A/N: This is part of the Guardian Angel series of my fics, which could be mostly read as one-shots. This is known as 'the fic that refused to be written'. It had also gotten a LOT longer than I thought it would be at first, so it's posted in three parts.
I've decided to take the plunge and finish my own version of Tony's 'origin' story before that comes out in an episode in the spring May a few days. The concept of the story actually materialized awhile back, just haven't had the chance to finish it. There may or may not be spoilers for the upcoming episode. This idea for this fic came to me when I was doing some fact research on NCIS timeline – it fitted well with what was available on the interwebz. There are mentions of 9/11 in this story, and I apologize ahead of time to those who think it's inappropriate to use such a moment in time. My sympathy goes to those who have lost, and I have the utmost respect for those who helped in the time of need.
And thanks to silvertales for the wonderful beta job she did, and tingreca, onlyonechoice, dinozzoitis and djmicheals for cheerleading!
It was dark where he laid. He felt trapped – actually, he knew he was trapped after trying to move. The initial sharp pain had dulled in the wake of the adrenaline, but it was getting harder to breathe. He could feel his heart racing faster as his breathing slowed, knowing that this might be the end. He knew he should be panicking, but he felt oddly at peace with the notion. He tried not to think about the reason behind that peacefulness. He closed his eyes to shield them from the falling dust and debris, but he could hear the muffled sounds coming from all around him.
Suddenly, there was light. Light so bright he could see it behind his lids, and had to blink when he opened his eyes. A figure emerged from the light. It looked like a halo on his rescuer – his own guardian angel.
Hey! Don't worry, I gotcha. His angel said. You'll be all right.
He felt a hand on his cheeks. His angel had a brilliant smile. And green eyes.
Green eyes that were fiery and bright, holding his gaze.
Green eyes that looked into his blue and into his soul.
Green eyes that spoke of sadness and strength.
Green eyes that haunted his dreams.
He shot up from his troubled sleep, gasping for breath. It was dark out still; the only light came from the street lamp that glowed weakly in the chilly autumn night. The alarm clock next to his bed told him that he had only slept for a few hours. Not that it mattered now; he wasn't going to get anymore sleep at this point. The morning damp made his left knee throb where old and new wounds intersected. He pulled his legs in and sat cross-legged on the bed, rubbing his face with his palms. His gut was screaming at him about something. He ignored it; he had neither the energy nor the focus to listen to it right now. It was probably job-induced stress wearing him down, more than anything.
He hadn't had that dream in a few weeks. He thought it was going away.
It happened more often right after he got back from New York City. They told him it was PTSD, but Gibbs knew better. He was a Marine for fuck's sake. He'd seen and been through it all. Getting trapped and injured under fallen debris while attempting a rescue was nothing compared to being blown up and shot and almost dying in combat.
He remembered the exact moment it happened. He had been in the Director's office that fateful morning, shaking the man's hand for accepting his new assignment. He had just finished a one-year stint as an agent afloat, and was promoted and given the MCRT lead agent position. Tom Morrow was congratulating him on his appointment with a hand on his shoulder when the man stopped mid-sentence.
He would never forget the look on Morrow's face. It was a mixture of awe, horror and sorrow. He knew that he must've had the same look on his face after he turned and saw the Towers fall on the plasma that usually showed ZNN 24/7.
Morrow didn't say a word when he asked for leave.
He called up his CO, found out the local contact for the Marine Reserve, and was up in New York with his bags packed less than 6 hours later.
As a former Marine, he'd carried out more than his share of search and rescue missions, often with fewer resources and always in more mortal danger, but this somehow affected him much, much more.
He'd been in New York for a few of days at that point. The hope for finding anyone still alive after 24 hours was slim to none, so their tasks had gone from search and rescue to search and recovery. His team was on its last couple hours of the shift when they found a cache of bodies. They were in the process of pulling out the first of the bodies but then the rubble above them gave away.
