a/n - I've been working on several other projects, trying to get them finished before posting, but after watching that season ender, man, this won't leave me alone. Since we're all living and breathing that episode, I decided not to wait in posting this one.


As the dust settles and the body count rises, the hunt for a madman reaches a new level of intensity.

Aftermath

Leroy Jethro Gibbs couldn't hear anything over the roar in his ears when he lifted his head and tried to look around. The flames coming through the windows back-lit the rest of the lab, giving it a eerie glow. Mentally shaking himself, he shifted back far enough to check on Abby who was still tucked beneath him.

"Abs? Abby?" She was still, her eyes open, but when he reached for her, she flinched. Shock, not dead, and he breathed a sigh of relief. They'd survived the blast, now they had to escape the sub-basement before they were overcome by the fumes. "Come on, we've got to get out of here."

She didn't fight him, but she didn't help either as he dragged her across the floor, slipping and sliding on the spilled Caf-Pow and the water from the overhead sprinklers. His back and his leg were screaming at him, but he didn't slow down until they were in the hallway and he managed to force the door closed behind them. Only then did he allow himself to look at the burned skin on his lower leg and bat at the smoldering fabric covering his body before reaching for his phone. Feeling the shattered remains, he didn't even bother to pull it out of his pocket.

The hall was quiet and dark, only the flickering emergency lights gave them any illumination until finally the back-up generators kicked in, giving a soft glow to the dust as it settled. Sound finally began to filter back in although it was muffled and indistinct. Sirens and soft cries for help drew Gibbs to his feet as training and worry pushed back the pain.

Abby had finally moved on her own, if only to curl up around Bert and start to rock, so Gibbs left her there for the moment as he moved unsteadily down the hall, leaning heavily on the wall. The first two doors he came to were both storage rooms, but he automatically checked to make sure they were still locked. That proven, he moved on, stopping just before he reached the elevator. Cautiously, he reached out and held his hand an inch away from the metal surface, but he felt no heat. He tapped at it before quickly yanking his hand away. There was no pain, so he repeated the move, holding his hand against the metal longer this time.

No heat meant no fire using the elevator shaft to spread through the building. Leaning against the cool metal, Gibbs allowed himself a moment to think through the likely outcome of the bombing. The fact that he and Abby were still alive told him that the C-4 he and Cole had found hidden in the back seat of Vance's car was likely the only explosives, the full tank of gas a planned accelerant. The fireball had come through the windows of the sub-basement and he suspected through many of the windows above them. Those windows would have shattered at the moment of the blast, but the exterior walls of the old building were extremely thick and obviously still standing. It was the interior walls and floors, added over the years as the building changed functions, that he was worried about.

Still leaning against the elevator doors as the ringing in his ears lessened, Gibbs could make out a call for help coming from inside. He strained to hear more and realized that the voice was familiar.

"Ziva? Ziva!" Gibbs reached for his big knife to wedge into the door only to remember handing it to Cole. Instead, he pulled out a smaller pocket knife, cursing as the blade snapped. The doors were open a fraction, but it was enough to wedge his fingers in and pry it open further. Ignoring the shredded and bloodied fingertips, he leaned in and looked up to see the underside of the elevator above him. "Ziva?"

"Gibbs?

"Are you hurt?"

"Tony is unconscious."

He could barely hear her, but knew he needed to be up further to be able to help her or Tony. "Stay put, I'm coming."

He returned to Abby, squatting down in front of her. "Abby, are you hurt?" His own voice sounded distorted to him, so he used sign in addition to words to ask his question.

The moving fingers seemed to register more than what he said. She frowned and slowly shook her head before trying to climb to her feet. Gibbs pulled her up and tucked her against him as he continued on to the stairwell. It took several hard shoves with his shoulder to push and door and the debris against it, the pain nearly sending him to his knees again.

Once he had the door open, he left Abby propped up against the wall and checked the stairs. There was quite a bit of debris. He could climb over it and make it to the first landing, but there was no point as the section of stairs between the first landing and the door to the main level was most of the debris blocking the way. If he wasn't injured, or was twenty years younger, he might have been able to make the climb, but there was no way Abby could. Their only hope of getting out of the sub-basement was the secondary set of stairs at the other end of the building.

