Chapter 1

"What the hell is this?"

The agencies rarely shared information so readily, so seeing an inches-thick folder on his desk that had come from Fornell was a surprise.

"No idea, Gibbs." Tony shrugged. "It must have been delivered last night."

The envelope felt like it contained a case file of some sort. Jethro opened it, pulling out a piece of white paper, a note scrawled messily rather than in Tobias' precise hand.

I may lose my job over this, but I knew I had to get this to you, Jethro. We're investigating the murder of a U.S. Marshal and this was one of her assignments. I know you'll know what to do with this information. Good luck, old friend. Tobias.

Jethro tossed the note aside, flipping the folder open. He stopped suddenly at the first picture of a woman in her twenties, a bright smile on her face, long hair flowing in the wind. A picture of the same woman, decades older edged out from behind the first. Fine lines surrounded her eyes, but otherwise...

The first page behind the photos had a phone number and he punched them in mechanically, hands shaking, gasps coming to him, his mind whirling. This couldn't be what it appeared. It was impossible! But he couldn't help but have hope. Pictures could be doctored, he knew that, but...

One ring. Two rings. Three rings ... His hand was sweaty now and he gripped the receiver tightly.

"Boss?" McGee stepped closer uncertainly, but stopped when Jethro waved him away. "I'm getting Ducky."

Four rings. Five...

"Hello?"

He knew that voice. Voices could be faked too, but he knew. She was breathing, she was alive!

"Hello? Who is this?" Her voice had turned sharp now. "If you don't talk, I'm hanging up, you dirtbag."

He couldn't find his voice. He was shaking too much to speak, to think.

"Fine! Don't call again!"

"NO! Don't hangup!" The words ran together in his haste to get them out. He sniffed and realized he was crying.

Tony stood over his desk, a questioning look in his eyes, but he couldn't deal with him now.

"Jethro?" Shannon Gibbs was in shock. Her husband wasn't supposed to know how that she was alive, but he was still on the other end of the phone. "You can't call here, you can't know about me. This is bad, in ways you can't even imagine. Hang up and forget you ever knew this phone number. It's too dangerous, for all of us."

"Oh, hell no, sweetheart." It was her. IT WAS HER! Ducky reached out to touch his arm and Jethro shifted aside. He didn't care what the team thought, not even Tony.

"Listen to me carefully here. I work for a federal agency. You'll be safe with me. I'm coming to get both of you right now. Are you armed and are you safe? Your agent has been murdered. It'll take me fifteen minutes, if that, to get there. All I need you two to do is stay safe. Do you hear me, honey? I'm coming to get you right now. Just stay safe. God ... stay safe. Here's my cell number. Call if you need me."

How the hell had they placed her in DC, right around the corner from them?

"DiNozzo, McGee, Ziva, come on!"

"Jethro?"

"No time now, Duck. Later. Later..."

Jenny was running down the stairs. "Agent Gibbs! Where are you going? I need to brief you on—"

"LATER!" Nothing was keeping him from her. He pounded the down button and slumped against the wall of the car as it all caught up with him.

"Boss? What's the assignment?" DiNozzo looked as concerned as he ever had.

"U.S. Marshal dead. We're taking her local assignment into custody. Two women, twenty-four, forty-four. Names..." He trailed off, swallowing. "Aliases are Shawna and Kerry Brown."

They stepped out of the elevator, and waited a single beat for Gibbs to give the orders. When he didn't, Tony took charge. "McGee, you and Ziva take one car, I'll go with Gibbs. This is big."

Tony followed Jethro to the car, running everything over in his mind. As he slid into the passenger seat, he looked over at Gibbs. "Shannon and Kelly are alive?"

"I just talked to Shannon," Gibbs said quietly, peeling out.

Tony flipped his cell phone open and relayed directions to McGee and Ziva and soon they were at a home in Northwest.

"Gibbs!" Tony called as their boss raced up the sidewalk and pounded on the door. "Get your gun out, you idiot!" He spoke softly, not wanting to alarm Gibbs. He, McGee, and Ziva had their weapons out and were covering Gibbs, but if this was some trap, he was in trouble.

Jethro stood tall as the door cracked open a millimeter. "Let me in, you're safe. It's okay." He couldn't tell f it was Shannon or Kelly and he wasn't going to force the door open and scare them. That was how people got dead and he wasn't going to lose any of his people.

"Please open up. It's okay. We're going to get you someplace secure. I promise you, honey. Trust me."

Kelly heard a voice that she recognized, and came out from behind the couch where she was hiding. "Mom said not to trust anyone, not even if they say they can be trusted. What's your name? You sound familiar, but I don't think I know you."

Opening the door, but leaving the chain locked, she looked out at who was there. "What are you doing here? Mom isn't going to be happy. We aren't allowed visitors."

