Gibbs had sent his team ahead of him to the crime scene in order to finish up a conference call in MTAC. He had complete faith that they could get started on their jobs without him, and only had to worry about them bickering over who did what.
He had just wrapped up his call, and was leaving MTAC, when he almost ran into Vance. The moment he saw the look on Vance's face, Gibbs knew something was wrong.
"Gibbs, it's your team."
Jethro didn't wait to hear the rest of Leon's speech, already sprinting towards the stairs, worry pulsing through his veins. If something had happened to them, he didn't know what he would do, and a part of him couldn't quite shake the fact that this felt like his fault.
Gibbs broke more traffic laws than he usually did trying to get to his team. He couldn't shake the images that plagued him; each one more gruesome than the last. What if they were dead? He'd never get to tell McGee how proud he was of the agent he had become. He would never get to tell Ziva she wasn't her father's blunt little instrument. And Tony, he would never get to tell DiNozzo he was the son he never had; that Gibbs would never regret the day he suggested Tony join his team.
They were his family, the closest thing to children he had since Kelly, and he could have lost them. And the worst part, he was even there for them.
He spotted the smoke first, black clouds billowing into the air, and felt his stomach drop. A fire could mean an explosion. Did the suspect blow up his place to destroy evidence? And if he did, did he take himself with it? He could be running around right now, patting himself on the back for a job well done. Gibbs made a mental note to track the bastard down.
He took the corner at thirty, narrowly missing a parked van, still expecting the worst case scenario, but was taken by surprise at the sight.
Several firefighters were standing in front of a burning house, spraying water over the remains of the ranch. An ambulance stood several feet from the commotion, two familiar figures sitting in the back, their legs dangling a few inches from the ground; while a third, familiar figure, paced back and forth in front of them, holding her arm.
Gibbs threw the car into park and threw open the door. Leaving the vehicle running, he rushed towards his team, noticing the array of cuts and bruises scattered across their bodies and their dirty clothes. Tony had a shiner around his left eye and was holding an ice pack to his side and McGee was getting his left ankle wrapped by a paramedic.
Relief rolled through Gibbs making him feel slightly light headed, but he was still Gibbs so the first words out of his mouth were, "What the hell happened?"
"The house blew up," Tony slurred glancing at the smoldering remains.
"Ya think, DiNozzo," Gibbs retorted, wondering if Tony had been giving pain meds, or if he were having a reaction to a concussion.
"It was a trap," Ziva said continuing her feverous pacing. "It had to be a trap. I should have known it was a trap."
"Ziva," McGee said softly, "you couldn't have known."
"That is an excuse, McGee. I am trained to anticipate these things. I should have known."
Gibbs left his team for a few seconds, heading towards a local LEO. The man was trying to cordon off the area, attempting to keep the neighbors from getting too close to the scene. He noticed Gibbs, and gave him half his attention.
"What happened?" Gibbs demanded after showing the man his I.D.
"We think the suspect blew his house up so your team couldn't collect any evidence. We're not sure if the bomb went off prematurely, or if he wasn't aiming to kill, but your team managed to walk away with their lives."
"Did this son of a bitch get away?" Gibbs growled reminding himself of the mental note he had made earlier. This asshole needed to be dealt with and jail was too generous.
"A couple officers picked him up two blocks away," the LEO replied and Gibbs nodded, heading back towards his team. He'd deal with him later, once he knew they were going to be okay.
"How are they?" he asked stopping the paramedic as she walked past him.
"Agent David nearly dislocated her shoulder, Agent McGee sprained his ankle, and Agent DiNozzo's ribs are bruised and I gave him some pain meds. Probably wouldn't hurt to get checked out by a doctor, just to be sure, but I'm pretty sure they are going to be fine."
"Thanks," Gibbs said and returned to his team's side.
"Hey, Gibbs, the house blew up," Tony informed his boss, pointing at the blackened studs.
"I see that, DiNozzo," Jethro responded and his SFA nodded. He turned to Ziva and said, "What exactly happened?"
