibbs asked impatiently.
"He didn't do it. At least not willingly."
"What do you mean?" McGee asked, the slightest hint of trepidation to his voice.
Danny's answer was all the more grave. "He was overshadowed. You've got a ghost out there."
Tucker reemerged from his bag and shoved a metallic shining radar-like device into Danny's lap. "Good thing I brought some stuff, then."
Danny picked up the thing in his lap. "The ghost finder? – How much?"
Tucker waved a clunky-looking soup thermos in one hand and… was that a lipstick in the other? "And an ecto-gun. You think it'll be enough?"
Danny studied the 'ghost finder' while getting to his feet. He turned the switch on and off a couple of times, each time creating a small screeching noise and making its antenna vibrate. "It'll have to be." He pocketed the radar-thing and turned to Gibbs. "We need to get to that base." Steel-blue met ice. From one second to the next the boy had transformed from an awkward teenager to a seasoned warrior. Every agent past the probie state knew that look.
"I'm not letting two kids into a place with a murderer on the loose." Gibbs said.
Danny's expression hardened slightly, his eyes gleaming with an almost unnatural light. "It's a ghost. You can't stop it without us."
Gibbs seemed to consider this, but barely for a second. "We'll just get some ghost hunters. The government already has an agency that deal with that sort of thing." He trailed off, stone mask fast in place.
Danny spluttered. "You can't call the GiWs! It was one of them that fell prey to the ghost in the first place! They don't know what they are doing half the time! And the other half they just destroy things! Their ignorance nearly destroyed the world for the love of fudge!"
One of Gibbs' eyebrows rose in the air. Tony snickered at the odd swear.
"If I may," Tucker broke in. He was still sitting in the chair beside McGee's bullpen, PDA in hand. Now he swiftly connected said PDA with the stationary computer.
"Hey!" McGee burst out indignantly. "What are you doing?"
"And… done," Tucker broke the connection and got up beside Danny. "There. I have the location of the base. We can get there on our own."
Danny grinned almost delighted.
Tony saw the danger in their boss' stand and automatically tensed just as the noise from two resounding head slaps echoed in the room immediately followed by loud cries of protest from both boys.
"You are not going out to catch a murderer on your own!" Gibbs growled.
"Then take us there!" Danny exclaimed, rubbing the back of his head with a look between pouting and defiance on his face. Tucker just looked taken aback. "And it's a ghost we are catching, not a murderer." Danny added as an afterthought.
Gibbs put a hand on each boy's shoulder. "A ghost who murdered a man and used another as scapegoat," he said, imprinting the seriousness of it all with his voice.
Tucker gulped and cast a nervous glance to Danny's side. Danny ducked and twisted out of Gibbs grip with a small sigh.
"You can't stop me," he said.
There was something final in the way he said it. Just that peculiar way he had suddenly omitted the 'we' from the sentence, giving Tucker the chance to make his own choice. His eyes were downcast and his shoulders tense, his fists clenching and unclenching with small jerks.
And Gibbs was crazy for believing the kid, but he did. This young man would defy all logic and do what he intended whether Gibbs wanted him to or not. Gibbs didn't sigh. He just straightened and gave the orders to his people, secretly enjoying the two boys' look of utter surprise.
Tony weighed the small gun in his hand, trying to get used to it.
It was lighter than he would have imagined, lighter than his regular weapon, but Danny had said he had to watch out for the recoil, something about it being surprisingly strong. He had also said that it only held four shots. He would have to be careful of when he used it and on what.
Tucker had kept that weird lipstick-thingy without any objections. Tony hadn't even dared tease him about holding on to something so feminine. He and McGee were standing just inside the gate to the base, overlooking the yard and the four people standing in the middle of it.
Gibbs had somehow convinced the marines on base to evacuate. The only ones left were the guards at the gate making sure no one entered. They had been rather reluctant to let the two teenagers in. Tony didn't blame them. It defied all logic that two teenagers were allowed on a base being evacuated. And furthermore Danny had afterwards insisted that the group at the gate had some protection from ghosts, therefore, Tony's and McGee's current position.
They had all been instructed on how to use an ecto-weapon in the car. If Tony somehow should become incapacitated McGee could pick up the gun. The two guards didn't have the same privilege.
Tony felt the slightest prickle of uncertainty travel down his spine. It was the weirdest sensation coming to a scene, knowing no humans were around to arrest, yet the culprit was here.
He did not feel reassured by the light-weight gun in his hand.
Tim only knew that Tony was more uncomfortable than ever due to his lack of joking.
By now he should have referred to at least two movies and picked on Tim the rest of the time. Oh, Tim knew Tony could be serious and even helpful in his antics. He missed those antics now. At least a reference to ghostbusters would have been nice and made him feel more at ease.
But Tim couldn't let these thoughts occupy him for long. Tim had given himself the task of keeping an extra eye on Danny's friend, Tucker. That trick of his with the PDA was seriously scary. He wished he knew how far that talent reached. So Tim watched as Tucker regarded the yard with half an eye on his PDA, watched him eye the locations of the visible and not so visible cameras on ground, and wondered about that. Why was it necessary to know the cameras' position?
He watched Tucker say something to Danny and Danny nod. Tim could see that Kate hadn't been able to catch the words. Gibbs had his back to the gate, but Tim doubted he could have read his expression anyway. What were those two planning? Danny was visibly shivering but ignoring it for the radar that could supposedly find ghosts. And then Danny froze in place and looked up from the device in his hand, looking back over his shoulder at Gibbs, a horrified look in his eyes. Tucker's eyes widened, following Danny's gaze.
Kate went from annoyed (what had they said to each other?) to surprised when the boy, Tucker, grabbed her suddenly and dragged her with him away from Gibbs and Danny. She had well enough seen Danny's look of terror but hadn't even looked at Gibbs yet to see what was wrong, before Tucker had pulled her away with a cry of "Run!" She didn't even have time to protest.