"You know me, sweetheart." There he went crying again. "My god ... look at you, Princess Kelly. Kel ... it's Dad. Let me in. It's Daddy." His voice broke on the word and he extended a shaking hand to the gap in the door.

Tony came up behind him, weapon in hand, gently squeezing his shoulder. "Put your weapon away, DiNozzo, she isn't a threat. Cover me back to back if you think Ziva and McGee don't have us."

"Kelly, look into my eyes and listen to my voice. You know me. I ... I promised you I'd come back, and I did ... but ... you and your mom were gone. I came back, Kelly. I never broke that promise."

"No, my dad died, when I was little. In the war, you're not my dad." Kelly wanted to believe, more than anything in the world, that her dad was alive. He had called her princess, just like this man did. And he looked kind of like her dad did, older, but his hair was still the same.

"You look like my dad, you sound like him too. But it's a trick. You aren't him, he died. He never would have left us alone all this time."

"No, Kelly, I'm here. Is that what they told you? I just found out you and your mom were alive a few minutes ago, Kelly. Open the door, honey. Just let me in. My guys will stay out here, I'll leave my gun and vest behind if you need me to."

He took his gun and vest off, took his baseball cap off, stripped off his jacket. "Let me in, Kel. Your mom and I just talked. She knows I'm on the way. My guys, they're NCIS, just like the agents who took care of you and your mom at Pendleton."

He rifled through memories, coming up with one that might verify him in her mind. "You still have the little white stuffed bear I got you? What did you call him, Snowflake? Yeah, that was it, Snowflake. And you used to make me sing that little song about the bear and his friend the seal. What was his name? Slinky the seal?"

"God, baby girl, just let your old man in. It's dangerous for us to be out here and I don't want to force the door open but if I have to, I will."

"No one knows about Slinky." Kelly didn't want to let him in, but he knew things that no one else did. Closing the door, she slid the chain and opened the door again. "Snowflake is in my room, you won him for me at the base fair before you shipped out the last time."

Letting the man in who looked like her dad was one thing, but when the rest of the people he was with tried to follow them in, she started to get upset again. "Just you, they can't come in. Mom doesn't like people here, you only. They can wait outside."

"Stand down, all of you. It's okay. I have my phone, I have my radio. And I will be the only one entering. I'll check in every five minutes. Just leave us alone for now. You too, Tony."

"Not a good idea, Jet. You don't know who else is in there." The redhead could be Gibbs' daughter, looked enough like his first wife that it made sense. But those eyes, they were her father's eyes, and there was no doubting who she was. "Let one of us come in with you. Someone needs to watch your six."

"My family is in there, DiNozzo. I'll be okay." Jethro acted like he was going to cuff the younger man, when in actuality he stroked the back of his hair and his neck, out of sight of Ziva and McGee. "It'll be okay, Tony. Let me do this." Tony obediently 'Owwed' and Jethro gave him the smallest of nods. It'd be okay. For all of them.

Jethro closed the door and jammed a wooden block under it before turning back to Kelly. "C'mere, sweetheart." It took all the restraint he had to stop himself from yanking her into his arms, but he knew he had to be careful. She was on guard already.

She was just as gorgeous as her mother, but she had his eyes, his jaw, his chin cleft. "Twenty-four now, Kelly. When I last saw you, you were seven. My little princess. All grown up. Where is your mother? I'm going to get you both to NICS headquarters right now. You'll be safe with me, Kelly. Just take my hand."

"Mom was upstairs when the shooting started. I yelled, but she didn't answer." Kelly held her hand back for just a second, but decided since she had already let him in, she may as well go all the way. Putting her hand in his, she immediately remembered when she was younger and her favorite thing to do was hold her dad's hand, how safe it made her feel. "Why are people shooting at us? I was reading when I heard shots. I think Mom's hurt, but she always told me if I heard anything like a gun shot, I had to hide. That's what I did, but she wouldn't say anything to let me know she was ok."

"Shooting?" Jethro pulled her into a tight hug, kissing the top of her head. "You did great, Kel. Stay low and in here for now and I'll check on your mom. If I need help, I'm gonna ask one of my guys to come in, you need to remove the block securing the door and come up the stairs, okay? Let me check on Mom, honey."

He wasn't going to lose them. Dammit, he wasn't going to lose them. "I'm in, Tony. I'm okay. Prepare to enter but wait for my call. Have Ziva check the perimeter." He radioed off as he bounded up the stairs.

Kelly did what she was told, crawling over to the door, and moving the blocks, unlocking the door before crawling back to where she had been hiding.


"Shan! Shannon, it's Jethro. How bad is it, honey?" He saw her lying on the ground, bleeding, and his heart almost stopped. She was breathing normally, though. Jethro applied pressure to what looked to be a through and through of the shoulder and she groaned.

"Shan ... breathe deeply. It's okay, sweetheart." He choked off a sob. "I'm here, Shan, and you're crazy if you think I'm letting you go now."

