A/N: Don't kill me for starting another story. I need massive, hardcore angst, no one-shots will come out for me, and I desperately need to get out of my own head. I've had this planned for weeks, and since this is one of the angstiest storylines I have planned, I figured it was my best choice.
There is a chance the rating will rise to M- I will advise ahead of time if it does.
Listen to 'All Fall Apart' by Michael Weatherly. Yes, he sings, and this song is brilliant.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plotline.
It was a typical morning in the NCIS bullpen, on the outside.
Tony was failing at getting his paperwork done like he did every Monday, Ziva was threatening him with office supplies while somehow managing to finish all her work, and Tim McGee was desperately trying to ignore them while typing at a pace any normal human wouldn't be able to maintain. And Gibbs, the leader of the pack, was ignoring all activity around him as he drank coffee after coffee and studiously did not get his paperwork done.
It had gone uncommented that Director was decidedly absent from the agency that morning, which was a rarity.
No one had seen her arrive, and her office had remained locked all day. Perhaps she'd taken the day off; perhaps she'd overslept at a lover's house? Perhaps she'd taken a romantic weekend away with a mystery man, and they'd become stranded? No one dared to guess aloud, for fear that they were wrong, but mostly for fear that they'd anger their boss by so much as mentioning her name.
Director Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs had been at odds lately, the entire agency could tell. Their fights had seemed to escalate in recent weeks, and no one was quite sure of the reason why. All they knew was that if you were in an elevator with both of them, it was advised to get out, as soon as possible.
The members of Team Gibbs just knew that if the fights were to get much worse, one of the two would break. No one could internalize that much anger and not show any cracks.
"Tony, is it possible for you not to hum?" Ziva asked, breaking the otherwise heavy silence with irritation in her tone as she glared at her partner, her chocolate brown eyes flashing. Tony's lopsided grin was quick, and he leaned over his desk as he flashed her a mischievous glance with his dancing hazel eyes.
"What've you got against humming Zee-vah?" he countered, one of his eyebrows rising as he folded his arms on his desk. She scowled, her face tightening as she gazed back at him.
"It is very annoying," she stated simply, her hands inching towards her letter opener. Tony swallowed, but kept his cool as he continued to torment her.
"Ziva, it's Frank Sinatra. You can't hate Old Blue Eyes," Tony said, shaking his head. The thought was utterly ludicrous to him.
"Just because it is Sinatra does not mean you must hum it," Ziva replied, her gaze sharpening to daggers. "Repeatedly."
"Oh- would you prefer if I sang it repeatedly instead?" Tony asked, and Ziva looked about ready to kill him when McGee interrupted.
"Would you two just shut up about it already?" Tim asked, glaring at the two of them. "Some of us are actually trying to get work done, and your stupid, pointless argument is distracting and irritating. If you both just shut up, maybe we'd actually be able to get what we needed to done!"
Both Tony and Ziva looked at him shocked, but then they spared a glance at each other before turning back. Tim swallowed, regretting his decision to speak. Why couldn't he have just kept his mouth shut like he normally did?
Tony and Ziva were about to turn their attention onto McGee and his outburst when the mail cart arrived and Jerry, the mail boy, set a package on Gibbs' desk, having him sign before disturbing the few other bits of mail throughout the bullpen. Jerry left the now-silent bullpen, and it was like the air had suddenly grown thicker. The partners' fighting stopped as they gazed at the small package, wrapped in plain brown paper; the kind that you wrapped something fragile in. There was no return address written on the paper; there was only Gibbs' name and the address to the NCIS building in the exact center of the box, along with a stamp in the corner, with the stamp showing it had passed security.
All in all, the sight of it was quite unnerving, and alarming. And they all knew nothing could possibly come from opening it.
Immediately, they could tell their boss was on alert. He pulled on plastic gloves before touching it, and carefully removed the paper wrapping, setting it aside for Abby to test. He slit the tape along the top with his pocketknife and made sure to cut all the way through it before moving forward, and the air seemed to stand still as he opened the flaps slowly, one at a time. All eyes widened as they gazed at the now-open box, and Ziva had difficulty holding in the gasp that threatened to burst from her lips.
