Arriving back at the office, the team gathered around the situation table once again. McGee had been a busy bee while the others were keeping tabs on Malachi, Blackadder, Liat and the two new players. Not only had he ID’d one of the new players, he also had a HPD SWAT team ready to roll on their orders.
“Meet Mussef Kalib, an international criminal with known ties to terrorist networks in Turkey and Lybia, money laundering, drug and human trafficking… basically he’s everything we hate,” McGee said as an image of the new player flashed up on the screen along with some photo’s taken by the team. “He arrived in the country illegally from what we can gather and has been conducting business all over the US. There’s at least a dozen open high profile cases that he’s tied to in some way.”
“He isn’t the big fish though,” Ziva replied. “If he were, he would not be out in public like that. Whoever is running the show is likely in that house. I mean its well guarded and relatively isolated. Even the neighbors seem to help protect in their ways.”
“While you were out I managed to pull together a partial list of his associates based on intel from Interpol, Scotland Yard, the FBI and so on,” McGee continued. “Boss, there’s one name that will stand out for us…” A list of names flashed up on the screen, including one that had a very personal connection to the NCIS team.
“How can that be McGee?” Gibbs scowled.
“It’s not Rene Benoit, boss. It seems that someone has taken over The Frog’s business. Someone who had to know his operation from the inside out,” McGee explained as he pulled up images of several news stories on an up and coming arms dealer.
From across the room, Tony was pensive in his silence. His hand involuntarily fisted itself repeatedly as he stared at the screen. “Why is it that whenever things start looking up for us, he always has to find a way in,” he complained, waving a hand at the screen. “Boss? Can I please stay with the geeks on this one? I don’t want to get blown up again – or accused of murder – or whatever else…”
“McGee, find out where Jeanne Benoit is and what she’s been up to since her father was identified,” Gibbs said as he took a closer look at the list.
“Already ahead of you. Thought I’d be thorough on that,” Tim sighed. “She’s still in Africa doing Doctors without Borders. Her passport has not seen any travel out of Tanzania since she returned after – after you know…”
“The Frog’s body was found,” Steve said bluntly. “I’m glad somebody got that slippery bastard. There was enough people gunning for him afterall.”
“Director Shepard got her revenge,” Ziva commented. “This case just blew up much more than we anticipated.”
Steve stayed quiet for a moment, Shepard was obsessed about bringing La Grenouille down, there was no question of that, he found himself wondering whether the revenge was as sweet as she’d hoped. “Okay, so the daughter’s out of the picture. Who else do you know could pull off taking the old man’s place?”
“There’s only one person that comes to mind,” Ducky said as he made his and Abby’s presence known. “But it is a very scary thought.”
“What is it Duck?” Gibbs asked, staring at his closest friend from across the room.
“Our friend from the CIA,” Ducky said reluctantly, canting his head towards an unnaturally quiet DiNozzo who was busy shooting daggers with his eyes at the images on the screen.
Danny looked at each of the Navy cops. “What are you people talking about? Can you please fill us in?”
Ziva looked over at him then to Steve who looked just as curious and concerned. “La Grenouille is – I’m sorry, was a notable arms dealer. We were working his case a few years back. In the end, one of his men, an undercover CIA agent by the name of Trent Kort killed him. While it was a sanctioned kill, the way his body was disposed of and discovered brought up a number of questions,” she said before hesitating on continuing. “First the FBI believed Director Shepard had killed him because of her known history with the man, but before we knew it, his daughter claimed it was Tony. It was only then that Kort came forward and informed everyone it was part of the CIA operation.”
“So – this Kort…he’s dirty?” McGarrett asked, looking around.
“About as dirty as a slimy snake and just as spineless,” Tony grumbled.
“If the CIA has put him back in the field, then it means his probation must be completed after that mission,” Ducky added.
Gibbs gritted his teeth and sighed. “The man was more dangerous behind a desk but it did lead us to the truth behind Jonathon Siravo.”
“Hold up, hold up. This Kort guy is dirty, the CIA knows he’s dirty and they let him carry on doing whatever it is he does?” Danny asked skeptically.
“Well as dirty as the CIA gets. He pulls through when we need him,” Gibbs smiled cryptically. “If he is back out like this, then the CIA has their sights set on someone that his history under The Frog can get him closer.”
“So this complicates things,” Steve sighed. “I’m guessing that you need to use my office again, Agent Gibbs?”
“You guessed right. McGee, get Vance on the phone. Tony, Ziva. With me.” With that, Gibbs stalked into McGarrett’s office quickly followed by Tony, Ziva and McGee.
“Steve… this is bad,” Danny said as soon as the doors closed. “I mean a dirty FBI Agent is one thing, but the CIA? We’re getting in deep here.”