Opening her eyes, all Shannon could feel was pain. "You never listen, Jethro." Her voice was raspy, and tinged with emotion. "Do I owe you thanks for the bullets? I hang up on you and get shot. Wake up, you're here in the room with me. It's been years since anyone shot at us and one phone call from you changes all of that."

"No, baby, you were already targeted before I called you. Someone killed your Marshal, honey. The agent who tipped me off probably saved your lives."

He tucked a strand of her hair back and spoke into his mic. "DiNozzo, get in here, cover the door. Just stay at the door. Don't spook her, got it?"

"Has that ever worked before? Telling me not to talk?" Shannon let herself relax, knowing that Jethro was going to take care of everything. She should have known they couldn't come back to Washington, and not have him find out.

"Nah, but we have seventeen years of you talking for me to catch up on. Guess I'm owed."

He scooped Shannon into his arms for the first time in seventeen years. "Hang on, Shan. Hang on, honey. It feels worse than it is." He spared a second to pull her head to his, kissing her forehead."

"Still as cocky as ever, aren't you. Should have expected that when you called. You shocked me, I was coming up to pack, it was obvious we were going to have to leave again, quickly." Shannon bit off a swear word when her shoulder was jostled on the first step. "Be careful with me, I'm not a sack of potatoes, Jethro. You used to be better at this, sweeping me off my feet and taking me off to bed. You've lost your touch over a couple of wives."

"I lost a hell of a lot more the day you left me and don't bitch about my lack of finesse while I'm trying to save your life, when all I can think about is how beautiful you are and all the time we lost. And the fact that Kelly thinks I died in the war, Shannon. We've got a lot of talking to do, so save your breath for when it really matters."

"Don't worry about the blood, Shan. It'll be okay. I'm..." He never apologized. "It's a lot to take in right now. If I'm a bastard, that's why. I'll settle down, you'll get the edge off, we'll talk. We have a lot to catch up on and it sounds like you know about the mess I made of things without you."

Jethro paused a brief second, need overwhelming sense. "I have to do this." He pressed his mouth against hers, seventeen years of longing and love and lust for her telegraphing its way to her. "Won't be enough, but I had to taste you. Seventeen goddamn years, Shannon. And your mouth and your kisses are the same."

And she still made his heart race.

"Mmmmmm ... Jethro. Still have the best lips of anyone I ever knew. It's always been you, there hasn't been anyone else for me." There hadn't been a chance to even consider a relationship, even if she had wanted to. Kelly had needed extra attention and she'd been under lock and key since she'd been run off the road and left for dead.

"Longer than that, how long had you been gone before we had to leave? I never wanted to do that, I never meant for it to happen. They told us you were dead to begin with, to get us to go. I didn't even know you were alive for a couple years. And I found out accidentally, reading the paper about some case you had wrapped. By then, I was trapped. I couldn't just tell Kelly, sorry baby, your daddy's alive, but we can't go see him."

"Seven, eight months And I was damn near dead for a while. I want to know everything when I can think. I can't think with you here bleeding. God ... I could have lost you again and not even known it."

As soon as he hit the bottom step, he nodded to Tony. "Kel, come over here. I need you to pace me to the car and then duck down in the back seat with my friend Tony here. Mom and I will be up front. Tony, call Ducky once we're in transit. Through and through left shoulder, you guys get back here and bag and tag. Call Fornell. No ... I'll call him. I owe him."

Kelly came out into the open living room area, and saw her mother. Her eyes were open, but she was obviously in pain. She looked at the man her father said to sit with and stepped towards him. "Is he safe? He looks a little dodgy. How do you know he's not one of the bad guys?"

"Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, it's nice to meet you, Kelly. I've seen all sorts of pictures of you, your dad is a good friend of mine." Tony turned on the charm that had caused a number of women, and one special man, to fall into his arms. He placed himself between the boss' daughter and the window, making sure that if anyone shot at them, they'd hit him instead of her. "I promise that you'll be perfectly safe with me."

"Dad?" It was the first time she'd said the word and her voice cracked, emotion welling up in her throat. She knew they had to get out of there, but she needed to be sure.

"He's safe, Kelly. He's NCIS along with me. He's worked with me for seven years. I promise you he's safe. I'll explain everything as soon as we have you guys in a safe, secure place." When she called him "Dad," his heart clenched. He'd waited so damn long to hear that word and he could almost hate Shannon for letting Kel believe he'd left her and never come home."

He knew she needed his assurance, maybe even more than Shan. "Change in plan. Tony, you take Shannon, I'll take Kel. Maybe he'll pass muster, Shan. If not, just let the guy think you died and destroy him for seventeen years." He didn't know if Kel was shell shocked or just very unused to any stresses, but he was worried. He needed to get her moving, but he couldn't traumatize her.

Jethro crossed the room and eased his wife into Tony's arms. "You guard her with your life, DiNozzo, got it?"

