A/N: This crazy, long AU story finishes at 205 pages. I seriously upset the balance of NCIS canon, but I am truly grateful to those of you brave enough to follow. It should be a piece before I put out a story again. Thank you so much for reading this story. Sheila
Gibbs leaned over Tony stroking the undamaged part of his face. Fornell came running up. "It'll be ten minutes before another ambulance. How's he doing?"
He sighed. "He's unconscious now. The blood loss is catching up with him, but I know DiNozzo as well as I ever knew my own child. He'll hang in there. Nobody can fight like he can."
"Vicks said he fought like a lion. There was no one better."
Gibbs smiled softly. "There never has been."
He heard a cry and turned to find Ziva running toward them at top speed. Gibbs stood between her and Tony and caught her by the waist. She struggled against him. "It's okay, Ziva. He's going to be okay."
She tried to reach for him, but Gibbs held her back. "He's unconscious, but he's going to make it."
She relaxed in his grip, breathing fast and shallow. "He's going to be okay?"
"He lost an eye and he has some cuts, but that's all."
"We need to get him to Ducky."
"Yup. Gotta' an ambulance coming. Be gentle with him, Ziva."
He let go of her, and she climbed into the jeep seat and leaned over him. At first, she didn't know where to touch and then she found places on his body that looked strongly and she held him gently, her chin trembling. "It's okay, Tony. You're going be just fine. I need you to get better because we're a family with a baby and responsibilities. Can't survive losing you twice. You should know that."
She looked at his face but got no response. "Tony? Wake up, Baby."
Fornell turned his head. "Ambulance is coming."
Gibbs leaned over and pulled her back gently. "Let them get at him. They need to get him in the truck."
She climbed off him, and didn't protest while Gibbs wrapped his arms around her securely. Two people with a stretcher came running from the truck they were using for an ambulance. They carefully pulled Tony onto it, and started off without a word, exhaustion etched deeply in their faces. It reminded Gibbs that they all were working on little or no sleep. He let go of her. "Get in there with him."
She looked at him with wet, brown eyes. "You need me here."
He shook his head. "We're just cleaning up here."
Fornell nodded. "Nobody's coming for us just now. I got a group who never made it into the fight. They're going to patrol for the next day or two. I'll watch 'em."
Gibbs pushed her. "Go! Be with your family."
Ziva ran for the ambulance. Fornell looked at Gibbs long and hard. "What are you doing to do?"
Gibbs looked down. "We've gotten almost everyone off to the hospital. The next task is to remove bodies and set up a patrol."
"I can do that with my eyes closed."
Gibbs looked at the sun moving toward dusk. "We need to feed our new residents well. They deserve it after how they fought for us."
"I'll talk to Jackie."
"I'm…going to take a jeep."
Fornell shook his head. "Go to Esperanza. Get a good night's sleep. We assemble a team in the morning."
"I'm going now."
Gibbs looked at his old friend. "It's almost impossible for me to adequately explain to you what he meant to me. I never thought I would ever feeling something like this for a man. He just became so precious to me that it was a natural progression of our love. He completed me, Tobias."
Fornell smirked. "You're not the only man in love. I have some idea the pull you're feeling, but you're not going alone."
"I don't need an audience for this. I'm just going in, picking him up, and bringing him home. He should be buried in Esperanza."
He shook his head. "I just want to bring him home right now. There's time enough for Jarvis later. I want to plan that one."
"We need you, Jethro."
"The only thing I want right now is to bury him in the place he created. After that, I'm taking it one day at a time."
Fornell nodded. "Let me get you a jeep with fuel and supplies." He trotted off.
Gibbs turned back to the sun. The shell he'd covered himself in for the last two days was starting to crumble. He rubbed the bridge of his nose angrily and headed off to collect some weapons.
