A/N: Rating mostly for (but not limited to) swearing… why must bad guys cuss so much? Somewhere in mid Season 9, pre-Dearing. This story not really connected to my others, altho could be seen as prequel to a certain conversation between two agents. Also, disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been a neurobiologist. Totally guessing folks. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

The early morning raid had been called into action so quickly Gibbs was still stuck in MTAC finishing an op that had developed complications overnight. As Agents DiNozzo, McGee and David silently cleared room after room of the dilapidated textile warehouse in the pre-dawn stillness, they all hoped this was finally the right location.

A reliable source on the street had called Agent DiNozzo just after midnight with the apparently temporary location of a group that had killed a Navy Commander, then taken his wife and two teenage children three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, the NCIS team had managed to find the family - in addition to three other victims all held together before being sold into slavery. Bringing grief to the agents, it unfortunately wasn't before all the victims had been sexually assaulted and traumatized, but at least it was before they had all been shipped out of the country, probably to even worse treatment.

The team's passion to make this group of men pay made determining their identities, history and location an obsessive priority. In the past two weeks Gibbs' MCRT had thoroughly established the identities and global criminal backgrounds of the group led by Tauriq Hennesy, but until the tip, their location was still unknown. Multiple cold leads, recently cleaned out apartments and buildings had frustrated the team horribly, oddly bringing them even tighter together as a unit after an inevitable snappish phase.

As DiNozzo cleared what had been a storage room, he heard both McGee and Ziva in the large outer room shout out "Federal Agents! Put your guns down!" Rushing in himself, he saw a stalemate with two men pointing guns at his Agents. Covering the men from a better angle, he recognized them from photos as Hennesy's associates. Tony couldn't help but be grateful this was the right place, right time.

As the sunlight of dawn lit the warehouse's filthy windows, the subject of their raid suddenly popped up behind Tony in the wide hall. Tony and his Sig Sauer swiveled instantly to cover the new arrival, "Freeze Tauriq Hennesy! Federal Agents! I have a message for you!"

Ziva and McGee were familiar with DiNozzo's methods of getting unpredictable suspects to lock in on him, and both made sure to be on their toes for whatever came next. McGee hoped Tony really had one of those instant-plans of his instead of this being just a stalling maneuver. 3:3 odds with proven international killers was not ideal… at all.

Ziva found the odds acceptable; they could probably kill these men while only being injured non-fatally themselves. But she knew they wanted at least one of the men to talk, to reveal the international members and locations of the full network. And for that, they had to be able to speak... unfortunately. She hoped Tony's mouth paid off since they had no Gibbs coming in for backup. Even the on-call team was already deployed when the raid began - any backup would be well delayed. The only reason these men hadn't shot on sight was probably the 24hr gym attached to the side of the warehouse. But how many patrons could there be at dawn on Sunday morning? Ziva hoped Hennesy's group didn't think of that.

Tony walked straight to the new arrival slowly, eyes locked and unblinking as he continued speaking. "You're the big man in charge, eh Tauriq? I'm glad to get a chance to speak with you before anyone gets injured. You didn't realize it, but your whole life has been building to this one moment, with me. Tony. Tony DiNozzo. We're about to get very well acquainted Tauriq. Do you know why that is?"

Hennessy's snide reply was immediate, "You think I give a flying fuck who you are Tony? We're evenly matched shithead, and it's me and my men that are walking out of here." Hennesy's gun didn't waver from its aim straight at DiNozzo's head.

But as he continued speaking, DiNozzo's aim didn't waver either, nor did his hand shake, as he finally stopped walking forward... standing almost chest to chest with the slightly taller man. Hennesy snarled as he followed DiNozzo's example of pointing the tip of his gun barrel against his enemy's temple.

"Your men? Who knows Tauriq, there's a chance they'll give up, walk out of here. I don't really give a shit about them at the moment, I can rely on my partners to deal with that. No, it's you and me that's the main attraction here, and I've been waiting for you my… whole… life."

Hennesy's eyebrows furrowed scornfully, but he was becoming confused, unable to look away from the intense dark green eyes, and a tiny frisson of unease was making its way up his spine. "What the hell is your deal shithead? My men and I got no problem killing - cops, agents or anybody else. Your partners and you want us alive and you to walk out of here; you're what we call conflicted in this game shithead. You got the problem here."

Tony only blinked when Hennesy did, and his low rich voice slowly purred into Hennesy's ear. "See that's where you're wrong Tauriq. I've spent the past three weeks investigating your entire life and I'm amazingly confident I know what… you… are."

Tony's eyes bore straight into Hennesy's brown as his measured words continued.

"And I don't care if you live or die…"

His voice lowered and strained even farther, "…and I don't care if I do either."

