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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:00 pm 
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1. DEEKS

"Operation Rosefern. That mean anything to you?"

Deeks looked over at his partner and shrugged expressively. "Not unless it's some super secret special code thing you guys won't tell me about 'cause I'm still not really an agent..."

She scowled, and he grinned back at her. Tweaking her pigtails was always fun.

"Why d'you ask?"

She flipped through the pages of the file she was holding, her brow creasing. "Hetty's being cagey about why Sam and Callen had to fly out to Europe. She said something about 'Operation Rosefern', and I get the impression it's important, but I can't find details anywhere on the system. There's almost nothing here."

"Have Eric and Nell look."

She shot him a glance that could strip paint. "Silly me, why didn't I already think of that an hour ago. Wait a minute, I did, that's where I got this." She slapped the bundle of papers down on her desk for emphasis.

"Well, then ask Hetty."

She scrunched up her face. "Yeah, I don't think so. I'm not even sure if she meant me to hear it."

"So why are you looking?"

"Because... because I want to know why she sent Sam and Callen to Europe. I want to be prepared if we have to help them, I want..."

"Basically, you're nosy."

"Oh, shut up."

"Let me help." He hopped up out of his chair and stood behind her, leaning over to type on her computer. She grumbled something about him invading her space, but he didn't get an elbow in the stomach so she obviously wasn't too bothered.

"What makes you think you'll have more luck than me, anyway?"

"Me? I was just gonna check my email."

"Deeks!"

"OK, OK, I'm kidding. I just thought I'd check if there was anything on the LAPD server."

"And you couldn't do that from your own desk?"

"It wouldn't be as much fun."

She sighed heavily, but leaned her head back against his shoulder all the same. He was kind of bummed when the search results came back unusually fast.

"Nope." He stood up, then leaned his butt against the corner of her desk, looking down at her.

"Well, it was a long shot." She gave him a grudging smile. "Thanks for trying, anyway."

He grinned back. "Anytime, partner."

"Really?"

"Sure. That's what partners are for."

A mischievous look appeared on her face, and he instantly wished he hadn't said that with such enthusiasm. "So you'll go ask Hetty for me?"

"Uh, I... When I said anytime, I meant, uh... Actually, I need to go walk Monty..."

"Coward," she yelled after him as he made his escape.

"Don't listen to her, Monty," he told the dog. "Walking you is fun, it's not that I'm scared of Hetty.

Even Monty didn't look convinced.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:14 pm 
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2. TONY

Tony rubbed at the headache growing between his eyebrows. Spring always had its moments. Too many memories this time of year: Paula and Pacci had both died in April. May was even worse: Jenny and Mike Franks had been murdered in May, they'd found Lara Macy from OSP in May, and Kate had gone MIA in May. May was a bad month to be an agent, in Tony's not at all humble opinion.

None of them ever mentioned it - it was never said out loud - but he knew the others felt the same way. Those anniversaries would roll around, and the conflicting emotions that came with losing colleagues in the line would be clear as day on all their faces. Grief, what ifs, all the things they wished they'd said... and worse, the survivor guilt, the treacherous relief that said "at least it wasn't me." Knowing that was a natural reaction didn't make it feel any less of a betrayal.

It had taken a while, though, for DiNozzo to figure out why Gibbs was always such a grouch in early March. He usually perked up again for Abby's birthday, but that first week? Tony tried to stay out of his way.

Eventually he'd looked back through the case files and realised that March 2nd was when Ari Haswari had first showed up, taking three of their team hostage and wrecking Gerald's shoulder. Gibbs had obsessed over the terrorist for weeks, had flipped out when he'd abducted Kate a second time, and when Ari had been implicated in Kate's final disappearance he'd signed his own death warrant. They'd got the bastard - shot by Gibbs down in his basement, apparently - but Gibbs had been very... unGibbs for a long while, there.

So far today Gibbs had been more pensive than grumpy, but then he'd been summoned to see the director. Once in a while he came down from seeing Vance with good news, or at least with no bad news. Usually, though, a trip to the principal's office meant nothing good for the rest of the team, and Tony was already bracing himself for the combination of early March and Vance to leave Gibbs as cheery as a razor blade in Halloween candy. It was shaping up to be a long day.

At least their caseload had been light this week. Not usually something that was a good thing, in the DiNozzo play book, but if Gibbs was going to be grumpy and on the warpath, Tony would rather not have to solve a gruesome murder at the same time.

He'd just settled down to a relaxing game of bash-a-terrorist (a reward for finally finishing an overdue report) when Tim reappeared.

"Where's Gibbs?"

McGee had a tray of coffees and looked like someone had dumped a bucket of water on him.

"Got called up to see the toothpick. What the hell happened to you? We're supposed to be having a warm dry spring out there."

Tim put a coffee down on Tony's desk, then squelched around the bullpen to place one on Ziva's and two on Gibbs', his shoes making unpleasant wet sounds as he walked. "Don't ask. You don't wanna know." He took a long swig of his own coffee and collapsed into his desk chair.

