Gibbs' entire team had started hiding from him roughly 12 seconds after Sheppard and McKay had vacated the premises, their trio of less-naked and more-or-less disgraced Marines in tow, and Gibbs had listened to McKay's voice echo in the elevator before the doors had snicked shut. "You appalling idiots!" McKay had been yelling. "Have you no idea the horrifying danger you put yourselves in? And you didn't even record the experimental data!"
Three hours of peace and quiet later, digging around cold cases and squinting at the Washington Post online edition got old, so he made a trip out to the Cosi down the street and headed straight for Abby's lab, where if not Kate, at least DiNozzo was hiding for sure — except none of them were and no one was there.
Four hours after that, after Gibbs had insulted the mothers of almost every director of every government agency from the FBI (first on his list) to the IRS (afterthought) in MTAC, Morrow called him up to his office and said, "For fuck's sake, Gibbs — is this some kind of exchange program that I don't know about?"
Gibbs was on his fourth coffee of the hour and he kept hearing Ducky's voice telling him about how pancreatic cancer would feel in the back of his mind, so he said, "Sir, I really don't have time for — "
"The hell you don't," Morrow disagreed, and directed Gibbs to look at the plasma hanging on his wall:
It was Lieutenant Colonel There Is No Way That Hair Is Regulation, dressed in black BDUs Gibbs had never seen before, looking halfway between annoyed and bemused, standing in a nondescript concrete conference room, snapping some kind of sweatband on his wrist like a teenage girl.
"Special Agent Gibbs," he said, voice dry.
"Colonel Sheppard," Gibbs snarled.
"I can't say I'm any happier to see you again, either." Sheppard smirked. "I understand you're missing some people on your end."
Gibbs crushed the mostly-empty coffee cup in his hand.
"Sheppard," Gibbs promised, "if you took my people — "
Sheppard held up one quelling hand, abandoning flicking his wristband at long, long last. "Agent Gibbs, if I may be frank — " he made a face " — give me a fucking break. You met McKay and my Marines. I have my own personnel problems aplenty without inviting yours into the mix."
Surveillance hadn't shown anything substantive, no black-clad special ops or federal agents from rival branches — just showed a burst of light from inside a huddle of Kate, DiNozzo, McGee, and Abby and the nothing, nada: cell phones, clothes, guns, badges, people — gone.
"I know enough to know that this is the second migraine you've caused me in a day, Agent Gibbs," Sheppard sighed. "Your people are safe and in our care — but there're going to be some complications."
Air Force priority transport was weird, and Gibbs suspected that was because it wasn't really a normal Air Force priority transport. Instead a sleek black helo came and snatched him — jockeying for time on a medivac landing pad on the roof of a nearby hospital — and transported him with a swiftly silent efficiency Gibbs found somewhat astonishing. And then suddenly he was in Colorado Springs, being escorted through fourteen different levels of security by MPs and fingerprinted and pinpricked and scanned with stuff he hadn't ever seen at Homeland Security and that felt a whole lot more invasive.
By the time they ushered him into a concrete holding room, he felt entirely justified when he started yelling.
Three separate interrogations, a brief but thorough psych exam, and a polygraph later, Gibbs was given a set of black BDUs to change into. "Sorry about the wait," his newest MP boyfriend lied. "If you'll just come this way." Gibbs thought that if Kate and DiNozzo and McGee and Abby weren't dead or at least really maimed he was going to do it himself.
Colonel Sheppard met him in the hallway, looking wrinkled and wearing a scrape on his cheek.
"Sheppard," Gibbs growled at him, "those MPs did some things to me my ex-wife wouldn't have gotten away with."
Sheppard only smiled vaguely at him. "Consider it compensation for the fact that your senior field agent all but landed on me naked as a jailbird." He waved Gibbs forward, toward the opened door of a conference room that looked familiar from before: all concrete and leather chairs and absolutely zero personality. "In here."
