PART 3

A quick clean up later found the two men back in Tony's car, driving off towards the Port of Baltimore.

"They found Barclay's car over by Fort McHenry," Tony began as they drove off from his parking lot. "That entire area is essentially warehouses and lots for storage of containers coming off of ships. Several national chains have distribution depot next to the terminals. If our suspects have some operations going on, it probably isn't anywhere near the terminals. They'd be more likely to set up shop in the abandoned warehouses near by."

"So you think Barclay followed someone to one of those warehouses?" Gibbs pointed out the logical conclusion. "What about the cab?"

"Well, he could've been either unable to make it back to his car in his attempted escape and ended up taking a cab, but none of the cab companies reported dropping off anyone near the park where we found Barclay. Or the more likely scenario is that the cabbie could've been one of the perps, forcing Barclay into the cab."

"It's possible."

"Either way, we'll have to get over there and check it out."

"Well then, let's go," Gibbs conceded.

They got to where Barclay's car was found just as the tow truck was about to leave, bringing the car back for the CSU to process. After getting an update from the patrolmen who found the car, Tony wondered back to his own car.

"So, there are three warehouses in the area that are vacant, according to the local patrol," Tony read off of his notepad. "I suggest we go on foot."

The first two warehouses on the list were completely and utterly empty. A heavy layer of dust on the various surfaces told them that the space hadn't been occupied in a very long time.

When they came up to the third warehouse, they could clearly see evidence of traffic in and out of the lot. The padlock on the chain-linked fence was brand new.

It wasn't exactly a warehouse either, and more like a manufacturing facility, with large, unused machines all over the place. Tony tiptoed to peer through an exterior window, but saw no movement inside.

"I think they're out," Tony whispered after he ducked his head back down. "No movement inside the building."

"What did you see?" Gibbs whispered back in a low hiss.

"A table, a few chairs; there was a laptop on the table. Maps, take outs, the usual stuff if you're holed up in a place like this," Tony replied. "There is a skid piled with white bags in the back along with some new-looking cardboard boxes."

"We need to get a closer look."

"Hop the fence?" Tony smirked.

"Something like that," Gibbs smirked back.

A few minutes later, Tony found himself on the other side of the fence, as Gibbs secure the padlock back on the fence.

"You're gonna have to teach me how to lock-pick," Tony quipped. "That is not standard police procedure that I've ever read."

"Not NCIS either," Gibbs shrugged. Technically, since they didn't have a warrant, they shouldn't even be there. "Stay on my six, we'll go around and see if we can find a way in."

"Six?" Tony asked in confusion.

"Yeah, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, then sighed. Can't blame the kid for not knowing military lingo. "Six, as in six o'clock?"

"Ohh," Tony made an exaggerated sound of understanding. "Gotcha."

The two of them snuck around the building, hugging the wall and testing each of the doors until they found one that was unlocked. Stepping inside, they found themselves right next to the pallet Tony had seen earlier.

"Agricultural grade ammonium nitrate," Gibbs sighed inwardly. "If that box contains what I think it does, we're in big trouble."

"Wait… you're saying…" Tony gaped, finally making the connection. "A bomb?"

Gibbs carefully flipped open a flap on one of the boxes. Circuit boards, wires and tools. "Looks like."

"Fuck," Tony cursed under his breath. "That's just great."

"Laptop," Gibbs pointed to the table. "See if there is anything over there that can tell us what these dirtbags are after."

"This doesn't make any sense," Tony flipped through the maps and garbage on the table. "There is nothing here that indicates a religiously motivated attack. If it were, there would be paraphernalia around here."

"They have hospitals, police stations and fire departments circled – the ones that handle primary emergency responses – and major routes of mass evac marked," Gibbs pointed to one of the heavily marked maps.

"Something doesn't feel right," Tony turned the laptop on. "Hey, this is Barclay's laptop."

"This has the feel of a home-grown operation to me," Gibbs continued to flip through the garbage on the table, but before he could say more, he heard the sound of a car stopping outside the building.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs hissed, pointing towards the window and made a sign telling the detective to find a place to hide before ducking his body behind a bunch of crates.

From his hiding place, Gibbs could see five men, dressed in flannel shirts and dirty jeans, coming in from the front door. They were each carrying a rifle or a shotgun, and they headed straight for the table.

Gibbs tried to move further towards the far end of the warehouse, as his hiding place was too close to where the men were moving. He didn't see the teetering crate behind him and stumbled straight into the damn thing with a loud crash.

"Who's there?" all five guns were pointed in his direction in an instant. "Show yourself."

"Federal agent," Gibbs identified himself, reaching for his weapon and badge.