"Oh, but I do. Spill, McSplashy."

He sighed. "Lorry. Pothole. Heavy rain overnight."

He sounded so pathetic and looked so seriously wet and cold that Tony couldn't bring himself to draw out the teasing any longer. He got up from his desk and fished around in the filing cabinet, then threw a fresh shirt and a towel over.

McGee's expression scrolled through surprise, appreciation, then landed on suspicion with a touch of gratitude. "Seriously?"

"Seriously. Can't have you catching a cold and leaving me in the lurch." Tim looked like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and Tony rolled his eyes. "Go on. Get outta here before I change my mind."

"Thanks Tony." McGee scuttled off towards the men's room, and Tony shook his head. Getting soft in my old age.

Spring. Yup. It was definitely overrated.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:59 pm 
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3. GIBBS

"Something's come up, down at the Office of Special Projects in LA."

Gibbs waited, but Leon didn't elaborate. "And?"

"And I think that your team's presence might be... beneficial." Leon's face was carefully blank - so much so, in fact, that it made Gibbs suspicious. Sure, they weren't working a hot case or anything, but to send them across the country required a damn good reason.

On the other hand, Leon was the boss. "When?"

"As soon as possible."

Wondering what the heck could be so urgent but so secretive, Gibbs stared at the director, studied his face. To Leon's credit, he wasn't easily cowed by The Glare, but there was always a first time.

Ain't gonna be today, though. "OK. I'll take McGee again, leave Tony here with Ziva."

Another very strange look passed over Leon's face, and then was carefully schooled back to neutrality.

"What?" As if they hadn't had enough of this kind of goddamn nonsense from Jenny. The last thing NCIS needed was more secrets.

Leon cleared his throat and the toothpick he'd been working between his fingers snapped with a noise that was unnaturally loud in the stillness. When he spoke his voice was unusually formal, a tone that said these orders were to be obeyed, not questioned. Not even by Gibbs. "You'll take Agents McGee and DiNozzo with you. Doctor Rachel Cranston will join you down in LA. Agent David will stay here for the moment, and Dorneget will be available to her as necessary, but Miss Sciuto and Doctor Mallard in particular will be on standby to join you if it turns out they're... required."

Gibbs frowned. "If they're required? What the hell is this, Leon? What aren't you tellin' me? I thought we'd gotten past-"

"Gibbs!" Abruptly, Vance stood up, leaned forward over his desk, fists planted.

Gibbs stopped short. Like him, Leon rarely raised his voice, rarely had to, and when he did, even Gibbs listened.

"Gibbs," he said again, his voice softer now, "I know you haven't always trusted me to have your back, and God knows I haven't always trusted you either. It's been a long road to get where we've got."

Gibbs nodded warily. "It has."

"I'm asking you to trust me now. To trust that you need to go down to LA. To trust that my reasons are good ones, and that I'm not keeping secrets from you because I want to. I don't wanna jump the gun, there's way too much we don't yet know, too much that's still happening. But if this thing turns out how I think it'll turn out, trust me, you'll want to be there."

They stared at each other for what seemed like an age, and Gibbs searched the director's face for clues and for lies. Eventually he sighed, shrugged. "OK."

"OK?"

"Yeah. OK."

Leon visibly relaxed. "Thank you."

"You owe me one."

Leon chuckled. "Don't be too sure of that, Gibbs. If things go to plan, you might find that you owe me one instead."

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:10 pm 
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4. DEEKS

"She's pretty."

Kensi looked up from the file she was reading and spared a cursory glance at the woman on the plasma. "Yeah?"

She didn't look very impressed. But possibly that was her reaction to Deeks scarpering earlier. Best not to assume anything either way.

"Yeah. Dark hair, dark eyes. Exotic. Could probably kill you in three moves or less."

"Uh-huh." Her attention was back on her computer screen, and Deeks grinned to himself.

"She kinda reminds me of you."

There was a silence, and then she looked up over it, like a meerkat, just enough for eye contact.

"Deeks?"

"Yeah?"

"Was that supposed to be some sort of compliment?"

He let her glare at him for a moment. "Kinda."

She kept glaring, but he could tell she was struggling not to show she was a little pleased.

"You suck at compliments, Deeks," she said, as she looked down again.

Mission accomplished. He got back to the task at hand.

"So, who is she, what do we know? Does this Rosefern thing mean she's a relative of yours or something, Fern?"

She was instantly more comfortable back on familiar territory, ignoring his reference to her least favourite cover name. "She goes by Suzana Zoranović, I don't know her real name. MIA, presumed dead, and she was probably a United States Special Agent at some point."

"Probably." That wasn't usually a 'maybe' kind of situation.

"It's a thin file."

"Facial rec?"

"Eric's got the photo, but it's gonna take a while. There's not a lot there to narrow the search parameters."

"And?"

"And what?"

"That's all we know?"

She shrugged. "That's all Hetty could tell me. That and the fact that she is Operation Rosefern."