Abby had moved without rest for 24 hours. Ducky urged her to sit, but purpose had entered her life again, and this was the safest she'd felt in days. She needed to focus on the needs of others in order to stay distracted from the horror of what happened in her own life.
Tony was one of the last they brought in. Abby got a lump in her throat when she saw the distress in Ziva's eyes as she hung onto his stretcher. Abby pretended that she was too busy to go over and comfort her. Ziva would expect her to be Abby, and she wasn't sure how to be that person anymore.
They pulled Tony behind the curtain that they were using for surgeries and both Jimmy and Ducky followed him in. Abby kept a frantic pace for the next couple of hours. In the last two years, she learned plenty of nursing, and she was quite proficient with inserting IVs and other skills.
Her eyes kept track of that curtain though, and she froze when she saw Ducky pull it back and walk out. There was something about Ducky and his immense understanding of human nature that left her feeling safe, and she ran up to him without hesitation. "Is he okay?"
He reached up and patted her face. "He lost an eye, but other than that, he'll be just fine. Why don't you go back and see him?"
She looked distressed.
"Abigail, we've all changed so very much, but our affection for one another remains. He'll be happy to see you and he'll have no expectations of you."
She bit her lip and her eyes watered.
"He needs you."
He grabbed her arm. "Your life will have to be more than just service to others. We all need balance."
"He needs me?"
Ducky sighed and let go. "Yes, go see him."
He watched her head off, and he knew that it would take a long time before Abby's psyche was on solid ground again.
Abby approached him slowly. Tony was awake now, attached to IVs, and gingerly touching his face. Ziva was gone.
He heard her approach and turned his head. "Abby, come here."
She felt panic in her gut, but she moved forward nonetheless. She took his offered hand. "I'm sorry, Tony."
He gave her a jaunty DiNozzo grin. "I have a spare."
"Does it hurt much?"
"I have a helluva' headache."
His smile broadened. "She went to get a special gift for me."
Abby's eyebrows rose but she said nothing.
"I'm glad you're home, Abs."
She looked down. "I don't know this place."
"It's where your family is."
"I don't feel as strong as I did before. I had to let go of Abby to get strong."
He frowned. "I don't know what that means, but you're a very strong woman. Always have been."
"There were some bad men…and they stole it-"
"Shhhh! I want to hear that story, Abs, but this is a time of celebration. We beat Jarvis. The story you have to tell needs to happen in a very safe place. When I'm up again, I'm going to take the time to listen to everything you want to tell me. Okay?"
She nodded. "Can I make an eye patch for you like a pirate?"
"Yeah, I would like that very much." Then he noticed something behind her. "Abby, I want to introduce you to some very special people."
Abby turned and saw Ziva standing there with a beautiful dark haired baby and a little girl with brown hair.
Ziva came up and handed Amala over to Abby without a single word. "This is our baby, Amala. I've told her stories about her auntie Abby."
Abby studied the baby's face with the mischievous green eyes. "Those are Tony's eyes."
"Yeah. She's got his propensity for trouble too."
Amala took that moment to tug sharply on Abby's ear causing Abby to give a quick yelp. Ziva picked up the little girl. "This is Nadine. Tim adopted her after we thought Jethro was killed."
The little girl clung to Ziva's neck tightly when Abby reached over to stroke her hair. Ziva smiled. "Nadine is a little particular about friends just now. She's had a hard year."
"I know what that's like," Abby said softly.
"I want to see my little girl," Tony said. "Both of them."
Ziva helped Nadine crawl up next to Tony, but she had to hold onto Amala who seemed intent on ripping off her father's bandages. Abby watched all of this with a sense of awe. She hadn't experienced sweetness in a very long time.
Vance was surprised when they heard another jeep on the road. What little remained of Jarvis' force had sped by hours ago. They'd pulled down a couple of vehicles, and Vance estimated that fewer than 50 troops made it back to the Emerald City. They were just packing it for the night when they heard the final jeep.