He'd heard from Rodriguez, a fellow former marine on his team, that they were lucky because there was another team that came in right behind them. The second team had heard the debris collapsing so they came looking. It took a while to dig them all out. Most of them came out with minor injuries, mostly scrapes and cuts, a few broken bones. Gibbs on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. He had pushed another rescuer out of the way of a large piece of a ceiling, but ended up getting pinned under it. It would've been fine if the debris that came down didn't block him off from the others. He was bleeding out from a cut on his right leg, and he knew from the familiar pain that the ACL in his left knee was injured, again.
At some point, he lost consciousness and when he came to, he was in a hospital, an IV line in his hand and a brace around his left knee. His right thigh had been wrapped with gauze and dressing like an Egyptian mummy. Needless to say he didn't get a chance to go back in. His leg wounds had required a few of weeks of down time, and NCIS was seriously short-handed now that the country faced imminent terrorist threats. So he found himself back in DC, cooped up in his house on sick leave after one whole week in New York.
That had been seven weeks ago.
Gibbs jolted when his phone went off. "Gibbs," he answered gruffly.
"Heya, Gibbs," it was Pacci. He'd been on-loan from another team until Gibbs could find some Probies he liked. "I just got a call from dispatch. We got a body of a Naval Lieutenant up in Baltimore. You wanna meet at the office first, or do you want me to pick you up?"
"I'll be there in twenty," Gibbs sighed.
"See you then," Pacci hung up at that.
"What've we got?" Gibbs asked as Pacci got in the company car bearing two large cups of coffee. Gibbs took one without asking.
"Good morning, Gibbs. Yes, I'm doing well. Thanks for asking," Pacci quipped. "You've got to work on your manners, Gibbs, or you'll scare away all the probies."
Gibbs snarled at Pacci's comment. "Just get on with the case, will ya?"
"Like I told you on the phone, Naval Lieutenant's body was found in Baltimore. A Lieutenant Terrance Barclay. Couple of kids found him at one of the waterfront parks, preliminary report said gunshot wounds to the back. LEOs saw his uniform and called us." Pacci wasn't fazed in the slightest bit by Gibbs' snapping at him.
"This better not turn into a pissing match with the LEOs," Gibbs muttered under his breath.
"Let's hope not," Pacci sighed. He'd worked long enough with Gibbs to know what would happen when the LEOs got territorial with Gibbs. The former marine would always win, and that'd just piss off the LEOs more.
By the time they reached Baltimore, it'd gotten quite a bit colder. Even though it was only November, the forecast had called for light snow later in the week. After stopping to refill the gas and ask for directions, they pulled up at the entrance to their crime scene.
"Posh area," Gibbs looked around and noted. "Our Lieutenant lived around here?"
"Doesn't look like it," Pacci looked at the file he pulled from the database before they left for Baltimore. "Says here he's got a DC address; no temporary address in Baltimore that we know of."
"Let's go talk to the LEOs first," Gibbs turned and began marching towards the far end of the park where he could see some movement. Pacci pulled their kits out of the car and hurried after Gibbs.
The crime scene was blocked off by police tape, but there weren't as many personnel present as Gibbs thought there would be. Which would be strange, really, because usually the locals would be all over murder cases, especially high profile ones like these.
He stalked over to the edge of the taped off area and showed his badge.
"Gibbs, NCIS. Who's the lead detective on the case?" he barked to the young uniform, who was manning the perimeter.
"Uh, uh, that would be Detective DiNozzo, sir."
"And?" Gibbs looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to point out this 'DiNozzo'. The kid was so green, and he was seriously trying Gibbs' patience. "Which one is DiNozzo?"
"Oh! That would be him right there," the kid pointed towards a tall, lanky man in a black leather jacket, grey turtleneck and jeans, standing next to a tarp covered lump that was likely the body.
Gibbs muttered something that sounded like a thank-you, and stalked over to the man, who turned around at Gibbs' arrival. Gibbs managed a better look at the detective.
The man was tall, just a tinge taller than Gibbs; dark hair, athletic build but not overly muscular. And young, younger than the detectives he normally got to meet at crime scenes. He was also handsome, with a light tan, which, like his name, was a clear indication of his Italian roots. The man had a bright easy smile that strangely didn't seem at odds with the gruesome scene before them.