"We were approaching the house when it just blew up," she replied as she lowered herself onto the ambulance's bumper, sitting in between Tony's legs. Absentmindedly, Tony began playing with her hair. Ziva merely glared his way, but didn't try to stop him. "I was blown back into McGee and Tony, we hit a fence, and the next thing I know I'm awaking to a siren."
"I want Ducky to check you three over," Gibbs said after a digesting what Ziva had told him. He still couldn't shake the guilt he felt; even after knowing it wasn't his fault.
"Abby is going to have a fit," McGee commented softly just as Ducky and Palmer pulled up to the crime scene. The ME van barely stopped before the back door flew open and Abby came sprinting towards them.
"Oh my, God," she shouted waving her hands, "oh my, God, oh my, God, oh my, God. Are you guys okay? Oh my, God, you could have died." She looked each one over, pacing back and forth at a faster rate than Ziva had been moments earlier. "Oh my, God. What happened? Was it a gas leak? I heard it was a bomb, but it couldn't be a bomb. I refused to believe it was a bomb." Abby shook her head, continuing to pace back and forth.
"Abbs, calm down," Gibbs said softly, but for the first time she didn't hear him.
"I mean, when Ducky told me the crime scene had blown up, I thought you had died. And Gibbs," she started turning to the older man, looking him up and down, "why aren't you hurt? I mean, I am glad you aren't hurt, but why aren't you hurt?"
That was just what he needed, a reminder that he wasn't there to protect his team. Abby hadn't said it to hurt him, but she still said it nonetheless. As Abby continued to rant, Gibbs couldn't help feeling responsible, again. He should have been there; there was no excuse to why he wasn't. That call wasn't nearly as important as his team. Why wasn't he there?
It had been Abby's idea to go to the carnival. She felt the team needed to unwind after nearly dying and wouldn't take no for an answer. So, they piled into two separate vehicles, and drove the ten miles to the fair.
According to the sign, it was the last day before they started packing up, and the place was packed. Gibbs didn't want to be there, but a part of him felt he should really be keeping an eye on his team. However, it was easier said than done. They began breaking off into groups the moment they stepped through the gate.
Abby dragged McGee towards the Ferris wheel, the latter limping slightly as he tried to keep up. Ziva muttered something about the shooting gallery, and Palmer decided to tag along. And Tony noticed the food stand, and wandered over to it without a word.
"I know what you are doing," Ducky commented snapping Gibbs back to reality and away from searching for his team.
"What's that?" the younger man replied, playing dumb, glancing at his oldest friend.
"You can't always be there for them, Jethro," the ME said softly.
"I need coffee," Gibbs snapped but walked in the opposite direction of the food stand.
"Jethro," Ducky called after the younger man, hurrying to keep up. "Their accident wasn't you fault," he said the moment he caught up to Gibbs.
Jethro didn't respond, instead he stopped short of an old Zoltar machine and rested his arms on it, leaning against it, keeping his back to Ducky.
"Jethro, blaming yourself isn't going to change anything."
"And what next, you'll tell me being there wouldn't change anything either?"
"Well, of course not. The only thing you would have accomplished is being injured yourself."
"No Jethro. I know you care for your team, I know you see them as your children, but you can't treat them like children."
"They'd be a lot easier to keep an eye on if they were," Gibbs muttered glaring at the Zoltar's face.
"What are you suggesting? Do you wish they were children?"
"Maybe I do," Gibbs snapped turning to look at his friend, causing the older man to fight to not flinch away from him. They stared at each other for a few seconds, neither saying a word. The tense silence was soon broken up by DiNozzo saying, "Big!"
"What?" Gibbs questioned looking towards his SFA.
"The movie! 1988, Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins. About a kid who just wants to be older." He rushed towards his boss and Ducky, stopping short of the Zoltar machine. "I haven't seen one of these since I was a kid.
"Hey, boss, do you have a quarter?" Tony asked staring at the machine. Gibbs didn't respond, he just threw Tony a look and walked away from Ducky and DiNozzo.
It took some convincing, but he finally persuaded his team to come home with him. He felt safer knowing they were close by, but he didn't tell any of them that. He made it seem like he was more worried about their injuries than anything else.