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:52 pm 
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5. TONY

"Well this is a different building from the one we visited last time, but Abby said they have all the same technologies they did in the old ops centre, and it's so cool, everything is touch screen and the computers are state of the art, and-"

"Enough already with the computer porn, McGeek. Geez, know your audience, I mean-"

Gibbs' hand made contact with the back of his head. At least, he noted in his peripheral vision, McGee had gotten the same treatment.

There was a pause as they both recovered from the slap. Gibbs didn't feel the need to do it so often these days, and while Tony's head definitely appreciated the respite, he was out of the habit of taking it in his stride.

He glanced over, caught McGee's wince, then they chorused in unison: "Sorry, Boss."

The place didn't look like much, but Gibbs walked briskly towards the dilapidated doors as if he knew exactly where he was going. Tony gave Tim a shrug and followed.

Once inside, he actually gaped. "Holy..." It was like they'd walked into a totally different building.

McGee grinned. He, at least, had had some experience with this team, and by the looks of it he wasn't quite so astounded by the contrast. "I felt pretty much the same my first time at OSP. It's like the TARDIS or something."

"Tard what?" It was nigh on involuntary, the interruption - a Pavlovian reaction to Tim getting his geek on.

"The TARDIS, time and relative dimension in space, from Doctor Who, you know? C'mon, Tony, we've had this conversation before, you must have some idea what I'm-"

"Hah. Gotcha. Like I'd forget!" He grinned. Not that he was about to admit it, but Tony had actually seen a few episodes of the British series since Tim had last mentioned it, and he'd been, well... grudgingly impressed with it, if he was honest. It was... OK. For a geeky show. "Gotta give it to you, this place is pretty cool." It was open plan, light and airy, and had a much more welcoming feel to it in the glow of the setting sun than their own orange walled, hermetically sealed home office back in DC.

"Thanks, we like it." The voice was rapidly followed by its owner, a dark haired woman who Tony couldn't help noticing was off the charts hot. "McGee, Gibbs, welcome back. And you must be DiNozzo."

"Encantado, señorita," he purred, looking her up and down appreciatively. Her reaction was... amused, more than anything, which made Tony feel about three inches tall. You can't win 'em all, he thought ruefully and toned his grin down a little.

"She's Kensi," piped up another voice, and a scruffy blond guy appeared, giving Tony a dirty look. "And I'm Deeks. LAPD liaison officer. Her partner." He stood next to Kensi, hands on hips, glaring at Tony like an angry pit bull. An angry pit bull with a mop of curly hair. He bit back a comment and cursed himself for the unhelpful mental image. Somebody's possessive.

"Tony," he offered, holding out his hand to the man, who gave him a calculating look but shook it all the same.

"Deeks, this is Gibbs and McGee-"

"Tim," McGee interjected.

"Tim," Kensi repeated with a smile. "We worked on a case with them a couple of years back, terrorist threat - right before Callen got shot."

"You're gonna have to narrow that down a bit for me," Deeks deadpanned as he shook Gibbs and Tim's hands. "Callen gets shot at more often than I-"

"Get laid?" Judging by the expression on Kensi's face, she was pretty proud of that one.

"Oooh, touché. Feel the burrrrrrrrn."

Tony couldn't help laughing. Deeks and Kensi, apparently, bickered even more than him and Ziva, and he wouldn't have thought that was possible.

"So... What're you guys down from DC for?"

Tony raised an eyebrow. "We kind of thought you'd be telling us that when we got here. Didn't Vance say anything...?"

He turned to Gibbs, who looked unimpressed though not surprised. Tony was fairly certain there was nothing left in the world that could surprise their boss these days. He might not have seen it all but he must've come pretty close.

Gibbs merely shrugged his shoulders. "Well, Director Vance didn't wanna tell me what was so important that he had to send us across the country at a moment's notice. Asked me to trust him." Another shrug. "Sometimes you just gotta follow orders and hope there's a good reason for 'em."

"I can assure you," said a voice, "he had a very good reason indeed."

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 6:13 pm 
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6. TIM

Tim was startled for a second, unable to figure out where the voice was coming from. Then Kensi moved aside to reveal a diminutive older woman whose presence seemed far too commanding for her tiny stature. I guess undercover work is good practice for sneaking up on people. She looked harmless enough, but Tim knew appearances could be deceptive. If she was as harmless as she appeared, she wouldn't even be in the building.

"Agent Gibbs." She nodded in greeting.

Gibbs stepped forward to shake the newcomer's hand. "Henrietta Lange." He actually sounded impressed, and McGee shared a look with Tony. Gibbs was not easy to impress. "Not every day I get to meet a legend."

"Please, call me Hetty."

"Ms Lange took over from Lara Macy," Gibbs explained, his face going blank for a moment, his voice flat. Tim was fairly certain Gibbs still held himself accountable for Macy's death, though he had never really underwood why.