"You must be the NCIS agents. I'm Detective Anthony DiNozzo, you can call me Tony," the detective introduced himself, holding out his hand, which Gibbs ignored.
"Hi, Special Agent Chris Pacci, NCIS," Pacci took the hint and shook hands with DiNozzo and returned the introduction. "This is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs."
"What can you tell us about the body?" Gibbs asked as soon as Pacci was finished with the pleasantries.
"Well, not much, yet. Gunshots to the back – three shots, tight grouping, close range. Our vic bled out. He still had his keys and wallet on him so that rules out robbery. To be honest, it looks like an execution to me," DiNozzo leafed through his notebook. "The ME arrived a little while ago, so we should be able to get the body over to the morgue soon. The only problem is that we're short-handed so the autopsy report won't be available until late tomorrow. Budget cuts, you know?"
Gibbs grumbled at the delay. "I'll make a call and get the body shipped to DC. My ME will be able to get this done faster."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute," DiNozzo looked back up, his eyes trained on Gibbs, and moved his tall frame ever so slightly between Gibbs and the body. "This is our scene, our case. We called you guys as a courtesy, knowing you would need to be informed, but that doesn't mean you can just waltz in here and take over. This is a murder-"
"Of a Naval officer, which puts it squarely in our jurisdiction," Gibbs interrupted the younger man's claims. "Call your Captain; tell him we're taking over the case. If anyone has a problem with that, they can take it up with the Secretary of the Navy."
"You have no right!" DiNozzo was completely Gibbs' face now, stepping right into Gibbs' personal space.
Gibbs stared right into DiNozzo's eyes. They were green, he noticed – and very much like the green eyes from his dreams… Gibbs mentally shook his head. Now would not be a good time to think about that.
"I have every right to take over this investigation. You know that," Gibbs growled out, his eyes narrowing, creasing the skin around them.
DiNozzo seemed momentarily stunned, and then he huffed and turned, grabbing his cell phone out of the jacket pocket. "I'm calling Captain Nichols."
"You call him; tell him that this is now officially an NCIS case. Tell him to call Director Morrow at NCIS if he has any problems," Gibbs pulled out his cell phone as well, and dialed for Morrow's office. As he briefed Morrow on the issue with jurisdiction, he could hear DiNozzo arguing over the phone.
"I know! But, Captain-" he started, but was interrupted by Nichols on the other side. "We can't just- fine. I'll tell him."
"Case is yours. I am to release the crime scene to you then go back and sit on my hands," DiNozzo sighed in resignation, a trace of anger in his voice. "Fuck!"
Gibbs smirked. This DiNozzo was interesting.
"Alright. Pacci, start on processing the scene. Call Ducky and tell him a body's enroute. Take the evidence back to DC when you're done so Abby can start analyzing it, and call me," Gibbs barked as he threw Pacci the keys to the car. "DiNozzo, you're with me. Tell your ME to ship the body to DC after Pacci's done here."
"Me? Why?" DiNozzo pointed at himself and looked at Gibbs with reservation. "You're taking over the case aren't you?"
"I am, but we need to interview witnesses and run down the leads. You know Baltimore better than I do, don't you?" Gibbs quirked an eyebrow, as if taunting the man. The detective sounded competent and experienced even at his young age, and he seemed genuinely interested in solving the case, which was what really impressed Gibbs. He could use an extra pair of hands, if DiNozzo could prove himself to be worthwhile. "Don't tell me you don't want in on the case."
"I do, but the Captain told me to get back-"
"Rule 18, DiNozzo – it's better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission," Gibbs threw it out as he turned to walk back to the perimeter.
"Uh, okay, Agent Gibbs," DiNozzo trotted behind Gibbs. "Huh. You've got a rule for this kind of situation?"
Gibbs just grunted. "What else can you tell me about the vic?"
"Well, not much yet. He's not local, according to his driver's license, but I guess you already know that. He's got a set of car keys so we'll probably have to go look for his car around here somewhere. Maybe there will be some evidence there worth looking at," DiNozzo continued to flip through his notebook as he recited his findings. "Oh, he's got IDs to Bethesda, and a temporary access card issued by Johns Hopkins in his wallet as well. Maybe he's working with someone there?"