Tony nodded, knowing his life had just gotten a hell of a lot more complicated. "Same shoulder as you, boss. You guys will have matching scars."

"Yeah. Thanks for pointing that out." He reached up to cuff Tony again, but stroked his neck again, trying to communicate his emotions, emotions he couldn't even untangle.

"Hey, Shannon. I'm Special Agent DiNozzo. Tony. Wrap your good arm around my neck, okay?" Tony radioed McGee and Ziva, telling them to radio him back when everything looked secure.

"Here's hoping you have better skills than Jethro."

"Oh, he does, Shannon. I have no complaints about his skills. And his loyalty and trust. Nice to have a partner that didn't screw me thoroughly."

Turning her head into the agent's neck, she took a deep breath trying to prepare herself for the movement to start again. She was surprised when she smelled the same scent that she had always associated with her husband; Old Spice, coffee and sawdust. Though he didn't look the part, she supposed he could be an old-fashioned boy and wore an old-fashioned cologne. Most people drank coffee, but the sawdust, that was a distinctive scent that went along with a specific hobby.

Whispering in Tony's ear, Shannon tried to make her position very clear. "Drop me and you will live to regret it, Special Agent DiNozzo. We're going to need to talk, I think we share something in common and we'll need to work out visitation rights. Keep it quiet, Jethro doesn't know that I know his little secret."

"Which secret is that?" Tony said in an undertone. "He your boss too?" Tony moved her gently, preparing himself for the full on run to the car when clear was called. "You and boss got some unfinished business, huh? He's probably not the same guy you remember. They tell me losing you changed him."

"The secret that you two share the same aftershave and sawdust. Can't pin the exact brand of coffee, that was never my thing. But it's obvious that he's more than just your boss." Shannon knew he wasn't the same man, could never be the exact man she fell in love with. But he didn't seem to have changed that much. "I'm sure it did, as well as all the divorces. But he's still my Jethro, somewhere under the gruff and bluster."

"That's where you're wrong. He's my Jethro now, Shannon. He might be yours again, but for now, his heart and his body and soul belong to me. And mine to him. Sounds like you'll have to earn the right to be his again. You cut him deep. And I'm not sure I can forgive you for hurting him, even if he can. I've watched him break apart time and time again."

"Until you can provide him with a daughter, who I had no control over taking away from him, Special Agent, he's still my Jethro. This wasn't my choice, like it or not. So until you know what I've gone through, you've got no room to talk."

"And until you know what he's gone through, neither do you, sweetheart. He threw himself in harm's way in passive suicide, risking the lives of my fellow agents as well as his own. All because he couldn't get you out of his mind. If you knew for a minute he thought you were dead and you didn't get word to him, I don't want to hear it. He may be 'your' Jethro, but I was the one who put him back together again and again."

"I had to think of Kelly. It wasn't just me these maniacs were after, it was my daughter. And when you're in that situation, you tend to do whatever the person protecting you says. I couldn't just drop everything and call Jethro, thinking he'd just swoop in and save me."

"You should have trusted him." Tony's voice softened. "He would have moved heaven and earth to keep you both safe. Don't you see the guy I see? The one who will move mountains to right a wrong? He can't have changed so much."

"Come on McGee! How long does it take." Jethro was pacing, Kelly tucked against his chest. Tony hadn't even grabbed his vest where Gibbs had dropped it outside the door. What a stupid probie mistake. He took off his own one handed and handed it silently to Jethro, who draped it around Kelly.

"I was a housewife, with a little girl who was in a coma because we'd been run off the road, and my husband was in Saudi Arabia. When a federal marshal walks up to you and says you're leaving, you leave." Shannon wanted to believe that Jethro could have done something, but he also could have been killed in front of her. "They told me he was dead. I learned later he was in a coma, the same time Kelly was." She'd been young and wanted to protect the family she had left. "I don't expect you to understand. Even if I had said no, what would have happened. I'd have gotten us both killed before Jethro woke up and came home. I did what I had to, to keep my child safe."

"What about now, Shannon? Can you trust him now? He'll still move heaven and earth to help you. Just please don't hurt him again. I don't think he could take it." He sighed. "You and I have to talk, but not here and not in front of him, okay? Get everything established. Pecking order to start. I'd like to say I'm noble enough to step away, but I'm not. I love him, Shannon. You're going to have to deal with that. If not for me, then for Jet."

"It was never trust. I always trusted him. It was keeping everyone safe. You'll have to forgive me if I didn't want to see the man I loved dead. Now that he's involved, I trust him with my life, and more, with Kelly's life. I have spent the last twelve years trying to keep Jethro uninvolved in this mess."

Shannon sighed, this boy, she could hardly think of him as a man, he was still too young, was going to be a problem. He wasn't going to give up on the man he loved, something she could commiserate about. "Let me get used to the fact that Jethro is here, then we'll talk about pecking order, as you say. Second wife isn't a position you cherish, is it? Are you man enough to take a back seat if that's what Jethro wants? It's not about you and me, it's about him."

