The firing of a M24 Sniper Weapons System was the only thing that could be heard on the range that day. It was not piercing like some firearms. It did not thump near quietly like others. No; this weapon was like thunder as it vibrated the air around it. .300 Winchester Magnum rifle casings fell to the side of the gun with each round that was fired. Again and again and again, the constant pounding was rhythmic as though the individual doing said firing wanted to tap out a pattern. It was a song many knew throughout the history of the Marines. This was just another in the long line that would continue on past them.
Finally the thrumming came to a close, silence for the most part followed. Safety procedures were followed as she sat up from her prone position, leaning away from the high powered rifle as to not cause any undue accidents. “Good shooting DiNozzo.” Special Agent Gibbs, seated beside her, said in his usual flat like tone. There was just the barest hint of a smile in his voice; but Anthony, or Tony, DiNozzo already knew why. The only reason why he was as happy as he was because they were at the shooting range.
Tony herself, well the shooting range was not the exact happiest place for her to be. Hell, shooting was not her favorite activity. She could think of quite a few other things that topped her list on what she enjoyed; sitting in and watching a good movie on her couch was one of them. However it was not as though they could do that at 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday. Well they could but it was not as though they would get through the entire thing. Both of them were still on call; one second they would be comfortably sinking into the couch and the next they would be rushing down the highway to the office. Not Tony’s idea of a good time.
Plus, as strange as it was for her to admit, she actually did find a lot of enjoyment out of shooting with Gibbs. There was something almost therapeutic, the bonding nature of the routine. He was such a proficient marksman that she could not help but be impressed each time they went to the range together. It was amazing what could be trained into someone so hard they would not forget it for the rest of their lives. She was sure there were somethings from her short time already with NCIS that she would be taking to her grave. “Yeah well, you know what a good TSAcher can do for you?” She asked rhetorically while pushing herself up; first on her elbows and then back so she was sitting on her heels. Gibbs’ rifle was resting in her laps as she pulled off the ear muffs Gibbs had bought her a couple months back.
Out of the corner of Tony’s eye she saw Gibbs shift in his own chair he had pulled up to spot her. His already sharp form sat up as he lifted his own ear muffs off his head and rested them around his neck. His eyes were still trained out on the range where he had just been looking; what with how his own binoculars had fallen to his chest. For a moment, the two of them just sat there in silence, allowing the setting sun to cast everything in a hazy orange glow. What with the end of the year rolling around, autumn in full swing, things got…slow. Well, slow and fast at the same time. It was more like things got melancholy perhaps. Gibbs sure did. So even if their cases piled up, Tony could always count on Gibbs seeming calmer in his countenance if that was even possible.
Without turning, either of them, Gibbs reached out and grabbed Tony’s pony tail; the slightly curly hair being tugged gently in his calloused hands. It was quick and familiar, something he did often when they were alone; that or when he was inordinately proud of something she did or said and he just had to show his emotions. Though such a display was few and far between. More often than not she got a slap on the back of her head and a quick dismissal to Abby’s lab or to go check on Ducky. Either way, she near reveled in the sensation, closing her eyes for a brief second.
Sometimes Tony pondered on the relationships she had formed with others since she arrived at NCIS two years prior; that and how she herself had changed. For a long time she had been closed off to the rest of the world, figuratively speaking. She locked off that particular part of herself considering she went into law enforcement work and the stereotype was that it was not really welcome there. When she was transferred into NCIS, her first instinct was that it would not be any better. Yet to Tony’s absolute shock, it was the most liberating place she had ever worked at or been in. The last time she felt this way was when her mother was alive; the last time she felt quite so happy. Gibbs could not have cared less, just wanted her to do good work. Abby thought it was awesome to finally have another bisexual woman working in the office, and Ducky just brought up a new story each time Tony saw the older man.
For the first time in a long time, Tony was truly and genuinely happy.
Her green eyes slid open when Gibbs’ hand pulled back. He was standing, checking to make sure that he had everything he needed as well. That was something else he did; something he didn’t let anyone else do, she was the one to put away his rifle. Tony understood how significant such a thing was considering the rifle was practically the man’s baby.
“The usual Boss?” Tony asked as she finished up with the rifle. Standing to her 6’2” height, even with Gibbs, the two started back towards the exit where her car was waiting; the one they took to get here. He gave an affirmative grunt so Tony had her plans for the night. She was to take him back to his house where he would work on his boat for the time being and she was to go back to the office. Reading cold case files while they waited for something new to pop up had become something of a ritual for her. It was not as though she expected anything to click; for her to automatically solve any of the cold cases just because her new set of eyes had been on them, but it did allow her to sharpen her skills.
By reading through those old files, Tony was able to practice data searching, mental organization, reasoning through suspects; the list went on and on. The life and work of an NCIS agent rarely stopped; and it was always good to practice during down times.