"Could be," Gibbs pulled out his cell phone again and punched a number on his speed dial. "Abs, Gibbs. Yeah, Pacci's working on it. I'll have him bring it back to you when he's done here. Listen, I need you to pull Lieutenant Barclay's service records, see if you can find out what he's working on at Bethesda, and call me back. And find out for me what he drives. Yes… No… We'll see, alright?"
"Who's that?" DiNozzo asked curiously.
"Abby Sciuto, our forensic scientist," Gibbs answered as he looked around to the residential buildings near the park. "Did the uniforms canvas the local residences yet?"
"Yep. But as usual no one saw or heard a thing," DiNozzo sighed. "The ME placed the time of death around 2 AM. He also said that there was enough blood on the ground so it's definitely our primary scene. I'm thinking whoever killed Barclay used a silencer. There is no way that not a single person heard anything if a gun went off in the middle of the night in a neighbourhood like this."
"It's possible," Gibbs nodded. "What about the kids who found the body?"
"Teenagers staying out late; were cutting through the park to the burger joint up the street when they stumbled across the body. Three boys; all pretty shaken up. They didn't see anyone leave the scene. I had the uniforms bring them down to the station to take statements," DiNozzo tucked his hands into his jacket pockets. "Not a lot to go on, I know."
Gibbs thought for a moment, but before he could say anything his phone rang. "Gibbs."
"Gibbs, I've got that info you want on the vic," Abby's cheerful voice came through.
"Hold on, Abs, I'm putting you on speaker."
"Okay! Is Pacci there, too?"
"No, Abs," Gibbs sounded impatient, but Abby ignored him.
"Oh. Whatever. Hi, whoever's on the other side with Gibbs!" Abby greeted.
"Detective Anthony DiNozzo. You can call me Tony," Tony laughed as he greeted back.
"Alright, Tony! Okay. So our vic Lieutenant Barclay was the Navy liaison working on a joint counter-bioterrorism task force between the DOD, CDC and NIH. They were mostly working on contingencies for bioterrorism scenarios and not actual biological research, so it's not really top secret, but certain level of clearance is required to be read-in on the details. Barclay had a degree in molecular biology, and was working out of a research lab at Bethesda. And it says here that he was working with a Dr. Henry Wainwright over at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Wainwright is a pathologist specialized in epidemiology and infectious diseases. I'll text you the address."
"Well, that explains the temporary access card," Tony noted. "We should go interview this Dr. Wainwright."
"Did Barclay have a place here in Baltimore?" Gibbs asked after giving it some thought.
"Hmm… There is nothing on record here, but his credit card shows regular usage in Baltimore, usually several days consecutively, so he must be staying in town somewhere."
"Okay, thanks Abby."
"Oh and Gibbs? Barclay drove a late model Toyota Corolla. I'll send all of the information to your email."
"Alright. I'll call to check in later," Gibbs hung up and turned to Tony. "You got a car? Let's head up to Johns Hopkins and talk to this Dr. Wainwright, see if he knows anything."
"Yeah, sure. This way."
The drive to Johns Hopkins was short, but they had just hit morning rush hour when they left the crime scene. Gibbs had started to growl at the stop and go traffic after ten minutes with the car barely moving three hundred feet.
Seeing the impatience in the NCIS Agent, Tony decided to start up the conversation. "So, it's just you and Pacci? You guys are partners?"
"Nope, he's on loan. Used to work with him. I'm heading up a new team, but this case came up before I can go through the personnel files," Gibbs thought about ignoring the man, but decided that if he was going to work with the guy, he might as well be civil. "What about you? Where's your partner?"
"Uh, yeah, he's… He's on sick leave," Tony answered with a nervous smile.
"What's his name?" Hearing the nervousness in Tony's voice, Gibbs looked over to the detective. He could see a slight twitch and something that looked like a mixture of guilt and sadness in the younger man's green eyes, but it was gone as soon as it appeared.