"Hey!" one of the men yelled. "Keep your hands up where I can see them. And toss your gun over."

Having five guns pointed at someone was a pretty persuasive way of disarming said someone. Gibbs tossed his side arm on the ground between him and the lead man and put his arms up by his head. One of the other men was sent over to pat down Gibbs and made sure he wasn't carrying another weapon.

"Where's your partner?" the leader asked tersely.

"I don't have one," Gibbs said calmly. Well, it was partly true – Tony wasn't really his partner.

"Liar," the leader narrowed his eyes. "Come out, partner! Or I shoot him right here, right now."

Gibbs cursed when Tony emerged from his hiding place, hands also up by his head.

"Couldn't let them kill you," Tony shrugged.

"They weren't going to, ya know," Gibbs said exasperatedly.

"Shut up," the leader demanded, forcibly dragging Tony towards Gibbs after disarming him. "Move!"

"Hey, watch it," Gibbs growled, his body tensing with his arms dropping, ready to attack. But he didn't get to lay hands on the leader, as the butt of a shotgun connected with the back of his head.

Gibbs came to quickly, but years of military training had taught him to not move a single muscle so he wouldn't give away his regaining consciousness to the enemy. The pounding in his head told him that he'd been either hit on the head or drugged. Or both, he mused. He may be older than he'd like to admit, he would like to think that it'd still be quite hard for anyone to get the jump on him like this. But then he remembered the butt of the gun that had him going down like a ton of bricks. He opened his eyes to a slit so he could take a peek at his surroundings. It had gotten darker, and colder. Hard concrete floor told him that he was on the ground, probably still in the warehouse he and Tony were checking out.

He could make out hushed voices talking away from them, and he counted three, no four voices. None of the perps seemed to be inside the warehouse, so he attempted at moving his arms for a bit.

"They've got us tied up, in case you're wondering," a quiet voice said. Tony. Thank God he's ok. "We're locked inside one of the storage rooms, and they're all outside."

"You okay?" Gibbs opened his eyes fully and found himself staring at Tony's left thigh. His wrists were tied behind him with what felt like his own cuffs, and his legs were bound at the ankle by rope.

"I should be the one asking you, Gibbs," Tony smirked, seemingly unaffected by their current circumstances. "You're the one that got pistol-whipped. Well, in your case, shotgun-whipped."

"How long was I out?" Gibbs wormed his way into a sitting position, leaning slightly towards Tony. He could feel the heat emanating from the younger man, which in this cold, was a welcoming comfort.

"A couple of hours, at least, by the looks of it. I've lost track," Tony looked towards one of the windows. It had gotten darker since they arrived at the warehouse. "Can't exactly check my watch right now. They took our guns and cell phones too."

"What happened after I went down?" Gibbs asked, turning his head and wincing as the tender spot came in contact with the shelving unit behind him.

"I think you were right," Tony started. "Looks to me like a home-grown cell, some right-wing nut jobs who think by attacking domestically and blaming Bin Laden will force the government to allot more military funding."

"What about the ammonium nitrate?"

"Bomb, like you said. Except I think now the plan includes us," Tony grimaced as he said. "Haven't you wondered about why we weren't dead yet? They'd killed Barclay easily enough."

"What do you mean 'includes us'?"

"Uhm, includes us, as in bombs strapped to us or near us. At least, that's what I think I heard."

"Ah, hell," Gibbs sighed. Great, just great.

"Well, a bombing that takes out a cop and a federal agent would certainly attract the kind of attention they want."

"Any plans on getting out of here?"

"Not quite yet," Tony began to move his head and shoulder, trying to work out some kinks from being bound for so long. "Getting out of these cuffs would be a good start. I don't suppose you have an extra key hidden, do you?"

"No, but I do keep a paper clip around," Gibbs fished the small piece of metal from his back pocket and began working on his own cuffs.

A few minutes later, Gibbs had both of their cuffs open, and took out the knife he kept hidden in his belt to cut the ropes on their ankle. "Good thing they weren't too thorough." Gibbs commented wryly.

"Door's locked," Tony tried the handle. "We need to get out of here so we can call for help."

"Shh… Wait, listen," Gibbs put a finger to his lips. "I think our backup's here."

"Backup? What backup?" Tony whispered.

"Rule number three, never be unreachable," Gibbs replied. "Pacci must've called me and couldn't reach me."

"So what? He's expected to call the cavalry because you didn't pick up your phone?" Tony asked skeptically.