"I'll give him my life. Whatever he wants, Shannon, its done. I'm sorry if it bothers you, but I love him and I've been here through shootings, stalkings and a coma. Through him mourning you two for the second time. And we've saved each other's lives. We're bonded, like it or not."

"And you think that we aren't bonded? That what happened will end what we had? It will change what we had, but you can't end that." She hoped it were true. She wanted a chance, if she was going to be here and have to see Jethro all the time. "I know you love him, it's hard not to. I felt for him the first time I saw him. I didn't think I'd end up married to him, but I knew he was something special. He's a good man, who finally seems to have found the good taste in relationships he had when he asked me out. You wouldn't be so bad if you weren't sleeping with my husband."

"Shannon, understand one thing. I'm not sleeping with your husband. I am in a long-term committed relationship with Jet. We live together. I'm co-listed on the mortgage, the utility bills. Don't cheapen it by making it merely sexual. We're partners, in work and in our personal lives. We protect each other's bodies professionally and souls personally. I have no disrespect for your marriage to him, but I expect the same courtesy. Be defensive and be a bitch if you need to be, but you're not facing the truth if you think it is just sex between us. You're just setting yourself up to fail if you do that. Believe it or not, I don't want you to be hurt, but I will protect that man with every breath, and if it is from you, I'll do it without a second thought. You destroy him and it will be the last thing you ever do. Wife or not, Kelly's mother or not. Legally dead means no marriage. Looks like we're on even ground. We both have a lot of time and memories invested with Jet. You in the past, me in the present. Trust him to decide his future."

"Clear!"

Finally! Tony nodded to her and motioned Gibbs to go first.

Jethro pulled Kelly gently against him. "Stay right here with me, let me guide you. He moved his body so that he was sheltering the areas the vest didn't cover and rushed for the car, knowing McGee and Ziva were covering them. "Get in, Kel. Stay low."

Getting in the car, Kelly slouched, trying to make herself as small as possible. She knew how this game was played and she wouldn't let herself be made a target. When her dad got in the car, she reached out and touched his leg, needing to have some sort of contact with him. "Thank you for saving us, even though I gave you a hard time. You could have walked away and Mom could have died."

"Kel, you never need to thank me for protecting you. It's what I was put here to do, remember?" He motioned her closer so that she was half lying over the center console and he could stroke her hair. "You're the best thing I ever did, Kelly. Being your dad."

"I don't remember much from then. From when I was little, I mean. Some things, and if mom says something, I'll remember it. But after everything that happened, the accident and the hospital, I guess I blocked a lot of it." Seeing her dad, not just a picture of him in his uniform, was bringing a lot of things back. Memories like how he won her Snowflake and how he caught her and Maddie burying their time capsule. "You have a boat in your basement. Or you did, the last time you left, it was down there and I'd help you sand it. I remember that."

Tony slid into the back seat, hunching over Shannon and Jethro gunned the engine. As soon as Tony had Shannon secured, Jethro peeled out.

"Our basement, I have the same house, honey." And he shared it with Tony, now. Tony, who was being his rock. "DiNozzo?" he said quietly, meeting Tony's eyes in the rearview for a second and nodding, sending his support to the backseat where Tony was. He had to talk to Tony when things were calmer.

"The hospital? I want to know all about it, Kel, but a little later, okay? I'm sorry you don't remember more. Do you remember Shadow? Your horse?" Fuck ... Shadow had died a year or two ago. "Do you remember the Saturday movie nights? Or Maddie? I just saw her a couple of weeks ago. She's at Georgetown." Jethro swallowed hard.

"Kelly, you're so beautiful. I wished and hoped and wondered what you'd look like as an adult, but I had no idea how beautiful you'd be."

"Maddie, she's still here? I'd love to see her. I thought about her, so often. She was a big part of why I missed home. I didn't have friends like her, we never stuck anywhere long." So much of the things she remembered, she didn't believe they were real, but maybe they were. "Mom, she cried about you. A lot. Me too, but not as much as Mom did. When we got out of the hospital, I wanted to go home, but the policeman told us we had to go with him. And we did."

"I cried about both of you as well," Jethro admitted. "Yeah ... Tony and I helped Maddie out of a bind not so long ago. And she told me about the time capsule. I didn't know that was what you two were giggling about that day."

"Her dad was shipping out around the same time and her mom wanted to move her to California to be near her grandparents." The time capsule, they had worked for days on that, putting important things to them in there. "We were trying to be sneaky, we didn't want you digging it up after we left. I guess you didn't." Memories were rushing back at her, that day having her and Maddie's picture taken. "Did you let Maddie dig it up? That stuff should have gone back to her."

