A/N: I had this story bouncing around in my head long before Mike was killed. Since he plays a pretty big part, I wanted him to still able to kick-ass. So, this takes place sometime in season six. I think I have kept all the references correct, but if there are any glaring faux pas, then please bring it to my attention and I will try to adjust.

Also, even though there is some foul language, no f-bombs are dropped, so I'm not categorizing this as a 'mature' story. Although, this is your warning - if bad language offends you, then please do not read. The story is not inundated, but it is in there where I think people talking would throw their swear words.

The usual disclaimers apply: I own nothing, not making any money, just having some fun.

Okay, I'm done babbling. On with the story!


The sun made its way lazily across the sky, coloring the water below as it beat across a sandy beach. In a small, sleepy cantina with few patrons, the ringing of a phone broke the quiet atmosphere.

"Buenas tardes." The pretty bar maid cheerfully answered. "Si." She stretched her arm out to one of the men sitting at the bar. "It is for you Señor Mike."

Mike Franks took another puff of his cigarette before taking the phone. "Yeah? - - Hal, it's been a long time. Why are you ... "

He paused as the man on the phone talked.

"Goddamn it! How could you have dropped the ball like ... - - Alright, alright, has the family been ... - - What! - - Jesus, what about the kid? - - I'm on my way." Mike hung up and rubbed his hand across his face.

"Señor Mike?" The bar maid asked in concern.

He looked at her but took long drag before answering. "Of all the reasons that I ever thought I would get called back to the states, this was never one of them."

"Something bad?"

"Worse than bad." Mike downed his drink and threw money on the bar. As he left, he shook his head. Damn incompetent sons-of-bitches! I hope the kid is up for a reunion.

Mike was on the phone making flight arrangements as he packed. He made sure Leyla had what she needed to take care of herself and Amina. As he closed the front door, he realized it had only been an hour since he got the call from Hal. I wonder how long the nightmare is going to last this time?

While driving to the airport, he though back to many, many years ago to a case that change a lot of lives.

XXXX

On the eastern side of the United States, Tony DiNozzo was having anything but a good day. He had a flat tire that morning and was late to work, well, later than usual. He missed the elevator and had to take the stairs, snagged and tore his jacket along the way. He spilled his coffee all over his desk and his pants (thank goodness he keeps a spare everything on hand). Not only did he get a death glare from Gibbs (plus several head-slaps) and Ziva, but McGee ...

Well, McGee hadn't been acting himself today, in fact, he hadn't been since this case started. It was late on Friday when the call came in about a dead Gunny, left hanging upside down with his throat slit in front of his CO's office.

They all knew McGee was planning to go out of town to join his family in celebration of Sarah getting her first work published. Tim had been beaming all week with pride for his baby sister. He was supposed to leave Friday right after work, but had to cancel when the Gunny came up dead.

At first, Tim took it pretty well, hoping the team would wrap up the case quickly and he could be on his way. It wasn't until Monday that his attitude took a nose dive. He stopped responding to jokes and would only speak when spoken to. Anytime Tony or Ziva asked what was wrong, he would just respond with 'Nothing' or 'It's not work related'. Everyone chalked it up to just being frustrated that the case was dragging.

By Tuesday, everyone could tell it was more. It appeared that Tim hadn't gone home, since he was in the same suite from Monday, he was barely eating and jumped every time his work or cell phone rang. He even snapped at Gibbs, when the Boss tried to insist on everyone going home for the night. McGee barked back the he wasn't going anywhere until the case was done and to stop interrupting him. It was such a shock to everyone that they all froze for a moment. When Gibbs tried to approach him, McGee shot around him and left for the break room, muttering 'Never mind' as he strode away.

Tony sighed and took a brief glance at his young partner. I wonder if Gibbs really gave it to him because he looks worse than yesterday. He looked at his computer. 1923, god! Is this day ever going to end ... is this case?

The case had stalled. Everyone absolutely loved Gunnery Sergeant Heath Lonsert, he had no enemies. However, none of the team believed that, everyone had enemies, especially if you were in law enforcement or military. But whoever had done this had cover their tracks well: everyone had an alibi; no recent confrontations; no odd financial transactions from anyone in the Gunny's recent history. McGee had decided to start going back as far as he could with anyone who had ever crossed paths with Lonsert from elementary school until present, which had quickly turned into a daunting task.

Tony looked back at his list. He had been given the time frame from Lonsert's recruitment to his promotion to Lance Corporal. That list alone was six or seven pages ... of small print. He put his list down and looked around to the team, each with their own lists. He took a deep breath to suggest a different approach when McGee's desk phone rang.

McGee practically dove for it, even though it was only an arms length away. "Hello, Agent McGee. - - Yes, Officer I have ... - - Ar-are you sure? - - Yeah. - - Yeah." He hung up the phone, although it was more of a dropping than an actual motion, and then he just sat there, a look of complete and utter shock on his face.

Tony took a quick look to Ziva, then to Gibbs, then back to McGee completely unsure about what to do.

Gibbs looked up when McGee dove for the phone, hoping it was a break on the case. When he stuttered, it was more the sound of his voice more than the words that got Gibbs gut churning, he sounded lost. When McGee let the phone fall back into it's cradle the look on his face was more than just shock, it was as though his whole world had just crumbled.

That made Gibbs gut twist even more. He knew there was only one thing that could put that look on someone's face. He would recognize it anywhere, since he had seen it in the mirror for a very long time after the first time he awoke from a coma.

He got up and walked to McGee, deliberately keeping himself where Tim could see him. "McGee?" No response. He was standing over his agent, which always produced a response, but this time nothing. "McGee?"

Still no reaction, he wasn't even sure Tim was breathing. Gibbs knit his brows in concern. He reached out and place a hand on McGee's shoulder. That seemed to snap him back to the here and now. He shot up and pushed past Gibbs, knocking the team leader off balance.

"McGee! Wait!" Gibbs scrambled to right himself and catch up to his man. There was no anger about Tim's actions, just concern.

Tim made it to the external elevators before collapsing against the wall, his shoulder the only thing keeping him upright.