“We’ve been through worse,” Steve replied. “Just let Gibbs and Director Vance work something out. It probably won’t be as bad as you make it out to be. At least they are already familiar with some of these faces.”
“Probably? Oh that’s really reassuring,” Danny shook his head. “I knew you were crazy from the moment I met you. But dating someone who can kill a person with the contents of a stationary cupboard and getting in deep with a dirty CIA Agent…”
“Look, if you’re worried about Grace, you can sit this one out,” Steve reassured his partner. “We’d understand.”
“No. I’ll stay behind and help McGee. I wanna do something at least,” Danny replied.
“You’ll probably have to deal with DiNozzo the way things are looking,” he said, nodding to the way the other team was holding themselves and Tony staying back, nodding repeatedly.
“That doesn’t look pretty,” Kono hissed before turning to Ducky and Abby. “I guess Tony has a lot of history with this arms dealer?”
“More like the arms dealer’s daughter. The director at the time who died, she sent him undercover and he got close to her. Like real close. I don’t think he ever truly got over her either. First love and all,” Abby replied.
“Harsh,” Kono said with a saddened look.
“Danny, I want you to make him feel useful, help Chin prep the gear for the op get the mission camera feed relayed here so you can both watch our asses,” Steve explained, earning a thankful smile from Abby.
“The two of you are welcome to hang out here while this goes down. I’m sure Gibbs will wanna see you both afterwards,” Danny told Ducky and the Goth.
“Wouldn’t be any different than at home,” Abby replied as she spun herself around in the chair cheerfully. “Except of course I don’t have Bert with me.”
“Bert?” Kono and Danny questioned.
“My hippo,” she smiled back.
Noting the strange looks on the faces of the two police officers, Ducky simply said “Don’t ask…” before he and joined McGarrett at the water cooler.
“I’m sorry if this investigation is taking you away from your work back home Doctor Mallard, and I’m also sorry I haven’t been as hospitable toward you as I’d like,” McGarrett smiled as the Scotsman poured himself a cup of water.
“Don’t fret lad, and please it’s Ducky to my friends,” he smiled. “I was actually due some time off anyway. I thought what better way to enjoy the delights of Hawaii than with my closest friends. It’s just a shame I’m not as young as I used to be, I would have loved to visit some of the sites of tribal importance. One of my ancestors served aboard the HMS Carysfort when Lord Paulet demanded that King Kamehameha the third cede the Islands to the British Empire. I was told that Midshipman Mallard handled the letter written by the King to Paulet shortly before his surrender.”
“Really? We wrote a paper on that back in high school,” Steve said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. Ziva’s warnings about Ducky’s trivial knowledge were taken in jest, a fact that Steve was now regretting. But he could tell that Ziva genuinely cared for Mallard and the others and that they in turn cared for her, in their own ways of course.
“The history of these islands is of great importance to the natives and to anyone else with roots here, Hawaii is an amazing state as you know. But you don’t really want to talk about that, do you lad?” Ducky smiled knowingly.
“Ziva was right Doctor, you are an amazing man,” Steve nodded. How did he know? Steve had always been very good at hiding his feelings.
“And she is an amazing young woman, one who is reaching a very difficult crossroad in her life,” Ducky nodded. “You care deeply for her, don’t you.”
“Yes sir I do, I care about her more than any other woman that’s been in my life,” Steve answered honestly. “I never thought she’d be in my life again.”
“And now that she is, you’re both asking yourselves hundreds of questions that are difficult to answer,” Ducky patted the Commander’s back. “The only advice that I can give you Steven is this. Just take things as they come. A little cliche I know, but it’s the best advice for the both of you, considering you are who you are.”
Steves smile grew, “I know that she’ll eventually go home and I’m dreading the day that it happens. I’d like to ask her to stay though. We’ve wasted so many years apart when we could’ve made each other the happiest we could ever hope to be.”
“Do you love her?” Ducky asked bluntly as he folded his arms and lent against the wall. “That’s the question that you must ask yourself now my young friend. Whether or not your feelings run deep enough for you to want her to stay. And if the answer is yes, you do love her, you’ve then got to ask whether or not you’re willing to take the chance and tell her. Because that’s the only way you’ll know for sure as to whether or not you have a future together.”
“Uh no offense but how the hell do we go from talking about corrupt and totally screwed up feds to talking about an old friend and being in love with someone you haven’t seen in how long? Isn’t that rushing the subject just a wee bit?” Danny asked, turning from watching the NCIS team through the glass windows of the office to looking at his partner and the older medical examiner.