Tony pulled up to Gibbs house right as the sun was beginning it’s slow descent, casting everything in the long shadows of darkening twilight. All the while, Gibbs reached into the back seat where his rifle was stored and pulled it into his lap. Once he made sure he had everything, he turned and gave her ponytail one more tug, casting a smile onto Tony’s striking lips. “Keep you updated Boss.” And just like that, he unfolded his long body from the front passenger seat and disappeared into the house. She knew the front door was unlocked, something Tony had attempted to train out of Gibbs with little to no success. Afterall, there were only so many new tricks you could TSAch an old dog.
You know, Tony actually quite like reading through cold case files on lazy days like the one she was going through. Kind of cathartic; like shooting Gibbs rifle with the older man watching over her. Alas, it took not a full two minutes after she sat down at her desk for her phone to ring. But the job never stopped for NCIS. That’s why she got the news a Navy Commander had died on Air Force one. Usually it probably would have been under the jurisdiction of the FBI or the Secret Service, but considering the station of the individual that had died, it was up to them.
Right after hanging up with the M.E. that was already on the plane, she quickly turned to dial Gibbs’ number while throwing on her dark coat; placing the phone on her shoulder so she could continue to gather her things. “Yeah Gibbs.” Her boss responded after a few rings.
“A Navy Commander carrying the Football on Air Force One just carked in the air.”
Typically, it was quiet on the other end of the line for a half a second before Gibbs spoke again. “Where’d they land?” He asked, voice gruff but allowing no nonsense.
“Wichita, Kansas.” She responded in her own sing song lilt. Tony turned and typed on her computer. “The President’s transferring to the backup bird. I booked us on a 1500 United flight out of Reagan.” Which was easy enough to do. Not that she really wanted to, but again; this job did not give her the option to say yes or no to certain cases. A case was a case was a case and she and Gibbs would take it whether they liked it or not. Though often times she wondered if Gibbs truly just enjoyed being around dead bodies more than he liked being around live ones. “Stops in Dallas before going on to Wichita.” It would be a relatively quick flight for the most part so at least there was that. She had done that trip before after all.
Again, there was partial silence on the other end of the line, not even the sound of his breathing; only that hinky little TV she knew was in his basement. “That the best you could do?” It was TSAsing, his response. Or at least it was Gibbs form of TSAsing.
That’s why Tony frowned on her end of the line. “It’s Saturday, Gibbs.” Alright it was rare for her to call him by his first name but she was also slightly peeved. “You know if we had our own jet…”
“We don’t.” Gibbs cut her off quietly. “Ducky’s buds with coroners across the country. See if you can’t get one of them to hold the body until we get there.”
And that was the end of the conversation. “All right.” She said quickly, putting the phone down on the holder. Time to pick Gibbs up, she thought to herself with a chuckle while grabbing the rest of her stuff and rushing over to the elevator.
The crowded nature of the airport was not unusual, not in the slightest. Overhead Tony could hear the sound of announcements coming and going, the tone of the woman’s voice even but firm. It was nearly drowned out by the ambient sound of everyone talking around them, but it was not as though she was paying any attention to them anyways. She walked beside Gibbs who had his usual cup of coffee in one hand and his bag in the other. “FBI, CIA, DEA, ATF, even NYPD have private jets.” Tony complained. Though really it was more just to air her grievances. Could you really blame the woman though? She couldn’t count the times she was stuck between a fat slob and a crying baby or something along the lines of that combination. It was grating on her nerves that she had to fly to Dallas then to Wichita; though at least going there with Gibbs made it a bit better. Inadvertently, the older man had become something of a rock for her in the past two years they’ve known each other. Not that she would tell anyone that; and Gibbs would just give her one of ”Those” looks if she told him.
Gibbs, of course, was less than sympathetic to her plight at first. “Look,” He started, the two of them finally getting to security. “36 cents a mile. You want to drive?”
Of course Tony could not keep her tongue. “It’s humiliating.” She said, slightly sweaty and out of breath from the walk. Thankfully she had pulled he hair up. That and worn one of her usual outfits. There was benefit of shopping in the men’s section. While the clothing was functional; most stuff was dark and you couldn’t see the damn pit stains. Well, at least she was wearing her dark jacket.
“Hey. We’re LEOs.” Gibbs said as they put their bags on the counter. The TSA agent blinked for a moment but gave Gibbs a smile in return.
The guy definitely was not attractive, way under Gibbs, at least in Tony’s opinion. “I’m a Capricorn.” Stupid as well it seemed. Tony scoffed before unfolding her crumpled paper permit, she instinctively carried now whenever they flew anywhere.
“LEO. Short for Law enforcement officer.” The man hesitantly took the paper but looked at it none the less. Tony continued to remove her boots with one hand; the other one flashing her badge. Gibbs did the same thing beside her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Gibbs shift and knew he was about to embarrass the hell out of the security agent. “You new at this…. Dennis?” And the guy clearly could not read the annoyance and anger radiating off the older Marine in spades because he let out a small laugh and smiled, puffing up his chest some. Tony could not help but roll her eyes.
“First week. NCIS, never heard of it.”