Then again, Gibbs tended to feel responsible for a lot of things that weren't his fault, and the deaths of agents he worked with, or even just those he knew, always weighed heavily on him. "Ms Lange-"

"Hetty," she corrected, and the corner of Gibbs' mouth twitched into a slight smile at her insistence.

"Hetty, these are-"

"Agents Anthony DiNozzo and Timothy McGee." Hetty's eyes twinkled. "I assure you, I have excellent information."

"Better than ours, by the sounds of it." Gibbs appeared more amused than annoyed.

"A commanding officer needs to know the details when his or her troops are the ones on the front lines, Agent Gibbs."

He nodded. "Fair enough."

Hetty took a good look at them all, and again McGee got the feeling that it would be a mistake to judge this woman on her size or her age.

"I don't know what my agents have told you-"

"We didn't tell them anything," said Kensi hastily, shrugging. "We didn't know why they had been sent here, so-"

"Actually, it's not like there's much to tell, I mean, we have a name and a picture and about all I can tell you is that this Suzana chick is smokin'-"

Deeks shut up when Kensi glared at him. Kensi reminded Tim a little bit of Ziva. Beautiful but also potentially terrifying. Then again, this team regularly took on difficult and dangerous cases, going undercover with little preparation and only each other as backup, so he suspected that even the affable Deeks had more to him than met the eye.

"Recent events have made us more than usually wary of outsiders, for good reason - I hope none of you will take it personally." The DC team all shook their heads obediently, even Gibbs, and it was becoming more and more obvious why she was the one in charge. "Lives depend on discretion in our line of work, as I'm sure you know, and today is no exception."

"Callen here?" Gibbs asked, looking around. Tim had half forgotten that Gibbs knew Callen from years back, just as he'd known Macy.

"Agent Callen and Agent Hanna are handling the extraction of an asset in Eastern Europe. I received word a few minutes ago that the operation went smoothly and they are now on their way back to us. They should be here in the morning."

Tim put his hand up, then noticed the raised eyebrows all round, as well as badly hidden smirks from Tony and Deeks, and regretted it instantly, blushing. Something about Hetty made him feel like he was back in school, and the gesture had been instinctive.

Hetty, however, just smiled, and if she was hiding a laugh at his expense she was doing it well. "Yes, Agent McGee?"

"Um, then, why... Uh, why are we here?"

She paused for a moment, one hand momentarily covering her mouth as if she was making sure to think before she spoke, and then she nodded once. "You are here because Director Vance believes, and I hope, that your team is uniquely qualified to be a part of this operation."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:03 am 
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7. TONY

Everything Hetty said was only making Tony feel more confused and more at a loss as to why they were here. Sure, this day had been three hours longer than usual, but he should still be able to keep up. "Who is this asset?"

"Suzana Zoranović." The name meant nothing to Tony, and neither Gibbs nor McGee showed any glimmer of recognition. "For a long time she was only a name, providing information through Serbian back channels and to local sources who passed it on to us, but recently her work put her in some danger. When the situation was investigated certain... unexpected things came to light. Eventually she was linked with someone who has been missing for several years. Those in the know assumed she had been killed in the line, and until now there was no evidence to the contrary."

"A dangerous assumption." Gibbs sounded almost angry.

Hetty nodded. "But an inevitable one when one runs out of leads to follow and hope to chase, when all the evidence seems to say one thing, and one thing only. I'm sure you've been involved in cases like that, Agent Gibbs." Her words were matter of fact, but her tone was surprisingly gentle. "Those cases one is forced to allow to grow cold in order to preserve one's sanity. Where all the facts point to an end that cannot be proven but seems the only possible conclusion."

Gibbs' face took on a pinched look, and Tony could empathise. They good at what they did, more likely to solve cold cases than create them, but even the best in the business couldn't be in law enforcement this long and get it right every time. In the decade or so he'd been on Gibbs' team, they'd maintained an average that was the envy of the agency, but it was always the failures that haunted them the most.

"Until very recently the particular details of this case were being investigated way above all of our pay grades," she continued. "But if Director Vance is correct, it seems likely you and your agents may know more about her than anyone could have imagined."

Her cryptic comment was greeted with a moment of complete silence. Tony couldn't help noticing that the OSP agents looked just as confused as he felt, which wasn't particularly comforting.

He opened his mouth to demand clarification, but was interrupted by a piercing whistle from the gallery above them.

A blond guy with spectacles was leaning over the railing. Tony tried to imagine Leon summoning them this way back at the Navy Yard, and failed. I've a feeling we're not in DC any more, Toto.

"We got a hit on facial rec, and you're not gonna believe it," he said with a grin. "Hey, McGee, Gibbs, good to see you again." He looked like he should be surfing or hanging out on the boardwalk, but clearly he was a fixture here.

"Thank you, Mr Beale," Hetty called up, and then gestured for the rest of them to follow her up the stairs. "We didn't know whether we would find the information we needed through the usual channels, which is part of the reason I requested Leon send you. However, you can confirm our findings and I believe your presence will still be most beneficial."