He made up the two guest bedrooms, figuring one of the boys could sleep on the floor. He then made himself some coffee, with a shot of bourbon, before going to bed himself.
It seemed like he barely fell asleep, when he awoke to the strange sensation that someone was watching him. Very carefully, so as not to scare whoever it was, he peeled an eye open. He had been expecting one of his team, maybe a burglar, but he was surprised to see a pair of bright green eyes and sandy blond hair.
"Hi," he said slowly sitting up, a four-year-old boy coming into view. "Who are you?"
"They're fighting," the little boy said quietly, sitting back on his heels. He was wearing a t-shirt several sizes too big for him. Gibbs found it odd that McGee had been wearing the exact same shirt the night before.
His question was answered when he heard a thump from upstairs and a loud voice scream, "Get off me!"
"Say you are sorry!" a second voice snapped.
"I will not!" the first voice growled before a squeal sounded followed by a slap. "Fine, I'm sorry!"
Gibbs pushed his blankets away from him, slowly getting off the couch. The sandy haired boy pulled himself to his feet, and followed Gibbs towards the stairs. Slowly, Jethro ascended them, the sound of tiny feet trailing behind him.
He crept down the hallway, stopping short of the room he had left Ziva in the night before. Slowly, he pushed the door open to see a dark haired little girl sitting on a brunette boy, a triumphant smile on her face.
"And that is why girls are better than boys," she said and stuck her tongue out at him.
"You are a mean person," the brunette snapped trying to push the girl off him.
"Stop calling me that," the girl retorted and smushed his face into the carpet.
"See I told you they were fighting," the sandy haired boy said pointing at the two.
"Stop telling," the brunette boy snarled, finally managing to knock the girl away from him. He pushed himself to his feet, looking up at Gibbs.
"No," Gibbs said shaking his head back and forth. "No," he repeated backing out of the room, nearly knocking the sandy haired boy over.
He rushed back down the stairs, trying to get as far away from those kids as possible. This was all just some really bazaar dream. And he would wake up, soon, to find his team the way they were supposed to look, and not four-year-olds, because it wasn't possible to convert adults to four-year-olds. It just was not possible.
Yet, his team was upstairs, several decades younger than they were supposed to be. No, Gibbs snapped at himself, this is all a dream. Your team is not four. No. You are a sane, rational person. This kind of crap does not happen to you.
A memory from the night before hit; him and Ducky standing in front of that stupid fortune teller machine. They had argued, Ducky had told him that his team weren't children, and Gibbs had admitted he wished they were. Maybe this wasn't a dream, maybe he did do this. Oh what a mess he had to clean up.
He turned, noticing the three kids staring at him, all in a line. He realized he had been pacing across the kitchen floor, holding a mug of bourbon he didn't remember pouring. He glanced down at the mug, realizing he couldn't drink it even if he wanted. Not with three four-year-olds in the house.
He laughed, pouring the bourbon down the sink. This was just his luck, a stupid movie prop turning out to be real. What next, Ducky would walk into his house claiming to be Ashley-Pitt from The Great Escape?
"Um, mister, are you okay?" the sandy haired boy questioned.
"Maybe we should call an ambulance," the brunette boy suggested.
"That would be stupid. He is not even bleeding," the little girl snapped, rolling her eyes when the brunette boy stuck his tongue out at her.
"What are your names?" Gibbs finally asked once his laughing subsided. He already suspected who they were, but it didn't hurt to get confirmation.
The three kids shared a quick look before the brunette stepped forward, pointed at himself, and said, "Anthony D. DiNozzo."
"I am Ziva David," the girl replied and moved so she was standing next to the brunette boy.
"Timmy McGee," the sandy haired boy muttered staying behind the other two.
"I need coffee."
This was written because I wanted to do a de-aging story for so long. I read a few I thoroughly enjoyed, and wanted to put my own spin on it. Besides, this is Benny and I's first shot at a Gibbs centric story. Let's see how we do.
So, thanks for reading, drop a comment if you can, and see ya in chapter two (if you want one).
We own nothing.