Amazing how strong the boy was in a panic. 'Cause he was certainly panicked. Why else would he leave his best friend behind? He dragged her to the corner, where she and Tony had been the day before, and looked back at the two left behind.
Even through his panic and keeping an eye on the two left in the middle of the yard, he didn't stop his fiddling with that PDA. She presumed it could be a nervous habit, making him feel safe, but soon recognized the purposeful work of his eyes and fingers. There was resolution underneath the superficial panic. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Kate shook the last bit of surprise off her shoulders and took a peek around the corner. Danny had taken a fighting stance, staring Gibbs down… again. How many times had he done that the last few days? The radar-thing lay forgotten on the ground along with Tucker's bag. Gibbs stood casually, saying something, but she recognized something different in his form and narrowed her eyes, trying to determine what. Tony was running towards them, without the gun she registered. He had given it to McGee.
"No! Stay away!" Danny shouted alarmed.
Tony hesitated but if Kate knew him, he wouldn't do that for long.
Tony reacted the second Tucker took off with Kate. He threw the ecto-gun to a startled McGee and set off.
Danny's fighting stance confused him, specifically since it was directed at Gibbs. If it had been towards empty air, he would have accepted it effortlessly. He only made it halfway.
"No! Stay away!" cried through the air and made him slow down a bit.
Danny's distraction cost him. Gibbs swung a fist the second Danny looked away, and Danny was thrown several feet back. Tony was horrified.
"Gibbs!" he yelled and sped up again.
There was no way Gibbs would hit someone out of thin air. Something was horrible wrong.
Danny's heart beat violently in his chest. He hadn't counted on this happening.
Tucker had whispered his intention with the cameras. Danny appreciated his thoughtfulness and nodded his understanding. If Phantom was needed, it would be so much easier without having to worry about cameras. He had tuned out Gibbs and Todd as he turned on the ghost finder. The sight on the screen made his eyes widen. Impossible! But there it was, green on black. The place was crawling with small green dots.
"Tucker," he half-whispered in trepidation. This might be worse than they had anticipated.
Tucker looked up shortly from his work. "Those aren't big enough to be entirely manifested," he commented in thought.
"I know," Danny agreed, "but there are so many of them."
His own dot was bright enough to be a white circle in the middle of the screen. And then he had noticed it. The small, barely manifested ghosts were gathering in one place. He looked over his shoulder, looking from Kate to Gibbs and seeing first-hand what was happening.
"Tucker," he said again, this time a warning in his voice.
Tucker didn't waste time with unnecessary questions. He didn't have to. He just set to action.
Danny met Gibbs' no longer blue eyes, automatically squaring down in a loose fighting stance and catching the barely heard word from Gibbs' mouth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tony move and shouted in warning. It cost him dearly.
A fist flew towards his chest. He barely managed to get a guarding arm in between, but at least it saved him from being penetrated. He had never heard how that GiW had died, but the force from the punch gave him a good idea. He skirted backwards in the gravel and managed to stay on his feet.
Tony moved again. Danny growled under his breath. Sometimes people just didn't know what was good for them.
"I said, stay away!" he roared, this time without looking away from his opponent.
To his utter relief Gibbs was moving slow. Danny would have no trouble defeating him in speed.
He ran forward, ducked under another fist and pushed a hand glowing the tiniest bit with green ectoplasm against his stomach. He pulled the punch just before it hit, making it merely a pat and pushing ecto-energy into the body. For half a second he thought it worked. Green shadows from a couple of ghosts hovered out of Gibbs' back, but they disappeared into him immediately. They wouldn't let their prey go that easily.
"Protect…" their twisted voices whizzed at him from Gibbs' mouth.
Danny glared. "What are you protecting?" he hissed back.
A leg kicked at his side. He rolled with it and got up again five feet to Gibbs' right, crouched down and alert to every move he made.
"Gibbs, what are you doing? You never hit kids!" Tony had made it to them and bent down to lay a hand on Danny's shoulder.
He shook it off rapidly. "Don't bother," he ground out, "he is being overshadowed."
Danny ran forwards again, directing a kick to his legs and a punch more to the stomach in an attempt to make him lose his balance. It wasn't working. An elbow took a crack at his neck, and he only just managed to twist his body enough to make it hit his left shoulder instead. He cried out in pain and fell face-first into the ground.
"Protect…" the mixed voices whistled again.
"Protect what?" he panted out and rolled and twisted out of the way of another hit. He needed to be Phantom.
"Gibbs, snap out of it!" Tony tried to break through to him.
As soon as he saw Gibbs' eyes, he understood what the kid had said. Overshadowed… The eyes was a nightmarish mixture of red and green and shining with rage, not Gibbs' usual fury either when working on a particular nasty case but utter, insane rage. At least he thought it was rage.
He didn't understand that notion with 'protect.' Attacking a defenseless child certainly wasn't in any alley of protection. Though, Danny didn't seem too defenseless at the time. He was faring pretty well, actually. Surprisingly well.
But Gibbs wasn't moving right. Tony had noticed right away that Gibbs' movements were halted and slow. Another nail in the coffin that Gibbs wasn't himself. For the time being Tony would be willing to take the kid's side. He circled around and made an attack of his own, cringing as Danny took a nasty hit to the back of his shoulder.
Danny hissed when he saw him. "Why didn't you bring the gun?"
That startled Tony slightly. "Didn't they need protection at the gate?" he retorted impishly, ignoring the fact that Danny implied they shoot at Gibbs.
"The gun can't hurt humans." Danny mumbled.
Tony almost didn't hear it. He was way too busy evading Gibbs' sluggish attacks. The sad part about it was that he knew he didn't stand a chance against Gibbs normally, and they were still two against one now. "I'll remember that next time."
Something registered in the corner of his eye, and the next thing he knew Danny was between him and a blow of Gibbs' fist. Danny pushed him away, out of Gibbs' reach. "There won't be a next time if we don't get them out of Gibbs soon," he gasped through gritted teeth.