Hetty led them up the stairs with the speed and ease of a woman half her age. She may not have looked the part, but Tony no longer doubted her ability to run this place. When Gibbs had called her a legend, he hadn't been kidding.

The Ops centre was a huge contrast from the rest of the building, and once again Tony felt like he'd fallen down the rabbit hole as they moved from the airy, sunlit gallery into semi darkness, surrounded by displays and screens, where the glow from the massed electronics turned everything and everyone an eerie shade of blue.

Even he could tell that the high tech capabilities they had here rivalled those in MTAC, and it was easy to see why McGee had raved about this place.

He didn't have long to think about that, though. Gibbs stopped short, and Tony almost walked into him, but his protest died on his lips when he saw the picture on the huge screen. The woman had long, wavy hair that was golden brown, almost blonde, and her face showed subtle changes and differences from Tony's memories, but even so, she was unmistakably...

"Kate," supplied McGee, sounding almost as stunned as Tony felt.

"Wait, you know her?" Kensi demanded.

"I think," said Gibbs, his voice strained, "that now would be a good time to tell us exactly what's going on here, Ms Lange."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 5:54 pm 
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8. KENSI

"Well, that answers one question, at least," said Hetty. "Director Vance made the connection himself, although I'm sure he will want fingerprint matches and the like to confirm it."

Eric frowned. "Caitlin Todd. She was Secret Service, and then she was with NCIS for a couple of years. But how did you guys know? I only just got a hit on facial rec, this database has millions of people, thousands of agents..."

McGee recovered first, although his eyes didn't budge from the screen and he looked pale even considering the effect of the subdued lighting in Ops. "She... She was part of our team. She went missing, was abducted. They... the people who took her... They told us she was dead. We never found her- her-" He obviously couldn't bring himself to say her body. "But eventually..." He trailed off.

Kensi glanced over at Deeks, who was actually speechless for once. Only the second time she could remember seeing that, and the last time was when he'd found out about how her fiancé had disappeared. Her partner could find something to talk about in pretty much any situation, but apparently heavy emotions were his kryptonite.

"Wow."

Tony mustered some kind of smile. "Yeah. That about sums it up."

Kensi got the impression he was reaching for a joke, but then he just let out a long sigh and made an eloquent gesture with his hands.

"She's on her way here?" Tim sounded as though he was afraid to believe it, and Kensi could understand that. She wondered how she'd feel if Dom had simply disappeared - if they would eventually have given up hope. What if the Talib al Jihadi had faked his death, spirited him away for years...

"Yes," said Hetty, firmly. "She's with Sam and Callen, on a military transport. They'll be here some time in the morning."

There was yet another silence. Kensi almost wanted to hold her breath.

Hetty finally spoke again. "I know this is rather a shock for you all-"

The DC agents burst out laughing at that. It was tinged with relief and disbelief and something like wonder, and Hetty smiled. "I imagine you feel that is a gross understatement."

"You think?" asked Gibbs, but his tone was mild.

Hetty chuckled. "Well. We don't yet have the full picture ourselves, but I'm sure my agents will have plenty of stories to tell when they return." Her face and voice softened. "As will your agent."

Nell stepped forward. "I have copies of all the documents we have, if you want to get up to speed on the little that we know."

Gibbs took the file from her, holding it in both hands as if he wasn't sure whether or not he wanted to open it.

"I'm sorry there's not very much to go on." She spoke rapidly, obviously unnerved by his reaction. "Eric and I did the best we could, but-"

"It's OK." He smiled a little, and looked up at her. "Thank you...?"

"Nell," she supplied.

"Thanks, Nell. Appreciate it."

She bobbed her head, then grinned. "You're welcome."

Tony stifled a yawn. "Y'know, I don't wanna worry anyone or anything, but d'you think you could tell me what time zone I'm in over here?"

"Yes. It is getting a little late, especially for our East Coast friends, and there isn't much more we can do until our colleagues return." Hetty was using that voice that sounded like a suggestion but was really an order. "Maybe we should all head home to bed."

"Bitch of a commute for you guys," said Deeks, deadpan. Hetty merely stared, and he paled. "Uh, sorry, I..."

Kensi decided she'd have mercy for once, instead of letting him dig himself a hole. "So, where are you guys staying?"

The three DC agents looked at each other. "That's a really good question," said Tony, "to which I have no answer."

"Ah, yes." Hetty nodded. "The Director did not give us much warning of your arrival either, or I should have made arrangements for your accommodation."

"I'm sure we could book you into a hotel-" Nell piped up.

"Nah, it's late. We can bunk down on the couches here, if that's OK," said Gibbs.

Tony looked nonplussed. "Uh, boss, I had a whole different answer ready-"

Hetty sighed. "Mr Deeks and Mr Callen assure me the furniture here is comfortable enough to sleep on, even though I've told them both many times that this isn't a dorm room."

Everyone laughed again at her expression.

"We'll be fine, Hetty," Gibbs assured her.