“Oh my dear boy, there is a significant difference between loving someone and being in love with them. I do understand where you are coming from but what I wanted to express to Mister McGarrett here is that he should not be afraid of sharing his feelings with our friend.”
Steve thought about it for a moment, but his concentration was broken by Gibbs and his team leaving McGarrett’s office. “What’s the word from D.C.?”
“The word is, we take Blackadder after she does the deal tonight,” Gibbs didn’t look happy at all. He wanted to take her and Kort out of the picture.
“So when do we move ahead on this?” Ziva asked looking at her boss and Steve in particular.
“We move tonight,” Gibbs and McGarrett replied together.
“But Boss… Director Vance said -.”
“What did Director Vance say McGee?” Gibbs stared the computer wizard down, his tone even. “NCIS is not authorized to move in on this CIA Operation.”
“NCIS isn’t?” Steve asked with a grin. “But Five-0 is. Chin, get the Governor on the phone.”
It wasn’t long before Governor Jameson was on the speaker phone, having been filled in about the CIA’s operation.
“So they think they can pull this crap on my Island?” she said with a growl that rivalled Gibbs’. “Not only was I not informed of this operation, your director has asked you to step aside? Agent Gibbs, what kind of agency is NCIS?”
“It is not so much of being called off. He was told to call us off but he knows that we won’t do that. Vance will run hardball on the Agency. They can’t afford the bad press that he can make for them for blocking our investigation into a good agent’s murder,” Gibbs replied.
Steve could sense the Governor mulling things over for a brief moment before she spoke again. “I don’t answer to your Director or the CIA, Agent Gibbs, I answer to the people of this state and to the President. Commander McGarrett, you and your team do what you do best and make the CIA, terrorist cells or criminal cartels think twice about conducting business here.”.
“Yes Ma’am,” Steve said simply raising an eyebrow at Gibbs.
“Agent Gibbs, in the interest of inter-agency cooperation, I suggest that you either continue to work with the Five-0 Task Force in bringing your Agents murderer to justice, or you can get the hell out of their way. I’ll leave that decision up to you. Steve, I’ll see you in my office at 9am tomorrow.” she added finally.
“We ain’t going anywhere Madame Governor,” Gibbs smiled in response. “If there isn’t anything else, we can get back to work. Tonight may very well close the case.”
“Good hunting gentlemen,” Jameson signed off, ending the call.
Ziva had pulled herself up onto the table to sit next to Kono as she watched the men. “So when do we leave and how heavy should I load up?” she smiled, looking forward to working with her knives again if for just the night.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m breaking out my tactical bow,” Steve grinned. “We need to take them out quick and quiet. Fighting uphill’s gonna be a bitch though.”
“You and Ziva can take out the guards quietly. I’ll support you from this ridge,” Gibbs said as he began examining a topographical map of the area surrounding the housing complex. “Chin, if you, Kono and the SWAT team position yourselves here by these shacks, you can storm the hill at a moments notice.”
“Everyone will have to have night vision cameras on their gear. No doubt that we’ll want everything recorded to cover our asses to make sure charges stick,” Chin added.
McGarrett looked at his watch. “It’s only 18:00 right now. What do you say we take a break, get dinner, and meet up at the docks at 23:00,” he said, looking around. “We can prep our gear before we leave and suit up at the docks.”
“Sounds like a plan. Any recommendations in the area?” Gibbs asked.
“Yep,” Steve grinned. “Our usual spot has great steaks.”
“You buying?” Tony grinned as he rubbed his hands together.
“You, Danny and Chin have gear to prep, DiNozzo,” Gibbs scowled. “You can order take out while we get to work.”
“Uh, I hate to tell you this Boss but they put pineapple on their pizza’s here. PINEAPPLE!” DiNozzo replied. “Can’t we go for steaks with the rest of youand then prep the gear?”
Danny grinned up at Steve as he pointed at the man. “Finally! Someone who understands!”
“Everyone grab your gear,” Gibbs nodded, hiding his smirk as he turned to eye Ziva.
“Alright!” Tony practically leapt for joy.
As the others made their way to the exit, DiNozzo received a pat on the back from Danny and Chin. “Thanks a lot, DiNozzo,” Chin smiled as he took his cousin by the arm and they headed out.
“Yeah Tony, you’re a real prince,” Danny added.
“Uhh, McGee, could I borrow a few bucks?” Tony asked as the computer wizard ignored him, walking out with Ducky and Abby. “Probie! Please!”
Ziva had hung back initially. Making her way up to his side to walk out with him, she smiled. “I will help this time Tony,” she said softly, looking up at him.
“Uh, thanks Ziva,” Tony frowned. She rarely volunteered to help him out of one of these jams. He figured that she’d made some progress with making up her mind about her future.