Because curled up in a perfect ringlet on the bottom of the small, innocent-looking cardboard box was a lock of crimson hair that they were all familiar with.
Things were set into motion the second everyone was able to form a coherent thought.
Gibbs closed the box and stood, picking it up and heading for the elevator. The team followed close behind, and the ride down to Abby's was silent, the air thick with silence as everyone tried to process just what was going on.
Director Shepard had not shown up for work today.
Director Shepard's hair was curled up in the box in Gibbs' arms.
Director Shepard was most likely in danger.
Gibbs' facial expression hadn't changed expect for the very first moment he'd seen the hair. For that first few seconds, his blue eyes had widened, and something a hell of a lot like fear had flickered through the cobalt irises before they'd shut down, and he'd turned back into his emotionless self.
The elevator reached Abby's lab and they all stepped off, letting Gibbs' walk in first. The heavy metal music was blaring, and the first thing Gibbs did was smack it off, causing Abby to turn from her computers and protest. But the words died on her lips when she encountered the four of them in her lab, and her green eyes turned serious as she looked between them.
"What's going on?" she asked, her voice roughening when none of them answered her question. Her eyes darkened, and she spoke louder. "Why are you all in my lab and not speaking to me? And Gibbs- why do you have that box?"
"I need you to run a hair sample," he said simply, and her confusion grew.
"What?" she asked finally, shaking her head and looking at Gibbs, waiting for more of an explanation than that. "That's all you have to say?"
"I need you," he said slower, setting the box down on the table, and beginning to open it. "To run a hair sample."
With that he opened the box, and Abby's loud, shocked gasp filled the otherwise silent room.
"Oh my God…"
"Just run it Abby," Gibbs said, his voice low and gruff, and she nodded silently. She slipped on the gloves, and with extreme care, she took the taped ringlet out of the box. She selected one strand of blood-red hair and placed it in a capsule to place in the mass spectrometer, and her eyes widened as she assessed the hair further.
"There's dried blood on the underside of this," she said, turning over the hair to show the darker splashes. "And it looks like there's a single fingerprint on the tape."
"Planned," Gibbs said, his arms folding over his chest as he continued to stare at the drops of blood on the curl of hair. "I'm sure you'll find no other fingerprints in and on the entire thing, except for the mail techs on the outside."
"They're setting us up," Tony commented, his hazel eyes clear of all teasing, their color dark and serious. All of his playful banter from only moments before had disappeared; the NCIS agent was in control, and for once, there was no humor he could find in this situation.
"They are baiting us to come and find her," Ziva added, her voice slightly subdued. She thought she had left this kind of trickery behind in Israel.
"They know we'll follow the clues," Tim said, his face drawn as he looked at the tape, the single fingerprint highlighted against it. He may not have the closest relationship with the Director, but he respected her, and he would do anything he could to bring her back.
"They've set up a trap," Gibbs concluded, raising his gaze to his team, the blue of his eyes as hard as ice. His words left no room for doubt, and the room collectively took a breath in as they waited for his next words to plan their course of action. "And we have to follow it."
"It is the only way to get her back," Ziva said, her voice soft but strong as she met Gibbs' gaze, her shoulders set.
"We don't know it's her yet," Abby interjected quietly, but they all knew her hope was a lost cause, and even her voice wasn't unwavering. There was no way it was not Jenny.
Everyone swallowed heavily except for Gibbs, whose spine remained ramrod straight, his hands curled into fists and shoved deep in his pockets, and with his gaze locked onto the screen, waiting for the results that would cement his suspicions.
He didn't have any doubts though.
The tell-tale ding came moments later, and although they were expecting it, they all jumped anyway at the loud sound. Abby took a deep breath before clicking the proper buttons that opened it, and there was no real shock when the picture appeared on the forensic scientist's computer screen. There was only muted disappointment that their theory had been correct.
Because the DNA in the hair and blood belonged to the Director of NCIS, Jennifer Shepard.