"She ... you and she can go through it together, Kelly. It's complicated." So complicated that Maddie had almost died on his watch. "She's beautiful too. Blonde, smart, fearless. Just like I thought you'd be. Never imagined you'd be this beautiful though."

"I'd like that. A lot." Kelly blushed, she didn't think she was beautiful. She looked like her mom, but didn't have the grace that the older woman did. Or the ability to do her hair and makeup and put together outfits that looked good. She enjoyed more simple things. "I'm not really beautiful, but thank you. I get by. I look like Mom, but she always said I had the most beautiful eyes, just like you."

"You're beautiful, Kelly. Every bit as beautiful as your mother. Best thing I ever did was being your dad, Kel."

Soon as they were moving and Shannon seemed okay, Tony dialed Ducky. Right as the ME picked up, Tony started talking. "Ducky, we've got a VIP here, through and through shoulder wound. Seems fine otherwise. Get prepped. And I'm with Gibbs, he's okay."

"Gibbs is okay and shoulder wound are not things I associate together." Ducky put the younger agent on speaker phone while he moved to prepare a table for his incoming patient. "What is your ETA and do I need anything special? Antibiotics or anesthesia. More than one table."

"Two women, older one, early mid-forties, has the shoulder wound. Younger one seems a little confused, maybe drugged-OW! Okay, older one feisty. She just nailed me. Settle down, lady." Tony wasn't going to give away Gibbs' secret yet. He met Jethro's gaze in the mirror. "Initiate lockdown procedures as soon as we clear med bay. Abby, the Director ... anyone else invited to this party, Gibbs?"

Jethro shook his head and Tony continued. "Fifteen minutes, Ducky. Bring coffee. Make sure you have frozen pizzas, food, Caf Pow, couple of laptops. Get a secondary team to bag and tag. Gibbs can give his gorgeous ex the directions."

"Like hell, DiNozzo. I want my people there."

"Tough shit. Your team is on protection detail for the foreseeable future. Shut up and drive. We've already established you can't do anything else and drive at the same time. You want to lose this precious cargo?"

All Jethro did was growl.

"Gibbs is gonna be in great spirits, Duck, so if you have any bourbon around, get it ready. If not, Jenny has some in her office. She developed a taste for it when she and Gibbs were screwing their way around Euro—OW! I swear, this one is more dog than Jethro. Not you, boss. Abby's Jethro. Anyway, Ducky, five minute ETA. Both of what you said and a sedative, or a muzzle. Make it two. And Abby must have some novelty cuffs."

"DINOZZO!"

"Have someone grab Gibbs another shirt, Duck. The pit bull bled all over him. Hope you can teach an older dog new tricks" Tony disconnected and studied Jethro's expression in the rear view mirror. His eyes were glittering in a way Tony had never seen before.

"I'll show you older. You may be a newer model, but I'm still the classic here. All my original parts too." Shannon used her good elbow to strike out, glad she was making things uncomfortable. She hadn't done anything, at least not really. Telling someone she knew that he was sleeping with her husband was hardly something to get mad over. It's not like she accused him of murder or said he was going to have to leave. "I'll settle down when you stop being childish."

"Older than your daughter, brainiac," Tony grumbled.

"I should hope so. Cradle robbing isn't honorable. I'm trying to be nice, but you are shooting me down at every avenue."

"You're challenging me. Big difference," he retorted.

"Stop it, you two. This isn't the time." Jethro's voice was low and tense

"And you are challenging back. Seems that Jethro's type hasn't changed that much. You may have different parts, but he still likes his partners feisty. Bet he's convinced you to color your hair, even if it was temporary. Just to fit his mold."

"I'm trying to protect the guy who means everything to me, Shannon. And no, he never asked me to color my hair. He wouldn't disrespect me like that. Like it or not, we have a bond, Shannon. Seven years together, I can't just step away and forget what we have. And even if I could, Jet would never allow it to just happen."

"We're going to have to work together then, aren't we? Do you see him allowing us to just walk away from him? I don't, Special Agent, which means you're going to be stuck with me." Shannon would walk away and not look back if that was what her husband wanted. Seventeen years had changed them both but not Kelly. Kelly needed a father and Shannon was going to make sure she got one. "So like it or not, I'm here and you're going to have to deal with it. I won't leave my daughter and Jethro won't let Kelly walk away. So you're going to have to let us deal with our issues first, before I even consider dealing with you."


Ducky dialed the director first, asking her to bring bourbon and a shirt for Jethro. First his friend had been acting strangely, shaking like a leaf in a way Ducky had never seen, and then Tony called, something very lost in his voice. There was something major happening and Ducky was deeply concerned.

He rang Abby next and paced as he waited for her to pick up.

"My darling Ducky. To what do I owe the honor? We don't have any active cases, so I know it's not work related. Not that I mind when you call. You always make my day a little more interesting."