She smiled and nodded as she continued walking thoughtfully. “If tonight is successful you will have two days free before we need to fly back. Are you looking forward to that?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I kinda get the feeling Gibbs’ll want us back in D.C. before the inks dry on the arrest report,” Tony replied. “As much as I wanna stay, our work is never done.”
“I am sure that even Gibbs would take a day to relax. You do not give him enough credit,” she replied.
“Besides from his retirement, mandatory holidays and national holidays, name one time Gibbs went on vacation,” Tony challenged her with a smirk.
Ziva smiled as she looked back up at him. “When Gibbs took his boat down to Mexico for Amera’s birthday. We were supposed to be on call the weekend he left but he had another team cover us.”
“Okay, one time!” Tony said as they headed out, “But Gibbs isn’t happy unless we’re miserable. And if we stay, we’ll be happy.”
“That is all you specified. You do not think that he wishes us happy?” she frowned.
“I don’t know,” Tony replied honestly. “I mean he hasn’t really made his feelings clear to me about your plans.”
She stopped short just inside the main doors of the building while the others were outside sorting out who was riding with who. Ziva tugged on his arm to hold him back for the privacy of the topic, ignoring Steve’s curious look back at them from where he had been holding his passenger door open waiting for her. “What are you talking about Tony?”
“Come on Ziva, you’ve gotta admit that the team has been pretty strained recently,” he said plainly.
“It happens but I do not see where you are going with this,” she shook her head. “We have hit rough patches before. What makes you believe that it is not just another bump in the walkway?”
“Road Ziva, bump in the road,” Tony corrected her. “And what makes this different is that Gibbs thinks you’re ready.”
She looked up at him stupidly. “Tony – you are talking nonsense. Where are you getting these ideas?”
“Ziva, when he looks at you, it’s the same look he gave me when he retired. And again when I was offered my own team. The difference is, I can’t imagine being anywhere else but on Gibbs’ team. But you…” He finally let some of his feelings go. “Gibbs knows that if you decide to leave the team, you’ll be okay. I guess I do too.”
“I would survive yes, but what makes you think that I would decide to leave?” Ziva asked, crossing her arms.
“Because of the way you look at McGarrett, because of the way you’ve been acting lately. Even before you came here, you’ve been more confidant,” he explained. “You can’t honestly expect me to believe that you haven’t thought about this.”
She gritted her teeth as she stared at him. “Tony, I won’t lie and say that an invitation had been extended and that I didn’t consider it but I have no intention of leaving DC. I can’t believe you would think I would just up and leave like that. Yes I like Steve. He is a friend that I would like to get to know again, but that is all right now. You need to have a little more confidence in me as well.”
“This isn’t about my confidence in you Ziva, you’ll make the right decision for you, that’s not in question. The fact is I’ve never seen you behave the way you do around him. So you either care for him more than you’re willing to admit, or you’re too scared to admit that I might actually have a point about you being ready to move on,” he snapped before stalking away, pushing by the others to get in beside Gibbs, who had taken to driving the convertible.
Ziva watched him walk away, confused and hurt at his abrupt irritability. She had believe they were sharing an equal adult conversation but in the end she was just left feeling guilty about something she wasn’t quite understanding herself. Silently she made her way over to Steve’s truck. He hadn’t said a word but just watched as she looked back over at Gibbs and Tony, who was trying to make it appear as if he wasn’t watching her before she climbed into the truck. “Dinner, yes?” she gave him a weak smile.
“We don’t have to go with the others,” Steve suggested carefully, “We could maybe grab a bite at my place?”
“It was your suggestion,” she said. “We should go with them. Maybe after we can go to your place if there is time.”
“Alright,” he nodded, “But if you want to leave early or something, just say the word.” He didn’t want to press the issue in fear of upsetting her further.
Ziva smiled as she looked back at him. Nodding, she leaned in to steal a kiss. “Okay. Come on, get in. I want to see if this steak is as good as you claim,” she winked.
“Ziva, Steve! Wait up!” Abby said as she and McGee came running over to them. “Can we ride with you? Tony’s being a real grouch.”
“Ahh – yeah, sure,” Steve said after Ziva nodded at him. “Here, let me help you,” he said as he held a hand out to help Abby into the back seat of the truck.
“I don’t understand what Tony is so upset about now. He seemed fine upstairs,” McGee sighed as he settled in.
Ziva didn’t say anything as she buckled her seatbelt and only shrugged a shoulder. “Tony is Tony. Do we ever understand what goes through his mind?”
Steve knew exactly what was wrong, but it wasn’t his place to say. He simply started the truck and followed Chin’s motorcycle to the steakhouse while the three friends discussed what was possibly shoved up Tony’s backside.