Vance signaled for his people to ready fire, and when the jeep came into view, gunfire erupted on the tires. The jeep veered sharply and landed in the ditch. Armed, Vance trotted over, but put up a hand sharply when he saw the silver hair peeking up from the front seat. "Stand down!"
He scrambled into the ditch. "Gibbs, is that you?"
"Leon, you idiot! You destroyed my ride." Gibbs climbed out of the cab slowly.
"Where the hell are you going?! You're not taking on Jarvis alone!"
Gibbs limped up out of the ditch. "I'm not going after Jarvis."
Realization washed over Vance and he groaned. "I'm sorry. I forgot."
"I need a vehicle, Leon."
"No, you need an escort. It's too dangerous to go alone."
"I don't want an audience."
Vance ignored him and turned to one of his people. "Load up the truck. We're making a run into D.C."
It was almost midnight when they pulled up in front of the apartment complex where the admiral was hiding Tim. Gibbs' efforts to go in alone were ignored, and Vance plus a complement of four followed him in. Without electricity, the stairs and hallways were pitch black. Vance's people shined flashlights as they climbed three flights of steps, and then followed Gibbs down a hallway. He hesitated when he saw that the door to the apartment was wide open, and the stench that emanated from within was sickening and all too familiar. Gibbs' breath caught and he stopped. He turned to Vance. "I gotta' do this alone."
Vance nodded and signaled his people to wait. Gibbs grabbed a flashlight and trained it on the open doorway. He walked through slowly, taking time to shine it everywhere. There was nothing but a deafening silence and an overwhelming stench. He walked down the hall and took a breath before the door. Then he pushed through and shined his light on the devastation. It was worse than he'd expected. Blood pooled everywhere, and flies buzzed over bodies.
The admiral lay on his back, dark splotches rohrschached across his chest. This was clearly an execution. Tim lay on his stomach in the blood, one arm dragging a fallen IV and the other lying across his father's torso. Gibbs sucked in air and let out a whimper. Jarvis had been here, and he'd exacted revenge on the McGees.
"I'm so sorry, Tim. I should've taken you that day. I should've risked it. It's my fault for not keeping you with me…"
Emotion swelled in his throat and he choked. He felt as if he was in a trance, much like it was the day his CO told him that Kelly and Shannon were dead. He noticed a second flashlight, but didn't acknowledge Vance as he came up next to him.
"I'm so sorry, Jethro."
"My fault," he mumbled.
Vance stopped his light on Tim's arm for a long moment. "Jethro, Tim's color is different than his father's. Look."
Vance knelt down next to Tim. "He's warm."
Gibbs dropped down beside him. "Could be the heat, Leon."
Vance had his finger on Tim's carotid. "He's breathing. I don't think he took a bullet."
Gibbs pushed him away. "Tim! Tim!"
Vance was on his feet. "I need a backboard in here! Stat!"
Fornell looked up and saw Jackie approaching. She enveloped him in a hug. He smiled in spite of his exhaustion. "Hey you!"
"You worked all night, Tobias. Time to rest."
"Gotta' watch the road. Don't think we're going to get an attack, but we have to stay vigilant. Gibbs is gone and Tony is in the hospital."
"Captain Vicks had 7 hours of sleep. Let him take over."
He let her lead him home. "How's Em?"
Jackie smiled. "She spent almost 36 hours with a cabin full of fussy children. She was terrific, and now she's sleeping like a rock."
He slid an arm around her waist. "I'll sleep if you do."
She leaned into him. "I spent all night feeding hungry soldiers. We butchered a steer. Everyone had a steak. One of them told me it was the best meal he'd had since the pandemic."
"Wait 'til they find out our everyday menu. They might be less impressed."
"They're tired, Tobias. I think they want peace as much as we do." She led him into the bedroom shutting the door. She turned and started unbuttoning his shirt. Then she pulled it out of his pants. She pushed him gently on the bed. "Let me take care of you."