"Them? There's more than one?" Tony said incredulous.
A shout sounded from the corner, Tucker and Kate had disappeared around, Tucker's voice. "I got it, Danny!"
He knew he could count on Tucker. He had succeeded in protecting the other agent from the worst hits. Tony had no idea how powerful a punch an overshadowed human could throw, strengthened ten times by the overshadowing ghost, at a minimum. Danny's body was trying to tell him just how much worse it was, when it was ghosts in plural.
'Later,' he demanded of it and himself.
He ensured that Tony really was out of immediate danger, and then circled halfway round Gibbs, keeping the ghosts' attention on himself. He reached for the forgotten ghost finder on the ground openly. The ghosts were inexperienced. They didn't know what it was for. Behind his back and out of Gibbs vision he closed his hand around the Thermos that had fallen out of Tucker's bag when he dropped it to run.
The oncoming kick that followed his action sent him flying sideways and into the building opposite of Tucker's. Twenty feet of hard gravel and stones later and Danny crashed into some trashcans before hitting solid wall. The trashcans clattered down upon him and hid him from sight.
'Perfect," he thought sarcastically to himself, trying to shake his mind's haze and body's screaming protests. He closed his eyes shortly. This really was his only chance.
"Going ghost" he whispered.
They weren't really necessary, but the words helped him focus. The coldness from the white rings rippled from his abdomen and encased his form, dulling the pain temporarily. As soon as it was complete, he turned intangible and sank into the ground.
Kate blinked when Danny was thrown halfway across the yard into the building on the other side. Tucker beside her shouted his name in worry but stayed put. Tony cried out too, a shout between Danny and Gibbs, as if he couldn't decide who to worry about or reprimand.
She gritted her teeth and decided to take action. She was well aware by now of the overshadowing part. She needed to help Tony. She needed to get to Danny to see if the kid was all right. She could see McGee thinking the same thing. He was already trudging towards Tony's aid. Gibbs/the ghost had obviously decided that Tony was next on its schedule. Kate tried to slip past Tucker but was stopped by a hand.
"Sorry, but it's a very bad idea to go out there." Tucker whispered not even glancing up at her.
"I've got to help them!" she hissed back, watching with dread as McGee made it to Tony, the weird gun aimed hesitantly at Gibbs.
Tony looked dazed. His legs had been pulled from under him by a swipe from Gibbs. He said something to McGee that sounded suspiciously like a command to 'just shoot!' Kate winced when McGee actually did it and was mystified when it didn't do much. She thought she saw a green mist or trail of smoke shortly surrounding Gibbs, but it was gone within a blink of an eye.
"Finally," it sounded impatiently from Tucker.
Kate watched stumped as something exploded out of the ground below Gibbs and sent him skywards. Tony and McGee wore similar expressions as her, she was sure. Gibbs didn't come down again. He was floating ten feet in the air.
Tucker sighed with relief when Danny emerged again. For just a second he had been afraid Danny had been knocked out. Tucker didn't fancy the thought of taking on the ghosts on his own. He was quite happy the agents did such a fine job of keeping them occupied while Danny got himself together again.
Tucker watched for a second more as Danny, as Phantom, initiated an aerial battle. He noted that Danny had the Thermos on him.
"Who is that?" Kate asked.
Tucker grappled in his brain for the right thing to say. "Phantom. A ghost who fights the malevolent ghosts at home," he ended on and hoped it satisfying.
He glanced at Kate and saw her frown. Tucker looked back at the battle. "Now we can help out." he said, sure this would get her attention back on the right track. It did. She slipped around the corner as she had wanted to before, a hand on her useless normal gun, alert and ready. He followed her close behind after putting his PDA on the ground. Better it be safe there than destroyed in the upcoming confusion.
His fingers clutched around the Lipstick, and he licked his lips in his nervousness. With so many ghosts, only two weapons, and one Thermos, they had their work cut out for them. How was it that it was never easy?
Danny winced when he hit Gibbs and sent him flying.
He had resolved to not hold back, but he still hated it. It was absurd to be so relieved when Gibbs stayed in the air afterwards instead of crashing to the ground and get further injured. He didn't let the ghosts get their bearings though. He sent a barrage of small ecto-blasts right at the body, wishing and hoping they didn't hurt humans too much.
Bursts and flashes of green mist surrounded Gibbs' body as the ghosts tried to avoid the brunt of the attack. Danny had already uncapped the Thermos and directed the opening of it just right, before pushing the button. The Thermos' white-blue vortex enveloped Gibbs' body and the green mist. Gibbs dropped and flew out of its range, but some of the mist wasn't so fortunate. Danny could distinguish three small voices screaming as they were sucked in. He capped the Thermos again with a sigh. Great, three down, thirty-one more to go…
Danny looked down and spotted Tucker and Todd making it out of their hiding place, Tucker already aiming with the Fenton Lipstick. Just below him Tony and Tim were keeping an eye on him and Gibbs.
Danny returned his attention to Gibbs just as the bigger body crashed into him full-flying force. The wind was taken out of him as he was ground into the dirt, and even though the manhandling was the worst yet he simply didn't have air to scream.
The ghosts seemed to be pretty much hands on. They hadn't yet released any ecto-blasts, and they hadn't flown until he actually forced them into the air. Maybe they were too weak to use powers above the basics. He hoped that was it. He pushed back, forcing a gust of his ecto-energy against his attacker and freeing himself. Out of the corner of an eye he saw the rolling Thermos draw to a stop a meter away from someone's feet. He didn't care to see who just now.
"Someone, get the Thermos ready!" he shouted and flew up again, attacking anew.
"Protect…" the echoing voices came again, whizzing out of Gibbs' mouth in a sneer.
"Would you stop that? Or at least make some sense? What are you protecting doing this?" he shouted, not stopping his blasts in the least.