Hennesy froze, feeling cold wash over his whole body, the hand holding his Glock felt like ice. "The Hell?" he whispered.

Tony leaned even closer slowly, his hypnotic voice echoing deeply in Hennesy's head… and utterly distracting to the room behind him.

"You're why I exist Tauriq. You're what my life is for. What it's supposed to be spent on. This is how it's supposed to end for me, in five minutes or five weeks. I'm perfectly comfortable in this moment between us Tauriq, this incredibly… intimate moment. But you Tauriq," Tony gently shook his head, "you're not supposed to end right here, right now. Are you?" He successfully led Hennesy in mirroring the shaking head.

But Hennesy rallied briefly, suddenly remembering his body and it's current aim at this man's head. "I'll just shoot you first man, give you your damn moment."

The smile on Tony's face disturbed Hennesy, almost like a teacher's smile at favorite pupil getting an answer right. The low intense delivery continued, "You would think that wouldn't you Tauriq? One person shoots first, no chance at a miss, he's the one eating breakfast this morning while the other is zipped into an airtight bag for delivery to a man with sharp knives to verify the giant dripping hole in the side of his head was the cause of death."

Although Hennesy's chin lifted slightly, he also swallowed convulsively.

"But you haven't made it your business to figure the math on head shots have you Tauriq? You made it your business to become an expert on torture for profit and the human slave trade - and you're very good at that Tauriq. But Tony here, I've seen too many head shots close up, and studied armament to improve my skills and catch bad guys for too long not to get curious at the combination… the math Tauriq. That's what lets me know, with confidence, that if you shoot first, my brain still has .5, maybe .6 seconds to follow through any physical action it's instructed to do. And do you know how long it takes me to pull the trigger on my Sig Sauer Tauriq?"

The wide eyes and sweat rolling down Hennesy's face seemed to indicate he was re-thinking the situation. And that he hadn't a clue as to the question's answer.

"About .3 seconds. I might even get in two shots as I conclude my very expected and timely moment here in this hall. But that means you will be dead too Tauriq."

Giving Hennesy a chance to digest this fact, Tony continued, "That's where my message to you comes in Tauriq: Now is not your time to die. Now is your time to go along quietly and there's still a chance for you. A chance your case will be thrown out on a technicality. A chance you make an important contact in prison before being transferred to a mental health facility you could break out of."

The intense low delivery rose in volume as DiNozzo drove his point home. "In five minutes, and five weeks, you are supposed to be alive Tauriq Hennesy."

The two men had forgotten about anything outside each other's eyes, the same breath passing between them over and over again. Bodies pressed together along the torso, feet entangled, as close as lovers.

Tony now led Hennesy in nodding his head slightly in affirmation. "Now is the time for you to put your gun in my hand and live Tauriq."

Feeling Tauriq's gun set gently in his lifted left hand, Tony slid the safety on without breaking eye contact. Nodding slightly one more time, he instructed, "And tell your men to put down their weapons. It's time for all of us to walk out of here."

To Tauriq it seemed like hours since the dawn. Nodding his head dazedly, shoulders starting to relax, he said, "Put them down."

His two longtime associates were hard men, but one was primarily in charge of accounts and contracts; Paul Jacobs put his weapon down immediately. The other, Jason Blevin, was far more lethal, being in charge of the 'information extraction' side of the business. He felt betrayed and disgusted by his former leader giving up without a fight to some slick Fed with hypnosis or some such crap. Blevin muttered under his breath, "Fuck this shit," as he ducked down quickly while firing twice at the back of the slick Fed.

Tony's good hearing had him duck, swivel and shoot at the same moment as both Ziva and McGee. As Blevin collapsed to the ground, both agents stared at DiNozzo, amazed to not see him fall injured. They glanced wide-eyed at each other before Ziva began securing Jacobs while McGee secured Blevin's gun. Having confirmed Blevin's death, McGee was glad of his extensive experience as a field agent on this team, since despite being slightly overwhelmed by what just happened he shifted without conscious thought to secure Hennesy.

McGee's unease only grew as he heard Tony's deliberate voice continue speaking to Hennesey as if nothing had happened. Both men however were now looking at Blevin's twisted form. "Guess it was his moment today, huh Tauriq? While we get some breakfast those knives will be figuring out which bullet killed him first." Tony looked around for the stray bullets meant to kill him, finding them in the wall directly behind where he had been standing.

As McGee searched the restrained leader's pockets, Tony inhaled deeply and met Hennesy's eyes once more. "You made a good choice today Tauriq." Their intimate moment over, he nodded one last time as he stepped away to start making phone calls.

Still unconsciously being led, Hennesy also breathed deeply as his eyes flitted back to Blevin. The black powder smell was replaced by the odor of copious blood and other bodily fluids... Hennesy swallowed convulsively once more.