"No, he would've checked with BPD on our location and what the hell we were up to, and after being unable to reach me several times, bully your Captain into sending at least a couple of marked cars here with him after he'd triangulated my cell phone," Gibbs explained as noises coming from the doorway became more pronounce. "Get ready, things might get nasty fast."

Tony looked around, picked up an old pipe wrench and hid himself near the door where he could ambush anyone coming into the room. And just as he stood ready to attack, the door swung open forcefully, nearly hitting him.

Gibbs jump straight into action, knife in one hand, the other twisting the perp's arm behind him. "DiNozzo, cuff him."

"Let's go," Gibbs nodded towards the door after Tony had secured the man.

It was a mess outside. One of the perps was lying on the ground, apparently shot. A handful of police officers were at a standoff with the remaining two terrorists, who had been hiding among the machines and had their rifles pointed outwards, taking pot shots. Gibbs could barely make out the familiar shape of Pacci among the cops.

There was no way for the cops to get closer without getting shot at. Gibbs glanced at Tony, who shook his head in agreement. They'd have to help taking the terrorists down.

Gibbs gave a hand signal to Tony, telling him to go around behind the machines. Tony nodded and made his way silently to the other side. He waited for Gibbs to give him the go ahead, and they both jumped out of their hiding places and wrestled their target to the ground.

"Federal Agent," Gibbs said with triumph as he leaned his weight on his captive, pinning him to the ground.

"Baltimore PD," Tony said at the same time, pinning his own perp down.

"Gibbs, that you?" the voice of Pacci yelling came from the outside.

"Yeah," Gibbs yelled back. "We got them."

"Hey, weren't there five of them in total?" Tony asked Gibbs as the uniformed officers lead the perps to the squad cars, but before he could ask again, he felt himself pulled forward towards the door.

"Bomb!" Gibbs yelled as he pulled Tony into a sprint. "Move!"

Gibbs was lying on his hospital bed. The unpleasant smell of antiseptics was burning a hole in his sinus cavity, and he was completely and utterly bored out of his mind. And very much in need of coffee, he sighed. No caffeine until he got out – doctor's orders. That was like a death sentence to a caffeine-addict like Gibbs.

This sucks, he thought to himself.

The leader of the terrorist cell – what was his name? Johnson? Jamison? – had decided since they weren't going to make it out, he might as well take out as many as he could by detonating the bomb right then. It was shear luck on Gibbs' part that he was facing in that direction. Another good thing had been that the bomb was crudely made and of low purity, therefore the blast was minimal – still took out half that warehouse though. Majority of the personnel were outside already so there wasn't any other casualty.

Pacci had dropped by earlier to tell him that they'd gotten signed confessions from the rest of the terrorist cell, and had all of the evidence all bagged and tagged for processing. Between the BPD crime lab and Abby working on evidence, they should have the case straightened out in no time. One of Johnson's men had confessed that they caught Barclay following them, and thought it would be easier to just force Barclay into giving them the information. Johnson had been pretty pissed at Barclay for lying to them so they shot him. Both the gun and the silencer used were found at the warehouse.

The minor concussion he received getting hit by debris while shielding Tony during the explosion had required an overnight stay at the hospital, despite his protest. Gibbs was less than thrilled that he was unable to glare the doctors into submission and sign-off on his release the night before. The only consolation was that Tony was at the hospital too, after being treated for the cuts and bruises sustained during their escape. Tony's arm had been cut open by shrapnel and required stitching, but he was otherwise fine. The detective had snuck out after the nurses made their rounds and came to find Gibbs in his room.

"Hey," Tony smiled as he entered the room. "You're looking well."

"Ugh," Gibbs grumbled. "Not well enough to get the hell out of here, apparently. I hate hospitals."

Tony chuckled. "Me too."

"What about you?" Gibbs turned his head slightly to look at Tony, frowning slightly from the headache he was sporting. The younger man's arm was in a sling to prevent him from pulling his stitches. "Ya alright?"

"I'm fine, thanks to you," Tony took a seat next to Gibbs' bed. "You shouldn't have done that, you know?"

"Never leave a man behind," Gibbs grunted, as if that justified everything he did.

"No such thing as an Ex-Marine, huh? Figures," Tony smirked, patting Gibbs on the shoulder with his free hand. "I'm just glad you're okay."

"I will be, as soon as they let me out of here," the corner of Gibbs' lips twitched. "It's not your fault."

"Easy for you to say," Tony gave him a wry smile. "Earlier, when you asked me about my partner McManis? I didn't tell you the truth."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"We were assisting on this drug smuggling case, and there was this boy, eight years old, who saw his uncle get gunned down by a dealer," Tony swallowed. "It was supposed to be a simple case. Find and sit on the kid; protection details until we could hand him off to the FBI and DEA. Then they could get enough info out of the kid on the dealer, and flip the dealer for the whole ring.