"Home, family, us…you" the voices answered, sounding weaker as some again were forced out of their host.
It made him hesitate, which was well enough as the beam from the Thermos lightened the sky once more. He backed off a little, taking care not to be caught in its path. This time he couldn't hear how many were actually caught in the beam, but he knew it wasn't enough. Gibbs' eyes still bore the ghostly color of possession.
"What do you mean 'me'?" He felt almost hysterical. If he for some reason was the fault of this… The ghosts halted their descent on him, floating a little above his head, a look of pondering and struggle crossing Gibbs' face.
"The GiW hunts you, us…we took care of him…" was their answer at last.
Danny felt weak, losing altitude. "You didn't have to kill him!"
"GiW are threat…we kill threats…we kill to protect…protect home, family, us, you…"
Danny groaned and forced new energy to his hands. "Well, you stop now!" he ground out.
A green shot from the ground that very much looked like a blast from the Lipstick struck Gibbs just as Danny sent off his own.
This time there was screaming as the green mist intensified in the air around Gibbs.
Danny whirled away from him, speeding out of the Thermos' suction force before it was even there, but he was tired and hurting, and the rapid change of direction and speed made the world spin. He crashed to the ground for the third time that day, falling and rolling a couple of feet before coming to a stop. He lay gasping and staring up into the darkening sky. When the world finally stopped he saw Gibbs slowly losing his altitude and landing both feet securely on the ground. Danny felt a little envious at that. At least the ghosts seemed to take good care of their host's body. He didn't possess the same grace.
Gibbs shook his head and pressed a hand to a temple. He looked pained and slightly confused. Danny frowned and got up, his limbs trembling with the effort. Tim was holding the ecto-gun firmly aimed at Gibbs chest. Tony was doing the same with the Fenton Lipstick. Tucker had the Thermos ready at a moment's notice and Todd…? Danny followed the sound of metal banging and looked in the direction. Todd was searching for him where they had last seen him. Danny gulped.
"Are they out?" Tony asked, or rather commanded. He seemed to have taken charge. Danny hurriedly got his eyes back on Gibbs.
Tucker shook his head. "I'm pretty sure there are a few left." Danny forced his feet to take steps forward.
"Protect…" it whispered from Gibbs and then a growl of "Stop it!" with Gibbs own voice.
All froze, Tony and Tim in confusion, Tucker and Danny in stunned surprise.
"He is fighting it…" Tucker sounded unsure.
Danny got moving again, pressing his muscles to one last exertion. "Now, get out!" he shouted, mostly to encourage himself. His fist turned intangible as he pushed it into Gibbs. Tony and Tim let out startled gasps.
"Get them over here!" That was Tucker, and Danny did as he was told, grabbing ahold of the intangible tendrils of the last two ghosts and forced them out in one fast pull. One last brush of white-blue light and screaming of 'protect', and the ghosts were trapped.
Danny panted heavily, hearing Gibbs' own breath above his head.
Danny wasn't feeling good. He had taken one too many hits during the fight. He was losing his hold over his ghost-form. He had to get away before that happened. However, his body refused to move.
A hand reached by him and steadied Gibbs, who was wavering. Someone did the same for him, and first then the hand gripped firmly on to his shoulder did he realize how much his body was trembling.
He searched out Tucker and stared into a set of brown-green eyes. Tucker's concerned look urged him to try one more time, and he succeeded in turning intangible. The hand on his shoulder fell through him and a startled Tim stepped away.
He sunk down into the earth and pushed as fast as his exhaustion allowed it towards the building where he had fallen as Fenton. He remembered in time that Todd was searching through the trashcans and ended up landing himself in a room inside the building. The room was luckily windowless and the bright flash from his transformation unseen. He steadied himself at the nearest wall, taking some big gulps of air. The pain came crashing through him full-force without his ghost-form suppressing it, and he fought back a scream. He oriented himself and chose the right wall to pass through. He lost his control of the intangibility as soon as he was through and let his legs give way under him, sliding down against the wall.
Voices were talking, calling his name. His own voice croaked out a small whisper of 'here'. He didn't have any more left in him.
Tucker was relieved that Danny managed to get away in time.
They didn't know these people, didn't know what they would do with a secret like that. So he was relieved as he called out Danny's name in their search for the disappeared boy.
He could see that they were puzzled by it, and tremendously worried. That, at least, made them good people in his book. – And they had accepted Phantom the short time they had interacted. That was a good note too, a welcome one.
It was the woman who found him. She rounded the corner and shouted out to the others, urgency in her voice. Gibbs stayed put, sitting on the ground, growling angrily at his own helplessness, while the others ran to Danny's help, the two guards from the gate too. They had left the gate as soon as the ghosts were dealt with, helping in the small search-party.
Tucker rounded the corner second last, a little short of breath. Really, maybe he should practice running more often.
He gulped down a gasp at the sight meeting his eyes. Danny looked totally beat. He was unconscious, which Tucker didn't doubt was a blessing. His clothes were shredded from behind, probably from his way over the ground to the trashcans earlier. The visible part of his body, the arms, weren't faring any better, covered in scrapes and scratches and bruises.
The woman lifted up his shirt and revealed several black bruises on his upper body, one to his right side just below the ribs, one to the front of his right shoulder, one to the back of his left shoulder. Those were the worst. Tucker gulped again, knowing too well what Danny had told him a million times before: 'Better him than an ordinary human.' Tucker would never want to see what that kind of force could do to a normal human body. At least Danny's ecto-filled blood stream made him quite resilient. Didn't mean he had to like the sight of his best friend having been through a meat grinder though.
Gibbs finally persuaded his body to get up and walk the short distance to where Danny had been found.