He pulled her shirt over her head and put his arms around her. "Come here, baby."
She climbed on the bed beside him. "You must be exhausted."
He shook his head as he lay next to her, stroking her face. "I have the energy of ten men right now, and I've been waiting for this moment since you brought me into this house."
"You are full of surprises, Tobias Fornell," she said as she leaned in and captured his mouth.
Tim opened his eyes to the sun coming in from an open window. The IV bag was back on the stand. He blinked into the sun for a moment. This wasn't what he last remembered. There was a sheet over his head, and then his father yelled and there was gunfire. He'd waited minutes until there was silence, and then he pulled the sheet off his face and saw his father dead on the floor. He dragged himself off the bed, passing out from the pain of falling to the floor. When he woke, he inched his way to the admiral. The last thing he remembered was resting his hand on his father's stomach.
"You awake, Tim?"
McGee looked away from the sun and saw Leon Vance looking down at him. "Director?"
"It's been a long time since anyone called me that."
"What…I was in D.C…my dad…where am I?"
Then a loud snort interrupted both of them, and McGee twisted his head. Next to him on the bed was a gently snoring Jethro Gibbs.
"He's been watching over you."
McGee's face softened. "He's exhausted."
"He probably hadn't slept for three days when we found you."
Gibbs flopped an arm around McGee's waist and he winced. Leon smiled. "We can move the octopus to another bed if you like."
Tim smiled. "Not on your life."
A doctor has been in to see you yesterday. She opened you up enough to repair two ribs, but it was cursory. We don't have the facilities to do any real surgery. You're going to be okay, but she says you're going to have bone spurs and pain on your right side after any exertion. Your days of heavy lifting are over, Tim."
"Your body took care of that. The doctor was pretty amazed. Your blood pressure has been improving and you haven't needed a transfusion at all today. You're going to be on your feet again in a few days."
McGee frowned. "What about my dad? Did you leave him there?"
"No, we brought him back. We're building a coffin for him in the backyard. He wasn't a friend for very long, but he saved your Esperanza. Jarvis sent over 500 troops. I don't think your people could've stopped them without your father's help."
"Thank you for bringing him somewhere peaceful. He deserved that, Sir."
"I'm Leon to you now. We're equals, Tim."
"Might take a little getting used to…Leon."
Gibbs groaned and lifted his head. "What time is it?"
Vance smiled. "You've been sleeping for maybe 12 hours. You clearly needed it."
Gibbs looked down at Tim with blurry eyes. "You okay?"
Tim smiled up at him. "I'm perfect."
"I'll give the two of you some time." Vance left the room smiling.
Jethro turned on his side and looked Tim over, gently touching the spot where the doctor bandaged his torso. "You're going to be okay, Tim."
He nodded. "I can't wait to go home."
"Mmm. Me too. You told me earlier that we have a daughter."
"Do you remember saving her?"
"I remember a little. She was small, maybe four years old."
"She's five. A very solemn little girl. Doesn't remember life before the pandemic. Lost her whole family to cholera. She was only with me a couple of weeks. It took awhile to get her to talk. Stubborn. Smart. Scared. She clung to me constantly. I wasn't with her long, but I know that she's already had too many losses."
"Okay. Then we better get back there and give her some stability."
Tim stroked his arm. "You're ready for this, aren't you?"
"Yesterday, Tim. I was ready yesterday. I want to go back and retire. I don't want a gun anymore. I want to farm or build or do repairs. I want to go home to you every night. I want to watch our daughter grow up."
"You're ready to give up power?"
"Just need to get Jarvis out of the way and I'm ready for a simple life."
"I worry that Jarvis isn't going to be an easy fix."
"It has to be done, but first we get you home so I can meet this little girl of ours."
He searched Jethro's face. "You really think people are ready to see you as a farmer?"