She smiled, her usual twinkle returning. "Yes. Yes, I'm sure you will."

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:47 pm 
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9. TONY

"Looks like we have intruders this morning. What should we do about that, Sam?"

The voice sounded a lot more friendly than the words might otherwise have suggested.

Tony never slept as well as he'd like when he had to cram his six foot and change frame into a couch that wasn't designed for restful sleep. How McGee managed it he couldn't imagine. Maybe his partner had a higher tolerance for being folded in half, but Tony was absolutely and definitively not a couch guy.

Gibbs was different, of course - Tony was fairly certain that Gibbs perversely slept better when he was uncomfortable. Trust him to be the exception.

At any rate, even if he'd perceived a threat, he wasn't in a fit state to do more than wheeze at it like an asthmatic geriatric. "Hello?" he managed, as he forced himself into something approximating upright.

There were two figures staring curiously down at him. One built like the Terminator (ex Special Warfare if Tony's practiced eye was any judge), and the other paradoxically more scary looking even though he wasn't nearly so physically intimidating.

"Sleeping beauty awakes," said the smaller guy.

The other one laughed. "Don't know about that, G. The kraken, maybe."

"That's a low blow, Sam." He turned his attention back to Tony. "Take no notice of Sam, he's grouchy when he hasn't had enough sleep."

Sam muttered something under his breath about whose fault that was, but his partner ignored him. "So I guess you're with the team who've come down from DC. I'm Callen, this is Sam Hanna."

Callen held out a hand and Tony shook it dutifully, still feeling a little at sea and not quite awake. "DiNozzo. Tony DiNozzo."

Sam chuckled. "We know. We've been expecting you."

"Oh. OK." Tony valiantly resisted the temptation to make a Bond joke, rubbing his eyes to get rid of the last traces of sleep. "God. What time is it?"

"8 in the morning." That was McGee, and Tony was shamefully pleased when he glanced over to see that his partner looked as bad as he felt.

"Where's Gibbs?"

"Still asleep back there."

Tony frowned. Gibbs sleeping in? "You're joking."

"Nope. Out like a light." Callen smirked.

He's probably had prior experience of Gibbs' sleeping habits. Tony shook his head. "Wow. I guess these couches must be really uncomfortable."

Callen and Sam both looked at him strangely. "What?

"Uh... Just a theory of mine."

Sam raised an eyebrow. It was a very Gibbs expression, but on Sam it looked more amused than pissed. For such a big guy, he had a surprisingly gentle face.

McGee came over to the couch Tony was on. "If you guys are back, does that mean...?" It took Tony a moment to realise where Tim was coming from, and then it hit him again. Kate. Alive. Unbelievable, yet true.

"Nate's debriefing her in the boat shed, and her sister's down there, too. Figured she'd need a little time to adjust." Callen's tone was matter of fact, but Tony was pretty sure he could spot a poker face when he saw one. "This all happened pretty quick."

"She prob'ly needed some time to recover from the flight, too," grumbled Sam.

"Yeah, Europe to the West Coast can really give you jet lag."

"It's not jet lag, it's G lag. The energiser bunny here was practising his Slavonic languages on her the whole way back." Sam rolled his eyes. "If I wasn't sworn to guard and protect, I'd have wrung your neck and thrown your scrawny ass in the Atlantic."

"I love you too, big guy."

"Watch out or I'll throw you off the climbing wall and tell Hetty you slipped. She's beaten you so many times, she'd believe it."

"You have a climbing wall-?"

"-That little old lady beat you on it?"

Callen grinned. "Don't let Hetty hear you call her that, not if you want to live."

"Shall we give 'em the tour?" Sam looked at his watch. "Nate's not gonna finish up for a while."

"What do you guys think?"

Tony stretched out his back. "If the tour includes coffee and a restroom, you can count me in."

"Yeah, you could use a little freshenin' up," said Sam with a cheeky look that suggested he was joking... mostly.

"C'mon, McSmelly. I think he means you. You still smell like wet dog."

"It wasn't my fault about that pothole yesterday-"

"Don't worry about it," said Callen. "At least you smell better than Monty."

"Even Deeks smells better than Monty..." Sam and Callen were still bantering as they walked away, and Tony beckoned McGee to follow.

"Who's Monty?" Tim whispered.

Tony shrugged. "No idea. Just roll with it. I need coffee."

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:35 pm 
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10. KENSI

"Good boy, Monty, good boy." Kensi rather enjoyed playing with Monty when Deeks wasn't around. "Yes, good dog!" She wasn't quite ready to admit to her partner that she'd grown pretty fond of the mutt. "But you're not gonna tell, are you, Monty? No. 'Cause you're a good boy!" She snuck in her fussing time during Deeks' run so she wouldn't get found out.

Straightening up she grabbed a mug and poured herself some coffee. "Need my fix, Monty, sorry." She was forever grateful to Hetty for providing the machine so they didn't have to mess around. "No, no, dogs don't get coffee, Monty. You wouldn't like it." He looked so mournful that she reached down to scratch him behind his ears.