He might be exhausted, in pain from wounds he didn't know how had gotten there, and slightly confused as to what had happened, but that had never stopped him before. And he needed to see the damage he knew he must have done. He didn't particularly like the thought of some ghost using him to hurt others, and from the little he had picked up from DiNozzo's and McGee's conversation, he had practically beaten the living daylights out of the poor kid. He dreaded the sight that would meet him and felt like head-slapping himself for bringing the boys along in the first place.
Before he got completely around the corner he passed McGee on the phone, obviously calling an ambulance, and then there was the other boy, Tucker, standing frozen to the spot. Gibbs frowned. Why hadn't anyone stopped Tucker from coming near? Then he saw Danny. The sight was awful.
Tucker woke up from his stupor and turned around to look at McGee. "Don't tell me he called an ambulance," he whispered.
Gibbs was pretty sure he was the only one who heard and again had something to wonder about. Why didn't he want them to call an ambulance? Tucker shuddered and mumbled. Gibbs had to strain his ears to hear. "I hate hospitals." Well, that explained it. Gibbs took some steps more and thereby made it to the boy lying unconscious on the ground.
Kate was checking his pulse and watching his breathing. She looked weary. She looked up as he approached.
"I don't think he is as bad off as it looks. At least his pulse is strong and his breathing steady. Of course I'm no doctor." she said.
Gibbs crouched down and took a closer look himself.
It couldn't have been much more than a minute until he was pushed to the side by Tucker, who in the meantime had picked up his bag and PDA. He was clutching that thermos too, being careful about how he handled it. He patted Danny on the shoulder. "Just sleep it off, bud. We'll be home before you know it."
Kate protested at his glaring disregard to his friend's injuries. Gibbs just smirked. It sounded like someone he knew.
"I can't leave you guys alone for a day, can I?" Ducky said first thing through the door of the hospital room the next morning.
Gibbs chose to ignore it. The doctors had forced him to stay the night. He had some freeze-burns they wanted to observe for the next twenty-four hours. They were very curious as to how he had gotten them. They hadn't been too happy with his answer. Apparently the existence of ghosts hadn't reached this department. He hadn't counted on it either. It was just fun to mess with them.
"How is Danny?" he asked Ducky instead. The boy had him worried.
Ducky sat down. "He is fine. He was kind of annoyed about being back in the hospital, said something about how to convince his friend to get in here?"
Gibbs nodded. "It appears Tucker is phobic when it comes to anything relating to hospitals, or rather places with 'pointy things and the smell of sick people' I think he phrased it."
"Well, I guess it's a good thing he wasn't hurt then."
Gibbs sighed. "You didn't answer my question."
Ducky smiled his usual kind smile. "He is perfectly fine. Actually, he has been begging the doctors and nurses to discharge him from the moment he woke this morning. Refuses to let them check him over, saying he will live, and being quite animated about it too. He had changed out of his hospital garments before the first nurse got around to him today and moves around like nothing ever hurt him. I wonder where he got the clothes…"
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Did you see him last night, Duck?"
Ducky shook his head, a question in his eyes. Gibbs shrugged, wordlessly saying 'never mind'. "I did read his chart and I find it peculiar indeed in comparison with his behavior now, but he is very adamant both about not letting anyone check him over and acting like everything is fine. I'm sure you'll see what I mean later. No one, not even you, Jethro, can act that well without being halfway there. Now, tell me about that ghost I keep hearing about. How much do you really remember?"
Gibbs let the subject change happen without batting an eye. "Not much."
"Come on now, Jethro. You must remember something."
Gibbs frowned "I only remember a little from the last part of what DiNozzo and McGee recalled for me. There were flashes and pain, and someone wanting me to hit someone, hit Tony and McGee and a boy with every force I had. I didn't want to. They tried to force my hand and screamed at me that it was for protection, but not only theirs. Somehow they thought that beating my people and that boy would protect both them and the boy. They almost convinced me too. Semper Fi. – They were marines, Ducky. Marines from war."
Ducky studied Gibbs' look, his significant expression, and caught on. "And they just wanted to protect and did as war had taught them?"
Ducky sighed. "You know? Daniel asked me about that…what happened to the dead in battle… He seemed honestly concerned about it. I guess I can understand why."
Some time after Ducky left there was a knock on the door.
'Not a doctor or nurse, then,' Gibbs thought, calling out a "come in."
The door opened gently almost hesitantly and revealed the head of Danny. His blue eyes, peering in, were filled with barely concealed guilt. Gibbs waited. Danny finally seemed to make up his mind and slid in through the opening. He closed the door carefully behind himself.
"Hi," he said not nearly loud enough to make it more than a whisper.
Gibbs nodded in greeting, still waiting patiently for whatever was about to crack. Danny drew in a big breath.
'Here it comes,' Gibbs thought.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean for you to get hurt! Normally it isn't that hard to force the ghost out, but there were just so many of them and… I guess even enough blasts of ecto-energy can hurt humans and… I'm sorry."
Gibbs sighed. "Never say sorry. It's a sign of weakness."
Gibbs indicated the chair and Danny sat down, though he still had that guarded look in his eyes and underlying guilt. Gibbs couldn't think of why, even with the kid's rambled sorry.
"Never say sorry. It's a sign of weakness," he tried again, hoping the kid would understand.
Danny seemed to think earnestly about it for about a second, then: "Sorry, Mr. Gibbs, but that's not the way I have learned it, and I truly am sorry for you ending up in here."
If this had been DiNozzo, Gibbs would have slapped him silly in frustration.
"Don't be," he growled instead, "You don't have anything to beat yourself up about."
Speaking of beating up… Gibbs studied the kid out of the corner of his eye, taking note of the long-sleeved shirt he wore, hiding perfectly any piece of skin that could show signs of injury from last night.
He remembered Ducky's word about how the kid hadn't let anyone see him this morning. No one actually knew how bad he was off right now. And Ducky was right that the kid's movements were perfectly normal, nothing had seemed stilted in his short trek into the room.
Gibbs reached out and grabbed ahold of his wrist, forcing the sleeve away with his other hand. Danny shouted out in surprise and protest.