"Tony has done a helluva' job being sheriff. You should've seen him fight. It's his turn now. And we have new settlers. There's a man called Vicks who is excellent. There are people who take over. We can rest. We deserve that."
"We can't lose the heart of Esperanza."
"We won't. Too many good people believe in what we built."
Tim relaxed into his pillow. "I want that, Jethro. I want just what you described."
Tony stared at his face in the mirror. Abby had made him a black leather eye patch, and as much as he thought it would be hard to look at his face, he found the addition to be jaunty, even roguish. It made him smile. Scars still peaked out from under the patch and the headaches still plagued him, but he saw his face as a testament to survival in a post-pandemic world. Ziva came up behind him and put her arms around him. "I think you've always wanted to be a pirate."
"It's not bad actually."
"Nadine wants one now, you know."
Tony turned and hugged her. "I was getting used to the idea of being her dad. I'm going to miss that. They should be here any time. Is she ready to see Tim?"
"She doesn't really believe he's coming. Too many disappointments in her life. I put her in her favorite red dress. She, Amala, and Emily are sitting on the steps waiting."
There was a shout from the street and Tony smiled. "That must be them."
The two of them came out just as the jeep drove up. Tony swung Nadine up into his arms and Ziva grabbed Amala. Everyone had been told to keep it low key, but people couldn't help shouting greetings as Jethro helped Tim out of the jeep. Tony pointed at him. "Look Nadine. There's dad."
The little girl whimpered and buried her head in his shirt. The trauma of so many losses was overwhelming. Tim kissed Ziva and Amala. Then he headed for Tony. He looked at his face for a moment. "I have to say that it suits you."
"I was just thinking the same thing."
Tim peeled the little girl off Tony and held her tightly. "I'm back, Nadine. I'm here to stay."
She moaned sobs into his neck. Jethro was there, patting her back. "She'll be fine."
He looked at Tony. "Thanks for watching the store."
Tony nodded. "Ready to get the keys back?"
"Nope. It's all yours, DiNozzo. You've more than proved yourself."
"I'm retired. Got a family to raise now."
Tony gestured to the jeep. "Looks like a coffin on the back."
"That is Admiral McGee. Tim wants him buried here. And I think we owe him after the help he gave us, don't you?"
Tony nodded. "I knew the old man couldn't be all bad. I mean he raised McGee, didn't he."
Nadine's sobs had turned to hiccups, and Tim was wiping tears from her face with his thumb. "Listen sweetie, I want you to meet Jethro. He's part of our family."
She studied Gibbs with her serious brown eyes. Then a memory took hold and she reached out with a small hand and touched his face. "You told me to run when the guns came."
Gibbs felt something in his gut he hadn't felt for twenty years. His eyes watered. "That's right, pretty girl. I told you to run."
Her chubby legs moved fast as she stumbled the distance between Ziva and Abby. Abby reached out and Amala squealed as she picked her up. Ziva clapped. "She runs everywhere. I have to watch her every second now."
Abby looked into the little girl's sweet, smiling face. "She's always so happy. I didn't know that could exist anymore."
"I'll do whatever I can to keep her that way. I wake up after the nightmares and I go sit with her, and there is nothing but peace on her face. She has no idea that evil exists. It's such a miracle."
Abby nodded. "And then there is sweet Nadine. She asked me if I could be her mom yesterday."
"She said you were her Ema."
Ziva nodded. "Which is Hebrew for mother."
"She informed me that most kids with Emas also have a mom. She was very serious about this. She's such a little storyteller."
Ziva sighed. "She's collecting family members. I think she's worried she's going to run out again."
"It's sad to see a little girl so scared of the world."
"She reminds me of you, Abby."
Abby flinched and hugged Amala to her more tightly. The spirited baby responded by twisting out of her arms and running over to investigate a puddle on the street.
"Ducky says you would work 18 hours a day if he and Jimmy weren't watching you."
Abby hugged her knees into her. "I need to help. I feel safest when I help."