"Did someone say coffee?"

Her head jerked towards the voice. It had come from one of the couches, and then came a bleary eyed face. She'd been ready to have a go at whoever had startled her, but Gibbs looked so dishevelled that she found she was amused instead.

It didn't surprise her at all that the smell of coffee had roused him. Her dad had been exactly the same way any time he'd had insufficient sleep. Laser guided to the nearest source of caffeine, even if he wasn't yet completely awake.

"Looks like you need it. Black, no sugar?" she guessed, and he nodded. That didn't surprise her either, after long experience with Marines and former Marines.

Gibbs would've had a lot in common with her dad. Both Marines, both snipers. Both fiercely protective. The realisation made her feel... safe. That was comforting, and very welcome after the last few weeks.

She walked over to him, Monty at her heels, and passed him the steaming mug, then suppressed a laugh when he drank deeply as if it was the elixir of life, without stopping even to say thank you. "Your throat must be lined with asbestos." She sipped cautiously at her own cupful. "Either that or you just burned you tongue."

"Who needs taste buds?"

She laughed outright at that, and perched opposite him. "If I didn't already know you were a Marine, that would've clinched it."

He gave her a lopsided smile and reached down to pet Monty, who looked ecstatic to get the attention. "Guess you know Marines, then?"

"My dad was a Marine. I drive up to Pendleton whenever I can."

There was a pause. "Ah, yeah. Granger's case. I remember now. Donald Blye. He was a sniper, right?" His smile widened but his eyes grew sad.

"What?"

Gibbs shook his head. "Something someone said to me a few months back. About how little girls grow up to be just as stubborn as their fathers." He studied her closely, then cocked an eyebrow. "I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree, huh? NCIS agent. Hear you're pretty good with a sniper rifle yourself. Your dad would be proud."

She hadn't expected that, and found herself blushing just a tiny bit. "Thank you."

"My daughter..." He sighed. "I sometimes wonder how she would've grown up."

His words took a few seconds to register. "Would have?"

"Long story. I... I get why you went into law enforcement."

Their silence was rich with mutual understanding. "I'm sorry," she murmured.

He nodded, looked away, drained the last of his coffee.

"Needed that."

Kensi grinned, grateful Gibbs had steered them away from dangerous territory. "No kidding. I'm still working on mine."

He got up to get a refill. The machine made its usual hisses and gurgles, then: "So... about... Kate?"

He was still facing the coffee machine, and suddenly sounded tentative.

It struck her again how weird the situation was, and how much stranger it must be for the agents who'd known and worked with Kate all those years ago, who'd thought she was dead, grieved for her.

"Uh... "

An unexpected lump formed in her throat, and she felt both guilt and intense relief when she heard voices - Deeks protesting loudly, other male voices laughing and teasing.

"Boss! You're awake." Tony bounded in, all energy, and Kensi was glad she didn't have to find the right words.

The others gathered around the couches, chatting together, joking around, but Deeks came to her side.

He turned her towards him, now serious, a concerned look on his face as he studied her.

"You good, Kens?"

She smiled slightly, touched by his concern. "I'm good."

He squeezed her shoulder a little. "Good."

"Guys!" A voice rang out over the babble. "I just heard from Nate."

They all quietened down, suddenly solemn. Nell was on the stairs, and visibly swallowed as they all turned to face her, the tension contagious.

"They're ready for you down at the boathouse."

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:12 am 
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11. TONY

"Oh my God. Tony."

She didn't give him a chance to react, just walked straight into his arms and hugged him. Tony had caught only the vaguest impression of the place before a very tall guy had come in through a side door leading two women.

The first was Rachel Cranston (or Doctor Kate's Sister, as Tony liked to think of her), and she looked rather pale but happy. The tall man helped her to a seat and stood next to her, a hand on her shoulder.

The second, despite the golden brown hair and a slight tan, was unmistakable, even if she hadn't currently been hugging Tony so hard he feared for his life.

"Hi, Kate." He hugged her back, patted her hair, feeling a touch awkward. What exactly was the protocol for greeting someone who just came back from 'missing, presumed dead'?

"I never thought I'd be so glad to see you, DiNozzo."

He chuckled at that. Her voice had changed, she even had a slight Eastern European accent now, but the barbed comment and the dry tone were completely familiar.

"There's a couple of other folks who wanna say hello, Katie." After all this time, he thought he might get away with the nickname, but her expression as she pulled away was daggers despite her eyes swimming with tears.

He gently turned her round to see Gibbs and McGee, who were staring at her with the same kind of expression Tony was pretty sure he was wearing. McGee stepped forward and enveloped her in a hug, and Tony would've teased him for looking like he was about to cry if it weren't for the fact that he felt a little that way himself.

Tim rocked her back and forth, his eyes closed, and Tony heard her watery giggle when Tim finally, reluctantly let her go, one hand still clasped around her forearm as if he was afraid of completely losing contact.