Gibbs froze in honest to God stunned surprise.
Danny took advantage of his temporarily incapacity and pulled his arm free of the grip and covered it up once more, his unscathed, uninjured and completely intact pale skin. Not a scratch was on it. Danny glared at him with a sour look and was that a bit of nervousness?
"How?" was all Gibbs could say, and it came out in his usually commanding way. Gibbs hated surprises.
The boy rubbed at his arm. "No one was supposed to see that," Danny grumbled instead of answering.
"Show me your torso," Gibbs commanded.
The damage had been far greater to the kid's body than his arms. Gibbs wanted to make sure he really was all right.
Danny stood up, still that sour look on his face and obviously not the slightest bit happy about the exposure, but he did it. Maybe he had some common sense after all, or he just didn't want Gibbs to get physical again. He lifted the hem of his shirt up under his chin, and Gibbs widened his eyes.
His upper body still looked nasty. His front was painted in an array of blue, green and yellow, and his back probably looked the same, but that was just the thing… The marks looked days old, like a week had already passed, and Gibbs was pretty certain he had heard talk of some cracked ribs. The kid should have been in bandages and having trouble breathing from their tightness. He shouldn't have been able to walk around so effortlessly. He shouldn't only have nasty bruises marring his body, not that Gibbs wasn't happy the boy was in such good health. Still… it didn't make sense.
Gibbs sighed and the kid dropped the shirt back in place. "I'm sorry I hit you."
A funny look travelled across the kid's face. "Didn't you just say never to say sorry?" he inquired.
Gibbs gave him a stare. "You had no reason to," he administered at last.
Danny dropped down in the seat again, looking down to the floor and paying no regard to the aggravation that move must have given his bruised back. Gibbs winced internally on his behalf.
"And you were overshadowed, so you have no business apologizing for something you couldn't control," he shot back at Gibbs, nearly growling.
Gibbs smirked. He had the kid now. "Right back at you."
Danny looked up in sudden surprise and then sighed with a small smile edging its way onto his lips. However, he still wouldn't drop it completely. "I heal fast. You don't. And freeze-burns can be a real…annoying, they can be annoying."
"Have some experience?"
Danny gave him a half-exasperated look. "Fighting ghosts on a daily basis you can't avoid it."
The boy seemed somewhat relaxed and talkative so Gibbs chose to do a little digging. "Why do teenagers fight ghosts? Don't you have adult ghost hunters in that city of yours?"
Danny squirmed a little and seemed to shrink in on himself. "We do," he whispered, looking intensely down on the hands in his lap. "The GiW have a division at the city limit, but they are practically useless. They have never once helped any of the citizens. They simply don't care. There were some other teams visiting one time, but they didn't stay. The Red Huntress is a teenager herself. And then there is…" a quick glance up "…my parents."
Danny's voice had dropped significantly low on those last two words. Now he was biting his lip, contemplating the continuation. Gibbs didn't say anything. Many years of interrogation had taught him when to let people talk.
"They…mean well. My mother is a great shot and can hold herself against a whole horde of ghosts. I've seen it. She's awesome. My father couldn't hit a barn if he was standing in it, but provoked… Dad has beaten dangerous ghosts big time for threatening his family. And I love them, but they…they can be so oblivious sometimes. They don't know of half of the attacks that occur during the day. Me and my friends, and I guess the Red Huntress, take care of the rest. It keeps the town safe."
"And they don't know? Your parents, what you're doing?" Danny shook his head in a slow no. "Where do they think you are right now?"
"That I'm staying at a friend's? I don't know. Jazz is pretty good at making something up."
They fell into comfortable silence, Danny staring down into his lap and Gibbs thinking about what he had heard all the while studying the silent boy. After a while he noticed small shivers that seemed to run through the boy at shorter and shorter intervals.
"Are you still cold?" he asked, taking care not to sound too curious or concerned. In the short time he had known the boy, he always seemed to react badly to those.
Danny blinked and readjusted himself in the seat. "Nah, it's just the place…" Danny took a breath and eased the shivers away like Gibbs had seen him doing that first day. He seemed completely lost in his thoughts though, studying his fingers as he stretched them out in front of him.
"At least I think it is," Danny continued pensively. "You know, Amity Park's ghosts are physical. I can chase them away. But this place… this hospital, and I guess the base too and some other spots in this city… they are hot spots, or rather chill spots. The ghosts are there, but they can't manifest. They can't really do anything. Except mess up my…" Danny looked passed his hand and met Gibbs' eyes, suddenly snapping back to reality, "…senses." he finished, his face draining of color in his realization. "I should go!" he spluttered out and got to his feet in a rush, but no one got away from Gibbs.
He reached out and grabbed the kid's wrist for a second time that day, holding on firmly as he tried to pull away. The kid was panicking, searching the room with darting eyes.
"Hey," Gibbs said. "Relax, kid. I'm not gonna hurt you."
Danny finally looked at him, but it was with clear doubt.
"I'm hungry," Gibbs continued, getting out of the bed without letting go completely yet. He figured he had been lying around for long enough anyway, and he needed his coffee. "What do you say we have a look at the menu in the cafeteria?"
The boy looked stunned and confused, but at least he was calmer. Gibbs slowly released his hold and went to find his wallet in the room's locker. Only now did he register how cold his hand had gotten, how cold Danny had been to touch. Something definitely needed to be cleared up here. The sound of steps passing by out in the hallway drew both of their attention, and Gibbs shot Danny a look, the barest glint of mischievousness in the depth of his eyes.
"Let's try and avoid the personnel."
They found a place in the cafeteria's outside area and sat down opposite each other with their own plates of food.
Gibbs took a long draught of his coffee, savoring its bitter taste. Danny was still rather nervous and kept an eye on his surroundings while sipping at his own beverage.
Gibbs dug in, his mind turning over the information he had.