"It is work related. Jethro and Tony are bringing a VIP in and I need you in autopsy. We're going in to lockdown. I don't know who it is, but Jethro was in a state before he ran out of here. I've never seen him like that before. The telephone call. I imagine it may have been one of his Marine friends."

"Could be, it must be major though if he wants to go into lockdown. He didn't even really do that after Kate. And if there was a time for lockdown, it was then." Abby moved from machine to machine, shutting things off. She could take her laptop and access the majority of her files, which would make life easier. "What do you need from me, Ducky? What can I do to make all of this easier?"

"I don't know, Abby. Tony hasn't given me much information. Just get yourself down, along with any foodstuffs and Caf Pow you have, two laptops minimum, some coffee ... Oh, hello, Director. Lovely to see you. You've brought Jethro a fresh shirt, I see. And some of that swill he drinks. Get to it, Abigail, my dear."

"What is the meaning of this, Ducky. What happened with Gibbs earlier?"

"I wish I could tell you, Jennifer. I don't know, he waved off my concern when I asked him what was going on. I was just alerted that there were two VIPs being brought in, one with a gunshot wound." Escorting the director into his office area, he offered her his chair. "Jethro wants us locked down, whatever is going on, he's deemed it to be huge."

"And he hasn't called me in, which means things are tense and time is of the essence." She looked at the chair and then around the room. "Mr. Palmer is off for the next two days, right?" Ducky nodded and Jenny reached for a lab coat. "I may not have the medical degree, but I have assisted you before."


Tony sighed, wondering if he should continue the conversation with Shannon, but he couldn't hold back. "Kelly is an adult, Shannon. There will be a time when she can stand on her own two feet, when she gets adjusted to a safe world. Don't sell you or Jet short by staying with him for the sake of the adult child. He deserves either your heart or nothing at all."

"You see an adult, I see the little girl who was brought back from the brink of death. She's never had a life outside of what ever safe house we lived in. If she wants a family, I'll make sure she gets it. I've got a feeling Jethro feels the same way. We don't know what the other feels, we haven't had the time to talk it out. We will do that before making any decisions, but we'll do what we have to. We always said we'd do what ever it took to make Kelly feel safe and loved. We can't go back on that now."

"Not asking you to. But she's Jet's kid too. She must have his intelligence and instincts. Give her credit. Give her time to make her own decisions too. Who knows, she might fall in love with me and we'll be one happy gay little family."

"Oh, I'm sure her father would love that. Would you be sneaking from her room to his? Split nights? That's potentially the worst idea I've ever heard and I've heard some really bad ones before now."

"Did I tell you both to shut it? Enough. Kelly's stressed enough."

"Not if you were sharing his bed, Shannon. I'm not second choice to anyone."

"Then I don't know what to tell you. I don't know where Jethro and I are going to end up, but I know where I want us to end up, and it's in our room. Where you end up, that's up to you. Just keep out of my daughter's bed. She doesn't need that."

"You mean the room and the bed Jet and I have shared? It's all changed, Shannon. You may not be able to get that back. Realize it."

"Are you having a good time? You don't think I realize that my life won't be the same as it was back then? Thanks for telling me what I already know. What do you want from me? Do you want to see me cry? Do you want to see me grovel? Whatever it is, it's not happening. I'm a fighter, so while it might not be like it was, it could be something again."

Tony leaned in even closer. "Yeah, in terms of Jet getting everything he could have wanted, I'm having a wonderful time. But for me, no, Shannon, I'm scared to death I'm going to lose the best thing I ever had, and my heart is breaking for him. He's going to feel so betrayed that you were alive and he didn't know. What do I want for you? I don't know. But I don't want you hurt. I'm trying to help in my own way. Stupid execution. But my back went up when you talked about visitation and acting like you belong in his bed. You have his ring, but we've both had his heart."

Tony's voice softened. "I just want him whole and happy, Shannon. But I'm not going down without a fight, either. I have seven years with him and I can't just walk away. He's my boss, he's my best friend and I love him more than anything."

"And he's my husband. The husband that I have a lot of things to work out with, and I want to do that. Where it leads us, I don't know. But we need to clear the air."

Tony knew he was being a bit mean, but he couldn't help it. "You lay another hand on me, sweetie, and I'll jam a finger into your shoulder. I know who you are and that doesn't give you a pass, as understanding as I'm trying to be."

"I think I more than deserve a pass, darling. You see, it's not every day I get to sit next to the boy toy. Usually Jethro kept that side of things away from me. I did tell you I knew the secret, didn't I? You don't honestly believe you're the first, do you?" Shannon knew that wasn't it, but he might have been shocked that she was being so blunt about all of this, but he wasn't shocked by anything she had said. "A wife knows all of her husband's secrets and I never cared. I still don't, as long as it stays private. I could be your best friend if you wanted. But you've insisted on antagonizing and threatening me."