"It's so good to see you, Kate." McGee's voice cracked, and Tony found himself swallowing hard. No one would blame them for getting emotional, but this whole thing was so overwhelming... if he started, there was no guarantee he'd stop.

"It's good to see you, too." She looked up at Tim and shook her head. "You've grown up so much." As soon as she said it she clapped a hand to her mouth. "Oh! Oh, God, that came out wrong, Tim, I just..."

McGee laughed. "It's OK, Kate." He shrugged and grinned wryly. "It's true."

"Probie's become a heck of an agent." Tony didn't miss the startled glance from his partner, but it seemed as good a time as any to say it. He could always take it back tomorrow, blame a sentimental mood. And of course, there was the fact it was true.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see the LA agents - Sam grinning, Deeks laughing and bumping shoulders with Kensi, Callen simply watching, looking deeply satisfied. They got it, he realised. They knew, in a way few people could, just how incredible this was.

Gibbs was still hanging back, and it was Kate who approached him, cautiously. Tony had the impression she was trying not to spook him, and the way Gibbs was reacting, he couldn't blame her.

Gibbs really looked like he'd seen a ghost, as if she might disappear at any moment. Tony was finding it downright difficult to take his eyes off her for more than a few seconds at a time - just in case - and apparently Gibbs was having the same problem.

When Kate carefully wrapped her arms around Gibbs, he didn't respond at first. Tony almost thought the boss was going to push her away, maybe spout some Gibbs rule about hugging, but then he thawed, pulled her close and held her tight, murmuring what sounded decidedly like apologies.

Well, there's a first time for everything... He could see Kate's face, the slight smile that suggested she was thinking more or less the same thing.

Tim looked concerned, but Tony just shrugged. Knowing Gibbs, he'd carried the weight of her disappearance - her death so they'd thought - every moment of every day for seven years. To see her living, breathing, warm and alive after so many years of guilt...

Tony slung an arm round Tim's shoulders, and tugged him over to their teammates. Gibbs noticed their approach and loosened his hold on Kate just enough to let her turn and smile at them. "It's good to be home," she whispered. They were all a bit blurry, a little tearful, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Gibbs and McGee look so damn happy.

"Would now be a good time for our first group hug?" he asked, then laughed at the expression of horror on Gibbs' face. After a second, Kate cracked up, and suddenly they were all laughing, leaning on one another, holding each other up, a dysfunctional group hug for their dysfunctional but loving family.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 1:55 pm 
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~ Epilogue ~

ZIVA


"Why do they want us in MTAC, Ziva? It makes no sense, me and Ducky, we aren't even agents-"

"I do not know, Abby. I am just following orders." Ziva was trying to stay patient, but she was curious and worried herself. Abby tended to chatter when she was nervous. Ziva, on the other hand, got quiet, tense, unable to answer Abby's questions and with too many of her own. She found herself burying her emotions and retreating into the safety of her Mossad training.

"Do you know, Ducky? Is Jimmy already upstairs? Did he say what it was about? Do you think the director heard I was volunteering as a puppy raiser again? I should have asked first, I know-"

"Don't worry, my dear." Ducky was always the voice of reason. "I don't think Vance would be summoning us all up to MTAC just because he was afraid your lab tables might get a bit dog eaten. And Mr Palmer is with his intended. He took the morning off to go wedding shopping." Then, in an undertone, "I expect he would rather be with us..."

Abby was nervously twiddling a pigtail in her fingers. "Something bad always happens whenever one of us goes to LA, Ducky. I'm scared."

He wrapped an arm around Abby's shoulder as the elevator sped upwards. Ziva couldn't help but smile as she stood behind them, Abby towering over Ducky and the little man reaching up to offer comfort. "I'm sure it will be all right."

Ziva almost envied her. Being the strong one was all very well, but behind her calm façade, she was afraid of many of the same things that troubled Abby. It would be a relief to admit that out loud.

When they arrived at MTAC, the director was waiting for them. He was smiling - which is a good sign, yes? - and ushered them in.

Abby started again. "Leon, about the-"

"It's OK, Miss Scuito. I know, and this isn't about that." Abby subsided, biting her lip.

Vance turned to the techs and nodded, then Gibbs' face appeared on the big screen.

"Gibbs! You're OK. Are McGee and Tony OK? Where are they?"

"Gimme a second, Abs, and I'll tell you. Hey Duck, Ziver. This is..." He stopped, shook his head. "We have some news."

Abby gasped, and grabbed Ziva's hand.

Ducky was the first to find his voice. "News, Jethro?"

"Good news." Gibbs glanced away, smiled, chuckled. Ziva couldn't recall ever seeing Gibbs look so... happy. "Really, unbelievably good news." He looked back up to the camera. "So, uh, you should prob'ly be sittin' down. It's kind of a long story..."

~ fin ~

A/N

In case you were wondering - yes, you can expect more instalments in the Rosefern storyverse. It's way too much fun to leave at just one! Watch this space :)

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