The kid was definitely colder right now than was survivable for a human. Just to make sure he hadn't been mistaken, he had slipped a guiding hand to Danny's shoulder on their way around a corner and out of sight of a nurse, definitely too cold.
Danny hunted ghosts and was apparently good at it, but he hadn't taken any of the ghost-weapons for use yesterday. Something was hinky, like Abby would say, about that too.
And then there was the way he had gotten here. He had been hunted down by those GiWs, who only hunted ghosts and never cared for any civilians. Gibbs was still furious that a government approved 'anything' could be that way. But back to the kid… He and Tucker had made it pretty clear that GiW's one and only interest was ghosts. There should be no way they would waste time on a kid, no matter how much he had been seen near other ghosts. And it was still unknown how Danny had gotten into the storage, and unseen too, like he had been invisible and walking through walls. Gibbs had really just meant that as a joke, but what if…?
Gibbs' thoughts went to the night before.
He had been dizzy and unfocused when the ghost or ghosts had finally gotten out, but he had seen that white hair merely a step away from him, messy white hair corrupting the view to two unnatural green eyes in a face so very much familiar.
The same mess of hair sat in front of him now, covering for a set of nervous blue eyes that constantly scanned the area. Hadn't any one of his team noticed the similarity, or had they just not seen the white-haired boy up close? Gibbs paused in his eating, thereby catching Danny's attention.
"The GiW…" Danny twitched. "…wouldn't hunt a human, would they?" Gibbs finished, scrutinizing the kid.
Danny lowered his eyes to the plate. He hadn't touched his food yet. Slowly, nearly unnoticeably, he shook his head once. "They tried once, but they got the wrong kid. They have stuck to ghosts ever since."
"Okay." Gibbs smiled and continued eating.
Danny looked up, nervousness making room for confusion. "That's it? You're not gonna," he waved a hand weakly in the air, "do anything?"
Gibbs shook his head. "I know what I need to. Now I can close the case without feeling like I missed something."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…" Tucker was hitting Danny consistently on the back while thanking him loud and obnoxious.
Danny grinned at Tucker's enthusiasm, only wincing minimally from the appreciative slaps being given. Gibbs endured their antics like he would have his team and lead the way to the car.
"You're welcome, Tucker. Turned out I didn't need your assistance this time."
Gibbs wondered at that, until he remembered that the other boy was a McGee with a PDA, and Danny had peculiar things to hide. He also noticed that Danny was keeping a hand in his pocket, keeping something safe and secret. Just then Gibbs realized what the boys had been up to before they turned up at social services the day before, and what Danny had done in the ten minutes it took Gibbs to sign them both out of the hospital. Gibbs shook his head in wonder while opening the door to the vehicle.
"Let's get this case closed so the two of you can get home," he said.
As Danny passed him into the seat, Gibbs held out a hand expectantly. Danny looked at it in confusion.
"Your pocket, young man. Here with it. Now."
"Oh," Danny laughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his neck. "Right."
The small vial changed hands while Tucker looked like his eyes were bulging out. As Gibbs turned the keys, he heard Tucker trying to form a question.
Danny didn't give him the time though. "Later, Tuck. Fasten your seat belt and grab hold of the handle. This'll be almost like driving with dad," the whispered command sounded in the back seat.
Gibbs grinned. It was a tribute to Jack Fenton's driving skills with how fast Tucker obliged.
Danny felt the weirdest kind of relief.
Weird, because he shouldn't have felt such a relief after having his secret revealed to a perfect stranger, and relieved, because somehow it should have been harder, should have involved more talking or explaining or something, but the guy had just accepted it and figured it out without much if any talking at all, and Danny would have never been able to explain it anyway and would probably have rambled a lot.
Now his only anxiousness stemmed from the ridiculously frightening thought that Gibbs would tell the other three agents on his team. And he could tell that they were close.
If their relationship was anything like the one he had with Sam and Tucker, they would know the minute Gibbs had them on his own. If their relationship was anything like that, they deserved to know and could keep their mouths shut about it too, but Danny didn't know if that was the case, and that frightened him tremendously. The thought made him more nervous by the second, and it took his strongest effort not to sink into the floor of the elevator on their way up to take their statements.
Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder and said carefully into his ear. "I won't tell them if they can't figure it out themselves."
Danny released a nervous laugh and shook himself to try to relax a little. He didn't know if that was any comfort.
Tucker paused shortly in his playing with his PDA. "They won't. They never saw you up close like Mr. Gibbs. Only partially anyway."
Danny finally managed to get his nerves under control and just the right time too. The door of the elevator slid open with a happy chime.
Danny and Tucker trekked into the shadowed alley with greater ease than most. Danny looked to the small patch of sky in between the tall buildings, taking in the warm coloring of late afternoon. "Man, it's going to be so late when we get home." he commented.
Together they uncovered the specter speeder which had been hidden from any curious eyes by the remnants of a nasty-smelling canvas.
"Are you really going to release them into the Ghost Zone?" Tucker asked.
"What else can I do?"
Tucker scrunched up his nose, as the canvas dropped to the ground and sent a small cloud of dust into the air. It didn't make the smell any better.
"Those agents didn't look too happy about the thought of just releasing them, and they'll manifest in there if you do."
Danny coughed at the dust and waved a hand around freezing the floating particles in seconds in an attempt to clear the air again. "When I do," he corrected, "And I'll try and talk with them."
Tucker opened the latch to the speeder next and dropped his bag in the nearest corner. "You do know we are talking about murderers here, right?"
Danny nodded while getting into his seat and started pushing buttons. "For ghosts they are kind of weak. I'll have the upper hand. And they are protective, not malicious. I'll just have to lay down some ground rules. Maybe I can convince them to stay in the Zone."
Tucker got down in his own seat at the steering wheel. They had been driving the speeder so often by now that all preparations were merely a matter of muscle memory. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"Me too, Tuck, me too." Danny mumbled.