Ziva sat next to her and pushed the curly strands of her growing black hair behind her ear. "It gives you less time for memories."
"And it pleases God to have me serve."
"God is pleased with you because of your goodness. God doesn't need you to work yourself to death. You deserve to have time for yourself."
"I take walks with Jimmy sometimes. He understands me best of all."
"I miss your positive energy just as I miss Jimmy's."
She leaned over. "Can I tell you a secret?"
Ziva smiled. "I miss our girl secrets."
"I told Jimmy that I want to bring some of the orphaned children home. He says there isn't room in our little house with Ducky, but he says that if we find a bigger house, he'll move in and help me. Gibbs is going to help me look."
"Is something happening between you and Jimmy?"
Abby stiffened slightly. "We're just friends."
"That's okay, my sister. Just don't be afraid to let something grow if it's there. You deserve to be treasured more than anyone I know."
Amala squealed as she plucked a little toad out of the water and held it up high. Abby laughed. Ziva put an arm around her and squeezed. "You are going to be the most wonderful mom."
Gibbs sat with Tobias and Tony at a picnic table near the creek. Fall colors were everywhere, and the dirt beneath Jethro's fingernails told of hours digging up potatoes. Tony shook his head. "It's been three months. We've sent three teams into what's left of the Emerald City. There's no sign of Jarvis."
Tobias nodded. "I talked to Vance myself last week. The last he heard was that Jarvis took what remained of his supporters and left town. Vance is a new dad by the way. A little boy. Named him Asher."
Jethro nodded. "Good for him. He deserves a new start."
Tony shifted. "I'm not comfortable with leaving this Jarvis chapter undone."
Tobias sighed. "He probably went south looking for more communities to terrorize. I'm only comforted by the fact that he has almost no resources left."
Tony shook his head as he stood. "I'm going to send another team down this week. I just want to make sure."
Tony went off to speak with a group of his security people. Tobias nudged Jethro and pointed at Jackie helping a group of women separate rotten potatoes from the bushel baskets. "She's put on a few pounds, hasn't she?"
Jethro's eyes widened. "I have not noticed nor would I comment on it if I did."
Tobias leaned closer. "She's definitely a little rounder. I can see it from here."
"Are you going to talk to her about it because you are a complete idiot?"
"You're the moron, Jethro. That's baby weight," he said, smiling broadly.
He pointed at himself proudly. "I knocked her up."
"Seriously? Isn't she a little old?"
"Now that's a conversation I wouldn't recommend having with her. Ducky has looked her over. He's feeling very good about this. Fresh air, good exercise, and healthy food: it's good for a pregnancy."
Gibbs slapped him on the back. "You old dog!"
"I know. I'm amazing."
"Right," Gibbs said as he rolled his eyes. "You did everything, didn't you?"
"Okay," Tim said as he closed the book. "Time for bed."
Nadine frowned as she looked at him. "No, daddy. Other girls get maybe ten stories at bedtime. Three stories aren't hardly nothing. 'Mala can have stories all night long if she wants. That's what Ema told me."
He brushed her hair back. "Ema didn't say anything of the kind. And I don't know any little girl who gets ten stories."
"I bet Abby mom would read ten stories to me."
Jethro walked into the bedroom. "It's time you get to bed, little princess."
She looked up, eyes pleading. "Jethro daddy, you'll read more stories, won't you? Daddy here won't read stories to his little girl."
Jethro swung her up into his arms. "I have never met such a little drama queen in my entire life."
"I feel sick, Daddies," she said as she pressed the back of her hand to her forehead. "I think I might have a fever. It's probably best if I sleep with here with both of you."
Jethro laughed as he shook his head. "You're a big girl and you're not sick. You sleep alone like a big girl, and we'll go cricket hunting tomorrow."
She hugged him tightly around the neck. "Can we?! No 'Mala or Emily. Just Jethro daddy and Nadine."