"Where're my people?" Gibbs asked, watching Sheppard drop down into the nearest seat, folding his hands together on the table. "Why haven't I been allowed to talk to them yet?"
Sheppard cocked an eyebrow. "You remember my guys? Naked in the Teavana?" He smirked. "Your guys: naked in our obviously secret underground complex in NORAD. And then one of them panicked and tried to gain access to our internal computer system."
Gibbs covered his face. "McGee."
"He was doing a pretty good job until one of our scientists found him and beaned him with a folding chair," Sheppard continued, adding, "We recruit for brains, not brawn."
"And some of us," Rodney McKay announced, stalking into the room, "are lucky enough to be gifted with both." He glared at Sheppard and then turned to Gibbs. "What the hell kind of loose ship are you running with your monkeys at NCIS?" he demanded. "What made them think it was a good idea to try and steal from a top-secret highly classified very hush hush project?"
"I told you, Rodney," Sheppard drawled, leaning back in his seat, "you can't say it like that — it's like waving a unicorn in front of some people."
"Yes," McKay snorted. "You."
Sheppard gave Gibbs a look. "So you see what I mean when I say my acquisition of your team was in no way voluntary."
And before Gibbs could tell him what Sheppard would be doing voluntarily and with what orifice, he heard DiNozzo's unmistakable voice in the hallway, asking "Wait, so you're not going to flashy-thing us, right? Like in that movie?" and Abby add in, "Ooh — like in Men in Black! I love that movie," and Tony shoot back, "Sure — when it was fiction. I don't think I can ever watch Will Smith the same way again."
Sheppard got to his feet, saying easily, "They've already signed confidentiality agreements three hundred pages deep and have been made fully aware of the consequences on our end. But I figured — if Agent DiNozzo and McGee's interrogations were any indication, they're going to be much more beholden to the consequences on your end."
"Oh," McKay added snottily, scowling at Gibbs, "and you really need to do something about DiNozzo's not-so-little mancrush on you — it's actually kind of pathetic. I mean, in a sweet, very gay way. And I checked, it's not like NCIS is expressly beholden to the ridiculous — "
Sheppard grabbed McKay by the back of his collar. "Okay, we talked about this, Rodney," he warned, and jerked him bodily from the room as Gibbs' own fantastic four were shoved in through the doorway — all wearing the same black BDUs, looking tired and crazy and somewhat violated.
"Gibbs!" Abby cried. "I have so much to tell you but I can't! Or else they'll feed me to McKay!"
McGee still looked concussed. "I didn't do it on purpose," he moaned. "It was knee-jerk. I just, I had already opened the thing up. I probably accidentally kept part of it by accident."
Kate just covered her face, hiding behind DiNozzo, who looked faint and alarmed and said, "Boss."
Gibbs pointed at the door. "We're leaving. Now."
The same black helo that had brought Gibbs to Cheyenne Mountain brought everybody back to D.C., and the MPs that had accompanied them this time handed over a hermetically-sealed package of Gibbs' clothes and affects before snapping a sharp salute and climbing back inside — leaving Gibbs and his wards on the same hospital roof, being stared at by the a different shift of bewildered nurses.
He turned and glared at Tony, at Kate, at McGee, at Abby.
"Did they hurt you?" he asked.
They all shook their heads in symphony.
"Did they threaten any of you?" And before McGee and Abby could open their mouths, Gibbs added, "Beyond what was justified for guaranteeing your respective silence?"
They shook their heads again.
"Have any of you been touched in any way that will require me to report us all in for some sort of PTSD sexual harassment seminar?"
Tony gave him a serious look. "I think McKay was feeling me up for a little while there. I'll soldier on, and really, I think it was only because he's sublimated his — wow — totally crazy mancrush on Colonel Sheppard to a completely unhealthy — "
"Okay, in that case," Gibbs snarled, and slapped each of them soundly on the back of the head, "we'll never speak of this again."