Danny leaned back in his seat, and then grappled around curiously to find a piece of half-crumbled paper in its crack. "Oh, I completely forgot about this. Must have fallen out of my pocket." He flattened the white sheet out in front of him on the panel.
Tucker was starting up the speeder and keeping an eye on the entrance to the alley and their exit. "What is it?" he asked.
"Did you know how little the outside world know about Amity Park?" Danny grinned "All of our lives are one big secret! – Or more of a secret anyway."
Tucker gave the unfolded paper a quick glance before steering the speeder out of the dark alley and up into the air. Immediately Danny focused his will on making them invisible and only released his hold when they were a good ways above the city and away from prying eyes. Tucker turned on the GPS and steered them towards home.
"Isn't that just ridiculous?" Danny went on.
Tucker smirked, a trait he had caught from the grey-haired agent Gibbs and started to practice. It was the perfect occasion for its use. "Yeah, but I already knew." It was even more fun to watch Danny's face fall. The smirk turned into a full-out grin.
Tucker nodded. "It only takes one search to figure it out, but it was actually because my online journal kept getting deleted that I noticed it. I tried to protect it in all kinds of ways, but nothing worked. In the end I had to resolve to a much simpler solution. I figured out, that if the information is vague enough, whatever is deleting it can't 'see' it." Tucker smiled self-satisfied. "I think I'm the source of some of the so-called rumors running around out there. The rumors of a Ghost City." His voice turned teasingly grave, and Danny rolled his eyes and slumped down in the seat, staring out at the sky and low-hanging sun.
"I was so looking forward to telling you too," he grumbled.
Tucker grinned again. "Hey, you can always try Sam or Jazz. Maybe they don't know."
Danny shot him a look. "You really think so?"
Tucker shrugged. "Probably not. You are the clueless one."
Tucker ducked as a fist came his way, and they laughed together.
"Why is it that, when the culprit is already taken care of and not even is among the living, we still get stuck with a truck load of paperwork?" Tony complained to the room in general.
"Maybe because the scapegoat still needs to get his name cleared?" Kate suggested in a tired voice.
"Will they be alright?" it came from McGee's desk, "travelling home all on their own, I mean?"
Kate and Tony looked his way. He looked contemplative.
Tony shrugged carelessly. "They'll be fine. If Tucker could make it here on his own they can make it home too. And the way they handled an overshadowed Gibbs, I almost pity the ones trying to take them on."
"They are definitely resourceful," Kate added.
McGee nodded his agreement, assured, and continued his work. After a while he interrupted the bickering again. "Why did they cut the cameras off though? Why make sure there wasn't any evidence of the fight?"
Again Kate and Tony scrutinized him with their gazes. Sometimes he felt like a reprimanded child asking stupid questions.
"It wasn't all of the fight," Kate said thoughtfully, "Only from a little before Danny was knocked out."
McGee nodded. "But what was the purpose?"
Tony scrunched his brow in consideration. "They were hiding something. Danny was skittish through most of his statement. Tucker was too but mostly Danny." Then Tony smiled playfully. "Wouldn't it have been great to get that other ghost's statement too?"
"Phantom?" Kate inquired, "I don't know if a ghost can count for a witness, but it would have been nice to know how he got here all the way from Amity Park, and how he knew of the ghosts. His arrival was very sudden, and he went straight for Gibbs, like he had been there and seen the whole thing from the start. – Tucker was waiting for him! Tucker knew he was coming!"
Tony and McGee stared at her in her realization.
"Maybe they called him," McGee suggested, obvious hesitation in his voice.
"How do you call a ghost?" Tony asked incredulous.
"Well, they were stopping the cameras from filming for a reason, and if they knew that Phantom-kid was coming, and he didn't want to be filmed, it could have been for him."
Tony frowned again, something nagging at him as he turned yesterday's event over in his head. "Tucker was doing that for Danny," he mumbled. "Danny took my blows…" A picture of a dead ex-marine entered his mind, an ex-marine with a fist-sized hole in his stomach. "…deliberately," realization colored his voice. 'Danny never really explained how a person like Person could use that kind of force,' he thought to himself. "And Danny was moved from the trashcans to around the corner. He couldn't explain how. Said he didn't remember."
"What are you getting at?" Kate asked.
Tony narrowed his eyes trying to remember how the white-haired ghost kid had looked like, his mind jumbling with ideas. He hadn't gotten a very good look. "What if…?"
Gibbs emerged from his quest to get coffee. "Why don't you guys go home? The paper work will still be here tomorrow," he interrupted Tony.
All three agents looked at each other in confusion. However, they had learned a long time ago not to question Gibbs' decisions. They escaped within a minute.
Gibbs smiled at their retreating backs. Never bothering to sit down he set course for the elevator.
Gibbs tossed a small evidence bag to Abby. "Analyze this."
Abby only took one look at it. "Gibbs, this is a blood sample from a hospital."
"No," Gibbs said. "It's an unknown substance found at the base."
Abby looked at the small, very hospital-like vial in the plastic bag. "It's blo…" she was about to make her point again but sensed Gibbs' eyes stare her down in that meaningful way. "My pleasure."
Next day Abby stormed into the squad room heading straight for Gibbs and startling the three other agents, who watched the following scene in bewilderment.
"Why didn't you tell me we had a ghost visiting? I would have loved to meet him."
"You finished the sample?" was all Gibbs said.
Abby nodded vigorously. "Yeah, I've never seen anything like it. It's…"
"Good," Gibbs interrupted, "Send the results to this address, encrypted. I'm sure they'll figure out how to read it." He slipped the girl a piece of paper and went back to work.
Abby stared at the slip for a second and then snapped out of it. "Aye aye, Bossman," she saluted.
"Wrong hand, Abby."
Author's note: This is it. I hope it was an enjoyable read. I certainly had fun writing it. I practically couldn't let it go when I had gotten started.