"It's a date, princess."
He came back in a few minutes later, and Tim looked up. "She went down quietly."
"She was more tired than she knew."
Tim pulled the sheets back and Jethro smiled. "Someone stole your clothes."
"You've been treating me like delicate china long enough. I'm strong now and ready for what we had before."
Jethro pulled off his t-shirt and slid his boxers off. He crawled in and pulled Tim to him, breathing in his scent as his hands roamed everywhere. "Love you, Tim."
Breathing hard, Tim looked up at him. "Show me."
Emily Fornell was too panicked to breath as she stumbled through the fields. She held onto a sobbing Amala as tightly as possible, and for once in her young life, Ziva and Tony's daughter didn't try to squirrel out of her arms. Emily spotted the silver head as she tripped over a hill of potatoes. She raised her head out of the dirt and hollered. "Jethro!"
Her voice was weak from hyperventilating, but Gibbs knew panic when he heard it. He dropped his hoe and ran toward her. She was barely to her feet when he reached her. "Where's Nadine?"
"We're picking flowers near the road…you said we could…and then the men came…" She leaned over as she tried to catch her breath.
He took Amala from her and handed her to one of the women who ran up. Then he knelt in front of Emily. "Take it slow. Who showed up?"
"Five or six men in a truck. They stopped and chased Nadine down…Man said he was Jarvis."
Gibbs closed his eyes. "What did he want?"
She took a deep breath. "He wants you to have a supply truck filled with food and ammunition at the crossroads in two hours…Said he just wants supplies. Said supplies have to worth one little girl's life. Said you have to come alone…She was so scared, Uncle Jethro!"
He hugged her tightly. "You did good, Em. You did good."
He pushed her toward another woman, and then started running toward Esperanza.
Martha's people were rapidly filling the truck while Gibbs checked his backup weapons. Tim paced. "The crossroads is about 10 miles north of here. There's a short cut through the forest, maybe 5-6 miles. I can get there in under an hour."
Tony nodded. "I'll go with you."
Ziva stood up in the truck. "I don't need much space back here. They open the back and they'll never know what hit them."
"You and I don't go on ops together because of our daughter," Tony growled.
"It's Nadine and she belongs to all of us. All bets are off."
Gibbs nodded. "We're a team again for this. We have to keep it small or they'll smell it. Here's hoping we can still read each other well enough to get this done."
Tim slapped Tony's shoulder. "We gotta' go. Follow me."
Tim knew the importance of pacing himself. The pain in his side from the bone spurs was sharp, but he ignored it as he ran down the beaten path by the creek. Tony ran behind him, breathing steady. It felt seamless like it had all those years ago when the two of them worked together every day.
Gibbs slowed the truck near the crossroads taking time to scan the woods on either side. As he came to a stop near a battered road sign, a truck backed out of the forest, and six men piled out. One of the larger men was carrying Nadine and she lay motionless on his shoulder. Gibbs climbed out, keeping his hands where they could see them.
Jarvis came out from behind the truck. "Good job, Gibbs. Let's keep it simple and everyone is going to be just fine."
Jethro looked at Nadine. "What's wrong with her?"
"She was a little hysterical. Said her daddies were going to be really mad at me. I gave her half a sleeping pill. Now she's not so scared."
"So help me God, Jarvis, I will gut you with a knife if she's been harmed."
He shook his head. "This is merely a peaceful negotiation. My men and I are going to leave the area. We just need some supplies. It's live and let live for me now."
"You're power hungry. The minute you feel strong again, you're going to be wreaking havoc for anyone trying to survive. You're a monster."
"Hey, let's not talk like that, Gibbs. I'm planning to let you live. Now stand back while I get a look in the back of that truck. I better find everything we need."
"Give me my daughter first."
"Patience, Gibbs. Patience."