Shannon, shut the fuck up. This is between you and me. Not Tony and sure as hell not Kelly. You two listen to me good. I will not be manipulated and you two had better not continue this power play or you can both go to hell. Permanently. If either of you care about me or Kel, shelve it. Am I understood? Anthony?"

Tony just nodded silently before turning to Shannon.

"What he's saying, dear, is that you keep your hands off my team and things will go a lot smoother for all of us." He sounded so angry and betrayed. He was going to need some support of his own, Tony realized.

"DiNozzo, I said stop. And I meant it."

Shit! Tony had been so eager to get his point across that he hadn't even considered what they were putting Jethro through. He faked scratching his leg, shifting his weight so he could reach between the seat and door and touch Jethro's arm, a gentle squeeze of support. "Sorry, Jet."

"Jethro, I'm the one who got shot. I didn't start this and your little toy here—"

"Shannon. Shelve it. Understand me?"

"I'm not the one who asked to be saved. You and your team forced their way into the situation, and now you've put not only my daughter and I, but Jethro in danger."

"Shannon, your Marshal was killed. You were in danger before that file even crossed my desk. My only mistake was in making sure it was..."

Jethro rubbed his chest and took in a breath of air.

"You. And ... I gave you my damn cell number. Your hands broken too? You couldn't have Kel call? What is safety rule number one, bet Kelly remembers, right, even though its been ... years. Inform everyone ... of the ... plan ... right ... kiddo?" Jethro spoke through the gasps of air he was trying to pull in.

Jethro had been having muscle spasms where he'd taken the gunshot a couple years back, but he didn't have the time for the damn therapy they wanted to force on him. Every time he tensed, the muscles clenched and locked down and he was under a lot of stress right now. He just hoped it wasn't the other.

"Are you okay? You look like you're in pain, and your face is all scrunched up." Kelly didn't like how tense it was in the car and her mom was being really nasty, which was a sure sign she was having a really bad day. "Do you need me to drive? Going this fast if you're feeling bad isn't a very good idea."

"As long as those two behave themselves, I'm good, Kel. We're there." Jethro breezed through the security checkpoint. "Ziva ... McGee..." It was getting damn hard to talk. "Pulling in to the med bay. Cover entrances." He closed the radio connection. "Tony ... put aside ... all of it, okay? Get 'em inside ... Kel, Go ... Be right behind ya."

"I'll walk with you." Kelly got out and walked around standing next to her dad's door. He just wasn't looking good. "What's another second, they won't shoot at us here, will they?"

"You'll follow orders, Kelly. Just like you would with your mom or your handler. Got it?"

"Fine." Kelly didn't like it, she hated being ordered around even when it was in her best interest. "And for the record, I argue with them too, when they're being overprotective. I'm an adult, I like to think I'm allowed to think on my own without asking permission."

"Your mom was just shot, spread your wings later, kiddo. Act like an adult and I'll treat ya like one." He tried to breathe deep but his lungs wouldn't respond and his heart ... this wasn't right. "And ... don't give me crap right ... now. Okay? Later ... when we're inside ... yell yourself hoarse."

"Trust me, I will. I know I have been a little out of it up until now, I'm in shock. But I do have a voice of my own and you'll be hearing it." Kissing her dad on the cheek, Kelly smiled at him. "I'll play nice now, just be okay please. I don't want to lose you when I just found you again."

Jethro waved Ziva over. "I'll be okay, Kel. Go with Ziva. I'll be right behind ya. You're not losing me, honey. Promise."

"You never promise unless you mean it. I remember that much. I'll hold you to it." She turned away toward her latest keeper with a smile. "I'm all yours. Just tell me what to do and I'll go along quietly."

"Just stand in front of me and keep up with my walking pace, Kelly. We need to rust inside. Rust? Rush? My tongue sometimes gets tingled with your American slang."

"Tangled?" Kelly sped up, trying to keep up with the other woman. She wasn't that much shorter than the agent, but she was slower. "How did you get to be NCIS if you're not from around here?"

"I'm not NCIS. I am a Mossad agent who has been working with NCIS for two years."

"Mossad? Does Israel often lend their agents to American agencies?" Kelly didn't know much about Mossad, but it was a group that she had studied in school. "Do you like it here? I'd think it would be interesting to see how a whole other organization works."

"No, Kelly, I was a special case, but I am happy here. They have become my family. We'll have to discuss the differences if you have an interest."

"I do. Our professor gave us a run down on different agencies, but he wasn't as knowledgeable about them as he was about Homeland Security and the federal agencies. So learning from someone who has first-hand knowledge would be fantastic. You could probably help me some with getting to know more about NCIS too. I really don't know much, about it or about my dad."


"Jet ... this isn't your shoulder, is it?" His lover was white, tight lipped, hands gripping the steering wheel hard, emitting little groans. Jethro Gibbs never showed pain.

Fuck protocol. Jethro was having a heart attack and Tony wasn't going to stand by and watch him die.

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