"His name is Ryan McManis," Tony sighed as he took a right turn, his face grim. "We were on this drug-related homicide a few weeks back. We were trying to rescue a hostage when he got shot by the perp."
Gibbs nodded. Having your partner shot while on a case; it's a hard thing to take. Sensing the younger man's desire to not go into the details of his latest case, Gibbs decided to not comment.
"Anyways. So, Abby, huh?" Tony asked, not so subtly changing the topic, at the same time forcing his tone to remain cool and casual. "She sounds interesting."
"She's way out of your league, DiNozzo. Don't even think about it," Gibbs smirked at that.
"You don't know that!"
"Oh yes, I think I do," the smirk widened into a grin.
"We'll see," Tony quipped as they finally pulled into the parking lot next to the entrance of the Medical Sciences building at Johns Hopkins.
"Dr. Wainwright?" Tony knocked on the frame of the half-open office door, poking his head in.
Henry Wainwright was a man of about fifty – average height, slim, short salt and pepper hair and beard, a slim face and striking features. He looked up when he heard the knocking.
"Yes? May I help you?" he took off his glasses and got up from his seat.
"Actually, yes," Tony strolled into the small office, Gibbs following behind him. "I'm Detective Anthony DiNozzo, Baltimore PD, and this is Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS."
"NCIS?" Wainwright frowned as he shook Tony's outstretched hand.
"Naval Criminal Investigative Service," Gibbs opened his notebook. "You know a Naval Lieutenant by the name of Terrance Barclay?"
"Yes, Terry and I work together sometimes," the doctor nodded. "What's this about?"
"When was the last time you talked to Lieutenant Barclay?" Tony asked, trying to gauge Wainwright's reactions.
"Yesterday. We had lunch together, and after that we sat down to look over some of the research material he brought," Wainwright had a confused look on his face. "He's supposed to drop by my office later today before he heads back to DC. Why are you asking me this?"
"Lieutenant Barclay was found dead this morning by the waterfront," Tony said quietly, all the while keeping his eyes trained on the doctor's face.
"Oh my God! Terry? How…" Wainwright looked and sounded genuinely shocked.
"May I ask what you two were working on?" Tony carefully approached the doctor with his question. "We know Barclay was working as the Naval Liaison with the joint counter-bioterrorism task force. Is your work related to the task force?"
"Yes, but not directly. I'm working with Terry in the capacity of a consultant. I know of the task force, but I have no direct knowledge of the detail plans," Wainwright frowned. "I was helping Terry collect epidemiological data on cold, flu and a few other very common, communicable diseases. He wanted to gauge the worst and best case scenarios of a viral release through one versus multiple patient-zeros."
"So you know nothing about the actual contents of the contingency plan being drafted?" Gibbs looked up from his notepad.
"Not really. Although I could probably guess at the sub-headings," Wainwright shrugged, "used to work with the CDC developing disease prevention strategies for third world countries."
Gibbs' phone rang, and the former marine growled with frustration before picking up the call.
"Gibbs," this had better be good. "Pacci, you done? Okay. Abby's expecting your evidence. When you get back to the Yard, find me Barclay's CO and the head of that joint task force Barclay works for. Yeah. I'll see if I can find a place for that."
After he hung up, Gibbs turned his attention back to the doctor. "Where was Barclay staying when he's in town? From what you're saying, he usually stayed for days at a time."
"We have visiting scholar residences here on campus. I managed to talk the admins into giving him a room there," Wainwright jotted something down on a sheet of sticky notes. "Here. This is the address of the residence."
"One more question, Dr. Wainwright," Tony asked as the pair turned to leave. "How did Lieutenant Barclay seem yesterday? Was he in any way, shape or form particularly out of character?"
"Not really. But he did seem distracted," Wainwright played with his beard thoughtfully. "That was why he was supposed to drop by later today."
"Alright, thank you for your time, you've been a great help," Tony took out a card from his wallet. "If you can think of anything else, please give me a call. My cell phone number is on the card, or you can call dispatch and have them transfer you."
"Not a problem. I'll keep that in mind. Terry was a good man, and a great scientist," Wainwright said grimly. "He will be missed."