Jarvis opened the back of the truck and climbed in. Gibbs could hear boxes moving around but nothing more. Then he jumped out. "Wish there was more produce, but this will have to do."
"Give me my daughter."
Jarvis signaled to the man with Nadine, and he walked over and handed her to Gibbs. Gibbs was comforted to hear her steady breathing.
"Wish I could let you live, Gibbs, but the world's an easier place for me without you."
Jarvis nodded at his men and they raised their weapons. All of a sudden, there was a whistle sound and two of the men keeled forward. Gibbs dove for cover behind the truck while more bullets whistled by. The flap on the back of the truck opened and Ziva reached for Nadine. She placed her in the back and then hopped out, her gun ready.
It took only a few minutes, and none of Jarvis' men were moving. Gibbs pulled Jarvis out from under the truck where he was hiding and handcuffed him. Ziva signaled to the forest. McGee and Tony trotted up. "You should've seen Tim. He got two of them right behind the ear. Crack shot!"
Tim ignored him while he climbed into the back of the truck to check on Nadine.
Jarvis wriggled against his cuffs. "Gibbs, I would never have killed you. Just wanted to scare you. Protocol in this situation is that you run me up the highway a hundred miles and leave me to fend for myself."
Gibbs walked up to Jarvis and stared at him hard. "You're not worth 10 miles of gas, let alone 100 miles."
"You believe in justice, Gibbs. You're not capable of killing a man in handcuffs. What would it say about your precious Esperanza if you did? It would prove that you're no different than I was in the Emerald city. I deserve a fair hearing."
Tim jumped out of the back of the truck. "She seems to be fine."
Jarvis started toward Tim. "McGee, tell him. Your Esperanza doesn't mean anything if you're nothing but murderers."
"You want a fair hearing? You'll get one," Tony said as he grabbed Jarvis by the scruff of his neck and backed him into a tree. "We're the prosecution and you're the defense. What do you have to say?"
Jarvis licked his lips. "We are all just trying to survive. None of us are the same people we were before. We've all bent the rules. I had to be ruthless to take care of as many people as I had under my command. I had no choice."
The former MCRT members watched him silently.
"I saved lives. And if you would've shared Esperanza with me, we would be a bigger, stronger, and more vibrant community today. You're fighting the wrong man. You've always been fighting the wrong man."
"Anything more," Gibbs said quietly.
"You and I are a lot a like. We've both killed because we've had to. It would be the epitome of hypocrisy for you to kill me. You deserve to be up against this tree just as much I do."
"My turn," Gibbs sighed. "We are both killers. The only difference is that I kill predators. You don't make that distinction. You prey on the weak. That's the crime I charge you with."
Tony stepped forward. "I charge you with trying to steal my home and the spirit of our community."
"I charge you with kidnapping our daughter, Nadine," Ziva said, her chin trembling.
"And I charge you with the murder of my father, Admiral McGee," Tim said, eyes burning.
"We live in a different world now. In the old world, there would be prisons to hold you, but in this world, we have to have different consequences. I sentence you to death, Jarvis," Gibbs said dispassionately.
"No!" He screamed.
"I concur," said Tony.
"As do I," said Ziva.
"Let's not prolong this any more," Gibbs said as he raised his gun. The three of them followed suit, and together, they opened fire. Jarvis slammed into the tree as his body absorbed bullets.
For a few moments after the shooting stopped, they stood there silently. Gibbs turned to his former team. "Any of you conflicted about what just happened?"
No one said anything. Then Tony smiled. "I ride shotgun on the way back."
Tim rolled his eyes. "I bet he starts calling me probie again."
Ziva took his arm. "You and I will ride in the back with our girl. We're going to have to take turns staying home with her for the next few days. Poor baby."
Tim nodded. "Tonight, she gets ten stories if she wants them."
Gibbs took one last look at Jarvis and then headed for the truck. He knew he was going to sleep just fine over this. Besides, he had a large family now, and they were going to need all of his energy.