As the worry built up in his gut, Gibbs wedged himself back through the partially opened door and returned to the hallway. Procedure dictated that no rescue personnel be allowed into the building or even the surrounding area until it was cleared by bomb disposal. The logical side of his brain knew this, but all he cared about was his injured team members. Two trapped above him, one in shock next to him and one that he prayed was safely outside, arguing to get rescuers inside quicker. He wrapped his arm around Abby's shoulder and turned her towards their new escape point. Silent and placid, still clutching the stuffed hippo, she let him lead her away.

-NCIS-

The sound was muffled and distant, but Tobias Fornell recognized it and was on his feet instantly. Two steps to the window, but he saw nothing out of place, no billowing smoke, no panicked traffic around the Capital Building. Remembering the steady stream of reports about the threats to the Navy, he ran across the room to where a group of agents were already gathering at a window with another view.

"Was it at the Navy Yard?"

"Maybe, can't tell for sure."

Fornell didn't even register who had spoken as he quickly pulled his phone and hit the speed dial for his old friend. At the first ring, a recording came on telling him the party he was trying to reach was unavailable. He looked at the agents gathered around him. "Damn it, let's go."

Mid-morning usually meant the drive was twenty minutes, Fornell made it to the gate in thirteen. Holding his badge up to the harried guard, Fornell jumped on the back of an arriving firetruck, one of the firemen grabbing his arm to steady him. Two more agents followed suit, while the rest stayed with the car, falling behind as they tried to thread their way through the chaos.

"My God." After automatically stepping out of the way of the emergency workers pulling hoses off the truck, Fornell was frozen by the sight of the scene in front of him. The mangled remains of what had once been a large vehicle was perhaps forty feet from the front of the front of the building, but marks on the road and sidewalk showed that it had been much closer at the time of the explosion. Luck or providence had tossed it away from those Dearing hoped to harm, instead of into the building. Nonetheless, more bodies than he could count were scattered on the ground, a testament to the destructive force of the blast. From what they hoped was a safe distance, firefighters aimed hoses at the front of the damaged building while dozen or more small fires burned nearby. It looked as if several trees had been torched by the flying and burning debris in addition to a variety of bushes and one very unlucky convertible.

There was a wide ring secured around the building as Naval and Marine Corps ordnance specialists and their bomb sniffing dogs got to work clearing the area before emergency workers would be allowed in to search for survivors. Not wanting to disturb the potentially dangerous work, Fornell gave them an even wider berth as he continued to look for any familiar faces or any hint of a command post being set up.

He spotted a group of injured survivors being helped towards a grouping of ambulances and followed them to the hastily set up triage. There he found Vance pacing back and forth while on the phone as a medic tried to bandage his bloodied arm.

"No, Sir, the building was still being evacuated when the bomb exploded... No, Sir, I don't know why the alarms didn't go off or the PA system failed. Agent McGee would be the best suited to determine that, Mr. Secretary, but I don't know if he even made it out of the building... Yes, Sir... No, Sir... Yes, there is, Clayton. Call Jackie for me and tell her I'm alive and I'll call her when I can."

Vance closed his phone and for a moment, the grief seemed to overwhelm him but, as Fornell watched, he took a deep breath and straightened up. Nodding a thanks to the medic that had successfully wrapped a pressure bandage around his arm, Vance started barking out orders. Once he had people getting head counts and lists of injured, dead and missing started, he noticed Fornell.

"What do you know so far, Director?" Even with most of his attention on Vance, Fornell kept an eye out for Gibbs or any members of his team.

"Dearing played us." Vance looked ready to punch something. "He knew that if there was a viable threat against me, my car would be parked directly in front of the building, right in the middle of our standard evacuation route. Don't ask me how he did it, but the audio alarms didn't sound and the warning to only use the secondary exits never went out. We couldn't get a perimeter set up in time or get the crowd moving a different direction. Gibbs... the last time I saw Gibbs he and Cole were trying to disarm the bomb."

Fornell closed his eyes and took a shaky breath at the news. "What about... what about his team?"

"I don't know. DiNozzo and David were helping to evacuate the building, and McGee... The last time I saw Agent McGee, he was trying to save his files on Harper Dearing. He'd been tracking the man for days, hoping to get one step ahead of the man."

"Miss Sciuto? Dr. Mallard? His assistant?" Fornell hoped for some good news, even as part of him knew they'd rather go together than be left behind.

Vance couldn't imagine a worse thing to happen to Jimmy and his new bride. "Jimmy Palmer is getting married today. They were all supposed to go to Florida with him, but because of Dearing, only Ducky made the flight. I have no idea if Abby made it out."

They both knew that If Abby were out of the building, her presence would be apparent, but Tobias allowed him the illusion, if only for a moment.