“That’s embarrassing.” Gibbs hissed into her ear after gently grabbing her upper arm. Tony could just scoff again but nod.
Dennis the TSA agent handed the paper back. “NCIS anything like CSI?” He asked, clearly thinking either of them were in the mood to talk. Never the less, Tony could not pass up the opportunity to make someone feel stupid even if they had no idea what was going on. “Only if you’re dyslexic.” She laughed, still sweating but finally getting her other shoe off.
“Ok you can go ahead and go around the metal detector,” Dennis said, seemingly finally letting them pass. “But your bags gotta go through the scanner.” Welp that was the wrong thing to say. Tony had seen that look on Gibbs face quite a few times. He squinted those striking eyes in the TSA agents direction.
“Wait a minute. Letting us take weapons aboard, but you want to scan our bags?”
“You got permits for the weapons. You don’t for the bags.” Tony hated that it made sense cause it was true. She still had the crinkled up airplane permit for her side arm stuffed into her jacket pocket.
“We really need our own jet.” That was all she said behind Gibbs before the man gave her that expression that usually ended in a head slap or her saying ‘Yes Boss’ and running off to see Abby or someone else.
Alas it seemed as though the two of them were saved from the embarrassment and the long-time waster of going through security. “Dennis!” Ducky’s accented voice shouted from the other side of the security checkpoint. “Those bags are mine.” He said, pointing towards the ones Tony and Gibbs both just put on the rack.
“Ah. Why didn’t you tell me you’re schlepping for the Doc? He’s got a bag permit.”
Gibbs and Tony both looked at each other, clear annoyance with the situation written on their faces while Ducky simply said, “Move it men. We don’t want to miss our flight.”
Kate was annoyed. She was very, VERY annoyed. While she understood the reasoning behind some things, this was entirely a different matter. As an agent that directly served to protect the President, there was only so much outside agencies could and should do on investigations involving Air Force one and the Commander that had been carrying the Football.
Yet here she was, standing next to FBI agents with some of her own men whispering here and there behind them. The body was still lying on the floor of the plane even after all this time while a local coroner was prattling on and on about nothing. It was quite a talent for someone; to speak so much but to say so little. “If J. Edgar Hoover was alive, I’d tell him what I’m telling you. This body is in Wichita county. And as a county coroner, I have jurisdiction.” Kate had to give it to the older gentleman; he sure had a lot of guts staring down both Secret Service agents and FBI agents yet not letting either of them do their jobs. “No one moves it until the M.E. says they can.”
“Your jurisdiction doesn’t supersede the FBI on Air Force One.” The older man said, clearly the leader from that agency.
Kate couldn’t help but step in. “It’s not Air Force One, Agent Fornell.” With a sigh, Kate stood from the seat she had been seated in for most of the trip. “ When the President departed on the backup plane, it became Air Force One.” She walked over to Agent Fornell. “ This is now Alpha Foxtrot 29000.”
But of course men were men. “Don’t get into this pissing contest, Agent Todd.” He said, clearly as annoyed as she felt but he just had to express it outwardly. “As you pointed out, the President’s gone. It’s no longer a Secret Service problem.” Something she would have to disagree with and had to vocalize.
“Look, this could be a natural death, or it could be a botched attempt to murder the President. Until I know which, it’s my problem.” Hey, you couldn’t blame her for being snippy. She had to deal with such male arrogance for her entire life. Growing up with older brothers had done an umber on her and then working with the Secret Service was not all that much better. Everything in her life had almost always been dominated by men so she had to form a mechanism to show her Alpha status above the rest of them; her short stature did her no favors.
Thankfully the coroner cut it, something she was shocked to think. “I don’t give a damn which one of you is boss. You ain’t moving this body until the M.E. says you can.”
Not a second later a voice came from the steps. “You talking about me Elmo?” Kate watched an older gentleman walk in; shorter than her by a touch and a British accent through and through. The coroner turned and smiled.
“Hello Ducky.” Ducky? What kind of name was Ducky? Well she could not ponder that for long. The older gentleman was mild mannered but he was not alone. Two others followed after him, one male and one female; around 30 for the woman and say 50? For the male. Both were tall, much taller than her; 6’0” at the very least and both dressed in business casual though leaning on the casual side a little too hard.
The female caught Kate’s eyes. She was very pretty in a strange sort of way. Natural, not a lick of makeup to be seen. She was tanned, naturally as well, with shining white teeth and falcon like green eyes. Her brown hair was tied up high in a pony tail and was quite long; hitting about the middle of her back even with it up as it was. Unlike Kate, she was dressed in men’s clothing; that much was obvious. Yet somehow, she was able to make the whole “androgynously dressed” thing look effortlessly “female”. After all, the clothing was expensive in spades; all designer, and they were smaller sized so they fit a female body much better.
The other gentleman was handsome in a very clean cut yet serious sort of way. He was dressed slightly plainer than the woman was and had this ever-present scowl on his face. While it looked like they were working with this “M.E.” that just showed up, something felt…off. And Kate was going nowhere until she got to the bottom of it.