"Except it wasn't that simple. The dealer found out about the kid, and went after him. We got there too late. The scumbag had shot the mother and the kid. He bolted as soon as he saw us.

"McManis and I split up so I could try and cut the guy off. And then I heard shots being fired," Tony's head dropped, his free hand rubbing his face. "Apparently Ryan was fast enough to catch up with the scumbag and they got into a fist fight before the scumbag pulled a gun on Ryan and shot him point blank in the back while he was down. When I got there he tried to shoot me too but I got him first.

"Ryan wasn't on sick leave, per se. The bullet hit his spinal cord, so now he's in a wheelchair for the rest of his life," Tony looked back up at Gibbs, his eyes haunted by shadows. "And the worst part was that the FBI and the DEA blamed us for killing their perp."

Gibbs' eyes softened. "It's not your fault. You couldn't have known that-"

"That's what everyone said, except it felt like it was my fault," the wry half-smile was back on Tony's face. "Anyways, I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm just glad I didn't lose another partner, no matter how short our partnership was. It's been great working with you."

"Likewise," Gibbs smirked back, and a decision was silently made.

"I should get back, before the nurses come looking. Ratchet was looking particularly menacing tonight," Tony got up from his seat. "You gonna be ok going back to DC tomorrow?"

"Yeah, got some paperwork to file with BPD, then Pacci's picking me up from there."

"Good luck," Tony said from the door, smile widening. "Thanks for everything."

Gibbs was pissed. He'd been since he stepped into Liam Nichols' office half an hour ago. What a jackass. He was glad to be finally going back to DC, now that the paperwork had been taken care of.

But before that he had something he needed to do.

Gibbs headed back towards the bullpen, eyes searching but not finding the person he wanted to talk to. He was looking around to ask someone when he saw Ricky the tech coming his way, so he grabbed the tech as he passed by. "You're… Ricky, right?"

"Hey! Agent Gibbs!" Ricky sounded surprised. "I heard about what happened, you alright?"

"Getting there," Gibbs nodded. "Listen, have you seen DiNozzo?"

"Hmm… He said he was going down to the park earlier when he brought by coffee," Ricky pushed up his glasses as he replied. "But that was a while ago."

"Which way?"

"Down this street," Ricky pointed to one side of the building, "and take a right, follow the small path until you hit the water."

"Thanks."

Tony was sitting on a park bench looking out into the Inner Harbor when Gibbs found him.

"You know it's a good thing I have very, very good hearing," Tony said without turning his head. "You would've given me a heart attack with your crazy-silent ninja skills."

"Mind if I sit down?" Gibbs asked as he deposited himself right next to Tony.

"Do I have a choice?" Tony sighed. He'd heard.

"Nope," Gibbs replied with a smirk. "I heard you quit, DiNozzo."

Tony snorted, his eyes never leaving the water that was flowing in then ebbing away. "News travels fast."

Gibbs quirked an eyebrow and looked towards Tony.

"Yeah, well, it's better than being fired," Tony shrugged and sighed. "It'll happen sooner or later, the kind of vibe I've been getting from Nichols. Time to dust off the old resume. Or maybe I'll go back and get a law degree or something."

"Yeah, well," Gibbs imitated Tony's indifferent tone of voice. "Liam Nichols lacks vision and an eye for talent."

Tony snorted again as he looked over to Gibbs. "That is the understatement of the century, Gibbs."

"Ya did good yesterday," Gibbs said nonchalantly as he got up from the park bench. "Could use someone like you at NCIS."

Tony stared with wide eyes as the man stood up, brushing his coat and pants slightly before pulling his coat collar up to shield against the wind.

"You mean…" Tony swallowed, hard, and then stood up as the older man began to walk away. "Was that a job offer?"

"Yeah, DiNozzo," Gibbs stopped dead in his track to stare at Tony with an incredulous look on his face. "What, are you waiting for an engraved invitation?"

The tension around his icy blue eyes softened as a wide smile blossomed on the younger man's face.

"Ya coming or what?" Gibbs barked out in an attempt to hide his amused smirk.

"On your six, Boss," Tony quickly trotted to trail behind Gibbs, slightly off to the left side. A hand connected with the back of Tony's head as soon as they started walking again.

Tony was fully grinning now as he hurried along side the older man. His face lit up bright enough to melt the light dusting of snow that had started to fall, their shoes tracing parallel sets of footprints. Gibbs slowed to fall in step with the younger man and a small smile crawled up his face.

It's looking to be a great beginning of something after all.